Before we take up consideration of the Second Stage of this Bill I should like to indicate that I have ruled that amendment No. 1, standing in the names of Senators Quinlan and Sheehy Skeffington is out of order on the grounds that it is not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. The Senators have been informed accordingly.
Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Bill, 1968 (Certified Money Bill) — Second Stage.
As I said in the Dáil, the primary purpose of this Bill is to ensure that no person who thinks that he has a contribution to make to public affairs will be prevented from offering himself for election to the Dáil or Seanad because of his material circumstances. Due to the influence which the State exercises today over practically every aspect of the daily life of the citizen the role of the public representative is of major importance and the country requires the best material that can be got for both the Dáil and the Seanad.
There is need for more and more communication and understanding between the Government and the people at every level and I am satisfied that the job of promoting this understanding can only be done properly by top class public representatives. I have no doubt that many eminently suitable people have in the past been deterred from entering public life either through lack of means or because of the substantial losses they would incur by the neglect of their private affairs which such a step would entail.
The people we need must be willing and able to sacrifice a great deal of their time and energy to public affairs. The Dáil Deputy, in particular, has no set hours and is expected to be constantly at the disposal of his constituents; there are countless callers to be seen, letters to be written, calls to be made, deputations arranged, questions put down, and so on. Over and above all this there is his work as legislator which is of prime importance. As a member of the Dáil he must deal with the continuing process of legislation, with complex bills, financial business and a wide variety of other issues with which he must be familiar, and able to discuss and decide upon.
The fact that a Senator's activities are more restricted and that his expenses, though quite substantial, are on a lesser scale than those of Deputies is reflected in the lower rate of allowance which he receives. This Bill proposes a broadly proportionate increase for Senators to that proposed for Deputies.
In mentioning expenses I want to emphasise once again that a Deputy or Senator does not get anything like the full amount of the allowance for his own use. Outgoings will vary from place to place and from individual to individual but they will in all cases be substantial. Secretarial assistance has to be employed in many cases and I do not have to remind Senators that there are constant appeals for all sorts of desirable causes which have to be met, charities to be supported, and subscriptions of all sorts to be made. It is, I think, taken for granted that a public representative should give a lead within his resources in contributing to charities, etc.
I also want to refer once again to the position about the tax liability of Deputies and Senators as far as these allowances are concerned. Since 1960 the allowances paid to members of the Oireachtas are liable to income tax. Senators are well aware of this from their own experience but it is necessary to explain the position in order to dispel once and for all the notion some people have that these allowances are tax-free.
I now deal with the proposed new salaries for members of the Government and similar whole-time offices. The salary of the Taoiseach is being increased from £3,300 to £5,500 a year, those of Ministers from £2,200 to £3,500 and those of Parliamentary Secretaries from £1,320 to £2,250. The salaries of the Attorney General, of the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle and of the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Cathaoirleach are being increased on much the same lines.
I think there is fairly general agreement that the present salaries are far too low and unrealistic. It is a fact that the remuneration of the Taoiseach is much less than that obtaining for a top management job in commerce or industry or at the top of the professions. Ministers are in a similar position and have people under their jurisdiction who are paid a great deal more than they are. As I said in the Dáil, it would be very bad for our system of government—and for the future of our country—if men who would be eminently suitable for the most responsible posts in the service of the State had to turn away in order to protect the interests of their families. In looking to the years to come, one must consider what calibre of man is likely to be attracted to political life — as Deputy, Senator or Minister — if the reward is a great deal less than that available in the much less exacting and far more secure private sector. There is therefore, I believe, a solemn obligation on the Oireachtas to see to it that the right people are attracted to its service now and in the future.
Finally the Bill proposes an increase in the assistance given to the two main Opposition Parties to enable them to discharge their parliamentary duties efficiently. The increasing complexities and scope of modern Government demands, that to ensure the effective functioning of Parliament, the Opposition Parties must have at least a minimum of administrative and research assistance available to them. The existing allowances of £3,360 for the Leader of the main Opposition Party and £1,680 for the Leader of the smaller Party are now entirely inadequate for this purpose and the Bill proposes that these allowances should be increased to £10,000 and £5,000 respectively.
What I have said will, I hope, help to put the Bill in its true perspective, which is, to ensure that the best talents among those who feel drawn to public life will not be prevented, through lack of means, from serving their country in this way. The effectiveness of future Governments will depend on the quality of the young people entering politics now. We cannot afford to let the situation deteriorate because of a reluctance to face some temporary unpopularity. We must provide allowances which will cover their necessary expenses and give them a reasonable standard of living. Increasingly, public service becomes more demanding in time, energy and money. Those who are elected to give this service should be suitably recompensed. I therefore recommend the proposals in this Bill to the Seanad.
I wish to move the second amendment on the Order Paper:
That Seanad Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Bill, 1968 because it does not include provision for the provision for the application of a means test in accordance with which the proposed increases would be granted to members of Dáil Éireann and to members of Seanad Éireann under this Bill.
My reason for putting down this amendment rather than raising the matter in a recommendation on Committee Stage is that the Government decided, justifiably from the technical point of view, to have this Bill considered as a Money Bill, and consequently the type of amendment which would include a means test would have been ruled out of order on the Committee Stage. Therefore I had no other way of raising the matter on this proposal, which gives an increase of £1,000 per year to every Deputy and an increase of £500 per year to every Senator.
We are about to have a referendum on another matter, probably in October. We are not having a referendum on this matter of Oireachtas salaries but I would suggest to the House and the Minister that if a referendum was held on this question as to whether the Irish public and electorate felt that this was the time to increase the allowances of Deputies by 66? per cent and that of Senators by 50 per cent, the answer of the country would be "no". That is one reason why I consider it important to put the matter before the House and I hope the House will be convinced that this is a matter which we should refer back to the Dáil for further consideration.
I hold, and I think many people will agree with me, that there has been indecent haste in dealing with this Bill. I think that what prompted the haste is that the Government know and are increasingly being made aware of the fact that the country is saying "no". It would be awkward for the Government to have the matter drag and to have it discussed publicly more and more, and so the Government want to get rid of it fast and press it through with markedly more speed than other measures of far greater urgency.
That is a lie.
On May 15th last in the Seanad, the Minister for Finance told me in relation to the pensions of widows and orphans of State servants in column 1378, volume 64, No. 16:
I directed that the question of pensions for widows and orphans of State servants should be taken up by the conciliation and arbitration machinery and an effort made to devise an acceptable scheme. That work has actually been in progress for some considerable time.
At column 1382 the Minister said:
The position about the pensions for widows and orphans of State servants is as I said some time ago— I do not know whether I used the word "considerable"; if I did I would modify it to "some time ago"—that this matter was taken up in connection with conciliation and arbitration machinery. It is not a question of it being under review. It is a question of work going on, a drawing up of an acceptable scheme by the people concerned. As soon as that scheme can be hammered out, there will be no delay on my part in introducing it.
The Minister indicated that this had been in action for some considerable time and that the scheme has practically come to fruition. He assured me of that on 15th May. Today is 27th June and the Minister has not been guilty of indecent haste in relation to this scheme of pensions for widows and orphans of State servants.
It seems to me indefensible that we should be so eager and so willing to rush through legislation for increases for ourselves when lack of money is freely used as an excuse for other and far more urgent objects. I mentioned yesterday, and I do not intend to delay the Seanad by mentioning in detail again, that we subject widows and old age pensioners and blind pensioners and the unemployed to means tests which imply that £169 a year is enough for a widow to live on, because that is the point at which the means test results in her getting nothing by way of non-contributory pension. Similarly with an old age pensioner. I mentioned also the fact that for parents of university students hoping to benefit under the new grants scheme, if a parent has £1,800 a year, this is considered ample for him and his family of ten children and he should be able within the £1,800 to put all his ten children successively, and presumably successfully, through the university with no State aid.
That is incorrect: £1,800 is not the maximum for ten children.
Do not expect him to be accurate.
I am sorry, but my memory is that at £1,700 and less than £1,800 there is slight aid, but at £1,800 there is none, though I am open to correction on that. It is possible that it applies only to the man with fewer children.
One must never expect academics to be accurate.
I appreciate the spirit which prompts the Minister to sneer, because he knows that he is on a very sticky wicket, and that in the country my view prevails on this question, whether or not I am inaccurate on the ceiling applied, but I am not inaccurate in saying that a ceiling is applied and a means test applied to those parents hoping to get their children through university.
You are inaccurate and unfair on this question of the widows' and orphans' pensions for the civil servants—inaccurate, unfair and unjust.
I am prepared to yeild to the Minister in order now to be told in what way I have been inaccurate on that point. The Minister characteristically, having issued his sneer, remains silent.
On a point of order, surely it is not for the person speaking to give way. It is for the Chair to decide.
Senator Sheehy Skeffington, to continue.
On the question of this interpretation by Senator Sheldon of the rules of order of this House, I prefer to have them interpreted by the Chair.
The Senator is indulging merely in cheap propaganda.
Senator Yeats is being prompted to come in with his talk about cheap propaganda.
It is cheap propaganda.
And he repeats "cheap" in his characteristic way. I am afraid that I am unaffected by this type of interruption because I am used to it, and I intend, Mr. Chairman——
——to continue the cheap propaganda.
——in spite of the interruptions and the dignified "cheap, cheap" of Senator Yeats. I am not affected by this kind of birdcall. My contention is, and I recognise that on the question of whether it be ten children or one child or 20 children, the ceiling of course varies, but there is no question of the fact that if a parent of university children wants to get a grant, there is a maximum at which he will get the trivial grant and that is, if I remember correctly, £2,500. The point I am making is that whether the number of children is smaller or bigger, a means test is applied.
When I made it known that I was putting down an amendment to this effect, a difficulty arose, and that was in obtaining a seconder. I asked a number of Senators in the House would they second this, and for one reason or another, there was a certain reluctance to do so. I did not ask anybody in the Government Party, because they are very obedient to the Party Whip, but I did ask a number of Independents and members of the Fine Gael Party and of the Labour Party. While I did not meet with any hostility, I did not meet with any notable support from any of those Senators. I am grateful to Senator Quinlan for enabling this to be discussed by putting his name to it and supporting me. I had also a promise from my colleague, Senator Stanford, but unfortunately Senator Stanford was taken ill yesterday and rushed to hospital. I am glad to say that he is doing well, but he is prevented from being here by this illness. I think that it is not without significance that whilst the country at large contains large numbers of people who feel that this legislation to increase our allowances is ill-conceived, it is extremely difficult to get any support for this view in the House, or even any great willingness to have the case presented and debated.
I remember in the early days of Fianna Fáil, in 1927, when Fianna Fáil first went into the Dáil, the Leader of Fianna Fáil at that time committed himself publicly to the proposition that no man was worth more than £1,000 a year. I am fully aware that £1,000 a year then was worth markedly more than it is now, but the whole spirit of Fianna Fáil in those days was one which was far more egalitarian than it is now. It was far more republican. Senator Yeats yesterday, when I was objecting to major increases of the judicial salaries, said that I was talking in terms of ten, 20 or 30 years ago. I interjected: "Yes, those were republican days." Senator Yeats is not old enough to remember them, but there are members of his Party who remember them; and the whole ethos of Fianna Fáil was then far more egalitarian than now. It was said by Vivian Mercier about the Irish Press, in an article he wrote in The Bell, that the Irish Press started with high ideals and a big overdraft and the two have diminished side by side down the years. Now they have no overdraft.
Is it in order for the Senator to attack a business concern outside this House?
He is not attacking it.
Senator Sheehy Skeffington to continue, and to come closer to the amendment and to the Bill.
I am not clear why what I said should give offence to the Leader of the House.
What you were leading up to gave offence.
What I was leading up to was that now they have no overdraft.
I wonder has the Senator one.
The Senator will perhaps come to this motion.
I am making the point that there was a genuine aim in those days to live in what was known by the phrase "frugal comfort". I remember a drawing in Dublin Opinion of the front of Leinster House and somebody inquiring whether the Leader of Fianna Fáil, which was then an Opposition Party, was in the House or not. The porter at the gate said: “Yes, he is there all right; I can see his bicycle.” This was the spirit with which Fianna Fáil in those days was identified.
Did the Senator support them then?
I did, in fact. One of my great joys in 1932 was the victory of Fianna Fáil and I make no bones about that. What I said about high ideals and big overdrafts applies there, too, I am afraid. Down the years the enthusiasm has diminished.
(Longford): Can the Senator tell us in what constituency he worked for them?
Perhaps Senator Sheehy Skeffington would continue without interruption.
Cartoons in Dublin Opinion are hardly reliable standards.
While I am grateful for your ruling, Sir, perhaps you are being optimistic when you say I will continue without interruption. I hope this proves to be correct.
(Longford): We are trying to help you.
I appreciate that in the case of Senator O'Reilly. The point I was making was that in days gone by the Party that is now the Government Party stood for a more egalitarian regime and denied the necessity to which the Minister for Finance now refers for having this enormous difference between the best off in the community and the least well off. I would contend also that the Minister is unjust to the Irish people when he says that the only way of getting the best people is to pay more money. I do not think we have gone quite so completely over to mammon-worship as to feel that you can get the best in our society only by paying more and more and more. I would contend, furthermore, that much of public service on public boards, county councils and corporations, splendid service, is done, and for nothing, and the Minister knows that as well as I do.
I concede that one portion of the Government case is justified. I concede that there may well be TDs in particular, perhaps less so in the case of Senators, who might suffer considerably, particularly if they had large families, by reason of having to give up so much time to the Oireachtas and actually doing so, and making a serious sacrifice by so doing, and perhaps if they lose their seats at some coming election being unable to quite get back to the way of life that they had been used to before. I recognise, therefore, that in the case of the less well off Members of Dáil and Seanad a case can be made for some increase, though I am inclined to think that the increase of £1,000 a year, a 66? per cent increase, for Dáil Members is too much and that the 50 per cent increase, £500 a year, for Senators is also too much, but I am prepared to concede that a case on these lines can be made for some Members of the Oireachtas. This being so, I contend that in these cases these persons should make that case. There are only 200 of us in both Houses, and it ought to be possible, quite easily, to sort this out and to have each case made. This would be the practical way of applying the means test, showing that there is a definite limitation of means in the granting of these increases. I believe that a scheme could be drawn up by the Minister for Finance along the lines of the slightly complicated table put forward by the Minister for Education in relation to parents of university children, a means test for application to the Members of the Oireachtas who are perhaps more hit than others by their membership of either House. This would mean that some of us, well paid in other professions, would get no increase. This would be the result of such a means test. I feel that in conceding this I am conceding the main argument for an increase for some Members, while denying it to all without distinction as to real need or justification.
I am afraid it was the Leader of the Labour Party in the Dáil who made the point that there have only been four or five increases in Oireachtas allowances since the start of the State; but, in fact, of these four or five, three have been in 1960, 1964 and now in 1968. The 1960 one introduced the principle whereby while allowances were being increased income tax was going to be paid by Members of Dáil and Seanad on these allowances, or on a large portion of them, for the first time. Therefore, the real increase in 1960 was not as great. In 1964 the allowances for Senators were raised from the £750 to which they had been raised in 1960 to £1,000. That was a rise between 1960 and 1964 of £250 which is 33? per cent. In 1968, having had this rise in 1964, we now put in for a rise of 50 per cent, a rise from £1,000 a year, which we reached in 1964, to £1,500.
I find this quite unjustifiable, and I think the Minister should advert to the fact that he has proposed major percentage increases. He has proposed an increase of 50 per cent for members of this House and 66? per cent for members of the other House. How can he hold up his head and face the trade unionists who appear before the Labour Court and are told that a 10 or 11 per cent increase is absolutely impossible in the economic circumstances in which we now find ourselves, the crucial times, et cetera, et cetera? How can he answer trade unionists who will say: “What is good enough for the Oireachtas goose ought to be good enough for the trade union gander”; and if the Oireachtas members can get 50 per cent increase or 66? per cent increase what about the workers outside who suffer as much as the Oireachtas Members do from increases in the cost of living?
I am aware, of course, that it can be said, as has been said to me by some of my colleagues here, that in a sense the income tax code does represent a form of means test, and this is true. It can also be said that the allowances to TDs and Senators is not a grant like the education grant or the old age pension. It is for work done. I am afraid that some members of the public, if you say to them that this increase is for work done, tend to ask: "Is the amount of work done really being increased all that much, is there a productivity increase?" That was indeed the burden of the amendment that was ruled out of order, because Senator Quinlan and myself thought that a greater degree of work could usefully be done by Members of this House and the other House, were there to be a restructuring of the Committee system, but we do recognise and accept your ruling, a Chathaoirligh, that perhaps this is not the best place to put this up. Our hope had been that this increase in salary might be linked to productivity. Of course, the Minister and all his Cabinet colleagues roam the countryside talking about the necessity for linking salary and wage increases with productivity increases. The one exception is when it comes to increasing the salaries of Members of the Oireachtas. I ask the Minister why there should be no reference to this at all.
I recognise that in the United Kingdom the allowance of a Member of Parliament is more than the £2,500 that is proposed under this Bill for our TDs. I think the present figure there is £3,250, that is to say, £750 more than that of our TDs. Of course, two points arise there. The first is the social services are similarly geared well below the United Kingdom level, but, even more important, our TDs represent some 20,000 electors whereas the British MP represents 80,000 on an average, so if you are talking about the amount of work done for his constituents you might expect that the number of demands from his constituents on his time would be four times as much in the case of a British MP as in the case of the Irish TD.
Some Members of the Seanad may remember in 1959 when we had a previous suggestion to amend the Constitution, I put down an amendment to the effect that Members of the Dáil should represent something nearer the 35,000 mark than 20,000. This amendment was discussed in this House but it got singularly little support. The feeling was that 20,000 was quite a good figure. This would have meant that the size of the Dáil would have been cut down to a bit over 100 instead of 144. I did not get the support of four Members of the Seanad, which would have been necessary for dividing the House on that occasion, but I got the support of two when you, Sir, I think, in the Chair asked how many Senators wanted a division, and Senator Margaret Pearse and Senator Roger McHugh rose in their places in support of this idea that perhaps our TDs should be fewer in number and represent rather more in the electorate and rather more of the population.
Every TD represents between 60,000 and 100,000.
I did not catch what the Senator said.
Every Irish TD represents between 60,000 and 100,000.
I was talking about the electors and somebody got severely rebuked in the other House the other day for not making the distinction.
It is still considerably more than the Senator says. It is well over 20,000. The Senator was not using the population.
Twenty thousand people represented, including children?
That is what you were referring to.
The comparison between the figures here and in the UK is 20,000 to 80,000, and I am prepared to stand over it.
No Irish TD represents only 20,000 voters.
The present tolerance, as far as I read the debate, is that it was somewhere near the 20,000 mark.
For this particular posture, the Senator has no necessity to be accurate in anything he says.
The Minister is still in bad humour, which I regard as a demonstration of the fact that some of the things I have said are going home, and some people find it awkward to face the public. It is all right to face this House and the Dáil, but to face the public with this suggestion that TDs should get 66? per cent increase in their salaries is a different thing.
I will face my constituency in the morning.
The Minister may have to do it, not perhaps as soon as all that, but rather sooner than he might wish.
I would beat the Senator in any constituency.
I think this is quite possible.
Even in Trinity.
I have no doubt this is due to the great merit of the Minister, but I am not prepared to lick his boots on that account.
Accept the challenge. Will the Senator stand in my constituency at the next election and get out of his little cloistered burrow in Trinity and face the people for whom he is always crying?
I do not think the Minister does himself any good by this kind of sneer. If he left to other people the praise which he distributes to himself, it would have a more useful ring.
The Chair is very silent.
It is the academics who are so inaccurate.
On a point of order, I suggest you have a responsibility in this to see that a Member of this House is allowed to speak without the type of interruptions we have had from the Minister.
From the most disorderly interrupter in the House.
I will interrupt if I like, but I do not like to see the Chair refusing to stop the Minister making the kind of interruptions he has been making.
The Chair will not take that talk from Senator McQuillan.
I know you will not, but I will remind you that you have a duty.
The Chair will not take that talk from Senator McQuillan. The Senator is out of order.
I want to remind you that you have a duty to the Members of this House.
The Chair is ruling that the Senator is out of order. Senator McQuillan is out of order in the remarks he has been making.
So is the Minister.
I should like to say, a Chathaoirligh, I am quite satisfied with the measure of protection you give me, and I do not feel this kind of Ministerial remark will do him any good. I feel it is damaging to the Minister, not to me. On a point of fact, in relation to this House, it so happens the university representatives, the "academics" in the word of the Minister, are put here by a larger electorate than any other Senators, not excluding those of the Minister's Party. The Minister knows this quite well. He is aware that the electors for the other Senators, the panel members, are round about the 1,000 mark—let us say round about, lest he accuse me of being inaccurate if I do not give it to the last unit—whereas the university representatives are elected by an electorate of between 6,000 and 15,000 graduates. I do not think this particular point justifies the sort of sneer to which the Minister has just resorted, which will do him damage.
We had a television programme the other day in which I was one of the participants and there were three TDs on it. We saw a film showing another TD being interviewed on this question.
The point was made by him that all kinds of expenses were incurred by public representatives and the price of some of them was going up. He made the point, in particular, that the price of funeral offerings and wedding presents constituted a considerable proportion of his expenditure as well as going over £2 a day on petrol over and above the petrol allowance he got as a TD. Another TD on the same programme said one of the things a TD has to do is to stand drinks to constituents, and that the price of drink has been going up. All of this is true, no doubt, but nevertheless I have a feeling that if a trade union representative appeared before the Labour Court pleading on behalf of a body of workers and said that a large proportion of the reason for the demand for increased wages was the price of funeral offerings, drinks and petrol, he would get short shrift from the Labour Court.
Another speaker on this programme, who spoke for the general public, made the point that he noted in the Dáil that very often there was a certain fractiousness about the debate, and he saw the other day that everything was courtesy. He looked to see what debate was this in which everybody was so nice to everybody else, and he found it was a debate in which everybody was agreed to increase their own salaries. I feel this was a very telling point to bring home and everybody who read the debates recently would find it had a large measure of validity.
The Government never suggested that the price of funeral offerings, drink and petrol prices had any bearing on this. I am sure Senator Sheehy Skeffington knows this.
But these points were made by a TD on that television programme.
I do not think any Party can be responsible for the views of individual Deputies and I do not think Senator Sheehy Skeffington would suggest that.
I prefer to concede Senator O'Kennedy's point.
The Government have not made this point. That is true. The Minister did mention the general expenses. I forget the exact phrase he used. Let me see: he said—and I am quoting him now because I know he has a great desire for accuracy—that more secretarial assistance has to be employed in many cases and "I do not have to remind Senators that there are constant appeals for all sorts of desirable causes that have to be met, charities to be supported and subscriptions of all sorts to be made". I grant that Senator O'Kennedy is right that the Government did not make the extreme example of this type of appeal, but it was made on television by a TD, and the reference to the cost of drink and so on was made by a Fianna Fáil TD. If this kind of appeal were made on behalf of workers before the Labour Court it would receive short shrift.
The picture that sometimes emerges, not only from the film to which I have referred, but also from debates and in Government statements, of the sort of work that TDs are doing, seems to make him into a kind of "fixer", a man who uses influence for his constituents. We are told this again and again in relation to the necessity for the abolition of PR, how much better it would be if a TD were in a small constituency, and so on. He could get around much easier, we have been told, and fix things up properly for as many of his constituents as he could. I resent this picture of a TD or a Senator as a kind of fixer. I would hope that responsible members of both Houses, and I would like to think them as being a majority, would be prepared to use their influence only for a case where injustice has been done and not merely because an applicant is a constituent.
I would argue that the system, perhaps an amplified system, of the ombudsman should be introduced here for the purpose of dealing with legitimate grievances, and in order to take this type of burden off the backs of TDs. It is not the job of a Member of Parliament to be running around trying to fix things up for constituents. I do not know what the Minister thinks. He may agree.
(Longford): You do not consider they should try to get widows' pensions for bachelors?
I do not think so. This kind of thing represents a kind of fixing to be deplored. I know Senator O'Reilly deplores it.
(Longford): I do not deplore it. I know it can happen now and again.
This can be said in relation to one kind of "active" TD. The measurement of working days on that kind of activity seems to me to debase parliament rather than do it honour.
My criticism, therefore, is that the increase ought to be an overall increase for everybody. I notice, for instance, that the leader of the main Opposition Party is to get £10,000 a year for expenses. I have great respect for the present occupant of that post, and I am quite certain that this is spent on expenses, but the amount seems to me to be very big indeed, even allowing for all secretarial and Party work involved for the chief leader of the Opposition.
On Committee Stage, consequently, it is my intention to put down not amendments but recommendations, that is assuming that we reach the Committee Stage, because it is possible, of course, that the Minister's eloquence has convinced the House that we should not give this Bill a Second Reading. If we do reach the Committee Stage it is my intention to put down recommendations for the purpose of reducing the amounts. I am precluded from putting a recommendation down for the purpose of creating a means test. I can only do that under the present amendment, but it is my intention on Committee Stage, if any, to put down recommendations and reduce the amount involved, that is if I can find a seconder.
My colleague, Senator Stanford, on a previous occasion said in relation to the increases that if they were forced upon him, he would give them away to charity, and I respect him very much for that. I am making no such claim. I am prepared to accept them, if they are thrust upon me. Senator Murphy would like to know why. It would be open to me to give this to charity if the increases are thrust upon me, or it would be open to me to return it to the Minister for Finance. However, I must say he is the last person I would return it to.
(Longford): May I interrupt the Senator to say that if he feels he is getting it unjustly he is entitled to return it to the Minister because you must be just first before you are charitable.
I am not suggesting that I dislike the Minister. I am very fond of him, but he is the last person, nevertheless, to whom I would give it. I say that because I do not like the way in which he spends public money. I do not like the way in which he drags his feet in relation to urgent matters and quickens his pace in relation to matters that are not urgent. If it is thrust upon me, it is my intention to spend it for the upkeep and repair of my favourite independent socialist, and in advancing the socialist principles which eventually will come into application in this country.
I am appealing finally to Members of this House to pass this amendment, to reject this Bill altogether and send it back to the Dáil. It has been said by an American that when people say, as some Members of the Oireachtas have been saying in relation to these increases, that "it is not the money it is the principle", the American said when somebody said that it is not the money, it is the principle, "it is the money".
I should like to ask Members of this House whether they feel they can without embarrassment cheerfully vote these large sums, giving increases of 50 per cent to Senators and 66? per cent to TDs. I should like to hope that on a division the House will divide in my favour. I should like to think in this case that the Whips would not be put on and that every Senator would be allowed to vote in accordance with his own conscience. I do not think that this is a Party matter. Fine Gael would not collapse if they were to vote against it. The Labour Party would not go out of being if their representatives here were to vote against this increase. I do not believe the Government Party would go out of power if the Senators in the Government Party here were to vote against these increases. Therefore, it is with a measure of confidence that I ask you when the time comes for a division, if I get, first of all, sufficient support to enable the House to have a division, and then sufficient support from every Senator acting in accordance with his own conscience, to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill.
I formally second the amendment, reserving my right to speak at a later stage.
We have been entertained by Senator Sheehy Skeffington during the last three-quarters of an hour. It is always useful to have somebody like Senator Sheehy Skeffington in an assembly of this kind. He reminds me strikingly of Cato in the old Roman Senate who was always saying "Delenda est Carthago". Senator Sheehy Skeffington would decline——
It was "delenda" in the end, I suppose.
I do not share the Minister's optimism.
We do not have to go to Rome to find as antique a label to put on the Senator. In Ireland we have the "Píobáireh an Ton-phoirt" and that is very much the line Senator Sheehy Skeffington is on today. The Press would say that the speech of Senator Sheehy Skeffington was predictable. That is the modern phrase used. We all knew what he was about to say but the truth of the matter is that we live in a world where there are turns on the road, where there are hills and humps and hillocks. We have to take account of the circumstances in which we live.
Therefore, there is no use saying that these increases should not be given because there are other people who are paid less than Deputies, Senators, Ministers, Attorney Generals and people of that kind. I do not know enough about the system in operation in the countries where socialism is most firmly entrenched, but I very much doubt if Mr. Kosygin is paid the same amount as the lavatory attendant. I doubt if it is so.
That is one thing that is wrong with the Soviet Union.
All Chinese look alike to us but I very much doubt if they are all paid alike.
I am sure the Senator is right.
I doubt if Chairman Mao and the other fellow, the Prime Minister, whatever his name is, are paid the same as the coolie. Therefore, it is sheer cod and a sheer waste of time, and I rather think somewhat hypocritical, though I do not like to use that word in the context of making remarks about Senator Sheehy Skeffington, to bring in a motion of this kind that we should not in effect be given any increases, that we should not be paid as highly as we are because there are other people who are paid less than we should like them to have by way of social welfare or salaries.
Should we not narrow the differential?
I believe, mind you, that if Members of the Dáil and Seanad spent more time, if they were in a position to do so, considering the problems of the country and the real things about which legislators should be concerned, we would go a good deal further towards narrowing differentials. When one considers the various measures brought in here and how little constructive thinking is done by Members of the Oireachtas, one sees that not as much is being done to achieve the utopia Senator Sheehy Skeffington dreams about as could be done—and a large part of that is attributable to the fact that Deputies and Senators are concerned with the trivia of their jobs and to a large extent very few of them can spend as much time as they would wish at the work they might otherwise be doing because all of them have got to earn a living. However, I will come back to that later.
I suggest that Senator Sheehy Skeffington has done some service here this morning. He reminds me of the monsignor of the Roman Rota doing the advocatus diaboli. It is a good thing that he has directed his objections to this Bill so that their validity can be tested and that it will be seen as far as the public are concerned that there are people who like to question these things. I have some observations to make which will indicate that I do not accept entirely salary increases brought about in this way or of this order.
I must say I dislike this Bill. I dislike the idea of putting my hand into the pocket of somebody else to remunerate myself. I do not say I do not earn the increase or that anybody else will say I do not earn it, but I dislike this system, and when we were increasing the pensions of former Members of the Oireachtas and their widows I said there ought to be a system whereby somebody outside the Oireachtas would make a recommendation to the Government and the Oireachtas as to what the rate should be. I believe that is still correct.
I do not like the idea of saying I am worth so much and I have never been a good judge or advocate in my own cause. During a period of my life I worked for better conditions for civil servants, ranging from prison officers to higher executive officers and I was a good advocate on their behalf. I remember on one occasion I had to claim some money from the Revenue Commissioners in respect of conditions of service attaching to my position but I found I could not advocate on my own behalf. It was repugnant to my nature, though clearly I was entitled to it—it was something that was my due. There are other people who are brassy about that but I do not like the idea of saying that we as Members of the Oireachtas should say: "This is what we should be paid", or that the Government should say: "This is what we as Ministers should be paid", or that the Taoiseach should say: "This is what I should be paid."
It would be far healthier if some outside body were to make recommendations to the Government, like many other recommendations are made to the Government, with the pros and cons argued and a decision given one way or the other. I have very little doubt that in such a system the salaries would be something of the order that is proposed here because it is an absurdity to say that the Secretary of the Department of Finance at the present time receives a salary of £5,200 a year and that the Minister for Finance, his superior, receives a salary of £3,700 a year. That is absurd. If the Minister is the man in charge of his Department he is entitled to a higher salary than the Secretary of his Department.
Merit is not judged by money.
The Minister for Finance or any Minister devotes his whole time to the work of Government. It is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. I do not say that the Secretary of the Department of Finance is engaged merely from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but there are some limits to the time higher civil servants have to work. On the other hand, Ministers do in fact, and most Deputies do, work a 12-hour or a 14-hour day every day of the week, Monday to Sunday.
If the Senator does not accept that, then he has no knowledge of the work done by Deputies, Senators, and Ministers. We all know the kind of duties cast upon members of the Oireachtas and we all know the inevitability of having to work a 12-and 14-hour day. We have seen in recent days the evidence of the toll that kind of work takes on the lives of Members of the Oireachtas. The death rate out of 200 people is probably much higher than average. If Senator Sheehy Skeffington or anybody else faces up to these facts, it cannot but be clear to them that Members of Parliament and Ministers of State are not being paid over-generously.
I did not hear from Senator Sheehy Skeffington the suggestion that to achieve the egalitarian society about which he dreams the salaries of secretaries of Departments, assistant secretaries, principal officers, higher execuand semi-State bodies should be reduced. Why should they get their salaries, the salaries they get, for a 40-hour week and Members of the Government or the Oireachtas not be entitled to increases of some sort?
They have not got the sweets of office.
I do not know anything about that.
The Senator again displays an ignorance of the affairs of this country. When we enact pieces of legislation from time to time giving the Ministers power to make regulations by order, when we say that the Minister may decide or that the Minister in his discretion may do so and so, we pass that on to the Minister but the real power is exercised by the public servants. There is a great thrill, when you are a civil servant sitting in your office, in being able to decide: "This is what it is, this is what is to be done." That is where the real power lies. It is limited perhaps, but so is the power of Ministers limited, the power of Parliament is limited by the Constitution, but the real power is exercised by the Civil Service.
When I was collecting revenue on behalf of the State and when we could not get people to send in their accounts and pay their duty, there used to be a lot of correspondence with the solicitors of these people but after all this the time came to take sterner methods and you wrote direct to the people, leaving out the solicitors, directing them to deliver their accounts or otherwise legal proceedings would be instituted against them which might lead to their attachment and imprisonment. Then they would hop. This is power of a small kind but real power it is. There is real power to be exercised by the Civil Service and there is a great thrill for the good civil servant in seeing the scheme which he propounds being accepted by Parliament.
We ought, in the words of the Minister, attempt to attract to Parliament the best material that can be got for both Dáil and Seanad; we should ensure that the best talent amongst those who feel drawn to public life should not be turned away.
The best material that money can buy.
That is often the standard. The truth of the matter is that the members of my Party are happy to think that they are the best material that can be got and that they are eminently suitable to the work of Parliament. Other people may face difficulty in attracting to themselves the best material.
Some of your Members at constituency level feel that they are better material than your Members here.
That may be so. There is a new science growing up for selecting people for different posts but politicians have not yet acquired this new science and, perhaps, we in Fine Gael have not got that far. However, as far as my Party is concerned we are entirely happy with the material we have. I want to make this criticism and even the Minister must accept it and agree that it is justified. There is one stage and one instance in which the selection of the best material can be put to the test. Under the Constitution the Taoiseach had the opportunity of selecting eleven people to be members of the Seanad after all the elections are over. These are people who may have gone for election to the Dáil and may not have succeeded. Some have been candidates for the Seanad and have been rejected by the confined electorate. Senator Sheehy Skeffington shares that distinction with myself.
These things happen but at the end of the day when the elections are over the Taoiseach can sit down and consult with his Party, with his Ministers and with civil servants who are able to advise him, and select eleven people to be Senators. To my mind it is entirely wrong, unjust to the Seanad, and unfair to the public to select as a Senator a person whom it is known will not be able to attend the deliberations of the Seanad. There may be good reasons why such a person should be supported out of public funds but to nominate such a person as a member of the Seanad is quite wrong. In such cases, where it is desired to honour a person, there are methods by which it can be done other than by selecting such people as members of the Taoiseach's eleven nominees.
Anybody who looks at the eleven nominees selected by the Taoiseach over the last number of years cannot say in honesty that these are eleven of the best people in the country or that they are the kind of people who, if they went for election, and were not elected, should be appointed to the Seanad. We know that the dominant reason behind the selection of the Taoiseach's eleven is the interest of his political Party. I do not think it is correct to say, and it weakens the case of the Minister to say, that these selected by the Taoiseach are the best that can be found, because the power has been there and the power has not been exercised to select all of the eleven people who are the best talents and who are the best material for the Taoiseach's eleven. I think that it is highly regrettable that that splendid device which was contained in the Constitution was not used in a way that would benefit the public interest.
Having said that, it is also correct to say that people having been appointed as Taoiseach's nominees or elected to the Seanad, and Deputies having been elected to the Dáil, find themselves then with a particular job of work to do, and I have very little hesitation in saying, knowing the work which Deputies have to do, that by any standard that one might like to choose Deputies up to the present time have not been over-remunerated and certainly will not be overpaid by the time that this Bill is law. The amount of time involved and the patience which Deputies have to show, the calls upon them to which they readily respond, are such in my view as to warrant any salary that could in reason be given to them, and £2,500 for the active Deputy and for the time he spends and the particular service he renders to the community in which he lives is not too much.
To a lesser extent there are certain kinds of Senators who do work broadly analogous to the work of Deputies, and for them, again, the salary which they at present receive and which they will get under the new Bill can hardly be said to be too much. I think that Senator Sheehy Skeffington is correct when he refers to the fact that a great amount of the time of Members of Parliament is taken up with things which properly ought not to be the concern of Members of the Oireachtas if public affairs were properly ordered. As the Minister says, a great deal of affairs have now come within the ambit of the State. Unfortunately, a climate has developed in this country where people feel that unless they have as a crutch a Deputy, a Senator or a county councillor they will not get what they are entitled to. In my own experience I have had people asking me to find out various things which a letter to the appropriate public body or semi-State Body could have ascertained for them quite easily, but the climate has developed that unless a Deputy or a Senator or a county councillor or a member of a corporation makes the inquiry on their behalf or clears the ground for them——
The position has also arisen that if a private person does write to those bodies he will not get a reply for a very long time.
I will come to that now in a minute. Unless the ground is clear for them they will not make their application first when that is the position, and I have no doubt that that is generally the view of the public. Something should be done with regard to the administration of the public services. I had a recent case where I had occasion in my own personal capacity to write to the Department of Social Welfare asking them about my liability for occupational injuries insurance.
You always seem to be having problems.
This is a simple matter and I wanted to find out was I liable to insure. One would imagine that one would get a straightforward answer, yes or no, or that they would ask for more information, but not at all. They sent me out a form to be filled up, and I am put down as an employer, and all the questions are designed for somebody who is in quite a different category as it turns out. All I want to know is the answer to the question, a straightforward question which I set out clearly in a typed letter so that they could not have any excuse about not reading my writing. The matter has been going on from there, with interviews, calls and so on, and I still cannot get from the Department of Social Welfare a simple answer "yes" or "no" or "we cannot tell you". That is the situation with somebody who presents a simple question to a Government Department and cannot get an answer from them.
Would you ask a Senator to take up the matter for you?
This is the kind of attitude that gives rise to a lot of difficulties.
Perhaps the Senator will give me the details.
I can, and I can give you a copy of all the documents. I do not want to get anybody into trouble either, and that is very oftentimes our attitude too. Oftentimes people fill up a form and one comes across the case where because they have not filled it up completely or have left something vague they are told: "You are not entitled to the grant" or "You cannot get the licence", whereas if somebody says that the answer to question 9 (a) is so and so, then they will say: "You are qualified for a grant but on the basis of the information we had before we could not give it to you". I have seen forms presented to small shopkeepers to answer in relation to their turnover and with all my not inconsiderable experience as a lawyer I could not answer some of the questions. I could not know what they wanted, and this form was issued by the Department of Industry and Commerce. I did not know, and I told the people concerned: "You will have to write in and ask them if it means this, this, this or this".
All of that is entirely relevant to what I am saying about the work of TDs, Senators and county councillors. The civil servants in the Minister's own Department are conscious of this, because when I was associated with the Civil Service Staff Association ten or 12 years ago they were trying to clarify the forms and introduce similar methods of expression in the public service and things of that kind. I have, unfortunately, lost touch with what is going on in the Civil Service in detail nowadays, but I am quite satisfied that the Minister's Department could go quite a distance towards enabling members of the public to understand what the Department wants and what information they should supply. The Minister for Finance will render great service to the public and to the public service if a new system can be devised whereby information between public departments, public bodies and the members of the public is improved. I said on the Appropriation Bill last year or the year before that what should be done by the Government is that every Department should appoint a number of public relations officers, not merely to give information to members of the press and organs of mass media when they look for it but to be able to deal with all these kinds of inquiries from people and go out and see them, and that there should be a number of higher officers who know the whole work of their Department who would go to markets in the various towns and fairs and gatherings of that kind where they would be available when somebody wants to know how to apply for a reconstruction grant or if he is entitled to something from the Department of Social Welfare or how to go about getting a telephone more quickly than he has been promised, and things of that kind, if he is entitled to priority because he belongs to a particular way of life.
That seems to me to be a service which the public service should provide and if that were done a great deal bof the time of Deputies, Senators and county councillors would not have to be spent on these matters. I think that can be done. It will take some time to do it and I have no doubt that there will be opposition from some Deputies and Senators to anything of that kind because they think that they will lose contact with the public and that they will cease to confer the kind of favours on members of the public they now confer when they have to do these kind of things.
I believe that the salaries that are being paid are probably correct or of a proper order in magnitude. I should like, however, to refer to one matter which to my mind is something of an injustice to persons who formerly held the office of Minister. Perhaps the Minister would be kind enough when replying to the debate to clarify a matter on which I am not clear. In the Oireachtas Allowances Act of 1960 in section 15 it says:
A Ministerial pension shall be at the following rates, that is to say: so long as the pensionable service of the person entitled thereto is three years, £300 per annum.
The corresponding provision as I read it in section 10 of this Bill seems to change the three years to four years. It says:
A Ministerial pension shall be at the following rates, that is to say:
so long as the pensionable service of the person entitled thereto is less than four years, twenty-five per cent of the annual sum payable for the time being by way of salary to a member of the Government other than the Taoiseach or (if the person held the Office of Taoiseach on the last day on which he held qualifying office) to the Taoiseach,
I wonder if I am right in saying that this means that the minimum period which a Minister must serve is now four years instead of three?
No, three years.
I would have hoped the Minister when he was dealing with this particular section at all would have adopted in relation to the pensions of Ministers the kind of provision that one finds in a variety of pension and superannuation schemes. There are cases and there will be cases where Ministers, because an election has to be called at a particular time, will have less than the full three years. If it happens that a Minister has two years and 364 days he cannot get any pension. Mind you in a period of three years if a person abandons his business or profession completely to devote himself to the work of a Minister of State he can lose a considerable amount and he can find himself way down in the queue when he returns to his particular occupation or profession. Three years is a substantial leeway to make up in either a profession or business particularly in cases where a person has to render personal service. I feel that if a person has two years and 264 days service it is unfair to draw the line and say: "No, you do not get any pension". I believe that there should be a system of rounding up to the nearest year. What I would propose is that where a person has, say, two and a half or perhaps 2¾ years, that could be worked out in days because you cannot divide 365 by four accurately, that that should be rounded up to the nearest year and that should apply certainly at the minimum where it is a question of a person getting no pension or some pension. I think it should be done in favour of the person down at the bottom. I think it is correct to say that in the Order we had here recently with the Minister in relation to the allowances for members of the Oireachtas a half year is rounded up to a full year in the case of members of the Oireachtas. I feel that we would not be doing anything which even the imagined outraged public of Senator Sheehy Skeffington's imagination would regard as being over generous or unfair to the taxpayer. I would ask the Minister to have a look at that and to consider whether it would not be consistent with existing practice in relation to superannuation schemes to do this. I think it is correct to say that under the 1960 Act the pension position for people with long service was improved but there was no corresponding improvement for the people who were down at the bottom. I feel there is a good case for improving their position.
The allowance of the Leader of the Opposition is being increased from £3,360 to £10,000 and may I say that while that is an increase which I welcome I make bold to say and without apology and I am quite prepared to defend it on any platform that the allowance to the leaders of the Opposition Parties should be not £10,000 but £20,000 or £30,000 or £40,000 per annum and there would be an even greater justification for the much larger increases if more and more time of Deputies and Senators was devoted to the real work of Parliament and the real business of members of the Oireachtas. As the matter stands at the moment nobody can make an effective contribution to any public debate nowadays without having carried out adequate research and done adequate reading on the particular subject on which he is engaged. Members of Parliament have so many duties and have to turn from so many different types of problems that to make a really effective contribution to measures which come before Parliament and to measures which should come before Parliament and which do not they must have research facilities. They must have people who will be able to advise them on technical matters and they must have people who will be able to discuss different problems, people who will not always be available from pure public spirit and who on occasions will have to be remunerated for doing research and doing work in specialised fields.
I am glad that the Government have increased the allowances to the leaders of the Opposition but I have very little doubt that in order to get adequate secretarial assistance and technical staff, that would to some extent be the counterpart of the expert advisors that the different Ministers of the Government have, a much higher figure than £10,000 is necessary. There are about 12 Departments of State. The Minister in each Department has many technical advisors. Sometimes when he wants expert advice which is not available in the Department he can go outside the Department and get experts from abroad. That has happened. It continues to happen, and rightly so. Very often, too, and this point has been put to me by Deputies, and I am aware of it myself, when a Minister is making an assessment of a particular situation or when he makes a particular proposal in order to evaluate that, it is necessary for the Opposition, if they are to be a really constructive and effective Opposition, to take counsel with other experts because there are many occasions on which there are two views.
It is not possible for an Opposition to work as effectively as it ought to at the present time, except with the voluntary support of outside experts. While it is correct to say, as far as my own Party is concerned, we are able to command increasing numbers in voluntary experts from various fields, industrial, social welfare, education and so on, there must always be some person in the office who will prepare the draft documents on which there can be discussions and that person must be a person of a high degree of competence.
There are many things which Govern ment Departments and Governmen Ministers cannot get round to doing for one reason or another which Member of the Opposition could well do and would do if they had experts available to them. I believe that any money given to the Opposition Parties for their work is money well spent. Mind you, I would go the further distance— I do not know whether all members of my Party agree with me—and say that if the allowance was what I believe it should be, trebled or quadrupled, I would have no hesitation in saying that it should be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. I would have no hesitation in saying to him that he could look at the allowances given to the Leader of the Party to see how that money was spent. I do not believe it would interfere with the autonomy of Opposition Parties if that were done, but in order to have a really effective Opposition, so that they can make the greatest contribution to the work of Parliament, a much higher allowance than is provided for in this Bill should be afforded. As I say I would go the whole distance of having it subjected to audit if the Minister for Finance thought it was necessary.
Finally, on the allowances, I would like to say this. The Seanad, as a second house of Parliament, from time to time comes in for criticism, some of it ignorant and ill-informed and some of it which is informed and not without some justification and merit. I believe the Seanad, as the Second House continues to perform a very useful function in the matter of legislation, and I believe that that function and the manner in which those duties are discharged by the Seanad are recognised by anybody who takes the trouble to find out what in fact goes on in the Seanad. It is true, of course, that we do not get anything like the degree of publicity from the press which the Dáil does.
Some of us will get it today.
The extraordinary statement always catches the headline.
That always happens, as is right.
The extraordinary statement always catches the headlines but I do not fault the press for that because the Dáil is the first House of Parliament and the Seanad is the second. When the Dáil is sitting, there is a limited amount of space to be devoted to political goings-on and inevitably what is of secondary importance is pushed out by that which is of primary importance. That is regrettable because the Seanad does not then appear to the public to be doing the kind of things in fact it is doing in its own way. It is true to say that those who examine the record of the Seanad and those who participate in its work appreciate that the Seanad makes its contribution to public affairs, but I would wish, speaking from here, that those of the Seanad who do not make a contribution as often as they ought to would for the future make the contribution I am quite sure they could make. It is refreshing on occasions to find that the views which are expressed on this side of the House are shared in other quarters and when that happens, and I have seen it happen on occasions, I believe the eventual product is much improved.
I hope that for the future there will be in that regard at any rate a higher degree of productivity from the Seanad as a whole than there has been up to the present time. Finally, may I say this? The effectiveness of the Seanad as a House of Parliament would be greatly enhanced if some Ministers of the Government were to pay a little more deference to the views of the Seanad. It is quite clear, if one examines the record again, no matter how justifiable a particular view is and how well authenticated and documented it may be, there are some Ministers who on principle will accept no amendment from the Seanad.
They will not even come into it.
That is entirely regrettable. It frustrates the Seanad and brings it into contempt in the public mind. It makes its continuing existence, which I believe to be not absolutely vital, but certainly in the interests of the public, somewhat more difficult to justify. I hope, now that the Seanad are to be remunerated at the rate of £1,500 a year, which I think is a handsome remuneration, that this Government during the currency of their present term of office will make the utmost use they can of the Seanad and that it will be seen by the public, in its reaction to what goes on here, the contributions which I hope will be made from both sides of the House, to be of some value. I want to say, quite clearly, that I support this measure, and I hope that what is said by the Minister and the members here, as well as Senator Sheehy Skeffington and others like him, will help to justify those increases before the public, if indeed that is necessary.
The last speaker towards the end of his address referred to productivity. I am afraid the level of productivity in this House is not very high this morning. I want to say briefly, on behalf of Labour Party Senators, that we support this Bill. Let me confess, however, that it is hard to be objective on a matter which affects your own pocket. I have had that experience in trade union work. You act on behalf of people; you try to summarise and put forward the views they have expressed; and when you try to put forward views which affect yourself personally, you find you are not probably as well able to do it.
We support this Bill, I suppose, for two reasons. First of all, we are committed to support of the measure, and I think it might be no harm to underline the fact that adjustments in the allowances made to Members of the Oireachtas are few and far between. This may be difficult for the public to understand if they look at it as simply being a matter of Members of Parliament having the right to vote themselves increases. We all know, those of us who have been in politics for some years, that that is not just the situation. No Government can bring forward a Bill to adjust the allowances of TDs, Senators and Ministers unless they are satisfied that the other Parties will not make political capital out of it. These are the facts of life. This is the reason why adjustments in the allowances have been so few and far between. We, therefore, as the Labour Party, are committed to support this Bill because we are in the Labour Party and I am sure the same has been the position in other Parties who have been dissatisfied for a long time with the level of allowances paid, particularly to Deputies.
I think I stated previously in this House that three Members of my union have been Members of the Dáil. The three of them are dead now. I expressed the personal view that if they had not gone forward in public life, their families would certainly have been much better off. I in my own union have had to advise people who have been anxious to go forward for election to be a bit cautious and look at their position.
For the Seanad?
No. I will explain to the House and to Senator McQuillan that if the people who are in semi-State employment are elected to Dáil Éireann, they have to leave their jobs for the duration of their membership of the Dáil. I think most of us know that in the public sector generally the maximum salary in the recruitment grade, in the ordinary routine repetitive clerical post, is £1,228 and people who are capable of being elected to the Dáil are certainly people who can get promotion beyond that grade.
The situation is such that if such people were elected to the Dáil up to the present time, they would inevitably be worse off financially than if they stayed in their five day a week, 9 to 5 job, having much more time to spend with their wives and families. They would have much more privacy and much more time to look after their own affairs. I have been disturbed for a long time by people like those who are anxious to take their part in a democracy such as we have, who are anxious to stand for election to Parliament, thinking that if they were elected, their wives and families would not suffer simply by reason of the time they would have to spend in public life—and this applies particularly to Deputies—but also financially. That is the second reason why I particularly welcome the proposal to increase allowances for Deputies.
I referred to the £1,228 as paid to the recruitment grade in the civil service, in the public sector generally, but the House knows—Members have been supplied with the Directory of State services—the salaries paid in the Civil Service. I remember—I do not know whether it was on the Finance Bill towards the end of last year—and I am sure Senator Sheehy Skeffington will agree with me, when the bar which existed for those at £1,200 was withdrawn. We pressed the Minister that the Civil Service generally should participate in the tenth round. They have since got the tenth round. We are talking about the third round since the lifting of the standstill order on the allowances for Members of Parliament.
Senator O'Quigley referred to the salaries of secretaries of Departments and the allowances paid to secretaries to Ministers. I make the point that principal officers in the Civil Service get £3,097 and assistant principals, £2,087 and which of us in all conscience would say that a Deputy who does his job is not worth as much as an assistant principal in the Civil Service. An assistant principal is largely in a five-day week job, with a great deal of permanency, as against a Deputy with a seven-day a week job of not much permanency.
These are the facts of life. I have a lot of sympathy with the view that the whole situation is wrong where in the same economy, we are paying salaries at that level and at the same time, some manual workers are only earning £10 and £11 per week. That is a bad situation but it is the way it is ordered in the economy at the moment and what we are now doing is trying to adjust the level of allowances of Members of Parliament in the light of the existing situation.
I have referred to the allowances proposed for Deputies. I have not made any reference so far to the proposed adjustments in the allowances for Senators. I remember in this House previously making the point that I thought the relativity between the allowances paid to Deputies and Senators was wrong, that a Deputy had an allowance of 50 per cent more than the allowance for a Senator. I expressed the view that a much higher differential was justified in the case of a Deputy. This situation is being corrected in this Bill, and a Deputy will now have two-thirds more than a Senator. While waiting to speak, I tried to examine my conscience, wondering whether I would have been more pleased to be on my feet again complaining about this relativity or acknowledging that some correction has been made. Perhaps I would be a little happier in the first instance.
However, these are the proposals in the Bill, and as I have said, we in Labour support them for two reasons. Firstly, we are committed to do so in order to have something done with the allowances, and secondly, because of our insistence that the allowances paid to Deputies were not such as to permit people who had any sort of reasonable jobs to offer themselves for election, and we in Labour have been particularly hit by that situation.
My union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party has a majority of members who would also be active supporters of the Labour Party who, if they offered themselves for election to the Dáil would be going forward as Labour candidates. They are in a different position from that of people, for example, who own businesses or farms. This is certainly a terrible situation and the allowances should be at a level to allow those people and many other workers to go forward for election who would otherwise be prevented from so doing because of the financial difficulties that would result in going forward for election to Dáil Éireann.
I referred at the beginning to the question of productivity. I support the viewpoint, and I have put it forward here previously, that a lot more effective use could be made of the time of Deputies and Senators by more Committee work. The Minister, in reply to the debate in the Dáil, expressed the opinion that the Dáil functions very well in Committee. I do not think it gives a good impression to the public who see a situation in which a Minister and his advisers, with two or three people from other Parties, discuss a measure in Committee in a Chamber like the Dáil. We who have some experience of the Dáil know they are doing very useful work and that the other Deputies are about their business as well, but much of that work could be done in what we know as Committee Rooms. That is the position in other Parliaments.
This would allow Deputies and Senators to get on with other work in proper Committees of both Houses of the Oireachtas. That is why I have a certain amount of sympathy with the view expressed in the first amendment in the names of Senators McQuillan and Sheehy Skeffington, which has been ruled out of order. On the other hand, I cannot support the amendment we are now discussing because of what I have already said about being committed to the Bill.
This is not any halfhearted commitment. It is a full 100 per cent commitment to the Bill. We in Labour certainly do not support the principle of a means test. It may be true that there is a great deal of justification for paying certain people, who have been referred to £2,500 a year, but we would be dead against the principle of a means test under which the financial circumstances of Members of the Oireachtas would be investigated, to see whether one Deputy should get £X and another Deputy £X plus, and still another Deputy £X minus. That would be a wrong situation and we oppose it.
It is rather difficult for all of us here to express support for this Bill because we might appear to the public to be supporting our own interests. For that reason, what we must here attempt to do is give some indication of the problems which people in public life face at all levels. We must attempt in so far as we can to mend our ways and make good any deficiency there may be in our activities in these Houses. The one principle we should work on is that, whatever uninformed public opinion may be, it is no excuse whatsoever for anybody in either House of the Oireachtas to downgrade the activity of public life.
Senator Sheehy Skeffington has been guilty of quite a lot of it this morning. I respect many of his reasons for putting down the amendment and I have no reason to believe that he is not entirely sincere in his approach to this and other matters, but he must realise, as an academic person and a reasonable person, that to give the impression of public life and the business of public life as being associated with drinking, wedding presents and funeral offerings and to say that these hardly constitute a reason for providing these increases, will do no service to the House or the community at large who expect——
Was not that what came across on the television interview, unfortunately?
Maybe. I do not have as much time to watch television as other people—I do not include Senator Sheehy Skeffington—nor do I accept as gospel the opinion of any individual, no matter to which Party he may belong.
That is interesting for a change.
What we really should try to put across is the importance of the work we are about and thereby indicate that we are adequate for the work which we face. Let us not here claim on the part of Members of either House or of the Government that we, personally, think we are not being paid enough. It is more than that. It is a clear statement of the fact that the type of work we are asked to do, whether we are capable of doing it or not, warrants more than has hitherto been available or been paid.
For that reason we must consider particularly the position Senator Murphy has outlined of a person who has to make a decision—this must happen more often than we are aware of—as to whether he will go into public life. On numerous occasions recently I have heard the views of young people who have active political interests, not always exclusively on the Fianna Fáil side, who have formed the impression that before they can undertake political activity, their first duty and obligation is to make their homes secure, to provide financial security for their homes. Having done so, their view is they can afford the luxury of active political life. This surely is a negation of what all of us hope to do in our work here.
It is the combination of the impatient young men and the experienced older men that gives our proceedings here and in the other House the importance which they have. If young people, people about to get married or who have recently been married, feel that this is something which they cannot impose on their families, the result will be that by the time these same men become involved in politics the fire of their indignation will have been quenched for the lack of fuel. I would suggest to Senator Sheehy Skeffington and to many outside who may doubt the sincerity of this proposal that young people are becoming more eager and more anxious to participate in political life but that they cannot undertake this when they clearly see that it is going to leave them and their families at a substantial net loss. I wish we could be unanimous in this and thereby indicate to the public that we are not trying to line our own pockets and feather our own nests but that we are trying to encourage the fuller participation in public life of those who wish to participate.
Probably all Parties need an injection of impatience and indignation to a certain extent, an injection which only the young can give. It is the combination of these qualities that make political activity but, from my own experience of the Fianna Fáil Party, I have no experience of the Fine Gael or Labour Parties, despite the views of many outside who think that the Fianna Fáil Party is a large monolith, I know that these young people who put forward their views, sometimes unreasonable views, contribute quite a lot to the formation of government policy in one fashion or another. I am not suggesting that they are a big factor but it is important to realise that the part is being played, that the part is to be played even more, and that participation should always be made available to those who would play it.
We in this House and the Members of the Dáil can best prove our case by our activities here and outside the House. I have no standards by which I can judge our activities here, this being only my first term here and so I cannot judge the activity of other Houses that have gone before, but it is fair to say that by and large the House does approach its work seriously and I am sure that the Dáil does the same thing. If anybody has any doubts about our position in this they can solve those doubts by devoting more time, energy and study to the business which comes before us from time to time.
Senator Sheehy Skeffington and the other university Senators can be quite cynical of the other function of the parliamentary representaive, that function of being a direct adviser or assistant to the community at large whether in a constituency or otherwise. I should like to remind the university representatives here that they represent a group of university graduates who, of their very nature, are more financially secure than the general body of the community, a group of graduates who are in general more enlightened and more determined about their needs than the general body and a group which does not put anything like the same pressure on their university representatives as the community in various parts of the country and in this city put on their parliamentary representatives.
I am not suggesting that the university representatives and Senators should get less but, in fairness to them, I would say the time they spare from the pressure of personal communication with their electorate, they devote more fully to the business of the House. But let them not be cynical of something they know nothing about.
Quite a lot of our constituents write to us.
I have never had representations from the Senator on behalf of anybody in any of the Ministeries I have occupied.
There was a representation last year on the question of widows' pensions and it received a dusty answer.
I doubt if Senator Sheehy Skeffington would have any need to have secretarial assistance to cope with that kind of work but I feel this an urgent need and I am quite sure that other Senators do so also and this increase will go a long way for all those who find in this kind of work a heavy pressure on them; it will go a long way towards taking the burden of that kind of work from us.
Would the Senator approve of the appointment of an ombudsman?
It has been a failure.
That is a matter for another argument at another time. I should not presume to discuss the most important aspects of ministerial responsibility and work in comparison with work outside. This is so evident that I am surprised that this readjustment did not take place long ago. What we all hope to achieve is to establish the status of the work of the Member of either House as being that of almost full-time work, that it will be recognised that when Members of these Houses are present in these Houses they will be given full time to the business. I feel sure that the weakness which the main Opposition has shown in recent times is because of the fact that this full-time attention is not being given to the business of the House. I yield to no one in my respect for members of the Opposition and I know that some of them have suffered, that some prominent members of former Opposition Governments have suffered financially by virtue of their political activities.
I do say that at present the problem just now is the conviction that many of them cannot afford to divorce themselves sufficiently from their other professional activities, which they may share with myself, because of the fact that thereby their contributions in the Oireachtas would not be what it should be. No blame to them for this, because they are faced with the problems I have already outlined, but I think that this adjustment should, in fact, help them to readjust their activities, and if it does so both for them and for every Member of both Houses it will certainly have justified itself. Accordingly, I would with some degree of confidence having listened to Senator Sheehy Skeffington's degree of confidence, ask the Senator in the interests of all of us, of the community and of those who would play an active part in politics, to withdraw his motion here this morning.
It is pleasant rising to speak in a debate coming after one who typifies so much the type we wish to bring into public life in this country. I refer to the last speaker, Senator O'Kennedy, who brings a type of enlightenment and broadness of mind that we all wish and hope to bring into our public life, and our aim should be to attract such people in. I make no apology to anyone for paying what indeed is only a right and proper tribute to Senator O'Kennedy and to his work in this House and indeed also to his opposite number, Senator Garret FitzGerald, another new member who has contributed greatly to this House. Indeed the high point of the House in the present session has been the work of those two freshmen Senators. We hope that in the next Government we will be able to welcome at least one of them back as a Minister.
Which of them?
It does not matter.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee?
He has read the thoughts of Mao all right.
Speaking on the present bill it is not very popular, as Senator Sheehy Skeffington and I and others here have said many times, to have to voice what has often been rather a lone opinion, an independent opinion. We feel that that is the chief contribution we can make here, to give our views as we see them as academics. We do not for one moment hold that those views should be held by everyone, but it is our duty as academics to put them forward and to debate them in Committee. We are doing that out of concern for our country and for the part that Parliament must play in a democracy. Also we are concerned with the very grave unrest that hangs all over Europe. We see what appeared to be stable democracies like France and Italy tottering.
By the universities of course.
That is just an easy glib remark which shows a complete inability to approach the problem openly. If we do not learn from the winds of reform blowing all over the world, especially in Europe, it may well be too late. People already are rather disillusioned and highly cynical——
Start reforming yourselves.
——with Parliamentary performance in this country. You do not pluck up real courage by whistling passing a graveyard, yet that is what many of our leaders appear to be doing. There is nothing more depressing and more debasing than to bring visitors to see the Dáil in action and see maybe eight or ten live Deputies sitting there. You may make the case that the others are engaged in useful work elsewhere, but visitors do not understand that and they go away both disillusioned and cynical. In other words the system that permits that to happen is wrong and is out of date, and therefore my conviction is that we have now to look at things fairly and squarely, plan for the future and see what reforms are required. One of the reforms is, of course, in salary structures, which has now been brought in, but I think it is much more appropriate to reform our mode of service to the community before we reform our salaries. I would have hoped that at a time when the Government have been contemplating very big changes like joining the EEC with all the resulting changes that would entail, it would be absolutely vital that our institutions should be critically examined. At the apex of those institutions is our Parliamentary system. I would ask the Minister to attempt as soon as possible to take a look at this really seriously.
We are in an age of mass communications. Our parliamentary procedures are being brought before the public, and yet we still continue in 19th century procedures and those are now being presented to a 20th century public. We have got to modernise and to improve our image. I endorse very strongly the Minister's statement here when he says "There is therefore I believe a solemn obligation on the Oireachtas to see to it that the right people are attracted to its service now and in the future". It is in the context of attracting these people, the Senator O'Kennedys and Senator Garret FitzGeralds of the future, that we want to examine the present Bill.
Right at the start let me say that on many occasions in this House every time I have had an opportunity I pointed out the ludicrous situation in which Ministers were paid less than their principal officials. That was all wrong. It was calling to be righted, and I heartily endorse the action taken on it, but I think that the Minister's addition was not quite what it should be. The Minister mentions a salary of £3,500 for Ministers but that is in addition to the £2,500 as a Deputy, which adds up to £6,000, a reasonable salary for that level and somewhat in advance of the Secretary of the Department. That is as it should be. Of course there are hidden perks in it. There is quite an attractive pension scheme designed to help Ministers, when they are out of office, to get back to their professions or former careers.
It also has a subsidiary purpose of enabling the Taoiseach to get rid of an inefficient Minister with less qualms of conscience.
I made a suggestion last evening about one of those, and it would greatly help my enthusiasm to pass the present Bill if I felt it would be acted on in that spirit. I proposed that there are at least six others within the Party, without involving any change of Government, that are capable of replacing the said Minister.
Does the Taoiseach propose to use that very soon?
I am not he.
We wish Ministers to be treated properly, but on the other hand we should get away from special privileges. One I would refer to is the abuse of State cars which I think should be, and probably can be severely curtailed. I appeal to the present Minister to drastically curtail this when the new salaries come into effect. Many of us had seen on television and were elated by the first meeting between the Government and the Government of Northern Ireland, the meeting at Iveagh House between the Taoiseach and Captain O'Neill, but to me the greatest thrill of all was reserved to the good-bye when, having said good-bye on the steps of Iveagh House, the Leader of the Northern Ireland Government then stepped into his own car and drove off.
He did not.
That is as it should be. It made a tremendous impression on all who saw it.
What is Captain O'Neill being paid?
British Ministers on many occasions use their own cars and the use of State cars is very strictly limited in the Scandinavian countries and indeed all over Europe. I would like the Minister to cut down drastically on that in the future.
Any Minister with a family has to have a second car.
I hope the use of State cars is restricted in the future.
Business suspended at 1.2 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.
Before lunch, I had touched rather briefly on the necessity for reform because make no mistake about it, if we do not reform we are going to find more and more control will slip away from the Oireachtas. We will experience something like what is happening in Europe, which is a grave threat to democracy. We have got to see to it that our work here is efficiently arranged, carried out efficiently and seen to be efficiently done by the public. We are in the public eye in a way in which the Oireachtas was not in the public eye ten to 15 years ago.
We have got to take cognisance of that. I pointed out in fact the adverse effect it has on visitors to come in and see only a small number of Senators present. In fact, I do not think they would be particularly edified if they came in after the lunch break and found that we had here fewer than 15 or 20 of the total of Senators present. It is even worse when you go into the Dáil. It may be said that there is a reason for this but this is the inefficient image we present to the public. Anyone who has any experience of efficiently organised parliaments will know that this should not be so.
I had the privilege of visiting the Senate in the USA and it was really a most impressive performance to see the various committees in action and to see the general air of bustle, activity and work going on, all of which was very impressive to any visitor. One could not but be impressed by the activity and diligence shown in the work in the US Senate, which is the very antithesis of the impression left by Dáil Éireann. I suggest the Visitors' Gallery should be discontinued until we re-organise ourselves.
The Senator is going outside the scope of the Bill.
I understand that in all cases where there is a question of increased remuneration, as is the case in this present Bill, this is always supported by evidence of planning, increased productivity or more efficient use being made of the resources, more efficient performance and perhaps harder work. I believe I am, as the previous speakers have done, giving an opinion, doing some probing and making what suggestions I can for the improvement of the work of the House.
The Minister has a very laudable aim to see that the right people are attracted into service now and in the future. Does the present Bill achieve that? I want to turn now to the remuneration proposed for Deputies, which is £2,500 per annum. I do not think anybody can seriously contend that the more successful of our professional people or business people could give up their employment and come into Parliament on that salary. Thus while the Bill improves the situation in many ways, it does not go far enough to ensure that Parliament can be representative of all sections of the community. I am not suggesting that any one section should have a preponderance but we have few professional people, like engineers and medicals who would be prepared to make the sacrifices involved in getting leave of absence from their employment to serve as elected representatives. That is wrong and the way to do it is not that the present proposal of £2,500 should be increased to £3,000,£4,000 or £5,000 because that might attract the wrong type of people.
We can learn from a study of what is done in Europe, particularly the Dutch system, whereunder some type of average rate is struck for Deputies. Eight years ago it used to be £1,500 per annum and perhaps that corresponds to about £2,500 today. But then if the person concerned was in employment, public or otherwise, he would get leave of absence from the employment and the agency giving the leave was expected to make good any deficiency between his existing salary and that which he was about to receive as a Deputy. It meant then that all people on public boards, even civil servants, were able and willing to come forward and offer themselves as candidates, without having to make a serious financial sacrifice in doing so. Neither of course was there financial encouragement in it. We could have something like that even if there is a certain amount of a means test involved in it. You cannot get away from that. If a Deputy has a farm, obviously £2,500 is worth a lot more to him than to a man who has to give up his employment. Lawyers are in the same position as farmers, especially those near Parliament. We had a principle implemented in university grants, that distance from the university centre is taken into account. That can be done in our parliamentary system by generous overnight allowances, paid to Members from outside Dublin city.
I am making the point that the present £2,500 will not increase very substantially the number of professional people coming forward for election. Neither will it increase the quality. I cannot see it as a way of effecting that. Quality is something we need, and of which all Parties seem to be cognisant. There is a need to improve the type of Deputy to ensure that they are more adequate educationally and in ability for the tasks of modern parliamentary life. I think all Parties are conscious of that but the only really effective way to approach in the selection of candidates. Anyone who wishes cannot put up a plate and say he is an engineer. He has to show qualifications and membership of one of the engineering institutions and the same thing applies in the medical profession.
There are certain standards to be satisfied. I would like to see Parties making an effort in this direction, showing that they take seriously the duties imposed on them by the present increases, duties to ensure that a better and more uniform type of selection is instituted. I would envisage that any person thinking of presenting himself for selection as a candidate in a forthcoming general election, or in an election to the Seanad, would before that time have to go before his respective Party accreditation committee, and the committee would go into the general level of education of the candidate, his experience in public life and would decide whether he was qualified to seek election as a Deputy or not.
A Party convention would then have to select its candidates from those who had been accredited by the Party. That would enable the Parties to make a real, positive approach to the selection of candidates. It is no secret that all Parties are often struggling against local selection and the putting forward of relatives of deceased Deputies rather than selecting the best available candidate in the constituency. I think Parties should make an approach along those lines.
We should examine very carefully the duties of Deputies and Senators and should decide on their primary functions and the allocation of time involved. The primary function is to assist in legislation and in committee work in the Oireachtas, and so on. If that is so, then the secondary function of making representations should be actively discouraged. I know it is a vicious circle at present and it is easy for us from the University panel, who are not subject to the same stream of representations, to look at this problem, perhaps one could say, rather academically. Yet, I think there is scarcely a Deputy who would not appreciate getting away from some of this drudgery at the local representation level, involving consultation on old age pensions or any of the other hundreds of tasks which Deputy Flanagan outlined in the television broadcast. It is up to the Government, with the assistance of all Parties—to set up an all-Party Committee on this—to try to make the citizens aware of their rights and also to dissuade them from using their Deputies as messenger boys; in short, to convey to the ordinary citizen through television that the main function of his Deputy is to attend Dáil Éireann and take an active part in legislation and in Committee work.
In recent years there has been a deplorable increase in the pressures acting on Deputies. Some specialists in that line—all Parties have them—set the standards for other Deputies. The thing is a vicious circle which can be broken only by concerted effort by all Parties, acting through an all-Party Committee. I urge the Minister to do something about that. It would probably call for the introduction of an ombudsman system which has been mentioned by earlier speakers. That institution has proved its worth elsewhere and would be highly valuable here. The citizens would get used to it as their first port of call in which to get advice.
In his introductory statement, the Minister said the allowance to Deputies was not all clear to pocket, that there was the question of secretarial expenses. That is wrong. Secretarial assistance should be made available freely and I should like to see efforts made along those lines in the immediate future. It is part of the parliamentary system in every advanced country that adequate secretarial backing is regarded as essential for each Member of Parliament. We are very much behindhand in this respect.
On the question of the allowance to the Opposition of some £15,000 a year for secretarial and other assistance, I go along fully with Senator O'Quigley in holding that this allowance is not adequate. On the other hand, before voting an increased allowance, I should like to see a plan setting out the proposed structure of the organisational needs of each Opposition Party to discharge their functions as Opposition Parties. If that came before us, I am confident that it would be sympathetically received and acted on. In any Opposition Party there should be a certain number of key people who would devote most of their time to Parliamentary work. That might mean supplementing their Dáil allowance by some compensation grants from the allowance made for the running of the Opposition Parties.
These are all part and parcel of modern parliamentary life and the organisation of a modern Parliament, and it is high time we had a serious look at these. It is necessary that we should revolutionise our work and our system before we begin to revolutionise salaries.
Then we come to the most controversial of all the allowances proposed —the one I find myself in disagreement with—the increase to Senators. The challenge to the Government should be either to abolish the Seanad or put it to work, because there is no future and no use for the Second Chamber as it is today, when it acts merely as a pale replica of the Dáil. On the other hand I should be very much opposed to its abolition because it has a very useful role to play and in the development of a modern Committee system it could play a leading part.
Seriously, can anybody contend that we are giving good service at present? The Seanad debates may be of a somewhat different turn and emphasis from those of the Dáil but if we are to judge by the impact the Seanad has had on legislation—by the number of amendments accepted here during the past four or five years—the Seanad must appear to be the most costly means ever devised of making minor amendments. We usually find great reluctance by Ministers to listen to reasonable amendments in the Seanad. There are, of course, honourable exceptions. One of the greatest of all was the late Minister for Education, Donogh O'Malley, whose approach was always refreshing and open and we always felt when we put a strong case that he would listen to it and act on it. We remember him very much here for that. There are a few other Ministers also of the same disposition and the Minister for Finance usually treats us in a reasonable manner.
However, we are looking for something more. We are seeking to be involved more efficiently in the process of government. We do not want to be merely a purple patch in the structure of Government, especially seeing the way life is developing in the country and seeing the big gulf opening up between officialdom, on the one hand, and the ordinary plain people of the country, on the other. It is here the Seanad can show its usefulness. It is only if given responsibility in this way that the proposed increases could be justified. We cannot give them to Senators merely for 25 days sitting in the year, with little or no Committee work attached thereto, and as for the representations and so on that many Senators have to make, that is not envisaged in the structure of the Seanad —it is not part of the Seanad as conceived and must be described as extraneous activity. the need, if the Seanad is to play its
I cannot but feel very conscious of proper part, to rationalise its election system. It is not possible to devise a more complicated or a worse form of election than the present electoral system for the Seanad which, on the one hand, is supposed to be vocational, to represent vocational interests, but for which the election is purely that of a political college. It is about time we got down to thinking about this and got away from the past.
Has the Senator yet realised that this is a political House?
No. I have read the Constitution and according to it, this House is supposed to be a vocational House where the general body are arranged in five vocational panels with the Cultural and Educational Panel at the top of the list. To show the irony of the electoral system, the President of the Royal Irish Academy is always at the bottom of the poll on his panel.
What is farcical about that?
If the President of the Royal Irish Academy is not worthy of a high rating in an election to the cultural and educational panel of the Seanad then there is something seriously wrong.
The representative of the Bloodstock Breeders' Association once got no votes on the agricultural panel.
I do not think that proves anything.
The fact that he is a distinguished man does not necessarily mean that he is a suitable Parliamentarian.
Did you give the President of the Royal Irish Academy your No. 1 vote?
You did like hell. He got no votes. You fraud, your bluff was called that time.
The only panels that are operating on vocational lines are the university panels and they face the largest and more particular electorate of all.
A privileged class with two votes.
No Sir. The Senator himself has five votes on different panels and why then should he object to those who have only two?
Do not try to cod us. You know you are elected by priests and nuns.
That is not a proper remark to make in this House. I am very conscious of the fact that my support comes from all sectors of graduates and from all types of people.
Go away out of that.
I can see that the mood of the House is not one that will commend itself to any rational decision with regard to salaries. It is a question that members want an increase in salary but do not want to consider measures for future productivity or for doing a better job. There is the grandeur of American politics, where you had people like the late President Kennedy and his brother who were in it for the good they could do.
They were in it because they had millions.
There has been no greater expression of public service and dedication than that given by the Kennedy brothers and it is an inspiration to all of us here.
We are not taking from the Kennedy brothers but we are living in a different country, a smaller country. Come down to earth.
Their service and dedication is an inspiration to those of us of the university panel who very often have to put up with ignorant interruptions when we could be doing other work and making other more profitable use of our time.
Now we have it.
If we wanted money there is work to be done which would bring us in more money but we are satisfied and anxious to serve here and take an independent stand. I will always take that independent stand without fear or favour, whether I disagree with Senator Ó Maoláin or with Senator Garret FitzGerald. At all times we, in the University panels will state our view and if we see that there is need for reform we will call for reform. We will all the time protest that the people can no longer be treated in the paternalistic manner that has been the custom up to the present.
The only failures there have been are on the part of the acedemics in the universities. The universities have failed to fulfil their function in the modern world.
What about the Sorbonne?
The universities in Europe are organised in a different way from the universities in England and Ireland. We feel that there has been a failure to modernise.
Why do you not reform your archaic university system? You have failed to modernise.
The attitude of the Minister to the universities is the same attitude that could cause Danny the Red to come amongst us.
I rise to say that I disagree with those who say that Deputies should not work for or listen to the grievances and complaints of the electorate. I feel that these consultations between the people and their Deputies go to equip the active Deputies who are anxious to work for the common good.
The Minister to conclude.
On a point of order, am I not entitled under Standing Order 31 to reply to the discussions. The Standing Order says that a Senator should not be entitled to speak more than once on a motion or amendment except to close the debate on the motion or amendment of which he was the mover.
The position is that we have here today a debate on the Second Reading of this Bill and on an amendment at the Second Reading Stage. It is not possible for two people to conclude a debate. Therefore, it will be for the Minister to conclude the debate.
The Second Stage is considered as a motion?
Yes. The main question before the House is: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".
During the debate Senator O'Quigley said that Ministers should not have to wait 2½ years to qualify for a pension. As I recollect, it used to be ten years at the beginning before a member of the Government could qualify for a pension. At a particular time one of our members fell ill and I remember it being said to me that there was going to be a by-election in West Cork. There was a by-election but it happened that it was a member of the Labour Party who died as he was making a speech. He was only three years a member of the Government and in order to let his widow qualify for a pension the time-limit was cut down to three years. Up to that it was ten years. There was a time when we used to have a member of the Seanad a member of the Government.
I think that we should have that still and take ourselves more seriously. I think that the standard of debate in this House is miles ahead of what it is in the other House.
On the whole it is. We are talking about what the people down the country have to say about us but I do not think that the ordinary fellows are bothering too much about that. Deputies must listen to what their constituents say and if you get people qualified, as Senator Quinlan says, trained people, they cannot do that. You must get the most popular man in the district or he will not be elected. A lot of these people who are not educated can teach us all. I know plenty of them and they are among the wisest men in the country though they are not technically educated but from the grass roots they know what it is all about.
They would not be passed by your Party committee then?
There is no way out of that. Every Party that is in touch with the people will get the most suitable candidate and the one who is most likely to win. We all know that. There is no good pretending otherwise. Another thing that I am certain about is that whatever about Members of the Seanad under a written constitution like ours the Government are not entitled to take income tax off any portion of the allowances that a Minister gets. I am certain of that. I suggested it once to a friend, who got the opinion of one of the highest legal men in the State, and he said that I was perfectly right, but then I was defeated at the next election.
I should like to begin by saying that I hope that I was not unduly abrasive this morning, and I would like to express my regret to you, Sir, if I gave way to the temptation to interrupt more frequently than I should have. I must confess that I get a little bit restive at being lectured by people like Senator Sheehy Skeffington and others on various matters on which I think by bona fides are just as good as theirs. Senator Sheehy Skeffington held himself up here this morning as an arbiter of public opinion on this question, and it seems that all the political Parties and all the individuals composing those Parties are in error and he alone is fully attuned to public opinion.
I want to say that I am in constant touch with the people of my own area and know what they think and what they want and what they feel. I have to go before them from time to time and offer myself for re-election. I have no hesitation whatever in going before them on this particular issue either to-morrow or the next day or at the next election. Senator Sheehy Skeffington was inclined to describe the interjections I made as sneers. I suggest that it was his performance here this morning which was a sneer at all the rest of us. He sneered at our motives for doing this and he sneered at the indecent haste with which he said it was done. If I might just take him up on that very point I am afraid he is being less than honest and accurate. This matter is now before the Houses of the Oireachtas for practically 12 months. It is my recollection, that last autumn the Committee on Procedure and Privileges representing all Parties in the House came to me and raised this matter in the first place. It has been going on ever since and it is only now coming to this final and conclusive stage. I do not think that that could possibly be described as indecent haste.
The measure we have before us now was finally introduced into the Dáil on the 3rd April this year, so that I think that in his endeavour to sneer at the rest of us and impugn our motives in this regard it is he who is doing the sneering and not myself or any of those who agree with me.
I have a strange suspicion that Senator Sheehy Skeffington is a humanitarian in the abstract. He is all for people in a general way but I think it stops there. I am more interested in people as people and not in some vague concept of what people are or should be. The fact that he implied that the right sort of person to deal with people's problems is an ombudsman is proof of that. I have no belief whatever in the concept of an ombudsman. I think that no matter what sort the institution is, an ombudsman is never anything more than an official, and I do not think that anybody can ever take the place of the representative of the people, the man elected by the people. I tried to outline my views on that matter in the Dáil. I said that a good public representative is essential in the complex society in which we live, and I think that he is going to become more important rather than less because the machinery of Government, of bureaucracy, is becoming more complex and difficult and all-pervasive, and the necessity for a good public representative to act as a vehicle or a channel of communication between bureaucracy and the people is in my opinion beyond argument.
A good public representative does not get anybody anything he is not entitled to but he can ensure that people at least get what they are entitled to, and that is important, because the more I see of public administration and affairs the more I realise how little the ordinary man in the street knows about the whole complex apparatus. Very often he has only the vaguest notion of what he is entitled to from the central or local authority, and he needs somebody to explain his position, his rights and what he is entitled to, and very often what he is not entitled to. I said in the Dáil that a Government or a system of Government or administration that moves too far away from the people is heading for trouble. The only way we can keep the channel of communication open between the bureaucracy and the people who are governed by it is through our public representative. I have no patience with this sneer that is levelled at the social welfare type of activity a public representative engages in. I think that it is important and valuable work; that it helps to make our democracy work. For that reason alone I think that it is very important indeed that we get good, honest, hard working public representatives, people of integrity, who will do this vital job properly. Apart altogether from their important function as legislators in these Houses, I think the other job is vital and important, and one which we must always make sure is done properly.
I also feel very strongly that we should get across to the people in regard to this matter that the allowance which we get, whatever it may be, cannot at all be regarded as something which any of us puts entirely into our pockets. An important part of our jobs as public representatives is to support worthy causes in our constituencies. I think, for instance, in my constituency of a group of people in an area who may decide to start a youth club and want to build a hall or buy a hall or provide themselves with accommodation for the club. They will want to raise money. The first person they will come to naturally is myself because they know that if I lend my weight to the project it will recommend itself to other people. I will be a guarantee of their bona fides and the amount that I give for the purpose will set a level which other people will adhere to. I think that is a perfectly legitimate, valid outgoing on my part.
I could think of hundreds of other similar types of subscriptions which I must make and should make apart from any particularly personal charitable subscriptions which I might or might not feel like making and which depend entirely on myself. I do not want to make invidious comparisons but I feel that anybody who dismisses these outgoings by Deputies in a facetious way just does not understand the situation or is not doing his own job properly. I feel there is an obligation on any institution, no matter what sort of institution it is, to equip itself to do its job properly and that is what we are about on this occasion.
I should love to see Senator Sheehy Skeffington coming in here some time and being for something. It seems to me he is consistently nihilistic and negative. Any time I ever brought in a measure here as far as I can recollect he was against it because it was not doing something else instead. I should have thought that as a socialist he would welcome this particular measure because I think that an important part of the socialist approach to Government is that we should have paid and well paid Parliamentarians. If my recollection is correct the first thing that Prime Minister Wilson did when he went into office was to substantially increase all the Parliamentary allowances and salaries. I do not think he, no more than I, would want to preserve a situation where Parliament was the preserve of the rich and leisured classes. I would have thought that was a sound socialist principle.
With means test applied.
I did not know that socialists were particularly keen on means tests either.
I think Senator Quinlan was very foolish to mention America in this particular context because at local and national level Americans are the highest paid legislators and Parliamentarians of all and I would not like to see a situation here where only millionaires could afford to go into politics. I think in the United States of America now a situation has developed where only a millionaire can afford to be a Presidential candidate. That is precisely what we do not want here. I remember when I was in the Dáil first there was a man elected to the Dáil as a candidate of the unemployed. He had a perfect, legitimate right to be elected and to be a Member of the Dáil but that man had to resign after a certain length of time because he just could not afford to be in the Dáil. His personal circumstances were such that he just could not afford to stay. Does anybody suggest that that is right and that only somebody who can afford it, because of his own particular circumstances, should be a Member of Parliament?
I think this is an egalitarian piece of legislation because it tries to make everybody equal in so far as entry into the Oireachtas is concerned. I am not at all that long a Member of the Oireachtas but I do know that in my time and before my time the history of both these Houses is littered with cases of tragedy and hardship.
I know of men who died suddenly and because of the neglect of their own personal affairs through being members of public bodies they left their widows and children almost destitute. I know of other cases of men who devoted a lifetime of service to either this House or the other House and who, at a certain stage, were ruthlessly cast aside by the electorate, as the electorate has every right to do and they, too, because of the lifetime of service which they had given to the affairs of the country, were left pretty well destitute. That is not the way to run our affairs.
I have a number of motives for bringing in this piece of legislation but I think the foremost motive is as Senator Quinlan read out of my opening statement to make sure that the Oireachtas fulfils the obligation which is on it "to see to it that the right people are attracted to its service now and in the future". I believe that very strongly. I believe that we could let the situation deteriorate very easily, as I think it has been deteriorating in recent years, to where we would not be getting the right sort of people into the Oireachtas and, of course, the converse of that is that we want to ensure that anybody who wants to come in and who is fitted to come in and whom the people would be prepared to elect to the Oireachtas can do so and will not be prevented from doing so by lack of means.
I have no belief at all in this suggestion of a means test. I think it is only a gimmick and I believe that this Bill should recommend itself to the House as it is. It is trying to keep matters right, trying to safeguard the future of this Oireachtas and for that reason it should commend itself to all Senators.
I do not think the Minister has dealt with the question of pensions. I wonder if he has anything to say about that — the minimum period.
I am aware of the problem to which the Senator refers, but I do not think I can deal with it on this occasion. Perhaps it is something we might look at on some future occasion. I want to say in that connection I am sorry that the problem was not brought to my notice early enough to give me some time to go into it. I would not despair of being able to propound some equitable solution to the difficulties which some of these people find themselves in but I do not think it could be done on this occasion.
I rather think it will be a while before we get around to introducing another Bill.
The Minister might think about it between now and the next Stage.
Will Senators in favour of a division please stand.
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington and Professor Quinlan rose.
The Senators will be recorded as dissenting. Next Stage?
It is proposed to take the remaining Stages now in view of the fact that the majority of Senators are in favour of the measure.
I should like to put some recommendations down on Committee Stage and would like the Committee Stage to be taken not sooner than next week.
The Minister has encouraged me to suggest that a recommendation might meet with some consideration for the amendment of section 15 of the 1960 Act. In those circumstances we might have Committee Stage next week.
The Senator knows damn well the only effect this will have is to delay the passage of the Bill and the bringing into force of it. He knows it is only a piece of window dressing to talk about recommendations.
Basically this is a Money Bill. Can we do nothing about it?
No matter what we do we cannot really do anything about it.
We can make recommendations.
Does it make any difference?
It is a matter for the House to decide when the Committee Stage will be taken.
I do not think we should be frightened by the Government's steamrolling action when the Leader of the House tells us it does not matter what we say or do the Government will do what they intend to do. I believe even if the Government or the Minister do not accept our recommendations the fact of our putting them down and arguing them in public with the Press present is a valuable contribution to the formation of public opinion and that is important.
In this House two Members stood up when the question was asked for those supporting a division. The Senator knows very well that those recommendations and this proposal are supported by nobody else.
We do not know what the recommendations are.
Those proposals are based on an all Party Committee. I said the only effect which this delay will have is to delay the implementation of the Bill.
I want to make the position quite clear. I do not believe any of us will agree with the recommendations which Senator Sheehy Skeffington will put down but I want to make it quite clear we have always insisted on this side of the House, certainly as far as my Party is concerned, if some Senator wants to put down an amendment to a Bill he is entitled to have time to do that and even though this Bill means that we are voluntarily forgoing money for the next week I believe we ought to do that. Certainly, as far as I am concerned, I am quite agreeable that ought to be done. I want to say this, There is a possibility that there is one recommendation which the Minister might consider. He certainly has unwittingly or unwillingly raised hopes.
I would not like that to influence the Senator. If that is the only reason we might agree to take the Committee Stage now.
I know that but apart altogether from that the Minister is in a receptive mood, which I know he often is in this House. I think a principle is involved here and that it ought to be observed even when it is hard on our pockets. It hurts me more than the people over there.
We will live for another week.
I am sorry Senator O'Quigley has connived with Senator Sheehy Skeffington's humbug. We will leave it until next Wednesday.