With regard to the Ministers and Secretaries Bill which is to be considered in Committee, as I mentioned, the President is unable to attend to take charge of the Government side of this Bill, but the Attorney-General is prepared to attend, provided the Seanad accords to him an invitation that they are now able to give him under our new Standing Orders.
SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - MINISTERS AND SECRETARIES BILL, 1923.—(THIRD STAGE.)
I move that the Attorney-General be invited to take charge, during the Committee and other Stages, of the Ministers and Secretaries Bill.
I move the following amendment:—
"In sub-paragraph vii., line 42, to delete the word ‘transport.'"
This amendment is dependent on another amendment later on. I propose to deal with the subject matter of the two amendments, which are dependent on each other, and to state the object for which I move it. The effect of this amendment would be to remove from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce the question of transport, and later on, I am moving an amendment providing for the establishment of a Ministry of Transport and Communications, which would deal with all transport as well as posts and telegraphs. The present Ministry of Industry and Commerce is a combination of the old Board of Trade, and the old Ministry of Labour, and its duties are very wide and exceedingly comprehensive. The Ministry is, I believe, overworked and over-burdened at present, and it is unable to give to the very vital questions of transport and the various problems that arise out of it, that expert attention and consideration that these questions deserve. If you speak to any of the principal officials of the Ministry they will tell you that it is quite impracticable to carry on as matters are at present. Transport is an exceedingly important problem. We are told by farmers, traders and manufacturers that one of the greatest drawbacks to the development of trade and industry is the expensive and inefficient transport services that are at their disposal.
The problem merits consideration of a specialised nature. I think everybody will agree that there requires to be a co-ordination of the various transport services, such as road, motor, canal, rail, and the various other methods of transport that may be developed in the future. It is obvious that the means of transport that are available are running in direct competition with each other, and the result will probably be failure, and if you get a cheap service it will be inefficient. One or other of them must go to the wall. If there were a proper Ministry of Transport with officials trained specially to deal with these problems, these services should be made to feed each other. The road motors may be a feeder to the railways with a view to opening up regions not served by the railways at present. It might arrange to distribute traffic between the railways and canals and to divert the heavier traffic to the canals, such as coal, iron and timber, and leave more locomotive stock available for perishable traffic that requires speedy and efficient service. This problem will become much more important as time goes on if any sort of trade development is to occur. A Ministry could very helpfully assist by advice and by mediation between the various forms of transport and check any abuses that now exist. The reorganisation of the railway services within the Free State, which we understand will soon be proposed by the Government, will not be of much effect unless there is an overriding Government authority to hold the balance between the various forms of transport and endeavour so far as practicable in a national way to give the cheapest and at the same time the most efficient transport possible.
Now, with regard to the Post Office. If there should be a Ministry for the Post Office, surely such a great question as forms of transport has far greater claim for a separate Ministry of its own. We believe that the question of transport and communications should be dealt with by one Ministry or one Department, or, at all events, that the Post Office should be a Department within the Ministry. There might be a good deal of co-ordination between the Post Office and the Transport services. It would be practical to have arrangements in sparsely populated districts, where both transport and the Post Office are worked at much expense, whereby the two duties would be performed by the same set of officials and give greater efficiency and result in economy. While transport is divided into two or three different Ministries, and while the Post Office is under another Ministry, it is unlikely that these questions will receive consideration from a broad national aspect and from the aspect of co-ordinating these various services, as they would receive if they were under the charge of one Minister. It is with that object that I move this amendment. Although I presume that the Government will not accept it, I urge them to give it very serious consideration, because if there is one question more than another in which this country differs from England and many Continental countries, it is in regard to transport and communications. You will find that difference the moment you set foot on the shores of Ireland. The Earl of Mayo has brought it up in detail on more than one occasion, and pointed out the drawbacks there are. These drawbacks are not the fault of one particular set of people, but are the result of circumstances over which no one in particular has any control. We have it in our own hands to deal with in a broad national aspect, and it can only be dealt with in that way when the various services are taken into consideration with a view to seeing how they can be improved and how each department can give the best within it and serve the community in the most efficient way.
I find myself in a good deal of sympathy with the remarks of Senator O'Farrell. Possibly he has inside information when he assumes that the Government will not accept his amendment. I suggest that the question raised should be carefully considered. This Bill is supplementary to the executive sections of the Constitution, and lays down with considerable detail the functions to be undertaken by the Ministries. One thing is very noticeable, especially when one considers the position in regard to the Labour Ministry in England, where there are an enormous number of posts to be filled, whereas here we have a maximum of twelve Ministers, who have to undertake the duties of many varied departments, duties which we have seen in the Schedule to the Bill, and which in a more populous country such as England are performed by a larger number of Ministries. One thing appeals to me especially in regard to the suggestion of Senator O'Farrell, and it is this. I cannot see why, if there are to be as many as twelve Ministries, the Post Office in a country of three millions should be allotted a Minister to itself. I think it would be better if one Minister dealt with transport generally, coupled with the Post Office.
I think the Post Office could be run more efficiently as a semi-business organisation. I say semi-business because, belonging to the Government, it would be difficult to interpret it in the sense that it would be usually interpreted as a business organisation. It should be run under its own secretary, who would be virtually a managing director. It would be under the control, but not under the interference, of a Ministry. I think at the same time it could be run in connection with another Ministry preferably with the Ministry of Transport. We had evidence at the Postal Commission of the enormous cost to deliver letters to any part of Ireland. Sometimes it was only one letter which had to be delivered by the one delivery, and the cost was prohibitive. That has to be faced by the Post Office. There is a good deal to be said for the creation of a Transport Ministry, which would include the Post Office. In this matter we are not dealing with the personnel or the details of the existing Ministry; we are dealing with a matter for the future. I do not wish anything I am saying to be taken as having any reference to one Minister or Ministry. I suggest it would be possible to divide the various Departments better than giving to one Ministry the entire administration of the Post Office, while the other Ministers have now some twenty Departments under them. To that extent I sympathise with the amendment.
Unfortunately, at the Second Reading of this Bill, I think there was no one here from the Government who might, by explanation, have relieved the mind of Senator Douglas on some of the points which he pressed. This Bill does not fix one Department to one individual. This Bill is an organising one for dividing Departments of State. One, two, or three of these Departments may be assigned to a particular person. Consequently, a person who happens to be nominated for Postmaster-General may have assigned to him another of those Departments under one of the other divisions. The feature of this Bill is its elasticity. It is possible to re-group Departments as regards individuals who are heads of them. One man may be head of several of those Departments or under a later section in the Bill, it would be possible to subdivide a Department and take intact a section and put it under another Department or another Minister. There is where Senator O'Farrell's amendment would be met in practice. If transport were a Department that ought to be assigned to another Minister than the man who happens to have the rest of Industry and Commerce under the Bill, it can be done. It is an elastic Bill, which will enable arrangements to be effected according to the exigencies of a particular time. Hearing Senator O'Farrell's amendment proposed, I listened with great interest to his speech, because a similar amendment was proposed in the Dáil as the basis on which the Railway Nationalisation Bill should run. That Bill had a short career in the Dáil. I do not know whether Senator O'Farrell's Bill will be introduced in this Chamber.
However, it is a fact that when matters of the reorganisation of the railways and so on, are under consideration the question of whether its various divisions or any of them should be transferred to other Departments, is a matter which should be seriously considered, and under this Bill that could be effected.
I feel myself bound to oppose very strongly the amendment suggested. I do not propose to make a long speech on the subject. I think I can make clear the reasons that in principle such an arrangement would be in the highest degree objectionable and undesirable. The purpose of the amendment is to set up a Ministry which either would or would not include the Post Office as well. To begin with, the Post Office is a Government Department of quite a different kind from the other. The Transport Department would be a controlling Department rather than an operating Department. The Post Office actually handles its own business, and is responsible for the money made and lost. The other is a controlling Department, and has got to do with business run with other people's money, not Government money. The two things seem to me not capable of being assimilated in one Ministry. With regard to there being a Ministry of Transport, I am strongly opposed to it, not without having had some experience of it. The country had a good deal of experience of the Ministry of Transport in late years. I believe the reason why transport is so expensive at the present time is more owing to the fact that it was under the control of the Ministry of Transport for a number of years, than to all other causes combined. I suggest that anybody who has had an interest in cheaper transport, and goodness knows it is dear enough, may be strongly opposed to setting up a system which made it so dear.
Another point I would wish to emphasise is that there must be control of certain forms of transport. There always has been in every country. I would remind the House that we have not yet got nationalised transport in this country. That is quite a simple question, but this amendment touches on it. It is a matter on which there is a great difference of opinion. We have to consider this amendment on the lines of what we have got. What we have got is private enterprise being controlled to a greater or lesser extent by a Government. Nationalisation of transport may be good or bad. Personally, I think it is one of the worst things the country could have. I will not enter into that argument now. This is something much worse, because this would be humbug of the most extreme kind. This would be co-ordination without any responsibility. The Postmaster has got responsibility. He is controlling a Government Department which does its own business. The Minister for Transport would have no such responsibility. He would be controlling a business run with other people's money. For that reason I do not think those two things should be combined at this present stage.
I have sympathy with Senator O'Farrell's amendment, but I disagree with him in this, that the Postmaster-General should have anything to do with transport, for the Postmaster-General has got his own Department, and is responsible to the Government for every little letter that is delivered in the far corner of Connemara. I hope Senator O'Farrell will remember that, and that is a great responsibility. Letters are sacred things. I should like to say this, that I was very much interested in what the Attorney-General told us. He told us the Bill was an elastic Bill. I think it is very elastic. It means this, that any of these Ministers—I quote his words—"may have assigned to him a particular Department." In fact the Government, under this Bill, can do exactly what they like with any Department whatsoever. I do not know whether that satisfies Senator O'Farrell. I do not think it does, because I did not see him nod assent or hear him say, "hear, hear," when that very broad statement was made. Senator Douglas said something about the Constitution. I notice that he very often brings in the Constitution. I consider him to be one of the buttresses of the Constitution. I do not intend to vote for this amendment, because I consider the Postmaster-General must be the Postmaster-General, and have nothing else to do but that; and as for nationalisation. I do not think Senator O'Farrell has anything in his mind, or anything very subtle in this amendment, with regard to nationalisation. He was very kind to mention my name with regard to transport, but that only refers to one particular spot.
As to the shuffling about of these various duties which are given in the Schedule to various Ministers, the Attorney-General said that they could be shifted, and no doubt they can, but I take it that after this Bill has passed they can only be shifted by the Executive or by the President. I do not know. I cannot see how either of the Houses, no matter how much they wish, could get an opportunity of altering the Schedules once we passed the Bill. I believe that there is a provision somewhere in the Bill whereby they can be altered, but I imagine that that is only some provision which must be acted on, as far as the Houses of the Oireachtas are concerned, while the Bill is going through the Houses. But how can they be reshuffled according to the wish of either of the two Houses after the Bill has become an Act?
The scheme is this, that within a Ministry there will be, in some Ministries, at any rate, sections, sections of administration more or less of an intact unit, and under Section 12 it would be possible by an order which must be laid on the Tables of both Houses, to transfer a section from one Ministry to another. That, however, could not be done, for instance, in the case of an external Minister. The ordinary course will be that when the President is elected by the Dáil he will select what Departments he proposes to have administered within the Executive Council by Executive Ministers. These would naturally be the Departments as regards which he and his Government have a policy. The other Departments will then remain outside, and the Dáil can, by its vote on the principle of Proportional Representation, elect Ministers to hold these, and the Dáil itself may assign two Departments to one man, or one, and so on. There has been talk of cutting down the number of Ministers, but I do not know whether that is a practical proposition in the immediate future, or in the next administration, whenever that may be. The ordinary course would be that the President would select the Departments that he would bring into his Cabinet. He might make more Departments than he has individual Ministers, and then he would assign two or more to a particular man, leaving the others to be dealt with in the way I have mentioned by the external Ministers. In the constitution of the present Ministry, Local Government, Post Office and Agriculture were left outside the Executive and did not share in its collective responsibility. They are individually responsible to the Dáil. I do not know if I have covered the points raised.
It all seems to be covered by Section 12 of the Bill.
I am troubled by one statement. The only matter in this Bill that interests me very much is the National Gallery and the Museum. I understand from the Attorney-General that if the Government has no policy for any particular Department it will not keep it within the purview of the Executive Council, or within the purview of Ministers within the Executive Council. If, therefore, the Government has no policy with regard to the National Gallery or the Museum, will it hand them over to the Minister for Fisheries to be administered by him, or by the Minister for Agriculture, as they were before, or by the Postmaster-General?
I would like to ask the Attorney-General to make clear exactly how a Committee of the Dáil under this Bill would be enabled so to reduce the number of Ministers, or how they would be able to assign two or three as external Ministers. It seems to me that Section 12 is perfectly clear as to the power of the Executive Council by resolution, which will have to be submitted to or passed by both Houses, or may be annulled by both Houses, to make a certain amount of redistribution as far as the Executive Council is concerned. But I do not see in Section 12 how the Committee can do it, except by going to the Executive Council and asking them to bring in such a resolution, and it does not seem clear whether a Committee could make the necessary adjustments. Personally, I feel to a large extent that in the case of extern Ministers elasticity may be required. Even at the risk of upsetting the Earl of Mayo again, I shall refer to the Constitution. The circumstances have not been exactly as we anticipated, but it is quite conceivable that you may have in the near or far away future, a number of different groups, and I think it is very important that the coalition of these groups for the purpose of stability should be made as easy as possible by making it perfectly clear that it is possible for the Committee to assign two or three different Departments to one Minister who is not a member of the Executive Council.
May I ask the Attorney-General to explain this matter or tell me, at all events, if I interpret the Bill correctly. Section 3 says: "The President of the Executive Council shall, as soon as may be after his appointment as such President," appoint his Executive Ministers. Section 11, as I understand it, enables one Minister to act for another. "It shall be lawful for any Minister, pursuant to any arrangement or agreement previously authorised by an Order of the Executive Council, to exercise or perform any of the duties or public services of any other Minister as agent for such other Minister, and without relieving such other Minister of his responsibility." Then we come to Section 12. The Executive Council from time to time prescribes the duties that these various Ministers are to undertake. Finally, there is Section 13 which, I think, is the one that Senator O'Farrell can always fall back upon if he wants to make the Postmaster-General control the railways. It makes it compulsory that all these regulations of the Executive Council be laid before both Houses, and if they are objected to by either House within 21 days, some new appointment has to be made. I think that is about the position, as I read it.
As regards Section 11, the object of that provision may be illustrated by this practical case which actually exists. The Post Office Savings Bank is really, of course, a financial obligation of the State. It is really a matter for which the Minister for Finance must ultimately be responsible, but in order to carry it on as a working proposition he appoints the Postmaster-General as his agent for the working out of the various practical details, while he himself retains responsibility for investments, fundings, and all the financial matters of a larger scale that go on behind it. That is really the type of matter which is intended to be met by Section 11. Section 12 is a different matter entirely. It allows an order to be made transferring a unit of the public service from one Minister to another. The President selects the Departments for which the Executive Council will take collective responsibility. He nominates certain persons to them to constitute the Executive Council, and then the others remain outside. I do not quite follow Senator Douglas's difficulty, because it does seem to me that the Committee of the Dáil may decide to assign two or more of the Departments which are left outside the Cabinet to one person. There is nothing that I know of in the Constitution to prevent that.
My question was, is there anything in the Bill to prevent it?
I do not think so.
Arising out of the question which Senator Jameson put to the Attorney-General and his reply to it, I should like to call attention to one matter about which I do understand something, and to which I called attention in this House and obtained unanimous approval before, and that is the question of the surveys of Ireland.
On a point of order, are we really not having a Second Reading debate? I am afraid we are rambling away very much from the subject of the amendment.
I was about to say that. I am afraid we cannot discuss this question of the department of surveys at present. The only question before the House is as to the breaking up of the proposed Ministry of Transport and Commerce, and any discussion must be confined to that. We have passed the Second Stage and we are now in Committee on this Bill. If there is any Section under which you will find it appropriate to raise this question of surveys, Senator Barrington, of course I shall hear you, but I do not think it is appropriate at the moment.
I shall raise it later. I raised it only with a view of asking the Attorney-General whether the Government could see their way to do what I believe they should do, as I think it is of vast importance.
The point I was at was dealing with Senator O'Farrell's own amendment. The point is, supposing the House decided that it should be left entirely to the Ministries, has a Senator ever an opportunity again in this House of raising the question? It has to be settled here and now so far as Senator O'Farrell is concerned.
It might be possible for him to bring it up on Report.
Yes, but it must be done before we are finished with this Bill. That is the point I am anxious for information about, because if we had the opportunity afterwards of getting a change made, after the Bill has become an Act, it would be one thing. If he requires to get his amendment carried in this House before the Bill is made into an Act, it is quite another thing.
Any member of this House after the Bill has become an Act can the next day introduce a Bill to amend it.
He could by introducing a Bill, of course. But he could not under any of the clauses of this Bill get the matter considered by the Seanad unless he introduced another Bill.
So far as I can see, no.
The point I am at is this: these clauses regarding redistribution apply to the President and to the Executive, and not to this House.
Certainly not. The only way this House gets control of it is, if the Executive Council determine to make an order under the provisions of Section 12 that Order must be laid on the Tables of both Houses, and within a certain limited period either House can annul it.
I quite understand that. It is possible for the House to interfere with the wishes of the Executive, but it is the reverse of that I want to make out.
There is no power.
I can assure the Attorney-General that I had no intention of introducing a new Transport and Communications Bill, though I could inform him that twenty or thirty members of his Party would have voted for that Bill if the Government Whips had been taken off. Senator Bagwell evidently has not read the Bill, or he has not read the amendment. He appears horribly frightened at the idea of a Ministry of Transport and Communications, but if he reads the Bill, he will find that the Ministry of Transport excludes the Roads Department, which is already within the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. I am not asking to give the Ministry of Transport and Communications any power that the present Ministry of Industry and Commerce have not got. I stated reasons why I thought it was desirable that they should be in one Ministry. Senator Bagwell evidently thought that I was suggesting that horrible bogey, the Nationalisation of Railways, and like every General Manager, he has Nationalisation on the brain. I was not arguing at all from that point of view. I was trying to assist the interests that Senator Bagwell has so much at heart. We meet railway companies in negotiation very often in regard to wages and conditions of service. One of the first things they put up is this: "We would give you what you want, and would not ask you to accept any reduction in wages, but don't you see we are threatened with this terrible road motor competition?" If there is such a menace, of which I have my doubts, I would suggest that the Ministry of Transport might use its influence without exercising direct control towards developing this road transport in areas not served by railways, and using this form of transport as a feeder of the railways.
Likewise in regard to the inland waterways. This is not a party or class amendment, but is moved in the interest of the community. I take it that if Senator Bagwell has that assurance he will not jump suddenly to conclusions or seek to smash an amendment which is designed to serve all sections of the community and to help towards development of trade and commerce. That is really all that is behind it. There need be no more interference than there is at present. There is a Department of Transport within the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Transport is split up in that way. The Roads Department, that was previously under the old Ministry of Transport, is now under the Local Government Department. Canals are under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. It is desirable that they all should be under the one head, and although he may not be able to exercise local control, he would always have in view the idea of co-ordinating these services as far as practicable. He might meet the private enterprise plea, and not interfere with private enterprise. At all events, he might reason with the conflicting interests within, such as motor traffic as against railways. Of course, the Attorney-General suggests that these duties may be re-allocated. But they will be re-allocated by somebody outside this Seanad. All that the Seanad will have to say in the matter in future will be to seek to annul any re-allocation that takes place. It cannot of itself allocate. There is nothing revolutionary in the amendment. I will leave it to the Seanad to reject or pass it, but I want to give them an opportunity of expressing their opinion on it.
Am I right in thinking that if this amendment is carried the rest will be consequential?
And, on the other hand, if this amendment is lost the others go with it?
Yes, the whole lot.
Amendment put and declared lost on a show of hands.
Before you put Section 1, I should like to deal with a question which I think comes in under this Section, and which is also connected with Section 12. The Departments of State are divided under Section 1, and at the end of each Department it is stated that "the heads shall be known as." Then in the Schedule are stated the Departments or divisions which shall be assigned to a particular Minister. It seems to me that, worded as these two Sections are, there will be difficulty in the Committee of the Dáil, other than by resolution under Section 12, in making the assignments of different Ministries, other than is provided in this Bill, as suggested by the Attorney-General. I would ask the Attorney-General to consider whether the assigning under the Schedule to actual persons, rather than the Department, and in the case of this particular Section stating that the head of this Department must be entitled—giving the name of the Minister—will not create in the present form a certain difficulty in making the re-assignments which he suggests.
I understand your suggestion is that the Schedule by appropriating particular Departments to a named Minister would prevent the operation of the elasticity to which the Attorney-General refers in the case of the Ministers appointed by the Dáil.
Yes, and more particularly in view of the fact that the name is given in Section 1.
It should have been explained on the Second Reading, if somebody had been here for the Government, that Section 1 sets out, as far as possible, an exhaustive description of each of these Departments of administration. The Schedule is a different thing. It is not an exhaustive Schedule of the functions of the particular Ministers of State. The Schedule sets out certain existing Departments, statutory bodies and statutory functionaries, and provides that their functions are to be exercised by the person who is head of the Department described in Section 1. I want to have it clearly understood that Section 1 is the descriptive Section. The Schedule arises by reason of the existence of number of these. Take, for instance, Transport, or any of these other Departments there. Some of them have statutory functions, and it was necessary to complete the description in Section 1 by expressly conferring the powers which exist in these various functionaries and bodies set out in the Schedule.
Does that mean that this is only the enumeration of the particular Departments that are assigned to these Ministers at present? It does not stereotype them so as to prevent a change under Section 12?
No, it does not stereotype them. The sub-headings of Section 1 are intended to be the exhaustive description of the Departments. You will find that they are assigned by description in general terms, and then there are these special functions and organisations which are already in existence. If there is any difficulty by reason of the word "Minister" or "Aire" being put at the top of the various parts of the Schedule, I should have no objection to change that to "Department" and to "Aireacht."
That is my point. I am clear as to what the Attorney-General states as to the object, but I suggest that that would be a difficulty.
It would certainly clear the matter up as it is a little obscure. We will take it up when we come to the Schedule.
I beg to move—
1. Section 2, Sub-section (2).
(a) To delete in line 41 the word "such" and to substitute therefor the word "the."
(b) To omit all after the word "head" in line 43.
The object of this amendment, which appears in two parts, is to find out where we stand in relation to this matter, which I have often ventilated, of the power of the Minister for Finance. In discussing this Bill we are debating something that is unreal, because the Minister can say that the Government can at any time do all that is wanted by Order in Council. I think that is the fact under Section 11. I fancy that is so, as practically this Bill is giving what in reality exists now in England. The Government will have power by Order to do what they like with regard to the administration of Government. I really fail to see the object of this Bill being so long, because the only statutory power that is affected is that of the statutory bodies. If the Government had taken power to abolish these statutory bodies, I think the Executive might have done the rest. But we have to argue from what we find and know. It is the undoubted fact that the Minister for Finance interferes extraordinarily in matters of detail, and, in the opinion of many, that interference is not in the interests of the public service. If we are laying down duties by Statute, even if they can be amended by Order in Council, we ought to try and make them clear by Statute and avoid that evil as far as we can.
Under Sub-Section 2 Departmental Ministers are allowed to appoint their own subordinates subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance. That means to say that if a Minister wants to appoint a person who is a qualified Civil Servant, in grade and in every other respect qualified, and even if there is no finance involved, the Minister has still to go and ask the Minister for Finance if he can appoint so and so. I think this form of having to refer everything to the Finance Department is destructive of efficiency. I remember asking a friend what he was doing at the War Office, and he said: "The last job I had was to ask the Finance Minister whether we could have an extra cook in the Signalling School at Aldershot for a fortnight." That is not a bad example of the height that centralisation has reached in the public service. Every detail is referred to the Minister for Finance. If you read Sub-section 3 it provides that "The terms and conditions of appointment of all officers and servants appointed by any Minister, shall be prescribed by the Minister for Finance." Surely, when they are prescribed that is sufficient. If an officer is qualified there should be no question of sanction by the Minister for Finance. That point raises a bigger question than I brought before the Seanad before, dealing with the reform of accounting. Since then a report on this matter has been made public. I refer to the report which was made by a Committee of very eminent people who went into and investigated the new system of decentralised accounting. I take one or two extracts at random endorsing the new method. "We go further and say that it has been proved that by a proper system of accounting economies to an extent quite unrealised can be effected." Further on, it says: "It is essential for the proper development of administrative responsibility that decentralisation should be carried eventually to its ultimate point, namely, the regimental unit." Of course, that refers to the Army. It is the same all through. You must decentralise. This proposal in the Bill giving the Minister for Finance power over every detail of appointment is the very antithesis of decentralisation, and the acme of centralisation. I ask the Seanad if this Bill is of any value, which I doubt, on account of its amending provisions by Order, if we are going to accept the wording of the Bill as laying down and prescribing these powers even temporarily, that this amendment should be accepted.
I need hardly say that the Government could not accept the amendment because the control of the Minister for Finance must be preserved. For instance, if Senator Sir John Keane carries his proposition to its logical conclusion, an extern Minister, I will not say the Postmaster-General, but say the Local Government Minister, might employ innumerable persons, and completely bankrupt the Minister for Finance. If there is not control in the Ministry of Finance through the establishment branch, over what is necessary in the way of staffing the various Departments, of course finance could not be carried on. This Section, I may say, is founded upon a corresponding Section of the new Ministries Act of 1919.
I cannot accept the view that it would be in the power of any Minister, merely because he is not tied down to every detail, to bankrupt the whole finance. Under sub-Section 4 I have got an amendment which confines any expenditure to that passed by the Estimates. Surely it cannot by any stretch of imagination be suggested that I am going to give any Minister power to depart from Estimates passed by the Oireachtas. I would not accept the Act of 1919. I fancy that is an Imperial Act. It is the very evils going on there I am hoping will not be perpetrated here.
I have expressed a certain amount of sympathy with Senator Sir John Keane with regard to decentralisation, but with regard to the detailed control of the Ministry of Finance I do not think I could support the amendment. It seems to me that the amendment would actually make things worse. At the present time, under the Bill the Minister has not got complete control of all the appointments, but is subject to the Ministry of Finance, which is for practical purposes the office dealing with staffs generally. Unless you substitute some other body such as a different kind of Civil Service Commission to control the number of appointments and the advancement in positions generally, it seems to me that it would be a mistake simply to put the matter in the hands of the Minister. I do not think it would be wise or fair to place in the hands of the Ministers alone all the appointments necessary to all the Departments mentioned here.
In the Estimates you prescribe the number in each Department. Of course, you cannot exceed that. I realise that if the principle is accepted, drafting and changes in detail may be necessary. It is more or less the principle I wish the Government to accept, and I am afraid they will not do so.
My point is, that adopting the new method urged by Senator Sir John Keane would actually involve a different kind of Civil Service Bill.
I cannot understand what financial check Senator Sir John Keane's amendment is going to put on. In the British Parliament I imagine the Treasury would come in, and not the Ministry of Finance. I remember we were told here that the Minister for Finance is always to be mentioned, where in Great Britain I imagine, the Treasury would come in. Apparently, Senator Sir John Keane was going to rule out the Minister for Finance, where he is going to act as the Treasury. I do not know what he is going to put in instead. I do not think we could expect that individual Ministers could settle the pay of all the men who work under them without the public funds being protected by someone. Perhaps Senator Sir John Keane would tell us whom he wants to put in.
If you read sub-Section 3 it provides that the remuneration and conditions of appointment of all officers are to be laid down by the Finance Department. The Minister for Agriculture wants to fill a certain vacancy in a certain grade. He has to draw on the Civil Service, and if he wants to have a certain man why should he not have him?
Under these conditions laid down, he has to go to the Finance Minister and refer the matter to him, and the Minister may say: "No; you cannot have so and so, you must have somebody else." I do not suggest that the rates of pay, pensions, etc., should not be controlled by the Minister for Finance.
With regard to the Minister wishing to have a particular individual, Sub-section 2 provides that the Minister is to recommend a particular official of his Department, who must, of course, be a person who will work in harmony with him. It is only with regard to other officials that complete control is exercised.
I beg to move the following amendment—
In Section 2, Sub-section (4), to delete the sub-section and to substitute the following new sub-section therefor: "The expenses of each of the Departments of State established under this Act shall be as set out in the Estimates approved by Dáil Eireann and shall be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas."
Again I return to the old question. Under this clause again you are putting the Minister for Finance as a sort of drawn sword over every petty act of every Department of State. I submit when the Estimates are being passed in detail, as long as the Department works within them, the Minister is not bound to apply to the Finance Minister for every petty post he wishes to fill—even temporary ones. I know it happens in England, and I fancy the tradition is carried on here. Even if you want a temporary cook for a fortnight, you must ask the Minister for Finance. If you saw the number of papers which go from the Finance Department to the Executive you would be appalled. My object in putting down this amendment is to enable something in the nature of rationing to be carried out. Once the totals are agreed upon the Minister should be allowed a very wide discretion, and should not be interfered with at every twist and turn. This is not imaginary. Anybody who works in a Government Department knows that there is perpetual friction over financial control. You cannot have a business carried on in that way. For that reason I say that the Government should be satisfied, once the Estimates are passed in detail, that that is sufficient authority to the responsible spending Minister to carry on. Of course he is subject to audit, and the control of any supplementary Estimates. All these details should not be referred to the Minister for Finance, but the Minister should be free to carry on his legitimate job.
As the show of hands proves that the Seanad is equally divided on this amendment, I do not like to take upon myself—of course, I do not shrink from it if necessary—the duty of giving a casting vote, but I suggest that as we are only at the Committee Stage, and as this is an important amendment, if the Attorney-General would say that he would consider the matter between this and the Report Stage, some amendment might be introduced by consent which would meet the wishes of the House. I think it would be a pity to have a division on this amendment, if it could be avoided.
I will mention it, and see that it will be considered. If I had spoken on the amendment I would have asked the Seanad to reject it. As the amendment stands there will be grave practical difficulties in carrying it out.
Amendment by consent deferred for consideration on Report.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Section 6, Sub-section (2)—To delete in lines 41-42 the words "retain the support of a majority in Dáil Eireann," and to substitute therefor the words "hold office."
I suggest that this is only a drafting amendment. It struck me in reading the Bill that if the President of the Executive Council were to lose on a snap division or on an issue comparatively unimportant, he would cease to retain support of the majority.
I think the amendment is an improvement, and I accept it.
I beg to propose:—
In Section 7, sub-section (2), to delete in lines 54-55 the words "retain the support of a majority in Dáil Eireann" and to substitute therefor the words "hold office."
This is an amendment similar to the last.
This is a wonderfully drafted Bill, and it is not easy to deal with a particular clause, as we have an instance in the case of Senator O'Farrell's amendment. The point I am anxious to raise is with reference to the representation of the Government in the Seanad. This particular clause enables Secretaries to be appointed who shall be members of the Oireachtas. These are Secretaries to Ministers. I should have preferred to deal first with the Ministers, but I cannot do so until I come to Clauses 11 and 12. If I may be allowed a little latitude, I could raise this question now, so that the Government could consider the whole matter. For some time past we have been working to the best of our ability and discussing Bills especially in Committees, and we have had considerable difficulty in relation to our discussion except in cases where a Minister came specifically for the purpose and attended the meetings here. The Seanad is in doubt and in difficulty very often as to what the intentions of the Government are.
We could have somebody in this Seanad, an extern Minister, for instance, because extern Ministers and their Secretaries may be members of the Oireachtas. An extern Minister in the Seanad could represent the Government and give us their views, and tell us what their policy is. In Clause 11 there seems to be a special provision made for the purpose, because by that clause any Minister may delegate his authority to another Minister. I think possibly in connection with this Bill that the Government might consider this question. It would be of great use to the Seanad if it had a representative of the Government here. It would be quite useful to the Government itself, because very often a representative of the Government here might prevent the Seanad from having a misunderstanding with the Government. We have had such misunderstandings, and if we had a representative of the Government here I think these misunderstandings would have been avoided. We have precedents in other Senates; for instance, in the French Senate and in the Italian Senate you have Cabinet Ministers. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent such a thing being done. I think the matter might be considered. With regard to merely asking questions, the objection has been raised that a representative of the Government could not answer for anybody else, but if a Minister or representative of the Government is not in a position to answer everything, all he can do is to ask for notice. Perhaps the Seanad might like to discuss the matter a little further.
I raised this question before, as to somebody being brought here to answer questions regarding matters that affect our domestic arrangements, so to speak, and all sorts of arrangements for which answers are wanted regarding internal arrangements in the Free State. Under Section 7, as Senator Esmonde pointed out, the Executive Council may from time to time, on the nomination of the Council, appoint so many persons who are to be members of the Oireachtas. That means both Houses. Practically speaking, there is no reason whatsoever—I am now speaking of the matter of answering questions—why one of those persons should not attend here when questions are put down and bring a written answer from the Minister and the Department to which that question is addressed. Supposing there is a supplementary question, which often arises, there is no reason whatsoever, as Senator Esmonde has pointed out, that he might ask the member here to give notice, and that it should appear on the paper again. There is no practical reason why that should not be carried out. It will not cause any more trouble or cost any more money.
With regard to the attendance of Ministers here at first there was a difficulty. Matters in this country were then in a very unpleasant state, but this session, as I said before, Ministers have attended fairly regularly. Of course, they have to be called away, but they have attended, and, as I said before, they knew their Bills and met points from their point of view very clearly and distinctly. I have heard many Ministers deal with Bills, and I think our Ministers—I may say this for them—knew their Bills when they entered this Chamber. Members, especially those who live in the country, may wish to put questions—I do not mean frivolous questions about whether so-and-so has been unjustly treated for poaching by a District Justice. After all, what will happen is, that no notice will be taken of them, and very properly so. When we come to deal with important things, such as agriculture, which affect our lives seriously, and which are important to the country, questions should be capable of being put to the representative of the Department. I do not care who he is as long as he brings a written answer. I hope the Attorney-General will convey that message to our Ministers. He sees many of them every day of his life, and I hope he will see his way to make it perfectly clear that I think it is the wish of this assembly that our questions should be answered in a proper and statesmanlike manner.
I feel that if we have conferred upon us this very embarrassing privilege of questioning the Government, as each one of us is supposed to have the entire of Ireland as his constituency—I suffer in my postage already—I think the burden of my daily post, of all our daily post, will be entirely intolerable. I hope, therefore, that the Government will absolutely refuse to answer any questions on anything whatsoever.
I will convey both views.
I move—To delete in line 24 the words "to the Executive Council and" and "respectively." I was again puzzled as to this divided responsibility. It occurred to me that a man cannot serve two masters, and I have always looked upon a Minister as responsible to the House, but here he is responsible both to the Executive Council and to Parliament. I do not say that it is a very important point, but would not the amendment be better?
This was amended—it does not appear to have been amended in the text—to read: "to the Executive Council and to the Dáil respectively." It should be the Dáil. With that reading I should not object to the other, because, of course, there is collective responsibility. If "Dáil" were substituted for "Oireachtas" I would be prepared to accept Senator Sir John Keane's amendment.
Is it proposed to delete the words "to the Executive Council"?
Leave the responsibility of the Minister for Defence to the Dáil.
You do not retain the words "Executive Council"?
No; the suggestion is that he is responsible to the Dáil.
"The responsibility of the Minister for Defence to the Dáil"; the other part is struck out.
I move—Sub-section (2). To delete in lines 29-30 the words "(under the style of ‘Commander-in-Chief')." I would suggest that this is an important amendment, although perhaps it is rather hazardous to stand up and attempt to criticise questions that concern the Army, but one has one's duties to perform. In this case it appears from the plain reading of the Section, at least by implication, that the Minister for Defence must be a soldier, or, conversely, that a soldier must be Minister for Defence. I do not think that is at all desirable.
Does it not go a little further? He must also be Commander-in-Chief.
Yes. Of course I do not question that the Minister for Defence, if he is to be a soldier, should not be a soldier with subordinate responsibility, but if the supremacy of the civil power is to be maintained —and that is a constitutional matter that is of the highest importance—it will not be adequately preserved by appointing a soldier to the post of Minister for Defence. The Minister for Defence, to my mind, should be an independent person with general administrative experience and knowledge of Government work, with a detachment by means of which he can compose military difficulties that present themselves, especially personal difficulties, which he is bound to have brought to his notice. Moreover, I suggest that a soldier is not a good parliamentarian, and although there may be exceptions in times of crisis, it is very undesirable as a practice to appoint a soldier to the post of Minister for Defence, which is mainly a political administrative post. I think the Attorney-General may suggest that I am begging the whole question, and that the object of this wording is to ensure that the Minister for Defence shall not be a soldier. I confess that it is somewhat subtle. I do not appreciate it for the moment. It is further suggested that the danger of which I am apprehensive cannot occur, because no soldier can be a member of the Oireachtas. I do not feel satisfied even on that point, because the Minister for Defence may be an External Minister. There is no provision in the Constitution that he must be a member of the Executive Council. An External Minister need not be a member of the Dáil, and, moreover, although technically the officer appointed may not at the moment of his appointment be a full pay officer, he may have retired on half pay—in all practice, by tradition, by atmosphere and by outlook he will be a soldier, and in that capacity most undesirable for the position of Minister for Defence. Of course, there is a humorous aspect of it, too, to which I may refer. A certain soldier—I need not mention his name—whom we all know, was chatting with a certain Prime Minister, who looked exceedingly unlike a soldier, on this very question we are discussing, and he said to him, "You know, if you dress me"—he was then in his full regimentals—"in civilian clothes and a tall hat, I would look eminently suitable as the Minister, but I do not think even you would say if I dress you in a uniform that you would look very suitable as a soldier." That shows one aspect of the case. If this Minister for Defence is not to be a soldier—and presumably he will have no military uniform—I would suggest that it is not desirable to call him a Commander-in-Chief. It would reassure us if the Government is determined to preserve these words, if we can have a definite statement now from the Minister that under no circumstances is it contemplated to appoint a soldier, either serving or recently retired, to this position.
The amendment is useful at any rate in giving one an opportunity of explaining that the whole scheme is a scheme for creating civil control, and as regards the Minister himself, that is secured in this way that no one can be elected to the Dáil— and no one is likely to be made a Minister who is not a member of the Dáil—who is a member of the Army. The present Minister for Defence, before he could stand at the last General Election, had to retire from the Army. That is one aspect of the matter. Another aspect of it is this, that under the Defence Forces Act passed last year, it is provided that the Command-in-Chief of and all executive and administrative powers in relation to the forces, including power to delegate authority, and so on, shall be vested in the Executive Council and exercised through and in the name of the Minister who shall not, however, allocate to himself any executive military command, and who may not be a member of the Forces on full pay. So that this particular expression really completed this scheme that the Government have had in mind all through of establishing complete civil control. The Command-in-Chief is vested in the Executive Council, and is exercised through and in the name of the Minister for Defence, who himself must be a civilian.
What is the point of retaining the style "Commander-in-Chief" if he is to be a civilian?
It is considered valuable that whatever that implies should be vested in the Executive Council, and that it should not be possible to have anyone outside the Executive Council——
Apparently, the Council of Defence shall consist of the following members, namely, "the Minister for Defence, who (under the style of Commander-in-Chief)," and so and so. What is the necessity for these words in brackets. That, I think, is the point raised by Senator Sir John Keane.
I do not know as regards the necessity, but as regards the general policy and desirability of having established here by law civil control, it has been effected through two sources, first, the Electoral Bill, and secondly, the Defence Forces Bill, and this is considered to complete that civil government of the Forces, which is undoubtedly the policy of the Government, and, I think, accepted by the people as highly desirable.
How does calling the Minister for Defence Commander-in-Chief make civil control any more certain? I think that is what we all want to know.
The retention of the words "Commander-in-Chief" implies that the person who would be Minister for Defence must of necessity be a soldier.
One would think so.
It strikes me that is the position. With all respect to the Attorney-General, his arguments were arguments in favour of the deletion of the words. If it is not intended that this position shall be held by a soldier, why are the words put in? They imply that the person who shall be Minister for Defence shall be a soldier, and shall be known as the Commander-in-Chief, and I must certainly say as a civilian and an anti-militarist, that I am opposed to the Minister for Defence having the title of Commander-in-Chief, because it appears to me to give the title of Commander-in-Chief to the Minister for Home Defence, who would be a soldier pure and simple.
As far as I understand the Attorney-General, it seems to me that because a man is a civilian he must therefore be called Commander-in-Chief.
Humorous as that appears, there is this element of truth in it that he is the person in whose name the Command-in-Chief is exercised, that Command-in-Chief being vested in the Executive Council. It is a mere titular appellation which prevents complications, and it is impossible for the person who holds that titular position as Chairman of the Army Defence Council to be a soldier. He must be a civilian.
May I ask the Attorney-General why is he making a civilian Commander-in-Chief, for that is what is in the Bill? Those brackets, it seems to me, are put in in a sort of furtive way, and really I cannot see the object of it. A great many members of the Seanad have been soldiers. I never heard of, and I do not suppose any country in the world ever heard of, making a civilian a Commander-in-Chief and putting it into a Bill.
We are told the Command-in-Chief is vested in the Executive Council, that is to say, it is cooperative. It was said in the 17th Century that the devil is the body politic. The Executive Council is not called the Commander-in-Chief, but an individual is called the Commander-in-Chief. It seems a complication of technical terms, and we would want a dictionary to understand the matter.
I think we would be well advised not to pass this amendment, and leave well alone. I am just as much anti-militarist as Senator Farren, but I think, knowing as many of us do, the history of the last few years, or partially knowing it; knowing the gradual development of the Army which has to be under civil control, I think it is well to assert definitely that the Commander-in-Chief shall be a member of the Executive, with complete control over the Army, and in view of that I think it would be unwise to insert an amendment of this kind.
I am not sensibly biassed towards the civil power, but I am looking at it as a matter of business, and I think it is equally objectionable from the point of view of the Army. If you take a politician and call him a Commander-in-Chief, you naturally give him a handle to interfere in the military sphere, and that is just as objectionable as the soldier interfering in the political sphere. These words, as far as words ever mean anything are, I think, absurd. All armies complain of the interference of the civilian heads, and if you take a civilian head and put him as Chairman or President of the Army Council, and then call him Commander-in-Chief, I cannot see how you can prevent him exercising the powers of Commander-in-Chief, or at least saying: "I am Commander-in-Chief, and this is what I want done in the military sphere."
I think you will have to take these words in their plain meaning. I am very perplexed—perhaps it is only temporary, because this Bill is not law yet— but at present we have both a Minister for Defence and a Commander-in-Chief. My information is only what the public have, that an officer was recently appointed Commander-in-Chief or Commander of the Forces. Senator Douglas nods assent when I say Commander of the Forces, but I really do not see any great distinction between the two terms. I am inclined to persist in my amendment, because I do not feel that it impairs or weakens in any way the control of the civil authorities, and I think it makes the Section read sensibly.
Amendment put and declared lost on a show of hands.
I beg to move—
To insert after the word "annulling" in line 6 the words "or amending."
This gives to either House the power not only to annul but to amend. I do not know if that is unusual, but I think it is desirable. You might not want completely to delete, but in your wisdom you might want to amend, and that is what the amendment would enable you to do.
I think the Attorney-General ought to consider before he accepts that, because the Executive Council might not like it in its amended form. They might prefer to have it annulled and reintroduce their own amendment.
I am afraid if one put in the words suggested it would not work.
I do not think it would. If a regulation is annulled, then it goes back to the Executive Council, and they amend it and bring up their amendment. I think the power of amendment should be left with them.
As regards the Schedule, I agreed to accept a suggestion made that instead of saying "Aire" at the top in each heading we should say "Aireacht"—the word for Ministry—and instead of "Minister" say "Department."
The amendment will make it plain that it is the Department and not the Minister to whom the particular branch is assigned.
Might I raise the point now that I was trying to deal with on the previous amendment? I am not at all clear, from the Attorney-General's explanation, that if we pass this Schedule as it stands there will be any power afterwards to change from one part of the Schedule to another certain officers or Departments.
I think that is conferred by Section 12.
May I explain the point? I raised a question before in this Seanad as regards the Ordnance Survey. I notice in the first part of the Schedule "The Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor for Ireland." The Ordnance Survey comes under the Minister for Finance. In the forth part of the Schedule the Geological Survey in Ireland and the Meteorological Services, which more or less hinge upon the same thing, come under the Minister for Education. "The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, so far as concerned with the Ordnance Survey," is in the fifth portion of the Schedule. In addition to that, whether they admit it at present or not, the Government will find that a hydrographic survey will have to be added. I have gone into the accounts as far as I can, and I find that about £160,000 is provided for these various services. It is manifest that a lot of them are overlapping, and that the work could be done much more efficiently and economically if they were placed under one head. I am only throwing out the suggestion to the Attorney-General, if he can see his way to advise the Government, so that economy and efficiency might be gained by placing all these services under one head.
In the fifth part of the Schedule the Public Trustee is mentioned, and he is under the Minister for Lands. I think he should have been under the Minister for Justice. That is a point that the Attorney-General might consider.
As to the matter raised by Senator Barrington, the Minister for Agriculture does desire to have the Ordnance Survey heading of this Schedule transferred to the first part of the Schedule. The reason why the Ordnance Survey is put in the first part of the Schedule is that this was closely associated with the work of the Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor, and it was thought essential to bring the two together. We will accept the amendment to take from the fifth part of the Schedule "The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries so far as concerned with the Ordnance Survey," and put that immediately after Ordnance Survey in the first part.
Perhaps the Attorney-General will also take the Geological Survey and the Meteorological Survey and put them with the others. It would make for economy.
That was considered and it was considered advisable to retain those as being so closely associated with matters of research and matters connected with the College of Science. When scientific work is again carried on to the full extent, it will be more an educational matter that should be associated with research.
I find that what has happened is that there has been a misprint. The fifth part should have read:—"The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries except so far as concerned." If that is put in it accomplishes the object.
The reason the Public Trustee is included in that part of the Schedule is that in Ireland we have not a Public Trustee such as they have in England. The only Public Trustee we have is a Public Trustee for the purpose of the Land Purchase Act, and he is so involved in the administration of land purchase—whether the office would continue to exist after land purchase is wound up I do not know—that for the time being, at any rate, it was considered proper that he should remain in his own Department.
I can understand that. It might be found advantageous to have a Public Trustee and, if so, I presume that that Department, if put under Schedule 5, could always be removed, by Order in Council, to Schedule 3.
If the larger office of Public Trustee were created it would have to be done by Statute.
In the ninth part the word "solicitors" coming under Chief State Solicitor's Department, has created some alarm. That is a misprint, and it can be deleted.