Priority Questions

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Seán Fleming

Question:

1. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for the phased repeal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42277/14]

Are the five separate pieces of financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation that are on the Statute Book from 2009 to 2013, which were necessary when introduced, currently justified, and has the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform plans for a phased repeal of this legislation?

The Deputy will be aware that there are two measures that currently underpin public service pay and pensions policy: the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Acts and the Haddington Road agreement. The nature of the financial emergency measures is that the powers granted by the Oireachtas under the legislation are temporary in nature and predicated on the continuing financial emergency in the State. The Haddington Road agreement is due to last for three years from 1 July 2013.

As provided for under section 12 of the FEMPI Act 2013, I am required to annually review the Acts, and a written report of my findings is laid before each House of the Oireachtas. My last review was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 29 June 2014. In that review I concluded that there is still a need to continue to apply the relevant provisions of the legislation controlling the cost of remuneration of public servants and the other measures controlling the cost of the public service pay and pensions bill. It is worth restating that the expenditure proposals as set out in budget 2015 are based, in part, on the reduced public service pay bill, as well as on the revenue accruing from the pension-related deduction and public service pension reduction as provided for under the FEMPI Acts.

As well as the statutory requirement for an annual report to be made by me as Minister on the operation of the Acts, the legislation is maintained under constant review. The Deputy will be aware that the Government has recently accepted my proposal for the deletion of section 2B of the 2013 Act. As the powers provided to me under that Act have not been exercised to date and are not now necessary, I have proposed that they should be deleted from the legislation, and proposals on that matter will be before this House shortly.

The Haddington Road agreement, in the Government's view, sets the parameters for pay policy in the public service for a three-year time horizon. The agreement has enabled a key reduction in public service pay and pensions. The cost reductions and productivity increases - the reform dividend that we discussed on the last occasion - has allowed the Government the scope to recruit additional staff to key front-line services. This demonstrates that the agreement is delivering, that it has achieved its negotiated purpose and that it continues to be of value.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

As the country moves, thankfully, into a more normal pay-setting environment, a change we can already see is under way in the private sector, I believe it is important that I, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, give consideration to how, over the medium term, pay policy needs to develop in the public service to help ensure that overall fiscal targets, including the achievement of a deficit of less than 3% of GDP by the end of 2015, will be met. In addition, the public service unions have indicated their intention, should the State's financial circumstances permit, to lodge a pay claim next year. If such a claim is made, the Government will of course have to consider it in line with the prevailing fiscal position. The legal position concerning the financial emergency legislation, which has underpinned the reductions to date, will also have to be addressed as part of the establishment of more normal pay-setting arrangements in the public service for the future.

When my consideration is more advanced, I will bring proposals to the Government in the first instance. Any proposals to amend the FEMPI Acts will require primary legislation to be brought before the Oireachtas.

The Minister has summarised the current position without giving any reason as to why he is holding the current position. He said he issued his report on 29 June 2014 in respect of the annual review of the need for the FEMPI legislation and he concluded that it is still necessary, but he gave no explanation as to why he believes it is still necessary. The level of the national debt is now decreasing as a percentage of GDP, and I understand that is the principal reason being used in this respect. Given that things are moving in the right direction, it is a reason to say that in the near future the legislation will no longer necessary. I note the Minister said that the Haddington Road agreement runs until 2016. There is almost an implication that when we reach the end of that period there might not be any further need for the FEMPI legislation. However, it might be possible during 2015 for the Minister to consider, similarly to the way in which he cut the Croke Park agreement short by six months, going into negotiations and having a new bilateral discussion with public servants in advance of the agreement's coming to its natural end with a view to advancing developments.

There is merit in what the Deputy is saying. It is necessary to maintain the income stream from the reduction of pay that underpins the 2015 budget, and without the FEMPI legislation that budget would not be robust. I am conscious, and I have said this to the House, that the FEMPI legislation is by its nature an emergency, and that is why I have to make a report to the House. The day will come, thankfully, when it will not be possible to assert that the emergency will be maintained; the emergency will be over. I want to prepare for an orderly unwinding of the FEMPI legislation rather than simply drifting into a situation in which somebody could take a court action and the courts could say that there is demonstrably not an emergency to sustain it. I have indicated that I propose to open negotiation with the public sector unions during the course of 2015 to discuss an orderly wind-down of the FEMPI legislation and to discuss the broader horizon of public sector pay as we go forward.

The Minister said he was concerned about the possibility of a court case, and he wants to be able to demonstrate that there is still an emergency and that the legislation is necessary as of now. His actions in government on budget day demonstrated that there is no financial emergency. It is not possible to reconcile tax cuts for the highest earners in Ireland, as was signalled on budget day and as discussed in Finance Bill that has been going through the House yesterday and today, with a financial emergency. The actions of the Government have shown there is no financial emergency. If there was, the Government could not be giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in Ireland, which is what it is doing in the Finance Bill. The Minister's actions show that he cannot justify his position that there is a financial emergency when the Government is looking after the wealthy and there is talk of the possibility of water subsidies for millionaires in the ether this morning. He has shown that the emergency is over, and he should deal with the legislation.

I thank the Deputy for his warm congratulations on our having solved the existential threat to the Irish people and the economy through the hard work of the Government, supported by the Irish people, in all the hardships they have endured for the past number of years, and for fixing the dreadful mess that had been created. It is a matter to be celebrated that we have made such progress, but we are not out of the woods. That point has been made by both the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and myself. We need to reach the target of a deficit below 3% of GDP next year, and in order to do that, the budgetary arithmetic requires the contribution from the public service through pay reductions that were negotiated and agreed by the public sector unions under the Haddington Road agreement. That will be maintained.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

2. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the implications of his proposal to delete section 2B of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 for the take-home pay of Civil Service and other public sector workers; and his plans for future negotiations with the public sector trade unions. [42275/14]

My question is in a similar vein, although it refers specifically to the Minister's proposal to delete section 2B of the FEMPI Act of 2009. As we all know, this gave him unilateral power to cut the pay of public servants and increase their hours. What is the implication of the repeal of that section for the take-home pay of civil service and public sector workers, and what are his plans for further negotiation with public sector trade unions?

I thank the Deputy for the question. The Government has accepted my proposal to amend the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 by the deletion of section 2B, which was inserted into the Act by section 2 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013. Section 2B provided that existing powers under any other enactment could be exercised to reduce non-basic pay - premium and overtime rates - or increase the working hours of individual public servants. This was a limited contingency measure whose effect was confined to confirming that existing powers to make changes to working time and remuneration rates other than basic pay may be exercised to effect less favourable terms if required to secure necessary savings in the public service pay bill. The provision was regarded as a necessary backstop to enable measures to be taken, in the absence of agreement with employees, to secure the absolutely required savings.

As the Deputy will be aware, rather than acting unilaterally to reduce pay as its predecessor did, the Government chose last year to continue to negotiate with public service unions. As a consequence, we were able to reach an acceptable agreement which provided not only a basis for savings in the public service pay and pensions bill of up to an additional €1 billion in the period to 2016, but a way to address all matters relating to working hours and non-basic pay.

The powers provided under this section did not need to be exercised and were not exercised, and the requirement to have the powers on the Statute Book, in my view, has now passed.

As I said in my reply to Deputy Sean Fleming, I am committed to keeping the emergency legislation under general review, which is important. Because there is such concern among public servants generally and their representatives about this power it is appropriate to delete it, now that it is no longer required.

As regards future negotiations with public service trade unions, I have stated the Government's position is that the Haddington Road agreement will last until 2016. The cost reductions, productivity increases and the reform dividend which allow me to recruit new front-line staff continue. This demonstrates that the agreement is delivering and making a significant contribution to the achievement of the fiscal consolidation target as we work to achieve a deficit below 3% of GDP by 2015.

I welcome the deletion of the measure. At the time it was regarded correctly as a very negative development, not just in terms of the pay and conditions of public service workers but also a real intrusion on the voluntarist system of collective bargaining which had traditionally operated in this jurisdiction. It gave the Minister unilateral powers, which he said he did not use. Of course, he did not have to use them because it was the stick, rather than the carrot, that he used in his dealings with the public sector trade unions. It is very important that the Government now accept that that type of measure, be it an emergency measure or otherwise, was wrong and that it commit to using the traditional form of negotiation and bargaining with the unions.

On the issue of pay recovery, the subject of the second part of my question and the one most immediately in people’s minds, is the Minister saying that, notwithstanding the hoopla about the repeal, public service workers will not see any improvement in their pay packets between now and 2016?

I agree with much of what the Deputy said. I am a strong supporter of free collective bargaining. The problem we faced in recent years was a real threat to the viability of the economy and we were required to make savings across all fronts, all of which were challenging and difficult, not least the very large contribution we required the public service to make, as it consumed one third of the total current budget. Public servants stepped up to the plate and voted to accept the Haddington Road agreement. We must now work towards normalising the relationship between public service employers and public servants in normal dialogue. That will happen as we emerge from the crisis.

On the impact of the repeal of section 2B, clearly, as it was never invoked, its repeal will not have any monetary impact.

The Minister will recall that at the time he did not invoke the provision as he did not have to do so. Public sector workers felt that, while they were nominally around the table for discussions, in fact, they were on the menu. They felt hugely disempowered. The Minister took an onerous power onto himself. It is welcome that the measure will be repealed and removed from the Statute Book and I hope it will never reappear in any incarnation in the future.

There is a difficulty with the issue of pay recovery and I have discussed the matter previously with the Minister. Lower grade public servants and civil servants on lower pay are struggling badly, not unlike others in society and the economy. Whatever is the detail of the repeal of specific mechanisms, the real question for them is when there will be some relief in their pay packets, pockets and households. The Minister is aware that many people who work for the State rely on family income supplement to make ends meet. There is an urgent need to address the matter, starting with the low paid, not with those in the upper echelons, and to set out and agree in a concrete way, rather than in a theoretical way, to the milestones people might expect to see in respect of pay recovery. As the Minister was quick enough to set out milestones for cuts and the damage to people’s income levels, he should set out a positive trajectory in terms of pay recovery.

A number of questions were raised. First, each union voted on the issue. For the first time every single union voted, with the exception of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, to accept the framework.

It was a case of accept it, or else.

That was in stark contrast with the actions of the previous Government. Public servants understood our capacity to maintain public services was under threat unless we all contributed in the way we had set out.

In terms of another section 2B being necessary in the future, I hope it will not. I hope we never again face the type of existential threat to the economy that we faced in steering the ship of State in recent years. Please God, we will never have that level of disaster visited on us again.

I strongly agree with the Deputy in her question on low pay. That is the reason the Government has determined to establish a low pay commission that will apply not only to the private sector but also to the public sector. We want to ensure that not only do we restore full employment in the State, which is our objective – yesterday we saw that the unemployment rate was still very high, but it is now 11% and falling – but also that those who are in work have a liveable wage.

Departmental Bodies Data

Shane Ross

Question:

3. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current net quango count under this Administration; the numbers compared to the previous Government and the net saving to the State, specifically in view of the Government's commitment to quango reform; the number of reductions in quangos due to merger or abolition and the number of newly created State agencies and semi-State bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42427/14]

In view of the Irish Water fiasco which has continued for many weeks and in view of the fact that the Minister has rightly set out new parameters for the appointment of directors to semi-State bodies and State agencies, I wonder if the Government has a new policy or a new attitude towards quangos. The point of the question is to try to elicit whether there are statistics available to show what has happened during the lifetime of the Government in terms of its commitment to reform quangos.

I thank the Deputy for the question. I am pleased to set out the remarkable achievements we have made in three years. There have been two phases to the rationalisation programme for State bodies, involving two separate tranches of rationalisation measures.

As I explained to the House in February when the Deputy last inquired about this matter, the Government made two commitments in 2011 shortly after taking office. The first was to begin immediately implementation of phase one of the rationalisation programme, which involved 48 measures. Each measure had multiple impacts. The second commitment was to review a further 46 measures targeted at broader rationalisation that would constitute phase two. Through implementation of both phases, the Government set two high level targets against which the success of the programme could be measured. As we set out in 2011, the first target was to achieve savings of €20 million for the Exchequer. The second target was to reform this sector of the State system - meaning a less crowded administrative landscape, reduced duplication, greater democratic accountability and clearer lines of responsibility.

In overall terms, the latest assessment by my Department, based on information provided, is that measures involving more than 90% of the bodies we set out to have merged, rationalised or abolished have been completed. That means that there are 169 fewer State bodies than when we took office in 2011, with a further 12 yet to be abolished.

That is a remarkable achievement in three years.

The same analysis shows that Exchequer savings of more than €18 million have been achieved to date, with a further €9 million profiled to come in when the final phase is achieved. That is €27 million in savings to the Exchequer. Of the €18 million already achieved, €15 million is a recurring annual saving accruing, while €3 million is revenue from a once-off property disposal. Of the further €9 million profiled to come in, the Deputy will understand from his own background that, just as in the private sector, some mergers have upfront costs, which is why there is a delay in the additional €9 million coming in.

In addition to these figures, the latest assessment suggests net savings of a further €40 million will accrue annually to the local authority sector on foot of the reform and rationalisation measures that have been taken. There is a lot more detail that I will supply to the Deputy, but it has been a remarkable achievement.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Regarding the rationalisation programme's second key target of reform, as I have mentioned, as a result of the programme there are 169 fewer State bodies today than there were in 2011. A total of 141 bodies have effectively been abolished and moved into existing public service structures, while 51 old bodies have been streamlined into 23 new bodies. In doing this the Government has tackled duplication and streamlined citizen access and accountability.

The Deputy also asks about the newly created bodies. A small number of new bodies have been established in recent years to address urgent matters of concern to the Government such as systematic failings of oversight or a need for new resources to tackle priority issues around job creation and unemployment. For such reasons, the Government has established the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the Credit Union Restructuring Board, Microfinance Ireland, the Insolvency Service of Ireland and the Charities Regulatory Authority. There will also be a new policing authority in the near future. These are critical bodies responding to important issues of value to the State and the citizens. It reinforces the point that State bodies play an important and legitimate part in implementing Government policy and delivering public services. What is essential is that this happen in a structured and coherent manner and that their impact and performance are understood, reviewed and managed. To this end, new provisions will be included in an updated code of practice for the governance of State bodies which will be published later this year and ensure a smarter and more targeted use of State bodies into the future.

Certainly, on the surface it appears as though 169 removals of State bodies mark an improvement. It certainly tells us what an awful state the quangos were in before the Government took office and how they simply had been created willy-nilly. However, when one gets down to assess the figures - I hope I heard the Minister's statement correctly - the savings have been worth €27 million to the Exchequer thus far. That would not keep FÁS going for one week. It is very difficult to know what the equivalent figures are because FÁS has been divided up, but it certainly cost €1 billion per year to run a couple of years ago. Therefore, in the overall context, Members are talking about absolute peanuts. If one is to learn anything from the Irish Water debacle, it is that semi-State bodies and, in particular, State monopolies, are utterly reckless with public money. Does the Minister have further initiatives in mind to ascertain whether other State bodies are indulging in the practices in which Irish Water is indulging? What are his intentions in this regard?

Again, I am proud that there are 169 fewer State bodies than when the Government took office. A total of 141 bodies have been abolished or moved into existing public structures, while 51 old bodies have been streamlined into 23 new bodies. The Government has tackled duplication, streamlined accessibility and accountability and carried out a root and branch analysis. The Deputy will be aware that there will be a demand for new bodies. I have examined the proposals the Deputy has brought to the House during this term and in his own legislation he has proposed the creation of a new broadband commission, a new judicial appointments council, a new public appointments board, a new guardianship board and several more.

I thank the Minister. I could give him a list for the abolition of at least 500 bodies on top of them.

While the number of bodies I would create is less than half a dozen, I would abolish 500. The Minister is absolutely correct and, of course, I do not suggest there is no need for State bodies. I simply make the point that they duplicate one another in various ways. Will the Minister tell Members about his plans for new directors - an issue which is part of the sickness of new bodies - in the first instance? I have not seen them, which may be my fault. Second, he should give a ballpark figure for how much it costs the State to appoint politically appointed directors, political proteges, to these bodies and how much could be saved by not paying them fees at all?

I strongly agree with the Deputy. Some of the most effective instruments of State policy are State bodies such as IDA Ireland which is envied around the world and Enterprise Ireland. Moreover, the work done by the National Roads Authority and all the other parties involved in maintaining the environment such as the Environmental Protection Agency and so on is really valuable. The Deputy has asked a different question about the Government's new proposals for State boards and a separate question has been tabled on this issue. It will be ground-breaking. I have approved guidelines which will be circulated to my Cabinet colleagues and which I hope to bring before the House as soon as I have them signed off.

Will it be this month?

Appointments to State Boards

Seán Fleming

Question:

4. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a legislative basis for the future appointment of members to the boards of State bodies, including commercial and non-commercial semi-State organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42278/14]

On 30 September the Minister issued a press release announcing a revised model for ministerial appointments to State boards. If he is sincere about this, will he provide a legislative basis for the appointments of members to State boards, including commercial and non-commercial semi-State organisations, and not do this merely by way of a press release?

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government recently announced a revised model for ministerial appointments to State boards. In future all appointments to State boards will be advertised openly on the State boards portal, www.stateboards.ie, which, as the Deputy is aware, is operated by the Public Appointments Service, PAS. Officials are preparing overarching guidelines for appointments for approval by the Government, including issues related to diversity. As part of this process, all Departments have been contacted to seek comprehensive details of all State boards under their aegis.

The new arrangements also provide that the www.stateboards.ie website, as well as being the sole portal for the receipt of applications for appointments to State boards, also will contain definitive and current information on statutory boards, vacancies that will arise and so on. This material will be published in the near future. It is being gathered and structured across all Departments. A review of these arrangements will be carried out and completed within 18 months to make sure that once it is up and running, it will be effective. It is not envisaged that legislation will be required. However, if the review of the new arrangements, say in 18 months time, determines that it must be put on a statutory basis for any reason, I do not have a closed mind on that option.

I thank the Minister. I note that he commenced his reply by talking about guidelines, but at its conclusion, he stated he had an open mind on whether it required legislation. He will have this opportunity shortly, as I intend to publish legislation to put his press release and the matters about which he spoke on a guideline basis on a statutory footing. Consequently, I hope he will support the legislation as it goes through the House. One issue I seek to have governed by way of legislation rather than guidelines concerns the prospective chairperson appearing before an Oireachtas committee. This should cover other bodies such as regulators and various people with the title of ombudsman or ombudsperson. I note that later on the same day the Minister and I were last here a few weeks ago, he appointed Mrs. Judith Eve as the new chairperson of the Public Appointments Service. Such persons who will have such a central role in monitoring these appointments should have been brought before an Oireachtas committee in order that the people would know who was the chairperson of the body that would vet every other person. That was a slip-up, as although the Minister may not have been required to do this by legislation, he could have done it as a measure of good faith and demonstrate what he was talking about. He also appointed Mr. Liam Sloyan as lottery regulator on the same day. While I am sure both individuals are excellent and outstanding, they should have been brought before an Oireachtas committee.

On the two appointments mentioned by Deputy, the post of lottery regulator was publicly advertised. I had no hand, act or part in determining it as it was the subject of a public appointments decision in the normal way. The post was advertised, applications were received, applicants were interviewed and so on and the best candidate was nominated. In respect of the chairperson of the PAS, I wanted to appoint somebody with experience in the PAS and, as the Deputy is aware, the person I nominated had broad experience, particularly in Northern Ireland, and served in highly distinguished roles. Anybody familiar with the North will know the name and the work involved. However, the objective in broad terms of the entire review system is to have an open system to get the best people and encourage them. I believe and hope the Deputy will be impressed by the guidelines. They will be mandatory for all State boards and there will be no question of not applying them. The idea will be to reach out to people and encourage them. For example, the issue of gender balance must be addressed and there may be panels of people being encouraged to apply, perhaps for more than one State board. Such persons may outline what their skill sets are and may be considered for a number of State boards. The intention is to have much more openness and much greater transparency in how people are appointed. However, it will be necessary to head-hunt some people for specific jobs. Such persons will need to be encouraged, as the Deputy will be aware from his past experience, to apply for critical positions on State boards.

On the new lottery regulator whom the Minister appointed on the eve of the by-election which was a day on which much publicity would not have been generated, I understand up to that date and pending this appointment, the Minister was the regulator.

As regulator, the Minister handed over to the new man and issued a press release. I totally accept that the Minister was not involved in the selection process, but he did have a role in announcing the appointment.

No, only to state the post had been filled. The role is set out in law under the National Lottery Act 2013.

That is right. Members debated that legislation when the Minister was privatising the lottery licence.

The Deputy was agin the appointment of the regulator, too.

There is another point which I will ask the Minister to consider in his guidelines.

When the Minister issued his statement, he was specific that where there are legislative proposals for separate methods of appointment for different bodies they will not be covered by this. I ask him to take out all of those separate proposals because there is no point in coming in here, a year after they are up and running and appointing to a big board, stating that legislation contained a specific provision on the appointment of a chairperson. We must trawl through that legislation to take those measures out.

I am not prepared to do that because there are specific cases where a bespoke skillset is required by law. The National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2014 sets out such criteria in relation to the NewERA companies.

Will NTMA be exempt from all of this?

No. In the semi-State companies, for example, NewERA is given a role in the appointment because it must devise the skillset to ensure that the best commercial persons operate on commercial semi-State boards. Where the Oireachtas, having debated it, has set a legislative framework for the appointment of individuals, I will not set that aside but this is an overarching structure that will apply to 99.9% of appointments.

Civil Service Reform

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

5. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his decisions with respect to the recommendations for Civil Service reform by the independent panel on strengthening Civil Service accountability and performance and by the Civil Service renewal task force. [42276/14]

My question relates to the publication, One Vision Civil Service: The Civil Service Renewal Plan, which is an interesting document. The process by which it has been produced has also been interesting. I am concerned that it does not pass us all by in the busyness of everything else. First, I wanted the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to set out his initial plans for the implementation of what is contained here and then I have a couple of specifics to tease out with him. As he mentioned gender, let me just say that, although 60% of the 35,000 civil servants are women, only 33% of management grades are filled by women and there is clearly a glass ceiling in the service. It is one of the issues in which I am interested.

I appreciate the Deputy placing a focus on this. We might find an opportunity, perhaps at a committee, to discuss it because this is the culmination of two streams of work.

The Civil Service Renewal Plan, which I launched with the Taoiseach last week, is the product of a year-long engagement involving more than 2,000 staff and stakeholders. It brings together the outcomes of two separate but related streams of work: the work of the independent panel on strengthening Civil Service accountability and performance; and the work of the Civil Service renewal task force, which was a group of civil servants that went around the country talking to civil servants.

The renewal plan, approved by Government, aims to build the capability of the Civil Service so it can meet the needs and expectations of the Government and the public into the future. More than 2,000 staff and stakeholders made formal contributions to the development of the vision "to provide a world-class service to the State and the people of Ireland" and a practical plan with 25 actions will be delivered within the three-year timeline that we have set out.

The four areas of focus are: a unified Civil Service - a breakaway from the silos that have caused problems in the past - managing the Civil Service as a single, unified organisation; a professional Civil Service - maximising performance and potential of all civil servants to do their job effectively; a responsive Civil Service - changing our culture, structure and processes so that they become more agile and more flexible to meet the changing environment; and a more open and accountable Civil Service - continuously learning and upskilling. Details of the plan and the two related documents on staff engagement and background data are available at www.per.gov.ie.

I note the point the Deputy McDonald made about gender, that, while 60% of the Civil Service overall is women, not enough are managers. We have migrated from 25% to 30% at the top, but we should have equality at the top and we need to have mechanisms to do that.

I agree that this needs a considered discussion, if not by way of debate on the floor of the House, certainly at committee. We need to explore all of these matters.

Why did the Minister decide to go for what he calls a "collective responsibility" model rather than, as has been proposed by Professor Rafter and others in the course of their work, a head of Civil Service? I understand Deputy Howlin also envisages an individual spokesperson on behalf of that collective. I am concerned that the immediacy of a person in charge, accountable and answerable gets lost in the Minister's collective model.

In terms of organisational capability, which is crucial, the plan talks about - the language is probably a little unfortunate - "Design and implement a light touch, objective review process". The Minister and I would not be so keen on the term "light touch". Could he shed light on those two specific issues?

On the Professor Kevin Rafter group proposal to have a single head, I spoke to him at length. The group looked at the model in Britain and in other countries, and they changed the model a couple of times. Their recommendation was to have either of two options, the first of which was a designated person involving the set up of a new entity with a new Secretary General who would be the head of the Civil Service. Given the capacity - there is 25,000 civil servants here and 250,000 in the United Kingdom - I wondered whether that would work all that well. The alternative, and probably preferred, recommendation was to have an existing line Secretary General be head of the Civil Service on a part-time basis, which I did not think worked.

My first objective was to have a collective entity because the biggest deficiency, as I have seen looking deeply into it, is the siloing of the Civil Service, that everybody in the Department of Justice and Equality looks at the Department of Justice and Equality and many civil servants go in at a relatively low grade and then migrate, never having moved beyond. It is the same in a lot of line Departments. The first task is to have a much more integrated public service and a collective leadership is a better way of doing that.

I ask that that matter be kept under review. It might well emerge that the Minister is, in fact, correct in that assessment, and if it works, it is fair enough and all is well. However, Deputy Howlin hears my concern. The beauty of having a head of Civil Service is that accountability does not get lost in the collective. I ask that we do not entirely jettison that idea as, perhaps, one for the future.

I note the proposals also contain what is termed "an end-to-end review of the disciplinary code". I am curious that we tease that out. I note it makes recommendations in terms of recruitment to more senior managerial posts within the service. That needs to be considered. I am not a believer in privatising, or importing entirely a private sector ethic into the public sector as a way of reforming it. That is wrong-headed.

Finally, this report does not deal with the issues of reward and pay within the service, but the Minister will appreciate that manners of rewarding staff are inextricably linked in with the culture of any organisation and the morale of those who serve. We need a commission on pay within the civil and public service. It needs to right the wrong where we currently have at the upper ends excessive levels of pay and at the lower levels paltry wages and rewards for staff, but that may be an issue for another day.

There were a lot of detailed questions that I will not have time to answer and we need a better forum than one which provides a minute to answer these questions.

On the first question, I will have an open mind on the leadership. If the other model presents itself in 18 months' time as a better model, I will support that.

The review of the discipline code will happen. It is part of what we need to do to ensure that everybody is optimum. We, first, must give real tasks to staff in the Civil Service so they know what they are supposed to do. One cannot state they are not delivering if they do not have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to deliver and the tools to deliver it, in terms of training and skills.

That brings me to the other point. Deputy McDonald talks about recruitment. We now have opened general recruitment, but most of the recruitment we had been able to do in the recessionary times was of specialists because there are specialist deficiencies in a number of areas. We have established a new economic advisory group, that has been trained in my Department and now gives economic analysis across all Departments. We have looked at better human resource management by bringing in trained human resource specialists, the same as in procurement, on which my colleague, the Minister of State, will answer questions.

Low pay is a real issue. That is why we are establishing a low-pay commission which will look not only at the private sector, but also at the public sector. It will have a broad remit when it is established next year.