Friday, 6 July 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): My amendment would require the Minister to state an establishment day for the Bill before 1 September. I understand this is a normal type of amendment for which there are a number of precedents; yet it has been ruled out on the grounds that it would constitute a charge on the Exchequer. I seek clarification on that point.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Noonan's amendment No. 1 has been ruled out of order as involving a potential charge on the Exchequr. Deputy Noonan in his amendment seeks to provide that the establishment day of the agency shall not be later than 1 September 1990. The agency would be funded from the Exchequer and any amendment seeking  to bring forward the establishment day has the potential effect of bringing forward the expenditure of public moneys and, therefore, must be adjusted out of order as involving a potential charge on the revenue.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): When Ministers bring legislation before the House for which they claim extensive budgetary savings then they should not have an open-ended establishment date attached to the legislation. When the Minister proposed this Bill on budget day he said that it would bring about savings of £35 million. In his address on Second Stage, he said this was not being brought about by the fact that the agency would be handling the affairs of the national debt rather than the Department of Finance but because the agency would be mandated to have a more pro-active attitude to the debt and consequently it would be the frequency of the activity rather than the strategy which would bring about the saving. By attempting to tie the Minister into a date, which is probably the earliest possible date, in which he would be in a position to have an establishment date, rather than putting a charge on the Exchequer I am saving the Exchequer money — unless, of course, that the savings of £35 million which the Minister suggests are not real savings at all. If the Minister is to save £35 million this year and if the establishment date goes back further than 1 September, which is my proposal, then he will not achieve those savings. For example, if the establishment date is not until I January 1991 he will not make the savings at all. I appreciate the technically on which you ruled out the amendment, but I do not think the argument stands up.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): With respect, the earliest possible date is not good enough because we are proceeding in this House with conclusion motions. We are proceeding by way of guillotine, even though the guillotines have been agreed. If the Minister forces guillotines on the House and if it is his intention to do likewise in the Seanad, then he should know when he is setting up the agency. If 1 September is not an appropriate date, let us have it on 15 August or 1 October. But, at least, let us have clarify. Under normal circumstances, if it was enabling legislation for which the Minister was not making extravagant savings claims in the 1990 budget, this would not be an issue but the Minister has come into this House saying that he will save £35 million on debt servicing by setting up this agency. Yet he will not give us an establishment date. It is a peculiar form of estimation if the Minister does not know, cannot decide or tell us when he will set it up but, at the same time, he can put a savings tag on it — and indeed was able to do so last January — of £35 million. Yet today when we are going through the final Stages of this Bill he still cannot tell us when he will have the establishment date. That is a very peculiar equation.
Mr. Taylor: I find it slightly ironic that, on the one hand, the Minister assures the House that he will save £35 million  annually by having this agency established. Just as an aside my mind boggles at how much this State must have lost in the past as a result of not having had this agency established. We must have lost an enormous amount of money over past decades if we are to have a near guarantee of saving £35 million a year. I made my comments on that issue on Second Stage and do not propose to repeat them except to say it is ironic that Deputy Noonan's amendment should be ruled out of order on the grounds that it would prove to be a charge on the Exchequer although the savings will not be effected until the agency is brought into being.
This type of clause, under which the Oireachtas goes through all the panoply of the legislation and which provides that the Bill, when passed, is hived off into some kind of limbo pending the Minister making an order bringing the provisions of the Act into force highlights the absurdity to which such a clause can bring us. I refer to an Act passed, I think almost 25 years ago, affecting the liability of local authorities in accidents arising out of road injuries. That Act provided that a particular part of it would not come into operation until the Minister for the Environment made an order bringing it into operation. That was more than 25 years ago and the relevant order has never been made. Therefore I really think this kind of open-ended provision is not desirable. If the Minister for Finance is coming into the House telling us that he wants this Bill passed as soon as possible, that it is important and desirable, there ought to be some date given for the establishment of this agency even if only an estimated or maximum date. He ought to say that its establishment will not be later than such and such a date; there ought to be some guideline given; it should not be left completely open-ended in the way it has been.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I have already said that its establishment will be at the earliest possible date. Members' concern would appear to be that I will not be in a position to achieve savings of £35 million. That does not surprise me since  most figures I have produced in this House both last year and this year have been questioned, the contention being that the relevant targets will not be realised. I can assure the House that the targets set in relation to the savings issue will be achieved and indeed will be on the target very early on after the publication of the Exchequer returns for this year. We are confident that they will be achieved and that the agency will be established at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I accept that the people who run the debt section of the Department of Finance are very likely to achieve savings of £35 million; probably they have achieved a substantial amount already in the servicing of the debt and that, when the Central Fund figures emerge at the end of the year, probably savings will have been affected. But that is not what the Minister is claiming. The Minister is claiming that the setting up of the agency will bring about savings of £35 million. The Minister is also claiming that, when the agency is set up — even if the same personnel are involved in its operation — they will be operating in a manner different from now and which will throw up these savings. That is what the Minister said on Second Stage. If that is the case then it is necessary to have this agency established at the earliest possible date. There is no point in the Minister coming back saying he will be on target at the end of the year if he is not in a position to say exactly when it will be established. It is very easy to give that kind of estimated figure of savings but, very often, there are variations between the figure projected for debt servicing at the beginning of a year and the eventual turnout, because such is contingent on fluctuating interest rates and on the manner in which the whole debt portfolio is managed.
I have the utmost respect for the people who manage the debt at present but that is not what is at issue. What the Minister has said is that there will be a new mandate given to the debt agency and, arising from that new mandate,  savings will be affected because the manner in which the agency will operate will be different from that in which that section of the Department of Finance operate at present. In all logic it follows that the Minister should establish the agency at the earliest possible date. At the very least, if he claims to be able to save £35 million by the establishment of this agency, he should be in a position to say when he intends setting it up.
Mr. Hyland: Surely the point is that this agency is being set up and, hopefully, will achieve the savings the Minister has projected. But even if they do not achieve the £35 million savings in any given year it is still a move in the right direction and is an indication, for the first time, that we have a Government prepared to look objectively at the overall area of financial management. In my view it is a courageous move on the part of the Minister and Government, is an indication of their commitment to achieving overall economic control. Indeed in so doing they are accepting the fact that neither the Minister nor his officials — to whom I would pay tribute — are projecting themselves as the sole experts in the field of economic management. For the first time ever we have a Minister taking what I would consider to be a very positive step. That is the way in which this move should be welcomed and encouraged by all sides in this House.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): That is an interesting pont of view. But what I am endeavouring to establish here is that the real reason for setting up this agency has nothing whatever to do with savings because, certainly in 1990, the people managing the debt to date are doing so in a very effective manner, and are excellent people. Many are being attracted out of the Department of Finance because of their excellence and because they are not being adequately rewarded there. Consequently, when the Minister endeavoured  to replace them by way of public recruitment, he was unable to get the kind of people he wanted in the Department. This talk about savings is simply a bait to attract us into accepting a different structure within the Department of Finance so that a number of very good civil servants can be adequately rewarded and paid. That is the nub of the issue; it has nothing whatever to do with savings. The issue should be fought on its merits in this House.
If that is the case there is a responsibility on the Minister going much wider than his responsibility to the civil servants who manage the debt at present. It extends to the whole of the Civil Service. Indeed, the Civil Service at present never suffered from a lower morale and, by rectifying this in one section of the Civil Service, there is the danger that not only will the morale problems in the wider Civil Service and within the Department of Finance be ignored but also additional morale problems will be created. The Minister is encountering problems at present in that section of the Department of Finance. It is an open secret and we all know he had to do something. Nonetheless I would like assurances from the Minister for Finance that this does not constitute the totally of the reform he intends.
Deputy Seán Barrett made a very strong point on Second Stage when he asked: why can the public service not be reformed in a manner to ensure that people remaining in the public service receive an appropriate rate for the job, appropriate promotional opportunities and ancillary benefits? That is the issue as we see it. Indeed, it would appear there will be further difficulties encountered within the Civil Service. I do not know whether the Minister has had time to read the papers this morning but, in a supplement to The Irish Times today, there is an article written by Jackie Gallagher entitled “Civil Service Morale at an all-time low”. In it, Mr. Michael O'Donoghue a principal officer in the Revenue Commissioners and chairman  of the 1,600-member Association of Higher Civil Servants said:
An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to interrupt Deputy Noonan. The section we are dealing with now is concerned only with the establishment day. The matters to which the Deputy refers can certainly be dealt with on other sections, but it seems inappropriate now. The Minister may, by order, appoint a day to be the establishment day for the purposes of this Act. That is section 2.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The establishment day is the day the agency will be set up and it is to stop the brain drain from the Civil Service. I cannot see how I am out of order when I argue it should be at the earliest possible date. I would go on to say that the same problem exists in other areas of the Civil Service. Are the Government going to set up other agencies to stop the brain drain? I am absolutely in order.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I do not intend to delay the House but the Minister has stated that one of the objectives of setting up an agency is to prevent the brain drain from the Civil Service. It is very important that the agency be set up at the earliest possible date, and that is  what the argument about the establishment date is.
It is not only from the servicing sector of the Department of Finance that there is a brain drain. According to Mr. Shay Cody, whom I was quoting, there is a serious brain drain from the Civil Service as a whole. He says one in every eight people working with computers leave each year for better paying jobs in the private sector. Are we to expect the Minister to come in here next year with another agency, the computer employees agency, so that they can be adequately represented, have adequate benefits and be adequately maintained within the public service? If we go on further, another area in which there is a brain drain from the Civil Service is the area of tax specialists in the Revenue Commissioners who are leaving for the private sector. I quote again:
These people would have 10 years experience at a senior level and would stay if they saw a good career prospect and mobility in the service, but they don't. Their departure further deteriorates the morale of those left.
Job security is something you will take a few thousand less a year home for — but not £15,000, which is the difference between what some of the senior tax people can earn in the private sector as opposed to the civil service.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I am talking about the establishment day because it is the establishment day for the agency. The Minister's case rests on the fact that he will succeed in stopping the brain drain from the Civil Service by setting up an agency at the earliest possible date, and that the very fact of setting up the agency will achieve savings. I am addressing both points. I am showing that the Minister's argument does not stand up in logic. I am advocating that the Minister should reform across the Civil Service as a whole because if he does not he will be magnifying the problem. The solution here will reduce morale elsewhere and that is one of the difficulties. I do not see why the Minister cannot bring in general reform schemes in his own Department, in particular, which would clearly indicate that key people in the Civil Service and in the Department of Finance can be adequately rewarded and maintain their status as civil servants.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It is difficult to give any credence to assurances by the Minister because when the Minister was over here he was against every proposal that came from that side of the House.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): What we were discussing yesterday will lead to the privatisation of Irish Life, and we know the assurances that the present Taoiseach gave, by letter, to the State agencies that he would never get involved in any of this privatisation, and Deputy Reynolds was hopping up and down here talking about the sale of the family silver.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have already ruled very strongly that we are deviating to a very large extent from section 2. We are going into the general area of conditions of employment of staff and all these things. It is quite inappropriate. There are other sections here under which it would be appropriate to deal with these things, but not this section. It is straightforward, to do with appointing the establishment day, and so on. Deputy Noonan has strayed considerably. The Chair has said so. I would be grateful now if he would get back to the section proper.
An Ceann Comhairle: I should say, if I may intervene again, there is a defect in our amplification system. I am not  satisfied that the Deputies are being heard and that the microphones are operating properly. The matter is being attended to and an endeavour is being made to find the problem as quickly as possible. I am not satisfied that your microphone is, in fact, working.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I take your advice, a Cheann Comhairle. If I am ever looking for legal advice I know where to go, to Deputy Taylor who sees himself in the role of keeping the Minister and myself apart and facilitating proper debate. I am glad that he sees himself as a referee. I know that Deputy Taylor is excellent in these matters.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Just to put the record straight, I will give the Deputy a little information that I thought he would have gathered from yesterday's papers. It is today's papers that he seems to be concentrating on. The Deputy and the House should be aware, and if they are not I will make them aware now, that there is a whole programme of reform within the management of the whole public service. I have taken a new initiative to delegate the administrative parts of the budget to each Minister. Yesterday was the turn of the Department of Social Welfare and that will be followed by the area of the Revenue Commissioners where negotiations are at a very advanced stage. That will be followed by the Department of Energy, and so on. In this situation we allocate on a three-year basis a rolling budget for administrative purposes under the direction of the Minister and the Secretary of the Department. In other words, let the managers manage. They have a sum of money there and it will be up to them to manage the Department in the most efficient way and, at the same  time provide a level of savings for the Exchequer over that time, agreed in advance. That is a new initiative——
Mr. A. Reynolds: The managers are being given the responsibility and the authority to manage, and consequently it is up to each manager to manage his or her Department in the best and most efficient way. Undoubtedly, I accept that as a result of the embargo and the 3 : 1 situation, there are areas within the public service — I know this is not relevant to the section but I am just stating it for the information of the House——
Mr. A. Reynolds: We have taken initiatives to deal with some of the endemic problems in the Civil Service and the public service. What amazes me about Deputy Noonan is that he, a potential Minister for Finance, as well as everybody else seems to throw out the window the embargo, the costs and everything else in relation to the management of the personnel and manpower in the public service. He knows this is about the third largest overhead to be taken into account at budget time. Obviously he and the two parties who were in Government previous to the present one, felt the embargo was necessary and that some arrangements had to be made in relation to the escalating cost of pay and the numbers in the public service. They continued with the embargo and apparently ignored the rising problems within the service.
This Government have taken a totally different view and are undertaking new initiatives. The objectives of this initiative in relation to the management of the national debt are twofold. I made it clear on Second Stage that evaluations have been carried out of the whole management structure and the systems to be  employed in the management of the debt in future by international financial consultants. These consultants come down on the side of large savings to be made on the basis of new structures to be set up, and this is precisely what this Bill is all about. On the one hand, it will make savings and, on the other hand, give the flexibility to employ people to do the job. I do not think Deputy Noonan is correct in assuming that everybody in the debt service at present will opt to work in these structures. It is their choice as to whether they will apply for the job, whether they want to stay in the Civil Service. One cannot assume that people will not come in from outside to supplement those who are already managing the debt.
A whole new approach has to be taken, new instruments have to be handled, people with expertise retained in the system and all the available tools and instruments that are required in today's modern management of financial resources have to be employed. As I have said, the objective is twofold, to save money, and undoubtedly contribute to the lowering of taxation, while at the same time giving flexibility so that the debt can be managed in a modern manner.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Yes, but the agreement between the Minister and the Minister for Social Welfare came to fruition yesterday. The Minister said a certain amount of money would be allocated on a bulk grant basis and that the Minister and the managers involved would have the discretion to spend the money. Will they have the discretion to use part of that money to reward civil servants whom they think have performed excellently? Will they have the discretion to increase their salaries or to allocate substantial bonuses so that those  who deserve to be rewarded can be so rewarded?
An Ceann Comhairle: Many of the questions raised, especially by the Deputy just now, are more appropriately dealt with on section 7 which deals with staff matters, remuneration, salary scales, allowances and matters of that kind. I wish very much that you would conform to the procedure on Committee Stage and not stray from the subject matter of the amendment. I repeat that this amendment deals solely with the date of introduction.
An Ceann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 2, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 16 form a composite proposal and I suggest that they be taken together. It also seems that one decision should suffice, however, if the Deputy wishes separate decisions, that will be agreed to.
In the first instance I am quite happy that one decision should suffice on these amendments because the thrust of them covers one very basic and net point. We have to realise that what we are dealing with in this Bill in general, and this section in particular, is a very new constitutional area. There is no precedent for what is being attempted here. In the  context of the constitutional spectrum, it is new and consequently great care is required in connection with it. What is not new is that a Minister would delegate functions that have been passed on to him by the Government under the Constitution in regard to particular areas, in the manner in which he has indicated. That may be new up to a point but it is of a totally different character from what is envisaged in this section. The position as regards the managers and so on, which he has described to the House, is within his brief. It seems that is perfectly in order, lawful and constitutional. It is a model that could equally well have been adopted to cover the question of management of the financial debt. I do not see that this function of the Department, and of the Minister for Finance, is any different in character from that of the Revenue Commissioners or others. There is no reason why such a unit could not have been set up within his Department, with appropriate salaries, of course, to retain the staff.
Let us look at what we are doing here, which is very serious and strange in constitutional terms. We are taking a very vital and essential part of Government administration and purporting to devolve it directly from the Government to an agency, a limited company, which is the structure provided for in this Bill. It is the Government who are devolving this function to the agency, not the Minister for Finance. The Minister is nodding his head in agreement. I wonder is it constitutional for the Government to devolve part of government functions to anyone other than a Minister. In that context we should have a look at the Constitution and see what it says on the subject. The relevant Article is Article 28.12 which states: “The following matters shall be regulated in accordance with law, namely, the organisation of and distribution of business amongst Departments of State,...”. The Constitution gives power, by law, to the House of the Oireachtas to devolve the organisation of Departments of State and distribute business among Departments of State.
There is nothing there which gives any  authority to devolve business to anybody other than a Department of State. This new agency is not a Department of State. It is deliberately being set up as quite separate from and independent of a Department of State. Here is a position where the Government would be taking it upon themselves, apparently contrary to the Constitution, to distribute business outside the Departments of State. I wonder if they can do that; I suspect they cannot. It seems, a Cheann Comhairle, that you and your office may in due course have to consider asking the President, before signing the Bill, to look at that aspect and see whether it warrants referral to the Supreme Court as to its constitutionality on that issue. This is very different from the position where the Government quite properly distribute business to the Minister for Finance and he in turn divides up that business among sections of his Department and they act on his behalf, subject to a delegation accorded by him under powers which he has properly received from the Government under Article 28 of the Constitution.
This proposal is new and one must always take great care when something radical and new in the constitutional area is being contemplated and brought in. It requires very careful scrutiny by the House and I should like to know what the Minister's comment is, as well as the thinking of my colleagues. I have grave reservations and cannot in any way support the concept that those powers vested by the Constitution in the Government to delegate business and functions among Departments of State should be breached by giving that power of Government to a completely independent body outside the category of the Departments of State. They might as well devolve that power to some other company, but of course they could not. It is quite clear that those functions must go to a Department of State. Here we are setting up a limited company and giving devolved powers direct from the Government to that company. The thrust of this group of amendments would purport to alter that and  perhaps allow a devolution from the Minister for Finance, not from the Government, to the agency.
Mr. Rabbitte: I have taken a different approach from Deputy Taylor, although I share in full the concerns he has advanced on these amendments. The reason I have taken a different approach is that in all honesty and accepting the parliamentary procedure and the way we process legislation, I cannot see how one can with any conviction argue amendments to this Bill. I am completely and utterly opposed to the thrust and purpose of what the Bill seeks to achieve. For all the controversy surrounding the Broadcasting Bill, I do not dispute the right of the Minister to bring in a Bill to regulate broadcasting, nor do I dispute the necessity for a Broadcasting Bill. I happen to dispute the content of some of the sections of this Broadcasting Bill. However, it appals me that this Bill would permit the handling of the national debt and the borrowing of moneys for the Exchequer to be hived off to an outside agency or a company. I cannot see any justification for the Minister's bringing in legislation that goes to the very heart of his own constitutional role as Minister for Finance.
I also had intended to adduce Article 28 of the Constitution, as Deputy Taylor has done. I refer to a Government publication, An Outline of Irish Financial Procedures which states on page 2 as follows:
(a) The administration and business generally of the public finance of Ireland including the collection and expenditure of the revenues of  Ireland from whatever source arising (save as may be otherwise provided by law).
That seems to put the responsibility for what is enshrined in this Bill clearly on the Department of Finance, the Minister for Finance and the Government. I seriously question whether the Minister can bring in legislation to allow that to devolve to an outside company. I hope the Minister will address this point. I do not know of any precedent. Deputy Roche suggested on Second Stage that the IDA could be taken as a precedent but I do not see the analogy. There is no similarity.
Here we are handing over something that runs to the constitutional heart of what Government is about and our system of democratic public accountability. I do not accept that the Minister can be accountable to this House as prescribed in the Bill. We are handing over virtually plenipotentiary powers to the chief executive of this agency, who shall report directly to the Minister. The theory is that the Minister shall be responsible to this House but the chief executive of the agency will be calling the shots. No Minister for Finance, no matter how perceptive, knowledgeable or conscientious, can make a judgment on whether £35 million has been saved or could have been saved or whether we could do better deals on the German or Japanese markets.
Although virtually no public debate has preceded this measure, all the commentators claim that the management of the national debt is our gravest economic problem. Yet this new measure, which proposes to deal with this matter, has achieved very little public debate so far. In this morning's Irish Independent, for example, there is an article on this subject entitled “That man who manages the National Debt”— I have no doubt that he does and he has all my sympathy and support and I find his responsibilities awe inspiring.
Mr. Rabbitte: The title of the article was very interesting because it bears out the point I am making: the new chief executive of this agency will be considered the man who manages the national debt and not the Minister. I presume this article is inspired. It states: “The real reason behind its establishment is the by-passing of public service pay restrictions.” If that is the real reason behind the setting up of this agency, it really is disgraceful that this legislation ought to be before us. The Minister has not challenged that assertion. He has said that, in addition to by-passing the public service pay restrictions, he wants also to make savings and he has instanced the figure of £35 million. We will come back to that at another stage. I seriously query whether these savings can be made, will be made and whether we will know whether they are made or not.
I believe the staff in the Department of Finance who have been handling this portfolio over the past dozen years have acquired a reputation worldwide, their is acknowledged in the international loan community and many of their innovative measures have been imitated on the world market. They have acquired a reputation that stands with the best. I fail to see how handing this task over to non-civil servants is going to improve on their performance? More importantly, I wonder what yardstick will be used when Deputy Noonan asks the Minister for Finance next year whether he saved £35 million on the handling of the debt portfolio. The Minister will stand up and say: the Deputy will be delighted to learn that not only did we save £35 million, but we actually saved £49 million. Will the Minister tell us how he knows that. He may say that the chief executive of the agency provided him with a piece of paper stating that £49.43 million was  saved and we will have to accept that. I think that is nonsense.
The second limb of the Minister's argument is the by-passing of public service pay restrictions. I may not know a great deal about buying ahead against a falling yen, but I know a little bit about public service pay structure.
Mr. Rabbitte: I acknowledge that the Minister has difficulties and I acknowledge also that it is difficult to single out certain expertise within the Civil Service or public service as a whole and reward it separately. Having regard to the central constitutional importance of the area we are describing and how ludicrous the salaries being paid to the people responsible for the management of our national debt are by any yardstick of comparison, I simply do not accept — I am speaking from a position of some information as I have taken time out since Second Stage to talk to people who are more immediately involved than I am in this area — that it was not possible to devise a mechanism that would allow these people to be paid, perhaps not commensurate with what is envisaged in the new agency. I do not accept that the civil servants who have been handling this for the past 12 years want the going rate in the marketplace, but they would be satisfied with a salary that is roughly commensurate with their responsibilities. I believe they have a sense of commitment and public service and I do not believe they necessarily want to achieve remuneration packages at the top of the market for their work.
Mr. Rabbitte: Prior to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle taking the Chair we had just agreed there were two reasons for this momentous innovation in the handling of our public finances. First, the minimal savings that might be affected; second, the need to by-pass public service pay strictures in order to allow our excellent people in the public service to stay in the public service and continue to manage the disastrous legacy that we as politicians bestowed on them over the past number of years.
Mr. Rabbitte: I believe it was possible to devise a system of remuneration for the people who have been charged with this task consistent with their being retained in the Civil Service. I am satisfied from discussions I have had that that was perfectly feasible. I do not know who started to run with the idea of an outside agency, the necessity to set up a company and to hand over to them something as central to the economic life of this country as the handling of the national debt and arrangements for the borrowing requirements of the Exchequer, as is provided for in section 5.
Accordingly, I cannot summon conviction for the process we go through here of arguing amendment after amendment, even though I admire Deputies Taylor and Noonan, Limerick East, for having put down amendments and committed themselves to so doing. I believe that this section which causes the National Treasury Management Agency to be established ought to be opposed. It is unnecessary. We will rue the day we did this. We are seeking to make civil servants the scapegoats for the financial irresponsibility of politicians and of successive Governments in the past. These civil servants ought to be paid commensurate with the responsibilities of the job they are doing. I believe it is possible to do that within the Civil Service structure and retain them as civil servants. We will greatly regret taking the road we have now embarked on.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I will comment on a few of the points made by Deputy Rabbitte. He has said that the National Treasury Management Agency is totally unnecessary; yet we are spending £2.1 billion approximately in 1990, which is 60 per cent more than the cost of health or education, the third largest spend in budgetary terms.
Mr. A. Reynolds: No, I am going to deal with the points the Deputy has made. The Deputy has said he is aware of ways and means of dealing with this problem, but I have not heard the Deputy spell them out. Deputy Rabbitte, more than anyone present in this House today, fully understands the linkages and relativities that exist in the public service pay arena. He would also be the first to acknowledge that there is a C & A scheme already in place. Neither I nor the Government set the wages; free and collective bargaining exists and these are the rates of pay which are set. Where is the simple answer to the problem? I do not think there is a simple answer to it. I do not know of any trade union or member of Congress who would put a proposition on the table which says that the day has come when we must dispense with all the relativities, special pay, etc. I would like to think that we had arrived at such a stage but I do not think we have. Certainly I have not heard it from any trade union. If Deputy Rabbitte is hinting in that direction I would like to give him a further explanation on it. I know everybody would welcome such an explanation. It is a debate worth having at any time — we cannot debate it under this section — and I would be glad to be involved in it.
This will be a Government agency. It will not be a company or semi-State company; it will be a Government agency. Anyone who has been a member of a Government — I accept that Deputy Taylor and Deputy Rabbitte have not had that experience——
Mr. A. Reynolds: If the Deputy lets me finish I will give him more information than what he has. If Deputy Taylor had been a member of a Government he would understand that it is not the Minister in any Department who delegates the authority; it is the Government who delegate the authority. Under this Bill the Government will delegate the authority to the national debt management agency but the Minister for Finance will still be responsible for it. The Minister for Finance is the responsible Minister and he will be responsible to this House, the Committee on Public Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor General controls.
The Government have exercised their authority to delegate the authority to the national debt management agency. The Central Bank is another example of an agency dealing with the central financial affairs of the State, such as monetary policy. The Attorney General thoroughly examined this whole area and sought the best outside advice available to supplement his opinions. As I have said, this will be a State agency, all of the issues have been thoroughly examined and the best legal advice available to the Government has been taken into account. The organisational model of the agency will be that of a State agency and the functions are being delegated to them.
I hope I have managed to throw some light on the question marks which were rightly raised by the Deputies. They are entitled to their views on whether such an agency should be set up. Deputy Rabbitte is entitled to say that he does not agree with such an agency and to exercise his democratic right to vote against the Bill. Deputy Taylor is entitled to put down any amendments he believes are  necessary. I have outlined to the Deputies the picture on the other side of the coin.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Deputy Rabbitte wondered why Deputy Taylor and I had gone to the trouble of drafting amendments to a Bill we opposed on Second Stage. This is the nub of the issue. The issue being opposed in section 3 is the same issue which was opposed on Second Stage. The House has already decided that it favours the principle of the Bill and we have a responsibility to improve it if we can. I do not think there is any point in going back over the principal issue and putting it to a vote again. I agree with what the Minister said in relation to Deputy Taylor's amendment.
Once the Minister decided to set up a special agency to manage the national debt he was immediately faced with the problem of which model to use. If he had gone along the lines of a commercial State body, such as the IDA, he would have set up a structure where the agency would be responsible for day-to-day management and he would retain responsibility for policy. That is not the model the Minister wanted to use because he wanted the agency to advise the Minister for Finance on policy and for him to retain responsibility for the day-to-day management of the agency, if necessary. Therefore, that model would not have worked. If he had used the model of the Revenue Commissioners and set up a commission he would not have succeeded in avoiding the restrictions on public service pay because the analogues would run between the Revenue Commissioners and any commission which we set up to manage the national debt. The Minister could not go that way either.
What the Minister has done is clever. He has effectively taken the Minister of State model. Rather than the Minister of State informally dividing up work with his Minister he is actually delegated authority by the Government. That is the kind of model closest to what is proposed here and it works well enough. The model being used here will probably be effective  and it has to be the Government who delegate authority.
If we are to argue the point on constitutional grounds, Deputy Taylor's amendments are probably unconstitutional. It seems to me that it is only the Government who could delegate authority such as this and it would have to be drafted in this manner. As I said on Second Stage, something has to be done about our national debt. I would prefer if the national debt was managed within the Civil Service structure because there will be a down side effect to this which will have repercussions elsewhere in the Civil Service and the Department of Finance. There is a tendency to treat the symptom rather then the disease in the approach adopted by the Minister. However, as the House has accepted the principle of what is being done it seems the model being used is the appropriate one. Therefore, I agree to section 3.
That is so, but the relevant words in that Article are “subject to the provisions of this Constitution”. Article 28.12 amplifies this provision by providing that the distribution of business can only be among Departments of State and not to an outside body. That is why my amendment proposes the deletion of the words “by the Government”.
Nothing the Minister has said will change my mind on having at least a substantial doubt on the constitutional question. I am not saying that I am completely convinced of this but at the very least a serious doubt must be raised on the novel approach being taken in the setting up of this company. The Minister said that it will not be a company but I believe it will be a company. Why do we not call a spade a spade in debates on these issues? A body corporate is a company and a corporation is another name  for a company. They both mean precisely the same thing. This Bill proposes the setting up of a company which will have its own persona, will be able to sue and be sued in its own name and will be able to hold or dispose of land. It will be a company, a separate and distinct legal entity. It is not an arm of a Government Department, it is quite distinct from it.
Much has been made by the Minister and my colleagues about the question of the saving of £35 million per year. The implication of saying that there will be a saving of £35 million a year is that whoever had the responsibility for supervising the national debt in previous years must have fallen down very badly. Why did they not make the saving last year and the year before that?
Mr. Taylor: That kind of argument does not hold water. There is no point in talking about the major complex position on the international scene with currencies and interest rates changing. You cannot predict these things unless you are a clairvoyant. Ordinary mortals, including the pundits, can make forecasts — and often get things right — but they also get things wrong. One can read conflicting views as to how these matters will go. There is a gambling element, so nobody can be certain. It could well be that £35 million could be saved by the right decisions but the same amount of money could just as easily be lost if things unexpectedly went wrong and all too often in this world the unexpected happens.
Why does the Minister not come into this House and tell us what we all know to be the truth, that what is involved here is a set-up to get round the national pay agreement and salary controls in the Civil Service? He should tell us that he has had to devise a method of getting round it and that this is the best way to do it. I wonder if it will be successful even in the objective it seeks to achieve because “relativity” is the word used by the Minister and the trade union expression which applies. Deputy Rabbitte knows more about this than I do and has more experience of it but I imagine if I was a senior trade union official and the question of negotiations of salaries in the senior ranks of the Civil Service was coming up for negotiation I would forcefully refer to the salaries being paid in the National Treasury Management Agency. I would not be impressed by a response saying that it did not apply because it was not a Civil Service position but an independent separate agency. If I was a senior trade union negotiator I would reply that it was a load of rubbish and a device to get round it. I would not be fooled, nor would anybody else. I would also say that I regarded it as a Civil Service appointment. That would be the trade union position.
I agree with Deputy Rabbitte that the thrust of this Bill is totally unacceptable. I wish the Dáil had not passed Second Stage but it did and, as Deputy Noonan said, we must cope with the situation as best we can on Committee Stage. That is why other Deputies and I tabled these amendments.
I do not see why some other method within the ambit of the Department could not have been devised to cope with the position regarding staff which faced the Minister. Instead of devising an alternative method we are now presented with a ludicrous situation in which two complete, separate and distinct bodies have the same responsibilities and functions, the Minister for Finance and the National Treasury Management Agency. If this Bill is passed into law and turns out to be constitutional there will be two completely distinct entities, side by side, with identical functions and responsibilities. How can that be logical? You can have a situation where a function is devolved from one organisation to another but it does not make sense to have two parallel organisations, each with the same devolved responsibilities and functions. It is illogical. Theoretically, the agency could come to a decision to take one  course in debt management and the Minister could decide to take another. I suppose, in practice, they would liaise with each other — I do not know — but the end result is that there are two bodies with identical functions. I have grave doubts as to the constitutionality of the position, and it would be much better if the matter was dealt with within the ambit of the Minister and his Department. That is the reason for the amendments.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps Deputy Rabbitte would make his remarks in that regard on section 7 which specifically refers to staff remuneration fees, etc. If, in his desire to help Deputy Rabbitte, the Minister referred to something which was not pertinent to the section, nevertheless Deputy Rabbitte should wait to speak on this matter on section 7.
Mr. Rabbitte: I have no wish to be awkward and I accept your views. However, in this section we are talking about establishing the National Treasury Management Agency. The reason we are seeking to establish it is that we cannot pay the people who perform that function within the Department of Finance commensurate with the market rate and, therefore, we had to set up an outside agency. I am arguing that it was perfectly possible to retain that function within the Department of Finance and to pay the people a higher salary than that paid currently. I was merely seeking to address the Minister's question and propose how that could be done. I will be very brief.
I do not want to be too specific in this regard or to quote individuals but I have taken time to ascertain whether my instincts about it are right. The Government are about to have discussions with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on what they describe as the cornerstone of  their economic policy, a new national agreement. Can the Minister really say that it is unreasonable to suggest that the question or the burden on all our shoulders of the extent of repayments on the national debt cannot be put on the table in these negotiations? After all, it was very firmly put on the table the last time and led to very serious sacrifices by many trade unionists and their families, not just in the area of pay restraint but in cutbacks in education and health and spending Departments. The trade union movement have a realistic acceptance that the national debt is a problem which confronts us all and that it must be taken on. There have been several statements from the general secretary of Congress and other prominent trade union leaders which acknowledge that fact. I do not accept that, if the will is there and if the Minister can support it with figures — which I suppose he can if he is arguing it in the House — savings could not be made if we were to do it differently. He could point out that it is imperative, since we are losing very good people to the private sector whose expertise is acknowledged by the very fact that they are being snapped up by financial institutions and so on, that to retain them some special arrangement must be made. I am satisfied that the trade union movement would respond to that. I am more disconcerted by the fact that we have established that the only reason for doing it was the pay constraints. It is wrong for the Minister to allow the record stand whereby in his previous intervention, he referred to this body as a “State agency”. He should correct that — a State agency has certain connotations in this country. We all know what a State agency is. Incidentally, the State agencies are very much under the same pay strictures as we have been talking about in respect of the public service. This is not a State agency. It is a private corporate organisation whether he wants to call it a company, as Deputy Taylor wanted to call it, or not.
I take no solace at all from the analogy with the Central Bank. The Minister instanced the Central Bank and its role in the area of monetary policy and so on. That is precisely one of the things that worries me. I know what happens in this House if I stand up and ask a question about last Sunday's Business Post front page article about the recent performance of the Central Bank and the question of interest rates. What will the Minister for Finance tell me? He will tell me it is none of his business, the Central Bank has responsibility for interest rates and it is not a matter for the Minister for Finance to answer in the House. We have had that quite recently because of the increases in interest rates and discussions here about mortgages and other knockon effects. I am concerned that this will begin to evolve into a situation where the Minister will be saying, “that is a matter for the National Treasury Management Agency. It is not a matter for me”, and another key instrument of economic policy passes from the control of this House.
The Government intervene when they want to have some influence on interest rates. They can intervene, for example, in the gilt market to push up or down as the case may be at the time. What now is the situation? Is this House going to have the chief executive officer of this outside agency make these kinds of decisions? I am very concerned about this development. I am not at all disputing Deputy Noonan's or Deputy Taylor's approach in putting down amendments. I did not mean either of them to take that inference from my remarks. I am utterly and absolutely opposed to this development and I will be voting accordingly.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sure the House will not mind if I interrupt business to proffer on behalf of the Chair and of everybody here our congratulations to Deputy Gay Mitchell on his elevation — I do not know whether he is Doctor Mitchell yet — on his academic  attaintment. It is possible his brother is the only one who might disagree but, however, congratulations.
Again I must put it clearly on the record of this House that the agency are not a private organisation. The Minister is in charge. The agency will work through the Exchequer system, the public accounts system, the Comptroller and Auditor General system and the whole lot. If they were a company as suggested by Deputy Taylor and Deputy Rabbitte they would have a board of directors and they would have shareholders. They would have limited liability if they were a limited liability company and if they were unlimited they would have unlimited liability. They are not, I repeat for the third time, a private company.
The purpose of the whole Bill is to establish this body, a national treasury management agency, who will be simply responsible for borrowing moneys for the Exchequer and managing the national debt. The exercise of such powers is an exercise of the executive powers of the State, and the executive powers of the State are exercisable only by or on the authority of the Government. The effect of the Bill is that the agency can only exercise their powers and functions if the Government make an order delegating those functions to them. The Bill also provides for the revocation of such order in whole or in part by the Government. The delegated functions on the model of Minister of State, as Deputy Noonan has identified, will be exercised subject to the control and general superintendence of the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance will retain concurrently with the agency his powers and functions in  relation to the management of the national debt and provisions similar to those which apply to the delegations of powers, as I have already said, to a Minister of State. Since the functions and powers of the agency will be exercised on the authority of the Government subject to the control and general superintendence of the Minister for Finance, it is quite clear to me — and we have the best advice available to us — that the whole exercise is valid and entirely within the Constitution.
I want to take up another point made here about the necessity for these fund managers who are there. If one were to accept Deputy Taylor's point, and, to some extent Deputy Rabbitte's point, then liability management is purely a mirror image of fund management where you employ a team of high powered people to look at every instrument, watch it every minute of the day, keep switching and taking the best value around and moving chunks of portfolio around to get the best management available to it. You need the expertise to do that.
To come back to the more fundamental problem, Deputy Taylor asked why I do not come in and tell the truth. I reject any allegation here that I am not coming in and putting the facts before the House. The facts are simple. Here is the national debt standing at the figure it is at. Here is the figure that has cost us in interest £2.1 billion a year. I approached it within the system in the first instance. I advertised for people. I tried to recruit people. People were being lost. As soon as you would have them trained they were being taken out and put into stockbrokers' financial houses around the city. I tried to do it on a contract basis even for a very short term within the system and it could not work. It just did not add up. I could get nobody to join the system and I could not hold people who were in it. It is simplicity itself to come in here as Deputy Rabbitte does — and he is very experienced in this whole area of linkages, pay relativities and so on — to say it can be done within the system. He knows as well as I do that when linkages are established and, say, an executive officer who is one  of the key ones within the system, gets an increase it has repercussive powers all over the place, special pay, relativities and everything like that. That is just one simple example. I am not going into it in more detail. I am sure we will come back to it. I would like to think we can get to a different situation in the future. As Deputy Noonan suggested, the concept of payment on merit, performance and so on is what we want to reach. That is part of the first initiative. It will apply in the first instance only to assistant secretary level but it is to be hoped, having established it there, that we can route it down through the system. I would like to see people advance themselves on the basis of merit and performance, given the opportunity, and earn the best remuneration possible in the system.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: A small point. I am sure Deputy Taylor would speak for himself. I heard the phrase “come clean” but I do not think Deputy Taylor was implying that the Minister was not telling the truth but rather wishing that the expression might be more direct. Otherwise the Chair would have mentioned it to Deputy Taylor.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Higgins, Michael D.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Howlin and O'Shea.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, “That section 3 stand part of the Bill,” put and declared carried.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We now come to amendment No. 3 in the name of Deputy Taylor. Amendments Nos. 5, 9 and 10 are related. It is proposed, therefore, for discussion purposes, to take amendments Nos. 3, 5, 9 and 10 together. Is that agreed?
Mr. Taylor: I do not think amendments Nos. 5, 9 and 10 are connected. Certainly, amendment No. 5 deals with a separate issue.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is entitled to reject the suggestion.
Mr. Taylor: I do in this case. I suggest that we take amendment No. 3 for the moment.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 3.
Mr. Taylor: I move amendment No. 3:
In page 4, subsection (2), line 24, after “functions.”, to insert the following:
“Within one month after the employment of any such consultant or financial institution by the Agency, particulars of each such employment, including the name and address of the consultant or financial institution concerned, the brief given to each such consultant or financial institution and the fee or fees provided for, shall be furnished to the Minister and the Minister shall cause a copy thereof as soon as may be, to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.”.
Section 4 (2) of the Bill reads:
The Agency shall have all such powers (including the power to employ consultants and financial institutions) as are necessary or expedient for the purpose of its functions.
As we are aware, one of the key parts of the Bill makes provision for, no doubt, a high powered advisory committee of financial experts, in addition to the chief executive. As the Minister informed us on Second Stage, some of these will be of international origin, from anywhere in the world, and experts in their particular fields. It is going to be an expensive operation, given their salaries and travelling expenses, to bring them together to meet as an advisory committee. On top of making provision for an advisory committee we are giving the chief executive of the agency the power to employ further consultants and financial institutions, in other words, advisers to the advisers. One wonders where all this is going to end.
 What we are doing is setting up an agency, appointing, at great expense — I am not saying this is not worthwhile expense — a skilled and expert person, to be known as the chief executive, who no doubt will have a wide knowledge of the subject matter and providing the chief executive with an advisory committee of experts. On top of this it will be open to that advisory committee to employ consultants and financial institutions at goodness knows what expense. Who will these outside consultants and financial institutions be?
The interests of the taxpayer require that this House knows what is going on and if any bonanza will be reaped by groups of financial institutions, consultants and advisers. This is an open door to the payment of enormous consultancy fees and advisory fees to goodness knows who. If provision has to be made for a secondary line of advisers and consultants the Minister should notify this House and file in each House of the Oireachtas the name and address of each consultant whose services have been retained, the name and address of each financial institution consulted on the issues, to state exactly what it is they have been asked to advise him on and, more importantly, to state what fee will be paid to each consultancy organisation.
Some of the fees paid to the financial institutions are grandiose in the extreme. Deputy Rabbitte and I, serving on the Committee of Public Accounts, had occasion to hear about some enormous fee paid to a group of financial advisers in connection with the Tara Mines sell-off or sell-out — depending on which way one looks at it. A potentially large amount of money is to be siphoned off here to consultants and advisers. I do not know whether it will happen or what the intent is. Whatever it is, let us know about it. The best way to handle that is to provide that the details be put before the representatives of the people. I do not see how that could be queried or faulted in any way. The people are entitled to know what consultancy fees are paid, some of which run to £500,000, £1 million — the sky is the limit — but  we ought to know what is going on and how much is involved. I do not want the Minister to tell me that it will all appear in the accounts — these things are often buried in the accounts. We are often told that reasons of State prohibit us from informing the taxpayer how much exactly is paid out of their hard-earned funds for these consultancy contracts. The whole matter ought to be open and up front. That is the thrust of the amendment and I am asking for support for it.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I consider the amendment to be unnecessary. Regarding the fees paid to consultants, it is open to Members of the House to put down a question as happened in the case to which Deputy Taylor referred. Also, the accounting officer, who will be the chief executive, can be questioned by the Committee of Public Accounts. It is up to the accounting officer to ensure that the proper tendering system is gone through as is normal in any of those circumstances. Consequently I am opposing the amendment.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is Deputy Taylor anxious that the question be put.
Mr. Taylor: Yes.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 4:
In page 4, subsection (3), line 26, after “Minister” to insert “and the Department of Finance”.
When the Minister rises to reply I presume he will tell me this amendment is unnecessary. The purpose of the amendment is to seek to clarify what residual responsibilities the Department of Finance will have in respect of the agency. While the de jure position is clear from the text of the Bill it is not clear what the de facto position is. I presume the Minister will say that if the Minister for Finance has a supervisory role over the agency, it follows that he can only exercise the supervisory role on the advice of  his Department, so that the Department of Finance are involved in any event. I would like to have this point clarified extensively.
I have been in the House since 1981. We have had a number of Ministers for Finance, was it Deputy O'Kennedy or former Deputy Gene Fitzgerald who was in office in the lead-up to 1981, then we had Deputy J. Bruton, thereafter Deputy MacSharry, Deputy Dukes, the former Deputy MacSharry again, followed by the present Minister. These were all very competent — all in one way or another — at the top of the political profession. Yet none of them would have had the expertise to exercise a supervisory role over the agency now being established. Politicians by their nature tend to be general practitioners rather than specialists. We have to deal with a multiplicity of issues and we tend to have the overall approach rather than being very skilled in any area of expertise. That is not to say there is not professional expertise in the House but it would be rare to have the kind of expertise which would position a Minister for Finance to act from his own reserves of knowledge as a supervisor over the director of this national debt agency.
There are sections incorporated in the Bill which will make it impossible for either a member of the advisory committee or an employee of the agency to be a member of either of the two Houses. Also there are sections incorporated in the Bill which make it very difficult for somebody who is an employee of the agency to seek a nomination for the Seanad or to stand for election to Dáil Éireann. Therefore it is unlikely in the future that people who have direct experience and who have gained their expertise within the agency, will become Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It follows from that that the Minister does not have the expertise to supervise the agency and the director and to evaluate the advice he is being given.
The range of activities as provided for in section 5 is very wide. For example, submissions will be made to the Minister  on proposals of moneys to be borrowed and in what currency the money should be borrowed. Schemes can be put to the Minister to revise the advice. Advice can be given to the Minister for exchanging one currency for another. Advice will be given on the amount of interest on the national debt, the amount due to any sinking fund in respect of the national debt and so on. There will even be advice on two other State agencies on the appropriateness of borrowing and at what time of the year they should seek to borrow. There will be advice on all the issues on the management of the national debt but also advice on the sale of assets held by the Minister, advice on stock exchanges and other markets for stocks and shares and securities and so on.
Is it the Minister's intention to maintain within his Department another group of experts to advise him so that he can exercise his supervisory role over the agency on the basis of knowledge rather than on the basis of a rubber stamp. That is the reason I put down the amendment and that is the nub of the question. How will the Minister have independent expertise to enable him to act as supervisor over the agency, in accordance with the provisions of this section, if all the experts in his Department will be given the right to opt to become employees of the agency and if the intention is that the expertise in all debt management is to be transferred to the agency?
I would make one final point. Those who opt to become employees of the agency will be no longer civil servants. In fact they will be statutorily barred from being civil servants in accordance with a section of this Bill. There has been a tradition in the Civil Service for a long time of cross-fertilisation. the man who at present is in charge of the debt was an assistant secretary in the Department of Finance, later he became secretary in the Department of Defence and eventually came back to manage the debt as secretary in the Department of Finance. That type of cross-fertilisation will now stop because those who will be employed by the new agency, following the establishment date, cannot be civil servants;  some will be appointed on contract, and while they will be free to move in an out of the private sector, they will not be free to move back into the public sector and into the Civil Service. It is not feasible for an assistant director of the agency to return as an assistant secretary or a secretary to the Department of Finance or to go through the Department of Industry and Commerce and come back again. Since former Deputy John Boland set up the new procedure for the appointment of secretaries and assistant secretaries in Government departments a strong tradition has been developing of employing, not only within the Department but from other Departments, people who had gathered expertise as their careers were mapped and progressed through different Departments. it appears to me that it will be impossible for people, in the debt management agency, to return to the Civil Service. It follows from that that there will not be “in house” expertise available to the Minister. Since there is no provision for the Minister to get expertise from the private sector — even though there is a provision for the agency to get expertise from the private sector — I cannot see how the Minister will exercise a supervisory role. I can see the de jure position. I agree with the model used; in all the circumstances, once one decided to do it, that is the way to do it. But I am extremely worried that effectively the Minister of the day will be the rubber stamp of the agency, that the real control will be vested in the chief executive of the agency; that he will submit his reports to the Minister but that the Minister will have no method of expertly evaluating the advice given him. While everything is going well, that will be fine but if and when things go wrong then there will be serious repercussions.
Mr. Rabbitte: I very much support Deputy Noonan's amendment. With the exception of one point, I had made those points on Second Stage. I continue to be amazed that the issue has attracted so little informed comment outside this House. The point that Deputy Noonan has made that is new to this debate — and which I consider to be a very good one — is that about taking the speciality out of the Civil Service. In other words, the expertise and experience garnered by the “hands on” role of the officials within the Department of Finance to date will be lost. That is very regrettable.
I hope the Minister will acknowledge that there is no way in which he or any succeeding Minister for Finance can be expected to supervise the performance of this agency. Even if this Minister or any of his successors has the particular specialist knowledge to do so, he or they would be doing so at the risk of neglecting other critical areas of his or their portfolio. Therefore it simply will not happen. Henceforth, the most powerful man in this area of our economic policy will be the chief executive of the new agency, not the Secretary of the Department of Finance, not the Minister for Finance. I contend that is a wrong decision and one that we will live to regret.
As Deputy Noonan said, the de facto position is far from clear, although I would contend that it is sufficiently clear that the Minister will not be able to do it. Of course the only time that this will be a problem is when something goes wrong or when there are questions to be asked. For example, if the Secretary of the Department of Finance becomes concerned about information coming into his possession, or about a certain trend he detects from his experience, knowledge and so on, it is on that occasion only that this will come into play. In my view the chief executive of the agency will be likely to tell the Secretary of the Department of Finance where to get off. He will point out to him that it is enshrined in the legislation that he reports directly to the Minister for Finance. I contend that that is not a desirable position in the public interest.
As Deputy Noonan said, the fact that sufficiently few politicians in this House would have the expertise even to raise pertinent questions, not to mention having an informed debate, is evidenced by anybody who wishes to look over the Second Stage debate on this Bill. Several Deputies contributed but, with all due  respect, one could hardly claim that many of those contributions were pertinent to the provisions of the Bill; rather they were about who was right or wrong in accumulating the national debt to the horrifying extent that was done at the end of the seventies and early eighties. For example, posing questions such as: “Was it your Government? Was it my Government or where does the blame lie?” A lot of banter was thrown across the House in that regard. But it did not give me any great reason for complacency that the Minister would be subjected to perceptive questioning when this issue arises.
On the question of the functions of the agency — to which Deputy Noonan's amendment relates — suppose there is cause for concern about the confidentiality in which some of those functions are carried out. I do not think there is any point in our pretending here that any amount of Chinese walls will safeguard us against the possibility — I will not put it stronger than that — that sensitive, insider information will be available, in many cases, to what I might describe as birds of passage. These will be people who will now be attracted for prestigious reasons, in that henceforth their salaries will be commensurate with those they could command in any of the financial institutions. Such people will spend, say, three or five years in that agency. It will have been a very prestigious exercise for such people to have spent a period of their careers in that agency. They will spend a period there and will be well paid for doing so. then they will pass on to whatever financial institution or stockbroking agency attracts them. Ironically the whole purpose of this legislation will be by-passed anyway to some extent inasmuch as these people will pass on, just as officials of the Department of Finance do now. I do not think the Minister can tell us that we can erect any number of Chinese walls to protect against such a contingency.
That begs the question: will the Department of Finance have any role to play in monitoring this eventuality? I  believe Deputy Noonan's amendment is necessary to expressly provide a role for the Department of Finance in ensuring that this area is monitored. It is necessary that the Secretary of the Department of Finance be able to intrude himself, when he thinks fit, into the situation. For that reason I support Deputy Noonan's amendment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: First of all, the amendment calls for the following:
A copy of any direction or guideline issued by the Minister to the Agency under subsection (4) of this section shall be laid before the Dáil.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): That is the wrong amendment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Which one is it?
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Amendment No. 4.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am sorry. Section 3 (4) reads:
The Minister may, for the purpose of subsection (3), give directions or guidelines to the Agency and the Agency shall comply with any such directions and perform its functions in accordance with any such guidelines.
I believe that the amendment is unnecessary. The agency will be under the supervision of the Minister for Finance. Reorganisation will take place after the agency has been established. The Minister will have available to him all the advice he needs within the Department of Finance. Therefore I do not think any further involvement is necessary. Under legislation the Minister is, and has to be, the supervisory authority and he will not be short of advice from inside. From my experience in the Department of Finance I have no hesitation in saying that the best advice will be available to the Minister, to this or any future Minister. If at any particular juncture he feels he needs more advice than is available to him, he can seek outside advice in any area he  chooses. In my time in various Departments I have never had to resort to doing so. Always I believed there was an abundance of expertise and advice available within any Department in which I worked. Of course any directions, policies, what currencies should obtain and so on — matters which have been raised here — would constitute very sensitive market information. I hope that Deputy Noonan, who aspires to being Minister for Finance and maybe higher, will appreciate that. Any Minister for Finance has to be extremely careful at any stage of what he says in relation to sensitive information and the way markets can react. We would hear about it very fast in this House if the Minister stepped over the line, so he has to be extremely careful in relation to it.
I am satisfied that there is enough advice and will be enough advice there, and it is a matter for the Minister of the day to organise his Department to ensure that he has enough advice available to him and, if he feels he is short, to seek it elsewhere. I do not anticipate that I will have to do that, from my experience within the Department of Finance.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The Minister's remarks about the sensitivity of information are relevant to a subsequent amendment but not to this one. I fully agree with the Minister that there is a body of expertise within the Civil Service which does not come second to the expertise elsewhere in the public service of any democratic country. There is an abundance of advice available to the Minister within the Department of Finance but the issue here is that this Bill will transfer that expertise from the Department of Finance to the agency. The Minister and his successors will now be facing a situation where they have drained the Department of Finance of the expertise for managing the national debt because, certainly, whoever goes after the establishment day, the people who are really good will certainly go.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Not necessarily.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The second point is this. If the primary purpose of the Bill is to retain expertise within the general public service so that it will be available to the Minister to manage the debt, then it is not reasonable to reply to this amendment by arguing that parallel expertise will be maintained within the Department of Finance.
Since section 4 vests in the Minister control and the general superintendence of the agency, the expertise available to the Minister should be at least as good as, if not superior to, that available to the agency. If the Minister cannot retain the expertise already within the Department of Finance because of constraints on public sector pay, it is unreasonable to expect this House to believe that we can retain parallel expertise which is as good as what the agency will have to advise him on the superintendence of teh agency once the agency is set up.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Deputy's argument is off the rails.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The Deputy's argument just does not stand up. It seems that section 4 will be inoperable because the Minister will not have the expert knowledge within the Department of Finance any longer on which to base his decisions. He will be getting reports from the chief executive of the agency, recommendations and outlines of the procedures, and he will have a chat with him and agree with him that what he is doing is right, but he will not have available to him within the Department of Finance expertise equivalent to that of the agency once it is established, and he will not be in a de facto position to control and superintend the agency as he is required to do under the section.
Mr. Taylor: If Deputy Noonan is correct, and he may well be correct, I do not see that his amendment will help in any way. Even assuming for the moment that there will not be sufficient advisers left in the Department after the setting up of the agency, what difference does it make  to provide that the Department of Finance should be involved as well as the Minister, as thought they were two separate entities? I do not see how that will help. If the experts are not there, they are not there. I do not see the point of this amendment. I do not see the Department of Finance, as such, as a separate entity to the Minister for Finance. If the Minister for Finance has the general control and superintendence under the section, that, of necessity, implies such personnel as there may in the Department of Finance also. I do not see that this amendment adds or detracts anything from the position. It seems an entirely inappropriate amendment and we could not support it.
An Ceann Comhairle: Does Deputy Taylor now agree that his amendments Nos. 9 and 10 should be discussed with amendment No. 5?
Mr. Taylor: Amendment No. 9 is not my amendment so it seems inappropriate to ask me that question.
An Ceann Comhairle: It was an earlier suggestion which the Deputy did not agree to. I understand that he now feels that they could be discussed together.
Mr. Taylor: The Leas-Cheann Comhairle, when he was in the Chair, asked me if I agreed that amendments Nos. 5, 9 and 10 should be taken with my amendment No. 3. I do not know why I was asked that question, certainly so far as amendments Nos. 5 and 9 are concerned, because they are not my amendments. They are Deputy Noonan's amendments. Amendment No. 10 is mine, but it seems to be a distinct matter. As far as amendments Nos. 5 and 9 are concerned you must ask Deputy Noonan that question.
An Ceann Comhairle: The question was asked because we believed the amendments were related.
Mr. Taylor: Yes, but I think one should  ask the Deputy who put down the amendment. I do not think Deputy Noonan would have me speak for him on that issue.
An Ceann Comhairle: They will be dealt with separately as the Deputy desires, and voted upon separately, if that is his wish.
Mr. Taylor: They are Deputy Noonan's amendments, a Cheann Comhairle.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am coming to that now. We shall dispose of amendments Nos. 4 and 5 first. We are on No. 4.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): In my introductory remarks I dealt with the point Deputy Taylor has raised when he says he will oppose amendment No. 4. I realise that the amendment I have put down does not solve the problem, but it does highlight it. It gives me the opportunity to put certain views on the record and to establish what the Minister's position is. I am raising the problem because I think there is a real difficulty. I do not believe that the Minister will have the expertise available within the Department of Finance. I want to highlight that, and that was the purpose of the amendment.
Mr. Rabbitte: Before the Minister replies, I would like to put a question to him. Can the Minister tell us what precisely will be the relationship of the Secretary of the Department of Finance to the chief executive officer of the debt agency?
Mr. Taylor: Hopefully they will continue as good friends.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will it be a cause of primus inter pares or will the chief executive officer, as I have suggested, entirely by-pass the Secretary of the Department of Finance and go directly to the Minister; or does the Minister consider that the legislation here, where it refers to the Minister, includes the Department and  means the Secretary? I would like to know precisely what role the Secretary of the Department of Finance will now have to play in this area.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Secretary of the Department of Finance and the officials of the Department of Finance will, as in the normal course of events, advise the Minister on policy. The Minister will set the policy, and when he gets in proposals from the chief executive officer of the agency he will take advice on it and decide whether or not to go ahead as he would in any policy area. There is an assumption here that there will be a huge exit from the Department of Finance to the new agency. The new agency will not be a massive employer of people at all. It will be a small number of expert people who will be entrusted with this.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): And the Minister will have no expertise left on debt management.
Mr. A. Reynolds: That is not my idea of the Department of Finance, and if Deputy Noonan was in here I do not think it would be his idea either. The Department of Finance have stacks of expertise and there is interchangeability from one area to another.
Mr. Rabbitte: Not in this area.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister without interruption.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The suggestion has been made that the Secretary of the Department of Finance is not in a position to advise me on policy in this area, something he has been doing for years and will continue to do, irrespective of who is in that position. If the purpose of the amendment is to set up a parallel supervisory section in the Department of Finance to supervise matters on a day to day basis, I will not accept it because that would be duplication. From the Secretary down, advice is available to the Minister,  but the Minister is the supervisory authority. I have no hesitation in saying to the House that there is plenty of good advice there. There is no question of hundreds of people leaving the Department of Finance to join the agency. People have a choice as to whether or not they want to stay in the Civil Service.
Mr. Taylor: How many does the Minister envisage will leave?
Mr. A. Reynolds: I do not have an exact figure but there is no question of the exit of hundreds of people.
Mr. Rabbitte: Hundreds of people do not have expertise. There are only a couple of dozen at the most with the expertise.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): About 30 or 35.
Dr. FitzGerald: Who will be the accounting officer?
Mr. A. Reynolds: The chief executive officer will be the accounting officer, under the supervision of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 5:
In page 4, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following subsection:
“(5) A copy of any direction or guideline issued by the Minister to the Agency under subsection (4) of this section shall be laid before the Dáil.”.
One of my concerns about this Bill is that the relationship between the Minister for Finance and the Dáil will be changed by the setting up of this agency. Under section 5 a whole series of functions are being assigned to the agency. In so far as these functions relate to matters of policy and in so far as there might be any change in the ability of Members of this House  to get access by way of parliamentary question or otherwise through the procedures of the House to information concerning policy to which they are now entitled, I am concerned. I put down a series of amendments, including this one, which seek to require the Minister to place before the House certain documents in relation to policy which he receives from the chief executive of the agency. If the Minister assures me that there will be no change in the relationship between the Minister and the Houses of the Oireachtas in so far as one can seek and get information, which has been available up to now, on the management of the national debt, I will not press these amendments very strongly.
An Ceann Comhairle: Will Deputy Noonan agree to take amendment No. 9 with this amendment as they are related.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Yes.
An Ceann Comhairle: I take it Deputy Taylor does not wish to have his amendment No. 10 discussed at this stage.
Mr. Taylor: I have no objection.
An Ceann Comhairle: Therefore we will discuss amendments Nos. 5, 9 and 10 together, with separate decisions if required.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I oppose the amendment put down by Deputy Noonan on the basis that this is very sensitive information. It would not be appropriate for the Minister for Finance of the day to disclose in advance to the House and to the general public the policies he is going to pursue in relation to currencies, the debt, the raising of money or whatever. That is absolutely sensitive and confidential information which nobody would give. It is given post facto if people. want to know about borrowing or what percentage is foreign and what percentage is domestic. Nobody holding financial portfolios today would attempt to give that information in advance. It  is not done at present and there is no question of it being done in the future. Consequently, I oppose the amendment.
Mr. Taylor: Amendment No. 10 relates to section 5, which provides that the agency prepare an estimate each year as to their expenses, their functions, management of their affairs and so on. In this amendment I am proposing that that estimate be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. There is nothing sensitive about that information. It is purely an accountancy matter. Government Departments produce their Estimates to the House where they are debated, scruitinised and examined — an exercise we will be undertaking in the House next week. This agency will be a separate Department of State not provided for under the Constitution — I criticised it from a constitutional point of view earlier this morning — and, under the Bill will be required to prepare their estimates in the same way as any Government Department. All I am asking is that, just as a Government Department place their Estimates before the House for scrutiny and examination, in like manner the agency should also do so.
Mr. Rabbitte: I would like to hear the Minister address those questions which, to some extent, we dealt with earlier. These amendments raise the fundamentally important question of accountability and whether the democratic accountability to this House will be changed as a result of this measure. There may be a lot of inadequacies in the system of accountability as it operates at present, for reasons of frailty of human nature, lack of expertise in the House or whatever; but at least, de jure and de facto, that accountability is clearly provided for. Under the new arrangement I am still unclear as to how that will apply from a de facto point of view. Deputy Garret FitzGerald asked who will be the accounting officer. I do not think there is a precedent — at least not during my time on the Committee of Public Accounts — for an accounting officer who is not a civil servant. This is the first case where a  chief executive officer shall not be a civil servant.
I will go back to the question of the role vis-à-vis the Secretary of the Department of Finance who is prima inter pares in this situation. Whether or not the Minister accepts that the agency are a company with an issued share capital, which they are not, they are manifestly not a State agency. It is all very well to say the Minister will always have at his elbow the Secretary of the Department of Finance. I presume a great deal of the expertise, experience, ability to comment and value of comment of the Secretary of the Department of Finance is due to the fact that he has available to him and reporting to him officials in the Department who are experts in this area. Once the Secretary of the Department of Finance is deprived of these experts who keep him informed and advised, since they will now be working for the agency and will not be civil servants but reporting to the chief executive of the agency, a great deal of the Secretary's ability to comment in an up-to-date and expert fashion will be undermined.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I appreciate what the Minister says in reply to my amendments, that there is certain sensitive information which it would be inapropriate to make public before the event or perhaps after the event. I have no problem about withdrawing these amendments if the Minister satisfies me on the issue I have raised. Will the accountability of the Minister for Finance to the House be the same after the establishment date of the agency as before?
Mr. A. Reynolds: On policy, yes.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Will we be able to raise policy issues on the management of the national debt in exactly the same way as heretofore? Could I have a commitment on the record from the Minister that there will be no change whatsoever in the accountability of the Minister for Finance to the Houses of the Oireachtas or in the ability of Deputies of  the House to establish that accountability and get all the information they require?
Mr. A. Reynolds: On policy, there is no change. Any Deputy can put down questions.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Is there a change in any matter apart from policy? We can get information by way of parliamentary question on matters relating to the national debt which are not policy matters. We can get all the factual information we require, as I have done on several occasions.
Mr. A. Reynolds: That will continue to be the same.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): To give a guarantee that there will be no change as regards policy matters does not meet my point. Will there be any change whatsoever?
Mr. A. Reynolds: There will be no change whatsoever, except in the areas of sensitive market financial information. That was always the case and there will be no change in the future.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): If it was always there, there in no change.
Mr. A. Reynolds: That is right. I want to assure the Deputy of that.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the information that we get on a regular basis through Iris Oifigiúil on the weekly outturns in public expenditure continue to be available to us?
Mr. A. Reynolds: Yes.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4 agreed to.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I move amendment No. 7:
In page 4, subsection (1), line 31, after “may”, to insert “by order”.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): What is the purpose of this amendment? Is it purely technical?
Mr. A. Reynolds: That is right. It is already implied in the Bill and the amendment is designed to make it explicit.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.
Mr. Taylor: I move amendment No. 10:
In page 5, subsection (2) (a), line 32, after “year” to insert “and all estimates furnished by the Agency under this paragraph, when received by the Minister shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas”.
Although this amendment was discussed with amendment No. 5, the Minister did not deal with it in his reply.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Estimates are supplied to me by the Department and they are confidential. They will remain confidential from the agency, except post facto. This information is not disclosed in advance because people can make their own calculations from it as to what way the debt is being managed.
Mr. Taylor: I do not understand that. Perhaps we are at cross purposes. This has nothing to do with the management of the debt, rather the running expenses of the agency. That information is no more sensitive than the Estimates of the Department of Finance or any other Department, which have been published for the forthcoming year.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Is the Deputy talking about day-to-day expenses?
Mr. Taylor: I am talking about the running estimates of the agency.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I was talking about the estimates to service the national debt.
Mr. Taylor: I am talking about the running costs of the agency referred to in section 5 (2) (a) (iv) (IV). When the estimates of the agency are prepared they ought to be laid before the Houses in like manner as the Estimates for each Government Department, including the Department of Finance. Those Estimates will be debated in the House next week. The agency will be preparing estimates and submitting them for approval to the Minister. We are entitled to know about it. We are talking about public money and should be entitled to comment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I would draw the attention of the House to section 11 where we will deal with this matter in detail.
Mr. Taylor: I do not see that section 11 has anything to do with it, since it simply provides that the expenses of the agency shall be a charge out of the Central Fund. The estimates of the agency should be lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas for examination.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Deputy is dealing with it in the same manner as departmental Estimates. There will not be a departmental Estimate for this agency.
Mr. Taylor: Why not? Here is an agency being set up which is an arm of the Government. It will have a budget of some——
Mr. A. Reynolds: If the Deputy does not want to listen, let him go ahead. We will be dealing with it under section 11. I leave it to the Chair to decide.
Mr. Taylor: I do not see anything in section 11 which provides that the estimates of the agency are to be lodged in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It states that they are a charge out of the Central Fund.  We know that, seeing that it is public money. The budget of the agency might be a very appreciable amount. It depends on how much they estimate will be paid to the advisory committee, who may be brought from Yokohama or goodness knows where, and the number of outside consultants employed. It could be a very substantial amount of taxpayers' money. The agency is rightly called upon in the Bill to prepare an estimate of its expenditure for the forthcoming year and present that to the Minister. Is the Minister trying to fudge the issue——
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am not. The Deputy is not prepared to listen to commonsense. The Deputy should get things straight.
Mr. Taylor: Will the Minister accept the amendment?
Mr. A. Reynolds: No. I will be opposing the amendment.
Mr. Taylor: In other words, the Minister is not prepared to allow the estimates of the National Treasury Management Agency for the forthcoming year to go for public scrutiny and they are to be kept secret in the Department.
Mr. A. Reynolds: There are no secrets about them.
Mr. Taylor: Let the Minister explain himself?
Mr. A. Reynolds: Apart from the wages paid by the Department of Finance, all that changes is that the wages, paid by the Department of Finance will be transferred to the agency and the remainder were always a charge on Central Funds which has been accepted for years and years. There are no changes whatsoever except to charge up the wages. Does the Deputy understand this? It is simple and straightforward?
Mr. Taylor: It is not relevant to the amendment.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): When we come to amendment No. 25 in my name on section 11, we will raise the issue, because in amendment No. 25 I seek to change the charge from the Central Fund to the “moneys provided by the Oireachtas to the Office of the Minister for Finance”. If that amendment is accepted then an estimate along the lines that Deputy Taylor requests would be necessary.
Mr. Taylor: Is the Minister going to accept your amendment, Deputy?
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): He will not, of course, but at least we will be able to debate the matter at that point.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is Deputy Taylor pressing his amendment?
Mr. Taylor: No, I can deal with the matter when we come to amendment No. 25 in the name of Deputy Noonan.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 10a:
In page 5, subsection (2) (a), between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
“(vi) the preparation and the submission to the Minister of a scheme to create an orderly market in Government stocks, and an orderly stock market in which a range of different stocks of different redemption dates is on offer to the public.”.
I wish to apologise to my colleagues and to the staff of the House for having this amendment circulated very late. It is not included in the list of amendments but is circulated on a separate sheet of white paper.
Mr. Rabbitte: It is sensitive information.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It arose  from something that I thought about last night, and the fact that the Dáil will adjourn next Friday does not give me an opportunity to pursue the matter by way of parliamentary question.
In a parliamentary question last year I raised the fact that it is not possible for small investors to buy gilts, Government paper. First, the Government stockbroker would not do business with the small investor at the bid price. However after I raised the matter with the Minister changes were made and small investors were then enabled to acquire small amounts of Government paper at the bid price, but the bid price was reduced a couple of points. On 16 May 1990, Senator Shane Ross raised the same matter and a related issue on the Adjournment with the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Daly.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Daly): He was talking a lot of nonsense that night.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The Minister of State had a very good script that night.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is a convention that references to the proceedings of the Seanad should not be made in this House.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The issue was raised in another place.
Mr. Daly: Nothing was added that night.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I must protest at the churlishness of the Minister of State who has arrived into the House and has suddenly upset the atmosphere.
Mr. Daly: The atmosphere was not all the cosy.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I had complimented him and his officials on his  speech in another House. He had a very good script.
Mr. Daly: I spoke off the cuff.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): If he is claiming that he wrote the script himself he should apply for the position of chief executive of the debt management agency, because it indicates an expertise which is exclusive in this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy. This is a committee Stage debate and Members may intervene as often as they like. But in the meantime there should be no interruptions and there is no need of disorder.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The debt has been managed in a fashion where Government paper is available on the stock market almost exclusively to large institutions. If an institution is big enough and has enough of money to invest there is no difficulty in getting the Government paper; but the small investor who wants to put £15,000 or £20,000 into Government paper usually cannot get it. When I raised the matter with the Minister last year the position was that paper would be made available, but not at the bid price; and when the stockbroker, who is acting on behalf of the small investor, wanted to invest £15,000 in Government paper went to make the deal the bid price was not the real price at all. I claimed in the House at that stage that a false market was being created and that the procedure was probably contrary to EC regulations. On that occasion the Minister said he would have a report commissioned and that he would inform the House subsequently of its contents. This was over 12 months ago and I would like to know if the Minister has received that report and when he will inform the House about it.
However, the procedure changed after I had raised the issue and, as I have said, Government paper was made available at the bid price even though the bid price was somewhat reduced. The difficulty  which has now arisen is that there is virtually no Government stock available on any day of the week to the small investor. It is a type of bogus market. Yesterday, on the daily official list there was only one stock available out of the 46 stocks quoted for the small investor. Until the issue was raised in another place in the middle of May no stock at all was available to the small investor but now there is one. The Minister can come in and say that Government stock is available. I know that stock is available on the secondary market and if dealers match purchasers arrangements can be made, but it has been suggested to me that because appropriate stock is not available to the small investor in the domestic market, brokers are now advising investors to invest in UK paper, now that exchange controls have been removed. I wonder what Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera or Liam Cosgrave senior would have thought about that?
Mr. A. Reynolds: They would not like it.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The small Irish investor cannot invest in Irish Government paper and in the future of his own country or facilitate the Minister in funding the debt of his own country.
In my amendment I am saying that it will be a function of the agency, together with all the other functions enumerated in the section, that the agency prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme to create an orderly market in Government stocks, and an orderly stock market in which a range of different stock of different redemption dates is on offer to the public.
I have the interests of the small investor in mind. I raised this matter over 12 months ago, but the issue has not been met. I do not think it is appropriate in a Republic that only the large institutions can be facilitated, that by a phone call millions of pounds of Government stock can be purchased by the large institutions. Yet, the pensioner with £10,000, £12,000 or £15,000 to invest, who wants  to put it into a secure investment of Government paper, cannot do so except on the secondary market and only when that is open to availability. I think this should be met.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Deputy will appreciate that it is up to the Department of Finance and the new agency to raise money at the cheapest possible rate and that is what they will do and continue to do. The Post Office Savings Bank is available to small savers and offers an excellent return on their investment. I join with Deputy Noonan in saying that not alone the Government but everybody else would like to see Irish fund managers invest all their money in the Irish economy, but the reality is that they do not do that. In fact, we would not have had problems earlier this year if Irish fund managers had done what the Deputy has suggested. We are now entering into the new era of capital liberalisation and we will see full capital liberalisation by 1992. The Government will have to compete for money the same as everybody else. This is the reality of the new marketplace we will have to face.
Exchange controls kept funds in Ireland which fund managers might not have left in Ireland; and they availed of the opportunity earlier this year during the first relaxation of controls to get a better spread in their portfolios. From a nationalistic point of view, or indeed from a Government funding point of view, we would like to think that the maximum amount of money would be kept in the country; but we have to compete for the funds and I am sure that is the way fund managers see it.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I am not talking about fund managers. I do not believe the fund managers have a problem, because they are making deals with the Government broker regularly and the money is available. So, it is not a problem. I am only talking about the small investor, persons with £10,000 or £15,000, who choose to put it in Government paper. They approach their stock broker or ask their bank manager to  approach the stockbroker for them when they want to invest small savings in Government paper. At present the market is organised in such a fashion that there is nothing to buy. There was nothing at all to buy until the last weekend in May and only one of the 46 stocks on yesterday's list was being offered for sale. I do not think this is an orderly way in which to run the market. Small investors have a right to put money into Government stock.
I am proposing in my amendment that the new agency, who are taking over the functions performed by the Department of Finance, should have as one of their functions the creation of an orderly market in Government stocks. I know that the Minister agrees with this, because he has said that he would like an orderly market in Government stocks. I am also proposing that a range of different stocks should be available to the public. I do not think the Minister should have any problem in accepting this amendment which will nudge the agency in the right direction in facilitating the small saver.
The Minister referred to the costs involved. I know the agency will have to make the best deal possible and get money at the cheapest rate. That is only proper. What we are talking about here is £80,000-£100,000 a day on the stock market for small savers and the loss to the Exchequer, if there was a loss, would be nugatory. This issue should be addressed. The Minister gave me a commitment 12 months ago that he would address it but even if he has done so he has not reported back, as he said he would in reply to a parliamentary question. I should like the Minister to address this issue now by accepting my amendment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: This amendment is unnecessary because on the day he talks about there were no stocks available there were stocks available on the day the issue was raised in the Seanad.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): There were not.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Small investors operate through banks and stockbrokers in buying stocks. It does not necessarily follow that institutions buy only for the big man, they buy for a whole combination of small people as well. As I have said this amendment is not necessary because arrangements are being made already for an orderly market. Small investors operate through the financial institutions and are accommodated there. I would not put the slightest emphasis on a Senator who is a stockbroker raising a matter on the Adjournment debate in the Seanad because clearly he has a vested interest in what he is trying to do. Perhaps he felt that other people in the same business had an advantage over him for whatever reasons. I totally disregard his interventions as the way for me to order the market to suit him.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Those remarks are completely out of order.
Mr. A. Reynolds: They are not.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The Minister should withdraw them.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I will not.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): If a Member of the Seanad who is a stockbroker cannot raise matters on which he has expertise——
Mr. A. Reynolds: He can raise what he likes.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East):——then a school teacher cannot raise education matters in this Houe, a farmer cannot raise agricultural matters and a solicitor cannot raise legal matters.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I do not have to order business in Government stocks to suit him——
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The Minister has impugned this person's character by saying he had a vested interest and was using the Seanad in trying to organise business to suit him. We are all in different businesses——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: A Aire, Deputy Noonan——
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It is the Minister who is out of order. We once had a horse like you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, who could only see one side of the road.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is lonely for the atmosphere he left. Could we have it restored?
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I am sure we will have no problem now that the Minister is gone.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I did not advance any reason for it——
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): You should have addressed your remarks to the Minister because he was out of order.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I addressed it to both of you.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): You looked at me and addressed your remarks to the House.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps conscience doth upset us all.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): You accused me of causing all the trouble.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): May I continue now.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I suggest we bear in mind that we have restored amplification and we can make our points without encouraging the person from whatever side——
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): On a point of order, is it appropriate for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to address remarks to somebody who is being quite orderly when it is a person on the other side of the House who is being quite disorderly?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I addressed my remarks to the person I heard — the Deputy, I did not hear the Minister. In my opinion it was not in the best interests of the maintenance of the wholesome atmosphere that I had experienced earlier on. I think that is a fair comment. The Chair is not a zombie. He works within Standing Orders all the time and will continue to do so.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): If I may continue without commenting on your intervention, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will intervene when I think it appropriate.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I have not challenged your right to intervene, no more than I would challenge the right of a referee in the World Cup to blow the whistle but whether I agree with it is a different matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair's intervention will always be in accordance with the rules.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): As interpreted by the Chair.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Daly): The Deputy is being very placid.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): May I continue, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, or do you want to make a statement to the House?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy's cynicism does not advance his case one bit. I will address the House  when I think it appropriate and whosoever I think I should address. Deputy Noonan is no exception and if you proceed to the point where I think I should intervene I shall do so.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I should like to call a quorum.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is the Deputy's entitlement and it is perfectly within Standing Orders.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Amendment No. 10 proposes that the powers being delegated to the new agency by the Government from the Department of Finance should include a power to prepare a scheme to create an orderly market in Government stocks in such a fashion that a range of stocks with different redemption dates will be on offer to the public. When I raised this issue over 12 months ago with the Minister for Finance I was promised that he had requisitioned a report on the matter and he would communicate the report to the House and to me. However, this has not happened. Some changes took place in the procedure on the market subsequent to the parliamentary question but there are still difficulties. Difficulties are being created, in particular, because for a good part of the year no Government stock was on offer on the market to small investors by the Government broker. When this issue was raised in another place then during that week either by coincidence or because it was raised on the Adjournment, one stock was made available on the market. I have yesterday's official list from the Stock Exchange and only one stock out of 46 was available on the market. Consequently, Government stocks were not available, through the Government broker, to small investors.
There would be very little cost, if any, to the Government in this regard. I do not want any interference with the  arrangements made between the institutions and the Government broker because deals are being struck every day in buying and selling. The people who will be the main players in the agency and organising these affairs in the Department of Finance at present are quite satisfactory. It is a net issue; I am prepared to withdraw the amendment if I get an assurance in the House that the issue is being addressed, that the report promised by the Minister for Finance in reply to my parliamentary question last year will now be made available and that we can be satisfied that an ordinary market is in place which facilitates small investors as well as large institutions.
Mr. Daly: We are endeavouring to get an up-to-date position on the report mentioned by Deputy Noonan and I hope we will be able to announce it during the course of the debate. We made inquiries about the current status of the report and, if the Deputy bears with us, we will supply the information as soon as possible. As the Minister already pointed out, it is clear that the amendment is unnecessary because such a scheme and arrangement for an orderly market would be in place anyway. I recognise Deputy Noonan's interest in this. I replied to the debate which was mentioned, we had a very useful exchange of views and Senators commented on the fact that we had given more information than that supplied in the script.
It is in the interest of the Minister to see that there is an orderly market and that Deputy Noonan's aims are achieved. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary and perhaps Deputy Noonan will withdraw it.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Is it the intention of the Department and the Government to advise the Government broker to make a wider range of stock available to the market in future? As I said, only one was available yesterday and there were none available prior to the middle of May.
Mr. Daly: The State has to keep in  mind the cost of such acquisitions and, subject to that, I am sure their view is in accord with that of Deputy Noonan. I assure the Deputy that, subject to the availability of getting it at a proper cost, it is the wish of the Government to do so.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 11 to 14, inclusive, not moved.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 15:
In page 7, subsection (3), between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following paragraph:
(g) the delegation or declaration shall not remove or derogate from the responsibility of the Minister to reply to parliamentary questions on the performance or functions of the Minister thereby delegated or to which the declaration relates.”.
I had a number of amendments down, the purpose of which was to ensure that the Minister would be accountable to this House for matters relevant to the national debt after the establishment of the agency. I have already got assurances from the Minister that this will be so but, in this amendment, I am proposing that there will be no removal or derogation from the responsibility of the Minister to reply “to parliamentary questions on the performance or functions of the Minister thereby delegated or to which the declaration relates”. I would like further assurances in this regard. I presume there is a note on the amendment available to the Minister and I should like it on the record of the House.
Mr. Daly: The view is that the amendment is unnecessary, that the Minister remains responsible for all policy matters and will be answerable to the House.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The note on the amendment makes the same distinction which the Minister made. Up to  now, the Minister was responsible for matters, other than those of policy, pertaining to the national debt. I have on occasion put down parliamentary questions asking for the composition of the national debt at a particular time, how much of the debt was domestic, how much was foreign and how much of the domestic debt was contributed to by investment by foreign nationals. I also asked about the currency composition of the debt for different years. These are not policy matters, they are simply matters of fact. I should like to be in a position to continue to put down that kind of question and to get an answer. Before I withdraw the amendment I want a commitment that there wil be no change in the accountability of the Minister for Finance to this House and that Deputies will be able to get the same type, quality and quantity of information about the national debt as they are able to get at present.
Mr. Daly: I assure the Deputy that there will be no change in the present arrangements regarding questions on the national debt.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 16 not moved.
Question proposed: “That section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): This is the section which describes in detail the functions which will be delegated by the Government to the agency. They are very extensive and contain all the functions which the appropriate section of the Department of Finance exercise at present. However, they also include new functions. Subsection (5) contains a provision to advise the Minister, whenever he so requests, in relation to the borrowing of moneys by persons whose borrowing of moneys is subject to the consent of the Minister, the timing of such borrowing and the terms and conditions thereof. That makes sense. If Aer Lingus, or the ESB were borrowing  money it would be appropriate for the agency to have an advisory function. However, I should like to see a requirement for other Government agencies to consult the Minister for Finance in these circumstances and to look for this advice. Is it the argument that because the consent of the Minister is required certain consultations will take place between an appropriate agency and the Minsiter and that the Minister will then refer it for advice. Is that the way it would work? Is that why there is not a section requiring other State agencies to consult?
There is also a question on the sale of assets held by the Minister on behalf of the State. I refer to assets such as Irish Life, for example, where 90 per cent of the shares are held by the Minister for Finance. It would apply to the sale of public property. I wonder — and the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works might be the appropriate man to answer this — to what degree is it the intention to have expertise relevant to the valuation and sale of property available in the debt agency, because there is an enormous portfolio of Government property held directly by government Departments and State agencies. Telecom Éireann own property all over the country although they are not utilising much of it. When they were removed from the ambit of the Department and got their independence the first thing they did was to buy every vacant lot in all the big towns in the country.
The ESB have an enormous amount of property. When you are in your own constituency and ask who owns that field very often you find a State agency owns it. The IDA own a great deal of property, too, as do SFADCo. Údarás na Gaeltachta own a lesser amount. Therefore, if the agency are to be given an advisory role on the sale of State assets, while they would have the expertise to advise on the sale of shares in companies and how a flotation might best be organised along the lines we were discussing this week on the sale of shares in Irish Life, I doubt if the agency have the expertise in the property market to enable them to  advise, yet this section would allow them to advise on the sale of property held by the State or its agencies.
It is right that somebody should advise. I have always thought it would be worth considering having a separate agency with responsibility for the control, management, sale and purchase of all State property. As far as I can see there are pieces of property held by State agencies that might be useful to other State agencies and there are pieces of property held by State agencies for generations that they do not need and never intend using, and there is no overview and no office anywhere in the public service where one could find out the extent of the full State property portfolio. An enormous amount of money is held up in this manner in residual property from the Land Commission, property vested now in Coillte Teoranta, planted and unplanted, property held by the State agencies particularly the IDA and properties bought by the development agencies for particular purposes like that on the banks of the Shannon to build an oil refinery which is very unlikely to be built now but, of course, it will go on being held. Therefore, is the Minister's intention to bring property expertise into the debt agency to manage the property portfolio which the State has and in which this paragraph of section 5 would invest in the agency an advisory role?
Mr. Daly: The Deputy has raised a number of issues not really relevant to the section before the House. In relation to State property, there is in the Department of Finance, in the Office for which I have responsibility, a State property section headed by a commissioner of the Commissioners of the Office of Public Works who has overall responsibility for the whole property portfolio.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Of the agencies?
Mr. Daly: Of the State property portfolio.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): But not in the sense of advice.
Mr. Daly: Each body in their own way are responsible for their own property and have to account for it in their annual reports which come before the House and give an opportunity for Deputies or whoever to comment on them. To say there is not an overall inventory or record of the State property is not accurate. There is, and one of the things we hope to do at present is to streamline the State property section, modernise it and make it more efficient. We sought consultancy advice as to how that should be done and that advice has been availed of and is being implemented and being used at present to streamline and modernise the State property agency. We hope — I have already discussed this with the commissioner in charge of the State property section — to publish the type of inventory the Deputy is talking about so that we can come out at the end of each year, as a Government or any company do, and indicate precisely how the State property portfolio is being managed.
Mr. Taylor: On section 5 (3) (e) the functions are vested concurrently in the Minister and in the agency putting them in an equal position. That seems to be at variance with section 4 to some extent, at least where the functions of the agency are subject to the control and general superintendence of the Minister. Section 5 (3) (e) puts the agency and the Minister in concurrent positions in possible theoretical conflict positions. Will the Minister clarify whether there is some potential factor there at variance between sections 4 and 5 in that regard having regard to the fact that the agency are given a concurrent position with the Minister in the performance of the functions?
Mr. A. Reynolds: They have to be given the same function, to run concurrent with the Minister. The Minister has to hold on to his powers. The powers are his and he is not delegating these powers. I hope that answers the Deputy's question.
 In relation to the sale of State assets, I think what is in mind here is financial assets, not property. There will be no property consultants or property involvement in this agency. We are talking about financial assets in this regard.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): That clarifies it, and I thank the Minister of State for the information he has given on property management within the Office of Public Works. That is useful and very appropriate. The sale of assets held by the Minister would, of course, include property as section 5 (2) (a) (iv) (III) is drafted. Assets would include the sale of property, so the agency would be statutorily empowered once this Bill passes to advise on the sale of property if the Minister so decided.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Only if requested.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Or requested, and the Minister does not intend to so request.
Mr. A. Reynolds: No.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): When I moved amendments that the Minister would be required to put certain reports before the House which the agency would be required to make to the Minister from time to time, the Minister objected on the grounds that this would be confidential information. I withdrew the amendments as a result of the points he made. I put them down to draw attention to the fact more than anything else. However, there is one area where I would like the Minister to consider an amendment himself on Report Stage. Section 5 (2) (a) (x) provides that “whenever the Agency considers it necessary or expedient, to engage in ... the collection, collation and preparation, and the communication and distribution to banks and other financial institutions and their advisers, of information (including statistics and forecasts and extrapolations of trends and developments) in relation to the national debt, the borrowing and repayment of moneys, and the payment of interest  thereon, in the name or on behalf of the Minister for the Exchequer or by persons whose borrowing of money is subject to the consent of the Minister”. That provision will enable the agency to put together and distribute to banks and other financial institutions and to the advisers of banks and other financial institutions information relating to the national debt. Will the Minister not put in an amendment there to provide this House with the same information? The agency are going to make it public anyway and this House should be as informed by the agency as are private banks and private agencies.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I will have a look at it and have it checked out. The information is available in the budget. If there is need for it we will think about it but I do not think there is need for it. However, I will come back to it on Report Stage.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): What seems to be envisaged here is that the agency from time to time as they see fit would draw up, say, a statistical bulletin or have a report on some aspects of the national debt which for public information they would distribute to those in the business. As well as distributing it to those in the business it seems that such a document should be distributed to this House. It seems simple enough to put down on Report Stage an amendment that any document distributed under this paragraph should also be made available to the Houses of the Oireachtas. I intend moving such an Amendment on Report Stage — if we ever get that far — if the Minister does not take it on board.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I would remind the House that it is ordered that all Stages will be completed by 4 p.m., so whatever amendments are being comtemplated will have to be dealt with with alacrity.
Mr. Rabbitte: Will the Minister clarify on subsection (2) (vii) (III), in relation to the definition of assets, if the term “assets” includes shares in State companies and companies in public ownership?
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Exclusively so now, by all accounts, because it does not include property.
Mr. Rabbitte: Is the Minister saying, if it does, that this agency will now have a role in advising him on the disposal of these shares? It is a bit tenuous to say that the operation of certain State companies come somehow within the remit on handling the management of the national debt or arranging the borrowing requirement. I submit that if we are selling off, as it is proposed to do, Irish Life, it can certainly reduce debt repayments; but I would be horrified at the prospect of this new agency, with all those financial whizz kids, now advising us on whether or not we should retain companies in public ownership.
Mr. A. Reynolds: It is only if they are requested by the Minister.
Mr. Taylor: In relation to the word “assets”, there is no doubt that assets include any kind of property. It would include, apart from Government stock, Government paper and currency, property and shares in semi-State companies. Indeed, it is an all-embracing expression. It is probably an inappropriate word to use there. I am sure it was not intended to be as widely cast as that. It was the wrong word to use. Unfortunately, my amendment was perhaps too restrictive. My amendment definition may have been too narrow; but “assets” cast the net too wide altogether and would take in matters which clearly would not be within the ambit of the agency. Some other definition would be more appropriate. I suppose it is not a matter of great moment in that it would only arise if such a request was made by the Minister and he assures the House that he will not make such a request. Nonetheless, to tidy it up, if it is possible to provide an alternative verbiage between now and Report Stage, or on Report Stage, it might be considered.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Deputy Taylor's amendment would have been too restrictive and it is not my intention to involve the agency in any advice on property. The Minister of State in charge of the Office of Public Works has said that the whole property section there is being reorganised. This only comes into use if the Minister so requests and I do not intend to ask this agency for any advice on property because we already have the Office of Public Works to do that job.
Mr. Rabbitte: The term on which the Minister is relying here, which says that the agency can advise the Minister “whenever he so requests”, should not be included. I would not like to see the future of some of the State companies relying on that phrase. It seems that this agency will arrogate to itself a great many functions that may not have been specifically prescribed for here. It is a very broad term as it stands. This town is small enough for us all to know the kind of people who will now call the shots. I would not like to entrust the future of the State and semi-State companies to them. If they have their way — and they make no secret of the fact — they will sell off all of the family silver in order to make an impact on the extent of our debt repayments. I am very unhappy that the agency would have a role at all in this respect. This is a political question, a matter for the Minister, a matter for the Government. The people working for the agency should do as they are bid, politically.
Mr. A. Reynolds: We are talking here about financial assets. At the moment I have a tender out to various corporate finance houses to provide me with future options for the Industrial Credit Corporation. If this agency has an adequate supply of financial expertise the Minister of the day might consider getting advice from them rather that going to the private sector. Such a procedure could well save money and that is the type of situation envisaged. It is only on the request of the Minister that any advice will be sought.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It is a good decision provided it does not relate to the policy of the disposal of State assets, but to the manner of the disposal. There would be expertise in the agency which would advise as to which shares of a semi-State company could be flauted, for example, once the decision had been taken at the appropriate political level.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Deputy Noonan raised a point about the type of material communicated to financial institutions. There is some written material which is communicated every few days. This type of reporting is available and a lot of the information contained in those reports is available in the green book published annually at budget time. There is not a great need to consider an amendment in relation to the type of reports we are talking about.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr. Taylor: I move amendment No. 17:
In page 8, subsection (3), line 6, to delete “the Committee” and substitute “the Civil Service Commissioners”.
This relates to the remuneration of the chief executive and the manner in which it is determined. It is rather interesting to look at the scheme the Minister has devised in relation to determining the remuneration of the chief executive of the new agency. Subsection (3) provides that the chief executive holds office under such terms and conditions, including conditions as to remuneration, as are determined by the Minister after consultation with the committee. The Minister determines the remuneration after consultation with the advisory committee of the agency. That raises an interesting question. This is a body corporate which consists of the chief executive primarily and his advisory committee. The chief executive and the committee will be working closely together all of the time;  so the question arises as to whether it is appropriate for the advisory committee, which is an integral part of the agency, to be involved in advising the Minister on the remuneration of the chief executive. The matter goes further, because if one turns to see how the remuneration of the advisory committee is to be determined, in the Second Schedule, we see that a member of the committee is paid such remuneration and allowances as the agency with the consent of the Minister determines. Who or what is the agency? The agency is the chief executive. We have this rather bizarre situation, as the Bill now stands, that the committee advise on the remuneration of the chief executive and the chief executive determines the remuneration of the committee. That is as cosy an internal and close arrangement as one could possibly get and there is no justification for it.
On the question of remuneration, some outside independent body at arm's length from the agency and not the committee, given that their remuneration will be determined by the chief executive, should advise the Minister on what the remuneration of the chief executive should be. I have given some thought to this matter and tried to come up with an appropriate outside body. The body I have come up with, which may not be the ideal body, is the Civil Service Commissioners. Nobody need waste their breath in telling me that the chief executive will not be a civil servant. I am already aware of this, as it is quite clear from the Bill that he will not be a civil servant. But there is no reason why the Civil Service Commissioners, who are actively involved in matters relating to remuneration at all levels, should not advise the Minister on what the remuneration of the chief executive ought to be. The present arrangement is all too “in” and cosy. Therefore some outside agency should have a hand and be involved in the matter.
Mr. Rabbitte: Can the Minister tell us if he will answer parliamentary questions in the House relating to the remuneration  package of the chief executive and other staff? Such questions will be put down from time to time.
Mr. A. Reynolds: It is the Dáil office who decide on what questions should be answered. I will answer all questions forwarded to me.
Mr. Howlin: Your office decides.
Mr. A. Reynolds: My office does not decide.
Mr. Howlin: That is what the Ceann Comhairle tells us.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am telling the Deputy that the general office decide on what questions should be sent to me or anybody else.
Mr. Rabbitte: May I give the Minister notice that I will raise that question later? Perhaps he might go on the record on it.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The chief executive will not determine the remuneration and expenses of the committee. If the Deputy reads paragraph (4) of the Second Schedule he will see that what I am saying is correct. In relation to the amendment which proposes the deletion of the words “the committee” to be substituted by the words “the Civil Service Commissioners”, the chief executive will not be a civil servant and consequently it would be inappropriate to have the Civil Service commissioners decide. The members of the advisory committee will advise me on the remuneration package of the chief executive and I will then decide on what the final package should be.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I wish to ask the Minister three questions on this matter. Will the Minister answer parliamentary questions on the pay of the chief executive and the officers of the agency? It seems that he is not prepared to do so.
Mr. A. Reynolds: That is a hypothetical  question. I will answer all questions allowed.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): There is nothing hypothetical when legislating. There is no such thing as a hypothetical question about legislation.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Deputy knows the way in which the House is run.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Questions about legislation always relate to the consequences of what we are doing.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I will answer any question listed.
Mr. Rabbitte: If we had footwork like that in Rome we would have won the World Cup.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The expenses and pay of the officers of the agency will be drawn from central funds. There is an annual report on the composition and distribution of the Central Fund. We received the report, contained in a blue cover, for 1989 this week. It is a very interesting document. In some instances sums are specified down to the last £250 but in others they are bulked under the heading “miscellaneous”. Is it the intention of the Minister to roll the pay and expenses of the officers of the agency into one sum when the annual report on the Central Fund is being drawn up for publication, or will the figures be specified per head of staff? Which is the more appropriate? Finally, does the Minister envisage the pay of the chief executive of the agency being the subject of a recommendation of the Gleeson committee?
Mr. A. Reynolds: No, I have already explained to the House that the pay and remuneration of the chief executive will be set by the Minister of the day having received the advice of the advisory committee. As I said, I will answer any question on the Order Paper at any given time. The question of running expenses  will be dealt with in the normal way, as I have explained.
Mr. Rabbitte: May I take it——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps we could apply ourselves more rigidly to Deputy Taylor's amendment. We could then discuss the section.
Mr. Rabbitte: I take it from what the Minister has said that he will answer parliamentary questions concerning the remuneration package of the chief executive in the House. I thank him for saying this.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Minister has said that he will answer all questions on the Order Paper.
Mr. Taylor: The subsection, as it stands, states that the remuneration of the chief executive will be determined by the Minister. We are all clear on that point. However, the subsection goes on to state the Minister before deciding will enter into consultations. The question that must be asked is: with whom should he consult and whom is it appropriate to consult? That is the issue I am trying to address. According to the Bill as it stands the Minister will consult with the committee. I think it would be inappropriate for him to do so for the reasons I have given, which are that the committee will work with the chief executive who will determine their remuneration. The Minister has said this will not be so. I fail to understand why he has said this. The relevant subsection states that a member of the committee shall be paid such remuneration and allowances for expenses by him as the agency may determine, with the consent of the Minister, of course. Who is the agency? The agency is the chief executive.
Mr. A. Reynolds: No.
Mr. Taylor: If the Minister says that the agency will be somebody other than the chief executive he should tell the House who it will be. From my reading  of the Bill the agency will be the chief executive. For all practical purposes, and the Minister is aware of this, the agency will be the chief executive.
Leaving that matter aside, it is not good that the Minister has chosen the committee the chief executive's colleagues in the agency, as the group with whom he will consult on the question of remuneration. I think that the more appropriate body in this instance are the Civil Service Commissioners. They would not determine what the remuneration of the chef executive should be but merely give the Minister the benefit of their experience and advice, which they are well qualified to do. They would also be a body at arm's length from the debt management agency. There would be no need for the chief executive to be a civil servant for this purpose. They would be fulfilling an advisory function. It would look better in every possible way if the Civil Service Commissioners, an independent organisation, were given this role instead of the committee.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I agree with Deputy Taylor when he says that the Civil Service Commissioners are an independent agency. Let us look at what they do for a few moments. They are not involved in determining the pay and conditions of civil servants but rather carry out interviews and choose people for particular jobs. What we are talking about here is the appointment of a number of people to advise the Minister on a pay package for the chief executive. The Minister will have the final say. This is very straight-forward and there is nothing sinister about it.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I take it that Deputy Taylor is not pressing his amendment.
Mr. Taylor: I am pressing the amendment.
Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”
The Committee divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 18.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fahey, Jackie. O'Dea, Willie.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
|Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J.
O'Connell, John. Roche, Dick.
Wilson, John P.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Howlin and Ferris.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 6 agreed to.
An Ceann Comhairle: We come to amendment No. 18 in the name of Deputy Noonan (Limerick East). Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are alternative amendments. I suggest that they be discussed together, by agreement, with separate decisions if necessary.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): A Cheann Comhairle, can you explain how amendment No. 20 is an alternative?
An Ceann Comhairle: My advice is that amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are alternatives.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The idea is that they be discussed together?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is it.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 18:
In page 8, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following subsection:
“(2) Every person who, immediately before the establishment day appointed by the Minister under section 2 of this Act, was employed in carrying out functions in the Department of Finance, which are delegated to the Agency under the provisions of this Act, shall on the said date become an employee of the Agency or may opt to remain in the employ of the Department of Finance with the same rights and conditions of employment as he was subject to or enjoyed prior to the establishment date.”.
Section 7, dealing with the staffing of the new agency, reads:
(1) The Agency may appoint such, and such number of, persons to be members of the staff of the Agency as it may determine.
(2) (a) A member of the staff of the Agency (other than the chief Executive) shall be paid, such remuneration (including allowances for expenses and benefits-in-kind) as the Agency may determine.
(b) A member of the staff of the Agency referred to in paragraph (a)  shall hold his office or employment on such other terms and conditions as the Agency may determine.
(3) The categories of the staff of the Agency and the numbers of staff in each category shall be determined by the Agency.
(4) A member of the staff of the Agency shall not be a civil servant within the meaning of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956.
Those are very wide-ranging powers in favour of the agency rather than in favour of the employees. As a matter of fact, the provisions of that section give no right at all to those employed by the agency. The agency will determine their pay, conditions, length of service and so on.
My amendment seeks to preserve in employment by the agency those members at present employed by the Department of Finance engaged in this work. The section, as drafted, does not require the agency to take on those civil servants within the Department of Finance now managing the national debt. I think the agency should do so. Those employees should be given the right to take up employment in the agency under whatever conditions the agency may decide. Alternatively, they should be given the right to opt to remain employees of the Department of Finance as full civil servants.
The section is very unusual in so far as it makes no provision for existing staff. For example, when Telecom Éireann, An Post or Coillte Teoranta were established and involved a hiving off of a Department of State, its constitution as a semi-State agency or in some other format, there were always provisions for the automatic re-employment of existing staff without loss of pay or conditions under the new structure. Such provisions are not included here at all. I am surprised that that is the case. Certainly the provisions give enormous power to the chief executive of the new agency. He can pick and choose among the existing staff in the Department of Finance, if  they are willing to go with him. He can offer jobs to some and not to others. For example, he can offer one set of pay and conditions to one group of people and another set of pay and conditions to another group of people.
The Minister said that the primary purpose of the Bill is to enable him, through the agency, to maintain in employment and adequately pay persons with the level of expertise he requires to manage the national debt. It follows from that that the chief executive of the new agency should be empowered to vary the pay and conditions of the personnel of the agency. If it is going to be an open market for expertise then obviously the level at which one person would work for the agency may not be the same as the pay and conditions at which another would work for the agency.
What I am trying to focus on is those people who are in that section of the Department of Finance at the moment. I cannot understand why provision is not being made for them to continue carrying out under the auspices of the agency the functions they carry out at the moment, with pay and conditions in line with other employees of the new agency. If they do not want to make that transfer to the agency, they should be allowed to opt to remain in the Department of Finance carrying out other functions in the Department of Finance in circumstances which will not be adverse to their pay and conditions. It is a simple enough amendment. That choice should be given.
When we were discussing Second Stage of the Insurance Bill earlier in the week — and we will be discussing Committee and Final Stages next week — there were provisions in that Bill which guarantee that employees of Irish Life will transfer to the new company, that their terms of employment and their employment will be guaranteed. It seems that there is a very wide sweep being taken in this.
While the intention of the Minister's amendment may be good, I think, it is an ambiguous amendment. It is not clear from it whether the intention is that persons can be seconded to the agency for a  period totalling three months, or during a period of three months after the establishment date. I would like the Minister to address that in his reply. Is the power to second persons conditional on their not being employed for more than three months, or is it a power that enables the Minister to second during a period of three months after the establishment date, and that subsequently he would not have that power to second any more? The Minister should have another look at the draft because it is not clear what is intended by this amendment.
With respect, I think the Minister should accept my amendment. I am sure the Minister will say it is not necessary, but I am sure he could say the same about the Insurance Bill, and I made the point when discussing that Bill that I believed the sections dealing with the employment in the new company of existing employees of Irish Life plc were comfort sections, that the very fact that it was a statutory guarantee made people feel better even though the same guarantee could be provided by means of ministerial regulation. I think it is a very good idea, when people are upset, or if there is low morale in a particular organisation, to put things on the face of the Bill which the Minister might be empowered to implement elsewhere.
I would like the Minister to accept this amendment because I think it is a good amendment and I do not think it will take from what he is doing. It is what I like to call an employment comfort section in the text of the Bill which is very important for industrial relations purposes.
Mr. Rabbitte: First, I am not clear about the Minister's own amendment. Is it intended, when we assemble the crême de la crême of Dublin's financial community and give them fine salaries and remuneration packages to work in this agency, that if they find that after all they did not know as much about handling the State's portfolio as they thought they may  have to revert to the Department of Finance to ask them to second some of their officers for a period in order to give them a dig out? Is that the meaning of it, or does it mean that for a period of three months after the establishment of the agency such officers can be seconded, but not after that? There is a lack of clarity, and I look forward to the Minister's explanation.
In regard to the main amendment before us, I have no difficulty in supporting it because I think it is reasonable that the people who have been conducting this function on behalf of the State and on behalf of the taxpayer in such difficult circumstances for so many years should have the option — and as I read Deputy Noonan's amendment, it offers no more than that — to be employed by the new agency. If they want to stay within the womb of the Department of Finance then so be it, but the people who have had hands-on experience of managing the nation's affairs in this complex area should have the opportunity of being employed by the new agency.
Deputy Noonan talked about the rights of the staff in the agency as compared with the rights of the agency. I would like to refer to the rights of the staff and the agency as compared with the rights of the taxpayer who, after all, is funding all of this and whose future along with the future economic health of the country will depend, to no little extent, on how successfully this is done.
I would be very reluctant to facilitate any section of the Bill which encourages the view that somehow all one has to do is jettison those civil servants whose brains are so addled by poor salaries down through the years that they cannot competently manage our affairs in this area, and go outside to the market-place to hire people from the financial institutions when, of course, the opposite is the case. The reputation of the small group of people within the Department who have performed this function on  behalf of the State is acknowledged worldwide. Their innovations are acknowledged in the international community. I would be very reluctant to accede to anything that seems to imply that somehow they are the scapegoats for the state of the nation's finances when in fact that is the responsibility of the politicians. If we are not seen to give them the option that Deputy Noonan is proposing in this amendment, then we are dependent on the new chief executive deciding to recruit them. I do not know if he will or whether he will come from within the Department. I do not know, if he comes from outside the Department, whether he will want to employ his cronies from Doheny & Nesbitt, so that instead of calling it the National Treasury Management Agency, it would be called the Doheny & Nesbitt agency for the management of the national debt.
Mr. A. Reynolds: It was sold yesterday.
Mr. Rabbitte: It was sold but, just as the Minister would argue in selling Irish Life, it will still be in good hands and the clientele is not likely to change. Is this the agency that will manage the national debt in future? I am anxious — and I think it is fair — that the people who have done a good job in such an adverse climate ought to have the option of being employed.
Deputy Noonan's amendment raises the dilemma we spoke about earlier. If everybody was to avail of Deputy Noonan's amendment — provided it is enacted, and I hope it will be — we would hoover out of the Department of Finance all those who have expertise in this area, leaving the Minister high and dry without any expertise available to him when he is carrying out these onerous functions and supervising the role of the agency. I do not make that point entirely sarcastically. It is a very important point. Whereas the Minister will say he has at his elbow the secretary of the Department of Finance  to advise him in this supervisory role, with all due respect to the present incumbent as secretary of the Department of Finance or whoever succeeds him, his ability to advise the Minister comes from the fact that there are a number of persons reporting directly to him who have hands-on experience of handling the State's portfolio. They will be gone and there will be no watchdog over the new chief executive officer. As I have said, the decisions will be made in Doheny & Nesbitts and the taxpayer will have to live with it.
Mr. Howlin: I would like to very briefly indicate the support of the Labour Party for this amendment. I will not go into detail on the financial aspects which have been dealt with by my colleague, Deputy Taylor, since the Bill was introduced. This amendment touches on a very straightforward principle, one of human resource management. It has been the practice always, when the State has fundamentally restructured any agency within its compass, to have regard for the rights of people who have served the State so well over a period of time. That is a fundamental principle and one we should not move away from very readily. What Deputy Noonan envisages in his amendment is that those people who have served the State so well in the Department of Finance heretofore would not be jettisoned but would be given the option to continue in the Department in another capacity or to continue their expertise in the area of debt management.
I would welcome further elucidation from the Minister with regard to the exact staffing he envisages for the agency. Obviously he must have some thoughtout view of the type or even the identity of people who would be involved in the agency. Would that line-up include the present staff of his Department or is it his intention to exclude them and merely allow them, if his amendment No. 20 is passed, to pass on, by way of a briefing exercise for three months, their expertise  and thereafter allow these new whizzkids, as they have been described, to chart their own courses? What exactly has the Minister in mind in this regard? I am sure at this stage he has a very clear picture of the type of people he wants to staff the agency. Obviously this Bill did not fall from the sky, and the Minister has a view as to how the debt of our country is to be managed in the future.
Fundamentally I would restate that this is a matter for proper personnel management and proper recognition of people's rights. We are talking about senior people who have served the State very well over a number of years, who have great expertise and who certainly should not be disadvantaged in any way because the Minister or the Government wish to restructure the workings of the Department.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I want to lay out in very simple terms what the procedure is. First, when the Bill is passed, the chief executive will be appointed and will proceed to recruit the staff of the agency. Every person working in the Department of Finance or any other Department of State can apply in the normal way for a post if he or she feels they have experience and expertise.
Mr. Rabbitte: You could do that from Liberty Hall if the job paid enough, which it does not in some cases in Liberty Hall.
Mr. A. Reynolds: You can do so from Liberty Hall, or maybe there are some people who spend the afternoons or evenings in Doheny & Nesbitts who feel they have the experience to apply for the job. What I am saying is that everybody can apply, including those working in the Department. Some people may not want to apply and may want to progress their careers within the Civil Service. They may want the security of the Civil Service. It is a matter for them to choose.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): What  Deputy Rabbitte wants to know is whether the salary of the chief executive will be high enough to attract John Carroll.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I thought he had retired.
An Ceann Comhairle: We should hear the Minister without interruption.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am not going to impose any impediments or obstructions in the way of the chief executive who will be appointed on contract for a period of time, and subsequent to that their job will be on the line. Consequently, that person will be able to choose the people who will work with him. As I have said, it is open to anybody in the Department, any other Department of State or anywhere else to apply for a job in the agency and the chief executive will fix the terms and conditions. As I have said, some people may prefer to stay in the Civil Service for the security of the position or whatever reason, but I will not apply any automatic restriction on anybody. I am leaving it wide open for everybody to apply and they will be chosen on their merits. The chief executive will be responsible for these people and will operate under a contract for a period of time. Nobody will be disadvantaged. They may choose to remain in the Department of Finance and there is no problem with that. I want to make that quite clear.
I cannot understand how anybody could consider that anything said during this debate in any way casts a reflection on or tries to make scapegoats out of people who have worked in this area down through the years. I cannot understand why Deputy Rabbitte makes such a reference. These people do their job and it is up to the politicians to decide on the policies. I am not making scapegoats out of them and I would not want anybody else to attempt to do so either.
Mr. Rabbitte: Why exclude them now? Why not give them the option proposed in the amendment?
Mr. A. Reynolds: For the very reasons I have given. They can apply if they wish and can stay in the Department if they wish. They will not be disadvantaged in any way. There is no comparison with this situation and that of Irish Life. All we are doing in that case is restructuring the company. There is no question of interfering with anybody's rights or movements. That is not parallel to this case, and I hope everybody understands that. Consequently, I will be rejecting amendment No. 18.
In relation to amendment No. 20 in my name, I am trying to ensure that for a period of three months from the establishment date people working in the Department can be seconded to the agency. The reason for the amendment is that the bill lays down that the people who work in the agency will not be civil servants. I think the purpose of the amendment is fairly clear.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It is not clear at all what the purpose of the amendment is.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Bill states that civil servants cannot work in the agency. This amendment would allow them to do so for a period of three months.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): That is not what I am focusing on. What is not clear in the amendment is whether the secondment will be confined to periods of three months or whether the Minister will be confined in his secondment power for a period of three months after the establishment date.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am advised that I am confined for the first three months.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): After that period the Minister can no longer  use his powers of secondment. Is that correct?
Mr. A. Reynolds: Yes.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): That clarifies it but it would be well worthwhile asking the draftsman to have another look at this amendment. To any lay person reading it, it is ambiguous, if it is ambiguous to the lay person it will probably be ambiguous to the courts, if it ever arrives there.
The reason for my amendment is that there is nothing in this section which puts any restraint on the agency or on the chief executive in relation to the manner in which staff are employed. The section provides that the chief executive, on behalf of the agency, may employ persons under conditions of service to be decided on a negotiated basis and a contract will be issued. It is case by case employment of people. The Minister says that the chief executive will recruit staff and that existing staff within the Civil Service and the wider public service, as well as members of the general public, can apply in the normal way. There is nothing in the section which requires the chief executive to proceed in that manner. There is nothing to prevent him head hunting 25 or 30 people, negotiating contracts with them and getting the agreement of the advisory committee. There is no requirement that any of these posts should be advertised publicly or internally. There may be some understanding in the Minister's mind but it is not in the Bill.
There is an obligation on us to clarify the section and for that reason I will press this amendment. As the section stands, it empowers the chief executive to employ as he sees fit persons whom he thinks suitable on a contract basis. He need never advertise. He may have a list already and may have decided a rate which will be negotiated up and down. We all know the circumstances in which this is arranged. What it will come down  to is the package. There is no requirement to advertise.
Mr. Rabbitte: If the Minister says that he is not casting any aspersions on the competence of the people who carried out this function up to now, I accept that. I argue that by excluding them from the option Deputy Noonan is seeking to give them in this amendment he is indirectly saying they are not up to the job and that he wants to bring in people from outside.
Regarding the head hunting to which Deputy Noonan has referred, I have suggested where the head hunting might be concentrated, depending on who is the chief executive. The Minister argues that these people may apply but theoretically so may everybody else in the State or outside the State. Some of my union colleagues in RTE who are to lose their jobs as a result of the Broadcasting Bill may want to apply.
Mr. A. Reynolds: If they have financial expertise, why not?
Mr. Rabbitte: It does not give the people who have been handling the management of the debt an advantageous position vis-à-vis any other person applying for the job. They should be given the option and if they want to stay within the Department of Finance, that is their decision.
Subsection (3) states that the categories of the staff of the agency and the numbers of staff in each category shall be determined by the agency. The Minister has referred to this as a State agency, which is a misnomer. I do not think this House ever established an agency with such all-embracing power. It is not subject to the Minister or to the Department of Finance. The agency may help to solve the unemployment problem by continuing to employ people for the purpose of managing the national debt without any constraint and without the necessity to get approval from the Minister.
It is extraordinary that the Department  of Finance have to function within the present quota and the embargo and have had to do so for quite a long time. Now when it suits us we can establish this agency and have no regard to public pay restrictions or the embargo on numbers in the public service. It would appear to be open to the agency to determine the number of categories and the number of staff in each category without the sanction of the Minister. I hope the Minister will explicitly provide in the relevant subsection that this will be subject to the approval of the Minister of the Department of Finance. We are told that a very small number of staff within the Department of Finance, with a very high turn-over, have done this job over the past few years. If we accept that, surely some constraints ought to be put on the staffing levels of the agency.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The constraint that will apply is that of money. This is always the best constraint. There is no free hand to employ 100 if there is only enough money for 20. It will depend on the salaries fixed and the contracts entered into.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I recall that the Minister refused some hours ago to accept Deputy Taylor's amendment providing that a budget should be set down and an estimate brought before the Houses in the normal way. The Minister said that a close reading of such an agency estimate would provide information as to the policy of the agency and some of this would be a breach of confidentiality. Now he says that while there is no constraint on numbers, pay and conditions, there will be a money constraint. He said earlier that we would not know what money would be expended on staffing and running the agency, until the end of the year. While the agency obviously will have an internal budget and an internal estimate, that will not be subject to ministerial or Oireachtas control. We will know the budget at the end of the year but not at  the beginning. I do not see where the money constraint is.
Effectively the Minister is saying that the chief executive may employ as many people as he sees fit, with certain pay and conditions which will be laid down in separately negotiated contracts with the people he hires. There is no other constraint. We hope there is a very good  chief executive who will act in a responsible manner, but there is nothing in the legislation which enforces any particular procedure on the chief executive or confines him in any way as to pay and conditions or the numbers he can employ.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Minister can issue directives.
The Committee divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 72.
Belton, Louis J.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Enright, Thomas W.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
Cullimore, Séamus. Kenneally, Brendan.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Kelly, Laurence. O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and Deenihan; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 19 not moved.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I move amendment No. 20:
In page 9, subsection (4), line 7, after “1956”, to insert “, but, notwithstanding the foregoing, officers of the Minister may be seconded to the Agency for a period not exceeding 3 months from the establishment day”.
I have already outlined to the House the purpose of this amendment.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Is the Minister happy with the drafting of it at this stage?
Mr. A. Reynolds: Yes.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Section 8 agreed to.
Question proposed: “That section 9 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Rabbitte: I want to outline my opposition to this section, which provides for the establishment of an advisory committee. The functions and nature of such a committee are outlined in considerable detail in the Second Schedule. For example, paragraph 1 states that the committee shall consist of not less than five and not more than seven members who shall be appointed to be such members by the Minister. The Minister said on Second Stage that they may be people of international and financial repute just as likely as Irish people functioning in Irish financial institutions. These people will, effectively, be part-timers who will have other irons in the fire and will probably move around on a daily basis the very kind of paper we are talking about here in order to make huge personal profits. That will be their day job, so to speak, and they will be part-time advisers to the chief executive of the agency concerning how he should make his decision. In other words, we are talking about people who are engaged in trading this information for profit and who will be responsible for the management of the national debt. It seems inevitable, human nature being what it is, that there will be a conflict of interest there. It is inevitable that those people will have access to sensitive insider information and that this will intrude into the execution of their other functions in whatever walk of life they  are in. I am very unhappy and concerned about the vista this will open up.
I gave the instance this morning of the Government stockbroker intruding in the bond market in order to push up or down interest rates, when it is considered by Government policy desirable to do so at the time. What will be the role of these people? Inevitably they will have access to information; and this cannot be prevented, as I said this morning, by the erection of however many Chinese walls one wants to talk about. I am anxious to hear the Minister's views on this section.
Mr. A. Reynolds: The Minister and the Government will have to be extremely careful about the choice of personnel for the job and will have guarded against the conflict of interest, which is basically what Deputy Rabbitte was referring to. While I said on Second Stage that people involved in international financial organisations may not necessarily be excluded, I can envisage certain financial organisations who are not trading in paper every day. Nevertheless, we will have to be extremely careful in choosing the people for this job and ensure that we guard against the type of conflict to which Deputy Rabbitte referred. I can assure the Deputy that that will be the case.
Mr. Taylor: Can the Minister indicate the range of likely remuneration for a member of the committee? Can he say how often the committee will meet? Are we talking about once a week, once a month or twice a year? The committee would be advising the chief executive and the agency — and indirectly the Minister — as to the major steps to be taken, intervention and so on. What will the position be if the committee disagree regarding the appropriate course of action? I see that the Schedule makes provision for having a vote which clearly implies that there could, from time to time, be differences of opinion which, as I said earlier, is perfectly understandable.  It is normal for experts to differ. In the event of a vote, what would the arrangements be? Would the Minister and the chief executive be appraised as to who voted for that or would the result simply be passed on to him? Would majority decisions count? Would minority decisions be taken into account and, if so, to what extent?
Mr. A. Reynolds: The committee members will be serving in a part-time capacity, somewhat similar to a director on a semi-State body. There will be nominal remuneration and expenses to get them to and from meetings, which is normal. They will probably meet about once a month — or maybe once a fortnight — but they will decide their own business. The chief executive must accept or reject advice in relation to certain areas because he is ultimately responsible to me.
Mr. Rabbitte: It is a little difficult to conceive a situation where the membership of this committee is equivalent to voluntary service by people on State boards and the kind of analogy which the Minister has drawn. I do not see this as equivalent to being appointed to the RTE Authority or to the board of Fóir Teoranta — before it was dissolved.
I am surprised at the modest remuneration which one gets for serving on that kind of State board and I wonder whether that kind of remuneration will be acceptable to the people who will comprise this board. I think the Minister is confirming that the people selected will be drawn from financial institutions or those with financial expertise who play the market. Surely the issue is that they will be privy to the timing of certain trends in the market-place and to certain interventions about to be made by the Government which will influence other decisions and so on? If they are people of that kind of financial standing who will, automatically and by definition, have a vested interest they will come into possession of delicate,  sensitive insider information. I cannot see how you can expect them to divorce their own interests from those of the taxpayer and the State.
Mr. A. Reynolds: We are talking about honorary positions and I cannot accept Deputy Rabbitte's argument. If the picture is that painted by the Deputy it would mean that you could not appoint an industrialist to the board of the IDA because he would have a conflict of interests regarding any changes which might take place in industrial policy. You pick people of status and integrity to serve in an honorary capacity, you choose the right people, that is what it is all about. Of course, one must be extremely careful to choose people of status and integrity to serve in an honorary capacity in managing the debt of such huge proportions.
In 1982, when I was Minister for Energy, I wanted someone with expertise to put on the board of the Irish National Petroleum Corporation and I found an Irishman in Paris who was glad to come over here maybe once a month for two or three hours and give the benefit of his experience and expertise to that board. He was delighted to do it and there are plenty of Irish people in well known organisations all around the world who would be delighted to be offered the job we are talking about here. I do not think that we will have a problem in finding people of the right calibre to do the job.
Mr. Taylor: Will the Minister agree that there is ambiguity and a dichotomy of interests in having an advisory committee when you are also giving powers to the agency to employ consultants and financial institutions? For example, a director of a financial institution might be a member of the advisory committee, He might be at an advisory committee meeting and could say that the financial institution of which he was a director could be of great help to the committee. He could ask them to send the institution  a brief for a handsome fee. That kind of position could very well arise. Why is it necessary to have an advisory committee and also empower the agency to employ consultants and financial institutions?
Mr. A. Reynolds: The chief executive will decide in relation to consultancies and you can be certain he will not give it to people of the calibre the Deputy mentioned. This country is small and everybody knows what is going on. If the situation was as outlined by Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Taylor, we should not put anybody on a board. Governments come and go and different people do their jobs with intergrity. They welcome the status conferred on them by honorary positions because they are delighted to serve the nation.
I heard the same argument ten years ago in this House when we were developing telecommunications and setting up Telecommunications Investment Limited. I was told that we were going against the Constitution and that everything should have gone through the Department of Finance. Telecommunications Investment Limited were set up, their programme progressed and they did a very good job. People said that the chairman would only be interested in points relating to the business in which he was involved but that did not happen. Chairmen have served down through the years on different State bodies and have given tremendous service to it. The ESB run a very successful treasury management operation themselves. There are people in and outside the country and it will be a matter of choice to pick the right people for the job and I have no doubt they can be found without endangering conflict of interest.
Mr. Rabbitte: We are not being tedious for the sake of being tedious. I ask the Minister to accept that the area we are talking about is especially susceptible to the possible conflict of interest I am raising. I am not saying the Minister cannot  find Irish people at home or abroad who will discharge these functions with the utmost integrity, but the very nature of the task we are asking to oversee is susceptible to this kind of conflict of interest. I do not think the IDA board is a fair analogy. The IDA publish their report and it is clear and transparent to everybody if an industrialist serving on the board benefited from it and so on. We were talking here recently about the dissolution of Fóir Teoranta. Without casting aspersions on anybody, I do not believe anybody could put his hand on his heart here in this House and say that at no stage in the history of Fóir Teoranta did the old boys' network never work to the advantage of either persons on the board or persons connected with persons on the board, or whatever. Human nature being what it is I am not throwing my hands up in the air in any kind of shock at that, but we are talking about people who effectively will be directors of the national debt management agency and who will be made privy to information about currency changes or anticipated currency changes that could result in overnight fortunes being made for people who would wish to speculate as a result of that insider information about anticipated currency changes. I find it very difficult to be assured that people whose main occupation is moving around paper to make a profit on a daily basis will be completely immune from the information and inside knowledge they will get as a result of their membership of this board.
Mr. A. Reynolds: As I have said many times, the chief executive will be the person who will make the final decision. People on the advisory committee are in a different role altogether from directors of a company, or directors of State boards for that matter, in that no such formal resolutions will be put at this meeting and no such formal decisions will be taken at this meeting to hand on to the chief  executive to implement. They will be giving him advice in relation to this, that and the other policy. He will make the final decision. He is not bound to accept the collective advice he will be given. He will make the final decision, so the question of them advising and him having to accept does not arise. He will make the final decision. He may accept, he may reject. That is to be his decision.
Question put and agreed to.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 21 in the name of Deputy Noonan. It is suggested that amendments Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 24 form a composite proposal. Is it agreed to take them together for discussion? It is.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 21:
In page 9, subsection (1), line 35, to delete paragraph (a).
I tabled this series of amendments for two reasons. First, I find it increasingly annoying that sections like this appear in legislation that comes before this House. We have here an agency whose chief executive, on behalf of the agency, is entitled to employ anyone of any race, colour or creed be they native or foreign, and the only exclusion made is people who are nominated for the Houses of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament or who are elected members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or who are bankrupt. It is appropriate that bankrupts be excluded from the advisory committee here, but I think we can carry this self-flagellation of the House too far. There is a tendency in this House now to believe that if we continue to inflict damage on ourselves as public representatives we are increasing our popularity. I do not believe that for one instant. There may be good and valid reasons why Members elected to the Houses of the  Oireachtas should not be employees of the agency, as obviously being an employee of the agency is going to be a full-time job anyway and anybody who is not in a position to be full-time employed in the agency could be excluded. That stands to reason, so I do not see why a specific exclusion should be put in for Members of the Oireachtas or MEPs any more than we exclude specifically people who own farms or pubs or have guesthouses in different parts of the country.
The amendments are narrow enough. Whatever the justification for excluding Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas when they are elected, I see no justification whatsoever for excluding somebody who is nominated to the Seanad. There could be persons on the advisory committee of the agency, for example, who would get or seek a place on the university panel in the Seanad. Some eminent banker might decide he would like to represent Trinity College or the National University of Ireland in the Seanad and is excluded.
Mr. Rabbitte: Senator Conroy.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Senator Ross was mentioned this morning. There might be people who want to contest the industrial and commercial panel or any other panel in the Seanad. If they are elected, fair enough if there is to be an exclusion, but why rule them out the day they are nominated? Why make the distinction between the Dáil and the Seanad? If you are nominated to run for the Dáil you will not become ineligible for employment or placement on the advisory committee until the date of your election. You are not excluded in the Dáil the day you are nominated. You are excluded on the day you are elected but in the Seanad if you are nominated you are excluded. Seanad nominations can go on for a long time. They do not take place ten days before the date of the election. People have already been nominated to the next Seanad. Their nomination  papers might not have been filed but they have been selected by the nominating bodies and the Seanad campaign is a fairly long campaign.
Another amendment here addresses another point. If somebody is an employee or the new chief executive of the agency is thinking of giving up the agency and going to have a shot at the Seanad as part of the portfolio of directorships he will have on his retirement, he has to give up the day he is nominated. It seems totally unreasonable to exclude people the day they are nominated. I think the whole thing is a cod anyway. It is part of the self-flagellation introduced in this House by the self-flagellationist wing of the Oireachtas and I think it has been taken up as a precedent in the various Government Departments and by the parliamentary draftsmen, and now the whole wide world can be employed by the agency or can be on the advisory committee of the agency but if you are nominated to the Seanad or are a Member of either of the Houses of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament you are excluded. What kind of suspect people inhabit these Houses or occupy these benches that we have to put a section in the debt management agency Bill to specifically exclude the various putative chancers who might seek to get into the Seanad or occupy seats in the Houses of the Oireachtas?
Mr. Rabbitte: It is probably an acknowledgement of their record in the area we are discussing.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): If we do not appreciate ourselves, the public will not.
Mr. A. Reynolds: This has become standard practice down through the years. The Deputy asked about the difference between a nomination to the Seanad and the wait for election to the Dáil before one is excluded. It may well have something to do with the fact that  if one is nominated to the Seanad by the Taoiseach for instance, one is not elected to the Seanad. It is a question that can be argued in a different context at a different time. The Deputy and the House will accept that we are on a very tight time motion today. It could also be that because one is a politician, a member of either House, one might be seen to take a political stance on a board or agency and that that is not desirable. I know that the moment a person is nominated for the Seanad he must resign his position from a semi-State board and take his chances. If he makes it, things are fine and if he does not make it he must take his chances whether or not an incoming Government will reappoint him to the board. I do not have the time available to take up this subject today.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): It is clear from the Minister's remarks anyway, that Senator Mickey Doherty will not be the chief executive of this agency, so I would like to withdraw the amendments.
Mr. A. Reynolds: I do not think he would describe himself as a physically handicapped man from a mentally handicapped area or something, that would qualify for this job. We would be looking for different qualifications, I think.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): No offence to the Senator.
Mr. A. Reynolds: Not at all.
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle: The ex-Senator, irrespective of his qualifications.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 22 to 24, inclusive, not moved.
Section 10 agreed to.
 SECTION 11.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 25:
In page 10, lines 25 and 26, to delete “the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof” and substitute “the moneys provided by the Oireachtas to the Office of the Minister for Finance”.
It would have been more appropriate if the expenses incurred by the agency came from moneys voted by the Houses of the Oireachtas to the Office of the Minister for Finance rather than being a charge on the Central Fund. I understand that the pay and pensions of the officers carrying out this work in the Department already are on the Finance Vote. Other expenses are charged to the Central Fund. There is a greater level of accountability for votes in a Government Estimate rather than for votes rolled into the Central Fund. That is the purpose of this amendment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: At the moment the salaries of the staff in the Department of Finance are charged to the Vote of the Department of Finance but their expenses are a charge on the Central Fund. That has been the long-established practice. What will happen in the future will be somewhat similar. The Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts are to be given an enhanced role in examining the affairs of the agency. That is dealt with in section 12. There is plenty of accountability in that the Committee of Public Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor General can examine this.
Mr. Taylor: This comes back to the question in my earlier amendment, dealing with the Estimates of the agency. The position of the Committee of Public Accounts does not really meet the needs of the situation because the committee are not concerned with estimates but with examining Government Departments'  accounts for the previous year or years. What is required here is that an estimate should be submitted by the agency to show the wages bill of the agency for the forthcoming year and an estimate of their expenses for the forthcoming year, to show how much they are providing for payments to the advisory committee on this, how much they intend to spend on consultancy work and so on. That estimate, like any other departmental Estimate should be laid on the table of Dáil Éireann to be debated in the House in much the same manner as we debate Estimates of the Department of Finance, because what is happening in effect is that a major section of the Department of Finance is being hived off into a separate entity whose functions are the same and many of the key staff will be the same, but the degree of accountability will be that much less. All the Bill is providing for is that the Estimates have to be prepared but they go only to the Minister rather than as in the case of the Departments, onto the table of Dáil Éireann for public scrutiny and scrutiny by the elected representatives. We are adopting a perfectly reasonable position. The Estimates are prepared and go to the Minister, so why should we be deprived of the knowledge as to how much the agency intend to spend on consultancy work. Whatever it is, the Minister knows it and Members of the House are entitled to know it.
Mr. Rabbitte: I agree with those sentiments. There is no precedent for an agency of any character having been established by this House being given so much autonomy as this. To conceal the expenses of the agency in the manner suggested in section 11, especially when we consider that this agency may well engage in a great deal of contract and consultancy employment, is wrong. It also may well mean that the remuneration package will consist in part of items that come under section 11 rather than under the salaries as such. Under section 7 apparently the agency may appoint such  numbers and category of staff as it chooses and in response to a point I made about that, the Minister said that there is always the constraint relating to the amount of money available. It seems to me that there is considerable flexibility here and it would be more desirable if it was by vote of the House, the responsibility lying with the House.
Mr. G. Mitchell: As chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts I hope the Chair will allow me a little licence on section 11 so that I can compliment the Minister on introducing the amendments he has introduced in section 12. These amendments allow the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts to have the role they traditionally have in relation to a Government Department. I am very glad the Minister has introduced the technical change needed to allow this. This Bill is as weak as any other Bill on the question of value of money auditing. The Minister will be aware of the views of the Committee of Public Accounts in this regard. I hope the House will soon have an opportunity to address the whole question of the powers of the public accounts committee and of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sure Deputy Mitchell has the competence now to relate what he is saying to section 11.
Mr. G. Mitchell: It is important to consider the functions of the Committee of Public Accounts, the Comptroller and Auditor General and this House in reviewing legislation.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): In view of the amendments which the Minister introduced and to which Deputy Gay Mitchell has referred, I withdraw my amendment.
Mr. A. Reynolds: In reply to the points raised by Deputies Rabbitte and Taylor, the Committee of Public Accounts is a committee of the Dáil. The chairman as he said, has made his case to us in relation to an amendment he would like to see on behalf of his committee and we responded to that, bringing this under the full control of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts just like any Department.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I acknowledge the Minister's response which is very much appreciated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 11 agreed to.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: As it is 4  o'clock, I must now put the question in accordance with the resolution of 29 June, as amended. The question is that the amendments set down by the Minister for Finance and not disposed of are hereby agreed to in committee; in respect of each of the sections not disposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended, is hereby agreed to in committee; that the First and Second Schedules and the Title are hereby agreed to in committee, that the Bill as amended is hereby reported to the House, that Report Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.
Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 4 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 July 1990.
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