Wednesday, 6 July 1927
Dáil Éireann Debate
That, with a view to initiating general economy in the administration cost of Public Services in the Saorstát, the Dáil is of opinion that the allowances and expenses payable to its members should be reduced, and that accordingly steps should be  taken to amend the Oireachtas (Payment of Members) Act, 1923.
Although the Act referred to in my motion is dated 1923, I think the scale of remuneration dates from 1922; to be exact, from the 1st July, 1922, in the case of Deputies. I find on record that the scale was actually opposed in September, 1922, chiefly on the grounds of the poverty of the country and also upon the grounds that political parties might bear the expenses of their members. The motion in opposition was seconded and the House was divided upon it.
I will leave it to this House to decide as to whether the country has grown richer or not since 1922. If I may go back to 1922 upon another point, I would like to refresh the memories of Deputies as to the conditions that then existed. We are aware that there was civil war in the country and I think the personal safety of Deputies was then involved. They functioned at considerable risk and they travelled at considerable inconvenience. Their accommodation here was not at all of the best and was not at all the most comfortable. Those conditions, I suggest, have changed considerably for the better. Then there is the further question of the cost of living. The cost of living, which, I presume, affects Deputies as well as other people, has been considerably reduced. I hold in my hand various ready reckoners issued from time to time by the Department of Finance. I see one suggests a decrease in the cost of living bonus of 8/26ths as from from the 1st September, 1922; another, a further decrease as from the 1st September, 1923; and still another decrease as from the 1st March, 1925. In the current number of a paper published in Upper Merrion Street, “The Civil Service Journal,” I find the distinct suggestion that another reduction will shortly take place. That being so, I need not stress the point that the cost of living has reduced since the days when Deputies were content with the present remuneration. Some of them thought it was too much.
During the first debate of this session I listened to remarks as to the number of hungry people in this  country and as to the condition of some of them in the matter of clothing. It was said they were so badly off that they were prevented from standing in a queue at the employment exchanges, and many had to go early to worship, if they went at all. Those conditions undoubtedly existed, not only in the cities, but in the country. We also see our industries closing down except where they are subsidised or protected. We see the agricultural depression. In the present session a Deputy referred to butter touching 8d. per pound. In my own county eggs were sold at 5d. a dozen this year. The year before last oats went to 7d. per stone and in a neighbouring county I was informed on good authority that oats changed hands at as low a price as 5½d. Barley was down to 10/- a barrel.
The year before last beef and mutton only maintained a fraction above the pre-war level, while the expenses of the farmers in most respects are nearly double. I think the agricultural community generally may be divided into five classes—(1) those living on savings made during the European War; (2) those living on working capital; (3) those who are living on credit; (4) those who are living on charity and (5) those who are living on air, which fortunately is plentiful. This being the condition of the country, and that being the measure of the change since 1922, I venture to think that the motion against this scale which was opposed in 1922 to a degree sufficient to divide the House is not altogether out of place to-day.
I have heard two points of view expressed against reducing the scale of remuneration of Deputies. One is the point of view of those who think their services are worth more. Those of us who have read electioneering speeches are familiar with the suggestions from Ministers that they are worth double what they get. That being so, the rank and file must be excused if they think in similar terms. But if everyone got his own valuation in this world I think we would need more millionaires working benevolent funds. The other point of view I am familiar with is that the  dignity of a lot of those Deputies demands more than they get. I believe that is the view taken in rather high quarters.
I do not go so far as to suggest a scale of reduction to-day, because it is possibly a matter for negotiation, but I do venture to move the motion standing in my name. I hope that in this House I shall find a seconder, though I am not quite clear on the point.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I think with the leave of the House, Deputy Redmond's amendment could be moved as a substantive motion, either now or to-morrow or on Friday. I think no objection would be taken to that, because the amendment in its substance has been before Deputies for several days.
“That with a view to amendment of the Oireachtas (Payment of Members) Act, 1923, the Oireachtas (Payment of Members) (Amendment) Act, 1925, and the Ministers  and Secretaries Act, 1924, a Select Committee consisting of eleven Deputies, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, be appointed to consider and report as to the salaries and allowances that should, in future, be paid to, and the travelling facilities that should, in future, be provided for, members of Dáil Eireann; and that the quorum of the Select Committee be five.”
I originally put this down as a motion and subsequently I thought that there might not be sufficient time for it to be reached and that, therefore, it would be better to take it as an amendment. My object in doing so was precisely the same as the object I had in view when proposing to move an amendment in similar terms to the amendment proposed by Deputy Johnson on Friday last. I regarded Deputy Johnson's amendment as approaching the subject from a wrong angle. I similarly regard the proposal made by Deputy Hewson. With the object that both Deputies have in view I am in entire sympathy. I believe that the time is opportune for initiating a general policy of retrenchment and economy; but I do not think that it is right that one item, as proposed by Deputy Johnson on Friday, and another item as proposed by Deputy Hewson to-day, should be singled out and made a subject for inquiry or reduction.
There is a great deal to be said for the point of view expressed by Deputy Hewson. There is no doubt that the country is passing through a very grave and serious economic crisis. There is no doubt that money is exceedingly short in all Departments of State, and in all phases of the life of the State. There is no doubt that our adverse trade balance is very large, and that it is, if anything, on the increase. According to our trade statistics the trade of the country is certainly not increasing in bulk. Also, we cannot lose sight of the fact that there has been, and is, a general cry throughout the country for economy. But I consider that the way of approaching this subject in regard to the cost of maintenance of that portion of the Oireachtas for which we can speak,  and upon which we are entitled to speak, namely, the Dáil, is to have a re-investigation of the conditions which bear, or should bear, upon the amount of the allowances and salaries which we here in the Dáil, either in the House itself or through a Select Committee, would think fit should be paid to Deputies.
This proposal of mine is in one respect wider than the original Terms of Reference, setting up the committee in 1923, because this will include Parliamentary secretaries. In another sense, it is narrower because it does not include the officers of the Dáil. Perhaps I may explain to the Dáil the reason for that omission. The officers of the Dáil had their numbers and remuneration settled by a committee which was set up on 23rd March, 1923, by a resolution of the Dáil. That committee consisted of the Minister for Finance and the Ceann Comhairle. They were appointed to be a Standing Committee to determine the number, grading, remuneration and terms of office of the Oireachtas staff, and, in order to reconsider or to re-investigate that question, the resolution of March, 1923, would have to be rescinded, and I take it, certainly by way of amendment to Deputy Hewson's proposal, that would not be in order for me to move.
Captain REDMOND: Yes, I omitted to mention that. Of course the staff of the Dáil are in reality civil servants, and I suggest that the proper means of investigating their position would be by the same method as should be adopted in regard to the Civil Service at large. In proposing to set up this Committee the object that I have in view, I put it plainly, is economy, but the reason why I think it is necessary that such a Committee should be set up is because this is a matter which, in my view, is preeminently one for the deliberations of a Select Committee of the Dáil, and not one for a general discussion upon the floor of this House. This is no Party question, and I am sure will not be regarded as such, and if this Committee makes a report upon the questions submitted  to it, it will be for the Dáil to approve of its recommendations or not. I think it would not be out of place, and, indeed, would not be asking too much if, when this Committee does make a report, the Dáil were to consider the advisability of foregoing a percentage, even a small percentage, of the amount by way of allowances which the Committee would think to be suitable, owing to the conditions at the moment.
The motion asks for a report as to the salaries and allowances that should in future be paid and provided for members of Dáil Eireann. I would suggest that if there is no change suggested by this Committee by way of economy, if this Committee thinks, which it may, and which I do, that the allowances at present made to Deputies are not excessive in view of the tasks they have to perform, still it would be possible for the Dáil then to make a temporary provision foregoing for the time being a small percentage of that sum. It will not make a great difference to the cost of running the State, but it will be at least this: it will be an earnest of the desire of every party in this House that they are anxious to give an example to the country and to do something towards economy. It is said that charity begins at home. I suggest it would be no harm for us to show that economy should begin at home, too, and if this Committee comes to the conclusion that the salaries are not too large, a conclusion with which I would agree, and if they come to the conclusion that the allowances are not too large, a conclusion with which I would also agree, I certainly think it would be taken as an act of good faith with the people on the part of the Dáil if they were temporarily to forego a percentage of these sums.
Of course there is a distinction between salary and allowances, and when I heard mention made the other day, in the course of the debate, of salaries to Deputies I was inclined to intervene, because of course we know that the sums we get by way of allowances are not salaries at all. They are merely allowances to enable us to attend to our duties as Parliamentary  representatives. I hope that the Dáil, considering this from a non-party attitude, will adopt the suggestion that I have thought fit to make: that they will set up this Committee, and that this Committee will, with the experience of the last four years at their disposal, go into all matters which have been suggested to them for their consideration and that they will make a report to the Dáil. The object of my making this proposal is identically the same as the object which prompted Deputy Johnson and Deputy Hewson to make their proposals during last week. I trust that when this Committee is set up, if it is, that it will explore every avenue to see whether some form of economy cannot be effected in these matters, and that if they are of opinion that it cannot, that the Dáil will then come to the conclusion that we should do something by way of declining to accept our full allowances, and show the people that we are in earnest in regard to the policy of retrenchment and of economy which was preached from so many platforms during the General Election and which the people of the country are crying for in all corners of the land to-day.
Major COOPER: I desire to support Deputy Redmond's motion which is now before the House as a substantive motion. I could not support the original motion of Deputy Hewson because in that motion there was an implicit inference that the allowances received by Deputies were excessive. I do not think that could be justified from the point of view of earning and certainly could not be justified by any comparison. I agree with Deputy Redmond that the use of the word “salaries” is bad, and “allowance” is not much better. There is a Canadian word called “indemnity.” In Canada they speak of the indemnity received by the members of their Parliament. With regard to the indemnities received for service in the  Dáil and comparing them with those of other Dominions you will find that they compare very unfavourably indeed. A member of the Canadian Parliament receives £800 a year, while a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia receives £1,000 a year, and in addition to that there are advantages and amenities such as we never know. The Australian members of Parliament have a free pass, a gold badge which they dangle on their watch-chains, which provides them with free travel over the Australian railways, not merely a voucher for a journey between Dublin and a Deputy's constituency as happens here. The same gold badge obtains them free admission to any race meeting in the Commonwealth, which may or may not be to their profit.
Major COOPER: As far as I know, they have not discovered the electric hare in Australia yet. In addition to the amenities which I have mentioned, they are provided with billiard rooms, cricket pitches, tennis courts, and bowling greens, but we have not aspired to any of these things yet. It may be that we are unworthy of them, but certainly when compared with the other Parliaments of the British Commonwealth we do not receive excessive remuneration. I would go further and say that any Deputy who does his work here and attends regularly, especially in the case of country Deputies, and certainly any Deputy who pays his own election expenses, receives no profit whatever from the indemnity that he receives.
We have seen some cheap sarcasms in the papers that £360 per year is the goal of every Deputy's ambition, and that he is content when he receives that without having any regard to the returns made. I think those are very empty and futile suppositions. Any Deputy who does his work properly, attends regularly, and does his share of committee work, does work for the State valued more highly than at £360  a year. I could not accept Deputy Hewson's first proposition, but I agree that it is well that this matter should be considered by a committee, because there are existing anomalies. £360 a year is not much for a man who devotes his whole time to the work and has no other means of support. It is, indeed, very little, but it might be possible to reconsider the decision that exempts the whole of that £360 a year from income-tax, so that those who are comparatively better off in the world's goods may receive less than others who require it as their total support. I think that is an argument for appointing this committee, and a second argument is that there is at present a loophole in our procedure and regulations.
It is at the moment possible for an elected Deputy to go up to the Clerk's Office, comply with Article 17 of the Constitution, sign a book, and then go to Monte Carlo, never to set foot in the Chamber of the Dáil at all, and yet draw £30 a month for the whole term of the Oireachtas. I think it should be within the power of this committee to frame some regulation that would prevent that, because that might easily become a public scandal. A man might impress himself upon a constituency, might make up his mind not to stand again, and might simply become a pensioner of the State for the period of the Dáil. I think the committee might easily give its attention to preventing that.
I do not like the idea of payment by attendance. It might mean that Deputies would come down here, sign a book, and go away. It would be better if they did not come here at all. It has great loop-holes, but I cannot help thinking that there might be some machinery by which it would be possible to cease paying allowances to Deputies who had not been in the Dáil for three months or had not voted in a division for a certain period of time. That would be within the terms of reference of Deputy Redmond's resolution; also, because I think there are ways of economy by which we can penalise the inefficient, the Deputy who does not attend and takes no part in committee work or work of the Dáil and because it is a saving to the State,  I support Deputy Redmond's resolution.
Mr. GOREY: I would like to make a suggestion to Deputy Redmond when moving what is now the motion. I held the view when this matter was up previously that the Deputies should not be put on the same footing and that two categories should be made, the Deputy who has his home in Dublin and the Deputy who has to come to Dublin to do the work of the State. I do not care how far the Deputy has to come, let it only be from a neighbouring county, if he has to come up here during the Session, find accommodation in Dublin and pay his expenses, he is under the same expense as a Deputy coming from Donegal or Kerry. If Deputy Redmond is prepared to add this distinction to his resolution, I shall support it.
Mr. GOREY: I want an explicit instruction to the Committee in their terms of reference. I say if any Deputy who has his business or profession in Dublin is not prepared to accept that, I question his sincerity in moving a motion of that sort.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I think it would be open to the Committee to discuss any question with regard to the payment of allowances to Deputies and as to the conditions under which allowances should be paid, but the motion as it stands does not contain an instruction to the Committee that it should make a distinction between Deputies who reside normally in Dublin and Deputies who reside elsewhere. That is a completely different thing.
Mr. GOREY: I do not ask even for an instruction, but I ask to have the  matter put before them, for their view, as to whether they are to make a distinction or not. Is the Deputy prepared to accept that?
Mr. GOREY: I say a man who has to live in Dublin cannot be put in the same category as the man who has to come up here, pay his expenses and leave his home and business behind him. A man coming up from the country may leave his business for four days of the week; he may have to travel the night before, making it five days in the week. I do not know what the original idea behind the motion of Deputy Hewson was. There are a good many people in this country prepared to elect men who have not a good deal of the world's wealth in money. They may have a fair amount of intelligence and intellect. The electors think them good enough to send up here. That kind of men would find it impossible to live on air, as Deputy Hewson said in part of his address. Is the public representation of the Saorstát to be confined to people with plenty of private means who can afford to do this as a hobby or who are consumed by such an amount of vanity as to spend their all in order to be here as representatives?
Mr. GOREY: Or grafters. A salary and your chances! There is another class of individual and the Committee would be justified if it were only to deal with this class of individual alone, the men who come here, sign the book, and who, in the language of the people I know down the country, when they have done that, have nothing to do but draw their money. We had instances of that in the last Dáil, of men who were elected and who scarcely ever attended. They did attend at one period when a certain interest was in the offing, the Seanad Election. After  that, they never attended again, but drew their money up to the last. Something should be done to deal with that class of individual. If the Deputy is prepared to embody explicity the suggestion I make, that this Committee take into consideration the case of the Deputy coming up from the country and leaving his business as against the Deputy living in Dublin who is at no loss except the time he is losing here, I am prepared to support the amendment, but if he is not prepared to do that I think that the whole thing is not genuine and that it is not put up in the interests of economy.
Mr. O'BRIEN: I do not think there will be much opposition on the part of any member of the House to the adoption of this proposal. Looking at the text of it, it is difficult to see why there should be much objection to it, but we have to bear in mind what has led up to this proposal. It seems to me that it is the culmination of the long unintelligent, unenlightened campaign for what is called economy. We have had for a considerable time a demand on behalf of the Press and on behalf of a certain section of public men for economy. Deputy Redmond says that there is a widespread demand for economy. I do not think there is.
Mr. O'BRIEN: Deputy Redmond and his colleagues in the late General Election not only demanded economy. but told us that millions could be saved and the election now being over, of course, it is up to Deputy Redmond to show us where the millions are to be saved. I suppose this is the first step in the carrying out of his election promises. There has been a good deal of talk about election promises. As far as Deputies on these Benches are  concerned, we advocated on the hustings a definite, clearly-understood policy, and we made no promises except to do our best to have that given effect to in whole or in part.
I am rather sorry that Deputy Redmond has not with him here some of his eloquent and well-informed colleagues who were, unfortunately, unsuccessful. One in particular would be always available as a substitute for the Minister for Finance, because he could throw millions about in all directions and show how half the expenditure of this country could be saved. Reading one of his speeches delivered in Clare, I came upon a passage which I will quote. This gentleman is Mr. O'Donnell, a very experienced gentleman, a barrister of over 20 years standing, and an ex-member of the Westminster Parliament. I would ask the Minister for Finance to take serious notice of this paragraph:
“The economic and fiscal position of the Free State was very serious. Their total export trade was worth only forty millions a year. The Government services cost thirty millions, and another five millions were spent in local government by the county councils. That meant that only five millions were left for the upkeep of the entire people.”
That is certainly very illuminating, and the Dáil has certainly suffered a deprivation when we have not the pleasure and profit of that gentleman's advice. It used to be said in the Westminster Parliament that when the Government were in a difficulty they appointed a Royal Commission. Some people seem to think that Royal Commissions not being available, the next best thing is to appoint a committee. What I principally complain of in this respect is the attitude of mind that is behind this talk. What this country wants is not economy. It wants to spend more money. What we want is not savings, but wise spending, well-thought out productive spending.
Mr. O'BRIEN: Some of it is unqualified. We hear talk about Government services in the same unenlightened way as one hears talk about reducing rates. People say they are elected to public boards to reduce rates. They are elected to do nothing of the kind. At least they should not be elected to do it; they should be elected to spend rates, to spend them wisely and spend them well. Comparisons are made between the taxes levied in this country and the taxes in other countries of similar size, quite ignoring what value is received for these taxes.
In the same way, the rates in one town are compared with the rates in another town. We are told that the rates in one town are 10s. in the £, and that in another town they are 20s. in the £. Yet a rate of 20s. in the £ might be a better proposition in that town than the rate of 10s. elsewhere. That would be so if better value were given to the ratepayers. The same test must be applied to national government. Our job is not to save a few pounds here and there, but to secure that whatever money is raised is spent wisely and well, and is used in the best interests of the country. This country does not want the false kind of economy that is talked about. It wants development. The idle people of the country want work. What is wanted is productive development, in order to stop the drain of emigration. We want progressive and enlightened intelligence brought to bear on this question, and not to be peddling with pounds while millions are being wasted.
Mr. BAXTER: We can congratulate Deputy O'Brien upon his very candid statement. As regards the original motion, if Deputy Hewson had more experience of the work of an ordinary  Deputy, I think his motion would not have appeared so soon on the Order Paper. If Deputy Hewson's motion had not appeared on the Order Paper, I wonder would Deputy Redmond's proposal have appeared. Under those circumstances, it is difficult for a member of the Dáil who wants to be candid with the country and with himself to see through the fog. Speaking the other day on the motion by Deputy Johnson, I expressed the view that men should be paid for the service they give. A new member may come here because of the extraordinary things he has promised to do outside. Such a member may be excused for thinking that the amount of work he will be called upon to do will be less than it has been found to be by other Deputies. The members of my Party who have had four years' experience are of opinion that the work of a member of the Dáil is a whole-time job. If the members do the work that their responsibility charges them with, it will be found that my assertion that membership of the Dáil is a whole-time job is true. Those of us who have been for four years members of the Dáil cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are other Deputies who do not give the service I refer to. That fact is borne in on many taxpayers. The taxpayers rightly ask if Deputies are earning the allowances they receive. It may be that the men who do earn their allowances are very often placed side by side with those who do not earn them. It is regrettable that that should be so.
Our Party have all along advocated reduction of expenditure and a policy of spending wisely and well. Early in 1923 we expressed the view that we were prepared to accept a reduction of our allowances if reductions were to be made all round. I am not very clear as to what Deputy Redmond is aiming at. He states that he wants the whole position examined. If he wants it examined, I, too, want it examined. I want it examined in the light of the knowledge I have gained for the past four years here. I have expressed the view in my own constituency that the farmer who leaves his farm on Monday to attend to the business of the State here must neglect his farm and his  home. He is obliged to pay somebody to look after his place. I venture to suggest that no farmer and no businessman who attended regularly and punctually here during the last Dáil had his expenses covered by the allowance he received. Realising that fact, we have to inquire as to what the real position is. I do not know that we have so many philanthropists in the country —men who are so patriotic that they are prepared to come up here in the interest of good legislation and sound administration, and spend their own money in attending to the nation's business. I would be almost suspicious of the man who would undertake to do that. There is then the man referred to by Deputy Gorey, who wants to get here at all costs, and who is prepared to spend his own money because of the honour conferred upon him. That type of man does not always turn out to be the best class of representative. I confess that I should not like to see a state of things brought about in which we would have a number of men who could afford to spend their time in Dublin, because they have private means, in attending to the work of the country. I would have some anxiety as to how long the nation's work would continue to be done in the capital of the country. We might have men of that type, as we had before, who would be prepared to transfer the seat of Government elsewhere. I, for one, am not prepared to make that change in the interests of economy. There is then the man who considers that it would pay him to come here even on an allowance of £100. We have to be careful of the man of that mentality, because he will not do the nation's work either. As Deputy O'Brien says, the kind of economy we will get from that policy will be bad in every sense. On the other hand, the country expects, and rightly expects, good service from the men elected to this Assembly. The country expects regular attendance and attention to work. And it expects a little more than work here. For myself, I have to say that when I get back to the country during the week-end, I am expected in two or three places at the same time, in order to advise and help the farmers in respect of various matters. Other  elected representatives are expected to do the same thing. Then some Deputies receive about two dozen letters each day, and when they go home during the week-end they have to meet about two dozen people. As a matter of fact, the member of the Dáil who attends to his work has to do overtime. Deputies who have been in regular attendance here know that I state facts. In face of that, what is the honest course to pursue on Deputy Redmond's amendment? We are prepared to support the amendment, and to have the whole position examined. Perhaps if it were examined by the Dáil, it might be better for the country, because it would be better informed as to the work of its representatives. Many of the people do not fully appreciate the amount of service elected representatives have to give. If the matter were thrashed out here, the public would be better informed. However, if it is considered wiser to set up this Committee to go into the matter minutely, we are prepared to give the proposal support. But in the examination of the position with a view to effecting economy, I think the past should be taken into account.
The amount of work that men have put in in the past must form some basis for this Committee in arriving at a decision as to what is an adequate allowance for representatives in the future. Deputy Gorey made a point with regard to the men who have homes in Dublin, who, perhaps, one might also add, could in some cases give a few hours in the day to their business before coming to the Dáil. That is not true of Deputies who live in the country. When they come away one hundred miles or more from their homes for the week, they cannot attend to their business. What Deputy O'Brien has said is true, that the amount of work a man puts in for the allowance he gets determines whether it is an economy to make that allowance or not.
This Committee undoubtedly will have great difficulties to overcome in making investigations. I personally would much prefer, if it be at all possible, that the Committee would come to a decision and make an allowance of  expenses, or whatever you like to call it, for those who, when they get elected, are really doing the nation's work. In every walk of life men expect to be compensated for the service they give. If a scale could be arrived at which would be adequate for the time and energy spent by Deputies who attend here, and that that was one of the points to be considered by this Committee, I feel that we would get economy—that we would either get more work from a good many Deputies or that we would save money. The Deputies who do work, on the other hand, would not be pilloried by some uninformed persons who know that some men are not giving good service and look upon all the Deputies as being in the same boat. That is the way I look at the matter. Investigation, I think, will be good for everybody. If we could arrive at a fair basis for the allowance we might get better service and more work from every elected representative, and if we got that we would arrive at such a state that men would have to come here and give service and then go back to their constituents and answer for the service they gave. People then would be able to judge who gave good service and who did not. It is only when that state of things is brought about that the man who gives service will be judged on his merits.
Mr. FITZGERALD-KENNEY: I rise for the purpose of opposing the motion, because it appears to me that it is a sham proposition and not a reality. The Deputy brought it forward expressing the hope and expectation that the Committee appointed would advise that no alteration should be made, and then that the House should forego a small percentage of its salary as an earnest of a desire for economy. To my mind that would be no earnest of a desire for real or true economy. It would be a mere histrionic gesture to catch the imagination of the country. It would not be building upon a sound and firm basis—such a basis as a real system of economy can be built upon. To my mind when this House considers the question of economy it should be  careful to tread the dusty road of common sense and not deviate from that road. It should leave sporting in the green fields of theatrical display to other persons in other places. We should keep ourselves down to hard facts, and should deal with those hard facts in an ordinary commonplace way and not endeavour to catch the eyes of the country by any would-be act of heroism. I agree with what Deputy Baxter said. I agree that to a very large number of Deputies the salary which they receive is not a real addition to their income. I agree with him that there is many a man who, if he gave the time which he gives to the service of his constituents in this Chamber and outside to his business or to his profession, sitting at his desk or overseeing his farm, would be a far richer man at the end of the year. I think that is fact which must be taken into consideration.
But I put these attacks on the salaries of Deputies upon quite another and I think a higher line. To my mind, though these attacks and the motions in which they are embodied are not in themselves against the letter of the Constitution, they are against the spirit of the Constitution. If you look at the Constitution you will see everywhere through it that it is a democratic Constitution. It is as democratic a constitution as you can find anywhere, and it is of the essence of democracy that the members of the legislative assembly should be adequately remunerated. Otherwise democracy becomes a humbug. Give votes to people and those people are entitled to choose what representatives they wish—to choose persons who they think are the best suited to look after their interests, irrespective of whether those persons are or are not men of private means. It becomes an impossibility for them to elect persons whom they would choose to elect if they are first to go out and see has such-and-such a man sufficient income to keep up the position, and therefore be above suspicion. The only argument I have heard which caused me to think about this matter with any doubt was the argument put forward by Deputies Cooper and Baxter, that there were  persons who came here and who did not look after the interests of their constituents. It appears to me that that question could be better gone into if a Committee were set up to see how attendance in this assembly might be enforced upon its members. It would be open to that Committee to say that it might be done by reducing their salaries. But that is not the real issue which is brought up by this motion. It appears to me that instead of inquiring into the question of salaries of Ministers and Deputies, this Committee should be set up merely for the one purpose of seeing how the attendance of Deputies could be enforced, and for those reasons I oppose the motion.
Mr. JOHNSON: I think it is well the motion should be passed, but I want to warn Deputies that the likelihood is, that an examination into the situation in regard to the payment of salaries and allowances, and the provision of travelling facilities for members of Dáil Eireann, is more likely to result in an increased charge on the State than a decreased charge. I feel that if this motion had not been moved for twelve months, or if the committee which may be set up were not to report until the members of it, consisting, as no doubt it would, of a considerable proportion of new Deputies, had had experience of what membership of the Dáil means in monetary cost, my opinion would be strengthened that the result of the inquiry would be an increased charge on the State. I welcome the tone of the last speech, because it suggests to the House what I think should be necessarily taken into account, that is, that the Dáil is a representative assembly. We are really back at the fundamental question: Do we desire Parliament to be the instrument through which government is effected in the country? There are, no doubt. Deputies who pretend that they would like to have the Government of the country run by Commissioners—even National Government. Notwithstanding the existence of such views, the majority opinion, I believe, still is theoretically in favour of the government of the country by a Parliament, consisting of Deputies, for the people. Having once accepted that,  we have to ask ourselves what kind of a Parliament is it to be? Is it, as is suggested, to consist only of members who are able to live in Dublin and do the work of Deputies out of their own means? That, I think, is not going to be supported by any Deputy, not openly at any rate. If not, you have to establish a standard. What kind of a standard?
I think it will be found on inquiry, and more clearly by experience, that the standard that has been set up is not a high one for a Deputy. It is a low one. Deputy Gorey has made the suggestion, more than once, that some distinction should be drawn between a Deputy who lives in Dublin and a Deputy who has to travel from the country. But the majority of the Deputies who live in Dublin represent constituencies in the country which they must visit. That is not done without expense. If any consideration were to be given to these facts, from my experience of the past, I am convinced it would mean additional expense over and above the £30 a month now allowed.
I believe some change is desirable in respect of travelling facilities. I believe there should be greater travelling facilities. I believe it would be to the advantage of the country if facilities for travelling were much more general. I speak as one who has never had occasion to take advantage of the facilities regarding travel provided for Deputies from the country. But a Deputy who represents a constituency many hundreds of square miles in extent does not as is commonly believed, have travelling facilities within his constituency. He ought to have them. If he is to do his work effectively the ordinary Deputy who has no private means cannot afford to live in Dublin during the Session. He has to reside in his constituency, and travel from one part of it to another at his own expense, to do the work of his constituents. Travelling facilities ought to be increased, and I would go so far as saying that it would be to the advantage of the State if there were such a provision as Deputy Cooper suggested regarding travelling facilities for any Deputy in  any part of the country. After all, Deputies are not merely representatives of a particular parish or constituency. We are supposed to have the interests of the whole country and the whole community at heart, and to have some general knowledge of the affairs and needs of the country. On that score, I think a very good case could be made before this Committee, if it is set up, in favour of the extension of travelling facilities.
As to the suggestion of Deputy Redmond, that Deputies might, of course, receive the nominal rate of remuneration or expense, but that as a gesture they might forego a percentage of their allowance voluntarily for a time. I do not think there is anything in the Standing Orders to prevent any Deputy who so desires doing that. Some Deputies might be able to afford it, and may be able to advertise the fact that they have done it. There is nothing in the Standing Orders, so far as I know. to prevent that being done.
Mr. JOHNSON: As Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said, that is histrionic. The Dáil is going to make a provision and then pass a resolution suggesting that it should deprive itself of a certain percentage of the allowances. The argument we have been insisting upon follows, that some Deputies may be able to afford to do that, but other Deputies are not able to afford it. Those who can afford it are free to do it. I believe that the Committee, when they examine into this question, will find that all the alternatives put up are liable to greater objection than the scheme at present in operation. There is what might be called the flat rate of remuneration, irrespective of attendance or activity. In equity and fairness, it might be said that there should be some alteration, but when one sits down to try and devise the means of making a fair alteration, it will be found that the difficulties are enormous. and more anomalies will be found, unless  the Committee is going to set itself up as a judge of motives. It cannot do that.
After all, we have to take the risks that representative government involves, and one of those risks is that the people may choose unsuitable Deputies. But the people are paying! The Deputies who are chosen are not justified in sitting in judgment upon the character of their fellow-Deputies who have been elected by other constituencies, which can call them to account. You may say that some revision of the electoral law is called for, that a constituency might have the right of recall, or something of that kind, but that is a different question. If the constituencies choose to elect, and re-elect, men who do their work in a particular way, well, it is the constituencies which have to pay and, possibly, the constituencies have to suffer, but the House has no right, I think, to set itself up as a judge of the motive of its fellow-members in matters of this kind. Nevertheless, I am prepared to support the idea that a Committee should be appointed to revise the scales already in operation.
I do that, first, because it may satisfy the House, and many members are here because they preached the doctrine of reduction of expenditure, and they should have an opportunity of examining the reasons why expenditure in this respect is on its present scale. Then they will be better able to go back to their constituents and tell them that, in this respect at any rate, they are following a wrong trail, and that there is no real economy to be effected by a reduction in the expenses and travelling facilities given to Deputies. I think, however, that the House and the country have a right to have a periodical examination of this kind, and that if it appears to such Committee that the case for a revision, even though it may entail increased costs on the Exchequer, is a good one, it will not have any fear of reporting in such terms, and that the Deputies who may find their outgoings greater than they anticipated, may have some recoupment.
I now refer to the question, for instance, of correspondence. There are Deputies whose work is enormous in  respect to correspondence, and every Deputy has to pay twopence on every letter. It is public work, and makes a very big hole in his £30 a month. As, I think, Deputy Cooper pointed out, the Dáil nominally will sit for five years— it may be only four or three years— and, unfortunately, the electoral system does not allow elections to be run for nothing. That also is a consideration. As I say, I welcome the idea that the Committee will sit. I hope that it will not be asked to report until it has had some experience, and then, I believe, it will report in such a way as will not involve reductions, but may possibly involve increases to the National Exchequer.
Mr. G. WOLFE: I think this question has reached such a stage that it cannot be left where it is, and that this matter of setting up a Committee, as proposed by Deputy Redmond, must be proceeded with. When I say that. I do not for one minute think that the salary allowed to Deputies is in any way excessive, provided they do their duty properly to their constituents and do their work here. I do not think that anybody who has been here for the last four years, and who has attended to his work, has been in pocket one farthing owing to the salary he received. When I say that, I do not mean that the people who do not attend to their work—and there have been some such Deputies—should be treated in the same way as people who do. When the country pays a salary to Deputies it expects them to attend to its business. I think, where it is clearly evident that this attention has not been given, reductions should be made. That would be a matter for the Committee to consider if it is set up.
Deputy Cooper has mentioned the fact that all legislative assemblies pay their members and pay them better than Deputies are paid here. They may, of course, have more to do, or they may be richer countries. Reasonable remuneration has been fixed to prevent men being at a loss which they could not possibly bear. It should not be expected that anybody would be able to make a fortune out of his position as Deputy, any more than it is expected in the profession of the Church  or the Army. There men are only supposed to make enough to get along and do their duty to their country. I contend that the expenses of Deputies— Deputy Johnson has mentioned some of them—are extremely heavy. If you put all these matters together, I think that any fair-minded man would come to the conclusion that Deputies who do their work are not over-paid and do not make any money out of their allowance.
The reason, of course, that the system of payment of members has been adopted by all the legislatures of the world is that men of ability who have not money should not be shut out from the service of the State by the fact that they have not private means. Every legislature has adopted that system—even the British legislature, which was the last to adopt it. There is no doubt that that system has had a good effect. It has brought forward and given a chance to men of ability who would not otherwise be able to give their services to the State. The State thereby has been enriched by men who would not otherwise have been in its legislative assembly. I think that the day would be a very bad one on which we went back on the arrangement that has been made and that has worked with such great advantage. While I say that, I think there should be some discrimination and that the people who do not attend to their work should not be paid for what they do not do, that those who neglect their work for long periods of time should certainly not receive remuneration. That I think, is a matter, amongst others, for the consideration of the Committee. The matter having got to the stage at which it has arrived, the Committee, in my opinion, must proceed with its work, and I am sure that nothing but good will result from it and that the country will see that the money which it pays to Deputies is not thrown away, that good value is given, not only by the work done in the House. but also by the quality and ability of Deputies which it has elected.
The PRESIDENT: I intervene for two reasons: one, to explain that this is not a party question, so far as the  party of which I am the nominal leader in this House is concerned. This matter was considered before, free from party lines or party considerations. While on that I wish to say that I agree with the setting up of this Committee, though I do not agree with, and cannot understand, the views expressed by Deputy Redmond when he said that if the Committee were to report in favour of the existing remuneration and allowances, nevertheless, a deduction should be made. I do not understand that, and I do not propose to attempt to understand it, and I am not supporting it. The other point to which I wish to direct attention is the clock. One hour and a-half is the time allowed for this discussion, and we are getting very close to that.
Captain REDMOND: I do not intend to take up much time in concluding. From the general course of the discussion the proposal to set up a Committee appears to meet general favour, but, judging from the speeches which have been made, one would think that the opinion would be the other way, because during the course of most of the speeches the arguments brought forward were against the setting up of the Committee. The speakers in most instances wound up by saying that nevertheless they would support the motion. The discussion has gone on a rather narrow and rather wide path. Deputies seem to have forgotten or overlooked for a moment the fact that this was not a proposal to set up a Committee to investigate the question of allowances to Deputies only, but rather that it was to include the question of salaries payable to Ministers.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: This is a matter which will have to be decided eventually by the Chairman of the Committee  when the Committee is set up. The preamble of the motion refers to the Oireachtas (Payment of Members) Act and the Ministers and Secretaries Act. That reference and the word “salaries” would appear to indicate that the motion covers not only allowances to Deputies, but salaries paid to any persons who are also members of Dáil Eireann, which would make it include Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, and the officers of the House, that is the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle as well.
Captain REDMOND: In my opening statement I remarked that this was wider if anything than the amendment I proposed on Friday to Deputy Johnson's amendment, namely, that this included the question of Parliamentary Secretaries as well as that of Ministers. Deputies seem to have confined themselves, whether through misapprehension or not, in spite of what I said in initiating the debate, to a discussion of the question of allowances to Deputies. My whole object in proposing this motion in these terms was to include the cost in so far as was possible of the running and the up-keep of the Dáil, to include the Ministers and their Parliamentary Secretaries, as well as the office you hold, Sir, and that of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. That being so, I could hardly have imagined Deputy Johnson, or his colleague Deputy O'Brien, opposing it. They have stated they are not going to oppose it, but most of their speeches seem to have tended in a direction contrary to the conclusion they seem to have come to.
I am glad the President has stated that this is not to be considered by the Government as a party question, and of course it should not be. As to not being able to follow the suggestion I made about the temporary renunciation by Deputies of a portion of the amount which may be allotted to them by this Committee, I merely made that as a suggestion, that in view of the serious emergency in which we are placed, in view of the grave financial condition of the country, it would be taken and should be met as a gesture of earnest on the part of the Dáil as a  body, and it would go forth to the country that they themselves were prepared for the time being to make some sacrifice to show the country the necessity of making general sacrifices all round in the interests of the State. That is all I have to say by way of winding up this debate, except perhaps to mention that besides being on a rather narrow path, dealing with allowances of the Deputies, it has gone very wide in that respect, because the whole question of anything in the nature of remunerations to Deputies has been raised and debated. That question has already been settled by the Constitution. This motion does not raise that point at all. It merely raises the question as to whether there should be a re-investigation, or a revision, as Deputy Johnson has suggested—a periodical inquiry into the amount that should be paid by way of allowances or salaries.
The PRESIDENT: I would like to intervene for a moment on account of one sentence used by Deputy Redmond. He spoke of the grave financial condition of the country. There is no grave financial condition at the moment. The position of the country, financially, is sound, as sound as it was last year, or the year before, or ten years ago. It is I think, dangerous to allow a statement of that sort to go abroad. We will in a short time go before the country in its present financial condition to ask for money for public services. If that statement was allowed to go forth as the deliberate conclusion of this House. that there was a grave financial condition prevailing, it is likely that it would militate seriously against our credit, and the credit of the country is very important.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 16:58:02||Page of 25|