Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. I think it will be of assistance towards the understanding of the need for this Bill and of its provisions if I fill in briefly the historical background. The Irish Civil Service, as such, got its statutory existence from the enactment of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. Prior to that enactment there had, of course, been a Civil Service in being, consisting, in part, of persons taken over from the old Dáil service and, in part, of persons taken over from the British Civil Service. Former British Departments, such as the Post Office and the Ministry of Labour to mention a few, carried with them into the Irish Civil Service the departmental rules, practice and procedure, particularly in regard to control and discipline, which had applied to the staffs under the British Administration. With minor modifications to meet the new requirements these rules were applied in the new setting both before and after the passing of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, and continue to be applied to this day.

I mentioned that the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, gave a statutory basis to the Irish Civil Service. Shortly before the enactment of that legislation the Oireachtas had passed the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924, providing for recruitment to the Civil Service. Singularly enough, and to my mind, perhaps inappropriately, that Act, though really dealing with recruitment, contained a provision empowering the Minister for Finance to make regulations for controlling the Civil Service and providing for classification, remuneration, conditions of service and the like.

This regulation-making power has been very sparingly utilised. It may, indeed, be said that to the extent to which regulations were made they scarcely impinged at all on the system of practice and procedure in respect of control and discipline which had been taken over. That system continued to function largely undisturbed by political and statutory change.

Notwithstanding that this system of control and management has worked and continues to work reasonably well, it has for long been felt that a definite basis in Irish law should be given to the system and that legislation should be available to the Irish public indicating on its face how the Irish Civil Service is to be regulated. The Bill now before the House is designed to supply precisely that need. It introduces nothing new. It makes no radical changes. It merely affirms practice of long-standing and seeks to enshrine that practice in legislation.

I do not propose at this stage to go into the various sections of the Bill. That can be done more readily and more conveniently on the Committee Stage. I should, however, mention that this Bill is complementary to the Civil Service Commissioners Bill which is at present before the House. I referred earlier to the fact that in the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924, Section 9 gave power to the Minister for Finance to make regulations for the control etc. of the Civil Service. That provision is really inappropriate in a Bill which is designed specifically to cover recruitment. It is one of the reasons which led to the preparation of a separate Civil Service Commissioners Bill so that statutory provision for the regulation and control of the Civil Service would be contained exclusively in a single statute.

As I have mentioned, this Bill is mainly a Committee Stage Bill, once one accepts the principle that it is desirable to have an Irish statute dealing with the Irish Civil Service. For that reason, I do not propose at this stage to go into the Bill, section by section, as we shall have full and ample opportunity for any discussion that may be necessary on the various sections on Committee Stage. However, I do think it is desirable to stress that it is more for the purpose of enshrining in our own legislation practice and procedure rather than for the purpose of introducing any new practice or new procedure that I have brought the matter into the House.

We welcome this Bill on this side of the House and I, personally, should like to say how gratified I am that the Minister for Finance has found time to amend the existing law in a way which is long overdue. Those of us who have had occasion to study the manner in which our Civil Service was hitherto regulated and controlled, and particularly the basis from which that authority was derived, must be very grateful to the Minister.

I do not think there is very much to be said on the Bill. It does not make any significant change in the existing position; it merely, as the Minister has said, bases that control on an Act of our own Parliament. I have no doubt that perhaps in the course of the debate on the Committee Stage we may find some few points that would require further discussion, but in the time that has been available to me, and with such attention as I could give the Bill, I really do not see any. I think the Bill, as drafted, is a great improvement on the Civil Service Regulation Act of 1924. It is certainly much more lucid and much easier for a layman to interpret. What may happen when it goes into the courts is another matter.

The Minister has more or less indicated that this Bill is a general principle. However, there are one or two points which I should like to bring up which might possibly be considered on one of the subsequent stages. With regard to the retiring age for civil servants, it has always been a mystery to me why civil servants have to retire at the age of 65 when judges are permitted to continue to the age of 72.

It does not seem to me that the duties of civil servants are even as onerous as those of High Court or Circuit Court judges. As far as I can read this Bill, not being a lawyer, I think it establishes the fact that an established civil servant will be allowed to remain in office only for a further three-month period. I should like the Minister to consider, at a subsequent stage, whether it would be feasible to extend the age limit somewhat more. To my recollection, in the last year or so, we had legislation in this House whereby the Land Commissioners, who, if not actually civil servants, come very near to that category, were permitted to continue to the age of 67. During the present year, we were told that in certain cases civil servants might continue to the age of 70 or 75. However, they would be unestablished or on a temporary basis.

There is another section of civil servants in respect of whom I want to make a plea. I am not quite sure whether they are known as unestablished or temporary officers, but we have in this country, under certain Departments, civil servants who are employed on a temporary basis. I know several of these cases myself. They are very efficient officers but they are limited in salary and in terms of service. They have no future whatever. The only opportunity they have of becoming permanent civil servants is to be permitted to take part in an examination. To my knowledge, there are several of these people who could pass any examination. They are exceedingly able and brilliant men who are held in a blind alley and have no hope of getting any further.

I would ask the Minister to consider if there is any legislation to deal with this or if the existing state of affairs is to continue. As I know it, the existing state of affairs is that these servants are allowed to compete for an examination when it is considered necessary that extra civil servants should be taken in. As far as I know, there has been no examination under this category for a period of four or five years. The only future for these people is to hope that at some time or other there may not be redundancy and that this examination will be held, with the result that they will be placed in the ordinary category of civil servants. I would ask the Minister to consider them favourably. I know there are several of these cases.

The position in relation to service for the State in the Civil Service has always been that the retiring age was 65, but that it was possible to retain civil servants in an established capacity after that period for a matter of a few months for the purpose of enabling them to make up what might otherwise be a broken pension period. Once that pension period is over, then they are retained in an unestablished capacity. Frankly, I do not feel called upon to discuss the relevant merits of civil servants at 67 or 70 and judges or any other persons at that age. If I am lucky enough to arrive at that age myself, perhaps I may be in a position more adequately to express an opinion on my capabilities. It would, of course, be contrary to all the practice of what is believed desirable in administration to extend the fixed age for retirement beyond 65 years as a permanent measure. It would have the effect perhaps of preventing new expressions of view in the service, would act as a curb on promotions and would not be at all in line with the view, held not merely within the Civil Service but without, in business, as well, that early retirement assists modernisation in output and method and assists efficiency. For that reason, regardless of the comparisons which Deputy Esmonde has made, I do not think it would be of real assistance for me to discuss or to consider on this Bill any variation in the age itself.

Deputy MacEntee paid a graceful tribute to the drafting in the Bill. I, too, would join in that tribute. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that part of the reason for the excellence of certain drafting provisions and of the framework of the Bill is that Deputy MacEntee, as my predecessor, had some act or part in that, too.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 21st November, 1956.