IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES. VOTE B—CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.

I move:—

Go ndeontar Suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar Dheich bPúint chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1927, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Coimisiúin na Stát-Sheirbhíse (Achtanna Rialuithe na Stát-Sheirbhíse, 1924 agus 1926) agus an Choimisiúin um Cheapacháin Aitiúla (Acht na nUdarás nAitiúil (Oifigigh agus Fostaithe), 1926).

That a Supplementary Sum not exceeding Ten Pounds be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Civil Service Commission (Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 and 1926), and the Local Appointments Commission (Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926).

Deputies will notice that the title in Part I, has been extended, as compared with the original estimate, by adding the reference to the Local Appointments Commission (Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926). That addition explains the necessity for the estimate. It is not considered necessary or desirable to present a separate estimate for the Local Appointments Commission, because it has been arranged that a joint staff do the work of the two bodies. It would mean a somewhat artificial, and not very informative, apportionment of the salaries of officers who will be employed for both bodies if a separate estimate were presented.

Under the Local Appointments Act, a very varied list of local appointments will be filled by the machinery of the Local Appointments Commission chiefly by means of selection boards. They will include such officers as midwives, nurses, dispensary doctors, doctors in Co. Hospitals and Co. Homes, county medical officers of health, veterinary surgeons, solicitors, town clerks, superintendents of home assistance, home assistance officers and all persons being appointed to posts requiring professional or technical qualifications. The procedure will require full publication of the vacant posts to enable all qualified candidates to apply, and it will also necessitate the meeting of selection boards in a great number of centres. The travelling expenses consequently will be higher than in the case of the Civil Service boards of selection. But this is regarded as necessary.

The fees in connection with the Local Appointments examinations or selections will vary according to the posts and the salary carried. Some of them have been provisionally arranged. For instance, in the case of doctors, for medical officers of health it will be £2, dispensary doctors £1, veterinary surgeons £1; compounders 15/-, nurses 7/6, maternity nurses 5/-. Those fees will help to defray the expenses of the Local Appointments Commission, and also prevent a great number of applicants who would be, perhaps, not bona fide applicants from occupying the time of the Commission and its officers. No appointments have yet been made under the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, but one examination has been held and three selection boards have sat already, and appointments are expected to be made almost immediately. It is expected that there will be, at least, three examinations and eight selection boards before the end of March. There may be more. It is not possible yet to estimate what will be the cost of the working of the Local Appointments Commission during a normal year.

I opposed this Act in the Dáil, and at that time I was of the opinion, as I am now, that the Government were taking too much on their own shoulders and that the people elected throughout the Saorstát should have power to make their own appointments.

We cannot go into that question now.

I can go into the question of salaries. We are asked to pass a supplementary estimate. The Appointments Commission will have the full right of selecting any person when a position becomes vacant under a county board of health or an urban district council. We are asked to-day to pass an estimate for £10, notwithstanding the fact that £8,535 has been passed already for the Civil Service Commission. It has been suggested by the Minister for Local Government that a county medical officer should be appointed in each county within the Saorstát. It shows what the people of the Saorstát think of this when 70 per cent. of the county councils have turned down that proposal. I think we should not pass this supplementary estimate for the purpose for which it is required. The Act is not a popular one with the people, and the people will not like to have their money spent in this way. I do not think we have any right here to squander the money of the people or to make appointments against their wishes. Too much money has been spent in this way by the Dáil. This Dáil will go down amongst the members of public bodies as the spender and squanderer of the people's money. If it were its own money it might not be so flaitheamhla with it.

The Civil Service Commission has nothing to do with that. Their function is to make the appointments according to the law passed here.

At any rate the expenses of the Civil Service Commission have to be borne by an Act passed here. It is the local authorities that will have to pay the salaries of the people they appoint. In the case of the appointment of a doctor, all applicants will have to lodge a sum of two guineas, of a clerk £1, and of a midwife 5/-. I wonder will this money be returned.

Does the Minister think that, say, in the case of a doctor from Cork who applies for a position in another county and is unsuccessful it is fair not to refund him his money?

Can the Deputy say whether unsuccessful candidates got their money returned under the old system?

That was quite different. We were up against a strange Government at that time. We have our own Government now and it should do justice to the people. I think that unsuccessful candidates should get their money back. As regards contracts given by public bodies, the traders, when lodging their tenders, had to deposit a certain sum of money, but in the case of those who did not get contracts the money deposited was returned, and the same thing happened in the case of the man who got the contract. In this case I do not think it is fair to retain the sum deposited by unsuccessful candidates for positions. I am sorry that a number of Deputies who were opposed to this Act when it was being discussed here are not present to support me. I hope the Government will see their way to change it and do justice to all applicants, especially those who are unsuccessful, by returning to them the amounts they are obliged to deposit when lodging their testimonials and certificates.

I do not often agree with Deputy Lyons, but in this case I do think there is something to be said for the plea he has made as regards the large fee of £2 2s. which has to be lodged by the applicant for a position. I am rather inclined to think that that particular condition will limit the number of applications and also limit, perhaps, the applicants to those who feel pretty sure that they are going to be selected. I would prefer to have a wider range of selection, and not tie them to have to pay a fee for being examined. I think the Minister in this case is wrong in insisting upon a large sum like £2 2s. in the case of a man looking for the position of superintending medical officer of health. As Deputy Lyons has said, it might be all right for the man who is successful, but it will not be all right for the unsuccessful ones who have spent their money. It was quite right to suggest that the money given to people for voting in the old times was not always returned to them, but I do not think that the two cases are exactly parallel.

Which would you prefer?

I would rather appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter and not put such a high tariff upon the men going up for these positions.

This vote is for the Civil Service Commission, and we are informed by the Minister that the common staff is to be used for two purposes by the Civil Service Commission, namely, the Civil Service Regulation Act and the Local Appointments Commission. I am assuming that the policy and practice of the Commission will be similar in both-cases, and consequently I want to raise certain questions as to how the Commission is to proceed with its work. I do not know who is responsible, whether it is the Commission or not, for the work done under the name of the Commission. Deputy Lyons and Deputy Sir James Craig have both spoken of the question of fees. I am not so sure that the fees proposition does not require a good deal more examination than even the suggestion to return or the suggestion of a reduction. It will be remembered that some weeks ago there was a discussion in the House regarding an advertisement for an appointment to be made by the Civil Service Commission respecting a news editor for the Broadcasting Station. We were assured by the Minister for Posts, who was interested in the matter, that he had plenty of applications, and he satisfied the House, presumably, that everything was in perfect order. I have no doubt he received applications from all kinds of people with 7/6 per person, but apparently no appointment has been made, though the Minister told us that there had been plenty of applications. Now we see a new advertisement for a news editor for the Broadcasting Station—full-time at a higher salary. I want to know whether it is the policy of the Ministry in such a case to refund to all the applicants their fees. Am I to understand that all the applicants in the first case have had their fees returned?

I have no information on that at the moment, but in my opinion, and as far as I am concerned, the fees ought to be returned.

That, I think, is fair so far as it goes, but it is not sufficient, I think. I am not quite so sure whether they ought not to be compensated, because there is something like a cat-and-mouse game being played with them. In some cases where a personal interview was required, expenses were involved. So much for that. Is it the Civil Service Commission that is responsible for the advertisements which are issued and for the scales of salary? I have before me an advertisement issued by the Civil Service Commission for a person to fill a vacancy for outdoor officer in the mercantile marine— preferably a ship's officer in the foreign-going trade. For the efficient discharge of his duties there will be entailed personal dealings with masters, brokers, agents and seamen. Therefore an absolutely trustworthy candidate is required, of sufficient education to enable him to prepare certain forms and to handle and disburse and account for cash. Now the ages are not, as one might imagine, for a retired mercantile marine officer, but for one of 25 years of age and not exceeding 45 years of age.

A mercantile marine officer has been to sea for not less than ten years and has undergone rigorous examinations. If he has a master's certificate he has had to go to school and through a regular tuition and to comply with all the necessary educational requirements. Yet such a man is wanted by the Civil Service Commission for 32/- a week plus bonus. Who is responsible for that? Is it the Civil Service Commission?

It seems to me that if we are going to proceed on those lines we might as well scrap all talk of University votes, of University education, of secondary education and technical education. Here we are asked to invite people to submit themselves to that kind of training with the promise that we are going to give a ship's officer, under 45 years of age, with ten or twenty years' experience at sea, including foreign-going trade, responsible for handling cash and interviewing masters and brokers, 32/- plus bonus, a maximum, on present scale of 59/3, with a possible increase of 8/- after a very long time.

If that is the kind of policy the Civil Service Commission is to be held responsible for it requires a radical change. It is on a part with what seems to be, unfortunately, the view of the Ministry that special skill and special experience ought not to be paid for. They probably think that inasmuch as the Shannon scheme labourer could be got for 32/- a week, they can get men with master's certificates for that sum, with the bonus in addition. If there is any desire to degrade special skill and professional skill, that is the way to do it. If there is any proposition to make a mockery of the present inquiry into technical education, or the proposal for extending University training, or the better establishment of secondary education, the way to do it is to offer 32/- a week to a ship's officer with foreign-going experience.

I am asking the Minister if the Civil Service Commission is responsible for the terms in which an advertisement of this kind is drafted. If not, who is responsible? And is there any relationship between the requirements of the office and the qualifications that are imposed upon the applicants? When you are asking for a 7/6 stamp to be placed upon applications for offices of that kind, I agree emphatically with Deputy Sir James Craig that such a charge is exorbitant. But this raises a much more important question than the value of the stamp: whether the Civil Service Commission has any responsibility for the fixing of the salary, or for determining the qualifications for the person who is to be appointed; and if not, who is responsible and whether it is intended that this kind of thing shall be a headline set by the State to private employers of ships' officers? Perhaps Deputy Hewat can give us some views as to whether, in his opinion, for instance, a ship's officer with foreign-going experience and between twenty-five and forty-five years of age who has not made himself utterly incompetent is to be got for this money. If that is the declared intention of the Ministry with regard to the work of the Civil Service Commission under the Civil Service Regulation Act, is it to be extended to the Local Authorities Appointment Commission? I think this is a fair opportunity for asking the Minister to give us some fuller particulars as to what the functions of this Commission are and as to who is responsible for the issue of advertisements, the fixing of the scale of salary, and if he is prepared to justify that kind of proposition to put before the public and to ask applicants to pay 7/6 when making application for such a post. I think the scale of fees is quite too high in view of the frequency with which applications are made useless because no appointments are made. I am of opinion that the whole practice of this matter has to be reviewed by the Ministry, and while at the back of my mind I do not think the Civil Service Commission is really responsible, I think the Minister is. I would like to have some enlightenment upon the whole question.

I think, perhaps, I will not be giving much information to Deputy Johnson in anything I may say, but as he has seized his opportunity to say all this, I might reply. The Civil Service Commission, of course, has nothing to do with the fixing of the scale of salary and is not responsible for the matter in the advertisements. A Department proposes to fill a particular position. It decides the sort of qualifications it wants for that post; it proposes a salary for the post, and, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, comes to a decision in regard to the salary to be paid. I know nothing about the particular case Deputy Johnson has referred to. There is just one mistake that I think Departments have sometimes made since the setting up of the Civil Service Commission, and they have made it because the procedure was not fully understood. They have sometimes stated as the minimum qualifications in the advertisement what are really the ideal qualifications, and on one or two occasions no appointment has been made as a result of the Selection Board simply because the qualifications were put too high by the Department in the first instance. I put it this way: Suppose some appointment was to be filled in which a knowledge of languages was required, and that only one language was absolutely necessary. But if the Department said that applicant must have a knowledge of French, German, Spanish and Russian, and put that in the advertisement, then the person who had failed in the knowledge of any one of these languages would not be qualified and would not be appointed. He might have more than the four languages specified in the advertisement, but if he failed in any one of them he could not be appointed.

I am satisfied that on a few occasions it has happened departments have put the qualifications too high. They have specified as a minimum what they could hardly hope to get in any circumstances, or could get only by chance, or else they have been somewhat too rigid in their statements as to qualifications. The result was that a person who really might have been held suitable enough for a post had to be held by the Civil Service Commission as not qualified under the advertisement. Steps have been taken to point out the mistake to the departments and try and obviate its recurrence, and I hope we will have few of those cases in future.

One other thing I may say with regard to the fixing of low salaries. A particular salary fixed was complained of in the Dáil some months ago. It turned out to be too low. We did not get applicants. The salary was not fixed at random or with a desire to cut down salaries unduly. It was similar to a payment given in another country which has not a depreciated currency. It was fixed on the salary given to a man in Denmark for doing the work, we wanted done here. It turned out to be too low, but it was fixed with reference to a standard that was not unreasonable. It may happen sometimes that salaries are fixed too low, and that applicants with the qualifications required will not turn up. We do not want that to happen. On the other hand we have to try and fix them as low as we believe we can get suitably qualified people at, and have these people continue in the service of the State under some condition of contentment. That is what I would lay down as the rule with reference to the fixing of salaries; fixing them as low as will induce suitable people to enter the service of the State and remain in it in some reasonable state of contentment. You will not have people absolutely satisfied with any salary fixed.

With reference to fees being at a very low figure, I do not think it is desirable to fix them too low. It is difficult to get suitable people to serve on a Selection Board. It is a great tax on them. A man who is asked to serve on a Selection Board for a particular appointment may have to spend two or three days at it. If the number of applicants—because you fix no fee—is large, and if people who have no chance enter and take up the time of the Selection Board, you will find it harder in future to get suitable people to act on them. If you put people who are wholly unsuitable on the Selection Board your machinery breaks down. I do not say that we should fix these fees too high but, for appointments such as superintendent medical officers, with salaries of £800 yearly, having regard to the expenses of conducting the selection test, as well as the difficulty of getting suitable people, it is certainly not desirable to fix them any lower. If you fix fees lower you may have all sorts of people entering. If you had in the ordinary way fifty where you should have only ten, the great majority of whom had no chance, you would make the working of your machinery extremely difficult.

I understand that arrangements have been made by which civil servants, like medical inspectors under the Department of Local Government and Public Health and inspectors of schools, are now to receive only third class travelling expenses, and I am told by some of these men, third class hotel expenses. I want to know if the Selection Board, when travelling about the country, will be limited to third class expenses.

I could not tell the Deputy now.

Does the Minister justify 32/- a week for a master mariner?

I may be able to say so another time, but not at the moment.

Vote put and agreed to.

I wish to be taken as dissenting.