I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill, notice of which has been given for a long time past. The Bill interprets the Constitution in the organisation of the Ministries; it sets forth Departments of Government and allocates the various services under the control of each Minister, and places those Departments on a statutory basis and indicates the distribution of State services.
Experience in administration will perhaps be the most useful guide in any further distribution which may be made, and power to provide for such re-distribution or transfer of powers is reserved in the Bill for changes where necessary or desirable.
There is an alteration in the description of one Ministry made at the request of the Department itself. The Ministry for Home Affairs is described in the Bill as the Ministry of Justice. The former term was very wide in description and indefinite in its interpretation. It might conceivably connote the whole of the internal organisation of Government with the exception of the Ministry for Finance. There will be under the Minister for Justice, the administration and business of the public service in connection with law, justice, public order and police, as set out in Sub-section (3) of Section 1 of the Bill.
There is then the Department of the Attorney-General, upon whom rests the responsibility of advising proceedings. The Attorney-General is nominally and actually associated with the President —nominally because the first and last word as to proceedings is with the Attorney-General, and actually, in so far as may be required, in the event of the Attorney-General not being a member of the Oireachtas, and having in consequence to have some person in the Ministry to answer for him in either House. In this arrangement the Executive Council has the general responsibility, and must be prepared to answer for the Attorney-General, but the immediate responsibility for proceedings rests with, and must be accounted for, by the First Law Officer of the State. There is also power in the Executive Council to supersede and dissolve certain Boards.
As the House well knows, there were, during the British administration, quite a multiplicity of Boards and Statutory bodies, and during the last two years it has not been possible to survey the whole field and to see how better we may construct the Government machine. There are provisions of far-reaching importance in this Bill which merit attention and which may provoke discussion. I do not think it is at all necessary to enter into an elaborate explanation of these. The form prescribed for dealing with Bills in the Committee Stage affords perhaps the very best opportunity for dealing, in detail, with these matters, but I think it is not necessary for me to refer to the importance of this measure. From the point of view of the State, it appears to me to be next in importance to the Constitution itself. Engaged here in the consideration of this measure, we are laying the foundations of the future governing institutions in this country. However it may be subsequently altered, the foundations are being laid in this measure, and I think the House appreciates its importance, and that it will get fair and careful examination and analysis. It has so far received a rather mixed form of criticism.
In the Dublin Press, I observe, it has perhaps received the closest and most careful examination from the "Freeman." On the other hand, the "Independent" has concerned itself with one of the smaller details of the Bill and apparently loses sight of, or is satisfied with, the very much more important considerations which are embodied in it. We have had now something like two years' experience of government, and the experience we have gained has been of considerable assistance in compiling this measure. I think if there is one thing more than another that we have learned in the last two years it is that it is not humanly possible for a Minister to work from 12 to 16 hours per day, and for seven days a week; and if there is another thing we have learned it is that there is nothing to be gained from the financial experts of the "Independent."
I did not intend, at any time, to deal with some of the work which is not seen either by the public or the Press or the Dáil on the part of Ministers elected by this Dáil, but I do say that the present Ministry, and those Ministers who are no longer with us now, have effected very large savings— savings sufficiently large, if capitalised and invested at a normal rate, to provide every member of the Oireachtas with the salary of a Minister. That may seem to be a fairly large claim, but I think it is about time that we should deal candidly and fairly with those peculiar forms of criticism which disclose small and incompetent minds.
There have been occasions in the past during the great political changes which have taken place upon which men engaged in public life have had opportunities of showing service to the State. I do say that during the last two years there has been real service rendered to this State by the Ministers —those who are living and those who are dead—which has not been placed before the public, because they simply thought they were doing their duty, and they did not want to get any great public credit for doing their duty. We have to consider in this measure the construction of an institution of government which will make for efficiency. We have had to take over what was left of one Government and what had already been constructed of another. We have had to re-organise what was left of one and to adapt what was there of the other to suit the needs of the country. During the period of which we have had experience—that is the last two years—for something like twelve or eighteen months we have had three Parliamentary Secretaries. Two were attached to me; one in my capacity as President and the other in my capacity as Minister for Finance; the third was Assistant Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Parliamentary Secretary, who was attached to the Ministry of Finance, and the Assistant Minister of Commerce were approached by me in reference to one service which was functioning under the Ministry of Finance, and in the course of their administration of the one particular service they saved a sum per annum almost sufficient to discharge the entire estimate of the Oireachtas. It is not by nominal economies that real results are to be effected, and if excellent services can be rendered by a large number of Ministers we consider that power ought to be given in a measure of this sort to enable the Executive Council to have available for the services of the State such assistance as they consider is necessary.
Generally the Ministries in this Bill stand as at present with slight modification. It is proposed in the Bill to group within certain Ministries services considered to be more suitably connected with others. It will be observed that there is, perhaps, the greatest transfer to the Ministry of Education and a minor transfer of one small service from Agriculture to Industry and Commerce. These alterations, or rather the proposed services attached to the Ministries, will be found in the Schedules. It is possible that Government amendments may yet be moved before the final stages are reached dealing with the various Sections of the Bill.
Section 1 deals with the Ministries. Section 2 deals with the status of Ministers. Sub-section 2 of Section 2 sets down in law what has been the practice observed up to date. That is, wherever the principal officer of a Minister was being appointed the appointment came before and was sanctioned by the Executive Council. Section 3 prescribes the allocation, by the person elected as President, of Departments to particular Ministers, and Sub-section (2) empowers the President to assign two or more Departments of State to a single Minister. I do not think it is necessary to go into greater detail. This building up of a State machine is not an easy operation. It requires time, it requires examination and analysis, and it requires patience. It is only by experience that one can learn, when the machine is running well, how far it would be possible to group one, two, three or more Ministries under one particular head.
Section 4 prescribes without alteration the salaries attached to the various offices. I do not propose to agree to any reduction of the Ministers' salaries. I have no personal objection to any reduction of the salary of the President. During the recent elections and at many other times one heard criticism of Ministers' salaries and of the salary of the President. There is, as far as I know, one office in this country which approaches the salaries paid either to the President or to the Ministers—that is, the salary of the office of Lord Mayor of Dublin. I would say that there is not £100 difference between the actual salary received by the Lord Mayor and the actual salary received by the President. I would say that there are a few hundred pounds difference between the salaries received by Ministers and that of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. It is an extraordinary thing that people do not apparently realise, when criticising small matters like this, that we have now an acknowledged nationhood and that we ought, in discharging obligations to the State in connection with that newly acknowledged nationhood, see that the principal officers of State get salaries in accordance with the dignity of their office.
Section 5 prescribes the collective responsibility of Ministers who are members of the Executive Council. I observe some criticism of that. I do not think it is necessary to speak at any considerable length upon that particular Section. It is laid down in the Constitution that the Executive Council has a collective responsibility. I take it that that means that in so far as the various Ministries, presided over by the Ministers of the Executive Council, are concerned, if any one of those Ministries does not meet with the approval of the Dáil, a vote of want of confidence can be moved, and the other Ministers, who, perhaps, may not be under any ban or subject to any criticism, fall with the fall of any particular Minister, and the whole Ministry goes out of office. It means that in so far as these Departments of State are concerned, one Ministry does not stand independently like the extern Ministers. I do not think it is necessary to go further into that.
Section 6 prescribes the office of Attorney-General, and Section 7 deals with the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries, who must be members of the Oireachtas. In accepting the Treaty we accepted it not alone in the letter but in the spirit, and in the acceptance of it we accepted all that it meant. It meant in this connection two Houses—Seanad Eireann and Dáil Eireann. I must say freely that during the last twelve months the Ministry has not been able to devote to one of the two Houses the time and attention which the second House of the Parliament deserves. There were occasions upon which we had measures concerning a particular Ministry, or the whole Ministry, in both Houses at one time, and it was impossible to attend as much as we would like during that period to the business of the Seanad. I do not know that it will be necessary at any time to appoint more than three Secretaries—any more than three. I believe that the number we had in the last Dáil will be sufficient for the purposes of this Dáil, but I do say that it is impossible to forecast what might be the necessities of the future and, I think, sufficient safeguards are provided for the Dáil in the event of any extravagance. If it were thought that the appointment of an extra Parliamentary Secretary was being entertained there is sufficient authority for the Dáil to deal with any such abuse, if there should be abuse on the part of the Executive Council.
Since reassembling after the election I have not been once in the Seanad. I do not know about the attendance of the other Ministers, but I do say that there ought to be close attention to the business of that House, and that the Ministry should be in a position at all times, to know exactly at first hand and be in touch with the business of the second House.
Section 8 sets out in law the Constitution of a Defence Council to assist the Minister for Defence whose authority is not diminished. I think that during the last twelve months the Council was composed of much the same members as have been functioning, and that has been satisfactory. That is a matter which can be dealt with when that particular Section comes under review, and the Minister for Defence will be able to speak to it. Section 9 empowers the Executive Council to dissolve boards of Commissioners or statutory bodies to which the Section applies. Section 10 empowers a Minister by an order of the Executive Council to function through the agency of another Minister. Section 11 empowers the Executive Council to prescribe the re-distribution of public services amongst Ministers. That I have already referred to, so that I do not think it is necessary to go into it further. Section 12 retains to the Oireachtas full control and supervision of orders made, so that if a board were by order dissolved, and if the Oireachtas were dissatisfied, it is a matter over which they still retain control. Section 13 deals with the authentication of official documents. Sections 14 and 15 deal with the Official Seal of the Executive Council, and proof of official Orders. The final Section deals with the coming into law of the Acts that have been passed.
I think I owe it to the Dáil to acknowledge the patience which has been shown to me personally about the introduction of this Bill. The first mention of it I think was about January last. Though it was not introduced earlier the Bill I think has not suffered by being held up. In considering this measure I think the Dáil will be satisfied that we have not lost time, and that, now that the measure is before them. Deputies will be in a better position to appreciate how difficult the work of building up this Government machine was, and how necessary it is for us at this stage to take the greatest possible pains to see that in compiling this measure we are laying the foundations of a sure and safe institution for the future. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.