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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Nov 1956

Vol. 46 No. 13

Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I can perhaps best approach explaining the need for this Bill by giving some brief historical material regarding the creation of the Irish Civil Service. Following the transfer of functions the new State found itself in possession of a Civil Service consisting of persons taken over from the old Dáil service and of civil servants transferred from the British Civil Service. Shortly afterwards a statutory basis for the Irish Civil Service was provided by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924.

To a considerable extent the departmental rules, practice and procedure, especially those affecting control and discipline, which had obtained in British Government Departments were carried into their Irish counterparts and, with minor adjustments to meet changing circumstances, these rules have been continued in force up to the present time.

Another statute which has a bearing on Civil Service control is the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924, which was passed shortly before the Ministers and Secretaries Act. Whilst the Civil Service Regulation Act deals almost entirely with recruitment to the Civil Service there is, somewhat strangely, provided in it a single section enabling the Minister for Finance to make regulations for controlling the Civil Service and providing for the classification, remuneration and other conditions of service of all persons employed in the Civil Service.

I might digress at this stage to say that the Civil Service Commissioners Bill, 1956, which is complementary to the present measure and with which I will be dealing later, is designed to replace the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924, and the amending Act of 1926. We think it desirable that the statute dealing solely with recruitment should not impinge on the question of control and the Civil Service Commissioners Bill is drafted on that basis.

The power given by the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924, to make control regulations has, in fact, been used to a limited extent only and, by and large, the rules relating to control and discipline taken over with the transfer of functions have continued to be the major factor in Civil Service control.

The Bill now before the House is designed to set out in statutory form the system of regulation and control of the Civil Service and to give definite statutory backing to that system. The introduction of such statutory provisions will meet a long felt need.

I do not think that at this stage it would be fruitful for me to give a detailed description of the various sections at this stage. These can be better considered at the Committee Stage. I can assure the House, however, that the Bill makes no radical departures and that such changes as are made are of a minor character designed to facilitate administration. The primary purpose of the Bill is to affirm long standing practice and to give an Irish statutory basis for such practice. I accordingly recommend the Bill to the House.

Fearaim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Cé nach bhfuil aon reabhlóid ann, is céim ar aghaidh é maidir le náisiúntacht na tíre. Is amhlaidh go bhfuil na coinníollacha agus na rialacháin fén a glactar daoine isteach sa Stát-Sheirbhís á bhunú faoi Acht an Oireachtais in ionad iad a bheith bunaithe ar chóras iasachta agus is ceart é sin. Teastuíonn uainn iarsmaí an réim a bhí ann sar a cuireadh an Stát seo ar bun a scrios amach. Baineann na rudaí seo go léir le neamhspleáchas na tíre. Is mór an trua ná féadaimis na hiarsmaí eile atá ann, idir teanga agus uile, do chur dínn leis, ach tiocfaidh sé sin diaidh ar ndiaidh le cúnamh Dé. Tá seanfhocal ann a deir gur i ndiaidh a chéile a déantar na caisleáin.

There is not very much that can be said on this Bill. It contains no revolutionary provisions. There is to be no fundamental change in the regulations and conditions governing civil servants. It is more or less an amending Bill which, as the Minister has said, puts on an Irish basis the control and regulation of the Civil Service. There are, however, a few things in it and a few things not in it to which I should like to refer.

When reading through the measure, I just thought of certain members of the Civil Service who had been members of the old Dáil. I think it would be termed the Second Dáil that existed prior to July, 1921. These gave service to the country during that critical time and it can be said that, were it not for the work they carried out and the enthusiasm with which they grappled with the affairs of the time, it would have been difficult to have achieved the freedom of this country. A good many of them got recognition later on and they were taken into the Civil Service. While it must be admitted that on the whole they got equitable treatment, still their position is not as happy as that of other established civil servants, from the point of view of superannuation based on the length of their service. Normally, civil servants will have served 45 years or more when they have reached the age of 65 and such service would entitle them to the maximum pension, on their retiral, of forty-eightieths of their salary, and also to their maximum gratuity, but, in the case of these people to whom I have referred—those people who served in the old Dáil—some of them could never reach the maximum pension because of the length of service they have had. I think that the Minister would be justified in making provision in this measure to meet these cases.

Did the Minister say something?

With respect to the Senator, the arguments he is putting forward are entirely outside the scope of this Bill.

Are they within the scope of the other Bill?

I do not think so, either.

As I mentioned, there are a few features in the measure to which I would like to refer, and there are also a few things which are omitted that I would also like to refer to, and this is an omission, if I may put it like that. If these people's cases will not be considered in connection with this measure, I would like to know in connection with what measuse they could be considered.

I do not think the Senator would like me to answer now. I do not think they would be fit to be included in this measure under any circumstances. Would the Senator like me to help him——

I would be delighted to hear the Minister.

I think the Bill which was passed on the last day the Seanad met was the appropriate measure on which it should have been raised.

This is a question solely of superannuation. It is a question of regulating the terms under which civil servants, established or otherwise, will give service to the State and I hold that the length of service, that the determination of the length of service, is a question of regulation to be considered by the Minister. What I am advocating here is that the service of these people who served under the old Dáil and who were taken into the Civil Service later on, be adjusted so that the possibility would be there of their realising the maximum pension, side by side with their colleagues in the Civil Service. I think that is a matter that comes, or should come, within the framework of this Bill and I would like the Minister to consider it and give us his view on it when he is replying.

I must admit that the Legislature has met the case of these people to a certain extent. In the Superannuation and Pensions Act of 1923, Section 1, sub-section (1), provision is made for the addition of a certain number of years of service, not exceeding five years, for certain classes of civil servants transferred from the service of the Second Dáil to the new Irish Government. These are the people I am referring to and it is a question of the regulation of their length of service. I understand this concession was granted in very few cases and only to those who were in the middle-age category. In some cases I understand as much as three years were added and, in a few cases, five years. I understand also that those in the under 30 years or so class, or even older, got no concession and some few of those remain in the service still and will not qualify for the normal retiring pension, that is, half their salary, because they will fall short of the length of service which is required.

That is the position of those people which I am putting before the Minister and I think it is a matter which should be considered in connection with this measure. I do not want to detain the House too long at this point, but, at the same time, I consider it a very important point and one that deserves the earnest consideration of the Minister.

I notice that in Section 5 we have "every established civil servant shall hold office at the will and pleasure of the Government". I suppose that goes without saying, but at the same time there is an implication in it that the Government can get rid of a civil servant without stating any cause. That is the position as it is and it is apparently the position that will exist. In cases of other servants of the State, it is a rule that they may not have their services dispensed with, except for stated reasons, but there are no stated reasons under Section 5. In other words, any member of the Civil Service, established or not established, can be got rid of by a Government by a stroke of the pen and they need not give any explanation for it. That is the position and we are enacting that here through this measure.

I notice the Minister was congratulated in the other House on having been able to disentangle this measure from the other one which follows and I must confess, when I saw the two of them, and read the two of them, I was under the impression that the provisions of the two of them could be enacted together in one Bill, but of course I may be wrong. I have not the experience of these things that the draftsmen have, so that I have to bow to their superior wisdom and experience.

The points I wish to raise on this Bill are mainly points which can more properly be discussed on Committee Stage, but, as some of them are of a general nature and affect a class of people who are to a large extent not sufficiently vocal to make representations themselves, I think I am entitled to draw attention to them in a general way on Second Reading.

In Section 3 of the Bill, there are provisions made for the suspension of persons from duty and I want the Minister to consider if that suspension should not be limited in some way. This section gives to subordinates too much power over people. I suggest there should be a limitation on the number of days for which a person could be suspended under that section.

Section 7 (a) is one which particularly affects university graduates and that is my reason for referring to the matter at this stage. It provides that a person who is not satisfactory after a probationary period may be dispensed with by the Minister. The reason why I say that it particularly affects university graduates is that there is an exception in the case of a civil servant already holding an established post. Therefore, the great majority of the people who would come under this would be university graduates in the Civil Service on probation.

I am informed—I speak subject to correction—that at the present time the dispensing with the services of such people is a matter for the Government. This Bill substitutes for that the right of a single Minister to suspend. If that is so, I suggest it is a retrograde step. It is giving to a single person power over the lives of others which in the past was at Government level and should be retained at Government level still.

Section 11 deals with widows coming back into the service. It raises controversial points which I will not discuss at this stage of the Bill. I simply want to let the Minister know that there is a very widespread feeling that this section may involve hardship for widows returning to the service, if it is not administered in a very lenient and understanding way. Without going to the extent of moving amendments to the section on Committee Stage, I think that a great many people would be satisfied if the Minister could give an assurance that the powers under this section would be used, as I said, in a lenient and tolerant fashion. He might give an assurance that widows in general would be appointed to their former grade and that it would not be made the rule but rather the exception that a widow applicant for reinstatement would be required to serve a trial period.

Section 11 (d) (II) introduces a new principle which is, I suggest, a bad one, that is, that a Minister in reinstating a window now has the power to put her in a grade lower than her original position. I am informed that this is an innovation. At present the only power the Minister has is to put a widow in the grade in which she was before she left the service, or in an equivalent grade. This section apparently extends the Minister's powers to place her in a lower grade, which seems to be calculated to injure certain people in certain circumstances. Here, again, I think the people affected would be satisfied with an assurance from the Minister that this practice would be reduced to the absolute minimum and that widows would, as far as possible, be restored to their former grade. He might also give us an assurance that, when a widow is restored to a lower grade, she should get priority for promotion for appointment to the grade to which she belonged during her previous service.

Section 12 also seems harsh. I am informed that it involves a new principle, namely, that persons recalled for service should be asked to go through a period of trial. People who would be recalled for service are mainly elderly people who have already been tried in the Civil Service. It seems hard upon them that, before being appointed, they should have to go through any probationary period. If they are the sort of people considered proper to be recalled, the Minister should not go through the farce of recalling them and putting them through a probationary period. If they are good enough to be recalled, the trial period should be dispensed with.

The next point I want to call attention to is the disciplinary powers in Section 15. Here, again, the matters are mainly matters for Committee Stage, but civil servants are not able to put their views ordinarily in the same way as people employed in other walks of life. I think it is a peculiar function of the Legislature to see that public servants get all the care and protection they can. Therefore, I make no excuse for raising this point on Second Reading. Briefly, the grievance that has been put to me by civil servants is that the civil servant is expected to state his case in writing under the section. It is not always easy to make a case in writing and a large number of the lower grades in the Civil Service are not skilled with the pen. This really confines them to one method of making representations when other methods might be far more efficacious.

I suggest that civil servants who wish to appeal from a disciplinary decision should have the right to an interview, either with the Minister or with some other officer. I can speak with considerable experience on this matter, being an examiner in University College for very many years and having sat for many years on selection boards. It is my experience that greater justice is done at an interview or oral examination than by a mere written examination or written test. If that is true of the highly educated university graduate it is at least equally true in regard to people with average education and less experience in writing. I suggest to the Minister that stating the case in writing possibly confines the person to a medium to which he may not be accustomed and in which he may not be very skilled.

I would ask the Minister also to consider the possibility of making some arrangements for civil servants to be represented by their own professional organisation. When a man employed in other types of business gets into trouble with his employers, he is frequently represented by his trade union. The civil servants have an admirable organisation which could possibly put the case of the servant better than he could himself. There are many cases where diplomatic negotiations between people skilled in this type of work, between the heads of the Department and the Civil Service organisation, could possibly unravel the difficulties of a situation and effect a compromise which would be quite impossible if the negotiations were confined to an action at long term range conducted by letters on each side.

The Civil Service staff organisation, I suggest, would not be concerned to oppose or make things difficult for the Minister. It would be concerned in smoothing over difficulties and its co-operation should be sought by the Minister. In industry to-day there is more and more co-operation between employer and employee. The individual employee is represented to an ever-increasing extent by his professional or trade organisation. There is no reason why that should not apply to the Civil Service as well. The Civil Service staff organisations could be of the greatest value to the Minister. Their co-operation in the maintenance of discipline would certainly be of greater value to the community than their hostility or indifference, resulting from their being excluded and kept outside the door.

Finally—it may be a bee in my bonnet, as Chairman of the Statutory Orders Committee of this House—I suggest that the arrangements made under Section 17 should be laid on the Table of the House. These arrangements—the word is "arrangements"— are presumably to be in writing and they affect the livelihood, remuneration and conditions of a large number of people. I suggest that, before they become operative, they should be laid on the Table of the House. Of course, they will come before the Statutory Orders Committee in any case, whether or not they are laid on the Table of the House. However, I suggest that documents of such importance should be laid on the Table of the House before they become operative.

I apologise for taking up the time of the Seanad on the Second Reading with Committee points, but they affect a large number of people and I think I am entitled to some latitude.

In a Bill of this kind, it may be permissible briefly to touch on a disability which affects civil servants in general. I refer to the regulation or convention by which civil servants are not allowed to play an active part in politics. If anybody wants to know the relevance of this to the Bill, I suggest it comes under Section 13—the suspension of civil servants from duty, and so on. The attention of the House might be drawn to this topic for a moment or two.

Sooner or later, I think the Government should make up its mind again, perhaps, on the matter, and sooner or later I think the Parliament should consider it. It is, I think, the English convention that civil servants should not take an active part in politics. It is not the convention in other countries. I understand that in France there is no such convention and that there is a good deal of going and coming into the Civil Service, and out of the Civil Service into the Parliament, and into the Ministries, perhaps, and back again. It seems an open question in a country like this where the pool of intelligent political thinkers is small whether we are not losing a great deal of sensible political thought and action by preventing civil servants from taking part actively in politics. Allowing for the fact that political education is still rather backward in this country, I think we are losing too much by it. It is a fact that a good many of the younger civil servants hold this view and that it is a matter which deserves to be considered.

One could speak at considerable length on this matter: but I simply lay the topic before the Minister and the House. If the Minister would be good enough to give his own view on it at this stage, it would be very illuminating. Perhaps it would be the best if the House so desires, eventually to put down a motion on this topic. I suggest the public mind should be aware of the harm which possibly is being done to politics in this country by a regulation (or convention) of this kind. It would be interesting to know, if the Minister could tell me, whether there is a definite regulation, or if it is merely a convention. I myself find it hard to make a final decision as to whether or not we would be better for a change but on the whole I think we would. A great deal of political thought and action is being lost in this country by the regulation or convention which prevents civil servants from taking an active part in politics.

Section 7 gives power to delegate certain powers to the appropriate authority in certain cases. I should like to mention the question of civil servants employed in the courts. In former times, they were under the authority of the judges. In our State, that has been rather changed and that authority has been taken away from the judges. I suggest that the Minister might perhaps consider in Section 10, which deals with delegation in certain matters of that kind, whether there should not be a power to delegate to the judges the power, which in past times they undoubtedly had, over the court officials. It seems to me that it is a vital thing that the judicial power of the courts should be wholly independent and that, to some extent possibly, that may be affected by the fact that the officials who serve the courts are directly under a Minister and not—as in ancient times they used be and as I understand they still are in England—under the control of the judges who would seem to be the appropriate authority in the case of officials employed in the courts.

It seems to me that this is a very important measure. We in the Seanad have a special responsibility in dealing with a measure which lays down or makes arrangements for the discipline, retirement and re-employment of civil servants. We are, I suggest, the special guardians to see that proper machinery is laid down and that no bias is placed with the State in such machinery.

The most important aspect of the Bill, from my point of view, relates to discipline. I would ask Senators to consider for a moment what would be a desirable machinery for the maintenance of discipline in the Civil Service. I think they would all agree that a proper disciplinary machinery would be a good thing both for the State and for the employees of the State. What should be provided, to my mind, is a certain procedure. I think the first step in any disciplinary machinery should be that the person who gets into trouble should be informed in writing of the nature of his offence and, secondly, that he should be given an opportunity to reply in writing or personally in an oral interview at which he may be accompanied by a colleague or a representative of his organisation. I think that is very important.

Senator O'Brien made some reference to arriving at a compromise. That might not be quite the correct term. I think it is important, in considering disciplinary machinery, that it is not a matter for negotiation between the management and the organisation representing the staff. It is not like the terms and conditions of service as such. It is not a matter of going in there and negotiating a settlement on this dispute with the management which in this case is the State. It is not anything like that. The person in trouble should be allowed to have the assistance of a skilled advocate, representative of his organisation, who could help him out.

I have experience of disciplinary machinery and it is often a fact that the person in trouble is not the best able to put forward his own defence. In some cases, he is probably ashamed; he does not like giving details of his personal difficulties, his family background, which, if they were known to the person at the other side of the table, would be regarded as a mitigation. That is the second step I suggest should be included in any proper machinery for the maintenance of discipline.

The third step, then, is that, following upon the consideration of the reply made by the person charged, he should again be notified in writing of the decision and the proposed punishment. Again, another step, and the important step, is provision for an appeal. When a man has been informed of the proposed punishment, he should have an opportunity of appealing to somebody higher, and again he should be allowed to do so in writing or do so personally and be accompanied by somebody of his own choice, a fellow worker or a representative of his organisation.

I think Senators will agree that such an arrangement would be eminently reasonable and I must press that we have an especial responsibility to see that there should be reasonable machinery for discipline within the Civil Service.

Another important part of the maintenance of discipline is the power to suspend. I suggest that should be exercisable only for grave offences, that it should be exercised for the protection of the State and not as a punishment. Punishment is something different altogether. Even where a person is suspended because of the grave nature of the offence, the ordinary disciplinary machinery which I have suggested should be gone through, namely, he should be notified in writing of his offence and given the opportunity of appearing and of appealing eventually. Suspension is necessary, I suggest, but it should be exercised very cautiously and only in exceptional circumstances. Unless this is clearly understood and provided for, there is a danger that suspension would be used as a punishment. When somebody is guilty of some offence, the immediate reaction is to punish by suspension. I suggest that is quite wrong and it should not be allowed or provided for in the Civil Service.

The Bill also deals with matters other than discipline. One of these is the question of people who have been appointed on probation to particular posts. I was rather surprised to find that if a civil servant is not regarded as satisfactory in a higher post, instead of being reverted to his previous grade, he might indeed be reverted to a grade lower than his previous grade. That seems to me to be quite extraordinary. You can quite well appreciate that when somebody is taking promotion, to get promotion he would have to be regarded as a competent and satisfactory person in his existing grade. However, in some cases you find that a person taking that promotion is unable to bear up to the added responsibility and, in effect, is unsatisfactory and should be reverted. Surely it is only reasonable that he should be reverted to his former grade and not that he should be punished for being unable to take the higher responsibility and be demoted to a grade lower than his previous grade. I think such an arrangement is quite unreasonable.

The Bill also makes provision for the re-employment of widows, women who have been previously employed as civil servants, who have retired on marriage and who, because of widowhood, are looking for re-employment. Such a provision has been in existence in the Civil Service for quite a long time and I think it is a very good provision indeed. It is to be welcomed now, but here we would need to be a little careful also. Senator O'Brien made reference to the fact that these widows coming back into the Civil Service would be employed for a trial period and employment for that trial period might be in a grade lower than that which they previously occupied. I understand there is a tendency to reemploy these people at the lowest possible grade, that they are employed as temporary clerical assistants in many cases.

There are two very obvious objections to that. First of all, of course, the pay of a temporary clerical assistant is so low that it would not enable any widow to provide for herself and what might be a young family. There is also the objection that that widow, when she was originally employed in the Civil Service, might have been occupying a fairly responsible post. A person who has occupied a responsible post might make a very poor temporary clerical assistant. As the employment would be for a trial period and as she might be unsatisfactory as a temporary clerical assistant, that lady might have to go out, even though she might indeed be quite a good executive officer.

A provision which rather puzzles me is that contained in Section 17. I understand the present position is that changes in the wages and salaries of civil servants have to come before the House, that they have to be laid on the Tables of the two Houses. Here, however, provision is being made that the Minister can change them, apparently without having to bring the changes before the Oireachtas. I do not know if my understanding of the position is correct here, but that is certainly what I have read into Section 17. I am not supposing that the Minister—once he gets this Bill through— will run away and start increasing the salaries of civil servants all round the place. I think Senator Commons can be reassured on that point. However, it might be undesirable that for the future a Minister could make arrangements in regard to decreases as well as increases, without laying the changes before the Oireachtas.

Senator Stanford has raised a very interesting point on this measure and I think it is only Senator Stanford would see this point which many of us should have seen on a Bill like this. He has suggested that there is a pool of experience and political thought in the Civil Service and that that should be available also to the community. I may say that, apart from political experience or political thought, it has always seemed a bad set-up to me that in this country the best brains produced each year from the schools seem automatically to go into the Civil Service. That must be a great loss not alone to politics but to trade and commerce in the country.

I have no experience of the French system to which Senator Stanford has drawn attention, but I do not think it would be really desirable or welcome in this country that civil servants as a whole should be able to take an active part in politics, but the present arrangement is quite unreasonable. Surely there should be no difficulty in allowing civil servants up to the medium grade to take an active part in politics. They are citizens of this country; they are allowed to vote, as we know; but it is a loss to the political thought that civil servants as a whole should be debarred from taking their part in politics. To that extent, I would certainly support what Senator Stanford has said. The Minister said in the Dáil that this is a Bill which is really a Committee Bill and I agree with him, but again—I think for the third time—I want to suggest to Senators that we have a special responsibility to examine this measure very carefully to see that we do not have an arrangement which provides an undue bias to the employers—in this case, the State—or the employees, the civil servants of the State.

There are a couple of matters to which I wish to refer. One is the retiring age of civil servants. This Bill provides that, in the main, a civil servant shall retire at the age of 65. I do not think that that is completely desirable. The age limit of 65 may have been decided upon when the expectation of life was shorter than it is to-day.

We would have to get the actuarial tables again.

I think on the whole it is generally agreed that the expectation of life has lengthened. I do not know if that applies to civil servants or not, but, in general, it has lengthened. I would regard 65 as being just like the teenage—as being an awkward age. It is certainly an awkward age at which to start a new career. A man at that age is a little bit too old for launching out on an entirely new career and a little bit too young to settle down in an easy chair with nothing to look forward to. I think, therefore, that while civil servants might have the option of retiring at 65, if they so desire, there should be no compulsion whatever in regard to it if a man feels himself that he is capable of continuing in office for a longer period.

I know that the training and tradition of a civil servant make it difficult for him to undertake anything like business, commerce, agriculture or anything of that kind. He has lived a sheltered life and it is not easy for him to go out into the world and rough it. I say that, notwithstanding the fact that a civil servant is protected by a pension. What I feel about a pension is that, to a great extent, it tends to induce a man to retire into complete idleness. That would be bad not only for the individual himself, but for the community as a whole. In this State, so many people leave the country during their most productive years, so many emigrate and such a large section of our people are in the older age group, that it is desirable that everybody should be contributing their maximum. It is, as I say, difficult for the average civil servant to do that outside of the profession in which he has been trained.

Another matter to which I would like to refer, although I cannot find it mentioned in the Bill, is in regard to promotions in the Civil Service. I may be less well informed than other Senators, but I am not clear as to what is the basis on which promotions are made in the Civil Service or who is the promoting authority. I am not going to dwell upon what has been so ably said in regard to discipline and disciplinary action, but an injustice could occur to an officer if he were to be passed over in regard to promotion and it could be as great an injustice as demotion.

In regard to disciplinary action, I think a civil servant should have the right to have representations made on his behalf by a representative body, or by some authority within the Civil Service skilled in making a case, if there is an obvious injustice in matters of that kind. Since promotion must be on the basis of merit, it is not always easy to define what is an injustice, but there should be skilled advocates in that respect within the Civil Service.

I was surprised to hear it mentioned here that civil servants are not permitted to take part in politics. I believe they have the right to canvass for votes, which is a very important political activity in election times, the most important political activity that could be undertaken by an individual. I believe there is nothing to prevent a civil servant from canvassing votes for a particular individual.

I understand there is.

I would be surprised to hear it. It would be rather difficult to prevent if it were done in a discreet way. In addition, we know that a number of State servants are permitted to be elected as members of local authorities and as members of the Oireachtas, that is to say, school teachers, and officials of local authorities, and there probably are others permitted by law to contest parliamentary and local elections. If that is so, there does not seem to be valid grounds for excluding the general body of civil servants. At the same time, I think it would be highly undesirable if our civil servants were to be divided into two or three groups of rabid politicians who would pursue political discussion and debate and whose administrative acts might be always suspect, by reason of their political affiliations.

The terms in which the Minister put forward this Bill were that this is an effort—and I think a laudable one—to give as it were an Irish legislative basis to regulations governing the Civil Service. The debate we have had so far shows an appreciation by the Seanad of the value of introducing such legislation and the opportunity it affords us of making suggestions, many of them valuable ones, with regard to the improvement of the general arrangements governing the relationship of the employer to the employed within the Civil Service.

The first point I should like to mention is one that has been mentioned by Senator Kissane already, and it struck me, too, that Section 5 demands some clarification or amplification. Section 5 says: "Every established civil servant shall hold office at the will and pleasure of the Government." It may be, as Senator Kissane presumed, that that is a regulation attitude, that the civil servant is only there at the will and pleasure of the Government, but it savours to me of something a little bit too authoritarian, too autocratic and it seems to me that this Bill, in that section, gives a little too much power, unmitigated by any proviso or right of appeal. It seems to imply that the established civil servant is only there at the will of the Government, and can only remain there at the pleasure of the Government. There are in other sections certain modifications of that, but that bold statement ought to be qualified by some such phrase as "save in so far as he holds the office under certain other sections and certain provisions referred to therein."

One might relate to that what Senator O'Brien said about Section 7, the question of security of tenure and the obligation on the employer—the Government, frequently under this Bill —to say why it is no longer their "pleasure" that an established civil servant shall continue to "hold office."

Senator Stanford mentioned the question that has been mentioned too by others—in fact I think I raised it myself on a previous occasion—of permission to civil servants to engage in politics. If I remember correctly the Minister previously answered that question with a great deal of emphasis, saying we did not want the sort of thing that happened in certain other unnamed countries in which you have a reshuffle of the whole Civil Service with a change of Government. He is obviously on sound ground there. We do not want that kind of thing happening, but I am not quite convinced that a larger measure of permission to most of the junior grades of civil servants to engage in politics would bring about the kind of chaotic situation the Minister envisaged. You could have a bar above a certain level to engaging in politics but that would leave most of the minor civil servants much greater latitude for engaging, as they ought to, in the politics, both municipal and national, of the country. Therefore, I would support Senator Stanford and Senator Murphy on that point.

The question of the retirement age was mentioned by Senator Cogan. I should like to hear from the Minister why it is we have these three or four different retirement ages. Civil servants to whom the 1919 Act applies are retired at 60; others retire at 65; and some can be kept on in certain circumstances until they are 70; and the unestablished civil servants can be kept on until they are 75. Others—and there is a whole group of them referred to in sub-section (5) of Section 8—do not have these provisions applied to them at all.

I should like to hear from the Minister how it is there are so many different attitudes towards the retirement age. Senator Cogan implied somewhat jocosely that life in the Civil Service made you unfit for anything else afterwards, and that it was not fair to ask you at 65 to take up a new life. That is true, I am afraid, of all professions. Once you are in them for a time, you find it hard to change. I would agree with Senator Cogan that the retiring age of 65 is rather young, for another reason, that is that you have a large amount of talent, experience and skill in the person and in the minds of the men of 65, who are being compulsorily retired now. It would be of great benefit to the country if those qualities were to be retained.

I have no patience with the attitude that those senior men "ought to get out" in order to make way for younger men. I should be inclined to judge it more on whether or not they are giving efficient service to the community, and I think in the big majority of cases men of 65 in senior positions or in any position in the Civil Service are giving perhaps their maximum service to the country in those years; and I believe consequently that we are setting the retiral age a little too young. Senator Cogan suggested something good when he suggested that civil servants might be given the option of retiring at 65 but should not be compulsorily retired.

I should also like to ask the Minister why it is that in sub-section (4) of Section 8, paragraph (c), it is stated that the retiring age for non-established civil servants may be raised as high as 75. I am not quite sure why it is thought that the unestablished civil servant is efficient at his job at 75 but the established civil servant is burned out at the age of 70. I wonder what is behind that? Is it that the salary of the unestablished man is so niggardly that he is kept on because of the pension that implies, or is there some other reason why the unestablished civil servant is a better man at 70 than the established civil servant? I do not quite see how that is arrived at.

Sub-section (5) of that same section gives you the list of people to whom sub-sections (1), (2), (3) and (4) do not apply. I am sure there is a good reason for that. Probably other legislation governs those people, but I note that all these people, to whom these sub-sections do not apply, are connected with the legal profession. They are all lawyers: Master of the High Court, Taxing Master, County Registrar, and so on. I should like to have some clarification from the Minister as to why it is that they are excepted. I am prepared to be told that the conditions for them are in fact similar under other legislation but if so I think we should be told that. My curiosity has been aroused by sub-section (6) which refers to other legislation, to the Act of 1859, and we are told that it does not apply. We can, of course, look that up for ourselves but I would be curious to know what the relevance of that is.

The final point I want to make, and in my opinion the most important one, is in relation to Section 10 which in the first sub-section says:—

"Women holding positions in the Civil Service, other than positions which are declared excepted positions under sub-section (2) of this section are required to retire on marriage."

I am aware that in many Acts we include that principle, and I think it is a bad one. I have said so before in this Seanad, and I wish now to say so again. In this Bill we have a section demanding that women retire on marriage. That seems to me to be a primitive and obscurantist view of the role that a married woman can play in society, and I even go so far as to say that it seems to me to be repugnant to the Constitution, which in Article 40, says:—

"All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law."

It is true that, in other parts of the Constitution, there is a reference to the special position of women, but it does not seem to me that there is any legitimate Article in the Constitution which permits the Legislature to act in this way against married women.

Article 41 says:

"In particular the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved."

That is all perfectly true but it does not give power to the Legislature to insist that married women shall play their part in the State exclusively in the home. Article 41 also states:

"The State shall therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

Here it refers to "mothers", not to married women. There are childless married women, but it points out, not that mothers must be kept in the home but shall not be "obliged by economic necessity" to leave the home in order to earn a living. Again, in Article 45 sub-section 4, paragraph 3, it is stated:

"The State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength."

The emphasis is on the refusal of the State to allow men or women to be forced "by economic necessity" to do certain things, and I suggest that this section of the Bill forces women, whether they like it or not, to leave particular types of work when they marry. I regard that as deeply retrogressive and I believe that married women who are born equal and free citizens of this country should not be forced to leave their posts in the Civil Service or elsewhere on marriage. I agree that it is a good thing to ensure, where we can, that women should not be forced through economic necessity to work, but, if they so desire, I believe they should be free to do so, and should not be forced to retire on marriage. I think the country suffers a continuing loss by reason of the fact that women teachers, doctors, dentists, health officers, lawyers, civil servants and so on are deprived of their rights of continuing to serve in their positions if they want to, by such a section as Section 10. This is a free democratic country, and indeed an attempt is now being made to guarantee equal status for every citizen and we have a Bill coming before the Seanad soon, a Bill to get equality of status for married women and here we have a Bill which is refusing equality of status with men to married women, refusing the equal right of free choice in their way of life after they are married.

I would go further and say I sympathise with what Professor O'Brien said about the question of the readmission of widows to the Civil Service, but I should like to see women not compulsorily retired on marriage, but married women who had voluntarily retired given an equal chance with widows to re-enter the State service, if they so desired. A woman could leave the Service on marriage, bring up a family of children, and then desire to re-enter the Service at a later stage in her married life, no matter what her position in the Civil Service was. I should welcome a change in those provisions which would make for a more equal status for married women in the Service and a better utilisation of the married woman's skill, competence, knowledge, and training for the service of the community.

I listened with great interest to the remarks of Senator Stanford, and while I will not go as far as saying that I followed them the whole way, at the same time, the remarks he made on that very interesting aspect of the Civil Service have brought to my mind yet another instance where successive Irish Governments have slavishly followed the British practice.

The instance I would like to direct the attention of the House and the Minister to is the refusal to allow or permit direct contact between civil servants in their capacity as experts and parliamentarians. It so happens from time to time that parliamentary committee of one kind or another put forward certain administrative or legislative schemes and these proposals go to the Minister who, in turn, refers them to what is loosely termed a committee of experts—in other words, civil servants who are experts in these particular matters. At a later stage, these experts report to the Minister and finally their report may fall into the hands of the parliamentary committee, but the whole interchange of ideas, so to speak, between the parliamentarians, on the one hand, and the experts, on the other, is done by correspondence with the Minister acting as a kind of glorified post-box.

This is a British system. It is a system that exists in no other country in the world, except in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom uses as an excuse for adopting this system that it is part of their constitution. I am informed on reliable legal authority that that is a pure fiction. There is no constitutional difficulty about it there. There are certainly no constitutional difficulties about it in this country, but when one has inquired on a couple of occasions where an instance of this nature came to my knowledge and where I have had to sit on a joint committee of parliamentarians and governmental experts and there has been no governmental experts present from the Irish Republic, I have been given the answer that we have adopted the British system.

I can see no excuse for it. I think a great deal is to be learned by direct contact on matters of a legal nature between governmental experts and parliamentarians. We parliamentarians do not claim to be experts. We are not necessarily experts. Our professions as parliamentarians make us perhaps a little bit of Jacks-of-all trades and some of us may be experts in a particular field, but that field is necessarily limited and we do lose, I think, through not being able from time to time to have direct contact with governmental experts. It is only for that reason that I rise to draw the attention of the House and the Minister to this aspect in regard to which there is no legal or constitutional difficulties. The system has merely been adapted from the British.

I am aware of certain groups of civil servants engaged in the prison service. There may be others in different categories throughout the country whom I do not know. These men served in the Defence Forces during the emergency and, consequently, on entering the Civil Service afterwards, they had exceeded the maximum age that would entitle them to qualify for a full pension on reaching the retiring age. I would respectfully ask the Minister to insert a clause in this Bill to enable those persons to be given credit for the years they served in the Defence Forces when their pensions are being assessed. In other words, if that servant had 4 or 5 years in the Defence Forces, such service would be added on to the years he served in the Civil Service.

Section 5 is a section the wording of which ought to be changed. The implication is that any civil servant can enjoy his position at the will and pleasure of the Government. I think the Minister should arrange to have a tribunal or some other body besides the Government to decide whether the civil servant shall continue to be a civil servant or not.

Then there is the other question of civil servants being allowed to take part in politics or in local affairs. I know a number of civil servants who would be ideal men on certain public boards, but they are not allowed to show themselves. I cannot agree with Senator Cogan that these civil servants are entitled to go out and canvass. I have seen the opposite taking place. I want to draw a distinction between executive officers and ordinary civil servants. There are a number of well educated young men holding Civil Service jobs in public authorities and it is rather hard that they are not permitted to utilise their talents in the interests of the community. We will have to have some amendment of these sections on Committee Stage. I think that Section 5 is obnoxious so far as the wording of it is concerned.

As I indicated, when introducing the Bill, this is largely a Committee Bill and it will fall to the lot of the House on Committee Stage to discuss in more detail many of the points raised. I think I would be only lengthening unduly and wearying the Seanad were I to refer to them to-day, since it will perhaps be necessary to refer to them again on Committee Stage. Therefore, I propose only to deal with a few general matters.

Senator Hickey, the last speaker, referred to a matter mentioned by other Senators earlier—the question of politics in the Civil Service. I made it quite clear before that so far as I was concerned I was against politics in the Civil Service. I thought the inevitable result of introducing political civil servants would be eventually to tend towards the American system. Even if it was introduced for the lower grades, it would lead towards the spoils system. Sooner or later that would be bound to happen.

All political organisations in the country boast, and rightly so, that people in every walk of life can be elected to their executives. If we were to permit civil servants to take an active part in politics, it would be open to them to sit on the political executives of the various political Parties. They would not be restrained and it would be wrong to restrain them if one permitted them to take an active part in politics. I cannot see my own Party, Fine Gael, the Fianna Fáil Party, the Labour Party, the Clann na Talmhan Party or any other Party being satisfled to have serving under them, even in a junior post, a person on the executive of the opposing political Party of the day, a person who would be able to see the confidential files passing to and fro between the Minister and his Department.

If we allowed civil servants to take a part in politics, there would come at a later stage a claim that if they were going to take part in politics, they could be changed with Government of the and whatever the Government of the day, it would have round it civil servants of a type it would know were loyal to its policy. I think the choice is whether we are going to have a permanent Civil Service or a political Civil Service. I personally will always plump for the permanent Civil Service.

Senator Hickey also raised the question of the tenure of office of established civil servants. I hope the Senator will not be offended if I say that he is living in a balloon since we all know that the feeling outside is that civil servants have far greater security of tenure than people in any other employment. We all know that is the general impression. It is right that nothing must fetter the responsibility and discretion of a Government. Under the Constitution, the Government must be supreme. We all know that the practice is such that we need not have any worry about the exact wording of Section 5.

Senator Kissane in opening the discussion and Senator O'Keeffe later from another angle, referred to the desirability of providing additional added years for pension purposes under this Bill. That would not be appropriate to this Bill. The Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923, and the Superannuation Act, 1936, are the Acts which would deal with such a problem and which, in fact, dealt with it in the manner there indicated. I must, therefore, reiterate what I said to Senator Kissane across the House that the questions he raised on that issue are not relevant to the terms of this Bill and would not come within the scope of its Long Title.

Senator O'Brien raised the point in relation to the readmission of widows. He also objected to the probation period. There may be cases in which there might be considerable doubt as to whether a widow, because of the length of time that had elapsed since she was previously working, would be qualified to take up the job again. I think it is far better for her that she should have the opportunity of coming in on probation than that she should be excluded. If there were not the safeguard of probation, the tendency would be and the danger might be that she would not be taken back at all because of the length of time that had elapsed since she retired on marriage.

I am afraid I cannot agree with Senator Murphy that a charge should always be put in writing. Senator O'Brien made the case that it was not always feasible for the civil servant concerned to deal with his representations in writing. Take, for example, a job going on out in the middle of a bog. You could not possibly expect a ganger to sit down there and then and write out the charge if, for example, he had seen one of the people in that gang hit another fellow in the gang with a shovel. He would obviously tell him to get out, without putting it down. But, in all the cases that are dealt with in the ordinary way in headquarters—and, as the Senator knows, a written charge is made—you must base what occurred and what might unfortunately occur on reasonableness. In this Bill, there is a provision by virtue of which the suspending authority is nominated in a way that was not there before and which will undoubtedly require the Minister concerned to make a most specific decision as to who and what class of persons are qualified to be nominating authorities.

I should be wrong if I allowed Senator O'Brien to remain under the impression that the arrangements visualised in Section 17 will be Tabled. They will not come before either House of the Oireachtas. They are the confidential instruments that must obviously pass between the Department of Finance, on the one hand, and the outside Departments, on the other hand. I should be wrong if I allowed him to think otherwise. The section has been most specifically framed in that way so as to make it clear that confidential circulars passing from the Department of Finance to other Departments are involved.

Many of the persons named as being excluded from the terms of this Bill in relation to age limits, and so on, are named in specific statutes. We can deal with the exact details more easily on the Committee Stage.

Senator Cogan stated that the expectation of life had grown and that therefore the age limit should be extended. Senator Sheehy Skeffington inquired why there was a different age limit for established and unestablished civil servants. I do not think we should change the age limit of 65 in relation to established civil servants. The reason why we have the higher age limit of 75 for unestablished civil servants is that unestablished civil servants do not qualify for pensions and accordingly, particularly in cases of national service, it is desirable to retain them for a longer period in order to make up for the fact that they do not qualify for a pension.

Senator Cogan also referred to the question of promotion and asked on what basis it is made. There are most specific arrangements in relation to it. Promotion must be of the person best qualified and most suitable for the position, and nothing else can supervene or should supervene. The appropriate authority—the Minister—must make his selection on that basis and, where there is any delegation of authority from the Department of Finance, it must be certified by the outside Department that the person concerned has been selected on that basis.

I do not think there are any other general matters to which I should refer now. As I said, many detailed matters were raised with which we shall deal on the Committee Stage.

May I just say a few words in relation to the question of suspension of civil servants from duty? There is the gravest danger to civil servants that, if you so restrict the power of suspension by providing suspension only for the very gravest offences, you may, in fact, as a result, force us to deal very seriously with a civil servant when we do not want to do so at all.

Consider a simple example, coming near Christmas. Christmas is a time at which it has happened that people have taken slightly more than was good for them. It is reprehensible, but, at the time of Christmas, it is understandable. A person comes into a post office in that condition. Obviously, he cannot be retained to do the work there in that post office, and he has to be sent home for the day. Somebody else has to be employed to do his work for him, whether by way of overtime or otherwise. The power there is in this section enables the postmaster to deal with that situation on the spot and enables the appropriate authority, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, in accordance with the arrangements, to deal with the suspension in a charitable way, shall I call it, having regard to the period of the year.

If, however, the power of suspension were restricted solely to the gravest cases, then the only way in which one could get a person in that condition out of the post office for the day in question would be to dismiss him and obviously nobody wants to do that. The way in which it has been done in Section 15 enables a charitable view, shall I say, to be taken of a lapse on an occasion like that. It is a view which all of us would wish should be taken, even though it may be somewhat reprehensible that at any time, Christmas or not, it should happen. We must accept facts as they are and accept the fact that such a thing will sometimes happen. We hope it will not happen too often. There is always the danger that if you try to restrict the control of every situation too much, the restriction of that power of control will produce exactly the opposite result to the results everyone spirit that the section has been framed.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for next sitting day.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.