Committee on Finance. - Vote 2 — Houses of the Oireachtas.

Friday, 23 May 1947

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 106 No. 6

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Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Smith): Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £96,900 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1948, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Houses of the Oireachtas, including a Grant-in-Aid.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  The total &um required under this Vote this year is £145,400, an increase of £7,900 on last year's provision. There is an increase of £3,000 under sub-head B, to meet the probable higher cost of Deputies' travelling as a result of the curtailment of rail services and the greater use by Deputies of their own cars. The additional £4,090 under sub-head E is due to staff ^changes and the rise in staff costs following consolidation. The small increases under sub-heads A, D and F are due to an increase of one in the number of Deputies provided for under this Vote and an anticipated increase in Senators' travelling expenses and in incidental expenses.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. Under the Constitution, this House is supposed to be a sovereign Assembly, a Parliament of a Republic, and the duty and responsibility of protecting the rights and privileges of Deputies rest with the Ceann Comhairle. For that reason, I want on this Estimate to seek an assurance that that duty and that responsibility are properly discharged. I take it that the appointment, promotion, dismissal and retirement of members of the staff lie in the hands of the Ceann Comhairle and that nobody else has the right to appoint, promote, or increase the pay of any member of the staff under the control of this House. I should like to have a very definite assurance from the Ceann Comhairle that that duty is [736] being properly discharged and that he accepts full responsibility for the salaries, wages and working conditions generally of all the members of the staff working in and around this House.

Many months ago, the Captain of the Guard retired after a long and faithful service and, so far as I am aware, that position has not so far been filled. I want to know what is the cause of the delay in filling that vacancy. Before the Captain of the Guard retired everybody knew the date on which he was due to retire. If a vacancy occurred in any business establishment worthy of the name in this city or in the country, the necessary steps would be taken beforehand to select the most suitable successor to the person due to retire at a particular date. It is the duty of the Ceann Comhairle, under the Constitution and the Standing Orders, to answer to the House for his failure to fill, this position and I recognise nobody else in this matter. I have heard, and I suppose other Deputies have heard, that there is an innumerable number of applicants and that every Minister has a nominee for this much sought for position, which was so honourably filled over a long period of years by Captain Tom Byrne. I hope that whoever gets the job will do it as well as it was done by him. It is about time, at any rate, if there is anybody responsible for reconciling the differences between Ministers who have their own nominees for this job, that he should make up his mind as to who is the most suitable applicant amongst the innumerable people who have made application for the position.

The Captain of the Guard has a certain responsibility to this House. For instance, I understand that, under the Rules and Standing Orders of the House, he has the sole responsibility for removing any Deputy who refuses to leave the House at the request of the Chair. Quite recently we had a little bit of trouble here. That kind of trouble arises in the best-regulated families. At any rate, a member who was ordered to leave the House on a particular occasion did not respond right away to the request of the Ceann Comhairle and we had no Captain of the Guard to enforce the ruling of the [737] Chair. That distasteful task was left to one of the ushers

I wonder was it quite in order on that occasion for the Chair Id order the removal of a Deputy by a person on whom did not lie the responsibility for carrying out that duty. I am not too well versed in the duties of the Captain of the Guard, but there may be other duties which nobody else should, in the ordinary course, perform except the Captain of the Guard. At any rate, for a long period of years this House has passed an Estimate, and I presume it will pass this Estimate, making provision for the position of Captain of the Guard. I hope that a satisfactory explanation for the failure to fill this responsible post will be given to the House before this Estimate is passed.

On a number of previous occasions the attention of the responsible authority here, that is the Ceann Comhairle, was drawn to a number of matters, including the very unsatisfactory kind of room provided for the reception of visitors. Like yourself-Sir, I have had the experience of visiting Parliament Houses in other countries — in London, Brussels, Paris and Rome — and I think we have nothing to boast about in the kind of dog-box at the entrance gate for the reception of foreign visitors and of our own people who come here in large numbers from time to time to see Deputies. It is a disgraceful kind of dog-box which is used for this purpose. If the Minister for Finance has all the money he says he has for every useful purpose, it is time that he allocated some of it for the purpose of providing a decent kind of reception-room for visitors to this House. I hope that before this Estimate is passed an assurance will be given by the responsible authority in this matter that a proper reception-room will he provided before the end of the financial year.

I understand that the Department of Finance claim responsibility for all these matters, but where they come in under the Constitution in matters of this kind I do not know. So far as I can see, the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has as much responsibility under the [738] Constitution for the proper conduct of this House, for appointments to the staff and for the promotion and dismissal of members of the staff as the Minister for Finance. I would be amazed, as I imagine other Deputies would be amazed, to hear that all this work is left in the hands of some senior or junior civil servant.

I now come to the question of the staff employed in this House and, particularly, in the restaurant. When I first entered this House in 1922, and for many years afterwards, the catering arrangements were in the hands of a committee appointed by this House. That committee had full responsibility for the employment and the conditions of employment of the staff that worked here over a long period of years. At one stage, perhaps during the period of your membership of this House, Sir, that Kitchen Committee employed a good and efficient staff under the best possible conditions, gave them a full week's employment, and at the end of certain financial years profits which were made went back into the revenue for the relief of taxation. Who is responsible for it I have yet to find out, but now we are asked to vote a subsidy, if you please, of £500 a year to a private company, established for profit-making purposes. Is there any other catering concern in the country in such a privileged position as that? I doubt it. This is a fairly big concern. I do not care whether they claim the whole or portion of the £500 provided in this Estimate as a subsidy to enable them to get more profit on their business than they would get in any other place where they are carrying on business. I understand that the directors of this catering concern are associated with a lot of other catering concerns outside this House. That is not pertinent, except to this extent, that they get no subsidy for the catering they do in other places. They have to rely on the service they give to the public, and the taxpayers have not to pay, in addition to those who have to pay decent amounts, I suppose, for the food they consume in any of the other establishments carried on by this concern outside this House. I do not know that anybody would get up here and [739] say that he is getting his food cheaply in the restaurant. I have heard many members complaining about the high charges.

As to the efficiency, I have nothing to say on that matter against the concern responsible for carrying out the catering arrangements, but I wonder how many members know of the conditions under which the staff in the restaurant are employed. I take it that members of the House know something about the hours and working conditions and I would like to see any Deputy from any part of the House, who is personally aware of the shocking conditions under which some of the members of the staff are working, standing up here and saying he is prepared to go outside and defend them. How many Deputies know that one girl with a glorified title is working a full week here for 27/3 and another girl with, perhaps, a more important title, is paid £2 8s. 0d. for a hard week's work, working late into the night and with very long service?

If Deputy Mrs. Crowley speaks in this debate, I wonder will she defend such things if she knows the conditions of the women members of the staff and were asked to vote a subsidy to a so-called business concern that is prepared apparently to defend these rotten conditions of service. Somebody may get up and say that the staff are not working here every week, but the same applies to the Ceann Comhairle and to Deputies. We are not sitting here every week or every day in the week and there is no use in coming back with that kind of argument. Before this subsidy is voted, I want an assurance from the Ceann Comhairle, and from nobody else, that the rotten conditions of service of the catering staff will be revised immediately and that the employees, male and female, will at least have as good conditions as employees have in any other comparable concern in the city or country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Would not these matters be more properly the concern of the Restaurant Committee?

[740]Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I was about to come to that — to deal with the Kitchen Committee.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  I am not saying that the Deputy is out of order.

Mr. Oavin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The manageress of this concern is known to every Deputy to be a highly efficient, lady and, from what I know of the wages and working conditions of girls employed in similar positions in hotels in the city or country, she would have double her pay in any decent concern. This is the one occasion in the year when — and I am addressing Deputies of every Party — we are in control. There is no Party issue in this matter and, if there was a Vote on this, I would expect there would be no Whips put on. If I cannot get an assurance from the Chair that there will be an immediate revision of the rotten conditions of service of the catering staff, I am prepared to put this Vote to a division and test Deputies on this matter.

I was about to refer to the committee that the Chair has in mind. It is known as the Kitchen Committee. What powers have the members of the Kitchen Committee, and how often do they meet? When did they last make a recommendation on this or any other matter? Were they ever allowed during the last year or two to meet for the purpose of discussing the questions I am now raising ? My information is that they were not asked to meet or, if they did meet, they were not allowed to discuss these matters. Therefore, there is no use in discussing a committee that has no power or responsibility. When the committee had power and responsibility they discharged their duties to the satisfaction of Deputies and to the satisfaction of the taxpayers to the extent that they conducted the catering arrangements of this House so satisfactorily that they gave the best food at a low price and they made a profit and that profit went back into revenue for the relief of taxation. Why can we not get back to those days instead of having to vote £500 this year to a catering concern that would be ashamed to disclose the hours and wages and general working [741] conditions of the staff? I will wait for a reply from the Ceann Comhairle before I say anything further.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  There is provision in tins Estimate for the allowances of members of this House and I want to raise a question which, I flunk, is of fundamental importance. This, as has been pointed out, is the supreme Assembly of the nation. On the deliberations of this Assembly depends the entire future of our administration and the type of legislation under which our people will have to live. The extent to which decisions taken by this House influence the lives of all sections of the people is well known and clearly understood. This is a democratically elected institution and we know that in every such institution the members have certain rights and also certain duties. If you are a member of a small committee, a committee of agriculture, a vocational committee or anything of that kind, down the country, there is a record kept of your attendance at meetings. If a member fails to attend a minimum number of days he is disqualified. But here in the supreme Assembly of the nation it is possible for a Deputy to get elected and to sign the roll and then he can sit back for five years without ever showing his face in this House. I think that is an appalling state of affairs. I feel that this money should not be allowed to people who never appear here; at least, there should be an obligation upon every member of the House to come here and bow to the Chair so that the Ceann Comhairle would have some idea of that member's appearance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  That is a matter that is covered by an Act passed by this House and I do not think it can be criticised on an Estimate of this kind.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  But we are voting substantial sums of money for allowances to Deputies.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  The conditions under which those sums are paid are determined by a statute of the House and that cannot be reviewed under an Estimate.

[742]Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I submit that we have-the right to refuse to vote this money-or to refer the Vote back for reconsideration and, that being so, we should at least have some right to raise a question as to the manner in which the money is being expended.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  The Deputy is quite free to vote against the money being given, but he cannot criticise an Act of Parliament of his own making.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  If I am considering the desil ability of voting against this Estimate, I suggest I have a right to give the House some reasons why I am influenced in arrving at that decision.

There is no doubt that a member of the most unimportant local committee can be disqualified for failing to give a minimum number of attendances without giving some explanation, and I think the same rule should apply to members of this House. I do not think the matter would require legislation. It could be arranged by an amendment of the Standing Orders or Regulations. It is a matter that requires urgent attention, particularly as we saw a number of faces here 12 months ago-that one does not see so frequently now. At least one particular face has disappeared but the owner of that face is still a member of the House.

With regard to the position of Captain of the Guard, I think it is extraordinary that that position should be left vacant so long. The outgoing captain impressed everybody by his personality and his efficiency. He was, as it were, almost an institution here. People who came to visit this House, remembered ever afterwards his courtesy, his friendship and his cordiality. I think that if nothing else, it is an insult to that distinguished official that the position which he filled with such distinction should be left unoccupied so long. There are, as has been pointed out, many important functions delegated to the Captain of the Guard which Deputy Davin rightly suggested cannot be filled by any other officer. I ask what qualifications will be required of Captain Byrne's successor?

[743] Will the position be filled by promotion or will somebody be brought in here who has no knowledge or experience of the functions of the officials of this House? I feel very strongly that this is a position which should be filled by promotion I think that in most Departments promotion is the desirable way of filling the higher positions, giving the man in the junior position something to look forward to, something to hope for, if he is efficient and diligent in his services. I think in this instance, the position should be filled by promotion and that it should he filled immediately.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  There is one matter in connection with the staff that I should like to mention, namely, the shortage of reporting staff that we experienced last year in dealing with many of the matters which came before the Committee of Public Accounts. When both Houses are meeting, the reporting staff is insufficient to report the proceedings of both Houses and, at the same time, meetings of the Committee of Public Accounts. As I understand, the salaries paid to reporters here are insufficient to attract new entrants for these positions when they become vacant. Most reporters can get better jobs outside on newspapers or at other reporting work. Consequently they are not prepared to accept the salaries offered here, having regard to the long hours of duty, coupled with the uncertainty in connection with the sitting of both Houses which at certain times involves attendance here both late and early. If they were assured that the Seanad would meet at certain specific times, possibly they might be able to devote some of their time at slack periods of the year to alternative work outside.

I want to say that it is most unsatisfactory and not conducive to the proper functioning of the Public Accounts Committee that we should be held up because of a shortage of reporting staff. The work of the Committee is sufficiently important to ensure that it should be able to meet regularly when it requires to do so. When the Dáil is sitting it should be possible for the [744] Committee of Public Accounts to meet at least one day of the week and be assured of the services of a sufficient staff of reporters to report both the proceedings of the Dáil, the Seanad and of that Committee. When both Houses are sitting, the present staff of reporters are obliged to report sittings lasting over a considerable period as they do their work very efficiently. I would suggest that if the proceedings of the Dáil, of the Seanad and of Public Accounts Committee are to be reported, an increased staff is necessary. I understand that the difficulty in the past has been that new recruits with sufficient training and knowledge were not coming forward. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that if that is due to the inadequate salaries offered a drastic modification in the rates and the terms of the appointment should be made because it is essential, I think everyone agrees, that if the proceedings are to be properly reported and If we are maintain the staff at a high level of efficiency, the personnel, of the staff should be sufficiently large. It is certainly most unsatisfactory that throughout the year the Committee Public Accounts has had to adjourn on occasion for as long a period as three weeks because of a shortage of reporters at times when the Dáil and Seanad were meeting simultaneously.

I should also like to mention the difficulties which visitors to this House sometimes experience in seeing Deputies. The general system under which Deputies meet visitors is unsatisfactory. The small hut at the gate is quit inadequate and the telephonic service between the gate and the rest of the House is insufficient to meet requirements. When both Houses are sitting. there is generally a large number of visitors calling here. It often strikes me that we have no hesitation in providing better facilities for certain Government Departments and other State institutions but when we require such facilities here, or when it is a matter of extending facilities throughout the country, there is great difficulty in securing them. Certain Government Departments, as I say, can get any facilities they require [745] without any difficulty. I suggest that one place where improved facilities arc required is here in Leinster House. Both the telephone staff and the staff of ushers are sometimes at their wits end to meet the demands made on them. Some alteration should be made in the system by increasing the number of ushers or improving the telephone service so that visitors will not find themselves called upon to undergo a wait of half an hour or three-quarters of an hour before they can see a Deputy.

In the general matter of staffing here, I think all Deputies arc dissatisfied with the manner in which the restaurant has been run. It may be that we are living in difficult times from the point of view of caterers, owing to shortage of foods of one kind or another and the difficulties of obtaining a fuel supply. These difficulties have resulted in increasing the work which the members of the catering staff are called upon to perform but when we consider that there is a subsidy paid in respect of the restaurant and that free fuel, or something approaching free fuel, is provided then I think we could reasonably demand better service. I suggest this is a matter that should be considered carefully. The present conditions are most unsatisfactory. On certain days of the week the staff have to work long hours and they are in receipt of comparatively small wages. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that this is a matter which should be taken up. It is certainly unsatisfactory that the restaurant is not run better, and that the food there cannot be given cheaper, particularly when Deputies vote a subsidy for the restaurant.

With regard to the filling of vacancies, it is a strange thing a Captain of the Guard has not been appointed. The retiring captain has been out of office for three or four months and so far no appointment has been made. I think it is desirable in a matter of this kind where it is possible there should be promotion from the existing staff — or at any rate an examination or test which would enable members of the existing staff to present themselves if they thought fit for the position — that at least they [746] should be afforded an opportunity of applying for the position. I think the House is entitled to know why the position has not been filled, what are the proposals for filling it and from whom does the Department intend to invite applications. We should also have the terms of the appointment.

Finally, I should like to say that, in general, if the staffs are to be maintained at a high level — if the competent staffs which it has been the good fortune of the two Houses of the Oireachtas to enjoy are to be available in the future — a modification and a revision of the existing rates is inevitable. I said here before that the staffs in the Houses in general are extremely efficient and courteous, and that they devote themselves assiduously to their duties. If Deputies are to be afforded the services which should be available to them from the staffs, then the staffs must be kept at a high level of efficiency. A number of members of the staff will, in the course of the next few years, be retiring. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what proposals the Government have for filling these vacancies, and on what terms they propose to fill them. Certainly, the delay that has occurred in filling some positions does not augur well for the future. It is essential that we should have here an efficient and a competent staff.

As I said before, the Library here is conducted in an excellent fashion. All matters are filed there, whether they are volumes or reports, which Deputies or Senators may need, and are readily available to them. It is essential that we should continue to have efficient officers in the Library. As far as I am aware, the salaries and the allowances paid to the staff there and, in fact, to many members of the staff in general, are too low to hope for the same efficiency in the future as we have had m the past. If we can expect that we will have new applicants for these positions when the present holders retire or are promoted to other offices, then I think the matter should be revised. I would like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what views the Government have on this matter. Certainly the rigid hand of the Department of [747] Finance has for too long been obvious in the general administration of the Houses of the Oireachtas. If we are to conduct this House, and the work of the House in the manner in which they should be conducted, then a less drastic interference by the Department of Finance is desirable.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I should like to emphasise the point made by Deputy Cosgrave in connection with the Reporting Staff here who, in my opinion, work under conditions of exceedingly great difficulty. I think there will be agreement amongst the most casual observers that on occasions these difficulties are created by under-staffing. I wonder whose duty it is to inquire into the arrangements so far as the Reporting Staff are concerned. Perhaps it would be a little more important to know if it is the Department of Finance in that case also that makes the arrangements, or is it the Ceann Comhairle? Deputy Davin referred to this institution as a Sovereign Assembly, and that as such it naturally has its rights and privileges. I gathered that amongst its rights, at least would be the recruitment and the appointment of staff. I understand that the position is to the contrary, and that the Department of Finance interferes here, and that it actually appoints and transfers members of the staff. In other words, that it gate-crashes in here by a policy of peaceful penetration and takes complete control of the House.

I want to refer to the question of officers here generally. I am not as long a member of the House as Deputy Davin, but I have taken a fairly keen interest in its general operation and control. One thing that has often occurred to me, as it must have occurred to anybody who has tried to study the position, is this: What is likely to arise here in years to come on the very important question of continuity so far as the senior officers are concerned t In my judgment these people are engaged on work of a highly specialised nature, and there obviously should be an arrangement in the House for understudies, particularly regarding the [748] junior members of the staff. Are the junior members of the staff getting the opportunity to equip themselves to fill the shoes of the senior officers who are carrying out their duties exceedingly well in this House? The work is of an exceptional character, and can only be done by understudies or by those who have had a specialised training. I am not so sure that is being done, and, therefore, I think it is inevitable there will be trouble in that respect if the Department of Finance is allowed to interfere.

I venture to say that if the position of this House is compared with the position that obtains in the British House of Commons, that such a thing does not obtain there. After all, the whole procedure of this House is very largely fashioned on the policy and procedure of the British House, but I could not possibly understand the Speaker of the House of Commons, or the staff there, being interfered with by the British Treasury. I doubt very much if they would allow it. Deputy Davin asked what right has that particular Department to come in here any more than the Department of Defence or the Department of Posts and Telegraphs which render certain services here, would have. I think that this question of the constitutional rights of the House should be cleared up once and for all so that every member will understand what they are.

In connection with the restaurant think the members of the House, as a whole, will be disturbed at the conditions, particulars and details which Deputy Davin has given. There is a point of view that I should like to give expression to. It occurs particularly in the evening when Deputies may be interested in some particular debate. I refer to the period from 6 o'clock onwards. At that time some member might like to associate himself with some particular debate going on in the House. Meantime, the member may perhaps go to the restaurant for a light meal. He cannot get the meal because of the length of time it takes to serve it. Here, again, the question of under-staffing is obvious so far as the restaurant is concerned.

With regard to the position of the Captain of the Guard, criticism has [749] been levelled against whoevcr is responsible for the delay in filling the post. A point of view that I would like to express is that, to my mind, this is obviously a position to which there should be promotion from the existing members of the staff. There are members of the staff who are obviously capable of filling that post. Why is it that no opportunity is being provided for them to do so? If one can accept what one hears, an outsider is about to be imported into this particular position. I suggest that the House should protest if that is so as regards a position that is within the gift of the House through its nominated officer, the Ceann Comhairle. I say it is time that we should protest against appointments of that character.

With regard to the general amenities, I want to join with others in making a personal protest against the reception facilities available at the outer gate. I think there will be general agreement that, apart from the utter unsuitability of that particular hut for reception purposes, the very make-up of the hut itself is completely out of place in the grounds outside. It would appear to me as if a certain amount of deterioration has set in in the conduct of this House.

In regard to the ushers, some time Ago — for what reason I cannot understand, but it displays a rather petty mind, to say the least of it, whoever was responsible — the position of ushers was, in effect, abolished by the filling of posts as attendants or messengers who are called upon to do ushers' duty, merely for the sake of saving a few pounds. That is a despicable attitude. particularly in a Parliament House, and members of the House should protest.

I do hope that, as a result of this debate, we may have a clear indication as to whose responsibility it is to see that the question of the staff is put on a basis that the House will understand, so that the disabilities under which certain members are suffering may be removed at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. P.S. Doyle: Information on Peadar Seán Doyle  Zoom on Peadar Seán Doyle  I would like to join with the remarks of the various Deputies [750] in connection with the conditions in regard to pay of some of the staff at the present moment. There is one point I would like to make in connection with Deputy Davin's observations about the meetings of the Joint Committee. The order of the Committee is that it will meet monthly. That means that it would work out at one meeting every six weeks but, being a Joint Committee of both Houses, it is from time to time difficult to arrange meetings. At any rate, the order is that there should be monthly meetings and, as far as possible, these meetings take place.

On the question of staff, the conditions of the staff are not a matter that comes within the authority of the Committee but recommendations and representations on the lines suggested to bring about some improvement m the matters referred to, have already been made. I join with those who have protested against the non-filling of the position as Captain of the Guard. That vacancy should be filled as soon as possible.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I wish to add my voice to this debate. Every member of the House regretted the retirement of Captain Thomas Byrne and wishes him many years and good health to enjoy his retirement. He is a man with a great national record. I should like to see the position filled by promotion. There are men on the staff here who have good national records and, in fairness, the position should be filled by the promotion of one of these men. I do not belong to the city and I am surprised to hear city Deputies referring to the filling of the post. If my information is correct, this position is to be filled by an ex-Army captain who is to be brought in here and put over the ushers in this House who have served it since its establishment. That is entirely wrong and if the Ceann Comhairle appoints such a man — I do not believe he will have the full say; I believe it will be a matter of some political pull— it will cause among the staff here an uneasiness just as in any firm if an outsider is brought in and put over the staff, it creates uneasiness amongst the staff and an unhappy position.

[751] I will vote against a subsidy of £500 being given to any caterer who is carrying on in this House slave labour, as was indicated by the rates of pay payable to the Restaurant staff outlined by Deputy Davin. I understand that this subsidy is given to the caterer to maintain a skeleton staff here when the Houses of the Oireachtas are not in session, during Christmas, Easter and summer, for a few to come in here whenever it suits them. The country should not be asked to bear that expense. These caterers do not get a subsidy from any race committee for going out to Baldoyle or Leopardstown. I am aware that the girls serving in the Restaurant finish work when the House rises. What is the subsidy for? The Deputies, surely, are not getting cheap food in that Restaurant. You would get it cheaper in any part of the city.

As far as I see, it is profiteering that is going on. If other people charged what they are charging here, there would be a hue and cry. I am certainly against any subsidy for that, especially when trade union conditions are not observed. As we are all aware, when the two Houses are sitting, there is not sufficient staff to wait on tables. There are a few waitresses there who are run off their feet from the time the teas start until they are finished. What is the subsidy for? I would like the Parliamentary Secretary when he is replying to tell us exactly what the subsidy is for, because, if they are not going to give the people who are waiting on us a decent standard of wages, then I will certainly vote against it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  The Parliamentary Secretary to reply.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Oh no, Sir.

Mr. R. Walsh: Information on Richard Walsh  Zoom on Richard Walsh  I am not going to occupy the House very long. Certainly, there is general dissatisfaction among all the members of the House as to the conditions in the restaurant and the general costs of meals there as compared with restaurants outside. When the restaurant was being run by a Committee of this House it could make a profit and I cannot understand why we are now told that a profit [752] cannot be made even though a very handsome subsidy is given towards the upkeep of the restaurant.

I also wish to say a few words about the reporting staff. I have observed here that on several occasions assistance has to be given by the reporting staff from the Press Gallery. I do not think that the reporting staff should be in the position that they would have to call on the assistance of the Press Gallery. There should be an adequate reporting staff here to deal with everything that takes place in the House without having to call for assistance from outside circles. The Press Gallery, I believe, have been very decent in giving the assistance when requested but I do not think that they should be called upon.

I was very much astonished also, about twelve months ago, to be informed by an attendant or an usher, that, although they are supplied with uniforms, they are not supplied with overcoats. That class of economy is simply cheeseparing and I do not think it is justified.

Certainly, from what I have heard of the conditions in the restaurant and the standard of wages there, to say the least of it, it is anything but extravagant.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  On a point of order, did you, A Leas-Chinn Comhairle, call on the Parliamentary Secretary to reply, not to conclude?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  There is no conclusion in the matter of an Estimate. He merely winds up and answers any criticism on the Vote.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  On a point of order, on a constitutional point, I challenge the right of the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter. I think he has as much right as the man in the moon. My questions were directed to the Ceann Comhairle, who is personally responsible to the House, by reason of his position, to answer to the House the questions I have asked. I ask for a ruling on this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  All I can rule is that this Vote is presented [753] by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Vote is accounted for to the House by the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance is responsible to the House for any expenditure under this Vote.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Will you quote the Standing Order, or authority under any other Order made by the House, which gives the Ceann Comhairle the right to delegate his responsibility for the appointment of staff, for the conditions of staff or anything else, to the Parliamentary Secretary or even to a Minister?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  It is not my province to quote Standing Orders to any Deputy. Why does not the Deputy make himself familiar with the Standing Orders? We are dealing only with matters of finance and surely the proper authority is the Minister for Finance?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  We are dealing with the conditions of staff employed in this House under the authority of the Ceann Comhairle, and I assert that nobody but the Ceann Comhairle has any responsibility with regard to the questions T asked. I ask for a count of the House and I ask that the Ceann Comhairle take the Chair and give a ruling on this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  The Deputy is within his rights in asking for a count.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  It is time members came in to listen to the conditions under which they employ the staff.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted and 20 Deputies being present,

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I have asked for a ruling of the Chair on the point. I challenge that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Finance or any other Minister has any responsibility to the House to answer the questions I asked here to-day. I suggest that nobody but the Ceann Comhairle is responsible and I respectfully request that he take the Chair and reply.

[754]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  I do not think we could order in the Ceann Comhairle on the instigation of any Deputy. The Ceann Comhairle is vested with the fulfilment of certain regulations, the enforcement of which is carried out through committees of which he is the natural head —the Restaurant Committee, the Committee of Procedure and Privileges, and so on. The Deputy might refer his questions back to such committees, which are representative of all Parties in the House. We are dealing now with an Estimate.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  On a point of order, who but the Ceann Comhairle has the right to appoint the Captain of the Guard?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  I do not see that that is a point of order.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Of course it is.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  The Deputy could put that down in the form of a Parliamentary Question to the appropriate Minister and get a ruling in writing as well as orally. My function at the moment is to occupy the Chair and take charge of the Estimate, which has been presented by and on behalf of the Minister for Finance and I cannot go beyond that authority in dealing with these figures.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. O'Grady): Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  With your permission, I will answer Deputy Davin, if he will allow me. He seems to be in a mood to hold up the proceedings. He is one of the oldest members of the House but, like all old men, myself included, his memory is failing him.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  It is not.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  Very well, then, his memory is 100 per cent. right. In 1923, when he was a member of the House, a special Standing Committee was set up to deal with this very matter. It made certain recommendations. In practice, this matter is dealt with in accordance with those recommendations, made by the Standing Committee on the Oireachtas Staff, with regard to the recruitment and promotion [755] of the staff of the Houses of the Oircachtas. I take it that that is the very subject in which Deputy Davin is, interested and wants information about. In their 1923 report, the committee classified the Oireachtas staff into two main divisions: (1) the officers of the Houses and (2) the administrative, clerical, technical and subordinate staffs. Division (1) consists of (a) the clerk and assistant clerk of each House and (b) officers common to both Houses, namely, the superintendent, the Captain of the Guard, the librarian, the assistant librarian.

Appointments to these posts, in accordance with the 1923 Report, are made by the Taoiseach on the joint recommendation of the Chairman of the House concerned and the Minister for Finance in the case of category (a) and by the Taoiseach on the joint recommendation of the two Chairmen and the Minister for Finance in the case of category (b). Division (2), comprising all the remaining staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, consists of (a) the administrative, clerical and typing staffs of the three principal offices, that is, the Public Bill and General Office, the Private Bill and Committee Office and the Journal Office, (b) the Official Reporting Staff, (c) the Translation Staff, (d) the subordinate staffs, namely, the established attendants or ushers and unestablished messengers or cleaners, etc. All the staff listed in the preceding paragraphs are recruited in accordance with the usual procedure and through the Civil Service Commission in the case of established posts, and promotions follow the usual Departmental practice.

I suppose that, after such a long period of time, Deputy Davin may forget, if he has forgotten, about the Report of this Committee, which was set up away back in 1923, 24 years ago. It is a long spate in any man's life, even in that of Deputy Davin.

The principal criticism offered was with regard to the facilities for the reception of visitors who may wish to see the Houses of the Oireachtas, or who have business with Deputies. That is a matter that should be dealt with by the Committee on Procedure and [756] Privileges, and, on their report being presented, the Minister for Finance will, I am sure, consider the matter favourably. I agree that the facilities are not what they ought to be, and I agree with those Deputies who say itis time they were improved; but, in my opinion, the proper body to go into the matter is a committee, such as the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, on which all sides of the House are represented. I do not think it is necessary for me, having informed the House of the conditions of appointment and the method of appointment of the staff, to go into any detail with regard to the filling of the vacancy caused by the retirement of Captain Tom Byrne. The person to be appointed to this vacancy will have to have the qualifications of national service and a competent knowledge of Irish. Most, if not all, of the ushers have already applied and are, eligible to be considered in connection with this vacancy.

A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the catering, the system of catering was varied in 1923. Upto then there was a committee of the House dealing with the subject, but, apparently — I can only assume this, as I cannot remember exactly the reasons— the members were not satisfied with the then existing conditions, though some of them are lamenting them to-day. At that time, apparently, the members felt some alteration was necessary, and, because of that, an outside firm of caterers was called in to do the catering. This firm was in the good graces, I understand, of the trade union movement and was looked upon as a good employer. Part of the conditions of the contract was: “It is agreed that such labour shall not be remunerated at a lower rate than obtained prior to the date of this agreement.” In other words, generally speaking, the terms of employment were to be as good as those obtaining elsewhere. I do not know that there has been any breach of that agreement. There is, as Deputies are aware, an undertaking that, in the event of a loss by the caterers, a subsidy amounting to £350, and, in respect of the expenses of catering, a further £150 making a total of £500, will be paid.

[757]Mr. McMenamin: Information on Daniel McMenamin  Zoom on Daniel McMenamin  Can the Parliamentary Secretary say if there is any truth in the statement by Deputy Davin that these attendants are paid 27/6 per week and whether that includes a whole week's work?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  I have no information to show exactly what they are paid, but the agreement entered into at the time was that they would pay a rate of wages not less than that obtaining prior to the agreement. This agreement was entered into by the Clerk of the Dáil, on behalf of the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach, and Messrs. Mills the caterers, who were regarded by the then spokesman of the trade union as model employers.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  What was the date of that agreement?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  1933.

Mr. McMenamin: Information on Daniel McMenamin  Zoom on Daniel McMenamin  There is a net question which the Parliamentary Secretary can answer. Are there girls working here to-day at 27/6 per week.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  27/3.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  I have already stated that I have no information as to the scales of pay these girls are receiving.

Mr. McMenamin: Information on Daniel McMenamin  Zoom on Daniel McMenamin  Somebody should have the information and be able to give it to the House.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  There is an agreement between the caterers and the Clerk of the Dáil, acting on behalf of the Ceann Comhairle, as to the rates and conditions of employment. This staff was Messrs. Mills' staff and was taken over with the caterers at the time. Deputy Cogan raised a matter with which I certainly do not wish to deal — the question of the attendance or non-attendance of members. If Deputy Cogan would instil a little discipline into his own Party, it might not be necessary to raise it at all.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  Does the Parliamentary Secretary suggest that any member of my Party has been absent for a long period?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  There are so many Parties among the Farmers' Party that [758] I am puzzled to know to which Party the Deputy, who used to sit on those benches, belongs, but I am sure the Deputy is aware that a man who was elected on that ticket, or some ticket akin to it, whom the Deputy probably has in mind, has not attended since, but rounding him up and getting him to sit here is a job I do not want to undertake.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that no member of my Party has erred in that way, but a member of his Party has been absent for the past 12 months.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  It is much easier for the Deputy to count the members of his Party than it is for me to be ,aware of who they are. I am sure he will not go astray in the count. The position with regard to the reporting staff is that an attempt was made recently to get additional members for that staff, and two qualified persons were found, but only one accepted appointment. subsequently. It is intended to have a further try to increase that staff; It is not true to say that it is because of the rate of remuneration that there is difficulty in getting qualified persons. Incidentally, most Deputies seemed to be thinking in terms of the past when they referred generally to the unsatisfactory remuneration of the various officers and staff employed in the House, forgetful of the fact that, equally with every other employee and group of employees in the State service and, generally speaking, in the various firms throughout the country, they got their proportionate increase. It is not because of any reduction or lack of remuneration that it has not been found possible to get these competent reporters. The difficulty is that it is necessary to have reporters capable of reporting speeches in Irish as well as in English and, at the speed at which the ordinary person speaks, it is not so easy to get people with that particular qualification.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for having read a document which I do not think has ever been read in the House before and for giving an opportunity of having [759] the contents of the document put on the records. It is useful information, and it is only right that it should be given to Deputies in the House for the first time, so far as the life of this particular Parliament is concerned.

The Parliamentary Secretary has been extremely candid — and, for that, I suppose we have to thank him, too— in stating that he does not know the conditions under which the girls are employed in the restaurant. He has not denied that one girl, with a glorified title, has the magnificent weekly wage of 27/3 and that another, with 20 or 21 years' service, who works late and early and is well known to all the Deputies, and whose home is not in Dublin has the magnificent wage of £2 7s. 3d. per week.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Is the Deputy making another speech with regard to the wages?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I thought we were in Committee. I d6 not want to delay the House unduly, but this is the one day in the year on which Deputies have a right to say what they think about the conditions under which the House is conducted, from the Chair down to the humblest worker in the House.

I will exercise my right to challenge a division on this motion. I hope the whips will not be put on. This is not a Party matter. It is a question of how many Deputies in this House are prepared to expose themselves to the public as standing for the rotten conditions of service given by a catering firm which gets a subsidy from the taxpayer. If you vote for that you are voting for the continuance of these rotten conditions and you are giving a subsidy to the catering firm responsible for them. The Parliamentary Secretary should acquaint himself with these conditions. I do not believe any member of the House would defend these conditions outside. My request is reasonable. All I want is an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary whose authority I am challenging on [760] this matter. If you, Sir, rule that he is the proper person to answer we want a positive assurance from him that, before we vote for that subsidy again for this particular catering firm, the existing conditions of the staff will be revised and reformed. That is a reasonable request. Can I have it?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  The question of conditions of employment and, generally, the question of the caterers here is a matter for the committee expressly set up for that purpose.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Oh, is it?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  I had no previous notion or knowledge of the question Deputy Davin proposed to raise. Consequently, I have not got the information he is seeking. If necessary, I can find out and inform the Deputy as to what the scale of pay is.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Can I have an assurance that you are defending £1 7s. 3d. a week in the case of one girl and £2 7s. 3d. in the case of another girl or that you are not?

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  I am not defending £1 7s. 3d. I do not know that that is the amount being paid. I doubt it very much.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I call a division. I made a reasonable request. I gave notice of what I was going to raise.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The Parliamentary Secretary did not tell the House when the appointment of the Captain of the Guard is going to be made either.

Mr. O'Grady: Information on Seán O'Grady  Zoom on Seán O'Grady  I did, but, if the Deputy does not understand, the fault is not mine.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I hope the whips will not be put on. It is not a Government matter either unless it is forced as one.

Question put: “That the Vote be referred back.”

Beirne, John.
Cogan, Patrick.
Coogan, Eamonn.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, John A.
Davin, William.
Donnellan, Michael.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Finucane, Patrick.
Giles, Patrick.
Hughes, James.
Keating, John.
McMenamin, Daniel.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Mulcahy, Richard.
Norton, William.
O'Leary, John.
O'Sullivan, Martin.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Sheldon, William A.W.

Aiken, Frank.
Bartley, Gerald.
Beegan, Patrick.
Blaney, Neal.
Boland, Gerald.
Bourke, Dan.
Breen, Daniel.
Brennan, Martin.
Brennan, Thomas.
Briscoe, Robert.
Butler, Bernard.
Colley, Harry.
Crowley, Honor Mary.
Derrig, Thomas.
De Valera, Eamon.
Flynn, Stephen.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Harris, Thomas.
Killilea, Mark.
Kilroy, James.
Kissane, Eamon.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Loughman, Frank.
Moran, Michael.
Moylan, Seán.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O'Grady, Seán.
O'Reilly, Matthew.
O'Kourke, Daniel.
Rice, Bridget M.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
Ryan, James.
Ryan, Robert.
Smith, Patrick.
Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
Walsh, Richard.

Question declared lost.

Vote put and agreed to.


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