This amendment relates to the removal of a member of the governing body. Article 3 (1) of the Schedule states that the governing body, on the recommendation of the Minister, may remove a member of that body but it does not state the grounds or the circumstances for such a removal. There is a need to specify the circumstances under which this removal may take place. It is important that members of the governing body should have a relatively secure tenure of office. They need that so that they can express themselves freely on the council. They should not be in fear or be looking over their shoulders when making statements. Article 3 (1) implies that they can be removed from the governing body at the whim of the Minister. That is unsatisfactory and open to abuse by a vindictive Minister. I am not saying that the present Minister would be a party to abusing that provision but another Minister could do so and remove a person from the council who might otherwise be making an excellent contribution. That is undesirable and the Article should be changed as I have suggested in my amendment. A member should only be removed on the grounds of dereliction of duty. That would be an equitable way of dealing with the membership of the council. If a member is carrying out his duty the Minister should not be able to remove him from office.
National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, Bill, 1980: Committee Stage (Resumed).
As I stated already, I can envisage "dereliction of duty" being a fairly wide term and one that would cover the most normal circumstances for the removal of a person from office. I do not think there will be an inhibition on the freedom of speech of a member because of this. For example, dereliction of duty can mean absence from meetings, as I mentioned earlier. It is my experience on examining records of attendances of certain bodies like this throughout the general service and semi-State bodies that some people do not attend as often as they should. That is a dereliction of duty and, in my opinion, such a person should not hold office on a board. There is also a question of illness. A person may not be capable of assessing his own ability to attend a meeting and for that reason there should be power to remove such a person from office. There may also be the question of a person, even though in a minority, who may be working completely against the interest of the governing body, who is making a nuisance of himself or herself. While I appreciate the Deputy's sentiments with regard to this I do not admit that there is any danger in the provision. The powers in the Schedule should be maintained.
I move amendment No. 71:
In page 11, Article 4 (1), line 9, to delete "five" and substitute "ten".
Article 4 states that an ordinary member of the governing body shall hold office for a period not exceeding five years and my amendment proposes that such a member should be in a position to hold office for a period of ten years but not more. In my view ten years is adequate. Article 4 limits the period of office to one term. A situation could arise where a college or institute might embark on a development plan which would normally take from six to eight years and in those circumstances a member of the governing body who was involved in that plan from the outset should have the opportunity of seeing it through. That cannot be done if his period of service is limited to five years. Realistically, he should be able to look forward to a period on the governing body of ten years ago so that he can actively participate in the decisions of the body and see them brought to fruition. My amendment is reasonable and desirable. Article 4 is narrow in its outlook.
The case made by Deputy Collins is a reasonable one and I ask the Minister to consider it. If the Minister cannot accept the amendment he might consider between now and Report Stage, bringing in his own amendment.
The effect of the amendment would be that all members of the body, except student members, would hold office for ten years.
On a point of explanation, I am proposing that they would have the possibility of serving for two terms, possibly ten years.
Article 4 (1), if the Deputy's amendment is accepted, will read:
An ordinary member of the Governing Body (including the chairman but excluding an ordinary member who is a registered student of the Institute) shall hold office for a period not exceeding ten years.
That would be too long for any member. The only way such a member could be removed would be by bringing the Minister in.
On a point of explanation, that is not correct. Ordinarily, a member is appointed to the governing body for five years. There is nothing to stop any Minister from changing the governing body after five years but I am seeking a provision that a person may be reappointed for a second period of five years. At the moment that cannot be done.
I shall come back to that in a moment but first I want to make my point. I think it is too long a period to ask a person to serve in the first instance for ten years, except student members. In particular we have been talking about the importance of this institute and with regard to technological education it has become almost a cliché at educational gatherings and in educational debate to say that the pace of technological change is so fast that we must be on our guard to give the proper kind of education to enable people to adapt and retrain as quickly as possible. Since 1945 the pace has been so fast that it is surprising that we have been able to maintain our educational sanity. If the pace is fast we must involve people who are aware of the speed of change, who will be able to give advice on how to cope with this without losing our basic, solid hard core of training which enables change to be made. That is one point.
The second point is that when approaching people who by the nature of things, by definition almost, are busy people, people involved in this sphere and many of whom make great sacrifices in order to give service to education and to the country, they will be reluctant to accept if a period of ten years is mentioned, whereas it is quite possible that they will be willing to serve for five years. The third point and the one which is most important is that I am informed that on the reading of article 4 (1) line 9 on page 11 somebody who has been appointed for five years may be reappointed for another five years. So, there is no necessity for the amendment.
On my reading of the First Schedule either the Minister intends to appoint a member for a period not exceeding five years and if that is so, on my reading of article 4 (1) he cannot be appointed for a second period——
That is a not a proper reading of it.
That is my interpretation of it. Obviously, we are not being political here at all. We are trying to have a proper reading of a Bill for clarity's sake. There are no politics here at all. It is a drafting problem. It could mean that the Minister intends to appoint a person for five years and if so there is no provision for reappointment for a further five years. One possible reading of the Bill is that he can only appoint a member for five years. That is paragraph (1). If that is the case, I would reject it. A person should have the possibility of serving for two terms of office, five years and five years. On my reading of the Bill that is not possible. My amendment does not seek to appoint a person for ten years. I think that is undesirable and certainly not my wish, which is to have the reading of the Bill such that the term of office is five years, that a person should initially be appointed for five years but that he should have the opportunity of serving for a period of not more than ten years. In other words he would have the possibility of being reappointed once. If we can get to a clear reading of the Bill I shall be happy about it, but at the moment it does not lend itself to a clear and simple reading and it will be open to misinterpretation.
We have managed to clarify many things in the past couple of minutes. Deputy Collins's intention is now very clear. I am not certain that his amendment would carry out this intention. Equally, I am sure that the Minister's response to Deputy Collins, by meeting one of Deputy Collins's points, does not meet the other one. It is clear to me from my reading of the Bill—and one must read the amendment and the section of the Schedule it proposes to amend in conjunction with other sections of the Schedule—that first under Article 4 (1) of the Schedule, an ordinary member of the governing body shall hold office for a period not exceeding five years, but under section 3 (4)——
That makes it quite clear.
——it is stated that an ordinary member of the governing body whose term of office expires by effluxion of time—that is at the end of the five years—shall be eligible for reappointment. That clears up one point. But there is another point that Deputy Collins has raised and which the Minister himself has adverted to. That is the effect of leaving this provision unamended. The effect of leaving it unamended is to enable the Minister to reappoint people ad infinitum up to the age of 70.
Here I must charge the Minister with inconsistency because he began his reply to Deputy Collins by pointing out the speed of technological change, the need for replacement of personnel so that new insights and so on could be brought to bear on the work of the institute. Yet, he is doing that in a Bill which contains a Schedule which allows him, first, to reappoint every ordinary member of the council indefinitely up to the age of 70 at five-year intervals and which, secondly, allows him to appoint a chairman to the governing body, perhaps at the age of 50, who could hold office without further reappointment for another 20 years. Where is the consistency in this? Would the Minister between now and Report Stage not consider a drafting amendment which would limit the reappointment, at least of ordinary members, to a single further term of five years in order to underline the facts that he himself advanced in his initial response to Deputy Collins about the renewal of knowledge in this area?
I reject the idea of inconsistency. The Minister would be inconsistent only if in fact he reappointed and kept on reappointing up to age 70. There is no inconsistency in the Bill as it is when it says, as Deputy Horgan rightly pointed out, that an ordinary member of the governing body whose term of office expires by effluxion of time shall be eligible for reappointment. If he is 65 and the Minister reappointed him despite the Minister's argument about the speed of technological change, then the Minister would be inconsistent, but he is not inconsistent simply because he has part of a Schedule to the Bill which allows reappointment, as it does under 3 (4), which must have escaped the notice of Deputy Collins. It leaves the Minister open to pick the best person, to leave him five years or ten years, depending on his quality, as a member and to cease reappointing him when the Minister is convinced with the advice available to him that the person is no longer an effective member of the board.
Nothing escapes the attention of the Deputy. The Minister made that comment but the number of amendments the Minister had to put down to the Bill shows that a number of major principles——
From the way the Deputy was talking it is quite clear that he did not remember 3 (4).
——escaped the notice of the Minister to such an extent that I doubt if he ever read the Bill before it came before the House.
Sorry, Deputy, we will dispose of amendment No. 71 at this stage.
The Deputy is bringing in his usual cheap little remarks as he does in the House generally.
We were trying to be helpful and get the Bill through but the Minister is so——
Let us deal with No. 71.
The Deputy keeps us waiting five minutes and does not even apologise. On several occasions he has been complaining in this House about things not coming forward. He keeps the House waiting for five minutes and does not even have the grace to apologise and then he comes along and starts being catty on the Committee Stage of the Bill.
We are dealing with amendment No. 71 and nothing else.
We are consistent. What about the publication of the White Paper?
Deputy Collins and the Minister also will deal with amendment No. 71 and nothing else.
I think the Taoiseach has dealt with the Minister.
The Taoiseach has nothing to do with this.
The objective of my amendment is to ensure that no ordinary member of the council will have a life span on the council of more than ten years. Neither articles 3 (4) nor 4 (1) meet that objective. That is undesirable. I intend to take this matter up on Report Stage. Another aspect which I would like to comment on, which has escaped the Minister's attention is section 5 (3) where it is stated:
The first Governing Body of the Institute shall be appointed... for the period of one year.
There is no provision for serving on the first Governing body because article 4 (1) of the First Schedule says:
An ordinary member of the Governing Body... shall hold office for a period not exceeding five years.
No exception has been made in this article for serving on the first governing body. Am I to understand that a person appointed to the first governing body shall be a member of the next governing body? What special provision is there for the appointment of ordinary members to the first governing body, which is for only one year in view of the wording of article 4 (1) of the First Schedule?
Surely we debated that when we were dealing with the section?
My reading of article 4 (1) is that an ordinary member of the governing body shall hold office for a period not exceeding five years. That is the effect of it so far as there is no special provision for ordinary members who are serving on the first governing body, which can only exist for one year. I am suggesting that we should add, after "not exceeding five years", "except in respect of membership of the first governing body which shall be for a period of one year".
We are only dealing with amendment No. 71 at the moment which proposes the insertion of "ten" instead of "five". Is the Deputy withdrawing that amendment?
I will bring it up on Report Stage. The Minister has not commented on what I have said.
The Minister has made comments and pointed out to the Deputy that somebody who spent five years on it may be appointed for five more years.
And five more years.
We have now disposed of it. We are moving on to amendment No. 72.
What about the technological changes?
There are people who are better able to cope with the pace of technological changes than Deputy Collins.
Our job is to cope with the pace of the Bill at the moment.
The pace of the Bill is being slowed up considerably by this interlude.
I move amendment No. 72:
In page 11, Article 4 (2), line 11, to delete "one" and substitute "two".
This relates to the ordinary member of the governing body who is a student. I do not believe that a student or anybody would contribute much to a governing body in the space of one year. It is far too short a time because a number of discussion papers and a number of reports would come up from committees, which one would expect in the normal course of events to take more than one year. A one-year membership for a student is inadequate. I suggest that a period of two years would be quite suitable for a member of the governing body who is a student. I do not believe that a contribution over a period of one year would be successful. There would be a lot of coming and going for the student in a short period and I do not believe that would be of any great benefit to the council. The student might be quite brilliant and he might want to contribute to the work of the council. He will certainly not be able to do that in the period of one year and I suggest that two years would be a reasonable period.
This is a reasonable amendment although I suspect that it might give rise to problems if, for example, a person who is a student representative in the first year ceases to be a student in the second year and may leave the area or the country in pursuit of employment. I suggest that the Minister might consider extending it to two years subject to the proviso that the person originally chosen as the student representative remains a student for the period he is serving on the council.
Would amendment No. 73 not cover that point?
Could we not take amendment No. 73 with amendment No. 72?
I feel that is the way it should be done but it is not that way in my brief. If we are agreed we can discuss both amendments together.
I can see why the original ruling in relation to amendment No. 73 was made because people can be students for a great number of years in third level institutions. Various devices have been adopted from time to time to reduce the maximum number of years. During the time Deputy Collins and I were in college, students used to be there for donkey's years sometimes running into two figures. I urge the Minister to consider adding something like what is in the amendments.
The provision in the Bill is the most reasonable one because, as the Deputies know, usually a student reaches the presidency of his students' representative council in his final year and the sabbatical year is then available. This is a useful period for student membership because he can dedicate himself to the affairs of students and have the time to put in a reasonable input into the governing body. I do not think that the student organisations would be too keen on having a position blocked for two years and very good material which was available might have to skip a year and not have any opportunity of serving. The actual holders of office on the governing body could be reduced by 50 per cent if the nomination was only every two years. The provisions of the Schedule as they are are the best in all the circumstances. There is no argument that convinces me that we should change that. This is mainly based on pragmatism in that, as I see it this is the way the scheme is operating as of now. The officers change year by year and almost half of the executive changes. They are very jealous of their own prerogatives and each executive and officer board would like to be in a position to nominate their own person for this governing body where they have the facility. The definition of the student who can act on the governing body is that he must be a full-time student of the institute. Deputy Horgan covered the point about the chronic student who used to exist, but life has become too serious for that nowadays. However, at present there are from the Continent of Europe several complaints about the eternal student even from EEC countries where the period for graduation, although in no way tainted with the chronic label can be seven or eight years as a full-time student before getting final qualifications. It is one of the things that we find very hard to understand here. Our students are graduating rather on the young side and the result is that even proper statistics cannot be compiled. Whereas the graduation age can be 25 or 26 on the Continent, many people graduating in the ordinary science, mathematics, and commerce courses in our universities are 21 or 22 at present.
Is the amendment withdrawn?
Yes, but I seek leave to reintroduce it.
Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 74:
In page 11, Article 6 (a) (i), line 25, to delete "nominated" and substitute "elected".
The object of this amendment is to allow members of the governing body to be nominated for a Seanad Éireann election or a Dáil Éireann election or for election to the European Assembly and still retain membership of the governing body. It is extremely unfair and narrow-minded to expect that members of the governing body who probably are very highly qualified and whom we would like to see in Dáil Éireann and continuing as members of the governing body have to resign from the governing body as soon as they are nominated. After all, in the first instance we would like to see them on the governing body and we would also like to see them in this House or the upper House or in the European Parliament. It is unfair in the extreme and reflective of the narrow approach and narrow stance of the Minister to expect people who have been nominated to resign immediately from the governing body. We should be encouraging people to stand for public election and we should encourage highly qualified people, experts in various fields, to stand for election and to become Members of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament. Yet here we have a block being put in their way. A stumbling block exists now in this Bill whereby highly qualified people who wish to stand for public election find that if they are even nominated they will have to give up immediately the place on the governing body of NIHE Limerick and I assume that this applies also to NIHE Dublin. That is intolerable in this modern age of ours when we are all anxious that experts should be nominated for election. Here is a stumbling block being put by this Minister. It is unacceptable to me and to my party.
This is a reasonable amendment. I can see the reason why the power of the schedule is as it is because plainly the Minister would not like to nominate or have nominated to the governing body anybody whose sole aim and objective in relation to the governing body was to use it as a political jumping-off point or platform. But any danger that that might happen could be dealt with very adequately by the other powers available to the Minister under other parts of the schedule. He would be able in minor cases of abuse—I put it in that way—to decline to reappoint the person at the end of five years, and in anything that he might regard as a major case of abuse, there could be two elections in a five-year period if it fell in a particular way. He could exercise his powers to remove the person from the board at short notice.
The only other aspect that occurs to me is that in relation to somebody who is nominated for election. The effect of this part of the schedule as unamended would be to ensure that he could not put on any of his election literature that he was a member of the board of the institute. If he has done a reasonable job on the board of the institute it seems unreasonable and unfair to force him to say "a former member of the board" when he was a member up to the day he handed in his nomination papers. I suggest to the Minister that he look sympathetically at this matter.
It is important that we do not stick our head into the sand over this matter. If a person is good enough to be appointed to a governing body, so be it, he is a member of the governing body. It does not matter if he is described on his literature as a member of the government body or as a former member of the governing body, the stature remains the same. The way the Minister has it is that if he did put it on his election literature it might be unfair. There is nothing unfair about being a member of the governing body. It is something of which one should be proud. One should be quite happy to see it on his literature and I would not have any qualms about that. This is reflecting an extremely narrow minded approach by the Minister.
I want to have a look at the proposed amendment No. 74. It says:
In page 11, Article 6 (a) (i), line 25, to delete "nominated" and substitute "elected".
The section then would read: "is elected as a member of Seanad Éireann or for election to either House of the Oireachtas". I cannot quite understand what the reading is supposed to be. I would like clarification on that before I speak on it.
Perhaps amendment No. 75 would clarify it.
That is further down, line 27. Obviously, therefore, it is: "is elected as a Member of Seanad Eireann or for election".
Obviously he is elected to either House of the Oireachtas or is appointed to be a representative to the European Assembly.
What do we discuss?
A person who is elected to Seanad Eireann or to Dáil Éireann or to the European Assembly would then cease to be a member of the governing body.
Certainly it would not read correctly. Possibly it could be left until Report Stage. Of course it is not the Chair's business.
I will redraft it for Report Stage.
I will comment on it if the Chair thinks I should but it does not make sense.
We can discuss it on the Schedule.
I mean that where a member of the governing body is elected to either House of the Oireachtas or—I do not know about the word "appointed", I think that is wrong drafting also—is elected to be a representative in the Assembly of the European Communities, he shall thereupon cease to be a member of the governing body. That is what is meant.
We understand what is meant. I understand that the Deputy had withdrawn both amendments at this stage.
In view of the misrepresentations in respect of drafting, I reluctantly withdraw the amendments but will reintroduce them on Report Stage.
I wish to know is it the corrected version of the amendment which the Deputy wants to take up on Report Stage?
That will be a matter for the Chair later on.
It does not make sense as it stands.
Will that be allowed?
At this stage the Chair could not give a ruling on that. It depends on the amendment when it comes in. It was debated on Committee and will then arise.
I understand that I can submit a changed amendment.
Generally, yes. There is nothing to stop the Deputy from doing that so long as it is in order for Report Stage.
As far as I know, once I have moved an amendment on Committee Stage I may resubmit it or submit that amendment or an amendment related to it or substantially similar to it on Report Stage.
The Chair has already said that. Subject to all the usual rules of the House.
I think it is an important point.
I move amendment No. 76:
In page 11, Article 6, to delete lines 42 and 43.
This amendment refers to section 6 (b) (2) of the Schedule. I should point out at this stage that if it were accepted, either now or on Report Stage, there would be a necessity for a consequential amendment to 6 (a) (1). In passing, I may say that the point raised by Deputy Collins about the use of the words "appointed to" is important here. If we clarify that, we shall realise that one can become a representative of the Assembly of the European Communities by appointment as well as by election.
Yes, that is correct.
I presume that is the reason why it is there.
Appointment to the Seanad is not covered by the original report. One would want to change the Constitution to do so. That is true.
In relation specifically to my amendment, I stress that a consequential amendment would be necessary if it were accepted.
I raise the area of the propriety of appointing person of a political nature to bodies such as this. In the past it has not been unknown for Governments to appoint serving politicians, as it were, to boards in general, and especially to the boards of educational institutions. If my memory serves me correctly, Mrs. Celia Lynch, for example, was a serving Fianna Fáil TD who was appointed and reappointed on several occasions to the governing body of University College, Dublin and, no doubt, performed excellently as a member of that body. We seem here to be introducing and copper-fastening the idea that if one is elected as a public representative it disqualifies one per se from appointment in certain other areas of public service, even though, as here, they are not remunerative ones. I would be slow to give total support to that proposal.
I am sure the Minister would agree that if one is in politics, it is to secure the widest possible acceptance for one's political point of view. There appears to be no realistic argument against the Government making appointments of a certain kind—when I say of a certain kind, I must stress that it would be open and public and above board—of people who share their political convictions to certain bodies in certain cases. There are, of course, areas in which this would be difficult. As a principle, no politician who believed in the truth and validity of what he was about in this country could tie both his hands behind his back in relation to any appointment that the Government, of which he was a member, might choose to make.
There are two kinds of patronage. There is the backstairs patronage, the job-for-the-boys patronage, the enabling of people to jump queues which they could not otherwise jump, the appointment of people in such a way that it keeps out of jobs people who are better qualified than they are. That is a form of patronage that we, on these benches, find totally reprehensible.
When it comes to appointing, in the public forum, people to public bodies to ensure that the political viewpoint which has elected one as a member of a Government is adequately represented in the institutions of the State, then a fair case can be made for allowing a Government a reasonable amount of freedom in this matter. The Government must stand over their appointment and ultimately face the electorate. That is the sanction on that Government.
I have chosen one particular aspect of this matter for my amendment. I have accepted, for the purposes of argument, that a TD or a Senator should be ineligible for appointment to the governing body of this institution. I am, however, suggesting in the amendment that a member of the European Parliament who is not a TD or a Senator should be eligible for appointment to the governing body. I do so for several reasons. Firstly, it is not, by any means, certain that members of the European Parliament will always be members, in addition to being members either of the Dáil or of the Seanad. The Minister's own Party exacted a pledge from candidates to the European Parliament that, if elected, they would not stand again for election to the Dáil in the forthcoming General Election. For their own good reasons, no doubt, his party are now reconsidering that pledge, but we are, at least, entitled to assume that there were good reasons for exacting the pledge in the first place and that as a result there are good reasons for withdrawing it in current circumstances, and that the correlation between membership of the European Parliament and membership of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas is not necessarily a fixed and definite thing.
The second reason is that, as I have said, there is a tradition of appointing certain politicians to boards, which is not an ignoble tradition provided that they do their work properly and that the appointments are made in a fair and above board fashion. The third reason, which applies with particular force to NIHE Limerick, is that this is a national institute. The possibility for a member of the European Parliament to be a member of a board of a national institution like this is one that should not lightly be tossed out. It would reflect the national character of the institution and indeed—and this is my final reason—might make it possible for that particular institution to have a degree of access to European sources of funds and, indeed, of research and other forms of expertise by a direct link which might prove particularly fruitful. I would, therefore, ask the Minister to support my amendment.
First of all, there is the question of the heavy pressures on representatives, especially European representative and particularly those who have a local mandate, of which I am sure Deputy Horgan is aware. It is something all the political parties have to come to terms with. But the expertise which such representatives in the European Parliament may develop, particularly if they serve on one of the committees involved in education and the technological areas, surely will still be available to the educational institutions of the country by virtue of the fact that a person is representing Ireland and would see it as his or her duty and obligation to put whatever information and expertise they so gathered at the disposal of the Department of Education and of the institutions in the State.
The Deputy made a point about the reason for being in public life and spoke of the legitimate desire of a person to have the widest possible acceptance of a political point of view. I will accept that in general but its relevance to the membership of a governing body of a national institution is not immediately apparent. Where ideology impinges on educational policy, yes, but in the ordinary way I do not see that this would be of any particular advantage in the activities of a governing body. In the widest possible philosophic state of what the Deputy was speaking about, yes, I could see that. But if it came down to the day-to-day political scene in the area it would not be of any great help at all.
I should like to draw the attention of the Deputy and the House to the European Assembly (Irish Representatives) Act of 1979 which deals specifically with the cases of members of the European Assembly. It is far more restrictive than anything I have in this Bill. Members of the European Assembly are disqualified from membership of or employment by a whole list of bodies including the National Council for Education Awards and the Higher Education Authority. When I brought before the House amendments deleting section 9, subsections (6) and (7) I went a long way to meeting some of the points raised on this amendment. I do not think the Deputy would ask me to go any further. I am not prepared to accept this amendment.
The Deputy referred to something which is important, that is, that the member of the European Assembly would have an awareness of areas where funds might be available to a national institute. He touched on a very important point, that it is incumbent on every person in the European Parliament, while not carrying a begging bowl, to keep his or her eyes and ears sharpened to the possibilities of advantage for his or her own country. I am quite sure that the people elected to the European Assembly will do that. Certainly they will receive encouragement from the Government and obviously also from the Opposition for the general welfare of the country.
Amendment No. 76a in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 79 is related and may be discussed with amendment No. 76a.
I move amendment No. 76a:
76a. In page 12, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following Article:
"(1) A member of the Governing Body who has—
(a) any interest in any company or concern with which the Institute proposes to make any contract, or
(b) any interest in any contract which the Institute proposes to make.
shall disclose to the Governing Body the fact of the interest and the nature thereof and shall take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Governing Body relating to the contract, and the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the Governing Body.
(2) A member of the Governing Body who is related to a person who is a candidate for appointment by the Governing Body as an officer or servant of the institute shall disclose to the Governing Body the fact of the relationship and the nature thereof and shall, if the Governing Body so decide, take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Governing Body relating to the appointment, and the disclosure and decision shall be recorded in the minutes of the Governing Body.".
Briefly the effect of this amendment is to bind any member of the governing body to disclose any interest he or she may have in any company, concern or contract with which the institute is involved. Also it seeks to declare any relationship any member to declare any relationship he or she may have to a candidate for appointment to the staff. It seeks to impose an obligation also not to take part in any deliberations or decisions of the governing body in connection with these affairs. In other words, it covers the whole area of declaration of interest and the withdrawal from any activities of the body connected with those interests whether they be interests of relationship or of a material nature.
Earlier today the Minister charged me with incompetence. This amendment is proof of his incompetence in relation to this Bill, I tabled my amendment No. 79 to ensure that there would be no possibility of a member of the governing body using his knowledge for personal advancement within the governing body. I want to make it quite clear that the Minister's amendment was introduced some time after mine had been published. The wording is very similar. Therefore, the Minister has introduced nothing new in his amendment. He was merely being niggardly to the extent that he did not want my amendment to be passed, knowing it to be a proper one and essential for the good of the Bill and of the governing body. I do not know why the Minister should be so narrow-minded as not to want my amendment passed. I am sure he did not have a political reason.
My amendment seeks to ensure that a member of the governing body who has any interest in any company or concern with which the governing body proposes to make any contract, or has any interest in any contract which the governing body proposes to make, must disclose to the governing body the fact of the interest and the nature thereof and shall take no part in any deliberation or decision of the governing body relating to the contract, and that the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the governing body. It is essential that that should be so. We have often heard bandied around allegations that people have used their positions in relation to knowledge or money, gaining from such knowledge, and advance knowledge of government matters, to such an extent that it has caused public disquiet. Therefore it is important that we ensure that this will not be the position of the governing body.
The second part of my amendment reads:
(2) A member of the Governing Body who is related to a person who is a candidate for appointment by the Governing Body as an officer or servant of the Governing Body the fact close to the Government Body the fact of the relationship and the nature thereof and shall, if the Governing Body so decide, take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Governing Body relating to the appointment, and the disclosure and decision shall be recorded in the minutes of the Governing Body.
That is also important.
There is one aspect of my amendment, and of the Minister's too, which should be commented on, I omitted to state any penalty for the failure of disclosure. That is a fault in these two amendments. We are stating what a person should do and shall do when he is a member of a governing body. I was at a loss to know how far I should go in this matter. What is the position of a person who does not disclose his interest or his relationship? If it transpires that a member of a governing body does not declare his interest in a company which might be tendering or has tendered, for a building of an extension to the NHE and he votes on the granting of the contract, what is his position? Is he liable to action in the courts and, if so, by whom? Will it be by the institute or by the Office of the Public Prosecutor? Will a penalty be imposed? Will he be fined? These questions are very important and I would like the Minister to comment on them.
Amendment No. 76a is practically the same as the provision in the National College of Art and Design Act, 1971, which was piloted through both Houses by the present Minister for Defence, Deputy Faulkner. Section 9 of that Act reads:
(1) A member of An Bord who has—
(a) any interest in any company or concern with which An Bord proposes to make any contract, or
(b) any interest in any contract which An Bord proposes to make,
shall disclose to An Bord the fact of the interest and the nature thereof...
The section goes on to deal with the position of a candidate for appointment. In that Act there is also an obligation to disclose.
With regard to Deputy Collins' question if there is a breach of the law of the land, there is no need to stipulate this because there is a series of laws to cover any eventualities with which this section of the new Bill is designed to cope.
I move amendment No. 77:
In page 12, Article 8 (3), to delete "eight" and substitute "ten".
This amendment relates to a quorum of the governing body which in my view is too low—one-third. If 23 members are appointed to the board they have an obligation to attend meetings. By having the quorum as low as eight we are allowing 15 members to absent themselves from the meetings of the council. This is undesirable. It means twice as many members could be absent as are present. I would prefer the quorum to be as high as 12, half the number of ordinary members. I opted for ten because I did not want to make things too difficult. In my view eight is an unacceptably low number.
There is no way anyone can decide what the best quorum is. In this House a quorum is 20 Members, a much lower percentage than is required in the governing body. This is a vexed question and is always subject to debate but a number of matters have to be taken into account.
In a national institute, in this instance situated in the mid-west parts of the country, the board members are appointed nationally. If there is an emergency—a strike or an epidemic and if the quorum is too high, it may not be possible to hold an emergency meeting. The general quorum decided on in bodies of this kind is usually one-third. Ten would be a reasonable quorum for a governing body of 30. Eight should be sufficient to be representative of the views of the governing body and to facilitate the holding of meetings. Normally I would expect attendance to be nearer 100 per cent but it is safe and democratic to choose eight as a quorum in order to cover any eventualities which might arise from time to time.
The Minister referred to the quorum in this House being 20 Members. However, that comparison was not fair because if we rang the division bells the number of people in the precincts of this House would be nearer two-third or three-quarters of full membership, some Members being away on official business or paired because of illness. The Minister will agree that every encouragement must be given to members to attend meetings of the governing body. We disagree on the number constituting a quorum. I consider ten to be a low number and would prefer a quorum of 12. It is important that we bring moral as well as legislative pressures to bear on the institute. Would the Minister consider a higher figure on Report Stage?
With regard to membership of the House, the effective quorum is nearly always very much more than the quorum demanded by Standing Orders. Nevertheless, considering possible eventualities and the possibility of a serious emergency meeting, I must adhere to the quorum as stated in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 78:
In page 13, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following subparagraph:
"(f) may engage such consultants or advisers as it may consider necessary for the performance of its functions and any fees payable to such consultants or advisers shall be paid by the Institute out of moneys at its disposal.".
This deals with the question of the engagement of consultants and advisers and the amendment is introduced after consultation with representatives from the institute. I was satisfied that the institute could have taken action under the general provisions of the Bill but in order to remove any doubts in the minds of the people directly involved I decided it would be better to make this more specific. I urge the House to accept the amendment.
I have no problem in accepting this amendment. I should like to comment on one aspect of the Bill which relates to the facility for lecturing members of the institute to hold private office outside the institute or act as consultants. Will there be any provision in their contract in respect of this? What is the attitude of the Minister and of the institute in relation to private consultancies being undertaken by academic staff of the institute?
Perhaps the House would agree to the amendment.
The First Schedule, as amended, relates to the functions and activities of the governing body. We had a fairly good debate on this matter and a number of amendments, but I am not satisfied with the composition of the First Schedule. I am not happy with the powers given to the Government and the Minister for Education concerning the removal from office of the chairman. It is too open-ended and does not allow for the opinion of the governing body to be stated. This is a weakness in the Bill.
The matter of the appointment and removal of ordinary members of the governing body is also open to criticism. The method of appointment is barely acceptable to me and I would rather see outside interests having direct appointment powers via the Minister. This was discussed on section 5. The aspect of the Bill on which I now wish to comment relates to the removal of ordinary members from the governing body. The Government may, on the recommendation of the Minister for Education, remove ordinary members from the governing body of the institute without any opinion being received from the governing body. There is a very good case for giving the governing body some powers in respect of the removal from office of ordinary members of the council. The powers being given to the Minister and the Government are unnecessary and far too sweeping. I remember discussing this matter in relation to the Bill dealing with the National Council for Educational Awards.
The period for which a member may hold office is not acceptable because it is not clear. The Minister does not seem to be willing to look on this in the long-term context and does not appreciate the necessity to ensure that the article is clear. At present it is not at all clear. The matter of student representation is also open to criticism. A two-year period is essential for any person who is a member of the governing body and a one-year period is far too short to allow for a constructive input.
The whole question of membership of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament has also been discussed. I have stated quite clearly that a person should be entitled to stand for election for public office without having to resign his position as a member of the governing body of the NIHE. We should encourage highly qualified people to stand for public office and it is extremely narrowminded of the Minister to suggest that a person should have to resign immediately he is nominated. I would have called for a division on my amendment but for a minor drafting question. However, I will put this question to a division on Report Stage. It is very important that we try to harness all the energy and brains in this country into public life in the Oireachtas and in the European Parliament.
The Deputy appreciates that we have discussed these matters very fully already.
I am merely stating the importance I attach to this.
The opportunity is now provided to raise matters which have not yet been fully discussed.
I am pleased to note that the chairman and ordinary members of the governing body will receive remuneration. This is correct and proper. It is very difficult to ask a person to incur financial loss because he is a member of a county council or a vocational educational committee. He must attend meetings and give up his time, perhaps causing him loss of income. I am in favour of paying members of the governing body of the NIHE as well as members of county councils and vocational educational committees, if not by way of remuneration then certainly by way of expenses or a stipend of some kind. We must give every encouragement to participation in public life and in this case ensure that membership of the governing body of the NIHE will be attractive. We should ensure that a person will not suffer financially because of his membership of the governing body. I am in favour of this. I am glad the Minister has included remuneration as well as the ordinary allowance for travelling. That is the correct course. However, I am sorry that the quorum is to remain so low.
I am pleased there is provision for a mandatory declaration of interest although I am not too happy that it will be effective enough in that the powers are not specified in relation to penalties for the non-disclosure of interest. I know that there are always the courts but I think failure to disclose one's interest should automatically result in the retirement of the person concerned from the governing body. That should have been included in the Minister's amendment and in my amendment. It is the least we could expect from a person who has failed to disclose his or her interest.
The points made by the Deputy about the amendment regarding membership of the Oireachtas and the European Assembly will be dealt with on Report Stage. I should like to point out that these provisions have been in legislation for some time. I do not think the Deputy has any need to worry about the Government or any powers given to them with regard to this matter. The whole idea of the institute was conceived by a Fianna Fáil administration. It was nearly aborted by the National Coalition.
That is not true.
It has been nursed back to reasonable health by Fianna Fáil. The National Coalition ran from one university to another to try to give respectability to an institution that we considered very respectable in its own right and entitled to stand on its own feet without interference from any outside body. We are giving the institute statutory authority. The Deputy need have no fears with regard to the powers of the Government as incorporated in the Bill—they are not specific to this Government but will apply to Governments in the next 100 years. I want to assure the Deputy and the House that the institute will be nursed, sustained and strengthened until it becomes a technological and commercial university in the south-west of Ireland which will be to the advantage of education generally.
I want categorically to refute the Minister's allegation that the National Coalition Government did anything adverse to the NIHE, Limerick——
They practically strangled it.
That allegation is without foundation and is insulting to former Cabinet Ministers and the former Minister for Education. The National Coalition Government had the highest esteem for and commitment to the development of the NIHE. It ill behoves the Minister to make cheap allegations about the former Minister for Education. The Minister is aware that there is a difference in approach in relation to the granting of awards in the NIHE. It is only in relation to that matter that there was a difference of opinion between the present Minister and his predecessors in office. It is quite wrong for him to make any other assertion.
The Deputy has replied to what was said. Both sides of the House are getting away from the First Schedule.
I am trying to discuss the matter.
Not on this Schedule. I have given both sides an opportunity to talk.
The Chair allowed the Minister to make serious allegations.
I allowed the Deputy to reply to them.
I have not finished my reply. The basic difference in approach relates to the granting of awards. We consider that the comprehensive approach which would allow the institute to go to the NCEA or any of the universities for the granting of awards would be good from the point of view of education and would be of benefit to the institute. This Bill is attempting to strangle the institute because they cannot buy even a box of matches without seeking sanction from the Minister. That is the kind of respect he has for third level institutes.
That is not so.
I wish to remind the Minister and the Deputy that we are dealing with the First Schedule. We have had enough of personalities already on this Bill.
The Minister's approach is a reflection of a narrow mind gone mad.
I move amendment No. 80:
In page 13, Article 4, lines 24 and 25, to delete ", if present, shall preside at all meetings of the Academic Board and".
Article 4 of the Second Schedule provides that the director shall preside at all meetings of the academic board. My amendment seeks to delete that provision because it is unnecessary. I consider the chairman of the academic board should be found among the membership of the academic council. The director has no function in being chairman of the academic council. That council is an important body. It allows the academic staff to discuss matters, to make recommendations to the governing body and to make decisions in certain circumstances about the administration and running of the college. It is an important body but essentially it is a meeting of academics to discuss academic matters. Therefore, it would be a natural development that the chairman of the academic council should be an academic. It should not be the director, who is esentially an administrator. Certainly he should be at meetings, as he is allowed to be ex officio, and he should make his contribution but he should not be chairman. For one reason or another, perhaps because of lack of finance, he might be biased in a decision to be made by the academic council. For that reason and for reasons applicable to academics who love their freedom and jealously guard it, I feel that on an academic council a person to be chairman should be taken from the membership of the academic body.
The Deputy's point is interesting and would have relevance where there is a special breed of administrator. In the United States, for example, in third level institutions the administrators do not have the kind of input into the academic side of the life of the institution as would the president in our universities or institutions. The provision in this Schedule is correct, taking into account the circumstances here. I met an administrator in the US who did not know anything of the history or traditions or of the areas covered by the academic side of the university in which he worked, although he was an excellent administrator. That dichotomy does not suit our circumstances seeing that it is a tradition here to appoint to directorships people who are au fait with the academic scene. It is right that the director as chief officer should preside at the meetings when he is present. It is not necessarily true that it should happen in the national institute when it is already in our universities, but it is a very good precedent, it has been effective and has been shown to be effective over the years. It could be argued that, if the director was opting out to such an extent that he was going to meetings and not presiding or showing an interest in any area of the college's or institution's academic activity, he was neglecting his duty. I feel strongly about this and I am in full support of the section which Deputy Collins wants to amend.
Amendment No. 81 has already been discussed and agreed.
I move amendment No. 81:
In page 13, line 25, to delete "Board" and substitute "Council".
I move amendment No. 82:
In page 13, line 26, to delete "Board" and substitute "Council".
Amendment No. 83 in the name of Deputy Collins and amendment No. 84a in the name of the Minister are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 83:
In page 13, lines 27 and 28, to delete Article 5 and substitute the following:
"5. Every Director shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of section 7 of this Act".
This amendment seeks to improve the Bill. Article 5 states:
Every Director, other than the first Director, shall be appointed, subject to the approval of the Minister, by the Governing Body.
The director should be appointed in accordance with the provision of section 7, which already states:
The Governing Body shall, with the approval of the Minister, from time to time appoint in a whole-time capacity a person to be the chief officer of the Institute and such officer is in this Act referred to as "the Director".
Article 5 is only a repetition of the provisions of section 7 and is completely unnecessary to the working of the Bill.
A very important point of principle is involved in this. If Deputy Collins's amendment were accepted the governing body would have to formally appoint the person who is at present employed as a director in the institute to the position of director. This would be a new appointment. Section 10 of the Bill covers certain aspects of continuity of service, credit for pension purposes and so on for the director and the existing staff and there would be a danger of his losing out. The post of director was filled in 1969 prior to the establishment of a planning board or a governing body. The man who holds that post is director of the ad hoc institute. The form of my amendment will guarantee that he is still covered by section 10. I am sure that Deputy Collins does not mean to deprive the director of the benefit of the protection of section 10 but there is a danger that his amendment would do that. My amendment is to clarify the position with regard to the first director and to eliminate any doubt that after the commencement of the Act the first director of the institute might have a break in service. Very often, if there is a break in service, laws are so constructed, particularly in pension schemes, that it is difficult not to do an injustice to the individual concerned. Two appointments would be involved and we do not want to get involved with regard to pensions, continuity of service and so on.
I have no wish to upset the tenure of office of the present director but some reference to the first director could have been made in section 7 rather than having the repetition of the position in article 5.
I move amendment No. 84:
In page 13, lines 29 and 30, to delete Article 6.
Article 6 reads:
The Governing Body may, with the consent of the Minister, remove the Director from office.
I wish to make that more specific. The governing body as it stands is too free. I would have preferred to see a two-thirds resolution being incorporated in this article. In view of the fact that it is not, I would revoke the article altogether. Perhaps the Minister would consider putting in a two-thirds majority clause in this article.
When we dealt with this before we dealt with the position where the governing body appoints and the governing body can remove with the consent of the Minister. The argument we advanced at that time was that having to have the sanction of the Minister was an added protection for the director. From any point of view—the humanitarian point of view, the efficiency point of view, the disciplinary point of view, the point of view of good administration—the provisions we have in the Bill as of now are the best possible ones.
I move amendment No. 84a:
In page 13, lines 33 and 34, to delete "the person first appointed to be Director" and to substitute "the first Director".
The Second Schedule deals with the position of the director, who has a more muted role than the director of NCEA who has far too free a hand. This approach is preferable to the powers which he has under the NCEA Bill. With the exception of the fact that the director is chairman of the academic council, the Schedule as it stands is acceptable.