Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 1977: Fifth Stage.

Thursday, 10 November 1977

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 301 No. 5

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[848] Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I want to take this opportunity of mentioning a point which was raised by Deputy Barry this morning. I said I would deal with it when we came to it, but I overlooked it. He asked whether the Minister for Economic Planning and Development really existed since his Department did not exist, and I assured him that the Minister did exist.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister has the exhibit with him.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Apart from that, I also have section 2 (3) and in that connection I wanted to point out to the Deputy that the creation of a new Department requires the creation of a new office of Minister having charge of that Department. The Minister for Economic Planning and Development is a member of the Government now having charge of a Department of State, who is therefore, under section 4 (2) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939 a Minister without portfolio. His title is not derived from the title of a Department of which he is head, because it does not exist, but it is a title that has been assigned to him by the Government pursuant to section 4 (3) of the 1939 Act.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  It sounds fine. It did not stop me asking questions, but it is just a point I was wondering about. It is the first time since I came into this House that I have been engaged in a discussion on the establishment of a new Department. The last one was probably on the Minister for Labour in 1967 or 1968.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I think it was the Public Service.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Yes, I had forgotten about that. The point I want to make is that this is a Department about which all of us in this House, including the Minister, are sailing into the unknown. [849] It was for that reason that I was anxious that some formula should be devised either legislatively or by way of an assurance by the Minister— although that does not satisfy me either because the point I was making a number of times over the last few days is that we are not dealing with the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue or Deputy George Colley, but with Ministers in future—under which we could have an economic discussion or a discussion on this Department at regular intervals. It does not seem likely that the Estimate will amount to more than a debate on staff, salaries and wages, or that there would be any legislation. However, I will not pursue that point any further, at the moment.

The Minister will now, when this Bill passes Seanad Éireann, be a fullyfledged Minister for Economic Planning and Development, and what he does and the tone he sets in his Department for the next four years will virtually determine what happens in the Department in saecula seculorum. Every other Minister will either follow what he is doing or else be called to account in this House if he is not following it. Would the Minister give me—I do not want a guarantee— a personal undertaking that, at reasonably regular intervals, he will find a device to come into this House and allow the Members of the Oireachtas to debate the working of his Department, to point out what they see as his shortcomings, and hopefully give him some praise for what he is doing well?

Professor O'Donoghue: Information on Martin O'Donoghue  Zoom on Martin O'Donoghue  The Minister, Deputy Colley, and myself put on the record, outside this House, admittedly, in recent weeks, our intention to prepare and publish documents as early as possible. Therefore I would expect to have documents published. Whether we call them plans or not is something we had better leave aside for the moment. It would certainly be my wish and intention that they should be discussed and debated in this House.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I accept that.

Question put and agreed to.


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