Amendments Nos. 1 and 5 are related and both may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Metrology Bill, 1996: Committee and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 8, subsection (3), line 42, after "include" to insert "a person suitably qualified to the satisfaction of the Minister and approved by him or her to be".
Senator Haughey's amendment seems to have been tabled for clarification purposes and, having studied it, I believe the purpose he seeks to achieve is provided for in the section. The suitability of the person appointed to be the director of legal metrology shall, in accordance with section 7(4), be a matter for the board of Forbairt in the first instance. However, when the appointment made by the board goes to the Minister for approval, the appointee shall hold office on such terms and conditions as the board with the concurrence of the Minister and the Minister for Finance may approve. The proposed procedures are those which currently apply to similar type appointments, thus in effect the requirement proposed by Senator Haughey is already comprehended in the proposed appointment arrangements. In the circumstances, therefore, the amendment is unnecessary since the purpose behind it is met.
I disagree with the Minister's comments because this section does not provide for the qualifications of the person to be appointed. If we accept this section, anybody will be able to apply for the job and be appointed, not on merit but perhaps on political favour. The Minister then makes the appointment. My amendment is fair and makes the situation foolproof. It will also improve the quality of those in the public service. It would mandate them to reach a standard acceptable to the Minister, the political representative, who is responsible to the House for decisions he makes. I am sure he will make a decision in the best interest of the country.
The point Senator Haughey has raised concerns suitability in terms of the qualifications of the director of the service. The Senator will appreciate that since the decision to refer a name to the Minister for approval is one for the board of Forbairt, it would be difficult to see a situation where it would appoint to the position of director of the legal metrology service somebody who was not equipped to do the job. The interview and appointment process will have taken place at that stage. A name is submitted to the Minister, who may disapprove it and require another to be forwarded to him. Whatever about the question of political complexion, which is not an unknown phenomenon in the culture of Irish politics, I cannot conceive of a situation where somebody would be appointed director of this service without the requisite qualification. That is comprehended in the section as it stands.
As someone who is politically anaemic in terms of complexion, although not in real life, I would like clarification on this issue.
The Senator is never anaemic.
It would be helpful if the Minister outlined the qualifications and experience which would be sought. Senator Haughey has raised a point of merit which needs to be teased out. The Senator's point is valid in that an appointment could be made by the Minister without any checks or balances being built into the process. We need reassurances as regards how a person will be sought and appointed, the qualifications and experience required and the person's background.
The provision whereby the decision is taken away from the Minister is good. It is proper that the board of Forbairt should make the decision. Without wandering into current controversy, a board appointed to do a job on behalf of the State ought to have the power to do that job as it sees fit. I am not sure if Senator O'Toole or Senator Haughey are going back to first principles and querying the appointment and competence of boards, but if one wants to appoint a secretary-manager of a hospital one does not seek candidates in the local abattoir.
Do not rule it out either.
The normal procedures within the public service, with which we are familiar, apply. Terms of reference are drawn up for the job. They set out what qualifications are required and what will be expected of the person who will head the metrology service. The post will be advertised and appointment will be made presumably by the interview board on recommendation to the board of Forbairt. At that stage it will be referred to the Minister and he or she may approve or disapprove. The Minister does not make the selection.
Theoretically the Minister could keep referring the appointment back but that is somewhat unlikely. It will be the normal process — preparation of the job specification, stipulation of the qualifications required, selection of candidates for the post, appointment by interview board by recommendation to the board of Forbairt, approval of the name by the board and the name being forwarded to the Minister. The process is at arm's length from the Minister and that is desirable.
Will this be a new appointment or will somebody be seconded to the position from the existing service?
I do not know and it is right that I do not know. The terms of reference will be set out in the job specification in terms of the qualifications required. Without knowing anything about it, I expect it will be somebody already in the service. However, that is a matter for the interview board and the board of Forbairt. We are seeking to create a unitary service to replace the present run-down and fragmented service. That is not a comment on the efficacy with which the job has been done by people in the service, but the service has become run-down and there is an investment programme planned. Indeed, much of the investment has already been made.
It is likely that somebody from the service will be appointed but I do not know if that will be the case and it is right that I do not know.
The purpose of the amendment isex abundanti cautela, for supreme caution. As time progresses the quality of and qualifications for the job will change. Technology will also change. The Minister's approval is not mandatory in the Bill; he or she is only given discretion. Civil servants and the board need direction from the Minister of the day. Giving this right to the Minister and enshrining it in legislation makes sense and does not put cumbersome problems in the way of the board. It means the Minister can say he wants somebody with a PhD in a certain subject if he so wishes. The amendment facilitates the Minister giving the board direction in this matter and that is a sensible step.
Surely it is sensible, given the present difficulties in public bodies, that the Minister of the day has the final say as to whether somebody is appointed or measures up to the specifications. It would save a great deal of embarrassment if, in advance of the process, the board asks the Minister what standard he or she wishes to achieve in the appointment.
I agree it is sensible that before the appointment is confirmed the board and the Minister ought to be satisfied the person is appropriately qualified to discharge the duties of the post. However, the parliamentary draftsman confirmed to me this morning that the sections as drafted provide for that. There is an automatic inference to be drawn from the relevant section that the person appointed will be suitable.
The job specification can be put to the Minister in advance of an appointment. The details of the qualifications required will be set out in the job specification. The post will be advertised and the assessment will be made by people who are competent to judge. I would not be competent to judge whether somebody would be a suitable director of the Legal Metrology Service. I might have an idea of who would manifestly not be qualified but I doubt that I am competent to say if somebody is qualified. If a PhD in the science of measurement is required it should be specified in the job specification.
Senator Haughey has asserted his argument that the person must be suitably qualified. The intention of the legislation is that the director will be somebody with the necessary qualifications to perform the director's functions.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Dardis, John.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzgerald Tom.
- Haughey Edward.
- Honan, Cathy.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kiely, Rory.
- Lanigan, Mick.
- McGennis, Marian.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- O'Brien, Francis.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- Wright, G.V.
- Belton, Louis J.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Calnan, Michael.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Cotter, Bill.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Howard, Michael.
- Kelly, Mary.
- McDonagh, Jarlath.
- Magner, Pat.
- Maloney, Sean.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Norris, David.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- Quinn, Feargal.
- Townsend, Jim.
- Wall, Jack.
Amendment No. 2 has been substituted by amendment 2a. Amendment No. 3 is related and amendment No. 4 is an alternative and all may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 2a:
In page 9, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following subsection:—
"(2) A person who, being a member of the Garda Síochána, accepts employment in Forfás under subsection (1) may, with the consent of the Minister for Justice, be appointed and enrolled as a member of the Garda Síochána within a period of 18 months from the date of enactment of this Act and thereupon such employment shall cease."
In proposing this amendment, I inadvertently omitted Senator Norris's name as seconder. This amendment is about people. This is the issue of concern to Members on both sides of the House. We are talking about the careers and expectations of people who have given time——
On a point of order, I thought I was being facetious on the Order of Business yesterday and the day before when I talked about metrology and mentioned that people in the country——
Does the Senator have a point of order?
The point of order is that on the monitors it states the "Meteorology" Bill.
That is not a point of order.
We are discussing the Metrology Bill and the monitors say the "Meteorology" Bill.
I thank Senator Lanigan for that illumination. It will change the complexion of the debate. I will ask the Minister to bear it in mind and the next time he should do a four page explanation instead of two pages.
It is a load ofAurora Borealis.
It will not make any difference to some whether it is two or four.
The reaction to this legislation has been positive. It is a necessary consolidation and development which reflects changing times when people want the Garda to be more focused on their core work. There is no objection to the main changes proposed. In this situation however, people joined the Force, distinguished themselves to the point of achieving promotion and then moved into this specialised area. This is far from being the most popular job in the Garda. It is a job where somebody has to tell a Dublin taxi driver that the meter is not working properly and needs to be corrected, a publican that his glasses are not legal measure or a butcher that his scales are not giving the correct weight, etc. It is a tense job where there is abuse. The other equivalent public service would be a vet telling a farmer he had a reactor cow in the herd. They do not bring the most welcome news. They have handled themselves with distinction, courage and commitment over the years, so there is an understanding that people can have trust in the system and weights and measures. They have done this through various changes, including metrication since joining the EU.
I use this lead-in because I want the Minister to consider my amendment not just in the cold terms of the officials in the Department of Justice. This is not about lines of legislation and theory. This is about people, the management of change and recognising how best to implement it. One of the best ways of encouraging change and giving people the courage to move towards it is to give them guarantees regarding their current situation, which they deserve. For that reason I raised a certain number of proposals on Second Stage in relation to garda sergeants being seconded to Forfás for a period of three years, at the end of which their secondment would finish and they would go back to the Garda or decide to stay on. That was reasonable. I raised this matter with the Minister and officials from the Department of Justice. I have difficulty accepting the objections of that Department, that secondment means a person is working in a different job and not under the control of the commissioner, but because they are still a garda they are still under the control of the commissioner. The officials in the Department of Justice are looking at the management of change as it affects people on the ground not as it affects people at all levels, including themselves. The management of change also means change at departmental and legislative level. There has to be fluidity and flexibility in this matter.
I think the Minister pointed out on Second Stage that secondments do not take place. I cannot quote chapter and verse on this but there may have been exceptions over the years. I checked the UN connection, on which I was incorrect. I accept that groups working with the UN have transferred as a portion of the force that still has a clear chain of command. I am not so sure about individual members of the force who have occasionally been seconded to work with the UN. It has been drawn to my attention that in the 1950s sergeants of weights and measures worked with the Garda as part of Dublin Corporation. I do not know the details. It may be that officials in the Department of Justice will find some nuance of difference between that and what I propose. I have also listened to the different kinds of approach. I did propose deferring the establishment date for certain people. It was pointed out to me that this legislation could create a conflict between it and the legislation in the 1920s for the establishment for An Garda Síochána. I do not accept this fully. I believe legislators legislate. If legislation today is different from that of 60 years ago, that is the way it must be. We do that all the time and it is a matter not of conflict but of change, which must be accommodated in legislation.
I have given a long-winded justification of amendment No. 2a, which I propose with something less than enthusiasm. I move it because I wish to meet the Department of Justice's objections to the secondment provision in my original amendment No. 2. Although I do not accept most of the objections, I recognise the integrity of the people making the case and cannot discount their views.
In recognition of this I have taken three steps backwards to accommodate the Minister. First, I have changed this from a provision on secondment to an opportunity to revert to the Garda Síochána — that is not a major change. Second, I halved the period from three years to 18 months. None of these people will revert to the Garda, because once they become established in a new place they will get the feel of it, make it their own and develop it until it becomes part of them. It is not important whether the period is 18 months or three years because the people concerned will have made up their minds in that time as to whether they want to stay or go. The other reason I chose 18 months was that a short period would be tempting to the Minister. It is like the difference between a half-pint and a "meejum" which we discussed on Second Stage.
Half-full or half-empty?
This Bill is neither half-pint nor pint but "meejum" legislation. The various Ministers of Government have been described as "half cars" and "full cars" or half-Ministers and full Ministers.
Paris seems an appropriate image in the circumstances.
That begs the question as to what one would call the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, who sits at the Cabinet table but is neither a full Minister nor a half-Minister. Perhaps he is a "meejum" Minister.
I think we should return to the amendment.
It is an appropriate image for a man who supports that measurement. I am trying to find a middle line to allow the Minister respond to the issues I have put forward.
I have much more difficulty on the third point. I recognise, although I was not prepared to say so until now, that the Minister for Justice is ultimately responsible and she must indicate whether the person may revert to the Garda. I put the amendment forward on the understanding that this would operate in an open and honest fashion if it were accepted.
I ask the Minister to accept the amendment and I have given good reasons for doing so. I also ask him to indicate that it could be implemented in a fair way. It does not meet every aspect of the arguments against my original amendment by the Department of Justice but it meets all of them to some extent. Most importantly, it meets the needs of people doing a decent job. During a tetchy afternoon yesterday, we spoke at length about recognising the value and contribution of public servants. This amendment is a small step to ask the Minister to take. It requires a change and would mean that the Department of Justice would have to swallow hard. Even so, is it not worthwhile that we arrive at change through a consensual approach? It would be good if we could do so after yesterday's debate.
I urge the Minister to show magnanimity in this respect, to recognise the movement I have made in the substitute amendment and to acknowledge the worth of those who have done this work, which is not highly valued by society but underpins much of the retail activity of the State. I appeal to the Minister to accept this, as someone who, like myself, has come through the business of negotiation and knows that where people differ they must eventually find a middle line.
The Minister confirmed to the House on Tuesday that agreement has not been reached with employees of Dublin Corporation and the quality control officers, which is why I put down amendment No. 4. It would be a travesty of justice if the legislation remained as it was, because it would force these people to accept what has happened. As it stands, the provisions of section 8 (2) apply "save in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated with any recognised trade union or staff association concerned". As no agreement has been reached, this will give rise to enormous problems. That phrase serves no useful purpose other than to coerce people and put them at a disadvantage.
Both my amendment and Senator O'Toole's original amendment provide for secondment. That is reversible — a person can be seconded for a period, which is not specified in the Bill, and in law the person can go back at any time. It is unfair that some men worked up to 30 years in a certain section, remained at the level of sergeant and were prevented for gaining promotion because of the legislation.
These people have worked in one section but they are members of the Garda Síochána so they have terms and conditions, pay and pension rights which are different from those of the people they work alongside. They should not be deprived of the rights which apply to their colleagues. For instance, others in the section may be able to work until they are 60 but these gentlemen must retire at 57.
I will agree to Senator O'Toole's amendment if the Minister agrees to my amendment to accommodate the people from Dublin Corporation and the quality control department.
I support Senator O'Toole's amendment. If someone joins the Garda at a young age, he does so as a career choice. His expectation is that he will be in that career until he retires. In many senses it is a vocation. The issue may seem unimportant but it is important in that context. The people involved regard themselves as members of the Garda and a means of accommodating them should be found.
There is a precedent the Minister of State might examine which happened with the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Bill, 1994. When that Bill was first introduced in 1992 people who were working for the Dublin District Milk Board had serious concerns about their status. Their concerns were taken into account, the Bill was withdrawn and reintroduced about 18 months later on the basis of negotiations which led to the employees' concerns being addressed. The Minister of State could take that precedent on board in this instance because it seems to be a closely allied case.
It is a question of not just human rights but of generosity. There are not many people involved and in the circumstances the Government should adopt a generous approach. Senator O'Toole talked about the medium way; perhaps, in the context of metrology, we should say the median way. The Minister of State should accept amendment No. 2a.
Senator O'Toole gave a well reasoned explanation for amendment No. 2a. He described himself as being politically anaemic which was an error on his part.
Not enough carrots.
In this amendment he diluted his original proposal to meet the problems related to this issue. From a human point of view, we would like to accommodate the individuals affected. I do not know if such a provision in this Bill would be compatible with the Garda Acts.
I am unclear as to what exactly Senator O'Toole proposes. Will the members involved leave the Garda Síochána, work for Forfás for up to 18 months and then rejoin the Garda? The Senator's amendment states "... with the consent of the Minister for Justice, be appointed and enrolled as a member of the Garda Síochána ...". Presumably, they would have to know they would get that consent before they left to join Forfás, rather than 18 months later.
I support Senator O'Toole's amendment. I imagine he has a receptive audience in the Minister of State who, like Senator O'Toole, has a distinguished record as a trade unionist. I have no doubt he will feel sympathy for this small number of officials affected by this. This is not a large problem and it would not cost a huge amount of money to resolve. It is also a finite problem because we are dealing with a transitional stage.
The amendment allows for somebody who is a member of the Garda to accept employment with Forfás and he may, with the consent of the Minister for Justice, be appointed and enrolled as a member of the Garda Síochána within a period of 18 months of the date of enactment of this Bill and, thereupon, such employment shall cease. This allows a way out.
I have a good deal of fellow feeling with the people in this situation because I have been granted a form of early retirement, a kind of permanent disability benefit, which means I get a pension of sorts. However, always lurking at the back of my mind is the awful threat of a return to full health and being stuck back in the college for the sake of an undivided Trinity marking exams, to which I would not look forward. Having been out for nearly three years, it would be an appalling psychological shock to be forced to attend departmental meetings and ghastly academic huddles. I shall do everything I can to be as sick as the Act under which I receive my pittance requires.
Thus, I have a great deal of sympathy with the men involved. It is difficult to readjust. If they feel a strong loyalty and association with the Garda Síochána, allowing a possibility of a return in a transitional phase is a good measure. Senator O'Toole has made the point that their task is somewhat thankless. They have to investigate matters of standards, taximeters, etc., and may have to give people unwelcome news. I know and get on very well with some taxi drivers because they go the same inner city gym that I use. I assure the House I would not relish being invited to put them in their place because they are very ready of tongue.
Senator O'Toole was deprived of his rhetorical flourish. However, I invite the Minister of State to be a man, bite the carrot and bugger the Department of Justice.
I am not sure what that has to do with the amendment.
How can one follow Senator Norris's impassioned plea? Senator O'Sullivan mentioned that we have to have sympathy in terms of the human issue involved. I agree. We have sympathy for these 20 people who have devoted their lives to this task and are highly regarded. I have heard not a word of criticism of them, only praise. We must be careful to act sympathetically.
That said, the question foremost in my mind is crime. As I understand it, the Garda authorities are unhappy with the arrangements proposed in terms of their fight against crime if they lose 20 places they had thought they would fill with crime fighters. If, the sympathetic approach we seek, would shackle the Garda authorities in their efforts to fight crime we should stop and think carefully before we act.
The Minister of State must be sympathetic in this instance. Senator O'Toole referred to consensus. I am concerned that in the past when seeking consensus we sometimes made errors that placed us in the position where we now have the current crime problem. I hope the Minister of State will put my mind at rest by saying that if these are going to be on secondment — and it is an ideal solution and I support the concept — the jobs will be filled by people capable of fighting crime and that any steps taken to accept this amendment will not hamper, hinder or shackle the Garda authorities in their efforts to fight crime. Let us make sure that we continue the fight against crime. Action is being taken and the Government is committed. I would like to ensure that it is not weakened by any action we take in full sympathy for the human issue involved.
We would all like to ensure we will not do something that we will regret, considering that there are only a few people involved. It was mentioned on Second Stage that nobody ever had any complaints through the years about the work these gardaí did, which they performed professionally. I hope the Minister of State may be in a position to accept the amendment because there are two issues here. Senator Quinn said the Department of Justice might say that they have 20 more gardaí involved in fight againse crime. That may be the case but surely we must look at the period of time they have been doing their current job. If there are changes to be made, they can be made over the period of time between these individuals reaching retirement and the new people carrying out this work being employed.
Senator Dardis mentioned negotiations and the withdrawal of the Milk Board Bill. I was involved in that. Lengthy negotiations took place after it was withdrawn but there were 18 months of negotiations involved before this legislation arrived here. It would not be true to say that there were not lengthy negotiations. I hope the Minister of State can ensure, on the basis of amendment No. 2a being accepted as a reasonable compromise for the people involved, that we are not seen not to look after 20 people. These people have for most of their careers been carrying out a specific job and, as Senator O'Toole said, it is hard to adapt to change. Those Senators who have been in the teaching profession for years and have had the opportunity to enter these Houses would find it hard to readapt if they have been here for a number of years; all of us would be in a similar position. On that basis, I look forward to the Minister of State's contribution. Perhaps we can come to a reasonable compromise on the issue.
I thank the Members who have contributed on these amendments. Senator Haughey and I are fundamentally at cross purposes on his amendment No. 3. There is a misunderstanding of the import of the words which Senator Haughey is seeking to excise.
The purpose of the words that Senator Haughey seeks to excise is to achieve the opposite of what he said in his contribution. The effect of a decision to excise "save in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated with any recognised trade union or staff association concerned" would be to undermine the trade unions, not just the Garda sergeants representative organisation but IMPACT and trade unions representing other staffs. If there is a voluntary collective agreement, either between that Garda sergeants association or between IMPACT and the management, it should be enforced. It is only in circumstances where that does not apply that the provisions of that section apply. If people voluntarily decide that on consideration it is better for them, voluntarily and by negotiation, to agree to conceding something here for something better there, we should leave them that right.
The clause which the Senator seeks to delete is fundamental to the conduct of normal industrial relations. It provides the structure for the orderly conduct of negotiations between employer and employee. If the amendment were accepted it would permit the exclusion of recognised trade unions or staff associations from any further role in representing the interests of their members in this reorganisation. I am sure that the Senator intended the opposite. This has not been the case up until now and it would be unacceptable to me, the trade union movement, Forbairt, who will operate the new service, and to most Members of this House, including Senator Haughey. Garda seratio geants are currently represented by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and IMPACT represents the local authority and departmental staff involved. For that reason, I cannot accept that amendment and I ask the Senator to reflect on it. It is peculiar drafting language that gives the opposite meaning to its intent. It is an important safeguard in terms of acknowledging——
What happens if agreement is not reached and the legislation comes into play? That is my concern. Would that not force the representative bodies to enter into an agreement?
I do not think so. I have met IMPACT representatives and the issues they are prosecuting are the normal trade union issues which they would be prosecuting in any event. I accept that in the case of the Garda sergeants it is a distinct and different issue.
Is there agreement?
There is. I can reassure the Senator on that. On amendment No. 2a, Senators will be aware that the issue of secondment of Garda sergeantex-officio inspectors of weights and measures has been tossed about several times over the past couple of months. I have explored a number of avenues to see if some resolution can be found which would accommodate the concerns of the gardaí involved and I have met several of them. I have on a number of occasions alluded to the fact that an agreement was reached with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors last January. The agreement, copper-fastened by the guarantees in this Bill, provides that the Garda sergeants will retain their existing pay and conditions on a personal basis. They will also maintain a link with pay developments for the Garda sergeant grade as well as retaining other conditions including annual leave, bank holiday work and security of employment.
I am aware of the nervousness these people are experiencing about joining a new organisation. However, the transfer of staff to the new service has been the subject of thorough and well considered discussions with their representative association through the established procedures of the conciliation and arbitration scheme of the Department of Justice. This is the recognised channel through which the vast majority of issues affecting members of the Garda Síochána are negotiated, and it would be unwise for this House to get into the business of second guessing the normal industrial relations machinery.
In the interests of keeping the temperature down, perhaps I should not read out the rest of my note. The situation is very difficult and it has nothing to do with not recognising the job done by these people over the last 25 or 30 years.
The milk supply board is not a helpful precedent, if it was I would easily accede to Senator O'Toole's request, not to mention his lucid argument, because it would be normal that, where restructuring like this takes place, the substance of Senator O'Toole's remarks should be accepted. The case of the milk supply board involved civilians but we are not dealing with civilian staff here, that was the impediment from day one, if it had not been we would have resolved the matter long ago.
Kind things were said about me and my background and some not so kind things about me being a "meejum" Minister. I would never accept being a "meejum" Minister but I must accept the term "medium", unfortunately. I would have been quite amenable to accepting it but it is fundamentally a matter for the Minister for Justice, for precedent under the Garda regulations and Garda Acts, and of the chain of command to the Garda Commissioner. I have not yet found a precedent where that has been departed from and that really is the nub of the matter.
Senator Quinn raised a question which was in my mind for some time in trying to establish the real objections to all this. It seemed at one stage that by the transfer of these 21 Garda sergeants the Garda Commissioner is free to increase his crime fighting team by 21 without increasing the quota. I am not sure that it is actually the case. The essence of the matter is that the sergeants concerned have not been concerned with crime-fighting during the course of discharging their functions. The posts have probably been filled as they have been gradually eroded over the years in any event.
The Department understands that Garda sergeant posts which have become vacant since the commencement of the reorganisation of the service in 1991 have been reallocated to normal Garda duties. The number entailed is about 25. Thus, there has already been a switch from civilian duties to more conventional Garda activities. Therefore, I can probably reassure Senator Quinn that it would be slightly disingenuous of me to shelter behind that in trying to defend myself against Senator O'Toole's onslaught.
It was a reasonable request.
I withdraw that.
The three steps backward to which Senator O'Toole referred from his original amendment, secondment narrowing the window from three years to 18 months and the fact that it would be irresistible to me are, I admit, compelling arguments.
However, I am concerned, and humbly submit that Senator O'Toole ought to be concerned too, about effectively undermining a decision of the conciliation and arbitration scheme within the Garda service. An important point which must be underlined is that this has been through the mill and has been in negotiation for a very long time. The people representing the Garda sergeants concerned agreed on their behalf to what is now given expression in the Bill. That is not challenged by anybody. It is a voluntary agreement to which I am not a party and I do not want to get into speculating about how the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors does its business, how it communicates with its members, etc. Officially, agreement was reached in the negotiations. We seem to have been engaging in a rethink and if I accept Senator O'Toole's amendment, I am, in effect, second guessing that agreement and undermining a registered agreement. I have some concerns about that.
I repeat that this is not because of a lack of recognition on my part or that of the Government of the work of the people concerned, nor, I assure Senator Norris, was it my intention to discomfit his life in the inner city gym as I would not wish to do that. Certainly, the appalling vista of a full recovery to health is something I do not wish on Senator Norris either.
The fact of the matter is that we are dealing with the creation of a precedent. Senator O'Toole invited the House to act as legislators — we make the law and let the relevant organs of the State implement it. I suppose it is hard to resist that argument. I find it even more difficult to resist Senator Norris's invitation to be a man, bite the carrot and bugger the Department of Justice. Whatever about the third element of that invitation, I certainly find the first two almost irresistible. I am probably left with no alternative, given the arguments which have been advanced and notwithstanding the disquiet which I expressed earlier, but to accept the amendment.
I am shocked almost into silence. I had a grand speech prepared about the fact that we were not undermining but rather improving the conditions of the conciliation and arbitration decision. We had dealt with the secondment argument by getting rid of secondment. The Garda and civilian reference was also addressed. It is a good thing to establish precedent. Every day we establish a precedent we know we are implementing change.
I express my gratitude to the Minister as this matter has been difficult. It is an important step forward. It is important for these people in that it is a vote of confidence in them and an encouragement. I am delighted the amendment has been accepted.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 9, subsection (2), line 22, after "day." to insert "Any member of the Garda Síochána transferring to Forfás for the purpose of this Act shall be deemed to be seconded only."
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 12, subsection (7)(b), line 18, after "information" to insert "or item relevant to this legislation which he or she has within his or her possession, knowledge or under his or her control".
The powers of inspectors provided for in the earlier subsections of this section are extensive. In regard to this amendment, section 10(1)(g) and section 10(4) are relevant. An inspector may require the owner, person in charge or any employee of the place entered, to provide all reasonable assistance, including personal assistance, books, records or other documents to enable the inspector to carry out functions under this Act. An inspector may seize or retain any article, instrument, stamp, goods or documents which he reasonably believes to be in contravention of the Acts.
Subsection (7)(b) strengthens the power contained in section 10(1)(g) in relation to providing co-operation and assistance by those being inspected. For example, in testing a large weighing instrument at a factory premises, an inspector may require manual assistance to operate the instrument under test or to help lift standard weights or equipment used to carry out the test. There is a duty on the owner or manager of the business to provide this assistance.
The items in which an inspector would have a primary interest are measuring instruments of goods and associated books, records and documents relating to instruments or goods. The Bill already provides adequate powers for gaining access to, inspecting and seizing such items. In addition, any article may, under section 10(4), be seized and retained. Therefore, this amendment is unnecessary and I regret I cannot accept it.
The Minister of State and I are at one on the purposes of the amendment. Perhaps, in subsection (7)(b) the wording "assistance or information" is an error and should read "assistance and information". According to the present wording, it could be construed that if he gives his assistance he does not have to give the information. Now that the Minister of State has clarified that this is strengthened in other sections, I am quite happy about that. However, an electric meter can be slowed down by a magnet which is not on the premises but some distance away from it. Use of such instruments were the reason I tabled this amendment. I am not sure that is accommodated in the section the Minister of State mentioned.
I agree with Senator Haughey. We aread idem in terms of this item. It is our view, and our advice from the draftsman's office, that the earlier section includes any such definition. However, the Senator may be right in respect of subsection (7)(b) which states “fails, without reasonable cause to give an inspector any such assistance or information”. He may be right that it should read “and information”.
We appear to be dealing with the section rather than the amendment. I would prefer to dispose of the amendment and then deal with the section. That issue appears to arise from the section rather than from the amendment.
My disposition is that Senator Haughey may be right in regard to the second matter he raised. In regard to the amendment, it is our advice that the import of what he wishes to give expression to is already in the Bill.
I was going to suggest that because we are going directly from Committee to Report Stage and I do not have time to take advice on this——
If the Minister of State, wishes we could adjourn for a short interval between Committee and Report Stages.
I was going to suggest to Senator Haughey that we use the wording "assistance and/or information".
That is acceptable.
Is the Minister of State formally moving that amendment?
If the House is agreeable.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 12, between lines 24 and 25, to insert a new subsection as follows;
"(8) For the purposes ofsubsection (7), 'a person' shall be deemed to mean one or more persons.”.
It was not quite clear whether "a person" was defined. My concern was whether there was accommodation for a number of people being involved. I could not see that in the Bill, which is why I tabled this amendment. I would like to hear the Minister of State's views on this.
I accept what Senator Haughey said. The problem is a technical one. As I understand it from the parliamentary draftsman's office, the way in which it is framed in the Bill is the normal way for such matters to be given expression in legislation.
The reference to "person" in subsection (7) already embraces the thrust of Senator Haughey's amendment. In legal terms "persons" are of two kinds, natural and artificial. A natural person is a human being and an artificial person is a collection or succession of natural persons forming a corporation. Section 11(A) of the Interpretation Act, 1937, provides that every word importing the singular shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be construed as if it also imported the plural, and every word importing the plural shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be construed as if it also imported the singular. The clarification and statutory basis is already there.
I thank the Minister of State for his courtesy and co-operation, both in respect of one small item and on the major issue of the Garda Síochána. We are all agreed on producing better legislation and getting more people to co-operate.
I thank the Minister of State, especially for the way in which he accommodated the amendment this afternoon. A form of words was eventually found to deal with the specific aspects of the Bill which caused problems.
I compliment the Minister of State. It is always a pleasure to have him attend the House because he brings a certain flair and style, even to a Bill such as this. It was a good and useful debate. I am pleased he accepted the amendment for which Senator O'Toole and others argued so strongly. It is good that he can have an open mind on such matters and that he will return to the House next week. I also compliment Senator Haughey on the fair minded and meticulous way in which he steered this, his first major legislation, through the House.
I express my appreciation to all Members of the House, especially to the Opposition spokespersons, including Senator Haughey, for the manner in which they dealt with this legislation. The Bill is improved as a result of the scrutiny it has undergone in this House. The amendment constructed by some Senators on the Opposition benches has provided a solution that eluded us in the other House. If I have a residual regret it is that I must return to the Dáil to copperfasten what has been agreed here today.