I might perhaps help the House by repeating at this stage what I said in the other House in relation to this matter. This issue was raised on a different section, but the point at issue was exactly the same. Notwithstanding what Senator Sheehy Skeffington has said, that it is desirable that this type of amendment should be written into the Statute Book, I think it is far better to deal with it in another way. I told the staff associations, who saw a copy of this Bill, that I would deal with the matters that are included here by way of an arrangement under Section 17. I explained to them that I thought the method we would have would be a satisfactory one and that it would in fact carry out, by specific arrangement, under Section 17, what is the existing practice.
What I said in the other House, and what I would like to repeat here, is that I propose to arrange that when an established civil servant is in danger of dismissal he will be notified that he can, if he wishes, make representations himself against dismissal or that, if he preferred, he would be entitled to ask his staff association to do it for him. I think that is the correct procedure. I believe that the approach to the staff association should come from the civil servant himself.
In practice, of course, there is always a good deal of coming and going in relation to any difficult case of dismissal. Senator Hayes has referred to the fact, and it is an undoubted fact, that the civil servants here were always on a far more secure tenure than elsewhere. Indeed if we were to take a census of thought in the community at large, I believe that census would undoubtedly reveal that, by and large, the people throughout the country feel there is no need further to protect civil servants. In fact, I think they would be rather somewhat stronger in the other way.
What are the facts? I told the House the other day that two-thirds of the civil servants in the country are in the Post Office service. I got some figures from the Post Office in regard to the number of dismissals involved. In 1954 there were 17 dismissals of established civil servants from the Post Office. Eleven were dismissed for convicted or admitted dishonesty. Five were dismissed for abandoning duty—clearing out. There was only one case of dismissal other than for dishonesty or abandonment of duty. Out of the 20,000 in the Post Office service, one was dismissed for causes other than dishonesty or abandonment of duty.
In 1955 the total number of dismissals was 24. Fifteen of these were for either convicted or admitted dishonesty. Six were for abandonment of duty and the remaining three were for other causes. In the present year to date we have had eight dismissals— six for dishonesty, one for abandonment of duty and one for another cause. When one considers the number of civil servants there are in that Department, I would suggest those figures make it clear beyond question that the practice has, to put it very mildly, not been a harsh one. I propose to do in the future in other sections what is done now in the Post Office as a matter of course. I propose to put the matter beyond question so that not merely in that Department but in others the persons concerned would have it in writing that they were in danger of dismissal and that they had the option of making representations themselves or of getting the staff association to do it on their behalf. I have committed myself to this both in the Dáil and in this House. I have also committed myself to the staff association in that regard.
There is no doubt that such commitments have been taken to be binding not merely on the Minister of the day but on his successors in matters of this sort. When this matter was being discussed in the other House, the Deputy who raised it appeared to be quite satisfied with the procedure which I am proposing to crystallise now. He was satisfied that the procedure I proposed adopting was in substance, if not in form, what he had in mind—something on the lines of Senator Murphy's amendments here. Of course the substance is of far greater importance than the form. I do not think that Senator Murphy's amendments would give any civil servant one iota of security more than he has at the moment. In fact I can well see the argument that it would give somewhat less security because, when bound by statute, people are inclined to give just so much and no more.
I do not honestly think that it is reasonable of this House to suggest that whatever Government was in power would act unreasonably in the future since no Government has so acted in the past. I do not think it reasonable to suggest that the Government of the day should be bound by statute to send formal notice by registered post to a person who, shall we say, was convicted of dishonesty. An explicit practice already exists and it will be crystallised more through this measure. I do not think that the Seanad, in these circumstances, would deem it necessary to include such a procedure in legislation. It would seem to me to carry an imputation not merely against this Government but against future Governments.
I might also take the Seanad into my confidence in respect of one matter which makes it utterly impossible, even if I did think that on the merits I should accept the amendments. If Senators look at the Civil Service Commissioners Bill they will see that it is drafted on the basis that it was passed after this Bill. Therefore, if we do not pass this Bill now without these amendments it would be necessary to come to the House again with an amendment to the other Bill which we passed last week, because that Bill was drafted on the basis that this Bill would be signed first.
To be quite frank, I must take my share of the responsibility for not pointing that out to the Seanad last week when the two Bills were before the House. They came before the House in the correct order, but we reversed the order. Hence, if this Bill is not passed to-day and a motion for early signature also passed which will enable this Bill to be signed before the other, an amendment to the other Bill will be necessary.