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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Jun 1968

Vol. 235 No. 10

Committee on Finance. - Wool Marketing Bill, 1968: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.

Debate resumed on the following amendment:
In subsection (2), page 12, line 11, after "fails" to insert "without reasonable cause."
—(Deputy Clinton).

I am sure the Minister will not have any great objection to this amendment and to amendment No. 24 which is related. Subsection (2) of section 24 reads:

If any person wilfully delays an officer of the Minister in the exercise of any power under this section, or fails—

—here I want to have inserted the words "without reasonable cause"—

—to produce any record or other document which he is required in pursuance of this section to produce...

That is the first part of it. Any one of us could visualise a situation where it might not be reasonable to expect somebody to have on tap and produce a record or other document which is required. This is a reasonable thing to insert in the subsection. A person should be protected and cannot unreasonably be held to have committed an offence. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that this is desirable. The same applies to amendment No. 24. The subsection goes on to say:

...or refuses to give to the officer any information which such officer may reasonably require with regard to the entries in such record or document...

At the time he is approached, he might not have the information for which the officer was looking and it would be quite unreasonable to have it said that he committed an offence. That danger should be removed.

As Deputy Clinton is aware, his two amendments are well catered for in the section as it stands. Officers of the Minister who are authorised in writing may "at all reasonable times" look at any of their workings—may "at all reasonable times" and indeed in reasonable circumstances. The Deputy again is creating difficulties where they do not exist. The point is well covered in the subsection as drafted and I do not think that adding these two amendments is going to strengthen the section or indeed make it any the more acceptable. However, in view of the fact that the Deputy has pressed this point, I will accept his two amendments. They are really superfluous in-so far as it has already been accepted and is implied in the drafting of the Bill that it would be reasonable.

I do not accept the Parliamentary Secretary's contention that it is superfluous. There is no mention in the subsection of "reasonable time". However, I am glad he has agreed to accept the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In subsection (2), page 12, line 13, after "refuses" to insert "without reasonable cause".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 24, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 26 to 28, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In paragraph 3 after "office" to add "on the recommendation of An Chomhairle".

The section states that "The Minister may at any time remove a member of An Chomhairle from office". It would add something to the Bill if the Minister just did not do this on his own as the political head of the Department. He is setting up An Chomhairle on which he is going to depend a good deal in relation to the carrying out of this scheme and if a member of that body should be removed for some reason, the best people surely to decide that are the people working along with him. The Minister must get his information from somewhere that this is an unsuitable member and obviously the most suitable group to give him that information would be An Chomhairle of which he happens to be a member. Unless he is abolishing the whole Comhairle at one stroke, it is reasonable to assume that they would be reliable people to advise him.

The Deputy would place An Chomhairle in a very invidious position if they had to recommend the dismissal of one of their members. Indeed, it could lead to a lot of peculiar thinking on the part of the dismissed member, that it was for some unsuitable reason, not connected with his functioning on the Comhairle itself, but perhaps for personal or commercial reasons. From that point of view, the Deputy will agree that it would be much better to leave it as it is and not have An Chomhairle put in the invidious position of having to recommend the dismissal of a member. From that point of view, I am afraid I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment.

Surely the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is far more difficult to put a body of ten or 12 people in an invidious position than it is to put one man in an invidious position, namely, the Minister, and, since the Minister is the political head of the Department, he is suspect from the word "go".

By some people only.

Here you will have a body on whom the Minister will rely. If they are a responsible body and if there is a "wrong 'un" among them, the first thing they will try to do is to have him shifted. If I were a member of a board, I should have no hesitation in taking the first step towards removing an undesirable person from that board. I cannot understand the Parliamentary Secretary's thinking at all.

I agree with Deputy Clinton. It does appear that the Minister will have the right to remove from the board. Will the Minister in his office be able to see what is happening and will he be able to say: "We will dump this fellow because he does not suit us?" Will he take a recommendation from someone who, having been at meetings of the board, will say that the fellow is not the type who is wanted on the board? In each case, instead of having the majority of the Comhairle making the recommendation, the Minister will take advice from one of the members or, worse still, from one of the officials who may be giving secretarial help. What I should be afraid of is that the Minister might be tempted, for political or other reasons, to change the personnel by removing someone from the board. If there is not a set regulation laid down under which a recommendation can be made, then we must take it that the Minister will be taking political advice and that will be the reason for the removal. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary has more experience of this than we have and perhaps he would say what is the general ruling with regard to boards of this kind. Is this the way this is usually done?

It is. Surely Deputies realise that, were we to accept the amendment, An Chomhairle would have to meet as a body and, in the presence of the member concerned, recommend his removal from the board. I do not think any Deputy would recommend that procedure as the ideal solution. Such a situation would automatically weaken the board. All the members must be of the very highest calibre and if nine are required to sit in judgment on a colleague and move his dismissal from the board, the situation would be very embarrassing indeed.

They do not have to do so, but they should have the right to do so, if they want to. The Parliamentary Secretary says they will all be of the highest calibre while the Minister is saying that one may not be up to standard.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary say where the Minister will get his advice in relation to the person who is to be dumped?

The Deputy is assuming a situation in which possibly someone would be dumped. I do not think that will happen. These will be people of the highest calibre and we would be wrong-footing from the start if we made it incumbent on them to dismiss a member. In every case in which individuals have been removed from boards, the removal has always been done, as it were, in absentia. I do not think there is any likelihood of what Deputies suggest happening here.

That may be the method adopted in circles across the floor. It is certainly not the method we adopt. I am all for saying whatever has to be said to the man's face and in his presence. I think it is absolutely wrong to leave this in the hands of the Minister. There is no indication as to where the Minister will get his advice about the individual to be dropped. That leaves him open to the accusation that someone is dropped for political reasons. Deputy Tully said "for political or other reasons"; I say political or related reasons. It is wrong in my opinion, for the Minister to retain this power in himself, and unnecessary, in my view.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 26 was discussed with amendment No. 3. Since section 19 stands, amendment No. 27 falls.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 not moved.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, received for final consideration and passed.
Business suspended at 2 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.