CIVIL SERVICE REGULATION (NO. 2) BILL, 1923.—(FROM THE DÁIL.)

Message from the Dáil:—"The Dáil agrees to Amendments Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, made by the Seanad to the Civil Service Regulation (No. 2) Bill, 1923 without amendment and disagrees with Amendments Nos. 1 and 3."

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The question is whether the Seanad will insist on its amendment, No. 1, which is as follows:—

In Section 4 (4) to delete all after the word "if" in line 53 up to and including the word "resolutions" in line 56, and to substitute therefor the words "either of such Houses shall within the next twenty-one days on which either House has sat after such regulation is laid before the Houses, pass a resolution."

I move: "That the Seanad do insist on its amendment." It may be necessary to explain very briefly the object of this amendment. Sub-section (3) of Section 4 provides:

"The Commissioners may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, by special regulation confine any such competitive examination to persons belonging to a specified class or being in a particular employment or possessing some other similar special qualification, and where an examination is so confined only persons possessing such special qualifications shall be admitted thereto."

It empowers the Commissioners to make regulations whereby certain positions in the Civil Service that are normally recruited by open competitive examination shall be reserved for people having particular qualifications or for other reasons. The following sub-section provides that every such regulation shall be laid on the Table of each House, and if both Houses pass a resolution seeking to annul such regulations within twenty-one days, the regulation shall be annulled, but anything done on the authority of that regulation meanwhile shall not be nullified. The effect of the Bill would be that the Dáil might approve of such regulation, and unless the Seanad passes a similar resolution, the resolution of the Dáil shall be null and void. In the same way, the Seanad may pass a resolution, which would count for nothing unless the Dáil pass a similar resolution. I think, so far as the Seanad is concerned, such arrangement means the conferring of responsibility upon it without power, and unless we have power to annul any of these regulations it would be useless placing them on the Table. Naturally in the Dáil, the Minister for Finance, with whose concurrence these regulations will be made, will always have the support of his party, which will be the predominant party, and the chances of the Dáil turning down regulations of that kind will be negligible. The only way to prevent abuses would be to have an independent chamber in which the Government would not always be sure of having a majority.

Now, the Minister puts up a fairly plausible plea, but one which does not cut much ice in defence of the action of the Dáil to refuse to accept this amendment. He says that it may be desirable, and it has been desirable, to reserve certain departments of the Civil Service for the Army, and he seems to be apprehensive that a regulation of that kind might be turned down by the Seanad. What grounds has he for thinking that the Seanad, either now or in the future, would turn down a regulation of that kind? If the Commissioners and the Government of the day thought that some such regulation was necessary, it is unlikely that the Seanad would turn down a regulation giving preference to men who served the country in a military or any other capacity. Mr. Blythe says: "I would say again that there is a danger in allowing ourselves to arrive at a position in which certain special regulations, put forward by the Civil Service Commissioners with the consent of the Minister for Finance, that is to say, with the consent of the Executive Council, and made with the approval of the Dáil, will be annulled by the Seanad."

That, perhaps, is a sound argument if the Government were consistent, but we have in the Bill, to which we gave a Second Reading yesterday, the Firearms (Temporary Provisions) Bill, a provision that the Minister for Home Affairs makes a whole series of regulations governing the issue of firearms and so forth. He does that with the authority of the Executive Council, and the Executive Council is responsible for everything he does. Although the idea of collective responsibility seems to be rather confused, judging by the debate in the Dáil yesterday, the Executive Council is responsible for every one of these regulations. Section 3 of the same Bill provides that either House can by resolution annul any of these regulations. In other words, the Seanad can annul them. In the same way the Ministers and Secretaries Bill, provides in Section 12, that the Executive Council or the President may redistribute the duties of the whole Ministry and generally depart from the arrangement laid down in the Bill. A very important departure may be made, and all such regulations so made are to be laid on the Table of each House, and each House can separately annul such regulations. The Seanad could annul what the Executive Council does. That is the proposal of the Minister, and the same applies in the Enforcement of Law (Temporary Provisions) Bill. It is the same in the Housing Bill, a Bill which is more strictly financial than most Bills not certified as money Bills. The real position is that the Government, as a result of the stand taken in connection with the Civil Service Bill, have at last come to see that it is an absurd arrangement to make a House accept responsibility for annulling regulations, seeing that one House has not the power to do it without the consent of the other. In other words, if one House approves, the other House may disapprove.

I would prefer that these regulations should not be laid on the Table of the House at all, but should only be laid on the Table of the House which can annul them, and make the annulment operative when it takes place. The Minister, I think, has in his mind the position of the Civil Service in England which has grown up as the personal service of the Crown, and for that reason the Treasury there has got very great powers over the lives and destinies of the Civil Servants. They have been modified by time, but the theory is there. The position is different here where we have a written Constitution, and where we are building up a new order. The Minister cannot get away very well from the old order, and he is more or less placing himself in the position of the Crown in Britain, notwithstanding the different regulations which obtain here. There may be regulations made by future Ministers which will not always be desirable for the Civil Service, and consequently for the country. In this delightful country anything may happen, and the Minister commanding a majority in the Dáil under plausible pretext, might give appointments in certain departments of the Civil Service to his own party, under some cleverly devised scheme, and the Dáil would not annul the regulation because the Minister would have a majority there.

Therefore, the only safeguard will be this House, which I hope will be independent in matters of this kind. For that reason I think the amendment should stand. There is no question of Finance in connection with this particular amendment as is argued in regard to a subsequent amendment. I am afraid the Minister has mistaken a certain amount of stubbornness for strength in regard to this matter. He assured me himself that if the amendment we are to discuss next were amended on the Report Stage here he would personally recommend the Dáil to accept this amendment which we are discussing. I had not the opportunity of seeing him or considering the amendment of the next amendment before the Report Stage. The result was it went through. Yet when the Bill comes back to the other House the Minister gets up and proposes that the Dáil do not agree with the Seanad in this amendment. Unless some argument that has not been adduced is adduced, I do not see that the House has any alternative but to re-affirm the action which they took when the Bill was passed on Committee.

I second the motion.

I followed the statement made by Senator O'Farrell, and I was rather struck with some of the references he made. I have, I think, on more than one occasion pointed out here in the Seanad that this question of politics, as so described now in this country, is very much upset by the system of election, namely, Proportional Representation, which we have in this country. I do not think it is at all likely in the years to come that a political party will dominate either one House or the other. I think a fairly good example of that was afforded in the last election, when, while there was one very strong party, that party of itself alone had not the majority of other parties. I take it his case for a Finance Minister in the future making regulations which would tend to draw towards the Civil Service, his own political adherents, is very unlikely, indeed. I do not think it is a good case, and the other instance of a political party in the Dáil having such a strong party behind it that it would back any regulations, is also unsound.

In the other House, many Bills have been introduced, and those Bills, on examination, will be found to have been changed a good deal by the other parties in the House. I do not think it would be fair to say that politics rule there to the extent to which the Senator thinks. The Civil Service is a very important item in the State, and the canvass of regulations by either House, unless they are very innocent, appears to me to be undesirable. The Minister for Finance, being guided by the Civil Service Commissioners, is very unlikely under any circumstances to make regulations which will not be for the benefit of the whole of the Service. His recommendations for these come from those who have a long, varied and more intimate association with that service than even the members of the Dáil or Seanad. I address myself to that speech from that angle, because I myself saw very much and learned a good deal about this Service during the last couple of years, and the impressions abroad regarding the Civil Service are expressions of opinion from people who are not in sufficient association with it to be able to form absolutely a correct judgment on the whole institution. We take a case in which the Seanad would pass a resolution against a particular regulation, or the whole of the regulations. The case that the Senator relies upon was that no notice will be taken of that, and considering the many Bills we have brought up here and amendments inserted in them. I do say it is not a fair exposition of the case to say that those amendments did not get careful consideration in the other House. They were reviewed and in the great majority of cases the Ministers responsible for the Bill have recommended the adoption of all the amendments coming from the Seanad.

There were harmless amendments.

The Senator is in a position to discount those amendments himself. I would be sorry to discount them. In this case the recommendations were in favour of all the amendments put through. Five out of seven were accepted. In these two not accepted there were very special reasons. I have myself very little apprehension that this Seanad would refuse to adopt a regulation which might allow members who had served in the Army from having an examination confined to them. I have no apprehension whatever in regard to that. There may be other cases. I have not had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the officials responsible, but I am satisfied from what I know of the Civil Service Commissioners, that they would not recommend to the Minister for Finance a regulation which would be unsound. I am not saying that they are infallible or that they may not become fallible, but I am satisfied that there is very little likelihood in view of all the circumstances of the case, that you will have a Finance Minister who would make a recommendation or a regulation over which he could not stand honestly. The Senator said this was a delightful country in which anything might happen. I would like to correct him. It is a delightful country in which many things are expected to happen, but seldom happen.

Motion put and declared lost.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The next amendment is as follows:—

In Section 9 (2) to delete all after the word "if" in line 51 up to and including the word "resolutions" in lines 53-54, and to substitute therefor the words "either such House shall within the next twenty-one days on which either House has sat after such regulations are laid before the Houses pass a resolution."

I move: "That the Seanad do insist on its amendment." I will give Senators another opportunity of undoing what they did a couple of weeks ago. This is really similar to the previous motion to all intents and purposes. The President has made a speech which was a very able one, particularly because of its evasions. He really has not dealt with the points that I put up at all, and he was probably wise in not dealing with them. One of his arguments was: "We accepted five of your amendments, and you might at least give way on two." It is really like a man at a fair, who will split the difference with you. If the Seanad is prepared to deal with legislation in that way it is welcome to it, but, at all events, I will give it an opportunity of doing so by moving this motion.

Before the motion is put, could you, Sir, explain to the House exactly what the effect of it is? I, for one, am rather in the dark about it.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

It has not been seconded yet, and I would prefer that you would put that poser to the proposer.

I will second it in order to put that to the proposer.

I am afraid that this is not a compliment to my first speech. I have been trying to explain it, but evidently did not succeed in making my meaning clear.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Is not it practically this, that instead of making these regulations depend upon a vote of both Houses, Senator O'Farrell wishes to give the power to either House to annul? The principle is the same as in the previous motion.

I should like to say that although I voted against the previous motion, and will vote against this, I think there is one point that could have been met in a much better way. I have doubts as to the wisdom of bringing before this House the Civil Service Commissioners' Regulations. That is the reason why I do not support Senator O'Farrell. At the same time, I should like to say, particularly to the President, that as he and the Government do not give us definite powers over the Regulations, it should not put in the Bill that they are to be laid on the Table of this House, because it is not satisfactory to us from any point of view that matters which are not to be regarded as our prerogative or concern should be placed on the Table, with apparent responsibility, without any power over them, and I think that is really a matter which most members of the Seanad feel.

In this case does "laying on the Table of the House" mean that we have to pass a resolution in regard to it?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

If you look at Clause 9 you will see, in sub-section (2): "All regulations made by the Minister under this Section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after they are made, and if both such Houses shall within the next 21 days pass resolutions annulling such regulations, such regulations shall be null and void." In other words, unless both Houses concur in passing a resolution annulling one or more of these regulations, each individual House can do nothing.

Then there is no implied duty on the part of the Seanad that because the regulations are laid on our Table we are called on to pass any resolution in regard to it at all?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

You are not bound to take any notice of it whatever.

That answers my question. I rather understood that Senator O'Farrell meant that we were being given a duty in regard to that.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Oh no, he was complaining that we were not. The point of his complaint was that they were being put on the Table of this House without giving this House any real effective power over them.

I thought his point was that it was implied we were being given power which we were not really given, and as long as it is only confined to laying papers on the Table, and that there is no obligation on us to express any opinion, then we are not given any power unless we choose to assume it.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

And you can only assume it effectively if the other House agrees with you.

We have no duty in regard to it?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

None.

Are we in exactly the same position with regard to these Regulations as the other House?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Yes.

We are placed in the position that regulations are laid on the Tables of both Houses, and we are told that this may be annulled by a resolution, but unless the other House concurs, the regulation cannot be annulled, even although the resolution may seem to annul it. The whole thing was discussed in the Committee Stage, and was explained very fully by the Minister for Finance. Nevertheless, they carried it. Of course, they are justified in salving their consciences by undoing what they did then by explaining to-day why they did it, but every line of it was explained to the House, and it was carried almost unanimously.

There may be certain types of regulations, of which I am inclined to think this is one, which are a matter of executive government, and which does not in the ordinary way come before this House or need not come before this House. I think that the arrangement made in this Bill, as a general rule, will not be satisfactory by which you put Regulations on the Tables of both Houses, and the resolution of one House by itself is null and void in even holding them up.

Motion put and declared lost.