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.