Metrology Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

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

A major reform of the weights and measures infrastructures in Ireland has been underway since 1992 comprising modernisation of equipment and facilities and streamlining of the organisational structures. This Bill, which I am very pleased to introduce, will bring the programme to completion by establishing a new legal metrology service. The primary objectives of the Bill are: first, to update and consolidate existing weights and measures, and quantity control legislation; and, second, to provide the legal framework for the establishment and operation of the new metrology service.

Measurements constitute the basis for a number of activities that are essential to our everyday lives. In fact, the act of measuring is such an inherent part of civilisation that its historical, economic and social roots often remain hidden deep below the surface of a society's fabric — perhaps unknown to a public whose general welfare depends on a fair and accurate measurement process.

Metrology is the science devoted to the measurement means that make up this process. It includes: the theory of measurement; units of measurement and their physical realisation; measurement procedures and methods; characteristics of measuring instruments; and persons and organisations who undertake measurement.

Whenever goods are exchanged from one owner to another, a fair assessment of the value of the products being exchanged is necessary. Trade is one of the basic elements that has historically governed human interaction. This is why the economic and social development of a society would be difficult without the use of reliable measurement tools and practices in its basic commercial exchanges.

Metrology is as fundamental to modern society as is the unit of currency, impacting as it does on all aspects of trade, science and technology, industry, agriculture, health and safety and environmental protection. The needs of modern societies generate a constant demand for more precise measurements. For example, in a highly industrialised world the interchangeability of product components and the geographical dispersion of manufacturing units demand worldwide harmonised methods and standards of measurement.

Growing out of a long history of governmental responsibility for protecting citizens from fraudulent business transactions, legal metrology can be considered as the public branch of any given measurement system. In other words, in many cases where measurement results have a direct effect on the interests of the general public, Governments apply regulations that are intended to provide a consistent and valid basis for establishing the highest degree of measurement credibility possible.

As civilisations continue to break new ground with never-ending development processes, the world is becoming smaller. Modern means of communication have reached even the most remote corners of the globe and technological progress in transportation has opened the channels to a geographic accessibility unimaginable even in the recent past. These advances symbolise a world whose individual societies have chosen to join forces on a path towards international co-operation.

One of the most significant consequences of the transformation of a world of nations into an international world is its impact on the global economy. Trading between nations determines the overall economic state of the world. Moreover, a healthy international co-operation within the areas of science, technology, medicine and the environment is a key element for fruitful exchanges of knowledge and expertise. Measurements must provide a strong base for these interactions. This is why the development of harmonised metrological tools and procedures in parallel with the establishment of international co-operation constitutes another important consequence of the move towards a global community. A number of international institutions have indeed been established to deal with metrological subjects in fields such as standardisation, physics, chemistry, and health.

Metrology law in this country falls into two categories. The first body of law, the Weights and Measures Acts, dating from 1878 to 1961, together with a number of regulations implementing EU law. concern the following: units of measurement; standards through which the units are realised; organisation of the service; and a system of establishing confidence in measuring instruments used in trade. Measurement of gas and of electricity are regulated by means of the Gas and Electricity Acts respectively.

The second, paralleling these measures, the Packaged Goods (Quantity Control) Act, 1980, gives effect to EU directives and deals with the control of quantities in pre-packaged goods. Section 39 of the Restrictive Practices (Amendment) Act, 1987, deals with short measure in goods sold loose.

Thus, the existing legal metrology service is based mainly on 19th century legislation, which I am sure the House will agree is no longer suitable for today's technological age. In addition, the existing service has its organisational origins in the last century. The organisation is fragmented with overall responsibility for weights and measures and quantity control residing with the Department of Enterprise and Employment. Enforcement resources are dispersed between Dublin Corporation and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council staff, who enforce weights and measures law within their own administrative areas and Garda sergeantex officio staff, who carry out similar duties throughout the remainder of the country.

Local authorities are required to provide accommodation and equipment to enable the inspectorates carry out their work. Resource constraints have meant that local authorities, with the exception of Dublin Corporation, have had little success in discharging this duty. An inspectorate attached to the Department of Enterprise and Employment enforces the Packaged Goods (Quantity Control) Act, 1980. Enforcement of the law in relation to gas meters is the responsibility of the public lighting Departments of Dublin and Cork Corporations, neither of which have been able to maintain these services.

Essentially, the Bill will update existing provisions and provide for the establishment of a new legal metrology organisational structure which will be merged with the industrial metrology functions under the operational control of Forbairt's national metrology laboratory. The legal metrology service at present operates under the overall control of my Department. The new service being established under the Bill will operate to the higher technical standards necessary to serve the needs of industry and consumers as well as contributing to the establishment of mutual confidence between the metrology services in an open European market.

As the world continues to make great bounds forward in science and technology, daily living is becoming more and more complex. Rapid economic growth has led to the consumer era, accentuating the need for protecting both the interests of buyers and sellers as market forces reflect the trend towards growing competition for new products and services.

Increasingly in recent years people in business are, on a voluntary basis, seeking third party assurance on the metrological integrity of the measuring instruments which they use. Many trading companies see the financial advantages of accreditation to quality production standards — for example, ISO 9000, under which certifiable traceable measurements are the foundation of quality in the production of goods and services.

I now turn to the main features of the Bill. The Bill will be brought into force by means of a commencement order. It will, together with the Packaged Goods (Quantity Control) Act, 1980, be construed as one Act. The Bill governs measurements used for the purpose of trade. I will be empowered to extend by regulation the scope of application to uses other than trade. Existing weights and measures law is being repealed.

Under the Bill, I will have general regulation making powers, including regulations to implement EU legislation, thus consolidating all regulation making powers in the legal metrology field in one piece of legislation. As at present, the legislation will allow for the charging of fees. Ministerial approval will be required for new fee rates. Expenses incurred in the administration of the Act shall be as sanctioned by the Oireachtas.

The Bill proposes the establishment of a legal metrology service within Forbairt, and the position of Director of Legal Metrology, who will be responsible for management of the service, thus replacing the existing fragmented structures. An important element in the establishment of the new service entails the transfer to Forfás, on a voluntary basis, of staff of the existing service. As I have already done in the Lower House, I should like to pay tribute to the staff of the metrology service, both past and present, Garda, local authority and departmental, who have given valuable service to consumers and industry down through the years.

My officials have been in negotiation with staff representatives for some time on the transfer terms to apply. In addition, I personally met with staff and their representatives to discuss their concerns. The Bill guarantees that staff who opt to transfer to the new service shall not, unless otherwise agreed, suffer any diminution of their existing terms of employment, including tenure of office.

An agreement was reached with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors through the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council in January last on the terms of transfer which will apply to Garda sergeantsex officio inspectors of weights and measures. Negotiations with the union representing 12 departmental and local authority staff are nearing completion.

The Bill provides for the appointment of officers of Forfás or existing inspectors who shall enforce the new legislation. Powers are being vested in inspectors to examine and test both measuring instruments and goods to ensure conformity with legal requirements. Provision is also made to avoid employees having conflicts of interest.

Section 12 provides that bodies other than the service, to be known as "special bodies", may be authorised by the director and with the prior consent of the Minister to carry out statutory functions subject to certain conditions. These conditions may include proven technical competency of staff involved, that the measurement standards used be traceable to international standards, that the "special body" operates its metrological functions in an impartial manner and that the procedures followed be adequately documented and open to inspection.

A special body will be subject to regular monitoring and if it does not continue to meet the conditions its authorisation may be withdrawn. It is envisaged that this provision will enable organisations such as the ESB or Bord Gáis to be given responsibility for carrying out respective legal metrology functions in relation to meters used for the sale of electricity and gas.

Suppliers and users of measuring instruments will be required to ensure that where instruments are intended for a prescribed use they shall conform to legal requirements. Extending this obligation to the suppliers of instruments is new. I consider that the existing legal position whereby the user of the instrument is solely responsible for ensuring conformity is unfair. A significant change in existing law is proposed whereby in special circumstances dispensation from compliance with this requirement may be given. This dispensation may be granted where field trials of new technologies are necessary to establish suitability.

Traditionally conformity assessment procedures comprised type approval of new designs and then, in turn, the verification of each instrument of the approved type before being used for a prescribed purpose. Type approval entails the detailed testing of a new design in accordance with international standards to ensure that its metrological integrity is assured over a reasonable period of time. The type approval certificate is issued thereafter. In the restructured service both testing and formal approval will be undertaken by the National Metrology Laboratory, Forbairt. Heretofore, type approval was a ministerial responsibility.

Verification, an inspection function, arises when instruments are being prepared for initial use for a prescribed purpose and entails examination for conformity with an approved type and testing for accuracy. The conformity assessment procedures will be set out in regulations to be made by the director of legal metrology. An important new provision in section 14(4) enables instruments not intended for a prescribed use to be subjected to the conformity assessment procedures. This will have relevance mainly for industrial quality assurance.

A system of in-service inspection will be prescribed by the director of legal metrology. This is important from both the consumer and owners points of view in that it will maintain public confidence in measurements made in the course of trade. It is also vital in a free market regime for measuring instruments that member states operate adequate market surveillance procedures. Provision is made for marking and sealing of instruments to signify conformity with legal requirement.

Existing law on units of measurement which originated from the EU directive is being reproduced in the Bill. While Government policy from 1968 onwards was to adopt a single system of units of measurement,le Systéme International d'Unités, SI, also referred to as the metric system, our progress in achieving that objective was determined by the various EU efforts at withdrawing from legal use non SI units of measurement in use in the Community.

A brake on our progress was also exerted by the relatively slower pace of metrication by our major trading partner, the United Kingdom. However, I am pleased to say that very significant progress has been made in recent years in achieving the change over to a single system of units of measurement, the SI system. The Bill also lays down the definition of other units by reference to units of the SI system; the denominations of standards for mass, volume/capacity and length; and standards through which the units may be realised and disseminated.

Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of standards necessary to support measurements generally in this country is being conferred on Forbairt. But the Bill also permits other competent organisations to be responsible for provision and maintenance of standards in their own specialised fields.

An inspector's primary responsibility is to establish if, following initial verification, instruments in use for trade continue to remain within the permitted limits of error. However, an inspector may, if requested by the owner and with the approval of the director, carry out adjustments to measuring instruments in use where they are found to be outside the permitted limits. A somewhat similar provision is in existing law. Forgery of marks or tampering with, or unauthorised removal of, marks and seals will constitute an offence under the Bill.

Local authorities have, down through the years, provided and maintained weighing equipment for public use, most notably weighbridges set up for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, and the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) (Amendment) Act, 1960, as well as those established for the purposes of markets and fairs laws dating from the last century. This arrangement is being continued and extended to include measuring instruments. Public confidence in the operation of such equipment is maintained by a system of controls and obligations applicable to the operator of the equipment.

The Bill also regulates the sale of solid fuel by reference to quantity. At present there are no legislative requirements regarding the display of the net quantity on sealed bags of solid fuel, but this omission is now being redressed. Provision is also made requiring the vendor of solid fuel sold loose or in an open container to issue a docket to the purchaser indicating the quantity sold.

The existing laws relating to quantity control and short measure are being brought together. Thus they will be more intelligible to the enforcement authorities, the trade and consumers. The Bill lays down a regime of offences, provides for appeals to the District Court, the stipulation of rules for the prosecution of offences and the imposition of penalties for those found in breach of the law. Finally, the Bill will permit the transfer of property and equipment currently vested in the Minister or the local authorities to Forbairt.

These are the principal features of the Bill, many which, of necessity, are of a technical nature. However, it is important to stress that the enactment of the legislation and the associated modernisation programme shall improve considerably the service available to both industry and consumers. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome this legislation. It incorporates, transcends and replaces legislation dating back to 1878, 1889 and 1928. Metrology is very important to our everyday living. It involves every part of industry and virtually every part of the profession. This Bill brings us into line with the requirements of European legislation. It brings under one unit something that is currently administered by a number of different groups, and this causes some concern. The Bill is well worded. It brings into force sensible legislative requirements and addresses some omissions.

It must be asked why there have been very few prosecutions under the current legislation. One of the reasons is that, in rural areas, the legislation has been administered and enforced by the Garda Síochána. It is a fairly powerful weapon when a member of the Garda Síochána comes around to look at the equipment. If there were problems they are readily put right. By contrast, in Dublin city, the legislation has been administered by members of Dublin Corporation while in other areas it has been administered by people from the QC department.

All these people have had training and have acquired a great deal of experience in this area. The Bill provides for training and the charging of fees. This will enhance the service. I am sure the Minister of the day will agree to increase the fees commensurate with the requirements to administer the law and improve the service.

However, there is a difficulty with these three groups of people and how they are to be employed in the future. According to the explanatory memorandum, Part II, section 8, provides that:

Personnel attached to the existing service may be employed by Forfás in the new service and subject to agreement with their trade unions or staff associations their conditions of service shall be no worse than they enjoy at present.

This appears to be fair and reasonable. However, 20 members of the Garda Síochána are currently employed in the service; these men will retire at different ages. The members of Dublin Corporation can continue in employment until they are 65 years of age whereas the members of the Garda Síochána retire at 57 years of age. Given the present small size of the Force there is a possibility that they may retire at a later age. They also have different rates of pay and terms and conditions of employment.

What is to happen to these people? How is the service to be administered? Will those employed by Dublin Corporation seek the same rate of pay and terms and conditions as members of the Garda Síochána? There will be difficulties in this area and provision should be made to deal with this unfairness. It would be very unfair to force members of the Garda Síochána to accept a situation which breeds insecurity in their present position.

One alternative may be to second these 20 men; I understand that most of them are within three years of retirement. Some of them may continue for longer. I also understand that there is a precedent for making such an arrangement. Another alternative, which would probably be much more expensive, would be to make an arrangement that would entail retiring them and then reemploying them. The third option would be to employ them as members of the Garda Síochána and increase all the other benefits of all the other people involved to the same level. We will be putting down amendments on Committee Stage in this area.

A substantial amount of training will be required. These men have 20 to 25 years service. One must consider the bottom line given the amount of money involved in training new people. A sensible arrangement to accommodate the fears of the gardaí involved and retain their services while new people are coming on stream in three years time would be welcome.

The Bill provides for instruments of high technology, but there are also low technology instruments in the measuring world. The legislation adopts the sensible approach of bringing it all under one heading and ensuring the quality control department, if that is the correct term, carries out that function. It is experienced in the field as it already has a function in this area.

Our image as a young, go ahead country must be portrayed in all areas. This matter will bring us into line and enhance our image. I ask the Minister to reconsider the position of the Garda and the other members employed regarding how one can sensibly deal with people from different backgrounds with different terms and conditions in the three departments.

The House is updating laws which were enacted in 1878 and slightly amended on a number of occasions up to 1961. The Bill is significant because it is fundamental to the areas of science, technology, industry, agriculture, health, safety and environmental protection. It covers a broad spectrum of the workings of the economy and a substantial number of people are involved.

I was reared close to the local village of Kilmainham Wood and I remember the weights and measures man, who was a Garda sergeant, arriving to measure the amount of petrol per gallon. That was over 30 years ago and I look forward to hearing the Minister's view on whether gardaí should deal with this area now. Given the Government's welcome decision to replace 200 gardaí in stations around the country with civilians — this proposal was discussed by previous Governments for ten years but nothing was done about it — perhaps it is time to bring this area a stage further in terms of implementing the regulations and bringing them up to EU standards. People other than gardaí could be used to implement the regulations.

Will the Minister outline the type of rates he envisages people will be charged for the service, which must be provided to ensure everything is correct? What is the total number of staff involved? I welcome that the Minister has already held discussions with the staff concerned and that they are happy with the assurances they received regarding the change from Forbairt to the new system. It is right that such consultations are held before any changes are made; this avoids problems people may have with them. What is the overall position of the staff, including the gardaí who are involved at present? I was of the opinion that the Garda sergeants involved were retired from the force, but it appears that is not the case.

I understand the proposal the Minister mentioned regarding the establishment of a special body to investigate the running of this service. He also mentioned that the body will be investigated at various times to ensure it is carrying out its duties in a particular manner. Is there duplication in that regard? Are two bodies required? If not, the matter should be brought to a favourable conclusion to ensure there is not a huge amount of duplication. The Minister of State has been in the House frequently of late with different legislation; the Minister for Enterprise and Employment was here last week with a Bill while Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, was also here with legislation.

Given all the new laws and regulations which must be implemented, bodies are faced with the substantial extra workload of investigating each other. I have no problem with that aspect or ensuring work is carried out satisfactorily and within the law, but are all the bodies being established to investigate whether regulations approved by the Oireachtas are being implemented necessary?

I welcome that the House is discussing legislation which will bring an incredibly antiquated system into the 21st century. I often heard farmers at marts make comments about the scales and that it was not weighing correctly. Many complaints were made.

Only if there was under achievement.

If their expectations under achieved. Nobody ever brought it any further than making comments such as the animals involved were a different weight at another mart previously so the scales must be wrong. How many cases were taken against people in the past? This matter does not receive much publicity but I doubt there have been many cases. However, not much was wrong with the system because it worked. This is my experience of inspections carried out on small shops selling petrol in villages and towns. Things have moved on dramatically since then.

The legislation is welcome and I hope the Minister is in a position to reply to my questions. I hope the Bill will ensure consumers and business people are protected because 99.9 per cent of those in business want to ensure what they do is correct. As the previous contributor said, everything is sold by weight and bulk nowadays. I am delighted for the consumer as, for the first time, those selling coal and solid fuel from the backs of lorries will have to give identification for the weights involved. We are not saying these people are doing their jobs incorrectly. In the old days 20 tons of coal arrived in the local shopkeeper's yard. It was divided by filling one hundredweight in one bag and so on. I spent many days filling such bags.

We have moved on and we are doing two things here. We are ensuring that the consumer is protected and we are also bringing the regulations in to be administered under one roof. That is fair and right. 99 per cent of businesspeople will be quite happy that everything is being done to keep our laws current with laws across the European Community. I welcome this legislation.

I welcome this Bill, which I do not see as a technical measure but one which is of very real importance to everyone in the country. I thank the Minister also for educating me. I had not heard the word "metrology" before and I had to look up the dictionary to see what it was. His explanation is very useful and easier than the dictionary.

Having a trusted system of weights and measures is absolutely central to a modern market-based economy. It is a tribute to the quality of the system we have that most people do not even think about it. I know that we have a history of good standards in this area in Ireland. I do not know when we originally established a recognition but I know that in the 1950s some visitors to my father from England commented on the marks in glasses from which we served. In those days I think we had a standard in which there was a mark in every glass in a pub. They did not have this in Britain and had no system of weights and measurements or measuring alcoholic drinks. We have had a system and standard in this that has been higher than elsewhere for many years.

When people go into a shop or a petrol station or a pub, they go on the assumption that they will get what they paid for. If it is a litre of petrol, they assume they will get exactly one litre. If it is a kilo of meat, they assume that what it says on the shopkeeper's scale is exactly what they will get. If it is packaged goods, they assume that the quantity marked on the pack is exactly what they will get.

If customers could not make those assumptions, then they would find it impossible to compare like with like. If somebody offers you a few pence off a litre of petrol but gives you short measure, then you as the customer have no way of knowing what the real price is. But when weights and measures are respected and enforced, then proper competition can take place, and competition is the most effective protection that the customer can have. We take all this for granted but it does not happen automatically. The system has to be enforced so that unscrupulous people are not tempted to try to fiddle with it.

From the point of view of my own business, some two years ago a very large supermarket in America was found, on investigation, to have approximately 100 offences in this area. It damaged the company to the extent that it will be very difficult for it to overcome. I speak of the enforcement of this Bill as a help to business and one we should appreciate more than we have done in the past. Senator Farrelly has referred to the respect for those who enforced this. I have been in business for over 35 years and in the 1950s and 1960s when told that a sergeant from weights and measures was coming, it scared that shopkeeper that something might go wrong and embarrass him. It was a marvellous way of enforcing this because there was respect for the importance of having a sergeant come to do so. I am not sure if the term "sergeant" will still be used. Those employed in this area have always had a high respect that I hope will be maintained, although it is not the intention in this Bill that they should remain members of the Garda. I understand the logic of transferring somebody so as not to have two bosses. If somebody is working in this area and is not a garda, I understand why the Garda Commissioner would not want to have them as members of the Garda if they work for somebody else. I ask the Minister to be sympathetic to the concerns of people involved in this and to having a sergeant do this work. It has been a great benefit in the past because it has given a prominence and importance greater than would have happened had an inspector come in.

Enforcing a weights and measures system is a very important role for the State. It is a perfect example of what the State should be doing in regard to commerce: namely, creating the conditions in which businesses can compete fairly to fulfil the customers' needs. Without effective enforcement the system would start to crumble very quickly.

A few years ago, when petrol in the North was considerably cheaper than down here, some of the less reputable filling stations across the Border had two pumps — a "Sterling pump "for their northern customers and a "punt pump "for the people from the South. The point was that the punt pump was not monitored by the weights and measures people of the North but the Sterling pump was. I leave it to your imagination to work out why any filling station would have two separate pumps in that way.

It is right that we should modernise our weights and measures system as changing conditions make that necessary. It is right too that we should keep fully in step with EU practice in this regard. I welcome this Bill from both aspects and I believe if there are any changes needed on Committee Stage that they will get full consideration.

I also welcome this Bill and will not detain the House. The other speakers have gone into the various details of the Bill, which is establishing a legal metrology service within Forbairt and streamlining the system. As the Minister said, some of the legislation and organisational units go back to the last century. It is logical that these should be brought together in an organised way to ensure public confidence and conformity across the board.

Senator Quinn is correct. Our confidence in measurement does not impinge on our consciousness most of the time. We assume that we will get what we ask for in terms of measurement and weight; but if we did not, then there would quickly be a major effect on how we do our business for both consumer and producer in terms of confidence in the system.

The Minister said that metrology is as fundamental to modern society as currency. We use it every day in all sorts of transactions and we need to ensure that we have confidence in what we are doing. We all pay tribute to how the system has been run, but we also agree that it has been diverse and it is necessary to bring the system together. We need standardisation and uniformity to ensure that companies do not have to go outside to find methods of conformity to recognised measurements, as the Minister said.

The consumer wants fair play and in a lot of situations we weigh and measure for ourselves. In supermarkets we weigh our own vegetables and fruit and people like to do that. When you go into a petrol station, buy a bag of coal or order a drink, you want to be absolutely certain that what you get is what you pay for, as Senator Quinn said. I was thinking back to buying packets of crisps as a child and sometimes you got one that looked like it had less in it than one bought the day before. Children have a particularly strong sense of fair play and I felt very hard done by when the packet looked a little smaller than it should have been. It probably was not, but it is a basic instinct in us all that even if we have paid only two or three pence for something, we want to be absolutely certain that we have got what we paid for.

Various bodies have been involved — local authorities, the Garda, the Department, etc. I welcome the fact that suppliers as well as users of instruments will have a legal obligation to conform to standards under this legislation. In the past — the Minister can correct me if I am wrong — only the person using the instrument was under the obligation. It makes sense that suppliers should also have a legal obligation to conform to standards as they are in the business of producing the equipment. I also understand — perhaps the Minister can clarify this — that in some cases field trials can be exempted. I assume that this is so that people are not unnecessarily constrained during the trial period when carrying out research and development into new products. If that is the intention of the exempion it is welcome. I know this Minister has been doing a great deal to encourage Irish companies to engage in research and development in order to establish new products and create more employment. I would like the Minister to clarify that but I think I understand the intention.

The other point that caused most concern has been the question of the existing personnel and in particular the 20 Garda sergeants who have been working within the system and whose working conditions will be changed under the new legislation. If they remain members of the Garda Síochána it will not be possible for them to work in the new organisation. However, if they work in the new organisation they will retain all their pay and conditions. This matter was raised in the other House. It is more a question of status than of pay and conditions. The Minister indicated that, according to the response he received from the Department of Justice, it is not possible in this case to retain the same personnel in the same position with the same command structures under the legislation governing the Garda. If that is the case we must accept it but we would like to do whatever we can for the individuals involved to preserve the jobs they have been doing all their lives. However, we also understand that the legislation has to be complied with.

Senator Farrelly also mentioned that, in other contexts, such as crime and drugs, we are calling for more targeted use of our Garda personnel. We welcome the fact that 200 civilians are to be brought into the service to carry out tasks that are not necessarily central to Garda operations. We cannot have it both ways. We must understand that this is why these changes are being made. Nevertheless, we ask that the individuals involved would be given every consideration. I know the Minister is sympathetic to their case.

I will not detain the House any longer. I welcome the fact that we are now streamlining the system, both legislatively and organisationally. I am sure that we will have a modern system about which we can be confident and which will work well for the consumer, the producer and the various commercial outlets involved.

There is no doubt about the necessity for this Bill. It aims to modernise the original legislation, some of which has been on the Statute Book since 1878. However, I am somewhat taken aback at the cumbersome and complex mechanism which has been used in this Bill to deal with what, to me, appears to be a straightforward matter. Behind the scenes there is probably a lot of pressure on the Minister but I wish to give him some advice. If, as a Minister, I were handed a Bill like this, I would ask the persons who presented it to me to take it away and streamline it so that it would clearly indicate, in a legislative way, what I wanted to do and how I would do it.

I have read this Bill and it seems we are to build a new system into the existing system which will be under the auspices of certain Ministers and under the control of certain agencies. It seems to have some independence of its own while at the same time being completely under the control of existing agencies. My description is not too clear. While I do not wish to be critical and while I support the principle of establishing new legislation to modernise our laws, I seriously question the methodology being used in this Bill.

I have dealt with legislation for over 20 years and, in my opinion, we are using a very complicated method to deal with something that should be simple to organise. If we are to appoint a director to deal with this matter, he or she should be responsible to a small board. The director would be independent and would report to a separate board, calling in the various bodies with responsibilities in different areas, such as local authorities, the Garda Síochána, agencies or private companies. As far as possible a clear legislative framework should be set down, as has been done in other legislation.

I am almost certain that in a very short time either this Minister or some other Minister from the same Department will be back here making changes to this legislation because it will be found to be very cumbersome in practice and will not have the desired results. This is one of the few Bills in which I see proposals to repeal parts of the existing Schedules. On Committee Stage we may get more detail about that. It is proposed to repeal Part IV of the First Schedule. It is important, if we are setting down legislation to deal with these matters, not to talk about repealing some of the existing Schedules. Why is this necessary? That this kind of situation cannot be avoided baffles me.

Under this Bill we will have a service within a service rather than an independent service under an independent director reporting to a separate board and calling in the various bodies with responsibilities in the different areas. I am sure the Bill is almost finalised now but I would strongly recommend this course of action. I doubt if the Minister looked very carefully at this. He probably inherited memos from various Ministers over the last number of years who had intended to streamline this legislation. We now have a Bill made from bits and pieces glued together and, in my view, a very unsatisfactory mechanism to deal with these issues.

The chief executive officer of Forfás, the director of Forbairt and the Department of Enterprise and Employment have some responsibility under this Bill. Either Forfás or Forbairt has been asked to design a superannuation scheme for the new service under the IDA legislation. It would be better to have a separate body under the director which would draw up its own superannuation scheme and submit it for approval in the normal way to the Minister for Finance rather than using agencies which have been hived off from the IDA and which are using IDA mechanisms to operate their superannuation schemes. It sounds a very complicated way of doing things.

Inspectors are granted powers under other sections of the Bill and I am not sure that the necessary supports are in place to enable them to carry out their duties. For example, the existing authorities, including the Garda Síochána, had powers to undertake certain work in particular areas in order to effectively carry out their duties. It is unclear whether the inspectors appointed under section 10 will have the same powers and rights as a Garda sergeant with responsibility for weights and measures. Perhaps we can discuss this in greater detail on Committee Stage, but the section granting powers to inspectors is very vague. I am not convinced that the statutory legal framework is in place to enable inspectors to carry out the work done heretofore by Garda sergeants with responsibility for weights and measures under the old arrangements.

The Minister of State is aware of this problem because another section of the Bill contains a provision stating that persons who are aggrieved by a decision of an inspector can apply to a Justice of the District Court. According to the legislation, a Justice of the District Court can levy certain obligations on inspectors if they feel that an inspector has done something which is not strictly in accordance with his or her powers or obligations. This places inspectors in a very vulnerable situation. I do not know where that provision originated or whether it was hived off from previous legislation. Perhaps the Minister of State could clarify the position in his reply.

I hope the Minister of State adopts a constructive attitude to the points I am making. He should not feel slighted by my comments. I intend no reflection on the Minister of State. However, in the interests of placing the best possible legislation on the Statute Book, which will last for ten to 20 years or until 2078 and beyond, it is advisable to consider this matter carefully before finalising our deliberations. We will then avoid a situation where the Minister of State will be obliged to return to the House in a number of years to amend the legislation because it is deficient.

Aside from problems with the powers granted to inspectors, there is also a possibility that conflict will arise between the chief executive of Forbairt, who has certain responsibilities, and the director. A further complication exists because, under section 12 of the Bill, the director is given power to establish certain bodies. Under section 21, however, Forbairt is also given power to designate bodies. This view was also expressed by the Fine Gael spokesperson, perhaps not as forcefully, who also believes that there will be bodies all over the place if we follow through on these provisions. Perhaps there is a valid reason that Forbairt will be entitled to designate special bodies for specific reasons. When one considers the special bodies powers granted to the director under section 12, however, this seems a recipe for disagreement and represents the kind of situation we should try to avoid when introducing legislation such as this.

The issue of the provision of facilities is not very clear. By and large, the local authorities provide facilities for many of the activities carried out in respect of weights and measures. They will continue to provide such facilities to the new service. I presume that under the new arrangements the local authorities will be able to make charges against the service. Will the Minister of State clarify what the relationship will be between the local authorities and the new service regarding the provision of facilities and accommodation for activities relating to weights and measures? This has been a sizeable burden on local authorities in the past. Will that burden be passed on to the new service? What practical arrangements will be put in place for the service to operate successfully?

I am curious about the position of the director. Most of the legislation debated in this House in recent years contains provisions relating to the appointment of directors and personnel. The House recently debated the Refugee Bill, which provided for the appointment of an appeals commissioner and appeals personnel. The Schedule to that Bill contained a clear definition of the role, responsibilities, duties and expertise of the commissioner. The Bill before us contains no such provision. Section 7 deals with this matter and states that there shall be a director and indicates the functions and duties of the director. However, it does not clearly define the qualifications of the director. Will the director be an official seconded from a Department? Will the position be advertised by the Local Appointments Commission? Will the director have any special qualifications or expertise in this area?

In my opinion, a director could be appointed who may have little or no knowledge of this area. Perhaps the Minister of State will clarify the position in this regard. The legislation does not contain a definition relating to the qualifications of the director or a requirement that his or her appointment must be approved by the Minister. It also fails to indicate whether the director should have expertise or experience in this area, will be a civil servant within the meaning of the Civil Service legislation or will be an appointee of the Minister with no knowledge of the activities covered under the Bill.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. It will streamline and modernise the legislation in this area, which dates back to 1878. However, a valuable opportunity is being lost to set down parameters for the appointment of a board and director to manage the new service, who would be free from influence by Forbairt, Forfás or any other body. There are no provisions for a clearly defined pension scheme and the appointment of a director with experience and knowledge in the area. The Bill also lacks provision to remove the director from office. The Schedules of several pieces of legislation recently passed by this House contained definitions regarding the qualifications required for the appointment of people to such important offices, how they would be appointed, who could remove them from those offices and whether they could be removed for reasons of ill health or bankruptcy. No provisions are made in that regard in this Bill.

I offer these comments in a spirit of assistance to the Minister of State, who has wide experience in and knowledge of the public service and is much respected. I am baffled that he allowed this legislation to pass through his hands in its current form. He should reconsider the Bill and ask his advisers to redraft it into a meaningful and manageable form so that we can place an effective piece of legislation on the Statute Book. As drafted, the Bill seems to have been hammered together in piecemeal fashion by four or five Ministers during the past 12 years.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. My contribution will be brief. I am a little less familiar with the Bill than Senator Daly, given his detailed contribution. The Bill is welcome because it is time legislation was brought forward to update such areas. It is beyond belief that we are using methods more appropriate to Victorian England than to 20th century Ireland. Consumer confidence in packaging and so on is a measure of the success of the original legislation. If something is marked 50 grammes, it is that weight. Measures marked on the products we buy are accurate.

Although consumer confidence is strong in this area, perhaps the Minister will need to reinforce it when the Bill is passed. He should initiate a short publicity campaign to renew public confidence in our weights and measures. It is also important for our export trade that such confidence exists in the products we produce. If a person has a complaint or if they believe they have been shortchanged, to whom can they complain? What redress will they have? Will they be protected by consumer legislation, or is there anything in this Bill which would help them?

My interest in the Bill arose because of a long discussion I had with a sergeant of weights and measures. The concerns of sergeants of weights and measures are valid and should be addressed. They must decide whether to remain in weights and measures or to return to the Garda Síochána, as most entered the force and then moved into weights and measures. They did not join the Garda specifically to become sergeants of weights and measures. Many are over 40 years of age and they must decide whether to remain in the job with which they are familiar or to remain with their chosen profession, that is, the Garda Síochána. It is a choice which they are reluctant to make. They would like the legislation to allow them to continue to work in weights and measure and to allow them remain in their chosen profession.

Sergeants of weights and measure feel very strongly that they should retain the conditions of service they would enjoy as members of the Garda Síochána. They are not sure if they will be entitled to improvements in conditions of service for gardai, whether in relation to early retirement or allowing gardaí to work after the specified retirement age. They would like the conditions and services which would pertain to the gardai in five years time to be available to them.

They are also afraid this area will be privatised — I know it will not happen under this Minister — that they will lose a new set of conditions and work practices and that their working environment would change. Sergeants of weights and measures are essentially public servants and this change over to being semi-State employees is causing them some angst. It would be anathema to them if they were to become employees of a private agency.

While sergeants of weights and measures are supported by legislation, from time to time they rely on the greater powers they have as members of the Garda Síochána. The realisation among those they regularly inspect in Foynes and other such ports that they have greater powers often guarantees them more co-operation than would otherwise be the case. They will probably be involved in the training of their replacements. This aura of additional powers should be given to trainee inspectors, so that there is a continuation of public compliance with the legislation. I hope the Minister will address the concerns I raised.

When I was growing up the sergeant of weights and measures was a very important man in my town of Dingle. His visits were looked forward to; we nearly had people on the main road to see if he was arriving. He was considered the symbol of honesty and he had a marked impact on the life of the town. He was responsible for getting rid of the meejum which was not an acceptable measure to the sergeant. It was a popular measure in the west — a glass of porter which was half way between a half pint and a pint. The decision that it was no longer a legal measure caused consternation along that part of the west coast. For many years after, it was sometimes sold, but people had to haggle over the price.

Recently, I was told that there is a pub in Castlebar which still sells meejums and that it is written over the door. I ask the Minister to go back to the west to tidy up that anachronism in Castlebar.

It is a tourist attraction.

Recently, I explained to someone that as a young lad trying to learn weights and measures behind the counter of a public bar the worst thing was to have a farmer hand back his glass because at that time people held the same glass all night with an inch of stout left in the bottom. They would ask me to put a meejum into the glass and if one did not fill it up to the top, one was the worst in the world.

In my mother's shop there was a leaden section in the corner of the scale which was stamped when the sergeant of weights and measures came every six months or so and checked that the scale was working properly. This was the stamp of authority. It inspired confidence. When people bought a quarter pound of sweets or a pound of bananas they knew they were getting the correct amount.

I welcome the objectives of this Bill. It is important and progressive legislation. At a time when Europe is rapidly changing the units it uses to gauge weights and measures in every area from physics to normal items in daily life, it is important that this issue is put on a statutory basis. It is useful consolidating legislation and the Minister and his officials are to be complimented for bringing it forward.

I will not go through all aspects of the Bill as I only have problems with one section. It is the nature of politics that the Opposition tends to be negative about legislation, but I welcome the Bill with the exception of section 8 which deals with the transfer of personnel. I have difficulty with that section. The personnel who currently work on weights and measures are members of the Garda Síochána. They joined the Garda and in the course of their careers they were promoted to the rank of sergeant and placed in this area. They are gardaí who work full-time in the weights and measures sector.

I welcome and compliment the political thinking behind section 8 and its attempt to ensure that those who move to Forfás from the Garda have as much protection as can legally be offered in legislation. The section has been comprehensively drafted, with one exception. It does not allow people an option once they have made the move. That is a problem. These people have made a career in this area and they are now being faced with a stark choice. They can leave the area and start again from scratch, notwithstanding their retention of rank. Many of them are in the later stages of their career and this change will be difficult for them.

There is another question which the Minister of State, more than any other Minister in this Government, will recognise and that is the management of change. There is a golden rule in the management of change — one must step beyond the problem created for people in their nervousness of change by giving them a guarantee that they can retain their position for as long as possible so long as they do not object to or stand in the way of change and as long as they attempt to accommodate change. For that reason the sergeants who are being transferred to Forfás under section 8 should be entitled to change their minds. In the first place, they should be transferred there on secondment.

I intend to put down an amendment on Committee Stage, which will also be in the names of Senator Norris and Senator Lee, to insert a new subsection in section 8. Section 8 (1) states:

With effect from the establishment day, Forfás shall accept into its employment every person who, immediately before that day, was—

(a) a member of the staff of the Department of Enterprise and Employment, or

(b) a member of the staff of a local authority, or

(c) an inspector for the purposes of the Weights and Measures Acts, 1878 to 1961,

The section also refers to members of the Garda Síochána. The proposed new subsection will provide that persons being transferred from the Garda Síochána to Forfás shall be deemed to be on secondment for a period of three years commencing on establishment day. At the end of that period they can exercise their right to revert to the Garda or to continue where they are. It also allows the process of natural wastage to take place because a number of people within the service who are approaching or are at retirement age will no doubt exercise that option. In that way one can implement the change without causing difficulty.

The amendment does more; it gives confidence to people to embrace this fundamental change in their conditions of work and service. It gives them the option of saying, we will go for it and transfer to Forfás in the knowledge that if it does not work out we can revert after three years. I doubt that people will go back but the amendment provides a safety net.

I hope the amendment will be accepted. It is very little to ask and does not affect the operation of the Bill. It is purely a personnel matter but it is a matter of serious concern for the people involved. The Minister of State will have dealt with similar matters as often as I have in our capacities outside politics. The question of enticing people into new situations means that we must always provide safety nets. We must tell people they do not have to worry or look behind them but to look ahead and make the most of the new opportunity.

When people are established in their careers and are in their late forties or fifties they tend to be worried about such a fundamental change in their career paths and they might feel it is a wrong decision. I ask the Minister of State to consider accepting this amendment. Committee Stage is ordered for next Friday and on that day the Minister of State might accept that this is not an unreasonable proposal. This practical proposal seeks to achieve what this Government believes to be so important, the preparation of people for change. That preparation involves protecting people. It means allaying their fears and worries and nothing worries people as much as a change in the fundamentals of their lives and jobs.

In welcoming the Bill and complimenting those who drafted it, I ask the Minister of State to accept that simple amendment. It does not in any way interfere with the operation of the Bill but allows for the phased implementation of section 8. It need not mean that the implementation will be phased. It may well be the case that secondment will not come to anything, in the sense that people will simply accept the change and either stay where they are or, on finishing their secondment, exercise their retirement options. I will listen carefully to the Minister of State's response in the hope of hearing a commitment that these people will transfer for the initial three year period on secondment. It does not require any other change in the Bill.

I hope the Minister of State will accept that the amendment is realistic and practical and that it will be a comfort and support for the people on whom we will depend to implement the changes in this legislation.

I am not sure why the Bill is before the House but I presume it is the result of an EU directive. I have never heard anybody in this country complain about enforcement of these matters by the sergeants of weights and measures or by inspectors working for Dublin Corporation. Many people outside the Oireachtas would suggest that we should not bother changing something that has worked well.

The only representation I have ever received in relation to this matter was from a person who was being charged with having one-quarter of an ounce less than they should in a certain bag. The case came to court in Thomastown. Three inspectors from the Department were supposed to come but they were late and the case was thrown out of court. However, they were still given their expenses. This was the greatest waste of public money I ever came across. I have had dealings with the inspectorate for many years. I owned a coalyard and petrol pumps many years ago and they were often checked out.

There was an authority about the sergeants of weights and measures which is not being provided for in this Bill. One of the reasons there were no major problems in this area through the years was that a Garda sergeant supervised the procedure. If there was a minor problem, he would tell the person to solve it or he would be in trouble. A Civil Service authority will now do that job. This will add another layer of bureaucracy and will cost much more then the present system.

We purchase 90 per cent of our packaged goods through the main supermarkets, such as Superquinn, Quinnsworth and Dunnes Stores. The inspectorate could go to their warehouses and check the weights of their goods. The job could then be done much more efficiently than is envisaged under this Bill. The Minister is setting up, through Forbairt, another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

There is obviously a reason behind introducing this Bill. Has the public complained about the operation of the Garda in this regard? Have consumer bodies suggested that the laws, though ancient, have not been properly operated by the sergeants of weights and measures and Dublin Corporation? From where is the impetus for this change coming?

The Minister's speech started by putting a question mark in front of "metrology". A number of people, including myself, thought this Bill was about meteorology. The Minister's speech explained this in great detail, defining it as the theory of measurements, etc. I thank him for giving us this dissertation — the first four pages of his speech concentrated on it. However, he should give us some credit. The Minister for Justice said we were ignorant last week because we did not understand what she was doing with her legislation. We understand what the Minister is doing in this legislation but we wonder from where is the impetus for this change coming?

I have been involved with the sergeants of weights and measures for many years. They were a separate body within the Garda and were seen to be neutral to the trade but had the backing of the law. However, the new organisation will be made up of civil servants. There is a sense in this Bill that the existing service was not working and this might appear to denigrate the people who operated the system through the years. Why change something that is working well? Is the Minister suggesting that they were not doing a good job? From where is the impetus for change coming?

The fact that the existing legal authority derives from 19th century legislation might be a reason to change the system. However, why change if it is doing a good job? The existing service has its origins in the last century. If an organisational system in a person's home is working, you do not change it. A man does not leave his wife if she does not bath their baby on time; that is no reason to change the laws of marriage or communication between people. If the existing service is doing a good job, why change it? The current arrangement has worked well up to now; for example, the inspectorate could check the foods in the warehouses of the major supermarkets from where 90 per cent of our packaged foods are purchased.

I agree with the sentiments expressed on section 8. Seconding the Garda sergeants currently operating the system to the new body would be the best way to proceed. Under their present organisational structure, most of these Garda sergeants must retire when they reach 57 years of age, although this may be extended to 60 years of age. People working in Dublin Corporation do not have to retire until they reach 65 years of age. We are amalgamating two groups who have different terms of employment, salary and pensions. Most of the 20 odd sergeants will be retiring within the next three years, so why not second them to the new service to help get it off the ground? They would still have the legal backing from their association with the Garda. There were no major problems in the past because the Garda rather than the Civil Service were running the system. I am not criticising the Civil Service but some groups have more semblance of authority than others. I ask the Minister to agree with these proposals on section 8 and to transfer these gardaí to the new body.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors negotiated on behalf of its members in the weights and measures section. However, it was suggested that the reason it accepted the package was that it thought the members in Dublin Corporation had done so. I have been told the latter are still in negotiation on their transfer to the new body.

With Senator O'Toole and Senator Haughey and others, I ask the Minister to examine section 8 again and to make this change. It would be a minor change in one sense but its effect on the confidence of the people who operated the system for so long would be major.

This legislation will have no impact on what happens in the country. There is nobody standing outside Leinster House saying the Irish metrology system should be changed and complaining that the Garda or the Dublin Corporation inspectors are not doing their jobs. That is not an issue. We are adding a new group of people and another layer of bureaucracy to something which is unnecessary and is EU driven. If the Minister can tell me there has been one letter to the newspapers, one commentary on radio or one TD or Senator suggesting changing the metrology system in Ireland I would be satisfied. If the Minister can give me one instance of interest in this legislation I will support it, except for section 8.

If the Senator waits until someone cries wolf he will do nothing.

Has the Senator ever heard anything about this in County Meath?

Fianna Fáil did not do anything about the justice system until they were in Opposition.

If the Senator is bringing the justice system into the Metrology Bill, it shows his lack of knowledge about what is happening.

The Senator knows exactly what I am talking about.

The purpose of this Bill is to update and consolidate existing weights and measures and quantity control legislation. It is also complies with EU regulations. I am not too sure about the necessity for the Bill. Some speakers mentioned their glasses of Guinness. I often sample a glass or a pint of Guinness — in some parts of the country there are pints and in others half-litres. There is confusion regarding weights, especially with the transfer from the existing system to metric. This Bill covers measurement as well as weights. It is important we have control of weights. Inspectors and sergeants of weights and measures did a good job ensuring the proper weights in stores and checking weighing scales, measures, etc. They ensured a stone of meal was properly measured; in other words a person got 14 lbs, not 13 lbs.

Signposts in the south use both miles and kilometres, while across the Border they use miles. What is the position regarding these regulations in Northern Ireland? Will they have to change to kilometres, as is done all over Europe? I do not know whether that comes within the Minister's control. It is something about which I wonder on the few occasions I travel across the Border.

I recently inquired about grazing to let in a field adjacent to me. I met the auctioneer who showed me the map and said there was 4.8 acres in the field, which looked like a big measurement. I looked at the measurement on an Ordnance Survey map and to my surprise, it was about 4.5 acres. When I called to the Teagasc office to fill in the area aid forms, I asked the official, whose map was in hectares, to convert the hectares into acres. He told me it was 4.8 or 4.9 acres, while on the Ordnance Survey map it was 4.5 or 4.6 acres. This represents an increase of 2 per cent. Does the whole acreage of Ireland increase by 2 per cent?

If you are selling it does, if you are buying it does not.

It surprised me. There is an anomaly somewhere.

If the Senator bought a 4.5 acre field he got a bad deal.

I did not buy it at all; I could not afford it. Senator Kelly referred to section 8 and the concern of the people involved in weights and measures, especially the sergeants, about the transfers to Forfás. They did a good job up to now and it is not fair to ask them to leave their jobs and take up private duty if they wish to continue working in weights and measures. They are in favour of secondment from the Force. In that way they will still have a job if they go back to the Force. Senator O'Toole said he would put down an amendment to this section, for which I would be happy to vote.

The Senator might not like the wording of the amendment. He should never support something when he has not seen the wording.

I know what it will be and I will be happy to support it.

I have the wording here if the Senator wants to read it.

The Senator can do that. I want to see these people protected, as do, I am sure, many Senators. I hope they will not vote with their feet. I hope they will have a change of heart so that this wrong can be put right.

I welcome this legislation. It has been sought for a number of years, particularly by the Garda Síochána and local authorities. Initially, this was not a job for the Garda because they were trained for other purposes. At the foundation of the State they were slotted into the position they are in now. This legislation is coming through and new laws will have to be passed in both Houses to transfer powers to Forfás. I agree with much of this. Over the years the Garda have done a tremendous job in this area and no one can say different. It is also unfair that some gardaí are handling three or four counties. A change is needed. There are approximately 20 gardaí left in this operation. In another three or four years, the number of gardaí will be reduced to five. Senator Kiely said an amendment will be put down by the Independents. It states that in relation to persons being transferred from the Garda Síochána to Forfás, they shall be deemed to be seconded for a period of three years, beginning on the establishment day. This will have to be looked at and supported and the Minister might examine it before Committee Stage. It was mentioned in the other House and the Minister said it could not be done. However, a precedent has been set by the Department of Marine and the Department of Defence. People have been seconded from local authorities and from various Departments and the same can be done in this case.

I welcome the legislation because change is needed. We are now in the European Union and all weights and measures in Europe must be equal — the day of using a large boot to measure one foot is over. Maps in the Land Registry now use measurements smaller than inches. My party supports the legislation but we do not agree with parts of it and we will discuss them on Committee Stage. I ask the Minister to consider the section concerning the gardaí and the amendment put down by the Independent Senators, which I support.

I thank the Senators who contributed to what has been a reasonable debate. Considerably more interest was shown here than was the case in the other House, I regret to say. Senator Haughey, Senator Quinn and others acknowledged the need to modernise the legislation in this area because Acts dating back to the last century are not suitable for a technological age. Numerous examples were given of why such modernisation is necessary, in terms of modern day commerce and to protect the needs and interests of consumers.

I was puzzled by Senator Daly's contribution because I cannot see anything cumbersome, complex, convoluted or bureaucratic about the unitary system being put in place. It makes sense to tackle what was the fragmented nature of this service in the past and construct a unitary, modern system with distinct lines of management and authority, to provide this essential service and that is all that is being done here.

I do not dispute Senator Lanigan's point that there are no marches on the streets of Thomastown to seek the implementation of this legislation and I am prepared to take his word that this is the case. However, that does not necessarily mean that the steps being taken are not needed or that there is any criticism of the operation and conduct of the service by the existing personnel. To my knowledge, there is no such criticism and no such inference can be drawn from the implementation of the legislation.

A number of questions were asked. Senator Farrelly raised the matter of fees; I accepted an amendment in the other House on this subject which requires the fee structure to be approved by the Minister. In existing law, fees are charged for type examination of new designs of measuring instruments. The fee rates reflect the cost of testing carried out by the national metrology laboratory and are set by ministerial decision. Forbairt carries out this function on a fee basis and at the request of the Minister. The fees are charged to manufacturers of measuring instruments or their representatives. A fear was expressed in the other House about the reasonableness of fees and I accepted an Opposition amendment to give the Minister that supervisory role.

Senator O'Sullivan asked about the userversus the seller of instruments. It is correct that existing law imposes the obligation to conform on the user. I have dealt generally with Senator Daly's various points but in answer to a specific question he raised, the director will be responsible to the board of Forbairt and the manner of the director's appointment is normal practice in a case such as this. One presumes that, if the board is to appoint a director, it will appoint someone who is considered competent to administer the service we are setting up. If one wishes to appoint a secretary or manager to a hospital, one does not give the job to someone who is accustomed to running an abattoir but to a person who has skills particular to a hospital. Similarly, the person being appointed as director of legal metrology will know something about the subject.

On a related matter, Senator Lanigan criticised me for taking the time to explain what legal metrology is. However, Senator Quinn was gracious in thanking me for doing so. I am in Senator Quinn's camp because I did not know what it meant either.

That makes three of us.

Senator Lanigan is a man of many talents and I take his word that he knew what was involved but I did not. I assure Senators that they are a great deal more advanced than Members of the other House if they understand this area in the comprehensive sense indicated by Senator Lanigan. Any Deputies who raised questions on the Bill asked about the Title. They thought it was about mining, weather forecasting or other less mentionable topics but they did not know about the science of measurement. It was only for that reason that I set out the explanation, putting it in the context of its importance in doing trade and in giving consumers confidence that what they get is what they have ordered.

Neither is there anything complicated about the superannuation scheme. Forfás is the employer and, therefore, will be responsible for superannuation arrangements. There is nothing new or difficult about this because all staff of the development agencies are employees of Forfás. Neither is there anything unusual about the powers conferred on inspectors by the Bill, which are in line with the range of powers conferred in cases such as this.

Senator Farrelly and others asked if there was duplication here and if there was a necessity for this. I think this is a prudent power which, far from duplicating, acknowledges that bodies like the ESB, An Bord Gáis, etc., have the responsibility for metrological assessment in their area — for example, the ESB has responsibility for metering electricity. So long as the powers exist to supervise and monitor these bodies to ensure they are operating correctly, it is right that such special bodies have that power. We could be accused of duplication if we provided that the legal metrology services we are establishing here were to take over functions which, in the past, have been performed competently and without complaint by these bodies.

In response to Senator Daly's question, local authorities will no longer be involved. As I said, the director will be appointed by Forbairt with the approval of the Minister. He will be responsible for the management of the service and the terms and conditions will be set out by the board — that is its job — with the concurrence of the Minister and the Minister for Finance.

Senator Kelly asked about consumer complaints; I presume she is referring to short weight or measure in goods. The provisions in section 28 make it an offence to sell or offer for sale by weight measure or number any product which is less than that purported to be sold. Any complaints arising will be investigated by the new service and prosecutions will be taken if appropriate. There may be a consumer dimension which is a separate matter as it comes within the remit of the Director of Consumer Affairs. In so far as it relates to measurement, a complaint may be made and it will be investigated.

The order of the House was to suspend at 1 p.m. Is it agreed to allow the Minister of State to conclude? Agreed.

I thank the House. The power is there for complaints made to be investigated and prosecutions to be initiated if necessary.

No matter what colours the Minister is wearing, privatisation is not a likely prospect. There is a public role involved; it is the task of the State to provide the infrastructure to ensure the consumer is not short-changed and that our trade is not put at risk as a result of any engagement in the practices to which Senator Rory Kiely referred in the part of the country familiar to Senator Kelly. I cannot understand how a field is bigger if one is selling it but smaller if one is buying it. However, I am sure it is a phenomenon that can be explained.

Perhaps it arises after too many meejums.

Although I am not as old as Senator O'Toole, I remember the meejum and I confirm it is still alive and well in the west. It is considered a tourist attraction and there is no intention to abolish it. I do not know if I can stand over that as Minister of State——

The Minister of State would not like to be known as the meejum Minister.

Senators raised a number of points on sections 8 and 9 and the serving gardaí who have provided these services for a long time. Senator Farrelly asked if it was necessary that gardaí should be doing this task. There is general agreement that it is not necessary. Senator Lanigan referred to the authority conferred by the status of the Garda sergeant. I do not dispute that but I regret that the status of the Garda sergeant is not what it was in the past.

However, it is accepted generally that this task is capable of being civilianised and that the task of the Garda should be to engage in policing. The Judge Conroy commission in 1970 recommended the civilianisation of this function. It is accepted generally that the place of the Garda Síochána is in policing the State and protecting the citizens. Therefore, the point of principle is not at issue. The issue is whether gardaí who have been carrying out this function for their careers should be permitted to continue to do so while remaining as gardaí.

It does not seem to matter one way or the other. I accept the points made by Senator O'Toole and Senator Lanigan. I pursued the matter assiduously with the Department of Justice. A fact not adverted to is that I do not have responsibility for the Garda Síochána — the Force is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice. I do not have the detailed letter I received from her on this matter which I read into the record of the Dáil. The Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, states in section 8 (1):

The general direction and control of the amalgamated force shall, subject to regulations made under or continued in force by this Act, be vested in the Commissioner of the amalgamated force who shall be styled and known as the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána.

The problem is that I am told there is no precedent whereby serving members of the Garda Síochána are not responsible to the commissioner. The commissioner is not amenable to people who are employed in his service doing these jobs being directed by someone else. They are the lines of authority which must continue to exist.

Is it not classic that management can never adapt to change but always expects the workers to adapt? There being no precedent is an argument from which we have tried to dissuade workers for many years.

Acting Chairman

The Minister of State without interruption.

I do not challenge what Senator O'Toole said earlier about managing change. The Garda Síochána conciliation and arbitration system agreed this last January after months of negotiations. When I began to process the legislation the agreement was recorded. It is only subsequently that the Garda sergeants affected have had second thoughts.

Senator Lanigan asked if it was true that discussions were taking place with the other staffs. It is true. However, I went through the agreement with a fine tooth comb — Senator O'Toole acknowledged it — and there is nothing capable of being given expression in legislation that is not in the Bill in terms of protecting their pay and conditions.

Senator Lanigan wondered if there might be beneficial changes in the future and that the people involved would not benefit. That is not my intention and I do not know what can be done to reassure them on that point. Neither the State nor the gardaí can have it both ways. They enjoy retirement at 57 years of age; it is proper that they should because they are the conditions on which they joined the Force and their superannuation is so arranged. If other staff retire at 65 years of age that is something that will sort itself out over the years, as Senator Dan Kiely said.

As I said, they rightly enjoy retirement at 57 years of age. It would appear that, in terms of the agreement reached, if the retirement age was increased by inference it ought to apply to those concerned. Care has been taken to give them the option to continue to do what they have always done. The only change is that they cannot call themselves Garda sergeants any longer. The argument put by the Department of Justice is that, for the reasons I explained earlier, they cannot be serving members of the Garda and be directed by a different service.

Secondment would accommodate that.

Secondment was examined in great detail during those 12 or 18 months of talks. The negotiators and the men concerned agreed, although they may not have understood everything their negotiators agreed. The negotiators representing the gardaí concerned at the conciliation process teased through this in considerable detail, including in particular the question of secondment, and were convinced, as a result of the arguments put by the official side, that it was not a feasible option because of the Garda Acts applying to serving members of the Force. Various Senators have asked me to reflect on this before Committee Stage and I am prepared to do that because it does not matter in the common sense, practical performance of these functions. If it is a big factor for the men concerned, and it seems to be, the image Senator O'Toole contrived of the Garda sergeant arriving on his bike with his bicycle clips to inspect is long gone because I am impressed with the mileage these people have covered since this Bill came into the House, and it was not done on bicycles.

Will the Minister look at the secondment arrangements at the United Nations in terms of gardaí?

Acting Chairman

There is a Committee Stage for this. This is not fair to the Chair. Will the Minister of State conclude?

I accept the ruling of the Chair.

I will look at that because it is important that we resolve this question. I would have been happier if they were as effective communicating with their own representatives as they have been with Members of both Houses; I acknowledge their entitlement to communicate in this way. I will look at it and talk to my colleague, the Minister for Justice, with a view to coming back on Friday morning.

I have dealt with most of the questions and I thank the Members for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

On Friday morning.

Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 5 July 1996.
Sitting suspended at 1.10 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.