What is the distinction between a servant and an officer?
Committee on Finance. - Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1965: Committee Stage.
This section will permit a servant to be promoted to officer. Officers are those who are recruited through the ordinary competition of the Authority. Servants are those who are taken on as labourers and the like.
Servants stamp cards, and officers do not.
Surely it is rather an unfortunate distinction in this day and age?
This permits, by means of a confined competition, servants to be promoted to the grade of officer.
Officers are persons who are admitted consequent upon an examination. There are, in all branches of the public service, those who come in as temporary civil servants and who are frequently recruited without coming through the Civil Service Commission procedure. Does this section now empower the Minister or the Authority to take a person who has entered the service of the Authority without a qualifying examination and elevate him to a position in the Authority which ordinarily is accessible only to people who have attained that position through an examination?
This applies to those who are known as servants, who may be drivers, messengers or cleaners and who, by way of limited competition, confined to the service——
Perhaps I am not very intelligent: at least, I want to know what it is about. Examinations are held in the Civil Service from time to time. If you sit for them, you become an established civil servant of the lowest grade and can look forward to permanent employment until the time comes when you are entitled to the customary pension provided in the Civil Service. If you enter as a temporary civil servant, you do not necessarily come in through the Civil Service Commission at all and you can get to be an established civil servant only through a very exceptional procedure.
You can in certain sectors anyway.
There is provision where, in certain circumstances, a Minister may say that So-and-So should be made a permanent civil servant. Ordinarily what happens is that from time to time confined examinations are held. That was quite common in the Department of Agriculture, particularly in regard to inspectors in the West. The Department would hold confined examinations and those people would be entitled to go in for those examinations and graduate to be full-time inspectors in the Department of Agriculture. What I want to know is not whether or not even a driver can be turned into a technician in Radio Éireann; what I want to be clear on is this: are we creating a situation now under which you can get ordinary employment in Telefís Éireann which you have not got as a result of the usual competitive examination associated with permanent employment? I do not care whether it is a driver or singer or engineer, or who it is. Are we now giving to the Authority the power, once a person has got in on what ordinarily is understood to be a temporary basis, to elevate him into a permanent established position without passing through the normal machinery through which the ordinary person gets into established service of Telefís Éireann? If we are, I think we are doing a bad thing. We are opening the back door, which will give rise to abuse.
I can assure the Deputy this is not establishing a precedent which has not already existed whereby persons are promoted by means of a limited examination and become permanent.
Would the Minister say if this is the same procedure as is in his own Department?
Yes, it gives them that opportunity. If some young person does start on the ground floor and finds that he becomes familiar with the working of a more difficult job within the place, he should be free, in my opinion, to do a limited examination and reach that stage of qualification.
Let us clarify this. Are we not establishing here an entirely new precedent? There are the confined examinations of the Civil Service, of which we are all well aware, typified by the inspectors in the congested areas. We often held confined examinations in the Department of Agriculture so that these inspectors might have an opportunity of graduating up to the category of permanent established inspectors in the Department of Agriculture. That is a perfectly normal thing because the old congested area men are an acrimonious survival from the past.
But are we now establishing this principle that if you can get any type of employment in Telefís Éireann or Radio Éireann, that Authority can then hold a confined examination— confined only to those who are already in some form of employment, whether it is a gardener or temporary engineer or prima donna, or anything else— which will exclude every graduate of a technical school? It will exclude every graduate of an academy of music and will exclude hundreds of other people who may have got the kind of experience which would equip them for the vacancy in Telefís Éireann outside Telefís Éireann. Why should we do that?
It seems to me that if you get your engineering experience in Bolton Street technical school or if you got it in Telefís Éireann and if there is a desirable post going in the Telefís Éireann Authority, then the boys from Bolton Street, from Telefís Éireann or the boy from a Cork technical school should all be allowed to enter and let the best man win. If you do not watch that, what will happen sooner or later is that allegations will be made. It will be said: "My son went to Bolton Street technical school and I know somebody else whose boy also went there and who put his boy in as a messenger in Telefís Éireann —they both qualified but, because one was a messenger boy in Telefís Éireann, he could go in for the examination and my lad, who was working side by side with him in Bolton Street, would not be allowed enter for the examination. I cannot understand that."
You may have one girl who has been singing or performing on Telefís Éireann and she is a fellow-student in the Academy of Music with another girl just as good. A vacancy arises for the position of violinist or vocalist in the Television Authority. One girl is allowed to go in because she has been temporarily employed in Telefís Éireann prior to the examination and the pupil sitting beside her in the academy will not be allowed to compete because she has not got in. I put it to the House that if that is going to happen it must give rise sooner or later to a feeling, justified or unjustified, that there has been a wangle. Surely, the whole purpose of the examination system ought to be that the child of any citizen would have an equal chance with any other child. I do not know what the purpose of this is. What advantage is there in it? What harm is there in leaving an examination open to all contenders to do the best they can?
There are some fiddlers going in doing a bit of fiddling.
There is no ulterior motive whatever behind this. It was recommended to me by the Authority. In fact, the Director General was fairly keen on this. It was at their request that it was put in. I do not give two straws whether it is accepted or not. They regard it as important. The principal point about it is that they think it is not fair to have people working at a particular level who become very well up in their job and are not given the chance of promotion.
Why not give them a chance? Let them go in for the examination with everybody else.
Is it not a fact that several Fianna Fáil T.D.s have sons there and want to fix them there permanently? That is the big fiddle.
Would the Minister say if this is similar to the conditions under which somebody in the Post Office service can be promoted? Is it proposed, not that somebody who is in for a few weeks or a few months, but somebody who has already given service with the Authority over a pretty lengthy period, should be promoted? Is that the type of person who is in mind?
Therefore, the singer who goes in for one night is not eligible. That is number one. Secondly, will this give an opportunity to people who have not had the opportunity of getting the training to which Deputy Dillon refers and who did not get the educational training because their parents had not got the money and because there are not enough scholarships available to give it to them free, and who are trying to work their way up, as happens in other countries, and which is a good idea?
This is Committee Stage. Deputy Tully is no mean performer when he is engaged in special pleading. I am putting a simple case. There is a position of a junior engineer, we will say, in the Television Authority. There is an excellent boy who has gone into the Television Authority as a messenger and he has graduated slowly up until eventually he is working in and about that part of the establishment where the engineers work. As a messenger, his day's work is done at five and he has gone to Bolton Street from seven to nine every night. Side by side with him is sitting a boy who is perhaps working as a messenger boy in Findlater's shop or somewhere else because he was not fortunate enough to get a job as messenger boy in Telefís Éireann, and he also has gone to Bolton Street. Now, there is an established post in the engineering branch. Both boys have spent their spare time studying to improve themselves. But, there is a confined examination and the boy who has been a messenger boy in Findlater's or Switzer's or Brown Thomas or wherever else he works and spent his spare time in Bolton Street is excluded and for no better reason than that he could not get into Telefís Éireann as an unestablished messenger boy.
I do not want to exclude the boy who went into Telefís Éireann as an unskilled messenger boy. I want to give him the same chance in the examination as any other boy will get and if he has been as diligent in studying in the technical school as the other boy, then he will get the job. He has the natural advantage that he is peculiarly familiar with the procedures at Montrose where he has been working. That is a considerable advantage to him in an examination set by the Authority who are seeking an employee on the established staff of Montrose. But it is wholly wrong to hold a confined examination for no other reason than that the juniors have gone into Montrose as unskilled employees by one means or another.
I put it to the House you are doing something wrong here and there is no analogy at all between the case made by Deputy Tully or the case raised by myself of which I have ample knowledge in the Department of Agriculture. There you can see an obvious reason why, if a boy has been working as a boy messenger for a long time in the Post Office and there become vacancies for postmen, it is not unreasonable to say they should get first preference because of their service. Here is an entirely new situation in which you are creating a privileged class of young people and in its creation you are excluding other citizens who ought to be allowed to compete on equal terms and who must be that much better in order to get the post in that they have not had the experience that the unestablished boy has acquired by knocking around Montrose and talking to the permanent staff there and even working with the permanent staff.
Now is the time to prevent the kind of scandale that may arise, whether Fianna Fáil are in office or we are in office or whoever is in office, of suggesting that pressure was brought to bear on the Authority or anybody in Montrose to let fellows in through the back door. So long as we are always able to say that there is only one way on to the established staff of the Television Authority and that is through open competitive examination then Dáil Éireann is out of it and, indeed, the Authority is out of it. They simply say that they took whoever the examination threw up. But, if you depart from that principle you are creating a privileged class and that is not right and it will give rise to abuses.
The Minister himself says that this was put up to him by the Authority, that personally he does not give a fiddle-de-dee. We are the people here in Dáil Éireann who are to establish the standards of public employment and if the Director General has gone wrong here it may be no harm for the Dáil to remind him that forty years' experience has taught us that it is a much better system to have a public examination and the anonymous candidate who proves himself to be best equipped thrown up so that he is the person who will get the established post.
If you depart from that principle in this minor category you are opening the door to very considerable abuses. I would strongly advise the Minister to drop this section.
There are just two points I want to refer to. There are two weaknesses in Deputy Dillon's argument. One is: if the position were reversed and the vacancy were in Findlater's, does Deputy Dillon suggest that the boy in Telefís Éireann will be considered? We all know that in Findlater's or any other private concern people already working in the firm will be considered for promotion and those outside will not be considered.
Secondly, if Deputy Dillon wants competitive examination, as he says he is suggesting, it is not the two boys who are working as messengers and going to night school for the purpose of picking up the education that they did not formerly get who will be considered but a different class altogether, a privileged class, who will not be going to that school at all. That is my argument. It is the privileged class of people who can afford to get a better education than a messenger boy gets or the labouring class get, who will get the jobs either in Montrose or in any other place in the city. For that reason the examination which I assume the Minister is talking about is one which will allow those who have started life under a handicap and who have had the intelligence to pick up certain techniques in the job after a period of years, if a vacancy occurs, and they are able to pass the examination to compete and that examination would be confined to those working in the job and those outside would not be allowed to compete. I do not see anything wrong with that. I think it is a good idea to include it in the Bill.
I take it this is to give a man a chance to raise himself by virtue of his experience in a job and earn better pay and transfer into the pensionable section of the Authority. He will do that through the medium of the skill he has achieved in the job. The fact that he did not pass an examination, perhaps, years before will not be held against him. The Authority is empowered to raise him in certain circumstances in the ranks. That is something of which, I think, we ought to approve.
I certainly do not approve of it. The plain truth is Deputy Dockrell was raised in a long tradition of integrity in the commercial life of this country and he is too blooming innocent for the kind of world in which we live.
The Deputy flatters me.
I know the Deputy too well. Consider the position. There are in the Department of Agriculture hundreds of unestablished jobs every single one of which is within the absolute gift of the Minister. That right is widely exercised. It was frequently put to me when I was Minister for Agriculture that I ought to hold an examination confined to those who were already working in the Department. There are very wide categories of unestablished persons. When a vacancy occurred for an established post I always insisted that every unestablished person eligible to compete would be informed and that great care would be taken to bring the pending examination to the attention of everybody who might conceivably aspire to the post. But I insisted that there must be an examination and that the best man must get the job. I believe that is a sound principle and I believe we are driving a coach and four through it by section 4 of this Bill. I think we are making a great mistake. In practice, in nine cases out of ten, the category of person Deputy Tully is thinking about will in fact get the job because the experience of working in Montrose, plus the technical skills picked up, will in the vast majority of cases outweigh the merits of those who sit for the examination without any prior experience of the day-to-day administration in Montrose. But you do assume that those who have gone to the trouble of acquiring superior qualifications are not absolutely excluded from competing and you do ensure— mark you, the Authority itself had an experience of this—that doubt can never be raised in the public mind: "Ah-ha, so-and-so has got the job as a messenger" or in some minor post in Montrose. "What do you think of that? That fellow's uncle is the Fianna Fáil T.D. in Kildare.""How well that fellow came up from Kerry to get the job of gardener in Montrose. His first cousin is the head of the Fianna Fáil cumann in Tralee."
It could not be as bad as the Board of Works.
Observe the phrase Deputy Corish employs; as bad as the Board of Works. I do not want to introduce that to Montrose. That is all I am asking for; I am asking that an examination should be open to all. That seems to me to be so self-evident as not to require argument. But I particularly urge on the House not to let us deliberately drive a coach and four through a principle that was established with great difficulty in this country, and that is that merit should prevail. We all know there are holes punched in that doctrine from time to time one way or another but, when we hear of these things being done, we resent them. We resent the good fellow being turned down for the fellow who has acquired some kind of pull. Mark you, our people resent that. But there are too many in the country who believe that that principle operates and anything we can do to make it clear that, so far as lies within our power, it will not be allowed to operate is, in my opinion, a public service. I say to Deputy Dockrell that not everybody is as high principled as he would have us believe. The average man believes that pull is powerful and I want to make it quite clear to the average man that, so far as Dáil Éireann can do it, we will ensure that pull will not be a barricade in front of a good man.
This is a most unnecessary dramatising of a simple matter, something that is being done every day. This is treating something that is done every day as if it never happened before. It has been done in my Department all down the years. Postmen who are selected by a mere interview get a chance to compete for promotion to the clerical grade. Telephonists likewise, and many others. This applies only to long serving personnel and it is designed to give them a chance to qualify for a better position.
I see nothing about long serving. All I see is "a person who is already a servant of the Authority".
There would have to be a qualifying period of employment.
Why? There is nothing about that in the Bill.
The Authority arranges its own system of recruitment. No one has anything to do with it except the Authority. This is activated by no desire other than to give people with long service a chance to prove themselves worthy of something better.
How are they recruited in the first place?
By interview, I would take it, or through the labour exchange normally.
They get word to register as unemployed.
Does the Minister expect us to believe that after Deputy Martin Corry getting up here and glorying in the fact that he has an iron foundry and a shipyard in Cork and giving us the dramatic description of people coming around to his back door, and asking: "Martin, would you give me a letter down to the iron works?" And glad he is to write the letter, and they come back and say: "God bless you, Martin. I got the job." Do you think we all came down in yesterday's shower? What do you think makes Martin survive as a Deputy of Dáil Éireann? Fianna Fáil has been trying to get rid of him for the last ten years, but he is writing too many letters to shipyards, and everywhere else, and they cannot get rid of him.
I do not see how that arises on section 4.
Because the Minister would have us believe that Montrose and the shipyards and the iron works go out to the labour exchange.
I know people do not go in for the very subordinate job in which they will remain for years——
I am going to fight this out. The first day I ever was Minister for Agriculture — the Minister can check on this — my private secretary came in to ask me whom I wanted to appoint as charwoman in Athenry Agricultural College. I said to him: "In the name of God, how am I to know who is to be the charwoman in Athenry." He was a little taken aback, and said: "I am sorry for troubling you but this has been the prerogative of the Minister. I will tell you what happened. The correct procedure was"—Senator Dr. Ryan was Minister at the time; I think I succeeded Dr. Ryan——
Was it not Deputy Smith?
Maybe it was Deputy Smith. "The procedure was that we were notified there was a charwoman wanted in Athenry. We notified Deputy O'Grady from Clare," who was here at the time—I do not know where he is now; he was Senator afterwards.
Athenry is not in Clare.
Wait a minute. The machinery was much more elaborate than that. Deputy O'Grady was a Pooh Bah for the whole country. "Deputy O'Grady consulted the local TD. He came back with the name of the woman in East Galway who was to get the job in Athenry." I said: "How did he do that? Is there not a Department of Finance regulation that she has to be appointed through the labour exchange?""Yes," he said, "but provision was made for that, too. There was a fellow above in the Castle and we used to telephone him and say: ‘We are applying to the labour exchange in Athenry for the names of three women, one of whom we must appoint as charwoman of Athenry.' He telephoned to Athenry and said: ‘Send up the names of any three women you like but see that Mary O'Grady's name is one of them.'" And right enough, three names would come up: Mary Sweeney, Maria McArdle and Patricia Jones, but Mary Sweeney would get the job.
The Deputy said "O'Grady".
Deputy O'Grady's appointee. There was a fellow in Dublin Castle who used to telephone the names down and whatever three names were sent along, one of them had to be the woman whom Deputy O'Grady recommended. But the Department of Finance regulations had been observed, that the person had to apply from the labour exchange. These are the facts of life, of which a decent man like Deputy Dockrell knows nothing. I learned them painfully. We are faced with a proposal, and it is not what we intend to do but what is written in this Bill that matters. There may be an engineering post in Telefís Éireann in the morning and there is some poor devil who just got his examination by the skin of his teeth. He is going around with the toe out of his boot because nobody will employ him as an engineer. What does he do? He goes out to Monrose and gets a job planting tulip bulbs in the bins outside in the garden. Three weeks later there is a confined examination for a junior engineer in Montrose, confined to Deputy Tully's anxiety, to those who have worked their way up from the lowest grade of employment in Montrose.
Should he be excluded because the toe is out of his boot?
No, but because he is employed in the capacity of a gardener, he is the only eligible candidate for the examination for an engineer.
More power to him.
If those are the standards we are going to set up, we are all daft. There may be six honours graduates from the university, but the fellow who never did a day's work in his life in the capacity of an engineer becomes the only eligible candidate for a position on the established staff of Montrose. That is crazy and it is wrong. My sole purpose is to ensure that, if there is a vacancy for permanent established staff in any Government Department, in a semi-State body or State body in this country, it will be open to every person who presents himself for the competition and that there will be no restriction on the entries, so that the best man will get the job. I advocate that on its merits as a principle. I advocate it because the alternative is to spread the impression throughout this country that a wangle can be done. I know of my own experience that wangles were the practice in this country and there is not a Deputy who does not know it now. That kind of thing goes on. I am seeking to prevent this being sanctioned by a section in this Bill, and if Deputies have any regard for the public service of this State, they ought to support me and reject the section.
I have been listening to debates in this Dáil since I was a child in short trousers sitting up in the Public Gallery, and I would say that this is the first time that I have agreed with Deputy Dillon, but I do on this occasion.
Deputy Dillon had better examine his conscience.
I agree that if there is a servant employed in Telefís Éireann, if there is an opportunity for promotion in the engineering department and if he takes an examination, he should do so in open competition with people outside. If he has gained experience in Telefís Éireann, the results of the examination will show that he is the best qualified——
——if he does better than any of the others. I might be prepared to compromise and to say that if there were six positions, perhaps one of them should be confined, but that the rest should be open to everyone who wanted to take the examination.
This matter has been over-dramatised.
I must compliment Deputy Briscoe on his moral courage, if not on his political prudence.
Deputy Dillon should not try to be naive. He knows perfectly well that it is quite common in the Civil Service to have confined competitions. People will be recruited by the Authority in different capacities; do Deputies think that, irrespective of their service, these officers should never get past a subordinate grade? It is over-dramatisation to suggest that a floor sweeper is going to become a newscaster or something like that. A number of people may be employed for five or ten years. Are they to remain forever as casuals?
No—let them go in for the examination like everybody else.
It is the practice in the Civil Service to hold confined examinations to enable persons to qualify for establishment in the grade they are in or in another grade. That is what is proposed here, and it is only right.
One point has been missed completely. As the regulation stands, these people will not be eligible for promotion to officer grade because they could not complete——
They could not complete with people who have in fact been trained in educational establishments which, because people took jobs as labourers around Telefís Éireann, are not open to them because they could not afford to attend them or to get that type of education. We have here a type of snobbery which I hate to see raising its head. Deputy Briscoe put his finger on it. He apparently does not believe in the principle Deputy Dillon is enunciating. He says in effect: "Give it to those who can afford to get the educational experience outside but do not allow those who take manual jobs to get promotion." That in effect is what Deputies Dillon and Briscoe are saying.
That is the purest cod. It is very well for an old, experienced, political dog like Deputy James Tully to tackle a newcomer like Deputy Briscoe, but he had better not tackle me. I make no apology whatsoever for detaining the House on this. There is no analogy between the case cited by the Minister and the case proposed in this Bill. If you recruit men as temporary postmen, they may be 40 years delivering the post. Delivering the post is a skilled operation and at the end of 40 years they are unestablished, they have no pension rights, no permanence. A job turns up for a permanent, established postman to do precisely the work that the temporary man had been doing for 40 years.
That is not right.
Go fish. I know this business as well as the Minister does.
I shall tell the Deputy exactly what happened.
There is a confined examination and the best temporary postman gets the job, in certain cases but not in all cases. In the Department of Agriculture there was an anachronistic survival from the old CDB days. The instructors in congested areas were never established. I got them established when I was Minister for Agriculture. Up to the time I was appointed to the office for the second time they had never been established and while I was Minister for Agriculture I saw men go out without pensions after 40 years of service. We deliberately held examinations confined to those men for the post of instructor—junior inspectors in the Department—because we wanted to lift them out of the old anachronistic, antiquated system which precluded them from ever getting established so long as they were working in the congested areas.
That was brought before Dáil Éireann and no apology made for it and it is all cod for Deputy James Tully to be talking about snobbery. Snobbery my foot. It is corruption I am after. I could not employ a messenger in the Department of Agriculture, I could not employ a gardener in the Botanic Gardens and if I wanted to go through all the abracadabra of filling the posts I could have consulted the TDs in my Party about what local man they had in mind for the job, and great abuse I often got for not doing it. They are not all angels on either side of the House. But if I appointed a messenger on my own initiative in the Department of Agriculture and then there emerged a post as a paper-keeper or clerk, an established post in the Department, I put it to the House it would have been wholly wrong for me to hold an examination confined to the personnel in my Department and say no outsider could sit for the post of paper-keeper or junior clerk in the Department of Agriculture. They all came from the same kind of families and God knows in this country there is damn little room for snobbery. What the hell have we to snob about?
That is what I should like to know. Unfortunately, there is plenty of it.
My grandfather was put out on the side of the road as an evicted tenant and I am as respectable a man as you will find in this House. I do not think there is any room for snobbery in the country but there is room for corruption and there is room for people against corruption and there is room for doubts in the minds of our people that corruption is possible under our Government, and anything we can do to right that position is good. Deputy James Tully might look around the world and see what corruption is doing in some emergent States in Africa. I heard him being angry not so very long ago when pointing out that the postmen in County Meath were being treated unfairly.
In County Monaghan.
It does not matter. When he thought the postmen were treated unfairly he was shocked that corruption could occur in this country. I say it would have been wrong if I, as Minister for Agriculture, had power to do what we can authorise the Television Authority to do in section 4 of the Bill. The Minister says he does not think it is necessary. He was asked to put it in and he stuck it in because he was asked. His mind never adverted to the possibility of any question of principle being established—that it was only an administrative convenience and that he was glad to oblige the Director General with it. We are experienced in the life of this country and the Director of Telefís Éireann is not. What may appear to him to be a simple administrative convenience can appear to us, who are experienced in public life—let us remember it is we who were appointed by the people to run the country, not the Director General of Telefís Éireann —to be something different altogether. We have a special type of experience in this House and I think we ought to say to the Director General: "We understand your anxiety to simplify your administration but we do not think this is a prudent simplification". It is easy to leap on Deputy Briscoe because Deputy Briscoe has shown more moral courage than he ought to have done in this case.
I have not finished.
I think the Deputy is on pretty dangerous ground. It is a well established convention in this House that we must not criticise our own Ministers.
I am not criticising the Minister.
Let me do the talking.
Your future is safe in the hands of Deputy Dillon.
If there is to be criticism let it come from this side of the House. I fully understand that the Director General may seek this power for what appears to him to be a purely administrative convenience. I put it to every experienced Deputy that there is a lot more in this than administrative convenience and we should all go on record as saying that all employment in the public service must be based on merit and merit alone in so far as we can possibly control it. We do that with our eyes open in the full knowledge we cannot control it absolutely, but in so far as we can, we will. The insertion of section 4 in this Bill is the first time I have ever seen that principle challenged in legislation in this House. That is why I am making so strong a case against it. What the hell do I care who is employed in Montrose? I will be dead and buried before the people who are now there will ever reach pension age. It does not matter a damn to me but I am concerned to preserve, particularly in the minds of the people, that the convictions of this House are incorruptible. I know the standards of Deputy Maurice Dockrell are perhaps more rigid than most of us but taking us, by and large, with a few exceptions to which I shall not go into detail now, we are an incorruptible bunch and that is the way we want it to stay. Perhaps one of the reasons why we are incorruptible is that we are afraid of exposure in this House.
They say the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the law. In public life the beginning of wisdom is the fear of publicity. I do not know whether our reasons are good or bad but, by and large, we are a pretty incorruptible bunch. For the love of providence, let us stay that way and do not let us have section 4 of this Bill thrown in our teeth hereafter. As sure as we do, I warn Deputy Tully that there will be other Bills with sections like this in them and when he gets up to raise them, it will be cast up to him: "Who was the first man to defend them in the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1965? If it was all right then, why is it not all right now?" He will find people, much more successfully than Deputy Briscoe, trying to explain what he said today is not what he said the day after and he will back his way out of it. It is the precedent I am afraid of. Do not let us establish a precedent that there is to be any breach in the principle that the best man wins in the public service.
Before I came into this House and into the public service, I often listened to Deputy Dillon. I would listen for hours to him even if I did not agree with what he said. He is always most enjoyable and he can make a very good point.
He is often right.
He can make a good point and he is sometimes right. I have no axe to grind with regard to this particular case except that from my point of view it appears the Broadcasting Authority are seeking permission to do something which is an established fact at the present time in the Civil Service. If that is so, then I see no reason why the House should refuse to allow it to be extended to the Broadcasting Authority. If in fact it turns out otherwise, that there is advantage taken by some politician— sometimes they can do that, no matter what side of the House they belong to—then I would reserve my right as long as I am in this House to raise that matter on the floor of the House, as I did in the case of the two postmen, one in Meath and one in Monaghan.
What satisfaction did the Deputy get or what satisfaction did either of them get?
Yes; one of them got a guarantee that he would be retained in the job he was in.
That was not much good to him after his reputation was ruined.
If the people responsible did the right thing, that man would have his reputation and his job as well.
The job was not much good to him when his reputation was gone.
I do not think we can have it both ways in this particular case. This is a plain question of fact. There is one point which Deputy Dillon has missed and which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has missed also. The television end of the Broadcasting Authority has not been so long in existence. If we went back to the original appointments in that service, we would find that everybody there did not go in through an examination, confined or otherwise. Despite that, no matter what way they went in, I think all of us are prepared to agree they are doing a very good job and I would be the last to condemn them. We are making a mountain out of a molehill here. I agree that Deputy Dillon if he thinks something is right, will fight to the last for it but I think, in this particular case, there is an established practice being extended to another service. If that is so, then I propose to support the extension of it and to ask my Party to do the same. If at a future date, on the other hand, I find it wrong, I will be only too glad to tell Deputy Dillon so and to tell the House so if there is any skulduggery going on.
It is too late to lock the stable door when the horse is gone.
I should like to take Deputy Tully to task on his statement that I was compromising my principles because I said that if there were six vacancies, maybe one should be confined and five open. I think Deputy Tully knows as well as I know that in the Civil Service it is established practice at the moment. If there are 25 vacancies, it is quite a normal thing for 20 of those vacancies to be filled from an open competition and five confined to maybe clerical grades, who wish to reach that position.
We are talking about an establishment where there might not be more than one or two altogether.
In any case I certainly have not compromised my principles. I should like the Deputy to know that. There is no compromising of principles.
If the Deputy is satisfied with that, it is OK.
As I say, in the Civil Service—I shall repeat it—if there are 25 vacancies for executive officers, 20 maybe will be thrown open to competition and five confined to serving clerical officers. Sometimes these are taken at the same examination and sometimes at separate examination. I would like to clear that point.
I am surprised that the Minister should have mentioned the question of the promotion of postmen. I would like to remind him that about five months ago I brought up the case of a young postman who had 17 years successful service in Connemara. The permanent post became available but he was not promoted. Who was promoted? A gentleman who had just signed on at the labour exchange, the secretary of the local cumann, and if the Minister wants the facts, I will give them to him. We all know the reason for this set-up. When this Authority was set up originally, a bunch of Party hacks, sons of Fianna Fáil TD's, which cannot be denied, square plugs in round holes, were taken in. Now they want to establish them without a competition. If this is the Fianna Fáil attitude, it is not the attitude of this side of the House.
I would like to be taken as dissenting from this section.
I would like to be associated with that.
Deputy Dillon and Deputy Coogan will be recorded as dissenting.
Might I ask the Minister a question? In the Principal Act, the word "distribution" was not in the section but it is here now. I would like to ask the Minister very briefly to explain that?
The section is really to facilitate the Authority in dealing with programme material. The amendment of section 16, subsection (2) will allow the Authority to arrange with other broadcasting authorities for the distribution, receipt, exchange and relay of programmes, whether live or recorded. The word "distribution" is added and "whether live or recorded". This broadens the scope with regard to the material with which they may deal. With the passage of time in the short time the Authority is in existence, this has been found necessary. It is merely a technical matter.
I was wondering why.
I would have no intimate knowledge other than that we know they are cramped or hamstrung if there is nothing explicit. The operative words we are now inserting are: "whether live or recorded".
What is the purpose of paragraphs (m) and (n)?
Exactly the same thing: "subject to the consent of the Minister, to compile, publish and distribute, with or without charge, recorded aural and visual material". It is exactly the same. It involves the compilation of material, and the publication or distribution of material otherwise than to a broadcasting authority.
What is the meaning of "subject to the consent of the Minister, to provide services for and on behalf of Ministers of State"? I held my fire when we were discussing this on Second Stage because it seemed to me that there was a good deal of force in what the Minister said, that, in the ordinary course the programmes could contain a good deal of reference to Ministers of State, and that they would be sent to bun fights and dog fights, dog races and hooleys. It often causes amusement to the viewing public to see the machinery brought down to record Ministers at some hooley which it is grotesque to broadcast at all, except for the publicity which the Minister seeks.
I remember the Minister for Agriculture used to be a great man for rooting around when he was more prominent in the Taoiseach stakes than he now appears to be. You could not turn on the television news but the Minister for Agriculture was starting a dog race, or twisting a cow's tail, or holding a horse's fetlock, or performing in one capacity or another. What is the meaning now of paragraph (n) which says, "subject to the consent of the Minister, to provide services for and on behalf of Ministers of State"? Does it mean that Ministers of State will be able to get publicity material prepared by the television authority on their own fiat, or why is this new paragraph inserted?
A new subsection 16 (2) (n) proposes to give the Authority a specific power, subject to the consent of the Minister, to provide services for and on behalf of Government Departments. At present the Authority act as agent for the Department of Education in the matter of Telefís Scoile programmes and they are refunded the cost of these programmes by that Department. It may be that in the future the Authority may be requested to act as agent for some other Department, for instance, for the Department of External Affairs, the transcription service, or the Department of Agriculture, the special agricultural programmes outside normal broadcasting hours. It could easily be visualised that the service might have to be used for some specific matter, the same as for Telefís Scoile, for which the Authority are paid by the Department of Education. Irrespective of what Government may be in power, it is desirable that that power should be there. If the Deputy is suggesting that we are taking some power to use or misuse the Authority, that does not quite make sense——
You are doing that already.
——because if a Minister wants to use the broadcasting medium for any specific purpose, or on any special occasion or to make an important announcement, he has the right to do so. He does not need any new power. For instance, if there was a bad outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the Minister wanted to put on a special programme outside the ordinary times this would enable that to be done.
There is no use in the Minister shaking his spectacles and frowning fiercely at me because that does not make the slightest impression on me.
The Deputy knows in his heart——
What is in my heart is coming out of my mouth. If programmes are to be instituted at the instance of the Minister for Agriculture, I have no doubt that the Authority will consult with the Minister. There are already numerous agricultural programmes. There are the farming programmes on television and the farming programmes on radio. They will collaborate in every possible way with the Minister, but I do not understand why we have "subject to the consent of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs" a power to place upon the broadcasting Authority an obligation to provide "services for and on behalf of Ministers of State". I cannot conceive any situation arising in which the present powers disposed of by the Director General and the Authority are not amply adequate. They recognise that they have a certain public service to discharge. Can they not do it at the request of the Minister? Are they not at present doing it at the request of the Minister?
Is there any statutory block at present existing to prevent the Authority from collaborating with the Minister? At the present time there are special features. There are special features about road safety which are broadcast by the Television Authority presumably at the request of the Minister for Local Government. I know of no statutory block existing to prevent the Authority from collaborating in so far as it is conceivably desirable with any Minister of State, but it is quite a new principle if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is to be given power to direct the Authority to carry out the instructions of certain Ministers of State. That is something we have never legislated for before, so far as I know. What is to prevent the Authority at present from collaborating in any way they like with Ministers of State?
The Deputy is pretending he does not see the point. It is a question of providing some service for which the Department would be expected to pay just the same as the Department of Education pay for the Telefís Scoile programmes at present. This places no obligation on the Authority. This authorises the Authority to provide a service, if necessary, with the consent of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.
Why should not the Department recoup the Television Authority? We make an annual provision for it.
Under this, Telefís Éireann would have authority to provide a service outside the ordinary hours for a Department.
Which would be charged for it?
The Department would be charged for it.
Why should not they be charged for it?
There is no reason why they should not be charged for it. This authorises them to do it.
What the Minister is suggesting now is that this paragraph would authorise the Authority to provide a service at the instance of a Minister for State, subject to the approval of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, out of their existing revenue, whereas heretofore if the Minister for Agriculture, or the Minister for External Affairs, or the Minister for Health, wanted a service provided the Authority could provide it but could indent upon the Vote of the Minister for the cost of the programme. That left the provision we made for television intact, and the burden of the expense was carried by the Minister who sought the service. Now the Minister is saying that the other Minister, subject to his approval, could indent upon the resources of Telefís Éireann, and that if the Authority could be persuaded to provide a service it would be provided at the expense of Telefís Éireann. This diminishes the provision we have made for Telefís Éireann.
I said no such thing. Actually it is the very opposite. If a Department want the Authority to act as an agent for them in a specific case —and the only case one can visualise would be outside the normal television hours—the Department would pay the Authority for the service.
I do not see anything about that here.
That is the type of thing we are trying to provide for, and leaving it open as it is is much better.
If we put in a provision on Report Stage, "provided always that the cost will be discharged by the Minister in question"——
There could be cases where that would not be in the public interest—if it could be got otherwise.
It could not be in the public interest to give the Minister the right to alter the financial provisions made by this House at the time of the Estimate. If we gave the television authority £1 million, or whatever it is, it could not be right to give the Minister power, by regulation, to reduce it to £900,000 by the expenditure of £100,000 at the instance of some Minister who wanted to exact from the Television Authority a special service.
He will have to pay for it.
No, the Minister says not.
He may or he may not.
Why not put in the Bill "provided the Minister shall meet the cost"?