Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Gleeson Report.

John V. Farrelly

Ceist:

6 Mr. Farrelly asked the Minister for Defence the number of recommendations of the Gleeson report which have been implemented; if he will give details of those recommendations which have been implemented; if the implementation has been agreed with the representative bodies of the Army; and when it is intended to implement the remainder of the report.

Following publication of the Gleeson Commission's report the Government immediately accepted the recommendations relating to remuneration and approved their implementation as recommended.

Accordingly the increases in pay proposed by the commission have been fully implemented and there has been further enhancement of those pay rates by the additions provided for under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The commission recommended increases in and extention of military service allowance, which combined with rank pay makes up basic remuneration for military personnel, and those increases have been fully applied.

Military personnel qualify for a wide range of additional allowances, for example, for a variety of security duties such as those connected with cash escorts; for prison duty and for overseas service. Increases recommended in those allowances have all been fully applied as well as subsequent additions under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

The commission proposed the introduction of several new allowances, for example, for bomb-disposal teams, for instructors, for officers on substitution duty and for personnel maintaining essential public service. These are fully in place while administrative arrangements to provide for a number of further new allowances are nearing completion.

The report of the commission dealt extensively with non-pay aspects of conditions of service and proposed improvements to these. Meals provided for soldiers now have a greater variety of food items and better nutritional value and more personnel now receive free meals and free accommodation. Uncertified sick leave facilities for non-commissioned personnel are now in operation. The first phase of a new comprehensive welfare and counselling service for the Defence Forces, involving the employment of civilian specialists in social work, has been introduced and is working effectively.

The commission's recommendations in regard to military personnel on overseas service have been implemented. For those in Lebanon this has meant apart from increased allowances, free telephone calls home to relatives. Charges have been waived for certain items of equipment which attracted a charge in the past. Personnel have been reassured that requests for free repatriation on compassionate grounds will be sympathetically considered.

In addition a new scheme of promotion on merit for commissioned officers, as recommended by the commission, is being phased in and a number of competitions for promotion to lieutenant-colonel and more senior ranks have been held in line with the new arrangements.

In effect about three-quarters of the commission's 170 recommendations have been implemented. From the beginning there has been full consultation between my Department and the representative associations in regard to the implementation of the Gleeson report. This consultative process was firmly established following the formal setting up of the associations in May 1991. The national forum in which both civil and military personnel of my Department meet with the associations on a regular basis, provides the mechanism for the ongoing monitoring of progress.

As to the remainder of the commission's recommendations, these relate in the main to the area of management; military structures, organisation rationalisation and deployment; manpower and personnel policy; and superannuation. These are complex matters and a programme to address them systematically and comprehensively is being pursued. Considerable progress is already evident and an examination of organisational and administrative changes affecting the Permanent Defence Force is proceeding.

The time-frame in connection with the recommendations in the areas to which I have just referred is dependent on the complexity of the issues involved and in many cases on the necessary consultative process with the representative associations. Of their nature, they are different from remuneration recommendations which admit of definitive disposal; organisational reform and rationalisation, for example, are ongoing evolutionary matters rather than once-off issues. There has been sustained attention by my Department to the Gleeson report and progress with its implementation will continue to be made as quickly as possible.

It is amazing what an election can do for different groups in society. I am delighted that three-quarters of the commission's recommendations have been implemented at this stage. May I ask the Minister when he expects the remaining recommendations to be implemented? The report was published on 31 July 1990, over two years ago. Can the Minister give a time scale for the implementation of the remaining recommendations?

Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle will allow me the indulgence of congratulating Deputy Farrelly, my near neighbour, on his appointment as spokesman on Defence for Fine Gael. If he wants any information he should come to me or to my office rather than going to the military people. It is possibly because of inexperience that he may have thought otherwise.

In the latter part of my reply I indicated the nature of the recommendations which remain to be dealt with and the difference between those recommendations and the recommendations with regard to pay and allowances. I want to tell the Deputy and the House that we are working on the resolution of the final recommendations.

I thank the Minister for his kind wishes. I am sure there are two different points of view on certain information. I would not say that approaching the military people was due to a lack of experience; rather it was to find out the exact details so that I would have a balanced view when I came into this House. May I ask the Minister if he is satisfied that the proposals in regard to voluntary severance pay and early retirement will be introduced? When does he think these proposals will be introduced? Is he in favour of the recommendations in the report in this respect?

I was merely indicating to the Deputy that this House does not normally interfere in the military part of my Department. Information will be available from my office for the Deputy on any subject he wishes to raise, rather than he contacting the military people.

I am aware of that.

As I indicated to the House, we are working on the remaining recommendations of the Gleeson report and I can assure the Deputy that there will be no delays.