Before the debate adjourned, I spoke of those who did not favour our present co-operative approach to labour relations incorporating partnership agreements and preferred to return to the old days. Later I will talk about decentralisation. The most significant development in this Bill is the creation of the commission for public service appointments and the public appointments service. They have been given clearly defined roles. Appointments will come through the recruitment regulator and the public appointments service as the centralised recruitment body. This will significantly improve the recruitment process in the public sector.
Under current arrangements recruitment to the Civil Service and the Garda Síochána is carried out by the Civil Service Commission, while recruitment to senior posts in local authorities and health boards is through the LAC. This matter featured in the debate earlier this week. I pointed out the difficulties created in the health arena in particular by delays caused by the LAC. We need a more streamlined approach and this Bill will pave the way for such an approach. It will be a matter for the Garda Commissioner and the Secretary General of each Department to decide whether they should apply for a licence allowing them to recruit directly or to continue to use the service of a centralised agency. It is not true to say that all the power has been taken from those who ultimately must supervise the staff.
The labour market has changed beyond recognition in the past ten years. It used to be that someone would take a job and stay as long as possible, perhaps to retirement. This is no longer the case. Most workers consider taking jobs for three to five years. Many young people will outline where they see themselves being in 20 years. They are likely to change roles on a number of occasions in that time. They no longer fear moving from the public to the private sector and back. We must facilitate such change. The old system failed to do so. Up to now the system of recruitment to the public sector has been too centralised. The Bill tackles the problem by allowing public bodies to undertake their own recruitment process. Many people have blamed the LAC in the past. It is time for a change and everybody should support the Bill.
One of the Opposition backbenchers criticised the prison visiting committees. A very practical reason for not sitting on one's local prison visiting committee is the potential danger involved. Being from Cork city, I would not like to serve on a Cork prison visiting committee and I am sure the same would apply to Limerick or elsewhere. The people who criticise that system fail to point out that members of interview boards must drive throughout the country every day of the week to conduct interviews. They may be senior personnel or people who have retired. While they are clocking up the same mileage, I do not hear anybody criticising them. We should not criticise those willing to sit on a prison visiting committee either. Bodies will be required to respond much more quickly to their recruitment needs and they must be facilitated in this regard.
Decentralisation is a crucial issue and many previous speakers have opposed it. While trying not to exaggerate I believe the decentralisation of Departments is the most important initiative since the foundation of the State. People will be able to return to their places of origin and following yesterday's announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, they will also be able to get permission to build a home in a rural area if they so wish. Considerable lip-service has been paid to this concept from many sources over the years, especially from urban-based Deputies. People have been very vocal and positive on the issue of rural regeneration. The Government is now acting on that concept by providing the possibility of a job in one's area and the possibility of building a home there. I hope the support will continue.
The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, was right to announce the decentralisation programme during the budget speech. He pointed out there is a particular Dublin mentality affecting too much of our thinking. Those of us who travel to Dublin get into the rarefied atmosphere up here and even start to think along the same lines at times. After his announcement I read a report that described his programme as the "rape of Dublin", which obviously got the headline. However, a similar process has gone on in reverse to the detriment of every village and town in the country since the practice of centralising the public service and Civil Service was begun after the foundation of the State. People travelled up to Dublin without worrying too much about the locality back home. This has led to the loss of young talented people from rural areas and the consequences have been spelt out for us in recent years. The economic reality kicked in a number of years ago. Facilities such as post offices, creameries, schools, etc., all began to close, mainly because the young people who, in normal circumstances, would have been expected to settle down and raise their families in the area, had to move to Dublin. These people were forced to live in the capital if they wished to work in the Civil Service or the public service.
In the past two to three years, those in Opposition were happy to support the concept of rural renewal and the use of spatial planning, etc. They were satisfied once it remained theoretical and they were able to criticise the Government for not delivering in the part of the country they represent. It is time they realised that those days are over. We have reached the endgame; the talk has stopped and action is being taken. We are now in the practical rather than the theoretical part of the programme and matters are moving forward.
Unfortunately, a few U-turns have been made along the way. I have seen banners in various locations on my journey to Dublin such as, for example, "Cashel is suitable for decentralisation". Deputies were happy to join the local town or village groups which inform us about the greatness of their areas and which lobby for decentralisation. However, some of them are having second thoughts and are finding it difficult to say "Well done" to the Government Deputies in their areas. Most of them find some aspect of the programme with which they can quibble.
Members who lobbied for once-off housing are also trying to backtrack. He is not present in the Chamber, but I was delighted by the fact that Deputy Hayes congratulated the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.