Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together.
Regional Technical Colleges (Amendment) Bill, 1994: Committee and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 2 between lines 20 and 21 to insert the following new subsection:
"(2) Each person proposed to be appointed by the Minister under subsection (1) of this section shall appear before the Select Committee on Social Affairs in public hearing before such appointment is confirmed by the Minister. The Committee may submit its opinion in the matter of any particular appointment to the Minister who shall have regard to that opinion."
I propose this amendment in the interest of openness and transparency and all those wonderful things about which we are talking currently. This is one area where Ministers have enormous power. It could be said that they are answerable to the Dáil but the fact remains that the appointees to these position are, generally speaking, faceless people who are never seen by either the Members of this House or the public.
The public are very disaffected about appointments to State boards and commissions and other things which Ministers have to do in the course of their daily work. The public are convinced that there is a certain amount of skulduggery going on. I do not necessarily hold that view but this amendment has been put down in the interest of the public who are disaffected. If the Minister accepts this amendment, it will open the door in a gentle way for the public and Members of this House to see exactly what the Minister is doing when he makes these appointments.
There is no veto involved. I made sure that the Select Committee on Social Affairs could not have a veto in respect of these appointments. That would be a step too far. I framed the amendment in a way that would make it broadly acceptable. I assume that many Members of the House will sympathise with it and will take its intention for what it is worth. There is no innuendo implied in the amendment. I am trying to introduce openness and transparency — which everybody is talking about — into a system that is not satisfactory in the eyes of the public.
On Second Stage I talked about how such appointments are made. The selection process is conducted by the Minister. There is no competition. The ordinary citizen never gets the call or the brown or white envelope offering a position without competition. This amendment should be the beginning of a complete change in the way State boards are appointed and Ministers make such appointments. It would be a welcome change; the public would welcome it.
The people selected by the Minister for appointment to the commission would appear before the Select Committee on Social Affairs in a public hearing. That would give the public an opportunity to see exactly who these faceless people are and to be confident, after a simple and straightforward hearing, that they have the ability to carry out their functions under the terms of their appointments. I do not think that is too much to ask. In a democracy it is certainly desirable. Too many people are disaffected at present for one reason or another and this issue goes to the heart of that disaffection. People often wrongly believe that Ministers are up to all sorts of skulduggery when in fact they are not. We should be open and transparent about this.
I am not concerned who is appointed to a board. I am not concerned whether they are Fianna Fáil, Labour or Fine Gael supporters. Who they are or what their background is does not matter to me. I just want to be satisfied that they can carry out their functions. That is the main concern about which I and the public want to be satisfied. That would eliminate the innuendo that people are appointed to boards because of who they are and the number of years' service they have given to a political party. The appointment is seen as a thank you and it is believed that the appointees have nothing to offer. In very many cases that is false and unfair. If the appointment is brought into the open and a public hearing is held before the particular committee — in this case the Select Committee on Social Affairs — such innuendo would disappear because there would be no grounds for it. The amendment would inject transparency into a system that needs it.
I expect the Labour Party to support this amendment because it has put itself forward as a champion in this area. On Second Stage, I expressed scepticism about the Labour Party. In my opinion and from the information I have gathered, the practice and the promise of the Labour Party are different.
The Senator should speak to the Bill.
My comments relate substantially to amendment No. 2. I hope the Labour Party's practice in future is nearer to the promise it continues to make. This Bill was introduced by a Labour Party Minister and I fail to see any commitment in the Bill to openness and transparency. I ask the Minister to accept my amendment. Let us break new ground and show the people that we are serious, that we have nothing to hide, that these appointments are made in a bona fide manner and that the appointees do not have a question mark over them. That is the substance of what I am trying to achieve. I hope the Minister will agree.
Questions in the Dáil make the Minister accountable to a degree but that is not visible to the public. The public cannot see exactly what is going on. People hold important positions in such bodies and the public must see that these appointments are bona fide. That will be the case if my amendment is accepted. If the wording of the amendment is not suitable we can change it. Consequent changes can be made to the rest of the Bill. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment in the spirit in which I have proposed it.
I totally oppose the amendment. The insinuation is that nobody is clean or honest besides the proposer and his party. The ordinary member of the public realises that the Fine Gael Party and one or two other parties are disgruntled and dissatisfied, that they are clinging and hanging on in the hope that somebody might recognise them. This is another anti-Government suggestion. Any appointments made under the new legislation will be in an open and honest manner. It is inferred that such appointments are not democratic. They are. They come before the House, the intentions are clearly stated and ultimately the Minister will be responsible for them. I hope we will soon return to normality.
However, I have only one reservation. I hope the appointees will have qualifications in management rather than in education because those qualifications will be necessary. To say that appointees should go before a public hearing is utterly ridiculous. The amendment does not bear consideration.
The provisions relating to the involvement of the Oireachtas in the appointment of the commission already give the Houses a major role in any appointment. This role, for the most part, will be exercised before an appointment takes effect. In the unusual circumstances where either House cannot deal with the matter within 28 days, there is a further safeguard provision. This will enable the House to annual an appointment within 21 sitting days.
Given this comprehensive involvement of the Oireachtas I do not think it appropriate that the House should exercise a discretion over the composition of the commission. This is a function proper to the Minister of the day who is ultimately responsible for his or her decision to the Oireachtas.
I reject the contention that the Minister is taking enormous power onto himself or herself in these given circumstances. Everybody accepts, and it was clear from the contributions on Second Stage, that it was absolutely essential to take appropriate and quick action in the circumstances. There is no other authority aside from the appropriate Minister to take such action. Nobody doubts that action should be taken now and that it should not be delayed. I assure the House that the person or persons will have the competence, integrity and the independence to do the job.
Moving away from that aspect, this country has been well served in a range of areas by publicly minded people who sat on committees and went on boards to do jobs in the national interest. They could have decided to play golf or to take an easier role but they decided to come in on the invitation of the Government of the day — and this goes for successive Governments — to do essential work. In the main, looking back at the history of this country and making a comparison with developments in most other European countries, we have been very well served. I reject the contention that the public is afraid and unwilling to accept the nominations put forward by successive Governments to carry out essential tasks where necessary.
Senator Cotter is putting forward a view, which admittedly is held by some sectors, that there should be complete and absolute independence and that everyone should be screened before they undertake any job. While that would happen in an ideal world, it is not practical. In the main, not many people would be willing to undergo that type of intensive slaughter. These positions are not worth much financially but these people are willing to give their time and expertise in the national interest. Their integrity should not be subject to an inquisition of that nature.
With regard to having a competition for those posts, we only intervene in extraordinary circumstances where something has gone wrong and needs to be rectified immediately. For example, if there was a competition, somebody in a post must leave it. They must let their employer know they will not be available. They must give due notification and it could take two or three months before they were available to do the job. We would not have that amount of time on our hands. Why are we pressing forward with this legislation? Why did the House agree to take all Stages today, which is unusual? The answer is that there are unusual circumstances where intervention of a particular type is needed to deal with a problem.
I reject the notion of faceless people. Far too often in my public life, which spans 25 years and has had its ups and downs, I have heard people in the public service and other places referred to as faceless bureaucrats. I have had the proud honour of serving in six different Departments with these so called faceless people. I have not always agreed with them, or been served as well as I might in every circumstance, but in general I have found they are competent people with tremendous dedication, who work overtime, arrive on time with little regard to what they might be paid for it. I do not regard them as faceless people. I stand over them as public servants who do a difficult job and often cannot stand up for themselves. It is very easy to paint a picture which the public will like without giving an explanation. I have been re-elected on a number of occasions by telling people what I honestly believe about many of those people and I hope I will always be able to do so.
Openness and transparency are not the prerogative of any one party. There is a view that everything should be open and transparent. For example, I make decisions in my capacity as Minister for the Environment — a role to which I am more accustomed — concerning halting sites and the public vehemently oppose those decisions. I provide £3 million to local authorities for halting sites but the public oppose me left, right and centre. However, I will continue to make those decisions as long as I have that responsibility because the overriding consideration is the people affected. Given their lifestyle, educational opportunities, asthmatic children, lack of health services and the fact that they are discommoded is so many ways, the overriding point is that in the national interest I should take those decisions, even though the public perception is that they should not be taken. People say they want this problem solved, but not near them. We should be truthful. The public does not always agree with decisions taken on national questions and individual circumstances. The buck rests somewhere and in these circumstances, unfortunately for Ireland at present, it rests with me.
Senator Cotter's point may be genuine and I have no doubt that it is. However, he will appreciate that in these circumstances, there is not the scope for this type of intervention. It would exercise too much time in dealing with the problems we face. However, he should be happy that as a result of the meeting of the Select Committee on Social Affairs — although I cannot say this categorically — I do not know of any other Bill passed in the Houses of Oireachtas which provides for a 28 day delay before a decision taken can be executed, with an opportunity for the House to annul it during that time. Most decisions are taken and implemented and can only be annulled subsequently by the House. However, in this instance, decisions taken — that is, in all other circumstances apart from the Letterkenny case — could only be implemented 28 days later following confirmation in the House.
The Senator should be happy that a major breakthrough has been made. I say this based on my broad experience, but it may be the case in other circumstances of which I am not aware. It is an indication of the willingness on my part and on the part of my officials to meet the general concerns outlined while, at the same time, leaving scope for immediate intervention in a sensitive operation. I assure the House that the competence, integrity and independence of the person or persons concerned will match the requirements necessary in the circumstances.
I must reject the vast majority of the argument put up against accepting the amendment. The Minister said that appearing before a committee would be something of a slaughter. Many Members serve on committees. Every week, people appear before us and they are examined and questioned on various matters. I have never yet seen a situation where a person appearing before a committee ended up in circumstances that could be described as slaughter.
With regard to ministerial assurances, we have a problem because politicians are the most unpopular people in the country today.
On a point of order, a Chathaoirligh, the most unpopular people in the country are those who, in order to retain their positions, must be voted back into office with a quota of 8,000 or 9,000 votes. Most people in different professions could not survive in such circumstances. We are not as unpopular as we claim.
What does Senator Cotter say to that?
I have no trouble dealing with it. There is a huge credibility gap between Government action and public perception. This has existed for a long time and has not just arisen in recent weeks. The electorate has changed dramatically and is much more mobile. People are loosening up in terms of how they vote. The electorate is disturbed and has been showing these signs for a long time. Given that the country is changing we have to change also; keeping our heads in the sand is not good enough. The Minister said this is an emergency. Is it the case that this House could deal with legislation in an emergency but the Select Committee on Social Affairs could not?
Only one Fine Gael Member spoke here today.
Senator Cassidy, please do not interrupt.
I am speaking to amendment No. 2 and I hold what I have said with conviction. I did not put down this amendment to denigrate anybody as Senator McGowan suggested. He said that this amendment is full of insinuations; where are they? He said it was full of implications, somehow or other taking away the good name of politicians. Where are they? I am talking about an electorate which is changing and we are trying to respond. I put down this amendment to respond to that change.
They are based on the Senator's own experience.
I have not heard any argument which counteracts it.
It takes a little time to get used to it.
The Senator might get used to the idea as we talk about it, and he might find it is a good idea. I said Ministers have to make these appointments and most of the time there is absolutely nothing wrong. However, I want the public to see what goes on, and the Minister being subject to Dáil questioning is not good enough. Another kind of transparency, where it is possible, should be introduced. That is the basis for my argument: it is nothing to do with tripping up any politician. Ministers have to make appointments to boards and have to set up commissions from time to time and, as the Minister says, in the vast majority of cases it is good sound work. The difficulty is that it is not seen as such: the public perception is entirely different to that which the Minister suggests.
The public is completely disaffected and has been showing signs of that for a long time. The public does not believe that politicians — who we all agree work hard and long hours — are doing anything of importance. It has probably made up its mind that we are doing the wrong things. We all agree that we are not looked on as being as respectable as we used to be.
We have a changing electorate and we have to change also. This amendment seeks to bring about a change which would give the public a glimpse through the window.
You are being repetitive Senator and, as you know, the Bills have to be concluded by 5.30 p.m.
I am trying to convince the Minister to make a little history this evening.
The Senator is getting carried away.
I am not carried away. When I put down the amendment I believed in it. I would not have put it down otherwise. It is not facetious.
We accept that.
I believe that if amendment No. 1 was put in place it would serve the country well. The Minister has rejected it but he might change his mind before the end of Report Stage.
It was Colton who said: "Whenever I am more inclined to dominate than to persuade, then my zeal is more to do with pride than with charity." I am sorry that my persuasive qualities have not been adequate.
Amendment Nos. 3 and 4 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 3, line 27, after "until" to insert the following:
", following a debate on the order,".
There is another amendment which refers to this section. If this amendment was made the section would read:
Every order made under subsection (1), other than the order to which subsection (10) relates, shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and it shall not have effect unless and until, following a debate on the order, a resolution has been passed by each House confirming the order....
This is similar to an amendment tabled previously and it has probably been examined from all angles on Committee Stage before the select committee and been rejected. I tabled it again to give the Houses an opportunity to have a discussion on the matter because laying an order before the Houses of the Oireachtas and having a resolution passed without discussion is not the correct practice. The resolution should be passed in the course of a discussion in the Houses.
The Minister's decision should come under scrutiny as much as possible and I am sure no Minister would mind such scrutiny being brought to bear on particular decisions.
The amendment would have the effect of requiring a debate to be held on an order for the appointment of a commission. I would consider it inappropriate to seek to constrain either House of the Oireachtas in the ordering of its business. It is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine whether they wish to debate a resolution. The amendment would also mean that an order would require confirmation of both Houses before it could take effect. In general, this would happen.
However, it is both necessary and prudent to provide for a situation where either House cannot deal with the matter in a reasonable period of time. This could happen, for instance, during the summer recess. Excessive delay could be extremely damaging to an institution. The Bill as now drafted strikes a reasonable balance between the rights and the role of the Oireachtas and the needs of an institution in difficulties. Thus, I cannot accept the amendments.
I am not afraid of public or private scrutiny. I want to make sure that the Minister of the day is afforded the opportunity to take whatever is the appropriate action in given circumstances. We need this legislation to take the appropriate action in Letterkenny. It may well be that if we were dealing with natural law as distinct from the more sophisticated legal and constitutional arrangements to which we have grown accustomed. The action I am seeking in Letterkenny could, in most circumstances, be taken without a basis of law because it was right to intervene and stop what was going on. It was right to ensure that the college's operation and integrity were restored.
This amendment is tied to the previous one in the circumstances where, for the greater part, outside of the Letterkenny case, circumstances which might necessitate the implementation of these provisions would require the Minister to make the decision but, before that decision was implemented, an order would be put to the House and there would be the opportunity for the House to debate that order, and it would not be capable of implementation for a period of up to 28 days except in circumstances where it was annulled by the House or if the House was not sitting.
I do not want to be argumentative about this because Senator Cotter is genuine in his contribution but I emphasise we are talking about exceptional circumstances and the right to intervene to change matters without excessive delay when fundamentally necessary. For these reasons it is with regret that I am again on the opposite side to Senator Cotter.
I accept the Minister's reticence to support my amendment for the reasons given. Many Government decisions are made without reference to the Dáil and the Seanad. I was trying to bring this matter back before the Houses to allow discussion on it. I disagree with the Minister's reasoning. He said earlier this was an emergency but the Dáil, the Seanad and the committees are able to respond to such events without difficulty. One hopes the Letterkenny case will never be repeated and one would assume this legislation will rarely be used. However when it is used it will be an emergency and a matter of national importance. The Letterkenny case has repercussions for every regional technical college. It has rocked the foundations of the system and brought it into question. For that reason there should be an opportunity to discuss this in the Houses once the order has been made. That is why I put down the amendment and I am sorry the Minister has rejected it.
Amendment No. 4 was discussed with amendment No. 3.
I did not discuss amendment No. 4.
It was agreed at the outset that amendments Nos. 3 and 4 would be discussed together. Therefore I have no choice but to ask if it is being pressed.
I was not aware they were to be discussed together because they are not related.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 3, line 40, after "Minister" to insert the following:
"on the recommendation of the governing body".
When I checked the Principal Act I discovered the appointment of the director is made by the governing body. Section 9 (1) of the 1992 Act states that each governing body shall from time to time appoint a person in a whole time capacity to be the director and chief officer of the college. The Minister's approval is necessary.
Having regard to that it is hard to see why the Minister should be directly involved in an appointment when the office becomes vacant, even if the appointment will only be temporary. There is no reason the board, if it exists at the time, could not carry out that function, although the Minister would obviously have to give approval. I ask the Minister why he should make the appointment in that case because I am not convinced it is necessary.
This provision would enable the Minister for Education to appoint a person as director of a regional technical college in an acting capacity. If an office of director became vacant and there was no statutory power enabling the Minister for Education to make any appointment in the absence of a governing body, the college would be left without its chief officer.
The position we are directly dealing with arose earlier this year because of the High Court decision. The Minister is seeking the power to appoint an acting director where no governing body is in existence at that time. A vacuum would exist which would be detrimental to the interests of the college. Any permanent appointment must be made by the governing body, so Senator Cotter can be satisfied this intervention will only be made where the governing body is either not performing or not in existence and a vacuum has been created. A final and permanent appointment can only be made by the governing body.
I accept the Minister's statement. Where is anything to that effect stated in either section 3 of this Bill or section 9 of the Principal Act? If it is there I cannot see it. There is no reference to the absence of a governing body.
Section 9 (1) of the Regional Technical Colleges Act, 1992, empowers a governing body, with the approval of the Minister, to appoint a person in a whole-time capacity to be the director and chief officer of the college. Section 9(2) states the selection of the director shall be a function of the governing body in accordance with the procedures which shall include the composition of a selection board to be determined by the Minister from time to time. Section 9(3) states the provision of the Third Schedule of that Act shall apply to the director.
This amending legislation states that where an office of director becomes vacant the Minister may appoint someone to be the director temporarily until a permanent appointment to the office is made. Such temporary appointment may be terminated by the Minister at any time. Perhaps the Minister can show that I am wrong but this section does not appear to refer to a position where there is no board.
Section 9 of the 1992 Act states that each governing body shall appoint a person in a whole-time capacity as director and chief officer of the college and that the selection of the director shall be a function of the governing body in accordance with the procedures, which shall include the composition of a selection board determined by the Minister from time to time. Senator Cotter is right in the sense that there is no mention of the issue he is querying in the Principal Act. We are now taking account of a circumstance which was not envisaged when the Act was brought into force.
It was not envisaged that there could be a circumstance where a governing body might not be in place. As we discovered earlier this year arising from the High Court action, such circumstances arose, and they arise in circumstances where a governing body, for one reason or another, is unable to perform its essential duties. The original legislation did not cater for the circumstances giving rise to the absence of a governing body. The Bill addresses this unusual situation, and that is the difference in this instance between the Bill and the original Act.
Section 3 is unclear in this respect, and if the intention of the section is to provide for what the Minister outlined it should be tidied up before being enacted. Section 3 gives the Minister the power to make a temporary appointment and does not outline the circumstances in which this may arise. Section 3 stands alone in the Bill and is not governed by section 2 or section 1. If the intention of the section is that outlined by the Minister, it should be spelt out.
Under the terms of section 3, whenever a director dies or retires, for whatever reason, the Minister can move in, even if there is a board, and automatically make an appointment without reference to it. This is not acceptable, and furthermore, it is probably not the intention of the Minister. The matter should, therefore, be tidied up on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 in my name would go some way towards tidying it up, but not completely. I am conscious that in this instance the Minister will have to act quickly and consult the governing body. It is possible that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 will be able to resolve the matter. Thus amended, section 3 would read:
(4) Where an office of Director becomes vacant, the Minister, on the recommendation of the governing body, may appoint a person to be the Director temporarily until a permanent appointment to the office is made and such temporary appointment may be terminated by the Minster, after consultation with the governing body, at any time.
However, I do not believe that this would resolve the matter.
My French is poor, my German is worse and I have good Irish, but it appears I am not making the point as clearly as I might. If Senator Cotter's amendment, proposed in genuine circumstances, were to be accepted there would be no scope for the Minister to take action in the absence or the existence of a governing body, which are the main circumstances in which I envisage these provisions to be put in place,
If, however, Senator Cotter persists, I assure the House that the kind of Bill under consideration, and the specific nature of the requirement which at present pertains with regard to Letterkenny, are those which we are attempting to deal with as best we can. In the normal circumstances which the Senator outlined, where a director dies this matter would not fall to the remit of the Minister and would be dealt with in the usual way by the governing body. It is the exceptional and emergency circumstances with which we are trying to cope, and in this respect the provision must be considered in the context of the totality of the legislation before the House,
I remind the House that amendment No. 6 is being taken in conjunction with amendment No. 5.
I understand that this Bill attempts to deal with an emergency. However, the emergency having been dealt with, section 3 will continue, the Minister can invoke it whenever he or she wishes, and can interfere with the workings of the board in making an appointment to a temporary position which falls vacant.
If section 3 is intended only for the current situation, then it should be tied to section 2 and should refer back to this section. At present it stands on its own and gives the Minister powers which he did not want and should not have. If a board exists then it is clear it should be able to fill a temporary appointment. If it does not exist it is unable to do so and the Minister must do so.
In view of this, is there any way this situation can be tidied up, because I am unwilling to accept section 3 as it stands? I hope Members will understand why, will also not accept the section as it stands and that matters will be speedily tidied up on Report Stage. I am unsure how it could be tidied up, but perhaps a provision could be inserted as follows: "The Minister, acting in her capacity which she has drawn onto herself under section 2 (1) ...", or words to that effect. If the Minster was not acting under section 2 (1), section 3 would not be applicable, and it would then only apply to the emergency, or situations which we are considering at present, where a board does not exist.
There are problems with the present provision. It gives power to the Minister outside the emergency powers and for as long as section 3 exists and in all circumstances if she wishes to exercise it. Indeed, under section 3, and with the amendments which now apply to the Bill as originally drafted, the Minister must act accordingly and make those appointments.
The Senator has got the wrong gender for the time being with regard to the Department of Education. For the first four months of this year colleges were without governing bodies because of the difficulties which arose on the subject of the gender balance and the High Court challenge to regulations regarding elections of academic staff to governing bodies. If during that period, a vacancy arose, and the director's office was vacant, there was no statutory power under the original provisions to fill that post.
While I am addressing the general emergency circumstances as they reflect on Letterkenny, the High Court proceedings did not have anything to do with Letterkenny, any more than any other college, yet there was that period during which there were no governing bodies. As a business man, Senator Cotter represents a constituency where business acumen is probably sharper, maybe because of geographical and Border problems, than it may be in the South. I may not, therefore, have the same tenacity as the Senator for probing the detail of a business provision.
However, I know that a college without a director or a chief executive officer is undesirable. There is no intent in this provision for ministerial intervention, other than in the circumstances where there is not an alternative arrangement in place. Normally the governing body, with no intervention required from the Minister, acts, but this intervention applies where the governing body, for whatever reason, emergency, High Court or otherwise, is unable to do so. This is all that is involved.
I have allowed a lot of latitude and we are concluding this debate at 5.30 p.m.
May I make a final suggestion?
I understand exactly what the Minister is saying. I want the section to apply to the situations the Minister wants looked after. We could sort this out if we agreed that, where an office of director becomes vacant, the Minister, in the absence of a governing body, may appoint a person to be the director temporarily until a permanent appointment to the office is made and such a temporary appointment may be terminated by the Minister at any time in the absence of a governing body. This would clarify the situation entirely. Is there agreement that this would do? If so, an amendment could be inserted on Report Stage.
Sir, you have been patient in relation to this provision and I have no wish to delay the House. I say to Senator Cotter, in the best spirit of cooperation, that I have been in this and the other House for a series of Bills and have gone back with subsequent amendments because there were circumstances which we did not foresee. In 1992 we did not foresee that there would be a High Court case and that there would be no governing bodies in existence. We did not foresee the situation in Letterkenny. We have introduced amending legislation. The practice generally in this House is not to limit provisions to exact circumstances because we do not know if something else will happen tomorrow or some other day which would make it necessary for us to amend those provisions. I can only give the assurance that these are the kinds of circumstances envisaged. I am in no position to say that something else could happen which might involve a governing body not being in place. I could not suggest what these circumstances could be. There is nothing ulterior about this. It only involves intervention where it is absolutely essential.
May I ask the House to allow me to bring forward on Report Stage the amendment I suggested?
The debate will be concluded at 5.30 p.m.
I think we have latitude to continue after 5.30 p.m. In the event of my request about Report Stage being acceded to, I will withdraw my amendment.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 4, subsection 1 (e), line 31, after "college" to insert:
"(a registered student is one who follows an approved course of study of not less than six hours duration per week, in the relevant academic year, at the institution)".
I am not sure if the Minister and the people who have dealt with this Bill to date had to make changes to it. Definitions are given where necessary. However, there is no definition of "student". There is a definition of what is a member of staff. Part-time staff are included for the purposes of this legislation. It is possible that there could be a conflict between a student body and a governing body or between a student body or a governing body and the Minister. The fact that the word "student" is not defined may lead to difficulties.
Having been so anxious to hear what I have to say, I hope the Senator will agree with me on this occasion. It would not be appropriate to define a registered student in the terms outlined by the Senator as it is a matter for the governing body to make regulations in the context of its circumstances. If the Senator has worries about co-ordination on this issue, I refer him to the existence of the regional technical college management services, which, with the council of directors, will achieve this. These are the kinds of matters which, in my view, are best dealt with at local level. It should not be a matter for primary legislation to dictate how this should happen. I am a great believer in freedom at local level for each area to express itself and to handle matters involving students, colleges and registration. For this reason I do not accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 5, before section 6, to insert a new section as follows:
"6. — Section 9 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion after ‘college' of ‘for a term of seven years, renewable, on the recommendation of the academic council, for a further seven years'."
The purpose of the amendment is to bring the Bill in line with common practice. The Minister knows that county managers are employed under contract for a specific number of years. It is wise to do this for many reasons. It is unhealthy and unwelcome for a person to be given the position of director of a regional technical college for a lifetime because of the nature of this job and because of the importance of innovation in education in regional technical colleges. I wish the Minister to accept the amendment or insert one of his own.
The Senator will be aware that existing directors of regional technical colleges have been appointed on a whole-time and permanent basis. The President of the Dublin Institute of Technology was appointed in 1993 for a period of ten years. The terms of office of future directors of regional technical colleges is a policy matter which will be addressed when such an issue arises. It is my view that it would not be appropriate for the academic council to recommend renewal of the terms of offices of directors. There is merit in the Senator's general point about contract appointments for a specific period. We have inherited certain decisions which must now stand. The term of office of the President of the Dublin Institute of Technology is ten years but the overriding concern is that the academic council alone should not have the final say in such a matter. It should be a matter for the governing bodies which have overall responsibility for the running of colleges. As far as local authorities are concerned, I am not sure if some county managers would survive for seven years if the local authority equivalent of academic councils, that is the elected members, had the say.
As it is now 5.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the House today: "That the sections undisposed of and the Title are hereby agreed to, that the Bill is reported to the House without amendment, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed, and that the motion for the earlier signature of the Bill by the President is hereby agreed to."
- Byrne, Seán.
- Calnan, Michael.
- Cashin, Bill.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Gallagher, Ann.
- Kelly, Mary.
- Lanigan, Mick.
- Lydon, Don.
- McGennis, Marian.
- McGowan, Paddy.
- Magner, Pat.
- Maloney, Sean.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- Norris, David.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- Roche, Dick.
- Wall, Jack.
- Wright, G. V.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Cotter, Bill.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Naughten, Liam.
- O'Toole, Joe.
- Reynolds, Gerry.