I have every sympathy with Deputy Dockrell's proposal inasmuch as he wants to ensure that the chairman of the industrial court will be a person altogether above the control of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Deputy Dockrell seeks to endow the chairman of the board with an independence as closely akin as possible to that possessed by a High Court judge in the capacity in which he holds office. While sympathising with that idea, I see certain inherent difficulties in implementing it, inasmuch as it is quite conceivable that one might be caught on the wrong foot subsequent to the making of the appointment. It is possible that one might appoint a person as chairman of this court believing that such person was the repository of every virtue; six to 12 months' experience of him as chairman might indicate that he was a most unsuitable man and that one's earlier decision in appointing him was an exceedingly unwise one. It would be a great pity if one were tied to that mistake for four or five years or, worse still, if one accepted Deputy Dockrell's amendment one would find oneself anchored to that chairman for the rest of the court's life. Those are real difficulties inherent in the situation. Deputy Dockrell wants a chairman who will hold the position almost in perpetuity, or until such time as senile decay sets in, when he will have to be removed.
The Minister says the difficulty about doing that is that if one puts in a gentleman who does not run true to form, there will be no means of removing him from office. Sensible people have to try to find a balance between these two points of view. I think probably an even balance could be got by endeavouring to find a chairman who will command respect by our obtaining now from the Minister an assurance, in the form of an undertaking to this House, that an effort will be made to get the most suitable person to function as chairman of this industrial court; that, when he is appointed, there will be no nagging either on the part of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (I am not saying this now in any personal way, because it may be some other Minister for Industry and Commerce) or the Department, and that he will not be obliged, in coming to a decision, to inquire either from the Department or in his own mind what view the Minister or the Department has on some particular decision at which he has to arrive at.
I want, therefore, to ask the Minister a few questions in this connection. I would like to know what kind of person the Minister has in mind for this appointment. I hope that it is not intended to put into this office any kind of politician, who is engaged in, or has recently been engaged in, the cut and thrust of Party politics or debate in this House, or who, because of his political affiliations, would be more responsible to the Minister than another person possessed of a greater degree of independence. I trust that political considerations will be completely eschewed in the appointment of the chairman of this industrial court. Again, is it intended to second a civil servant to the chairmanship of this court? If it is so intended, is it contemplated that such civil servant, so seconded, will cut the painter completely with the Civil Service and function independently as chairman of this industrial court? Or is it contemplated that, if so appointed, for, say, a period of five years, he will at the end of that time have the right to revert to his former rank in the Civil Service; if that is so, then he must, during his period of office, always have before his mind the fact that he will so revert under the control of the Minister and he must keep before his mind what the Minister may think of him as chairman of this industrial court. If that is done, I think the Minister will be committing a fatal mistake at the very outset.
Under this section we are entitled to ask the Minister what exactly he has in mind. I frankly want to have a person of good standing in the community, a person with a breadth of vision, a person of understanding. I do not want a person who has spent up to this a considerable amount of his time in starchy exploits which necessarily give an element of somewhat artificial dignity and pseudo-competence, quite hopeless from the point of view of settling such disputes as are likely to come before this court. I want a common-sense man of ability, possessed of a high degree of honour, integrity and rectitude and one who can be relied upon to view things with a broad vision and bring his ability and knowledge to bear in the settlement of disputes which will come before this court. If we are successful in finding a person of that type we shall probably do more to ensure the efficient operation of this court than by giving a person a particular type of tenure under this Bill. I would like, therefore, to get from the Minister an assurance that he has in mind the appointment of a person who fulfils all the qualifications I have indicated.
As far as the Minister is concerned in this appointment, I hope that he will do all in his power to throw the chairman of this court as far as possible away from any vestige of his control, and that such a chairman will be appointed on the definite understanding that he has no responsibility to the Minister, and that he is neither going to be nagged at nor asked to justify to the Department, the Minister, or anybody else any awards he makes in his capacity as chairman of this industrial court. I think the more independence the chairman has the better it will be for the efficient operation of the court.
I trust, therefore, that the Minister will indicate to the House the type of person he has in mind, first of all, and, secondly, that such a person will have all the independence in the exercise of his powers as that possessed by a judge of the High Court; and that he will in no sense be responsible to the Minister or the Department. If we can get such an assurance, I think we shall have got from the Minister probably more than even the insertion in this Bill of a definite tenure of office, which could very easily be impaired by the appointment of a person who would be little more than a rubber stamp for the Minister, or too anxious to please either the Minister or the Department because there would be before his mind the possibility of a further tenure of office at the end of his particular period.