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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 14 Nov 1956

Vol. 160 No. 7

Civil Service Commissioners Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. As I mentioned earlier in connection with the previous Bill, these two Bills are to some extent complementary.

The Civil Service Commissioners Bill, 1956, is designed to replace and supersede the Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 and 1926. These Acts—save for Section 9 of the 1924 Act, which deals with control of the Civil Service and which is to be superseded by the Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956— deal solely with recruitment to the Civil Service and related matters.

The Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956, necessitates certain amendments to the Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 and 1926, and the opportunity has been taken to revise these Acts generally so as to remedy certain defects which 30 years' experience of the working of the Acts has revealed and to effect a number of procedural improvements.

This Bill does not seek to introduce any new principles into Civil Service recruitment but for rounding off purposes it introduces some complementary provisions in relation in particular to the unestablished groups which are not provided in earlier legislation. As in the case of the Civil Service Regulation Bill, I feel it unnecessary to go into detail on this particular Bill as discussion can proceed more readily and more informatively on the Committee Stage. The scheme of things is entirely the same as before. Independent Civil Service Commissioners are appointed by the Government who are charged with supervision and direction of recruitment to the Civil Service. The long-established principle of competition is reaffirmed and power is given to the commissioners to make regulations governing, among other things, particular types of test to which candidates for admission to the Civil Service are to be subjected. The provision for appointment in the public interest is retained and special provision has been made to deal with the reinstatement in the Civil Service of women who having been civil servants retire from the Civil Service and subsequently become widows.

I think it well to draw attention specifically to Section 29 (2) of the Bill. This section is new and provides that a person appointed under the Income Tax Act, 1918, to be a special commissioner of income-tax shall be appointed to an unestablished position in the Civil Service unless the Minister for Finance directs that such appointment should be to an established position. Special commissioners, other than the Revenue Commissioners, who are ex-officio special commissioners, are appointed both from within the Civil Service and from outside it. There has always been a certain amount of doubt as to whether special commissioners appointed from outside the service could be regarded as appointed to positions in the Civil Service. Section 29 (2) makes clear that such appointments will be Civil Service ones.

Appointed special commissioners carry out very important duties which are of a semi-judicial character—they act as an appellate tribunal for hearing appeals against income-tax, surtax and corporation profits tax assessments. Where non-civil servants are appointed, they must be barristers or solicitors of standing. In the circumstances, it is important that where the Minister for Finance is recruiting a special commissioner from outside the service he should be empowered, if he thinks it necessary, to offer a pensionable position to the person proposed to be employed. Section 29 (2) will enable him to do so.

I think all members of the House will agree that it is desirable to put a person who is in that semi-judicial position in a position in which he knows that he is not liable to discharge or variation for the discharge of his duties. He might feel, even without justification, if he were not so established, that he could not vary or, without fear or favour, find against the State in those cases that have to come before him.

In general, the Bill deals mainly with changes merely of a procedural nature and it is designed in particular to remove minor administrative difficulties which have come to light over the years in the operation of the recruitment machinery and to define more clearly the functions of the Civil Service Commissioners. I commend the Bill to the House.

As the Minister said, this Bill is complementary to the Civil Service Regulation Bill and, as we had praise for that Bill, we also have praise for this measure. Again, I should like to say how grateful I am personally to the Minister for introducing these Bills and for disentangling two entirely separate matters from each other.

I should say also that I think it is a very good thing that the arrangement which is provided for under sub-section (2) of Section 29 is given legislative permanence. I do not think that any person who had ever held the post of special commissioner has been at any time influenced by any member of the Government or by any member of the Legislature in such a way as prevented him from doing what was properly his duty. Even if sub-section (2) of Section 29 were not there, I do not suppose that any special commissioner would ever be subjected to unjustifiable or undesirable pressure in future but it is a good thing, at any rate, that he should have that assurance given to him by legislation.

The other point on which I want to congratulate the Minister is the provision which is being made for the reinstatement of former civil servants who left the service on marriage and who, becoming widows, have hitherto been reinstated by administrative act.

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