This Bill is a welcome one even if it is not as comprehensive as one would wish. While this is a complicated measure the discussion of which should be more fruitful on the Committee Stage, there are nevertheless a few points which I should like to bring forward now, in particular a few points mentioned by my colleague Senator Crowley which I would wish to join in urging on the Minister.
The Minister said in the Dáil that the cost of the provisions in this Bill would be a matter of £34,000 per annum. When the Minister comes to the House he usually talks of sums of money far higher than £34,000. While the sum is small on this occasion it is one which will commend itself to every member of the House. Even if the Minister takes the view that what is done in this Bill is limited by what he can do in present financial circumstances, I think he might well think again on that particular point because to bring in after a lapse of years an amending Bill to deal with the superannuation code when the amount involved is £34,000 is a small thing when we remember that the Minister almost every week casts £34,000 in less worthy directions without a qualm. We do not expect the Minister, and I am sure he would not be willing, to act as a pacemaker in the question of superannuation or in the general question of staff relationships, but neither should the Minister be a complete laggard in this respect. The Minister has a definite duty to adapt himself to the changes that have occurred and are continuously occurring in regard to employment, not only in the private sector, but in the branches of the public sector outside the Civil Service.
This Bill which the Minister has brought to us is one that has a great many details in it and, I think, very few principles. I do not think this is an unfair comment since the Minister himself in Volume 203, No. 8, Column 1055 of the Dáil Debates says:
"This is a Bill that has been taken from a very long list of cases which should be considered for superannuation. There are only a few principles in it."
I think it is a matter for regret that when the Minister, after a long number of years, introduces a new Superannuation Bill, there are very few principles in it.
As Senator Crowley has already told the House, the Superannuation Code regarding the Civil Service dates from 1834. Some of the provisions of the 1834 Act are still extant and the whole Superannuation Code which is being amended in the present Bill is really a thing now of shreds and patches and what we have in this Bill are, by and large, a few more patches. Some of them are nice patches and quite brightly coloured and some of them are very necessary to cover rents and tears that have appeared in the garment. But it still leaves our whole Superannuation Code as this thing of shreds and patches that has grown up in 130 years. Indeed, mastery of this present Act requires specialised knowledge of a high order and of a somewhat esoteric nature. Even if the provisions of the present Superannuation Code were in complete harmony with modern needs there is an overwhelming case for the consolidation both of the Statutory Code and of the various regulations made under it. But of course the position is that the present provisions are in many respects completely and utterly out of date.
I join with Senator Crowley in what he has urged on the Minister and on the Seanad in this respect. For example, we are apparently willing to accept the position laid down under the Act of 1834, that a pension is not a matter of right but a matter of grace from the Minister for Finance. In other words, a pension for a civil servant is a sort of Department of Finance equivalent of a medal for long service and good conduct. I think this attitude is something which we should get rid of once and for all. The Minister is probably unwilling to go quite as far as to consider a Civil Service pension as being something merely in the nature of withholding pay which would be claimable as a right at any time, but I think the Minister could come a good deal of the way from the concept of 1834, that the Civil Service pension is something given as a grace to a faithful servant at the end of his days.
I think the Minister could come a very great distance away from that concept, and not be in any sense a pace-maker, and still be somewhat behind what are the realities and concepts in non-Civil Service employment today. The position at the moment in the public sector in this country outside the Civil Service is that the superannuation schemes are contributory and the employee has the right to recover his contributions. I agree with Senator Crowley that the only difference with regard to the Civil Service is that the Civil Service scheme is contributory but the employee has no right to recover his contributions.
There is a real need for a full-scale review of the fundamental Civil Service employment practices. They should be examined from time to time, both in regard to their equity and their efficiency because both their equity and their efficiency at any time must be considered in the light of what are the corresponding practices of outside employers both in the public and in the private sector.
While all of us agreed that it was a good thing that there was a discussion in the General Conciliation Council of the Civil Service concerning superannuation benefits, I think this was not enough. Such a discussion between the Staff Side and the Official Side in the sub-committee of the General Council has done something but it has not got down to fundamentals. Conciliation procedure which tends to bring to light and get agreement on anomalies which have occurred in the past, can however, do very little to reform the Civil Service Superannuation Code in the light of the present or in any sense in the light of the future. This procedure of conciliation dialectics between the two sides is definitely not the best means of undertaking a fundamental review.
As regards the new provisions in the present Bill, these are largely a matter for discussion on Committee Stage, but there are a few points which I should like to raise now. Firstly, in regard to the transfer of service, there is already provision, I understand, under the Superannuation Code for secondment of officers and also for the freezing of pensions rights on transfer to approved employment, whereas the present Bill allows for the transfer of actual services. As drafted in the Bill, this sounds an excellent new departure but I wish the Minister would tell us some more about how it is to work out in practice. In other words, I wish the Minister would assure us that this provision in regard to transfer of services is not a silver cloud that would turn out to have a leaden lining—that it is not a provision that looks well in the Bill but which, when it comes to a matter of making regulations and deciding cases, would turn out to be little more than an alternative procedure for dealing with cases which could already be dealt with under the existing Code.
In this respect I am rather worried about the tendency of thinking which is revealed by a remark which the Minister made in the Dáil during the passage of the Bill on a Second Stage reply. In Volume 202, No. 11, of 15th May, 1963, Column 1628, the Minister gives us his general thinking on this subject. I quote:
"We must not look at this at all as being for the benefit of the person concerned. He might better his position by going from one position to another. If he does, that is at his own volition."
And again in Column 1629 he says:
"The idea is that quite obviously in many cases in the past a person would be a great asset to, let us say, one of the State companies, but if he left the Civil Service as things stood, he would lose his pension rights, and he would not go. In many cases, people were seconded, which was a way of getting around the difficulty. We think it is better to do it in this way."
Now, if this provision is to be a mere alternative to secondment, if it is merely to be slightly neater administrative procedure to deal with cases that could have been dealt with by secondment, then I think there is very little of a new departure in this particular respect.
There are two elements involved when a person transfers from one part of the public sector to another. There is the question of the individual good and there is also the question of the public interest involved. Now, there were some thinkers in the 19th century who thought that individual good, individual self-interest, and the public good always and automatically coincided, that all we needed to have was enough enlightened self-interest and we would promote the public good. For many years the Government in action, and in some cases Government action, based on such ideas, lead to much injustice.
We all now realise it is wrong to identify in every case and always self-interest and the public interest but I submit it may be equally wrong to consider private interest and public interest as always mutually exclusive. I think the Minister in what he said in his reply on Second Stage in the Dáil and in his approach to the execution of these particular provisions, may tend to make that particular mistake. I think there is a grave danger here unless it is realised that there would be many cases in which self-interest, and public interest would both and at the same time be served by a particular transfer. I think it would be tragic if all that was needed in order that a transfer of pensionable service would be refused was the detection of self-interest in order to rule out this case as one to which the section should not be applied. I think, indeed, the public interest might suffer greatly in consequence and so I hope that we in our turn in the 20th century do not give rise to cases of individual injustice based on Government inaction because the belief is there that self-interest and public interest can never coincide.
This is recommended as a new departure. The Minister has told us in introducing the Bill that this is something we should do and it is a new departure for Ireland. But, of course, it is not a new departure in other countries and it is now a very, very old departure as far as Britain is concerned. While the Minister is perfectly entitled to say that what is done in Britain is not a compelling reason that we should follow suit, nevertheless, we must realise that our Civil Service is modelled on the British Civil Service. We must realise that though Britain has differences of scale, though she has a difference in regard to the stage of the development of her economy, nevertheless, in regard to the organisation of the Civil Service there are more similarities between the Civil Service of Ireland and the Civil Service of Britain than there are differences. Since the 1948 Act in Britain there has been a complete transfer within the public sector and, indeed, for almost 10 years now in Britain, there has been discussion as to whether this should not be extended to exchanges between many parts of the private sector and many parts of the Civil Service.
In regard to this question of transfer of service, the Minister has laid down three elements as being necessary for such a transfer to take place and I should like specifically to question him on one of these. The first element is that it should take place with no break of service. I should like to ask the Minister whether the meaning of this term, which is quoted in Section 4 of the Bill, has been determined—the meaning of the term "without break of service." The Priestley Commission, on the British Civil Service, gave as its opinion that the effect of transfers within the public sector under the 1948 Act was to render largely meaningless the definition of continuity of service which up to that time had been used in the British Civil Service. I should be glad if the Minister could assure me that there is no danger that the transfers which would take place under this particular section could ever be determined by a court to have involved a break of service within the meaning of the main Acts of the superannuation code.
The second element which is concerned in this transfer is that it must be between approved organisations and here again I should like to ask the Minister if he could be more specific in regard to these approved organisations. He has, of course, indicated that this should include the Civil Service, all the State bodies, the local authority services, and possibly, the universities. I would ask the Minister would he not consider even at this stage introducing a basic list in a Schedule to the Bill which would be a guiding light in regard to what we could expect as regards these approved organisations? It is easy to say all State bodies are included but if you come down to the question of what are State bodies, it is only when we come to make a list of State bodies, decide which of them are really State bodies for the purpose of this Bill, we find perhaps they would not be State bodies for the purpose of another Bill. I think there would be real difficulty here and I wonder if the Minister would help us. I think he could help most of all by including this list in a Schedule to the Bill, or if he is not prepared to go that far, if he would at some stage during the passage of this Bill give a list of the bodies or an indication where the line is to be drawn. Surely the Minister knows better than anybody else that there is hardly a body in this country that does not benefit financially from the Department of Finance at the present moment and that in some way or other does not come within some listing of State supported bodies.
I should like specifically to ask the Minister the position in regard to the universities. He has continually said: "Perhaps the universities", or "possibly the universities". I know that this position may be difficult because he may not have had consultations with the universities on this particular point, but I would ask him if he would be able to deal with the question.
The third element in regard to transfer is that the transfer must be with the consent of both organisations involved. Again, I am a little bit worried as to how this would turn out in practice. I am a little bit worried that this would be too restrictive: even if the Minister lays down that the principle should be that if it is in the public interest then the transfer would take place. This is a sound principle but how would it work in practice? Would it not be fatally easy for somebody in a Civil Service Department or in a public organisation to confuse the public interest and Departmental convenience? Would it not be extremely easy for somebody to say it is not in the public interest that this man be transferred from one particular job to another when it is not really the public interest at all but Departmental convenience that is involved? It might be very awkward to lose this particular man but it might be in the public interest. I think we are all very good at rationalising such situations and I should like to ask the Minister what safeguards there will be that these decisions might not be made under misapprehensions of this particular sort. I think there would be scope for a possible injustice in the application of the Bill in this particular point.
There is another thing I should like to ask the Minister on this particular point. If an employee wishes to transfer from one organisation to another, and wishes to transfer his service, and is refused, has he any right of appeal? I shall be more specific. Would an employee of the Electricity Supply Board who wished to transfer from the Electricity Supply Board to another authority, which has been designated by the Minister as an approved authority, be able to appeal to the general employees tribunal of the ESB against the Board's refusal to release him? I would ask the Minister if he could give an answer on that particular point?
The next general departure in the Bill is the introduction of certain provisions for redundancy. Again, this is a matter which we can go into on Committee Stage but there are a few remarks I should like to make during this Stage. Redundancy is a vital problem for all sectors of our economy and the Government should certainly set a good headline which other employers can follow. In saying this, I do not merely refer to a financial headline. I want to emphasise that the Government should be a leader in recognising redundancy as a personal problem for the individual employee and also in recognising the occurrence of redundancy as an awkward organisation problem.
Again, I am rather worried about the Minister's attitude to this particular point. On Committee Stage in the Dáil at column 1071, Vol. 203, No. 8 of the Official Report the Minister, when replying to an appeal for greater generosity in regard to those who are becoming redundant, said: "If we were to go further than that it would not pay. It would be better to keep them there doing nothing."
That is a deplorable attitude to redundancy. I think this counting house attitude to redundancy, that, perhaps, it might be better just to keep people there doing nothing, will do no good to the Civil Service. If our industrialists are to adopt that attitude, the work of the CIO committees will be in vain.
Redundancy has got to be tackled not only as an accounting problem but also as a problem which affects the individual. Further, it has got to be tackled as a problem which affects organisation. If you keep redundant people working because you think it would cost you more money to get rid of them, you will pay ten times over for such folly. If you keep people hanging round the place doing little or nothing you will have real trouble in the future. The Minister should adopt a more fundamental, more imaginative and more personal attitude to this problem of redundancy because other employers have a right to look to him for a headline on that particular point.
Another departure in the Bill is the question of notional service for professional officers. This, of course, is something which is not really a new departure at all. It is something that existed for professional officers in the Civil Service for the whole latter half of the 19th century and was only abolished when the professional officers were given such substantially higher salaries that it was considered it was no longer necessary.
I do not know what the position is in regard to professional officers generally. I can speak in regard to the professional employment of engineers, having worked as an engineer in the Civil Service and being responsible also for advising engineers in regard to employment. While this new provision may do something to help them in regard to the problem of recruitment, recruitment of engineers to the public service will only be improved by better conditions and when I say "better conditions" I mean not only monetary conditions but also full professional conditions. Unless the Minister is going to give adequate scope for professional development to engineers throughout the public service, he is not going to recruit engineers and nobody who occupies the position I do is going to encourage engineers to seek service within the Civil Service.
The Minister in moving this Stage of the Bill refers to unestablished service. The Minister indicated the position is that an opportunity has been given to many people to become established but one of the conditions is that the job which he is in is a job which is, as far as can be foreseen at the moment, permanent in nature. This is excellent in its way but it makes absolutely no provision for a job which may actually be permanent in nature but cannot be seen to be permanent at this particular moment.
I should like to be specific about some of the instances that occur. Many jobs are temporary only in name. I should like to cite an example from my own profession. The engineers who worked in the arterial branch of the Office of Public Works were maintained as temporary engineers until the passing of the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act. Up to the passing of that Act drainage could only be initiated by the local landowners. There was the possibility that nobody in Ireland would ever be clamouring for a drainage scheme. People might not look for arterial drainage and these people could not be given permanent positions. Everyone clamoured for arterial drainage. They are still doing so. There are many men still serving with many years of unestablished service in what was—and everybody knew it—a completely permanent job.
I agree there are cases in which unestablished service cannot be counted. There are cases when the job is manifestly beyond any doubt temporary. There are also cases where people have not passed the particular qualifying examination. I do not think any plea will be made in this House for people who have not passed their examinations or are purely working in temporary jobs, but in regard to the people who have at an early stage in their careers passed the appropriate qualifying examinations and whose jobs by the time they retire prove to have been permanent jobs, not seen from the beginning to be permanent but seen so to be in retrospect, something should be done.
We have the position that the British Civil Service, of which we were once a part, have gone far beyond what we are prepared to do. All unestablished service from 1949 on in Britain counts automatically as full service. The discussion there has been on the basis that it is only a matter of finance, a matter of how much they can afford. On that particular point, could the Minister not afford a little more? Could he not take a few categories? Could he not look at people who could be seen in retrospect to have been permanent even though they could not be seen in advance to have been permanent in fact? Could he not take a particular date and from that date on have unestablished service count as established service?
In summary, I should like to say to the Minister that what has been done in this Bill is welcome. Perhaps, the Minister would see fit to review the whole system of Civil Service superannuation in a broad fashion from a broader point of view. We are in a new situation. We are moving into a new situation in which the Civil Service will be as vitally important as any of the other instruments on which we are going to depend. New principles of staff relationship within the Civil Service are necessary for this new situation.
I would express the hope that the provisions in regard to the transfer of service and added years are not illusory—that they really mean something—and that transfer of service and added years will operate only in very exceptional cases.
With regard to the redundancy requirements, I would ask the Minister to adopt less of a counting house attitude in regard to this whole problem of superannuation in the public sector. I think we are very rapidly approaching the time when we could do with one single contributory scheme for the whole of the public sector. The whole question of transfer would be unnecessary. It should be possible to devise an over-all scheme to cover statutory bodies and the whole of the Civil Service. If the Minister had gone in that direction we would have a simpler Bill and we would have achieved even more than could be achieved under the present Bill.