Local Government Bill, 1954 —Committee.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 10:—
To delete lines 49 to 51.

Major de Valera

The point in this amendment is that under sub-paragraph (n) of the section the Minister may make regulations providing for the supplementing of regulations by directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister. We repeated yesterday on all sides of the House much of what has been said in the past with regard to legislation by regulation and we have all agreed that it is a dangerous thing and something not to be extended unnecessarily. Here, to my mind, is something which is exceedingly objectionable from that point of view. It provides for the supplementing of regulations by directions, and the very lack of definition in the particular wording used there seems to me to imply that you are going to give these directions — whatever they may mean — the force of a regulation, and that simply means giving them legislative force.

The Minister should clear up a few points for us. He should tell us what kind of direction is involved. We are quite clear where we stand with regard to Statutory Rules or Orders made. They are made duly under the authority of some particular statute, that is, directly under the authority of this House. They are usually hedged by such a provision as the Minister proposes to put in his amendment to the section and it is generally thought to be desirable in all such cases. This is about the only safeguard there is, namely, that this regulation will be tabled and can be annulled under certain circumstances even though that annulment is usually without prejudice to anything done under the regulation as it is. That is to some extent a safeguard, but here it is quite clear that supplementary directions so given would not be captured by that clause which the Minister is later going to introduce. Furthermore, it is questionable whether such directions could be ever tracked down except they happen to be produced by the Minister or his Department in some relevant issue. I think that is an undesirable situation. If there are going to be directions I see no reason why these directions should be given the force of an Order instead of remaining as they have been heretofore, administrative directions but as such, of course, not carrying the force of legislation when it comes to a dispute between a citizen and the Department or even a question of a dispute within the Department.

They have no legal status, as the Deputy knows.

Major de Valera

Then why should these directions be given that type of legal status now?

Because they are useless unless they are.

Major de Valera

That is an oversimplification. In the ordinary running of Departments, there are, naturally, directions given in the course of administration. The Minister may direct a secretary to reply to a letter in particular terms. The Minister may tell his officers to do certain things, to carry out a certain survey or something like that, but in the ordinary course of administration we all know it is not necessary for the Minister to have statutory authority and sanction for giving that specific direction, or that that direction should carry the specific legislative force that attaches either to an Act of Parliament or to a statutory rule or regulation. I cannot see that it is necessary so to do. In giving a provision like that to the Minister or to any Minister we are opening the way for all sorts of directions to acquire the force of law, to be irrebuttable, so to speak, in court, unquestionable. They are law and that is all there is to it. Surely that is going very much further than many of us have wanted.

There are many of us on all sides of this House at the present moment who have questioned the idea of giving power to Ministers to legislate by Order, and a number of us have tried consistently to restrict that to cases of necessity. That remark goes, as I have said, not only for one side of the House but for all sides. Not only are we giving power to make Orders but giving a man carte blanche to give directions which, by virtue of this subsection, will carry the force of a Statutory Rule and Order without the safeguards with which we usually hedge those Orders in.

Apart from anything else, what does "supplementing" mean? If there is not the thin edge of the wedge there, I wonder what would be. What are directions? There is no question — and the Minister himself, when talking to other Ministers from the side of the House I am on now, would have used the same expression; in fact, I think I can remember his using a phrase somewhat similar — of imputing to the present Minister, to his Government or Department, any improper intentions, but the fact is that there is that danger there in principle and it is on principle that the provision is objectionable.

The phrase runs: "directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister". What does that mean? In the ordinary course of work directions are given by the Minister through his Department officials. Many of these directions will be given by officers of the Department lower than even the Minister's Secretary, the Secretary of the Department. They will be given by officers in various parts of the Department and will be given for and on behalf of the Minister. In practice, it will not be hard to invoke the point that such directions given by members of the Civil Service on behalf of the Minister are technically given by the Minister. Does not this section mean in its stark nakedness that we are going now to provide in this Act that the Minister may make a regulation which in fact will empower officers of his Department to make Statutory Rules and Orders? I know that is not intended; I hope it is not intended, but on a fair construction of the wording of this section, is that not the possibility? If it is a possibility, then I think we should have the safeguard. I still would object in principle but if the Minister were to be adamant and to use the majority which he could command to force this through, I would still appeal to him in these terms: would you meet us this far, to say that no such direction could be given unless it bore the signature of the Minister for the time being?

The Deputy is not serious?

Major de Valera

I am serious, but if the Minister says I am not, again with respect and in appreciation of the Minister's difficulty — and I know the particular Minister's viewpoint and that it is probably not far remote from my own, in sympathy with keeping the power in the House — then he says I am seriously suggesting an impossible task for the Minister, as there are so many of these Orders. Does this mean in effect that an instrument purporting to be a direction——

May be contained in a letter.

Major de Valera

— within the terms of this, may be framed, circulated and implemented by an officer of the Department without the personal knowledge of the Minister?

Major de Valera

The Minister says "Yes". Now, such a direction is, by virtue of this provision, to have the force of a Statutory Rule and Order. It is to have the force of law. Therefore, am I not right in saying that this provision means that a civil servant may now legislate without the House, the Minister or any member of the House being cognisant of even the fact?

As he has been doing in practice for years.

Major de Valera

Has he been legislating in practice for years?

Major de Valera

Will he be legislating?

I hope so—in minor matters.

Major de Valera

I do not want to be unfair to the Minister. What have I on the record now? I have this. He has been acting in a certain way for years, but he has not been legislating — when I asked the question, the Minister said "no"— but he will be if this is passed. There is the position. Now, I am asking Deputies to consider this. Deputy MacBride last night suggested it was not the first time this happened. Maybe Deputy MacBride is right, but that does not make me deplore the fact any the less and it does not make me feel that I should desist from opposing this position. I may say, as a Deputy, that it is the first time I have seen this and appreciated it. One may say I am remiss in not having appreciated it in other provisions, if it is there, but I can say I have not seen any provision on all fours with this. The Minister tried to quote something to me last night but that was a different matter, that was a specific limit and a completely isolated and insulated matter. Here is a general power being given to a Department to legislate — and I am not misrepresenting the facts when I say it. I repeat, here is a general power given to civil servants in the Departments to legislate. If we are going to pass it, let this House be aware of what it is passing.

Within general regulations already passed by the Oireachtas.

Major de Valera

There is no safeguard. The Minister may make a regulation conferring that power on civil servants, limited only by whatever interpretation may be put on the two very indeterminate words "supplementing" and "directions."

I conceive this to be a matter of prime importance to the public. There is nothing in the regulation that says that they cannot even legislate retrospectively in that regard. Already this Bill, at another section, holds a provision where there is retrospective legislation taking away the existing rights of citizens, to which we will come later. Here we have an unqualified power of legislation, on the Minister's admission, given to civil servants.

The Minister never said there was an unqualified power. Do not misquote me.

Major de Valera

I would be very sorry to misquote the Minister. He has admitted that this power of legislation is being given to civil servants and I say — let me be accurate — and I say it on the words — and I would ask Deputies to read the document for themselves — that that is in effect an unqualified power, because the Minister may pass on unqualified power. There is nothing there to limit the power that the Minister can pass on. Secondly, there is nothing even to limit the power of retrospective departmental legislation here.

Now, let us see the type of thing that can arise out of that. Supposing that there is a dispute — as we very frequently had and there are lawyers here who have had experience of that — where some individual comes up against the departmental machine and has a legal claim for something like salary. I have seen these cases in the courts time and time again. It may be for some remuneration or some right he claims he has under statute. These matters can come to court, as they properly do, and be there determined. It very often happens that in such a case the Department is beaten just because there is some point that is not covered. I do not think it is a bad thing that the Department should be beaten occasionally by the private individual in such a case and that the individual's right should be upheld. That is the present position.

What is the result of this section? The Minister will give a supplemental Order, giving sufficient powers dealing with certain matters. Let it be clear that I am not charging the Minister or his Department with any improper intention. I do not have to repeat here the whole gamut of argument as to why we have to be careful of what we are doing; there is no use in going on to a general constitutional discussion on these things and I hope the Minister will accept that I am not imputing to himself or his officers any improper motives. However, we have to take the possibilities here in legislation in a case such as I have cited. Provided the regulations are broad enough, "supplementing" will be broad enough to be interpreted as "relating to" and I am bold enough to say that here. "Supplementing" is so vague that it can be broadly interpreted as meaning merely "relating to.""Directions"—Deputies can see the scope of that word. There is there a chance of making an Order to cover the loophole — and that is that; and if that Order has the force of law, as it would have here, the court looks at it, takes it as conclusive, and that is that. That is what we are doing here — and I can see no reason why such a direction could not even be retrospective.

I wonder if the Minister appreciates, and if Deputies appreciate, the appalling possibilities in this, in its unqualified form. I know the Minister, with the best will in the world — and we appreciate it — has brought in a subsection to this section to provide that the Orders he would make under this section would be laid on the Table of the House; but even that does not cover this. I must most strongly urge upon the Minister and the Government that, this having come to light in this way, he set his face against it — and, what is more, that he wipe out any such provisions, if any are found, in any other legislation no matter by whom passed. Only a war or emergency conditions or something like that could justify provisions of this nature, and there are very many people in this country who would agree with me in that statement. For instance I have talked about the rights of individuals, but that section alone by virtue of its phrasing, places every employee in the local government service at the mercy of departmental directions and we know the tyranny that a machine can be. It even — so to speak — places the people who would make the Orders at the mercy of the Frankenstein that they have created.

But who created it?

Is not that brazen bluff?

Major de Valera

It is not, Deputy. Read the words of that section and take it in. It is not brazen bluff. I say that if these measures continue it would be the thin edge of the wedge towards wiping out the powers of this House. Suppose you apply that type of thing to the regulations made by the Department of Education or those made by the Department of Justice, to take two very important cases. But if it is applied to local government to-day you are creating a precedent for applying it to, say, Education or Justice in the future.

Like the county commissioners.

Major de Valera

What about the county commissioners?

The same thing.

Major de Valera

Is Deputy Rooney supporting me in this? Remember I have not changed my arguments. I think this is a dangerous provision and, unfortunately, it is the Deputy and his Party who will have to decide as to whether the Minister will have this power or not. Frankly, I do not object to giving the present Minister the powers he needs to carry on—or any other Minister, for that matter, but I cannot see why the directions and the things that have been working heretofore cannot continue. If there are cases where a legal right is challenged, is not the individual entitled to have legal rights, and win on those rights? No steamrolling provision should be inserted in legislation to ensure that the machine is going to win at every turn. It can be local government to-day and it can be education or anything else afterwards. As I pointed out last night, you had previously the dangers of this sort commonly inherent only in defence codes and when soldiers were subject to very strict discipline in defence acts and military law, and a whole heap of safeguards had to be built up to protect the unfortunate soldier. Now we shall have to have regulations to protect the employees of the local government machine. These are the people directly involved, but I am more concerned than that. If that kind of provision is passed to-day in relation to that kind of Order it is relatively easy to come in to-morrow and pass that kind of provision in relation to a broader class of citizens and so on, as the thing widens.

If I am wrong in expressing this fear I need only quote the things that have been thrown across the House. Deputy MacBride was the first to say that this was not the first time this was done: that it was done before. What is that but saying that there is a precedent? And what I am saying is that all these precedents are very dangerous and the cumulative effect of them is more dangerous still.

The Deputy had an opportunity of wiping out the precedent and he did not do it.

Major de Valera

That is no answer.

He could have amended the Electoral Act, 1923.

Major de Valera

Let me take the Electoral Act. The Minister has shown how poor his case is by referring to that Act. That was the very thin end of the wedge and it would not have been a bad idea if the people at that time could have foreseen this type of thing so that that should not be done. There is no comparison between the powers of delegated legislation given here and those in that Act and I know of no other Act which gives such wide powers, which will so vitally affect individual rights in these days of threats to rights of individuals, as this section does.

The Minister must have discipline and administration and so forth but it has been perfectly possible to have those heretofore. There have been occasional cases of, say, an officer on retiring, claiming certain rights which the Department says he should not have and he wins in court on the interpretation of documents. I say, by and large, from the point of view of the community that is a very good thing and I think it would be very bad to provide that such a thing could not happen, because in this case if you take that approach you are virtually providing that the civil servant or the local authority employee has no rights whatsoever.

I know I say these things vehemently but I am not attributing to the present Minister——

That is accepted.

Major de Valera

When you see these inherent possibilities in this measure it is intrinsically objectionable and for these reasons I am thinking it could go to Education or to Justice or to anything in the future with the danger of retrospective amendment of loopholes with all the rest. I strongly urge the Minister to reject this provision.

Let us look at the mechanics. What are the mechanics for making a Rule or Order? It only means drafting it, going through certain formalities of signature and putting it on the Table of the House—is not that all?

Yes, but they involve sometimes ten or 12 per day.

Major de Valera

I see no reason why that cannot be done. These directions will have to be drafted and signed and from a purely expediency point of view they will have to be fairly carefully drafted if they are going to be law because, thank goodness, it is still free to lawyers to fight their interpretation in the courts.

It is not free to the client.

Major de Valera

Well, you can get a free decision from our courts so far, but this type of thing will muzzle the courts if they are confronted with legislation which they cannot get around. I do object, and want to be recorded as objecting very strenuously to any provisions that will enable any person other than the Minister who is delegated by this House to legislate on behalf of the House by Order. I strongly object to that. I think it is an unnecessary provision and a dangerous one, and I am more than ever worried in view of the Minister's remark last night that this was a preliminary to codification. To incorporate that kind of provision in a code by very slight amendment would simply mean that the whole code was eyewash. It would simply mean the autocratic rule of a Department.

I think I have pressed it as hard and as fairly as I can and I would again urge the Minister not to take this power.

The Deputy has spoken at considerable length and I wish to say I appreciate what he said and that he has spoken from conviction, but he does not appear to appreciate that the regulations to be made under this section and Section 19 of the 1941 Act are intended to be a reasonably permanent set of regulations without cumbersome details. The Deputy will appreciate that and the House will.

With regard to these regulations, certain directions must be given. Very often they are given by letter; very often by circular.

The Deputy's suggestion is that they should be signed personally by the Minister. I refer the Deputy to the section which provides for the making of these directions. It says:—

"...providing for the supplementing of the regulations by directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister."

These regulations govern five different Ministries; they govern Local Government, Health, Social Welfare, Agriculture and Defence. Within these regulations, certain directions must be given. As I said, they may be given by letter or otherwise. For instance, the regulations provide for the paying of travelling expenses to certain officials, but those travelling expenses change from time to time, and within the regulations directions may be given altering the scale of travelling expenses. I think it would be a ridiculous waste of time and would cause delay if every time the scale is changed, the regulations or the directions should be laid on the Table of the House.

Again, certain officers are bound by the regulations to give security on taking up their appointments. Those securities vary, depending entirely on the amounts of money handled by each officer. For instance, rate collectors in some areas handle large sums and rent collectors in small towns may handle very small sums. The regulations provide for the giving of security. The directions will provide for the amount of security to be given in each individual case. I think it would be unreasonable that these directions should be laid on the Table of the House. As Deputy MacBride has said, it would defeat the purpose of the laying of regulations on the Table of the House. There would be so many on the Table of the House that we would not even read one of them, and we would miss the important regulations.

I can appreciate Deputy de Valera's point of view and I am prepared to meet him. I am prepared to give him an alternative. I am prepared to have laid on the Table of the House directions to more than one local authority because they would be more or less general directions given within the regulations, or, alternatively, I am prepared to meet him between now and the Report Stage by amending this section. The section as it reads at the moment provides for the supplementing of the regulations by directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister. I would be prepared to amend that to read:—

"Providing for the supplementing of the regulations by such directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister as may be necessary to give effect to the regulations."

I think either of those amendments should be acceptable to the House and I would prefer that the House should accept the second. If Deputy de Valera and the House consider that that would give greater protection to the public, then I would be prepared to bring in that amendment between now and the Report Stage.

I was trying to draft out some form of safeguard. I wonder would the Minister consider accepting, as an addition to his amendment, the following words: "provided always that such direction shall not extend or widen the scope of the regulation?"

To give effect to them, they must be within the regulations.

It would be better to make that quite clear.

I would be willing to consider it between now and the Report Stage. I cannot really see any objection to the Deputy's suggestion.

Major de Valera

I appreciate very much what the Minister has said but I doubt if the wording is close enough and we will still have the position where we will have legislation by an officer of the Department. That would still be the effect.

No; you must read the section: "by direction of the appropriate Minister".

Major de Valera

"Providing for the supplementing of regulations by directions given from time to time by the appropriate Minister."

The document itself may be signed by an officer of the Department, but it is on the appropriate Minister's direction that it is done. The Minister must take the rap if anything goes wrong and it is within the scope of the regulations.

I think the Minister is being extremely reasonable with the House. Deputy de Valera, in the course of his earlier remarks, made a strong case, and I think, like the Minister, Deputy de Valera spoke with conviction. I regretted the fact yesterday that Deputy de Valera's viewpoint had not been accepted earlier by his Party. I want to say this in fairness to Deputy de Valera. I am aware of the fact that he, as an individual Deputy, has consistently adopted and expressed the viewpoint which he expressed here in relation to legislation by Order. It was particularly noticeable during the emergency years amongst the legal profession that legislation by Order was getting out of hand and a situation had arisen where a verbal Order made by a Minister had the force of law, even though the Order was never printed. However, I do not think it is necessary to go back to the particular situation which arose here.

The strongest argument made by Deputy de Valera was the danger which might exist of supplementary directions having the force of legislation and being made retrospective in a way which might affect the rights of persons before the court. I do not know if that danger was ever real, even under the sub-section as it stood, but I urge on Deputy de Valera the view that the amendment suggested by the Minister, together with the addition suggested by Deputy MacBride, completely overcomes that difficulty. If it were suggested that, with the amendment now proposed by the Minister, the situation has not altered, I think we would only be fencing with words and would not be facing the realities of the situation.

I take an example with which Deputy de Valera will be familiar. According to our legislation at the moment, there are very many cases which will come readily to his mind, where matters of procedure and so on are made and laid down by regulations which vary from time to time. Even the procedure with regard to court hearings, court sittings and so on may be governed by regulations, not made by the Minister for Justice, or the Department of the Minister for Justice, but by such bodies as Benchers of the King's Inn and the Incorporated Law Society.

You might just as well argue that the Law Society or the Benchers have vested in them the right to legislate without reference even to the Department of Justice, as to argue that the section, with the amendment as suggested, gives the right to officials in a Government Department to legislate. I should like to express gratification that the Minister is meeting the House in relation to this Bill in the manner in which he has done so far. Speaking before from Government Benches in this House, I expressed the wish that Ministers would meet the House in that particular way. I think in the long run it makes for better legislation than if the House is simply divided and it is a question of counting heads. I feel that Deputy de Valera will agree with me that if Ministers in relation to Bills of this sort, which do not necessarily contain any important aspect of Government policy, come into this House in the manner in which the Minister for Local Government came in this afternoon in relation to this Bill, it would help the House and in the long run make for very good legislation.

I shall be very brief. I am not going to discuss the Constitution or legal aspects of the matter. As one of the signatories to the amendment which has given rise to this discussion—my colleagues can speak for themselves—it appears to me that the amendment to paragraph (n) meets the objection which we had to the sub-section as it was framed. The wording of the Minister, under which such supplementary direction will be within the scope of the regulations to which the particular draft refers, will, as far as I can see, satisfy us. I am not competent to argue the point Deputy de Valera argued on very high-grade principles. If, for argument's sake, a direction were held to be in contravention of the scope of the particular regulation what redress would there be?

Deputy de Valera will tell you that.

He has discussed a number of fundamental principles.

I do not refer to it in that respect.

As one of the signatories to the amendment, I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the Minister. I am not competent to say whether we are shutting the doors against all the dangers envisaged. A lot of talk goes on here about past legislation and emergency legislation in critical periods. We are a little bit away from the war and the emergency period now; we all hope that we are much further away from the next war. There is no use in referring to an Act of 1923 and somebody talking about the Commissioner for County Dublin when the Commissioner was appointed by an Act of the Minister, not by a clause supplemental to some regulation. The Lord Mayor of Dublin can speak for himself but I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the Minister.

Major de Valera

I would be lacking in courtesy if I did not acknowledge the very helpful attitude of the Minister towards the House. I greatly appreciate it. Perhaps I might have the words of Deputy MacBride's proviso again. I am in a certain difficulty in this matter. We cannot put a tooth in it. What I object to, fundamentally, is the delegating of the power of legislation beyond the Minister himself to an officer of the Department.

The section does say "appropriate Minister".

Major de Valera

I know that.

Would the Deputy prefer to let it stand to the Report Stage?

Major de Valera

Perhaps the Minister will allow me to finish. This is my fundamental difficulty and I am trying to explain my attitude to the Minister. I am perfectly satisfied with the amendment as offered by the Minister and as supplemented by Deputy MacBride. Perhaps I should not say perfectly, but I should be reasonably satisfied or sufficiently satisfied with the intention. At first blush, it seems the wording might be adequate, but I still am in difficulty about the principle. I shall gladly leave it to the Minister to deal with it on the Report Stage, but at the same time, in so doing, I should like the Minister to appreciate very clearly that fundamentally what I am objecting to-and I think my colleagues will support me— is, even in the smallest degree, a question of principle. What I am afraid of is the precedent, the extension and all that—the principle of delegating the power of legislation to somebody who is not in this House.

Oh, no. The Minister is always in the House.

Major de Valera

In a sense, that in practice is what it will be. I know that theoretically it is not so but, in the personal sense, one of the safeguards in Statutory Rules and Orders is that the Minister will be the person.

He must take responsibility, but it may be signed by somebody else.

Major de Valera

He will be personally aware, too. I do not want to go into these points any further.

I can assure the Deputy when it comes to circulars that not only myself, but every Minister, sees circulars issued from his Department. Ministers may give certain directions to officials, but they take full responsibility for these directions.

Major de Valera

Can I ask for one other safeguard? Suppose we accept that. The Minister has offered to lay some of these regulations on the Table and put some of them in the Library in some way. That would be highly desirable and we can debate that on the later amendment. In addition you might even get the Minister to initial them, if he has seen them.

The one thing we are continually fighting for is to ensure that Ministers will not become rubber stamps.

Major de Valera

It is another thing if you make Ministers delegate their authority.

The regulations issued to more than one local authority can be signed or initialled by the Minister.

Major de Valera

I gladly acknowledge the readiness of the Minister to try to meet us within the wording of his amendment. I think, in practice, that the present Minister would be scrupulous to keep to the intention and the amendment would be improved by Deputy MacBride's suggestion. There is, however, this possibility, a naked possibility in the present situation. The Minister might have a successor who might not be so trustworthy. There would be a regulation made, governing, say, superannuation and in making that regulation there would be a delegated power to supplement such directions. In that regulation, there might be a loophole with regard to some condition.

If it is a regulation, then directions given must be within the regulation?

Major de Valera

Quite. A supplementary direction so given within the regulation might be sufficient to cure the defect but looking at it from the Department's point of view, to put it more realistically, it might take away the right that was there but for the supplementary direction. Now, that is the type of danger of which I am afraid. However, the Minister has asked us to leave it until the Report Stage. The Minister has said he will accept this amendment and accept Deputy MacBride's suggestion, and I am happy to leave it at that. I shall leave it to the Minister on the Report Stage, with the qualification that no act of an officer of the Department, without the personal knowledge of the Minister, is to have the force of law.

I, too, would like to join with the other Deputies in congratulating the Minister in his attitude. I know, as do the other Deputies that have spoken, the vices in this particular type of legislation. I think it is a healthy thing that Deputies on both sides should set their faces resolutely against this type of thing. Indeed, it would be useful if we could make a rule that we would on both sides strenuously oppose this type of delegated legislation and also this type of legislation by reference. A tendency has grown up, not only as a result of the war, but generally, in the course of the last 25 years to have more and more bureaucratic control. I think that is dangerous and this discussion, though it has wasted several hours of parliamentary time——

Do not say wasted.

I am not saying that in derogation of members. I am merely pointing out that if the parliamentary draftsman learned that this type of legislation would not receive the sanction of the House a considerable amount of public time would be saved. It is in that sense that I meant public time had been wasted in trying to force through the House legislation which obviously would not receive the approval of the House.

The words which I have suggested as an addition to the Minister's amendment are the following: "provided always that such direction shall not extend or widen the scope of such regulations." I am quite satisfied to accept the Minister's undertaking to examine the position between this and the Report Stage. Not only in relation to this Bill, but generally, the time has come when it may be necessary on occasion even to vote against measures of which one approves if they are framed in such a manner, because that appears to be the only way in which members will be able to force their views on the officials who prepare this type of legislation; they must learn that it will not receive the sanction of the House.

Even though the Deputy's suggestion is accepted, directions must still be given.

That does not wash. The Minister should not provoke me. This is the year of Our Lord 1954 and until now, and for the last 50 years, whoever has run the Custom House has not been able to write orders without coming here and getting the authority of law for every letter written by a civil servant. The purpose of this provision is to give the authority of law to a letter written by a civil servant in the Custom House. Until this year of Our Lord 1954 the country has got on without giving these additional powers to civil servants. I do not see why we should not carry on just as well without them.

This applies to many more Departments, other than the Department of Local Government.

I know it does.

It applies to Defence.

Worse still!

It applies to Health.

Worse still!

Major de Valera

The Minister means this particular provision applies.

The Minister is perfectly right, but that only makes matters worse; it means that until now the country has been able to carry on without giving civil servants authority to make laws on their own.

The Deputy said he knew of many other cases, and there was a precedent for this kind of direction. I think the Deputy said that himself.

I think I said it was in relation to ministerial directions.

These are ministerial directions.

They may be now, but they will not be under the Minister's amendment.

Major de Valera

Then why was this section necessary? We will leave the matter until the Report Stage, but I must make it clear that my fundamental objection remains and I may not find myself on an examination of this in a position to go the whole way with the Minister, much as I would like to go, particularly in regard to his helpful attitude.

As a matter of curiosity, I want the Minister to clear my mind: what is the difference between a direction which would be given under this, remembering that the word "direction" is not, so far, defined, and a declaration given under Section 20 of the 1941 Act which, in 1941, was given the force of law? A declaration and a direction seemed to me to be the same. If so, the Deputy has some weight on his side when he says there is very much the same thing already in the 1941 Act.

The Deputy is a member of a mental hospital committee and he knows very well what has been going on; he knows that he and the servants under him and the R.M.S. have been carrying out functions and doing what we are purporting to do under this Bill. The Deputy knows very well that we are trying to legitimise something which mental hospital committees have been doing for years by way of direction.

Major de Valera

There was a very serious debate on that subject when that Bill was introduced. That might be worth reading again.

I am glad the Minister has agreed to reconsider the matter and bring in an appropriate amendment himself on the Report Stage. I was one of the signatories of the original amendment, together with Deputy Briscoe, Deputy Belton and Deputy Larkin, which was moved last night. I agree with the Minister's action in considering the matter and bringing it forward on the Report Stage. I appreciate the discussion which has taken place and the Minister's attitude.

Major de Valera

It will come up on the Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:—

Between lines 51 and 52 to insert the following:—

"(II) Section 19 of the Act of 1941 is hereby amended by the insertion in sub-section (1) of an additional paragraph as follows:—

‘( ) Any regulations made in relation to paragraph (g) of this sub-section shall prescribe in relation to all permanent posts of a clerical nature that they be filled by written competitive examination only'."

Whatever the result of this amendment may be I hope it will escape the bisecting of the legal luminaries in this House because it seems to me that, if it does not, we will either all end up as legal luminaries or we shall have no Local Government Act at all.

We are asking the Minister here to consider a problem which affects people in the rural areas in relation to entrants to local authority offices. It is, I admit, almost impossible to get a perfect system but we believe that in connection with work of a clerical nature recruitment should be by means of written competitive examination. In our opinion recruitment by means of interview board is anything but satisfactory in many instances. An interview board can be set up by the county manager. Under the existing Act the manager has that right. Members are given no information whatsoever. Now, candidates may sit for an examination and prove their ability but, when they go before the interview board, very often that ability does not count. Deputies who are members of local authorities have had, I am sure, the same experience as we have had in Cork. We are not satisfied that there is any sense of fair play in the interview board system in relation to examinations and that is why we ask the Minister to accept this amendment. If we are to take the central government, how many posts in the Civil Service are available to boys and girls on a written examination only? The Minister may say there is an oral test in Irish but, apart from that, how many hundreds of posts within the Civil Service are available on the results of a written examination? In the case of the various local authorities, why should it not be correct to say that what is good enough for the Civil Service should be good enough for us in rural Ireland?

I believe there is no need to dwell on this amendment. It is clean-cut. The Minister might let us have his views on the amendment so that we may know where we stand.

As mentioned by my colleague, Deputy Desmond, this amendment is specifically designed to get rid of an abuse that those of us who are connected with local authorities will readily admit is too prevalent in the filling of such posts as clerical officers in a local authority. We are all acquainted with the system that operates in the vast majority of local authorities when they are recruiting staff, particularly clerical officers and so forth. We are aware that in many instances, first of all there is a written examination and then an interview, an oral test of general knowledge and it has been our experience that in very many instances indeed the marks allotted in respect of the oral interview after the written examination are out of all proportion to the marks allotted to the various subjects in the written examination.

Unfortunately, this system has led to abuse which we in this House and members of local authorities cannot afford to ignore. Unfortunately, there have been instances where it has appeared to me and to some of my colleagues that political influence before the interview board has been the decisive factor in turning the scales in favour of any particular candidate. There is no reason at all for us to pursue that system and I would ask the Minister, who has wide experience of the administration of a local authority, to accept this amendment. I see no good reason why people recruited for such posts as clerical officer to a local authority should not be recruited simply by a written clerical examination. We should rid ourselves of the system which is highly suspicious, if not blatantly corrupt, as suggested to me by very many people attached to local authorities for many years. I would seriously suggest to the Minister that he should accept this amendment unreservedly.

In so far as this amendment is aimed at preventing anything more than merit filling these posts, it would obviously receive the support of everybody, but as I see it, there is one objectionable feature in it. It is this: there is a tendency already extending outside local authorities and the local government law to a belief that a written competitive examination is the best test of the skill of a clerical officer. That, as a general idea, probably can be subscribed to by the House but there must be a considerable number of positions under a local authority in which the general ability, the general manner and the competence of a person, which can best be assessed at an interview or oral examination and which very often does not come out in a written competitive examination, is the most important thing about the job.

In so far as clerical officers of a local authority are concerned who are meeting members of the public, for instance, it is right to say that the experience of many members of the House, not possibly in connection with a local authority but in connection with other businesses, is that the person who comes out first place in a written examination is very often the worst person to deal with the man who comes to the office or the counter. We should guard against preventing a local authority from properly staffing itself in that line. In other words, the person who comes out first in the written examination is very often the worst person to deal with common-sense affairs and with the public as they come in.

If the amendment in this form were added to the section one might easily find that local authorities were prevented from getting a number of very competent people for particular jobs in the clerical line because they could not compete with — I will not say the more bookwormish—but the least suitable applicants who would get first place in the written examination.

In so far as the amendment is designed to try to prevent influence or any other form of wrong selection, it is first-class but in so far as it might hamper a local authority, acting genuinely, from employing the best man available for the particular job, I think it is going too far.

In the Dublin Corporation the system is somewhat in between what is suggested in the amendment and what has been suggested by Deputy Finlay. We hold examinations for clerical appointments and then there is an interview for all those who have qualified in the written examination so that, as far as humanly possible, steps are taken to guard against the type of individual against whom Deputy Finlay wants to guard against being appointed.

I agree that it is not desirable that the person who gets highest marks in the written examination should be appointed without making sure that in all other respects he or she is suitable for the particular position.

In Dublin Corporation we are keen to ensure that there will be possibilities of promotion for clerical officers and that some future will be assured to those who qualify and that, therefore, the best types will apply for the positions. In the City of Dublin our attitude is in between what is directly suggested by the amendment and what Deputy Finlay has suggested as a result of observation.

As the House is probably aware, there is a regulation under the Local Government (Officers Regulations) Act, 1943, that an office will normally be filled under a local authority after advertisement and written competitive examination unless it is decided that some other method of selection is more suitable for that type of office. Under these regulations, all offices are filled by open competitive examination with one exception, that is, unless it is decided that some other method of selection is more suitable.


Who decides that?

We will come to that. There is no need to get excited about it for the moment.

I am not getting excited.

There are three classes of clerical officers: clerical officer, library assistant and clerk-typist. When the open competitive examination is held, it is a written examination in so far as clerical officers and library assistants are concerned. With regard to the clerk-typist, one will readily appreciate that unless certificates are produced there must be some sort of oral interview with regard to typing and shorthand.

With regard to the clerical officer and library assistant, if the county manager decides that he has within his own staff some person who can fill these vacancies by way of promotion, then he is entitled to do so. If this amendment is accepted it will debar all members of the staff of local authorities from promotion. That is the effect of the amendment submitted to the House. That is something I would not like to see. I am sure that members of local authorities here would not like to see the staffs prevented from receiving promotion with the local authorities with which they work.

It has happened in the Minister's Department.

They resist our promotion suggestions every time.

But the Deputy wants promotion? The Dublin Corporation have me pestered to sanction promotion, but the Deputy's amendment will put an end to any promotion.

We have not suggested that we are supporting the amendment.

I am not suggesting the Deputy has, but this amendment will prohibit promotion within the local authorities. I know that some Deputies will suggest there are confined competitions held by county managers. That is true. Where a county manager decides to promote and finds that he has a number of personnel on his staff and he cannot make up his mind as to which of them deserves promotion, then he may himself hold an examination confined entirely to the members of the local authority's staff and he may promote one of them. I feel certain that the Deputies who sponsor this amendment did not realise that it would bar promotion within the staff of a local authority. I can assure them, when it is not a case of promotion, a written competitive examination is always held and must be held under the regulations.

Plus an interview.

The Minister tells us that a county manager has absolute discretionary power to select from his staff one whom he considers the most fitting to fill a more responsible position. If that is so, why does not the manager exercise that power independently? Why does he set up a selection board whose selection from time to time convinces most of us that there is an element of injustice and unfairness and, perhaps, political influence in the selection? We are not satisfied. The whole thing is an innovation. Those of us who have been 30 years in public life are not at all satisfied. There is a great deal of suspicion surrounding the selection board. It is only used as a machine——

May I interrupt the Deputy? Is the Deputy referring to promotion now?

Yes. The Minister said —I think he is perfectly right—that the manager has discretionary powers, but in our opinion they are not being exercised. Instead of exercising the powers he has, the manager selects a board in order to get rid of the responsibility himself. From our experience in connection with many of these boards, we are not satisfied with the justice, the fairness or the efficiency with which they are discharged. To use a biblical expression: very often the last are put first.

I am in agreement with the Deputy but the amendment will not remedy that position.

I think the statement made by the Minister on this amendment is far too alarmist. I think it is designed to frighten those who placed it on the Paper. For a long time I have been very doubtful as to the manner of making many minor appointments by the county manager. I cannot for the life of me see how the acceptance of this amendment could affect existing service in regard to these minor appointments to which I think this amendment refers.

We all know that in so far as the normal clerical staff is concerned these appointments are made as the result of a competitive examination but there is a tremendous number of appointments for which the manager is responsible and which are not made by competitive examination at all but by this system of interview board. I am not so much afraid of the political influence that has been referred to here as I am of some of the far more undesirable influences in the making of these appointments.

The managers are legally responsible. The managers in some cases after the extension of the managerial system to the country exercised that legal responsibility themselves. For some reason or another as a result, perhaps, of public criticism and pressure of one kind or another or as a result, perhaps, of having their decisions questioned by members of local bodies, the managers resorted to the easy way of setting up selection board. Is it not a strange thing in relation to these minor posts because in the main they are minor— in fact, they are entirely minor posts— if the managers had themselves exercised these legal functions, then I would not support the amendment at all because in that case you could point your finger straight and direct, if some appointment was made which was obviously open to criticism, and you could say: "Why did you make that appointment?" You could at least call upon him to give his reasons for making it but the practice has developed of setting up what is called an interview board.

The procedure followed in that case is that the manager tells the secretary of the county council that he wants an interview board. Perhaps he also tells some other senior official the same story. They finally decide on who is to compose this interview board. The manager himself may be a member of it. He need not be. There will be an accountant from a neighbouring county and an engineer from another neighbouring county, and so on. As a result of watching, not any more carefully than many other people, this system for some time, I have come to the conclusion that it is a bad and dangerous system.

I am not terrifically keen on this amendment because I know, as Deputy Finlay stated, there are certain appointments that you cannot make as well, perhaps, through a competitive examination as you can otherwise make them, although in the main a competitive examination is something that you cannot challenge. It is not perfect but it is the nearest thing to it. If, as I say, the managers had continued to exercise their full responsibility themselves, to make their choice in relation to some of these minor posts that are filled from time to time by the authority, then I would be satisfied with it because you could always pin them down to what they had decided, to the person they had selected, and so forth. Now, however, they can parade themselves before their local body and say, if something goes wrong or if an obvious injustice has been done in respect of the person selected: "I set up a selection board. Here is the list. I selected the person placed first on that list."

I do not like the amendment, but I do not see that there is any other method by which I can give expression to my feelings in regard to this matter except by announcing that I would be prepared to accept it. I do not feel wedded to it, but I find the system as it is so objectionable that even though what is suggested is not ideal I would prefer it to leaving this power in the hands of a number of people to be scattered around by officials who can, in fact, convey to other officials who will sit on these selection boards their interest in a particular appointment or convey in one way or another the name of the person they would, perhaps, like to see appointed—and all this can go on even behind the back of the manager who is legally responsible and who, in many cases, knows nothing at all about it. It is not the political influence side that I fear half as much as other sides that can operate to the detriment of justice and fair play.

I have a lot of sympathy with what Deputy Smith has said—but he has not read the amendment. The amendment refers to permanent posts of a clerical nature. Deputy Smith has told the House he has seen boards set up to fill such posts. He has never seen such a board set up. Under the regulations, it is impossible to set up such a board. There must be a competitive examination unless it is a case of promotion, and then it is only from the staff of that particular local authority. Only when the county manager considers that he has more than one applicant for that particular post does he set up such a board.

I would love to accept this amendment. I have a lot of sympathy with what Deputy Madden has said. I know these things are going on. I know that county managers have victimised certain individuals. However, I also know that there are people who should get promotion and, if this amendment is accepted, we are debarring them for all time from getting the promotion. Is it fair to ask a spinster who has been in the employment of a local authority for, say, 15 or 20 years to compete with a young person leaving school with the leaving certificate or even with an honours degree?

Nobody suggests that.

I have too much sympathy for persons in permanent employment to——

Does the Minister say that in these clerical examinations there is no interview? Does the Minister say that?

Perhaps the Deputy was not in the House when I was dealing with this earlier.

I have been listening to the Minister for the past ten minutes——

Would the Deputy permit me to explain for a second? There are three types of posts in question—clerical officers, library assistants, and clerk-typists. Under the regulations of 1943, the county manager may fill these posts in either of two ways. He may do so by open competitive examination——

What about the interview?

The only time there is an interview is when there is a clerk-typist post. If it is a post for a clerical officer or a library assistant it must be by open competitive examination.

Certain of the county managers are adding to it.

Will the Deputy bear with me for a moment? That is if the office is advertised in the normal way. That is one method by which the county manager may fill these posts. He has another method and the second method is by promoting one of his own staff. If the county manager feels there are two or three or four of the staff equal to the position which is vacant, and if he feels he should not decide on the merits of any particular individual, he may set up an interview board to interview the four applicants —but they must be from the staff and it must be for the purpose of promoting one of them. Is that clear?

We all know that. We are saying that, in addition to the competitive examination, there is an interview —in some counties at any rate.

If such a board is set up, it is not within the regulations —provided it is for a clerical position.

If the Deputy can give me details of any particular case of a position of a clerical nature—I am not referring to doctors, engineers, lorry drivers——

A store-keeper. Would you call that clerical?

That is the point.

I would not.

If it is not, what is it?

It is a store-keeper. Is that an answer?

Would he have to keep a record?

I am referring to permanent posts of a clerical nature and I refer particularly to clerical officers, library assistants and clerk-typists. Surely the Deputy does not suggest that a store-keeper is a clerical officer?

I certainly do. He has to do clerical work.

The regulations of 1943 were made by the Deputy when he was Minister for Local Government. They were not made by me.

If they are wrong, I am not asking the Minister to accept them. If they are wrong, why does the Minister not do something about them?

Give me time and I will make a lot of changes. If the House want this amendment, I do not hold any fast views on it, but I want the House to know that they are barring promotion for all time.

I was almost inclined to rub my hands with glee when I heard the Minister's statement within the past five minutes that he favours promotion. That is something for which we in the corporation have been pressing for many years. We in the corporation have been pressing the Minister for many years for promotion of our own servants—who also were competitive examination clerks. At the end of 15 or 20 and in some cases 30 years' service, when our city manager saw fit to recommend certain of these officials for promotion, the Minister's Department turned them down.

I want to say here that we have a splendid city manager. However, when he saw fit to recommend good officials of 20, 30 or even 35 years' service for promotion—as I say, I heard with great pleasure what the Minister has just said about this examination system—the Minister's Department turned them down. All the corporation clerical staff are examination men. They come in, in their youth, as examination men. In two cases within the past few months, men with 30 years' service whom the city manager recommended for promotion were turned down by the Minister's Department. I want to know why that was done.

Is the Deputy not referring to principal officers?

A different thing.

If a man has 30 years' service and a vacancy occurs in his office or in the department and if the city manager and the heads of the department generally say: "We have a splendid man to promote to that job," I want to know why the Minister's Department frustrates in every way the city manager and the corporation by turning down the unanimous recommendation of the city manager and the heads of his department. I would refer the Minister to a letter sent out by his Department on the 9th of this very month to the city manager which reads as follows:

"A Chara,

I am directed by the Minister for Local Government to refer to previous correspondence relative to the administrative staff in the public health and housing departments.

I am to convey sanction to the promotion of Mr. William Codd to the office of principal officer in the housing department. Mr. Codd should enter the appropriate salary scale at the minimum point."

"At the minimum point." There is an interference already even with the sanction in that you put him down to the very minimum point of the salary scale although he has had long service.

What relation has that to the amendment?

The Deputy seems to be getting away from the amendment under discussion.

He is trying to prove that you will find no change in me no matter what Minister is there.

That may have been your experience, but I hope it will not be mine.

Let me continue:—

"Sanction is also conveyed to the creation of two offices of assistant principal officer in the housing department. The Minister is unable to approve of the filling of one of these offices and of the vacant office of assistant principal in the Public Health Department by promotion as proposed. The Minister considers that advancement to the grade of assistant principal should be by competition, and accordingly that these three vacancies should be filled by way of interviews conducted by a competent board of which not less than two members should be from outside the corporation and of managerial rank or of corresponding responsibility. Sanction to the creation of the offices of assistant principal officer in the housing department is conditional on their being filled accordingly.

Mise, le meas,

T.J. Barrington."

Let me ask one very simple question. Is that competition which I have recommended not confined to your own corporation staff? Is that not the board I have been talking about?

I agree but I would ask you now, because of your own statement, that these cases should be reconsidered. You advocate promotion and I agree with you, but these men are debarred.

I am giving you an opportunity of having these men; they are all entitled to have a shot at it.

No. The letter says in the last few lines "Sanction to the creation of the offices of assistant principal officer in the housing department is conditional on their being filled accordingly." That means by competitive examination.

Yes, confined to your own officials.

Major de Valera

What is the date of the letter?

9th November, 1954. There is too much frustration of the local authorities by your Department. They are doing damage to our staff and they are making them discontented because there is no promotion for them. The city manager made a recommendation for the law agent's staff within the last month or two and that was turned down.

The Deputy should relate his remarks to the amendment.

Major de Valera

In fairness to the Minister, I would ask did the Minister see that letter before it was sent out?

I take full responsibility for it. I think it is right. I should explain exactly what occurred in the case I have referred to. If the county manager finds that he has a number of people eligible for a job, then he sets up an interview board.

That is where it starts. That is what we are objecting to.

It is confined to the officials of the county manager.

That is not so.

I beg your pardon. The regulations are laid down. What you want to do is, having the vacancy, pick your own man and debar the other people who are eligible in the corporation from competing.

I do not think the Minister, on reflection, will regard his last remarks as true to the situation. What Deputy Byrne has said is quite correct. There is such an amount of interference from the Custom House in the day to day activities in dealing with staffs that it has become almost objectionable. The Minister thinks the city manager just picks an individual. The city manager wants to pick a board of his higher officials to select from available candidates a person to be promoted to another position, but the Custom House says: "No, you will have to bring in some outside people to adjudicate". Who are brought in?— individuals who know nothing of the Dublin Corporation and know nothing about the candidates and their competency and efficiency. In the housing department of the City of Dublin there was recently a retirement, through age of the director. A man who had years and years of good service, who knew all about the workings of that particular section and who was regarded not only by the city manager but by the present members of the corporation as an efficient person to be promoted to that position, is turned down by the Custom House. On what grounds is he turned down?—on the grounds that he has only three more years to go to retiring age and therefore: "We are not going to promote him to this position". Then we nominate a second man and we have almost a similar position, but I understand now from the letter Deputy Byrne has read out that he is acceptable.

This amendment deals with clerical staff.

Deputy O'Higgins has just come in.

Deputy O'Higgins has tried to get in six times to say that and he has said it now.

He has dashed in and out six times.

On a point of order. Surely the arguments put forward by the Deputy are completely irrelevant as they do not refer to clerical officers which are clearly set out in the amendment. He has referred to principal officers and assistant principal officers. He has not referred to clerical officers and I think it is right I should ask you to rule on it.

The Deputy should confine his remarks to what is contained in the amendment.

I am coming back to the attitude of members on the amendment itself and the suggestion made by Deputy Finlay. I pointed out that in our local authority of all the entrants who sit for a competitive examination, not necessarily that person who gets the highest marks is in fact accepted for the position because it is subject to an interview for all those who have qualified on the written examination. But we do take on our staff right from the beginning as clerical officers—and I think the Labour group will agree with this attitude—with the view that such persons can grow in stature in the service of the corporation, and not be taken purely to remain for all their lives as junior clerical officers.

As I promoted Mr. Codd.

And refused to promote the other men we recommended.

Mr. Burke and Mr. O'Doherty.

I do not think the names of officials should be mentioned.

The Deputy read the letter.

I had their sanction to do so.

It is only of a clerical nature.

I am talking of the principle.

The Deputy knows what a clerical officer of a local authority is.

We know what a clerical officer is—a young person who comes in to an inferior or junior grade. We hope that what happens in the City of Dublin will happen elsewhere. Quite a number of our clerical assistants or clerical officers come in and spend a lot of their spare time and their money in attending universities to qualify for higher positions. Consequently, we feel that if we take in a clerical officer, say, the son of a poor working man, and that boy goes to a university and by study and hard work is able to develop himself to warrant proper advancement in his own lifetime, we should be entitled to promote him.

That is why I am opposing this amendment—to give you that power.

I said before that I am sure that the proposers of this amendment would accept an amendment to it to ensure that everywhere it could be done as it is done in Dublin City, provided that there is a little less stringent control in appointments by the Custom House. We want to give the benefit of all, even the highest posts, to our own officials who start from the bottom and there should be no reason why they could not get to the top. What is happening now is that every time the Custom House is asked to sanction an appointment of a long-term official of our authority——

Did you not hear the Lord Mayor read the letter?

He is damaging the type of person who will stand for the examination to be taken into the corporation service. We feel the best types will become available for local authority service if they are sure that every position in the corporation is open to them provided they have the qualifications to take the particular office. There has always been an effort by the Custom House, if there is a senior position vacant in Dublin Corporation, to bring some fellow in from God knows where.

On a point of order, I submit that the amendment as read out has no bearing upon clerical officers of Dublin Corporation. The examination must be all right for such persons and I submit that Deputy Briscoe and others are trying to bring in under cover of the amendment a discussion about the corporation, where the amendment deals with other positions outside the corporation.

That is usual. The framers of the——

I raised a point of order. This has nothing to do with the corporation.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary agrees that where we are attempting to legislate for the method by which entrants should be taken into local authorities, it should be on the basis of protecting not only the entrants on entry to a particular post but also their future in the service so that they may have an opportunity of betterment for themselves. Of course, apparently Deputy Davin does not want that to happen.

I will never allow you to interpret my views in this House. I am submitting that this amendment, which has nothing to do with the Dublin Corporation, is being used for the purpose of discussing the administration of the corporation.

I did not bring in the Dublin Corporation—it was well aired on this amendment before I intervened. As I said before, we have a competitive examination in the City of Dublin. The promoters of this amendment want to see the same type of method of intake into local authorities everywhere. I say that I welcome that, because of the future welfare of those who will be successful candidates for local authority positions. I agree with Deputy Finlay's point of view that there must be some amendment to this amendment, so that not necessarily the candidate who gets top marks is the person called. That candidate must also have other necessary qualifications, which can only become apparent as a result of an interview afterwards. I hope the proposers will be prepared to amend it. I think they would agree on that. At a later stage of the Bill, we will be dealing very explicitly with promotion and the right of local authorities to promote their own officials.

This amendment is not an attempt by the Labour movement to stop promotion from within the employees of any local authority. I welcome this without any question at all. It is an attempt to stop the stultification of the results of competitive examination by the setting up of a foul interview board that can negative the whole of the examination results by having a fixed board. Like Deputy Smith, I am not so sure that it is political influence that influences these cherries of the local administration, which are the equivalent of the plums of the Custom House. There are organisations and associations that take a personal interest in the minor positions and use their endeavours through these interview boards to make certain that the competitive result is knocked out completely. We in the Labour movement feel perfectly right in safeguarding the working people so that they may have a fair chance, without pull or favour from any organisation. That is what we are trying to do and we ask the Minister to meet us.

The Minister has said "clerical officers". We very carefully did not use those words: we said "permanent positions of a clerical nature". We have in mind the very posts mentioned by the Minister, that of store-keeper and such minor posts which, appearently, are of such clerical importance that there is a standard of competitive examination up to leaving honours standard necessary before you may be considered. Notwithstanding that, you can get through that and go to the top of the list, but there is then an interview board which can allocate so many marks that they can destroy the whole result of the competitive examination. If the Minister will assure us that he will examine the position from the point of view of safeguarding that point, that is all the Labour Party wants.

As far as I can see, the important thing is whether the Minister is correct in what he stated or whether Deputy Smith is correct in saying that the Minister's views were merely alarmist views. There is a clear-cut conflict between Deputy Briscoe's view on the one hand—to which, let me say, I subscribe—and the view expressed by Deputy Kyne. It may be that in Dublin we have been fortunate in the particular method employed and that some other local authorities were unfortunate.

Expressing a personal view, I believe Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Finlay are quite right. I think that to get the proper person you must have something more than a written examination. The amendment makes it quite definite and clear that the proposers want the filling of permanent posts of a clerical nature confined to a written examination and a written competitive examination only, and they have deliberately used the word "only" in the amendment. It has been pointed out here by Deputy Finlay and by Deputy Briscoe that there are posts where more than academic distinctions or academic qualifications are necessary.

The only feasible way that I know of of finding out whether or not a candidate is suitable for those posts is to see the candidate and interview him. Let me give an example. Any Deputy who is a member of a vocational education committee knows that at practically every meeting it is necessary to appoint teachers to particular posts. In Dublin, we have that at practically every meeting. There is a meeting of the vocational education committee in Dublin this evening. Where particular posts are to be filled, it would be a grave mistake, the Deputy will agree, for the members of that committee to allow themselves to be influenced in deciding who should be appointed, solely by the academic qualifications and distinctions of the candidates.

I know what happens in vocational committees. They go out and canvass.

No doubt there is a lot of canvassing and I do not think the Deputy's group is very far behind anyone else in the race. I believe I discharge my functions on that committee conscientiously. If the Deputy cares to make inquiries he will find that anyone who has approached me whether in my Party or out of my Party got the same answer, and that was that I refused to commit myself to anyone before the interview and the making of the appointment. The Deputy can check that.

The point I am making is this—that it would be a great mistake for members of a committee such as that to be influenced solely by the academic qualifications or distinctions of the candidates because they have to fill a particular type of post where the ability to control groups of students and ability to impart knowledge and information is necessary. That is not going to arise in an exactly parallel way in the posts which we are discussing now, but as Deputy Finlay has pointed out there will be cases—certainly there are cases in Dublin every day—where it is necessary for permanent posts of a clerical nature—to take the expression used in the amendment—to be filled. Those officers in those posts are men who in the discharge of their duties will have to work in contact with the public and deal with citizens over counters, and in one way or another, it is necessary to have an eye, if you like, to public relations in making those appointments, and I do not see any better method of doing it than the method which Deputy Briscoe has outlined here.

But let us get back to the objection the Minister made to this amendment and to which no person so far has put forward an answer——

We did not get a chance yet.

Deputy Casey got a chance.

We will get it too, I am telling you.

The Minister has made the point that if this amendment were accepted as it stands it would debar the system of promotion with regard to any posts affected by it. Let us take the amendment as it stands and I think on the simple reading of it whether we are lawyers or laymen we must admit that the Minister was right. Assuming that there is a system of promotion now whether it is used or not and assuming that this amendment is accepted and put into operation must it not necessarily mean that whatever system of promotion exists in relation to permanent posts of a clerical nature goes by the board? After all the amendment suggests that any amendment made in relation to paragraph (g) of the particular section of the 1941 Act shall prescribe in relation to all permanent posts of a clerical nature that they be filled by written competitive examination only. The issue is quite clear. What the proposers of the amendment are doing is asking the House to state that any permanent posts of a clerical nature that become vacant must be filled by written competitive examination and by no other method. That obviously cuts out any discretion by the county council or the county manager to fill such a post by promotion.


Then, does Deputy Casey admit that the Minister is right in this contention, that if this amendment is accepted it ends the system of promotion so far as the posts connected with the amendment are concerned?

No, not at all. There can be confined examinations.

I want to admit that I have not the 1941 Act in front of me, but in the amendment there is no suggestion of limiting or confining the examinations—the Deputy has merely to read the amendment to see that. It provides that any vacancies which occur and which are affected by this amendment will be filled in a particular way, by written competitive examination and by that way only.

Did you not hear me say to the Minister——

Listen, Deputy, I was told you did not speak on the amendment.

The legal luminaries are in on it again.

The Deputy might be allowed to make his speech.

Deputy Alderman Byrne has made a plea to the Minister with regard to promotion and said that in a letter to Dublin Corporation on November 9th he had recommended promotion in accordance with the regulations which are there already. We may have different points of view as to whether the particular methods by which the system of promotion can be implemented are good or bad, but taking this amendment as it stands, it is not expressed to refer to a confined or limited competitive examination. Taking it as it stands, quite clearly it cuts out any idea of promotion within the service. The Minister has indicated that he is prepared to accept the wishes of the House on it. I want to make this suggestion to the Deputies who moved the amendment—that if they feel this amendment should be accepted and that at the same time the principles of promotion should be preserved, quite obviously it is necessary to alter the amendment.

Finally I want to say there is a further difficulty which has become apparent in the discussions here. Again, I suffer from the disadvantage of not having the 1941 Act in front of me. There is an expression used in this amendment "permanent posts of a clerical nature" and as between the two or three different Deputies who have contributed to this debate there has been a difference of opinion already as to what that phrase would cover, whether it would relate to a storeman or to clerical officers as most of us would know them in the service of local authorities. The final suggestion I am making is this: That if this amendment were to be accepted by the House it would seem to me to be obviously necessary that there should be some definition of what "permanent posts of a clerical nature" means. Taken in its broadest sense it is proposed to cover every single post to be filled by local authorities, or in the local authority service from the city manager right down to the street cleaner who may have to compile a return of the work he does or the implements he uses. It may be that that was deliberately in the minds of the movers of this amendment but I think that some definition of that phrase is necessary.

Might I just ask the proposers of the amendment on a point of information, would this amendment, in effect, exclude those appointments which are at present made by the Local Appointments Commissioners?

As framed at the moment, would the amendment not mean that instead of having persons who occupied posts of a permanent clerical nature appointed by the Local Appointments Commission they would be appointed on written competitive examination?

Oh, certainly.

That was not intended but if it results in doing that we would be delighted.

It could not mean that.

The point at issue here is recruitment to certain branches of local authority service and it is now sought to cover subsequent promotion in that service. It ought not to be difficult, in the first instance, to frame an examination suited to the post to be filled and to make the appointment on the results of that examination, without interview, but covering the qualities that would be brought out in an interview, by having a probationary period of, say, six months. It would then be plainly seen whether the person who got the highest place in the examination was a suitable person for the post. Many local authorities deal with that point by creating a panel following an examination which lasts over a period of a year and a half and recruitment within that period is from that panel. That is a very clear and unobjectionable way of recruiting clerical staff. It does not apply to other staffs perhaps who may require to have other experience and so on which will have to be assessed in a different way. The point which is not covered is the matter of subsequent promotion, but I do not see that this amendment will be any barrier to subsequent promotions for those who have already entered the service and who have shown a competence, an assiduity and a skill in the performance of their duties. Generally speaking, I think that, to guard against the operation of all other influencing considerations but merit alone, the amendment is worthy of very serious consideration and of support.

I am not concerned with the terminology of the amendment, but, as one of the people who have had uninterrupted association and connection with public bodies, I should like to get from the Minister a clarification of a statement he made with regard to the promotion of clerical officers. He told us that where there are three or four on a staff, with equal educational attainments and perhaps with the same administrative experience, the manager could not exercise his managerial functions and select one from that number.

He could, if he wished.

Yes, but he does not. I have known cases of a number of officials who were on a basis of parity, so far as efficiency and experience were concerned, and still the manager exercised his managerial functions and authority and made a selection. Deputy O'Higgins talked about the system of promotion. A system of promotion is gradually developing which is receiving the silent condemnation of public bodies and I think it is possible to establish a clear and unmistakable case for the existence of certain corruption. We are all sick of the boards and some of us have from time to time abhorred the selected personnel of these boards and the philosophy of mind which they are invited and encouraged to bring into their work. It is not always the most brilliant men who are selected, as has happened quite recently, to the dismay and disappointment of public men who value justice and recognise efficiency and capacity. I feel that I would be wanting in my duty as a public man if I failed to draw the attention of the Minister to a growing evil. I say that the system is bad. I am not influenced by the terminology or phraseology of the amendment. The principle is sound, but I believe it needs alteration to bring within its ambit the wiping out of a system which, if permitted to continue, will constitute a disgrace to the principles and security of democracy.

Deputy Madden has made a far better contribution than any of the other speakers who found it so convenient to jump to conclusions and to see behind this amendment some of the hidden dangers about which we have been hearing so much. The Minister did not go so far as Deputy Madden has gone, for which credit will be given to Deputy Madden. The Minister did not even say: "We may see dangers in it but we are prepared to try to do something towards improving it". The Minister at the outset professed to see a lurking danger in the amendment and decided to have nothing to do with it. I do not know why, in the middle of the discussion, an effort was made to change it completely by switching the words we had set down, "clerical nature" to "clerical officer". Apparently we differ as to what the phrase "clerical nature" may mean.

Deputy O'Higgins has gone so far as to suggest that it may be thought that everyone, other than an executive officer—I think he nearly said county manager—down to the man working on the street may be such, whereas the Minister clearly indicated that a store-keeper could not be. Does the Minister know that in various counties there are clerks in deputy surveyors' offices? It is true that they may not be permanent, but Deputy Smith was correct when he said that it is not the vacancies of a higher nature that we are interested in, because they are more or less on the established part of the local authority office where everything is, or is expected to be, somewhat above board. In passing, I may say to the Minister that he is not one inch ahead of us in his views on promotion. It is farther down the line that our interest lies—the case of the store-keeper and many other such employees, in what some people might call menial positions but which we consider to be the ones where the good pickings are. It is quite correct to say, as has been said, that the trouble may not be political—we know that it can be the old parish-pump style of trouble, the strong man in the little parish who can use his influence.

We hear a lot about interview boards, on which Deputy Finlay has expressed his own views, as has Deputy O'Higgins. Apparently, it is vitally important, as they say, that we should have these interview boards. How do we know, as members of local authorities, anything about the qualifications of the people on these interview boards?

They are the people who decide which candidate will get the post. As Deputy MacCarthy knows—he will agree with me, I have no doubt—in Cork County, as in other areas, no member of the local authority may ask, even after 12 months, who was on an interview board. Nobody dare suggest that he doubts the qualifications of those present on the interview board. After a written competitive examination we know the ability of a candidate, but who knows, does even the manager know, does the Minister for Local Government—who has been so careful in saying how completely he is opposed to this amendment as it is worded—know what is the ability of any man who may be on an interview board? It all happens in a room where the interview is taking place and we know it from our own experience the various cases where these difficulties arise. We are not satisfied with the system.

Deputy Smith says the amendment is not perfect. We agree. It is difficult to frame an amendment of this kind, but is it any worse than the present system? Surely anything that may contain some suggestion to improve the present system should be welcomed by the Minister, even if he is to come here on the Report Stage with some alternative suggestion. After all, Deputies spoke here on the amendment who had not themselves put in amendments. They were entitled to do that, but at least we in the Labour Party, in submitting this amendment showed our interest in the problem. Perhaps because we have not the legal training that other Deputies have, our amendment may not be water-tight, and because of that, we had to face the criticisms of some Deputies. We do not mind that. The intention behind the amendment is good. It was not fair of the Minister to suggest that there is danger lurking in the amendment. Indeed there is no danger in it, and if the Minister, even at this stage is prepared to say that on the Report Stage he will offer some suggestions which will help to get away from the present system which very often breeds corruption of the worst type in rural Ireland, then perhaps despite all the bitterness evoked we shall have achieved something in our efforts to improve the system.

I first of all want to avail of this opportunity to correct something I said earlier, which I cannot now remember very well, when I drew attention to the possibility that this amendment might be applied to the appointments made by the Local Appointments Commissioners. It will only apply to those appointments not made by the commissioners. I am not clear as to the appointments made and not made by the Local Appointments Commissioners. It might be useful if the Minister could give us a picture of the type of appointments made by the Local Appointments Commission and appointments made otherwise at the moment. It did occur to me whatever system is operated in the Dublin Corporation at the moment there was general agreement among the Dublin Deputies that system was a satisfactory one.

A Deputy


I do not know whether members of the Labour Party would agree to that.

If I might intervene for a moment, appointments of professional and executive officers are the only appointments which go to the Local Appointments Commissioners —appointments of secretaries and managers, doctors and other professional men.

If the system which operates in the Dublin Corporation is reasonably satisfactory, then subject to certain minor alterations——

Do you mean the system of the corporation or the system of the Minister in the corporation?

The system of the corporation. What the Minister might be able to do would be to consider some arrangement which might be evolved to give effect to that system and to make it of general application to the country as a whole. I do not know whether I am suggesting a compromise which is not acceptable. I can see the drawbacks but the case made by the Labour Party is a very strong case. Equally I can see the difficulty of appointing people solely by reason of their capacity as revealed in a written examination, but I think very often a written examination is highly deceptive and you may impose hardship by that system on deserving candidates, but if you have to weigh that drawback against the drawback of possibly improper methods of appointment I would be inclined to favour the Labour amendment. I think it would be better to face the risk of occasional hardship of appointment by written examination than to allow appointments to be subject to local pressure or influences of one kind or another. It occurred to me that it might be possible to evolve some scheme which would operate in the country as a whole, a scheme with which the members of the corporation are satisfied.

Subject to noninterference.

Subject to noninterference by the Minister.

Very often we are appealed to to interfere.

We have heard a very interesting discussion on this amendment. I must say that some speakers introduced matters that were not absolutely relevant to the amendment before the House and that the Minister has not been entirely blameless in that respect. He raised a few hares which other Deputies followed. I must say they were not much help.

I saw a couple of good dogs following them.

I shall readily admit, as one of the movers of the amendment, that it is not, and we do not claim it to be, word perfect. There is perhaps some merit in the Minister's statement that it might cut across some system of promotion. We are not against the system of promotion from within the ranks of local authority officers and employees. We have been always for it and have always advocated it. If our amendment as it stands at the moment could be interpreted as being against that particular type of promotion, we would be quite willing to have the wording changed. We are not sticking to the wording. We are sticking to the principle of it. I think it must be abundantly clear to the Minister, having heard a cross section of the opinion of the House, that there is a unanimous desire to wipe out any suggestion of corruption in the matter of appointing people to jobs of a clerical nature or of any other nature in our local authorities. I do hope the Minister will indicate straightaway that he accepts the principle we tried embody in the amendment and that he will, on the Report Stage, submit an amendment to meet our wishes.

I appreciate what Deputies have said. The discussion has been most interesting and I fully appreciate the force of the case that has been made. I can give an undertaking that between now and the Report Stage. I shall look into the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Progress reported.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 until Wednesday, 24th November, 1954 at 3 p.m.