I move amendment No. 8:
In page 10, after line 48, to insert the following subsection:
"(8) A person appointed to be the chief executive shall hold office for such period not to exceed seven years and he or she shall be eligible for reappointment.".
I realise the second half of the amendment cannot be accepted because the Minister has already deleted subsection (3). I have very strong views on this. I supported the proposed contracts for Secretaries of Departments. Why should a Department Secretary be appointed for only seven years while it is not also specified in the statute that the period of appointment of someone who is answerable to the Secretary should be not any longer than seven years?
Public bodies felt for years that staff should be appointed forever. For example, Bord Fáilte and Aer Lingus had staff in North America one of whom had been there for 20 years. When I was Minister I incurred the wrath of those organisations by saying that was not correct and that the policy of bodies such as the IDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs should be adopted whereby staff spent a period abroad and then returned. That is much better and more efficient.
I strongly agree that Secretaries of Departments should have contracts, which has resulted in a cross-fertilisation of ideas between Departments. We are introducing a statute with many good, progressive sections and we should not provide that the chief executive officer could conceivably be in office until the age of retirement. I would much prefer the Minister to accept the amendment — it may not be possible for him to do so today but between now and Report Stage he should specify that the officer should be appointed for a certain number of years. I have provided that it should not exceed seven years because that is our experience with Department Secretaries and I would not like the chief executive officer of a health board to be longer in his position that the Secretary of the Department of Health.
This brings the best out of people managing large organisations — which health boards are, as the Minister said. People introduce new and fresh ideas when first appointed but if someone was left in the same job for seven years — for instance, if the Minister was Minister for Health for that long — he would pass his sell-by date in the Department and the same is true of chief executive officers. I feel strongly about the amendment but I will not press it today because I have faith that, if the Minister does not accept it now, he will have it examined seriously in his Department between now and Report Stage and by then he may be able to put forward an amendment himself.