I was speaking on amendment No. 14 when we adjourned. I had pointed out that the three sections constituting the court were the chairman, the members nominated by the employers' organisation and the members nominated by the workers' organisation. While some of the points I am now going to put to the Minister may not be covered so far as this Bill is concerned, I am quite sure that he will bear them in mind when he is exercising the powers given to him under the Bill. In so far as amendment No. 14 and the disability of the workers' representatives who may be members of the court are concerned, the amendment proposes that an ordinary member may in effect only be a member of the court; and he is debarred from other offices which would not, in fact, in any way affect his position personally or bring him any pecuniary gain, such as an unpaid trustee, an honorary secretary, etc. Yet the disqualification is fairly definite. On the other hand, when we come to the other two sections of the court there are rather wider implications concerned to which I think consideration should be given. The most important matter concerns the chairman. While it is laid down that the chairman shall devote the whole of his attention and time to the work of the court, I think both the Minister and the House will accept the principle that it is absolutely essential that nothing should occur in relation to the position of the chairman which would in any way prejudice the general attitude as to his impartiality or lack of partisanship. Yet the amendment makes it possible for the chairman to be a large shareholder in some concern, such as the Bank of Ireland, with very wide industrial and commercial interests and ramifications. At the same time he may be held to be not entitled to hold a position as director of a small private company because in that case he would receive a small fee in recognition of his services.
It seems to me the first position, where he would be a large shareholder in either an industrial, commercial, or financial concern, with very wide contacts, is such that the ordinary parties appearing before the court would be unable to have exact knowledge as to where his interests commenced and where they ceased; that would raise a very awkward situation if it subsequently became known that he did, in fact, have pecuniary interests in any concern which was the subject of inquiry by the court. For that reason I think the Minister, in making his selection, should keep that particular point in mind.
In the same way, in relation to the employers' representatives, there are not the same rigid conditions laid down in their case as in the case of the workers' representatives. Earlier in the debate to-day reference was made to the position which might arise of regarding the members of this court as being almost in the category of judges and completely divorced from their previous background. That is not my view of the court. I do not know if it is the Minister's view. While I agree that the workers' representatives should not continue to have an active official interest in any workers' organisation, I think it must be admitted that one of the reasons for the appointment of the workers'—or, indeed, of the employers'—representatives is that they have a certain background and certain interests and certain general viewpoints. It is in order to strike a balance that the two sides are represented on the court. Nobody expects that the workers' representatives, having been active members or officials of a trade union, could overnight step into membership of the court and discard all their previous views and beliefs. If that were to happen the court would have no value. In the same way nobody expects the employers' representatives to do that. We all accept that the members of the court must be competent, in so far as their personal abilities lie, to approach questions in an impartial manner and there must be no shadow of doubt that they are doing so. I had one experience in the past where such a doubt existed in regard to a court of this character.
From that experience I would urge upon the Minister that he should bear this in mind and widen the actual application of the sections in the Bill, not only in relation to the question of holding full-time office outside the court but also in relation to safeguarding the position of the chairman in every way. Somebody mentioned that we should try to make it analogous to the position of a judge. A judge is not debarred from having private holdings in a commercial enterprise. While nobody would expect that to be the position in this particular case, large holdings in an industrial, commercial or financial concern might mean a great deal more than actual full-time office in a small private company. Nothing can be done at the moment in regard to the Bill because it would be extremely difficult to find a suitable clause to cover the situation. The Minister is given certain responsibility in regard to the appointment of a chairman and the final selection of the employers' and workers' representatives. I think he will have to assume responsibility for ensuring that members of the court are not put in a position where, regardless of their personal impartiality and lack of partisanship, grave doubts might arise because of certain connections they might have.