Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 18 Jul 1973

Vol. 267 No. 8

Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Bill, 1973: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As Deputies are only too well aware their remuneration and the remuneration of Ministers and Parliamentary officers has remained unchanged since 1968. Since 1968 other groups have had their pay increased on four or five occasions under the various pay rounds. It is clear therefore that this Bill is long overdue.

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but does he propose to distribute copies of his speech?

I understand they are about to be distributed. It is also true to say that increases in remuneration proposed for Members of the House are subject to more criticism, much of it ill-informed, than the increases for any other group in the country. One reason for such criticism is that delay in making increases has necessitated fairly substantial increases in the long run to compensate for depreciation in money values. One criticism which has been made in the past and which had the appearance of substance was that parliamentarians could vote themselves "unjustified" increases in pay. Those who voiced this criticism argued that there should be some sort of independent body which would determine the appropriate remuneration for Members of the Oireachtas.

In December, 1970, the Government of the day decided to ask the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector to examine and report on the levels of remuneration of members of the Government, Parliamentary Secretaries, Attorney General and Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Eireann and allowances of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The report of the review body was submitted to the Minister for Finance on 11th July, 1972. It was published on 9th September, 1972. As Members are aware, the review body made a detailed study of the work of parliamentarians and also examined jobs in the higher levels of the economy generally. They recommended substantial increases in the pay of parliamentarians.

On 27th October, 1972 the Government of the day announced that because of the existence of the National Pay agreements they felt it was necessary to ask the Employer/Labour Conference to advise in relation to the extent to which effect might be given to the review body's recommendations on the basis of and for the duration of the national agreements.

The Employer/Labour Conference set up a special committee to examine and report to the Minister. In its report, dated 22nd December, 1972, the special committee indicated the rates which would be appropriate having regard to the general increases under the 12th Round and the National Agreement, 1970. This Government decided, as I stated on 20th June, that the new rates of remuneration should apply with effect from 1st July, 1973 —the date from which the increases in social welfare benefits announced in the budget were to be paid. The rates proposed in the present Bill have been determined on the basis of the application to the existing rates of the increases that applied throughout the public sector under the 12th round and the national agreements. In so far as office-holders are concerned, they are for the most part significantly below the rates recommended by the review body. For example, Ministers will be paid £654 less than the review body recommended.

I am personally satisfied that these rates are entirely justified and that, having regard to the prevailing national agreement climate, they represent the most appropriate revisions that could be made. It should be remembered that a Deputy's job is unique in that he is at all times at the disposal of the public. There can be no question of the job of a Deputy being done on a nine-to-five basis. "Overtime" does not arise. He is expected to sacrifice his personal time for the public good. He gets no allowance for secretarial services, even though he may have to write thousands of letters on behalf of his constituents. He has no entertainment allowance nor has he an expense allowance. These expenses must be met from his parliamentary allowance.

The arguments I have used in relation to Deputies apply with even greater force to members of the Government because of the commitments of office. The continuity of their business or professional interests is broken. The Minister's responsible job involves him in directing a Department, formulating policy on many aspects of national life, and explaining these policies to the Oireachtas and to the public. Nowadays he may frequently have to travel abroad on official business. There is no managerial or directive post which is more responsible and demanding. Nevertheless a Minister's salary, even as increased under this Bill, will still lag well behind the remuneration obtaining for a top management job in commerce, in industry, or in the top strata of the professions.

The Attorney General is a Member of the Dáil. Like Ministers, he has agreed to refrain from involvement in any other business or profession for the duration of his appointment. The Bill proposes therefore to bring his remuneration and pension into line with the remuneration and pension of Ministers. The salary for an Attorney General who is not a Member of the Oireachtas is being increased in the same way as the other salaries and allowances covered by the Bill, that is to say, by the application to the existing rate of salary of the 12th round of the national agreements.

The Bill also proposes that in future, increases in the allowances of Deputies and Senators and in the salaries of Parliamentary office-holders may be granted by way of Government order instead of Act of the Oireachtas as heretofore. It will, however, be necessary for the Government to lay before the Dáil a draft of any such order, and if the Dáil disapproves of the draft order within 21 sitting days the order shall not be made. In a situation where Members' remuneration is affected by national pay agreements it is desirable to minimise the delays which are inevitable between the decision to introduce legislation and the final passing of the legislation. There is, in my opinion, no good reason why increases in remuneration of Members of the Oireachtas should be subject to obstacles which are not placed in the way of any other section of the community.

In view of the fact that the remuneration of Members of the Oireachtas has not been increased since 1968, that the increases now proposed are in line with the increases given to public servants generally under the 12th round and the national agreements, I think that it will be generally accepted by this House and outside this House, that the increases proposed in the Bill are entirely justified and I recommend the proposals in the Bill to the House.

When we were notified of the introduction of this Bill and were requested to give it a quick passage through the House, we were informed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach that the Bill would contain no surprises. It was on that basis we agreed to the proposal that all Stages might be taken quickly in succession. As I indicated yesterday, it certainly contained surprises. I refer to one as an omission and the other as an addition.

The addition I refer to is the provision of a pension for the Attorney General. Let me say at the outset that I think it is only fair that an Attorney General who gives up his practice in order to devote his full time to his job as Attorney General, having served the minimum of three years, is entitled to a pension. I shared I am sure with a number of other Members of the House, who are members of the legal profession and particularly who are barristers, the difficult experience of trying to get back into practice after a period in office. I can assure the House it is no easy job to do so.

It is entirely fair that the pension provision be made available. That is the addition. There is a little jam on that addition in that hitherto an Attorney General, whether he practised or not, was given a lump sum on retirement irrespective of how long he served as Attorney General. The lump sum amounted to 1½ times his yearly salary. As a result of this Bill, not only will a pension be provided but a lump sum will also be provided. This point will be dealt with in more detail subsequently.

The omission to which I referred is the fact that there is no provision for increasing the Opposition allowance. At this stage I am confining my remarks to that omission, first, in order to highlight it and, secondly, in speaking first I hope to give the Minister and the Government an opportunity to repair that omission—that is, if it was an accidental omission. However, I am inclined to believe it was not an accidental omission; I think it was done deliberately.

Perhaps the Deputy would allow me to intervene in case there is any misunderstanding. An Attorney General who will get a pension because he is full-time will not get a lump sum. The lump sum would apply only if he is part-time but, as the present Attorney General is full-time, he will not get a lump sum.

That may be the case but it should be provided for in legislation. The provision giving him a lump sum already is in legislation and is not repealed. However, I am open to correction on that but we can expand on that later. I have said the omission may have been accidental but I am inclined to believe it was not for the simple reason it was brought to the attention of the Government some weeks ago that if there was to be an increase in the salaries of Ministers, Deputies and Senators there should be an increase also in the Opposition allowance.

I should like to trace the history of these allowances since 1938 when the first Bill was introduced. It was called the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act. It provided for payment of £800 for what was then described as the Second Party—the First Party being the Government Party—and £500 for the Third Party. The next legislation dealing with the matter was in 1947 under the same title and it provided for an across-the-board 30 per cent increase in these allowances.

Next there was the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 1960; section 13 of that Act provided for an allowance of £4,500 for the Opposition. If there were more than two parties in Opposition, it provided £3,000 for the largest party and £1,500 for the next. That introduced the principle of what was described as "qualified parties". A qualified party is one that went forward for election as an organised party in the next general election and returned to Dáil Éireann at least seven members. As a result of that, there was provision for the distribution of the sum of £4,500 in certain detail which it is not necessary for me to discuss here. The next Act in 1964 under the same title increased the allowance to £5,040 overall or, in the case of two parties, £3,600 for the larger party and £1,680 for the second party. In the 1968 Act the allowance was increased dramatically to £15,000 overall or, in the event of there being more than one party in Opposition, £10,000 for the larger and £5,000 for the small party.

This is the first Bill which has not contained a progressive and fair increase for the Opposition. It is generally acknowledged that if Parliamentary democracy is to survive and work well there must be an efficient and effective Opposition. We have no intention of being other than an efficient and effective Opposition but, given a fair allowance, we can become more efficient and more effective and, therefore, perhaps embarrass the Government to a greater extent.

Be that as it may, there has been an injustice done here if this is a deliberate decision. If it is a deliberate decision, I can only describe it as a petty piece of politicking. The increase between 1964 and 1968 was three-fold. That was in a period of four years when the inflationary trend besetting the world was not nearly as intense as now. A longer period has elapsed and a more intense period of inflation has intervened between 1968 and 1973 and, consequently, there is no justification whatever for omitting to increase the Opposition allowance.

As is well known, I am preparing to set up a service for the Opposition. It will be comprised entirely of voluntary people, people eminent in different aspects of life, professional, vocational and otherwise. Although it will be completely voluntary, it will be necessary to service it with some form of paid Secretariat. That kind of service and the ordinary expenses an Opposition must undertake can come only from the Opposition allowance. There is no other fund available except that we appeal publicly for funds. As the House is aware, this form of appeal is confined to a political organisation rather than a parliamentary party as such, especially a party in Opposition.

When the three-fold increase to £15,000 was made in 1968 it was done as a result of representations from the then Opposition who now form the Government. We were magnanimous in our reaction to that approach and we considered we were treating the Opposition only as fairly as they deserved to be treated in the circumstances. Failure to give an increase, even after representations had been received, is treating the Opposition in a most unfair manner.

If the argument is made that in Opposition Fine Gael had £10,000 and Labour £5,000 while we have £15,000 I would point out that in Opposition we have more Deputies than the combined strength of Fine Gael and Labour when in Opposition. In addition, we have to service more Deputies.

Also, more services are required, mainly because of our accession to the EEC but also because of the acceleration of the rate of government and administration generally. Therefore, it is necessary for the Opposition to keep step with that rate of acceleration. I understand that the overall question of secretarial and other services for Deputies may be submitted to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges but the question of the allowance payable to the Opposition is a different matter from that of assistance to Deputies. It is a principle that has long been established and is separate from the kind of services with which Deputies might be provided. Even if this suggestion were to be submitted to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges there is no excuse for not increasing the allowance now by a fair amount and let the Committee on Procedure and Privileges make a recommendation. Obviously, they cannot make a recommendation that would be less attractive to the Opposition than is the present provision, which is inadequate in the context of the devaluation of money.

This is another example of the attitude of the Government when, on the second day of their sitting, they grabbed offices of this House. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle was appointed from the benches of the Government and this was followed by the appointment from the Government benches also of the Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad. I would say, without hesitation, that had Fianna Fáil ever been guilty of either of these two deeds the Press would have been loud in their condemnation of us; but, far from that being the case on this occasion, except for one mild rebuke by one paper, which was far from suspended suspicion, in relation to the Seanad appointment, nothing was said publicly. To add what is happening in the present instance to what happened on those other two occasions seems to indicate to us that the Government are acting in a very petty manner, that they are trying to hobble the Opposition. However, we refuse to be hobbled and, regardless of whether we are given an increase, we will be an effective, efficient and, I might say, devastating Opposition in the long run.

I shall not say more on the Bill at this stage. My colleague, the former Minister for Finance, will deal in a more comprehensive way with the Minister's speech. My reason for raising this one topic is, in the first instance, to highlight what the Government are doing and, secondly, to give the Minister an opportunity of repairing the omission which, if it is deliberate is disgraceful and petty.

I welcome the Bill and I consider that Deputy Lynch has made a fair case——

The Deputy will be voting with us, then?

—for a revision of the allowance payable to what we might call the official Opposition. It is most unlikely that the Government would set out purposely to deprive the Leader of the Opposition in terms of £15,000. If I thought that were the position, I would oppose this Bill and Deputy Lynch would have my full support because I recall a time when, under the leadership of the late William Norton, the Labour Party had a tiny allowance of about £2,000. I recall that at that time the former financial secretary of the Administrative Council of the Labour Party endeavouring to operate an Opposition Party in terms of that amount of money. I welcomed, as did the Leader of the Labour Party, the decision of Deputy Haughey in 1968 to increase the allowance to £5,000 in the case of the Labour Party and to £10,000 for Fine Gael. Deputy Haughey had a particular and effective way of doing things.

Deputy Lynch has pointed out that no fair or progressive allowance is being made in respect of the Opposition on this occasion. His case has been made on a relativity basis. I do not think this matter should become one between the Government and the Opposition of the day. It is something that concerns all of us and I suggest to the Minister for Finance that it would be a useful exercise for him to review the allowance payable to Fianna Fáil in opposition. Admittedly, it would have to be reviewed in the context of from mid-1968 to mid-1972 because the salaries we are discussing now were computed only in the context of mid-1972. We will forget about the budget of 1973, although, by some manner or means, it has become involved in this Bill. However, I shall come to that later. There is a reasonable case to be made in respect of the Opposition for an upward adjustment in their allowance based on a four years increase— roughly 30 per cent. There has been an 80 per cent increase in the cost of living during that period.

The last increase was of the order of 300 per cent for a four year period.

Yes, but Deputy Haughey was a very courageous Minister for Finance.

By implication, what, then, is Deputy Ryan?

I am caught between Deputies Haughey and Colley and the present Minister for Finance. There would be no need to introduce this Bill if Deputy Colley had acted in decent haste during the term of his office.

Hear, hear.

There are no kudos for anybody in this exercise. Each of them is subject to a certain amount of excessive political expediency. On this basis an increase of 30 per cent would be justified. I see no reason why, in a budget of such magnitude, Deputy Lynch's request could not be acceded to. This could be done on Committee or Report Stage.

Having said that, I would go a step further. If I were Minister for Finance I would have no hesitation in sanctioning £20,000 or £25,000 for the Opposition but I would ask why should only the Opposition have an allowance to enable them to operate effectively when I, as a backbench Deputy of the Government, receive no allowance from the Minister. I have no secretarial allowance or any other. Since becoming a Government backbencher I have had a number of offers of other employment, but I have turned down these offers. I know that Deputies on the Opposition side also have had such offers and that some have accepted them while others have not. I suggest to the Minister that he might very easily provide an allowance to the political parties so as to enable their backbenchers to maintain some elementary, civilised and democratic secretarial facilities.

It is embarrassing and undesirable in the public interest to have a situation where Deputy Lynch will receive, say, £20,000 or £25,000 and then the unfortunate Leader of the Opposition has to enter into a haggle with his senior advisers and his Front Bench to decide how this is to be spent while his backbenchers look on and say: "Will we get a couple of typists out of this?" or: "How much will we allow the Leader of the Opposition to retain for himself?" We had that kind of situation in the Labour Party when we were in Opposition.

I hope the Deputy is not suggesting that this, or part of it, is personal to the Leader of the Opposition.

It is very difficult. It is payable to the Leader of the Opposition for Opposition purposes.

Purely for Opposition purposes. I want to make that point clear.

But the leader has certain inevitable expenses as leader of a political party and the parliamentary party find themselves embarrassed about the expenditure of this money.

I should like to see an allowance made payable to the leaders of the parties to enable them to provide for their backbench Deputies an elementary secretarial service. It is quite appalling that Deputies, many of whom have to write 200, 300 or 500 letters a week, should have to do as I do, namely, get their wives, if they are able and willing, to spend up to 20 hours a week, apart from looking after their families, typing letters to be posted through the free postage service of this House. I am in the rather amusing situation as Chief Whip of the Labour Party, of having a duplicator, paid for by the public service, a typewriter, paid for by the public service, a dictaphone machine allocated to the Labour Party, as indeed certain equipment has been allocated to the Fine Gael and the Fianna Fáil parties, but no typist. I have no typist. I cannot afford to pay a typist. It is a stupid situation into which we, as members of a very small party, have allowed ourselves to drift largely due to the fact that over the years allowances to Members have become a plaything of the political parties, each of them vying with the others not to incur public odium. As a result we have a grossly ineffective service by Members of Parliament to their constituents.

Deputies are elected to legislate. Last night, when some Members on this side were carping excessively in relation to a particular Bill and perhaps thinking that the Opposition were merely opposing for the sake of opposing, Deputy Colley quite rightly pointed out that it is the function of the Opposition to go through a Bill and to finecomb each clause in it in the national interest. We cannot undertake this kind of work without adequate financial and secretarial back-up facilities. It is bad enough being crucified with the grossly inadequate accommodation in this House, with four and five Deputies jammed into a couple of hundred square feet. The Minister should take full cognisance of the point made by Deputy Lynch and also pay an adequate amount to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to enable them to provide some secretarial services for their backbenchers.

It is perhaps unknown to the public that because of the gross inadequacy of parliamentary allowances and secretarial back-up services, Deputies pay, out of their own allowances, to their own parties a certain amount of money each month. In the Labour Party we pay £5 a month to our head office to get some kind of service to enable us to perform our functions as Deputies. That comes from our Oireachtas allowances. I gather that in the case of Fianna Fáil Deputies it is something like £10 a month. Ministers pay, too, and I am sure Fine Gael Deputies do likewise. This is archaic, undesirable and unnecessary.

As an unofficial shop steward of the Deputies of this House I would urge the Minister to have a very close look at the effective date of this Bill, which is the 1st July, 1973. I would make the point strongly to my colleagues in Government that it is not enough that we adhere to the national agreement in relation to the banks, the public service and the Judiciary; we should also adhere to it in relation to our own salaries. The date of application of this Bill is contrary to the national wage agreement. It is also contrary to the clear-cut report made by the Employer/Labour Conference, a special committee of which examined the question in December and reported to the Minister on the proposed Dáil increases. The Minister in his speech said:

In its report dated 22nd December, 1972, the special committee indicated the rates which would be appropriate having regard to the general increases under the 12th round and the national agreement, 1970.

That is rather a bald summary of what was in that report. The report indicated also that, if the increases were given in the context of the agreement, we could have retrospective dates of application applied. I have no doubt this was the clear intention behind that report. I am not suggesting that we should have these increases back-dated to January, 1972, which would be in accordance with the national wage agreement—portion of it from January, 1972 and the second half from June, 1972. I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that the Minister should seriously consider on Committee Stage applying it from, say, 1st January, 1973. Deputies would forego the best part of 12 months' retrospection in relation to half of the increase, and six months in relation to the second half, in the national interest. As a trade unionist and as a former trade union official, I do not see the logic of applying Oireachtas increases from the date of social welfare increases. It is quite illogical.

I have never heard it said in the history of this State that the date should be the date of social security increases. If that were so we should have an increase next July, which presumably we will not get, and we should have had an increase last July, which presumably Deputy Colley at the time did not see fit to bring in. I fully support Deputy Colley's reference to the Employer/Labour Conference. I thought it was the correct decision at the time on the part of the former Government. It was entirely correct that Deputy Colley should have taken that action and I do not think he should receive any retrospective criticism in that regard. It was also wise on his part to defer the increase.

I should like to make a recommendation to the Minister of a retrospective date of the 1st January, 1973 for Members of the 19th Dáil. Quite understandably for the new Deputies elected to the 20th Dáil there is no logical reason why they should not get the particular allowance applicable from the date of their election. I think they should get a fair hearing on that basis.

Another point I should like to raise has a bearing on what Deputy Lynch has said. In Opposition, one has a hypersensitivity towards the Government of the day in terms of the Government trying to, what is commonly called, "screw the Opposition". If it became public issue that the Government on this side lack in magnanimity and were merely trying to have a go at the Opposition for the sake of having a go, or trying to do them out of a couple of thousand pounds, or trying to bring the increases in from the 1st July merely to have a go at ministerial pensions which will be affected by it, it would be very bad for Parliament.

There are more serious national issues involved than this kind of micky mouse politics. I am aware that when it comes to our own pockets we are all inclined to be hypersensitive but when it comes to the pockets of the Government versus the Opposition we should not indulge in any sort of political horseplay or try to be petty about the application of these increases.

I should like to make an entirely different point in relation to the allowances. To my mind this is a matter which is of growing significance in public life. I feel that there should be some means by which Dáil Deputies should declare their financial interests in public. I am concerned that in Britain and America there is now a growing feeling that the members of Parliament should declare their business and other interests on a register of interests so that the public are aware that on any measure coming up before Dáil Éireann it can be said that a Deputy is not talking on behalf of a special group, or on behalf of a company or on behalf of a lobbyinterest in the community.

I consider this to be extremely important in the context of our joining the EEC. I have no doubt that there will be imported into this country a fair amount of the lobby pressure which goes on in the European Parliaments in relation to, for example, EEC regulations. One might find the 26 Members of the EEC Regulations Committee of the Oireachtas in a lobby situation like the American Senate. A company, very seriously affected by the EEC regulations, might attempt at national legislative level to influence the acceptance or otherwise of an EEC regulation.

The situation could arise of Deputies being offered consultancies as British MPs were offered in the recent past or offered straight cash bribes as were offered, and are frequently offered, in American politics. I do not think that we would have that kind of situation here. I am concerned that many Deputies, on election to Dáil Éireann, subsequently develop business interests. Quite a few of them become auctioneers, quite a few of them become estate agents and others develop their business interests in different ways.

I feel strongly, in the context of Oireachtas allowances, that these interests should be known. I feel that there should be a register of interests in which Deputies would declare their directorships, if they hold them, or declare their major company representative capacities, if they hold them. On that basis public life in Ireland would retain the overall, I hesitate to use the word "purity", integrity which, by and large, it has managed to maintain in the recent decades. There has not been any occasion when Deputies were held up to that kind of public odium. Therefore, a register of this type should be opened.

I think that it is impossible to consider allowances for Members of this House without simultaneously considering it in the work situation of Members. I have felt for a long time that the hours of Leinster House, the archaic, feudal, ridiculous system by which we assemble in this building to conduct our legislative work, are utterly out of date and outmoded. It should not be beyond the capacity of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to arrange that Deputies assemble on Tuesdays at 3 o'clock and work until 10 o'clock at night. On a Wednesday there is no reason why we should not assemble at 9 o'clock in the morning. Why should we have to work until 10.30 at night? Let us assemble here at 9 o'clock in the morning and work until 5 o'clock. On Thursdays let us assemble at 9 o'clock in the morning and work until 5 o'clock.

Such an arrangement would mean that Deputies would be in a position to meet constituents on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. In my view these hours are more logical in terms of the operation of Dáil Éireann. If there are to be special sessions we can arrange them also.

Where would the rural Deputies meet constituents on Wednesday evenings?

Many Deputies live within a 50 mile radius of Dublin and a number of them go home each evening. I think the idea of keeping the Deputies, and the media, here until 10.30 p.m. regularly is absolutely ridiculous. It is the old throw back to the day when the barristers, having had a weary and heavy morning's work in the courts, and having collected their paltry stipend there, then descended on Leinster House and worked for a few hours in the afternoon and evening giving the country the benefit of their legal expertise. We should get away from that feudal arrangement and organise the work of Dáil Éireann on a better basis.

The legal expertise has not been too good judging by the Supreme Court ruling on the breathalyser.

Fair enough, I will take the Deputy's views as conclusive evidence in that regard. Now we are faced with a situation where many Deputies will be acting on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, the EEC Regulations Committee, the All-Party Committee on Irish Relations and the Committee on State-sponsored Bodies which I hope will be set up. We could have in the near future five or six parliamentary committees established. A great deal of extra time will be required from Deputies to devote themselves to that particular innovation. On that basis alone the volume of work load to be imposed on Deputies will be very considerable.

I would make that point in relation to the salaries of Deputies and I would suggest a variation to the Minister from the point of view of secretarial allowances. Should the Minister find it impossible to grant allowances to Deputy Lynch—Deputy Lynch has an allowance, but I think it should be substantially increased—to Deputy Cosgrave, the Taoiseach, for the purpose of providing secretarial facilities for his backbenchers and to Deputy Corish, Tánaiste and Minister for Health, for the purpose of providing secretarial facilities for his backbenchers, then the obvious solution is to provide secretarial allowances for Dáil Deputies. The Minister would have to find some £600 per annum, which is the same figure as that in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and Deputies could then make their own arrangements. Indeed, £600 would not go very far really in providing secretarial facilities.

As Deputies are aware, £1,000 of the £3,400 is tax free. May I ask the Minister if the tax free allowance will be proportionately increased pro rata with the increase in Deputies' salaries? I take it something in the region of £1,500 of the £3,400 will be tax free. Subsequent speakers might find this an interesting point on which to press the Minister.

These ideas may not necessarily coincide with the views of my colleagues. They are my views and, if the Cabinet finds itself unable to accept them, in the best traditions of a Government backbencher I shall have to support my colleagues. I look for an increase but I have no intention in doing so of simultaneously making myself redundant.

The Minister in introducing the Bill went into some detail about the history of increased allowances and salaries. He referred to the report of the Devlin Commission. He said it was received in July. It was, I think, dated 11th July, 1972, and it was received some time after that date. There appears to be a certain amount of confusion and I want to spell out exactly what the position was. As far as the then Government were concerned the existing situation at that time differed considerably from the situation that existed when the Devlin Commission was set up. In the summer and autumn of 1972 there was a national agreement in existence and it appeared to us vital to the economy that that national agreement should be supported in every way possible. On that basis, the then government referred the Devlin Report to the Employer/Labour Conference to advise on the extent to which the report conformed with the previous wage rounds and the national agreement. The report of the Employer/Labour Conference showed that, in their view, the Devlin Report did not conform with the previous wage rounds and the national agreement.

I want to stress that the report of the Employer/Labour Conference was received by me a few days before Christmas. It was immediately published. As indicated by this Bill, any implementation of it required legislation. When the House next met the present Government took office and there was, therefore, no opportunity for me, or the Government of which I was a member, to implement the Employer/Labour Conference report. The Minister for Finance, as on previous occasions, although corrected on the point, said that I, as Minister for Finance, should have implemented the Devlin Report. The Minister for Lands answering questions here in the House for another Minister said the same thing. Some of the backbenchers over there have also said the same thing and Deputy Barry Desmond said the same thing at the beginning of his speech today and, in support of Deputy Barry Desmond, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said: "Hear, hear". In his speech on the budget Deputy Barry Desmond said that he agreed with the decision made by the previous Government and he said exactly the same thing today; in the same speech he contradicted himself.

Deputy Colley is having a polite go at himself.

Maybe Deputy Desmond was having a go at us, but let us be clear that anybody who says the previous Government should have implemented the Devlin Report is saying that the previous Government should have ignored the national agreement and, in my view, should have acted irresponsibly. Now Deputies cannot have it both ways. Either one is in favour of national agreements, in which case Deputies would support the action taken by the previous Government, or one is not. If one is not in favour of what we did one must admit that the suggestion is that we should have ignored the national agreement, a proposition which I did not then and would not now accept and, indeed, neither would any of my colleagues.

The Government could have referred it to the Employer/ Labour Conference three months earlier.

Deputy Colley, as Minister for Finance, had the report in December.

Presumably the Minister for Foreign Affairs has read the Devlin Report. He knows it is a voluminous document and a very detailed document; it dealt with more than parliamentarians. He knows that to make any assessment of how it should be dealt with would take some time since it would have to be examined carefully both by the Government and the various interested bodies.

Everything took a long time in the last Government.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot get off the hook in that way. His "Hear, hear" meant that we should have ignored the national agreement and, when this is pointed out to him now, he tries to get off the hook by saying it should have been done earlier. The fact of the matter is, and there is no getting out of this, it was referred to the Employer/ Labour Conference; there was a report from the Employer/Labour Conference which set out the terms in relation to parliamentarians and others which would be in conformity with the wage rounds and the national agreements. There were very specific recommendations and findings in that report.

We have been at all times consistent in our support of the national agreements. It was on that basis that we referred the Devlin Report to the Employer/Labour Conference. It was on that basis that we took the attitude we did in regard to the pay of bank employees, both when we were in Government and recently in Opposition when there was a Bill dealing with this matter before us. That is the line we have consistently taken and intend to continue to take. Unfortunately the present Government do not appear to be willing to take a consistent attitude in this regard.

It is true, of course, that the Employer/Labour Conference Report dealt with matters other than the pay and allowances of parliamentarians. It dealt also with the remuneration of judges and higher civil servants and, to a limited extent, it dealt with the situation of chief executives of State-sponsored bodies. That report also presented certain complications. The Minister for Finance probably did, and certainly could have if he wanted to, find in the Department of Finance a memorandum for the Government prepared under my direction which was proposing to implement the Report of the Employer/ Labour Conference in full, in so far as that could be done.

As the Minister pointed out, parliamentarians had not received any increase in their remuneration since 1968. In that interval there has been of course very substantial inflation throughout the world. There can be no question but that the revision of pay and allowances for parliamentarians is overdue. There may be different views, and there are different views, on the correct level at which parliamentarians should be remunerated. I use the word "parliamentarians" as a shorthand to cover not only Deputies, but Senators, Parliamentary Secretaries, Ministers, the Taoiseach, the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach, and the Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. As the Minister pointed out in his speech, the Devlin Group, which included two members of the Labour Court, having gone into the matter in considerable detail, recommended figures which, in general, were substantially higher than those proposed in this Bill.

Whatever view may have been expressed by the Devlin Group, or anybody else, it is our belief that the most important thing in this issue, in the interests of the national economy, is to abide by and support the national agreement. That being so, we are anxious to ensure that the Employer/ Labour Conference Report should be adopted. We believe that by doing this, not only will the national agreement be supported and adhered to, but it will be seen to be supported and adhered to. It is important that the treatment which should be applied to the remuneration of parliamentarians should be seen to be dealt with in the same way, and under the same machinery, and on the same basis, as the remuneration of workers generally.

We take our stand on the Report of the Employer/Labour Conference. There is no other ground on which one can stand and still claim to support the national agreements. In this connection I think Deputy Desmond was somewhat illogical in the line he took in regard to retrospection. There is a specific recommendation in the Employer/Labour Conference Report in regard to the dates at which differing levels of remuneration should be implemented.

Either one stands on that report or one does not. We stand on that report. Any failure to adhere to that is probably a breach of the national agreement but certainly is something which will create a dangerous situation.

The only reason I changed it was that there was a change of Government. I was being magnanimous to my own side.

I appreciate the Deputy's efforts and political expediency, but nevertheless I would suggest that there is more logic in the basis adopted by the Minister than that adopted by Deputy Desmond. Either you stand on the Employer/Labour Conference or you do not. We stand on it and the Government side must indicate in this Bill whether they stand on it.

The terms of the Bill do not stand on the Employer/Labour Conference Report. They depart from it significantly in relation to the date of implementation. The report resulted from a detailed examination by trade union officials and employers' representatives who had been delegated to supervise the implementation of the national agreement, were skilled in that regard, had ample experience of implementing the national agreement in various sectors of the economy, and these men, having gone into this in very great detail, came out with specific recommendations by which wage rounds and the national agreement could be applied to Parliamentarians.

The results were somewhat complicated in that there was a recommendation as to a certain level of remuneration on 1st January, 1972, and a different and higher level at a subsesequent date, higher again at a subsequent date, and then a final level as at 1st July of this year. As I said, that was the result of a very detailed and skilful survey and endeavour to apply to Parliamentarians the same machinery, the same criteria, as were being applied to workers generally. If you want to ensure in so far as the Government and Members of this House can, the support of this House and of all parliamentarians for the national agreement, it is essential that we should be seen to be standing four square behind the national agreement and the machinery set up by it, which includes the Employer/Labour Conference, which made this report which the Minister proposes to depart from in this Bill.

In what respect?

I suggest to the Minister that not to implement the Report of the Employer/Labour Conference, either by going above the recommendations or below them, is to fail to support the national agreement. I think for the Government not to accept this report and apply it in full is creating a very dangerous precedent. Imagine a situation in which an employer in the private sector refused to implement, or, putting it in more common parlance, welshed on a finding by the Employer/ Labour Conference. If he did, is it not certain that he would have trouble on his hands and that it would have been quite right that he would, and that he would have got no sympathy?

I think it is dangerous for the Government to create a precedent of this kind and perhaps to have some unscrupulous employers pointing to the Government as their precedent for not honouring or implementing findings of the Employer/Labour Conference in their interpretation of the national wage agreement. The Government are providing this precedent in a very dangerous way.

As I have mentioned, the Employer/ Labour Conference applied not only to parliamentarians but also to the judiciary and higher civil servants. The Government have applied the report in full to the higher civil servants and to the judges, correctly in my opinion. They have not, and do not propose in this Bill to do so, applied it in full to parliamentarians. The only reason we have received so far from the Government side for this discrimination is that parliamentarians should not receive an increase before social welfare recipients because parliamentarians are better shod.

If the Minister for Finance, who put forward this explanation—the only one we have had—meant this seriously, would he please explain to the House why it is that the Employer/Labour Conference Report should have been applied in full to judges and higher civil servants? He cannot seriously contend that judges and higher civil servants are not better shod than social welfare recipients.

As far as we are concerned, the Minister must explain to the House why this discrimination against parliamentarians, why this failure to implement the report of the Employer/ Labour Conference, why this failure to support the national agreement? Unless the Minister can give us a convincing explanation for that, and he has not given one so far, we cannot support the breach of the national agreement, of the findings of the Employer/Labour Conference, which is involved in this Bill. It may be the Minister may be able to furnish an explanation, which he has failed to do up to now. We want to hear it.

Would the Deputy say specifically what is the omission he is objecting to?

I am sorry, I thought I had made it clear.

The Minister must be well shod.

The Deputy failed to be specific on just what——

I am sorry the Minister did not understand. I thought I was being quite specific. I am talking about the implementation of the Employer/Labour Conference Report in relation to parliamentarians, in full, that is, in relation to the dates and at the levels recommended by the Employer/Labour Conference.

The Deputy wants retrospection?

Use the word "retrospection".

I want the Employer/ Labour Conference Report implemented in full.


In full.

He does not like to use the word. Will he spell it out?

I spelled it out earlier, but perhaps the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs was wafted off to sleep by my boring speech.

Will he spell it out?

I will recall for the House that I spelled out in detail that the Employer/Labour Conference Report recommended certain levels of remuneration as from 1st January, 1972, a somewhat higher level at subsequent dates and finally the highest level as from 1st July, 1973.

The Deputy is being a bit more specific now.

He has managed to avoid the word "retrospection".

George, you are in a negotiating position now.

We need to negotiate, brother. Over here is the responsibility. There is an Employer/Labour Conference Report and if the Government are proposing to implement it in full, as they should do if they want to honour the agreement, if they want to treat parliamentarians in the same way as judges, higher civil servants and so on, if they want to do their duty there they will get the fullest support from the Opposition.

Why did the Deputy not do it last year?

The Deputy came in too late.

Would the Deputy advocate giving the £5,000 to the minor opposition, Deputies Blaney and Sheridan?

The position is quite clear for anyone who wants to support the national agreement. You either stand by the report, whether you are in agreement with it or not, or you do not. The Government have the opportunity in this Bill to make clear where they stand, and the final word of the Minister on this will determine where the Government stand and what attitude this party will adopt in relation to this Bill and the further stages of it. I want to point out that one ill-effect of the Government's failure to adhere to the Employer/Labour Conference proposals in full, especially in regard to the dates, is that there are former Deputies of this House and former Members of the other House some of whom lost their seats in the recent elections but some of whom retired voluntarily in the confident belief that having a report from the Employer/ Labour Conference—the body set up to monitor the national agreement, one which recommended levels of remuneration for Members of the Oireachtas—their pensions which, of course, are related to the remuneration they received when they left office, would be at a certain level.

The Deputy did not give them that assurance at all. He was the authority at that time.

I will not mention any names but I am virtually certain there is at least one former Member of this House who voluntarily retired but who would not have done so if he had thought the Government would do what they are proposing to do in this Bill. Deputies and Senators who lost their seats are seriously affected in this way in regard to their pensions, all because of the Government's proposal not to implement in full the Employer/ Labour Conference Report.

There is another matter, apart from the level or the dates of implementation, which I think has always bedevilled the whole situation as regards remuneration of Members of the Oireachtas, one which Deputies on all sides regularly have been concerned with. It is the situation which has arisen on a number of occasions whereby when it came to increasing remuneration a very long interval had elapsed since the previous one with the consequence that the level of the increase appeared to the man in the street to be enormously high because he did not have any regard to the date of the previous increase.

Whose fault is that?

I regard it as the fault of successive Governments in this country.

You succeeded each other very often.

Deputy Colley. Other Members will have an opportunity to speak.

I would think that the interjections from the Front Bench over there indicate the attitude of unthinking arrogance which we are getting. It does not affect the approach I am making. If Deputies and Ministers opposite would listen, I am about to make a constructive suggestion to ensure that this kind of problem will not arise in the future. I would propose, on Committee Stage, to offer two amendments to this Bill. The Minister might perhaps be prepared to accept the principle and perhaps have them drafted in a better fashion by his experts. I should like to read them out now so that it would be possible for the Government side to give some consideration to them. I will pass over copies in a moment. The first amendment would be as follows:

In section 4 to insert a new subsection as follows:

( ) The allowance to be paid to each Member of Dáil Éireann and the allowance to be paid to each Member of Seanad Éireann shall be reviewed by the Government and a report by the Government of the outcome of such review shall be laid before Dáil Éireann at intervals not exceeding two years, commencing on the date of the passing of this Act.

Another amendment is:

To insert a new section after section 10, as follows:

The respective annual sums payable pursuant to sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Principal Act shall be reviewed by the Government and a report by the Government of the outcome of such review shall be laid before Dáil Éireann at intervals not exceeding two years commencing on the date of the passing of this Act.

There may be objections from the drafting point of view but I would hope that the idea behind the amendments is clear, that is, that by inserting these amendments we could ensure that there was a regular review of the levels of remuneration of the various people with whom we are dealing in this Bill.

It is possible that having reviewed the levels of remuneration the Government of the day might decide that there should be no increase. This is certainly possible. I think that it is necessary to provide that there be a report laid before Dáil Éireann or the whole operation might amount to nothing at all. I believe that the idea involved in this is worthwhile and does tackle a problem with which all of us on all sides of the House have been concerned in the past. For that reason I urge the Minister to give consideration to the amendments. If he could indicate his attitude when replying to this Stage it would be appreciated. If he wished to adopt the idea and put in his own draft we would have no objection to that.

In regard to the provisions which propose to provide a pension for the Attorney General, I want to say that, as the Leader of our party has indicated, we have no objection in principle to the idea of the payment of a pension to an Attorney General who devotes himself whole-time to the duties of Attorney General, apart from his membership, say, of Dáil Éireann but, as indicated by the Leader of this party, we do not think that such a pension should be payable in addition to the lump sum which already exists and the Minister did indicate in an interjection that it was not proposed to pay both. Perhaps he would oblige us by spelling out how that situation is achieved. I assume it is by virtue of a provision in previous legislation. Perhaps the Minister will spell out for us how it is achieved.

There is another objection that we see to the proposal in this Bill, that is, that as we read it, it is proposed to restrict the operation of this provision for pension to the present occupant of the position of Attorney General, Deputy Declan Costello. I say that because it limits it to service commencing on or after 14th March, 1973. I cannot say for certain whether or not some previous occupant or occupants of the position of Attorney General would qualify under these provisions for a pension but if they would it seems to me reasonable that providing they fulfil the conditions, they ought to qualify. On the other hand, if there is no such person, then I do not see why in section 12 there should be this limitation of qualifying service to that commencing on or after 14th March, 1973. Perhaps the Minister will explain to us the thinking behind that provision. In our view, the principle involved is that if anybody complies with the conditions laid down, that person, whenever he vacates the office, should be treated equally.

I should like also to know on what figure the proposed pension for the Attorney General will be based. In other words, would it be based on a salary of £7,213 or on a salary of £4,430? In our view, the pension of the Attorney General should be based on the salary that he receives which is analogous to that paid to a Minister and, indeed, since the section which sets out the conditions for qualifying for this pension does visualise membership of Dáil Éireann by the Attorney General, that would not seem to present any great problem.

There is also a matter in respect of which an explanation by the Minister would be appreciated. It does appear —I am open to correction on this— that under the provisions of this Bill an Attorney General who is also a Member of Dáil Éireann would receive remuneration which would exceed that of an Attorney General who is not a Member of Dáil Éireann by £633. Perhaps I am wrong in this, but this is how it appears. If this is so, we would appreciate it if the Minister would explain to us the thinking behind it.

I would also ask the Minister if he would spell out the reasons for the provisions in section 13, clause (a). I want to say, in regard to a statement by the Leader of this party earlier, that he was misinformed, I think, with regard to the level of the lump sum payable to the Attorney General. My understanding of it is—the Minister may correct this if I am wrong— that it amounts to one half-year's salary and three years' service is the minimum service required to qualify for it.

The final point I wish to refer to is one which was referred to by the Leader of this party in relation to the Opposition allowance. In that connection I want to say, arising out of something said by Deputy Barry Desmond, lest there be any misunderstanding, that in this party each of the Deputies pays a subscription to the party and out of that fund our typists are paid, not out of the Opposition allowance. That, as least, is the position at present.

We regard the non-provision in this Bill of proposals for increasing the Opposition allowance as potentially very dangerous and very deliberate.

We trust that is not so and that the Minister will be able to reassure us and the public. However, as indicated by the Leader of this party, the Government were reminded of this some weeks ago. Furthermore, anybody drafting this Bill would certainly have had before him the previous Acts dealing with remuneration of Parliamentarians and would have found there the provisions relating to the Opposition allowance. So, on the face of it, it is difficult to believe that the omission from this Bill was accidental or an oversight. We are, however, willing to listen to what the Minister has to say on this and if he is prepared to indicate that the Government are at this stage prepared to include in this Bill provision for a reasonable and adequate increase in the Opposition allowance then we certainly will be satisfied with that position. If, however, the Minister is not prepared to do this, then we can only regard the attitude of the Government as being petty, as indicated by the Leader of this party; more than that, I would say as being dangerous and something that would want to be watched carefully.

When Deputy Barry Desmond spoke on this topic, I think the attitude he displayed was the correct one, what one would expect from any person concerned with democracy no matter which side of the House he sat on. I am not here just preaching. We practised what I am now preaching when we were on that side of the House. Therefore, we would like the Government to assure us and the country that they are as much concerned with the maintenance of democracy, which requires a reasonably effective Opposition, as we were when we were on that side of the House. We want the Government to explain, if they do not propose to amend this Bill, why they propose not to do so, when on every previous occasion when there was a similar Bill before this House provision was made to make appropriate increases in the allowance of the Opposition.

As the Leader of this party suggested, if this were to be the attitude of the Government, taken in conjunction with some of their previous actions to which he referred, then I think it would be time not just for this party but for everybody in this country who is concerned with democracy to watch out. I have such faith in this party and in its strength that I have no doubt that, no matter what the Government do, we shall defeat them democratically. However, there are people who have supported that Government over there and who are genuinely concerned with democracy. If such people were to believe that this Government intended deliberately to try to hobble the Opposition, to hobble them in a way that was never done when we were in Government, then those people might well, because of their concern for democracy, begin to take action and, when they got the opportunity, show where they stood in this matter.

I am saying all that on a conditional basis. It may be that the Government are prepared to indicate a different approach. If so, we shall welcome it; if not, they will hear more from us about it.

I should like to congratulate the Opposition on the high degree of attendance in their benches today and to hope that the tradition being established here in this debate will be maintained when we are discussing other matters like Northern Ireland, for example.

What about the Minister's own benches? There is not much more than one over there.

There are not quite so many on this side. I am afraid I have to say the Opposition are showing more interest in this debate than Government Deputies. I must apologise for the fact there was not the same enthusiastic attendance on this side as on that side of the House.

On the question of salaries, I think we should all agree, and what is more important than that we should agree, is that the country should agree, on adequate salaries for Members of the Oireachtas. There has been an unfortunate tendency to devalue and downgrade politicians on the grounds that individual politicians, of whom some people may have a particular knowledge, do not, in their view, merit a certain salary. On these dubious grounds inadequate remuneration for politicians has been sustained in the past, and politicians have been unwilling to take the odium attached to ensuring they are adequately paid.

It is right, in my opinion, that we should have, in this case, accepted the recommendations of the Employer/ Labour Conference. Let us be clear, however, on what we are doing. We are accepting that the antecedent salaries at all levels were correct and may be adjusted upward only by the amount of the increases payable in other sectors. We are accepting that they were adequate already. I personally do not believe that some of them were adequate previously, but I think it is right we should give the good example in this matter of accepting the Employer/Labour Conference recommendations as the only basis of not going beyond that. It means that in some instances we are maintaining indefinitely and for the forseeable future the underpayment of politicians. This is unfortunate, but it is better we should give good example in this matter than that we should appear in any way to undermine or weaken the Employer/ Labour Conference recommendations or the prospects of a national wage agreement or continuing national wage agreements.

The point should be made in particular here that what is called a Deputy's salary, £3,400-odd, is, in fact, a Deputy's salary and expenses. It is a pity this is not more clearly understood. It might be better in the future if we expressed this salary in a more realistic form. We know from the work of the review committee something about Deputies' expenses. Admittedly, the evidence there is ex-parte evidence, and it may well be that Deputies, when asked to say what their expenses were, in some instances, would round them up rather than down. Even allowing for that, it is evident that Deputies have significant out-of-pocket expenses which in any other trade or profession would warrant reimbursement of some kind by their employers. Having read the review committee's report and knowing something from a practical point of view of the expenses incurred by Deputies, and having personal experience in urban areas and, more important, knowing of the much higher level of expenses that are normally incurred in rural areas, I would say the average expenses of a Deputy today are of the order of £1,000 a year. This is validated by the fact that the Revenue Commissioners are prepared, as a matter of practice, to allow this as an expense allowance, and they do not allow anything unless they are damned sure it is justified.

What we are proposing to do here is to pay Deputies £2,400 a year salary, and, on average, £1,000 a year expenses, which, in the case of some Deputies, particularly urban Deputies, may be a little more, and in the case of rural Deputies, may be somewhat less, than they actually incur; it is an average figure across the board. The public should realise that that is what is involved, that as of this moment the actual salary of the average TD, after deducting the average out-of-pocket expenses, is no more than £1,500 a year, which is somewhat less than the average adult male industrial worker receives.

I do not think that message has gone across loud and clear. We should have the courage to state that as a fact. Even now, with the adjustment made, the actual salary of the average TD, after paying his average out-of-pocket expenses, will be no more than about £2,400 a year, for work which, by any standard, is demanding, certainly as regards the time that it absorbs. Very few people in this House ever get anywhere near a 40-hour week in their political activities. If, as many of them do because of the inadequacy of their salary, they carry on other activities, that is only achieved by adding to 40 or 50 hours of political work another 20 hours or so of work. Many people on both sides of this House work 70 or 80 hours a week and are forced to do so by the situation in which they find themselves.

On the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Colley in connection with the expenses of the Opposition, there may well be some misunderstanding here. There will be no pettiness on this side of the House on this subject. The present system of providing for the expenses of the Opposition is one which I personally do not think is satisfactory. It needs to be reviewed. We sought to review it when we were in Opposition. We did not get much sympathetic treatment or enthusiasm from the Government of the day. Perhaps we should have proceeded more vigorously, more openly and with more activity than we did. The fact remains that we felt that the system was an unsatisfactory one I personally believe that the system should be reviewed. It would have been a mistake to have accepted the present system and to have added so much on to it.

I say that because it seems to me that a system under which theoretically we pay £15,000 to the Leader of the Opposition is quite unrealistic. Does anybody really believe that Deputy J. Lynch pockets £15,000 a year? Of course, he does not. That money is, in fact, going to help the Opposition party with their work, and not to Deputy J. Lynch personally. I express a personal view and not the Government view and I feel I am entitled to do this, but I think that we should be thinking of a system under which the Leader of the Opposition should as a person have remuneration in his personal capacity. Assistance to political parties should be given to the parties as such, whether they be the Government or the Opposition party. I personally believe that such assistance should be given.

The present system is bad because it pretends to be something which it is not. We pretend that we are paying the Leader of the Opposition this sum which would be enormous as a personal payment, but it is not that at all. It is assistance to a political party under this guise. I personally believe we should look at this position again. The Government are not suggesting that they are unwilling to look at this. The Government are willing to look at the system but have left this matter to one side, and have concentrated very properly in this Bill on those matters covered by the Employer/Labour Conference recommendations.

The question of the payment to the Leader of the Opposition was not covered by that conference. This Bill should and must confine itself to the things covered by the Employer/ Labour Conference resolutions or recommendations, and the question of how we deal with the expenses of the political parties and the problems of Deputies in regard to the lack of research facilities and secretarial facilities should be discussed, and we should try to reach agreement on them. I would be surprised to hear there was anybody in the Government who would be lacking in generosity in that respect. I will not go beyond this. I am sure this is a matter which the Minister for Finance will want to deal with when replying.

There is another matter raised by the review committee. This is the remuneration of the Whips, which is viewed with favour. It is another matter which could be looked at in the context of the general reconsideration I am talking about. We ought to have remuneration for the Leader of the Opposition. There are problems for the Deputies because of inadequate secretarial assistance and the lack of research facilities for the Opposition. We know, having sat for years in Opposition, how difficult it was to get the resources to do the research properly and to do our job in Opposition. All these problems should be looked at sympathetically.

On the question of retrospection, Deputy Colley was less than frank. It was not just a matter of Parliamentary teasing on the part of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and myself who probed a little in order to get Deputy Colley to use the word "retrospection". In his speech Deputy Colley talked around the subject all the time, but carefully avoided using the word "retrospection". He was trying to imply that the Employer/Labour Conference recommended retrospection and set out in precise terms what should be done in that respect. Because they did not do so, he could not say that and in trying to imply that they did, he had to avoid the word "retrospection". We indulged in that good Parliamentary practice of flushing him out on the subject.

When one reads the Employer/ Labour Conference document one cannot refer to their recommendations at all. It speaks in hypothetical terms. On the question of Deputies' salaries it says that the present allowance of £2,500 for Deputies has not been varied since July, 1968, when it was fixed at that level by legislation. It is stated that if the 12th round increase in line with that granted to the Public Service had been applied to Members of the Oireachtas then a Deputy's allowance, inclusive of that increase and the first phase of the national agreement for 1970, would have been £3,029 from 1st January, 1972.

This document simply establishes the facts of what the allowances or salaries would have been at certain points if certain things had happened, but these things did not happen. The Government had taken this document and used it as a basis to see what, in fact, a Deputy should have today on the basis of these calculations. There is no mention of retrospection here at all. Deputy Colley may feel that retrospection is implied in what is said. I do not feel there is any such clear implication at all. The nature of the document is such that it effectively excludes that kind of implication of retrospection.

If one wants to make a case for retrospection, that should be done on its own merits. One will not get anywhere working from this document. When Deputy Colley says that we should adhere strictly to the Employer/ Labour Conference document we will take him at his word on that. That means that the Deputies should be paid what they are due now. The document refers to the present. It refers to what, in fact, would be due at the present time and does not say anything should have been paid at any time or at any particular point in the past. For us to go back and give retrospection when there is not any such recommendation would leave us open to the very kind of accusation which Deputy Colley is rightly sensible to—the accusation of going beyond the recommendations, and in some way prejudicing the wages round.

I am not saying that a case for retrospection cannot be made. There is a case for it. There would be a danger, if we went for retrospection, of being accused of having in our own case gone beyond what is recommended by the document. The case for retrospection could be sustained in the context of this document, but certainly it was not made explicit in the document, as Deputy Colley was seeking to convey.

Let us be clear that the Government are not the employers of the gentlemen over there on the Opposition benches, although Deputy Colley spoke of the Government as the employer and of the Government not paying willing workers their due while we in this House are self-employed. We employ ourselves. The Government felt that it would be improper for the Deputies in this House collectively by their vote and by their decision on this particular Bill to pay themselves in advance of the payments to the social welfare beneficiaries.

It was felt that it would not be in the interests of politicians and of politics that we should appear to pay ourselves money in advance of those who most need it. We felt it would be wrong to withhold such money from the other groups in the community such as judges, but that in our own case we should be seen to have hyper-clean hands and should not be in a position where it could be alleged against us that one of the first things we did in Government was to put to the House and to use our majority to secure that we would be paid money back for one or two years when, in fact, when it came to the social welfare beneficiaries all we could do was pay on the earliest possible date, which would be the 1st July of this year. It was not in the interests of Irish politics that we should do that. It would have done no good to us in this House. This is a Government of collective responsibility. It would have done none of us much good if we had been seen to be paying ourselves large sums of back money running into hundreds, and even thousands of pounds in some instances, when we were saying we could not afford to pay the social welfare beneficiaries earlier than 1st July.

That proposition is one which we can sustain. I would appeal to the House to see this as a collective decision and not to fall into the trap which Deputy Colley seems to have fallen into of thinking of the Government as the employer and saying that the Government must, as a good employer, be prepared to pay the full amount and not to be seen to fall short of the Employer/Labour Conference recommendation, because this would give a bad example to other employers. This is absurd. The Government are not the employers of the Deputies. We employ ourselves. In so far as the decision of what we pay ourselves is concerned this is a collective decision in this House. It is our decision collectively in this House. The decision taken in this regard is the right one in the interests of Irish politics. I stand over that decision despite the fact that I, as much as anybody in this House, am the loser financially. It is important for that to be understood. Confusion was introduced by Deputy Colley in his approach to this matter and it should be cleared up.

They are the points which I wanted to make. Much thought was given to the Bill and it is one that can be commended to the House. It has been a collective decision of this House that even though an independent review committee recommended, in a number of instances, salaries beyond what we are now paying ourselves we—all sides of the House agreed on this—were not prepared to pay even what this committee recommended we should pay ourselves unless it were fully validated by the Employer/Labour Conference, unless it could be shown as no more than the increases on the previous salaries, justified by the time-lag since they were previously increased. I think we were right to adopt that approach. The people should realise that but they should also realise it does involve paying ourselves less than in fact the review committee recommended. Their recommendations were, I think, in many cases soundly based and with good reason. There is no danger in Ireland, with the state of public opinion as it is, of politicians overpaying themselves. There is not only a danger but an actuality of underpaying ourselves in some respects. It is better to have it that way, as long as it is not overdone to the point where the remuneration of politicians is so inadequate as to affect the quality of people entering politics.

I do not think that is the case. In strictly adhering to the Employer/ Labour Conference document and what it says we are, in some respects, underpaying ourselves but not to an extent that is likely to be damaging. The fact that in recent years the salaries paid to Members of the Dáil have been better in terms of purchasing power than in the past has enabled some people who could not otherwise have entered politics to have done so. There are now in this House quite a number of people, on all benches, making a very real contribution and who could not have entered this House had the allowance of earlier years been maintained. The fact that we have increased it has been worthwhile but it is right we should not go beyond that at this stage lest we in any way prejudice the national wage agreement which must be our first consideration.

I just want to make a few comments on this Bill. The first reference of the previous speaker, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was to the interest taken in it. I prefer to see people taking an interest in a Bill like this rather than cowardly skulking in their rooms hoping it will go through quickly. We must be prepared to face up to something like this and get away from the cowardice with which it has been approached in the past.

I do not agree with the type of waffle the Minister has engaged in to cover up the shortcomings of this Bill, however much he tried to hang them around the necks of the old people and the social welfare recipients. This is the first time I have ever heard of there being any relevance between the dates of payment of these increases and other increases. Why were the judges not paid from the same date as the social welfare recipients? Why are higher civil servants put in a category beyond the Parliamentarians? If we are prepared to degrade ourselves we need not expect the people to place us in any higher category than that in which we are prepared to place ourselves.

This is the Parliament of the country and it has a duty to do what it thinks is right without consultation or reference to anybody. There was always a certain amount of fear and of political scoring on the question of remuneration. I have a recollection of on one occasion meeting different Deputies going around the Lobby asking when the increases were to be given but the same Deputies voted against them when the matter was brought into the House. This is what we have to face regarding remunerations for ourselves. If we are not prepared to stand up and say what we think parliamentarians should be paid we need not expect anyone else to do it.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the Government are not the employers. Nobody said they were, but they are the people who must bring in and implement any changes there are in relation to remuneration. If they do not do it it will not be done and so far as that is concerned they are the employers. There is no difference between them and other employers as it is what they do that counts.

It is true that when the Devlin Review Body reported there was a good deal of eyebrow lifting with regard to the recommendations. The report came in July, about a week before the Dáil adjourned. It contained a very comprehensive review of many things and after a time, after the Government had studied it, they decided to publish it. The reaction to it was as one would expect. Congress pointed out that it would certainly endanger the prospects of the national agreement being honoured or any further agreement being brought in if the figures recommended by Devlin were to be implemented.

We decided to submit it to the Employer/Labour Conference for their opinions and recommendations. Those came in December and this Bill is based on them. In so far as retrospective dates are concerned, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said there was no recommendation in regard to dates. There was no recommendation for anything. They examined the Devlin Review Body Report and pointed out the extent to which it could be implemented without breaching the national agreement. If the Government decided to base their drafting of this Bill and the provision for improved remuneration on their recommendation, as they adopted the amounts recommended, they were obliged in my opinion to pay the increases from the date mentioned. These dates were specifically set out.

We had the silly suggestion in the Minister's speech that it was in order to synchronise with the payment of the social welfare benefits. Nobody ever heard of that before. It is a political device to justify an action taken. If they accepted the date recommended by the Devlin Report it would not benefit the present Government to the same extent as it would the Opposition. That is the obvious reason for the action of the Government and to make that doubly sure in regard to civil servants they go back and pay them in retrospect. The word "retrospection" is not a dirty word there. Social welfare payments do not come into it as far as the judges are concerned. I remember on one occasion when we increased the judges' salaries we were lacerated by the Opposition for having the cheek to go so far as to pay increases to people who did not need them. One does not need to look back on the report for this as one can remember when this took place. It was not 100 years ago.

The parliamentarians have now to take second place. They have to play second fiddle to those other people. We put our own value on ourselves. There is a principle involved here. I should prefer that the Bill were not introduced if Members of Parliament are not given the standing and recognition to which they are entitled. Nobody has yet tried to explain why there is this differential between one section of public servants and the elected representatives of the people. Nobody has tried to justify the downright discrimination in this Bill.

The last speaker tried to point out that the Bill hardly went far enough, that we should ask the public not to be too hard on us. Members of the House must take into consideration what the people are getting in remuneration in the Civil Service and in private industry. Things have moved rapidly in recent years. We should not be prepared to put ourselves second to anyone.

Deputy Colley was quite right when he said that if an employer finds himself in a position where he has to give retrospective pay to his employees, he can say that this was recommended in the Employer/Labour Conference report on remuneration to parliamentarians and the Government did not honour it. He can say as this happened with the Government why should he give retrospective remuneration. Irrespective of what the Minister for Foreign Affairs may say, this was recommended in the report.

I was closely associated with the recommendation to the Employer/ Labour Conference. As Minister for Labour I had to keep my fingers crossed that nothing would go wrong at some stage to upset the national agreement or interfere with the preparation of a new agreement in order that the country would get back to a state of stability through the Employer/Labour Conference which was representative of the social partners in the country.

When the Devlin Report was first issued, some people in the House asked why the Minister did not immediately implement it. I think we acted in a correct manner when we submitted it to the Employer/Labour Conference. We were acting in the best national interest in the rather delicate tightrope situation that exists when a national agreement is being negotiated and operated. There were a number of people in this House who are not here now—they may have been defeated in the election or have left voluntarily—who had a right to share in the improved remuneration.

The Government should have said they were not going to take any notice of the Employer/Labour Conference; they should have said they were going to go their own way. Alternatively, when they applied the agreement they should have said that if what was recommended in an agreement was good enough for the workers it should have been suitable for parliamentarians. However, they have said that they will give the increase to civil servants and judges. They are the important people; the parliamentarians do not matter and they can be paid the lower rate.

There has been much talk about the Opposition allowance. The Minister for Foreign Affairs tried to put a new gloss on it when he said it was not right to give it to the Leader of the party, that it should be given to the party by way of better facilities to enable the Opposition to do their work in a more effective way. The best way to achieve this is to give it to the Leader who knows what facilities are needed. There is no need for a committee to examine what we require with regard to improved facilities. When we were in Government, when increases were given in the Deputies' allowances we gave an increase in the Opposition allowance to the Leader of the party to use as he considered best. I am sure he found it inadequate when it came to making provision for front bench Deputies in the secretarial and research work that was necessary. There is no need for a committee to study this matter. The Opposition are the best judges of how the money should be used without setting up a committee unless, as was implied in Deputy Desmond's speech, there will be an allowance for both sides of the House.

Everyone must know that the front bench of an Opposition have enormous expenses in order to maintain a secretariat, to have research work carried out and to work efficiently. The costs increase considerably each month. I remember when the second Coalition Government left office, the former Deputy James Dillon made a scathing attack on us in the usual Opposition manner. He gave some advice which is in the official record. It was to the effect that the Government should increase their salaries. He said he had been in Government for three years and the amount paid would not keep a schoolboy. He told us not to be afraid of criticism, that if we waited until the country told us to do it it would never be done. That was Deputy Dillon's contribution on the day he left office after three years and went into Opposition.

If one waits until one is told what to do one will wait forever. I remember when we asked people a few years ago to tighten their belts we accepted a 15 per cent reduction in our allowances for a long period. I have yet to meet anyone who acknowledged we took that action or who said it was a worthwhile contribution that meant anything. This House cannot set itself up as the supreme governing body in the country with entitlement to make decisions in the belief that they know best. If the Employer/Labour Conference recommendations are not to be implemented fully, it would be better that the Bill should never have been introduced. Let us cut out all hypocrisy in this matter. I know that every backbencher on the other side of the House also would wish for the full implementation of these recommendations.

No doubt those Members of the House who came in only recently find themselves in the same position as we were all in when we came here first: that if a Deputy can retire to bed at night in the knowledge that he has not spent more than he has earned during the day, he is lucky. Nobody expects public representatives to take a back seat so far as society is concerned. The day has gone when a Deputy was reluctant to provide himself with a car because of the poor view that his constituents would take of such demonstration of wealth. I remember a time when a Labour Party Deputy would be afraid, for the same reasons, to smoke a cigar in public.

The late Jim Larkin, when he smoked a cigar, said that nothing was good enough for the working classes.

The proposal in this Bill to implement for the Judiciary and for civil servants provisions that are more advantageous than what we propose for ourselves is a sign that the times to which I have referred have not disappeared entirely.

I do not accept the effort at explanation made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this regard. It would be much more preferable to provide periodically for modest increases rather than to have a long delay and then have to grant a big increase. There was a time when our entire allowance was free from income tax but most people do not realise that approximately one-third of any £1 increase we might get will go for income tax. From my allowance last month there was a deduction of £71 in respect of income tax, £10 for voluntary health insurance, £6.50 for pension purposes and I contributed £10 to party funds. However, we cannot expect others to worry about our situation. We are the people who make the laws and we should have the courage to do what is right.

In this instance the Government have had an opportunity that no other Government have ever had. They have had the recommendations of an independent review body. These recommendations were not accepted by us and were sent to the Employer/ Labour Conference in order to ascertain to what extent they would conform with national pay agreements. However, the recommendations of the conference are not to be implemented. The Minister will need to explain to us why he is conforming with the recommendations of the Employer/ Labour Conference in one instance and not in another. The Minister's colleague endeavoured to explain this matter a while ago by saying that the Employer/Labour Conference did not recommend these dates. Neither did they recommend these amounts, but they told us what they considered would be in line with the various wage rounds. The Minister has had two reports available to him. As Deputy Lynch has said, we will not die of hunger, but that is not the attitude we should be adopting. We should be enabled to be at least in the same position in society as most other people; but if we do not take steps to ensure this, nobody else will take such steps for us.

I think there is agreement in substance regarding most of what is in this Bill. Deputy Brennan seemed to suggest that it would have been better had this Bill not been put before us at all than that it should be put before us in the form it takes. I do not know whether that was an invitation to the Minister to withdraw the Bill.

I am thinking of doing so.

I do not know what Deputies would think about that, but if it is the opinion of the Opposition that the Bill should be withdrawn, I am sure the Minister would consider seriously doing so. In practice there were only two main points that might be described as being contentious. These were, first, Deputy Lynch's point that the Bill does not provide for an increased allowance for the Opposition and, secondly, Deputy Colley's point about what he described as a failure to implement the recommendations of the Employer/Labour Conference. These two points are of very uneven weight. It seems to me that there is weight. in what Deputy Lynch said, that is to say, that there is a case for increasing the allowance to the Opposition on the same general scale as were the other increases envisaged.

I can assure Deputies opposite and all Deputies that there was not present in the mind of the Government any such intention as was suspected by Members of the Opposition, any intention of discriminating against the Opposition or of persecuting them in some vindictive way. The opinion was that, in implementing the Employer/ Labour Conference recommendations, we were doing something in regard to salaries and emoluments and that allowances, which were essentially a form of collective subsidised facilities, were a different matter. It is not for me to anticipate in any way what the Minister for Finance may say about this but I am sure that when he is replying he will be seeking to satisfy whatever justice there is in the complaint made by the Leader of the Opposition and to show him that no such intention as he feared exists on our side. The means by which that can be done are for the Minister to say.

Of course, no Government in a genuine working democracy such as we have, have any interest whatever in, to put it at its lowest, collective discrimination against an Opposition because members of any Government know that they may find themselves in opposition. This is a long-term affair. It may well be that the parties who are on these benches now will in another 16 years or so find themselves over there. I may not be here then.

Perhaps in another 16 months.

In some period of time. The Deputy may estimate it one way, I in another. In any case it is quite clear the previous Government did not, we agree in this case, discriminate against the Opposition collectively in that respect though perhaps towards the end they were a bit slow about some things. Certainly, we would not wish to do so and we are not doing so.

I think also, when that comes to be considered, that Government backbenchers—again irrespective of whoever is in Government—have a case, too. I have visited a certain number of parliaments and I do not know of any parliament in the civilised world where Members of Parliament are so miserably treated as our Members are whether in Government or in Opposition. I think that is a matter to which the Minister for Finance will certainly turn his attention, because it is not in the interests of democracy, it is not in the interests of the people of this country, that their legislators should be on that footing. It is something that distinctly calls for correction.

As regards Deputy Colley's point about what he calls the failure to implement the recommendations of the Employer/Labour Conference, I think here he had a real point but it was not about the recommendations of the Employer/Labour Conference, which are delphic and by no means require the reading which he produced from them. His complaint was essentially what a working man would put in blunt language: "What about the back money?" If he had said so, and made a plain case for retrospection, there would have been something for the Minister for Finance to consider, and if the Minister for Finance was swayed by that argument I suppose most of us in this Chamber would enjoy the consequences quite stoically. The case was not so bluntly put. It was all wrapped up by Deputy Colley in this language about implementing something said to be recommended by the Employer/Labour Conference which, in fact, does not transpire from the delphic language of that part of the recommendations that were read out to us.

The matter which divides us is not very great and is really not proportionate even to the rather mild degree of acrimony which has developed in this debate and which I would hope to see subsiding towards a point of agreement, at least, on the basic principle of this Bill. It is a difficult Bill to discuss but it revolves around some important principles and I do not know that we have really yet learned to manage. The Minister for Foreign Affairs said just now that we in the Oireachtas are self-employed. I think that was an admirable speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, but I do not quite go along with that formula. It is not just a play on words. I think this is important and essential to what we are discussing. We are not self-employed but we have a very peculiar employer—a diffuse, intermittent employer, whose decisions are handed down to us only at fairly long intervals and whom we never quite succeed in meeting face to face in his entirety. The employer is the people in its dual aspect of the electorate and the taxpayers. Those are our employers and our judges.

What we have is—and I think this is what the Minister meant when he referred to us as self-employed—the power to regulate our own terms of employment in a sense that perhaps no other body does have. The Government did wisely in delegating that power, in handing it, in a sense, to another body —the Employer/Labour Conference. That was a wise and proper decision. I hope that in future it may be possible to associate our remuneration under some decision with the general remuneration of some other class of public servants so that we may not be put in this invidious position of repeatedly determining and being seen to determine, our own remuneration. The way we use that power we happen to have, which is thrust on us by the nature of things, does impose certain restrictions on us.

There is, among a good many people in this country, a tendency to look cynically on the democratic process and on the parliamentary process in particular. That naturally tends to be increased whenever this kind of debate comes round. It is within that framework that the Minister for Finance had to take his decision in relating the time when social welfare payments came into operation to the time when the increased remuneration for Members of the Oireachtas came into operation. He was right to take that into consideration, because this is a matter not only of the substantive justice of our decisions but how those decisions and our power to take such decisions about ourselves impinge on democratic process and on the reputation of democratic process. These are more important matters than the quite important matter of the scale of our remuneration, which also has a part in democratic process. If we were to reach a condition whereby our remuneration was fully adequate to everything we thought it ought to be and dated from whatever point we thought it ought to date from and so on, and if in the process of reaching that result, however just, we were to disillusion people generally and turn them against democratic process, then the price would not be worth paying. On the whole I think the Government have struck the right balance in the proposals before the House now, proposals that would enable the Legislature to go about its business in a reasonable way and, at the same time, would not irritate people unnecessarily and involve democracy in disrepute.

I am not very concerned about the amount of money the Bill makes available to me or to other Deputies, but I am concerned about principles, particularly the principle of undermining the national agreement. I am in full agreement with the Minister for Foreign Affairs who said that the Government or this House should not undermine that agreement in any way. The Minister for Finance went to great lengths to indicate his concern about the national agreement, about the special committee, about the Employer/Labour Conference. The fact that he mentioned the Employer/ Labour Conference so many times in his speech is an indication that he wanted to accept a situation in which salary increases would be examined by a competent body and reported upon. I might be prepared to accept this Bill if the Minister did not in any way refer to the Employer/Labour Conference or to the national agreement, if he had said: "In the opinion of the Government this is what should be made available" and had then given the reasons, but he went much further. I feel that this piece of legislation must be examined in a critical way because, in my view, it is a breach of the national pay agreement. I feel, just as Deputy FitzGerald, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, feels, that there is a case for retrospection and that it could be sustained in the context of the document he held up, the Employer/ Labour Conference document.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has clearly indicated that, in his view after examining this document, there is a case for retrospection and that it could be sustained in the context of the document. Earlier in the debate we had two Ministers making an effort to extract the word "retrospection" from Deputy Colley. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the Minister for Foreign Affairs made these efforts. The question of retrospection is an important one in the document that has been issued and in relation to the national agreement or any agreement.

I wonder is this the thin edge of the wedge with the Government, if this type of legislation goes through, even though the Employer/Labour Conference has made a recommendation——

Have they made a recommendation?

It can be classified as such particularly on the basis that the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated. That Minister stated that on the document it could be sustained that there was a case for retrospection. This goes much further afield. I wonder what is the anxiety of the Ministers for Posts and Telegraphs and Foreign Affairs? Is it a question that if this legislation becomes law the Government have established a precedent, one which, as Deputy Colley indicated, could be taken up by other employers?

We will withdraw the Bill.

Will other employers indicate that they are not prepared to pay retrospection where it had been awarded? Or is it the case that in relation to Government employees, workers in the Post Office, in the Board of Works or in the military barracks, when an agreement is reached which involves retrospection, the Government will indicate that the Bill which went through the Houses of the Oireachtas prohibits them from paying retrospection or enables them to use a situation to eliminate such a payment.

I feel for workers in the Government services particularly when this line of thought is in the minds of some of the Ministers. These Ministers went to no end of trouble to try to extract the word "retrospection". They extracted it in many forms from different speakers but the Minister for Foreign Affairs clearly indicated that the case could be sustained in the context of a document issued by the Employer/Labour Conference.

I should like to sound a note of warning to other workers in Government services. I believe that they can be treated in the same way. Where a valid agreement is reached the Government will fail to honour it on the basis of the existence of the type of legislation that is now going through this House. There is a difference of opinion as to who are the employers. As the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs stated, we have a peculiar employer. I agree that if it is the Government we have a peculiar employer, whoever the employer is.

It may well be that the personnel employed in the post office services, having read the Minister's comments in the course of this debate, may wonder if this is the thin end of the wedge to eliminate retrospective clauses. Last week we discussed the Banks Bill, a Bill which was a desire of the Government to ensure that the national agreement was not violated. I, and other people, feel that this is a violation of the national agreement and I will not stand for the violation of that agreement in any way.

It is completely the reverse of the situation and the statements made in relation to the Banks Bill. On that score it is difficult to understand the various speakers who have made their cases. Deputy Barry Desmond, Deputy in or Deputy out of office, has a different view of Deputies' salaries. This Deputy has indicated that he would support the Government today but when he was out of Dáil Éireann he was one of the most vocal against the decision to increase salaries. We have a situation here where people say one thing inside the House and something completely different when they are outside. Therefore, their word cannot be accepted in any way.

Deputy Desmond was speaking for the purpose of the Press today and to please some people.

Did the Deputy ever change his own mind about anything?

I often change my mind. I change it quite often. I have changed my mind about many people and, since this debate started, I changed my mind about many Members of this House. I had a very high regard for a number of people on the other side of the House until they spoke on this Bill. I feel that what they said on this occasion was purely for the consumption of a few. The whole question of retrospection must be considered in relation to the situation that must evolve. A change of Government should not in any way upset awards made for social welfare benefits or any other increases. There should be continuity in these increases irrespective of what change takes place.

Deputy Colley has pointed out the situation that existed when he received the award, where it was sent and the publication of it. We have very many people being victimised as a result of this particular piece of legislation. I am concerned about Deputies who lost their seats or who did not go forward and who should have been entitled to increases which would have raised their pensions. Many people who gave excellent service to the nation and served this House well over the years are being deprived of their rights as a result of the Government's present Bill. Consideration should be given to these people.

It has also been pointed out that the higher civil servants, and the judges, received their allowances. Why should there be a difference in the awards given to them and the awards given to the Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas? Are these different type of people in dire want of some assistance? It would appear that the Minister's reasoning was that these people were in need of assistance while Deputies, either here or gone, were not. It is difficult to understand why on the one hand awards were given and on the other the awards were withheld.

The Minister will have to consider former Members of this House and the injustice that has been done to them. I feel that while the Government are not concerned about people who have given long and exacting service to the nation somebody must voice their opinion in relation to these injustices. I ask the Minister to review this situation on the basis that it is in conflict with the national agreement. The Minister may indicate that it is not in conflict with the national agreement but there is no logic in that. There is no logic in that because there is a clear indication in the Minister's brief—it occurs on five or six occasions—that there was a special desire on his part to ensure that the agreement would be maintained and that he had an absolute regard, which he really has not, for the Employer/Labour Conference.

The Minister said that Ministers would receive a lesser amount than that recommended by the review body. This is a clear indication of the Minister's lack of examination of the situation. Deputies will be paid somewhat less. The net amount is approximately £600 and not as would appear £900.

The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs argued there was no discrimination against the Opposition. There is discrimination. We have the penal clause in section 12 under which the service of a person in the office of Attorney General during a particular period, which commenced on or prior to 14th March, 1973, will not be regarded as pensionable for the purpose of section 14 of the Act. This looks very like an effort to rob certain people of their entitlement. What is good enough for one should be good enough for all. I doubt if this Bill was drawn up by the Parliamentary Draftsman. It was probably drawn up in the Law Library or some place like that.

Another discriminatory clause is that in relation to the Opposition. We all know that parliamentary work has increased considerably with our accession to the EEC. We have to adapt ourselves to ever-changing conditions. We require a vast amount of information and a proper organisation service to keep delegates up to date. There is a considerable strain on the resources available at the moment and the amount specified in this Bill falls far short of what is required to service an effective Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Jack Lynch, pointed out that this Opposition intends to be a most effective Opposition. We need resources to maintain a desirable level of opposition. If it is the intention of the Government to weaken the Opposition and frustrate the Opposition so that ineffective members of the Government will not be tackled by the Opposition in the way in which they should be tackled, then this penal clause and this discrimination will have the desired effect.

I served on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and I know the statements and the cases made by members of both the Government parties at that Committee when they were ordinary Deputies. They pointed out that there was additional parliamentary work and a great amount of research and study was necessary as a result of our accession to the EEC and they said the ordinary Deputy was feeling the pinch. Fine Gael suggested there should be proper research services available, in addition to everything else, and they indicated that the amount of money available to the Opposition at the time was so small that the Opposition was not effectively serviced at any level. That argument is even more valid today than it was when it was first made. Resources are more urgently required today.

There is a breach of the national pay agreement and the Minister should have advanced a valid reason at least other than the one he gave for the implementation date. He has a duty to reconsider the whole situation. I doubt if members of the Labour Party and clear thinking people anywhere could support this Bill.

With regard to debarring a person who held a particular office during a particular period commencing on or after 14th March, 1973, if there was no one entitled to consideration, then there was no need to insert this clause. It has been inserted however and I am sure all the necessary research was done. As I said, I doubt if the Parliamentary Draftsman, unless specifically instructed to that effect, would have formulated this type of clause.

Deputy Desmond's attitude is understandable. He welcomed the Bill. I do not think he meant it because he was as concerned about other factors as other Members of the House. I hope he will examine it further in relation to the breach of the national pay agreement. I do not think this House should give effect to legislation which might in any way undermine the national pay agreement. As Deputy Lynch and Deputy Colley have clearly indicated, this party are fully behind the full implementation of the national pay agreement and we want to ensure that no legislation undermines it in any way.

We are deciding on salaries and allowances for legislators. I hasten to disagree with the Minister for Foreign Affairs who said that we are self-employed. In fact, we are servants of the public. We should realise this and not take unto ourselves the right to vote salaries for ourselves. We should not take up the time of this House in discussing whether we should get salary increases. We should be discussing more important issues. For many years I have held the view that, once a salary for legislators is decided upon, it should be linked to some grade in the Civil Service, or it should have a built-in cost of living factor which would give automatic increases in line with the cost of living.

The public look on these increases as massive. Somebody said to me last night that this was the second increase we got in a year. This was mentioned some months ago and many members of the public thought we got an increase. It received widespread publicity. It is surprising the number of people who do not delve into it fully and who think we got two increases in the past year. I should like to ensure that this does not come before the House again even by way of Government order. I am opposed to that.

The other point at issue here is the question of increased allowances for the parties. I would very much favour an increased allowance for the Opposition. I maintain that a Government are as good as the Opposition party. If the Opposition have not got proper allowances for research back-up we will not have effective government. I would be in favour of doubling the allowances for the Opposition party to ensure that they can be an effective Opposition.

Since I came into this House I have realised that a Deputy who has to try to do his own research with no facilities cannot be effective. I remember in 1965 one of the officials of the House looking aghast when I said that a Deputy should have an office and a secretarial service. He said that revolutionary ideas like that would not find favour in this House. I wonder why not. Only in June was I given space in an office in this House. I had to fight to get some space and a chair and the loan of a table to do my work. A proper secretarial service should be provided as of right by the Civil Service.

I was in the Bonn Parliament and I saw what was provided for the German Deputies. I was astonished. A newspaper should carry out a study and show exactly what is provided for legislators in European Parliaments as compared with the Irish Parliament. Before I was a Deputy I remember phoning and asking for Deputy Noel Browne's secretary. I assumed automatically that he must have a secretary and I said: "Put me through to his office and his secretary". People assume that we have an office and a secretary. We should start thinking seriously about this. If the Government are as progressive as they maintain they are, they should look at this matter and not say that the pattern of the past must be maintained. It must not be maintained. If Deputies are to provide a proper service for their constituencies and for the country, and make contributions to debates in the House, we must have proper services.

I deplore the fact that the first £1,000 is tax free. In the mind of the public Deputies get this by some surreptitious method. In the public mind Deputies get everything tax free, and beer and everything in the House is subsidised and tax free. Whether we laugh at this or not, it is in the public mind. The Minister should seriously consider abolishing this tax free allowance. Our salaries should be taxed fully and we should have proper expense allowances and a secretarial service provided by the Civil Service.

It is an expense allowance.

The first £1,000 of our salaries is tax free. That is the wrong way to approach it.

It is meant to be an expense allowance.

The Deputy may say it is meant to be an expense allowance but try to tell that to the public. They know the first £1,000 is tax free but they extend that a little further and say that our salaries are tax free. I heard that all over the place.

The Deputy knows it.

I know it but the public do not. If we continue to provide for this by order as is envisaged in section 11, the same problem will arise again. The Government will be deciding this and the newspapers will say we are giving ourselves larger salaries again. Some means must be devised to put an end to this once and for all. I do not think we should adopt the attitude that it is not politically right to talk about increased salaries or allowances for Deputies. Conscious of the fact that an election was imminent Deputy Colley was prepared to put this on the long finger.

I could understand it was an unpopular measure to bring in and he did not want to do it. Very few Governments have the courage to come in and do it. Unless the Minister for Finance now is prepared to link these allowances either to some grade in the Civil Service or to a built-in cost of living factor we will have the same again. We will have the backbenchers saying: "When is there to be an increase?" That is what I hear around the House. The question arises about an allowance for the Opposition and this in turn raises the question of what happens in regard to Deputies Blaney and Sheridan.

Or Deputy Dr. John O'Connell.

Deputy Dr. John O'Connell, yes. I think there should be some means of providing a proper research department here for everyone. It should not be confined to one party or the other. Ministers have this service—they have their research facilities and expert advisers—and I do not see why every Deputy should not have access to adequate facilities for research. We are all legislators, we all make a valuable contribution and we should all have these services provided for us. It should not be confined to Ministers alone.

The other point I want to make is in relation to something said to me by a man who has taken up a senior position in a local authority. He said he would be interested in becoming a Member of Dáil Éireann, where he could contribute usefully to the debates, if the salary were adequate. He said he could not live on the present salary available to Deputies. He is getting £5,000 a year as a local authority employee and he said he could not live and raise a family on what is being given to Dáil Deputies. He would like to become an elected representative but he would not seriously consider it——

I think we can do without him.

He could make a very useful contribution here; so could a lot of other people in the community but they are deterred by the salaries available to Deputies. This should be borne in mind by us. I heard today about the appointment of an information officer, a Press officer, for the European Parliament. A salary of £9,000 a year was mentioned. We should bear this in mind when we are talking about what a legislator is worth. We ourselves have debased our position by our approach to this, by thinking that it is not politically wise to proceed in terms of proper salaries for the work we do.

I find the situation of the Opposition seeking to "up" what the Government are offering rather unusual from my fairly considerable experience during the years when the Government of the day were usually very chary about making any move to raise these allowances because of the almost certain taking advantage of that situation by the then Opposition. They would be glad to get the increased allowances but they would come into the House and kick up a row that it should not be done and point to all the people who were much worse off and were not being attended to by the Government.

Today I see a reversal of roles as we have known them on a few occasions in the past. I am intrigued as to what the outcome of this debate will be. Around the House this evening, since the Second Reading commenced, I was asked by a fellow Deputy what I thought about this, whether I would vote against it or support it, and without waiting for a reply I was told that if there was to be any division on this the Minister for Finance would withdraw it. I do not know how well based that suggestion is but certainly if there is any shred of truth in this alleged attitude I would say it is a sad reflection on the Government. It would incline me to the belief that it would be better if this matter had not been brought before the House at all—that it should have been left in abeyance as the Devlin Report in this connection was left in abeyance for some considerable time. The Devlin recommendations were not acted on and various explanations for this have been given.

Whether one is inclined to accept the explanations is a matter for one's own judgment. When the Devlin Report was further examined and reported on, and again not acted on, perhaps again the explanation is evident, that it did not come through until last December and that there was not much opportunity to do anything about it. At the same time, I have no doubt that the Government at that time at any of their various Cabinet meetings between December and the dissolution of the Dáil could have made a public declaration of their intent. They did not do this.

Perhaps it is, as Deputy O'Connell has just said, that the then Government were rather chary about deciding publicly what they intended to do about the revised edition of Devlin as handed down to them in December, knowing in the back of their minds, or perhaps even in the forefront of their minds, that an election was not far away. This, in my estimation, is not a bad reason for being rather reticent about making a decision on it at that time. I have not a doubt in the world that had the decision been declared at that time by the then Government, and events following as they did—the general election—it would have been part and parcel of the platform of the now National Coalition to decry the proposals.

These explanations, as I have said, are as one takes them and as one works them out for oneself. I do not think they are very important at this time except that the delay in implementing any of the recommendations has brought about a situation wherein the time since the last revision is now approximately five years and in these times of very rapid inflation and high rising living costs there seems to be too long a gap between one revision and the next.

Thinking on those lines, one naturally has to ask himself whether the basis as agreed in 1968 was a proper basis and a fair one. Perhaps at the time we felt it was and perhaps it is, but I cannot help going back a considerable time beyond that period and recalling the arguments made in my early years in this House—if not publicly at least privately or semiprivately—that the best people were attracted to this House not by the amount they were paid for their services to it but by their wish to give those services to the public. I must say that 20 years ago I was rather cynical about that approach and I continued to be cynical for a number of years afterwards until the time arrived when the allowances arranged here by agreement in the Dáil had come up to a reasonably decent standard. Mainly the argument had been changed around in the years from the early fifties to the sixties, that we would get the people best suited to the House and the people who had most to give only if we were prepared to give the kind of reward that such people by their ability could command in other walks of life. I felt that this was a fairly good argument and an argument that sounded better than the one I had been fed on for quite a number of years after I came into the House, which is as far back as 1948. In those days the allowance was £624 a year. The allowance was not taxable but I suppose there would not be anything to tax. The allowance was talked about in those days to the same extent as the proposed allowance of £3,400 will be talked about today. It was talked about by the public in the same sort of terms as they will apply to the figure announced by the Minister and proposed in the Bill.

There was no postage allowance in those days. A Deputy paid his own postage. The standing joke was that if you did not write any letters you got more for being here than did those who did write letters.

The position has changed to some extent. A Deputy whose constituency is not within local call distance can make trunk calls to a particular number in his constituency free of charge. That concession is restricted to one specific number. Those who come from distant and scattered constituencies realise that this concession is nothing like what would be needed for a Deputy to keep in touch with his constituency while he is in Dublin. A Deputy should not be restricted to one particular number. He should be allowed to make trunk calls to any number in his constituency.

These things are part of the developing trend in allowances for Members of the Dáil. Over the years a subsistence allowance has been granted in respect of expenses necessarily incurred in this city during Dáil sessions.

I am not at all sure that we are dealing with the most important aspect for Deputies in dealing with the allowances. For quite a long time I have had the conviction that the question of pensions for the families, the widows and dependants of Members of the House is of far greater importance than the immediate day to day value of the allowances. I would much prefer that the allowance should remain as it was up to 1st July and that the money proposed to be devoted to increasing the allowances would be directed towards pensions for the dependants, children and widows of Members of the House.

There is a very unusual situation in regard to Deputies' pensions. When a Deputy retires or is defeated—it happens ultimately in one way or the other—his pension is tied to the allowance obtaining at the time of his departure from the House. I cannot understand the attitude to Parliamentary allowances of many Members of the House, not only in the Opposition benches but in the Government benches in particular who over the past 16 years, while Fianna Fáil were in office, made such a song and dance, and rightly so, about parity of pensions and pensions being related to today's costs and who acclaimed the upgrading of pensions for various public servants. Why the two attitudes? Why, on the one hand, the attitude towards the Public Service and the support for the upgrading of Public Service pensions and parity for State pensioners and, on the other hand, the ignoring of the same principle in so far as Members of the Dáil are concerned?

I repeat that I would much prefer that any money now proposed to be given by way of increase in allowances would be directed towards improving the position of those who have served in the House, either during our time or before it and giving them pensions related to the allowances obtaining in the House as of now rather than to those operating when these people retired from the House.

I would suggest that the Minister should give very serious consideration to the dependants, the families, the widows of Members of the House who have given many years in its service. If this did not meet with the fullest approval of the House, it certainly would meet with the approval of those who are trying to subsist on what is being dispended to them on foot of pensions earned by their late breadwinners.

Apart from the question of choice of direction in which the money involved might be expended, I am not sure that the proposed increases are fully justified. In my earliest years here the argument was made that if you held out sufficient money you might attract the wrong type rather than the right type. I did not agree with that argument then. In the interim we have switched to the other direction. If we proceed to increase the allowances to a point at which they are more attractive than the allowances have been in the past, we will attract the wrong type again, if we attracted them in the past, which I doubt. I do not think it is true to say that you will not get the right people or the best people unless they can get as much by way of Parliamentary allowances and perks of one kind and another as they can command outside. I do not think that is the way it can be measured. I do not think any allowance could be measured against the time the public representative has to give and the manner of life involved for a Deputy as a result of his being in this House. You cannot equate the two things. One cannot be measured against the other in terms of so much a day, so much an hour, so much a week, so much a year.

The Minister should consider whether the scales we are aiming at now and the pattern being set vis-à-vis other scales are worthwhile, are necessary or good, or whether they will improve the membership of this House. I doubt it, not just now, for I have doubted it for some considerable time back. Since the increase to £2,500 I have often wondered whether the £2,500 was the attraction or whether this House was an attraction for its own sake and for the sake of the contribution Members could make here.

That is something very difficult to measure. I am inclined to believe that the allowances could well be left as they are and that the pensions of Members should be examined thoroughly and perhaps improved considerably. I think it is fairly well accepted by all of us that, even if we depart from this House, through defeats at elections or through other circumstances, and even if we ourselves have not fared well over the years in this House by way of allowances, we need not worry as long as the dependants we may leave behind are reasonably cared for, but they are not reasonably provided for in any of the enactments we have passed here over the years. It might be better to make improvements in that direction rather than increase the allowances, which may or may not help to attract into this House people of better calibre than they may have attracted up to now. In the days when the allowances were quite niggardly or, one might say scandalously low, we had a calibre of men we do not have here today. Without reflecting on any individual Deputy, I would say that, in my humble estimation and recollection, the men who were here then were in no way inferior to those we have now, but were superior. In those days there were no perks like free postage and phone calls; nor was there any subsistence allowance, and the travelling allowance did not provide adequate transport for them in those days.

The last speaker said the amount given to Deputies does not compare favourably even with what is being received by employees in the public service, and I quite agree. Deputy O'Connell instanced the case of a very able man who would like to be a Deputy and, perhaps he has a lot to contribute to the House—but who could not consider it because the amount he was receiving in his present employment was so much above what he would possibly get here. I am inclined to agree with the suggestion from the Opposition benches that he should be left where he is if that is what motivates him. The worth of a Deputy or Senator cannot be evaluated in hourly or weekly rates. While recognising the desirability of giving a fair recompense for the services rendered by public representatives, we must not make the allowance too high lest we attract those whose sole concern is the allowance for its own sake and who, in many instances, would not get anything like it in any other walk of life, rather than attract the people who want to be Members of this House because it is here things can be done or at least attempted to be done, if not brought to a conclusion.

There has also been mention of allowances for the Opposition. I agree with Deputy O'Connell that good Government must have a good Opposition. Any faults this Government may find with the last Government can be truly brought to their own door. If we had bad Government in the recent past we had worse Opposition. I have said this when in Government as well as since leaving Government. I am between the two at the moment, and I say now with no less belief and no less emphasis that a Government is only as good as its Opposition. We have been suffering noticeably from bad Opposition for the past 12 or 13 years.

If additional allowances to the Opposition can help—and perhaps they can—to provide better research facilities for them, which is very necessary if we are to contribute to discussions and debate knowingly and fully all the matters that are brought before this House by Ministers who are fully briefed in all those things, I would agree with Deputy O'Connell that this is something worthy of consideration.

The same Deputy was good enough to mention the two Independents in the House, that is Deputy Joe Sheridan and myself. If he had not, I would have done so anyhow for the simple reason that if the Opposition find it difficult to compete with the members of the Government as a result of not having the research staff necessary to inform them properly, then what chance is there for a member of a small party or an Independent in this House? When we are elected here we are all equal; at least that is the concept during the elections, although during the life of any Government it is not the practice. Therefore, Deputies who are members of small parties or on their own as Independents do not count for anything except right here in the Chamber where they are given equal rights with everybody else in the House in so far as contributions— when they contribute and when they are called—are concerned. This is the only place from one election to the next where the very small groups of Independents have any equality whatever. They have no back-up. They have no research facilities. They do not and cannot have any allowance to provide these facilities. In so far as the secretarial assistance necessary for their constituency work is concerned, the lack of numbers makes it much more difficult and much more costly for each of them, than where the party is large and where there are many contributing and matters can be organised on a much more attractive basis.

I am not making any plea for any allowance in this regard, but some thought is necessary about the back-up which should be provided, not through funding of the parties but rather as a right of Deputies. This may well have to come, even if it has to come through the aegis of the Civil Service in some manner or other. The Minister should have this in mind. It would be of great value not only to the larger parties but particularly to the smaller parties and to the isolated Independents who are not even acquainted of what is intended by way of business from one hour to the next unless they happen to be present personally when a decision is made on a day like today.

I merely instance this, not as a carping point but as a mere statement of fact. For personal reasons, I could not be here yesterday. I had some questions on the Order Paper. I telephoned the House and asked to have them postponed until today. I travelled 180 miles to be here in time for Question Time. I arrived at 2.45 p.m. and found that Question Time had started at 1.30 p.m. I was told that the parties had agreed at some hour this morning that questions should start at 1.30 p.m. It is not just good enough that the standard practice can be so readily changed merely to accommodate a situation which, apparently, was due to lack of business or lack of people to go on with business today. Apparently, the fact that even one Deputy should be left without any knowledge of what was proposed to be done was ignored. That happened against a pattern which has been set for many years.

I raise this matter so that some thought may be given to such changes of arrangements in the future in so far as Independents are concerned. There should be some method whereby they are at least informed as soon as the Whips of the major parties have agreed on a particular Order of Business or order of procedure. At least some attempt should be made to inform the Deputies who do not belong to any of the parties and who have no say in the matter and are totally ignorant of the arrangements arrived at which may concern them very much. Matters may be of great concern to them or to their constituents or constituencies. Probably this matter could be rectified. We do not want an up-to-the-minute service, but something could be done about the position of the Independents in order to keep them informed about what is happening in the House.

I am sure that if the vote of a Deputy who happens to be an Independent was needed by the Opposition or by the Government to carry the day for one or the other there would be no problem in regard to contacting either one or both of us, whether it was the middle of the day or the middle of the night. I am asking for some consideration in regard to the general ordering of procedure here, recognising fully that the Government and the main Opposition party will determine business as they themselves think fit. It should not be forgotten at any stage that no Deputy, whether he is a Member of the front bench of the Government or of the Opposition, or a backbencher of either of the major groups in this House, has any prior right over any other Deputy, even an Independent.

We are all here by virtue of the votes at the last election, or at any election. We are all here according to that vote, and according to our being declared elected. I am not aware in any way of any law or any part of our Constitution where the right is diminished merely because of the fact that we do not belong to one power group or the other. The right is the right of membership of this House and even if convention over the years seems to have eroded the rights of individuals or small groups this should be looked at again. I do not think it is correct that once a Deputy is in here, unless he belongs to one side or the other, he does not have any say whatever, nor is he informed about what the House intend to proceed to do. We are all elected by our constituents.

If, as seems likely by the Government's offering here and the Opposition's bid to improve the offer, that somewhere along the line there will be increases, I would suggest to the Minister that we reconsider what has now emerged in this Bill, that is, that in future we adopt the procedure of discussing the matter and enacting it by way of an order and not by legislation. I do not think that an order would suffice. The legislative procedure is not a bad one. Even if it would be handier to do such business by order and even if the matter might get less publicity if done by order, and less misunderstanding as a result of some of the publicity which is so unclear, as somebody has said already, that it will appear to the public in many cases as if this was the second big increase in the last 12 months, whereas it has been the same one which has been bandied around for a considerable time, the legislative procedure is better than procedure by order. Unless we find a completely new system of operation we should not abandon what we now do in open debate here and substitute the placing of an order before the House which, if not rejected within 21 days, comes into effect. There is a sort of "back-door" way of doing a job like this. If we are to have recourse to the House at all, let us have it in the manner in which we now have it rather than in this other left-handed type of manner.

If there is to be an increase, and if the basis of that increase is justified —which I am sure it is because I have no doubt that the Minister feels it is fully justified—can anybody enlighten me how it comes that the amount which has been recommended and passed for the judiciary and for the higher civil servants, after deliberation both by Devlin and by the conference, seems to be correct while the proposals in regard to the Members of this House are incorrect? If it is justified, why is it not being paid from the date originally proposed? If it is not justified in the case of Deputies, Senators and Members of the Oireachtas generally, is there any justification why there should be retrospection to January, 1972, for two categories who were included in the overall considerations together with Members of this House? An explanation is certainly called for there. Indeed, there is reason to doubt the wisdom of the Minister and the Government who can find that all of what is proposed for the judiciary is correct in the proposals put before them, and also for the higher civil servants, but is wrong so far as the Members of the House of the Oireachtas are concerned. It would be interesting to know how this was arrived at. I do not for a moment take the reason that was originally given, which has been given again today, that 1st July is the date because it cannot be given to Members of this House before the social welfare increases are given to the social welfare classes. I do not think that even impresses the social welfare classes and certainly it does not get very far through so far as Members of this House on all sides are concerned. It is not an argument. It never was a reason and the sooner a proper reason as to why this present position came about is given by the Minister the better for all concerned.

I referred earlier to the unusual situation of the Government coming in and putting their heads on the block and the Opposition coming and saying there should be more. This is certainly a milestone in the history of the House because it has always been the other way around. The Government propose and the Opposition oppose and decry the Government for giving anything. At the same time they are very willing to support the taking of it when it comes to the actual take. This unusual situation has perhaps been explained by the attitude of the Front Bench spokesman on the Opposition side who are all for the national pay agreement being maintained in all its aspects. I suppose there is a certain amount of good reasoning in their paralleling the refusal of the Government to face up to the full terms of the recommendation with the refusal of an employer outside to do likewise when an award is made to his employees. It sounds good sense and I am sure it was intended as good sense, but when listening to it one wonders if it is merely used as good argument.

The House is entitled to a very full explanation from the Minister why he differentiated between the judiciary, the higher civil servants and the Members of this House in his departure from the recommendations handed down to him. We would also like to hear from him his own and the Government's—I suppose he has to talk for the Government when he is talking in the House as Minister for Finance—mind whether the allowances proposed to be paid are too high, too low or just right. Perhaps consideration should be given to retaining at a lower level the allowances in this House than that which might be obtained in something parallel— it is very hard to parallel what a Member of this House does outside —outside this House. The Government should try and establish, if they can, the level at which the Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas would be compensated for their work on behalf of the public by their membership of either House. At the same time, however, they should keep in mind that if Members of the Oireachtas were to be compensated to the fullest degree for the time they give this would "raise the ante" to such a degree that undoubtedly the attraction to those who might not be the best material for this House would increase. I believe the correct level is somewhere in between but it is a level at which we could arrive only after very careful consideration.

I feel our remuneration is high enough at the moment. After many years of near beggary for Members of this House, as it was in the early years after the House came into being —of course, this was the extreme on the other side—we should be very careful we do not err on the other end and go to too high a figure. I believe somewhere between the two, the high and the low, the ideal and proper figure lies. There is no yardstick we can properly use and there is no parallel we can draw from outside to give us a clear guide as there might be in other occupations. It requires a great deal of thought. Before the matter is finally decided, perhaps thought could be given to my suggestion that the moneys saved by not proceeding with this offer at the moment could best be applied to the benefit of the pensions of Members of both Houses, their widows and their dependants, and that we consider also the question of providing proper research and backup facilities through the Civil Service for the Members of the Opposition so that they might contribute more to the workings of this House and the good Government of this country. I feel this would be the best that we might do in the circumstances.

The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government have deliberately set about doing an injustice to the Opposition is an unworthy and untrue allegation and I believe he knows that the allegation he made today had no foundation. The only approach which Deputy Lynch made to the Government was an informal conversation which he had with the Taoiseach sometime ago at which the Taoiseach indicated his willingness to look at the question of the payment of an allowance to the Opposition. This is a question which needs very careful examination. I believe that practice of allocating a sum of £15,000 to one party only in this House has no justification today. What is important is that Members of this House receive what Deputy Blaney calls a backup service, research facilities and secretarial facilities to enable them to carry out their parliamentary duties and obligations to their constituents.

The right and the obligation of Members to render that service lies on all Members of this House, irrespective of whether they are on the Opposition benches or on the Government benches. If you take the office holders away from the Government side of the House you are still left with, I think, 51 Members of the House on the Government side who, like the Opposition Deputies, are without secretarial services, without research facilities and without most of the amenities which are necessary to provide a proper service to their constituents. In a large number of other parliaments grants are made available to Deputies for the provision of secretarial services. The Members are aware that the proposed Assembly in the North of Ireland, which will not have a fraction of the duties to perform which Members of this House have, will receive not merely an allowance as Members of the Assembly but will also receive a secretarial allowance. Quite obviously the appropriate body to consider this matter in the future would be the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I was a member of that Committee for some time and I am aware that Members of all parties on that Committee reached agreement about the kind of facilities which ought to be made available. Approaches were made to a number of my predecessors in relation to these matters but we did not receive very much response.

If there is a general consensus across the House—and this appears to be the case—that these facilities should be improved, so far as I am concerned Deputies will find a real willingness to provide these better services. This is an area within which we can discuss the better allowances that should be made available to ordinary Members who are not office-holders.

In addition, we accept it would be appropriate to have an allowance for the Leader of the Opposition and also for the Opposition Whip. This is a matter that was touched on during the last Dáil by the committee which was set up on a motion by the Labour Party. The immense burden of work that falls on Whips and assistant Whips was recognised by the committee. They serve a useful purpose; in fact, they are essential for the smooth working of the parliamentary system. Even though Deputies occasionally may find themselves at the awkward end of their decisions, I think even Deputy Blaney will accept that without the Whips and their delegated authority and their right to make decisions the parliamentary system would be less efficient than it is. I hope I will not be charged with disrespect to the House when I say it is far from efficient at the present time.

I give this assurance in public that the Government will enter into immediate and meaningful discussions with the Opposition and if legislation is necessary to provide the funds and give effect to better services there will be no reluctance on our part to provide the necessary legislation and machinery. If we do that we will be doing a good day's work for Parliament and it might be possible for Oppositions to be more efficient than has been the case in the past. I accept that Oppositions have not been efficient but this has been largely due to the fact that government has become so complicated and the multitude of ideas that must be processed in the House are so overwhelming that members of the Opposition are finding it impossible to do the necessary study. I think Members are under greater pressure now at constituency level than when Deputy Blaney first entered the House or even when Members entered ten years ago. It is true to say that most Members did more thinking before they entered the House. Once a person becomes a Member he finds it increasingly difficult to withdraw from the pressures of everyday business and do the necessary thinking that legislators should do.

I hope that the charge which was made of unwillingness on our part to assist the Opposition and ordinary Members will be withdrawn. It has no justification; in fact, the reverse is the case. We believe this will take some little time to study, but not very long. We may have some time to study the matter during the recess. I sensed from the indignation— genuine or professed—of some Members, voiced here and elsewhere, that there would have been immense annoyance if we had postponed the introduction and passage of this Bill pending a re-assessment of the services and the financial assistance which should be given to parties to enable them to discharge their business more efficiently.

Would the Minister mind repeating the undertaking he said he would give in public?

What I am undertaking is to enter into an immediate discussion with the Opposition to see if we can arrive at an agreement as to the basis of providing remuneration to groups of Deputies in the House to enable them more effectively to discharge their duties. I accept that a larger subsistence would have to go to the Opposition than to ordinary Members on the Government side because the Government have office-holders and a secretariat. However, the 51 Members on the Government side—this applies to any Government—are entitled to the same kind of facilities as ordinary members of the Opposition. It cannot be denied that if we are to have assistance towards the cost of working democracy it must apply all around and not merely on one side of the House.

The Minister referred to 51 Members on the Government side?

There are 51 Members, other than office-holders.

May we take it that in the meantime, pending such discussions, the Minister does not propose to increase the existing allowance for the Opposition?

I do not think it need take long. The discussions could be held within the next few days.

I want to be clear on what the Minister has said.

There will be no reluctance on our part to enter into these discussions but at the moment I do not know what is in the minds of the Members opposite. Some parliaments operate a system of giving a grant to parties related to the number of votes the parties received in the previous general election. It might be of interest to Members to know that if parties in this House received 1p for every first preference vote obtained by them in the last election the sums would be as follows: Fianna Fáil would receive £6,245, Fine Gael £4,737, and the Labour Party £1,846. There could be a multiple of that, to give a higher or lower figure as the case may be, but this is a formula that is quite frequently used in parliaments abroad. I am not saying this will be the basis of any agreement but it is something that should be looked at.

There were charges made that the Government were dishonouring some obligation when they did not give retrospection. Let us look clearly at the record. Neither Devlin nor the Employer/Labour Conference recommended retrospection in respect of allowances paid to office-holders or Members of the Dáil or Seanad. There was no obligation though Deputy Colley and others would have us believe there was some moral obligation even if it was not written down. If the moral obligation was there, let us see how Deputy Colley proposed to honour it when he was Minister for Finance.

If he had that sense of moral obligation one would have thought it reasonable that he should have provided the money to meet it in the Estimates. However, when I entered the Department of Finance I found that not one penny was provided in the Estimates to meet this increase either for the current year or for any back period. If there was an obligation to have retrospective payment, I ask Deputies opposite to what date should it apply? It is not in Devlin or in the report of the Employer/ Labour Conference. This clearly indicates there was no specific obligation but we were led to believe today and in the course of the budget debate that there was a moral obligation.

If there was a moral obligation and if the same date as applied to judges and senior civil servants was to be used, the cost would be £430,000 but this money was not supplied by Deputy Colley. Any Deputies or Senators who may be aggrieved about the matter should look to Deputy Colley because he had the opportunity to fulfil the moral obligation he sensed he had. On this side of the House we do not believe there is either a legal or a moral obligation; our view is that if the allowances were not increased according as salaries and allowances were increased elsewhere, the blame lies on the then Government for lacking the moral courage to take the necessary steps to increase the allowances.

We do not propose to lack moral courage now or in future. In this Bill we are providing that in future increases can be given by way of a Government order that will be laid before the House. Any Member disagreeing with that order will have an opportunity of tabling a motion to have it rescinded. It is our intention that in the event of further national pay agreements, as they are entered into they will be implemented so far as allowances to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas are concerned. That is the proper thing to do to avoid the atmosphere of unsavoury envy which has developed on every occasion in my memory when the allowances of Ministers and Deputies have been increased. Invariably this envy has been engendered because of the delays in giving increases that were modest by any standard or by any comparison with outside remuneration. The only way of avoiding that unnecessary envy is to provide machinery that will enable the Government to take the necessary steps if and when there will be national agreements or recognised improvements in remuneration generally.

Deputy Colley was suggesting, as an earnest of his readiness to provide the increases, that there was a draft memorandum for consideration by the Government prepared during his term of office. What is interesting is that, while a draft was prepared, it remained a draft, and that was not the only draft I found in the Department of Finance; there were many others that were not dealt with. However, when we come to deal with these from time to time, no doubt Deputy Colley will claim that they were his idea and his work. All Departments of State are full of nonacted upon drafts and they would have remained as drafts but for the fact that there is in power a Government who are prepared to make decisions and act accordingly.

What did Deputy Colley do in this regard? On the draft there is an interesting little note which says "the Minister will be unable to deal with the matter before leaving office". That was dated 12th March, but the Minister had the draft from January. On 13th March the previous Government met for the last time. Did they consider then doing something to make amends to the Deputies on whose behalf they have shed tears today? No, that was not on the agenda. The Government had not time to consider it, but on that same day they found time to make an order increasing the remuneration of the President and providing that, thereafter, entertainment at Aras an Uachtaráin would be charged not against the presidential Vote but against the Miscellaneous Expenses Vote of the Department of Finance where they could be concealed. There was no time then, we are told, to deal with the matter now before us, the matter on which we are spending hours today because of the profane indignation of Fianna Fáil regarding the injustice that is being done to ordinary Members of this House. Therefore, I consider that I am justified in saying that those who are annoyed in this regard ought to look for payment to those who are responsible.

I wish to deal with a number of matters of detail that were raised in the debate. One of these is in relation to section 12, that section which deals with the Office of the Attorney General. The reason why the 14th March, 1973, was chosen as the threshold for the new provision was that we are aware that during the past 25 years every Attorney General reserved to himself the right to engage in private practice. Most of them did that. If we find that there was somebody who did not engage in private practice and who was not required, as a condition of his employment, to abandon private practice, the matter can be looked at again, but, so far as we know, the only former Attorney General who would get benefit if we were to amend the section in the way suggested is the man who held that office in the 1920's. Since 1938 every Attorney General has enjoyed a gratuity on ceasing to hold office—not a gratuity of one and a half times his salary, as Deputy Lynch suggested, but one that was equal to half his salary at the time of ceasing to be employed as Attorney General. Of course, that would be the global salary of the Attorney General and not the ministerial salary as distinct from a Deputy's salary.

The present Attorney General is full-time and we are satisfied that we should not in future have Attorney Generals who are part-time. The whole legal and legislative field is so immense and the responsibilities of the office are so great that they require the full attention of the holder of the office. It is true that many lawyers could earn at the Bar what would be far in excess of what is paid to any holder of the office of Attorney General. But, as Deputy Blaney pointed out, there are satisfactions in holding office which are greater than monetary reward and there will always be people from all walks of life who are prepared to make monetary sacrifices in order to serve their country.

The present Attorney General is and, I hope, all future holders of that office will be full-time and on that account we are providing that he may get in respect of that portion of his Attorney General's salary which is not his Dáil salary, a ministerial pension, as it were, related to that sum. If he were a Member of the Dáil he would be entitled to a pension in respect of his Dáil service. That is a different matter and would have no effect on the pension payable to him as a result of his having held the office of Attorney General.

If he were not a Member of the Dáil, on what would his pension be based?

It would be based only on that portion of his salary which would be equivalent to that of a Minister but he would have to be a full-time Attorney General. We are providing here also that he will not get a gratuity if he gets a pension and that if he is full-time the gratuity goes.

Is that in the Bill?

Yes, section 13 has that effect. I suspect that part of the attitude and of the difficulties experienced by the Opposition at present arises from the fact that on their Front Bench there are only three people who served previously in Opposition.

I served in Opposition before.

Fianna Fáil know now what it is like to be in Opposition. The overwhelming majority of that party——

I was here before the Minister.

——arrived in this House while their party were in Government and had on that account, either directly by being holders or by association with office holders, facilities and information which is not available so readily to Members of the Opposition. Perhaps now that they have experienced the difficulties of being in opposition they will realise how unfair they were to the Opposition during their years of secure tenure of office in Government. They were unfair, denying to the Opposition many facilities which are made available in practically every other Parliament in Europe. Ordinary Members of the House were treated by Fianna Fáil as if they did not count and were denied many facilities and services that had been made available elsewhere.

In fairness, did not the two previous Coalition Governments do the same? I was here during the terms of office of both.

It has been a long time since the Coalition were in power and I was not then a Member of the House. As Deputy Blaney says, the volume of work and the responsibility of Members of the House have multiplied during the past decade.

If the facilities that were made available to Fine Gael——

All these matters can be looked at and it will be found that this Government will be much more helpful to the Opposition than they ever were to us while they were in office. Deputy Colley suggested that the Bill might be amended by inserting a provision to the effect that the remuneration paid to office holders and to Members of the Dáil might be renewed by the Government once in every two years and that the review should be placed before the Dáil. I understand his intention is to ensure that we do not have this long delay again in adjustment of remuneration. We can all agree on that; but I do not think the way suggested by the Deputy is the way to ensure that the adjustment takes place. There could be a situation, such as arose in respect of the Devlin Report, which was launched in December, 1970, but which is only coming to fruition now. It is much better to provide, as we are providing in the Bill, and as I think Deputy Colley had intended when he was Minister—whenever he got around to doing it—that the increases may be made by order and if and when adjustments take place on a nationally-agreed level elsewhere then the necessary order can be made. I think that is the appropriate thing to do.

Devlin suggested a rate of remuneration which in respect of Members of this House and its office holders was higher than the Employer/Labour Conference gave and at least some of that was a reflection of their view that the scales were not commensurate with the responsibilities of Members. I believe we are entering a period where the responsibilities, which are great, will multiply and where the opportunity to discharge those responsibilities will be greater, because we, as a Government, will see that facilities are made available to enable Members to discharge their responsibility to their constituents and to the nation. On that account I expect the work load to increase even more but I hope the outcome, too, will be far better because it will be more efficient and more productive. It may be necessary to have another look at the scale of responsibility and not merely the rate of remuneration. I think that can be done but I do not think there is any point in writing into a Bill a rather nebulous review formula which would contain no undertaking that recommendations would ever be implemented in a new proposal or in new legislation.

I trust, therefore, that the House without more ado will approve of this Bill which is, unfortunately, a belated effort to make amends for the long delays that have taken place in the adjustment of remuneration of Members of this House and of the other House. The fact that there has been such delay is every reason why we should now proceed without further delay.

Did I understand the Minister to say that he does not propose to accept the amendments I suggested or to substitute his own version of them?

I think one must either accept or reject them. I do not think one can put another version on them.

The Minister said they were rather nebulous. I thought, perhaps, he might prefer a draft of his own which he would consider less nebulous.

The Bill itself contains the necessary machinery to do something much more effective. We are providing a facility whereby the Government can increase the remuneration and I have indicated that it would be our intention to increase the remuneration whenever a national wage agreement would indicate that there was a nationally accepted formula for so doing.

I may not agree with it but I think I understand the Minister's position. I understood the Minister to say that in his view the report of the Employer/Labour Conference was not clear as to the date from which increases of remuneration for parliamentarians should be commenced. If the Minister was satisfied that it was clear, would he then feel an obligation to apply increases in remuneration to parliamentarians from that clear date?

No, we have made our interpretation of this report which we believe is the correct one. We have indicated our reasons why we are making this payable from the 1st July, 1973. While some people have said that it is unacceptable to them that we are making these increases payable from the same date as the increases for social welfare beneficiaries, we consider that a worthy reason if only to remind all Members of this House, and particularly those opposite who so frequently forget it, that the social welfare recipients are our employers just as much as everybody else and we would not be justified in giving ourselves an increase from a date before they got it.

May we take it then, that if the Employer-Labour Conference were to clarify to the Minister's satisfaction precisely what it meant, the Minister would not accept that date?

The report was in Deputy Colley's hands since the 22nd December last.

It is a simple question. If the Minister would answer it——

I will not deal with hypothetical questions.

Why the difference of approach—purely out of curiosity and nothing else—in regard to dates for the judiciary and higher civil servants as against Members of the House and will we have an opportunity before long of discussing the much more important matter of Deputies' pensions?

All other employees of the State have had their increases paid to them from the earlier date. We did not consider it would be appropriate to make a decision denying increases to senior civil servants and judges from the same date. We can make decisions affecting ourselves, deny ourselves money, if we so wish. That is our affair. We think it would be wrong to apply the same discipline to others, particularly when people in not dissimilar relationships to the institutions of the State received their pay increases from the earlier date.

On the question of pensions, they come to be dealt with not by way of legislation but by way of resolution in the House. I am not unsympathetic to the idea of making some move towards parity of pensions but Members should realise that the pension fund is operating in a state of gross deficit at the moment notwithstanding the subventions which have been given to it and any increase in pensions will have to be paid for entirely out of the Exchequer. One of the principal reasons why the pension fund operates in deficit is because alone among all parliaments that I have yet had an opportunity to study, and that is about 20 parliaments, this one pays pensions to ex-Members irrespective of age. In Europe there is only one other parliament that pays pensions before 50 and most of them pay it at 55 years and upwards. That is something we will have to have a look at.

I have always held the view that Deputy Blaney expressed here today that the pension scheme should be related to widows and dependants. I was a reluctant participant in the pension scheme from the very beginning because originally it did not provide for widows and dependants at all.

We were lucky to get it at all.

I only gave my contribution to the scheme willingly when the widows were involved. In any event, it is something I am taking a look at.

Am I correct in thinking that the Minister said that he did not interpret the Employer/ Labour Conference recommendation in relation to what has been called the retrospective clause of our payment in the same way as we did but yet he interpreted the recommendation as far as the judiciary and higher civil servants were concerned in a different way?

Mr. Ryan

That is not what I said.

Would the Minister clarify that point, please?

I will clarify it. What the Minister said was that it does not matter what the Employer/Labour Conference meant, he is sticking to——

Perhaps Deputy Colley would allow the Minister to reply to the question.

I said we have interpreted the Employer/Labour Conference report correctly.

And if they tell the Minister he has not he still will not accept it?

I will not deal with hypothetical cases.

We can solve that one. We only want to know whether, if the Minister is told by the Employer/ Labour Conference that the correct date is X, will he accept that date?

A question beginning with the word "if" is hypothetical.

It is a fair question.

Answer the question.

The Minister has informed us that the pension fund is in deficit. I have the Houses of the Oireachtas Members pension scheme report of the financial position of the fund up to the 31st March, 1972, and it appears from that that the fund has been reduced. This report does not say that the fund is in deficit. It says that the fund has been reduced from £57,000 to £12,000. Does the Minister agree with that statement?

I have not the relevant figures before me.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 57.

  • Barry, Peter.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Finn, Martin.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Patrick.
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Keating, Justin.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McDonald, Charles B.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMahon, Larry.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, John J.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • Thornley, David.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • White, James.


  • Ahern, Liam.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Brugha, Ruairí.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Leonard, James.
  • Loughnane, William.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Murphy, Ciarán.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelly and B. Desmond; Níl, Deputies Andrews and Browne.
Question declared carried.

On a point of order, I asked today if I could raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Questions Nos. 93 and 94. I was informed by the Chair that I was debarred from doing so as it was 3.30 p.m. On reading Standing Orders I find that the time is 4.30 p.m. and not 3.30 p.m.

The House sat early, there was a hope that the Dáil might adjourn early at that stage, and the opinion was given that the Deputy might be too late in those circumstances. The position was fully explained to the Deputy later.

But in Standing Orders it says 4.30 p.m. and not 3.30 p.m.

That is on the basis that the House sits at 3 p.m. and is going on to 10.30 p.m. The matter was fully explained to the Deputy.

It was explained outside the House, not inside the House.

At the Deputy's request. When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage of this Bill?

In view of the intransigence of the Minister I do not think the Committee Stage should be taken now because we will require time to draft and submit amendments.

When is it suggested to take the Committee Stage?

Next Tuesday.

Before that is agreed I should like to get it clear that, if the Committee Stage is taken next Tuesday, it will be in time taken from the time allotted to the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill or to the debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate. Provided the Opposition will indicate which of these two debates they do not mind abridging——

If that is the assumption the Parliamentary Secretary is proceeding on, then we are entitled to proceed on the assumption that this Bill, as he stated in his letter to our Chief Whip, would contain no surprises. It was on that basis the whole programme was agreed up to the end of the session. That position no longer obtained when the Minister introduced his Bill this morning and I do not see any reason why we should have to take time from anything else because we are sitting until Friday, as far as I know.

I just want to get the position clear. Am I to take it then that whatever agreement, whether rightly or wrongly, was supposed to have been reached by me no longer stands and we are now back to square one so far as next week is concerned.

That is a contention which is not the fault of this side of the House.

We need not discuss faults.

We cannot be unctuous about this. Let us be factual. I would be prepared to accommodate the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure the termination of business next Friday.

Surely this is a matter that can be discussed by the Whips.

It should be, but I have found it very difficult to do so.

May I ask, for my own enlightenment and the enlightenment of others, has there already been a time schedule set out and, if so, when will we hear about it, when is the House proposing to adjourn and what is the business between now and then? It seems to be all arranged, but I do not know anything about it.

If I were to reply to Deputy Blaney's question I would be, I am afraid, misleading the House because I understand the arrangement agreed between the Opposition and the Government side of the House no longer holds.

The Parliamentary Secretary conveyed to us that there would be no surprises in the Bill and we were entitled to proceed on the assumption that the Bill would follow the pattern of previous Bills. It did not and it does not.

I cannot accept that this Bill does other than give effect to the increases recommended by the Employer/Labour Conference. We cannot accept that there is anything in this Bill in the nature of a surprise. It does what it was indicated it was to do. The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that he wishes to have this Bill postponed in order to put down amendments. We are agreeable to that, although originally the Bill was to be taken today. However, having regard to the viewpoint which they hold, and with which we do not agree, we have agreed to this Bill going over to next week. I understand from the Leader of the Opposition that it is still agreed that the House will adjourn next Friday-week so it does not appear that there is any matter now in dispute.

I do not want to carry on this argument across the floor of the House but I want to put on record what I know to be the case. On two occasions prior to the introduction of this Bill it was conveyed to the Government that we hoped suitable provision would be made for the Opposition allowance to be increased. When the Bill ultimately appeared such provision was not made. When the Bill was published that was the first time we had the opportunity of ascertaining whether or not it did contain such a provision. It is suggested that the Bill sets out to do no more than what the Minister said it would do. But the Minister cannot deny that he has departed from precedent established in four successive Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Acts by omitting any provision for an increase in the Opposition allowance. Having said that, I am quite prepared to accommodate the Government in the termination of the programme within a reasonable time, and I hope within the time limit already set, next week-end.

A suggestion has been made to me now that we order this Bill for tomorrow. Tomorrow's business may not be very long anyhow. The Whips can discuss immediately what we can do about taking it either tomorrow or on Tuesday, on the basis that we will be permitted to submit amendments at short notice. That might accommodate all sides.

Once again the Government are only too happy to facilitate the Deputy as often as he changes his mind.

If the Minister had been anxious to facilitate us this would not have arisen. It can be ordered for tomorrow and we will see how we will get on with amendments in the meantime.