National Loan, 1959. - Apprenticeship Bill, 1958—Report and Final Stages.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 might be taken together.

The Minister is about to move the amendments set out on the Order Paper. Would the Chair give me permission to raise one matter relating to an earlier section? I intended to advert to it on the Committee Stage but, as you know, the business folded up rather quickly on Thursday of last week and I had not, therefore, an opportunity of raising the matter. If I have permission to raise it now I shall do so in the hope that the Minister may look at it between the Report Stage and the Committee Stage in the Seanad. I can, of course, raise the matter on the Fifth Stage but I think it more appropriate to do it while we are still on the Report Stage.

The Deputy may raise the matter after we have disposed of these four amendments or on the Fifth Stage.

Whatever you like.

The Minister undertook to consider the question of certain representations in regard to earlier parts of the Act. May I refer to that at a later stage?

The Deputy may raise that question when the amendments have been disposed of.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 17, line 50, before "by" to insert "at any reasonable time".

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are introduced as a result of requests by Deputies on the other side. Originally it was intended that the registers that were to be kept by apprenticeship committees should be capable of being inspected at all reasonable hours. It was thought that that was too onerous a responsibility to place on the appropriate officer of an apprenticeship committee who would have custody of these registers, but as a result of the case made by some Deputies last week, I have reconsidered that and have introduced these amendments to ensure that the registers will be open for inspection at any reasonable time. I think the words to be inserted will satisfy the desire of the Deputies concerned.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 18, line 9, before "by" to insert "at any reasonable time".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 22, line 46, before "fails" to insert "is served".

This is an amendment to Section 62, subsection (8), and it is required as a result of a typographical error. The words "is served" relating to the notice requiring to be served were omitted and this amendment simply seeks to have these words inserted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 23, to delete lines 19 and 20.

I think it was Deputy Corish who raised this point. The subsection provides that any proceedings for an offence under the Act shall be instituted only with the consent of An Chomhairle. Deputy Corish suggested that that was a restriction on the rights of anybody who might, of his own volition and without reference to An Chomhairle, require to bring a matter to prosecution. Having considered the matter, I am satisfied it is most unlikely that anybody will cause a prosecution to be brought on any frivolous basis and the amendment permits any individual who desires to do so to institute proceedings without reference to An Cheard Chomhairle.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration".

I should like to call the Minister's attention to Section 48 in the Bill as circulated. That was the section which was described marginally as "interference with employers" and which was on page 15 of the original circulation. This matter, I understand, was the subject of discussion at the meeting of the joint committee between representatives of the trade unions and representatives of the Federated Union of Employers. The trade unions then felt, and still feel, that because of the way in which this is drawn it may be held that it would not be possible for a union to take action which it would normally take in a trade dispute because the terms of the section appear to indicate that in certain circumstances nobody can interfere with the conditions under which apprentices are employed.

The opinion of the Trade Union Congress is that this is an extremely important principle from their point of view and they consider that the right to protect the apprentice is a right which resides in them. The right to decide when and in what circumstances the apprentice member of the union should withdraw his labour is, they contend again, a matter on which they have sole jurisdiction. Their attitude in relation to this Bill and in relation to similar matters has always been that they cannot hand over to a second party or a third party a function which has always been a function exercisable by the trade union which is looking after the economic interests of the apprentice.

I, therefore, suggest to the Minister that an effort should be made to get agreement on an amendment to the section which will ensure that the interference referred to in the Bill does not apply to acts undertaken by a person in furtherance of or in connection with a trade dispute. If an occasion arises on which the union is obliged to take action to protect the interests of apprentices, this whole section will be burst wide open and the job will be to get it patched up again when the dispute is over. It would be much better at this stage if everybody would recognise that while there may be interference of the kind which the section is intended to obviate, nevertheless in case of a trade dispute the interference referred to here is not contemplated as the kind of interference which takes place in respect of a trade dispute. It should be possible to get a form of words between both sides, with the Minister sitting in as arbitrator, without putting into this Bill a section which will not last 24 hours if we ever reach the stage when a trade dispute takes place. It is much better therefore that the friction and anger arising by appearing to break the section should be avoided by not making it possible to appear to break the section.

I wish to refer to Sections 10 and 11 which are both on the same subject. Section 10 (4) reads as follows:—

The Minister may at any time remove the chairman of An Chomhairle from office.

Section 11 (7) reads:

The Minister may at any time remove an ordinary member of An Comhairle from office.

I suggest the Minister might consider inserting there: "for stated reasons." I expressed the opinion previously, and the Minister promised to consider the viewpoint, that these two provisions are far too sweeping. As they read at the moment, the chairman or any member may be removed at the whim of any Minister and it is not unknown in the history of this assembly for individuals to be removed from office just because the Minister concerned did not agree with them for what may be described as trivial reasons. That is a dangerous provision and I should like some safeguard inserted for individuals who undertake to work on An Chomhairle. The Minister has probably considered this question and I should like to have his views on it.

I shall take Deputy Norton's point first. As he knows, the joint committee did consider the subject matter of this section very carefully. They could not record agreement and I decided that the best form in which the section could appear is as it appears now in the amending Bill. I shall, however, consider the point suggested by Deputy Norton between now and the taking of the Committee Stage in the Seanad to see whether it would be worthwhile to carry out the suggestion to bring the committee together again.

Can the Minister say that, as it stands now, it is intended to prevent activities in furtherance of or in connection with a trade dispute? Is this intended to do that? If so, it would be breaking new ground because it would be contrary to the whole basis of trade union legislation to put in legislation a section which admittedly had that purpose.

If the dispute is connected with something concerning rules, yes, but otherwise no.

But there are a whole lot of matters which arise for apprentices apart from wages and hours. Their problems are not so much problems of hours and wages; many other matters affect them as apprentices.

As the Deputy appreciates, there is nothing I can do, but I shall look into the matter. In regard to Deputy Russell's query, this is not a new provision. The power of removal, by an appropriate Minister, of a chairman or members of a statutory body is already inscribed in legislation and I need only refer to two recent Acts, the Act setting up the Board of Gaeltarra Eireann and the Act setting up Coras Tráchtála. To go back a little further, the same provision applies in the Act setting up An Bord Fáilte. Apart from these precedents, I think this directorship or chairmanship is one in which the occupant of the office will require a certain amount of tact, and, in particular, will require to hold the confidence of both sides.

If, for example, it appeared to the Minister that the occupant had lost the confidence of both sides it would be eminently desirable that he should be removed. In another instance, if it appeared to the Minister that the chairman leaned unduly towards one side or the other, then the Minister should have power to remove him. I am sure the Deputy will agree that in such cases it would be difficult for the Minister to state such reasons. It would be very difficult to prove that the chairman had lost the confidence of both sides or possibly that he leaned unduly, even though unconsciously, towards one side or the other. In the circumstances, having regard to existing precedents and having regard to the particular degree of goodwill the holder of this office will require from both sides, I have decided that it would be better to leave in the power of removal as contained in the section.

Deputy Russell rose.

If the Deputy wishes to put a question, he may do so, but he may not make another speech.

Is it not a fact that provision does not exist in relation to other statutory bodies?

That is true.

It does not exist in relation to the majority of them?

Yes, I have to admit that.

There was another point I wished to raise. Section 41, subsection (1) states that "an apprenticeship committee shall from time to time arrange, through An Chomhairle, with the Minister for Education..." and goes on to state that it shall set examinations. What exactly are the mechanics of that arrangement? I should have thought that it would be better to have it read "through An Chomhairle and with the consent of the Minister for Education." How can the apprenticeship committee arrange "through An Chomhairle with the Minister"?

That is the point the Minister undertook to look into on the last day.

In the first place, the Comhairle will have to prescribe that there must be an examination and the Minister for Education will, in general, supervise the setting of the examination papers, but the apprenticeship committee rather than the Comhairle will have the immediate contact with the Minister for Education as to the subject matter of the examination papers. It is felt that the Comhairle having prescribed the examination, the apprenticeship committee, having regard to the fact that they operate in respect of a particular trade in a particular area and therefore have knowledge of the requirements of the trade in that area, would be best equipped to suggest to, or to co-operate with the Minister for Education as to the subject matter of the examination papers. I hope I have answered the point raised by the Deputy.

I do not think the Minister has.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

If the Deputy wishes to put a question on this stage, he may do so.

Arising out of the Minister's last remarks, I just want to ask: is An Chomhairle purely a post bag between the apprenticeship committee and the Minister for Education?

Not necessarily. The Comhairle will arrange with the Minister for Education that examinations be held.

The committee arrange it.

The apprenticeship committee then arrange the matter in more detail as regard the time and the paper which is to be set. They will advise the Minister what the content of the examination papers should be.

That may be the intention but that is not how I read it.

Question put and agreed to.