County Management (Amendment) Bill, 1942—Committee.

Sections 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 3.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (1), line 41, after the word "committee" and within the brackets to insert the words "or the board of management of a hospital".

The amendment, I hope, will clear up a situation which is puzzling many of us at the moment. The section as it stands empowers the Minister whenever he so thinks fit, to "declare any particular board or committee (other than a pier or harbour authority or a vocational education committee), not less than half the members of which are required to be appointed by two or more rating authorities severally, to be a joint body within the meaning and for the purposes of the Principal Act". The consequence of such a declaration would be that the Minister would be empowered, as he thought fit, to appoint a manager for such a joint body. It strikes one at once that there are certain exceptions made by the Minister to this power. It will not apply to a pier or harbour authority or to a vocational education committee. I understand that the Minister on the Second Reading of the Bill a week ago explained that the reason for these exceptions did not lie in the nature of the work which these bodies performed but that they came under the authority of another Department as well as of his Department and he did not think, therefore, that the Minister of one Department should have such authority over a body that was really responsible to two Departments. One assumes from what he said that he did not consider or did not intend to consider — I do not know whether he had already made up his mind on the matter — any other reason for making exceptions to this power.

I think the House will see that my amendment raises a point which, whichever way it is decided, whetherpro or con, needs to be considered on its own merits. The amendment seeks to insert the words “or the board of management of a hospital” within the brackets, so as to make the board of a hospital also exempt from this power which it is proposed to give to the Minister. I think it is clear that a hospital is a completely different sort of undertaking from the ordinary undertakings that have been committed to the control of managers in the past or for which provision is being made at present. The manager of a local authority must be an excellent man of business. That is the first essential for his work. Apart from being an expert in business methods, he need not be an expert in anything else. He is an expert in business methods and business management, or he ought to be, but he is not an expert in any other particular line of activity. In the case of the management of a hospital, one has to consider that the duties are not merely a matter of business which any man of business ability can perform, but a matter which requires expert knowledge. A person who manages a hospital should have, undoubtedly, an expert and technical knowledge of medical matters. He should be familiar with the work that goes on in a hospital as no layman can be. He should know what have been the practices and the usages of hospitals in the past and what practices and usages have been abandoned as being cumbersome or burdensome or because they were wasteful of time and money. I take it that the man who is likely to be appointed manager under this Bill will be, first of all, a capable business man, a man of ability in administrative and executive work, but the matters which I have mentioned as appertaining to medical work, are matters with which he as a business man can have no familiarity. Therefore, I suggest he is not a person who should be given the management of a hospital and put in a position in which he is deemed to be technically superior to the rest of the staff of the hospital.

It has been said to me that at present hospitals are managed by boards. They are under the control of boards, of course, but the board of a hospital has one or more expert advisers. The largest hospitals which we have in this country unfortunately — I say unfortunately, because if there were not need for them, they would not be so big — are the mental hospitals.

There is a committee in control, but there is a resident medical superintendent. The resident medical superintendent, though not technically the supreme authority in the house, is, undoubtedly, the practical authority over all matters that are purely professional. I do not know how far a board could instruct him on his own affairs, but I do know that it would not be tolerated either by the public, the Department of Local Government, or the Minister. Where a medical superintendent is brought into contact with the lay members of a board, he is almost certain to establish good working methods with them and the board are anxious to establish good working methods with him. They regard him as their expert adviser on professional matters and they get on very well. You have very rarely any instance of friction between resident medical superintendents and lay boards. You find that they work generally in happy comradeship and co-operation.

But, it is an entirely different proposition to consider if instead of putting in a group of men on a board of that kind who will establish amodus vivendi with the superintendent, you put in one man as a supreme authority. There may be certain persons who are difficult to get on with, but if you take any board, you find it is composed of average sensible men. Very often they are men of great administrative ability. There may be some cranky people among them, difficult to get on with, or faddists, but the weight of the board or committee will move on a fairly steady line and they will, practically always, I think, realise that in their medical adviser they have a source of advice from which they should not differ. If you have a single manager as dictator —I do not use the word offensively— as the supreme authority in the place and in a position to give orders to the resident medical superintendent or to a professional staff, you have a different position. Instead of having an expert giving advice to a sensible body of men, you have an expert giving advice to one man, who, on those matters, knows no more than anybody else.

He is not likely to form a sensible opinion, or his attitude is not likely to conduce to the same happy co-operation as exists between boards and their medical advisers. I am not at all suggesting that such happy co-ordination might not in some cases be established, but the mere fact that there are two people concerned and that one is an authority over the other, is likely to lead to a rather arbitrary attitude on the part of the one in authority. There is a certain hierarchy of authority established which is not necessarily the best, and I do not think that the Seanad should encourage the Government to establish a position such as that, in which considerable danger of friction might occur, and considerable embarrassment in the working of the institution. I am not clear yet as to what institutions this clause would really apply if it should become law. I am not sure, for instance, whether the Minister has the power at present over our mental hospitals of appointing a manager. Would the Minister say what the position is?

We shall have it when the Act comes into force.

The Principal Act?

That opens up a very wide field and, although I am not entitled to discuss it on this amendment, most of what I have been saying applies to that position which will arise when the Principal Act comes into force. I can only hope that the arguments have been fully before the Minister and that they may make him extremely slow to act under these powers and to appoint managers for such institutions as these—technical institutions, where technical knowledge is required for the due carrying out of their work. I am not suggesting at all that a great deal of improvements might not be made in the management of our hospitals, whether local authority hospitals or others, but I do not conceive the best way to do it is to take authority from the people who perform the best work of the hospital and have the necessary professional knowledge.

I suppose I have to make the Minister a present of the mental hospitals, as he has already got them in his grip, but there are certain other hospitals which may be affected, though it is not quite clear yet which they may be. As a layman, I find it extremely hard to track the different provisions from one Act to another. I am not sure how far the grip of this Section 3 will carry, but I gather it will apply to some hospitals in special circumstances, namely the teaching hospitals. Before I mention teaching hospitals, I want to point out that some of the mental hospitals are, also, teaching hospitals, and the only place where students can get instruction in that very important branch of medical work. But, there are, I believe, some others of our teaching hospitals which are not immediately affected by this provision but which are liable to be affected if the Bill passes, and if the Minister thinks fit to take the step which this section will enable him to take. In particular, I have in mind the position of the Fever Hospital in Dublin commonly known as Cork Street Fever Hospital. Cork Street Fever Hospital is in rather a peculiar position. It is an old voluntary hospital, over 100 years in existence, established by voluntary funds and administered by voluntary boards of governors for something over a century. It has conferred great benefits on the people of Dublin through all that time, making provision, before public provision was made, for people suffering from infectious diseases, and maintaining a high standard of charity, skill and devotion in the interests of the people.

The time came when it was thought fit to alter its constitution in such a way as to appear to strengthen it, by bringing in representatives of local authorities, and a board was established by the Dublin Fever Hospital Act of 1936, which contained representatives of certain local authorities in addition to a persistent representation of the old board of governors, representing the board which had managed the hospital for, I think, about 116 years previous to that. Various local authorities were empowered to appoint representatives to this joint board—the Corporation of Dublin and the County Dublin local authority—and there were a number of representatives of the old governors, who still persisted as governors' representatives, and whose presence there on that board is a guarantee that the old traditions of that hospital, which were such a credit to generations of governors, and such a benefit to the City of Dublin, should be carried on in the future of the hospital.

As far as I can understand, it may be possible for this section to apply to such a hospital as the Cork Street Hospital. At the moment, while the present board of health is in existence, I do not think the section would apply, because not half of the present Cork Street Board are, I think, appointed by the local authorities, but the board of health will presumably go as a result of recent legislation, and that will alter the constitution of the Cork Street Board, I am informed, in such a way as to make it come within the Minister's grasp and the grasp of this section.

I think it would be a disaster if such a power were given to the Minister. I am not suggesting at all that the Minister would be in a hurry to use it, but, when we give a power into the hands of a Minister, it is presumed that some Minister will use it at some time. Although our present Minister might hesitate to interfere so gravely with the traditions and history of a famous institution, it must be supposed that at some other time some other Minister, without the same interests and sympathies, might think it proper to appoint a manager in charge of the institution. Cork Street, in addition to its special history, as a hospital built up by the charitable citizens of Dublin, and to that extent the gift to the public by certain charitable people during the last 140 years, has also a duty to perform in addition to caring for the sick poor. It has the duty of teaching an important branch of infectious diseases to the medical students of Dublin. Particularly during recent years it has built up a reputation for teaching and for research which goes far beyond what had been the reputation of Dublin before. Unfortunately, Dublin for many generations had plenty of material for such teaching. It has been systematised and made scientific within recent years in a way which was never done before. I cannot believe that such a change as the putting of an institution like that, which is not merely a hospital but a seat of learning and research, under the care of a lay manager, can take place without doing considerable harm to the institution. I am not afraid that the Minister is likely to take this step even if he gets the power, but I would appeal to him not to take the power. I would appeal to him to accept the amendment which I have proposed, or some other amendment which would have the same effect.

Apparently he cannot make that effective as regards the other groups of hospitals of which I spoke, but he can in regard to those of which Cork Street is an example. I am not sure that there are not other teaching hospitals in other centres which may be affected as Cork Street is. It is very difficult to anticipate how far this section may reach, but I would appeal to the Minister to consider this matter carefully and sympathetically, and not to do anything which would cause anxiety to those whose heart has been in the work of that institution for many years, and some of whose families have been interested in it for over a century. I should say that Senator Douglas, who was associated with me in this amendment, has had to leave Ireland for the moment and, therefore, cannot be here to support it.

I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment.

I gathered from Senator Rowlette that he was not here when I pointed out that the reason why we had excluded ports and harbours authorities and vocational education committees from the terms of the section was that they do not in any circumstances come under the control of the Minister for Local Government, and that, therefore, I would not introduce a Bill dealing with them. Apart altogether from that, there is in the course of drafting at the moment a comprehensive Bill which will deal with the position of ports and harbours authorities in the country. As far as the position of vocational education committees is concerned, that was dealt with by the Act of 1930. I should say that I have considered the proposed amendment very carefully. I am sorry, but I think that it would stultify us if we were to exclude hospitals from the scope of the section. In considering the section, we have got to take a long view. It was not drafted with particular reference to hospitals. There are drainage boards and other joint bodies of like constitution where this position might arise. We have taken the long view, and we have assumed — as the Oireachtas has definitely adopted the managerial principle in relation to local administration—that, where it is clear that the local authority has the major interest and major responsibility for conducting, and particularly for financing, the hospital, there is no sound logical reason for excluding such an institution from the application of the managerial principle.

Let us think of what is proposed here, that where not less than half of the board of management of an institution — not merely a hospital, but any institution or undertaking which is in existence at the present time or which might be brought into existence in the future— is representative of or is nominated by two or more rating authorities, then the Minister may, if he thinks that the circumstances render it desirable, apply the managerial system to that particular organisation, whatever it may be. I think that it is illogical and an undue reflection upon the members of the local rating authorities that the Oireachtas — having decided that where they only jointly participate in the management of an undertaking it is not necessary to apply the managerial system to that undertaking —should decide that, where the members of the local authority are wholly responsible for financing the undertaking in question and for prescribing general policy in regard to it, then they are not fit to administer its concerns and a manager has to be put in. It would seem to me that, where there is a joint undertaking, where the committee of management represents not one single local authority, but is composed of two or more local authorities with perhaps competing interests, that if there is a need to apply the managerial system at all it exists in, I would almost say, a larger way in regard to the administration of joint undertakings, because I doubt whether those joint undertakings get the same sort of careful consideration which we know is given to an undertaking under the sole management of a local authority. I doubt that, but whether they do or not I think is really beside the point.

So far as hospitals are concerned, the principle has already been decided, because most of the hospitals—certainly, those widespread throughout the country — are already under the control of the local authorities, and to them the Oireachtas has already decided to apply the managerial system. Senator Rowlette referred to mental hospitals. I cannot recall a single case of a district mental hospital to which, as soon as the Principal Act comes into operation, the managerial system will not apply. It will, certainly, apply to county hospitals and to county hospitals which are, at the same time, teaching hospitals, to sanatoria, to district hospitals and, where the local authority has sole responsibility for the management, to fever hospitals. The principle of applying the managerial system to hospital administration has already been accepted by the Oireachtas. In the light of that, I think it may be said that this issue has already been decided.

That fact does indicate that the Oireachtas does not believe — and that would be the only justification for this amendment — that the application of the managerial principle to hospital administration will lead to vexatious interference with the medical staff in the proper discharge of their duties. What it does mean, perhaps, is that the Oireachtas recognises that this work of administration — seeing that the boiler-man does his job, that the stores are properly kept and that the buildings are maintained in proper repair—is not really work for a professional man or for a medical man, as such, but is work for a trained administrator. Having taken that view, I do not think that we can assume that the vexatious interference which Senator Rowlette fears is likely to arise in the case of any of these joint boards. In that connection, we have to bear in mind that more and more responsibility and a larger and larger share of the financial burden of running these institutions is being thrown back on the local authorities and the ratepayers.

In almost every case now the ratepayers provide by far the greater part of the finance in respect of these institutions. That is so, I think, in the case of Cork Street Fever Hospital. More of these joint bodies may come into existence, because the natural desire, so far as the development of medical and hospital services is concerned, is to associate the local authorities with these hospitals, and to get them to pay a reasonable proportion of the cost of the services they render to the citizens. The general tendency will, therefore, be to impose a greater share of the burden upon the local authorities and the ratepayers. When we have said that it is proper, in the interests of the protection of the ratepayers, to apply the managerial system to hospitals which are under the sole control of local authorities, there is, I think, no good ground, in principle at any rate, for excepting the joint undertaking where the majority of the committee of management or of the trustees of what ever board may be administering the hospital are representative of the local authorities, and where, because they have this representation, the local authorities have to carry the major portion of the expense.

Senator Rowlette has said that it has been comparatively easy to work with the committees when they have been numerous, when they have represented even conflicting interests, and when they consisted of laymen. He said that the professional men connected with the administrative side found it comparatively easy to work with these bodies. If arrangements between lay committees, on the one hand, and professional men, on the other hand, have worked satisfactorily, it is likely that the new system will work even more satisfactorily, because the medical men will now have to deal with a trained administrator, with a person who will not be subject to the same sort of conflicting motives which often animate even the best of assemblies or the best of boards. They will be dealing with a person who will himself be responsible to the general public, and, of course, to a committee also for the administration of the institution.

Will the managerial system abolish joint boards?

They will remain?

Yes. Senator Rowlette seemed to be under the impression that the joint board would disappear. The board will remain in exactly the same position as the local authority at present and the manager or his deputy—presumably, he will appoint a deputy in a case of this sort —will be responsible to the joint board. Everything it has been sought to secure by constituting the boards of these hospitals as they are at present will be achieved — even with the manager. The Senator has suggested that the representatives of the original committees of these hospitals might consent to sit on the boards and see that the old traditions of the institutions were preserved. There will be no change in that regard. They will still be able to do so and to make representations to the manager. If a conflict arises between the manager and the medical staff, they will be there and, if necessity arises, they will, no doubt, arbitrate between them. It is not intended that they should disappear. The only thing we are asking is that, if it becomes manifest that it is in the public interest to apply this managerial system to existing institutions or to institutions which may come into existence in the future, we shall be able to do it. It seemed to me, when I commenced to consider this whole question, that, owing to the manifold activities in which local authorities are tending to engage and the needs which may have to be met in the future by institutions devisedad hoc, the proper thing to do, when bringing this managerial principle into operation, would be to take such powers as would enable us to give effect to it wherever the need for it seemed to have arisen. It is with this end in view that the section was drafted in the form in which it now is.

If you take Laoighis-Offaly, I think this amending Bill is designed to separate them. There are two county managers, one in Offaly and the other in Laoighis. There is a joint committee in Laoighis and there is already a commissioner in Laoighis and a committee of management in Laoighis. Under this Bill, what would be the position?

That position is not affected by this Bill because I think the committee of management concerned consists only of representatives of local authorities, I may say that in a particular case where there is a joint board of that sort the Minister will have the power to determine which of the county managers is to act. In the case of Laoighis-Offaly it does not matter, for the county manager will become the manager.

But what will happen when there are two county managers?

Until the Laoighis body has been resettled on an elected basis the Minister will determine which of the temporary county managers in these counties will administer the affairs of the hospital.

I hope that is clear.

With most of the Minister's speech I have no concern at all, because he was dealing with a matter that I had not raised. He was dealing with a general advocacy of the county management system. I know that is a settled question. I did not raise it, but I have asked for an exception in a particular case. The Minister refuses, as far as I can make out, to concede what I had asked in the amendment, that these hospitals should be excluded from the Bill. I take it that that is so and that the Minister is declining to accept my amendment.

I ask the Minister then to consider the matter a bit further, to see if he could not make some slight modification of the terms of the section which might at least meet some of the objections which a good many people feel. These objections are not peculiar to myself. They are felt not only by members of my profession, but by many people interested in the working of hospitals. The other point is as regards the teaching hospitals. The Minister went so far as to say that he would make no special concession as regards the teaching hospitals. I would like to press him to consider whether the local authority, acting through the manager, is likely to be as helpful to the freedom and the scientific outlook of a teaching establishment as the local authority by itself would be. Another point I ask the Minister to consider is the alteration of some words. He might consider amending the clause which specifies "not less than half of the members". If he were to say "more than half" it might take away some of the objections. I think it would probably meet the objections or fear that might possibly be aroused in Cork Street. The Minister is not giving away very much in that. He has made the case that where a local authority contributes the major part of the funds or constitutes the majority of the governing body the managerial system should hold. In what way the managerial system is regarded as a sop to the local authority I have not been able to understand. I had not regarded the managerial system as a recognition of local authority. I have always regarded it as rather a denial. Apparently I am wrong. That, however, is not very relevant to what we are discussing. I ask the Minister to consider very carefully the question of accepting these words "more than half" instead of "not less than half". It only makes a difference of one in the constitution of the board. I noticed in his plea at the end, when he came to tell us of the power of the local authority, that all he said was that they would be able to make recommendations, but they had no power to insist on their being carried out. The manager has power to act on the recommendations, but they are not mandatory upon him, so that we are left with the very thin consolation that the local authority has power to consider a matter and make recommendations. We are told that the Board of Cork Street may make recommendations to the manager and thereby carry on the traditions of the hospital. That gives us no great security, and I hope the Minister will consider making these concessions.

I just want to say that I will look into the points which the Senator has mentioned. I think if he looks at Section 29 of the Principal Act he will find

"Any council of a county or any elective body at a meeting specially summoned for the purpose under this section, may by resolution proposed and passed in accordance with this section require any particular act, matter, or thing specifically mentioned in such resolution and which such council or the county manager for such county or such elective body or the manager for such elective body (as the case may be) can lawfully do, to be done in exercise or performance of the executive functions of such council or body."

I want to point out that while I did use the expression "make representations", in fact the committee can do a lot more than make representations, provided it is prepared to accept responsibility for them.

Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is the amendment withdrawn?

I sympathise with Senator Rowlette, but I am afraid his grievance is against the Principal Act rather than this particular Bill. I understand from what has been said, and from my understanding of the Principal Act, that when the managerial system is applied the manager will take over certain powers of the local authorities in regard to the boards of the hospitals, but in this particular Bill we cannot add to or subtract from the powers of the boards of the hospitals. The position, when this Bill becomes an Act, will be that Cork Street Hospital Board will retain its members from Dublin Corporation and the county council. The county council would have a manager instead of the secretary.

That is all.

I do not know what we could do about that except to alter the Principal Act, and we cannot do that in this particular discussion. The joint board in the teaching hospitals still will exist and still will be dealing with members of local bodies. With regard to the exercise of certain functions, it will have to deal with managers, but unless the Principal Act makes the manager a dictator with regard to the hospitals, then as far as this section is concerned, he gets no more powers than he had before. If we were voting on this particular amendment, I am not quite clear as to what we would be accomplishing. Regarding the further suggestion made by Senator Rowlette, I take it that that depends on whether or not the local body is the principal contributor to the hospitals rather than on the number of members appointed.

I do not want to commit myself to the form of words which Senator Rowlette has given, but I will look into this very sympathetically. If the Senator does not press this, he may have an opportunity to raise it on the Report Stage, and I will see whether we could not substitute the phrase: "more than half the members" for the phraseology in the Bill.

With regard to the teaching hospitals, I will look into that; but I want to say that there is a number of teaching hospitals managed by local bodies, which are public hospitals run by local bodies, such as in Galway and Cork. In those cases, the manager system will be applied, and I would feel very reluctant to accept — in fact, I could not accept—a resolution that would take teaching hospitals out of the scope of the Bill.

In consideration of what the Minister has said, and of his promise, I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the section, I presume this does not apply to bodies like county committees of agriculture?

They are under the control of the Minister for Agriculture.

Section 3 agreed to.
SECTION 4.

I move amendment No. 2:—

To delete sub-section (1).

I put this amendment down as a result of what we heard from the Minister on the Second Stage, and to contest the point that a person who has been made by the Minister a commissioner acting for a local body should be in a priority or privileged position when a manager is being selected. The Principal Act lays down the priority principle. The secretary of a county council and other such officials are given priority, that is to say, if a county manager is to be selected, the Local Appointments Commissioners have the obligation to consider, in the first instance, the county secretary, I think, and only when they consider that he is not a proper person can they go on to consider any other candidate. The Minister has gone a step further in this particular Bill, and has placed a commissioner appointed by himself in the position of, I think, third preference, so that other qualified people are only considered after the Local Appointments Commissioners have come to the conclusion that the commissioner is not a qualified person.

In this particular amendment I do not wish to raise a discussion on, or to contest, the priority principle in the Principal Act, or the whole commissioner scheme. I recognise that commissioners are necessary sometimes, and I have nothing against any particular commissioner. I know some who are particularly well qualified, and I have some knowledge of the two persons mentioned by Senator Quirke as having given great satisfaction in their areas. I have nothing against any individual, but merely look at it from the point of view of filling the post. The Minister selects the commissioners generally from the ranks of the Civil Service, I think; he rarely selects a commissioner from, let us say, the staff of the Dublin Corporation. Let us take the Dublin Corporation as an example merely to illustrate my case. A great many years ago the Dublin Corporation displayed great enlightenment by selecting its clerks on an open competitive basis. That was, I remember, a very considerable step forward. The main clerical offices are filled by persons who got into the corporation service by that particular method.

Some of them have, in the interval, got university degrees, some have been called to the Bar, and many have very wide experience of local government in so far as it applies to the City of Dublin. I take it that that experience would be useful in other parts of the country. If a managerial post became vacant, some of those people obviously would be qualified, if they cared to apply for it.

I do not understand why a person who applies from the City of Dublin, the City of Cork or a county like Galway, should find himself in a position that a commissioner with, perhaps, only a few months' experience—by the mere fact that he was selected by the Minister to be a commissioner — is not only a candidate but a candidate in a privileged position, who must be considered in a certain priority before any other employee of a local body or any other person who has got experience which the Local Appointments Commissioners may deem suitable. For the purpose of this particular amendment, I am not questioning that the Local Appointments Commissioners will do their best to recommend the most suitable person. Since the passing of the Local Bodies (Employees) Act the particular Act setting up the Local Appointments Commissioners, a considerable number of people have been appointed by them to various posts throughout the country. None of those is likely to be appointed a commissioner by this Minister or any other Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and I would like to hear why those who were appointed through the Local Appointments Commissioners, in the first instance because of their experience and qualifications — either university or professional qualifications — should now have to wait until a commissioner has been considered.

This seems to me an inequitable proceeding, which would need more justification than the Minister has given. From the point of view of the commissioners, I do not see what injustice would accrue to them by their being taken out of the position given to them here. I accept that the Minister for Local Government, whoever he is, will do his best, when appointing a commissioner, to get a competent person and that the person will have, say, a good Civil Service record.

That being so, there will be added to that Civil Service record an experience as commissioner. Then the post of county manager will become vacant, and that particular commissioner can present to the Local Appointments Commissioners and to the selection board his experience in the Civil Service, his special selection by the Minister, his special experience, and his experience as commissioner. The Local Appointments Commissioners are to consider all that and give it due weight. I do not see why he should be put in a better position than that. The Minister's choice is limited in practice. I do not understand why the people he has chosen should get a special position when a Manager is to be appointed. On that ground, it seems to me that this particular sub-section should be deleted, and that, with the exception of the priorities arranged in the Principal Act, there should be a fair field and no favour for all the people who think they have, or have in fact, qualifications for the position of manager.

First of all, I should like to make this point quite clear. The selection board only applies to persons who are acting as commissioners for county councils or for boards of health at the date of the passing of the Act. I think that will dispose of the objection which Senator Hayes has directed against the section, that it would be possible for a person who had only held office for a month to get priority simply because of the fact that he has been appointed by the Minister a commissioner for one or other of those bodies.

I think if this Bill goes through, as expeditiously as I hope, it will be quite clear that there will be no question of the Minister appointing commissioners either to administer counties or boards of health before the limit, which is imposed by the definition section of the Act, begins to operate.

Is that in the definition section?

It is. "The expression ‘existing commissioner' means a person who is a sole commissioner at the passing of this Act". It does not apply to those who are joint commissioners.

Would the Minister say how many there are?

There are altogether seven persons acting for county councils or boards of health.

Some of them have been acting for a long time.

Yes. Of these seven commissioners, one is, in fact, secretary of a county council and has already secured his priority under the Principal Act. Another is the commissioner who is acting for the Dublin County Council and the Dublin Board of Public Health, Balrothery and Rathdown Boards of Assistance. There are only five persons who would benefit by the provisions of this section and all of these have been acting for considerable periods.

One since 1924.

Some of them since 1934; one since 1924.

I thought so.

He would be an existing commissioner, but I do not think he would be eligible under the section in respect of every appointment he has held since 1924. The next thing we have to consider is that, first of all, existing secretaries of county councils and existing secretaries of boards of health get priority of consideration in respect to their own counties.

If they are not found to be suitable for appointment as county managers in their own counties, they then, under the Principal Act, get priority in respect of other counties, and the practical problem which we have in front of us is, that we feel that the number of persons who have had the necessary experience to become county managers is at the moment somewhat limited. On the other hand, we have a number of people who have had considerable experience in respect of such county management, and are we going to allow the present position to exist, which would mean that they would not arise at all for consideration until those officers who have been deemed to be unsuitable for appointment as county managers in their own counties have been considered? It seems to me that the simplest way out of the dilemma would be to say that in counties where the councils are not suspended we shall not touch existing priorities of the secretary of a county council or the secretary of a board of health in respect of his own county but that we shall assert that before any person who has not been found to be suitable for appointment as manager in his own county comes to be considered in relation to another county a commissioner, if he wishes to go for the post — and it is again doubtful whether he will think the post sufficiently attractive — should get prior consideration.

The next point arises in connection with a county which has been administered by a commissioner, and where the county secretary has been found to be suitable for the post of manager. The commissioner will ultimately be free to accept another post, in another county, and in a county where the existing county secretary or the secretary of the board of health has been found by the Local Appointments Commissioners not to be suitable for appointment, we propose that this commissioner, with the experience which he has, should be considered in priority to any other applicant for the post from another county, bearing in mind what I have already said, that in most of these appointments the persons who would arise for consideration in counties other than their own would be people whom the Local Appointments Commissioners would deem to be unsuitable for appointment in their own county.

Therefore, to shorten the procedure and to ensure that these men will receive early consideration, in regard to suitability, the amendment of the Principal Act is proposed. As I say, it affects only five of the existing seven commissioners. Of these five, some are elderly men, some may not elect to be considered and others of them may not find the post financially attractive. While I think, therefore, that there would not be such an undue interference with the competitive rights of other members of the local services and that no great harm would be done, a great deal of time may be saved and some of the existing commissioners may be encouraged to apply for county management appointments which otherwise they might not be inclined to seek.

I drew the attention of the Minister on a previous occasion to the desirability of putting secretaries of county committees of agriculture on a par with secretaries of county councils and secretaries of boards of health in regard to these appointments. Some of these men hold university degrees, and many of them have a good knowledge of accountancy. They are experts in agriculture and are constantly in touch with the agricultural community. They have sprung from the land and were originally selected by competitive examination. All of them are capable men and I think they would make excellent managers. I should like the Minister to give them a preference in these appointments.

They would be outside the scope of this Bill, I am afraid.

Do I understand from the Minister that at the moment, instead of having a surplus of probable candidates, the Ministry of Local Government feel that they are going to have far fewer than is desirable?

There will not be such wide competition.

The Minister has referred to the position where we are going to have secretaries of county councils who are not regarded as suitable for posts in their own counties, available for posts in neighbouring counties. I do not think we were thinking so much of the secretary of a county council who would not be so useful in his own county but who would still be eligible in another county. We were thinking of the individual who would be one of two where the two counties were coming under the management of one individual, and only one of them could get the appointment. If that individual is to be put into a position where he cannot get the post in the area in which he has been operating, is he not going to be put in the same position of preference in a neighbouring county, or is it the position that a man who has been acting as commissioner is going to get a preferential position as against the other official who could not possibly have got it? It is one thing to reject the individual who is regarded as not having sufficient competence in the area in which he has functioned himself, but it is a different situation where you have two men of equal, or almost equal, competence. One of them gets the post in preference to the other, but the other man goes out to compete against a man who has been commissioner in another area. I think that the preference a man has enjoyed in the county where he has been operating should be retained by him when he goes to a neighbouring county to compete.

There are two separate cases to be considered. First of all, there is the case where the Act comes into full operation at once, where the county council exists, and where the county is not a grouped county. In that case the permanent county manager will be appointed, and the position of the county secretary will be that he will get absolute preference, to be followed by the preference of the commissioner after that. Where the counties are grouped, we have endeavoured by paragraph 4 of Section 1 to preserve for each of the county secretaries the priority of consideration he would get when the first appointment is being made. I think the case Senator Baxter has referred to is that where a county is a grouped county, where the permanent manager is appointed for a group of counties, and where he happens to be one of the county secretaries. He is concerned with the case of the other county secretary, who has to go elsewhere to look for another appointment. There we have to balance up the fact that we have commissioners who have had long experience, men who have long carried the responsibility of a county manager and have had experience of the post. With the exception of one county secretary administering a county board of health, no county secretary has yet had managerial experience.

A man may be a good secretary operating under the control of a commissioner, or the control of the local authority, but he may turn out to be a disappointing county manager. On the other hand, the Local Appointments Commissioners will have this to guide them — in regard to the existing commissioners they know they have had this experience and they can look at their record as commissioners. With that record in front of them, they can decide whether they are going to be suitable. In the light of that, it would be regrettable if the Local Appointments Commissioners were precluded from considering the suitability of existing commissioners at an early stage.

They could not be precluded.

They are precluded. They could be precluded if we did not introduce the existing commissioners into the priority scheme.

Because there is a long list?

There is a long list, and they would have to go right down along that list. They would have to decide whether their record as county commissioners is a good one or not. They would have to determine the issue of suitability on that record. In the case of that record, they have something more to go on than mere secretarial experience. They have actual managerial experience and I think in the light of that it would be regrettable if they were to be precluded from considering, at an early stage, the only persons in the country who have actual managerial experience.

I desire to ask the Minister to explain the procedure as to the receiving of applications. Do we assume that we shall have the county secretary, the secretary of the board of health and the existing commissioners in that order? Would the county secretary be considered first, the secretary of the board of health secondly, and the commissioner thirdly? Will all these be applicants at the same time? It is a point of procedure. What is running through my mind is that if three individuals are to go before a selection board on the same day, or on subsequent days, the fact that three of them are applicants would weigh the scale in favour of the commissioner if he was number three. They are considering the county secretary to-day, the secretary of the board of health next, and the commissioner on the day after that, and the tendency, I feel, with the selection board would not be to wait until they had interviewed the three. The position I would like to have cleared up is: Is the county secretary considered and finished with, and do they come then to the secretary of the board of health and, if he is not suitable either, do they then come to the commissioner, who cannot be an applicant until the other two are dealt with? My question is: Is each candidate separate or are they candidates jointly? If there are three candidates together, the tendency will be for the selection board to say: "We are coming to the commissioner. He is the man the Minister sent down, and we will have to consider him before we consider any of them"?

I gather from what the Minister has said that if you take grouped counties where you have a commissioner in one county, and the county secretary and secretary of the board of health in the other, the commissioner in one county would automatically become the county manager of the grouped counties?

I gathered that was what the Minister said. He said he would have preference for the man who had already had managerial experience which the county secretaries had not.

Only if they had been rejected. The point raised by Senator O'Donovan is one I cannot answer, because the Minister for Local Government has not the responsibility for recommending any person. Under sub-section (2) of Section 4 the responsibility is put on the Local Appointments Commissioners of recommending a person to be county manager. How they will proceed I do not know, but they will undoubtedly have to proceed in the light of the order of priorities laid down. They will make regulations whether applications will be received from all parties on the one day, or whether they will proceed to consider the county secretaries before they determine to look elsewhere for a suitable county manager.

But does not priority mean that? Does it mean that they will do what Senator O'Donovan suggested, that they will consider the secretary, and only when they have satisfied themselves that he is not suitable will they consider somebody else?

The point I am making is that the Minister cannot determine procedure.

Yes, but the Principal Act gives them certain directions. I had some experience of this on the Civil Service Commission, and I do not know what else priority can mean but that the commissioners are bound to consider the county secretary first, and only when they decide that he is not suitable for the post will they consider somebody else, I presume.

Many of those county secretaries and secretaries of boards of health are approaching retiring age. Is that to be taken into consideration in considering their probable appointment?

Some of those men are within two or three years of the retiring age. Would that be taken into consideration?

I am certain it would be. I will qualify that by saying I hope it would be.

There is not so much in this as I thought in the beginning. It applies only to five people. As a matter of fact I had in my mind that people who had spent a period of five years or more as commissioners might be left the privilege given to them in Section 4 of this amending Bill. At the same time, the more the Minister explained it the more I was inclined to think that there was not much in it one way or the other. The Local Appointments Commissioners must be deemed to be able to do their own job. If the commissioner has had this experience which makes him peculiarly suitable to be a manager, the Local Appointments Commissioners will, presumably, advert to that, and, if they have on their list a person who has that kind of experience, and who is otherwise suitable, they would presumably prefer him to a person who has not had that kind of experience. I do not know what kind of disadvantage the commissioner would suffer from in the competition if he did not get the particular privilege in this section. However, as the number is only five, and as no others can be appointed, presumably, before this Bill becomes an Act, and as we have already established the priority system in the Principal Act, I suppose the matter is not worth dividing the House on. But I am not so sure that there is so extremely small a number of people competent to be county managers as the Minister thinks. I am inclined to think that character should be as important as qualifications, and we ought to have enough people of character to do the job.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to have some further clarification of the question I raised originally. I am not acquainted with the facts with regard to those particular areas where you have a commissioner operating in two counties, but I take it from what the Minister has said that if one of those secretaries fails, as he must, to obtain the post of manager in his own county, he will only be considered for the post in another county after the secretary of the county council, the secretary of the board of health and the possible commissioner have failed to get the appointment?

The Department, of course, knows what the position is in those areas, but it does seem to me that a considerable injustice might be done to a very competent individual. It is quite conceivable that you could have, in two adjoining counties, two of the best secretaries of county councils in the country, and one of them, in those circumstances, might absolutely fail to get the post of county manager anywhere. I think a matter like that ought to be considered. I think he should, at least, be on level terms with the commissioner, who may have walked into that post only two or three months before. I think in the case of a man who may have given, perhaps, 30 years as secretary to a county council, and who would find himself excluded because of what we are doing now, it would be very hard on him, and I think it would not be wise from the point of view of local administration. Again, I say that I do not know the facts in the particular counties. The Minister may say that in any case those individuals would not come up to the requisite level, and that there is no use in making provision for them. If such be the case, I let the point go, but otherwise I think it ought to be possible to leave the matter open in such a way as to give that kind of man a chance.

If I had to do it over again I think we should have no priorities at all.

That would be the proper scheme

But that has not been done.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5, 6 and 7 put and agreed to.
SECTION 8.

Leas-Chathaoirleach

Níl leasú Uimh. a trí in ordu. Níl sa Bhille ach Bille Leasúcháin. Ní foláir aon leasú déanfaí do theacht fé réim an Bhille féin mar do léigheadh é don dara huair agus gan é do bhaint ach le forálacha an Phríomh-Acta fe mar atáid le hathrú ag an mBille. Amendment No. 3 is not in order. This is merely an amending Bill. It is not possible to go outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time, and amendments must deal only with the provisions of the Principal Act as affected by the Bill.

Ba mhaith liom cupla focal a rá chun a mhíniú don Aire an rud a bhí im' intinn...

Leas-Chathaoirleach

Ní féidir diosbóireacht a bheith againn ar an gceist.

An rialú nua é sin?

Leas-Chathaoirleach

Sean-rialú iseadh é.

Section 8 and the Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage ordered for next meeting of the Seanad.