Wednesday, 26 January 1944
Seanad Éireann Debate
The amount of the expenses paid under this section to a person in respect of a meeting shall not exceed the amount of the expenses which would reasonably in the opinion of the committee of agriculture have been incurred by him in travelling from and to his ordinary place of residence to and from the place of that meeting.
The object of the amendment is to clarify the present situation, and to make it clear that the people who will determine whether or not the expenses incurred by any member of the committee making a claim for expenses are the members of the committee. The position at present is rather obscure because it is not clear under the sub-section who is to determine whether the claims for such expenses are reasonable or not. There is a considerable amount of displeasure, and some confusion in all the counties with regard to this question of travelling  expenses to local committee meetings. There is difficulty in determining what is “reasonable”. In my view the members of the county committees of agriculture who have responsibility for disbursing all the moneys entrusted to them, the moneys which come to them out of the local rates and the grants made by the Department of Agriculture, are the most competent people to decide whether or not a claim for expenses made by a member is a reasonable one or not. In my county some of the members have to travel a distance of 30 miles in order to attend a meeting of the county committee of agriculture. In order to do so in a reasonable way they have to hire a car to take them 25 miles of the journey. At that point they can get a bus to complete the remaining five miles. They get the bus back for the same distance, and then finish the journey home in the hired car. I am certain that in all the counties there are difficulties of that kind to be overcome.
I can say from my own personal experience, that this sub-section, dealing with travelling expenses, is not operating satisfactorily in the county that I come from. The question was discussed at the last meeting of the Cavan County Council. The chairman made the point as to whether or not he was entitled to travel by car to the meeting. My view is that the position ought to be made clear and definite. I want to put it to the Minister that his acceptance of the amendment would put beyond all question who is to determine whether a claim made by a member for travelling expenses is reasonable or not. I think that the insertion of the amendment would provide the very best possible safeguard that one could have, because if a member makes the claim that he has had to travel 30 or 40 miles in order to attend the meeting his colleagues will know whether, in fact, he had to travel that distance. No member of a committee can, therefore, put forward a claim for expenses that, to the knowledge of his colleagues, is not reasonable. I think it is the perfect safeguard against any extravagance with regard to the amount that can be claimed by way of expenses, and if the  matter is left to the committee to determine, I see a possibility whereby it could be arranged that one car would come along and take two or three members. I think the House will agree that at present nobody could say who is going to determine whether the expenses which members claim are reasonable or not. I do not think it should be the responsibility of the executive officer of the committee to determine whether the expenses claimed by a member of his committee are reasonable or not. If that should be the position I think it is not exactly satisfactory.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I think that the claim could be made, but who is to be the judge of reasonableness as set out in Section 3? That seems to be left quite in the air. I think that Senator Baxter's amendment is a sound one. Something ought to go in before “reasonable”.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: I think if the amendment is to be made the words ought to be slightly different. It ought to be “the expenses which in the opinion of the committee would reasonably have been incurred”. I think that would be better.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: I think it is put in in a different place, because the suggestion is that after the word “reasonably” the other words should be put in. I suggest that they should be put in as follows “shall not exceed the amount of expenses which in the opinion of the committee of agriculture would reasonably have been incurred”. It is only a question of putting it in after “which” instead of after “reasonably”.
Mr. Madden: If I may be permitted to say so, there seems to be no divergence of opinion between the members of the present county councils in regard to the amount that is being paid to them. I happen to be one myself. They are perfectly satisfied. If they are perfectly satisfied that the expenses are quite reasonable and that they meet their commitments, why should not the same thing be done to the members of the agricultural committees who, in my opinion, serve a more useful purpose to-day than the members of the county councils, because of the restricted powers we have? Members of the agricultural committees serve a splendid, practical, constructive purpose, and their work is much more beneficial to the general community than the work being done by the county councils. Since the last election of county councils we have put in the actual expenses incurred and we are being paid accordingly. Why not do this for the agricultural committees, and discussion of this nature would not be necessary?
Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan): I was just going to say what Senator Madden has said. Since the last election the county councils have been paid their expenses on the lines laid down in the Local Government Act of 1941, and the words in this section are exactly the same as those used in that Act. It was left purposely vague, if you like, so that we could work out from experience what would be a fair scheme of expenses in all the circumstances. In fact, what has happened is that the county councillors have put down what they believe to be reasonable expenses and have got them, and that is the end of the matter. In some places the county council, I understand, discussed the alternative system of expenses—a flat rate per mile. Where they decided on that, and it was found to be reasonable, that was paid, and that was the end of it. Members of the county committee of agriculture can do exactly the same thing. They can either put in their actual vouched  expenses, whether by rail or road, and get them, or base them on a scheme of a flat rate per mile that would be reasonable. The latter system might be better in the circumstances outlined by Senator Baxter where three or four members would combine together to hire a car. Where we have three Bills running together—the Local Government Bill, dealing with expenses and the retiring of officials, the Vocational Education Bill, and this Bill—it is not desirable to make any very serious change in this Bill by way of departure from the Local Government Act, 1941, unless it can be pointed out that that Act has proved to be wrong. But it has proved to work successfully as far as expenses are concerned, and I think we should, therefore, leave the section as it is.
Mr. Baxter: I am not going to press the matter except to say that from my experience it has not worked satisfactorily. If the Minister will make inquiries about the situation, he will find, perhaps, that that is so. Senator Madden says that it has been decided to their satisfaction. None of my people is satisfied. In fact, none of them was getting sufficient expenses to take them at all. The point I want to put to the Minister is that under the particular section under which they were being paid in the county council, it was not clear who was to determine whether the expenses were reasonable or not. In one particular instance, I understand, the manager determined it, but it was much to the detriment of the particular councillors involved.
It would be much better to have the onus put on someone to determine whether the expenses are reasonable, whether it is the county committee of agriculture, the vocational committee or the county council. I say that they should be bound to determine it, and that the Minister would be taking the right step by inserting here that the county committee of agriculture would be the right people to determine it. I ask who are the authority to determine whether the expenses were reasonably incurred or not? If it is the committee of agriculture I think that that should be inserted in the sub-section.
Mr. Madden: If I may be permitted again to intervene, may I say that after a meeting of the vocational committee last week I asked the secretary how was he going to determine the rates of pay to members in respect of the expenses incurred? He said:—
“I will do exactly what is being done by the secretary of the county council, and which has received the sanction of the Local Government Board. That is good enough for me, and I think it ought to be good enough for you.”
If the members of the vocational committee or the agricultural committee are being paid actual expenses the same as the members of the county council have been for a year and a half, is not that good enough? I have heard no member of the county council object. They get what is, in the opinion of the secretary, and after investigation, considered to be reasonable expenses.
Mr. Madden: The county council members as a whole are perfectly satisfied, and the members of the vocational committee and the members of the agricultural committee will be perfectly satisfied if they are treated analogous to the way in which the members of the county council are being treated.
Mr. O'Donnell: The position, to my mind, is that the spirit behind the sub-section is not being changed by the insertion of the words suggested by Senator Baxter. I cannot see why the Minister should not agree. He might, perhaps, say that the rate to be determined, the amount to be paid, is not the right of the county committee of agriculture, but is his right, or the right of his Department. Outside that, there is no difference at all. Senator Baxter is not asking us to change the spirit behind the sub-section; he is merely asking that there will be a definite liability. To my mind, what is suggested does not change the sub-section.
Dr. Ryan: So far as I understand the  position with regard to the county council—I do not like expressing a definite opinion—the council can fix their own reasonable rates of expenses, irrespective of the county manager or the county secretary; but, if the expenses are considered unreasonable by the Local Government auditor, they will not pass. The same will apply here. It must be remembered that if the county committee put up a scheme in relation to expenses which they consider reasonable, there will be no further difficulty. It is only if, in the opinion of the Local Government auditor, the expenses are unreasonable, that any trouble will arise. I do not think it is likely that any committee will claim unreasonable expenses.
If this amendment is accepted, power will be taken out of the hands of the Local Government auditor if what might be considered most unreasonable expenses are claimed. The point about this Bill is that we want to keep it in line with the Local Government legislation. In matters of finance the Minister for Local Government has, perhaps, a bigger interest, because he is more responsible in relation to the rating authority and he must be consulted.
Mr. Quirke: I am inclined to agree with Senator Madden's attitude. So far as Senator Baxter's amendment goes, I am not so sure that county committees would want those words inserted, because that would throw the responsibility on the county committee to decide whether or not the expenses claimed by any member were reasonable. Members of county councils or county committees will realise the difficulties that arise in cases of that kind. Human nature being what it is, it is possible a member of a county committee may claim something entirely unreasonable and he may ask the support of his colleagues on the county committee. The other members might find it hard to say: “No, I am going to be the judge, and I consider that those expenses are unreasonable.” I believe it would develop into a campaign of canvassing members. One man may be unreasonable  and may claim expenses outside the bounds of reason.
Mr. Baxter: The Senator might regard that man as being unreasonable and I might look upon him as being corrupt—there is that difference in approach. There is nothing to prevent a man doing that under the section as it stands. Who is to prevent him getting these expenses? I think there is nothing at all in Senator Quirke's point, because a man can get such expenses under the section as it stands; in fact, he can get the expenses more easily, because the members of the county committee are absolved from responsibility.
I see the point submitted by the Minister, that if my amendment were accepted, it might rule out the intervention of the auditor in relation to whether or not the expenses were reasonable. I do not put our local representatives on such a low level as that. From my experience of them, they would not do what has been suggested—anything which might result in the auditor surcharging the members of the county committee. I would prefer it the other way. However, in the circumstances, I shall not press the amendment.
In sub-section (3), to delete all words after the word “him”, in line 27, to the end of the sub-section and substitute therefor the following words:—“for the return journey between his ordinary place of residence and the place of meeting”.
“The amount of the expenses paid under this section to a person in respect of a meeting shall not exceed the amount of the expenses which would reasonably have been incurred by him in travelling from and to his ordinary place of residence to and from the place of that meeting.”
Since I drafted the amendment, Senator Kingsmill Moore submitted another amendment. I suggest an alteration of the amendment, so that it would read “for the initial journey and the return journey between his ordinary place of residence and the place of that meeting.” I think that will clarify the intention of the sub-section.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: I am prepared to withdraw my amendment. It follows along exactly the same lines. When I first read the words of the section, I came to the conclusion that, in ordinary English, and from the point of view of ordinary grammar, it meant nothing. I put it before a number of my colleagues and they also agreed that it meant nothing, but that they were all able to guess pretty accurately what it was intended to mean. I put down, for a thing which means nothing, an amendment which everybody seems to think covers what it was intended to mean.
I think Senator O'Donnell's amendment is a better one than mine. The only trouble I had with him—a small trouble—was that in his amendment he wished merely to introduce the words “the return journey.” I considered he was using “the return journey” in a sense which is really a secondary sense, because “the return journey” is an expression which has crept into English for going and returning  journeys. You ask for “a return ticket”. You do not mean a return ticket; you do mean a ticket which entitles you to go and to return. In the form in which the amendment was put by Senator O'Donnell, it is just possible that a captious judge might say: “That only entitles you to the cost of coming back, not to the cost of going.”
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: If you put in the words “for the initial and return journeys”, as has been suggested, that makes it perfectly clear, and it is good English. There can be no misunderstanding and I suggest that the House might adopt that. It is only a drafting amendment.
Dr. Ryan: I suppose it would be presumptuous on my part to appeal to the Seanad to get back to its normal condition of common sense. It is very hard to please the Seanad. On a previous amendment, I was told that we had not made ourselves clear enough. Senator Baxter and other Senators wanted to make the position doubly clear by putting in certain words. When, as in this case, the draftsman makes the position clear by stating that a member must get the expenses incurred by him in
Dr. Ryan: I do not think that Senator  Kingsmill Moore was fair to his colleagues when he said that they could not make sense out of this provision. If you split the draftsman's phrase into two parts—as they used to do at school in analysis when I was in third book and aged about ten—it means that a member of a committee will get his expenses for travelling from his residence to the place of meeting and from the place of meeting to his residence.
Dr. Ryan: If we did that, there might be confusion and we are trying to avoid confusion. If I bring in a Bill in respect of which there is no possibility of confusion, I think it should be left as it is and we should not take the risk, by changing it, of having confusion.
Mr. O'Donnell: If the Minister is prepared to argue with me in public at any time or anywhere that there is confusion in what I suggest and that there is no confusion in what he suggests, I am prepared to take up his challenge. Here is what he says: “...in travelling from and to his ordinary place of residence to and from the place of that meeting” Listen to what I say: “for the initial and return journey between his ordinary place of residence and the place of meeting”. I think it was Disraeli who said that simplicity was genius. I blush, of course, in saying that. If the Minister is trying to make out that I am causing confusion and that he is clearing up confusion, I can only say that I entirely disagree with him and shall not withdraw my amendment.
Mr. Quirke: With all due respect to Senator O'Donnell, I do not think that it is necessary to refer to Disraeli. It would be necessary only to refer to the story of the thrush and the blackbird for an explanation of this debate.
Mr. O'Donnell: I think that it is well to be quite clear about the matter. My amendment is, I think, definitely clear and the provision in the Bill is, I think, involved, cumbersome, complicated and obscure.
Professor Tierney: Does the Senator propose to divide the House on his amendment? Speaking as a man in the street, with a fair experience of English, I think that the draft in the Bill is more intelligible than the amendment proposed. It, certainly, leaves nothing at all to be explained. I do not think that there is the slightest need to amend the phrase in the Bill.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: Can we compromise by putting in the word “and”—“from and to his ordinary place of residence and to and from the place of that meeting”? That might improve the phrase. The words the Minister used in explaining this phrase were perfectly clear and I imagine that Senator O'Donnell would be prepared to accept them, as I should be. I think that there has crept into a number of our Acts of Parliament recently an extraordinary obscurity and sloppiness of draftsmanship. I do not desire to divide the House on this matter, but I want to draw attention to it, and I intend in future to draw attention to what is obscure and sloppy in the Bills which come before us.
Dr. Ryan: To put in the word “and” would mean that a member would be paid for travelling to and from the place of meeting and to and from the place of meeting to his residence. That is to say, he would be paid twice.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: What I suggest is that we provide that he be paid the expenses incurred by him in travelling from his ordinary place of residence to the place of meeting and from the place of meeting to his ordinary place of residence.
Mr. O'Sullivan: That is what the phrase in the print of the Bill means. I do not agree with Senator Kingsmill Moore that the phrase is obscure. But it is unnecessary and cumbersome. There is nothing controversial about this matter and I think that the Minister might meet the wishes of Senators in regard to it. Bills have to be written in a certain type of English which is more difficult to understand than ordinary English. It is necessary to say with clarity what is intended and it is necessary to prevent loopholes. When attention is drawn to a phrase like this, which is unnecessarily cumbrous, I think that the Minister should meet us by substituting a phrase which is clear. That phrase will, in turn, form a precedent when other Bills of this nature come to be drafted. The draftsman works by precedent. If we allow this phrase to stand, he will go on using it, whereas if we insert a better phrase, he will adopt that in drafts of future Bills of this nature.
Mr. O'Connell: Will any ordinary members of a county committee of agriculture—the people who will really be affected by this provision—have any doubt whatsoever as to what is meant by the phrase in the Bill? We are merely wasting time in quarrelling about this matter. The phrase is quite clear and can mean only one thing. SECTION 5.
What I am trying to achieve by this amendment is, I think, clear. The sub-section says that a dissolution of a committee of agriculture may take place for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that the committee “wilfully neglects to comply with any lawful Order, direction or regulation of the Minister.” I am opposed to the section as a whole but some of the sub-sections are worse than others. If you had a captious Minister and a committee of agriculture which might not be regarded as too well-behaved, you would have, under this sub-section, cause for the dissolution of the committee which would be quite ridiculous. We know very well that no Order, direction or regulation is issued from Merrion Street which has not to be executed by the people in the country. When it reaches the people in the country, it sometimes fails to make sense. I shall not cite examples, but I could do so. I do not say that the Minister's Department is the most extravagant in giving unwise directions or in making regulations which are unsuited to local conditions, but you could have a conflict on a regulation or Order which would bring about a situation in which the Minister would be empowered to dissolve the committee.
An Order might be given and might not be carried out, perhaps for a variety of reasons. Conditions might have altered slightly in the particular county between the time the Order was made and it was due to be executed by the committee itself, or, on the other hand, the Order might fail to make sense when the committee tried to operate it. It might be quite a lawful Order, but the operation of it might appear to the committee of agriculture to be entirely unsuitable to conditions in the county. If a position developed in which the Order was disobeyed, that, if you like, might be taken as a direct challenge to the Minister and the Minister would get himself into an invidious position.
 I hope the House will not decide to retain the sub-section in the section, because it would create all sorts of awkward difficulties—difficulties which, I think, we ought to avoid. If you are taking powers to dissolve committees for those reasons you will have eternal conflict between local authorities and opinion in Dublin.
Dr. Ryan: With regard to the section, it might be well if the rules had permitted that it should be debated first. I can only say that if the section remains, I cannot see how it can be logically argued that paragraph (b) should be deleted because, after all, if there is a reason for dissolving a committee of agriculture when the committee does not carry out a lawful Order, direction or regulation, there will not be smooth working between that committee and the Department of Agriculture. The only way to get things right is to dissolve the committee and to replace it by some body of persons acting in its stead. If the Senator will read paragraph (a) of sub-section (1), he will see that the Minister may dissolve a committee if its duties are not being duly and effectively discharged. I suppose that any Minister, if he thinks he has given a lawful Order, and has not power to dissolve a committee for not discharging its duties effectively, would feel there was not much use in giving the Order. I do not know why Senator Baxter should come to the conclusion, as he said, that there might be a captious Minister in office. Is it not just as likely that there might be a captious member of a committee who  would have some control or influence over the committee and who would induce them to get themselves up against the Minister by disobeying an Order? In that way, the unreasonableness may not be all on the one side. I can see, I must say, the point of view of Senators, although I do not agree with them, in voting against the section, but if this is going to be thrown out completely, I do not see why amendments of this kind should be considered.
The Minister just mentioned the word “unreasonableness”. It was somewhat peculiar that he did mention it, because in this amendment I have used the opposite word. Frankly, I do not like the words “reasonable” and “normal”, but the word “lawful” means purely something that is not illegal. Although I am interested in ensuring that the Minister would not have the right to dissolve the committee for violation of an out of the way Order, I cannot see exactly what would be the best words for dealing with the position and perhaps the Minister might be prepared to meet me in another way. On the Second Reading he suggested that this sub-section was to deal with cases in which there could be no possible dispute. Paragraph (a) provided that where there was a dispute there was to be an inquiry. Perhaps he would meet me by saying that where it was proposed to dissolve a county committee of agriculture and the committee felt that the Order was out of the way, the committee would have the right to ask for an inquiry. I am not going to argue that any committee that is not carrying on its normal  routine job should be put in the position that the central Government is unable to ensure that it is able to do its routine job. I want to ensure that if there is a dispute, some tribunal will examine it before the Minister carries out his verdict. With the words “reasonable and normal” in the Act, it would be open to a court to construe them. Frankly, I do not think that is a good scheme. But, if the Minister were prepared to meet me on the point that if the committee called for an inquiry it would be granted, then I will withdraw it.
Dr. Ryan: The Senator himself mentioned a big objection to the amendment, that putting in these words will lead only to court actions. A committee would take the Minister to court and say his action was unreasonable, leaving it to the court to decide. From a practical point of view, what the Senator suggested would be a much better scheme if it was necessary. However, it is a suggestion that is made only just now, and I have not had time to consider it or to see how it compares with the legislation dealing with county councils and other local authorities and also the Bill which is coming to deal with education committees, but I would be prepared to go into the point if the Senator is clear that I am not giving any undertaking that I can meet it.
Mr. Baxter: I do not know whether it is beating the air to be talking about the attitude in Dublin towards local authorities. I suppose we are always going to have some conflict between people in the country and those who normally reside at the heart of things. We are always going to have an attitude, perhaps local, parochial or provincial, of eternal struggle with the central authority on  the question of the rights which local bodies regard as theirs in the matter of government. From the first time I have spoken in public, I have held the view —rightly or wrongly—that all this centralisation of power is neither healthy nor good. I do not think it is an advance: we will learn that later. It may take the next generation to discover that it is very bad for citizenship ultimately in the country and for the propagation of the doctrine of civic responsibility.
My objection to the section is, in the first place, that we had it from the mouth of the Minister on the last day that, had he this power under an Act ever since he came into office, he does not know of any case in the last 30 years where he would apply it once to any committee. We know that the Minister has difficulties—sometimes we have sympathy for him and sometimes we have none—but if he had had this power and would not have used it in the last 30 years, I cannot see any Minister wanting such powers now. It will be time enough for the Minister to seek these powers when they are really wanted. It is a definite confession and declaration on the part of Ministers—no matter who they are, or to which Government or Party they belong—that there is a superior point of view about the people who run these county committees. Whether you like it or not, you may write us down as “mugs” down the country, but if we did not do our job in these days the country's plight would be much worse.
In the course of the debate the last day, the Minister said he thought a great fuss was being made about this section, without any cause, as he had been talking to a number of committees and not one of them had said a word about it. The Minister knows very well that, when he comes to talk to a committee of agriculture about food production, there is always courtesy in perfection, even when the committees are not the least bit friendly to him politically. He knows that people will not stand up at meetings like that— when it is a time for all responsible people to stand together—to denounce him because of the introduction of a certain section. I think it was Senator  Walsh who said that this is a power nobody would grudge to the Minister, if a committee needed to be dealt with in this way. Perhaps he is a member of a committee in Kilkenny: whether he is or not I do not like the Minister to take up the attitude that, when a committee will not obey a lawful Order and is captious, there is nothing to do but abolish the committee. I think there is a better thing to do and that if the people down the country do not do it, there will be much greater difficulties in the future. This is not a trifle at all, as there is a big principle involved. If the committee will not determine to obey a decision of the Minister, and the Minister in Dublin makes an Order abolishing the committee, where is the gain and the victory? It does not make sense, if you are trying to do the right thing for the farmers and for agriculture. There are not three or four right things to be done— there is just one right thing to do under certain circumstances and conditions, and it is the same with the committee administering the affairs of agriculture in its local domain.
The Minister for Local Government and Public Health took a certain attitude in his dealings with county councils or boards of health in the past. In the future, when this present phase has passed and we re-establish the boards of health or something like them, some successors of ours may take the attitude of that Minister to particular county councils. However, when it is the problem of farmers dealing with the Minister for Agriculture, we do not want that spirit at all. I urge on the Minister that the inclusion of this section is absolutely unnecessary. He said so himself during the debate here. Senator Walsh gave us an illustration of what he thinks would justify the Minister in suspending a committee of agriculture. If I were the Minister and found a committee so unreasonable, I would leave them to their fellows in their own county. I believe the people in the county would rise up against them and make the committee members feel outcasts and absolutely unworthy to represent the electorate in any capacity.
One thing that is corrupting and undermining our civic sense down the country is the feeling that, if anything goes wrong, there is no responsibility locally to put it right and that the people from headquarters will do it. That is a kind of autocracy which has grown up out of the conditions which were inevitable, perhaps, in our history, through the way in which the State was brought into existence. There was a struggle to keep it alive and there was little opportunity of training for the people who had to take the helm in our generation. We can hardly be said to have found our feet yet. My view, personally, all along has been that the only hope of building up strong local patriotism— which must exist at the roots if it is to exist at the top—is to give to each small group the responsibility for its own conduct. By dealing with the matter in the way suggested in this section, we are not really dealing with it at all.
If I were in the Minister's position, I would not bother suspending an offending committee. I would stop the grants and let them do without the boar premiums, the bull premiums and the poultry stations. Those with experience of such committees—on any side of the House—know that the people would very soon begin to think it was time to stir themselves and to put the committee out.
Mr. Baxter: It was never done in my county, but may have been done somewhere else. In the first place, I do not think these powers will ever be used. In the second place, if the necessity should arise for the dissolution of a committee of agriculture, I would prefer that a short Bill be brought in to dissolve that particular committee, rather than that these powers should be in this Bill, with this particular mentality behind them. I am not saying that this mentality originated with the present Minister  at all; that would not be true. In the last analysis, if a committee were not doing its job, I would find another way to clear up the situation—I would leave it to the people who, by their votes, put those men in a position to go on the committee. I would leave it to them to find a remedy. Unless we can cultivate more of that spirit in the country—and there is plenty of evidence of the necessity to cultivate it—there will be no real progress.
The principles embodied in this section follow the pattern of much that has gone before. I urge the Minister to strike out on a new line, even though his colleagues before him in office believed these powers were necessary to deal with obstreperous, difficult or negligent local authorities or individuals who could “lead the band” at meetings of local authorities. I believe it would be a greater demonstration of faith on the part of the Minister, as far as the future of agriculture is concerned, if he had confidence in the competence of local people to do the right thing.
Mr. Madden: I am not always in agreement with Senator Baxter, but I completely endorse the case he has made against the action that is being taken here by the Minister. I feel that I would be wanting in my duty to my colleagues on the county committee of agriculture, of which I have been a member since 1925, if I did not do so. It is inexplicable to me why the Minister should be looking for such powers. Having read his speech, and subject to my interpretation of it, I think the Minister stated in the other House that for 13 years there had been no specific charge against any county committee of agriculture, but that they had administered the duties of their office, with a realisation of their commitments, with efficiency and to the satisfaction of the Department. In my opinion, this touches a wider field and will have serious repercussions upon the future of Local Government administration. About one and a half years ago we had an election after which the whole powers of county councils were  changed. These were powers which they had since the passing of the Local Government Act, but that have now been reduced to nullity. These bodies have no powers now. It is a farce. There are members of county councils in the Seanad, and I ask them to tell me what powers these bodies have now. There is one day in the year, when the estimates are presented, on which they can intervene, and even then there is a limit to the period during which they can hold up estimates. The real power and authority is now in the hands of the county manager. I am convinced that, since the advent of national government here, there has been a gradual infringement by our native Parliament of the rights of the people. The whole policy has been one of centralisation as against decentralisation. That policy has been a negation of democracy, and a want of confidence in the rights, powers, honesty and capacity of the people to administer their affairs.
Mr. Madden: No, but on coming from a meeting of a county council I felt that there was a breath of fresh air about a committee of agriculture. Now there seems to be an infringement on the rights and duties of such committees. Members of committees of agriculture take a deep interest in their work. They are all people who have been selected from the rural community. They give their time to that work, often at great inconvenience. The Minister told us that for 13 years no agricultural committee needed any correction by his Department, yet he comes along with this section to seek power to come down upon rural committees that have, as he admitted in the other House, been doing their work very satisfactorily. I have great respect for the ruling of the Chair, but I say that the proposal here is a further infringement on the rights of the people. I heard great dissatisfaction expressed during the last month by members of the committee of agriculture of which I am a member,  because their powers are being nullified. I tell the Minister and the House that when the next county council elections come on, there will be very few responsible citizens going forward as candidates to administer local affairs concerning which they have no power, because the whole authority is vested in the case of county councils, in the county manager, and in this case, in the Minister. He can “come down” on committees whenever he thinks they are acting wrongly, although he has admitted that for 13 years they have been doing their work correctly. I appeal to the Minister not to seek these powers. He has failed to justify his reasons for doing so. If that is so, why not continue the policy of decentralisation? It is the negation of democracy to deny to the people the rights they possessed since the passing of the Local Government Act. Although our people were denied such right in the past, by those who considered that they had not the capacity and could not be entrusted with the work of local government, ultimately they gained that right and worked it satisfactorily up to the passing of the County Management Act, and the destruction by a previous Government, as if by touch of a magic wand, of the rural district councils. I am not so much concerned about doing away with committees of agriculture. There is a great principle involved. A precedent is being set up. The Seanad and the Oireachtas should maintain for the people the rights and the privileges that they thought were theirs and that our ancestors fought for for 700 years.
Mr. Quirke: The last speakers have taken a line on this matter which is completely beyond my understanding. I can see no reason whatever for Senator Madden's outburst against this section. One would imagine from Senator Madden's remarks that this Bill was introduced to cut the throats of members of every committee of agriculture overnight. I am surprised that Senator Madden, who is a member of a county council, would not look on this question calmly and examine the section as it stands. If  he did, he would realise that the section, instead of being a deliberate and a murderous attack on county councils and county committees of agriculture, was, in fact, a measure to protect county councils because, under existing legislation, the only method the Minister had for dealing with a county committee of agriculture was to dissolve a county council. We heard a good deal of talk from the two Senators on the rights of elected representatives of the people; about the privileges of democracy and other phrases of that kind. As a matter of fact, both Senators know quite well that county committees of agriculture are not wholly elected representatives of the people at all, but that a certain section of them are, in fact, nominated by the county councils.
Mr. Quirke: Yes, but people who are not members of a county committee are local men. If there is any sincerity behind the talk about democracy, surely we ought to protect elected representatives of the people against a situation which might possibly arise, despite what the Minister said, that nothing of the kind had happened for 13 years. Does any reasonable man visualise a situation in which certain things that were mentioned could possibly happen? There is no suggestion or indication that they are likely to happen at all, or that the Minister thinks they are likely to happen.
Mr. Quirke: Why take out an insurance policy on your life, if you have not died for the past 20 years? Why take out a fire policy when your house has not burned for the past 20 years and may not burn in the next 20 years? Senator Baxter is usually very sensible, but I am afraid he is influenced largely by his political opinions.
Mr. Quirke: ——and a county committee, the majority of the members of which were supporters of the present Government, insisting on carrying on the present policy, despite the fact that a new Government is in power— possibly with Senator Baxter as Minister for Agriculture—which has sent down an Order saying that the land is being ruined by the policy of growing wheat. Suppose a county committee says in those circumstances: “Senator Baxter should not have that power and we will continue the wheat policy,” would the Senator, in his position as Minister for Agriculture, not agree that it would be a good thing to have some little control over these people if they get out of hand? Speaking from experience, I believe these are all very reasonable men and I do not think there is much danger of these things happening, but there is always the possibility and why not take the necessary precautions?
Senator Baxter went on to say that one of the ways in which a situation of this kind could be dealt with would be to stop the grants to the county committee—thereby victimising people who have no responsibility whatever and withholding grants in respect of premiums for bulls and boars from people who are entitled to them. If that is a sensible suggestion, I do not understand the ordinary language we use in this House. He goes further and says: “Leave them to their fellows in their county.” What does that mean? It means: “Leave them to them until such time as an election comes around.” That is the only possible chance they will have of dealing with them. The only other interpretation which anybody could place on it is that the Senator was suggesting that there should be something in the nature of a revolution in the county in which these things happen.
Mr. Quirke: Who is to decide? The fellows in their own county must rise up in righteous wrath against people who have neglected to do their duty if and when the Minister decides that they have neglected to do their duty or have, wilfully misconducted themselves in any way. The people of that county, according to Senator Baxter and apparently Senator Sweetman, must rise up. They must either wait for an election or go in for violence. Did either Senator seriously suggest violence as an alternative? I ask Senators to be more reasonable.
With regard to centralisation of control, we all know that such centralisation, in some instances, may have undesirable effects, but in this instance we have not heard any reasonable alternative from anybody. Senator Baxter refers periodically to the superior point of view, the superior attitude, of the Minister for Agriculture.
Mr. Quirke: I ask the House to believe that and I believe it myself. He went on to say that the Minister or the Government “may rate us people down the country as mugs”. I wonder did the Senator say that or has my ear become worse than it ever was. I think he did say it. This is a sort of method of developing a persecution complex which is entirely unjustified by the facts. There is no suggestion whatever that the Minister ever took up such an attitude and, in fact, if it were left to any committee of agriculture, I do not believe that any one of them would ever agree with Senator Baxter in his statement that the Minister took up any such attitude towards these committees.
 Senator Baxter said that this business of Orders issued from Merrion Street does not make sense, that the people down the country know their own business best. If that is so, why not follow the thing out and say that the ordinary farmer knows his own business better than people in the central town of a county? If this business of issuing Orders from Merrion Street does not make sense, why should we have a Government at all? I do not know what the Senator has against Merrion Street or why he does not concentrate on Mount Street, Dawson Street or Merrion Square. If we are to have any real organisation under the Department of Agriculture, or in any other sense, it must be directed from some headquarters, and I do not think we should have any particular dislike of Merrion Street any more than of any other street.
Mr. O'Donnell: I am a babe in the wood in these matters, but I sense that the reaction in this case might be of a political nature. Whether Senator Baxter and Senator Madden are right or wrong, it is a good thing to see, in this age in which totalitarianism is inclined to develop into a monstrous overgrowth on mankind, members of the Seanad defending the personal independence of the individual through these committees. While Senator Madden can argue that the scheme is democratically unsound, I cannot find out where the two democracies merge, because the Minister is the representative of what we might describe as the superior democracy, in the sense that he is the representative of the elected representatives of the people, whereas the members of county committees are representative of the county councils and selected by the local people. In a sense, they both have democratic rights. Whether the Minister's rights in determining a course of policy are greater or lesser than the democratic rights of county committees just depends on whether you are a member of a county committee or not.
I agree to a very great extent with Senator Baxter in my abhorrence of centralisation of government. There  is no doubt that everywhere one goes to-day one hears expressions of opinion to the effect that bureaucracy is growing in this country and it is a very healthy sign to hear in the Seanad some vocal expression of an abhorrence of the growth of that form of government in this country. In this particular instance, the Minister is not advocating that development. I see his difficulty. He is appointed Minister for Agriculture and he represents the elected representatives of the people who were elected in a majority to carry out a certain policy. He has to carry out that policy, and if committees of agriculture do not carry out that policy in accordance with his requests, what can we expect him to do? He must dissolve them and we must give him the right to dissolve them in the circumstances. I know that a case can be made that, in a sense, he is acting undemocratically, but I cannot for the life of me balance up whether the Minister is acting undemocratically in dissolving a county committee, or whether a county committee is acting much more undemocratically in refusing to obey the Minister's Orders. I must say that, on balance, I am inclined to the opinion that the central Government is the final authority from the point of view of democratic action.
I have probably brought this thing into a realm which is quite foreign to it, but I think that, while I do see good points in the case put forward by Senators Baxter and Madden, there has also been a very good argument put forward by the Minister, and I think that Senators should look at the matter from that point of view. The Minister said that in 13 years—perhaps it is rather an extraordinary number, when one comes to think of it—nothing has happened to induce him to suppress or dissolve a county committee of agriculture. If that has been the case, then there is no reason to suppose that such a thing would happen in the next 13 or even 30 years, but if the Minister is to carry out his policy, and if certain captious people —to use a phrase that has been used here—are going to carry on a policy which is directly opposed to the Minister's policy and designed to upset it,  then we must support the policy that has been endorsed by the representatives of the people, and which has to be carried out through him. That is why I am not supporting Senator Baxter's amendment.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I am supporting this amendment, and if Senator Baxter should demand a division on it, I shall vote for it. I admit that I am a townsman, and have no knowledge of agricultural committees, although I wish I had, but I was very much impressed by some of the speeches that were made here to-day by Senators Baxter, Madden and O'Donnell, and also by the very remarkable speech, on this question of allowing local people to attend to their own affairs, without undue interference from the central authority, that was made a week or two ago by Senator McGee. This tendency to interfere with the functions of local bodies is one that has been growing for some years past. It has been emphasised by everybody who has spoken in this debate. It was not denied even by Senator Quirke, whose apologia, to say the least, was not very convincing, and which amounted to a kind of a plea that one cannot bring democracy into this question because the people on these committees of agriculture are not elected. That is not the point at issue. The point is this: Are you going to leave the local people with a certain sense of responsibility? If you do not do so, then, as Senator Madden has pointed out, you are going to have a deterioration in the personnel of these local authorities.
Finally, I should like to say that I often think that a great deal of good can be learned from foreign countries which are in a similar position to our own country. The model State, in between the two Great Wars, was the new State of Czechoslovakia. Many fine textbooks, both in English and other languages, have been written on the position of affairs in that country, and one of the striking facts that was brought out by the historians was that there was a very great extension of local powers to the people of that country: that freedom  was allowed to the local people to make mistakes. After all, if a man is not to be allowed to make mistakes, then his freedom is unduly curtailed. If he makes gross mistakes, then the people will no longer nominate, or elect him, as the case may be. You have got to allow the local people to work out their own salvation. Even though the case might not arise where the services of such people would no longer be needed, I think it is a wrong attitude to hold such a threat over them, because you will not get good work from the local people if the mere threat of such a thing happening is held over them. For those reasons, therefore, I am in favour of this amendment, and I propose to vote for it.
Sir John Keane: I have very few words to say with regard to this amendment, but I should like to say that in connection with what the last speaker said it takes me back 15 years or more ago when, perhaps, I was in my salad days and had not so much experience as I have now. I found, by experience, that it was useless for me to bring forward arguments of philosophies, no matter how sound they might be, and I said to myself that I must wait until somebody else came forward with a sound philosophy in regard to these matters whom I could support. I am very glad to know that people who might claim to have a more popular representation than myself have become more vocal on such matters.
Mr. T. Walsh: I should like to know what are these committees of agriculture being set up for. Some Senators have spoken and told us that they knew nothing about agriculture, but those committees of agriculture have been set up for a definite purpose, and that purpose, largely, is to carry out the schemes initiated by the Department of Agriculture. Those committees of agriculture, in many cases, are sub-committees of county councils, and although it has been stated here that no county committee of agriculture has been dissolved in the past 13 years, I should like to point out that  that is wrong. We have had cases of county councils being dissolved in the past 13 years and, automatically, the committees of agriculture connected with these county councils were also dissolved. Therefore, you have had cases of county committees of agriculture being dissolved during that period. Why was that? It was because they were not carrying out their duties as members of the county council, and when they could not carry out their duties as members of the county council, I take it that they could not carry out their duties as members of the county committee of agriculture.
We know that at the present time, and for some time past, some county councils, or rather county committees of agriculture, have, by holding their meetings late in the week, succeeded in getting into the Sunday papers so as to do harm to the tillage or food drive which is now being made in the country. Their object was, not to help the Minister, but to prevent him from having his tillage scheme carried out in the country. As I said on the last occasion here, you had resolutions passed—I was speaking of what are known as snowball resolutions— coming from members of the county committees of agriculture, coming from men who, you would think, would have some sense of responsibility, asking the Government why they had not provided more machinery, why they did not increase the prices for wheat, beet, and so on, although they knew very well that there was no hope of the machinery being provided, or of those prices being increased. All they were concerned about was to bring about a certain atmosphere amongst the farmers, which would not make for the good of the community as a whole. That was true of many of those committees, and if they do not carry out the duties for which they were appointed, then, in my view, there is no remedy except to put somebody else there, because what they are put there for is, largely, to carry out schemes put forward by the Minister for Agriculture.
Dr. Ryan: First of all, I should like to express my admiration for certain Senators in being able to work themselves up to such flights of oratory on a matter of this kind. I do not think there has been anything like it since the War of Independence in America. This Bill is merely a re-enactment of what is there already. I have already explained that it was partly a codification, to use a legal phrase, of various enactments; in other words, that we were taking into the agricultural code certain matters that formerly were dealt with under the Local Government code, and we wanted in future, in the Department of Agriculture, to be able to rely on our own legislation, and not to have to fall back on Local Government legislation. I explained to the Seanad that, as the other Act, on which we were relying up to this point, was a matter for Local Government legislation, if the Minister for Agriculture wanted to get rid of a county committee of agriculture, he had to go to the Minister for Local Government, tell him the position, and ask him to suspend the county council in order that the Minister for Agriculture might be able to get rid of the county committee of agriculture. We had a way of getting rid of a county committee of agriculture prior to this but we are making it easier, if you like, to do so in future.
Senator Baxter spoke very strongly against this proposal but, strange to say, he had to admit that a county committee of agriculture might not do its business properly. I think the Senator did not help his case very much by suggesting that we might let the county committee of agriculture, in that event, be tried by the farmers of the county. Do we not all know very well that it would take a very long time before the farmers of the county would become so exasperated, that they would go in and eject the members of the committee by violence, because that would be the only way they could get rid of them if there was no law there to provide a means of getting rid of them? The Senator suggested that in order to work the  farmers up to the point where they might use such violence, we might withdraw all premium bulls and boars and all the poultry stations in the county. That might be a good way of getting the thing done on the spot, but surely to goodness Senator Baxter is not going to argue that it would be good for agriculture to go to these extremes in order to operate what Senator Baxter believes to be democracy? I do not think anybody else would suggest that it is democracy. The Senator suggested that if all that failed, we might come along with a special Act of Parliament. The special Act, I think, would have to be introduced long before that, because I believe it would require a special Act to restrain the farmers who, the Senator suggested, would lay violent hands on the members of the committee. Why all this roundabout method of dealing with a recalcitrant county committee of agriculture?
Senator O'Donnell mentioned that he was glad that Senators spoke against centralisation of government. As long as we have a Dáil and Seanad, Senators may be sure that members of the Opposition will always speak against the central Government whenever they get the opportunity. It is only natural that they should but, when they do so, they ought to give us a better alternative than that which Senator Baxter put forward, the alternative of working the farmers up to such a state of indignation that they will go in and throw the members of a county committee of agriculture out on their heads. Senator Madden thinks that he would be failing in his duty to his colleagues or that he would be letting his colleagues down, if he did not oppose this section. Why? They have a clear conscience. If they have a clear conscience, how is he letting them down by not opposing this section? If they are doing their duty nobody will interfere with them; if they are not doing their duty, Senator Madden is letting them down by allowing the section to go through. I must say that I always heard that the county committee of agriculture in Limerick are doing their duty but if they are not doing their duty Senator Madden is right in opposing the section.  Do we let out fellow-men down when we vote for capital punishment for a man who commits murder? I do not believe we do because we all believe that our friends are not the sort of people who would murder their wives. We always legislate for other people, not for our own friends, in passing punitive legislation of that kind. I think that Senator Madden should look at the matter in that way, that he is not legislating for the Limerick County Committee of Agriculture because the Limerick County Committee of Agriculture would not do anything wrong.
The question of democracy has been introduced, but I believe democracy has disappeared in other countries because it was misused and because there was no way of dealing with the people who misused it. Why should we not take power to deal with a democratic local body if the members are not doing their duty to the people? Let somebody else be put in there to carry out the duties which they are supposed to carry out. To let a committee, which has failed to carry out its duties, carry on in the name of democracy and do all the harm it wishes, is to my mind an idea of democracy that is altogether out of date. I agree with Senator O'Donnell that we must take the central body as the properly elected democratic body and let it hold a watching brief for other bodies to see that things are properly carried out. I do not say that Senator Baxter accused me personally, but the Senator seems to have a fear, at any rate, that the central authority is not as conversant with country conditions as it should be. I think that is altogether wrong, and I think there is no reason to fear that the central authority will be in any way unreasonable in dealing with these local bodies. I do not know why this particular section should be made such a major question. As I say, we are merely codifying the law by transferring from the local government code into the agricultural code certain functions or powers that already exist. We may in the transition from one Act to the other change the procedure as we did in this case, but I do not think  there is any necessity for making it such an important question as it has been made by certain Senators here.
Mr. Baxter: The Minister was very critical of people working themselves up but although he succeeded in working himself up to a very high pitch, I remain quite unconvinced by his arguments. In fact most of what has been said has confirmed me most strongly in the belief I have already expressed. May I make this comment on the Minister's statement? Senator Walsh indicated that county committees of agriculture had already been dissolved. It is true they were dissolved, as he suggested, because there was a dissolution of the county councils in these counties previously, but the Minister did not tell us whether or not he has asked for the dissolution of any county committee of agriculture since he came into office.
Mr. Baxter: I should like Senator Walsh to get clear on that point, that if county committees of agriculture have been dissolved it was only by reason of the fact that the county councils in those counties had been dissolved and that certain members were members of the dissolved council. It is a fact, as I know myself, that quite a number of these committees were carried on by men who were not members of the county council at all. These men carried on the work of the county committees of agriculture even though the county council was dissolved.
I shall leave Senator Quirke, because really the only point he made was to try to introduce a kind of complex into this discussion which I wanted to exclude from it. May I say that I feel that this is not a matter about which there should be any political division at all? It is not true that I would argue something against the Minister merely because I belong to an Opposition Party. I would support this proposition, against my own colleagues, if I could believe in it according to the light of reason. Senator Quirke talked about what a committee might  do if they got an Order about the growing of wheat. There was a certain amount of the same attitude of mind expressed in Senator Walsh's argument. Senator Walsh indicated to the House that committees were there to carry out schemes decided by the Ministry. I do not know if that is a fact. Schemes, I think, are approved by the Minister, but they are decided by the county committees. The whole of the money that is spent by the county committee is taken off the local rates and the schemes are merely approved by the Minister, if my memory and my experience as a member of a county committee serve me right. Really, the schemes are the schemes of the local authority and they are approved by the committee. The Minister can contradict me if I am not correct about that.
Senator Walsh made a rather peculiar contribution to the debate. He cited, without naming, a particular county where the committee, according to him, availed of its weekly meetings to get reports of its proceedings into the Sunday newspapers. He said that at those meetings members not only spoke against the food drive but passed resolutions against it. I hope that the Minister, even under the powers that he is seeking in this Bill, will not suspend a committee for doing that. I do not think that the county committees are to determine for any farmer what he is to do on his own land. Senator Walsh, and other farmers, will decide that for themselves. Every farmer will decide for himself how he is going to farm his land in a particular year. It is not because I am a member of a county committee of agriculture that I am going to do a particular thing on my land. Neither will Senator Walsh or any other Senator. In my opinion, the passing of resolutions at a meeting of a county committee either for or against a particular kind of food drive will not decide 3 per cent. of the farmers of the country as to what they are going to do. That is my opinion for what it is worth. The farmers will act on their own judgment so far as their own farms are concerned. They will take into account the difficulties they are confronted  with, the possibilities of success, the type of soil they have and the price that they are going to get for the product from a particular field. These are the factors that are going to determine farmers in the use of their land.
Senator Walsh objects to a county committee of agriculture passing a resolution to increase prices. Why would not dairy farmers, if they are members of a county committee of agriculture, pass a resolution to say that in their opinion 10½d. a gallon is not enough for their milk, or why would not beet growers, if they were members of a county committee, pass a resolution asking for 50/- or 60/- a ton for their beet? If they got more, then you would have more food and more sugar for everybody. Why should they not pass such a resolution at a meeting of a county committee of agriculture just as well as at a meeting of the Beet Growers' Association? If you attempt to spancel men's minds because they are members of a county committee of agriculture, and prevent them from passing judgment on matters in relation to agriculture, in so far as those matters form the basis of what is going to determine policy, then you are going to prevent the development of any individuality in the country. During the last 13 years the Minister has never asked for the dissolution of any county committee of agriculture.
Mr. Baxter: Well, during his term of office, he has never asked for the dissolution of one of these committees and, in fact, since this State was set up, a county committee of agriculture has never been dissolved. Yet in this Bill the Minister is taking power to dissolve these committees. In my opinion the Minister does not want such powers. At election time we hear a lot of talk about an appeal to the people and that, in the last analysis, the people are the arbiters in determining whether or not Government policy is right. In this Bill a committee can be dissolved if its  duties are not being effectively discharged, if a lawful Order, or direction or regulation of the Minister is not being carried out, if it is not going to obey a judgment of the court, and if it refuses to allow its accounts to be audited. Reading over these reasons for the dissolution of a committee, as set out in the Bill, one would think that county committees of agriculture were composed of groups of crazy men. That is the only interpretation that I can put on the section as worded—that someone was trying to get reasons or excuses for putting such a section into the Bill. It would be much better, I think, for agriculture, if, instead of doing what is being proposed here, the line that I gave an indication of were followed. I think if the local people put men into positions of responsibility on county councils or committees of agriculture and entrust them with the power of administration, that, instead of dissolving a committee, the better way of bringing the local people to their senses would be to get the right men in control, and let the people suffer for the sins, faults and defects of those whom they had elected. That would be a much sounder basis on which to build up democratic institutions in the country. But, instead of doing that, we are taking the other line.
I want to ask members of the Fianna Fáil Party if they have ever seen less sense of responsibility in the country than there is to-day. In the newspapers this morning we read a statement made by the President of the Red Cross Society deploring the fact that the members were leaving that organisation, or at least were absenting themselves from the meetings, that the organisation was falling away and was not getting the support that it deserved. Have we not exactly the same situation in regard to every other organisation in the country? All that comes from the belief that everything has to be done in Dublin by the people in Dublin, and that there is no obligation on the people down the country to make a contribution of any kind whatever towards the strengthening of the State or the betterment of life. Senators may dislike or deny that, but I put it to them  that they can see evidence of it all around them. I ask members of the Fianna Fáil clubs what kind of constructive propositions have they ever heard put forward from them for the strengthening of the national life? I know the kind of discussions that are going on up and down the country. People are more concerned about petty things than they are about the bigger issues—petty things such as bog roads and the like. They are not at all so concerned about the bigger issues that are going to determine the future of this nation for generations to come. A great deal of that kind of mind which is being bred in the country is represented in the section.
This is not the first time that a section of this kind was put into a Bill. It was not put in for the first time by the Minister or his Government. It was put in by their predecessors in office. I quarrelled with that particular mentality away back in 1924 or 1925. I agree that the conditions then were different from what they are to-day, but we are perpetuating that kind of thing in the section, instead of devoting ourselves to efforts that would tend to strengthen the nation at its foundations, and in that way build up a wiser and a more educated democratic opinion. In my opinion all that is faulty, and the sooner we find out that it is so, the better it will be for the future government of the country.
Mr. Maguire: The Minister made reference to the fact that this section would bring the law governing agriculture into line with what is in the Local Government code. He said that was one of the main reasons for having this section in the Bill. In my view the Minister's reference was a rather unfortunate one. I know from personal experience that, under the Local Government Acts, various councils throughout the country have been abolished, following the holding of a local inquiry.
I think that that is the wrong procedure in one way. There are inspectors of the Department of Local Government paid to go around the  country doing their work. I can speak as one who was associated for several years with a local authority. From the day I joined the local authority—and I was chairman until I left—I never saw a Local Government inspector. That is the positive truth. The people who are on these committees are not paid, but the inspectors are paid, and I would like to put forward this constructive suggestion to the Minister, that, before he proceeds to abolish any of these committees, he should require from his officers absolute proof that the inspector, whoever he is, attended these committees time after time and endeavoured to get them to do their work. I have known of councils which have been abolished and there was never a representation made by any authority from the central Government that they should do their work. I think that is absurd. It would be the duty of these inspectors to put before the committees the matters they wanted rectified and if the committees failed to carry out the recommendation they should certainly be abolished. Of course, it is not a matter for this Act; it is one for administration within the Department itself. In my experience as chairman, we held meetings month after month, but no one came to visit us.
I can quite see, although I do not say it is the case, that inspectors of the Department of Local Government or of the Department of Agriculture might be negligent in doing their own work and bringing these matters before the committee. You have the same principle governing ordinary commercial life. In every firm controlling multiple shops there are inspectors in charge of each dozen or 20 shops. It is the inspector's job to go around the shops and he is held responsible. If they are not doing well, he must satisfy the directors that he did his work before they will get rid of a manager. I think the same thing should apply in this Bill, or in the administration of this Bill, and I think if it was done it would remove the need for the abolition of urban or county councils or committees of agriculture. If the permanent official responsible failed to get a  committee to put its affairs right, then it should be abolished.
I think it is definitely wrong to send down an inspector to hold a local inquiry in an area when most of the men on the committee do not know where they have failed to do their duty. That has happened time out of number in all parts of Ireland. Bodies have been abolished without knowing why, after local inquiries generally lasting an hour or an hour and a half. I would make those who draw the money for doing the work responsible, and only when he was satisfied that the local bodies had failed in their duty should he consider holding an inquiry. I hope the Minister will consider the matter in the administration of the Act.
Mr. Johnston: I do not intend to take up the time of the House very much, but I want to draw attention to one or two things which have struck me very seriously during the discussion. Discussions have ranged over democracy, bureaucracy, continental affairs, central Europe, and over, I think, practically all the world, but it is only at the close of Senator Baxter's speech that the terms of this section have been brought into question. The Minister did make some reference to it, but only at the end of his speech did Senator Baxter reach what was being asked for in this House. I feel that Senators might pay more attention to the wording of the Bill, instead of making speeches for political purposes or to have them read by their supporters and friends in the country or to secure laudation from some source.
Application of the actual wording to the terms of the section would greatly simplify it. For more than an hour we have been discussing the section, and we are not nearly finished, although 15 minutes should be sufficient to say whether the section should be retained or not. It states: “If and whenever...”—whatever that may mean—certain things happen, (a), (b), (c), and (d), the Minister has power to dissolve the committee and, what is very important, he may by Order dissolve the  committee and, as he may think fit, by Order cause a new appointment to be made by the council of the county of members of the committee or transfer the several powers and duties of the committee to any body or person or persons.
If the section is deleted, the position will be that if some committee of agriculture refused to allow its accounts to be audited over a year or two years, nothing could be done about it. There was an election of county councils in 1934, and these committees of agriculture, like other subsidiary bodies, remained in office from 1934 to 1942. If some committee had refused to allow its accounts to be audited or neglected to do something else, notwithstanding the threats of the Minister, what would be the position of the committee? What would be the position of the Minister? He would have to go to the Minister for Local Government and ask him to dissolve the county council. Now, that position has been simplified, and under certain circumstances, if a committee refuses to carry out lawful orders or to comply with a judgment of the courts, the Minister is taking power in the Act instead of in a roundabout way to have that committee dissolved. Senator Baxter tried to put the onus on the people to raise up almost, as he said, in wrath and have them removed. But the position is very democratic. If a committee of agriculture refuses, under some of these orders, to allow its accounts to be audited or refuses to obey the judgment of a court, it can be dissolved and a new committee appointed. I think that is very democratic and I cannot see why any person should raise an objection to it.
I cannot speak with very much experience of committees of agriculture failing to do their duty. For almost 30 years I have been a member of public bodies—since May, 1914, as a matter of fact. I have been closely in touch with local government over that period. For a great part of the time I have been a member of a county committee of agriculture. It was my duty on one occasion to object to a member of that county committee because he had a poultry station. It happened  that he was in that position before my time as a member of a county committee, but when I became a member I felt it was my duty to draw attention to the matter. What was the result? That particular man resigned from the county committee. That is one instance where at least one member of a county committee was unfit to be on such a committee. In such circumstances the county committees should not fail to do their duty. Of course, that would not be sufficient to cause the Minister to dissolve the committee.
I hope the House will refuse to delete this section. There are many laws in  operation at the moment and they have no effect on us, simply because we are not guilty of any breach of those laws. I believe that this measure, when it becomes operative—I sincerely hope that it will become law—will have no ill-effects on any committee that does its duty. There are many laws which are regarded as harsh, but that is only when they are broken. It is immaterial, to people who do not break the laws, what laws are enacted. It will be the very same in this case. This particular provision will come into effect only “if and whenever required”. I hope the Seanad will refuse to delete the section.
Campbell, Seán P.
Colbert, Michael B.
Hawkins, Frederick J. H.
Healy, Denis D.
Honan, Thomas V.
Kelly, Peter T.
|Kennedy, Margaret L.
Lynch, Peter T.
O Buachalla, Liam.
O'Donnell, Francis H.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
O Máille, Pádraic.
Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
|Baxter, Patrick F.
Fearon, William R.
Keane, Sir John.
Madden, David J.
Moore, T. C. Kingsmill.
O'Connell, Thomas J.
Parkinson, James J.
Ruane, Seán T.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Hawkins and Hearne; Níl: Senators Doyle and Sweetman.
Question declared carried.
Sections 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mr. O'Connell: I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (1), line 5, after the word “age” to insert the following words “not below the age of sixty-five,”.
This amendment is a very simple one and its purpose is obvious. There should be no difficulty in getting the House to agree with it. I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty in getting the Minister to agree to it, either. I referred to this matter on Second Reading and pointed out that the provision in the Bill giving the Minister power to fix any specified age as the age limit for officers was very vague and would give rise to uneasiness  on the part of public servants. In the course of his reply, the Minister said:—
“We all agree that there should be some retiring age and I am sure we will all agree that it should be a stated age for everybody. We should not deal with every individual according to his condition.”
The Minister agreed that there should be a stated age. I do not seek by this amendment to restrict the Minister to a particular age. What I seek is to have a limit fixed below which he ought not to go. That limit I have put down at 65 years, which is the normal retiring age in virtually all the public services. If this section goes through unaltered, there will be great uneasiness amongst the people concerned. Certain conditions were set out for them in the Local Government Act. This provision gives the Minister power to say when they should be compelled to retire.
The Minister stated in the other House that there should be no cause for uneasiness, that no Minister would be unfair or unreasonable in the treatment of public servants. Yet, that could be done. As a matter of fact, it has been done quite recently in the case of another branch of the public service. In that branch, persons who had every reason to believe that they would be allowed to serve until they would reach the age of 65 years and qualify for full pension—a practice that had been in force for 25 years or thereabouts—were given about a month's notice that they would have to retire at the age of 60 years, when they had completed only seven-eights of the service which would qualify them for full pension. Advantage was taken by the Minister concerned of an Act almost 80 years old to deprive those public servants of, I do not say a right, but a privilege which had been accorded to them for over 25 years. If that was done in one case, it could be done in another case. A plausible reason could be advanced for so doing. Those public servants could be told that there were younger people needing employment and that they would have to make room for them.
 There will be cases in which people who have reached the age of 65 years will be in a position to give further service and it would be only fair to allow those persons to serve for some time longer so as to qualify for the retiring pension. I do not propose by this amendment to restrict the Minister's right to allow them to continue, but I do think that there should be some restriction as regards the lower limit for retiring public servants—that the Minister should not be given power compulsorily to retire, by reason of age, any person younger than 65 years. The question of the efficiency of officials does not enter into the consideration of this amendment at all. I am dealing with retirement merely from the point of view of the age limit. If a man is not doing his duty and if he is inefficient there are ways of dispensing with his services. I am dealing entirely with the retiring of a man for the reason of age, and he should not be retired for that reason at a lesser age than 65.
Dr. Ryan: I think the Senator was under the impression that some change from the Local Government Act of 1941 was being made here. But there is not. As a matter of fact, Section 23 of that Act and this section use practically the same words. At any rate, the effect of those sections is that the appropriate Minister can make a declaration fixing any specific age to be the age limit for all officials or any class of officers for the time of retiral from the public service. It may be difficult to argue against the age of 65 at this stage, but the Bill was drafted on the assumption that the section would pass in this way, and that very full consideration would be given afterwards to the age stated in any declaration made.
I think it is quite possible, for instance, considering the various classes of people working for a county committee of agriculture, that we might state one age for one class and a different age for another. We have county inspectors and horticultural instructors for whom conditions would be much the same. On the other hand you have poultry instructresses  and instructresses in dairying, and it might be possible that, on consideration, a different age would be stated for these ladies. My point is that we have not given any consideration whatever to the age that would be declared, and as far as I am concerned my intention was, before declaring an age, to get a schedule of all the officers concerned for the whole country, giving their age, the amount of service and, if possible, what would be the pension if we brought in a rule for retirement at say 65 or 67 or 70. In other words, having some regard to the personal element before making the declaration.
The Seanad will see, therefore, my reason for my feeling free at the moment to mention any particular age, because I do not know what the considerations may be. Senators may say there is no objection to fixing a minimum age, but I think it is possible, on going through these various classes and examining the work they have to do and how they have to do it, to find that it would be desirable to have an age even lower than 65. Some of these people have to do their work mostly on bicycles, and they are on the road all day practically, going from farm to farm, and it is not easy to see that men or women can be very vigorous around the age between 60 and 65 or over 65 to carry out a programme of that kind.
I am sure that the Senators will agree that what we have to keep in mind in the first instance is efficiency of the services, and we must see if there is any danger of want of efficiency through people getting too old to do their duties under the present conditions. The second point is that if, as a result of maintaining that efficiency, we are likely to create undue or unexpected hardship in retiring people at a lower age than they might have expected, it would be our duty to do something special for the people concerned. If we look at the question first from the viewpoint of efficiency, the next consideration would be the question of personal hardship, and I would ask Senator O'Connell, although I see his point and his anxiety about  the people for whom he is speaking, to look at it from the other point of view —the question of efficiency. If it is necessary on full consideration to make an age even lower than 65 all I can say at this stage is that I would definitely agree in that case, where we would have taken these people by surprise, that we should feel they were entitled to something extra in the form of added years for pension purposes. But I would appeal to the Senator not to tie the hands of the Minister as far as age is concerned at this stage. I would ask the Senator to leave that matter on the understanding that if any age below 65 is fixed, special consideration would have to be given to the people concerned in regard to their pensions, in the immediate future. People getting ten or 12 years' notice would be in a different position. But if a declaration is made, say, within the next 12 months and the axe falls immediately on certain people between 60 and 65 special consideration should be given to them.
Mr. O'Connell: I do not doubt the Minister's good intentions at all when he speaks of giving special consideration to special cases. But I would remind the House that consideration does not rest entirely, or even largely, with the Minister, but rests with another Minister, who might not be so sympathetic in these matters. That is the main cause of the difficulty I speak of. The Local Government Act which he speaks of contains a provision whereby in certain cases where officials were being retired before they had qualified for the full pension, a number of years would be added on in order to make up the pension, and my information is that ever since that Act was passed in 1924 no case has occurred where such years were added on. That is my information; it may not be correct—that although that power was given to the Minister in special cases where the man would not have qualified by service for a pension, the Minister for Local Government could give him added years, it has not been exercised. And knowing things, as I know them, I would not blame the Minister for Local Government because it was not exercised.
 Knowing things as I do, I will not blame the Minister for Local Government and Public Health because that power was not exercised. Where pensions are concerned, it is not the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, the Minister for Agriculture or the Minister for Education that has the last word. That is why I would like to see put down here in black and white in the Bill something that would not tie the hand of the Minister to any great extent. This only sets a certain limit, that everybody will have the right ordinarily to go to 65, the normal retiring age. As far as I could gather, the Minister's statement will not help to allay the uneasiness that people may be retired before the age of 65. I do not think the Minister has made any case as to why that should be so. If there are cases where persons should be retired before 65, they will be the special cases in which special consideration will be necessary. It is there he should exercise the special consideration, if he has to retire people before 65, by adding such years as will bring them up to 65 to get the pension.
Dr. Ryan: A similar question arose in the Dáil and I said then that I had discussed this question with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
Mr. O'Connell: I am afraid he has not the last word. That is the trouble.
Dr. Ryan: He has, in these cases. It does not go any further than that. I discussed this question with him, and he said that where a county committee of agriculture was agreeable, and where I asked him to give special consideration, he was quite prepared to allow added years, where hardship could be shown owing to the rule.
Mr. Hearne: It may interest Senator O'Connell to know that in my county a considerable number of years was added to the service of an official who retired in the last couple of years. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health agreed to add the years, so it is not true to say there was no case.
Mr. O'Connell: I accept the  Senator's word. I was speaking only from information I had got.
Mr. Colgan: I support Senator O'Connell. It is quite reasonable to say that the retiring age be fixed at 65. I have not been impressed by the Minister's argument. The whole thing is left in a fluid state, and anyone can be retired at any age. I am not opposed to persons being kept in the service after 65, if the Minister thinks fit, but officers in the service of agricultural committees are entitled to know they can reasonably expect to go on to 65, and that their pensions will be based on the fact that they have given that service. Under this Bill, the Minister could fix an age which might create hardship, or even injustice, in regard to certain officers.
I appreciate the Minister's difficulty and that the tendency is growing—it has been in other Acts and, in particular, in the Local Government Act— to give power to retire people when the Minister thinks fit. I remember the time when the retiring age for people not in pensionable jobs was 70. Then we discovered they were working too long and fixed the age at 65. Now the tendency is to go lower. That may have its points, but people who are claiming pension rights should know definitely that they can go on to a particular age. I think that 65 is a reasonable age and that the Minister should agree to insert the words suggested by Senator O'Connell.
Mr. Foran: I do not think there is any great difference between Senator O'Connell and the Minister. I suggest that the Senator withdraw his amendment and re-introduce it on the Report Stage in accordance with the undertaking on the part of the Minister that, in the case of persons under 65, special provision would be made to see that they suffer no hardship. If the Senator would submit an amendment implementing that, it should suffice. I do not see any great difference between them, as the Minister has committed himself by saying that, where he has to retire people under 65, he is prepared to make special provision for them.
Mr. M. Hayes: It would not be as simple as that.
Mr. O'Connell: I did not understand that the Minister said that. If he would agree to submit such an amendment on the Report Stage, I would agree to withdraw my amendment now, but I do not think he gave that undertaking.
Mr. M. Hayes: The undertaking the Minister gave was that if on investigation he considers there would be hardship, he would do his best to bring in an amendment. If you have to leave it to the Minister to decide whether there is hardship or not, you have nothing better than what is in the Bill. A promise by the Minister, delivered publicly after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health would, in accordance with the usual procedure, be regarded as a Departmental promise binding on the Minister and his successors.
Mr. Foran: Not in law.
Mr. M. Hayes: Not in law, but you would still leave to the Minister for the time being the power to determine whether there was hardship or not, so I do not think you would have anything better. I think the Minister made a good case with regard to the variety of people working under the committees of agriculture, men and women, which may make different ages desirable, but presumably no one would be retired under 60.
Dr. Ryan: That is true.
Mr. O'Connell: I would not be prepared to make this 60 instead of 65, as that would mean that the Minister would feel justified in retiring them all at 60.
Dr. Ryan: I would like to make it clear that I have not by any means concluded that 65 should be the age. When we drafted this section we left it to the Minister to decide, so we did not go into the points for and against a particular age. When we do that we might—or might not—come to the conclusion that an age below 65 would be advisable for certain classes. One  thing I said I was prepared to guarantee to the Seanad was that, if we did by any chance go below 65, then I would admit that certain people would probably be taken by surprise, and for some years to come anybody retired by that particular rule would be sympathetically considered. What I mean by sympathetically considered is that in the case of anybody retiring under 65 under that particular rule, and where the committee is agreeable to give added years, I would put the case to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, who has promised me that he would be sympathetic in such cases.
Mr. Baxter: I presume the Minister has looked into this in relation to the position of officials in his Department who might be affected by it. I take it that he has not brought this in without some idea of the numbers?
Dr. Ryan: I could only give the numbers. I have no idea of the personal circumstances.
Mr. Baxter: I think the Minister would be confronted with this situation. At present, as he mentioned, an agricultural instructor or a poultry instructress would have to cycle. They have to do a certain amount of cycling, but I think they are managing by hiring cars or carrying on with the eight gallons of petrol that they are allowed monthly. I suppose some members of this House are 65 years old. There are farmers of 65 and 70 years of age ploughing and working with horses. There are officials of 65, 66 and 67 years of age whose retirement would be a great loss, because they have reached mature years and have accumulated an immense amount of knowledge of the counties in which they work. It would take young men or women a long time to gain the same knowledge. One thing has to be balanced against the other. If officials are reasonably fit, and if their work has been effective, it would really be a great loss to a county if they were retired. As that position has to be taken into account, I feel that there should be some degree of elasticity about the matter. Even if there is a  fixed age there should be the possibility of retaining good officials. In that sense, it is a debatable point whether a good man in agricultural matters ought to be asked to retire at 65. From what the Minister said I take it that his idea is that women in the service might retire at an earlier age than men.
Dr. Ryan: That is possible. I have not considered the matter.
Mr. Baxter: I do not want to involve the Minister into making any statement until he has more information. I agree with the Minister that his problem is to maintain efficiency, but I also agree with Senator O'Connell that people who are in the service accepted it that they were secure up to 65, which was the recognised retiring age. It would take a great deal to compensate them for the loss of a period of years if they had to retire under that age. I do not know what the Minister can do to compensate them in such circumstances. There is one thing certain, it should not be merely an expression from the Minister. These officials want to have their security written down in law, so that they know once they went into the service, it is there for them up to a certain age. That has been the custom. To alter it would not be wise because these people would not be satisfied and perhaps less efficient. That is something to be avoided. In a general way I am in agreement with Senator O'Connell's amendment and I will vote for it.
Mr. O'Connell: I appreciate what the Minister has said regarding what he would do. I do not know whether it will be necessary when fixing the age for one class or another to put it into a statutory order. Will it be a statutory order?
Dr. Ryan: No.
Mr. O'Connell: If it were a statutory order and if the Minister embodied what he said in it, all would be well. In any case I do not propose to question the matter further in view of what the Minister said.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Healy: I wish to supplement to some extent the points raised by Senator Baxter. We are assuming that a person is entitled to the full pension on retiring at 65.
Cathaoirleach: The amendment, Senator, has been withdrawn.
Question proposed: “That Section 8 stand part of the Bill.”
Professor Tierney: On this section I want to bring before the House a case which involves what the Minister referred to as a rather severe and unexpected hardship. It is the case of a small number of officials who are inspectors in the Department of Agriculture. The total number is 12. They were formerly employed by county committees of agriculture under the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Act, but at various dates since 1925 they resigned their posts with the county committees of agriculture on being appointed to permanent positions in the Department of Agriculture. For about ten years they were under the impression, as far as pensions were concerned, that their case was covered by the Local Government Act, 1925. They understood they were entitled to pensions on their full retiring salaries, and that all years of service both with the county committees of agriculture and the Department would be taken into account when fixing the pensions. They suddenly discovered in 1940 that they did not come under the Act of 1925, and were entitled only to such years of service as they have had with the Department, and that years of service previous to that with county committees of agriculture were matters between these committees and themselves; that they would have to go back to these committees to get whatever pensions they were entitled to at the rate of pay they had with them, in other words, a lower rate of pay than their retiring salaries. The fault was not theirs. They were assured by the Secretary of the Department that the Act of 1925 applied in their case, and that their superannuation and pension rights were protected. It was  only three or four years ago that they adverted to the fact that they were not so protected.
I wonder whether it would be possible for the Minister, on the Report Stage, to introduce an amendment to this section of the Bill to meet their case. It is a case involving serious loss on these very worthy officials. I think everybody will be prepared to admit that they have a complete claim to justice and to have their position set right. I should remark that their position is markedly inferior, compared with men who were employed by the county committees of agriculture and who were transferred to the Department before 1922, as for such men special provision was made in the Local Government Act, 1931, which entitled them to pensions on their full retiring salaries, and incorporated their service with the Local Government Department with their previous service with county committees of agriculture. They were entitled to pensions at the maximum rate. I think nobody can argue that these officials have not a just claim that ought to be met by some means. If it were possible for me to do so, I would have moved an amendment to the section to meet this case, but such an amendment could not be moved by a Senator. It can only be inserted by the Minister. If it is possible to do so, I want the Minister to introduce an amendment on the Report Stage to meet the case of these officials.
Mr. Quirke: There is a good deal of reason in the statement made by Senator Tierney about this matter. It strikes me that unless something is done to change the existing provision a body of officials might be penalised. If men start at a low salary and are promoted, it would seem to me to be unreasonable, if and when the age of retirement is reached, they should be pensioned on the scale of their original salaries. It is quite possible in this country for a man to graduate from a position with a low salary to the head of the Department. Such a man, from my reading of the situation, although he had reached practically the position of head, or had even reached the position  of head, of the Department, could be retired on the pension to which he would be entitled if he had remained in his original position. I think that is contrary to the procedure in other Departments, and contrary to the spirit behind the whole idea of pensions. A man will naturally have regulated his life on the basis of his salary, and, in the evening of his life, it would be rather harsh treatment to force him to return to a standard of living out of all proportion to that on which he had lived before his retirement.
Mr. M. Hayes: I should like to support the case put forward by Senator Tierney and also to put it, apart from the particular individuals he mentioned, on a wider basis. It is quite clear, in the case of the people Senator Tierney mentions and who are, as Senator Quirke has pointed out, in the nature of things, good men, it was due to the fact that they were good that they were selected from the local service for Government service. They are all, I think, university graduates, and the intention of the Local Government Acts was to give them their service, but, as the Minister knows, and as we all know, the intentions of an Act are not always adequately carried out in the Act. These people are suffering by reason of some inadvertence, because the principle is sound that, when a good man is discovered in the local service and goes into the Department of Agriculture, he should carry his years of service with him. That is not always so. In the case of Local Government—I may allude to this for a moment—people such as county surveyors and assistant county surveyors who go into the Local Government Department sometimes go in, then come out again and do not carry their years of service with them. It seems quite clear that there should be a scheme for putting that situation right. In this particular case, dealing with officers of county committees, the argument made by Senator Tierney and the further argument by Senator Quirke, that the good men are promoted, certainly demand that the position should be remedied, if it can be remedied. I think it is a matter for the Minister.  I do not know whether this is the particular Bill, but the Minister would be entitled to carry out the plain intentions of his predecessors, and also something which is quite plainly the right and equitable course, and a course which makes for efficiency in public service, both local and central.
Mr. Healy: Those have rights who dare maintain them. We are dealing now with Section 8 in regard to age limits, so I claim that I am in order.
Cathaoirleach: We are now dealing with the section.
Mr. Healy: I draw the attention of the House to my opening words in so far as I presume we are dealing with officials who, on retiring at the age of 65, will be in receipt of their full pensions. I have some experience of local public life, and it is quite possible for officials to be appointed to positions fairly late in life, and, by reason of that fact, not be entitled to full pension on reaching the age of 65. If they are capable men or women, physically fit and able to carry on, in my opinion, it would be unfair or at least unreasonable to retire them at the age of 65 when they will not be entitled to full pension.
Mrs. Concannon: I should like to point out that it would be inequitable for the Minister arbitrarily to assume that women become inefficient at an earlier age than men. I do not think there is anything in that at all. Women's best years, they say, are between 60 and 70. I was 65 myself the other day and I never felt as spry in my life. I want to press on the Minister that, when fixing the age, he should not arbitrarily assume that women at the age of 60 are incapable of doing their work. Modern life has made people live longer and preserve their health longer, and these are matters to be taken into consideration when the age limit is being fixed.
Mr. Hawkins: As the mover has agreed to accept the Minister's suggestion, I do not propose to say very much, but I should like to join in the appeal made by Senator Tierney and  other Senators for consideration for these men who are in danger of being victimised because of their efficiency and because they were taken into another service. I understand that the position is that they would have to go back to the local authority by which they were employed and take up with that authority the question of their service in regard to their pensions. We can understand the attitude of a local authority when an employee who has been away for 10, 12 or 15 years working with the Department of Agriculture, comes back with a request that his service with that authority be considered for pension purposes. I appeal to the Minister to see what can be done to give these men justice in regard to pensions.
Cathaoirleach: I understand it has been agreed that the House should continue to sit until this Bill is finished and then to adjourn for tea.
Mr. O'Donnell: I want to add my word to the appeal which has been made. It really should not be regarded as an appeal to the Minister. It is a matter of justice for these men who gave service to the State. If they gave that service, first, in one capacity and then in another, it is sheer justice that they should get their full pension rights.
Mr. O'Connell: I support what Senator Tierney has said, and I point out to the Minister that there is a precedent in the case of inspectors of national schools who were promoted from positions of national teachers. They get their pensions based on their inspector's salary when they retire. Their years of service as national teachers are counted to their credit when their years of service are being calculated. The principle, as I say, has already been admitted. I think it is a sound principle, and I strongly support Senator Tierney's appeal.
Mr. Baxter: It is a surprise for me to learn that this is the situation with regard to a limited number of officials in the Minister's Department. I cannot quite understand how it is possible in a Department like the Department of Agriculture to have two sets of  officials, one the smaller group, recruited from the cream of agricultural instructors brought up to serve in the Department, and the other group recruited directly into the Department, and to find a position, at the end of a period, in which the pensions of the men who went directly into Merrion Street, on coming to retiring age, are calculated on their maximum salaries, while others who have worked side by side with them, and perhaps in some cases in superior positions, with, for some time, higher salaries, find themselves going out on lower pensions. The equities of the case are such that there is only one decision which can justly be come to. I do not know whether the Minister has any difficulties in the matter, but there are things which even a Minister must stand for, however difficult and perhaps unpalatable they may be. The equities of this case demand that when officials of his Department have earned their retiring allowances, these allowances shall be calculated on their maximum salaries, just as other officials in the Department have their pensions calculated. I think it creates an impossible situation to take such an official away from a local authority. You take him because he is a very good man, and then, perhaps 15 or 20 years after, the local authority have to pay their share of the contribution, and they are not very willing to do so, as can quite well be understood. Unpleasant as that is, however, it is much more unpleasant for the individual himself, who has to go and collect his pension from the county committee concerned, out of whose service he walked 15 or 20 years previously.
Obviously, that is not a reasonable procedure at all, and, apparently, the number of people who are affected by this is really limited, but the hardship presses, none the less, on these people, and certainly the inequities of the case must be rather galling on men who, because of their competence, were admitted to the Department of Agriculture, where, undoubtedly, their services must have been of such a character as to make the executive officers over them feel that they were  justified in bringing them from their work down the country to work in the Department of Agriculture itself. I think the Minister should make up his mind that this is the kind of case that should be set right, and that if there has been an oversight, in the passing of previous legislation in connection with these people, it should be put right at once. Certainly, at any rate, the Minister ought to take steps to see that the men who came up from the country to his Department should be treated no less fairly than the men who took the same road years before this State was set up, but who had these benefits awarded to them after the setting up of this State by law.
Dr. Ryan: First of all, I should like to make clear to Senator Mrs. Concannon that I have not decided that women are at a less advantage than men when it comes to the matter of age. All I am trying to point out is that the work they are doing might be different and that, therefore, there should be some differentiation. In saying that, however, I do not mean that women should be at any disadvantage as compared with men of the same age. With regard to Senator Tierney's remarks, I should like to point out what is the actual position. A person who is working for a committee of agriculture for some years, and who afterwards comes to the Department, as things stand at present, will get two pensions. He will get one-sixtieth of his year's salary for every year he worked for the committee of agriculture, and then, for every year that he worked in the Department, he will get one-eightieth.
Mr. O'Connell: Plus the lump sum.
Dr. Ryan: Yes, plus the lump sum, but the lump sum makes up for the difference, roughly, between the one-sixtieth, when he was working for the committee of agriculture, and the one-eightieth, when he was working for the Department. I understand that that is the position. At any rate he gets two pensions, and they are calculated in that way. Now, of course, in the Department we have been approached by these men and have heard their  case, and I have had some discussions with the Minister for Finance about them, but the Minister for Finance, so far, has not agreed to have the pension calculated, first of all, on the total number of years' service, both with the county committee of agriculture and with the Department, and secondly, based on the retiring salary in the Department. In that connection I think that the case quoted by Senator O'Connell with regard to a national school inspector, who comes up from the ranks of national teachers, is not exactly on the same basis, because the Minister for Finance has to pay the whole pension there in any case, both in regard to the man's service as a national teacher and also in regard to his service as a national school inspector. In the case we are concerned with here, part of the pension is paid by the county committee, and therefore it will not be so easy to get them to agree as it would be in the case of a national teacher who becomes an inspector of national schools. All I can say is that the matter is being discussed between the two Departments with a view to seeing whether we can get some better scheme for dealing with those men.
No doubt, as was mentioned by some Senator, you will have the case of two men who have been working side by side; one goes straight into the Department and the other goes into a committee of agriculture. It is possible that in such cases there might be a different pension awarded to these two men, when the time comes for a pension to be given, and it is also possible that one man might have to go to the trouble of trying to induce the county committee to agree to grant him a certain salary. These things have been pointed out by my Department to the Minister for Finance, and we have not come to any conclusion in the matter. In any case, such a matter would not be included in a Bill of this kind. I think that it should be included in a superannuation Bill, which would be a separate Bill from a Bill of this kind. Apart from what they call in legal circles the codification of legislation, I think we shall have to postpone this matter, because we have  not got agreement upon it from the Minister for Finance yet.
Mr. Baxter: When will you get it?
Dr. Ryan: I do not know if we will get it at all.
Mr. Hearne: I should like to draw attention to one point. Take the case of a man who serves ten years in a particular county, and who is transferred, perhaps at his own request, to another county, and puts in 20 years' service in the second county; his pension is based on the total number of years' service. That is point No. 1. Point No. 2 is whether it is based on his retiring salary. I happen to have had experience of these matters—and I think the House will admit that I usually do not make statements that are not correct—and I think that if that is the situation as regards local authorities, the same principle should run right through the whole of our legislation in connection with pensions.
Dr. Ryan: The Senator, perhaps, is aware that the first committee must pay the contribution to the second committee.
Mr. Hearne: Yes, that is why I know so much about it, because the difficulty we had was to get the first committee to contribute their share. I do agree, however, with what the Minister said with regard to these 12 men. I think he is on very strong grounds there. In the first place, an inspector from the Department will have a certain amount of difficulty in dealing with the committee when he is coming back as an official of the Government, because that, naturally, is going to create a certain amount of antagonism amongst the members of the committee. That is general, and it is quite natural, and I think that if the Minister could find some way whereby justice could be done to that official, so that he would have all the years of his service as an official of the local committee, plus his years' service as a Government inspector in a Government Department, taken into account, and that his pension would be based on his retiring salary, and if the amount due from the county committee of agriculture could be  stopped from some of the grants, or something like that, it would be far better than to leave that official in the rather invidious position of having to go back, after 15 or 20 years, to the county committee of agriculture. I think it would be well to make it clear, before any particular case might arise, to the committees of agriculture that that would be the procedure, and if that were done I think he would have no objection from these committees of agriculture.
Mr. O'Connell: The only point I wish to make is to show the urgency of this matter. It may be—I do not know—that some of these men may have to retire very soon. If that were the case, if this matter were not settled in their favour, and if they had to retire under present conditions, a precedent would be created and it would be very hard to get over it later on.
Dr. Ryan: We are not up against that case at the moment I think.
Mr. Baxter: You did not wait until you were to get power to dissolve the committees.
Section 8 agreed to.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (1), to delete all words from and including the words “there is” in line 36, to and including the word “that” in line 37, and substitute therefor the following words:—“such committee or the Minister considers it necessary or desirable that an inquiry should be held as to whether”.
This is a little bit more than a drafting amendment, as is the amendment which follows it, to which I might be permitted briefly to refer in opening on this amendment.
Leas-Chathaoirleach: The two may be taken together.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: Having regard to the fact that it is already past 6 o'clock and that we have decided to  finish this Bill before the tea adjournment, I shall be very brief. Everybody agrees that it is occasionally necessary to inquire into the misdemeanours of an official and that it is very desirable to suspend him until that is done in order that you may get hold of his books and papers, to see that none of them are missing and that none of them are altered. But there should be some small check on that power and that check may be, and has been in past cases, one of two. You can either provide that the Minister or the committee who is going to exercise the power, must have what a lawyer would call prima facie evidence before him or before it, that there is something wrong before exercising the power, or you may require that the Minister or the committee take upon themselves the responsibility for doing it. If you provide that there must be reasonable cause to presume that there is something wrong, then the check is that the courts can inquire whether the action was taken on any kind of prima facie evidence. You put a check upon the inquiry and the suspension unless there is actually some reasonable evidence before the Minister or the committee to lead them to take this action. On the other hand, if you draft it in the way I have drafted it, if the committee or the Minister thinks it necessary or desirable that an inquiry should be held, you do not give scope to the courts to inquire and you put the responsibility upon the Minister or the committee for their action. They are not answerable to the courts but they are answerable to their constituents and the country for taking executive action.
I think either of these methods is a good one. In the section as drafted there is a combination of the two, because the section as drafted says that if in the opinion of the Minister or the committee there is reason to suppose that there has been some kind of default—that is a mixture of the two controls—the Minister or committee need not say that they thought it desirable at all, and the court cannot inquire whether there was any reasonable thought. The Minister or the committee can get out of that responsibility by saying: “There may not  have been, in fact, reason to believe there was any kind of default, but we thought there might be.” I think it desirable to tighten that up in some way, and the way I suggest it should be done is to put responsibility on the Minister or on the committee to stand over their action. In the first amendment I have drafted I have given him very wide power if he considers it necessary or desirable to exercise it, but he must take responsibility and be responsible for the action he takes. So much for that.
The second amendment which I move reads:—
9. At the end of sub-section (1) to add the following words:—
“and such inquiry shall be held as soon as conveniently may be after the date of such suspension”.
Experience has proved, I think, that such an amendment is necessary. I am personally aware of at least one case in which an official was suspended. It was not under the Minister for Agriculture; it was under the Officers and Employees Act that official was suspended, and no steps were taken to have an inquiry. The unfortunate man was kept in a state of suspense. Eventually he consulted his legal advisers, and steps were taken to put an end to that. I know that, at the time, I was satisfied that it was a case in which suspension was being used as an unfair weapon to bring pressure to bear upon a man who was very little more than a labouring man. Actually, that case finished up in the Supreme Court. I am very anxious that this power should not be capable of being abused by a committee in the case of an official who may be perhaps unpopular, over-efficient, or over-particular. I am anxious that in a case like that the threat of suspension should not be held over his head where there is not a certainty that there will be an immediate inquiry. I have known that to happen, as I say, and I respectfully suggest that no harm can accrue by inserting the amendment I suggest, namely, that if there is suspension, an inquiry should take place hot foot on the suspension, that is, as soon as  conveniently may be. I also respectfully suggest that if there is an inquiry and suspension, the responsibility for saying it is necessary should rest with the committee or the Minister, so that they should not be allowed to say, “We thought it might possibly be necessary, but we were not certain.”
Dr. Ryan: Again I want to say that this section is taken as a matter of fact without any change whatsoever from the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: There are a few small changes, but they are not material.
Dr. Ryan: I was told there was no change. In codifying the legislation, we took sections from various Acts of that kind in order to put them in the agricultural code. I could certainly follow the Senator's argument on the point that an inquiry should be held as soon as conveniently may be after the date of suspension, but, against that, I do not see that it would achieve very much because I think that if the Minister has any reason for delaying an inquiry he will be able to do so even if the amendment is put in. I do not think it would make very much difference and for that reason, of course, I cannot object to it. As for the other amendment, I cannot agree with it although the Senator has gone into great detail and to great pains to indicate the difference between the two. Let me put a simple case. If I find that a pound note is missing in my own house and that there was no one in the house at the time it disappeared except a particular maid, as far as I could find out, then I have reason to believe that she took it. Although I may not believe it, I have reason to believe it and I think I would be justified in calling in the Guards in that case to investigate the matter. I have reason to believe it, as I say, but still I do not believe it. That is the sort of simple example I have in mind. A county committee of agriculture and the Minister may have reason to believe that the holder of a particular  office has failed to perform satisfactorily the duties of such an office and the county committee might be in exactly the same position as I have just cited. They may say: “He is a splendid officer but still from what we hear there is reason to believe that he is not performing his duties efficiently, therefore we think we should have an inquiry.” The Minister in the same way might be advised—he would not personally know much about it—by his inspectors that there was an officer who had done his duty very well in the office but that still there was reason to believe there was something wrong and that an inquiry should be held. The Senator goes on then to argue that we should put in the addition “in the opinion of the Minister or the committee”.
Perhaps, being a layman as far as the law is concerned, I cannot see that that makes any great difference to the wording. If they say that “in their opinion they have reason to believe”, I still cannot see any great difference between the two. The Senator went to great pains to explain the difference to me, but I am afraid I cannot see it. I do not like the amendment, because the way it strikes me is this: it is putting the inquiry, as it were, into prominence, rather than the necessity for it. In the section as it stands, what we are stressing is the necessity for the inquiry, and if there is a necessity for an inquiry, then go ahead with it. I do not see any objection to amendment No. 9, though, I must say, I do not see any great merit in it either. If the Senator thinks that its acceptance is going to improve the Bill, I am prepared to accept it, but I cannot accept amendment No. 8.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: Would the Minister be prepared to accept amendment No. 8 if I altered it to read: “if there is reason to believe”? I would be content with that.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I think that the Minister is refusing too many of these reasonable amendments. If he keeps on like that, Senators will become discouraged.
Dr. Ryan: I have accepted one.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I do not think it is a matter as between laymen and the lawyers. I have only just read Senator Kingsmill Moore's amendment No. 8, but I have listened to his argument in support of it. It seems to me, from the wording of the section, that there is in it a certain pre-judging of the issue. Under the amendment moved by Senator Kingsmill Moore, the matter is left open. I think it is very undesirable that, in the wording of a section, there should be such pre-judging of the issue. The section says, “There is, in the opinion of such committee, or the Minister, reason to believe that such holder has failed to perform satisfactorily the duties” of his office, and so on, whereas in the wording suggested in the amendment there is no such quasi pre-judgment of the issue.
The only quarrel that I have with the amendment is that I do not like the word “necessary” which, I think, is too strong. Of course, if an inquiry is necessary, necessity knows no law, and it must go ahead. I think “reasonable” would be a better word so that the amendment would read “such committee or the Minister considers it reasonable or desirable that an inquiry should be held as to whether”. I would urge the Minister to accept the amendment in that form. It will not do any harm to the section and will prevent the issue from seeming to be pre-judged.
Mr. Hearne: As the Minister, apparently, has a perfectly open mind with regard to Senator Kingsmill Moore's amendment No. 9, I would like to add my voice to what has been said by the mover of it and ask the Minister to accept it. While I agree with the Minister that its acceptance may not do a great deal of good, still not only must we do justice to the official who may be suspended, but I think it is desirable that the appearance of justice should be evident also. Because of that I would ask the Minister to accept amendment No. 9. As regards the other amendment, I, as a member of a county committee of agriculture, may sometime possibly be faced with a situation similar to that envisaged  by Senator Kingsmill Moore. But, speaking as a layman, I confess that I am completely at sea as regards the difference between the wording of the section and the wording of the amendment suggested by the Senator.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: The difference is this: that one can be tested in the courts and the other cannot.
Mr. Hearne: What I want to see in the Bill is that, where in the opinion of the ordinary member of a committee something has been done that warrants investigation, the investigation shall take place. In my opinion the wording of the section seems to ensure that equally as well as the Senator's amendment.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: If amendment No. 8 is not acceptable I do not want to press it. I am prepared to withdraw it.
Dr. Ryan: The Senator, of course, will appreciate my position, that where it is not clear an improvement would not be effected by an amendment I do not like to accept it.
Amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9, put and agreed to.
Mr. Baxter: I move amendment No. 10:—
To delete sub-section (4).
In this sub-section we are dealing with the case of an officer who may be suspended and later on may have his suspension lifted. The point that I want to deal with is the power the Minister is taking to withhold payment of that officer's remuneration for the period of his suspension.
Dr. Ryan: He may or he may not.
Mr. Baxter: According to the first, or positive, part of the section the Minister will, because it says: “Upon the determination of his suspension, the remuneration which he would, had he not been suspended, have been paid during the period of suspension, shall be wholly or partly forfeited, or paid  to him, or otherwise disposed of, as the Minister shall direct.” My view of the amendment is that you will naturally have officers committing offences and creating difficulties of one sort or another—bringing about a situation in which somebody sometime will be suspended. Peculiarly enough, no one person, I think, is ever suspended without having some contact with another person. Therefore, where there is a suspension it will always be a matter of difficulty to fix actually and fairly where the fault lies. Under this section you may have a situation in which an officer is suspended. Afterwards, he is reinstated or the suspension is lifted. Generally, I think the practice has been to withhold payment of remuneration for the period during which a suspension is operative. I hold that if an officer is suspended and if, on an examination of the facts, the suspension is lifted, that is obviously evidence of an error of judgment on the part of people who believed him to be guilty of some offence. In circumstances of that sort I do not think it would be fair to penalise the officer.
I confess that I do not know exactly what the law is under other legislation with regard to cases of that sort. I do not know what the situation would be even if this sub-section were not in the section at all. It may be that the Minister will tell me that there is a similar sub-section in some other Act which would control a situation such as this if it arose. I have put down the amendment to express the view that, where an officer is suspended, the lifting of that suspension afterwards is obviously evidence of the fact that no offence was committed by him which necessitated his suspension, and that, therefore, the officer in question should not have withheld from him the payment of his salary during the period of his suspension.
Mr. O'Donnell: I adopt a different attitude from that of Senator Baxter. There is a danger in giving these wide and serious powers of suspending judgment to a Minister or committee. I am always talking about probity of government, and it may happen that at some future time we would have an administration which could suspend  any official under any circumstances for an indefinite period. I do not say that that is probable, but it is possible. The Minister's acceptance of the previous amendment, No. 9, has, in a way, devitalised a portion of my argument because I was more interested in the operation of the time factor. I could visualise a time when politics would not be on the high moral plane they are to-day, and when some Minister might suspend an official and starve himself, his wife and his family into acceptance of a different political point of view from the one he held when they secured power.
My view, on looking at the Bill, was that the suspensory powers in it were too wide and dangerous. I know that on idealistic grounds such things can happen and precedents can be claimed by the Minister that this clause, occurs in other Bills, but I would imagine that our attitude should be that precedents do not guarantee that a thing is right at all. It is a terrible thing for every employee of a Government to have this power held over his head. A Minister has power to suspend a man for as long as he likes and take from him the wherewithal to live. It is probable, of course, that it would not be exercised but, nevertheless, the power should not be there and from that point of view I support Senator Baxter in asking for its deletion. If the Minister is prepared to put some time limit on the suspension, I will withdraw my support of the amendment.
Dr. Ryan: I would like to say that the legal position on this particular point is rather obscure. Evidently there has been no case decided in the courts. The legal view is that if such a clause were not there no payment could be given. Some lawyers will hold that if that sub-section is left out, it must be paid, while others argue that if it is not put in, no payment could be given for the time of suspension. That is why this express provision is made for the suspension of an officer, because the weight of legal opinion believes that such a suspension  would be the same as a temporary dismissal.
Of course, if there is no express legal provision made for suspension, then it is only putting him out for the time being. I tried to get clear on the legal position before dealing with the amendment. I know the movers have the interests of the suspended person at heart and I think it is better in his own interests to leave the sub-section as it stands.
Mr. O'Donnell: Will the Minister put some definite time limit on that suspension? My objection to it is that it could be interminable.
Dr. Ryan: It is very hard to put in a time limit. We have already accepted amendments to hold an inquiry as soon as may be.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 9 as amended ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mr. O'Donnell: I move amendment No. 11:—
In sub-section (1), line 8, to delete the word “Minister” and substitute therefor the words “committee of agriculture”; and in line 9 to delete the word “Minister” and substitute the word “committee”.
This proposes to substitute the committee of agriculture for the Minister, in view of the arguments made a short time ago about the rights of democracy. I understand that the position is that the holder of an office is in the employment of a committee of agriculture. He may be paid through the Minister, but he is the employee for the time being of the local committee of agriculture, and if any decision has to be made as to his fitness or unfitness it should lie in the hands of the committee. I do not like this power to say whether he is fit or unfit taken away from the committee and handed over to a Minister. In a sense it is a small matter, but I submit it is vital that it should rest with the committee rather than the Minister. It is just a question of whether one feels that the Minister should have the power or the committee.  I feel the committee should have it.
Dr. Ryan: I do not know if the Senator looked up Section 23 of the Principal Act. That section provides that the Minister may, by Order, either upon or without any suggestion or complaint from a committee of agriculture, remove from his office or employment any paid officer or servant of a committee of agriculture whom he considers unfit or incompetent to perform his duties, or who at any time refuses or wilfully neglects to perform his duties or any of them, and may direct that a fit and proper person be appointed in his place. Sub-section (2) goes on to say that an inquiry must be held, so that the only difference is that in cases where the person has committed an offence, the Minister may dispense with holding an inquiry. He already has power to remove an officer, but he must hold an inquiry. The only difference is: where a person has been convicted of an offence he may dispense with holding an inquiry. I would like to say to the Senator also that as far as his amendment is concerned it is not at all necessary. The public authority already has that power, and do not want it again. If the Senator did not think it wise to give them this power, what he should have done was to vote against the section, because the committee has already the power in the case of a conviction, and the Minister has already the power after holding an inquiry. What we are asking for is to dispense with the public inquiry.
Mr. O'Donnell: I will withdraw the amendment in view of the Minister's explanation.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 10 and 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Sweetman: I am not moving amendment No. 12 in view of the Minister's undertaking.
Sections 12 and 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question:—“That the Title be the Title of the Bill”—put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.
Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take the next stage?
Dr. Ryan: I am not sure if I can be here to-morrow.
Mr. Baxter: The next day the Seanad meets.
Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Seanad may not have business for a meeting next week.
Dr. Ryan: I am quite willing to have the next stage to-morrow if the Seanad would not mind another Minister doing it for me.
Mr. Baxter: Is there any urgency for it?
Dr. Ryan: Remember that members of these committees have been waiting for their expenses since last June.
Mr. Sweetman: When do we take the Children's Allowances Bill?
Leas-Chathaoirleach: To-night. We will probably not have business from the Dáil for a month.
Mr. Hearne: Speaking as a member of a committee of agriculture, I feel that the Bill should go through immediately, because I know that members of committees are waiting to have their expenses paid.
Leas-Chathaoirleach: We can take it to-morrow. It may be convenient to adjourn now for the tea interval.
Business suspended at 6.35 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.
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