Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 29 Jun 2006

Vol. 622 No. 5

Institutes of Technology Bill 2006: Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 20, to delete "This Act" and substitute "Subject to subsection (3), this Act”.

This issue was discussed on Committee Stage when the Minister indicated that she was prepared to introduce appropriate amendments on Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 4 have the effect of ensuring that all sections of the Bill will take effect within one year of enactment. The Minister hopes that such can take place sooner, in all probability towards the end of this year. I do not propose to accept the other amendments, as the Minister's amendment covers the point and issue.

I will happily withdraw amendment No. 3 in light of amendment No. 4 tabled by the Minister of State. On Committee Stage, I made the point that it is important to have timeframes to ensure this legislation is implemented without any unnecessary delay. I welcome the amendment tabled.

I will also happily withdraw my amendment, given that the Minister made a similar commitment on Committee Stage. I had hoped that she would reiterate it in the House, but the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has done so.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(3) If, immediately before the expiration of the period of one year from the date of passing of this Act, this Act has not been commenced by an order under this section or any provision or provisions thereof remains or remain to be commenced by such an order (including as respects a particular purpose), this Act or the said provision or provisions shall come into operation (or, in the case of such provision or provisions that remains or remain to be commenced for a particular purpose, shall come into operation for that purpose) upon the expiration of the said period.".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 10 to 16, inclusive, 23 to 26, inclusive, 30 to 36, inclusive, 38 to 50, inclusive, and 53 are cognate and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 9, line 1, to delete "Director" and substitute "President".

While the Minister tabled an amendment on Committee Stage to the effect that discussion with the Minister will be allowed to decide on a title, such a provision might be too flexible. The Minister will have discretion, but I would not like a system to develop whereby people could have any title they wished.

A number of institutes have requested that the title of president be used because the title of director abroad, especially in the United States, is usually that of a head of a department, normally a research department, rather than the overall head of the institute. To have proper international recognition of institutes of technology, the title of president is more readily recognisable abroad. For that reason, I have tabled this amendment.

It may be important to have a degree of flexibility because there may be institutes that wish to retain the title of director, but it would be preferable for all institutes to operate on a similar basis and with similar titles. As such, when we compete internationally, the role of the president of an institute of technology is immediately apparent.

As the Deputy indicated, the Minister tabled a Committee Stage amendment, the purpose of which was to permit the governing body of an institute, with the approval of the Minister, to call the chief officer of that institute by a title other than director. In fact, the amendment tabled by the Minister gives greater flexibility to institutes than the Deputy's amendment. Under the former, an institute could seek approval not only to have a president but also a dean, provost, seneschal or many other types of description, subject to the approval of the Minister. On that basis, I do not propose to accept the amendments tabled by Deputy Enright.

I do not know whether the Minister of State fully understood my point. I welcome flexibility, but there should not be too much of it within the system, that is, Carlow IT with a dean, Tralee IT with a provost and another institute with something else. Such would not be a good idea. While a change of title is subject to ministerial approval and, therefore, may be unlikely to happen, it would be better to have consistency across the institutes. This situation does not often occur in the university sector, but it does to a greater extent in the institute of technology sector.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 54 and Nos. 9 and 55 are cognate. Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 54 and 55 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 9, line 48, after "by" to insert "persons who have disabilities,".

I welcome that the Minister of State will table an amendment broadly similar to mine. Last year, a head of an institute published a report on participation in services for students with disabilities in institutes of technology. The study was conducted in 14 of the 15 institutes between 2004 and 2005. Unfortunately, its results leave much to be desired in terms of the number of students with disabilities in institutes of technology. In the 14 institutes, only 1,366 graduates had disabilities. In total, this figure represented 2.76% of the undergraduate population.

There was a quite a degree of variation. At the Institute of Technology Tralee, the figure was 5.5%, but in Cork IT the figure was only 0.5%. The institutes need to place a greater emphasis on persons with disabilities. Likewise, only three institutes employed a disability officer, which was a part-time position in one of those institutes. Six institutes carried out access audits while a seventh was beginning that process. Regarding accessibility to buildings, only in five institutes were all buildings accessible to students with disabilities. This shows the need for a greater emphasis on this matter.

As universities have been under the Higher Education Authority, they have had a natural advantage in that they were, on average, getting between €500,000 and €1 million in funding ring-fenced for disability initiatives whereas the institutes' average was approximately €50,000. Hopefully, putting the institutes under the HEA will address that issue.

As I did on Committee Stage, I support the amendments tabled by Fine Gael and the Minister of State. Deputy Enright has outlined the problems for students with disabilities in institutes of technology and the variations therein. It is important that this principle is being put on a statutory basis because it will strengthen the ability of institutes to attract resources to provide for students with disabilities. Therefore, the amendment is welcome.

There is no disagreement between Deputy Enright and I on this issue and I thank her for tabling an amendment to highlight the need to enshrine in legislation the principle of access to education in institutes for persons with disabilities.

I will withdraw my amendment in light of the Minister of State's amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 9, to delete line 49 and substitute the following:

"disadvantaged persons, by persons who have a disability and by persons".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 10 to 16, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 17 to 21, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 56 to 60, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 22 deals with the same part of the Bill as amendment No. 21, and amendments Nos. 17 to 22, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 56 to 50, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 11, line 29, after "conditions" to insert the following:

"(including conditions providing for the tenure of members of the academic staff)".

This amendment concerns security of tenure for staff in institutes of technology. By the introduction of this Bill the rights of lecturers and academic staff in institutes of technology will be inferior to those of similar staff in universities. There is a concern that this will make a distinction between people in universities and those in institutes of technology who have virtually identical roles.

There is also a concern that it could erode academic freedom because it will make it easier to sideline somebody who speaks out in disagreement with the ruling authorities in their institutions, leading to the loss of their position. I acknowledge that there is a commitment to academic freedom in the legislation but it will not have any teeth if somebody can be moved aside in this way. A number of Members spoke on Committee Stage on this issue. It was highlighted that with the growing trend toward private funding for third level institutions there was a danger, as has happened in other jurisdictions, that somebody might be muzzled for speaking out against a product made by a funder of a particular institution.

There is a fear that this would curtail the ability of academics to speak out. We rely on academics who have a great level of expertise in certain areas. It is important not to dilute their ability to publicly express opinions that might run contrary to the general opinion, either in their own institution or in society. When the Minister spoke on Committee Stage I acknowledged that there might well be people not doing what they should be doing in their jobs and there must be ways to address that, but this Bill has a wider scope and has the potential to create problems. It creates a particularly difficulty in that it abolishes the former sworn inquiry system and replaces it with a system which does not exists in universities. As both will be under the Higher Education Authority both should operate under similar conditions.

Deputy O'Sullivan raises interesting questions on tenure and academic freedom. The issues relating to tenure which are the subject of the amendments tabled by the Deputy were discussed on Committee Stage. It is not entirely clear what is meant by the expression "tenure" in this particular context. I will declare an interest in that I was once a lecturer in a university and my understanding is that tenure relates to the degree of permanence a person has in his or her position, and to the famous chair on which members of staff can prop themselves up on occasion. The amendments tabled by Deputy O'Sullivan relate to rights of appeal and those on tenure relate to academic freedom. However, section 7 of the Bill inserts a new section 5A(1) which specifically deals with the question of academic freedom, providing as it does that a college, in performing its functions, shall have the right and responsibility to preserve and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom in the conduct of its internal and external affairs. That has been formulated not just as a right of a college but as a responsibility.

Section 5A provides that a member of the academic staff of a college, irrespective of what tenure they have, be it occasional or permanent, shall have the freedom, within the law, in his or her teaching, research and other activities either in or outside the college, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions and shall not be disadvantaged or subject to less favourable treatment by the college for the exercise of that freedom. That is an attempt to translate the principle of academic freedom into a legislative statement.

The founding charters of many of our universities did not contain these principles but a similar provision exists in the universities legislation and they are an attempt to express in legislation the spirit of academic freedom. However, this spirit can only be built up over generations and through good practice and cannot necessarily be legislated for. There are many parts of the world where such expressions are put into charters and legislation relating to higher institutes of education but where the virtue of academic freedom does not obtain in the institutions themselves. The attempt to translate the principle into legislative form accords the same rights to college academic staff as those enjoyed by university academic staff, under section 14(2) of the Universities Act 1997.

The other aspect of tenure is the degree of permanence, or impermanence, of a particular staff member. Ireland has among the most progressive employment protection legislation in the world so security of employment is not the same issue as it can be in other jurisdictions where tenure, as a concept of isolated existence in the context of university or higher education, is considered very important. For that reason the Minister does not regard these amendments as necessary or desirable. However, I will go through some of the amendments Deputy O'Sullivan tabled in detail.

Amendments Nos. 19 and 58 relate to the right of appeal. However, the Bill provides that an institute of technology will have power to draw up procedures for suspension and dismissal of new members of staff. The institutes must act in accordance with these procedures, which can only be made following consultation with the relevant stakeholders, and these procedures can provide for a right of appeal. Given that these matters relate very much to the internal workings of an institute, the Minister is of the view that it is better to leave this discretion to each body. She does not propose to accept these amendments.

Deputy O'Sullivan has also tabled an amendment on normal industrial relations structures. That phrase was examined at the time the Bill was drafted. There is a precedent in the universities legislation along the lines suggested by the Deputy and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel was consulted. The view it took was that the reference in the Bill to the recognition of staff associations and trade unions is a clearer and more definitive expression than the reference to normal industrial relations structures. Recognised staff associations exist in the institutes so the Minister does not propose to change the reference as proposed by the Deputy.

Deputy O'Sullivan also tabled amendments Nos. 21 and 60 to remove the power to delegate to the director the ability to suspend or dismiss staff, which is based on a provision of the Universities Act 1997. It is appropriate that this power be vested in the director as the monitoring and supervision of staff is an executive function. The director must take responsibility in such matters. Sometimes an institute will have to act very quickly in response to a given circumstance. Requiring the governing body to convene to make such a decision will not make this possible. It should also be remembered that the normal employment protection mechanisms will be available to new members of staff. In addition, as the Minister stated on Committee Stage, the Department is committed to developing a protocol between it and the relevant unions on disciplinary matters. Once finalised, it has been agreed with the teachers' unions that it will be registered with the Labour Court.

Amendment No. 22 again relates to the presidency issue.

I accept the Minister of State's point on amendment No. 20 on industrial relations structures, which I will withdraw. What he said in that regard makes some sense. In regard to amendment No. 18, all I seek is equality of tenure among people in institutes of technology which already exists under the Universities Act and I will press the amendment.

I am also concerned that the right of appeal, referred to in amendment No. 19 and a subsequent one, is up to the powers that be in the institutes of technology, which does not seem to be of any great help to the staff concerned. It would be much better if they had a right of appeal as opposed to it being at the discretion of their college. Inevitably in those circumstances, people would feel much more secure if there were an independent right of appeal as opposed to it being at the discretion of the college. I will also press amendment No. 19.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 11, line 32, after "determines" to insert the following:

", provided that a member of staff of an institute shall enjoy a tenure not less favourable than would obtain if the institute were governed by the Universities Act 1997".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 11, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

"(3) Terms and conditions under subsection (2) shall provide for a right of appeal for a member of staff in the case of any dispute with the college.".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 20 to 26, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 28, 61 and 62 are related to amendment No. 27. Amendments Nos. 61 and 62 are technical alternatives to the same part of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 27, 28, 61 and 62 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 13, line 32, after "be" to insert ", but not later than 3 months,".

On Committee Stage Deputies Enright and Gogarty raised the issue of requiring annual reports to be finalised within a fixed period after the end of the academic year. The Minister indicated she would bring forward amendments on Report Stage to address this point and the purpose of amendments Nos. 27 and 62 is to do that.

I welcome that these amendments have been tabled. It is important there are definite timescales in the legislation.

While I would prefer a shorter timeframe than three months, I acknowledge the effort made by the Minister in this regard.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 28 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 29 and 63 are cognate and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 14, line 45, after "Act" to insert "or by the governing body".

This Bill introduces a function called an executive function whereby directors of institutes will have complete power in regard to certain functions. I wish to modify that to give the governing body the opportunity in certain circumstances to have some authority in the decision-making process in what it might consider proper in respect of its accountability. The amendment simply gives that flexibility whereby the governing authority would be able to intervene and, I suppose, jointly with the director, be accountable for certain issues.

While I appreciate the spirit in which Deputy O'Sullivan tabled this amendment, one must think through the implications of it. The legislation is modelled on the traditional system, with which we are all familiar in the county councils, where distinction is drawn between executive and reserve functions. As Deputy O'Sullivan indicated, the reserve functions are matters for the governing body.

There is a multiplicity of institutes and, for the sake of consistency, we must have a clear definition of what are reserve and executive functions. As Members who have experience of vocational educational committees and county councils are well aware, these matters often end up being tested in the courts and clear guidelines will have to be prepared and protocols drawn up about the respective functions of governing bodies and directors. Clearly a template will have to be devised following the enactment of this legislation to guide governing bodies and directors on their respective competences and roles.

If we were not to hold the line and insist on a consistent national standard in this regard, we would face a great deal of local anomaly and difficulty and it would not assist in the effective operation of these institutes. For the sake of consistency, we must have a person who is designated to decide what are reserve functions in the case of a dispute. The person vested with this power under the legislation is the Minister. That is the responsibility the Minister will have to take. On that basis, the Minister does not propose to accept Deputy O'Sullivan's amendments.

I can see from where the Minister of State is coming but from time to time, I would like to see a review of which functions are appropriate as reserve ones. It may turn out that governing bodies might feel they need to exercise accountability in respect of certain functions which they will not have under this legislation. I do not know whether the Minister of State can give such an undertaking but I would like this to be monitored periodically to ensure appropriate functions are included as the responsibility of the governing bodies.

The view the Minister took was that the Oireachtas must determine in the legislation what are the respective functions. Perhaps I overstated the position somewhat in explaining her position. It is only in the case of a dispute that the Minister has power. The delineation of the functions is set out in the Bill and would require legislative change. It may be that a particular dispute could lead to an issue about what are the appropriate functions, which I accept. However, the House would have to address it with amending legislation because the principles of this matter must be set out in the primary legislation. All we are conferring on the Minister is the power to deal with a particular dispute.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 30 to 36, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 37 and 65 are cognate and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 16, line 5, after "college" to insert ", including a time scale for implementation,".

I welcome the fact that within 12 months, the director of an institute would have to provide a statement of the policies of the college on access to education, equality, people with disabilities etc. However, we should have a timescale for implementation. I argued this point with the Minister on Committee Stage, but she felt it was broad in the way it is worded. While it is broad, it is certainly not definite. By specifying a timescale, we are asking the institutes to live up to their commitments.

While an institute might have to address access to education for socially disadvantaged people, the legislation does not specify a timescale within which it must do so. If an institute were able to set aims and targets to be achieved within a specified timescale, for example, to reach a goal by 2010, it would be much better. The governing body could see what had been a success and what areas needed to be addressed. If a timescale is not specified, there is no pressure on the governing body to try to improve particular areas because there is no target to reach.

I regret to advise Deputy Enright that the Minister remains unpersuaded. The Minister maintains that these amendments are not necessary because section 21D provides that a governing body must prepare a statement of the institute's policies on access to education by economically or socially disadvantaged people, people with disabilities and people who are significantly under-represented in the student body. The policy must also provide for equality in all activities of the institute. The third subsection requires each institute to implement these policies. Once a policy is included in the statement, it must be implemented. It is not a question of a timeframe. Once the body commits itself to a policy, it must be implemented.

There is nothing to state when it must be implemented. That is my difficulty. We know it will not happen in any situation overnight, whereas it would be better if it were definitely to happen within one or two years. I realise I will not persuade the Minister but I will press the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 38 to 50, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 51 and 67 to 71, inclusive, are cognate. Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 are technical alternatives to the same part of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 67 to 71, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 20, to delete lines 17 to 21.

On a technical point, amendment No. 52 on the list of amendments concerns the director and the president. It might be printed wrongly.

The amendments grouped in my name and that of Deputy Enright relate to appearances before the Committee of Public Accounts by representatives of institutes of technology, universities and other bodies. The Bill states: "A Director, if required under paragraph 8 to give evidence, shall not question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or a Minister of the Government or on the merits of the objectives of such a policy." I understand this is standard practice with regard to Secretaries General of Departments and certain other bodies, and I agree it is appropriate with regard to Secretaries General. However, an institute of technology, a university or the Higher Education Authority should not be put into the category. They should be free to discuss budgetary issues and the spending of public money, which is the function for which they are attending the Committee of Public Accounts. This section should not be included in the Bill.

We provided some examples in this regard on Committee Stage. For example, when the programme for funding research at third level, PRTLI, was stalled and funding was stopped for a period, it had an effect on the capacity of third level institutions to carry out their functions and do what they wanted to do and what they felt was right. As it was part of Government policy at the time — fortunately, it is not so any longer — it is an example of how, in giving evidence to the Committee of Public Accounts, a bar on criticising Government policy would inevitably curtail directors in explaining their situation with regard to a Government decision. That is one example but there are others.

This appears to be an attempt to muzzle representatives of academic institutions, who are not supposed to be instruments of Government policy and who are supposed to have freedom to exercise their judgment, ethos, aims and objectives. That is why we have tabled this series of amendments.

This is an important series of amendments concerning the institutes of technology and the universities. As Deputy O'Sullivan stated, the Committee of Public Accounts deals with matters from a budgetary perspective. However, as our third level institutions are becoming more research oriented, as they need to be, the budgetary issue and the public accounts process will become more important.

The role of the institutes and universities has evolved greatly, whether in terms of attracting industry or trying to achieve balanced regional development. They are very much part of what is happening in the broader locality around them in the context of attracting industries and trying to ensure the proper skill sets are available to those industries. Obviously, this becomes a budgetary issue if they want to introduce new courses, which may well be an issue that comes before the Committee of Public Accounts. If the directors cannot comment at the committee on Government policy, especially with regard to matters like balanced regional development or PRTLI, referred to by Deputy O'Sullivan, they are effectively muzzled.

I cannot see any reason for this approach. What the directors say will not always be a criticism. Perhaps they will comment positively on Government policy. Either way, it is vital they are in a position to express themselves.

In discussing other amendments on Committee Stage, the Minister outlined how the background of the chairpersons of the governing bodies has changed in that we now attract people from companies like Dell and Intel to these positions. These are highly qualified people with much to offer. It is a shame that, as directors of the institutes, they cannot offer their valuable opinions to the Committee of Public Accounts because these opinions would often differ from those of politicians, who come from a different perspective. The inclusion of this section means the country will lose the benefits of involving this type of person. Likewise, academics in the institutions have a valuable contribution to make and those who represent them at the Committee of Public Accounts should be in a position to comment on policy issues.

I am especially concerned about this issue, which is why I tabled amendments Nos. 69 and 71. When a chief executive officer is asked to come before the Committee of Public Accounts, given the visible nature of the committee in terms of the media reportage and the public eye, it is important it is seen to be as transparent as possible. The acceptance of amendments Nos. 69 and 71 would allow for a specific question of a relevant nature to be asked by a member of the committee. The witness would not be asked to give a general opinion but, as Deputy Enright noted, we increasingly need to know the circumstances surrounding specific information, and we might need to understand the opinion itself.

As members of the Committee of Public Accounts, we should be able to ask for and receive a response which may be an opinion but which would shed light. In that context, the Minister should take into consideration that members of the committee have a certain responsibility and would not ask spurious questions or score political points above and beyond the normal day-to-day points scoring that takes place in these Houses.

First, the prohibition on the director questioning or expressing an opinion on the merits of Government or ministerial policy is limited to the circumstances of giving evidence to the Committee of Public Accounts. That constraint does not apply in any other forum. Therefore, the director can leave the Committee of Public Accounts and make a statement criticising Government policy ten minutes afterwards. There is nothing to stop that under this legislation.

This provision is a standard provision found in many other items of legislation, for example, the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Act 2003 and the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003. It is in line with the Standing Orders of the House, which provide that the Committee of Public Accounts must refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a member of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policies. The reason is that the purpose of the committee is not to interrogate Government policy but to check the accounts which have been submitted in respect of the receipts of expenditure by the relevant Department. The Accounting Officer, who appears before the Committee of Public Accounts, may not inquire into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government because that is not the function of the committee.

The key point is that the subject of the amendments is not the universities or institutes of technology but the Committee of Public Accounts. The purpose of the provision is simply to place the directors in the same position as everyone else who appears before the committee. While the directors are not Accounting Officers, they can be accountable persons in certain contexts and can, therefore, appear before committees. It is in this context that the specific statutory reference is made.

There is no restriction on a director appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts alluding to the fact that an action taken or not taken was in accordance with or a consequence of a Government or ministerial policy, nor is a director appearing in front of another Oireachtas committee precluded from questioning the merits of Government policy. To continue my earlier example, there is nothing to stop a director appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts and being constrained, in accordance with the Standing Orders and long-term practice of this House, from questioning the merits of Government policy and thereafter appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science and criticising Government policy. For these reasons, the Minister does not propose to accept these amendments.

The Opposition parties are concerned that the provision imposes, in the context of this Bill which also applies to institutes of technology, a new restriction on the universities, National Qualifications Authority and Higher Education Authority. This constraint would create a difficulty in the context of the example I cited of a representative of a university or institute of technology trying to explain in detail the problems encountered in his or her institution as a result of a decision to pause funding. Other problems could also arise. For this reason, Deputy Enright and I do not propose to withdraw the amendment.

I return to my example of the programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI. The decision to pause funding for this programme jeopardised research projects already in train in universities. If the head of one of the institutions affected by this pause in funding appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts as part of an examination of the relevant college's finances for the year in question, he would have to state, by way of explaining the reason a particular research project led nowhere, suddenly ceased or lost money, that the change in Government policy and its decision to pause funding had a negative affect on the university. This would require him to comment on Government policy because it directly impacted on the specific research programme. These circumstances arose at the time and although the issue did not come before the Committee of Public Accounts, it may yet be discussed in the committee in future.

The Committee of Public Accounts is the proper forum established by the House. While the Minister of State may argue that the directors can go before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science or speak to the media, which is true, the proper investigating forum for budgetary matters is the Committee of Public Accounts. For this reason, the directors of the institutions need to be able to make their case before the committee. The provision places institutes of technology in an unfair position because their representatives justify themselves before a committee of the House but are not given a fair opportunity to do so because the areas on which they must comment, namely, Government policy, are constrained, as in the example I outlined.

Deputy Enright obviously participates in discussions by her party's Front Bench on many issues. I have noted the use to which her party has applied the Committee of Public Accounts in recent months. The job of the committee is not to interrogate public policy but to check State accounts. This is not an accidental matter referred to in Standing Orders but a fundamental practice in Departments. The Accounting Officer takes responsibility for these matters within the Department and has authority superior to the Minister in that connection and cannot be directed by the Minister.

Were the Deputy to become Minister for Education and Science, there are certain functions the Secretary General of the Department, as the Accounting Officer, would not allow her to carry out. The Accounting Officer, in turn, is accountable to an Oireachtas committee in respect of these matters. That is the system and the provision simply makes the practices in regard to the colleges consistent with this system. It is not the function of the Committee of Public Accounts to criticise or evaluate Government policy. This can be done elsewhere. Its function is to examine the accounts of expenditure of Departments.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 54.

  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Breen, James.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Kehoe.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Debate adjourned.