CIVIL SERVICE REGULATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 1925—SECOND STAGE.

Wednesday, 18 November 1925

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 13 No. 6

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Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  As I said on the First Reading of this Bill, it has been introduced principally to deal with the difficulties which arose when it was discovered that under existing legislation the Civil Service Commission had not power to confine examinations to members of one particular sex. I think Deputies will understand that it is necessary in certain cases that members of a particular sex should hold particular appointments.

There are cases, for instance, of certain inspectors who must be of one or the other sex. Then there is the general usage of confining classes, like shorthand-typists, typists and telephonists, to women. As the matter stands at present, it would be impossible to confine an examination for shorthand-typists or typists to women. The recent examination could not be confined, but in that particular case, as no great number of men expected that they would be eligible and no great number was prepared, very few passed and no great inconvenience was occasioned; but it would upset the existing organisation and would, of course, lead to difficulties that were overcome when it was decided some years ago, in the Civil Service at any rate, to confine classes for shorthand-typists and typists to women. It is not intended that any class should be confined to men only. In the case of the Customs, it would be necessary, frequently, I think, to confine a particular examination to men. The number of women who could be employed, without inconvenience, in the Customs service as officers of Customs and Excise, would be limited, and, consequently, it would not be possible to have the examination open. An officer of the Customs and [504] Excise has sometimes to carry on his work in remote and isolated places, and frequently he has to take charge of a Customs preventive staff, which is really a police staff. He has frequently, too, to take charge of rummaging parties, and to search boats, and in the case of a breakdown in a distillery or, say, in the new sugar-beet factory which is being set up, he would have to attend at any hour of the night that he was called on. It is felt, therefore, that for the general work in the Customs and Excise service, women would not be suited. On the other hand, there is certain Customs work that might be done by women quite as well as by men. For instance, there is Customs work done in the Post Office, and there is no reason why that should not be done by women, but the general view taken at the present time is that only a small proportion of the Customs service could consist of women unless the efficiency of the service were to suffer.

At the present moment, in the case of the Revenue staff, we are very, very short of inspectors of taxes. On the other hand, only a limited number of cadets can be trained and we will be in difficulties in regard to that staff in the service for some years. Now it is a recognised fact that there is a greater wastage amongst the women staff than amongst the men. Considerable numbers of women leave, for instance, to get married, and we feel that it would not be in the interests of the service in the next examination, or perhaps the examination after the next, to admit women cadets because we feel it would prolong the period during which we would not be in a satisfactory position in the matter of the staff. But after that difficulty has been got over the intention would be to admit women and men equally to the examination.

As regards all the ordinary examinations for general staff, such as clerical, executive and administrative, etc., the intention will be to have the examinations open equally to both sexes. Occasionally, of course, for special posts, discrimination has to be exercised. There are posts for which you will require a man, just as there are posts for which women will be required. [505] For instance, we have two inspectors of industrial schools; one is a man who inspects the boys' schools and the other is a woman who inspects the girls' schools. If the woman inspector left and a vacancy occurred, it would be necessary to have a woman in her place. On the other hand, if the man left the service, it would be necessary to have a man in his place. Occasionally for special posts, the examination or the selection will be confined to members of one sex, but as far as the general classes are concerned, I think the position would be that for shorthand-typists, typists and telephonists and any classes of that sort, the examination will be confined to women. The Customs service will be, in part, confined to men; that is to say only a small proportion of the posts will be filled by women, but frequently examinations will be held which will be confined to men.

Our Act is based on the British Orders in Council. It was thought that we could confine the examinations to members of one sex as the British do. In fact certain examinations were confined to one sex, but it was discovered, when the point was raised, that the power did not actually exist in the Civil Service Commission as the legal power which the British reserve to their Commission in the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 is not applicable here. That is the principal matter dealt with in the Bill although the Section covering it is a very short one.

The second point that the Bill deals with is the power which is given to the Commissioners to make special regulations confining a competitive examination to persons who belong to a specified class, delimited in such manner or by reference to such matter as the Commissioners shall think proper. That is in substitution for the sub-section which enabled the Commissioners, by special regulation, to confine an examination to persons belonging to a specified class, or being in a particular employment, or possessing some other similar special qualification. That sub-section would not enable the Commissioners to confine an examination to people resident in a particular locality. [506] There are a number of part-time posts, such, perhaps, as officers of district courts, as well as a variety of other local posts which are part-time, and it is thought that it may be desirable, when these are being filled by examination or by selection, to confine the applications for entrance to such examination or selection to people resident in a particular locality. There might even be an examination where, say, a person had to be a certain height or possess a qualification of that sort. As the present Act stands the Commissioners could not confine the examination in such a way as to exclude those who did not fulfil the requirements. Section 3 of this Bill deals principally with two matters: with persons possessing professional or other peculiar qualifications, and persons whom it might be in the public interest to appoint to posts in the Civil Service. The section of the existing Act was, as I explained to the Dáil some time ago, not rightly understood when the Act was being passed. However, the effect of that is in the case of a person possessing qualifications wholly or in part professional or otherwise peculiar, and not ordinarily to be acquired in the Civil Service, the Commissioners may, if it is proposed by the Minister in charge of a Department, appoint such a person, and the Commissioners may, if they think fit, grant a certificate under the section, in respect of such a situation, upon any evidence which is satisfactory to them that the person proposed to be appointed is fully qualified in respect of sex, age, health, character, knowledge and ability for such a situation.

That regulation, as it stands, although it was not so intended, leaves the nomination of the person for this professional position to the Minister, and simply leaves the Civil Service Commissioners to grant their certificate upon such evidence as is satisfactory to them. Now we change that and substitute the Selection Board machinery for it. We give powers to the Commissioners, in such a case, to prescribe by special regulation the method by which they will select the person to be appointed to such situations, and [507] they may by special regulation confine the right to apply for such situations to such persons as pay fees, if any such are prescribed, by the regulations. This new Section 3 of this Bill, but which is Section 6 of the old Act, allows the Commission to have definitely the Selection Board procedure in the case of those appointments, and enables them to charge fees to persons who come forward for positions to be filled by the Selection Board. It is doubtful, as the Act stands at present, whether there is power to charge fees in Selection Board cases.

I need not go over the ground again that I went over when the original Act was going through the Dáil. It is necessary, in the case of those appointments, to deal with them otherwise than by the competitive examinations. By competitive examination you bring in the recruits as they leave the school or the University, but when filling positions, where experience and knowledge of the world is required, you must have something like a Selection Board, and the Civil Service Commissioners have used that Board very widely, and a great number of posts have been filled as a result of recommendations of the Selection Board which, under the previous regime, were filled otherwise. Sub-section (2) of Section 3 is a new sub-section, and it deals with the question of persons in respect of whom the public interest is certified. As the matter stands, at the present, if the Minister for Finance, and the Minister in charge of the Government Department, consider it would be in the public interest that rules in regard to age, let us say, or that the whole or any part of the examination for a particular situation should be dispensed with, the Commissioners may grant their certificate of qualification on such evidence as may be satisfactory to them. Now we have altered that in this way; that instead of having the Minister in charge of the Department, and the Minister for Finance, deciding public interest, the public interest will be decided by the Executive Council, and then the Civil Service Commission has power to decide whether the examination should be dispensed with in whole or in part. As [508] the Act stands at present, and, as I say, it was not so intended, it would be the two Ministers who would decide whether the examination would be dispensed with in whole or in part. We feel, as it is the Civil Service Commissioners who make the regulation for examinations, that they should decide whether the examinations should be dispensed with or not. Cases will occasionally occur where it will be in the public interest that a particular person should be appointed to a position in the Civil Service. I would hope that these cases would be very few and far between. There might be the case of a person who rendered some very special service.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  In an election.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  No, not in an election, and I do not think that there has ever been any suggestion that it should be so used.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  But it might be.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  It might be, but in any case if you have people who want to abuse the provisions in relation to this Bill they can be abused. There might be cases where you want persons of some special eminence for particular positions and where the Selection Board procedure would not rightly apply. The Selection Board procedure works in in this way. The Selection Board has the appointment and candidates come before them. You may want for a particular position somebody to enter the Service specially. In our own case that has occurred. I am thinking of the position of State Chemist. The person who fills that position was not anxious to take it but he was persuaded to take the position. I can imagine, in connection with the Shannon Hydro Electric Scheme, that if you wanted some really competent person who was in Australia or Ontario, but who was really the man you required, the business-like thing might be to make an offer to that person and to induce him to come over and take on the position here. It might not be proper or sensible to issue an advertisement in some journal, and then risk the best person coming forward and applying. There are some positions in [509] which you cannot really rely on that. It would be wrong to make a farce of the Selection Board procedure and to approach somebody, and to assure him he would be specially dealt with by the Selection Board. These are the sort of cases in which this particular power which is in the existing Act in a stronger form should be continued. There are other cases in which it might be desirable, for instance, if a civil servant—I do not suggest it will be used in this way and I do not want anybody to think it will be, but I suggest this case—in a time of strong national and political excitement was dismissed and, shall we say, rightly dismissed, that dismissal would cancel his Civil Service Certificate, but in calmer times it might be felt desirable to take him back into the Civil Service. But he could only come back under some such procedure as this. It is the sort of emergency power necessary for dealing with special circumstances, and we think that we have it here in the form in which it is least liable to abuse. It was felt in discussing the matter, when this present Bill was drafted, that it was undesirable that two Ministers should have power to decide the public interest.

If you ever find abuse in these things, it is where an individual can exercise what may be called the power of patronage. Where you have the whole body of the Executive Council it is felt that there will be no danger of abuse. The third sub-section deals with the power of dispensing with examinations and transferring on promotion in certain cases. The existing provision says:—

“It shall not be necessary for any person in respect of whom a certificate of qualification shall have been issued by the Commissioners to obtain a new certificate of qualification on being appointed either by transfer or promotion to a situation which, in the opinion of the Commissioners, is similar to the situation in respect of which such certificate shall have already been issued.”

It is proposed to widen the powers of the Commissioners in that respect, and to enable them to dispense with examinations in certain other cases. [510] The necessity for that has been revealed in the practical operation of the Act. For instance, cases will occur in which a Post Office assistant, which is a Departmental class, will be promoted to be a clerical officer, which is a general service class, and where you have not the question of customary promotion. There were cases recently in which, owing to the shortage of Customs officers, clerical officers were promoted to be Customs officers. A clerical officer might, in the ordinary course, be promoted to be an executive officer, which is a grade equal to the Customs and Excise grade. They would not be ordinarily, and could not be in the customary course, promoted from clerical officers to Customs and Excise grade, which deals with a different class of work. It is felt that these promotions, which are quite legitimate and proper promotions, but are not given in the customary course, will, from time to time, occur, and that these somewhat wider powers should be given to Civil Service Commissioners.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  The Minister's speech would lead the Dáil to believe that this is only one of the Bills we have every day which are intended to rectify the mistakes we made in our legislation last year and the year before. It is somewhat wider and a somewhat more far-reaching measure, if my reading of it is correct. This Bill raises at least two very important principles, and on this Second Stage we have to satisfy ourselves that these principles are sound principles. To begin with, the first principle which it raises: it is a Bill with two horns, like a dilemma, and I must discuss them in detail, as the Minister did.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  There is one in the Museum, I think.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  The second section of the Bill creates the principle of sex-disqualification, which does not at present exist in our legislation. I am not entirely convinced with the arguments of the Minister, which are only arguments of administrative difficulties at the best, and are not sufficient to induce us to override the principle implicit in the Constitution. Article 3 says that [511] every person, without distinction of sex, shall be deemed a citizen of Saorstát Eireann. That being so, is not every citizen entitled to equal opportunities?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  What about the police and the army?

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  There are certain exceptions like the police and the army for which women are not fitted, just as men are not fitted for hospital nursing. I do not think there are regulations debarring women from these professions. It is because things are just as they are. The Minister gave us one or two instances and said that two men presented themselves at an examination for female typists. I do not know why a man should not be as useful a typist as a woman. I have known men who made very good shorthand-typists and clerks. I think the practical contingency which arises when men present themselves for posts that only carry women's rate of wages is only a remote one. It is scarcely worth legislating against that danger. The Minister said that there were certain posts in the Excise in which the officers were required to get up at all hours of the night and that women were not suitable. I wonder if he has not heard of hospital nurses and women doctors who are called out at all hours of the night. I have known women performing that duty and performing it very well. I do not see why, if they were in other respects suitable, the mere fact of sex should disqualify women for posts of that kind.

The Minister gave us, on the First Reading, details of the position of women going up for examination as Customs searchers. I am inclined to think, having regard to the trend of our legislation in imposing protective tariffs on clothing for men and women, that there is a necessity for a certain number of women in the service. I pity the man who has to estimate the value of women's clothing and decide whether a women's clothing has been worn or not, when it is neatly folded in tissue paper. Again, I pity the man who has to repack a woman's box. I am not sure that the Minister's information is quite sound, that there is [512] not a certain number of women in the Customs service. There must be, as otherwise smuggling amongst women would be carried on with comparative impunity. I read of a case at Dover twelve months ago where a lady was stopped with twenty-seven pairs of stockings fastened round her body. That would be a common case. I am not satisfied by this specific instance and I am of opinion that provisions such as there are in Section 2 are contrary to the spirit of the times. We may dislike that spirit. I am an old-fashioned person and frankly not enthusiastic about the modern change in the relation of the sexes. It is the most revolutionary thing that has happened in our time. I believe that 200 or 300 years hence, when a historian writes the history of the last fifty years, he will not speak of wireless or the development of the motor car or of the Shannon scheme as the most striking fact of the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century and the first twenty-five years of the twentieth century. He will say the change in the position of women is the most significant and striking fact. It was in that epoch that woman left her home to take up a career and, in consequence, you now have woman in almost every sphere of life except the Church and the Army, and in Russia, I believe, there have even been women soldiers.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  And in Ireland.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  And in Ireland. The chief disadvantage attaching to the employment of women soldiers is their undue ferocity. Therefore, outside the Church, and to a limited extent the Army, occupations are open to women. Does the Minister not know that there are policewomen in the United States and Great Britain and that their services have been found valuable? Everywhere women have been admitted to the Bar. Women are able to qualify as doctors and women have entered the solicitors' profession. The Minister said it was not intended to exclude women from the higher ranks of the Civil Service. He may not intend it, but under this Bill it can be done by another Minister.

[513]Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Who would do it?

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  There are yet brave men. The farmers I hope will not do it. We have now an assurance for that.

Mr. GOREY: Information on Denis John Gorey  Zoom on Denis John Gorey  I do not think so.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  I am sure Deputy Gorey and everyone else are too wise to commit themselves on that point before they take office. The fact remains that the power exists to do this, and to give that power at this epoch is a retrograde step and I do not think you will be justified in doing so.

As to the second part of the Bill, the power to dispense with examinations, that is a power which must be sparingly exercised and which needs right safeguards. My quarrel with this section is that the safeguards are almost illusory. I will not dispute the fact that there are certain posts which cannot be filled by competitive examination. To add to the instances the Minister used I should say such posts as a Director of the National Gallery or of the Museum are examples. You require certain technical and educational qualifications that could not be possibly obtained by a man submitting himself for examination for those posts and you would have old men unpractised in examinations reluctant to submit themselves to them. Another example would be, supposing the Minister for Industry and Commerce considered he needed the help of a labour adviser. Obviously the best qualifications for a post of that kind would be Trade Union experience and not the ability to pass an examination in precis writing. There are those tests but they are very few. The Minister will tell me the number. My view is they are so few that we are barely justified in making a general provision. We should deal with such cases as they come up and give the Minister authority by resolution to dispense with examinations in those cases. That would be a greater safeguard.

I take exception also to the changes made. The judges now will be the Civil Service Commission. Formerly they were the Ministers. If it were desired to dispense with examinations the judges were the Ministers. Ministers [514] are answerable to this House, and the Civil Service Commission are not. We can challenge the conduct of Ministers in many ways, and especially in the House, by a reduction of the votes. I do not wish to criticise the present Civil Service Commission, but they are not the only Civil Service Commission that will ever be, just as the Ministers are not the only Ministers that will ever be. This Commission is rightly an irresponsible body. Its members are unpaid, and at present the majority of these members are Civil Servants acting under the control of members of the Executive Council. Now, this Bill puts them in the most extraordinary position that the Executive Council should suggest a particular person to the Civil Service Commission, and then the Civil Service Commission have to satisfy themselves whether he is qualified for the post. In other words, you are inviting the Civil Service Commissioner to overrule a body of which his Parliamentary chief is a member. I do not think it is a fair position to put the Commission in, and, therefore, I think it is a retrograde step. The last Bill was not ideal. I did my best, playing a lone hand, to amend it, without much success. Instead of making the rule of examination more strong, we are creating a system by which another Executive Council——

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  No; you have not read the Bill.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  We are creating under this Bill a system by which another Civil Service Commission can, if they choose, dispense with competitive examinations. I look on this Bill as a step in the wrong direction. If it passes a second reading I shall try to amend it in Committee, but I feel so strongly that we ought not to go in the wrong direction at all that I think it is necessary to divide against the Second Reading.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll  Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll  There is no one in this Dáil more interested in this Bill than I am, and for that reason I do not propose to give a silent vote on the Second Reading. During the past few days I have been canvassed by very influential [515] members of my sex to vote against this Bill. I have the section of the Bill which affects my sex almost off by heart, and I fail to read into it the meaning of Deputy Cooper. I cannot see that it infringes our rights under the Constitution in any respect. I am not enamoured of this Bill. I am by no means in love with it, and I must admit it limits to a certain extent the appointments for which women are eligible.

It might be asked why I am voting for the Bill. I will try and give my reasons. When I was elected to this Dáil I was not elected on the question of sex. I gave a pledge to my constituents that I would do my best to serve them and the State. While in this Dáil I intend to carry out my pledge and to do the best I can for the interests of the community at large. The more I study this Bill the more I see that I would be injuring my sex by voting against it. The number of appointments women would be excluded from would be very small and the Minister has given us a good explanation. The appointments he mentioned could not very well be filled by women. He stated that the appointments in the Customs could not be filled by women and that there would be certain appointments for which women would be eligible. All I can say to those people who canvassed me to vote against this Bill is that women, when the next election will come on, will have an opportunity to return women on the Government ticket to this Dáil who will have the power to amend this Bill if it is passed. I think I have given a sufficient explanation why I am voting for this Bill, although, as I have said, I am by no means in love with it and I ask the Minister and the Government to limit the number of appointments as far as possible for which women would be ineligible under this Bill.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  I think Deputy Bryan Cooper has expressed most of the views I hold in the matter, but I think one or two points should be emphasised. In sub-section 1 of Section 2, and in other parts of the Bill, it will be noted that the words appear [516]“and shall be deemed always to have had effect.” That is to say, whatever is enacted in respect of sex qualifications in this Bill shall be deemed to have been enacted in any previous legislation. I do not know what the intention of the Minister may be in respect of that, but we have heard it said from all sides of the House that retrospective legislation is, on the face of it, undesirable and that a very special reason must be given why any retrospective clause should be inserted in any enactment.

But we are asked here to say that the amendment of the principal Act respecting sex disqualification shall be deemed to have been enacted when it was before the Oireachtas. I wonder whether that section has anything to do with the proposal which was made some time ago following upon an advertisement which limited a certain Civil Service examination to men only. I understand that an attempt was made to have a declaration made in the courts that this was unconstitutional. I think it a great pity that a proposal of that kind, which was not by any means frivolous and which was quite seriously intended, should not have been allowed to go to the courts, and have a declaration made. The Attorney-General refused to give it his fiat, which is necessary when taking action against a Minister. I think that is the position. If the Minister says that that is not correct, I have nothing more to say on that point. My information was to the effect that the Attorney-General had refused to give his consent to the action being proceeded with against the Minister, and it was for that reason that the action for the declaration in the courts was not proceeded with. (Mr. Blythe indicated dissent.) Then, why are we to insert in this Bill these words saying that the sex disqualification should always be deemed to have been the law? Whatever may be the merits of the case in respect of the future, we ought not to legislate in respect of the past and nullify any rights which any citizen may have or may have had under previous legislation. I do not know what they may be, but there should be a very strong case made indeed [517] before we should be asked to pass legislation covering any period anterior to the date of the Bill. I do not think the Minister has made a case even for the removal of the sex disqualification. I do not think that there is any group of cases outside the present powers of the Ministry which ought not to be open to both sexes as they have been in the past.

Then we have the proposition in sub-section (2) that the Commissioners may, by special regulation, confine any such competitive examination to persons in any specified class, delimited in such manner as may be thought proper. That action is to be deemed to have been always in existence and to have been always the law. Again I say we should have very special reasons before we should legislate retrospectively. I think Section 3, with its three sub-sections, is not justified by the statement made by the Minister. He seemed to argue that the effect of the section was to limit the authority of Ministers in respect of making personal appointments or using their patronage. At least his explanation was that the effect would be to throw a share of the responsibility on the Civil Service Commission. I may misunderstand the effect of this section, but, as I understand it, it is opening much wider the door to appointments outside the competitive examination region. It is proposed to give Ministers power to make regulations, and then, within those regulations, to make appointments of individuals. They can make the regulations as close and as tight as they wish.

The Civil Service Commission, as Deputy Bryan Cooper pointed out, is not an entirely independent and free body. The majority—I think all but the Chairman—are bound to take into account the Minister's view on any proposition because they are directly under Ministers. Consequently, we cannot consider the Civil Service Commission in any matter on which the Ministry has expressed a view, a free body. Under sub-section (2) any person whom the Ministers desire, may in practice be appointed to any post in the Civil Service. It may be said that that is already within the powers of the Ministry. I suppose it is within the [518] powers of the Ministry if they like to use all their powers. I am not sure whether that is true or not but this certainly gives them powers to do that, to make a wide meshed net and in effect to secure that the only people that will be caught in that net will be the persons who are required. The existing regulations and the existing law give Ministers power, and it is not at all an uncommon practice—I think it is a necessary privilege—that for special requirements, special posts which are not covered by the ordinary Civil Service practices and qualifications, persons are appointed, otherwise than through the competitive examination method. That is already the practice according to regulation but the modification or change of that regulation has not been justified by the Minister's statement and I fear that the effect of this is to give privileges to Ministers in respect of appointments which will enable them to put into the public service a larger number of people who have not gone through the examination process than the regulations at present in operation provide for. Unless there is a very much clearer explanation of the effect of the Bill than the Minister has yet given to us, I shall vote with Deputy Bryan Cooper.

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  We must all recognise that there are certain appointments that cannot very well be filled without recognition of the differentiation of sexes and the recognition that special qualifications may be required. At the same time I think that the Minister has not made out any case whereby such broad and far-reaching authority should be placed in the hands of the Executive. I am, therefore, prepared to support the opposition to the Bill as it stands, at present, on account of the tendency that I think exists in connection with the Executive Council of taking provisions and powers beyond what are necessary.

As regards the difference in sex, I think we all recognise that there are comparatively few professions or occupations, except where physical differences make it necessary, where women are not allowed to compete with men. We have seen these disabilities [519] being got rid of gradually, and of course we must recognise that women occupy a position of equality to-day with men that never would have been contemplated years ago. That being so the Bill that is before us takes very wide powers as far as the Executive Council is concerned, and I think the House must safeguard its position in this matter of giving powers to the Executive Council. It seems to me that the number of cases that would require to be reserved might very properly be put as a schedule to this Bill, or at all events that the exceptional cases ought to be defined if they are going to be recognised, otherwise the door is obviously being opened for a state of affairs which I do not think the Dáil would wish to see put into operation.

We all have a great deal of confidence in the present Executive Council, and I think that we all recognise that the Minister for Finance had no ulterior motive beyond the good of the service when he introduced this Bill. At the same time I think that the House is sometimes led into placing too little importance on some of the legislation that comes before it, and that it does not recognise that in passing some Bills it is creating a precedent for future loose legislation, for which I think the House will be sorry at some later stage. If I may say so, without disrespect to the Minister, I think that this Bill is loose legislation, and as far as I am concerned, all that I would be prepared to admit for the Minister is that there are and may be certain provisions from time to time to which the argument that there should be sex qualification would be open, or in respect of which special qualifications should be recognised. What I say is that if you eventually did go so far as that, it should only be done, in this or any other Bill, by means of a distinct definition of what the scope of the authority is that you are giving to the Minister.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  As one clause attempts to make the effect retrospective, I have been asked if I would put forward the views of a certain body, and I think the simplest way to do that [520] is to read a short circular which has been sent, I think, to every Deputy.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I do not think so. The Deputy is here to put forward his own views. I do not think he can read other people's views.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  The views, so far as they are expressed by this body, are my view also.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I want to make the position clear. It is a well-known Parliamentary rule—Deputy Byrne knows it himself, or has heard it before—that Deputies come here to express their own views. It is not competent for a Deputy to say: “These are the views of X, Y and Z, and I agree with them, and I read them out as the views of X, Y and Z.” That cannot be done. It is very clear that it would lead to extraordinary abuses. It has frequently in other places been ruled to be absolutely out of order. Deputy Byrne, I am sure, has heard that before.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I was well aware of that at the time, but I wished to give the Minister an opportunity of replying to some of the arguments in this letter.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Has the Minister received the letter? Has the circular been sent to every Deputy?

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I believe it has.

A DEPUTY:  No.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  We do not know what the circular is yet.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  The Minister himself has nodded assent. What I wanted to draw attention to is this, that it has been stated that the Civil Service Commission attempted to make rules which were contrary to the Constitution, and that this body, when certain examinations were advertised, took legal advice and were advised that the Minister and the Civil Service Commission were entirely wrong and could not do so under the Constitution. Am I to understand now from this Section 2 that the Minister desires to make a law to cover himself and his Civil Service Commission for something that was done within the past twelve months? If that is so, it is very unfair, and, I certainly agree, unconstitutional. Besides, I think that these efforts—this is the second attempt [521] that we have had—are rather haphazard ways of introducing amendments to the Constitution. I do not think that the Constitution and the citizens generally should be treated as they are by the Government. In the past these examinations were, according to the Constitution, open to both sexes. The Civil Service Commission, for some reason or other, attempted to confine at least one of the examinations to men, and having got advice it was decided that the Government could not take up this attitude. The result is that this Bill is brought forward, with a view to amending the Constitution. I am satisfied, since the Minister has nodded assent, that he has got this case, as stated by the Irish Women Citizens and Local Government Association, that he will pay some attention to the objections that are raised in the circular, and that he will avail of the opportunity to reply to the arguments in it.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  Deputy Byrne declares that this is an attempt on the part of the Minister to reform the Constitution. We give the Ministry credit for a fuller knowledge of the Constitutional position than that alleges. There is no Minister, certainly there is no member of the Executive Council, who is not fully aware of the fact that the Constitution can be amended only by express legislation directed thereto, and that if in any particular the Constitution is to be altered a Bill framed for that explicit purpose must be introduced. Therefore, it is clear that the Minister does not desire to amend the Constitution. What, then, does he desire? When this Bill has become an Act it will be cited as “the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act, 1925,” a pleasing euphemism; it runs trippingly off the tongue, pleasingly seductive. Consider the Title of the Bill, and consider the substance of the Bill in detail, and it will remind you of the advice given by the crafty and designing wife of an aspiring politician: “Look like the innocent flower to the bee that circles about it.”

This Bill, in so far as the later clauses are concerned, may more aptly be described as a “Bill for the Facilitation [522] of Jobs,” and in its earlier portion, “a Bill for Sex Disqualification.” The reason that was given some time ago—the reason which I heard, because, unfortunately, I had not an opportunity of hearing the opening speech—was that on a recent occasion an audacious man had actually succeeded in penetrating that holy of holies, the staff of typewriting clerks. It is to prevent more of this desecration of Government offices that the earlier part of the Bill was designed.

On one occasion it was my happy lot to interview the secretary of a Minister with a view to the reception of a deputation. I noticed, what I had the first opportunity of noticing—later I had further opportunities in other Departments—the delightful picture gallery a Ministerial office can be made into with the living picture, a pretty typist or a pretty secretary. Evidently that is to be the order of the day and a mere man must not replace those ornaments of the staff. Is it alleged that a man would not be able to typewrite, that he would not have that gracious delicacy of touch that is requisite for swift typewriting? Are men not accurate writers of shorthand? Are we to remove the official Press and substitute for them those more competent girl clerks? That would be consistent. When was it discovered that women were incompetent to fill the higher offices and that in the interest of the public service they should not be allowed to attempt to secure those positions?

Are we consistent? We are spending out of the public purse close on £5,000,000 a year on education. In July last, speaking on the Estimate— I was the only one who did, by the way, speak on the Estimate when it was an Estimate—I calculated that the total sums devoted directly and indirectly, and likewise the amounts paid by way of private fees by parents, indicated that we were spending upwards of £6,000,000 per year on education.

Mr. GOREY: Information on Denis John Gorey  Zoom on Denis John Gorey  What for?

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  What for? Why was not Deputy Gorey here to ask that question when I was dealing [523] with the subject at the time? It, at any rate, purports to prepare girls and young women for life. We are now to announce that the ambition of filling the higher offices of the Civil Service is not a legitimate ambition on the part of our University graduates. I shall be told, no doubt, that they are not excluded; that the Bill is merely permissive. That is all very well while we have an Executive Council that expressly binds itself, by declaration, that it will not do the evil things which the Bill, when enacted, would permit it to do. My friend, Deputy Hewat, has hit the nail on the head. We are asked here to give away by this Bill the power that we ought to retain, to constitute the Ministry the first and last authority as regards the fitness of the applicant for certain official duties.

Once we have passed the Bill the Ministry becomes omnipotent in the matter. That is why I described it— I do not hesitate to repeat the description—as a Bill for the facilitation of jobs. It is not a Bill for the regulation of the Civil Service, for it practically abolishes the Civil Service in certain Departments in certain respects. I cannot find that Section 3 (2) does anything else but open the door in the same way in which the professed abolition of the Civil Service would do it. If the purpose were to secure by legislation what could be secured by natural selection—if that were declared to be the intention—I would point out that we have too much legislation. There is hardly a single field of human exercise in regard to which it is not the intention of this House to introduce legislative control.

This is bureaucracy run mad, to substitute the fiat of a particular individual who is in office for the regular process of Civil Service examination and the application of tests of fitness. I am an enemy of bureaucracy. So long as I am a member of this House and have breath to speak, I shall protest against anything that tends towards bureaucracy. It is the denial of democracy. We are sitting here as Deputies under a Constitution the most [524] democratic in the world, framed designedly to be a model to other lands as a democratic Constitution. We were the first in the world to introduce equality between man and woman, to recognise a common citizenship irrespective of sex, and now we are proceeding to do away with that. Why? If that is to be done, let it be done regularly. If it is to be done, let it be justified. What has occurred in recent history that would justify us in doing away with that equality? Take the higher administrative posts, the Ministries. Are there tests applied to them? Is there any standard to which they must conform? Is there any decision as regards their peculiar fitness? Because of traditional custom that is unnecessary; but a Minister without an efficient Civil Service would not be able to carry on and, consequently, we who are interested in good government must be interested in the proper constitution and regulation of the Civil Service.

Now, under the Constitution, men and women or, should I say, youths and girls, have the franchise. They are entitled to exercise their share of citizenship in the decision as to who shall represent them in the Oireachtas. And yet they are to be told, as regards one division of these voters, that they are proscribed by the fact that they were born feminine, not masculine. They are supposed to become happy and contented citizens under that disqualification. It is not good policy; that ought to be a consideration for politicians. It is not just or equitable; that ought to be a consideration for men. It is quite easy to get over this difficulty that has presented itself. No woman will apply for appointment to a position where the fact of being a woman is an obvious and natural disqualification. Neither will a man of commonsense apply for the position, say, of warder or matron in a prison for women convicts. It is unnecessary to lay down the law in that respect, because in certain matters we can rely on commonsense and on ordinary prudence. It is quite sufficient to schedule certain posts; but to enact a measure which throws the door open [525] to all sorts of irregularities, merely in order to secure that people shall behave sensibly, is like the old story of burning the house to roast the pig.

Mr. HEFFERNAN: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  I just want to say a few words in support of Deputies Cooper, Magennis and Johnson. I am not inclined to lay very much stress on the aspect of it that has been so ably put to the Dáil by Deputy Magennis. My point of view with regard to it is this: we, in the Constitution, have accepted sex equality, and this Bill is undoubtedly an attempt to make sex differentiation. As we have accepted sex equality, let us stick to it and let us not try to undermine the Constitution by means of a Bill which is put forward for another purpose, and not specially to amend the Constitution.

The passing of this Bill will, in my opinion, give power to the Minister to restrict and confine positions in the Government to any particular sex which he desires. It is my opinion that this matter might be met by other means. It might possibly be met by means of special regulations placed on the Table of the Dáil, or something of that kind, having reference to a particular examination with regard to which it was found necessary to exclude one sex or the other. My opposition to the Bill is based very much more on the sections which give power to the Executive Council and the Ministers, acting through the Civil Service Commissioners, to set aside the regulations with regard to competitive examinations.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille  Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille  took the Chair.

Mr. HEFFERNAN: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  In my opinion, if the Dáil grants this power, it opens the door to all kinds of possible jobbery, and the giving of appointments to men who have earned the right to the appointments not because of real ability, but because of political services. I do agree with the Deputies who have already spoken that the present Minister has no intention of that kind in his mind when introducing the Bill. But the fact remains, in any case, that it can be used for that purpose. It is my opinion that there are very few appointments [526] that cannot be filled by competitive examination. I think it should be the ideal to be aimed at that every possible appointment should be filled by means of competitive examination. It was the ideal put forward by Sinn Fein. It was the ideal which an attempt was made to enforce in the local boards throughout the country, and I personally am not going to give my vote for a Bill which will set an example from headquarters, so to speak, and give appointments for other reasons than real work and real ability as proved by competitive examination.

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  I am rather surprised at this Bill. The Minister, when he announced its birth last Thursday, appealed to our chivalry and appealed to us to protect the women typists from the intrusion and aggression of those rude and thoughtless males who thrust themselves into examinations where he considered they ought not to be. I think that the Minister meant more than he said last Thursday. I am not saying that he has deliberately taken us in, but I, for one, had no idea that the scope of this Bill was going to be so wide as it apparently is. The Bill seems to me, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, to be utterly retrograde in spirit.

More and more, women are making their way, and rightly, into the higher posts in the Civil Service, into the executive and administrative posts, and I think this country, which proposes to be progressive, should fall into line with this principle. We should not, except in the very rarest cases, make any discrimination of sex in our public appointments. Deputy Cooper has dealt very fully with that point, and I will not stress it any more. It is with the latter part of the Bill to which Deputy Magennis takes such exception that I direct my remarks. I see the difficulty under which the Civil Service Commissioners are. I realise fully that certain appointments must be made for which an examination is not a fitting test; but I think the regulations which should guide the Commissioners in making such appointments are matters on which the Oireachtas should have a direct decision. I am willing to leave a lot to the discretion of the Minister [527] and to the Civil Service Commissioners. I would not leave these regulations completely and entirely in their power. I think it would embarrass the Commissioners and, in case we had Ministers and Commissioners not so scrupulous as the present ones, it would lead to grave irregularities. Sub-section 2 of Section 3, as Deputy Cooper pointed out, is certainly too wide. I would not leave it free to the Commissioners. I cannot see how the Commissioners, if the appointment of a certain individual was indicated to them as desirable by the Minister or the Exectuive, would be likely to say “No” to his appointment. I think that in cases of that sort the initiative should come not from the Minister or Executive but rather from the Civil Service Commissioners themselves. Therefore I would leave the question, as to what credentials or certificates should be presented, to the Commissioners. Recently we made one or two appointments of that sort and I think they were made well and that the right people were appointed. On two grounds I certainly am opposed to the Bill. It is tending to put back the clock and to drive women down into the lower Civil Service posts and to confine the higher administrative and executive posts to men only.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Why do you say that?

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  I think there is that tendency.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Where is the tendency? What is the use of talking nonsense?

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  It gives the Ministry power to do it. Is it the intention of the Minister to throw open the higher administrative and executive posts to women?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I have already said it several times.

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  I am glad to hear it.

Major BRYAN COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Can the Minister bind his successors?

[528]Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  No, but I think public opinion will bind them.

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  This gives extraordinary powers to Ministers in the future. I am sorry if I misinterpreted the Minister, and I apologise if I did. I know he has a liberal mind and I would be sorry to accuse him of narrowness in this matter, but I do not feel that we are justified in giving this power to any Minister in future. I will not go so far, perhaps, as to say that sub-section 2 of Section 3 will inevitably lead to what are called “jobs,” but it is too wide and too much of a blank cheque to give to any Minister.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  I oppose this Bill on principle. I think it is another case in which I am perfectly ready to believe, and do believe, that the Minister has no intention beyond what he has declared, but it seems to me plain that the powers given to the Minister in this Bill are much wider than those required to enable the Minister to carry his wishes into effect. I am, therefore, going to vote against the Bill and to oppose it as strongly as I can. The arguments have been put so well, especially by Deputy Magennis, there is very little left for me to say, except to dot the i's and cross the t's of that Deputy. I would like to stress one or two points. We thought we were doing a good thing when we passed our first Civil Service Bill. I think it is a good Bill, as it puts our methods of filling appointments on a sound basis, but it seems to me to be perfectly obvious if you pass this Bill with sub-section 2 of Section 3 in it you need not have passed the other Bill.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Did the Deputy read the other Bill? There seems to be ridiculous nonsense being talked about this Bill. It is an amending Bill and it cannot be read otherwise than in conjunction with the other Bills. Complete nonsense is being talked about it.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  Is that a Parliamentary expression? It is rather new to this Dáil.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  The Minister is [529] making a technical point, and I admit the force of it as a technical point, but in no other way. He says the Bill can only be read in conjunction with the other Bill, but the force of what I was saying remains. What is the meaning of the other Bill? It means that you must have certain examinations for certain posts, but what this Bill means is that you may fill any post without examination. What force is then left in the other Bill? It is perfectly true that you can only read this Bill in reference to the other Bill.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  The Deputy suggests that this is a retrograde position as compared with the other Bill, but I say that that indicates that the Deputy did not read the other Bill.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  I read the other Bill, and in a very favourable way. It insists on filling certain posts in an open way by fair and free competition. This Bill, however, says that if the Minister wishes—I am not saying that the Minister is going to do anything in a wrong way—at any time to fill any post in any other way, he can do it.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Did the Deputy read Section 6 of the other Bill?

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  I have read it. No doubt, if I am wrong in what I have said, the Minister will put me right in his reply. I submit that the real effect of sub-section 2 is that the Minister can, at any time, if he so desires, fill any post by not holding an examination, whereas it is laid down in the previous Bill that an examination must be held. I do not suggest for a moment that the Minister will use that power wrongly. That is not the point.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Perhaps the Deputy would read Section 6. I only interrupt him because he seems to me to be in absolute ignorance of the provisions of the first Bill, and he is stating something contrary to the truth—not intentionally, of course.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  I hope I shall be put right if I am wrong in my interpretation of it. The Minister asks me to read Section 6 of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924. It is as follows:

[530]“In case the Minister for Finance and the Minister in charge of a Government Department shall consider—

(a) That the qualifications in respect of knowledge and ability deemed requisite for any particular situation to which this Act applies in that Government Department are wholly or in part professional or otherwise peculiar and not ordinarily to be acquired in the Civil Service, and the Minister in charge of such Government Department shall propose to appoint to such situation a person who has acquired such qualifications in other pursuits; or

(b) that it would be for the public interest that the rules in regard to age and the whole or any part of the examination for such a situation as aforesaid should be dispensed with;

the Commissioners may, if they think fit, grant their certificate of qualification in respect of such situation upon any evidence which is satisfactory to them that the person proposed to be appointed to such situation is fully qualified therefor in respect of age, health, character, knowledge and ability.”

I think I have done what the Minister asked me, and I therefore submit that, having read that, I ought also read, but perhaps it is unnecessary, sub-sections 2 and 3. I submit that the case is this, namely, that if the Minister says that everything is covered by Section 6 of the Civil Service Regulation Act, he does not need further power.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  No, not further power.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  Then what is the force of sub-sections 2 and 3?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I have already tried to state it.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  I owe an apology to the Minister in that I was unable to hear his explanation, but my reading undoubtedly was that sub-sections 2 and 3 give the Minister further power.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Less power, rather.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  The Minister has [531] stated that he has already power in Section 6. If the sub-sections do not give further power, I cannot see what they are put forward for here. That is as to the general point. I am afraid that instead of dotting the i's and crossing the t's of Deputy Magennis's argument in this friendly controversy with the Minister for Finance, I have drawn away the attention of the Dáil from the force of those arguments. However, I want to draw special attention to the arguments used with reference to women. I will not go into the point as to whether the Bill is or is not in accordance with the liberty on which we pride ourselves on having given in our Constitution. That, no doubt, will have to be settled elsewhere, but it seems to me that in this Bill, particularly when taken in conjunction with our experience in reference to the filling of appointments in the higher grades of the Civil Service, we are practically closing the door of the higher grades of the Civil Service to women.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  No.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  It is important that the Minister should have an opportunity of saying why that impression is unfounded. We should be doing a great injury to educated women, and to their hopes when getting higher education, if we allow that impression to go even momentarily abroad that there is an intention to close these higher posts to them. There is no doubt they have already formed that impression, and I think when we analyse the situation we will find there is justification for it. Notices have been given on two occasions of examinations. According to the first notice, the examination was declared to be for men only. On protest the notices were withdrawn, and examinations were not held because it was found they could not be legally held under the provisions of the then Civil Service Act. Now the Minister brings in a Civil Service amending Bill which certainly, on the face of it, shows he had attempted to do certain things, and when he found he could not do this, then it would appear that the amending Bill was introduced to remedy the defects [532] from his point of view in the previous Act, and to give him further powers to carry out the intentions he had in mind in his original notices. I must say that women would be justified on referring to those notices of examination, and to the provisions of this Bill, in thinking that it was the intention of the Ministry to fill these higher posts of the Civil Service in future with men only. The Minister is going to deny that, and I am glad to give him the opportunity of saying that I am quite wrong, and I hope he will satisfy us that it is not only not the intention to do that, but that it will not be possible to do it under this Bill. I am willing to accept that the Minister's intentions are good, but what is the force of the Bill? That is the important thing for us to satisfy ourselves about.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I have a little difficulty in replying because certain Deputies have apparently read the Bill and have not read the Act to which it applies. They have consequently misunderstood the Bill. In addition, some Deputies were absent when I attempted to explain the Bill, and I may have to go over the same grounds again. Deputy Bryan Cooper indicated that we were throwing certain responsibilities on the Civil Service Commissioners in sub-section (2) of Section 3 which were somehow different from the responsibilities they have under the present Section 6. I do not think that that is so at all, as at present, in Section 6, the Civil Service Commissioners have to be satisfied in any of these special cases as to the age, health, character, knowledge and ability of the persons to be appointed. They have not to decide whether or not they will dispense with an examination, but they still have the definite duty of giving no certificate to any such person who is not fully qualified in respect to knowledge and ability. That is not a very different thing from the responsibility they will have in the future of deciding whether or not an examination shall be dispensed with or otherwise. When Deputy Bryan Cooper talks of the lack of safeguards, and of the patronage that may be exercised, he reminds me of Rip Van Winkle.

[533]Major BRYAN COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  I have said I was old-fashioned.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I think the Deputy is, because nobody who has been a Minister for any length of time is desirous of having any power of patronage. Ministers do not want to have people always at their doors. To say that Ministers having the experience of a better method, and of having an atmosphere around them for doing things in a proper and straightforward way, would go back on the old system, is a thing, I think, no one need fear.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  Why take the power?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I explained that. Perhaps the Deputy was one of those who were not present when I made the explanation. The fact of Deputies not having been present makes it extremely difficult for me, and I can hardly quite go over the whole ground again. There is no use in talking about the principles in the Constitution. There certainly is nothing implied in the Constitution which would oblige us to make any discrimination between men and women. When we were filling up our Army, and when selecting our police force there was nothing in the Constitution which would prevent us from making discrimination between men and women.

When we are filling up posts in the Civil Service there is no intention, as I have explained, to exclude women from the higher posts. The only cases where I anticipate that may be done is in regard to certain appointments where you require a particular sex, say, for posts like inspectors of certain sorts. The only posts where there is likely to be for a considerable time, or permanently, a discrimination made between men and women are positions in the Customs and Excise. As I explained, there are good reasons for that. I believe that the efficiency of the Service would suffer if we had men and women in equal numbers. On the other hand, there are duties to be discharged by those officers that could be quite well discharged by women, and it would be possible to have, without any injury to that particular service, [534] a substantial number of women in it; but if we found in that service that the examinations were giving us a larger number of women than could be efficiently employed, it would be necessary to hold an examination or two that would be confined to men only.

In regard to any other general positions in the Civil Service, if there is an examination confined to men only it will be simply to get over certain difficulties that exist at the present time, but that will not be continued. It was intended to hold one particular examination confined to men only about a year ago, and that examination led to the whole question of the legality of confining the examination to one sex being raised—that was the junior administrative examination. It was felt, owing to the present constitution of the service, and when we were only appointing six people, that if four or five women were appointed it would be difficult to use them satisfactorily in the way of discharging the duties of the positions as efficiently as was desired. That is due to the fact that, owing to past regulations, there has been a comparatively small number of women in the higher posts of the Civil Service. If it were to happen, over a series of years, that you got in for examination for junior administrative posts a majority of women, certain difficulties would arise, and that particular grade would not be able to do its work as efficiently as if it were more mixed. As a matter of fact, in the examination that was held the candidates at the top of the list happened to be men. That means that even if they were nearly all women in the next examination no harm would be done.

We would have a fair division in that particular grade for a certain number of years, and there is no reason therefore why examinations for that grade should be confined to men. As a matter of fact they will not be confined to men because my own view is that, unless in some particular position where physical ability comes into the matter, once you admit women to a grade they cannot afterwards be excluded. You may, in the case of the Customs, take a certain number of [535] posts as women's posts, and allow the others to be considered as men's posts, but unless you divide the service in that way, once it is open to women it must remain open to them. As far as the ordinary grades of the service go— with the exception of the Customs and perhaps the next examination for Inspectors of Taxes—they will be open to women equally with men, and to suggest that anybody can put the clock back is to suggest an absurdity. We know that the majority of voters in the country are women, and no one who is in any position where he has to take note of political considerations, can attempt to put back the hands of the clock.

Deputy Johnson asked why we put in the words: “Shall be construed and have effect, and shall be deemed always to have had effect, as if the word ‘sex’ were inserted therein immediately after the words ‘qualification as to.’” The reason for putting in these words is this: that the Civil Service Commissioners at first did not realise that they had not the power to confine the examination to members of one sex. They issued advertisements for examinations confined to one sex. The examinations were actually held and people were appointed and are in the Civil Service. Their position is somewhat doubtful because these examinations seem to have been illegally and improperly held. However, we cannot go back on that now and turn these people out of the Civil Service, and I think there is nothing to be done except to legalise what was done then. But once the point was raised, and once the Attorney-General advised that the Commissioners had not power legally to confine the examination to one sex, then that was accepted, and the reason the recent legal proceedings were stopped is that the Commissioners withdrew the regulations and the advertisements which they had issued when they found in the refusal of the Attorney-General to give his fiat that their action would be ultra vires.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Did he refuse to give his fiat?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I do not think he did, [536] but immediately the question was raised anything that would give ground for an action was withdrawn and disappeared. I may say that there was no ground for an action because the examination was thrown open.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  May I ask the Minister at this stage why was it illegal then, and how will it be legal now if we pass this Bill?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  The purpose of this Bill is to make it legal. The wording of the previous Act was simply “open competitive examination,” and it simply referred to every person. The Act said that the Commissioners were to inquire into the qualifications of every person, which meant man or woman, and then said that the Commissioners might confine it to a particular class of person, but they were given no power to confine it to the members of a particular sex. We are proposing in this Bill to confine it to the members of a particular sex. Certain Deputies have suggested that we should schedule the positions to which this power might apply, but that is difficult to do.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  Is it impossible?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  As I suggested to the Dáil earlier, there are certain positions, like inspectorships, in which it would be difficult to apply it. I mentioned that we had two inspectors of industrial schools, one a man and the other a woman. The woman inspects the girls' schools, and the man the boys' schools, and I think in the case of vacancies occurring you must have a woman to inspect the girls' schools and a man to inspect the boys' schools. There are odd positions of that sort, not a considerable number, that you could not always call to mind, and that you would be likely to leave out of any schedule that might be drawn up. A difficulty would then arise when a vacancy occurred, and it might not be practicable to come to the Dáil for an amendment. What Deputies have to rely on as regards the use of this power is the general trend of events in the outside world. No Minister and no body of Civil Service Commissioners can go against that, and nobody will attempt [537] to go against it. Deputy Johnson referred to another point—to sub-head (2) of section 2, where there is power in the Commissioners to confine, as you might say, the applicants in the smaller classes, and to make a finer mesh than they could have done under the existing Act. The reply I will give to that is that the regulations made by the Commissioners under this new sub-section (2) must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas at least one month before any of the examinations to which such regulations relate are held. So that while this power would certainly enable the Commissioners to exclude classes of people that their present powers would not enable them to exclude, there is this safeguard which should weigh with Deputies, that the regulations must be laid on the Table of each House of the Oireachtas at least one month before the examinations are held. I explained already that wider powers in that respect were sought to enable examinations to be confined to residents in particular localities in cases, perhaps, where part-time positions were to be filled. Deputy Professor Magennis said that this Bill was a Bill for the facilitation of jobs, and he also talked a lot about women being proscribed: that the higher positions in the Civil Service were being denied to them.

As I have said, that is not the intention, and it is impossible. He also said the Bill was for the facilitation of jobs. I think the Deputy cannot have compared the Bill with the Act which it amends, because if this Bill were withdrawn and proceeded with no further, Ministers would have greater powers of filling positions without examination than they will have after this Bill is passed, and to describe it as being retrograde in that sense represents a thing entirely contrary to the facts of the situation. So far as this Bill changes the present position, it restricts the power of Ministers.

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  Would the Minister define that statement?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Deputy Thrift, at my suggestion read out Section 6, which empowers Ministers in certain cases to put up candidates to the Civil Service Commissioners for their certificates. [538] That is the effect of the section at present. If a Minister in charge of a Department decides that the qualifications, wholly or in part, professional or otherwise peculiar, and not ordinarily to be acquired in the Civil Service, are requisite, he can propose to appoint a person to that situation, and he can put the name of that person up to the Civil Service Commissioners for their certificate. That is a power that is not used, and a power that it was not intended to take. That is a power that would have done away with the entire selection board system if it had been used, but that is the position at present. Instead of that position which enables the Minister to select a candidate and put him up to the Commissioners, we have enabled the Commissioners to make regulations deciding the methods by which they will select or discover the person to fill a position for which qualifications in whole or in part professional or otherwise peculiar are required.

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton  Zoom on Ernest H. Alton  It is sub-section (2) of Section 3 that is the trouble so.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Before I come to that——

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  Will the Minister look at line 59 and he will see there that if there are two candidates for the post and one of them is a woman, this authorises the woman to be disqualified because she is a woman. Is not that jobbery if the intention is to give the man the appointment notwithstanding?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Under the new Act there will be regulations prescribing the method, and the regulations will confine the position to a man or to a woman.

Professor THRIFT: Information on Prof. William E. Thrift  Zoom on Prof. William E. Thrift  Is the Minister's point that the new section which is introduced is introduced because it diminishes the powers of the Commissioners and Ministers in this respect?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  It is in part that, and in part to enable fees to be charged to candidates coming before the Selection Board; to put it beyond doubt that fees may be charged in the same [539] way as they may be charged to candidates coming up for examination.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  Does the Minister deny that if what I called attention to is to be put in, in lieu of Section 6, that for the first time it introduces power to disqualify because of sex?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  The position is this, that, supposing we want a woman inspector for a girls' industrial school, the position may not be filled by examination. Competitive examination will enable you to get a good clerk or a young person to be trained, but competitive examination does not get you persons with experience of the world and with the common-sense qualifications that you require. You must fill a position of that kind by a selection board. There is no other way. What we do in the future is that we prescribe that we want a woman inspector for the girls' industrial school. Candidates would come before the Selection Board, and a choice would be made. At the present time, with the powers we have, we have simply to advertise for an inspector of industrial schools. Men and women may apply. If a man is the best candidate the Selection Board would have to go outside its duty and rights and recommend the woman, although the man was the best qualified.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  The Minister will forgive me if I ask for a more particular answer. He stated the intention of those who framed this Bill. I want to test what is the power given under it. There is at present a woman Commissioner of National Health. Is it not possible, under this, to declare that such a position should be filled by a man and disqualify the woman because the Minister, in his indulgent answer to me, gave a case where obviously a woman ought to have the position, or where obviously a man ought to have the position? What we want to be satisfied about is this: Is it not possible through this legislation to disqualify a woman candidate for a position which is not so specifically [540] marked in itself as to be one for a man or one for a woman?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  The special regulation will require to state whether it is a man's post or a woman's post or a post open equally to man or woman. That would have to be decided, and an advertisement issued accordingly, but it would not enable the position to be advertised as an open post and the best candidate to be disqualified in the end because she was a woman.

In regard to sub-section (2) of Section 3, the present position is similar to that in regard to the qualification of professional or otherwise peculiar. The position is in case the Minister for Finance, or the Minister in charge of a Government Department, shall consider that it would be for the public interest that the rules in regard to age and the whole, or any part of the examination for a situation as aforesaid should be dispensed with, the Commissioners may, if they think fit, grant a certificate of qualification for such a situation upon any evidence satisfactory to them that the person proposed to be appointed is fully qualified besides. That is the position as at present, that the Minister for Finance and the Minister in charge of a Government Department may decide that it would be in the public interest that a specified person should be appointed to a particular post, and they may decide moreever that the rules in regard to age, and that the whole or any part of the examination should be dispensed with, and they may put forward that person's name for a certificate to that position to the Civil Service Commissioners. This Bill modifies that. First, instead of two Ministers agreeing, you must have the agreement of the whole Executive Council. Secondly, you say that it is the Commissioners shall dispense with compliance with the regulations in this Act in relation to examinations or selection for the appointment. That is not a substantial change. The real substantial change is from the two Ministers to the whole of the Executive Council, and so far as that alters the present position it restricts the power of Ministers.

So far as this Bill is concerned the [541] effect of Section 3 is to restrict the powers of Ministers and in one important respect to restrict them considerably. If this Bill was to be withdrawn or not passed the power of Ministers would be greater than it has been in the past. I think that is all I would like to say. A certain amount of propaganda has been carried on on the question of confining the examination to members of a particular sex, but that propaganda was based upon misapprehension and misunderstanding.

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  Will the Minister agree to put in a definition clause?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  Defining what?

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  Defining more particularly the ground that will be covered by this Bill rather than by a generalisation.

[542]Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  If the Deputy put down an amendment on the Committee Stage I would consider it. I am responsible for the Bill as it stands. It seems to me to be required to meet the situation and no more.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  I think I can say to the Minister what Deputy Hewat intends is that the Bill should be prefaced with a preamble: “Whereas it was found unconstitutional to do what was desired to be done now be it enacted that—”

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I do not know where the Deputy got the idea that it was unconstitutional. It was illegal, simply.

Professor MAGENNIS: Information on Professor William Magennis  Zoom on Professor William Magennis  I got it from the representation I made as representative of the University of Ireland.

Question put. The Dáil divided: Tá, 36. Níl, 31.

Earnán de Blaghd.
Thomas Bolger.
Séamus Breathnach.
Seoirse de Bhulbh.
Próinsias Bulfin.
Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean
Uí Dhrisceóil.
Michael Egan.
Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
Thomas Hennessy.
Patrick Leonard.
Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
Donnchadh Mac Con Uladh.
Liam Mac Cosgair.
Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
Patrick McGilligan.
Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
Liam Mac Sioghaird.
Martin M. Nally.
Michael K. Noonan.
Peadar O hAodha.
Seán O Bruadair.
Risteárd O Conaill.
Máirtín O Conalláin.
Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
Séamus O Dóláin.
Peadar O Dubhghaill.
Aindriú O Láimhín.
Séamus O Leadáin.
Séamus O Murchadha.
Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
Seán O Raghallaigh.
Máirtín O Rodaigh.
Seán O Súilleabháin.
Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
Caoimhghín O hUigín.
Patrick W. Shaw.

Earnán Altún.
Seán Buitléir.
John J. Cole.
Bryan R. Cooper.
Séamus Eabhróid.
John Good.
William Hewat.
Connor Hogan.
Séamus Mac Cosgair.
Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
Tomás Mac Eoin.
Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
Risteárd Mac Liam.
Liam Mag Aonghusa.
James Sproule Myles.
Tomás de Nógla.
Ailfrid O Broin.
Tomás O Conaill.
Aodh O Cúlacháin.
Liam O Daimhín.
Eamon O Dubhghaill.
Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
Seán O Duinnín.
Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
Domhnall O Mocháin.
Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
Tadhg O Murchadha.
Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
Liam Thrift.
Nicholas Wall.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dolan and Sears. Níl, Deputies Cooper and Morrissey.

[543] Motion declared carried.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, November 25th.


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