Regulation of Banks (Remuneration and Conditions of Employment) (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1973.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is designed to ensure that the Labour Court is utilised by the banks and their employees so that bank wages and conditions accord with the benefits which other workers are obtaining within the provisions of the national agreement. It is a temporary measure designed to meet a unique situation. I would emphasise that the legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining. It is directed solely at the unique set of problems posed by the banks' settlements which twice since 1972 have been adjudged in breach of the national agreement by the Labour Court. It is to prevent a breach of the national agreement for a third time that this Bill is necessary.

Prior to our election, this Government stated that voluntary wage agreements reached on a national level were the best basis for economic development, stability and growth in jobs. We declared our commitment to a general programme of planned economic development. This very week, my colleague, the Minister for Finance, will be inviting representatives of farmers, workers and employers to a meeting of an enlarged National Economic Council which will help organise the economic strength of the nation in a co-operative endeavour. Economic co-operation between the organised economic interests accompanied by a true commitment to the demands of social justice in public policy by the elected government—this is the only way we can survive in the difficult period ahead, especially in the context of our EEC membership.

This administration is committed to a reform programme in which we declare our intention of doing nothing less than the elimination of the scourge of poverty from our society. It is our firm intention to lay the basis of a policy that would root out the basic inequality of low incomes, bad housing and poor educational facilities. It is stated in the objectives of the present national agreement that the parties to the agreement subscribe to the social and economic objectives of:

the achievement of full employment

real increases in wage and salary incomes

preferential treatment for wage earners in the lower-income groups, and

the abolition of poverty.

Undoubtedly, the architects of the present agreement, both employers and trade union leaders, would agree that, while it is not perfect it has helped appreciably the poorest, most defenceless and weakest elements in our society. That agreement stands as a tribute to the ideals of the ordinary men and women of the Irish trade union movement.

No responsible Government, least of all a Government committed as we are to ending poverty and social injustice in our society, could permit that the freely negotiated contract of Irish working people be assailed by any group, however powerful or privileged. No responsible Government can do other in their general policy than preserve an economic climate in which the good faith of the signatories of such agreement can be sustained. It was in accepting such an obligation that, for example, my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce intervened in controlling prices just over a week ago.

Poverty cannot be ended, or in its other aspect unemployment be diminished, in conditions of "free for all" either on the profits or wages front. A short while ago in our first budget this Government made the single biggest financial contribution in the history of our State to the economically weak. A planned redistribution of wealth in our society, a programme to begin the uphill task of equalising opportunities in our society, to banish the spectre of poverty, will not be possible if the strong and the powerful are insistent in ignoring the repercussions of their actions.

Our Government are determined to do everything possible to preserve a climate in which the national agreement may flourish. Our economic policy must be directed towards the creation of more jobs and the creation of a higher standard of living. most direct way, the Government have no choice but to act in a decisive fashion.

Our prices strategy will ensure a careful surveillance of factors which influence the cost of living but the Government's duty to the existing national agreement does not end there. Where, as in the present case the national agreement is attacked in the

It is necessary for the information of Deputies, to mention the recent past in relation to this Bill. The records of the banks and their employees in the recent past is one of persistent disregard for the consequences of violations of the national agreements. Since January, 1972, they have twice violated the national agreements. In March, 1972, the Labour Court, in a report to the then Minister for Labour, held that an agreement negotiated by the banks and their employees which took effect on 1st January, 1972, contravened the provisions of the first national agreement. Again in January, 1973, the former Minister for Labour referred to the Labour Court a further agreement negotiated by the banks and their employees which took effect from 1st January, 1973. On 6th February, 1973, the Labour Court in the interim report to the then Minister for Labour stated that they had been considering the views expressed by both sides but that they had not enough information at that time to come to final conclusions immediately on all matters raised; the problem, the Court said, required more information and study and consultation with the Employer/ Labour Conference concerning the interpretation of some provisions of the national agreement and that this would take some time. The court reported further that the parties had pressed them for a very early decision on the grounds that delay in paying money now could involve hardship for the officials involved. As it was obvious from the foregoing that a speedy decision was not feasible, the court recommended that, to meet the difficulty of hardship referred to, payment should be made forthwith to all bank employees of the 4 per cent and the cost-of-living supplement to which the court considered the bank officials were entitled under the second phase provisions of clause 3 of the 1970 National Agreement, leaving aside the further questions for decision after the court had issued its final report.

Arising from the interim report the then Minister for Finance, in protracted correspondence with the banks and the Irish Bank Officials' Association, sought an assurance that payments beyond those set out in the report would not be made until the Government's views on the final recommendations of the Labour Court had been made known. Neither party was prepared to give such an assurance, however, beyond 28th February, 1973, despite the fact that the then Minister for Finance had repeatedly made it clear that the Government's consideration of the court's final report might not be completed by that date.

On 21st February, 1973, the then Minister for Finance wrote both to the banks and to the IBOA expressing regret that they had been unable to give the assurance sought by him and adding that, if the Labour Court's eventual findings in the matter were not acceptable to the parties, the Government would introduce legislation. The general election then intervened and all proposals of that Government fell. Shortly after I assumed office—on 16th April, 1973, in fact—the Labour Court sent me its final report. That was the report sought by my predecessor. It was, of course, too late at that stage to act.

Shortly afterwards, negotiations commenced again between the banks and their employees for a new agreement to take effect as from 1st June, 1973. I immediately sought meetings with the banks and the Irish Bank Officials' Association. I indicated at these meetings that what was past was past and that my concern was with the future and particularly with the negotiations which were now again under way for a new banks settlement. I explained that I considered it to be the Government's duty to ensure that no settlement should imperil the existing national agreement.

Since then the Government have spared no effort at numerous meetings with both the banks and their employees to emphasise that any settlement must be within the terms of the national agreement. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and I have had further meetings with each of the parties. In all, since 23rd May, 1973, there have been eight such meetings. The importance of any new settlement in the banks conforming with the national agreement was emphasised at each of these meetings. The proposition finally put to the parties by the Government was that the proposals for improved pay and conditions, when negotiated between the banks and the IBOA, should be examined by the Labour Court to ensure their compliance with the present national agreement.

The IBOA stated that they had difficulty in agreeing to the use of the Labour Court for the purpose of examining and reporting on whatever agreement emerged from the negotiations with the banks. The Government have made it clear that it is important to uphold the position and status of the Labour Court and that it is necessary to adhere to the proposition that the court should be the agency for carrying out any task of this kind.

To meet the IBOA's reservations, the Government suggested that the Labour Court could be assisted by two assessors to be appointed under the Industrial Relations Act from panels drawn up by the banks and the IBOA. This suggestion by the Government was made in good faith to ensure that the court would be fully conversant with all the facts.

In the event, this proposition was not acceptable to the IBOA. Neither was any assurance forthcoming that the new agreement in the banks would be within the provisions of the national agreement.

There was an outright refusal by the bank officials to put their case to the Labour Court. I must emphasise that the Government endorse fully the right of all bank officials to be paid the increases due them under the terms of the present national agreement. The national agreement particularly favours those who are earning less than £30 per week. And according to accounts in today's Press the honorary secretary of the IBOA states that people working under £30 a week comprise more than 4,000 of those employed in the banks. I stress that the Government fully endorse payment to all of these officials under the national pay agreement. In addition, the Equal Pay Bill which I have introduced in this House will give women in our banking system equal pay with men. The area of contention is confined to the salaries of a minority and to that part of their claims which exceeds their entitlement under the national agreement.

The Bill at present before the House does not relate to past breaches of the national agreement by the banks; it will come into operation and expire on days to be appointed by me by order. The Bill contains provisions whereby I could, should I consider it necessary to do so, impose a stay on the salaries and other conditions of employment in the banks at any time during or following negotiations. The Bill also contains provisions whereby I would have power to prevent, by order, the banks from offering increases in wages or improvements in other conditions of employment in excess of those to which other workers are entitled under the terms of the national agreement. Banks which contravened or failed to comply with the terms of an order made by me under the Act would be guilty of an offence and would be liable, on conviction, to fines.

Legislation to deal with breaches of the national agreements by the banks was approved by the previous Government in January this year. The provisions of that legislation were broadly similar to those of the present Bill with the significant difference that the previous Government proposed that action should also be taken against bank employees and their trade union. The present Government in considering their approach were of the view that the history of Irish industrial relations shows that legislation along these lines is both undesirable and ineffective. I believe that such legislation is of itself objectionable and would in the long run, prove to be counter-productive.

In May, 1971, Professor Michael P. Fogarty presented his report on the 1970 banks' dispute to the then Minister for Labour. Professor Fogarty's views are relevant to the present situation. In his report he declared:

If the IBOA persists in standing out from this national effort (i.e. the National Agreement) and presses pay claims which amount to sabotaging it, then it will have to be fought not merely by the banks but by the whole community, with whatever weapons come to hand: and those who lead this fight will rightly be able to claim that it is they not the IBOA who are fighting for the future standard of living of bank officials.

He also said:

The National Agreement allows for more flexibility than appears at first sight, and the IBOA has the same right as any other trade union to make what it can of this. But it has no right to contract out from arrangements agreed, in effect, by and on behalf of the people of Ireland.

That is not a view of someone with a political or industrial axe to grind. It is the considered opinion of an experienced and reasonable man, based on his examination of all the factors and influences involved.

The Government now find themselves, on behalf of the community, having to use "whatever weapons come to hand" in defence of the system of free collective bargaining of national agreements which has the support of both sides of industry. I do not want to have to make an order bringing this Act into operation. Whether I must do so or not will depend on the banks and the IBOA.

I hope I will have the co-operation of the Opposition in passing all Stages of this Bill today.

Practically every piece of legislation introduced by this Government has been a re-introduction of something which we had prepared and were about to introduce but seldom was this acknowledged by the Minister who introduced it because it was legislation that would be welcomed by the people. On this occasion the Minister went to great lengths to point out to the House that this is a Bill which we had prepared because it is a most unpopular Bill and one which we know strikes at the very root of the principle of free collective bargaining. He made sure to point out that this Bill was on the stocks—as it was—and was due for introduction were it not for the intervention of the general election.

I asked the Minister shortly after we came to this side of the House what action he proposed to take regarding the violation of the national agreement by the banks. He said the matter was under consideration. That was before this third attempt to breach the national agreement, before this third set of negotiations were introduced. I submit that the Bill which we had ready had one particular characteristic and that was that it had powers to make retrospective whatever penalties were proposed in the Bill. Had the Minister brought that Bill of ours before the House immediately it would not have been too late to take the required action retrospectively against what had happened in the second agreement.

I am delighted to see the party which I dreaded when we were preparing that legislation having to come before this House with similar legislation. When we were preparing that legislation we could not fail to remember the many attacks made on us as a Government whenever we attempted to bring in legislation, even in such crippling circumstances as when the ESB were holding the entire economy up to ransom. The lack of co-operation we then got from the Opposition was such as to make me dread bringing in a Bill like this which openly violates the principle of free collective bargaining but is necessary in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I do not wish to delay the House with all of the quotations of the past but the Official Reports are interspersed with frequent and most damning quotations. All the adjectives and superlatives were used to condemn any effort we made in the most critical circumstances when the economy of the State was threatened.

I am referring to the Official Report of 7th of June, 1966, when the House was debating the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966. The Minister has already referred to the Fogarty Report and I should like to make a further reference to it. This report points out that a bank strike, however serious for the economy it is, is not near as serious as an ESB strike in so far as its crippling effect on the whole economy is concerned. Indeed, the Fogarty Report stated that a bakers' strike can be worse than the strike of the bank officials.

On this occasion, in 1966, we were faced with a serious situation and the public in general expected us to act with any weapons at our disposal.

Deputy Corish, during the debate on the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, according to column 109 of the Official Report of 7th June stated:

I believe that industrial relations should be cultivated rather than legislated for...

What we are talking about here today is the fundamental right to sell your labour in the best market and not to sell it if you do not get the best price...

It is relatively easy to write this Bill but its operation will be another thing...

There Deputy Corish was threatening the House that strike action would follow and, indeed, giving the strong hint to those concerned what they should do.

Deputy Tully, now Minister for Local Government, in column 140 of the Official Report of 7th June, 1966, stated:

I assure the Minister that as far as we are concerned in the Labour Party, every time this sort of measure is introduced here we shall oppose it tooth and nail.

And we will continue to oppose the imprisonment of workers.

Deputy O'Leary, now the Minister piloting this legislation, in column 240 of the Official Report of 8th June, 1966, stated:

The Bill brings us a step nearer to the totalitarian concept of the State. This morning the Government took a step towards the totalitarian concept where the State no longer stands neutral in the struggle between employer and employee.

Deputy Cluskey, according to column 282 of the Official Report of 8th June, 1966, went further:

There is one comment I wish to make, that is, that it is terribly important that we should realise exactly what we are doing here today. It is particularly important that Fine Gael should realise what is being done. The democratic rights of a comparatively small number of people are being taken away. This amendment would suggest to me that Fine Gael have come to the conclusion that democracy is all right when it suits but when it does not suit it should be suspended.

In a further reference, in column 283 of the Official Report of 8th June, he stated:

Where will it end? Irrespective of whether it is popular or not, we in the Labour Party will not get this off the ground. We intend to oppose it here in every possible way open to us.

I do not want to go on repeating quotations—there are thousands of them—but Deputy Corish started off by saying that there was a bad smell off that Bill. There is a bad smell from the Bill we are introducing now and if I had one horror when I was having it prepared it was of the comments that would come from the Labour Party benches on that occasion, and the difficulty we would face in trying to get it through the House.

I had the background of these attacks, and the knowledge of them before me, and the experience of how much this was used against the public good. Who can say that the ESB strike at that time which tended to cripple the entire economy was not a much more serious situation than that which exists now? These are the reasons I should like to give to the people who want the full co-operation of a responsible Opposition in connection with this piece of legislation.

I know the Government will have the assistance of the Press, which we hardly might have had at the time. Indeed, the press is already making excuses that this is a very good thing to do. Apart from that, responsible people realise what the position is. We believe, when the first national agreement was brought about as a result of a final discussion between the representatives of Congress and the Government of the day, that it would be adhered to. When we brought legislation before this House to uphold this agreement we were appealed not to introduce it.

We could not see any other way out at the time. There was an agreement which was not signed. In a last attempt Mr. Cosgrove, who was the acting chairman of Congress at the time, convened a further meeting. On the assurance that they would do everything possible to see that the national agreement was observed, we gave an undertaking that we would withdraw the legislation in toto. We were immediately attacked by the Opposition for showing weakness. We were described as a weak Government because we changed our mind. That was the attack made on us then because we consulted with the people directly concerned, something which is held to be sacrosanct now.

If we are giving our co-operation in this it is not due to anything we owe the Labour Party in regard to their opposition in the past. We know what is involved here and how important the national Agreements are to the economy as a whole. The first National Agreement, the second National Agreement and, we hope, the third which we expect will be an even better agreement, are of vital importance.

The banks were in contravention of these agreements on two occasions. On the first occasion we only learned through the grapevine that something was happening. We had no means of officially knowing or being notified that there was an agreement or that there was something approaching. We ultimately probed the situation and found that there was an agreement between the banks staff relations committee and the IBOA. We submitted it to the Labour Court. I notice that there is provision made here for submission to the Labour Court. Under section 24 of the 1946 Industrial Relations Act the Minister has power to submit any agreement to the Labour Court for report to himself.

We did that and by the time we learned that the agreement was in contravention of the national pay agreement we found that it was already in operation. They were being paid and the point was that they had programmed their computers and that this had to be done over a period before actual payment took place.

The Minister gave a brief outline of what happened on the second occasion. On the second occasion, we as any reasonable and responsible Government would do, requested the parties concerned to let us know what they were doing and keep us informed at all times. We also requested them not to do anything that would be outside the requirements of the national pay agreement.

Was this the meeting at which you were accompanied by the former Minister for Finance?

We had a number of meetings.

Mr. O'Leary

But at the meeting to which the Deputy is referring was he accompanied by the former Minister for Finance?

There were a number of meetings at which we were both present.

We attended many meetings and explained fully the serious implications it would have and made it absolutely clear what our action would be. At one of these meetings we even went as far as to point out that legislation which we must introduce and which might be forestalled by the argument would be such as to provide for retrospection. We were thinking of introducing it in the Seanad in order that it might be brought in sooner. The dissolution of the Dáil intervened and the bankers got out under the ropes, so to speak.

That legislation was ready and could have been implemented. In fact, I thought it would have been a first priority when the Government took office. There is not much use in having a lot of talk about a Government intention to eliminate poverty. Any Government who were ever elected anywhere have been saying that and, I hope, trying to do it. This preamble does not make this any less a departure from the high principle of free collective bargaining that has been so often extolled in this House. The Minister, in his opening speech, which he kindly circulated, says:

Legislation to deal with breaches of the national agreements by the banks was approved by the previous Government in January this year. The provisions of that legislation were broadly similar to those of the present Bill with the significant difference that the previous Government proposed that action should also be taken against bank employees and the trade union. The present Government in considering their approach are of the view that the history of Irish industrial relations shows that legislation along these lines was both undesirable and ineffective. I believe that such legislation is of itself objectionable and would, in the long run, prove to be counterproductive.

I should like to ask the Minister does he not feel he may be putting the banks in a position where the IBOA may press for any type of agreement they desire knowing that if the banks agree and any action is taken by the Government, it is the banks who will be penalised, not them?

Does the Deputy intend to put forward an amendment to penalise the bank officials' association?

I should like to consider it seriously. Certainly I would not like to give all Stages today. The Minister may be playing politics here with trade unions.

That is what he is doing.

But he is not being fair to the economy.


I think Deputies should permit Deputy Brennan to make his own speech.

The Minister started interrupting him. He cannot take his medicine.

The Minister is in effect saying to the IBOA: "Negotiate any type of agreement you like and if we do not like it we shall penalise the banks for it."

Is the Deputy objecting to that?

It is a cowardly approach. It is the Minister's feeble effort, knowing that his past socialism is now being solidified in the mould of Fine Gael conservatism.

Cocktail parties in Montenotte.

This can lead to quite a serious situation. Certainly I should like to have another look at the structure of the Bill and consider whether or not the action taken is likely to produce the most desired results. It is a simple piece of legislation which is framed to take action against something that seriously threatens the whole economic structure and which can upset the national agreement. It is almost as serious as the ESB situation was when we set about tackling it a few years ago. As I said already, Professor Fogarty referred to the effects of the bank strike on the economy as being much less serious than an ESB strike or a bakers' strike, but it is, nevertheless, serious. It is unique in many ways. The bank officials know that when they go on strike, no matter how long they remain on strike, the work remains undone and they can earn overtime in doing it when the strike is over. Indeed, this happened in the case of the last two strikes. The unprecedented rates of overtime and the amount of overtime made available put them in the position of not being at a very great loss. The IBOA have strong funds. At the time that we asked Professor Fogarty to examine the situation, the yearly income had reached an astronomical figure; over £142,000 a year. In a strike they are not called upon to pay one cent. The employees go abroad, to England and elsewhere, and find work. They can live on their cheque books and then return and do the work that has been dammed up and get overtime for doing it. That is the extraordinary position. There are as many bosses as there are minor employees, bank managers, pro-managers, and so on. They are all in the IBOA.

This is a unique situation and in bringing in legislation the Minister is fortunate in that if we had been on that side of the House bringing in this legislation we would have been condemned from every angle by the Labour Party and all the clichés that have been trotted out a thousand times about free collective bargaining would be bounced at us from this side of the House. We would be criticised as the people who were not prepared to do anything for the workers and stand behind the principle of free collective bargaining which we in our time did more for than any Coalition did or are ever likely to do.

I do not think anybody will doubt the need to preserve the national pay agreement. In regard to the forthcoming agreement I attended a meeting of the Dublin Trades Union Council and they made it quite clear to me that if the banks contravened the national pay agreement again, we need not hope for another agreement. indeed, many of them said they were only waiting to see if this would happen so that they could take the necessary action to ensure they were not held to the terms of the agreement.

There are approximately 7,000 bank employees. Almost half of these are women. When Professor Fogarty examined, at our request, the whole question of bank relationship structures for negotiating agreements after the last strike he examined in great depth the different classes, procedures and structures, particularly personnel structures. He found that banking had become a rather complex business and one which had outgrown the rather primitive structures provided for negotiation. Personnel arrangements were practically nil; those that existed were outmoded by the rapid change in banking as a whole. He made some very interesting suggestions and recommendations which the bank staff relations committee are now trying to follow.

When the Minister for Finance of the day and I spoke to the two sides involved both made the case that they were striving to improve the situation, as suggested by Professor Fogarty, and one cannot deny that a great part of what they had done was useful. They had made some very excellent proposals for better relationships and the banks side could easily point out that what they were doing was in the interests of rationalisation ultimately and the improvement of relationships generally. One could see that, while the agreement was overstepping the national pay agreement in some respects, much of what had been negotiated was overdue and, indeed, actually welcome. It was for that reason we were anxious they should implement that part of the agreement which was not in contravention of the national agreement and leave the other proposals to be dealt with later.

We found it difficult to deal with them and I am sure the Minister finds it just as difficult now as we did. The history of banking is a history out of which grew this whole system we now find it difficult to handle. Bank officials were not sufficiently well paid. At a time when secondary school leavers were entering university the banks took on young clerks and paid them a small uneconomic wage which had to be supplemented from the savings of their parents. After a number of years, if they were considered to be sufficiently qualified in the work of the bank, they got a somewhat higher salary, but still not a commendable one or a very generous one.

The old-fashioned kind of banking ceased to be operative when banking became competitive. People were invited to use one bank instead of some other one. Agreements became the order of the day and a complete structural change took place. Young people were no longer prepared to join as virtual apprentices, as they did in the old days. They wanted a remunerative wage from the start and a decent scale of pay. A very high percentage of those who took part in the last strike were persons with less than 11 years' service. The scale of pay then was one which required a good deal of adjustment to make it satisfactory. With this background, plus the Fogarty Report indicating what should be done, the IBOA set about doing the job but, in doing it, they exceeded the requirements of the national pay agreement. While admitting much needed to be done and many improvements were necessary—the higher rates had to be adjusted—the refusal to accept our request to adjust in accordance with the national wage agreement made it imperative for us to bring in legislation and the legislation we proposed —it was interrupted by the general election—could have been reintroduced by this Minister immediately the Government took office; they waited until the third agreement was about to be negotiated and then proceeded to take action.

Until I heard the Minister's speech today I believed that, in section 4, the Minister was taking retrospective power to deal with previous agreements as well. This is something we will deal with on Committee Stage. Section 4 says:


(a) any banks, whether before, on or after the commencement of this Act, pay or agree to pay increases of remuneration to any of their employees or amend or vary or agree to amend or vary any other terms or conditions of employment of any of their employees so as to provide improved or more favourable terms or conditions of employment for them,

Under that section, and under the preceding section as well, the Minister could take retrospective action. Whether or not that is intended, the power is certainly there. The Minister, in his opening speech, said that he had stated to the banks in discussions with them that the past was now past and this Bill related to the present. I take it that is correct.

This measure relates to the present negotiations only. These negotiations are continuing today, according to newspaper reports, and the Minister is hoping against hope and praying that they will withdraw from the edge of the precipice so that this legislation will not be necessary because he knows it will be a dreadful blot on the escutcheon of the Labour Party and something which will be noted forever as a volte face on the part of the Labour Party against all the previously professed principles about free collective bargaining. This legislation is designed to prevent free collective bargaining where both sides are in agreement; the employer is prepared to pay and the employees are prepared to accept. Legislation has to be brought in to ensure that neither party will be permitted to do that which they are freely agreeing to do. That is the situation in which we find ourselves. The only difference is that, had we brought in this legislation, we would have found ourselves with opposition to it; the Minister has no opposition.

Deputy Colley rose.

No one is prepared to speak on that side of the House in support of the Bill. That is very significant.

I am certainly willing to give way if any of the Minister's colleagues wish to speak.

Deputy John O'Connell is mumbling over there.

I must say I was looking forward to the contribution we might have from Deputy O'Connell or, indeed, from Deputy Barry Desmond or Deputy Pattison. The last two Deputies seem to have disappeared and the Minister is left alone in his glory.

Their votes will be up there.

It is understandable that they would disappear but it is well worth noting. The Minister and Deputy Brennan have made reference to the fact that what is proposed to be dealt with in the Bill is a purported third agreement between the banks and the IBOA, previous agreements having been found by the Labour Court to have been in breach of the national pay agreement. It is not necessary for me to go back over the history of those two previous agreements except to reiterate in regard to the first one that though it may be going a little far to say it was concluded as a result of secret negotiations between the banks and the IBOA, it would not be far from the truth so to describe it.

When the Government at that time found what was going on and met the parties, we found ourselves in the position that the agreement had been already concluded, that the actual machinery for payment on foot of the agreement was under way, and in the circumstances we found ourselves unable to take effective action. However, when negotiations were due to be started on the second agreement we called in both parties and made it quite clear to them that we regarded it as vital that any further agreement would conform to the national pay agreement. As indicated by Deputy Brennan, we made it clear that if this did not happen as part of the Labour Court machinery we would have no option but to introduce legislation.

The Minister indicated that the Government approved of legislation in January last. On a few occasions since the change of Government I have spoken in this House and referred to the fact that there were groups who were not conforming to the national pay agreement and I inquired as to what the Government were doing about it. I spoke in somewhat modified terms in the hope that by doing so I would not make things more difficult—I asked if, in fact, the Government were doing something about it. It now transpires from what the Minister said today that the Government were not doing anything at all about the second agreement between the banks and the IBOA.

I am quite certain from my knowledge of the Civil Service that one of the first things brought to the notice of the present Government when they took office was the situation prevailing in relation to the banks and their negotiations with the IBOA and I do not think the purported explanation of the Minister today as to why the Government failed to take action in regard to the second agreement is good enough. The fact that the second agreement was allowed to operate has made the task with which the Minister is now faced much more difficult. I would remind the Minister—I am sure he knows it very well—that under the terms of the second agreement between the banks and the IBOA it was provided that the agreement would terminate in six months and this is one of the areas in which it infringes the national pay agreement. If it had conformed to the national agreement I think it would not have expired for 18 months. However, that agreement has not expired and the third agreement is being negotiated.

In making reference to this in the House I was very conscious of the fact that the national pay agreement and its maintenance are vital to the economy of this country. The Government by bringing in this Bill have shown they are now conscious of the vital importance of the national pay agreement but, again, I question why, if they had been conscious of that vital importance, they did not take action in regard to the second agreement between the banks and the IBOA.

In the meetings Deputy Brennan and I had with the banks and the IBOA, we made it clear that while we would be very seriously perturbed at a bank closure, knowing what had happened in the case of the previous closure, nevertheless, weighing the disadvantages to the economy in a bank closure against the disadvantages of a complete breakdown of the national pay agreement or failure to conclude another one, we did not have any doubt wherein the national interests lay. If that was the choice we would be faced with we would have no doubt that the maintenance of the national pay agreement and the creation of a climate in which a third national pay agreement could be reasonably expected to be concluded was the more important requirement for the economy. I still adhere to that view and I take it from the Government's action in introducing this Bill that they adhere to that view. That makes it more surprising and requires a better explanation than we have got as to why this Government failed to take action on the second agreement between the banks and the IBOA as one of their first tasks when they took office.

I wish to refer to the introduction of this Bill in the House and the comments then made by the Leader of this party. Anybody who heard what Deputy Lynch said or who has read the record will find that a fair paraphrase of what he said is that he was accusing the Labour Party of doing a somersault and telling the Minister he would be hearing more about that. I think this incident is an interesting example of the manner in which the news is being manipulated since this Government came into office, because on the following day readers of all the newspapers and listeners to RTE bulletins were led to believe that the Leader of this party had indicated this party would oppose this Bill. Of course, he did not say anything which could be remotely construed in that way. It is rather interesting this should have happened throughout virtually all the media. My belief is that somebody by or on behalf of the Government endeavoured to manipulate the news, apparently in an effort to take the heat off the Labour Party.

I wish the Deputy could tell us how that could be done. I have never succeeded.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary care to read the record of what Deputy Lynch said and then the newspapers for the following day?

I was listening to him.

He will find it a very interesting comparison.

I agree with the Deputy. It is quite true.

That is what lost you the last election.

I do not give a damn what anybody says about me or writes about me, in the media or outside of it, and I will not bow to anybody who tries to make me do so. I will say what I believe, and it is a fair comment on what happened. I am not finished because I want to point out that apart from the inherent evil of manipulation of the news in this way, the fact is that the consequences of what happened could well have been to defeat the whole purpose of the Minister in making what was an unprecedented or almost unprecedented statement on the introduction of the Bill. It is clear to me that the Minister was hoping that he would not have to proceed with this Bill.

Deputy J. Lynch requested me to make a statement.

I am not complaining at all about the Minister making a statement.

Take it up with Deputy J. Lynch. It was he who requested the statement.

It is a pity that Deputy Desmond was not here earlier when he had a chance to speak. He had disappeared.

I heard what was said.

The purpose which the Minister had in his mind when making that statement was at least jeopardised, if not defeated, by the way in which what happened in the House that day was reported. While I am on the subject, I would like to say that I noted that The Irish Times did me the honour of quoting a statement I had made earlier in this House when I talked about the necessity for maintaining this agreement. Not only did they to me the honour of quoting me at some length, for the purpose of trying to fix this party with the responsibility of not opposing the Bill, but they went on to devote a leading article to the topic and to quote a question which I had put as to whether the failure of this Government to take action in regard to the banks was due to doctrinal difficulties within the Government, and then said that this Bill was my answer. It was not because my question was, and still is, related to why the Government did not act in relation to the second agreement. We have finally got this Bill from the Government because they have seen there was no way out for them. We find that the Minister says in his brief:

I would emphasise that the legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining.

Let us have no illusions in this House about what this Bill proposes to do. It can be padded out with talk about the abolition of poverty and its relief, but the fact exists that neither the banks nor the IBOA are parties to the national agreement.

In this legislation it is proposed to apply to those people, by way of statute, the terms of the national agreement to which they are not a party. If that is not interference with free collective bargaining nothing is. These parties did not engage in the national agreement negotiations; they conducted their own negotiations and entered into them freely. This Bill now proposes to interfere with the results of those negotiations—rightly, I believe, in the national interest. Let us not try to gloss over it and say that we are not interfering with free collective bargaining. That is what this Bill is doing.

Deputy Brennan gave the House a number of suitable quotations from Deputies opposite on similar measures in the past. I do not propose to delay the House with a whole lot of quotations, but there is one which I would like to give the House. It comes from the Tánaiste, the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Corish, who, when speaking on the Prices and Incomes (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1970, on 28th October, 1970, at column 56, Volume 249, said:

As far as this party is concerned and as far as the trade union movement is concerned neither they nor us will ever agree to any measure which takes away from them the right to free collective bargaining.

That is a clear statement. I do not think any Deputy on the Government benches, and certainly no Deputy of the Labour Party, would suggest that that quotation is not representative of the attitude which the Labour Party have repeatedly expressed in this House in all circumstances.

The interesting thing to note about this is that never once in all these long harangues from Deputies of the Labour Party—and in that particular debate the present Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan, complained bitterly that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Keating, had spoken for five and a half hours—did any of them say: "There can be circumstances in which it is justifiable in the national interest to interfere with the right of free collective bargaining."

I believe myself that all parties in this House would wish to maintain the right of free collective bargaining and would much prefer that there should be no legislative or other interference with that right, but we also know that if there are people who, for their own selfish purposes, and because they believe they have the strength to do so, are prepared to ignore the national interest, then the right to free collective bargaining is not absolute, and it is the duty of any Government, when that point is reached and when it is in the national interest, to interfere with the right to such free collective bargaining. That is what this Government are belatedly doing, but they are doing it now.

It was rather hard to listen to what was said by the Minister for Labour today and then to consider the many hours during which we were subjected by the same Minister and his colleagues to harangues about the absolute right of free collective bargaining. Deputy J. Lynch indicated the other day that the Labour Party were doing a somersault and that they would hear more about it. They are doing it now and they will hear plenty more about it. It is not good enough to have had them going on as they have gone on for years in this House without any reference whatever to the national interest and then to have the Minister coming in here on the First Stage of this Bill and saying that he had to do this in the national interest. Did the national interest change when the Minister crossed sides in the House? Was it the same at all times? Did the attitudes adopted by the Minister and his colleagues in the Labour Party depend on which side of the House they were on? When the Minister asked for co-operation from this side of the House and for responsibility he had a "brass neck". He knew he would get co-operation but he had a "brass neck" because, as Deputy Brennan pointed out, if we were introducing that Bill we all know well what the Minister and his colleagues would be saying now.

We on this side of the House do not allow ourselves the luxury of irresponsibility, whether we are in Government or in Opposition, but it is only right that the public should be aware of the difference in approach between the parties on the Government benches when they are in Opposition and when they are in Government. If one listened to what they said—particularly to what the Tánaiste said in the quotation which I gave—one must come to the conclusion that when they said these things they did not mean them. If they meant them what are they bringing in this Bill for? There is an alternative explanation and it is that for all the great length of time for which they went on they did not really know what was involved and where the national interest lay and it required that they should be in office so that they should find out. They knew all along where the national interest lay but they were not concerned with the national interest. They were concerned with party advantage. It would do Deputies opposite a great deal of good if they would give themselves a little time to read the reports of the debate on the Prices and Incomes (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1970. Indeed, it would do members of the public good if they could be got to do so, which is, I suppose, expecting a little too much. I would like to recall that when we introduced that Bill we did so in the national interest and we did it when negotiations for a national agreement had broken down. That Bill was met with total opposition and filibuster by the members of the present Government and in particular by members of the Labour Party.

I have just referred to the fact that the then Deputy Keating spoke for five and a half hours, much to the consternation of the then Deputy Donegan. The record clearly shows that, as a result of our bringing in that Bill and despite total opposition from the present Minister and his colleagues, a national agreement was entered into and no unbiased observer of what occurred at that time will dispute that without that Bill there would be no national agreement.

Is the Deputy claiming authorship of the national wage agreement?

I am claiming that the record shows that negotiations for a national agreement broke down and that there was no move for further negotiations until that Bill had been brought to this House and debated and, in fact, had gone through its Second Stage. Nobody could suggest that those two facts are unconnected. Anybody who does is not living on this earth. We all know the facts. It was withdrawn, as Deputy O'Connell said, because a national agreement had been worked out, it had been agreed it would be signed and we, as Deputy Brennan said, met congress and got their full assurance on the implementation of it. We specifically mentioned to congress at that time this very case of the IBOA and the fact they were not parties to it. If the Minister would like to check with the members of congress who were present on that delegation he will find that statement is correct. We were very conscious of the dangers. We withdrew the legislation because we were satisfied by the assurances given to us by congress that a national agreement would be entered into and, more important, would be honoured. Since then another agreement has been concluded.

That is not entirely correct.

I do not know what the Deputy has in mind but he can speak about it after I conclude.


The point I am trying to make is that, despite this total opposition to that Bill—a Bill which enabled a national agreement to be entered into—by the Minister and his colleagues, today we have the Minister for Labour bringing in a measure designed to support the national agreement which he and his colleagues opposed so bitterly. At least they opposed the legislation which enabled it to be brought about. It is quite clear what it means and it is clear to the Minister.

Like Deputy Brennan, I would ask the Minister, when replying to the debate, to clarify the position in regard to section (3) (1) and section (4) (1) because he said in his speech introducing the Second Stage:

The Bill at present before the House does not relate to past breaches of the national agreements by the banks.

It seems to me on a quick reading of sections 3 (1) and 4 (1) that, even if it is not intended to do so, the Bill as drafted at present could do so. Section 3 (1) states:

Where any banks, whether before, on or after the commencement of this Act, pay or agree to pay increases of remuneration to any of their employees...

and section 4 (1) (a) states:

Where any banks, whether before, on or after the commencement of this Act, pay or agree to pay increases of remuneration...

It would seem, therefore, on the face of it that this Bill could be applied to previous national agreements.

I intended to say that if this is what the Minister meant I would withdraw my criticism of the belated action of the Government, but since he has said in introducing the Second Stage that the Bill does not relate to past breaches of the national agreement there is no question of withdrawing my criticism. However, if that is the Minister's intention I ask him, when he is replying, to indicate how these portions of section 3 and 4 are to be interpreted. As I say, on the face of it it seems to me that they enable the Bill to be applied to previous agreements entered into before the enactment of this legislation.

The whole point of bringing in this legislation is to support the national agreement and, therefore, the question we must ask ourselves is: "Will it do so? Will it be effective in supporting the national agreement?" In this connection I, like Deputy Brennan, would ask the Minister to tell us a little more about how he visualises the situation. If, for instance, the IBOA take industrial action to enforce claims for amounts above the norms of the national agreement what is there in this Bill to deter them from doing that? Furthermore, if they take such industrial action, what do the Government propose to do at that stage? We would like to hear the Minister's replies to these questions before we can decide our attitude in regard to the later Stages of this Bill. We will be very interested to know what he says in response to these questions.

I want to remind the Minister that there are hundreds of thousands of workers in this country who are bound by the national agreement. If the Government fail to make the national agreement stick in the case of people who would generally be regarded as better paid and also people who have twice already negotiated successfully outside the ambit of the national agreements, despite Government warnings, then those thousands of workers will not bind themselves in a third national agreement. I suppose this is the kernel of the whole matter before us.

I take it that it is agreed on all sides that the conclusion of a further national agreement is of immense importance to the whole community and that the point of introducing this legislation is to support the existing agreement and thereby give an opportunity to have a third national agreement concluded. It is vitally important, therefore, that we should be satisfied that this Bill can achieve the purpose for which the Minister indicated it was introduced. Therefore, the questions we have put to the Minister are of vital importance not only to us in considering our attitude on later Stages of the Bill but to the whole community in their consideration of the Government's action and the consequences likely to flow from it. There is no point in embarking on this legislation unless the Government are doing and are seen to be doing the utmost within their power to ensure that it will be effective and thereby support the national agreement. Anything less than that is mere window dressing and worse than a waste of time.

On a point of order, I should like to give notice that I intend to raise on the Adjournment this evening Question No. 36 which I put down to the Minister for Education for answer on Thursday last.

The Deputy is late this evening. He will have to mention the matter tomorrow.

Am I not in time up to 7 o'clock?

What is the time?

The Government offices are now shut. The Minister must have time to get his information.

Am I to understand from that that Government offices are closed at 5.20?

Except Ministers' offices.

The Ceann Comhairle will, as usual, communicate with the Deputy on the matter.

Is there nobody to speak for the Bill? Are you being fair, Sir, to the other side? You should look around to see if anybody is offering. Deputy Desmond is very good on free collective bargaining, or Deputy O'Connell.

We want to hear Deputy Desmond.

You have called three in a row from this side.


This is the day for the Fianna Fáil orators.

It is a sorry day for the Minister for Labour and he will rue it for a long time.

Now we know why we had a general election.

Deputy Dowling often referred to the crocodile tears of the Labour Party; now we can see how accurate that description is.

Do not be too hard on yourselves.

We have had three of our speakers in a row and not one Government speaker has had anything to say. Some speakers said they did not want to delay the House with quotations but I am a firm believer in quotations particularly of statements made by the Minister for Labour and some of his colleagues.

They are all running away from Deputy Briscoe.

The Minister said that the past is past. That is true, but it is not forgotten. I should like to quote a short comment by a former Deputy, now Senator Mullen, on the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966. As reported at column 61, Volume 223, of the Official Report, he said:

The rights and wrongs of this measure do not enter my mind at the moment. What I am anxious to ascertain is: does this House believe in democracy?

Senator Mullen will have an opportunity to comment on this Bill in the Seanad and I look forward to hearing his comments. I am curious to know whether the Minister consulted with the Congress of Trade Unions before his announcement that he would introduce this Bill, because that is a question he asked our Minister for Industry and Commerce who was responsible for Labour when that Bill was introduced. He asked the Minister if he had consulted with the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and the Workers' Union of Ireland to find out what they felt about it.

As reported at column 65 of the same volume Deputy O'Leary said:

It is not so much the 100 fitters and their rights which are in issue but the whole trade union movement which has been brought into the dock and in five hours this Parliament is to judge that movement and in five hours is to decide to alter the trade union law which had been formed over 50 years. We say as the representatives, to some degree, of that movement that we do not intend to stand idly aside and see those rights whittled away.

In recent months, in the middle of this industrial strife, there has grown up the idea that by bringing in the judicial concept and by compulsion, these issues can be solved. Everybody in this Party, and I am sure in other parties—many of the members are employers—knows that this is not so, that the issues that have been in dispute in recent months have their origin in economic problems...

This is the Minister for Labour who has now taken it upon himself to introduce this Bill.

Is the Deputy against the Bill, then?

We are not hypocrites.

We have never denied where we stood in relation to the national interest. When we had to introduce unpopular legislation we did so. We have always said that where the national interest was concerned we would do this.

Do not bellyache about it.

The Deputy is very new in the House and does not know the answers.

Unlike the Labour Party, we did not shed crocodile tears and pretend that this was against democracy, the workers' rights, et cetera.

They are not put in jail now.

The Minister goes out of his way in this Bill to endeavour to show that it is not against the workers that a penalty is being created. If the workers succeed in wrenching out of management a wage in excess of the terms of the national wage agreement, management will have to forfeit. In other words, management can say: "We are sorry, lads. If we give you an increase in excess of the national wage agreement your place of employment could be sold to pay the fines we would have to pay in order to meet——"

Does the Deputy agree with the national wage agreement?

Of course I do. We worked hard towards achieving that. If it were not for the excellent work and strength of our party we might not have got this national wage agreement.

What about the trade union movement?

The Deputy will have an opportunity of making his speech very shortly. We would like to hear from him.

Three Fianna Fáil members have spoken in succession.

We do not blow hot and cold. The Minister asked another question on this occasion. I will return the question to him. He asked if a settlement were reached and negotiations were going on, would the Government reconsider? Likewise, I am sure that, if the Irish Bank Officials' Association reach agreement with management to stay within the national wage agreement, this Bill will not be activated. In fact, he has stated they will activate the Bill only if they are forced to do so by the Irish bank officials not staying within the terms of the national wage agreement.

Is the Deputy aware that there was no national pay agreement in 1966?

I am talking in this instance about a similar Bill in which free collective bargaining was put aside in the national interest. I am appalled at the song and dance which the Labour Party then made about this very serious Bill, where the lives of people were involved, not to mention the incubator chicks which were somewhat sarcastically remarked on by members of the Labour Party at that time. They are equating that with a strike of bank officials which raises the question to which Deputy Colley referred. How does this stop the Irish bank officials going on strike? How does it stop them going over to England and getting other jobs?

It does not.

No it does not; it solves virtually nothing.

I should like to know the legislation that can prevent people from going on strike.

There is none. That is true. But there is a big stick.


The Tánaiste, Deputy Corish, speaking on an amendment he was introducing to this 1966 Bill, said, as reported at column 96, Volume 223 of the Official Report:

In any case, it will be appreciated, I think, that our attitude on the 1961 legislation has been consistently maintained here this afternoon and that consistency is shown in the amendment we have tabled.

With the permission of the Chair, I shall read the amendment:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following: "the Dáil declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the grounds that it deliberately abolishes the fundamental rights of trade unions and trade unionists and that the proposals contained in the Bill will create an atmosphere which will hinder the amicable settlement of trade disputes."

The present Minister for Health has changed his tune since then. At column 98 he said:

Our attitude towards this sort of legislation is the same as it was in 1961. I can talk, I think, in this for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which were not, as a body, apprised of this legislation, though they may have been told something about it as individuals. The attitude we expressed in 1961 is the attitude we have today. I do not know if the Minister will be able to tell us that he had discussions with Congress on this legislation, but I know— most of us know—that he has had conversations with Congress in recent times about industrial unrest generally. I do not believe, however, that he intimated to them in any respect that he and his Government had in their minds this sort of repressive legislation. In my opinion, this will do more to antagonise the workers than to curb the situation which the Minister described so very briefly today.

In view of the serious contribution Deputy Briscoe is making, may we have a quorum? The lack of Coalition members present shows a cavalier approach to this serious legislation.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

In relation to the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, Deputy Corish made the following statement at column 99:

Over and above that, we have to have regard, and always will have regard, to the fundamental right of the worker, not so much to withdraw his labour as to sell it in the best market he can find. All the criticism we have heard lately has been directed to one side of industry. Too few people are trying to discover if there is any fault on the other side.

At column 100 he stated:

This is the big stick. I do not believe it will achieve anything other than to antagonise not alone the workers involved in this dispute but workers generally throughout the country.

It is important that people see and understand the Labour Party in their true light. They never supported the national interest when they were in Opposition. I am glad to see that they are prepared to behave somewhat responsibly but I must add that they are not fooling any of their own people and the next time they find themselves in Opposition——

Never again.

Never is a very long time. I hope they will bear in mind the Bill a Labour Minister has had to introduce. No doubt, when in 25 or 30 years time the Minister for Labour is writing his memoirs he will tell us how he told the Taoiseach he would introduce the Bill but that if he had to implement it he would resign as Minister. I can foresee something on these lines——

The Deputy has a technicolour imagination.

At column 107 Deputy Corish said:

If, like some of the bank officials, they decided to go across to Great Britain and possibly earn more, despite this legislation before us today the Government would still have the problem of trying to get fitters to man the power stations.

The same situation would arise if a strike takes place but we hope in the national interest this will not happen. At column 109 Deputy Corish stated:

What we are talking about here today is the fundamental right to sell your labour in the best market and not to sell it if you do not get the best price.

These were great, brave words; it was power without responsibility as Deputy Andrews frequently called it. At column 117 of the Official Report dated 7th June, 1966, Deputy Cosgrave stated:

The only reason we are now supporting this legislation at the present time is to save the country from the fumbling futility that is characteristic of Fianna Fáil in recent months.

The then Taoiseach, Deputy Lemass, stated at column 122:

I would say that the outcome of my consideration of the matter is that the time is coming when we should set up a new Department of State, a Department of Labour——

This was set up later. As reported at column 126 he said:

It would be optimistic to think we can get complete agreement, but I think we should seek to promote the widest agreement attainable. Deputy Cosgrave described this as abdicating our responsibilities.

Deputy Tully, who is now Minister for Local Government, stated at that time, as reported at column 131:

The thought going through my mind while the Taoiseach was speaking, and I am sure through the minds of many people here, was... is it not a great wonder that the only way he can now find to settle those disputes is not what he has told the House but to arm himself with a big stick and parade it in the House in front of the Fianna Fáil Party so as to put through a Bill? I am sure he was heartened by the fact that Deputy Cosgrave and Fine Gael lined up with their big stick on the other side of the House and assured him of their support.

When the Taoiseach referred to the big stick as being a fairy wand, the then Deputy Corish said:

It is a very expensive fairy wand. As reported at column 132 Deputy Tully said:

The one thing which, on the workers' side, is causing all the trouble is that they will not be threatened into accepting anything, whether or not the Taoiseach likes it.

Deputy Tully continued, as reported at the foot of the same column:

Whether you were sure or not, you gave the right answer from your side. You let the cat out of the bag. That is what the Government have in mind. In future, if you cannot get a wage dispute settled to your satisfaction, then the proper thing to do is use the legislation of this House and force them. I would like at this stage to point out to the Taoiseach that although there is no reference in the Bill to imprisonment, there is reference to fines.

The Deputy then went into this aspect thoroughly. Deputy Tully continued at column 140:

I assure the Minister that as far as we are concerned in the Labour Party, every time this sort of measure is introduced here, we shall oppose it tooth and nail.

The Deputy continued.

I would say this, that those in the Fianna Fáil Party who have been carrying trade union cards and displaying them at election time had better think very carefully before they cast their votes on this Bill, because I know they will not be allowed to give their views but they are going to cast their votes on this and before doing so, they should remember that there is another election coming and they will not be able to claim the protection of that card when they are going around working class areas.

Minister for Labour, please note that.

Is it in order for the Deputy to read out all this?

I am quoting instances for the purpose of making my case and to show the sheer hypocrisy of the Labour Party.

Would somebody whisper in Deputy O'Brien's ear?

Perhaps we might have a chat with him afterwards.

We shall explain later to the Deputy.

I would remind Deputy O'Brien that he should always be careful in what he is saying here because it all goes on the record. The late Deputy Casey, who was a very fine man and one for whom we all had great respect, said, as reported at column 159:

On principle and irrespective of what happens, we are against any legislation that deprives a man of the right to strike. The people we represent have nothing to sell but their labour.

What is wrong with that sentiment?

Nothing; it is a fine sentiment. I would like to refer now to a couple of comments made by Deputy Coughlan which are reported at column 222:

In a matter such as this, it tries the patience of any human being where coercive legislation is being introduced and is being clouded and woolled over. It is our duty on these benches to shear that wool aside and to lay naked and bare the situation as it is presented and will be carried out by the Fianna Fáil Government. We take our stand in this issue because we believe that coercion will solve nothing.

Later, referring to Mr. Lemass's speech, the same Deputy said:

However, the gem of the speech was his announcement that he was now considering the creation of a new Ministry, a Ministry of Labour. In that statement he admits the failure of the Department of Industry and Commerce and of the Department of Transport and Power to do their job. He is now going to go through the ranks to find somebody who knows something about labour relations. I do not know where he is going to find him. He will want a very fine comb indeed.

It is not much of a reflection on Deputy O'Leary that he, as Minister for Labour, had finally to bring in a Bill of this kind and I hope he will have less occasion to bring in such Bills in the future as he develops his negotiating technique. Deputy Fitzpatrick who is now Minister for Lands, was appalled at the speed with which that other Bill was being put through.

While the Deputy is using quotations, the Chair would point out that extensive quotations do not necessarily amount to a Deputy's speech.

What Deputy Fitzpatrick said was that Deputies should have had time to go home and discuss this issue with their constituents so as to find out what were the thoughts of constituents on the matter. He considered it was not fair to have to push a Bill of that nature through so quickly. I am glad I have had an opportunity of putting on the record some of the comments made by members of the Labour Party, and in particular, those made by the now Minister for Labour. Without wishing to abuse the generosity of the Chair, I would like to quote Deputy O'Leary from column 237:

We also object to the Bill on the ground that it is a dangerous precedent which introduces a judicial concept into a voluntary situation and therefore creates a dangerous precedent for other industrial elements in our system. Furthermore, there is the point that what has been applied in the case of one essential service can also be applied in other essential services. Who is to say, in any withdrawal of labour affecting an important service, whether that is not also an essential service? There is a superficial idea that bringing this legal interpretation into the field of industrial relations will free us from the spectre of strikes, that, in some way, strikes will be warded off if we bring in a strong enough legal formula.

I could quote further from Deputy O'Leary but perhaps some of my colleagues will have something to add to what I have said in this respect. Deputy Cluskey referred to the Bill as a kind of attack on democracy. I hope we will have no more crocodile tears from the Labour Party.

Or from the "jackboot" Minister.

In his short time in office the Minister has learned that there is a great difference between having power without responsibility and having power with responsibility. I hope that this Bill will not be regarded by other trade unions as a big stick that is being waved in front of all of them and which will be held up to them as indicating: "You saw what we did to the IBOA: I hope we will not have to do the same to you." That would bring into disarray what we have endeavoured so much to bring about— mature, balanced negotiations on wage agreements which the economy can bear and which will not cause people in other employment to lose their jobs because of lack of any competition regarding prices that would have to be charged for goods because of wage demands. I am satisfied that I have shown up the Labour Party for what they are, that I have shown that in Opposition such legislation as this was anathema to them. Now that they are in Government they realise that the story is very different.

Let me say at the outset that we have no opposition whatever to legislation of this kind. When we consider any legislation to be in the national interest it will have our full backing but what we object strenuously to is the type of "double think", this Orwellian attitude, of the Minister in trying to put across this Bill. He asks us to believe, on the one hand, that we should not legislate to penalise workers, the implication being, of course, that the owners or directors of the banks are the people who wish to break the agreement and that they must be prevented from doing so. It is the first case in my experience of employers wanting to break the law in order to give their employees extra money. What he is really saying is that the employer wishes to pay more than he has to. Surely nobody will believe that from the Minister? I know, of course, the position in which the Minister is caught up. He is caught up in this position as a result of the irresponsible opposition we have had from the Labour Party down through the years. They now have got themselves into such a hold that it is only by this double talk and double think that they can make any effort to extricate themselves from it. The fact is, of course, that the officials are forcing the banks to break the agreement but the Minister is too hypocritical to say that. He had to go through his brief gingerly and tenderly and at page 8 he had to say:

Legislation to deal with breaches of the national agreements by the Banks was approved by the previous Government in January this year...

It is interesting to see how selective the Ministers of the National Coalition can be. They are not so anxious to give us the credit for the tremendous resevoir of finance, goodwill and good legislation that we left there for them but take the credit for those things themselves.

£49 million in the red.

I shall treat Deputy O'Brien with the charity he deserves as a new Member. Whoever told him that, and he believed it——

It is in the Book of Estimates.

It is not in the Book of Estimates. At no place in the Book of Estimates can the Deputy show that to me. Obviously, Deputy O'Brien did not read the Book of Estimates. Somebody told him that and he believed it.

The figures are there.

I do not think the Minister can be allowed to get away with this double talk and double think. Of course, we were quite prepared to introduce legislation where it was necessary, no matter how unpopular that legislation was. The Minister has the gall to come to this House and say they expect the co-operation of the Opposition in getting this Bill through quickly. I do not know what kind of people the Minister thinks the electorate are but if this message gets through to them, and we will endeavour to make sure it does get through, I am afraid the Minister will not be very long on the front benches of the National Coalition and, indeed, the National Coalition will not be very long on the Government benches.

In 1961 we began to have what one might call industrial pains. Our economy was developing, workers were demanding a greater slice of the national cake. We had outdated management attitudes towards workers and generally we had a situation developing which, I suppose it could be truthfully said, we were not geared to meet. As a result of outmoded management techniques there were a lot of injustices perpetrated on the workers and I would be the last in this House to deny that. At no stage during that whole period did any Member of the Labour Party come in here and show a responsible attitude towards the problems in this House. They all the time mouthed the same clichés and shibboleths. It was typified by Deputy Casey at column 155, Volume 223 of the Official Report, on the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill in 1966 when he said:

I would appeal to everyone to examine his conscience and ask himself: is this democracy? Are we slipping a little from the great democratic principles about which many of us have been shouting over the past few months during the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising? I wonder are we slipping? I feel quite sincerely, not strictly as a Labour Party man, but as a democrat and a constitutionalist, that we may begin to slip in that direction and, in time, may hand over to the civil servants powers that should be reserved to Parliament and to the free democratic institutions in the State, employers' associations, trade unions, conciliation machinery and voluntary—I stress voluntary—arbitration.

Has the Deputy not enough quotations from among the living to make his case?

I had the highest admiration for Deputy Casey but the Minister will not put me off the track by that snide remark. This quotation typifies the Minister's attitude as well in this House.

There is nothing wrong with that attitude.

Typifies it to the hilt. The Minister has the gall to come to this House and introduce legislation that he derided us for introducing a couple of years ago.

Examine the Electricity Bill before you make a speech on it.

I have read it all.

You will have seen the answer if you have.

Because the Minister knew he was treading on very dangerous ground he made sure that the blame, if any blame was coming, could be passed on to the Fianna Fáil Government. It is a cheap and cowardly way to try to get out of the predicament. Let the Government be men enough to own up to the situation and say they are taking action to rectify it and not try to throw the responsibility on to somebody else. The statement to end all statements is on the first page of the Minister's brief:

It is a temporary measure designed to meet a unique situation...

Did we ever meet a unique situation? Are the Labour Party the only party capable of meeting unique situations? The excuse is that it is an unique situation. The first time in the history of the State that we have had an unique situation.

The Minister is in an unique situation, the "jackboot" Minister

He comes along with his further double think and says:

I would emphasise that the legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining...

Who is he trying to cod? I cannot understand how a Minister, whom I know to be a well educated and reasonably intelligent Minister, can present us with this kind of thing and expect us to swallow it. He is introducing a Bill to regulate bank officials' pay and he says there is no general principle of intervention by the Government involved. It is a pity George Orwell is not still around because he could write another very good book about our Minister for Labour —our Minister for Double Think, to name him more aptly.

On page 3 of the Minister's brief there are two references to "no responsible Government". The Minister spoke of "no responsible Government, least of all, a Government committed, as we are to ending poverty and social injustice in our society". I should like to tell the Minister that we are all against sin. We are all here to try to make the lot of our fellow-Irishmen better. To come in here on a very important piece of legislation and to use an umbrella of "ending poverty and social injustice" is asking us to swallow too much.

I am aware that when Dr. Hillery introduced the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966, that he was criticised because it took only ten minutes. He was criticised because, according to the Opposition, such an important piece of legislation should have taken longer than ten minutes. The present Minister, recognising the criticism that was launched at Dr. Hillery's Bill, might have been endeavouring to pad up his brief. Certainly, as far as we in the Fianna Fáil Party are concerned, we never hesitated to take an unpopular decision that was in the long term interest of this country despite the carping criticism, snide remarks and complete lack of co-operation from the Opposition. This was something we grew accustomed to, and something which we grew to live with. We overcame it to a great degree. Yet, remembering that whole sorry history of irresponsible opposition, we have the Minister for Labour asking us to be responsible.

The Minister is optimistic.

But he knows that he will always get responsible opposition here and that, no matter how much it hurts us or how much we feel aggrieved about the way his party carried on, we will still act responsibly. He knows that there will be responsible reaction from us. It is important—in fact I would say vital—to the economy that a new national wage agreement should be signed. I do not think that this country can progress properly unless we have this national wage agreement signed.

On this side of the House we do not disagree with legislation which will make sure that everybody conforms to the national wage agreement. As far as we are concerned, we see the double think of the Coalition Government involved in this. We have all their pious platitudes about the national wage agreement, and yet we have had a budget introduced which is the greatest incentive possible to inflation and therefore to more demands for wage increases. That was the most inflationary budget that was ever introduced in the House. As a result of that budget we are going to have greater and greater demands on employers for higher wages. I do not think that anybody is unaware of the fact that the cost of living has soared in the past two months.

The Deputy will appreciate that we have already debated the budget in the House. The Deputy will have a further opportunity of debating the matter on the Finance Bill, which will be coming in shortly. It does not arise at this juncture.

I brought in the budget in relation to the demand for extra wages because it was an inflationary budget. That was the only point I was making on the budget. I felt it was relevant, but if the Chair feels it is not I bow to the ruling of the Chair.

We had Deputy Cluskey, who is now a Parliamentary Secretary in the National Coalition Government, asking, when we introduced similar legislation, where was it all going to end. Deputy Cluskey then said that, irrespective of whether it was possible or not, he, and the other Members of the Labour Party, would not get that piece of legislation off the ground. That was the kind of threat which we had to contend with from the Minister's own colleague. That was the kind of co-operation we received from the so-called brilliant academics who were in the Labour Party. That was the kind of propaganda which the Minister and his colleagues around the country made sure reached the ears of everybody through the national press and indeed through RTE, where they had pretty substantial influence.

We, on this side of the House, are very conscious of the fact that maybe the Minister for Labour did not want to introduce this type of legislation However, he found a situation, and having been briefed by his civil servants, where he had to take action. I think this action is possibly delayed. In some cases it is inclined to be very ambiguous. Certainly, it is action we welcome.

That is good.

Deputy Crowley should be allowed to continue without interruption.

It is rather significant that we have had four Fianna Fáil speakers in succession on this Bill and not one Member offering from the Opposition benches.


This side of the House agreed with the Bill?

They are getting their jackboots soled here.


That was an uncalled for remark. Deputy Dowling is a very conscientious and articulate Member of this House and if he occasionally rubs some salt into the wounds of the Government side that is to their disadvantage.

I will have a chat with them later on.

The Minister, in his statement, made reference to the fact that this Government made the single biggest financial contribution in the history of our State to the economically weak. He was referring to the budget. It was in that context that I wanted to highlight the fact that, while the social improvements were good and desirable, the counter effect would be much greater in the sense that this was, without the slightest shadow of doubt, an invitation to inflation, and as the months go by we shall see a reinforcement of that viewpoint.

In all negotiations it is right that we should have free collective bargaining, and that must be the sine qua non to all our operations on the employer-labour front. However, if free collective bargaining does not work the Minister should not hesitate ever to introduce legislation which will ensure the protection of the weaker members of our society. I am not sure that we can debate an issue such as this without taking prices into account as well, and maybe you will say, a Cheann Comhairle, that prices have nothing to do with this debate.

The Chair does not mind at all a brief reference to matters of that kind, but elaboration would not be in order.

The only way in which I intended to elaborate was in relation to a statement in the Minister's brief about the control of prices. We would like to see a much greater determination by the Government to control prices and to ensure that the gimmicks of VAT off food, and so on, as introduced in the Budget——

VAT is not a gimmick.

The Deputy will see how much of a gimmick it is when VAT is taken off.

What about the increase on footwear and clothes?

Yes, and footwear and clothing are very essential items. We in this party want to ensure that everybody in the country gets a fair deal. Certain groups should not get more than their just slice of the cake. In this case the Minister is asking us to believe that the employer wishes to pay more to his employees but that the employees, in their innocence or whatever other way he would like to describe it, do not want to accept it. The facts are that the officials are demanding more money and the Minister should not be afraid to say that. If he did say that he certainly could not be accused, as I have accused him, of this colossal double-think that seems to be going on.

We on this side of the House hope this Bill will make any other group or groups who decide to act likewise think again. We know the importance of the national wage agreement, and the Government will have complete co-operation from every Member on this side of the House in ensuring that a national wage agreement is signed. I would say to the Minister: Do not be afraid of the Bill and do not use as an excuse the fact that Fianna Fáil had a similar Bill ready, and that you in your wisdom and goodness of heart brought in a much less penal Bill. The people demand and want action in relation to those who are trying to take more than they are entitled to out of the economy. When the Minister says that, he will have the full support of this party.

Might I again state that I am quite prepared, with your permission, Sir, to give way to any Deputy opposite who wishes to speak.

There is unanimity about the measure.

There is no Labour Party Member present to discuss it with him.

My colleagues and I fully support the making of a third National Wage Agreement. Not alone do I state that now but I also stated it in my speech on the budget. The Minister has not been very helpful in this piece of legislation in order to bring about a healthier climate between the employers and the employed. I would therefore make an appeal now to the Bank Officials' Association that in the national interest they should reconsider their attitude, that they should row in with the rest of us in the national wage agreement. This may save the Government some embarrassment. The national interest comes before the interests of the Government who are quite capable of embarrassing themselves and the Irish people everyday they continue to rule. However, I do have enough faith in the intelligence of the Bank Officials' Association to believe they will reconsider their attitude. They might study deeply the Fogarty Report in which there is a certain amount of latitude given not only to bank officials but to all trade unionists, and I believe as a result of this we shall get a good national wage agreement, which is very much in the national interest.

Having said that, I must take the Minister to task for a rather hypocritical approach to the whole matter. He boasted that his Bill is not penalising the bank officials, that all his penalties are aimed at the employers, the bank owners, that he would never think of sending anybody in the banks to jail. Of course, we do know the Minister may well change his mind on this, as he changed his mind within the last five or seven years in regard to a Bill before this House in relation to ESB workers. I did not like that Bill and I do not like this one. The present Bill was brought in by the Labour Party, which has boasted that it was founded by the trade unions, which each year pledged support whether it was to an Englishman like Keir Hardy or to some of our own trade union founders. Then the Minister comes in this evening with a piece of legislation which destroys free collective bargaining. The Minister must face the fact that that is what he is doing, although he may try to cloud it in this diatribe here about abolishing poverty. What comes of this Bill is not physical poverty of the people but the poverty of thought among the Government who have forced the Minister to introduce this Bill.

The Minister, having accepted office in the National Coalition Government, must now carry out its dictate. I sympathise with the Minister, but there comes a time in all Governments when you cannot go on giving out the largesse and the goodies. You must face the facts of political life and say: "Now we must do the unpopular thing." If you had come in and said you were doing the unpopular thing, but it had to be done, one would have some respect for you, but you read this document here about what you are going to do—you are going to abolish poverty, achieve full employment, ensure a real increase in wages and salaries and preferential treatment for wage earners in the lower-income groups.

The Labour Party talk about the working classes and the lower-paid worker and so forth. In their narrow outlook they cannot see that any man who works for a living is entitled to be called a worker. They cannot change their philosophy and admit they are now part of the Establishment and they represent only a small section of the people. The chickens are coming home to roost and the Labour Party are now committed, as Fine Gael are committed.

This Bill shows the shallowness of their thinking. When we brought in a Bill which would penalise some ESB workers there was no one more bitter than you were at that time. You declared you would see the day when Deputy Pearse Wyse, Deputy Dowling and I would no longer be Members of this House. We had not done anything wrong, but we carried trade union cards and the argument was we should be turned out of public life because we were card carrying trade unionists in the Fianna Fáil Party. Will you now ask your own card carrying members in the Labour Party to leave this House and public life? I think it is you who are starting today to leave public life.

As Deputy Crowley said, you are reasonably able, but it must be brought home to you that your contribution must be devoid of the kind of hypocrisy you have in this Bill. I could quote what you said on the ESB Bill and the terrible fellows we were for deciding to enact such legislation in the national interest. Do you really believe the people will not see through the hypocrisy of this move? You may say it is necessary, and I agree it is very necessary that we should have a third national wage agreement, but I have not pontificated all my life about the rights of workers or argued that any one who opposed the Labour Party was a traitor to trade unionism. I never said that. I agree the Government have their difficulties; but if you ask the Irish people and this House to accept that you are not being hypocritical then I believe that, at the first opportunity, the people will give you an answer you will not like, but it will be the answer you deserve.

You have done harm instead of good in the way you have tackled this whole problem. Have you not made it almost impossible for either side to withdraw? You have had several meetings with them. Was it because of lack of expertise on the Government side or because of intransigence on the part of the bank officials that this sorry state has come about? I do not wish to make any capital out of this. I have urged the bank officials to re-examine their attitude in the interest of the third national wage agreement. I believe the bank officials should let the Labour Court examine the whole matter and, like the rest of us, accept the court's findings.

The Minister comes in here with a short and not very brilliant Bill. He says he is penalising only the bank proprietors. The fact is you are sowing the seeds of deception here and nobody will trust you or the Government after this, even though you emphasise that you will send no one to prison. That is not quite true, of course. I can foresee a situation in which the bank officials, not accepting the provisions of this Bill, might decide to picket this House in which case they could be arrested, as other workers were arrested for breaking some other law. They would be liable to imprisonment and you would stand back and wash your hands and say you had not done this, but you are in fact sowing the seeds of such a situation and this is being done in the name of the Labour Party, the party that boasted of its great trade union tradition. That has gone now.

Is Deputy Moore taking on the mantle of an agitator?

You will not slide out of this this evening. Take your medicine.

The people in Sandymount will want to know about this.

I remember when you were here and another Bill was introduced in this House; you were the most vindictive Member of the House in your attack on that Bill. I could quote you at length, but the quotations might not sink in. I will let other people judge your speeches on that occasion. The workers will give you an answer and not just for your duplicity and your hypocrisy.

I must ask the Deputy to speak through the Chair and not directly to the Minister. I must also ask him not to cast personal aspersions. He will address his remarks through the Chair.

The Minister has gone to great lengths to show he is still a true blue or a sea green incorruptible member of the trade union movement. He should have a talk with some of the members who constitute congress and ask them what they think of this piece of legislation. Could he not have availed of their advice before he took this step? I think that would have paid a better dividend than this list of platitudes about abolishing poverty, achieving full employment and so on. This is a smokescreen to try to hide the true meaning of this Bill.

The Deputy does not object to these sentiments.

No, but I object to your hypocrisy.

I do not have to enunciate the principles of trade unionism as you want to do on every possible occasion. We want to put you down clearly as the author of this Bill. You have got to accept responsibility for it. I know some of the Cabinet may be against it, but the point is you want it.


There is no need to bug the Minister.

The Taoiseach knew where to put him.

He put him in the right place. Although I could have expected this from Fine Gael, I was naive enough to think Labour would not do it.

It is the age of cynicism.

The Minister comes in here in a facetious mood——

I believe in preserving a sense of humour at all times.

This is a sense of ridiculousness.

I thought hypocrisy was the accusation. Will the Deputy make up his mind as to which is the dominant mood?

On Committee Stage I will deal with the various points involved in the Bill. The point is that the Minister has gone back on every view he ever had. He has let down thousands of trade unionists. We all agree on how vital it is to preserve the national pay agreement but in this case the Minister pretends he is singling out the bosses for penalty without touching the workers beyond denying them big salary increases. He will say, of course, that it is all being done in the interests of the workers. He has come in here with too many platitudes but a paucity of thought. He plays two roles, first the lifelong, hair-shirted trade unionist and two, the responsible Minister. We are already in Orwell's era of Big Brother. The Minister is the big brother in this Bill.

It is usual to congratulate a new Minister when he introduces a Bill but I cannot help on this occasion wondering how soon the Labour Party will begin negotiations for absorbtion into Fine Gael. In his introduction of this Bill, this Labour Minister has had nothing but platitudes and poverty of thought. Had he and the Government made some effort to control prices—admittedly it is a difficult exercise—there might have been no need for a Bill of this sort. However, bank officials as well as all others in the country now have to fight against price rises and if the possibility of a third national pay agreement is in danger it is because of the incompetence of the Government in the matter of price control. There have been several increases in the last few months.

My intervention will be brief. First of all, I must confess to having slight sympathy for the Minister——

Is the Deputy referring to the paucity of support in the House for him?

——because he must to a certain degree be embarrassed for having to introduce a Bill of this nature. There is always a silver lining and if the change of Government this year has done one thing which is good for the community it is that it has brought a bit of common sense and responsibility to former Opposition members. We have a situation in which they are now saying, in effect, what many of them should have been saying or at least supporting in earlier years when they were in Opposition. Something has been gained if some of our public representatives have acquired a sense of national or community responsibility.

I do not see any reason why the Minister should be in any way afraid of this Bill or why he should be holding back. We all know there are three parties to every pay agreement, the employers, the workers and the public and, particularly where a monopoly is concerned, the third partner has to be given special consideration because it is the public who will suffer in the event of an industrial dispute in the banking system.

As I have said, I do not understand why the Minister is holding back in the matter of dealing with the situation by simply directing this Bill at the banks alone. First of all, I do not think the banks—a monopoly—are the least troubled about how much money their staffs get except in that they themselves feel a sense of responsibility for the effects of breaches of the national pay agreement on the community. Something has been gained when we have a Labour Minister saying that no responsible Government could permit the freely negotiated contract of Irish working people to be assailed by any group, no matter how powerful or privileged. It is good to hear a Labour Minister saying this. It is the sort of thing that has been said by others over the past five or six years. It was seldom said by those in Opposition. I hope that the introduction of this Bill by the Minister is a watershed and that a national position will not be used by anybody in Opposition in the future.

I do not know why the Minister should be holding back. In his speech he said something which he would have been better to omit. He indicated that he wanted to impose a stay, or to have the right to impose a stay, on the salaries and on other conditions. Later he seemed to withdraw from that position. The Minister said that the present Government, in considering their approach, had the view that the history of Irish industrial legislation relations if pursued along these lines was both undesirable and ineffective. Earlier in the speech the Minister said that there was outright refusal by the bank officials to put their case to the Labour Court and that that was confined to the salaries of the minority. The Minister must know what these words mean. He must know that in a trade union situation the majority view should prevail. He must also have some idea of the feelings of many of those who are engaged in the conflict or drawn into it in any way. I am sure that the Minister will know that, remembering the last bank dispute, many bank officials, and their wives and families, would welcome a little bit of leadership, authority and courage from the Government. It is not quite straight to direct legislation against the banks, bearing in mind that they, being a monopoly, need not be worried about wage increases. The Minister is leaving himself in the situation where he has no provision against industrial action by the officials' union. The Minister should think about that aspect of it because the important thing here is the possible consequence of a dispute on the community.

Some of us know of the consequences of the last dispute. Apart from the effects on the community, a number of innocent people suffered by being declared bankrupt. The Minister should be satisfied that those who are in Opposition are prepared to support this kind of measure, not in any sense of mischief but because it is in the interest of the economy and of the Irish working people that a dispute should be avoided. It is in the interests of the economy that a national agreement such as exists and is being discussed at the present time should be adhered to by any minority that may happen to be in a position to cause a dispute.

Like other Fianna Fáil speakers, I should like to say how much it is desired that the national pay agreement should be honoured in every possible way. We feel that a new position has now developed with the introduction of this Bill by the Minister for Labour. As Deputy Moore and other speakers have indicated, the hypocrisy of Deputy O'Leary in bringing this Bill before the House after his condemnation of legislation of a similar nature on previous occasions is evident. A situation has now developed with the banks, and the alternative to the introduction of this Bill was to endeavour to persuade the various parties to abide by the national pay agreement. To what degree was this tried? I understand that the Taoiseach on one occasion was truculent with the officials and showed no anxiety to exercise the control which he had by endeavouring to induce them to honour the national pay agreement but showed the mailed fist of the Fine Gael Party, knowing that the Taoiseach would get the Labour Party lackeys to support whatever action he proposed to take.

This Bill should be called the "Forcible Entry Bill". In section 5 of the Bill we find out how the Minister proposes to act against trade unionists, workers and officials. This is a Bill of forcible entry into the lives of individuals. Section 5 reads:

This section sets out the penalties to be imposed on those found guilty of offences under the Act. If a person convicted under the Act fails to pay the fine imposed on him he will not be liable to imprisonment; rather is it proposed that the Court which convicts him may direct that payment of the fine be secured by the sale of the property of the person concerned.

If an official of a bank commits an offence under this measure, his wife and family will be thrown out on the street with him. Deputy O'Leary will endeavour to have his house sold.

The Deputy should refer to the Minister for Labour.

That is how the Minister for Labour will deal with the situation. He will throw out on the street the official who is convicted. He will not send him to prison. A man would be better off in prison than seeing his wife and children on the roadside. This is the trade union approach we have nowadays. The home is no longer a sacred place so far as this Bill is concerned. The Minister for Labour will see to it that an official's home is put at stake. This is a warning not alone to the bankers but also to other people who may from time to time look for increases. This is a warning to trade unionists in the future to moderate their claims or they, too, may be deprived of their homes.

The Deputy is aware that his remarks are not related to anything in the Bill.

I will read what is said in section 5. It states:

This section sets out the penalties to be imposed on those found guilty of offences under the Act. If a person convicted under the Act fails to pay the fine imposed on him he will not be liable to imprisonment; rather is it proposed that the Court which convicted him may direct that payment of the fine be secured by the sale of the property of the person concerned.

This could be any man. It could be any trade union official. It could be a worker or an employer. If Deputy O'Leary is going to put the house of people at stake——

The Minister. The Deputy will address him as Minister for Labour.

The Minister for Labour and the National Coalition are going to put the house of a person in jeopardy.

It might assist the Deputy if he read the Bill. He is reading from the explanatory memorandum and he would find his rhetoric considerably curtailed if he read the Bill.

Section 5 indicates clearly what the Minister and the Government have in mind. No doubt the Minister's appointment was well thought out when he was put in charge of the Ministry he is now in charge of. No doubt the Taoiseach gave adequate consideration to the type of post he would give the Minister. The Taoiseach was arrogant with the officials and made no real effort to ensure that agreement is reached. He made no real effort to ensure that the parties are induced to abide by the national pay agreement. He knew he had the backing of the Labour Party to ensure that the dirty work would be done.

This is only the first step and I am quite positive it will ensure there will not be any national pay agreement, which would be a tragedy. I am quite sure that trade unionists and workers will examine this Bill in great detail and will show in no uncertain terms the type of man the Minister for Labour is. He is a different man in office than he is out of office. As Deputy Moore pointed out, the Minister's brief was padded and upholstered with all types of references to poverty, controlling prices, price strategy, job loss, more employment and a variety of other items. It would be regarded as a document which had a cure for everything from bald heads to bunions. The only thing it did not tell us was that the Bill would take the house away from the man who paid out the money.

We are told that this is a temporary measure to meet a unique situation. This is a unique Minister who brought in this legislation which sounds the end to free collective bargaining. No efforts are made to ensure that there is a positive approach to officials or other parties who would negotiate a national agreement. This is a "Forcible Entry Bill," which is known as the Regulation of Banks (Remuneration and Conditions of Employment) (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1973. This is a foul type of "Forcible Entry Bill," which is more vicious than the previous Bill. This will deprive some workers of their homes and we will have institutions in this country packed with people who have been deprived of their homes if they want wage increases in future.

This is a warning to employers and others in the future to go easy or their homes are at stake. When this Bill is digested and read by employers and workers they will see exactly what will happen. It is not the funds of the banks or the funds of the trade unions which are at stake. It is the sale of the property of the person concerned. Therefore, some individual in every organisation will be at risk if he makes an increased payment after this Bill becomes law. It would be far better if the man were put in jail because his wife and children would have a roof over their heads. The solution of the National Coalition to the problem is to take the man out of his home and sell it so that payment of the fine may be made.

This is something which must be examined in greater detail. No doubt we will have an opportunity, particularly on Committee Stage, of examining this vicious section 5. There is a reference in the Minister's brief to "prior to our election this Government stated ..." They stated a lot of things at that time but when the election was over there was not a single word.

We heard about death duties, the abolition of the means test, the lowering of the qualifying age for old age pensions to 65.

It is early days yet.

We will deal in a few moments with the wise words of the Minister when he was in Opposition. He stated in his brief that "This administration is committed to a reform programme ..." He should have referred to "a penal reform programme" because this is a penal provision. At the appropriate time we will try to ensure that no man is deprived of his home because of the suggestion of the Minister.

The Minister speaks about controlling prices. I should like to say something about spiralling prices although I know in a few moments that I will probably be ruled out of order for doing so. The Minister has on many occasions spoken about prices and careful surveillance of them.

Matters appertaining to prices would be more appropriate to the Finance Bill. They may be mentioned briefly. A fleeting reference is in order. We cannot go into the matter in detail. Detail is a matter for the Finance Bill.

I accept that you rightly reprimanded the Minister on that occasion, that he said too much about prices in his brief. I would not for a moment dwell on what is in the Minister's brief or deal in any great depth with the prices situation. I merely want to indicate that prices are higher now than they were before the election, when the Minister and his colleagues spoke. Let us glance back to the 7th June, 1966 and another piece of legislation. Deputy Moore said that that legislation was not very acceptable to us, no more than it was to the Minister and no more than this piece of legislation is. What did Deputy O'Leary, Tully and Deputy Cluskey say then? What did Deputy Corish say then? At column 109, volume 223 of the Official Report he said:

I believe that industrial relations should be cultivated rather than legislated for ... What we are talking about here today is the fundamental right to sell your labour in the best market and not to sell it if you do not get the best price ... It is relatively easy to write this Bill but its operation will be another thing.

The same can be said about this "Forcible Entry Bill" now presented by Deputy O'Leary under a different title.

I must again advise the Deputy to give the Minister his full title, the Minister for Labour.

The Minister for Hard Labour, if this Bill goes through.

The Minister in labour.

The Minister for Hard Labour—hard necks.

The Minister must be referred to in a respectful fashion.

At column 240 of the same volume the Minister is reported as saying:

The Bill brings us a step nearer to the totalitarian concept of the State... This morning the Government took a step towards the totalitarian concept where the State no longer stands neutral in the struggle between employer and employee....

That is what Deputy O'Leary said in 1966. He is a different man today.

He is seven years older.

The Minister for Labour is an older man today. What about the Minister for Local Government? At column 140 of the same volume he said:

I assure the Minister that as far as we are concerned in the Labour Party, every time this sort of measure is introduced here, we shall oppose it tooth and nail.

Those were the wise words of the Minister for Local Government when he was in opposition.

I knew it was not my style.

Deputy Cluskey is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare. He said:

Where will it end? Irrespective of whether it is popular or not, we in the Labour Party will not get this off the ground. We intend to oppose is here in every possible way open to us.

Where is the Parliamentary Secretary now? He is supporting this Bill. Where are all the trade unionists now? Where have all the trade unionists gone?

Where is Deputy Dowling's card now?

Deputy O'Brien is supporting this Bill. Deputy O'Brien and Deputy O'Connell want to see people deprived of their homes. They can laugh at that.

We do not want to see them in jail.

It is no laughing matter to see a man deprived of his home. If Deputy O'Brien wants to insist that people should be deprived of their homes, that is his affair.

You deprived them of their liberty.

Deputy Dowling without interruption.

You put them in jail.

Deputy O'Brien would probably prefer to put them in jail.

You did that.

We did not. Do you want to deprive them of their homes? Do you want to take their houses away from them?

You put them in jail.

I must ask Deputy O'Brien to desist from interrupting.

Deputy O'Brien is in favour of this Bill and in favour of taking his home away from an individual. I wonder did Deputy O'Connell read section 5.

Deputy Cluskey also said:

It is terribly important that we should realise exactly what we are doing here today. It is particularly important that Fine Gael should realise what is being done. The democratic rights of a comparatively small number of people are being taken away. This amendment would suggest to me that Fine Gael have come to the conclusion that democracy is all right when it suits but when it does not suit, it should be suspended.

Today the Labour Party Deputies have fallen in line with Fine Gael. No doubt the Taoiseach gave adequate thought to the selection of Ministers and placed them carefully in strategic positions, in positions in which he knew he could put the squeeze on them. One would have thought at one stage that a man of the standing of the Minister for Labour would have resigned instantly if he were asked to introduce this Bill. In Opposition he would have told us that he would never introduce a measure such as this. We see the type of man we had in Opposition and the type of man we have in Government.

A first-class Minister.

He has a cure now for everything from bald heads to bunions. He is the old medicine man himself. The crocodile tears no longer flow from the Minister for Hard Labour. Now he laughs at the workers.

I am laughing at you.

Now he wants to deprive the workers of their homes. I wonder what will the trade unionists say about it when they read it tomorrow? I wonder how many trade unionists in the Labour Party will support section 5? The Minister will do what the Taoiseach tells him or he will no longer remain in office. The Taoiseach has him in the right place now. He will put the thumbscrews on and the Minister will do what he is told. This Bill is a warning to the workers and to the employers. The employers know that if they want to make a reasonable contribution to the workers there is this Bill, which should be named the "Forcible Entry Bill" because the worker's home is no longer sacred, according to section 5.

That is a misreading.

It is not, you know; on indictment.

I am certain that when Deputy O'Connell goes through his constituency——

Our constituency.

——the workers there will indicate in no uncertain terms that they are not satisfied with this Bill. I take it that Deputy O'Connell is fully behind the Bill.

I have not spoken yet.

I hope the Deputy will reprimand the crocodile tears brigade who spoke here. The place was saturated with tears. We spent months mopping up the crocodile tears. Deputy O'Leary, the Minister for Labour, Deputy Corish, the Tánaiste, Deputy Tully, the Minister for Local Government, Deputy B. Desmond, Deputy O'Connell and Deputy Cluskey shed many tears for the workers, and now they are bringing in a Bill to deprive them of their homes.

Is the Deputy supporting it?

I am not supporting this section. I will have amendments down to ensure that no worker is deprived of his home. Bank officials are workers the same as everybody else. Deputy O'Leary shed tears for the workers. He was concerned about the workers. The only thing he never did was to become a worker. This Bill is a warning to trade unionists and employers not to make available to the workers big increases in the future. This is a means of ensuring that there will be no national pay agreement and maybe that is the way the Government want it. I hope there will be, but I would say that this Bill has seriously jeopardised the situation in relation to wage agreements.

I hope the bank officials will further examine the situation in relation to the national wage agreement and abide by the agreement so constituted until such time as it expires and then they will be in a position to re-negotiate. It may happen that there will be no further wage agreements. Listening to some trade unionists in the not too far distant past, it appeared that there was a large volume of opinion to that effect. I am certain that when other sections read the section of the Bill which endeavours to deprive workers of their homes, other things will be said and thoughts will be changed. Looking back over the years at the tears shed and the words spoken by Deputy O'Leary——

They convict him in the eyes of responsible people. I am glad to see that the Minister has now changed his tune, or his tune has been changed since his appointment. Apparently the easiest way to change his tune is to have a ministerial post. There is no doubt that wherever any dirty work is required to be done by the Department of Labour the Minister will do it in order to remain in office. It is evident the Taoiseach did not want the situation to be resolved. It is common knowledge he was truculent with the officials and that he only pointed out——

The Deputy's accusation that the Taoiseach was truculent in the negotiations is not in accord with the facts.

We know what happened.

The Taoiseach was truculent in dealing with the bank officials and possibly this was one of the reasons he turned the people against him. The Minister knows this to be true.

I know of no such thing. I compliment the Deputy on his imagination.

I am glad to hear the Minister defending the Taoiseach.

It is solidarity.

The Deputy means self-protection.

They will hang together.


When the public have an opportunity to deal with the Minister for Labour they will do so in no uncertain terms. I am hopeful that the bank officials will have another look at the situation. I know they are responsible and reasonable people and that they are fully aware of the situation in relation to the wage agreements and the national economy. It is my belief that if the truculent attitude of the Taoiseach had not been so obvious, if he had exercised his authority in a different way and if he had tried to induce them to reach an agreement and abide by the national wage agreement, reason would have prevailed.

Is the Deputy suggesting they were only opposed to truculence? What was the reason for the Fianna Fáil Bill being ready?

Different circumstances.

Is the Deputy defending the Minister?

I am looking at facts. Fianna Fáil had the Bill ready.

The employees, about whom the Deputy is so concerned, would have been in jail.

The Government will not sell the houses of the people. We will test them; we will test Deputy O'Connell and Deputy O'Brien who was sneering at the workers and who thinks it is a great joke that a house could be sold over a man's head. Deputy O'Brien has not the courage to stand up and defend the Bill. I challenge him to put on record that he is fully behind it.

I will do what I have to do.

The Deputy will do as he is told. Let this Bill be a warning to others. It is a taste of what is to come in the future, although the Minister for Labour may not have much time left. If they are not defeated they will probably be lynched if the trade unionists get them——

That may be a Freudian slip on the part of the Deputy.

I would not like to be the person to go into a union meeting having suggested that the houses of officials or workers should be sold. The Minister for Labour is ensuring that the houses of these people will be in danger. The Government are threatening to take away the homes of the people, to force wives and children out on the road, if they do not conform. This is no laughing matter and the Minister should not smile at it.

It is not relevant to the Bill. I am smiling at the imagination of the Deputy.

It is in section 5 of the Bill.

It is in section 5 at the top of the Deputy's head.

Section 5 (2) (a) states:

A person who is confined upon conviction of an offence under this Act shall not be liable to imprisonment in default of payment of the fine, but the court by which the person is convicted may by order direct that payment of the fine be secured by the seizure, entry into possession and, where necessary, sale of the property of the person....

I would not be adverse to taking some of the bankers' houses away from them.

Deputy Dowling is talking about the bankers' houses.

I will swop with the chairman of the Bank of Ireland any day.

With the two Alsations and a swimming pool?

The Deputy should not invite interruptions. I would ask him to continue.

I challenge Deputy O'Brien to put on record if he or any other Deputy is in favour of this Bill. At the appropriate time we will ensure that the necessary amendments are put down with regard to section 5 to ensure that it is deleted or amended. There are many other comments I could make on this "forcible entry" legislation of 1973 but I shall deal later with the Minister for Labour and the National Coalition Government. The Fine Gael Party have deserted the Minister; there is not a single Fine Gael Deputy in the House and this shows their contempt for the Minister. Even Deputy O'Brien has run away from the Minister because he does not want to support him.

Much time could be devoted to exposing the hypocrisy of the Minister for Labour but perhaps enough has been said. He will be judged by the workers; he has given a warning today that the homes of individuals, whether workers, officials or employers, will no longer be safe. This section must be amended. I hope the bank officials will consider the situation again, as suggested by Deputy Moore. Before this measure becomes law an effort must be made to reach an acceptable settlement—a settlement that will show once and for all that they are men who have a sense of justice and an understanding of the problems involved.

I have shown that the present Minister for Labour is a different type of individual from the Deputy O'Leary we knew in Opposition. He is the Jekyll and Hyde of the House and of the Labour Party as well as of the trade union movement. That is the only way in which he can be described.

Having listened to some of the comments of the Opposition, I consider myself compelled to speak on this issue. I am surprised at the attitude being adopted by Fianna Fáil but I can appreciate the dilemma in which they find themselves, that of not knowing whether to oppose the Bill because of the fact that prior to the general election they had prepared legislation that was almost identical to what is now before the House, and which was in the national interest.

The national interest transcends all other interests in the country. We must be prepared to submerge our own interests in the interests of the country. Regardless of which Government might have introduced this Bill, it would have had my support so long as it contained no reference to imprisonment for bank officials or trade unionists. Part of our trouble is that we do not consider the national interest sufficiently, that we are all too selfish.

The Deputy has a very poor opinion of the Irish race.

I can appreciate the dilemma of the Opposition in trying to put forward an argument against the Bill, but since the Bill is in the national interest they have no option but to support it. No section of workers have a right to defy an agreement that is serving the interests of this country. Regarding the IBOA, I must say that I have had the greatest admiration during the years for Mr. Titterington in his fight against bank directors. I have never met Mr. Titterington but, having observed his tactics in the past, I have a very high opinion of him. I can understand his seeking better conditions for his men and if there were no national agreement in operation now, I would support him all the way against the banks. I could justify fully his demands against the banks but I would ask him, in the interests of the national pay agreement and realising that the greater interest of the country is at stake, to be patient. Of course, the less well-off sections of the community would be aggrieved if one section should come out in open defiance of the national pay agreement and decide on special terms for themselves, disregarding the rest of the community. Such an attitude is unfair and unjust. I should like Mr. Titterington to bear this in mind but I would hope that after the national pay agreements have been concluded in this country, he would seek proper conditions for his workers. I should like to see him do this but I would want him to realise that we must be prepared to forego our own interests in the interests of the country as a whole and of the less well off sections. If we are not prepared to do that, we will have economic disaster. The national pay agreements have been responsible solely for keeping our country afloat. It is vital to the future of the country that we have such agreements and we have no right to treat them with contempt; otherwise, we will have this leapfrogging with demands from every sector and industrial disputes which will be worse than any others we have had in the past.

The national pay agreements have been working relatively well, workers have been restrained and it is vital that we continue to ensure that the agreements succeed in the future. There has been much misinterpretation of this Bill. It is very unfair of the Opposition to say that we are trying to put workers in jail. If there was any attempt to do this, I would defy the Government. I would have no hesitation in voting against them on any such issue but there is no such suggestion in this Bill. There is to be a fine imposed on the banks should they breach the agreement. We all know that they can well afford to pay any such fine but should they disregard any fines imposed on them there would be power, and rightly so, to confiscate their property to the full extent of the fines.

I consider myself justified in supporting this legislation. Irresponsible statements such as we have heard from the Opposition can do nothing but harm to our country and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will restrain his Deputies from making any such statements in the future. Deputies opposite have been attributing to the Bill powers that it does not contain. One could understand a Deputy misinterpreting something that he had not read but those Deputies have read the Bill and are aware of what it contains.

There is no question of the Bill rendering strikes illegal. The position in regard to the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, was entirely different. It purported to make illegal the right to strike. Therefore, it was grossly unfair to suggest that the present Bill is similar to that other Bill. I challenge any Member of the Opposition to indicate any section of this Bill that says it is illegal to strike. If the bank officials consider that they are being thwarted in their efforts, they may be forced to strike or may seek strike action but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent strikes. I would hope that, in the national interest, this would not happen and I appeal to the bank officials to wait and allow the national pay agreement to run its full term. They have an obligation to do this as has every other worker. It is my hope that they adopt a responsible attitude. The past year has been a good one in so far as the industrial front was concerned. It was a year during which we have been relatively free from strikes. I hope that this situation will continue.

The difficulty I see in this Bill is in trying to ascertain what it will achieve. First of all, I should like to say that I think there is common ground between us all on the importance of the national wage agreement. The national wage agreements have preserved a certain order in this country in recent years. They have been a very big factor in enabling this country to progress and develop in an orderly way. Without going back on the history of how they came about, one can say that these agreements were constructive and had beneficial effects. One should also acknowledge that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, by its entering into, by its adherence to and its attitude towards those agreements, has shown great responsibility to the community and acted in every way in accordance with the national interest. This is a fact and it is a basic fact behind the approach to this Bill.

Deputy O'Connell said that no section of workers had the right to go out against the national interest. I think none of us has a right to go out against the community interest as a whole. That type of selfishness is to be curbed and to be avoided. The best way of avoiding a conflict with the national interest because of selfish sectional interests was to secure agreement among all the parties concerned and to make that agreement work. That is how it came about. Thanks in large measure to the national agreement there was relative industrial peace and wage negotiations were carried out without too much disruption. It is very significant that that was achieved in a period when the economic pressures were such as to tend towards disruption. It is a trite thing to say, but perhaps I may be permitted to say it to fill in the picture, that we have been for a number of years, and we are currently, faced with, in a very acute form, the problems of inflation and all that that entails. In particular there has been, in an acute form, the problem that an increase in earnings sent up costs, costs sent up prices and so forth and that spiralling process usually works to the detriment both of the economy and of the individual. I suppose I should apologise for making such an obvious statement, but it is a basic fact.

A phrase which the Government have used and we have used, both in Opposition and particularly when we were on that side of the House, and were sometimes sneered at for using, and which Deputy O'Connell emphasised a few minutes ago is "in the national interest". Let us agree that we all want to act in the national interest here in approaching this problem. Therefore, the question is: is it in the national interest at this moment that those national wage agreements should remain, that those currently in force should be made effective and, where they expire, that new national agreements should be negotiated? In answering that question one has to have regard to the history of national agreements. It was touched on by Deputy Colley and Deputy Brennan. No responsible party or person has suggested that it would be good for the economy, good for the country or for the national interest if these national agreements were abandoned. The reverse seems to be the view in responsible quarters, whether in business, in Government or in the trade union movement as a whole, and particularly at the top. Nowhere can I find a serious entertaining of the idea that the agreements should be scrapped. Rather it is the view that all these interests or parties who have considered the problem say that it is essential to us and to the economy at the moment that these agreements should be preserved and adhered to and should be made to work. It is in that sense that I interpret the phrase which Deputy O'Connell used and which I took note of: "No section of workers have the right to go out against the national interest". I presume he was talking in terms of national agreements. If we have cleared the air to the extent that we know where we stand on that, then we have to deal with the problems as they arise. But it is a basic and fundamental practice in this House and among interested parties outside to pose that question and if the answer is that it is in the national interest that these agreements should continue and be adhered to and be renewed when they expire, then the difficulties in the way of implementing that policy must be faced. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot go in two opposite directions at the one time.

Let us face what the difficulty in this particular case is. Here you have that rather exceptional circumstance where at the moment it is unnecessary to judge the merits or demerits of the individual case, standing as an individual case. You have the banks and their employees in negotiation and arriving at a set of agreements that are contrary to the national agreements, however they might be justified in the local circumstances and justified from the point of view of the relations of the parties themselves. Why therefore should we or should the country as a whole advert to this problem since it is between the two parties themselves? Why is it a difficulty where the national agreements are concerned? The answer here, if it is faced, is straightforward. Human nature being what it is, if one group of workers are to get what the rest of the workers consider to be preferential treatment, then the whole thing is broken and ruptured and agreement is gone. Put more simply, if one group or section of industry, or one section of workers, break this agreement and get a benefit from it then other workers will break it. That is the Government's problem and a problem for us all. Our difficulty is to make it understood the disastrous consequences that will result from a free-for-all and how disastrous economically it would be both for industry and the workers.

If one group break the national agreement then human nature will assert itself and it is difficult to see how other groups will subscribe to it. If this happens the task of congress, in co-operating with the other elements of the community in the national interest, as happened heretofore, becomes an impossibility. This is the situation we have to face. The position is not so much that in those circumstances the Government felt they had to take action but the effectiveness of the Government's action or proposed action as outlined in this Bill.

It is common ground that, when it came to the stage that the parties were intransigent, any Government, whether it was a Fianna Fáil Government or a Coalition Government, would have had to face this problem or else abdicate its function in relation to such matters. We are all agreed that the national pay agreement is of paramount importance and that one section cannot break it with impunity without involving the whole community and the whole economy.

The Government have no option but to face the problem and face it in the only way any Government can by coming into the House and seeking legislation to deal with the matter. I am obliged to refer to what the attitude of Deputy O'Leary, now Minister for Labour, and others, was when similar legislation was going through this House. I often wished, when I saw problems such as this, that the Opposition would see a little further than the issues of immediate political expediency or popularity.

The Minister has sought to lay the blame on us for this. I am glad that we have the opportunity, while in Opposition, to express the same kind of view about the approach to problems of this nature. I am glad to admit that the Government have problems and that the Government have very little choice but to bring in a Bill of this nature. We are compelled to support a Government where the national interest is involved. There was a good deal of crosstalk about what one would have done and what was being done but this Bill prompts me to ask what will it achieve: what does the Bill do? Was the intention to control things within the national pay agreement and to make it possible for the parties who were parties to the national agreement to operate agreements? If that was the intention of the Bill why does it not operate against all the parties concerned? This Bill merely imposes a penalty on a bank if it agrees to pay, or pays.

In the last analysis all this Bill does is to penalise a bank which gives in to the pressure of the employees. It will not be disputed that the pressure in this case is not coming from the banks, it is coming from the IBOA. There is not a word in this Bill about the IBOA, the association who are creating the pressure. The merits or demerits of the matter are not an issue here. What we are concerned with is the national pay agreement and the national interest. I can see the peculiarities of the case and the merits there are on either side. However, there is nothing in the Bill that in any way helps or influences the pressures that are giving rise to this issue.

There is nothing in this Bill relating in any way to the claims, or the demands, or the possible threats, of a militant organisation or a militant leadership. The Bill merely warns the banks that if they give in to the pressure they will be fined £10,000 per day. In doing that the Minister successfully avoids getting entangled in problems that I could see arising due to the fact that he is a doctrinaire member of the Labour Party. He successfully avoids tackling the problem at all and getting involved in embarrassments. He makes the position of the Government worse. I should like to ask the Government where they are going. Supposing the Government had not intervened in this and the agreement went through then the national agreement would have been broken. Then the national agreement is gone and the national interest is in jeopardy. The Government had to intervene in some way, but suppose they had intervened and that, under their advice, without legislation, the banks had stiffened and said: "We will not pay. We will stick to the agreement," either the agreement works or there is a bank strike on the Government's hands. Does this Bill alter this situation? Does it alter the situation merely to change it from the banks saying "no" to the Government saying "no"?

I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary, because the Government take the full responsibility for the strike. It is against the Government that the strike will be now. It makes that difference, and it is the wisdom of that that I am questioning. I am sure if I were a bank director I would breathe a sigh of relief because at least one of the millstones, whether it is the upper or the lower one, has been removed from me.

If the Bank Officials' Association cannot be induced voluntarily to observe the national agreement in the national interest, which is what everybody would like to see, then the logic of the situation is that you have a stoppage, and that the stoppage will not be against the banks but the Government. If that occurs, then what will the Government do? This is a very serious matter. It is something that all our experience in the past should be mobilised to consider, Labour leaders, industrial leaders, particularly the people responsible for making the national agreement work, to whom great credit is due, all these come into the picture at this point. However, I question what this Bill of 13 sections accomplishes? It merely makes it impossible or at least extremely embarrassing for one party, that is the employer, to concede a demand, and it is a very strong incentive, if not a compelling one, to make that employer say: "We must say ‘no'".

When there is a confrontation between labour and employer and the employer says no, then matters take their course in another way. While this Bill is well drafted and is a credit to those who framed its provisions all it does is to ensure that the banks say no; it does not go one whit further. Perhaps that is a simplification. The Parliamentary Secretary is busy with his pencil.

I am afraid the Deputy will force me to make a speech before he is finished.

That would be welcome.

It would be about time somebody over there made one.

We want to get on with the business. Your only interest is in catching the headlines.


I might have oversimplified it. What I want to say is that it will force the matter to the Labour Court, but the effect will be the same. If the Labour Court judges it to be outside the national agreement the penalties can operate. However, shorn of its trimmings what this legislation means is that if the agreement is broken one party is being coerced not to give in, and the rest is wide open. The Deputy has accused me of looking for the headlines. I am not.

No. I am sorry. I did not mean that specifically about the Deputy who is on his feet.

If the Parliamentary Secretary reflects on what I have said he will see I have tried objectively to pose the questions here, and I do not think I am doing violence to the situation in what I have said, subject to recognising that things may go right; for instance, the Labour Court might get one off the hook by making a judgment that everything was all right, or the Minister, for sufficient reasons or taking advantage of the opportunities of the moment, might decide he would not make an order. I admit there are these safety valves down the line but, if it comes to the jam you are still in the position of coercing the employers to say no, and then you have the confrontation.

I do not want to elaborate on that, because I do not want to appear to be inciting anyone; that is the last thing I would want to do. A strike or a disruption in this area would be extremely damaging to the economy, to the people concerned in the industry, and, indeed, to all. In fact, I am rather nervous and feel I should weigh the words I use in this situation. At the same time, one has to face what the logical outcome of this will be. I personally do not know what was on the stocks when the Minister took over but, in any event, this Bill may well be the first move in a chain of events and it is one where I do not see further than the point to which I have analysed it. For these reasons, I think the Minister should say something more: what is the ultimate attitude in this to be? Will this Bill save the national agreement? According to the Minister in his brief, there was an outright refusal by the bank officials to put their case to the Labour Court. I understand that a similar attitude of non-recognition and non-co-operation appears to be currently adopted. What does this Bill do to cope with that? I am not suggesting coercion. I am saying that this Bill really does nothing more than say just one thing: "We will not let the employers give in to you." It does that and, once that is done, it is tantamount to the Government saying: "You will not get your increase except what is in accordance with the national agreement" as the Minister said in his brief. That I conceive to be the situation and I do not think I am being unreasonable if I conclude with the question: After that what next?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach.

May I draw attention to the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary is the first speaker from the Government benches since the Minister introduced this Bill?

The Deputy is wrong. Deputy O'Connell spoke.

One other speaker besides the Minister. I think he deserves a quorum.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Until a moment ago I had not intended to speak. I want to make it clear that the omission of the Government to supply speakers on this this side of the House to match speakers on the Opposition side was intended to contribute to the rapid disposal of this business. The Second Stage of the Bill, a Bill which all the speakers on the Opposition benches have recognised as a Bill of national importance has now taken over four hours and the Minister has not yet got in to reply. Naturally, no one on this side of the House could or would question the right of every Deputy to have a say but there is, I think, a convention that the urgency of business, particularly when it is business acknowledged on both sides to be of national importance, imposes a certain self-discipline on Deputies on both sides. That, unfortunately, has not been the pattern today. We have had six Opposition speakers, one after the other, all dining richly off what they take to be the volte face of the Labour Party in regard to its attitude towards legislation of this kind. It would make a cat laugh to hear talk by Fianna Fáil about going back on former positions, the party that consistently and persistently has gone back on things it had solemnly sworn to uphold and the party that swallowed things it had sworn it would rather die than swallow.

The Parliamentary Secretary is trying very hard now to get the Bill through quickly, is he not?

I am going to put this on the record, whether the Deputy likes it or not. Fianna Fáil swallowed, and gladly swallowed, things they had sworn they would die rather than swallow solely for the purpose of getting into office and, having got into office, staying in it. I think of the Oath, of Article 2A——

I think of the rights declaration of Deputy Collins in February. Now we are here and they are on the other side and we have had these hours of rhetorical material about what they conceive to be the behaviour of the Labour Party in just one single instance, which, as the Minister has said——

The Labour Party are in trouble now with the most conservative member of the Fine Gael Party defending them.

Much the Deputy knows about the Labour Party. So far as the speeches of Opposition Deputies had substance in them we will deal with them. I want, first of all, to deal with what was said by Deputy de Valera when he threw doubt on whether this Bill could achieve anything. He said the Bill was so constructed that its technique prevented the banks from settling.

Settling outside the court.

Yes, and that effectively will make the bank strike not a strike against the banks themselves but against the Government. That is a fair advocate's way of putting the case, but the Government will have to carry the can one way or the other in a bank strike and the outgoing Government ought to have carried the can and picked it up faster during the last bank strike which lasted, as far as I can remember offhand, five months. It was the second longest strike in a period of about two years and everybody in the country was asking: "Why do the Government not do something about it?"

Those were the days when there was talk about a contingency plan. I would like to have been told then if the Government had any contingency plan up their sleeves on the contingency that the banks would never re-open, because there were times when one began to think that would be the case. It was so bad that the issue of bank notes was suspended and one had bank notes in his pocket which were so filthy that one became in danger of infection from them. That is the situation we were reduced to during the last bank strike and that, of course, was only a trivial inconvenience compared to the damage done to the economy. People were beginning to ask themselves would it ever end, and if it did never end, they were beginning to ask, what were the Government going to do about it.

Therefore, although I admit it is a fair advocate's point for Deputy de Valera to say that effectively the technique of this Bill will mean if passed into law that the Government will be the party against whom the strike is directed, that would be the truth in political, practical terms in the understanding of ordinary people, but that would be the case anyway and that was the case when the last Government were here when we had a bank strike lasting for five or six months and when everybody was asking why the Government were not doing anything about it.

Deputy de Valera's point is a fair enough debating point but its substance is nil. I say that in a few words because the Minister may not have heard Deputy de Valera and may not, therefore, have an opportunity to deal with it. The only other thing I should like to say, before allowing the debate to resume on the other side of the House, is that being on my feet I must refer to the idiotic way in which Deputy Colley began his contribution this afternoon when he alleged—I have to be very careful in what I say in case he issues a statement accusing me of twisting his words—that manipulation of the Press had taken place last week in regard to the Opposition's attitude towards this Bill.

I saw the statements in the Press and the editorial, which was, perhaps, wounding to Deputy Colley personally, to which he referred. It is quite true that no word came from the Opposition benches formally promising opposition, but I was in the House when the Leader of the Opposition spoke and my firm impression, infected, perhaps, by my inexperience, was that there was a very strong chance of the Bill being opposed and I so instructed Government Deputies in the Whip I sent out last week. I do not mind letting you into that domestic secret. I thought it was a very strong possibility, and the tone which the Leader of the Opposition used here last week made me think so and it gave the same impression to others besides myself. It was only today when I heard Deputies on the other side, having made a meal of what they take to be the inconsistency of the Labour Party, say that they were not about to oppose the Bill that I felt easy in my mind that we were not to have a division on the Bill. It is only now that I can be assured of it.

I do not know why Deputy Colley feels that he has the right to accuse anybody of manipulating anyone, the Press, television or anything else, in regard to an impression created here last week by the Leader of his own party and which I, for one, very strongly and honestly got. I know Deputy Colley has a bee in his bonnet about RTE. It is not very long since we were debating here his allegations about what he took to be the Government's almost certain demands that RTE should do this or that, although I solemnly told him two or three times that there was no such demand and could not be any such demand and that such a demand could not be acceeded to. I am still waiting to hear a withdrawal of that.

Are we on the Bill?

I am replying to one of the Deputy's speakers, to his shadow Minister for Finance. I am replying to him on the Bill and if his words about manipulation of the Press were in order, mine in reply are in order. No manipulation of the Press took place as far as I know. It is possible that there are hatchet men in the Government or working for the Government somewhere who go down and oblige the editor of The Irish Times at the point of a gun or with the threat of the loss of his job to write editorials, but if there are I do not know anything about them and I do not believe they exist, and if Deputy Colley really thinks that pressure was put——

What about RTE?

I dealt well with that at the time and I am still waiting to hear Deputy Colley's withdrawal.

Every word Deputy Colley uttered about it is true.

About the manipulation of the Press?

About RTE and the withdrawal the Parliamentary Secretary is looking for.

Deputy Colley's exercise on that occasion—I am sorry to have to say this behind his back—was the most disgraceful thing I can remember from him. I am sorry to say that, because by and large he is a Deputy who enjoys respect. His allegation was a disgrace, and I am still waiting for him to withdraw the untruth about the thing.

It must be marvellous to be a paragon.

Nobody is a paragon and the Deputy knows very well I never set up to be a paragon, but certainly if I were caught out in an inflammatory statement which turned out to be wrong I would apologise and I often have done. So I believe would Deputy O'Malley and many other Deputies. Deputy Colley would not do it.

Because he is not wrong.

He is wrong about RTE and the media generally and if he really believes that the editor of The Irish Times was obliged to write the wounding editorial which he cited here, that the editor of The Irish Times was under the thumb in some way of someone——


How is it every other Deputy was allowed to make his speech this afternoon?

Because they did not make speeches like the Deputy.

Because they are not able to on that side.

I will be very quick if I am permitted. Deputy Colley has a bee in his bonnet, there is a loose connection somewhere in his mind, about the media, which prevents him from doing what his decency otherwise would lead him to do. He ought to climb down when he is wrong or to go the whole hog and make a full allegation as he should have done this afternoon when he quoted an editorial. If he thinks that editor or leader writer wrote that under pressure from the Government he ought to have the guts to say so and we would get the editor of The Irish Times, or we would ask him, or he would do it himself, to contradict him and that would be the end of the matter. I very much object——

This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary agreed with Deputy Colley.

Here we go again. I agreed that what Deputy Colley said to this extent was quite correct: the Opposition in so many words did not promise opposition to this Bill. That is true, but the impression which I got from the Leader of the other party was that opposition was possible and, indeed, probable. That may have been a misjudgment on my part, perhaps it was, but I had that impression. If I had it, many other people could have had it and could have been excused for having it, and for him to come in here fulminating about the Press getting him wrong and being forced by us to get him wrong, having screws put on them by us to get him wrong and to misrepresent him and the Leader of the Opposition, is intolerable and I will say it as often as it is necessary.

You have control over RTE.

I was about to sit down but I must stay on my feet for a moment longer to deal with that ignorant interruption of Deputy Crowley. We have as much or as little control over RTE as any other Government have by statute. That is a legal control. What the outgoing Government had was a different form of control—the telephone call, the word in the ear, the uisce faoi thalamh. That is the control they had. There was only one occasion since the RTE Authority were set up when the single form of control that the Act recognises was operated, that is, in relation to the section 31 control, and that Deputy over there knows perfectly well——

You gave them all jobs.

That Deputy knows that there were many occasions in which, under Government pressure, programmes which were planned or partly made or completely made were dropped or not put on.

Which section of the Bill is the Deputy on?

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle had indulged me——

So have we.

I am not beholden to anybody over there. I would have sat down but I cannot let Deputy Crowley get away with that foolish lie.

The Parliamentary Secretary must withdraw that phrase.

I am sorry, I withdraw it. I meant to say "that piece of mendacious foolishness." He knows perfectly well that the statutory control over RTE is the same now as it was last year or ten years ago. The question is what kind of way does the station work and what are its relations with the Government. That is where I think the party opposite have very little to be proud of and it is where this Government so far have nothing to be ashamed of.

By their deeds we shall know them.

It was rather unfortunate that the second speaker from the Government side did not take the opportunity presented to him to elaborate a little on the statement of the Minister for Labour earlier. In outlining the reasons for going ahead with this legislation the Parliamentary Secretary described his contribution as an intervention until such time as the debate could be resumed. It appears that a man holding the position of Whip for the Government is so careful about the manner in which he places his feet at this stage that he deliberately avoided dealing with any aspect of this legislation apart from taking to task some of the spokesmen from this side of the House. We look on this piece of legislation as important. It is so important that the Minister, when introducing the First Reading, took the opportunity of making an important comment on the circumstances leading up to the necessity for the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary has just come in to say how urgent the Bill is. He has obviously given an instruction to other spokesmen on the Government side to avoid making comment in order that the Bill can be rushed through.

From the time that Deputy Brennan and Deputy Colley spoke it was indicated that we were most anxious to get comments from the Government side as to what their contingency plan would be in the event of an outcome such as was outlined by Deputy de Valera. In any legislation passed since the new Government took over, there was never any problem about front bench spokesmen coming into comment on it. We are seeking some elaboration on what is behind the Bill. The Government should be able to find some spokesmen to come in and answer some of the questions which have been asked. There is a deliberate policy of endeavouring to ensure that nobody will speak from the Government side until the Minister gets in to speak.

One reason for this could be that there are 60 different voices anxious to speak in 60 different ways from the Government side of the House. A straight-forward instruction has been passed down from the Taoiseach to the spokesmen to avoid making any statement. We did not have to wait until today for a direction of that nature from the Taoiseach to the Government members. It does not, of course, apply to Deputy O'Connell.

There is no such instruction to any Deputy.

The Parliamentary Secretary told us there was.

The Parliamentary Secretary said he had instructions for the spokesmen on the Government side indicating that they were not to speak.

There was no such instruction.

Only two people from the Government side have spoken and they have contradicted each other. That is as good a reason as any for the Taoiseach's instruction to the Government parties not to speak.

Every Deputy in the Government supports this Bill and every Deputy opposite supports it.

We have no reason to believe that, except on the word of the Minister.

Are you supporting the Bill?

The point about it is that a question has been asked——

You are supporting the Bill?

In principle, yes. We have made this clear. Listening to the Minister today and digesting what he had to say in his opening remarks, I was reminded of the sort of contingency plan that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach was advocating some time ago when he talked about the long bank strike which we had previously. He did not refer very much to the economic problems which existed, but spoke about the disaster it was that some of the handlers of dirty money were in danger of contaminating themselves. It would appear from this legislation that if there was danger of contamination from the dirty money that the handlers of the dirty notes would be punished.

In his speech the Minister went out of his way to criticise and castigate the Bank Officials' Association and to draw attention to their non-co-operation with him, with the trade union movement, with the Taoiseach and with everybody involved in the numerous meetings they had. He mentioned that the IBOA had pointed out that they had difficulty in agreeing to the use of the Labour Court, despite being encouraged in various ways to do so. The Minister indicated that in order to meet the objections of the IBOA the Government suggested that the Labour Court could be assisted by two assessors to be appointed under the Industrial Relations Act and that they could be drawn from panels drawn up by the banks and the IBOA. The Minister drew attention to a suggestion made in good faith by the Government to ensure that all would be fully conversant with the proceedings, but this suggestion was not acceptable to the IBOA. There was an outright refusal by the bank officials to put their case to the Labour Court. Every move that was made was non-acceptable from the officials' point of view. At no stage in his speech did the Minister indicate that there was any adverse reaction from the banks themselves. This is quite understandable.

Deputy de Valera outlined the case extremely clearly and indicated his appreciation and our appreciation of the Government problem in this regard. On the other hand, it is remarkable that the Minister should decide to take the almost unprecedented step of making a First Reading speech obviously in the hope that the problem would have resolved itself before today. We have even an indication in the Bill itself that when the Bill is passed no action will be taken until an order is made appointing the day from which the Act comes into operation. I presume that the Minister still hopes that both sides will see reason in this regard and that he will not be forced into taking this action. The Minister has received a rude awakening since he took up his position and has had to change his stance in this regard.

When one of the Deputies from this side of the House was speaking today he quoted from a speech made by the Minister in 1966. The Minister commented that there was no national pay agreement at that time. That shows his changed mind in relation to free collective bargaining. Apparently that was something he championed then but something which he has now decided he will not champion. Today the Minister said that this legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining. As has been explained by this side of the House, the situation is that employers are being told in this Bill not to give what their employees are seeking. It becomes a direct directive from the Government to the employees that they are not to engage in free collective bargaining in case they might be successful. On this side of the House we are totally committed to contribute in every way we can to seeing that there is a further national wage agreement.

Every Deputy who spoke from this side of the House today went out of his way to ensure that a bad situation would not be inflamed. This is unlike the contributions made by Labour spokesmen on previous occasions when they were speaking from this side of the House. We endeavoured to ensure we would not encourage a strike situation. Apparently, by direction of the Taoiseach, nobody from the Government side has come in to make any effort to explain what might be the outcome in the event of the Government saying to the banks: "Thou shalt not give" and the bank officials insisting that they must get. I hope the Minister will be able to give us some idea of the contingency plan he has in this regard.

On this side of the House we are working in a vacuum. There have been several occasions since 4 o'clock this afternoon when the Government could have sent in some of their spokesmen to clear up that issue for us. When the Minister spoke today he said:

No responsible Government can do other in their general policy than preserve an economic climate in which the good faith of the signatories of such agreement can be sustained. It was in accepting such an obligation that, for example, my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, intervened in controlling prices just over a week ago.

The impression given by that statement is that this is a complimentary piece of legislation to the orders made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in connection with food prices two weeks ago. The impression created by the Minister for Labour is that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has solved the inflationary problem as far as prices are concerned and now he is solving all labour problems.

That was not said.

No, but the inference was there. The Minister stated:

It was in accepting such an obligation that, for example, my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, intervened in controlling prices just over a week ago.

Prices have been controlled for years.

That will be interesting news for the House.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce introduces a controlled price but he does not at any stage indicate that that will remain the price of any given article for any given period. He could not because he accepts the fact that external inflation is something which increases prices. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has said that on numerous occasions during the past three months. He has said it far oftener in that period than I said it in a two-and-a-half year period.

Deputy de Valera complimented the draftsman on the drafting of this Bill. Several Deputies asked whether section 3, despite the Minister's intention, as stated in his brief, is retrospective enough and can deal with the breach of the second agreement made by the bank officials and the Banks' Standing Committee some months ago. I hope this legislation proves to be better drafted and is able to stand up to examination far better than the orders, made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce two weeks ago, fixing the maximum mark-up price and the minimum mark-up price.

Before the Minister finished speaking today he gave two extracts from the Fogarty Report of 1971. He made it quite clear that he accepted Professor Fogarty's recommendations of that time. The first quotation the Minister gave was:

If the IBOA persists in standing out from this national effort (i.e. the National Agreement) and presses pay claims which amount to sabotaging it, then it will have to be fought not merely by the banks but by the whole community, with whatever weapons come to hand.

If this is the Minister's best weapon it is not as strong as it might be. When Deputy Brennan was speaking today the Minister intervened to ask him whether he felt the Minister should have gone further. As Deputy de Valera said, it is the Government party who have to deal with this problem. We have indicated that our approach, as it always has been, will be a responsible one but we have no intention of doing the Government's job for them.

Surely we could have the benefit of the suggestions of the Deputy's party?

The Minister has always had the benefit of them because they are on the files.

Do they include penalties against bank officials? Does the Deputy suggest the Bill should include them?

There were only a few interventions from the Government side today. I was not here for Deputy O'Connell's contribution. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary could have had a clear run had they cared to stick to the Bill. They would have been uninterrupted from this side of the House because, frankly, we were most anxious to hear what the Government spokesmen had to say on this Bill. I find it difficult to accept that the Parliamentary Secretary was correct. I am not accusing him of telling lies, but the Minister, coming in after the Parliamentary Secretary, said that no instruction was issued to the members of the Labour Party or the Fine Gael Party not to speak on this Bill.

Before he beats a retreat would the Deputy tell me what is the serious deficiency in the Bill? He says it is on the files, and on the files was the penalty against the bank officials. Do you wish us to have that incorporated in the Bill?

I find it difficult to speak through the Chair when the Minister addresses himself directly to me. It makes it awkward.

I beg the Chair's pardon.

The Chair always advises that the speaker in possession be allowed to address the House without interruption.

The Minister in his speech this morning, apart altogether from what he said last Thursday, said that it will not be possible to achieve this planned redistribution of wealth in our society, to which this National Coalition Government are dedicated, if the strong and the powerful are insistent in ignoring the repercussions of their actions. I presume the Minister is not specifically talking about the Banks' Standing Committee and, in line with everything else he said, that was particularly in reference to the Bank Officials' Association. He goes on to say that the record of the banks and their employees in recent years is one of persistent disregard for the consequences of violations of the national agreement. That is the second castigation.

He goes on to say that the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Colley on 31st February, 1973, wrote to the banks and the Bank Officials' Association expressing regret that they were unable to give an assurance sought by him and adding that, if the Labour Court's findings in the matter were not acceptable to the parties, the Government would introduce legislation. He makes three positive attacks on the Bank Officials' Association in so far as he pointed out that they had difficulty in agreeing. The Government went some of the way to meet them. The Government are getting very good at going some of the way with some. We have the example of the Minister for Education who is opening and closing schools every day of the week. He gave a brilliant example last week.

The same school.

The same school, yes. It was a magnificent job. It depends on who happens to make representations to him at any particular time.

The amended proposition which the Government put to the Bank Officials' Association was not acceptable to them. The written word is not quite as impressive sometimes as the manner in which the words are spoken. I listened to the Minister for Labour this morning when he said that there was an outright refusal by the bank officials to put their case to the Labour Court. Condemnation of the bank officials. The big build up, finishing off with the advice given by Professor Fogarty, leads one to believe that the legislation which the Minister has brought in is in line with a certain amount of Labour Party talk over the years but against his better judgment as a Minister.

That seems to be the description of a good Bill.

Anything that would be against the Minister's better judgment might be a good Bill. I would be afraid that the Minister's better judgment might not measure up to it. The Fianna Fáil Party have indicated that we are very interested in what the Minister has to say by way of clearing up certain issues which he left unanswered in his opening remarks and which are not answered in the Bill itself.

One is tempted in a debate of this kind, even at this stage, to start reading one of the literally dozens of quotations from supporters of the present Government and, in particular, members of the Labour Party, made over the years on three Bills, one in 1961, one in 1966 and one in 1970. Even though one can read many more different quotations from the large number which have been read already, their tone is all the same and they become somewhat boring. The attitude of the Labour Party in those three debates on those three Bills was that, at no time, and in no circumstances, would any member of the Labour Party do anything to interfere with the principle of free collective bargaining. In the first paragraph of the speech by the Labour Minister for Labour it is stated:

I would emphasise that the legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining...

I suppose he felt constrained to say that in view of the fact that for ten or more years prior to that, whenever a serious labour problem arose which caused tremendous economic loss and inconvenience to citizens, and when the then Government endeavoured to deal with it to the best of their ability, this repetitious cant came out about the absolute sanctity in the eyes of each and every member of the Labour Party of the principle of free collective bargaining. It is understandable that the Labour Minister for Labour should today in the first paragraph of his speech say that this does not interfere with the principle of free collective bargaining.

Let us look at the facts briefly when we examine that statement of the Minister for Labour in the socialist 1970s. An agreement was reached between the Banks' Standing Committee and the IBOA, each of them acting collectively and freely on behalf of their respective members. They reached those agreements on a number of occasions in recent years and appeared to reach them with a minimum of difficulty, when one remembers the tremendous difficulties other employer and employee groups had in reaching agreements during that time. They reached them freely and collectively. They made those agreements. If there was any one instance in the recent history of this country in which there was a perfect example of free collective bargaining, it was these agreements which were made between the banks' and the employees' associations. Now we have the Minister for Labour saying that this legislation embodies no general principle of intervention by the Government in free collective bargaining.

Were we to analyse it, and had we sufficient facts at our disposal, would we find that every subsequent paragraph of the Minister's speech this afternoon is as inaccurate as that? That statement is not just inaccurate in the sense that there is a wrong emphasis, or it views the matter from the wrong angle, or that the speaker took the wrong slant on it. The statement is a bald one. It is there in black and white and every syllable of that sentence is untrue. There is no other description of that sentence but that it is untrue. It was put in for the good reason that in each of three Bills in the past 12 years we have had a repetition of declarations of the sanctity of free collective bargaining. We see the remnants of those declarations in this Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach intervened in a bitter and agitated fashion some 30 minutes ago. He complained that members of this party were speaking on this Bill, that it was not right that they should do so, even though they were entitled to do it, and that members of Fine Gael and Labour were acting very properly and in the national interest in not prolonging the debate. If that is the case, it is the first time in my memory and in the memory of the longest serving Member of the House that that is so. However, that is not the position. The truth is that no member of Fine Gael or Labour wants to speak in support of this Bill. Deputy O'Connell intervened briefly, for five or ten minutes, but it was mainly on points made by Deputy Dowling with which he did not agree.

I stated in no uncertain terms my support for this Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary did not mention the Bill except to say he had told his Deputies not to speak on it. We had a great variety of topics from the Parliamentary Secretary, ranging from section 2 (a) to what Deputy Colley said Deputy Kelly had said to the Government who said to RTE, and why Deputy Colley was so unfair he would not withdraw his allegations, and so on. The fact of the matter is that understandably there is a feeling of shame and hypocrisy on those benches which criticised legislation brought here by the previous Government in much more serious circumstances than those now obtaining. That legislation was opposed tooth and nail by those on the Government side.

The Parliamentary Secretary came into the House at 8.30 p.m. and complained that the debate had gone on for four and a half hours and that eight out of the ten speakers, excluding himself and Deputy O'Connell, were from this side of the House. It would have been no harm for the Parliamentary Secretary to look up the records of the debate on a similar Bill in 1970, which was about a much more important matter, namely, endeavouring to bring about this agreement about which we are so agitated. He would have found that a member of the present Government, Deputy Keating, spoke for five and a half hours on the Bill. This party with all of our speakers—we have had ten or 11 so far—still have 35 minutes to catch up with the record of Deputy Keating's speech on a previous Bill of this nature. Therefore, I find it difficult to accept any of the alleged reasons given to us by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach. He kept repeating he was about to sit down until somebody said something to him; in the row and the laughter he caused I said to him that if he were a trout he would have been caught years ago because he seems to rise to every fly, no matter how badly tied.

I should like to give the Minister notice that we are not opposing the Second Reading of the Bill. I might add in parenthesis that we are not opposing it because we believe it is in the national interest that we do not oppose it, but there might well be considerable political capital for us if we were to call a division when the Minister concludes his Second Reading speech and see who would walk with us and would not walk with the Government.

How could Fianna Fáil do that when they had a similar Bill?

However, in the national interest we are not doing that. I should like to refer to some of the provisions in the Bill so that I may put the Minister on notice for Committee Stage next week or whenever it will be taken. It has already been pointed out to the Minister by Deputies Brennan and Colley, among others, that with regard to section 3, the powers which are given to the Minister, and consequently to the Labour Court, are retrospective without limitation. The Minister has told us that is not his intention and I accept that. Indeed, it would be foolish if it were his intention. Leaving out the inessential parts, the section reads that where any banks before the commencement of this Act pay or agree to pay increases in remuneration to any of their employees, the Minister may refer the matter to the Labour Court, and it will be referred back to the Minister. These are the essential words of section 3 (1). There is no limitation to this present dispute and, as the Minister has told us, this proposed agreement is the third agreement outside the terms of the national agreement. The two previous agreements were partially, at least, outside those terms.

There is nothing to stop the Minister referring those two agreements to the Labour Court and the procedure set out in the section being followed by the Labour Court. I know the Minister is not going to do that but it is our duty to point out that the power is there. If the Minister does not do so on Committee Stage, it is our duty to put down amendments to prevent that situation. The confusion may have arisen because of the fact that the commencement of the Act is referred to rather than the passing of the Act. We have the unusual situation in section 1 that the commencement of the Act is not the passing of the Act as one might expect if the matter were as urgent as the Minister and others have stated. The commencement of the Act is stated to be a day appointed by the Minister some time after the passing of the Act. That day might never come or might come a very long time after the passing of the Act. This unusual provision in section 1 has given rise to the problem in section 3 whether the Minister intended it or not. Exactly the same problem is in section 4 (1) (a).

It is no harm to draw the attention of the House to the penalties that are imposable on indictment in section 5. These penalties are abnormally high Probably, they are the highest ever proposed in any legislation that has even been before the House. They constitute a fine on indictment of £10,000 plus a continuing fine of £10,000 for every day in respect of which an offence continues, in other words, for every day for which the banks honour their agreement. As we know, that could amount in a month to a sum in excess of £30,000.

I am no great constitutional lawyer but I wonder whether the courts would regard penalties of that nature as being properly imposable on citizens, whether they be companies or any other organisations that are involved. It is curious to contrast paragraph (b) with paragraph (a) because on summary conviction the fine is only £200. I take it that paragraph (a) is designed to cover only the situation that arises under section 9 and that it is not designed for the banks because, apparently, bank employees are guilty of an offence under section 9 which offences, one gathers from re-reading section 5 (1) (b), are not triable on indictment. That should be spelled out clearly; otherwise, individual employees of the banks are rendering themselves potentially liable to a fine of £10,000 plus a continuing fine of £10,000 per day if they refuse to give to authorised officers of the Minister the necessary information in relation to the banks' affairs, books and accounts.

I have read the powers that are proposed to be given to authorised officers of the Minister in section 9. Those powers are extremely wide. They allow, more or less, an authorised officer of the Minister to do anything he wishes in relation to the affairs or accounts of the banks. They may even go so far as to allow him to look at individual accounts of account holders. The drafting is so wide that one cannot be certain that the proposals do not give such power but if we were on the other side of the House and some members of the Labour Party were considering those wide powers, we would probably be bogged down for a day on that section alone and all the most outrageous examples would be given of the things that authorised officers could do, while every possible evil intent would be attributed to those officers. I do not propose either now or on Committee Stage to waste the time of the House in going into these matters that are not likely ever to arise but I wish to conclude my remarks by saying that when Deputies Brennan and Colley opened this debate for this party today, they asked a number of important questions, the answers to which were necessary if any fruitful debate was to be continued on this Bill. The normal procedure would be for a Minister, other than the Minister replying, to come in and give the Government's view on the matters raised but nobody has been forthcoming from the Government, or indeed, on behalf of the Government, to answer any of these questions. Therefore, these questions remain unanswered but I would remind the Minister that we expect the answers to be given in reply to the debate and that our attitude to individual sections of the Bill, and to possible individual amendments on the next stage, will be dependent on whether we regard those answers as satisfactory.

My final word on the Bill is that on a previous occasion when the situation facing the country was many times more grave than in the present circumstances, when much of the industry in the country was closed and when the then Government endeavoured, by use of legislative powers, to try to prevent that situation, to get industry running again and either to get back to work or to keep at work the hundreds of thousands of people who were unemployed or about to be unemployed, there was tremendous opposition to those moves, including speeches that went on for many hours.

At the time we considered it to be in the national interest that that legislation should go through. The Minister comes here today and tells us that the present proposals are in the national interest and that that is the reason for putting them forward. As Professor Fogarty pointed out in his report on the last bank dispute, there were other matters that were far more serious and far more pressing. We endeavoured to deal with those other matters but we got no thanks for our efforts and no assistance. Nevertheless, we are prepared to accept the statement of the Government that what they are now trying to do is in the national interest and, in the national interest, we will not adopt the attitude which they adopted at the time of that other Bill in far more serious circumstances.

Many points have been raised by Opposition speakers during the course of this debate. These speakers have been at pains to point out that they give their support to the Bill but yet they wish to refer to inconsistencies on the part of members of this Government in relation to the opposition legislative intervention in industrial relations in the past.

I might say at the outset that I have no hard feelings in respect of Opposition spokesmen speaking at length on inconsistencies, whether real or imaginary, which they appear to see in the actions of Government Ministers. This is part of the give-and-take of parliamentary life. It is an exchange that is to be welcomed but in the present case it is only fair to point out that their quest for inconsistencies in previous industrial legislation was concentrated on one particular piece of legislation. All of their speakers, in referring to the past, concentrated on the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act.

I did not do that.

They concentrated on what was represented in the media.

I agree that Deputy Colley was an exception but I am making the general point that the majority of Opposition speakers concentrated on that Act. I wish to point out, in case many people may have forgotten, the vast distinction there is between the legislative actions contemplated by the Government at that time and the action contemplated in the present Bill. In essence, what the Government sought to do in 1966 was to deprive working people of the right to withdraw their labour. They sought to make strikes illegal. Nothing less than that was the attempt of the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act. At the time we pointed out that that was absurd legislation and I repeat today that it was absurd legislation. The man whom I quoted at the begining of my Second Reading speech today was Professor Fogarty, whose assessment of the present situation was depended upon by so many speakers, and rightly, because I think the Fogarty Report is essential reading for any Deputy who would seek to understand the unique set of economic problems posed in the bank situation. Professor Fogarty in the Interim Report of the Committee on Industrial Relations in the ESB in relation to the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act which we have been criticised for opposing in 1966 said:

We do not think that the Special Provisions Act helps to promote the atmosphere in which the sort of constructive and responsible relationship between the Board and the unions for which we are looking will grow.... We recommend that it be repealed.

He said that in the context of saying that legislation is not the answer.

He was speaking about a particular Act. He said it should be repealed. I am pointing out that there is a vast difference between the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act and the present legislation. The Fianna Fáil Government's attempt was designed to make it impossible for workers to withdraw their labour. Ours in no way attempts to remove from the bank employees their right to withdraw their labour.

Does it interfere with free collective bargaining?

I said it embodied no general principle of legislative interference with free collective bargaining.

I must ask that the Minister be allowed to reply without interruption.

Opposition speakers quarried diligently into the past seeking out inconsistencies on the part of Government spokesmen. They quarry in vain because there is no inconsistency. We do not seek to remove that right to withdraw labour in this legislation.

Again, Opposition speakers, though they were rather coy about the suggested solution, referred mysteriously to legislation on the files which they would have brought into effect. Their legislation, which I found on the files, would mean that the bank officials would find themselves in jail in a strike situation.

Did the Minister say in jail?

He did not find that in the legislation.

No, but that would have been the end result.

Would the Minister spell out what he means?

If the Deputy wishes me to read the section, but I do not think there is any point in that——

It is not in the legislation, the Minister will agree.

The end consequence of the legislation the last Government proposed would have meant that. If Deputy Colley wants further punishment in that area I will read out the section.

I think it would help us to consider the relevant sections of this Bill if the Minister would spell it out.

What happens if you do not pay the fine? You finish up like Paddy Hillery sending taxis to Mountjoy.

Various Opposition speakers have made the point that there could be drafting improvements. I would say that on Committee Stage I would welcome any drafting improvements that would further improve the intent of this Bill, that would make its direction specifically clear but I would say to Opposition speakers that largely the legislation I have here is more or less the legislation you had yourselves prepared. If you find that legislation wanting in several respects, not accurate enough, you are criticising legislative material prepared by yourselves when in Government. However, I am ready to listen to any constructive points on Committee Stage to see how we can make this legislation serve its purpose. It is directed at getting a solution to this present bank situation. It does not seek to take away the right of the officials to withdraw their labour, it simply is aimed at making it impossible for the national agreement to be breached for the third time.

There were many other points which I cannot deal with in great detail but on Committee Stage we will have that opportunity. There is nothing in this legislation to prevent the bank officials going on strike nor is it designed to prevent them going on strike. I do not know of any legislation under the sun which can keep a man at work if he does not wish to work. If any Deputy opposite knows how to keep somebody at work against his will I would like to know it but I do not know how it can be achieved in legislative form.

The Opposition will quarry among the debris of their legislative forays in the past seeking out inconsistencies on our part in vain. There is no comparison between the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act and what we seek here.

I do not like to interrupt the Minister but he did offer, I thought, to develop the theme of going to jail.

I shall read out the section before I sit down.

If the Minister would.

I will accommodate Deputy Colley. It is taking wild liberties with the facts to suggest that there are any similarities between the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act and this Bill.

The point was made in relation to sections 3 and 4 that the retrospective provisions there could apply to former agreements between the banks and their employees. Deputy Colley today, referring to his speech of some weeks ago on the budget when he called for action on our part, said that his remarks at that time were directed to what he feared was our lack of action in relation to the banks situation. He explained that it was his fear that we were doing nothing, that this inactivity provoked him into giving us the advice which he did give, for which we are very grateful. He worried about certain doctrinal differences within the Government and he finished in a style well-known to admirers of Deputy Colley: he flung down the gauntlet to the Government and he challenged us to do the brave thing he would have done if he were still in Government. The doctrinal differences apparently do not exist and I can understand Deputy Colley's discomforture. These imaginary doctrinal differences between the Government parties cannot sustain him, since action will be taken by the Government. Deputy Colley at column 385, volume 266 of the Official Report said:

I hope the weakness that the Government have displayed in this matter is not being caused by doctrinal difficulties but if that is the case, I want to make it clear that so far as this party are concerned, we made our position clear in this regard when we were in Government and if we were on the other side of the House now, the action that we said would take place, if it were necessary, would have taken place by now.

He explained today, very helpfully, that he was thinking at that time of our failure to act on the second settlement between the banks and their employees. Does Deputy Colley seriously suggest that it was open to me in March and April of this year to take action on events which had been in the making from November of the previous year? This ties up with the problem raised by Opposition speakers that the retrospective provisions in the Bill may refer back to these previous settlements. If it is necessary in drafting to make this absolutely clear, I will do so. I have made it clear in my remarks surrounding the Bill and I have made it clear to the officials and the banks from the very start, that I was intent simply on ensuring that there was no third breach of the national agreement. I did not evade and I do not evade my duty in the national interest of taking this course.

Opposition speakers have made a great deal of play of their devotion to the national interest contrasting it to imaginary shortcomings on the part of the Labour opposition in the past to the national interest as they saw it. As I have already pointed out, the interpretation of the national interest by Fianna Fáil resulted in absurd and ridiculous legislation. How can we expect an Opposition, even the present Opposition, to support absurd legislation? I earnestly hope that this legislation is not absurd but if there is any shortcoming in any detail I will be ready to meet the opposition to remove that shortcoming.

How could I, therefore, be expected to take action on these events which, as I made clear during Second Reading, were in the making since November? After all, there were many meetings between Deputy Colley and Deputy Brennan, the then Ministers for Finance and Labour, with the banks and, at the end of the day, if the truth be told, the question must be put who served the national interest at that time? Opposition Deputies have told us how serious the whole matter was, how everything hinged on it. Who, then, forced the present Opposition to call a general election? What responsibility, what serving of the national interest was there, when this present Opposition when in Government, understanding all the implications, all the things that had been happening at that time, chose to call a general election?

Which are the serious issues that call for solution in the banks crisis? Did the solution of that crisis take second place to the political future of Fianna Fáil? Who was serving the national interest? I have been accused today of having a "brass neck" for asking for the support of the Opposition but I leave it to the reasonable man to make his impartial judgment on the situation. Is it reasonable to expect me to take up the errors of the party now in Opposition, their mistakes, their indecision, their fumbling, and to ask me months later to correct those errors in legislation? I do not think that this is a fair request to make of me.

At my first meeting with the bank officials and the banks I made it clear that what was past was past. I made it clear to them that now the national interest required that there should be no third breach of the national agreement. Somewhere beneath this mound of papers in front of me I have Deputy Colley's piece of legislation. If I can find it, I will read it for the Deputy. Perhaps Deputy Colley has a copy of that legislation?

I think we could settle it if the Minister developed the argument he has in mind. I know what he has in mind but I do not think that it relates precisely to the legislation.

I do not have the actual legislation here but there was a section in it which called for penalties against the bank employees. There is no such section in the present Bill. During the Committee Stage tomorrow we may get an opportunity of referring to that section. It involved penalties against the employees.

And the association.

Yes, against the employees and the association. I made the point that this Bill is, more or less, the same as the Bill Deputy Colley had prepared to meet that ongoing situation but for the removal of that section.

There may be points that I have ignored in summing up and I apologise to Deputies if I missed them. I think it would be fair to say of the Opposition contributions that they have been on the horns of an impossible dilemma: they wish to support and oppose at the same time. It is not a dilemma that I was accustomed to myself when in Opposition. I have always believed that if you oppose you oppose all the way. I accept in the normal give and take of parliamentary life that it is important to score political debating points but I think that most of the debating points raised by the Opposition related to the Electricity (Special Provisions) Act which, as I have explained, was a totally different piece of legislation. It was legislation that was designed to make the withdrawal of labour illegal. This is not attempted in this particular piece of legislation. Much of the argument on the Opposition side does not stand up to impartial inquiry.

The various questions of detail raised by Deputies will be examined with a view to improving, if possible, the particular legislative instrument. I am especially sensitive about the retrospective element in this Bill. I am anxious to see that it relates only to the present dispute. Deputy Dowling made a point that people might find themselves in the streets, roofless and their children wandering in the night without shelter. Deputy Dowling may sleep in peace tonight, rest quietly in his own bed and under his own roof because this is not contemplated under the Bill.

The penalties referred to by Deputy Dowling in the explanatory memorandum relate solely to officers and secretaries of the banks as a corporate person. The penalties refer to the fines in relation to the officers of the banks. I regret that this legislation has been found necessary. We have fairly met both sides at numerous meetings. We issued no false threats. We did not, as Deputy Dowling alleged the Taoiseach had done, act in a truculent fashion. We must have freedom of debate in this House but Deputy Dowling's statement is not in accordance with the facts.

The people who met the bank officials were at pains to get a solution to this problem and serve the national interest. I hope that it is not yet too late for the people involved to draw back from the course before them. Deputy Colley made the point that this was a gross interference with free collective bargaining since the people involved were not signatories to the national agreement. It should be stated that Deputies of this House were not signatories to the national agreement but they permitted their salaries and incomes to go before the employer/labour conference, even after Devlin had reported, to ensure compliance with the national agreement.

And then they found that the report was not implemented.

I hope the people in the banks dispute will note that Members of the supreme Legislature in the country did not get their increases. I am making the point that the Members of the Legislature submitted their salaries and incomes to the scrutiny of the employer/labour conference to see that any gains they received did not conflict with the national agreement. The same goes for the judiciary.

Quite honestly, it is only at the 11th hour when our offer of help from the Labour Court was refused in this matter that we announced that it was our intention to proceed with this legislation. I think It is the only answer in the situation before us. We do not propose to shirk our duty. We hope that we have the support of every right-thinking Deputy of this House, debating points apart. We hope that we will have the co-operation of all people in the House tomorrow so that whatever our political differences, the message can go out from this Parliament of the people that the will of the majority must be upheld in this matter as in all other matters.

I thought the Minister would have elaborated on one point which I had a good deal of worry about. I am aware that it is a distasteful Bill; it was distasteful to me but it was the only solution. I thought, perhaps, that the new geniuses that had arrived might have found another way but it was just back to the old way which we must support. It does not guarantee to stop strikes. It may not be a panacea. I was well aware of that when we produced our legislation. It can mean people being put in gaol.

We shall find out on Committee Stage.

Individuals may have to pay fines. Their goods may have to be sold. If they refuse the law must take its course.

We did ask the Minister to answer two specific questions that would have a bearing on our attitude on the subsequent Stages. I was paying particular attention to what he said, but I do not think he answered the questions. Perhaps for his convenience I could repeat them. The first one was: what deterrent was in the Bill which would deter the IBOA from taking industrial action to pursue claims in excess of the national agreement? The other question was: if such industrial action were to be taken, what steps does the Government propose to take?

In reply to both Deputies Brennan and Colley, I think I attempted to answer in the course of my reply here this hypothetical question regarding what answer we have if the Bank Officials' Association insist on taking industrial action. In legislative form there is no answer that I know of to meet such a situation. There is no law that can compel anybody—

The Parliamentary Secretary said you would carry the can.

Deputies opposite may find it a hilarious statement, but this is a responsible Government and we propose to discharge our duty in the national interest.

It remains to be seen.

All things remain to be seen. By the way, in reply to Deputy Colley, the provision I gather we are talking about in terms of the section which I cannot find at this moment refers to penalties against the Bank Officials' Association.

I understood that.

Question put and agreed to.

Tomorrow is a bit soon.

I take it from what the Minister said that in relation to what we call the retrospective provisions, for short, that he had in mind that he might have these looked at with a view to redrafting. Does he expect he would be in a position to do that by tomorrow?

Yes. There is no difference between the Opposition and the Government on this.

No, but just to make it clear, because it does not seem to correspond. But apart from that, I think Deputy Brennan would feel we on this side of the House need at least another day.

I should like to have another look at the clause which holds the penalties on one side only. If the banks refuse to negotiate with the IBOA they may find themselves facing a strike. If they agree they will find themselves facing penalties imposed by the Government.

Not necessarily.

Mr. Titterington who is quite capable and is an astute professional negotiator will drive a coach-and-four through the national agreement, and the banks will be penalised.

Personally I am not in favour of any penalties against the association or its members. As I say, there is no law I know of to compel people to remain at work. I would ask the members of the Opposition to consider six o'clock tomorrow evening.

We shall give you all stages on Thursday morning.

The Seanad is meeting tomorrow.

There is no great urgency.

There is great urgency.

It might be to your benefit, because the negotiations are still in progress, and the Minister will be hoping against hope, as I was, that we may not have to introduce it.

All stages on Thursday morning?

What we were intending to convey was that we would take the Bill on Thursday morning and complete all stages on Thursday, not necessarily Thursday morning.

Since we are in accord on the terms of the Bill and since it is designed to avoid the situation which occurred before and to ensure that we have legislation before the conclusion of negotiations, I would ask Deputies opposite for their co-operation in the national interest, to which they have referred repeatedly today. I have made it clear that I shall meet them on any reasonable misgiving they may have on any section in order to improve the Bill's intent. I would have to have it on Thursday. Could I have agreement for Thursday morning?

To complete it on Thursday morning?

We do not want to be obstructive on this at all, but it seems to me from the terms of the Bill as at present drafted that once it is passed the Minister is in a position to make an order which will cover even a situation where negotiations are concluded. Is that correct?

We are dealing with an ongoing situation. Deputies opposite have been experienced Ministers in their day. They are well aware, perhaps even more aware than I, of the actual circumstances of this situation, and they know well what I intend when I say we need speed on this matter and cannot brook any delay. There does not appear to be any great difference between us.

When the Minister says Thursday morning, does he wish to impose any time limit?

Up to Question Time.

We shall agree to that.

It is agreed that the Bill be taken on Thursday up to Question Time?

I assume, both on the Minister's side and our side, that if we wish to introduce any amendment, the rules of notice in that regard will be waived?

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 12th July, 1973.