Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 9 Jul 1947

Vol. 34 No. 3

Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Bill, 1947 ( Certified Money Bill ) —Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill contains two amendments to the Act of 1938. Section 2 effects an amendment to that Act in respect of travelling expenses. The principal effect of the amendment is to permit of the repayment, at the full mileage rate sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, of expenses of travelling in a member's own motor-car, even in cases where railway travelling is available for the whole or part of the distance covered. The definition in the Principal Act does not allow of the repayment of such expenses in so far as they exceed the cost of first-class railway travelling in respect of any portion of a journey for which railway travelling is available. The additional expenditure which would result from the proposed amendment cannot be estimated, even approximately, as it would, of course, depend on the extent to which members use their own cars in future and the mileage rates approved.

Section 3 (1) proposes to increase by 30 per cent. the allowance of £40 per month payable to a member of Dáil Eireann. The new rate of allowance will be £52 per month. Sub-section (2) proposes an increase of 30 per cent. in the allowance of £30 payable to members of Seanad Eireann. The new rate of allowance will be £39 per month. In recent arrangements for consolidation of the basic salary and bonus of civil servants, a civil servant whose total pay in 1939 was £480—the same sum as a member of the Dáil now receives— obtained an increase of 37½ per cent. A civil servant whose total pay was £360—the same as the amount which a Senator receives—obtained an increase of 41 per cent. The total cost of the increases in allowances will be £23,800 per annum, approximately.

This question of the payment of allowances to members of the Parliament raises fundamental problems as to the working of a democracy. I should like to say a few words about the problems that arise but, before doing so, I should like to deal with the last point made by the Minister. There is absolutely no analogy between the allowances made to members of Dáil Eireann or Seanad Eireann and the payments made to civil servants. A civil servant who was in receipt of £360 and who obtained an increase pays income-tax on his salary, including the increase, and is expected to live out of the amount paid him. The position of members of the Dáil and Seanad is quite different. While there may be a case for increased allowances to members of the Dáil and members of the Seanad, that case does not in any way rest upon an analogy with that of civil servants who are paid a salary for work done in what is called full-time employment.

As regards the problems which arise, it has been recognised for quite a long time that in a democracy people should be able to become members of the Parliament without loss to themselves. It should be made clear at the outset that public representatives are not paid for their service. The theory, at any rate, is that they get an allowance for expenses, so that a man who desires to serve his country in the Parliament will not be at a loss. In connection with that, it must be recognised that the duties of members of Parliament, and more particularly of members of the Dáil or any similar House in any other country, are becoming more varied, more difficult and more onerous every day.

Legislation is now of so varied a character that the Order Paper for today contains a Courts of Justice Bill, a Great Southern Railways Bill, and a Clean Wool Bill. Last week, we had a Bill dealing with dairy products and measures dealing with other matters. It is really impossible for the ordinary Deputy now to follow legislation. Having regard to the immense increase in the powers of the State and of the Government, criticism of administration, or the details of administration, is becoming a matter of very great difficulty. Intervention by the State—I do not want to use any controversial term; if I do so, I shall do so unwittingly— brings to Deputies and, to some extent, to Senators an immense correspondence, which is concerned neither with legislation nor administration. In other words, as a member of the other House explained at some length, the office of Deputy is becoming a full-time job. That is a point we should consider. It cannot be disposed of in the brief way in which the Minister dealt with it here to-night. It raises the question whether we expect members of the Dáil —particularly members of the Dáil—to be full-time officers. Speaking entirely for myself, I often thought of a method which would be suitable for remedying that situation.

A certain effort was made, by, I think, the Minister for Local Government in the Cosgrave administration, to adopt that method but there was a shower of criticism about it. A method of limiting Deputies' work would be to prevent them from writing to Government Departments. If Deputies and Senators were prevented from communicating with Government Departments, their work would be much lessened. That may sound drastic. It may, perhaps, be too drastic. But it should be considered. If it were adopted in any form, it would considerably lighten the burden of Deputies and Senators, particularly Deputies.

If we are of opinion that Deputies should do all this writing and interviewing in connection with the claims of various people upon Government Departments, we are forced into consideration of the problem—whether the full-time politician, the person who is going to make a living out of politics and devote all his time to it, is a better representative than the person who has made good in some profession, trade, vocation or occupation, proposes to devote part of his time to politics and expects to get from politics merely what will reimburse him the expense and loss incurred.

If we are going to adopt the view that we want full-time politicians I hold that it has many disadvantages. One immediate problem that arises is that the full-time politician will have to be paid a salary and that he will have to pay income-tax on that salary, as a civil servant does. That is one thing which strikes me about Dáil Eireann. By increasing the allowance of Deputies to a figure of very nearly £1,000, if it were subject to income-tax, we are bringing ourselves nearer to the position in which the Deputy will become or will be expected to be a professional whole-time politician. I think this matter is well worth impartial and non-partisan discussion as to whether we are not getting nearer to that position and as to whether that position is not a wholly bad position for us to get into. The Minister will probably agree with me in this instance.

Whatever may be said for the Minister and myself in our respective positions now, one thing that can be said is that we got into politics originally on an entirely altruistic basis. If we are going to have a situation in which Deputies are full-time professional politicians one result will be that they will leave legislation and administration wholly to Ministers and experts and that the full-time politician will spend his time lobbying and that he will never criticise anything except in cases where the interests of a constituent may be involved. We are all familiar with that. We are all familiar with the type of individual who does not read a Bill, who does not know anything about the principle involved, who does not say a word on any particular stage but who is anxious to find out whether under a particular section, he can get something for Patrick Murphy and whether the Minister can say whether Patrick Murphy will get it. That is a very undesirable position. It means that neither legislation nor administration in the other House would be given any criticism or examination at all.

I would like to leave that problem there as far as the other House is concerned. It seems to me that the increase in Deputies' allowances and the tendency to increase them steadily and gradually will also tend to commercialise and professionalise politics which, to my mind, is very bad. I do not say for a moment that I have a remedy and I do not think that the Minister has an immediate remedy either, but it is something all of us, and particularly the people who were responsible for bringing into existence here a new State in Ireland, should give consideration to. I consider that merely to take a figure of £480 in 1939 and to add 30 per cent. to it is simply a lazy method—lazy mentally—and a refusal to face a very real problem. So much for the Dáil.

With regard to the Seanad, I consider that the Seanad is on a different footing from the Dáil. Whatever one may think of the way this House is constituted, or of its work, there will be general agreement that the Second House should differ fundamentally from the First and that the Seanad should certainly not be a profession or a living for anybody. I think it will be agreed also that the expenses of a member of the Seanad are not as heavy nor is the work as onerous as is the case of a member of the Dáil. Speaking for myself, I see no case for an increase and I would very much like to hear a case made for an increase. I think that even the comparatively small number of Senators who work hard in the Seanad have no case for an increase of this nature to meet their expenses.

Again speaking entirely for myself, I would like to see a completely new approach to this question of Senators' allowances. I think we will never have a satisfactory Seanad until we arrive at the situation where the Seanad will not carry a monthly allowance at all. I think the system whereby every member, irrespective of attendance, simply gets £30 a month or as the Minister now proposes, £39 a month, is not going to give a good Seanad. Senators should certainly be paid travelling expenses and subsistence expenses. I fully realise that there is a very substantial difference in the case of Dublin residents such as myself and people from the country. I realise that the Senators from the country have much more expense and that the work is very much more difficult for them. I think that these expenses should be met but only when the Senator comes to Dublin to the Seanad, and the situation should be that where a Senator does not do any work for the Seanad he will get no pay from the State or allowances for expenses either. I feel that that could be done. While I was Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, I often considered whether that could be done in the case of Deputies. I came to the conclusion —I think it was quoted in a Parliamentary answer recently—that it could not be done. I would have great difficulty even yet in getting that done. I feel, however, that it is not beyond the wit of man or of the combined wisdom of this House to find a scheme whereby Senators would only be paid expenses actually incurred in coming to Dublin to the Seanad. I think we are hampered in that course by the Constitution for a certain type of Seanad is actually laid down in the Constitution.

Just a few sentences to make my case clearer. I think the Seanad should have a political basis. I do not agree that experts in other subjects, with no knowledge or interest in public affairs, can be satisfactory legislators. The Seanad should have a political basis by way of nomination by the Government and by political Parties: it should have a number of of ex-officio members, and it should have direct election from certain vocational bodies. That would replace the present system which I consider to be humbug. I think it is quite clear that the Seanad should not be a means of living for anybody and that nobody should be paid except for expenses incurred on transport and expenses for maintenance in Dublin while the Seanad is meeting. Machinery could be devised by which it would be made clear that that money would not be paid except to a person who actually came and attended. I put that suggestion forward as something which would I think be worthy of examination.

I think I would like to hear from Senators who may have different experience to mine whether they think that there is in fact a case for increasing the allowance at present enjoyed by all Senators. I think the examination of this problem would be very useful and that this Bill, as far as Senators are concerned, could very well wait. We have no power over the distribution of money. We have no power to prevent the Dáil from fixing its own allowances. We have power merely to discuss, so to speak, the philosophy of that question. I consider that this percentage method that has been adopted in this Bill and the perfunctory case the Minister made for it is—I say so without offence—lazy and thoughtless. There is no sense whatever in a percentage increase basis unless it is related to a cost of living. These allowances are not related to a cost of living.

Therefore, if I may resume my case I think we should discuss and should get discussed by all parties and perhaps by outsiders as well whether we want our politics to fall entirely into the hands of full-time professional politicians. If so we must pay them a salary and if we pay them a salary they must pay income-tax. I think the payment of a salary for ordinary membership of either of the two Houses would be a very bad thing. Whatever case there may be for the other House there is no case for this House. This House should consist of people who have something to contribute. This House can only have value in relation to the contribution members may make in the discussion of various problems. It should consist of people for whom the Seanad is not a living but who have made good in other walks of life and who are devoting themselves to politics as members of the Seanad and who should be reimbursed for expenses but not paid for their services. If that were done it would be an immense improvement to the two Houses. For that reason, I am opposed to this Bill and particularly to that part of it which proposes to increase the remuneration of Senators. I consider that the whole matter would bear a non-Party examination.

Is dóigh liom go mba cheart do dhuine éigin rud éigin a rá ar shon daoine nach bhféadfadh teacht go dtí an Seanad mura bhfaighidís liúntas de mhéid éigin. Admhím nach bhfuil an Seanadóir Ó hAodha i gcoinne liúntaisí a ligint le daoine. Ach is baolach gurb é an bunsmaoineamh a bhí ina intinn aige nach ceart daoine a bheith ar an Seanad mura daoine iad atá neamhspleách ar ioncam ar bith a gheobhaidís ón Seanad. Sílim, mura mbéinn ag dul as an mbealach sa díospóireacht seo, go bhféadfainn a rá gur cuma liom féin an bhfaighinn liúntas nó nach bhfaighinn. Sa gcaoi a bhfuil an saol, buíochas le Dia, agam fhéin, do bheinn in ann teacht go dtí an Seanad agus mo chuid chostas d'íoc gan liúntas d'fháil. Dhéanfainn é da mba ghá é, ach is ceist eile í an ceart iarraidh orm é sin a dhéanamh. Ach seo í an cheist—an ceart mise nó mo leithéidse a thógáil mar chaighdeán don tSeanad ar fad? Is cuimhin liom go rí-mhaith nuair bhí mé i mo ghasúr an díospóireacht a bhí ar bun go láidir san am i bParlaiméid Shasana agus taobh amuigh dhi i dtaobh liúntaisí a ligint le lucht na Parlaiméide sin. Is minic a léigh mé siar sna leabhraí atá scríofa ar lucht oibre agus ar chúrsaí ceard chumanachta agus is cuimhin liom anois go maith na hargóintí a rinneadh i bhfábhar liúntaisí réasúnta a ligint le daoine a raibh dúil acu dul isteach i bPárlaiméid, ach nach raibh sáthach acmhainneach air mura bhfaghidís cabhair airgid chuige.

Má shocraímid nach ligfimid le daoine aon ní i riocht liúntaisí ach go ndíolfaimid a gcuid costaisí amháin, chomh cinnte agus tá mé anseo táimid ag dúnadh doras an tSeanaid agus doras na Dála ar go leor daoine gurb é leas an náisiúin a gcabhair a bheith aige sa bParlaiméid.

Tá na hargóintí go láidir ann i bhfábhar liúntais a íoc. Ach is é an t-aon cheist amháin atá le réiteach cé mhéid ba cheart a ligint. Shocraíomar —ní cuimhin liom cén uair, mar ní raibh mé sa Teach san am, ná b'fhéidir spéis agam ann—go ligfí liúntais le ball an tSeanaid agus go mbeadh £360 fáil acu —tharla sin i mbliain 1938. Is cosúil gur socraíodh an t-am sin gur suim réasúnta é sin don ghnath-dhuine—ní dom leithéidí, go bhfuil profeisiún againn, ná do dhaoine eile a bhfuil ioncam mór acu as a gcuid gnótha agus atá neamhspleách—a mbheadh dúil aige dul isteach sa tSeanad agus gurbh é toil an phobail é a chur ann.

Má ba suim réasúnta an £360 i 1938, is ceist í an suim réasúnta í anois. Aontódh an Seanadóir Ó hAodha liom go rabhamarne, lucht na hOllscoile, go bhfuil postaí réasúnta seasmhach compordach againn, go rabhamar mífhoighdeach i rith na mblianta atá caite, faoi nach raibh an tuarastal ard go leor againn. Bhí daoine mar mé féin nár luigh an bhróg chomh trom orthu agus a luigh sí ar dhaoine eile. Socraíodh tamall ó shoin go bhfaghadh duine mar sin ardú—ní ardú tuarastail é—mar chúiteamh éigin i ngeall ar an athrú a bhí tagtha ar mheán-fhiúntas an airgid. Sin é an moladh atá anseo —ní ardú liúntais atá i gceist ach réiteach chun an liúntas a chur ar an chaighdeán céanna a bhí ann i 1938.

Cinnte, tá sé ceart go leor a rá, mar adúirt an Seanadóir Ó hAodha, "the Seanad should not be a living for anyone". Is ard-chuspóir é sin, ach caithfimíd cuimhniú ar fhírinní an tsaoil. Tá daoine ann agus ní deis mhaireachtála dhóibh é. Má thagann siad isteach i seirbhís an náisiúin san Oireachtas seo, ba cheart go bhfaigheadh siad an méid a chothódh go ceart iad; agus ní hé sin le rá gur deis mhaireachtála dhóibh é. Tá daoine ann agus má thagann siad isteach caithfidh siad éirí as postanna. Thuit sé sin amach cheana. I mo chás féin, is féidir liom an dá thráigh a freastail, ach ní hé gach duine atá ar an dóigh céanna liom?

'Sé an prionsabal atá i gceist anseo, liúntas a ligint le lucht an tSeanaid. Mar sin an ceart liúntas réasúnta a ligint leo? Is ceist eile í céard is liúntas réasúnta ann? Mura ndéanaimid socrú a fheilfeas don mheánduine, beidh orainn lucht an tSeanaid a rangú agus trí ranganna a dhéanamh dióbh—moladh amaïdeach dar liom—an dream neamhspleách, amach is amach, gur cuma leo a bhfaigheann siad liúntas, costas taistil nó aon rud eile, mo rang fhéin abair; an tarna rang, a bheadh sásta dá bhfaighidís an costas taistil, gan aon chothú lena chois; agus an tríú rang, daoine nach bhfuil aon ioncam acu, nach bhfuil aon neamhspleáchas acu, beag na mór, agus a mbheadh liúntas cothrom ag teastáil uathu chun go ndéanfadh siad a ndualgais go réasúnta. Bhfuil sé sin indéanta? Is léir nach bhfuil. Mura bhfuil, is léir nach bhfuil bealach as ach an bealach atá molta sa mBille seo.

Aontaím leis an Seanadóir Ó hAodha gurb é an rud abfhearr a leithéid de shaol a bheith ann nár ghá liúntas a ligint d'aoinne seachas costais. Ach cén uair a mbeidh a leithéid de shaol ann? Idir an dá linn ní mór seift mar tá anois ann, mura ndéanfa muid amhlaidh, beidhmid a dul go glandíreach i gcoinne bunphrionsabail an daonfhlaithis—is é prionsabal é sin, go mbeadh doras an tSeanaid agus doras na Dála oscailte d'fhear ar bith nó do mhnaoi ar bith sa tír go bhfuil an mheabhar chinn acu don obair agus muinín ag muintir na tíre astu iad a chur isteach anseo. Tá súil agam nach mbeidh lucht an tSeanaid ag déanamh achrainn mar gheall ar an moladh seo. Ní fiú achrann a dhéanamh faoi.

Ní cúrsa achrainn ar aon chor é.

Beidh daoine ag caint ar an méid airgid atá i gceist. Luaigh an tAire go gcosnódh sé £24,000 sa mbliain. Cuir síos £24,000 agus roinn é ar lucht an tsean-phinsin san tír, agus gheobhfá go bhfaighidís scilling amháin nó, ar a mhéid, 2/6d. amháin sa mbliain. Ní fiú bheith ag caint air. Ba dona an bealach é le díospóireacht agus meastóireacht a dhéanamh ar an mBille atá i gceist.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tSeanad réasúnta faoi, go mór mór an chuid againn nach ceist an-mhór dúinn í go mbeimid réasúnta faoi agus go gcuimhneoaimid, ní hamháin ar na daoine atá sa Seanad faoi láthair, ach ar na daoine atá lasmuigh agus an ceart acu teacht anseo má cheapann muintir na tíre gur ceart iad a chur anseo.

I dtaobh na ndaoine ná tagann anso ar aon chor, an ceart aon liúntas a thabhairt dóibh? Bhfuil aon ní le rá ag an Seanadóir mar gheall orthu san?

I do not propose to follow the lines taken by the two last speakers. Probably, in the abstract, I would be largely in agreement with Senator Hayes but that is a matter which, obviously, cannot be settled on this Bill, although I think it does reasonably arise. I have never yet heard a proposal for an increase in remuneration that I could not make a case for. If it happened to affect myself, it was easier still to make the case. Unfortunately I have often—too often, perhaps—had to make the case against, which is not by any means as pleasant or as easy. I am not much interested in the Bill which has just passed, which seems to me a relatively small matter, but it is my considered opinion that this series of Bills is a blunder, only one of which is understandable to me.

I would be quite in favour of an increase in the standard of payment, whether it be to keep a moderate standard of comfort or to meet expenses, if I could feel that the vast majority of the citizens of this country in similar circumstances could get a similar increase. As far as I understand the economic situation to-day, there is not the wealth that there was in 1938 or 1939; there is not enough to go around and it is not possible to provide wages or salaries to maintain all round the standard of living as it was then. Some people—you may call them fortunate although I am not so sure as to whether they were really fortunate or not—succeeded in making abnormal profits and are much better off, but they represent a very small section of the community. Recently, the people who are in the lower paid classes have succeeded in getting fair increases in their remuneration, but remember that their standard of living was very low and that under a Standstill Order they had to go for years on what was bordering on hardship. The rentier class, earning from £500 to £800 or £1,000, have not got an increase of 30 per cent. or even 15 per cent. all round, and I do not think they can possibly get it.

For that reason I believe it would have been far wiser—and I am not looking at this from a Party point of view—if the members of the Oireachtas had said: "There is going to be a certain amount of hardship and we can carry on for a year or two until we can see what is going to be the standard and whether or not we have to accept permanent inflation in which case all remuneration will have to be higher because all costs are higher." From conversation I have had outside I am afraid that the action at this time in making the various increases proposed in these Bills, but particularly in this Bill which deals with the remuneration of members of the Oireachtas, is regretted by people outside as setting a standard which other people ought to be able to get and to get at once. I do not believe that it is possible to provide that increase for all people receiving remuneration on a similar standard. That is my reason for thinking this Bill a mistake.

I would be interested a good deal in the abstract question raised by Senator Hayes but, on the whole, while we are working on the present standard, which was a very rough and ready one when it was adopted, I quite agree that if the present standard of costs is to continue and if we are to accept it as a permanent inflationary standard, there may have to be a general all-round increase, I see no reason why members of the Oireachtas should not obtain it but I regard the next two or three years as a period of uncertainty. I do not think the present high costs will ever get back to normal nor do I believe they will remain at the present standard, although I do not know. I think it will be something between the two. In the meantime, it would have been very much wiser if the members of the Oireachtas had said: "There is a certain amount of difficulty. It is harder to meet expenses, etc., but we are at any rate going to show the example of saying there will be no increase."

As far as the Dáil is concerned I do not believe it is our business, whether constitutionally or otherwise. I believe it would be a help all round if the members of this House could agree to say that as far as we are concerned we would be prepared to keep to the present standard for a year or two and then let the matter be reconsidered and to say nothing about the Dáil. That is the line I think we ought to take.

I think it is a matter of regret that the Government has thought it necessary to introduce this particular Bill. I suppose they found it necessary in the case of the Dáil because, whether we like it or not, members of the Dáil who do their work have an all-time job, which interferes with their ordinary business of life. The country Deputies are in Dublin for four days a week, practically all the time and when they are at home for the week-end they are fully occupied. Hotel expenses have very much increased. Therefore, there is a good case for increasing the allowances of Deputies. I frankly confess that I cannot make a case for members of the Seanad. I attend here as well as anybody and I try to do my duty as well as I can and my experience is that £30 a month is an adequate allowance. The composition of the Seanad is more or less vocational and most Senators have other occupations. I am not an exception. I do a bit of writing. That does not bring in much, I can assure Senators. It is a fact that the position in the Seanad is quite different from the position in the Dáil and should be quite different from the position in the Dáil.

I think we must deplore this series of Bills for something more than what is actually in them. It is an admission that we have given up in despair the attempt to control the cost of living and that we are just raising allowances and salaries to compete with that rising cost. It is more or less a counsel of despair. My position about this Bill is that I am going to vote for the Second Reading because I think there is a good case for the sake of the Dáil but I do not believe—and I speak with all the honesty of conviction of which I am capable—that there is a good case for raising the allowances in the Seanad and I agree with Senator Douglas that it would be a grand gesture to show that we are prepared to endure a little of the universal suffering which present conditions impose on the great majority of our people.

I would like to say that I am entirely opposed to these increases. The first thing we have to ask ourselves is, where is the money to come from? Is it not from the Irish people? What is the position of the majority of the Irish people? What is the position of the small tenant farmers in the West of Ireland who have to work hard every day of the week and every hour of the day in order to exist and to rear a family? When the family is reared they have to leave the country because they cannot get a living in it.

What is the mentality of Deputies or Senators who will vote themselves an increase? This applies particularly to Deputies, some of whom within the last few months by their votes declared that the old age pensioners could not get an increase—that the nation could not afford to give them an increase. I do not want anyone to think that I am speaking in any way politically in this non-political House. I want to give something from the Minister's own constituency, and even he will admit, I am sure, that there is not politics behind it. This is a public appeal that appeared in the Drogheda Independent:

"As the general public are already aware a scheme to help the needy has been put into operation by a group of citizens in Drogheda. The workers in the various places of employment have been contacted and a scheme of voluntary weekly subscriptions is now working smoothly. Close on 300 applications have been received by the committee from persons in need of assistance under the scheme in Drogheda. It is hardly necessary to stress the need for a scheme of this kind in hard times such as those we are living in. Bearing in mind the spirited response from the workers, the committee confidently appeal to every citizen. This applies particularly to those blessed with an ample share of the world's goods to supplement the fund so that it will bring much-needed relief to old people in the last days of their lives."

The appeal is signed by the chairman, the Reverend Father Walsh, C.C. In view of that appeal and the fact that the workers of Drogheda in the Minister's own constituency are forced to put their hands into their pockets to help these old people in the last days of their lives, how can Deputies and Senators—Deputies are already in receipt of £10 a week—come forward and vote themselves a further increase? Deputies can go on holidays in July and return in October, if they like. There is no obligation on them to return. There are Deputies in this House who have not entered it on two occasions since the Dáil assembled.

A Senator

There are no Deputies in this House.

We know they are not in this House, but there are members of this House who have not attended three times. I know the Minister can say that the fact that some attend is of no great assistance. However, at least we attend and record our views as best we think. We are going to vote this evening to give an increase to Deputies who, as I say, can go on holidays in July and return in October if they like.

I do not like to interrupt the Senator since I have a personal regard for him, but is it quite in order to criticise the actions of those who work in another place?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Tunney.

I feel, as an elected representative of this House, that I have a right to criticise the action of another member of this House or other members of it when their actions are in direct conflict with their actions a few months ago. Within the last week we had the question of increasing these allowances. We should be ashamed of ourselves. How many resignations have we had from either the Dáil or the Seanad because there was any undue burden? I read where one Deputy said that he was losing a couple of hundred pounds a year by being a member.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator may not comment on the debates in the other House.

If there were resignations there would be plenty to take their places at less than they are in receipt of.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator must deal with the Bill that is before the House.

This House passed a Bill which said that if the labourers of the country wanted an increase in their standard of life that they must go before a court. I say: "Do unto others as you would others do unto you." Are we going before a court? I can tell everybody responsible that they will be going before the court of the Irish people, and that the Irish people do not approve of these increases. I am in favour of a reasonable allowance. I fully appreciate the work that is being done by some. I know at least certain members of this House that are well worth what they are getting. I believe that they were gaining nothing by doing it. They are doing it because they love doing it. But you find men who can run their own businesses very successfully, up and down the country, and mind you, in some cases the fact of being a member of this House is an asset to their business. Make no mistake about it. I am not going to mention names. I know what I am speaking about, and that it is a very substantial asset to these gentlemen. Are we here this evening satisfied that the members of this House are in need of an increase?

How many meetings do we have here in the year? I suppose it would be wrong if I were to ask the the Clerk to tell us. I speak subject to correction when I say that I suppose we do not meet more than 50 afternoons in the year. Supposing that one did attend on every afternoon from 3 o'clock to 10 o'clock, I feel that the members are well paid. Instead of members attending every afternoon that the House meets, we found in a division last week that there were only 26 members present out of 60. I take it that I cannot criticise the action of those members, but that is what the division showed, and now we are going to give an increase of £9 a month to men who do not think it worth their while to attend and vote. We should vote against this increase to the members of this House and the other House. If there was any justification for it at all, it would be for the Dáil Deputy because he has got to work hard. No case can be made out for it for this House. I challange any member of this House to get up and say that he is suffering because he is a member of it. I will even go further and challenge any Senator to say that he is not gaining by being a member of this House.

Some people say that certain Senators are very generous. It is damned easy for people to be generous with other people's money, particularly when they have not to work to earn it. We do not see so much of that generosity. Some of us cannot afford to be very generous; we can just carry on. But note the difference in the way we treat other people. Some years ago we passed an Insurance Bill in this House and under that we created a Government monopoly for the insurance business in this country. To-day the insurance agents in Dublin, of which I am one, are walking the streets of Dublin and 172 of these men are working for a wage of less than £4 a week. Within the last couple of months the Minister came to this House with an Insurance Amendment Bill and said he wanted further economies in the working of the insurance business. The majority of these insurance agents have families.

Mr. Hawkins

On a point of order. I wonder what connection the Insurance Bill has with the Bill before the House.

It was passed by this House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

And the fact that it was so passed takes it out of the debate on this Bill.

I am an insurance agent and I have to work as an insurance agent. That is work that must be done. The Government say that there is no means of giving myself or my colleagues an increase. But as a member of the Seanad, where I need not attend if I do not feel like it, the Government are generous enough to give me an increase. I only mention myself to illustrate the case of thousands of my colleagues.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator should make his case as to why he does not want an increase and leave out the other matter.

The reason I do not want an increase—I do not like to say it because I am afraid it would be out of order—is because it is downright robbery of the Irish people. Until we reach the time when we can raise the standards of the old people who had to start work at 14 years we should forget about ourselves. We have a case at present at Finglas of a man who started work at 14 years and worked until he was 71 and the highest wage he ever received was the wage of a farm labourer. Because he worked last year, the Minister's Department say that he is not even to get the miserable old age pension. Until we raise the standard of the masses of the people we should forget about ourselves. As a matter of fact, we should be ashamed of ourselves, because we have failed to raise the standard of the aged, to raise the standard of the widows, to give employment to our boys and girls who have to go to Great Britain to get employment. Until we do these things we should not do much for ourselves.

I can tell the Government that the Irish people are not satisfied with the present position. I can tell them that the small farmer in Mayo and the peasant proprietor in Meath who have to work early and late for a living are satisfied that Deputies and Senators are getting sufficient. I hope there will be sufficient members of this House to reject this increase. If not, I will be disappointed.

I wonder do we realise how serious the position is to-day. Both in this country and in the adjoining country, the position was never more serious. This nation is depending on the farm workers to produce food for next winter. Deputies and Senators are depending on the farmer and farm labourers for their food next winter. They are also depending upon the turf worker, the man on the bog in Kildare, for a fire next winter. These turf workers in Kildare were forced to go on strike.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are not discussing turf workers' wages; we are discussing the Bill before the House.

I am discussing the ability of the Irish people to pay this increase. I feel that I have the right to discuss every section of the community, because every section will be forced to pay for this increase, including the turf workers, some of whom were given a payment of 4d. a week. The members of this House are depending on the turf workers for a fire next winter, and on the farm labourers for food next winter. We are giving in an increase to Deputies as much as a farm labourer gets in the year. We should be ashamed of ourselves. A person is inclined to lose his patience when discussing something so ridiculous. We would be far better engaged in considering the serious position which faces us for the rest of this year, the serious position in regard to world affairs and, particularly, the serious position of a country very near us. As a matter of fact, I am not going to say things that I intended to say. What I am saying is not what I intended to say, because I feel very sore about this matter.

I ask the Minister to think of the position of the old age pensioners in Drogheda for whom the priest had to go to the workers to collect 6d. a week from them to keep these old people alive; to think of the position of the old people in County Dublin for whom we had to make a collection in Swords last Sunday in order to keep them from dying of starvation; to think of the position of the widows and orphans who have to live on a non-contributory pension and who are on the borderline of starvation. We should think of all these people before we think of ourselves.

Senator Tunney has fallen into one serious error. He has addressed this House as if we had power to do anything to amend this Bill. We have not got any such power. The Minister has come to this House with a Bill which was passed through Dáil Eireann and, whether we like it or not, 21 days after it left Dáil Éireann it becomes law. We are entitled, of course, to say what we think about it.

What are we here for?

I am telling the Senator the position and he must make up his own mind as to what he will do about it. The fact of the matter is that, if there is to be any blame attached to anybody for the enactment of this measure, none of it must stick to the members of this House, because whatever they say or do makes no difference. You saw that last week when you made recommendations in regard to a Finance Bill and the Minister went very nicely and quietly back to Dáil Eireann and had them duly rejected and that was the end of it. What I would like to draw attention to, in the first place, is what I consider the sheer dishonesty in regard to the drafting of the Bill. If one looks at Section 3 one finds this provision:—

"In sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Principal Act the reference to £40 shall be construed as a reference to that sum increased by 30 per cent."

What is the need for drafting a Bill like that? The only answer I can give to my own question is that the Minister does not like to write into the Bill what he is doing. Why not delete from Section 3 of the Act of 1938, the Principal Act, sub-section (1) and replace it by another sub-section? Sub-section (1) of Section 3 says:—

"The allowances to be paid to each member of Dáil Eireann under this Act shall be, on and after the date of the passing of this Act, an allowance at the rate of £40 per month."

Is there any reason why, when drafting the Bill, the Minister should not have inserted a provision saying that sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Principal Act is hereby deleted and the following sub-section inserted in lieu and then set out that henceforward the rate of allowance for a member of Dáil Eireann shall be £52 per month or whatever the amount is?

Similarly with sub-section (2) of the Act of 1938, which provides that the allowances for a member of Seanad Eireann shall be £30 per month. Instead of saying that the rate shall be increased by 30 per cent., why not say that the sub-section is deleted and that henceforward the rate shal be £39 per month? The whole thing seems to me to be shady. There appears to be some difficulty in the Minister telling us and the public clearly, telling anybody who reads this measure, what exactly is the rate of allowance paid to a member of either House. The same thing has been done with regard to the judges' salaries and with regard to the President's allowance. Instead of following the usual course, because what I am suggesting is the usual course, of repealing the particular provision of a former Act and substituting in its place a new provision, this device is followed of saying that the allowance or figure mentioned in such or such a section shall be increased by 30 per cent. That is not an honest way of doing what is intended to be done under the Bill.

Senator Hayes raised a question with which Senator Ó Buachalla subsequently dealt with and which is one of great importance—whether the members of both Houses of the Oireachtas are intended to devote the whole of their time to their Parliamentary work. I have no doubt that the members of this House are agreed that a person who devotes his whole time to the service of the State should be adequately remunerated for his work and the only question that arises, therefore, is: is the work of being a member of either of these Houses full-time employment? If it is, I suggest that the remuneration offered is inadequate; but I doubt if it can be considered that the work of a member of either House is full-time employment. Certainly that was not the view taken of the responsibilities of a Senator in 1937. Members of the House will recall that, in the interregnum between the abolition of the first Seanad and the establishment of the second, a body of people, not one of whom was a member of either House, was deputed by the Government to report to them what should be the remuneration of the members of the Dáil and Seanad. That report was published on 16th December, 1937, and, with regard to the remuneration of Senators, the committee, in paragraph 33, made the following recommendation:

"As explained in the earlier paragraphs in this report, members of the former Seanad Eireann were paid the same allowances as Deputies. The Report of the Second House of the Oireachtas Commission, which sat last year, indicated that the general view of the commission was that membership of the Second House should carry the same allowances as those applicable to membership of Dáil Eireann. With all respect to that conclusion, we are unable to believe that Senators will necessarily be involved in the same amount of expense as Deputies. We recommend that the allowances paid to a member of Seanad Eireann should be at the rate of £20 a month."

That was the view in 1937. The Act which followed the presentation of that report became law on 21st December, 1938, a year later, and ignoring the recommendation of the committee, the Oireachtas provided for a remuneration of £30 per month instead of the £20 recommended by the committee.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the names of the committee who signed that recommendation. The chairman was Dr. Shanley, a well-known medical practitioner in Dublin, who, I think, acts as Deputy-Coroner for the City of Dublin; Mr. E.H. Alton, Mr. J.J. Counihan, Mr. Arthur Cox, Mr. John Leonard, Mr. Peter McCarthy, Mr. A.J. Magennis, Malachy Sweetman and myself. That recommendation was unanimous. Other recommendations made by the committee were not unanimous, but the section of the report which deals with the remuneration of members of the Oireachtas was endorsed by every member of the committee. The recommendation was ignored, and I think it was wrong to ignore it, in view of the strong opposition at the time the Bill was going through the Oireachtas to the proposal that the allowances for members of the Seanad should be the same as for members of the Dáil. I should say that the committee also recommended that the allowance of £30 per month paid hitherto to members of the Dáil was adequate and should not be increased. That recommendation was also ignored and the allowance increased by £120 per year.

Senator Tunney drew attention to what seems to me a most important question in relation to the matter we are now discussing—the fact that members of the Oireachtas may, or may not, attend as they choose. That is one of the matters which should be taken into account by the Minister in relation to this Bill. It is notorious— every member sitting in this House is aware—that people were elected to this House who duly came in and signed the register and never presented themselves again in the House and have never been seen here.

I do not want to deal very much with the members of Dáil Eireann, but I want to draw attention to this scandalous performance. Members of Dáil Eireann have come along after an election, signed the register, become entitled to their pay packet every month and they do not attend any more. I know the Minister has a readymade answer. He will tell me that these people subsequently offered themselves for re-election and were elected. Of course, that is a scandal. We have no right to tell the people that they should not elect any person who will not attend to his duties in the House, but we have a right to say to the person who is treating the House in that cavalier manner that he should not be paid the allowance which is provided for a person to enable him to perform his statutory duties. It is reasonable that we should protect ourselves in that manner.

With the view expressed by Senator Hayes, I have little sympathy. It is quite easy to visualise a situation in which you will have a number of people elected, particularly to this House, who can afford to be Senators without recompense of any kind, but I think Senator Hayes bases his suggestion on the assumption that you will get more competent legislators by that method, that you will get people offering themselves for membership of this House because of the honour it confers, or because of their desire to serve their country, who would not offer themselves in competition with others who must have the allowance. That, I think, is a mistaken assumption.

It was not my assumption; I did not assume it.

Then I cannot follow the reasoning behind the Senator's argument. I do not know why he thinks there is any advantage in discontinuing allowances altogether unless he assumes that a more competent or more desirable type of legislator will offer himself if the allowances disappear. It has not been our experience that what one might regard as the most desirable type of legislator is, in fact, the most desirable, the most competent or the most conscientious. There are some people who, one might normally expect, could render great assistance to this House, but unfortunately they very rarely attend and the number of people with competence to understand the business of the House who take a deep interest in its business, who read closely the measures coming before it and who study the reports upon which they are based, is very small, indeed.

That is one of the reasons why I have grave doubt about the wisdom of paying the present, never mind the increased rate of allowance to members because of their unwillingness to do the work that they are expected to do, or at least the work they undertook when they became members of the House. One of the things that disappointed me in regard to this House within the past six or 12 months was the attitude adopted by all sections of the House when an attempt was made to establish a Committee of the House to examine regulations laid on the Table, regulations which are capable of being annulled. On that occasion I drew attention to the character of regulations which are made from time to time. I indicated that a by-law made by Córas Iompair Eireann, purporting to come under a certain section of a certain statute, could not, in fact, have been made at all because the statute never applied to Ireland.


What has that to do with the measure under discussion?

I am entitled to say that the members of this House are not doing the work they were sent here to do if I can show that serious abuses have taken place here. The House refused to set up that committee. They were not compelled by the Government to adopt that attitude, because no member of the Government spoke. They refused in these circumstances to set up a committee for the purpose of informing themselves and the public as to the manner in which Ministers and Departments discharge their duties in relation to the making of regulations. We are entitled to ask ourselves seriously are we not providing a rate of remuneration—shall I call it allowances?—far in excess of what is justified by the circumstances.

This is the 190th day of 1947 and it is the 19th day on which Seanad Eireann has met. Up to the present— and this is the busiest part of the year —we have met one day in every ten and there is not much expectation that we shall meet very frequently during the remainder of the year. We may meet perhaps, for 40 days this year and not more than half the members are present when a division is challenged. We are unwilling to set up a committee to do the kind of work which ought to be done, especially by a Second House, and still we are asked to vote ourselves this increase in allowances.

There probably is nothing wrong in Dáil Eireann passing this Bill. They consider there should be an increase in the allowances. There is nothing wrong in that, were it not for the fact that what we are doing is settling our own remuneration. Dáil Eireann and ourselves have entered into a conspiracy to settle our remuneration in a way no other class of the community can settle theirs. The civil servants do not settle their own rates of pay. The Minister settles those rates and subsequently gets the approval of Dáil Eireann when he submits his Estimates. The Minister comes to Dáil and Seanad Eireann when he wants to increase judges' salaries and he asks that a Bill be passed for that purpose. But he does not go to any independent tribunal when he proposes to increase the allowances for Deputies and Senators. He presents them with a Bill the purpose of which is to increase their own remuneration and he asks them to pass it.

I notice there is a good deal of shyness on the part of members of this House to discuss the matter, so I take it there is general agreement that the Minister is on the right track and there is a lot of sympathy with his point of view.

Supposing the Senator waits for the division next week to discover if that is so?

All right. I am very glad to hear Senator Sweetman offering the suggestion that there will be resistance in this House, but it does not matter a lot, because actually the Bill becomes law within 21 days after it leaves Dáil Eireann and in the form in which it leaves Dáil Eireann, irrespective of what we do.

The figures set out in this Bill in relation to Deputies' allowances and Senators' allowances are entirely misleading. Senator Hayes has referred to that already. Not alone are they misleading but they display the greatest inequality. What I am referring to is the fact that these allowances are paid entirely free of income-tax. Let me point out that, if we consider the sum of £624 which is the new rate of allowance for a Deputy, and relate it to a single man I think you will find that it works out at about £750 a year. In other words, it is the equivalent of £750 in the case of a single man but it is equivalent to only £630 in the case of a married man with four children. That, I think, is one of the outstanding objections, apart altogether from the question of principle to the proposal that the allowance should be made free of income-tax. It means that you are giving a much greater salary to a single man than you are giving to a married man with a family under this arrangement.

My own view is that before the Bill was introduced, the Minister should have done precisely what his predecessor did in 1937—appoint a committee to get the whole matter examined. Bear in mind that, in concluding their report in 1937, the committee who conducted that inquiry recommended that there would be a further inquiry at a later period when it became known what would be the duties and the responsibilities of Senators. The committee urged, and made it a part of their recommendations, that that matter would be further investigated at a later period. I think it very regrettable that that recommendation was ignored when this Bill was being prepared.

I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House. I should like to say at the outset that we should not regard Senator Tunney's contribution here this evening in an uncharitable way, when he made a vigorous and vehement attack on the terms of the Bill, because many of us have a recollection of similar attacks made—not in the Oireachtas but in the highways and by-ways of the country— 15 years ago. The result of these attacks was to create in the minds of many people a rather ill-informed estimation of the duties that public representatives have to discharge for their constituents. These attacks did more; they placed a very low monetary value on the expenses that Deputies to a greater extent, and Senators to a lesser extent, have to incur in discharging their duties, if they do consistently discharge them.

I am quite satisfied that a Deputy who looks after the interests of his constituents, as he is expected to look after them, who attends to correspondence—and quite a vast amount of correspondence comes in various ways to Deputies—who calls on public Departments as he is expected, and renders a periodical account of his stewardship to his constituents down the country, if he has to depend on the allowances paid by way of expenses in Dublin, cannot make ends meet. But I am glad to say, very few Deputies and Senators are solely dependent on the allowances paid to them. They have other means to draw on. I assume that is the reason why I personally heard no complaint from any Deputy or Senator as to the inadequacy of the amount paid by way of expenses.

This is a very unpopular Bill, and even though we are not elected to this House on a franchise similar to that under which Deputies are elected, we must take cognisance of what the people think in this matter. Public opinion is an opinion that cannot be ignored. If, as I said in the course of my remarks earlier, such a low valuation is made of Deputies' or Senators' responsibilities, that is mainly due to the false standards created as a result of the vicious propaganda indulged in in 15 years ago and for which, I suppose, those who indulged in it are sorry to-day. We are supposed not to talk politics in this House but it is said to be good politics to refer to a comparison between what is paid to Senators and what is paid to old age pensioners.

I should like to make the point that what is responsible to a certain extent for the unpopularity of this Bill is the means tests which applies, in so far as applicants for old age pensions are concerned. People who have lived thrifty lives, who have denied themselves many comforts that they might have enjoyed and who have left aside a little money for the rainy day, find that that thrift militates against them when they become applicants for an old age pension. There is no means test, however, so far as this Bill is concerned. These increased allowances are to be paid to Senators and Deputies regardless of whether they are solely dependent on these allowances for their expenses or whether they have means of their own to draw upon.

If this matter were approached as a result of an inquiry held by an independent body, not constituted of members of either House, before which Deputies or Senators might appear and give evidence of their financial commitments or how far the scantiness of their allowance militated against their discharging their duties successfully, and if a report came from such a tribunal advocating an increase in the allowances as set out in the Bill, then the proposal would not be regarded in the bad light in which it now is. As I said earlier, members of the Oireachtas know themselves that the increase is not regarded in a popular way in the country. Personally, I do not approve of it.

I should like to say a word or two on this Bill lest my silence might be misinterpreted. I suffer the disadvantage of not having heard all that has been said and of not having heard the Minister. I agree with those who say that the measure is unpopular. It is unpopular for a variety of reasons. The Minister and other members of his Party, as Senator Ruane has truthfully said, created a certain mentality in this country with regard to monetary values. Apart from any arguments that have been made already, there are certain aspects of the Bill to which I want to draw attention. I disagree with Senator Duffy, who is not in the House now. I think if his remarks were to be interpreted literally he put a rather lower value on the services of the Seanad and of Senators than would be a reflection of feeling in the country on the work that is done in this House.

While it is true to say that there are members of this House who do not give much service and who get the same remuneration as persons like Senator Duffy, who work very hard, it is also true that the work of a Senator does not begin and end in this Chamber. The measures we had to-day are typical of the kind of work in which Senators are expected to engage. Whatever Senator Duffy may believe, there are members of this House who go to the labour of reading Orders and trying to obtain an appreciation of what they mean to the country. The difficulty in which the Minister finds himself—it is a real difficulty—is that the Government, during their 15 years of office, have managed to build up here a type of institution which involves Deputies and Senators in the administrative work of the country in a way in which they should never have been involved in it and in a way which will one day prove disastrous to the institutions of the State. I suppose that Deputies spend three-quarters of their time as administrators, instead of legislators. Go down to the Library now and you will find a Deputy dealing with a stack of letters.

Senators in certain constituencies find themselves playing the part of Deputies. Arising out of the policy by the Government, with all their controls and the extension of the State into every artery of the nation's life, we find ourselves hitched on to this machine which is pulling us right along in a way which we cannot control. Deputies and Senators, particularly in the country, are regarded in the main as administrators and not as individuals whose main responsibility is the study of Bills and the equipment of themselves with the knowledge and information requisite for amendment of those Bills. They are regarded as adjuncts of the administrative machine. The man who proposes to assist in the administration of government is a much more acceptable person to the electorate than the man who would prove himself a good legislator. I challenge contradiction of that.

In my opinion, that is a disastrous trend, from the standpoint of the duties which Senators and Deputies are called upon to perform and the attitude of the electorate towards the responsibilities which Deputies and Senators are expected to discharge. Some day in the near future this whole position will be challenged. If it is not, popular election will mean nothing. It will be found that if a candidate desires to be returned as a T.D., it will be much more profitable for him to go around his constituency to fairs and markets, making inquiries as to whether a person is looking for an old age or a widow's pension or expecting a grant under the land improvement scheme or a subsidy for the building of a house, than interesting himself in the study of legislation and endeavouring to amend it. The efforts of Senators and Deputies in this way are drawing on their time to an extent they never anticipated. I have no doubt that there are some Deputies whose whole lives are committed to this work. They are part of the machine and are unable to extricate themselves. From the point of view of the maintenance of our institutions and ensuring that they do the work for which they are primarily intended, the whole situation is sadly in need of overhaul. I have experience of this matter myself. To a great extent, I have extricated myself but there are many who have not succeeded in doing to.

The Minister's proposal is unwise and ill-timed. I agree completely with those who say that we, above all others, should not be the people to fix our own remuneration. Others should have been called upon to do that. A completely totalitarian attitude is being taken in this Bill and I think it is a line which the Government will have cause to regret. It might not matter so much if there was any equity about the whole business but there is not. Senator Duffy has drawn attention to the position of the man who does not come to the House as compared with that of the man who comes to every sitting. There are other inequalities in regard to this question of remuneration. Take the case of the man who spends a day coming from the Dingle Peninsula, who spends a few days here and who spends a day returning. He gets the same rate of remuneration as the man living in Baggot Street. There is no sense of equity in that. It is difficult to know exactly what this allowance for expenses means. In my judgment, the decision of the Government is ill-timed.

The matter has not been given the study it deserved. I find it difficult to believe that the aspect of the case which I have put is not a problem for all Deputies. I find it impossible to believe that they are prepared to go on as at present. If they do, the end will be a bad one for our institutions. If this allowance is meant to be for expenses, the distribution of it is not equitable. There are many aspects of this matter which should have been considered before this decision was taken. I think that the two points I have raised will force themselves on the attention, if not of this Government, of some other Government, in the near future, and compel an alteration of the situation which the Minister is endeavouring to perpetuate.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 10th July, 1947.