I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1977: Second Stage.
Before the Taoiseach leaves the House can he say why he is not introducing the Bill since it involves changes in the structure of Government?
I am moving the Bill as Minister for the Public Service.
The people involved here are not public servants but members of the Government.
I appreciate that but it is a function of the Department of the Public Service to deal with these matters and to prepare the legislation involved.
The Chair has no jurisdiction in regard to which Minister moves any Bill.
On the 5th of July last, the Taoiseach announced in the Dáil that he intended to appoint Ministers who would not be members of the Government to help Ministers of the Government who have especially heavy workloads by reason of modern developments and international commitments. As the Taoiseach went on to point out, an amendment of the Ministers and Secretaries Acts is required to give effect to this decision.
In considering this measure Deputies will be aware that while in recent years much attention has been given to the question of public service reform at an administrative level, successive Governments have been slow to consider the needs of Government itself. Yet if the structure of the public service needs to be adapted to the needs of the last quarter of the twentieth century, it would be strange if some changes were not required also at Governmental level.
Up to 1937 the maximum number of Ministers permitted by the Constitution was 12; in addition the Ministers and Secretaries Acts provided for up to seven Parliamentary Secretaries. Under Bunreacht na hÉireann the maximum number of Ministers was increased to 15; the maximum number of Parliamentary Secretaries permitted by law remained at seven. In the 40 years since then no change has occured in the limits on the number of members of the Government or of Parliamentary Secretaries.
The workload has however increased enormously. When the basic framework of the Government was laid in the early 1920s Government involvement in the social and economic fields was low. The increase in such involvement since that date is reflected in the growth of the administrative machine. A civil service which was just over 20,000 strong at the foundation of the State has now almost 50,000 members and the whole State-sponsored body area with an employment figure of more than 60,000 has emerged in the same period. At the same time there is a continuous expansion in the staff employed on local and regional services. The list of additional duties which have been undertaken by this large establishment is very long. Industrial promotion and economic development and impressive advances in social welfare and health services occupy more and more time and resources. Education, transport, agriculture, fisheries, consumer protection and minerals development are only some of the many aspects of national life which, with the ever present needs of defence and civil order, are the responsibility of Government today.
On top of all this our position in international affairs has been transformed. International action by governments on matters of mutual concern has been intensified in recent decades and a proliferation of international conferences and other meetings require representation of the Government. The most significant development however has been in relation to the European Communities. I think that everyone accepted at the time that Ireland's accession to the Communities in 1973 was bound to increase the pressures on our machinery of government. Few, I think, foresaw the extent to which these pressures would increase in recent years or predicted the extent to which they would fall on individual members of the Government. It is of vital importance for us, as a small country whose economic strength is far below the average in the rest of the Community, to have our needs and entitlements pursued vigorously at the highest levels in the Community.
Given such an expanded workload, and the strict limitation on the number of Ministers, the burden on individual Ministers is becoming intolerable, and I think that this will be recognised on all sides of the House. For many years it has been necessary to keep the number of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries fully up to the maximum limits. The undertaking of additional functions by the State has resulted in the increase in the number of Departments to a figure which will be 18 on the creation of the Department of Economic Planning and Development, but the constitutional limitation of 15 on the number of Ministers means that some Ministers have had to take charge of two Departments. The number of matters that must be decided by a Minister is great and growing and, though the reforms in the public administrative machine envisaged by the present Government will afford some relief in executive matters, the weighty issues of planning and policy will make increasing demands on time and energy. Moreover, the volume of parliamentary business is certainly not falling and the calls on a Minister's time to meet representative bodies, attend at public functions and respond to the communications media, are an inevitable consequence of a growing openness in Government. It is however international commitments, and particularly the requirements involving frequent travel of our European participation, that has proved the greatest single addition to the heavy workload of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.
Since the resolution of the problem by the increase beyond 15 in the number of Ministers would require a constitutional amendment, I will not speculate on the advantages or disadvantages of increasing the size of the Government. Instead, I will concentrate on the means by which the law can be changed to permit of an increase in the assistance which can be afforded to Ministers by the creation of a new office of Minister who will not be a member of the Government.
The present position is that, under the Constitution, the Government shall consist of not more than 15 members; the executive power of the State shall, subject to the provisions of the Consitution, be exercised by or on the authority of the Government; the Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann and shall meet and act as a collective authority and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government. The Ministers and Secretaries Acts provide for not more than seven Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers. The Parliamentary Secretaries are, in effect, junior Ministers.
Having regard to the provisions of the Constitution, the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1939, provides for the delegation by Government Order of the statutory powers of a Minister to his Parliamentary Secretary subject to certain provisions. The main features of these provisions are that the Minister remains responsible to Dáil Éireann for the delegated powers; the powers delegated remain concurrently vested in the Minister and they are exercisable by the Parliamentary Secretary under the general superintendent and control of the Minister. Parliamentary Secretaries can and do relieve Ministers of a considerable part of their burden. They can, by order, undertake statutory duties of a Minister but usually their main contribution is in the lightening of his parliamentary task and in the discharge of the many duties which, though not statutory, are integral elements of ministerial office. Over the years the Parliamentary Secretaries have played an essential role in enabling the business of government to be carried on. The time has now come when the support to Ministers needs to be significantly strengthened.
In the first place, given that the number of Ministers cannot be readily increased, and increase in the numbers at junior Minister level is essential to deal with the increasing volume of Government business. Secondly, experience has shown that the effective delegation of functions and of the necessary authority for their discharge to Parliamentary Secretaries is impeded by the title of the office. To begin with the domestic level, it is a fact of life that it is difficult to secure full acceptance for their discharge of ministerial functions in a representative or executive capacity by a man who not only lacks the title of Minister but is designated as the Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister. In international affairs, the position is even more difficult. In other countries the office of Parliamentary Secretary is quite a junior position in the Government hierarchy and the term "Minister of State" is commonly recognised as meaning a junior Minister occupying an office immediately below Cabinet rank. The assignment of the title "Minister of State" to junior Ministers therefore offers a means by which a much greater delegation of functions to junior Ministers will be acceptable at home and abroad. This Bill therefore proposes to create ten posts of Minister of State and to repeal the provisions of the Ministers and Secretaries Acts dealing with Parliamentary Secretaries, thereby abolishing that office. It is intended on the appointment of the Ministers of State to assign to them wider and heavier responsibilities than have hitherto been assigned to Parliamentary Secretaries.
The provisions of the Bill provide for the appointment of Ministers of State and delegation to them of statutory powers and duties of Ministers subject to the requirements of the Constitution. I might point out to Deputies that, since a Parliamentary Secretary was originally envisaged as having mainly parliamentary duties, he ceased to hold office on the dissolution of the House of the Oireachtas of which he was a member. Ministers, however, continue in office until their successors are appointed. Since Ministers of State are intended to take some of the burden from Ministers, it is provided in this Bill that they will have the same provisions for continuance of office as Ministers have under the Constitution.
The title "Minister of State" is clearly the most appropriate title for the junior Ministers, particularly when regard is had to the practice in other countries. However, under paragraph 18 of the Schedule to the Interpretation Act, 1937, the term "Minister of State" is defined as meaning a member of the Government having charge of a Department of State. The expression "Minister of State" is used in this sense in a number of subsequent enactments, for example, the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956. Two consequential legislative amendments will, therefore, be required on the enactment of this measure. First, it must be provided that in legislation enacted after the passing of this Act the expression "Minister of State" will no longer mean a member of the Government having charge of a Department of State. In legislation enacted before this Act the old meaning will continue to apply. Second, it is desirable that there should be an expression to describe, where required in future legislation, a member of the Government having charge of a Department of State. The most suitable expression is, I believe, Minister of the Government. Section 4 provides for these amendments.
Finally, section 3 is designed to deal with a doubt that has been raised about the proof of Orders made by a Parliamentary Secretary or, in future, by a Minister of State. Section 5 is designed to alter the reference to a Parliamentary Secretary in the Defence Act, 1954, since the office of Parliamentary Secretary will disappear on the repeal of section 7 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, and sections 8 and 9 of the 1939 Act.
To avoid possible misunderstandings and the extension of the debate beyond the scope of the Bill, I would mention that the question of the remuneration of Ministers of State will be dealt with in an amendment to the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Acts which will be the subject of further legislation.
This Bill is therefore a further step in the programme of reform of the institutions of Government. We are convinced that Ministers are in need of assistance in the discharge of their functions and we know that Members of the Opposition when in office were also aware of this need. After a full consideration of the needs of the situation and the available remedies, I can confidently recommend the provisions of this Bill to the House as a significant development in our institutions.
Being a significant development in our institutions involving the institution of Government itself, it would have been appropriate that the Taoiseach should have introduced the Bill. The debate on this is a debate basically on the structure of Government and on the adequacy or otherwise of our present system of government, and it raises a number of wider issues than those provided for in the Bill. I regret that the Taoiseach did not open the debate. I hope that he will reply to it because I feel that in this debate issues will be raised which are preeminently and exclusively within the prerogative of the Taoiseach.
I and my party accept without difficulty the need for more people in Government in its broadest sense. In the narrow constitutional sense we are confined to the 15 people the Constitution makes provision for and who share collective responsibility. I do not know how one can assess with precision or objectively the workload of Government in the first half-century of the existence of the State. If one tried to measure it in terms of the volume of real resources being managed by the Government then the increase would be many times over, but the increase in work is probably not directly proportionate to the increase in resources handled. If the job of Government could be made amenable to work study and if work study could be extended backwards to the early years of the State after the initial critical period of civil war, I would not be surprised to find that the workload has even trebled in the half-century. Since we joined the EEC, as the Minister said, the workload has increased further. I had the impression in Government, no more than a subjective impression, that the EEC added something like a further one-third to the workload of Government, not necessarily to the total workload in the whole civil service but the workload of those engaged in the work of Government.
In the light of this expansion in the burden of Government that has occurred gradually throughout the lifetime of the State and which has accelerated in the last five years, one is moved to wonder whether the Bill is not too modest in simply proposing the net addition of three other people to the ranks of those involved in the task of government. It may well be that the total of 25 people is simply insufficient for the tasks that have to be handled. What I doubt however— and on this I would be anxious to hear the views of the Taoiseach—is the wisdom of elevating all to this new grade. The introduction of an additional level in the Government, the Minister of State level, was envisaged by the National Coalition and would undoubtedly have been implemented in a second Coalition in the light of experience gained during four-and-a-quarter years in Government. What we had in mind was the addition of a new level of Minister to give additional flexibility to Government where at present there are only two levels available. Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, and where the tasks to be performed do not fit easily into this narrow categorisation of two levels alone. The Governments in other countries—for example, the United Kingdom and France—have a number of different grades of Ministers. The British system of course has the great advantage of having inherited from the feudal period various offices with extraordinary titles, the titles themselves being partly sinecure, to which tasks can be allotted which not only vary from Government to Government or even within the lifetime of a Government but where the level of responsibility involved can be moved up or down quite arbitrarily. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has, I understand, to do some odd jobs in relation to the Duchy of Lancaster, can also be given any other jobs which may occur to a Prime Minister of the day and at almost any level of Government inside or outside the Cabinet.
Our system is in its present form inherently inflexible. It seemed to me and I think to others in Government that the addition of a third tier, an intermediate tier in Government, would give greater flexibility. It seems to me that the tasks which are undertaken by Parliamentary Secretaries or which could be undertaken by them vary considerably in the degree of responsibility attaching to them and, therefore, several different levels, Minister of State and Parliamentary Secretary could usefully be retained.
I am sceptical about the wisdom of a general inflation, just as every Minister Plenipotentiary in the diplomatic service throughout the world, with almost the single exception of the British representative in the Vatican, is now an Ambassador Extraordinary whereas up to the last war Ambassadors were rare birds indeed. Here again there is an inflation taking place, so that not merely in the cases where a higher level of Minister below Cabinet rank is required, are we to have a new grade, a Minister of State, but all existing Parliamentary Secretaies, regardless of their particular level of responsibilities, are also to be entitled Minister of State.
I recognise, as the Minister has said, that where external representation is involved the present title of "Parliamentary Secretary" is confusing at best and at worst may prevent the person concerned from carrying sufficient weight when attending an international gathering whether within the Community or outside it. There is, of course the title "Secretary of State" which is used in continental countries, which is equivalent to the Minister of State which we are now creating here, although in Britain the first Secretary of State is a title of very senior Ministers in the Government. There is in fact a good deal of confusion here in the international usage of terms.
There is further confusion because of the fact that in France a Minister of State means a very high rank of Minister indeed, equivalent to Secretary of State in Britain. "Parliamentary Secretary", whatever confusion there is between all these titles, means little or nothing outside of these islands, and for all I know some countries of the commonwealth which continue to follow the UK practice. Therefore, in terms of external representation and having someone whose title carries with it authority which will enable him to act effectively on the occasions when a member of the Cabinet cannot be present at an international discussion, it is appropriate that the title "Minister of State" or some title of that kind be used. I would not quarrel with that.
I believe the same may be true also if somebody were to be appointed to assist the Taoiseach in dealing with Northern Ireland affairs. There again, because Northern Ireland affairs clearly involve our relationship with another country, the title "Minister of State" might be more appropriate than Parliamentary Secretary and also because of the inherent vital importance to us of Northern Ireland and of our relationship with that part of the island.
In the domestic area it seems to me that there are cases also where the existing arrangement is unsatisfactory. There seems to me to be a fairly clear distinction between the case where a Parliamentary Secretary takes over and operates effectively subject to his overall control by the Minister an entire Department of State, and cases where he either simply assists the Minister with his duties generally or takes over and looks after a part of a Department of State or some particular parts of it. If, for example, you have a Minister for Social Welfare and Health and if a Parliamentary Secretary undertakes effectively all the work in one of these areas, so that the Minister apart from overall supervision, confines himself largely to the other area, it seems to me that the appropriate title for somebody who is de facto in charge of a whole Department of State would be Minister of State.
On the other hand where a Parliamentary Secretary is concerned only with parts of, and at times not even closely interconnected parts, of the work of a Department or where he is simply acting ad hoc for the Minister from time to time, then the existing title of Parliamentary Secretary would seem adequate for domestic purposes. It seems to me once again that it is a mistake to inflate everybody to Minister of State level and not retain the existing Parliamentary Secretary title and functions where it is appropriate for certain domestic purposes.
In speaking more generally on the issue of the addition to the membership of the Government, in the broad sense of the word "Government" which this Bill involves, I say the burden of office is not appreciated by people who have not been directly involved. I suspect that even within the House, many who have not been members of a Government underestimate the burdens that this work entails. There are very real difficulties now about carrying on the work of Government with the existing pressures. While the addition of three members to the ranks of those engaged in the work of Government may be useful, I do not think it resolves the problem. I would like to take this opportunity to develop this point a little and to indicate some of the problems which seem to me to exist and to raise the question of whether we may not need to take further action than is proposed here if the work of Government is to be carried on effectively.
Let us take a typical week of a Minister who is not involved in the EEC but simply carrying on his own duties. Let us assume, whatever part of the country he comes from, that he arrives in his office punctually on Monday morning and sits down to work. In many Departments, but not in all, the week may start with a management meeting of the senior officials running over outstanding issues for collective discussion. This is a very useful meeting where it takes place and possibly even essential in some Departments. Such a meeting may continue on for most of the morning. The Minister may have Monday afternoon free for work. He can even perhaps, if he is lucky and very firm, get Monday afternoon free for uninterrupted work. On Tuesday morning there is the Government meeting. Tuesday afternoon he is in the Dáil, Wednesday he is also in the Dáil and on Thursday as often as not he is in the Dáil, although the Dáil business is sometimes so arranged that Ministers can escape back to their Departments to do some solid work.
It may be said that Ministers can work within the Dáil. This is true in respect of part of their work. It is certainly true in respect of that part of their work which involves receiving delegations or receiving representations from their colleagues in respect of constituency matters or possibly receiving visitors from abroad. There is much work of this kind which can be carried on reasonably efficiently in the House, despite the interruption of Division Bells. It is impossible, in my experience, to carry out in the precincts of this House and in one's office here uninterrupted work, work involving reflection, creative work, work of a kind which pre-eminently should be the task of a Minister. The constant interruption by people coming to call about problems they may have, delegations coming, Division Bells and so on is such that, unless one has an extraordinary mentality, and is capable of cutting oneself off and concentrating absolutely for relatively brief periods which are disturbed by constant interruptions, it is not possible to carry on much of the essential work of a Minister in the conditions of the House. Come Friday morning there is a Government meeting and, on Friday afternoons, very often the Minister is expected somewhere in the country to address some function or other whether it be a party function or a dinner of some kind. He may have to leave for that at lunchtime or well before the afternoon is completed.
It is by no means impossible, therefore, that a Minister can find himself with no more than Monday afternoon to do the solid work, which basically he is paid to do in his office, of reflecting on the problems of his office, on creatively trying to resolve them, on drafting documents and proposals for the Government, on drafting white papers, putting down on paper his ideas, or carrying on a discussion with a group to tease out a problem which, again, may require no interruption. Even leaving the EEC to one side, the burdens of his office as they operate at present on a Minister who, under our Constitution is necessarily a Member of the Dáil and, de facto, has to attend throughout most of the period the Dáil is in session, are considerable.
To all this has now been added an EEC dimension which is very considerable, not merely for the Minister for Foreign Affairs as I know myself, but for many other Ministers. There are also many other foreign involvements which have grown up either before or simultaneously with our involvement in the EEC. For instance, the IMF, the World Bank, the Council of Europe and a wide range of other international bodies, and the necessary work of industrial promotion which may take the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy or, on occasion some other Minister, outside the country seeking to bring new industry to this country to provide employment.
It is by no means abnormal for a fifth, a quarter or even a third of the Government to be absent from the country simultaneously. While from the benches opposite there was some criticism about the extent to which while we were in Government numbers of Ministers were absent simultaneously, I have noted with interest and a certain wry amusement that the ratio of absences has in no sense diminished since the Government changed and, if anything, it seems to me that the number of ministerial absences is greater now even than when we were in office.
This subtracts from the time available for work and, of course, it is not just a question of going to a meeting abroad. There is the preparation for it and the follow-up afterwards, and the co-ordination between Departments entailed in relation to external affairs, whether within the EEC or elsewhere, all of which adds greatly to the burden of work at home during the reduced period in which a Minister can be at home.
From all this it is evident that there is a great need to have more personnel available to the Government to whom to devolve functions. In certain areas where there are an exceptional number of delegations to be received, and/or an exceptional number of public appearances to be made, I wonder whether an additional office may not be required equivalent to that in Britain of Parliamentary Private Secretary, if I understand how that office operates, that is to say, TDs without remuneration but having an office and title and a political role of representing their Minister.
Frankly, I do not see how the Minister for Education ever finds the time to tackle the immense number of problems in education, given the insistence, and the understandable insistence, by so many people engaged in education, whether teachers or parents or others, to be received by him to present their viewpoints, and the widespread expectation, widespread demand indeed, that when a new school is opened, or a school is added to, he should be present in order to add lustre to the occasion and make a few appropriate remarks. In practice in that Department what seems to me to have happened over the years is that the burden involved in receiving delegations is sometimes delegated by Ministers. But this is essentially a political task and is not a job which should be delegated to civil servants. It is a question of a politically sensitive person involved in politics and in the work of politics in dealing with people and hearing what is bothering people, trying to assess the reality and importance of the issues raised, and making a judgment as to what action should be taken. That is a political task.
The task of cutting a tape might be delegated to a civil servant but as this is rarely done in complete silence and utterances are required on these occasions, and these utterances often have a political content, this has always seemed to me to be unsatisfactory. In many cases the Minister for Education, through the sheer force of lack of time if he is ever to do any work at all nevertheless has to delegate not merely the receiving of delegations but also public appearances and speeches, sometimes with a high political content, to civil servants.
I am not in any way suggesting that civil servants should never make public utterances. This would be a great mistake. There are many suitable occasions on which civil servants can add to the store of knowledge which the country needs in a public forum. They might speak in fora such as the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society which has a long tradition of members of the civil service reading papers on different aspects of their work in a non-controversial and non-political manner. It would be a great loss to the country if civil servants had to be completely silent.
But the appearance on a public occasion like the opening of a school to make a speech about educational policy is not a civil service function, and is not a function which should be delegated to them. There have been unhappy experiences in the past. I can recall an occasion when the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture was asked by his Minister to make a speech denouncing the Irish Farmers' Association which I think everybody would agree was an intensely political act, and one which no civil servant should be asked to undertake.
If anything, the Bill is too modest in that it mistakenly retains only two levels, where it could have had a third and I am not certain that there should not have been a fourth in which in certain departments TDs might be appointed with some title which would make them valid representatives of Ministers, capable of receiving delegations and speaking politically on political occasions to relieve the burden on Ministers. I very much doubt that we will ever get the multifarious problems of education sorted out unless something of the kind is done to help the Minister for Education, whoever he may be. My deepest sympathies go to Deputy Wilson on his task.
When I became shadow Minister for Education—and that carried fewer burdens than being Minister and gave one a much freer range—on the first occasion when I had to speak in the Dáil as shadow Minister there were 40 issues current, and controversial and alive to which it seemed relevant to address myself. I was accused, not without justice, of being prolix on that occasion. Indeed, it was not the first or the last time I was so accused. But the fact is that there were that number of issues. Perhaps somebody else might not have felt the compulsion to talk about all of them as I did. I merely mention this an in illustration of the range of problems the Minister for Education has to face. Yet he is expected at the same time to do all the other things and if he cannot do them, to delegate them to a civil servan' whose job is not to undertake a political function.
I am doubtful about the adequacy of this Bill and I am doubtful about the decision to retain the two-level arrangement for Government. wonder whether it should not be three or perhaps even four levels if the system is to work effectively. The whole system of Government at present leaves little or no time for reflection, reading and policy formulation This means too much of this has to be left to the civil service who, therefore come to be expected to undertake the political role of formulating policy and are expected to tackle problems with the imagination and political insigh which are really the qualities politicians are meant to have, although they may not always have them. These are qualities one cannot always fairly seek from a civil servant whose should really be to give reasons to Minister why the Minister's policy a he formulates it may have defects weaknesses. The Minister can then consider the arguments and reformulate his proposals. What happens in practice is that much policy is formulated by civil servants and, all too often in the past, and certainly in the long period of 16 years when this Government were in office from 1947 to 1963, it was merely rubber stamped by the Minister when it came to him.
The whole pace of policy making is slowed down by the absence of adequate time for members of the Government to do their task. All of us in the previous Government must regret that the pressures on us prevented us in the four-and-a-quarter years from doing as much as we had hoped to do. I have a personal regret. Because of the pressures under which I operated, I was not able in the time available to prepare a draft bringing forward a white paper on the issue of development aid policy to the Government which would have proposed the establishment of a development aid agency, a development aid council. It was my job to do this. I should have done it but I did not. The reason is that there was no hour of the day or night when there was the necessary time available for reflection, drafting, to do the job that had to be done, and many of my colleagues must have had the same frustrations.
Our system of government is unique in the way in which it limits the possibilities of action by a Minister and puts him under pressure. Many parliamentary systems entail the attendance of members of government in parliament, but although we are well behind the United Kingdom in this respect, our Dáil sits a good deal more frequently than most. Because we are in such close proximity to Britain comparisons are constantly being made between ourselves and our near neighbour without regard to the fact that there are 150 other countries in the world and even between 20 and 30 parliamentary democracies. We tend to measure ourselves against our neighbour, and by that standard our House here does not work as hard.
In the last issue of The Economist dated October 22nd there is a table which sets out for the 21 countries for which figures are available the number of hours their parliament sits. The British House of Commons comes tops with 1,528. Of the 21 countries listed for the period 1968 to 1973, only five sat longer hours than our Dáil, and 15 sat shorter hours. It has been observed that during the lifetime of the National Coalition the Dáil sat more frequently and for longer hours than in any previous time. I seem to recall the previous Taoiseach giving some figures which showed that, even before we had been in office four years, the Dáil had sat longer than any previous Dáil in the full five-year period. Therefore these figures I have are out of date, and probably our position in the roll call of parliaments as to the amount of time we sit is higher; we probably passed out India and Australia during the lifetime of the last Dáil, and we may have been the fourth busiest parliament of the 21 during the last four years.
Here we have a situation where Ministers are detained in parliament for more hours than is the case in the great majority of other countries. That is the first problem to be faced. In some countries this problem is overcome—and I mention the Netherlands and France; France is a semi-parliamentary democracy with a presidential system; the Netherlands is a straightforward parliamentary democracy—in that Ministers are required to resign from parliament on the basis that they could not possibly do their job and attend parliament as well. I am not for a moment suggesting that we do this. Our traditions are against it, and there would be a good deal of understandable and reasonable resistence to any such change here. However, I mention the fact as an indication of the recognition in some countries of the pressures of parliamentary attendance for the government and the difficulty, even where, as in the case of France, parliament sits a lesser number of hours than in Ireland, posed for Ministers if they have to attend parliament instead of getting on with the job of government.
In Ireland's case there is a unique combination: first of all, a small number of Ministers in actual terms, 22, now to become 25, including the Parliamentary Secretaries, now to become Ministers of State; secondly attendance at a parliament which, by the standards of other parliaments, meets relatively frequently; thirdly, and this is a particularly Irish feature, the tradition of a Minister being called upon to help with an enormous range of constituency problems. I do not think there is any parallel in any other country for the scale of constituency work which Members of our parliament and Ministers are expected to handle; fourthly, competition between a Minister and the members of his own party for re-election, in his own constituency; in all other democracies I know of with the exception of Malta, the systems are either single seat systems, where the Minister does not have to compete with anybody from his own party, or list systems where the Minister can be put at the top of the list so that if anybody from his party is selected it is he; only here does the Minister have to compete within his own party for re-election, and under a system where the burden of constituency work is uniquely heavy.
Against this background of a unique burden of work, there is no "cabinet" system of the kind which exists in continental countries, in a somewhat different though greatly enlarged form in the United States, and in the EEC Commission itself. One wonders whether one can indefinitely expect a reasonable standard of government to be achieved against all these odds, bearing in mind that we have to find from amongst 3,000,000 people two teams for Government and Opposition and that therefore even allowing for the fact that our Government is smaller than others, the proportion of the total population required to serve the Government is higher than in most countries, which does not pose a problem of securing sufficient people of ability for this purpose.
Even accepting the constraints of our form of proportional representation which the people have twice endorsed and which no one wishes to challenge and even accepting ministerial membership of and attendance in parliament unless paired for official duties, can we not consider doing more to ease the load? We could do it perhaps by, as I said, introducing something like a Parliamentary Private Secretary system for representational purposes and for receiving delegations. Or we could do it perhaps by introducing a rudimentary "cabinet" system.
In the last Government, at any given time, there were about four Ministers each of whom employed a research officer or an equivalent. I found that to have somebody of the kind available to me, especially as a Minister who was often abroad a good deal, was an immense help in ensuring that I could be reasonably effective in Cabinet by being fully up-to-date and by being able to have carried out any particular studies or research necessary for me to contribute adequately to general Cabinet discussions. In the particular context of my Department, perhaps because of the special recruitment system there, I did not think there was a need for a "cabinet" officer in relation to departmental affairs but that certainly somebody was needed to help me in relation to my general Cabinet work.
Where problems arose on a couple of occasions which affected Departments where the Minister had a research officer of this kind, it transpired that by working together at their level the research officers were able to resolve problems without dragging the Minister in and taking up his time. However, as there were only four cases where such officers existed, the number of cases where they could work together to reduce the burden on the Minister were relatively few. Nevertheless, I was moved to wonder whether, as we face the increasing complexity of Government, there might not be something to be said for every Minister having at least one "cabinet" officer, so that, not alone would he have the assistance which I am convinced he needs from somebody, on the one hand, politically sensitive, and, on the other hand, highly skilled in the relevant disciplines of economics and sociology, but such research officers, by working together where interdepartmental difficulties arises, could resolve some of the interdepartmental problems which take up so much of the time of Ministers—as is the custom incontinental countries and in the EEC Commission.
One of the lessons of Government for me was that the departmental structure poses very great problems for efficient government. Each Department is, I will not say an empire but a kingdom in its own right. Each has its own predilections and attitudes which are handed down and which seem relatively immune to the movement of Ministers through the Department, although sometimes a strong Minister leaves his stamp and a sniff of him will remain behind in the departmental attitudes for ten or 20 years afterwards. But basically each Department has very clear ideas of its own, and on almost every issue you will find the civil servants either want to keep the function they have or to take over a function somebody else has or—and this arises quite frequently—no Department wants to take on a particular function. Both of these opposite sources of quarrels take up endless time which might not cost the country quite so much ultimately in terms of quality of government if the quarrels were confined to civil servants, but when Ministers are dragged into them and expected to represent the departmental view, and when the whole matter has to go to Cabinet for final adjudication, as happens in our system, a great deal of time is wasted.
For a Government, which never had any difficulty as between two parties in Government, we certainly frequently had problems between Departments, which had nothing to do with politics but which arose simply from departmental attitudes, with Departments refusing either to accept responsibility or trying to take somebody else's responsibility. These demands and attitudes were at the civil service level rather than at ministerial level so that on occasions Ministers were having to moderate enthusiasm or, when there was a refusal to accept responsibility, stir up enthusiasm. Given that so much of the time consumed is consumed in sorting out these difficulties, judging by our experience, to have a "cabinet" system through which many of these difficulties could be reconciled without having to go to the Government would be a great improvement.
While I certainly welcome the addition of three members to the Administration I regret that the Taoiseach is not here to give us his views on the very important issues involved and to tell us how he proposes to use these new additions to the Government. There have been repeated rumours in the Press to the effect that one of these additions might be a Minister of State for Northern Ireland. I should like to comment briefly on that, though only on the basis of rumour. I certainly accept the wisdom of the Taoiseach retaining overall responsibility in this area, even in a Government totally free from the kind of tensions from which Fianna Fáil suffered for a long time in respect of Northern Ireland. This system of the Taoiseach having overall responsibility has worked well and was a very important element in ensuring that we had a clearcut Northern Ireland policy and in our relations with the United Kingdom we knew where we stood and they knew where we stood. The system worked and works as of now on the basis that the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs engaged on Anglo-Irish affairs generally did and does the work, in close liaison with the Taoiseach's office. It is not on the basis of the Taoiseach's office having a separate Northern Ireland section undertaking that work.
The reason for this is quite simple. The whole relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom, including the relationship with Northern Ireland, is so complex, and the different elements interact so closely, that you cannot divide off Northern Ireland relations from other Anglo-Irish relations. In fact, in the Department itself you will find that right down to the lowest diplomatic level each officer is engaged simultaneously in work related to Northern Ireland and to Anglo-Irish relations generally. To try to take out the Northern Ireland aspect and bring it over to the Taoiseach's office would be a grave mistake and, therefore, if it is in the Taoiseach's mind to appoint a Minister of State for Northern Ireland I would hope that that Minister of State would continue to work with the existing staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and be Minister of State to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach. This is important for many reasons including the fact that there is a danger of our being divided in dealing with the United Kingdom Government, a Government which could at times have its own reasons for finding it useful to deal with different Departments on aspects of the same problem which are closely interlocked. It is not improbable that there have been moments in the past when there has been some evidence of members of the United Kingdom Government thinking it possible to do that and that is why the overall co-ordination should be in the Taoiseach's hands and it is also why all Anglo-Irish work, including that related to Northern Ireland, should departmentally be kept together.
I hope to hear the Taoiseach on this subject and on the subject of what other areas he believes there is need for strengthening by the addition of Ministries of State. It is unsatisfactory that we should be asked to buy a pig in a poke. It is unsatisfactory that we are not told what is the thinking behind the additional posts, what responsibilities will be allocated to the new people or whether, in adding three new people to the team, the existing responsibility pattern will be modified, namely, the responsibilities of the existing seven Parliamentary Secretaries. I trust that at some stage of the debate the Taoiseach will enlighten us on some of these points.
There are two other points. One is the suggestion that these Ministers should continue in office during an election instead of finding themselves deprived of office and the emoluments and trappings of office, the traditional Mercedes, or Peugeot as it became during our term in office. I can see the political disadvantages at the next election if there are more people moving around with greater facility in their own cars but nonetheless I think it is the right solution, It may work against us in the next election. It will certainly work against Fianna Fáil in the following one.
Hope springs eternal.
It is absurd for office holders to find themselves in the uncertain position of having to be reappointed, after the Government have lost office, for the period of the transition. It is an Alice-in-Wonderland system and it is a situation that should be tidied up. Even if it works against us in the next election the Minister is right in making this change.
One matter I would like to query— it is a carry over from the past—relates to the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State for the Department of Defence. My recollection is that this arose originally during the last war. I may be wrong in that. There may be provision in the Constitution for a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence.
It is a statutory requirement.
It is not constitutional. It pre-dates the war.
I understand it goes back to the 1924 Act.
It goes back almost to another war. I think it arose when the functions of the Department of Defence were, unhappily for the country, much greater and more important and onerous than they are now. Since then a Parliamentary Secretary has always had to be appointed to the Minister for Defence irrespective of whether or not there was work for him and irrespective of whether or not the Minister has been able to discharge the duties of that Department fully. There is an artificial element here and so I wonder whether it is necessary to keep this particular appointment. I have no objection to any Taoiseach, if he thinks it proper, appointing a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence but it is a bit akin to putting into the Constitution a proviso that there cannot be any legislation for divorce. It is the same kind of superfluity. If the Taoiseach feels he needs a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence and if for the purpose of the meetings of the council referred to in section 5 (2) it is necessary to have political representation there and he wants that representation to be by way of Parliamentary Secretary, fair enough, but I do not see why the Taoiseach's hands should be tied and I think the person attending the meetings of the council should be the Minister for Defence if, in fact, there is no other need for a Parliamentary Secretary—that is, in so far as this council meets and however frequently. We have a somewhat fictional situation here. The council may not meet very often and the Parliamentary Secretary may have no other relationship with the Department beyond being required to exist in order to attend this council, if it ever meets. I would prefer the matter to be left to the discretion of the Taoiseach. I just wonder whether it is necessary to carry on this provision in this mandatory form.
We welcome the Bill but I hope that before the debate concludes we will hear from the Taoiseach. I hope some of the points I have raised will stir echoes from other speakers in the Labour Party and in Fianna Fáil so that we may have a reasonably wide-ranging discussion on the functions of Government. This Bill provides us with an opportunity for such a discussion. We have inherited a system of Government which struggles on. All of us involved in Government have done our best to make the system work but the system has serious defects. I think it is no harm to discuss it in a detached way. It is not a political issue and we are not opposing the Bill and, therefore, a wide-ranging, non-political debate would be useful. Even if it does not lead to substantial changes in the Bill it might help the thinking of the Government and of the House, the media and public opinion generally on these difficulties of the Government which are too infrequently aired.
Nobody on this side of the House will oppose the idea that there should be an extra tier of office holders acting for the Government. Anybody who has had experience of serving in Government knows that especially since our membership of the EEC the duties of Ministers have become much more onerous and demanding in time and so on. We have no reservations on this step by the Executive, their nominations, change of title of the Parliamentary Secretary and the naming of ten Ministers of State under this Bill. We might understandably argue about the actual personnel but I do not think anybody on this side would argue about the need for such extra assistance in the performance of the duties of Government.
The Administration in which I served was the first administration to operate as a member Government of the EEC. Looking back on it, I do not think the Opposition in that period fully understood the wider demands being made on all office holders in that Administration from 1973 to 1977. It is something that they are obviously learning now after a relatively short period in office—that the workload is so much heavier than when they were formerly in office and when this State was not a member of the EEC. One might question whether the change in title which the present seven Parliamentary Secretaries will have when this measure is passed should involve modification of their existing duties, what changes should be made and whether their fitness for the new role of Ministers of State has been fully examined by the Executive before their nomination as part of the new ten-member Ministry of State. Possibly that is a matter of personal opinion. The Executive are entitled to look for this extra assistance.
I should have thought the Minister was overstating the case in saying that this was another instalment of the programme of reform of the institutions of Government. It is a very small step that, I think, had to follow our membership of the Community and I am disappointed that the Tánaiste in his capacity as Minister for the Public Service has not made the Bill more wide-ranging in relation to the Cabinet offices themselves. Some attention must be given to the present organisation of the Departments of State. We have only to look at Britain to note that they have been much more adventurous in their organisation of the Cabinet. They have abolished Departments as the need for them disappeared and amalgamated Departments when that appeared to be the need of the hour. Over the past ten or 15 years one may have seen even in this State that particular Departments, as circumstances altered, coming to the forefront or seeming to have a more crucial role than they formerly had. It behoves the Executive when that happens, when there is extra pressure on a Department, to give consideration to the powers of existing Departments being changed or amalgamated.
I think especially of the new role assumed over the last few years by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defence which, one could say slumbered on in the Sixties and which in the more dangerous period of the late Sixties and early Seventies found that very heavy responsibilities rested on the men controlling those Departments. Other Departments also come to mind. If the Minister does not do so here and if he is committed to wide-ranging reforms in the public service. I hope he will give some consideration to such developments as these. While in recent years in regard to the Public Service we have had the Devlin Report very little attention has been given to the organisation of Government itself. It could be argued that Devlin's work and recommendations concentrated on the organisation of the Departments as service units and did not consider what is at the heart of the democratic control of Departments. The question is how do we organise these Departments so that the political head is truly the head of the Department and truly responsible for its policy formation?
I hold the view that the Aireacht does not meet that function. I believe the function properly belongs to the Minister as head of the Department. I take the Minister's point that he would suggest that the Aireacht meets that point. I maintain that it does not. I also maintain that the whole thrust of the Devlin Report is not concerned with this interaction, this relationship between the Minister and his Department which I believe to be the most important question arising in the organisation of a democratic state. To some extent, we have ignored that problem just as we have ignored over the years the actual reform of this Parliament. In the period of the last Administration some changes were made in the organisation of this Parliament, and for the better I think, but they were not sufficiently wide-ranging. I hope the new Administration will turn its attention to the actual reform of Parliament itself because, quite outside any individual party political view on the matter I think it would be better in the interests of the State itself that Parliament should be seen to be more responsive in its own organisation to changes occurring in our society. The same caution that marked our approach to the organisation of Government marked our approach to the organisation of Parliament.
We have no objection to the changes sought in this Bill, to the appointment of ten extra Ministers of State. The delegation powers are spelled out in section 2; as yet, we have no details about the areas of responsibility coming under these various delegations. Presumably when these have been made known the Ministers of State will answer to this House for the policy areas delegated to them in Departments. I hope we shall not find Ministers of State coming into the House acting as shields for the Ministers of the Government in relation to their overall departmental responsibilities when this measure goes through. I hope, in other words, that a Minister of State will answer to the House for his exact area of responsibility but that the Minister of Government, as he will be known when this Bill is passed, will be here just as frequently himself answering for his responsibility at Question Time and so on.
I think the case has already been well enough made that in conditions of our membership of the European Community if a Minister is anxious to make a proper input into policy formation at EEC level a good daal of time will be consumed by that effort. There is also the Council of Ministers' meetings which will be more frequent depending on which Department is involved. These functions will be much more demanding in relation to the Departments of Finance, Agriculture or Foreign Affairs which will be to the forefront in relation to policy formation in EEC affairs. Their policy input is extremely important for domestic reasons. Other Departments not as much involved in EEC affairs as these three Departments will be called upon to make a very heavy policy input. The Department of Labour for which I had responsibility in our period of administration has responsibility for the social fund. Next to the moneys coming from the agricultural funds of the EEC the social fund gives us most money on an annual basis and it is clear that the policy input of that Department in relation to decisions on the disbursement of the social fund is of crucial importance to us. The policy input by the Minister concerned cannot be confined simply to his attendance at Council of Ministers' meetings.
It is often necessary to garner support for a proposal before a Council of Ministers' meeting takes place. A Minister may have to call on his counterpart in London, Paris or Bonn to get support for a particular measure. Of course, a Minister may simply rely on a departmental brief but if he is genuinely interested in getting a successful outcome it will be necessary to get as much support as possible before a Council of Ministers' meeting. This means that the Minister would be called away from home duties. There is a conflict between home duties and such duties and this conflict is sharper in relation to certain Departments. As year follows year decisions made in Brussels will become more and more important and the outcome of developments at home will depend more and more on them.
Apart from participation in other international institutions, our participation in the European Community lays a heavy burden in all Departments of State and in the Cabinet as a whole there is a greater need to understand the latest policy developments at EEC level. This requires constant contact with one's counterparts. It is easier to arrange for the success of a national viewpoint if one's counterparts have been contacted to get support before a meeting.
In relation to the transport regulations which are again before this Administration it was necessary for us in our period in office to contact our counterparts in Copenhagen and in London for support and with that support we managed to hold a position for a longer period than was thought possible at the time. That was possible because we explained our view to the other Ministers and made a united approach. All of this calls for a good deal of political attention to the realities which exist for support in the EEC. If Ministers have the assistance of Ministers of State, negotiating powers could be delegated to them where it is not possible for a Minister to attend. It is not always possible for a civil servant to get the kind of support or make the kind of appeal that only politicians can make. I have no hesitation in saying that the measure before us today is worthy of support.
Apart from the Department of Labour's involvement in the social fund of the EEC, the Department were also involved in the affairs of the International Labour Organisation. The United States have announced their intention of withdrawing from that organisation. In my time the Department of Labour took a very strong interest in that organisation and with the threat of the US withdrawal I called to see both Mr. George Meaney in the United States and called on other EEC Ministers. I considered it my duty, since there had been a historical connection between this State and the International Labour Organisation, that we should do our utmost to see that our influence was put behind the survival of this organisation. Much of the international effort, much of the work abroad of Departments in the EEC context especially, is not understood. There is an opinion that the making of political contact with other Ministers in the Community is not important and is to no avail. I hope I shall never criticise any member of the Government for making contact with his counterpart abroad. That kind of criticism should only come from those who do not understand the obligations of sovereignty in the Seventies for this State. They do not understand that they are running down their own country when they suggest that a Minister should not maximise his and the State's influence before a decision is made.
We have learned from our experience of the need for extra help for office holders. After the direct elections, when the European Parliament comes into office presumably there will be need for office holders to attend certain sessions of the Parliament. It is probably too soon to say whether that will become a heavy call on their time but it is possible that it might. Since we cannot have extra Departments of State, I feel there is a case for the amalgamation of certain Departments. The British have been much more adventurous in this area. I hope that the Tánaiste and Minister for the Public Service will turn his attention to this and see whether a case can be made for the amalgamation of certain Departments. For example, on the inference before us, it is not possible to say to what areas the new Ministers of State will be allocated. There is the suggestion—to which I think the Leader of the Fine Gael Party referred—that there may be a new Minister of State for Northern Ireland. That continuing problem could well merit the attention of a Minister of State who would report, presumably directly, to the Taoiseach.
However, I would suggest there are other small departmental areas which could call for the attention of a Minister of State. This goes back to my argument that particular Departments, depending on the circumstances of the time, come to the fore and are seen to have a more crucial role to play than they had formerly. If problems in industrial relations continue at their present intensity—despite the best efforts of the Minister for Labour not to intervene —it is possible that more and more of that Minister's time will be consumed by such interventions. Though I did my best to remain out, believing that the parties themselves ultimately were the best settlers of any problem, in certain national disputes that did occur—especially over the final period of office of the last administration— it was impossible to remain out because they did not appear to be coming anywhere near settlement. A clamour arose for something to be done and it was impossible not to intervene in those circumstances. However, if the situation and these pressures continue as serious as they are at present, then a good deal of the time of the Minister for Labour will be occupied in such interventions. My experience of such interventions is that a great deal of time is used up. Other things one would like to do cannot be tackled. From August, 1976, to practically the general election I was involved continuously in discussions with either employers or unions. I spent the entire month of August, 1976, involved in the bank dispute. That continued until September. Then straight afterwards I had tripartite discussions with employers and unions and they continued until October. All that was vital in laying the groundwork for a possible national wage agreement.
The problem all of us must face in this House in explaining a Bill of this sort is that if one were to explain to the public on what one's time was spent one would not receive a great deal of sympathy; there would be a misunderstanding about whether or not one was working. If a Minister, in the performance of his departmental duties can be called into long meetings with representative bodies, where relations have broken down between them and he is asked to settle disputes of that character and simultaneously is asked to introduce as much legislation into Parliament as possible obviously he has got some conflicts to resolve in how he does his work.
The Ministers of State could be very helpful to other Ministers in this matter of preparing legislation. The material for the legislation in which I was involved in the last year of the previous administration's life, in 1976-77, had gone into the parliamentary draftsman's machine quite some time before it emerged finally in this House. Since we are talking about reform of the public business of the State here, of government, I would recommend to the Tánaiste that early attention be given to the extra staffing of the draftsmen's office. A great deal of delay occurred in the production of our legislation because the staffing situation in that office was poor. I am not blaming the personnel of that office—they had a difficult task—but in a matter as important as the bringing forward of legislation it is an indictment of one's efficiency to say that a particular office is poorly staffed. It can be cited as a delay in bringing forward that legislation. That was my predicament in such legislation. Even if one does increase the staff in the draftsmen's office it will still be necessary for a daily, certainly weekly, political input on the whole matter of the bringing forward of legislation. It will be necessary to have a good deal of consultation. There is the consultation with other Departments of State that must continue. But there is also the necessity for continual contact with the draftsmen's office and one's own Department, which is very time-consuming.
Here the Ministers of State could play a very valuable, important and helpful role in assisting a Minister interested in bringing forward as much legislation as possible. The only imprint a politician can make in office is that on legislation. Admittedly there may be other Departments where other achievements can be arrived at but, if one finds oneself in a social department, then obviously one is talking about new legislation. My assessment of a competent Minister is one who is decisively in control of his Department. That is what democracy is all about. The voter votes for a party and a politician in the hope that that party, if they come to power, will really run the business of State. He does not want some civil servant doing it for him; he wants the person he voted for to do it, admittedly with the advice of the civil servant, but he wants the decisive control to be in the hands of the politician in charge of the Department. That is the first assessment of any office holder—is he or is he not in charge of his own Department? Having established that, the next question is whether he is doing a good job. It is another day's work to decide that. But the first and most crucial test is whether he is in control of his Department. He is not in control of it if he is simply accepting advice from his Department, without any opinion of his own on the file before him and stating what are his views without any policy input of his own.
The point has been made already that there is here the suggestion of the abolition of the Parliamentary Secretary's role in substitution for that of Minister of State. Had the Government come in here today with a whole battery of extra titles to assist office holders, people selected out of their ranks, I would have supported that also because there can be no contention on this side of the House that we will oppose any Bill designed to improve the performance of government. We might argue about the personnel who will carry out those duties and that is understandable. However, we certainly could not oppose any Bill which seeks seriously to improve the performance of the Government in office, by way of seeking extra assistance from the House.
I think it a pity also that perhaps the function of Parliamentary Secretary is eternally abolished and substituted by Ministers of State because there are functions that could be carried out by Parliamentary Secretaries also. I would have thought there was some merit in the idea, it was a matter some of us did consider in our period in office, that there is a good case to be made for adopting the Parliamentary Private Secretary convention which I understand is used in Britain, that is, the nomination of parliamentary members for duties with particular Ministers and Departments, as I understand it, in a non-paying capacity.
It is a good means of recruitment for later promotion for Ministers of State, as they will exist now, to ministerial level. We must begin to develop in this Parliament a rational line of ascent to ministerial office. Perhaps it may be naïve to think it possible to separate that promotion path from the rather more time-honoured political connections based on constituency strength and so on. By nominating TDs who are interested in State service, by giving them the possibility of becoming Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the Executive would have the opportunity of testing people. If holding office does any one thing it probes and tests one's weaknesses. Under the present system no one can tell if a person will stand the test until he is appointed. However, we can lessen the dangers of someone not being able to face up to the responsibilities of office by having some system such as the Parliamentary Private Secretary arrangement.
Ministers of any executive will be subjected to extra work from now on. There is a public demand for what is referred to as "open government", one that explains its policy measures and its approach to particular questions. A Minister must be an administrator in his own Department and he must also steer through legislation in this House. He must be on top of the work in his own Department, he must know about work proceeding in other EEC countries and understand about the policies operating there. As a Minister he must maintain his own influence in Cabinet. People do not really appreciate that if a Minister is to be an effective member of the Cabinet a considerable amount of paperwork must be got through and there must be many consultations with colleagues. All of this is time-consuming.
I do not think that any one on this side of the House who has served in Government could, in conscience, oppose a measure that suggests that these Ministers of State, by delegation of powers, will take over some of the duties that presently belong to Ministers. Of course this is on the understanding that these powers of delegation will be clearly limited and explained, that the Ministers of State will be answerable to the House for the areas so delegated to them, that they will not be sent in here as reluctant shields for Ministers who do not want to attend before the House when they can do so. I should like to hear from the Minister on that aspect. While he may not be ready to declare on it now, I should like to hear from him whether it is contemplated giving consideration to the question of organisation of the Departments of State themselves.
Before saying anything about the specific provisions of the Bill, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the general state of business in which the Bill is being taken. This is the fourth week the Dáil has sat since the summer recess—I do not count the two days it sat in July—a recess that was three months long. I have the most acute recollection of the way the Government I served was treated in 1973 when we were slow in bringing forward new legislation, particularly legislation corresponding to the programme on which we were elected. I invite the House and the nation to consider the situation in this Dáil where the House has been working for the past four weeks essentially on steam generated by the National Coalition. Essentially it has been working on Bills that in most cases were on the Order Paper or which had progressed to the middle of Committee Stage——
That is not true.
There are a couple of exceptions of which this is one and it is a very significant one. However generally the business of this House since 12th October—notwithstanding the three months recess—has been business which the National Coalition left behind. I contrast that with the situation in 1973 when we inherited a country which so far as legislation was concerned resembled Mother Hubbard's cupboard. It was absolutely bare.
That is not true either. Let us have the facts.
We are discussing a specific item on the Order Paper, the Ministers and Secretaries Bill.
I do not want to fall out with the Chair, least of all at an early stage of my contribution, but I think I must paint in the background against which I shall make some remarks about this Bill. I am afraid there will be more asperity in them than what the House has heard from the Leader of my Party or from Deputy O'Leary. Not one Bill from the 19th Dáil was reinstated at the beginning of the 20th Dáil because no Bill was fit for reinstatement at that time. However, when this Dáil met, six or eight Bills could be reinstated straightaway——
Because the Government did not get them through.
I expect more Bills will be reinstated in some shape or form; for example, the Bill of the former Minister for Justice on the abolition of future ground rents and the legislation that had gone some way through the House in regard to other questions regarding landlord and tenant matters.
Where does the Deputy think the legislation for the setting up of the Department of the Public Service came from?
I am coming to that. The only new legislation——
I am talking about the Department of the Public Service. The Deputy is going back to 1973. He will remember that was one of the early Bills of his Government.
It was not in Bill form in the 19th Dáil.
I agree. It was ready in the Department when the Minister came in.
I am speaking of Bills that were in print——
We are dealing with the Ministers and Secretaries Bill and any other discussion is not in order. The Deputy is well aware of that. He is not a newly elected Deputy.
I have watched the Chair in some admiration today and other days running the House on a tight leash, a leash that he applies to both sides. I do not want to fall out with the Chair. I recall that the former Opposition travelled to the moon and back in pursuit of a point of the kind I am making now, namely, putting into the perspective of other omissions and commissions legislation that was before the House.
The only legislation brought before this Dáil, which is absolutely brand new Fianna Fáil legislation, is this Bill and the very closely cognate first Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, as well as the Bill relating to the European Assembly. I observe from the Minister's demeanour that he is not willing to listen to me in the same silence and with the same patience that he showed to Deputy O'Leary and Deputy FitzGerald.
Since the Deputy set out to be factual, I was hopeful that he would be factual. I have given up the struggle now. He wants to make a partisan case and he is going to make it.
If the Minister would like to list now those Bills which were on the Order Paper on the 19th Dáil and which were reinstated on the Order Paper of the 20th Dáil, I will give way to him at once.
The Chair has the power to say who is entitled to give way to whom. I would ask the Deputy to please proceed to discuss the Bill.
The only serious legislation we have seen from this new Government, which had all the answers in June, and which was not on the Order Paper of the 20th Dáil, is the European Elections Bill, which was all there bar the Schedule, which is the guts of the Bill, and the two Ministers and Secretaries Bill.
The first of these Bills, which was passed by the House last week, created a change in the organisation of the public service, a change which was conspicuously not recommended by the Devlin Review Group. The Minister's colleague, Deputy Barrett, now Minister for the Environment, in occupying a re-titled Department and nothing more than a re-titling is in the change, as a question on today's Order Paper was designed to elicit. That change was not recommended by the Devlin Review Group either. I freely admit that there is a lot of room for a restrictive interpretation of what the Devlin Group were supposed to do. They were asked to do this:
Having regard to the growing responsibilities of Government, to examine and report on the organisation of the Departments of State at the higher levels, including the appropriate distribution of functions as between both Departments themselves and Departments and other bodies.
I freely concede that they were not specifically asked to make recommendations in regard to the political heads or leadership of Departments. Since the twenties there has been no such thing in this country as a Minister floating in a void, a Minister, senior or junior, without a job. An arrangement of Departments is the same thing at the business end as an arrangement of Ministries.
The only thing we have seen from the new Government is a regarding, what they think is a voguish regrading, of a couple of ranks and the upgrading in title, in nothing more than language, of themselves. That is the sum total of new Fianna Fáil legislation. We have not yet seen what is going to be done about the ground rents; we have not yet seen what is going to finance the local authorities when the rates go; we have not yet seen anything to regularise the fact that, at present, everyone driving round with an out of-date tax disc is technically in breach of the law. What we are seeing is a lace curtain mentality promotion of themselves, only in words—it is not going to mean more brain input or more work input —and a more voguish re-adjustment of Departments to correspond with what they think is up-to-date thinking in that regard. Perhaps they do not know that the Department of the Environment created in Britain has been dismantled and that the Department of Economic Planning has been dismantled.
We would have been relevant then and we would have dealt with the points raised by the Deputy.
We are behind the times in leadership but that does not matter. People will be impressed by those words and will also be impressed when the seven Parliamentary Secretaries——
The Deputy failed to indulge in that debate when he had the opportunity.
Committee Stage is next week and he can indulge in it then.
We had a long debate on that Bill.
The Minister is not going to deprive Deputy Kelly of the right to participate in the debate, is he?
I am encouraging the Deputy to participate in the debate as it is before the House. I am regretting that he did not participate, as Deputy Barry did, in the debate on the Bill setting up the Department.
That is too old a ploy.
Deputy Kelly on the Bill. I am waiting patiently.
So far as this Bill effects an increase in the number of recognisable office holders, recognisable persons carrying ministerial responsibility, I support it. Quite apart from party discipline, I would have supported it if such a Bill had been introduced by the Government I served. The former Taoiseach volunteered in his acceptance speech on 14th March, 1973, that the Government were going to consider the institution of further political offices which he described as "Ministers of State". I thought it was a good idea. I hope the Minister will not think that I am trying to disarm him when I say that I had not specifically in mind any prospect of promotion for myself in supporting the idea. I believe that too much work is spread among too few, as Deputies FitzGerald and O'Leary have said. It might have been a good idea if the former Taoiseach had gone ahead and introduced a small number of extra jobs. Some Ministers in the Coalition Government were grotesquely overworked. Perhaps the Minister can now imagine for himself what it must have been like. It would be wrong to single out individuals because it might imply that others did not pull their weight, but there were two or three Ministers who were visibly overworked. Only for the fact that they had constitutions like horses, and in the case of the Leader of my Party, the constitution of three horses, it could not have been done. The public and some Members of this House have absolutely no conception of the weight of the burden that lay on them.
This Bill is to be welcomed to the extent that it will produce a further three office holders, but I want to emphasise that what the former Taoiseach had in mind was most positively not the automatic upgrading of all the seven Parliamentary Secretaries. What he had in mind was the creation of a new layer of office holder, somewhere between a member of the Government and a Parliamentary Secretary. The word "Minister" or the phrase "Minister of State" does not appear in our Constitution. The only expression recognised by the Constitution is "Member of the Government". The former Taoiseach had in mind a man who would be between the two grades. If that idea had gone through I would have urged him to call these new office holders just plain "Minister" and not "Minister of State", which is a clumsy title.
Although I have irritated the Minister and will irritate him again before I finish, I would urge him to consider, instead of traipsing along behind the English and taking yet another feather from them, calling these persons, of whom I trust Deputy Lalor will be one, plain Ministers and not Ministers of State. There is no point in the objection being met by saying that this would confuse them with higher personage such as the Tánaiste. That is not even a legal point because the Tánaiste's strict description in constitutional terms is not "Minister" but "member of the Government". The point about these additional persons is that they will be Ministers who are not members of the Government but to simply refer to them as Ministers would be simpler, clearer, less pompous and less obviously borrowed from the British.
In reference to the chivalry of a German general, Churchill used the expression "If I can make myself heard over the din of battle..." might I say that if I could make myself heard over the din of battle, that Deputy Colley should respond to my urging him to delete the words "of State" from this Bill? Let the English work out the difference for a change instead of our going on all fours to explain it to them. Likewise, let everybody else take the trouble to look at the Irish way of doing things instead of lifting our caps to them like the Paddies that Fianna Fáil, in their hearts, believe us to be. Let us say now that we are very sorry for causing all this confusion on the international scene but that we are doing it our way. Despite all the flummery of the Minister with regard to international practice what we are doing here is falling into line with the British. For the umpteenth time I protest at that being done. The Coalition were not altogether faultless either in this regard but never since the foundation of the State have there been a party so enslaved mentally and emotionally to the British as the party who are now in Government. This is curious. It is something on which it would be worthwhile hearing Senator Cruise-O'Brien expound.
He would be good on that.
I object, for instance, to the decent man sitting behind the Minister and whom I hope to see promoted being given a second-hand English title.
The Parliamentary Secretary. Do not demote him.
Let him be called a Minister and leave the British, the Greeks and the Greenlanders to discover for themselves that we make a distinction between a member of the Government and someone who is not a member of the Government.
Apart from the Greenlanders, I presume the Deputy will give some thought to explaining the difference to his constituents.
The Minister knows only too well what constituents tend to be interested in. His party have a better grasp of such matters than we have. That is the secret of the success of his party. I have not yet received any letter from a constituent about this Bill. Neither have I heard anything from them about the Minister's ambitions for the country and about his fears that we would be mistaken for parliamentary secretaries when we really have such a lot of junior Ministers. I have yet to have a deputation take up my time in trying to persuade me about the rightness or otherwise of that point of view. All constituents are interested in is medical cards. houses and ensuring that the Government keep their promises.
Is that not a very clear answer to the point put?
It would not be fair to the Minister's devoted staff to say that they have let him down but he has let himself down by acquiescing in the statement in his speech which says that "experience has shown that the effective delegation of functions and of the necessary authority for their discharge to parliamentary secretaries is impeded by the title of the office".
I was a Parliamentary Secretary for four years and on my oath I can say that not at any stage did I consider myself impeded by my title. I was proud to have had a title that goes back to the first Government, a title created at a time when it was dangerous to support that Government and dangerous to be in office.
That was also of British origin.
I was proud, too, of the confidence that the then Taoiseach displayed in giving me that title. I did not seek to have the title changed. Neither did it cross the then Taoiseach's mind that it would be a flattery to me or an improvement to my status merely to promote me in title. I was surprised to find that the notion had even occurred to Deputy FitzGerald that in any sense it was an impeding of my occasional appearances on the international scene that I was not a full Minister. I was not a full Minister so why should I masquerade as one? Why should I behave in that way and hope that foreigners would be taken in when in fact, so far as the Department of Foreign Affairs were concerned at any rate, I was the man who stood in when the Minister could not attend, the man who was put into the Department when the presidency of the EEC rendered it essential for the first time since the foundation of the State to have a parliamentary secretary in that Department?
This whole element of title, of sham, of show and of eyewash in this Bill really sticks in my gullet although I support the idea of lightening the burden. Consequently, it was not my intention to oppose the Bill. However, I dislike very much what the "Europologues" are now calling "the modalities" by which it is being effected. The Minister would achieve the same result by creating a new grade of Minister simpliciter, leaving out the “of State” and by leaving the Parliamentary Secrtary grade as it is, a grade that has served the country well. The Minister would be better engaged in creating three new Ministers and appointing people to recognisable spheres of activity. Something I would be very keen on would be the appointment of the kind of person who might not be of sufficient political weight to warrant inclusion in the Government in the strict constitutional sense but who would be appropriate for appointment to a position superior to that of Parliamentary Secretary, an appointment that would give him responsibility for that sphere recommended by the Devlin Committee, namely what they called national culture. I trust nobody will misunderstand me on this. I detest the expression “national culture”. It seems to me to be an expression used by countries that are self-conscious about their national culture or lack of it. However, the Devlin idea in this context is correct. They condemned the present splitting of responsibility in regard to our cultural heritage, to the manmade physical environment to the extent that it is not purely functional and for the interesting of the public in these matters between the Department of Education, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Local Government.
I should like to see a separate Ministry being given the responsibility of combining all those functions but I trust that the Minister has not forgotten that recommendation. In our time in office, for reasons which I think a Deputy explained in the debate last week, that at a time when everbody else was being asked to tighten his belt we, as the former Taoiseach said, ought not be seen to make life easier for ourselves. That was the uppermost factor in his mind in not going ahead with this idea but, perhaps, in time it will become easier to implement. In the event of a Bill being introduced in this regard I promise not to be abrasive about it. The present position is that all these functions are more or less the Cinderellas of three or four different Departments. Conversely, that is an additional new office that is necessary but for which this Bill makes no specific provision. I realise that it is not designed to do that. It is not excluded that there might be such a thing, and I would like to see it.
Conversely—I do not want to be categorical or dogmatic about this because I have not heard the point argued—I am not sure if it is necessary to have a Parliamentary Secretary as heretofore, or now a Minister for State, in the Department of Defence. I occupied the nominal title of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence for a little less than two years. I had not even a room in the building of the Department of Defence in Parkgate Street nor did I ever seek one, nor was any business ever given to me or my co-operation ever invited in a matter which would have required it. My only function, apart from ceremonial occasions of a military kind which I attended occasionally, was one resulting logically from the existence of a body known as the Council of Defence. In the roughly two years that I was there that council met twice and on one of the occasions I could not attend it because of my job as Whip here in the House which prevented me from attending.
I hope I am not in breach of any great secret or letting the country down in the sight of the world by saying that on the occasion I did attend the Council of Defence, the only matter discussed related to the use of the Irish language in the issuing of military commands. That function, if there are no other functions than that kind, does not need to exist. If it does need to exist I cannot see that it is absolutely necessary to include a provision for a Parliamentary Secretary or a Minister of State in that Department. Let the provision in question be amended to say that at a time when there is in existence a Parliamentary Secretary or a Minister of State in the Department of Defence he shall be a member of the Council of Defence. The classic consequence of the way the law at present stands is that whether the Government feel the need for it or not there has to be a Deputy, or a Senator perhaps, carrying this title although he has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with that Department.
I want the Minister to hear these three incidental points over the rumble of warfare through the seats. I urge him to cross out the words "of State" in this legislation. As a personal preference of my own I urge him to consider going ahead with that general recommendation in regard to the Ministry of National Culture and attribute that Ministry to one of these new Ministers. I urge him to look again at the legislation which this Bill proposes to amend regarding the existence of a junior Minister in the Department of Defence. There may be a good reason for having one there. My existence there was characterised only by ceremonial occasions and standing in occasionally for the Minister at Question Time. It is a pity that a serious matter like the distribution of State offices should be in even the smallest degree made inflexible by the existence of this provision in regard to the Council of Defence which plays a very small role in official life.
The other thing I want to mention is the question of the burden of ministerial office, which is central to this Bill. The Leader of my party, Deputy FitzGerald, who, as I have said, has the constitution of three horses and any number of men, spoke about this burden. I thought he was the only man I had ever met who never seemed to feel such a burden. There were times when it could be seen from his demeanour and in his person that he must have been fatigued but he never seemed to realise that he was fatigued. It was very impressive to me that even that man, who I am certain even his political foes as well as his political friends will admit is unique in everyone's experience, feels that he has to speak about the burden of ministerial office. Sometimes he seems scarcely flesh and blood at all, his energy is so superhuman.
I want to say something about flesh and blood office holder. I was never a member of Government and was only very briefly at the end of the last Government in an office senior to that of Parliamentary Secretary. Before I say anything which might be interpreted as making an excuse or a begging-off from the performance of duties commonly expected of office holders, I want to say a word in regard to Press reaction on issues of this kind. I have noticed with pleasure that on a couple of occasions when there has been a conspicuous death in ministerial ranks here or across the water the Press have tended to react by saying "They ought to look again a bit more carefully at what they expect our public men to do". I recall that at the beginning of this year when the British Foreign Secretary had a stroke and died within 24 hours the papers all printed an account of the way he had spent the last week of his life. This was a man certainly not in his first youth, neither was he an old man. I suppose he could be described as being in the late prime of life. The description of the last week of his life probably would not have been much different from the description of any other week, but it was something which no human being ought to be asked to bear. Even some of the Irish papers said that perhaps we should look again at what was expected of public men and see whether we are not expecting too much from them when a thing like this can happen, when this brilliant man, a member of his own Cabinet, nearly the most senior man in his own Government, a possible contender for leadership of the Labour party who possibly would have been Prime Minister, was struck down by overwork. The same thing was said here nine years ago when the late Deputy Donogh O'Malley dropped dead in the middle of a by-election campaign. The Irish Times printed an editorial which said: “We have seen this week that politics is literally a killing occupation.”
Against that background which I am not ashamed to evoke, I may be allowed something additional to what Deputy FitzGerald said about the burdens of ministerial office and not be accused of being lazy or unwilling to pull my weight or do my share in or out of Government. The description which Deputy FitzGerald gave of a Minister's week I thought was fairly mild. He left out of the description many of the minor things which can get in a man's way. An ordinary man who is flesh and blood has a wife and family and perhaps problems with neighbours and financial worries and so on. Deputy FitzGerald spoke about a ministerial meeting on Monday morning with the central advisers of his Department. That is all very fine, but he has forgotten that on the odd Monday morning something happens which leaves one late for the office. Some problem, something about the children, something in one's constituency which cannot be neglected, cuts the tripe out of one's morning. In his case as Minister for Foreign Affairs he had to escort an ambassador to Aras an Uachtaráin. That could destroy his morning. It is not always possible to arrange these things for some morning when he does not have a ministerial conference. Please do not believe that the relatively civilised description which the leader of my party gave of a Minister's Monday morning is a universal one. It by no means is so, as I know from my limited experience. Any number of things will come in and torpedo your morning. Some of them are domestic. Others are of a political kind which cannot be avoided. There is no use in saying that you are not paid to do that, you are paid to do the other and so you must do the other. That is not the practical response to the problem.
The average Minister or Parliamentary Secretary or whatever he is going to be called, and to a very large extent the average Deputy, lives an existence which is at times not the life of a dog. The fact that the public complain about their performance in their office I take for granted. That is part of the game. If you do not like it get out of it. If you are not able to put up with that you ought not to be in politics at all. They are treated not so much by the complaining members of the public but by the relatively indifferent or perhaps, friendly members of the public with a total lack of understanding in regard to what they are physically capable of. No professional association feel that their annual occasion or even their twice or three times a year occasion is complete these days without the attendance at least of a Minister, if at all possible the Taoiseach, failing him the Tánaiste and failing him a Minister. Some of them will turn quite sour if they are fobbed off with a Parliamentary-Secretary. Possibly this is one of the reasons for the improvement in the title of the seven junior colleagues of the Minister.
I tried to touch on that topic.
It is time it was said a bit more forcibly, that we joined together in saying it and that we are not afraid to take the political consequences of it. I get a delivery of the output of the Government Information Service. It is very illuminating. It means that I know more or less what a Minister would wish to say, whatever he may in the end have found himself saying or whatever the papers may report him as having said. I was away a few days at the end of the week before last and when I got home there was quite a pile of these handouts from the GIS waiting for me. I looked at them and instead of finding sticks to beat Fianna Fáil with I tried to see what burden rests on the individual office holders. I do not want it to be thought that this week was typical. The man who seemed to be doing the most work was the Minister for Agriculture who was at four scripted functions—that is altogether apart from funerals, party meetings—he would not have sent a script of those—opening this, that or the other or closing something which would not require a script—he was at four scripted functions, each of which, if it was any distance from him, would have taken up the full day and many of which would have taken up a sizeable number of hours even if they were quite near him.
It is not the Minister for Agriculture I feel sorry for. The person I want to mention to the House is the Taoiseach. I discovered, on looking through his pile of scripts, that the Taoiseach was at a function in Dublin on Thursday evening with a long script, at one in Waterford on Friday evening with a very long script and he was at another in Cork on Saturday evening again with a long script. I know he represents Cork city in this House and that he has to go to see his constituents but it is public knowledge that he lives in Dublin as a Taoiseach must do. What was left of the Taoiseach's weekend by the time he had recovered from three nights on the trot? Absolutely nothing. I do not care how strong his constitution is, no human being ought to be asked to stand up to that. That is the Taoiseach and it gets worse at it goes down. My Taoiseach was exactly the same. He said "yes" to an invitation if he possibly could. He did not say "no" unless he had to.
A man who has fought his way up through politics and distinguished himself by some quality which others admire and are willing to concede leadership to, once he finds himself on that bench whether in the top seat or anywhere else—the same goes to some degree for this side of the House —should be allowed do the job. He should not be lifted into the saddle and then have lead weights not only put in the saddle but strung round his neck as well.
I know how hard it is to say no, particularly when a professional association, a local body or all these multifarious organisations make a personal approach, come to the Minister and say: "I wonder, George, will you come and do this for us? We are very keen that you come." It may be impossible to say "no" in that case but I feel some type of appeal should be made. I feel it comes better from this side of the House now than when we were over there because we do not have to do so much of it. There should be come moderation in professional bodies and public bodies inviting the attendance of office holders to those functions.
It was partly in recognition of those things which are required of office holders that I struggled, when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, to bring some reason into the way the Dáil did its work. I never worked as hard in my life as I did during those four years. Apart from my experience I saw night after night that we were in here—there were times during that session, particularly in the middle of 1975 when the Dáil used to sit regularly for months on end four days in the week and until 10.30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—Ministers coming into me grey in the face. One would wonder if they would make it to their cars without collapsing with absolute dog weariness brought on by the hours in this House, by having to uselessly sit around waiting for Division bells. Although a certain amount of work can be done by a superman like Deputy FitzGerald, many Ministers and many office holders do not find this House easy to work in. The ventilation system is bad. The heating system is bad. The conditions are bad. There is not enough privacy. There is not enough room for staff and there is not enough room for papers or books. It is not really possible unless one is a superman or something near it to get much work done here.
I saw those men in whom the country was making an act of faith, who had been promoted by the people's wishes to the supreme authority—so far as anyone can have supreme authority they had it—who were not being given a chance to exercise it. I say —I am not ashamed to say it as I have already said it on many occasions in Government and I will now say it for the benefit of the Minister and his colleagues—that a man, particularly as he gets older, can only work so many hours in the day. Most people work eight hours a day five days a week and come in by the clock and go out by it. Let it be nine or ten hours a day for five or five and a half days a week. This is the most anybody ought to be asked to work. He ought to have his weekend for himself. That has not been possible the way this State is run.
I consider the degree to which office holders have committed themselves for political reasons or out of the goodness of their hearts to be ground down by this pressure is appalling. They get out of the habit of saying "no", of exercising self defence where they ought to and where it is their duty to do so. They get out of the habit of saying "no" to everything. That is only part of the same softy complex which produces the soft election promises, the soft options. It is the very same idea which persuades the public that they can get off all obligations, that a contract seriously entered into can be dispensed with, that burdens they laid on themselves at various times in their lives or which they inherited can be shed if they shout loud enough for the Government to remove them.
I believe it is all part of the elephantiasis of the democratic process. The democratic process is fine so long as it means the people choose their rulers. Once it gets to the stage that once the rulers are there they have to keep feeding the people their bones, bodies and blood as long as the people want, whether it is justified or not, the thing is suffering from elephantiasis and is on the downward path. It simply is not possible effectively to run a State and in the end not even democratically along those lines. I did my best to try to rationalise the Dáil hours. I met tooth and nail resistance from Fianna Fáil. In the end the Government decided by dint of force, by vote, to introduce more rational sitting hours, ones that more resembled an ordinary working day. I will not forget the debate we had here at that time.
Surely we are not dealing with Dáil hours? Perhaps we will at some other time but on this Bill it hardly arises.
In this Bill we are dealing with new titles and I have been speaking about the burden on office holders. I feel it is more appropriate for me to do it now because I do not carry that burden. I am doing it for the benefit of the people opposite. Perhaps we will get the benefit of it again. I want to say they did very little for our benefit when we were in office. They did quite the contrary. We were obstructed at every hand's turn. Every move towards simplifying the business of this House so as to make is humanly more bearable and, in particular to lighten the load on office holders which his Bill is all about, was resisted as hough it was the Last Trump for denocracy. I remember the day we moved that motion to rationalise Dáil sitting hours. Deputy Lalor spoke. All the big guns spoke. Deputy Haughey spoke. Deputy O'Malley spoke. Deputy Brennan spoke, the present Ceann Comhairle. It was the end of democracy as we knew it that day, because we were to sit on Wednesday mornings instead of sitting late on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
I do not want to say too much about that because I acknowledge this Government have gracefully continued those hours. I do not want to say any more in case I might provoke them into changing their minds. I have to record that the efforts I personally made to do something for office holders in the range open to me were resisted bitterly from the far side when were in Government. I will heap coals on the Minister's head by promising him my personal support— I do not know if it will carry my party, and I do not know how far it will go with the Labour Party, and I do not know how far it will go in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges—if his side want to go further in rationalising Dáil business with a view to reducing the useless footling waste of time sitting around here waiting for votes which may not be taken that evening.
Now that the Minister is back in Government and will get the benefit of it, if he wants to propose that there should be a fixed time for the taking of votes on divisions on Second Stage of Bills, with all due allowance for a Bill which may be urgent, I personally will support in Opposition the same ideas as I supported in Government. There may be other ways in which the Parliamentary side of ministerial life can be made less burdensome and, if the Minister and his colleagues produce reasonable proposals, I certainly will support them and I will show him a solidarity which I did not get from his side when we were in office.
I appreciate the sincerity of the Deputy's offer but I am sure he will understand that a number of people might feel his approach was somewhat coloured by the fact that we have a majority of 20 and there is not a great deal of point in calling divisions in an effort to defeat us suddenly.
We are not discussing hours of sitting or divisions which could be related in a small way to this Bill but not as it is being done now.
What I have been trying to do for the past quarter of an hour or so is to put into perspective the whole question of the ministerial burden which is very much aggravated by the way business is done in this House. We improved the matter to some extent. All I am doing is offering my personal support to the Minister and his side in regard to getting my side to go along with further improvements if such occur to him.
On the point the Minister has just made about divisions, obviously he was never a Whip. It does not matter what his majority is. It gives him a certain leeway, no doubt, in carrying absentees. From my experience as Whip I can tell the Minister that, if you start letting people off unpaired, you will get a chorus from the rest of the Deputies: "Why cannot they go too?" I would not encourage him to suggest that to his Whip. He should keep his troops here, whatever he may feel about the large gap between the two sides.
As the Deputy knows, the Opposition troops have to stay here as well.
That is a matter for us. I used to try to see who was here from the Opposition and I usually had as good an idea as the Opposition Whip. Essentially it is a matter for us. On Committee Stages which cannot be postponed for obvious reasons and on Report Stages the Minister will have to take his chance as we did, and we were never beaten in four-and-a-half years except when we beat ourselves. Although I am interspersing these constructive comments with ones which the Minister may think are not constructive, I seriously mean that, if he would like to cast around in the Dáil procedure to see to what extent the ministerial burden can be lightened by improving it, he will have me as an ally.
I did not realise I was going to say this, but I completely share Deputy FitzGerald's reservations about the wisdom of making this blanket promotion of Parliamentary Secretaries. To a point, an additional three office holders—it will depend entirely on who they are—will not add all that amount of brain power to the Government's input of brain power or all that much energy to their work. I suspect this is what is behind the measure; it will enable the functions to be spread a bit thinner. There seems to be a rather piebald Harlequin set of cars these days and that is all to the good. That parade of Mercedes was a disagreeable vulgar sight. It will enable the Government to put three more well-washed and polished cars on the road. This will certainly take a load off the remaining office holders so far as going to functions is concerned. That is certain and I do not begrudge the Minister that ease. The real way to make this easier for himself is by saying: "No more of them", and taking up an attitude of self-defence.
I do not admire the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not believe in their programme. I think it is a fraud and a sham but they should be given a chance to put it into effect. They should not be battered into the ground by being given an average of five or six hours' sleep a night and only one weekend in every four which is common ministerial experience. They should be given the chance of living as ordinary human beings with an ordinary amount of rest, an ordinary amount of relaxation, an ordinary amount of time to see their families and their friends, and to pursue their hobbies if they have any outside politics. That sort of thing should be as much the entitlement of a Minister as of anybody else.
Those functions are a severe burden, but I want to advert to another function which Minister sometimes accept voluntarily, but which is not necessary. It has nothing to do with the kind of functions I have been talking about. That is, what I would call ministerial skites or trips. Perhaps I should not have used the word "skite". It has another meaning which I do not intend. I should like that word blotted from the record. I do not mean a skite in the sense of a binge. I mean a ministerial trip.
I do not hold this of one party more than another, but I think Ministers, possibly because their whole organisms scream for relief, for just a few days, relief, from the crushing burdens and sequence of work in their Departments, work in this House, constituency work, going to functions, reading scripts, always being on their best behaviour, take the opportunity frequently, and I mean frequently, of going on absolutely indefensible, idiotic, exotic trips around the world. I do not say Fianna Fáil are any worse than we were in that regard, but they are shaping up, and may get worse quickly.
I will give the House an example of the kind of thing I mean. This is an accidental example. I want to emphasise that I produce this example for no other reason than that it came into my post from the GIS yesterday. It concerns the Minister for Defence. I want to ask the House to believe that in no sense do I intend this as an attack on Deputy Molloy. If this debate had taken place next week I would have had another example. If it had taken place the previous week I would have had the example of Deputy Barrett, Minister for the Environment, who was then in Japan, Japan if you please.
On 26th, 27th and 28th October, 1977, according to the GIS, the Minister for Defence was, if you do not mind, at the colloquy on the conservation of the living resources of the seas held in Valetta, Malta, under the auspices of the Council of Europe. There were three sitting days. The Minister for Defence has nothing whatsoever to do with the conservation of the resources of the sea except for patrolling it. He and his Department know as much officially about the conservation of the resources of the sea as the Department of Education.
Please believe I do not mean this as an attack on the Minister for Defence. It is a pure accident that this came out this weekend. These things are out every weekend. This is the most recent one. There is absolutely no excuse or defence in the wide world whatsoever for that attendance. The Minister more nearly apposite would have been the Minister for Fisheries for whom he was standing in. Even his attendance would have been indefensible. At that kind of colloquy held by the Council of Europe, although they invite ministerial participation, I know from experience they do not really expect it. No one would have known or cared if Ireland had been represented there by some political personage other than a Minister or perhaps by no political personage at all but merely by an official. Although I have not done any research on this, I defy the Minister for Defence Deputy Molloy, the Minister for Finance or anybody else to tell me which other Minister for Defence from all the other Council of Europe nations spend three days in the middle of the week plus a day at either end for travelling there and back, in Malta, at a conference on the conservation of the resources of the sea.
The Deputy is straying a long way from the Bill.
This Bill is being sold to the House on the basis that it is to relieve a ministerial burden which is becoming unbearable. The ministerial burden is unbearable, but to some extent Minister are themselves to blame because they are too weak to say no to invitations at home and abroad. I would say that absence was indefensible. Colleagues in the National Coalition Government occasionally used to do the same thing, but it is indefensible. If Deputy Molloy needs a rest, he is entitled to a rest, but he should have that rest by way of not going out every night of the week to functions in his constituency, reading scripts—I do not know what exactly his conditions of life are like; I am only guessing this—and getting three, four or five hours' sleep a night, when a man in his job needs eight or nine hours' sleep a night and needs relaxation above that. Ireland must be unique in respect of this kind of attendance. Did the Minister for Defence of Italy show up in Malta at this conference?
This is not a debate on defence. Would the Deputy get back to the Bill?
Here is a man in what is now, by common consent, an important Ministry, Defence, and he is absent, so far as this hand-out goes, for three days of a conference. As I say, if the Minister wants rest he should have that rest by working reasonable hours and leading a reasonable life, and he should be left to lead it. This is not an attack on Deputy Molloy. I am trying to make a case for him. It is absurd that the only way he can get away from the strain of political life is by hiking off to Malta in the middle of winter. On one of the days of his absence——
Would you get back to the Bill, Deputy Kelly please? We are not dealing with Defence at the moment. You can make reference to ministerial office in passing but certainly not to this extent. You will have an opportunity on the Estimate or something else of dealing with that matter.
I do not want to quarrel with you, Sir, but it is more relevant here. I will finish this point quickly. On Wednesday of that week there was the other script so unremarkable that the Irish people did not notice it, this defence of the Irish workers. What do you think Osservatore Romano or Correire dele sera would have done with it? On that day there were 13 questions down to him for answer in this House. They were dealt with by Deputy Lalor, who is Parliamentary Secretary to him as well as to the Taoiseach, in his usual efficient and courteous way, but the point is that the Deputies who put those questions down could not get an answer from the Minister because he was in Malta and he was in Malta for no good reason.
I do not single Fianna Fáil out in this respect. I was scalded as Whip by what I judged to be unnecessary absences of my Minister and Parliamentary Secretaries, not often but occasionally. We had a very narrow majority, but Fianna Fáil can carry the Minister for Defence, as the Minister for Finance just boasted a few minutes ago, a kind of boast which very often goes before a fall.
I did not boast. I was replying to what the Deputy was saying.
He said it somewhat smugly.
Would Deputy Kelly get back to the Bill? I do not like interrupting him but what we have had for the last ten minutes is not relevant.
That is the burden of what I wanted to say. I have given examples of the inhumanity of what Ministers are expected to do and, irrespective of party allegiance, I do not want to see Fianna Fáil Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries killing themselves any more than I would like to have had fatalities among my own party or Coalition members. The important point is that the people owe it to themselves that when they put Ministers into office through this gruelling democratic policy—and it is gruelling —to see to it that they are let do their job and that they are not left in the situation that they can barely stagger in on Monday morning because they have not succeeded in shaking off the fatigue of the previous week. I am as fond of trips abroad as the next man, and I have had a fair few of them, but to the extent that that kind of absence complicates his work and complicates the work in here because he is not present to answer questions, it is to be deplored. He was not present either, presumably, for the meeting of the Government last Friday morning. For all I know there may have been Government business bearing on the Department of Defence that had to be postponed because he was in Malta talking about the conservation of fisheries and mesh net sizes which do not concern him at all.
By the way, it is not the case that there is a general Minister of State pattern in Europe or outside this country. The expression "Parliamentary Secretary" in its Germanic translation is well known and well understood in Germany. The Parliamentary Secretary there has a function not identical with but comparable with that of Parliamentary Secretary here. There are Parliamentary Secretaries in Britain, too.
Before I sit down I want to protest against this sidar indiadh na nuasal mar a bhimid i gconai, chasing after the English and imitating their modes of doing things. It happens in other contexts which are nearly too shaming to talk about. Would you believe that the very insignia of the Irish Army have been changed over the last number of years in deference to confusions that might arise in Cyprus or in the Lebanon. Irish sergeants when I was a child, used to wear two stripes because of a legend that Sergeant Custume of Athlone had two stripes on his sleeve, but because the English or the Canadian Mounted Police or some outfit of that kind have three chevrons, we must have it too? Would you believe that the national volunteers from which the Minister's party and my party both sprang thought it good enough to indicate an officer's rank by sewing stripes on his shoulder, probably for the homely and aboslutely respectable reason that it was a uniform that could be adapted in the home by his wife—a reason that you would not find a Chinaman apologising for in the days when we are all kowtowing to them and talking, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Kennedy, is about establishing diplomatic relations with them. No modern people that has hauled itself up by its boot straps would apologise for that, but because Irish captains, with their three stripes——
The Deputy is going back to Defence again.
This is all of apiece with the "Minister of State". I suggest to the Minister in all friendship that a more appropriate and a more decent title would be simply "Minister" and that it should be left to others to work out the difference between Deputy Lalor, who sits in the second row, and himself who sits in the first. I suggest also, as my Leader did, that the blanket promotion of seven Parliamentary Secretaries and the abolition of that respectable and long-standing and never-complained-about title is a bad idea and running away from our own tasks and our own roots. I suggest these are respects in which this Bill, which otherwise, to the extent that it relieves ministerial burdens, I take pleasure in supporting, might be amended.
One could say truthfully that Deputy Kelly is at times most entertatining and only an ex-Parliamentary Secretary could have delivered a speech like the one to which we have just listened.
In fact only Deputy Kelly could make such a speech.
There are not enough Deputy Kellys in the House.
Deputy Desmond is in possession.
I welcome the Bill. In the first week or so of the former Government the Taoiseach, Deputy Cosgrave, indicated that it was the intention of the Government to consider the whole concept of Ministers of State and many Deputies on the Government side were in support of that proposal. The proposal was supported by the Tánaiste, Deputy Corish. However, there was a change of mind. A cost factor was involved and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ryan, in true Deputy Sweetman tradition, took a very stringent view about expenditure of that nature. There was, too, another reaction in the early days of the National Coalition that additional ministerial appointments would smack of jobs for the boys and there were people who were reluctant to take appointments as Ministers of State. Inevitably, it was decided not to proceed with the idea. There was a lack of foresight here because at the end of the six months period of Ireland's responsibility for the chairmanship of various Community portfolios I thought at least half a dozen members of the Cabinet were about to suffer imminent heart attacks or drop dead with fatigue. Men who two or three years previously were in the pink of health were in physical tatters. Such were the pressures imposed on them in that six month period in which they made a magnificent contribution on behalf of this State as chairmen of their respective portfolios. That was one period during which we should have had Ministers of State to work for the nation at international level.
Over the years Parliamentary Secretaries have been nothing more than glorified messengers for their Ministers, reasonably paid, equipped with sophisticated and expensive transport in which to carry their messages. Parliamentary Secretaries have a very minor role. I can recall only one, Deputy Frank Cluskey, who made a political input into his Department. What does a Parliamentary Secretary do in the Department of Agriculture? My colleague, Deputy Michael Pat Murphy, had responsibility for Fisheries. Now Deputy Lenihan has responsibility as Minister for Fisheries. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture attends ploughing matches and functions from which the Minister is unavoidably absent. What does the Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Education do? He has responsibility for school transport. He allocates moneys to sporting organisations. He represents the Minister at the occasional opening of an extension to a national school. It is very costly keeping a Parliamentary Secretary on the road these days. His car and driver cost the best part of £20,000 a year. He gets another £2,000 or £3,000 as Parliamentary Secretary. He has a private secretary and a secretariat. That costs another £10,000 or so a year.
What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance do? He looks after the Office of Public Works. His work largely consists of preventing Deputies beating down the door in an effort to get someone a job, a job to which he may not necessarily be entitled. He makes sure that these premises are kept in reasonably good order. He makes sure that places like the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park and the John F. Kennedy Park and various public buildings are kept in good order. He makes sure that the commissioners are happy. Otherwise, he has not very much work to do.
Let us be frank and honest about this. What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach do? He makes contact with the Opposition Whips every Thursday or Friday and has consultations with them on the order of business. His main function is to ensure that business proceeds smoothly. What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs do? He pays an occasional visit to the Council of Europe or helps to form part of the ceremonial escort to President Hillery when diplomats are presenting credentials. He goes to the odd dinner in various embassies or presides over the odd dinner in Iveagh House. Apart from that, he does not do very much more.
What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government do? His sole function related exclusively, as far as I could divine, to planning appeals. These are now the function of An Bord Pleanála. The Parliamentary Secretary is now redundant. Parliamentary Secretaries to the Department of Health and Social Welfare did little except attend occasional prize giving ceremonies in hospitals, shaking hands with some lovely nurses and wishing them well on behalf of the Minister, who was unavoidably absent. As I say, the only Parliamentary Secretary who made an impact and an input was Deputy Cluskey.
What does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce do? Our colleague, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, has responsibility for something called "Consumer Affairs". There are two Bills in regard to consumer affairs which have not yet been enacted. She acts as a carrier pigeon bringing the reports of the National Prices Commission to the Government and back to the Department with Government sanction for the price increases and attending the occasional function, talking about the need for good quality products and the need to ensure that children's pyjamas are not made of inflammable material. Otherwise, what does the Parliamentary Secretary do? Therefore, we come to what I think is a rather odd concept announced by the Taoiseach that he proposes that the present Parliamentary Secretaries will go through this metamorphosis into Ministers of State with not much change in function. That is a singular defect in the Bill.
The Tánaiste made an interesting if not very controversial or illuminating speech in some respects but with nothing very much in it since it lacked a number of essential ingredients to make it essentially a good speech. He did not say what the function of a Minister of State at the Department will be. If the Tánaiste were to say: "There will be a Minister of State with responsibility for law reform in the Department of Justice", I would give three cheers and say that we were getting somewhere with reorganisation of the structures of Government. If he were to say that there would be a Minister of State with omnibus responsibility for the four or five different aspects of child care I would agree. This was something we fought vigorously for in the previous Government and which we eventually got allied to responsibilities of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health. Reluctantly, the Cabinet rather shuffled off this responsibility and it rested there in a sort of no man's land for a couple of years. It has not yet emerged with clear ministerial responsibility. If we had a Minister of State for child care, I would say we were talking business in terms of specific functions which a Minister could perform. We have a minor indication—one is not sure whether it will be a Senator or a Deputy who is "dead safe" in terms of the views of the Taoiseach—that there may be a Minister of State for Northern Ireland or Northern Irish Affairs or for what the GAA president would call "all six occupied counties of Ireland". It seems that responsibility will be allocated to some individual but it is interesting that there is no reference in the Tánaiste's speech to that proposal which has been mooted in the media.
One would have hoped to see some allocation of responsibility in the area of local government. Within two or three months the State will assume responsibility for the administration of some 66 per cent of local government finances. We see the massive workload which falls on the Minister for Health and Social Welfare when he has to sort out health board estimates every year, estimates running into many millions, spending weary hours arguing, as he must, with the Minister for Finance and the health boards as to their precise allocations. If we have similar massive State supervision over the finances of local government as is implied in the abolition of rates, I hope we shall not have a situation where the Minister for Finance would be running around like a duck in thunder every January trying to find out how much he should give in block grants to every local authority. I would hope that a Minister of State with a responsibility for local government finance would be appointed. Because of his extravagant promise in the general election, a promise he gave to everybody irrespective of his rateable valuation, the Minister is now wondering where to get £106 million next January. That is an area where we could have some delegation of responsibility.
Last week in another area of responsibility I accused the Minister for Finance of rowing back. I have a slight hearing defect and was not quite sure at the time what the Minister had said. I pricked up my ears at his comment that the Fianna Fáil Party would, of Course, be tackling inflation. They are still at the question of the 7 per cent and the 5 per cent wage increase. It has not yet dawned on them that it is not on. The Tánaiste went on to say that even Fianna Fáil could not tackle all three together but that all three had to be tackled and that our priority had to be unemployment and inflation but that the manifesto proposals also involved tackling the state of public finances. He went on to say that the beginning in that regard would be made a year after the beginning of our attack on unemployment and inflation. I accused him of rowing back from a particular commitment——
Sorry, but we certainly cannot have an economic debate. The Deputy is straying a long way from the Bill.
I shall come precisely to the point. If one is to appoint a Minister of State one might ask him to start now, since these appointments will be made in January, with this examination of the state of our public finances because while the Tánaiste and the Government may well get away with a few hundred million pounds of additional massive borrowing for the budget of January next, certainly the 1979 budget——
The Deputy is not on the Bill at all.
He has great concern for my problems and those of the Government.
I am making the overall point that the central issue here is the responsibilities devolved on these Ministers. I have mentioned child care, local government, Northern Ireland and our public finances and these responsibilities should be the issues with which we are concerned.
I do not begrudge the cost involved in setting up the Ministers of State. It will probably cost the best part of £150,000 of additional State money to get them going but I want to make a parallel point. If we are spending money of that kind and we have in a Parliamentary democracy a Government which is reforming itself on the Governmental side there is need to make some provision on the Opposition side also so that they can perform their duties. I can speak with a reasonably clear conscience as I think the Minister will agree, because it was he who in the first month or so of the previous regime kicked up holy hell when the Government proposed to allocate about £15,000 I think, to the then Fianna Fáil Opposition. I remember saying to the then Minister for Finance: "Let us stop the nonsense; let us fund the Opposition with a reasonable amount of money" and I actually suggested £25,000. The Government then agreed. It was about the only time that I felt I had any influence on expenditure. These were the early days and after a while they became accustomed to this kind of thing from the back benches and we were all told to hump off. In any event, we succeeded in getting £25,000 for Fianna Fáil. Nobody was more surprised at the time than Deputy Colley and Deputy Lynch. We actually had an amendment to the Bill passed that evening.
The Deputy's recollection of that whole incident is slightly clouded.
It hardly arises on this Bill.
It is relevant in this context.
I am waiting to find out how relevant it is.
We are spending about another £150,000 in the setting up of three new Ministers of State as well as elevating the whole Parliamentary Secretaries' salary scale. We are putting three new cars on the road at about £60,000 per year and simultaneously we have an Opposition which in the performance of its functions is impoverished. It is entirely incongruous to have a situation where a Government in a country which prides itself in having a parliamentary democracy, has an annual allocation to the party in Government of the best part of £1 million a year, and an Opposition with about £50,000 to spend between the two parties. There is no hesitation on the part of the Government to create ten Ministers of State but if I were to ask Deputy Colley for an electric typewriter in my office in Dáil Éireann. I would be told that the Houses of the Oireachtas do not supply electric typewriters. These are the type of contracts one can get in the operation of democracy. If we in Opposition are to ensure that the Government of the day is kept on its toes in more ways than one, then we will have to have reciprocation in terms of expenditure. It is ridiculous that the total State assistance to the Fine Gael Party is about five or six clerk typists, a couple of typewriters and £37,000 and to the Labour Party, two clerk typists and approximately £13,000 while there is no hesitation in spending the best part of £150,000 at the drop of a hat in having Ministers of State. It cuts both ways. Facilities for Deputies in the House are atrocious in the context of the new appointments and the way we are to respond to them.
I welcome the decision of the Government to proceed with the appointments. I view with some scepticism the penultimate paragraph of the Minister's speech where he said that this was part of a great reform on the part of the Fianna Fáil Party. It is not a major reform but a step in a programme of reform which will prove to be very useful but we will have to go much further if we are to reform the structure of Government.
A number of Parliamentary Secretaries in the previous Government were acutely aware of the danger of inability to co-ordinate between the Ministers of State and the 15 members of the Cabinet. Ministers of State should have specific responsibilities. There is the danger that some individuals will go off into the night and proceed to do their own thing without consultation. This very real problem of ensuring that there is no confusion between the two sets of Ministers must be tackled at Cabinet level. For example, will the regular Cabinet papers be given to Ministers of State? To my knowledge, Parliamentary Secretaries had no access to Government papers unless a Minister in his Department showed them to a particular Parliamentary Secretary before locking them in a safe. Will we simply have 15 Ministers of State chasing around the country addressing every dog's dinner with Fianna Fáil speeches about the wonderful manifesto without doing any real work?
I am quite convinced that with limited experience as a Member of this House I could go into any Government Department, look down through the Book of Estimates over the years and pick out major segments of responsibility in each Department that could be allocated to the Ministers of State for the next four years. Unfortunately, most Ministers when initially appointed are quite convinced that they alone can handle the multiplicity of responsibilities in their Departments. Ministers on appointment tend to have a change of personality. It is noticeable in all countries that when power and the trappings of the public service surround a Minister, people are not prepared to tell the truth or to criticise, and the party machines tend to become obsequious towards their Ministers in the hope that if they do not criticise unduly they might get something from the Minister some day. That attitude tends to isolate a Minister and make him impervious to criticism until in the end after a general election he discovers that the public and the party had an entirely different view of his role in Government. I strongly urge the Fianna Fáil Cabinet and the Taoiseach to allocate ruthlessly segments of Departments to Ministers of State in order that they can make a real contribution in Government.
I wish the Minister well in his efforts to reform. I shall have further comments on the Committee Stage of this and other related Bills. Deputy Colley should not regard the planning process within Government Departments with such a degree of isolationist purity. It should be put into perspective. The Deputy has become excessively preoccupied with what I would call the wisdom of Devlin. We now have 25 individuals to formulate policy. Presumably they are there to preside over meetings of their Department and implement that policy in consultation with the executive staffs they employ. Perhaps Devlin did not foresee that kind of development but that is another day's debate.
I welcome this reform in so far as it has come about. I express the regret that the previous Government did not do so when they had the opportunity. We will get value for money, as taxpayers, in the setting up of this new structure of State. I hope their role in Government will be co-ordinated properly by the Taoiseach and that they will consult fully with one another, ensuring that there is no confusion.
I hope, as did my colleague Deputy M. O'Leary, that these Ministers will come into the House, that we can say to them: "You are responsible" and that the fact that the Ministers of the Government may not be present will not mean they will be hiding behind anybody's political skirts, that they will have personal responsibility and that it will be seen to be in operation. I welcome this reform and in no way begrudge the Fianna Fáil Party for having initiated it.
As Deputy Garret FitzGerald said, we welcome this Bill. Perhaps the Government are fortunate in that five years ago when Fianna Fáil were last in office probably they would have had very much more virulent opposition to this Bill than they have now after our four years' experience of the weight of office. Probably they have been concerned too shortly with the affairs of Europe and the vast growth in the amount of international commitments that present-day Government Ministers have to undertake to realise that had they waited a little longer and looked somewhat harder they might have introduced a different Bill.
However, as Deputy Barry Desmond said, it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps I might take up a point he made five minutes before he concluded—the necessity for more support for the Opposition parties. For example, when I received this Bill and was researching it this morning I was seeking an answer, which I have not yet received, to a particular point. I had to go to the Library myself and research this matter because our funds and those we get from the Government do not allow us to employ a sufficient number of research officers, or indeed any research officers, to do so for us.
Section 6 of the Bill reads:
Section 7 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, and sections 8 and 9 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939, are hereby repealed.
I found that sections 8 and 9 of the 1939 Act say that a Parliamentary Secretary who is a Member of the Dáil can go into the Seanad—the words used are: "Will have the right to attend and to be heard...." The position obtains vice versa—a Parliamentary Secretary who is a Member of the Seanad will have the right to attend and be heard in the Dáil. There is no doubt that these two sections of the 1939 Act are being repealed, but I could not find where. I should like reassurance from the Minister that there is some section of some other Act that gives them that right to attend and to be heard here if they are Members of the Seanad and vice versa.
We give it to Ministers of State.
That is probably the position but I just could not lay my hands on it. It must be governed by some other Act. The reason the Leader of our party led off in this debate was that we presumed, in a Bill as important at this—where the restructuring of actual government was being brought forward by the Government—the Taoiseach, as head of that Government, would come into the House, introduce this Bill and justify his decisions for creating these three extra posts and indeed for the changing in name which Deputy Kelly found not to his satisfaction. The Taoiseach should have come in, introduced this Bill and justified to the House and to the country the reasons he considers it necessary to expand. We on this side of the House do not disagree that it is necessary to expand government here at this time. Deputies FitzGerald, Kelly, Barry Desmond and M. O'Leary said, in their contributions, that Deputy Liam Cosgrave. on the day he was appointed Taoiseach referred to the necessity he saw at that stage to do so.
I know that technically the Bill is under the control of the Minister for the Public Service. But that would not dispense the Government from the courtesy to the House and the country of the Taoiseach introducing the Bill in the House and explaining to us exactly why it is necessary at this point to extend the office holders to ten and indeed to change the titles of seven of those office holders. Indeed as Deputy FitzGerald, Deputy Kelly and Deputy M. O'Leary said, the memory is all too fresh in our minds on this side of the House of the physical and mental burden placed on people given the very high honour of serving in an Irish Cabinet. That memory is too fresh for us not to put aside any political temptation there might be to stop what some Members who have not had that experience would interpret as jobs for the boys. There was no hesitation in our putting aside any outside pressures brought to bear on us to oppose this Bill. The burdens of office attendant on a Government Minister are all too fresh in our memories. As Deputy Kelly said, Deputy FitzGerald, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, very modestly described one week in his life. Also as Deputy Kelly said, Deputy Garret FitzGerald has a capacity for work totally unknown to anybody of his or indeed my acquaintance. I have never known a man who could get through so much work. Not alone did he do a lot of work in short periods but he extended the periods and the expectation on other people's parts that we should all follow him down that road. Were all former Ministers to try to imitate the pace set by Deputy FitzGerald in his term of office it would have killed 14 members of that Cabinet and he would have been left in office alone. It is just not possible physically for an ordinary flesh and blood human being to work at the pace he found necessary. Indeed, anybody without his strength and stamina could not have done so.
This pressure probably is something that had been building up in government over the ten or 15 years prior to our assuming office. But, because of our commitment to Europe, it escalated out of all proportion in the past four years. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and their colleagues in Government will find that, of necessity, the workload imposed on them will curtail the amount of attention they will be able to devote to their Departments. Therefore, it is essential and welcome that there should be some method of lightening their workload. The amount of legislation being put through parliament, say, since the last war has increased enormously Ministers' workloads. Certainly in the last four years they trebled compared with the volume experienced before that. I recall seeing a letter written by a constituent to a Member of this House in which he complained about the laws, about the driving laws and the liquor laws. Of course, on reading the letter further it was obvious that part of the problem was that his on-the-spot investigation of the liquor laws was what had caused him a lot of trouble. He went on to say that the wolf at the door had come in and had littered on his kitchen floor and he said he would sell the pups to stay in business. That is an exaggeration but it gives the feeling of an ordinary person faced with many complex laws in order to keep a small business in operation.
The Minister for Finance has many heavy obligations. He has to attend at Luxembourg or Brussels and he also has to attend meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. All of this necessitates much travelling. Anyone who has crossed the Atlantic knows about American "hospitality"—I put that word in inverted commas—and is also well aware of jetlag. They know it is impossible to do a day's work for some time afterwards. On one occasion when I was Minister I was asked by Bord Fáilte to travel to America in order to promote tourism which was then at a low level. I left Ireland on a Saturday morning and returned the following Tuesday week. In the meantime I made 23 speeches, appeared on eight television shows, participated in 15 broadcasts, attended lunches and dinners on every day and shook hands with 3,000 people. I arrived in Dublin on the Tuesday morning, went straight to a Cabinet meeting, attended in this House and received some deputations. Having had only a cup of coffee and a sandwich for lunch, I went to a hotel at 10 p.m. to have a meal. I was just inside the door of the hotel when I met someone who said to me: "Are you just back from America? You certainly have a great life." If that person had only known. I lost a stone and a half in the week I was away from home. At that time I could hardly tell what part of America I had visited. It had got to the stage that one stood up in Toronto and said how nice it was to be in San Francisco. I suppose it is natural one got totally confused.
Ministers wear themselves out on this kind of essential trip on behalf of the country. We must recognise Ministers have to be out of the country reasonably frequently but while taking this into account their first duty is to this House, to answer questions and to take part in the business of the House. The Minister for Finance, next to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, has a very heavy duty in Europe. However, coming close behind—perhaps even ahead of the Minister for Finance—is the Minister for Agriculture. I saw this in the case of Deputy Clinton who was Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in the previous Government. For some reason Ministers of Agriculture in the European Community seem unable to come to conclusions before 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. They talk during the evening and break and they resume their talks at 12 midnight. A little sustenance is served to keep them going and they come to conclusions that to my rather simple point of view were obvious the previous night. Deputy Clinton would then get on a plane and on arrival here would have to face a battery of television cameras and reporters at Dublin Airport. He would then come here and start a normal day's work, including attendance at this House where he introduced Bills and replied to questions. He might then have to go to a dinner that night, an invitation he had probably accepted six or eight weeks beforehand naturally not realising he would be held up in Brussels until 5 a.m. that morning.
A point that members of the Government may not be fully aware of—it was touched on by Deputy O'Leary— is that it is not purely attendance at council meetings that determines the course of events in Europe. In July the Regional Fund was being discussed in Brussels or Luxembourg and the Minister for Finance asked his Parliamentary Secretary to attend. In spite of what the Minister said in his speech, after four years in Europe the term "Parliamentary Secretary" is well known there. It is known to Ministers from other countries and to the officials that it means the junior Minister attached to whatever Department is involved. However, to send the Parliamentary Secretary to attend a meeting of the council, where Ministers for Finance were talking about the Regional Fund, a matter of vital importance to us——
The Deputy is mistaken in the sense that never has a Minister for Finance or any other Minister attended at one of those meetings discussing the budget in Europe from this country or from other countries.
I am talking about the Regional Fund meeting last July.
I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy but business will change very shortly.
When are we resuming on this item?
On a point of order, I thought the order would resume after items Nos. 11 and 12 were dealt with. I do not say they will be finished by 8.30 p.m. but if they are finished will not the order resume?
No. We do not go back to No. 10. We resume according to the Order of Business as announced, with No. 12 and No. 8.
What will be the position if Nos. 12 and 8 are finished within an hour?
Then we will conclude the business for the day as ordered.
We will not resume on this today?
No, not today.
In any event that is a theoretical point that the Chair will not have to decide formally.