Seanad Éireann - Volume 87 - 23 November, 1977

Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1977: Second and Committee and Report Stages.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Economic Planning and Development (Professor O'Donoghue): The Bill is required to give effect to the announcement by the Taoiseach in the Dáil on 5th July last that Ministers would be appointed who would not be members of the Government.

From time to time reference is made to ours being a young State. Such an [376] observation carries with it a danger that we might underestimate the age of our political and administrative institutions and, therefore, fail to adapt them to the issues and circumstances which face us today. Furthermore, the accelerating pace of change in the post-war years makes it essential that we should, on occasion, look closely at the suitability of our institutions in a changing world. In the area of Government, this is an appropriate time for such a review.

The danger to which I referred has, for quite a period now, been appreciated where the public service is concerned. A general consciousness that segments of the civil service and many of its procedures antedated the foundation of the State prompted the initiation of the inquiry which culminated in the Report of the Public Services Organisation Review Group and the subsequent public debate on the necessity for keeping the machinery of Government under constant review. There has, until recently, been less awareness of the necessity for adapting the arrangements for ministerial direction of Government Departments and public agencies. This is not surprising. I think it was only those holding ministerial office who were fully aware of the burdens placed upon them by a combination of political, administrative and representational duties and even Ministers were inclined, perhaps, to regard these burdens as either an inevitable concomitant of office or the ephemeral product of exceptional times.

Up to 1937, the maximum number of Ministers permitted by the Constitution was 12; in addition the Ministers and Secretaries Acts provided for up to seven Parliamentary Secretaries. Under Bunreacht na hÉireann the maximum number of Ministers was increased to 15; the maximum number of Parliamentary Secretaries permitted by law remained at seven. In the 40 years since then no change has occurred in the limits on the number of members of the Government or of Parliamentary Secretaries.

Given the changes which our society has undergone in the same period, it [377] would, to say the very least, be surprising if some modification in those arrangements were not now required. In so far as the assignment of tasks between members of the Government and other Ministers is concerned this Bill proposes the necessary reforms.

It might be appropriate for me, at this stage, to outline some of the changes in the business of Government which have come about since 1924 and to indicate their relevance to the present measure. The range of Government activity in 1924 was not, by present standards, extensive. Government activity in the social and economic fields was limited and international matters did not occupy a significant part of the time of Ministers generally. All in all, the size of the Government was by any standards adequate to deal with the work assigned to their members. Since then, and particularly in recent years, the volume of Government business has increased several fold. For practical purposes, no attempt has been made to lighten the load on Ministers and there is now widespread recognition that the burden is becoming unbearable.

The expansion of Government business and involvement in the daily life of the citizens is reflected in the growth of the administrative machine for which Ministers are directly or indirectly responsible. The civil service itself has expanded from some 20,000 to almost 50,000 members. A range of State-sponsored bodies employing 60,000 people has emerged in the same period and there has been a parallel growth in the numbers employed by local and health authorities. I need scarcely point out that the supervision, control and direction of the activities of these services has been reflected in the workloads of Ministers.

Development of the mass media and the emergence of a more vocal public opinion have also added to ministerial workloads. Ministers are frequently called upon to explain their policies on radio, television and, indeed, at social gatherings. The evolution of organised interest groups in almost every sector of national life combines with this trend towards more open Government [378] to require that politically responsible figures be available for consultation on proposed or desired legislative and administrative changes. Ministers have, in recent years, accommodated themselves to these trends by extra effort so that, but for developments outside our domestic scene, we might have been tempted to perpetuate the 1924 arrangements. It is, however, the transformation of our position in international affairs which makes such an approach unacceptable.

International regulation or agreed action by several states on matters of mutual concern has been intensified in recent decades and proliferation of international conferences on topics as diverse as economics and aviation law frequently require representation at the highest level. While such conferences arise intermittently, it is generally accepted that the heaviest and most constant burden has been imposed by our membership of the European Communities. I think that everyone accepted at the time that Ireland's entry to the European Communities in 1973 was bound to impose new burdens on the machinery of government. Few, however, foresaw the extent to which those burdens would increase in a short span of years or predicted how heavy would be the load imposed on individual members of the Government. Apart from the constant demands of travel abroad. Ministers must also have time to reflect on, and to evaluate, Community policies and to consult with their colleagues at home. If they have not got the time to do so, our position in the Community will be prejudiced; if time has to be made at the expense of domestic affairs, the quality of government will suffer.

All sides of the House now recognise that these developments have produced a situation which threatens the effective functioning of government.

The constitutional limitation on the number of members of the Government precludes, without a referendum, an increase in ministerial strength. This Bill, therefore, seeks to remedy the problem by the creation of a new office of Minister who will not be a member of the Government.

[379] As I have already mentioned, the Constitution states that the Government shall consist of not more than 15 members. It also provides that the executive power shall, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, be exercised by or on the authority of the Government; the Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann and shall meet and act as a collective authority and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government. The Ministers and Secretaries Acts provide for not more than seven Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers. The Parliamentary Secretaries are, in effect, junior Ministers.

The Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1939, provides for the delegation by Government order of the statutory powers of a Minister to his Parliamentary Secretary subject to certain conditions which are necessary to comply with the provisions of the Constitution. The main features of these conditions are that the Minister remains responsible to Dáil Éireann for the delegated powers; the powers delegated remain concurrently vested in the Minister and they are exercisable by the Parliamentary Secretary under the general superintendence and control of the Minister. Parliamentary Secretaries can undertake many of the statutory duties of a Minister but their main contribution has been in the lightening of his Parliamentary task and in the discharge of the many duties which, though not statutory, are integral elements of ministerial office. The time has now come when the support to Ministers needs to be significantly strengthened.

To begin at the domestic level, it is a fact of life that it is difficult to secure full acceptance for the discharge of ministerial functions in a representative or executive capacity by a man who not only lacks the title of Minister but is designated as the Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister. Abroad, the term Minister of State is fairly commonly recognised as meaning a junior Minister occupying an office immediately below Cabinet rank and carries more prestige and, therefore, more weight than the title of [380] Parliamentary Secretary. The assignment of the title Minister for State to these Ministers, therefore, provides an opportunity by which a much greater delegation of functions to them will be acceptable at home and abroad. This Bill, therefore, proposes to create ten posts of Minister of State and to repeal the provisions of the Ministers and Secretaries Acts dealing with Parliamentary Secretaries, thereby abolishing that office. It is intended on the appointment of the Ministers of State to assign to them wider and heavier responsibilities than have hitherto been assigned to Parliamentary Secretaries.

Provision is, therefore, made for the appointment of Ministers of State and the delegation to them, subject to such reservation of ministerial powers and responsibility as the Constitution requires, of statutory powers and duties of Ministers. The Bill also provides for the abolition of the office of Parliamentary Secretary through the repeal of the relevant sections of the Ministers and Secretaries Acts. A number of consequential amendments to existing legislation arising from these provisions are also included. For instance, the title “Minister of State” is defined in the Interpretation Act, 1937 as a “member of the Government in charge of a Department of State” and is used in this sense in a number of subsequential enactments. It is, therefore, necessary, to make two legislative amendments. The first is that, in legislation enacted after the passing of this Act, the expression “Minister of State” will no longer mean a member of the Government having charge of a Department of State and that in previous legislation the old meaning will continue to apply. The second is that there should be a new expression to describe, in future, legislation, a member of the Government having charge of a Department of State. The most unsuitable expression is, I think, Minister of the Government.

Our corpus of statute law includes one reference to a Parliamentary Secretary outside the Ministers and Secretaries Acts. This occurs in section 11 (2) of the Defence Act, 1954, where the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence is included in the [381] membership of the Council of Defence. Section 5 of the Bill alters this reference.

Apart from these consequential amendments, the Bill contains three further changes. One of these, in section 3, is a technical section designed to remove a doubt about proof of orders made by a Parliamentary Secretary or, in future, a Minister of State. The other two changes embody departures in the case of Ministers of State from the arrangements governing the tenure of Parliamentary Secretaries and their assignment to Ministers.

A Parliamentary Secretary at present ceases to hold office on the dissolution of the House of the Oireachtas to which he belonged. Parliamentary Secretaries who were not Members of this House therefore ceased to hold office on the dissolution of the Dáil but could, if re-elected, be re-appointed by an outgoing Government pending the reconvening of the Dáil. This procedure was based on an assumption that the duties of Parliamentary Secretaries were related to parliamentary duties and took no account of their evolution into political directors of large blocks of Government work. This Bill provides that Ministers of State shall continue in office notwithstanding a dissolution of the House to which they belong.

As they stand, the Ministers and Secretaries Acts preclude the appointment of more than one Parliamentary Secretary to each Minister. Recent experience has shown that imbalances between the responsibilities of various Ministers could become so great that the assignment of more than one Parliamentary Secretary to a single Minister might be required to offset them. This Bill accordingly imposes no similar restriction on the assignment of Ministers of State.

Finally, I might mention that provision as in section 8 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1939, which provides for the right of audience of a Parliamentary Secretary in that House of the Oireachtas of which he is not a Member, is not being made in this Bill. Doubts have been expressed as to whether this provision was in conflict with Article 15.10 of the Constitution [382] which provides that each House shall make its own Rules and Standing Orders. In fact, the Standing Orders of each House provide that a Parliamentary Secretary who is a Member of the other House may be heard. I would, if I may, a Chathaoirligh, draw your attention to the amendment of Standing Order No. 45 of this House which will be required if Ministers of State are to be heard in this House.

This Bill then, is a recognition that the limits on the number of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries which have existed for the past 40 years are in need of review. The Government's proposals are modest; indeed it may be argued that we are not going far enough and that we might well have retained the office of Parliamentary Secretary in addition to the new office of Minister of State. I believe, however, that they are the most suitable to our needs and conditions. They have the merit that they are simple in that there is to be a single tier below the level of Minister of the Government and at the same time, although the net increase in the number of offices is three, the increased allocation of responsibilities which is intended will be of substantial assistance to Ministers.

This Government are committed to substantial reforms in the structure of our administration. The actions proposed in this Bill are part of that process, and will have the effect of relieving Ministers of some of their growing workload in such areas as parliamentary and representational duties. Other proposals under consideration should help to lessen the involvement of Ministers in matters of administrative detail. I believe that Ministers are in need of such adjustments in the range of their activities, which will make for greater effectiveness in the conduct of the nation's affairs. I, therefore, recommend this Bill to the House.

Mr. Cooney: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. I say that without prejudice to things we may have to say to him as an embryonic corporation sole when we discuss Item No. 2 on the Order Paper later on. It is common case between all sides that [383] the burdens which have been falling on Ministers in recent years have been such as to make it imperative that they be relieved of those burdens. The Minister has indicated that this can adversely affect Ministers in two ways. Many Ministers have obligations abroad to the country as well as departmental obligations at home. In trying to discharge both of these functions correctly and adequately many fall between two stools and may end up discharging neither duty as comprehensively as it deserves. Sometimes they try to discharge these duties at the expense of their health. We have unfortunate examples of Ministers' lives being jeopardized by the burden and pressures of their office. It is only right that they should get some relief.

The office I had the honour to fill did not involve much business abroad. Nonetheless, it was interesting to note that whenever I had to go abroad I had to attend two types of gatherings, namely, meetings of Ministers for Justice and meetings of Ministers for the Interior. I was the only Minister to attend both. Every other European country had a separate Minister for Justice and Minister for the Interior. I understand that a similar need now exists here. Our new Leader has recognised this and in his allocation of spokesmen in the Dáil he has divided what was the portfolio of Justice into law reform and security. That is a proper division and is a reform which will be needed. As a Minister with no external responsibility, I can see how great that burden was on my colleagues and the members of the present Government who have to discharge obligations as well as at home. There is no doubt that the situation requires reform.

I was interested to hear the Minister say that segments of the civil service and many of its procedures ante-dated the foundantion of the State. I read recently an interesting biography of Samuel Pepys who can be described as the first professional, full-time civil servant. It was very interesting for me, having just completed four years in office on close contact with the members of the civil service, [384] to read extracts from memoranda written by Pepys in the late 1600s and to see how in phrasing, in intent and in form the same spirit still pervades much of what takes place in the public service. I do not say that in any spirit of criticism because what inspired those memoranda was a desire to be careful, conscientious and thorough; to keep the file right, as is often said rather pejoratively, but that is unfair. The integrity of the public service— I do not mean that in a material sense —in approach and conscientiousness is a very valuable element. Happily, that has not changed. I hope the civil service will always have that element as a dominating feature of its cooperative personality. Nevertheless, the world is changing and expanding and the processes of bureaucracy are much more complex than heretofore in the history of the western world and Governments must keep pace with these changes.

What is proposed in this Bill, welcome as it is as an indication of recognition of the problem and as a tentative step towards solving it, is not at all adequate to meet the needs. In essence, what is proposed here is a change of name for Parliamentary Secretaries and the provision of three extra Parliamentary Secretaries. The reasons for the proposals are, first, it will give them greater status abroad because people abroad do not know what a Parliamentary Secretary is; secondly it will give them greater status at home when representing their Minister. This is a rather weak argument and is perhaps a bow towards the modern cult of the status-giving euphemism and nothing more than that. Parliamentary Secretaries, as presently designated, could be given greater powers without any need to change their name or pretending to people abroad or at home that they are anything other than what they are, that is, a lower tier of Government Minister. To present such a change as a reform is slightly misleading. What would be more important would be the creation of extra personnel, over and above the three provided for here. Then, there would be three tiers. Ministers of the Government, junior Ministers or Ministers [385] of State, or whatever name they may have, and Parliamentary Secretaries. The number and extent of duties which must be discharged could fall into three categories in most Government Departments, especially in the economic Departments and in those Departments which have to do much business abroad. So, until we see if there will be any increase in the powers and functions given to these new Ministers we will not know whether the reform is worthwhile or whether it is no more than elegant window-dressing, so that when our representatives go abroad they will not feel self-conscious or anything less than their colleagues with whom they sit.

The Minister said that it is intended, when these Ministers are appointed, to assign them wider and heavier responsibilities than have hitherto been assigned to Parliamentary Secretaries. I am puzzled as to why it is not possible at this stage to tell the House what those wider and heavier responsibilities are. If we were informed about them we could then cast a different eye on this legislation and the debate would be more meaningful. As the Bill stands — the Minister will correct me if I am wrong — all it is doing, is calling Parliamentary Secretaries Ministers of State.

I do not know whether it was impossible administratively or because the exact functions had not been thought out and decided that the matter was not put into the Bill. If they have not been thought out, I would prefer if the Government had waited longer to introduce this Bill. Their creditability, in terms of discharging their manifesto, would not have been damaged in any way by waiting a few months more in order to make this a real Bill so that we would know precisely what reforms are intended in this important area of Government.

The Minister spoke of the fact that the Government are committed to substantial reforms in the structure of our administration. Again, it would have been interesting and helpful for the House to understand how the Government's mind is working in this regard. Will we have more Ministers than the ten proposed here? Will there be more [386] juggling around with Departments? What will happen to the Devlin Report? There are numerous questions which could be asked as to what reforms are proposed. It is a disappointment that in this Bill, which is presented as a radical reform in Government structure, there is merely a reference to commitment to further reform. If the matter had not been thought out, analysed and finally decided upon, I would prefer if it had been left in abeyance until it had, and then we could have a comprehensive debate on the whole business. When matters are thought out this Bill could be totally unnecessary and might be superceded or changed significantly.

The Minister says that other proposals under consideration should help to lessen the involvement of Ministers in matters of administrative detail. Again that is a commendable objective, but what precisely does it mean? What is it going to mean in terms of day-to-day operations for a Minister? The thought behind the Bill is acceptable to us but I am greatly disappointed that the Bill does not do anything other than change the name of Parliamentary Secretary into Minister for State.

Ruairí Brugha: The Minister has dealt in a pretty broad speech with all aspects of the need for this Bill which is the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1977. I expect all of us will agree, looking back to over 50 years ago, about the increase in the need for public administration, for Departments of State, and about the need which arose for the creation of semi-State bodies on such a broad scale as we have. Such bodies as Bord na Móna, Bord Bainne, and so on are engaging industrially in almost all aspects of life including the rural area. Where 50 years ago nobody was involved on behalf of the State in this area, there are now something over 60,000 engaged in those bodies alone. As the Minister pointed out, in direct State involvement, that is of State administration, Departments of State and so on, there is a very large increase in the number of personnel necessary to maintain the machinery of State. If one looks at that area and then at the number of political [387] executives working to those Departments, with their assistants in the form of Parliamentary Secretaries, as permitted under the existing Acts and under the Oireachtas, one must admit immediately that there is a need to expand the number of those available from the Government side of the House to carry out the work of the various Departments.

Even though this Bill merely enables Parliamentary Secretaries to be described as Ministers of State and their numbers to be increased by three, it still does give some degree of delegation to Ministers who, we all agree, must be hard pressed. The increasing complexity of modem life with the undoubtedly late hours that members of our Government have to endure within our State alone, apart from what may be required abroad, does make necessary some changes as set out in this Bill. It is important also, to point out that the measures do permit that any Member of either House may be appointed as one of the new Ministers of State. There are seven Parliamentary Secretaries and there will now be ten Ministers of State, which is merely an increase of three. Senator Cooney was suggesting that we might need more but that is all that is being proposed at present by the Government

Senator Cooney took exception to the argument that the change of title would give additional status to those who were hitherto Parliamentary Secretaries. I do not think the Senator is right. Status is important You would be very much more impressed by a chief superintendent of the Garda if he were to call to your House than you would if he were just an ordinary garda. The opinion was expressed quite widely recently that Parliamentary Secretaries travelling to Europe do not have the prestige of people who would be described as Ministers. That is a fact of life that must exist in every country. One needs only, for example, illustrate the difference between what is understood by the title of Senator in this country and in the United States. One need only travel in the United States to find [388] this extraordinary difference in attitude. I am not suggesting for a moment, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, that Members of our Seanad do not qualify for the same status as US Senators. Nevertheless it comes down to the attitude of people towards titles in office and it seems that the title of Minister is the more appropriate, particularly abroad. It is a good argument in itself.

On the question of the additional labours and burdens on Ministers of Government and Parliamentary Secretaries I can do no better than quote from the Minister present in the House who said that, apart from constant demands of travel abroad, Ministers must also have time to reflect on and to evaluate community policies and to consult with their colleagues at home. If they have not the time to do so our position in the Community will be prejudiced. If this time has to be made at the expense of domestic affairs the quality of Government will suffer.

Everybody would agree that over the last 25 years—and that covers several administrations — from time to time one has been conscious that Ministers have been under too great a stress and perhaps have not been able to devote the amount of mental leisure time — if I might so describe it — to the responsibilities of fulfilling their office. In this sense I totally agree with the Minister in what he has said. Another aspect that has been touched on by, I think, members of the Opposition in the other House in discussion on this Bill, is the extraordinarily late hours which, the Council of Ministers or any section of Ministers seem to keep when they have to decide on anything. Reading the debate reminded me of the old allegation that we Irish never knew when to go to bed, that we insisted on staying up late every night.

It seems that the Council of Ministers when they get into something tough cannot decide anything before 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. We should not be expecting a Minister— that is a member of the Government— to continue to operate in that fashion if at the same time that same individual has to be back here for a Dáil meeting at 10.30 the following morning. [389] It may be an advantage to some Ministers to be able to ring and say, “Get the Minister of State to stand in for me tomorrow morning in Dáil Éireann.” That is another added reason, apart from those given, that we should be supporting a measure of this kind and perhaps even going a bit further in order to assist any Government in office, and in particular this Government, to do a better job of government. I support this measure and welcome what the Minister has said about the Bill.

Mrs. Robinson: I, too, support this Bill and I join with the Senators who feel that, if anything it has not gone far enough in constituting a measure restructuring the Government and expanding the personnel of the Government. As the Minister said, there is a constitutional restraint. The Government cannot be greater than the number of 15 provided in the 1937 Constitution unless there is an amendment which would involve a referendum. This measure attempts to expand the personnel involved without having to go through the difficult process of a constitutional amendment and referendum. The purpose of the Bill is to change the number of people involved from a total of 22 to a total of 25. This seems to be inadequate, given the shared view from all sides of the House that the functions and responsibilities of Government have increased very substantially over the last few years internally and have been further aggravated by the obligations of membership of the European Community and other international organisations.

I was disappointed that the Minister when introducing the Bill did not give any insight into possible Government thinking on the relationship between Ministers and Departments and on the approach by Ministers to the workload of the Government. His speech seemed to dwell on the factual reasons for the increase in workload, and then to provide that the post of Parliamentary Secretary would be abolished and would be replaced by a Minister of State with the number increased to ten. He made the point, with which I agree, that Ministers of State would have greater standing externally [390] where the post of Parliamentary Secretary is not well understood and where a person going as a Parliamentary Secretary might be thought not to be able to take major decisions and not to be able to bind the Government or the Minister at home to a decision.

However that is a very superficial approach to the real problem. The real problem is to ensure that the whole administration of Government responds to the challenges and difficulties of modern Government administration. We have had much more evidence of thinking about possible reform of the public service than we have had of reform of political decision-making and Government responsibility. I would have welcomed more elaboration from the Minister or any Government thinking in this area.

The question of membership of the European Community has already been referred to as both increasing and extending the responsibilities of Ministers of the Government, and of Ministers of State when created. I notice from recent reports on developments in the European Communities that there has been a tendency from time to time to have representation at a meeting of Council of Ministers by a head of Department rather than by a political figure such as the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary. It is essential that at those meetings, which are political meetings where political decisions are taken, it is the political figure who is there. I have noticed in particular regard to the Department of Agriculture that at the meetings of the Council of Ministers for Agriculture the Secretary of the Department is sometimes the representative of Ireland. The Secretary of the Department is not accountable politically. He is a civil servant and although he obviously would have a great knowledge of his field he is not politically responsible. Even though the burden of membership of the European Community put strains on Ministers, even though there is a very substantial travel component involved and it may be difficult to decide whether to give priority to an important meeting or responsibility at home or a meeting of the Council of Ministers, it is important that an Irish politician be at [391] every meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Ministers must be prepared to be accountable for draft proposals and policy discussions at the European level by participating at meetings of the Joint Committee on European Community Secondary Legislation, if we ever manage to get that joint committee re-established. Previous experience of the joint committee, which was established in 1973 and carried on until last May, was that there was a failure to have a political dialogue between members of the committee scrutinising draft regulations, directives and other Community proposals and the responsible Minister. The committee had improved very substantially in their relationship with the officials from the relevant Departments and there were useful and constructive meetings between officials and members of that joint committee in sub-committee in private, but obviously the civil servants could speak only on the facts and they could not be expected to comment on policy matters. Very often in those sub-committee sessions it was precisely the policy content, the attitude of the Government and the attitude of the relevant Minister which the committee wanted to know and in a sense needed to know. The failure—a very significant failure—was not to be able to achieve a dialogue with the responsible Ministers and achieve an accountability for attitudes taken by Irish Ministers at the European Community level.

There are a very significant number of matters in the pipeline at the moment where Irish Ministers at the European Community level are having to take very difficult and serious decisions in areas which will have an enormous effect on the lives, job prospects and general environment of people living in this country, but there is no real parliamentary accountability. There may occasionally be a possibility of asking a question, putting down a motion or raising something on the Adjournment but there is no accountability to Members of both Houses in an informed way by the Ministers involved. I would hope that [392] the Government, whether through Ministers of Government or Ministers of State, will be prepared to establish political dialogue with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on important policy areas at the European Community level.

It is difficult to respond usefully on Second Stage of this Bill because we do not have a real indication of how the Government are going to use the power to create three new posts and to have ten Ministers of State. There have been rumours, it is difficult to assert how reliable, of what appointments may be made. Rather than just a statement about the increase in the responsibilities and the workload of the present Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries I would have preferred an assessment of the areas where there is a need for a Minister for State because of the substantial need to expand in a particular area. I can think of areas of concern to myself. I would very much welcome a Minister for State with responsibility for family law reform, and I would get up and cheer if I heard of that as one of the areas of responsibility. The House should be entitled to know more about Government thinking in the area, and there should not be a kind of speculation as to which of the boys are going to get the jobs. There should be a more considered approach than this to the problem, and there is a very substantial need for expansion of political responsibility at ministerial level in law reform particularly family law reform and in the law relating to children.

There are other areas where there are Parliamentary Secretaries without the key responsibilities that one would imagine necessary for their creation. For example, I cannot understand why there should be a need for a parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Defence. There are some other areas too, where it does not seem to be quite appropriate. I would have welcomed some idea of what the Government thinking was.

One persistent rumour—and it appears more than a rumour; the Taoiseach has made known his intention— is the creation of a Minister of State [393] for Northern Ireland. That would be a very important policy decision. I should like to support the arguments put forward about the way in which, if there is a Minister of State for Northern Ireland, he should discharge his responsibilities. I should like to refer to and support the reasoning of Deputy Garret FitzGerald in the other House on the point. I refer to the debate of 2nd November, at column 80 of the Official Report, where he opposed the idea of establishing a separate Northern Ireland section in the office of the Taoiseach and said this would be undesirable. His reasoning was very strong. If I may quote briefly from it he said:

The reason for this is quite simple. The whole relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom, including the relationship with Northern Ireland, is so complex and the different elements interact so closely that you cannot divide off Northern Ireland relations with other Irish relations. In fact, in the Department itself you will find that right down to the lowest diplomatic level each officer is engaged simultaneously in work related to Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations generally. To try to take out the Northern Ireland aspect and bring it over to the Taoiseach's office would be a grave mistake and, therefore, if it is in the Taoiseach's mind to appoint a Minister of State for Northern Ireland I would hope that that Minister of State would continue to work with the existing staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and be Minister for State to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach. This is important for many reasons including the fact that there is a danger of our being divided in dealing with the United Kingdom Government, a Government which could at times have its own reasons for finding it useful to deal with different Departments on aspects of the same problem which are closely interlocked.

That is very sound reasoning. We must be wary of weakening our approach in relation to negotiations for Northern Ireland by having a sort of sectoral divide between what would be [394] regarded as Northern Ireland relations and general Anglo-Irish relations. There is a great deal to be said for ensuring that there is a concerted approach and that the officials who have built up very commendable expertise in the area are those who will be involved in assisting the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, if there is a decision to appoint such a person.

I would have welcomed more evidence of Government thinking on the reform of the structures of Government. There is an oblique hint of it at the end of the Minister's speech, but he does not give an indication how Ministers will be able to devote more time to the more creative aspects of their ministerial responsibility. I would welcome some elaboration on this.

In a sense, it would involve thinking about how Ministers can establish better priority in parcelling out their time. This might involve certain policy decisions in relation to the amount of time that will be spent on constituency work and the amount of time that will be spent on meeting delegations, or how steps could be taken to ensure that Ministers had adequate time, and indeed, protection in order to be able to address themselves to the very serious responsibilities of initiating legislation, of taking policy decisions in important areas and of having enough time, not just to attend meetings of the Council of Ministers, but also to have time to prepare with their colleagues in the other capitals, and to prepare before the meeting itself in order that the Irish position is well understood, in order to have a very good grasp of what the actual priorities and pre-occupations of the other Ministers who are debating in the Council of Ministers might be.

This is particularly important for Ireland because we have tended in a European Community context to be regarded as having a begging bowl approach, that that is the beginning and end of our membership of the European Community. There is a very real need for us to ensure that Ireland's contribution at the European Community level is seen to be a constructive and thoughtful contribution on [395] the whole development of the European Community and that we are not just simply trying to milk the various types of aids that there may be, that we can put our case very strongly as an underdeveloped or less developed region with problems of being on the periphery of the European Community. We can also play a full part in the ongoing policies at that level and we can ensure that our problems and preoccupations are understood by allowing Ministers time and, indeed, insisting upon them taking time to make the case. If they are to do this more effectively, part of that is to establish more accountability, particularly to Members of both Houses on their return from meetings of the Council of Ministers and of the Committee of Political Co-operation.

Members of the House would acknowledge the increase in volume and responsibility which the Minister referred to when talking about the duties of Ministers. We would welcome greater insights into Government thinking about the precise relationship between Ministers and their Departments, about how the responsibilities of Government will be discharged and, in particular, I would welcome specific responses to the question of the creation of a political dialogue between Ministers who go to meetings at the European level and the Joint Committee on European Community Legislation.

Professor Conroy: I should like to join very briefly in welcoming this very necessary and workmanlike Bill. The Minister, in his excellent introduction to it, indicated very clearly the need for this measure, but I do not think we realise to what an enormous extent the growth of ministerial duties has occurred over the past 50 years. We have changed from a society in which by and large ministerial duties were of a laissez-faire nature to a society in which it is expected that Government and Ministers take an active interest in a far wider range of matters than was customary a generation ago. Quite apart from that, this country itself has changed enormously internally. The burden of [396] duties on the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy as he is now, is far, far greater than it was in the early days of the State when we were basically an agricultural country.

There has been an enormous growth in departmental demands upon Ministers. Yet, at the same time, we have accompanying this, and very noticeable, particularly over the past few years I understand, a growth in the volume of constituency work. Ministers in this State are generally elected Members of the Dáil or of our House here. They are also, therefore, practising constituency workers. They are TDs in a given area. They have to attend to this volume of constituency work as well as attend to their ministerial duties. Even without ministerial duties, the amount of work and the demands upon a TD's time in this day and age are very severe, indeed. At times I wonder how it is possible for a Minister to discharge effectively and fully constituency work and, at the same time, give the time and thought necessary to his departmental duties. It must be extremely difficult at times.

Remember also that, having multi-member constituencies, we do not have the situation which pertains in the UK where the number of constituencies in which there is likely to be a serious contest is relatively limited. There is a contest obviously in all our constituencies. In the UK, whether of the Labour Government or the previous Conservative Government, the majority of Ministers are Ministers in safe seats, as they are called. This puts them in a very different light as compared with the situation pertaining over here. At the same time—admittedly it is a far larger country—the type of duties at ministerial level is not so very different in respect of the size of the country. The type and nature of the duties and the demands of such duties are very similar in a large or a small country, and in this sense, our endeavour to exist with such a very small number of Ministers is putting quite an intolerable burden upon these people.

As well as that, we have now, of course, joined the European Economic [397] Community and it is, indeed, very necessary that we be represented in the EEC at ministerial level whenever possible. Once again, we find ourselves with a relatively small number of Ministers competing—and let us face it, a lot of work in the EEC is competing—to see that we get our fair share of the various matters discussed at the EEC, that we make our full contribution, that our point of view is clearly heard and understood. It is a very different point of view from that of the other member states for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is necessary that our Ministers be there. Yet, again, they find that they have to turn up to perhaps five or six different meetings as compared with their opposite numbers in the United Kingdom, in France, Italy or West Germany or, indeed, Holland or Belgium. The number of Ministers is far greater and the relative strain on any one Minister is, therefore, very much reduced.

Many of their Ministers complain of the effort and strain their EEC duties necessitate. I do not know how it is possible for our Ministers to commute backwards and forwards to Brussels with all the very heavy strain which this constant tiredness of travel, plane connections, and all the rest of it, involves. Certainly, there must be quite a definite health hazard for a Minister who, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out, are trying to combine the strain of going backwards and forwards to Brussels with their departmental work here in Dublin and also perform their constituency duties. There is very little we can do about this. The appointment of these extra Ministers is a step in the right direction.

We will probably have to appoint a large number of other Ministers. One possible step might be the appointment, as has been done in certain wartime circumstances, of a resident Minister in Brussels, someone who would be permanently there. It might, perhaps, to some extent, but only to some extent, alleviate the burden on Ministers travelling backwards and forwards.

[398] Incidentally, there has been some mention of Ireland being represented by heads of the Departments. I do not think it is fully realised just what an enoromus burden has been placed on the Irish civil service by our accession to Brussels. There is a vast mass of documentation, an enormous number of committees and sub-committees, and so on, which our civil servants are endeavouring to deal with. Again it is a relatively small civil service compared with the vast bureaucracies of the United Kingdom, of France of West Germany. I must say our civil servants have acquitted themselves admirably in all these circumstances.

Many civil services elsewhere have as their head civil servant someone called a vice-Minister. This again is a great aid in some ways to such countries although it can produce some confusion. Our title of Parliamentary Secretary was a totally inappropriate title. Nobody outside these islands really understood what on earth a Parliamentary Secretary was. It was very much overdue that he should be called what in fact he is, certainly travelling overseas, and that is a Minister. The increase in number up to ten is a very sensible initial step, an extra three Ministers. For a start this is excellent but it will be necessary in time, certainly, to increase the number of Ministers.

This Bill is very necessary at this early stage in Government. We have a Government who will govern, a Government who are getting their guidelines right and setting the scene. One of the steps is the initiation of the Department which the Minister represents. It is a very necessary step if we have a Government who will not only react to events but endeavour to anticipate them and have a strategic policy. Towards this end, this measure of appointing Ministers of State, and having ten of them, is a further very useful and necessary measure. Over and beyond that, there will have to be at some early stage—and perhaps the Minister and the Government have it in mind—a general review of ministerial duties and to what extent Cabinet duties can be separated from departmental duties, which are duties of another and very different nature. I [399] very much welcome this Bill. It is a very necessary and workmanlike measure.

Mr. Staunton: I should like to join with those who addressed themselves to this Bill introduced by the Minister and to welcome it in so far as it goes. I should like to join with the chorus which subscribes to the view that it simply does not go far enough and really tackle our fundamental problems in so far as the Executive are concerned. I agree with Senator Conroy who spoke before me about the burden on members of the Executive, on Ministers in the Cabinet, in particular, especially since our entry to the EEC. The burden of work is great having regard to the constituency setup, having regard to the multi-seat position, and having regard to the constituency situation in particular where Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in a constituency sense are competing with colleagues in their own party as much as they are with the Opposition.

Having regard to the extraordinary extent to which people at the highest level in Government are expected to become involved in constituency affairs, and not merely affairs of major significance but those of the greatest detail, having regard to the extent to which Ministers are expected to attend functions, dinner dances, seminars, public meetings of various bodies, institutions, and so on, having regard to the work within the environs of this establishment in which we are speaking and the necessary attendance at Cabinet and parliamentary meetings, the involvement with delegations from various parts of the country and inter-parliamentary work with their colleagues, the burden is frightening and fairly intolerable and leads to very undesirable effects.

At one level, at a political level, the most undesirable effect of all is that if the Minister in question is not prepared to work at a level which is medically entirely inadvisable then you get weak direction in his Department. Unless he is prepared to attempt to do the work of three or four people, he cannot possibly begin to establish the necessary [400] political control in the Department. If the Minister opts for a more civilised form of life, then, by definition, there is an opting out of political control and you have government within that Department by the civil service.

Alternatively, if the Minister works to the inordinate extent which might be demanded if he is to attempt to run his Department having regard to his other responsibilities, you get effective government within that Department but it is at an appalling price. We have seen the price which has been paid by Members of the Oireachtas, individual Members and at ministerial level. We have seen deaths resulting from people attempting to work at the pace I have described and attempting to drive cars at the pace I have described.

The addition of three Parliamentary Secretaries and the upgrading of the title of Parliamentary Secretary to that of Minister of State is welcome. Any lessening of the burden, particularly on the senior Ministers in the economic Ministries, and in the Department of Justice, for example, is very welcome. This only goes a small part of the way. It is piecemeal and it does not smack of the reform which is necessary. There is a weakness in the extension of the Parliamentary Secretary idea in the adding of three to the list. This does not necessarily mean that government will be all that much more effective.

Senator Robinson referred to an interesting speech made by Deputy FitzGerald in the Dáil on this subject. He attempted to describe a Minister's working week. His summary of the position—without having regard to the EEC involvement, the necessity for travel and the preparation for meetings in Brussels, and the summary of such meetings afterwards—was that a Minister had Monday afternoon— about four or five hours in the week —in which to consider the fundamentals of the running of his Department both in terms of long-term planning, thinking and policies. If we accept Deputy FitzGerald's remarks, with his experience in this area, as having some validity what are we doing by adding three Parliamentary Secretaries to the [401] Executive? If what he says is correct, we are adding three people who, in turn, will give four hours of work to the fundamentals with which we must be concerned. We will still have the same enormous involvement at functions in constituencies and in other areas.

Some will tell you that we must move in this manner because it is in the Irish parliamentary tradition, and that we must build on our traditions. I reject that view completely. One of the paradoxes in our country since Independence is that, since we achieved independence from Britain, having been dominated by them for 700 years, we immediately adopted the British parliamentary model. It has much merit. It is one of the oldest parliaments in the world. It is an indication of our ineffective politics that we have slavishly copied the British model and that there has been so little original thinking. Fortunately, through membership of the EEC, we have mentally, economically and psychologically reduced the dominance of our neighbouring island. We are now in the mainstream of Europe to a much greater extent than ever before.

There is much to be learned from what is happening in some of the countries in continental Europe and in the North America continent when we look at systems of government. I am not averse to a cabinet system of government. There is much merit in it. There is much merit in the system under which the Government are elected by the people and that Government presumably have the authority to arrange their affairs in the manner in which they believe those affairs should be arranged. A cabinet system under which a Minister can bring into his Department one, two or three people who are politically sympathetic to his Government and who have competence in a particular field, and who can work full-time, independent of the burdens of political and constituency work, has much to recommend it.

There are other systems in other countries.

The weakness of proportional representation as it is operated here is not very helpful to Ministers attempting to run their Departments. We might learn [402] a lesson from Holland in the list system under which the Minister in Government is put at the head of the list as far as his political party are concerned, so that if at least one member from that political party is returned in an election, it is not a question of whether or not the Minister got more or fewer votes than somebody else in his party. There are all kinds of areas which we could look to. There is complete inflexibility here. In France, there is the cabinet system. In America, there is a system under which the President, on assuming office, has very wide powers of appointing people he believes can do a good job in the Executive. In many instances, these people have not been elected by the popular vote, and can do a very good job because they are free of the burden of having to respond to the popular vote in a specific constituency, while the President takes the ultimate political responsibility for the actions carried out by his subordinates.

We welcome this Bill. It is possible, due to the extreme pressure of work, that it is pro tem. It will have the support of those of us on this side of the House. I can only speak for myself and not for my party, but I would welcome an approach by the Government which would take a much more in-depth look at our problems and make a fundamental assessment of the needs of the Government. One of our essential weaknesses is that not as many people are involved in politics in an elective sense as there might be. There is an enormous involvement in constituency work which, of course, is desirable within the context of the individual constituency, but if a Deputy from Kerry is a Minister in this Government, the problems of the constituents of Kerry are very important to that Minister as a Deputy from Kerry. As an Irishman, I am more concerned about the possibility of that Minister running his Department and playing his role in the Cabinet as he should do as a Minister in an Irish Government. This is at the root of the disease in this country. We have had too much experience of cases, where due to political pressure, health problems, lack of capacity, and so on, Ministers have had to opt out of ultimate political [403] control of their Ministries. This has led to the rubber-stamping of Bills and to a very weak political base, which has been very detrimental to us.

Certainly, the appointment of three Parliamentary Secretaries is welcome but, if it is to mean three more people who effectively, in an executive sense, spend four or five hours each week assisting the Minister in running a Department, it will go a very small part of the way towards the type of reform we need. Senator Robinson alluded to the fact that within the public service there has been an attempt through the Devlin Report to think through the necessity for reform. There have been thoughts about it which have not been implemented. At a political level there has been very little development. I would welcome a fundamental appraisal of the needs. I feel there will be goodwill in the Oireachtas, in general, if it is fundamental, fair and broad, and meets the designs for Ireland in the eighties.

As a matter of detail, I do not know if the upgrading of Parliamentary Secretaries is sufficient in itself. I would have welcomed the third tier which was referred to. For example, there will be certain areas where these people, who were called Parliamentary Secretaries and who are now called Ministers of States, will have varying levels of responsibility. If, as has been rumoured, the Taoiseach is to appoint somebody with some responsibility within the Executive for Northern Ireland, that person will have a heavier burden and he should have a title above the level of some of the people who will be appointed in lesser areas. For that reason, I would have welcomed the third tier where we might have had a different level between the Parliamentary Secretary level and the ministerial level.

There is an interesting system in Sweden under which, within their Government, they have what they call Ministers without portfolio with extensive powers. In general they have not been elected by the popular vote. There is immense scope for reform in so far as political structures are concerned [404] and it is necessary as a matter of urgency and I would urge the Minister to go past the pro tem nature of this Bill and seek to support his colleagues in the introduction of more fundamental measures.

Mr. Mulcahy: I would like to say how pleased I am that the Government and the Taoiseach moved so quickly to introduce this Bill and therefore. clearly, I welcome it. It is with some surprise that I note that Opposition Senators, who had been in Government, are also happy with it One wonders why they did not do something about it long ago. Our Taoiseach promised that action would take place in this matter as soon as he came to power and it is now happening and it is very satisfying to see that speed of action.

Because the Government's hand is in this, and the Taoiseach's hand, we would all be somewhat careful about commenting. We might misunderstand possibly some of the appointments that might be made. Given that anything that we may say will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, I, with some trepidation, will go forward just a little. If there is any principle in administration or management that seems to have been accepted it is that form follows function or as in a management area we say, structure follows strategy. There is no doubt that the functions of Government have become more complex over the years and the strategies that the Government have to evolve to deal with the situations in which they find themselves have become, of necessity, more complex. This means that the individuals who have responsibilities for evolving them must, in themselves, be the right people and there must be enough of them. It is a good thing to see that the Government are willing to expand to some degree the functions and numbers of individuals who have to carry out those functions. I do not have to go into detail about that as it has been covered by earlier speakers.

To make the point there is a principle involved and we should not be ashamed of it; there is a tendency in Ireland to have this problem about [405] the backside-out-through-the-trousers complex. We are a little worried that it is going to cost £x extra but we are not worried about the fact, as people have said earlier, that we might be killing a few Ministers in the process and be worried about the extra few quid it is going to cost to finance the existence of the new posts and the expenses which will naturally occur as a result of their existence.

It was with some interest recently that I re-read the first part of the Crossman diary and in re-reading that publication and thinking about some of the issues he raised, and noting the vast number of meetings and issues he had to deal with from morning to evening, I cannot but wonder that eventually he broke down under it and he is no longer with us. We do not want that kind of thing to happen to our Ministers. One aspect of what he said which came through to me loud and clear was this interaction between the civil service and the political people who fillled the ministerial positions. I would not like it to be taken that I am attacking the civil service but I am attacking the system within which the civil service operates. I am not attacking individuals; I think they are victims of their own system. As a result of that they inhibit very often the creativity of Ministers and tie them down too much. The Crossman diary is an excellent illustration of how that happened across the water. Whether or not it happens here, we have no diaries to tell us; perhaps in time we might; I suspect that it is much the same situation here. It leads me to point out that there is a danger that we will be too slow to adapt and too slow to react. Talks about these extra Ministers or extra positions or about the Cabinet system has been going on for some years and in particular it received some attention following our entry to the EEC. It is only now—and I am glad it is a Fianna Fáil Government who are doing it—that action is taking place and legislation is being brought forward.

I would put it to the Government, and this is where I tread with some [406] caution, that we should not have to wait another period of years for another change. That may be the important thing: it is not that we now have three extra positions and the Parliamentary Secretaries are going to be titled in a more suitable way but that the Government would always be willing to move quickly and adapt if they find that the form of the governmental system must adjust to the function required. I would have some sympathy, therefore, with some of the comments that have been made in the debate so far but if this is the first step well, then it is fine.

One aspect of it which needs a little fleshing out, and we have not heard much about it, is how these Ministers of State are going to operate. Where are they going to fit into the organisation structure? Will they have their own staff? Is the Minister of State going to be seen as another line function between the Minister and the rest of the civil service, the secretary and his assistant secretaries, or will one assistant secretary be assigned with his staff to the Minister of State involved? All of this will need to be thought cut, otherwise there could be a fair amount of tension in the relationship as the various problems arise, as they inevitably will.

Earlier speakers raised the question about which areas the new Ministers will be appointed to. That seems a more ticklish situation to get involved in. At the risk of getting a side swipe on that one, I must go back to my old point about these 15,000 jobs. We have many problems to deal with. Senator Robinson said she would cheer if she saw somebody being appointed as a Minister of State to look after family law. I certainly will cheer if a Minister of State is appointed to look after selling us abroad, a Minister who will be a political animal spending has time abroad, encouraging our exports and bringing in more industry, that is how I see such a Department. I see that individual spearheading our presence abroad to ensure that we do expand in those areas, as a man who could make on-the-spot decisions available to supplement all the excellent work that is being done by the IDA and [407] CTT. There is need for some sort of a political presence to lead that drive and I would hope that it is along those lines that it will go. If it does not go that way, perhaps future adaptation may bring it about.

The whole question of the working of the Ministers obviously would need consideration As well as adapting in the sense of having new appointments or a larger number of Ministers, there is also the question of the way they work. Hopefully, we will have another opportunity to talk about that when the Industrial Development Bill comes before us and we will be talking about the industrial development consortium. There again is an example of an attempt to find a mean's of integrating what is going on in various Departments. If we do not have integrating mechanisms, we will not have a well organised system. I will keep on repeating that as we go through our debate.

The question of travelling to and from Brussels has been raised already. Following my theme about not having the backside-out-through-the-trousers complex, it is about time we provided for Ministers the aircraft everybody is talking about. I have seen, on recent trips to Brussels, Ministers piling in, caught up in all directions, stuck in corners trying to do some work on the way over and waiting when aircraft were delayed. This only adds to the strain that has already been mentioned. Again, we should avoid getting caught up in that complex which is one of the destructive factors of this nation. I would be glad to see our Ministers having reasonable transport to get them to their work. I commend the Bill.

Professor Murphy: It is not really my business to defend the political parties on this side of the House from the gentle chiding Senator Mulcahy gave them. But it is fairly obvious that it was in the term of office of the last Government that the inadequate size of the Government team became evident, particularly in the context of their work in the EEC. This is indeed the right time to introduce this measure at the point where the experiences of the last four years have [408] taught us that the team is simply not big enough.

I do not propose to go over the same ground that has been exhaustively covered in the other House and, indeed, in this House up to date, or to repeat all the reasons why a numerical increase in the Government is necessary. It seems to me that is fairly obvious. Therefore, as an Independent, I certainly accept the necessity for a Bill of this kind and I welcome it. Underlying this whole business of the burdens of Government and of political office is the nature of the politician's activity. Even before I became a part-time politician I always admired the dedication of public men at the level of local government and, a fortiori, at parliamentary and Government level. As a teacher I have always done my best to counteract the cynicism about policians which is too common in Ireland, the kind of cynicism that sees “politicians” as a pejorative word, though perhaps we are not quite so cynical as they are in America in our attitude to politicians.

Perhaps governments or politicians should undertake some kind of public relations exercise in this regard. When the public considers this measure to create ten Ministers of State, it will react cynically and say: “More jobs for the boys”. What the man in the street sees is the privilege and the power and the trappings of Government. What he does not see is the appalling and exhausting and sometimes murderous burden of responsibility.

The net increase proposed, as I read it, is three and this seems to me to be very modest indeed. I should not be surprised if another numerical increase is looked for in the near future. I share Deputy Garret FitzGerald's regret, expressed in the other House, that the title of Parliamentary Secretary is not being retained as well as the creation of the new title of Minister of State. “Parliamentary Secretary” is a title which is well recognised and respected in this country. The status of a Parliamentary Secretary is beyond doubt and, for domestic affairs, I think it is a mistake [409] to jettison that rank. The wider consideration is that too indiscriminate a creation of Ministers may devalue the title. Or, is there some political consideration behind the creation of ten extra ministerial posts? Is this an attempt to supplement the dispensation of patronage which will be forthcoming in other areas very shortly?

I share also the reservations of other Members who felt that we have not been informed as to the purpose of these posts individually. We have been given the minimum of information. We have been told again and again why extra staffing is necessary, but no indication has been given as to where the extra members are to slot in.

Senator Brugha repeated the point that in the context of the EEC at least, the grade of Parliamentary Secretary is incomprehensible to most Europeans and, for the better standing of our Government in their international dealings in general we should make a new title of “Minister of State”. If that is so, the corollary is that calibre must follow title; if we are to have people with increased rank, the people we appoint to these positions must be a cut above the kind of person who stands in line for party promotion for services rendered.

I would expect that our new Ministers for State will be of ministerial timber and that this is particularly so with respect to the, as yet, rather hypothetical Minister for State for Northern Ireland. That post has been mentioned more than once in the course of these debates. If there is to be such a person then he must be a cut above even his fellow Ministers for State.

The whole measure points up to the need for a reappraisal of Government structures from time to time. The astonishing thing is that over 50 years of self-government and during the 40 years since the enactment of Bunreacht na hÉireann we have had so little of this kind of reappraisal. It may well be that a more fundamental reappraisal is called for. One of the defects of this measure in fact is its very limited approach in this regard. More [410] generally, the need to have recourse to this present device points out the inadequacy of the fundamental law of this State. What may be in question here is not only the creation of extra Ministers of State; it may be necessary to consider whether the Cabinet itself should be increased in view of the developments of the last 40 years. The Constitution prohibits us from doing that. This measure in my view, is one more indication that the Constitution needs to be re-written if not replaced. While deploring the scantiness of detail in this measure and the lack of information as to the allocation of Ministries, I welcome this Bill.

Dr. Martin: I shall not delay the House. I welcome the Bill, for a number of reasons which I shall briefly outline. One of the problems which must have faced the Taoiseach when he thought of introducing this Bill was the fact that, very often, the front bench of any party does not always represent its real talent. With regard to the present situation in the Oireachtas I would argue that the Parliamentary Secretaries, man for man, would put up a very good show against the senior Ministers in terms of talent and enterprise. Of course, I exempt the Minister present from that particular remark. It must have been annoying in the past for that body of men to have to bear that extremely cumbrous title. I disagree totally with Senator Murphy on that point. The term “Parliamentary Secretary” should be abolished; it is utterly meaningless. It is appropriate perhaps in the “parliamentary” sense but in the “secretarial” sense their functions have been minimal down the years. The word “Minister” is far better; it means servant of the people. I would prefer to think of junior or senior Ministers as my servants rather than my secretaries. So, we are well done with that title. As for quotidian slang and abbreviation, “Parly Sec” more than any other term in our vocabulary suggests connivance, back-door intrigue and whatever is deplorable in parliamentary life. The phrase: “Ah well, they'll make him a Parly Sec” is one which I shall be very happy to see expunged from our vocabulary.

[411] The notion of junior Ministers is a very good one except for one distinction, that a great number of people who will become junior Ministers, particularly in the present situation, will be at least as able as, if not more able than, the present Pantheon of Ministers recently deified by the Taoiseach and put on the front bench. Again, I do not share Senator Murphy's fears but I agree with him that they should be above the ordinary kind of political patronage which is sometimes associated with appointments of that kind.

The great defect which this Bill will remedy is that a great number of extremely able, energetic and dedicated people who have been either on the back benches or just a little ahead of them in the past will be accorded a status commensurate with their dignity and their worth. That seems to be the chief merit of the Bill; so that when these people go ahead and meet their colleagues from other countries they will carry with them a title commensurate with their ability and performance. I welcome the Bill most of all because that title “Parly Sec” which had certain unfortunate connotations, will be finally extinguished from our political vocabulary.

Dr. West: I welcome this Bill, as far as it goes. In common with a number of other Senators I feel that it does not go far enough to lighten the burden that members of our Cabinet Ministers and non-Cabinet Ministers bear. The point has been made that Ministers are under pressure from a number of quarters. First, there is the pressure of the portfolio which is considerable; then there is the pressure from Europe which is now considerable for most of our Cabinet Ministers and, thirdly — and not least — the pressure on a Minister exerted by the system of proportional representation, which is advantageous for the voter but it is not so good for the politician, particularly the sitting Minister. As the last election showed, no Minister is safe if he disregards his constituency work. That is a salutary lesson which has been learned by a number of Members of this House. It will continue to [412] be learned in future because of the way in which proportional representation operates. We are working in a situation which is different from that in countries which operate the straight vote system; therefore, our Ministers are under a great deal of pressure if they wish to be re-elected. I am sure the Minister knows this better than anyone else.

I have sympathy for anybody who assumes a Cabinet portfolio unless he is somebody of the stature of the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste whose election is assured by his standing as a public figure. Most Ministers must spend a great amount of time dealing with their constituency affairs. They have to spend more time than their colleagues in countries operating the straight vote system. I should like the Oireachtas to think further along the line of assisting Cabinet Ministers in the discharge of their duties.

I believe we should move more towards the American idea of a Minister being in a mini-cabinet to assist him in dealing with his duties and portfolio. The new Minister is often unaware, or perhaps has only a vague idea, of what the needs of his Department are. In the Irish system, a new Minister is faced with the wisdom of civil servants who, except in special cases, have been working in the Department for the best part of their lives. The Minister is trying to implement new policies and introduce his own ideas in a situation in which he is really competing against a pyramid; at the top of the pyramid is the secretary of the Department and below him are other civil servants. In a sense, it is the excellence of our civil servants which makes it such a difficult job for a Minister to implement changes and redirect departmental policy. The civil servants say that their duty is merely to carry out the wishes of the Minister, but it is never as simple as that. The lines of communication have been drawn for many years; the policy lines are well laid out in many of our Departments, except perhaps in the one the Minister is now in charge of. This is a new Department just established and it gives him a chance to implement new policy. In other Departments a Minister, unless he is a [413] person of superhuman energy and has tremendous courage, will in all likelihood give in to the civil servants and accept their advice and take the easy way out. This is a fact of life; most Ministers in most Governments do this. They do not really push policy from the top: they take the policy as it comes up through the pyramid. They sign the letters, they take the whispers into the ear but they do not essentially initiate policy. They are people who accept the direction of the civil service as it comes up through the civil service pyramid. That is dangerous because if this is what happens, and I believe in most Governments this is a fact of life, that is a failure in our bureaucratic system. It is allowing control to move away from the elected representatives into the hands of the parliamentary executive and that is not what the system has been earmarked to do.

The Government and the Minister should think along the lines of introducing with each Minister, particularly with Ministers in the bigger Departments, small groups of people, of senior civil servant rank, who would come in with a new Government when a Cabinet Minister is appointed. In other words, there should be a mini-Cabinet of two or three people with each Minister who would automatically leave their posts when the Government was evicted. When there was a change of Minister they could be transferred around. They would not have permanent positions. This is the situation in the United States, for example, where the senior executive officers in each Department change with a change of Government. They change after each election. There are disadvantages in this but there are considerable advantages.

We have a situation now, particularly when we look at a Minister's responsibilities in terms of his portfolio and in terms of his duties in Europe, in which we need to institute more far-reaching changes if we want a Minister to fulfil the duties that he was appointed to fulfil and if we want to keep the Legislature in its primary position. If we continue giving Ministers increasing workloads the danger [414] is that we will be handing more and more of the government of the country to the civil service. This is not to be interpreted as an attack on the civil service. It is the excellence of the civil service that gives rise to the necessity to protect ourselves against this increasing control by bureaucracy. The Minister should say something about this in his reply. In a sense the Minister is in a unique position to do so as someone who was appointed to Cabinet rank on his first election to the Dáil. This has happened before but is is very unusual.

The second unique point is that the Minister is dealing with an essentially new Department which is starting from the ground up, in which he has been able to build in a lot of policy and has been able really to affect the thinking of his team of civil servants from the very start. I would like the Minister to say something about his colleagues who come to face their civil servants whose policy lines have been clearly worked out and who in a sense hem in their Ministers, as they have to. It is up to individual Ministers to break out of this. I can, as an Independent Member of this House, pick out a good Minister from a bad one. A good Minister is a man who will answer a question off the cuff, the not so good Minister is the man who acts as a sort of gramophone record—“his master's voice”—he turns to the men behind him for answers.

The increase in bureaucratic civil servant control of our everyday life is a very serious problem which our democracy must face. Our job should be to see that we give our Ministers the opportunity to create and implement policy and that we give the civil servants the function of carrying out that policy. Anybody who thinks that that is happening in a straightforward way at the moment does not know how the system works. The Minister should think more along these lines. We will be forced to change in the way which I have suggested. I know, for example, that in the period of the previous Government one or two Ministers tried this sort of thing and met considerable resistance from their Departments. We have to change our [415] thinking. We need officials of senior civil service rank, who have not permanent appointments and whose posts will change with the Government. This would be advantageous in that one would be able to introduce talented people from the private sector along with a Minister to help implement policy, pushing ideas down through the pyramid of a Department as well as just accepting the ideas that are constantly coming up. We must think more along these lines.

Senator Robinson said that there has been a considerable discussion and a lengthy White Paper on reform of the public service. We should look at reform along the lines I have suggested, which are that the political wings of our democracy be strengthened so that it can play its part. Obviously Ministers and civil servants will not agree all the time. At the moment the odds are weighted far too heavily in favour of the civil service. I would like to see them weighted more heavily in favour of the elected representatives. The Minister should refer to this when replying.

Mr. Harte: I welcome the Bill and in doing so I recognise that the rate and pace of society in general has drastically changed. This manifests itself in all walks of life and particularly in Government. It was commendable of the Government to introduce the Bill. I am sure it has not been easy. Looking back through some of the debates in both Houses I note that there was a lot of cynicism about the absence of Ministers. Now there is full realisation that the situation was unrealistic in the sense that a Minister could not be everywhere at one time, and could not attend to his national and international duties. Therefore, we had problems, and it was only natural that some development would have to take place.

There have been arguments as to whether sufficient posts are being created. I have reservations about this. I would like to see how the three posts work before anything else happens. I am not happy with the idea that experts should be brought in in the way Senator West suggested. My own experience as a trade union official down [416] through the years was that I did not mind the experts so long as I was not bound by their advice. Whatever way one looks at it, if the argument is being made now — I am not making that argument — that they are jobs for the boys Governments will certainly be more exposed to that type of an argument if people are brought in from outside. That certainly would look like jobs for the boys. Because of this I do not agree with the approach suggested by Senator West. I am in favour of these appointments but I would like to see them working on a trial basis to see how they go and then we should have another look at it to see what can be developed.

We should look at this from the point of view of the worker. A person who functions as an operative finds it very difficult to understand why it is always necessary to create more consultants, more specialists and more clerical workers while at the same time it is considered necessary to cut down on operative workers. If more Ministers are being created here they will have to be justified. The system has created the situation whereby the numbers in the areas where mental capacity is used, must be built up, but we must be very careful to let the people who are manually functioning know that there is a good reason for it, and that there is something coming out of it. Where a service is needed it is up to the State to provide it, and pay for it, whether it be buses. Ministers or anything else. For that reason I have no reservations about supporting the Bill.

What way will the responsibility be delegated? To delegate is to give a person some work, a bit at a time, not to hand over total responsibility by finding reasons to go to an irrelevant conference that would be of no benefit to the Ministry or to the Government. I oppose that type of thing and I hope that this type of development will be kept under observation. Because of the rate of development it might be necessary to think in terms of creating more ministerial posts. Such posts should be introduced on a trial basis to see how they work. I welcome the Bill. I hope the Government [417] will consider the question of justification of these appointments to the people who have to pay for these services. I do not know if anyone from this side of the House wishes to put down any amendments but at the moment I have none.

Mr. O'Toole: I also welcome the Bill and wish the new Minister every success in his new portfolio. The Minister coming before the Seanad today has not been long in his new appointment. Had the Minister been over the fences in any period of office he would no doubt realise the importance of the additional posts that are being created under this Bill. Because the formation of legislation will take place in Brussels now rather than in Leinster House it is important that we have in Brussels at all times the maximum capacity of Ministers whether they be Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of State. We must pick the best we have in this nation against the best being pitted against us by other nations. We should not prevent our Ministers from being in Brussels in every possible advantageous position. It is from Brussels that the lifeline of this State will come in future years. I welcome the additional ministerial posts and I am delighted to hear that the other side of the House welcome them and believe that we have not gone far enough to meet their requirements. I welcome the additional back-up support for our Ministers. From my own experience I know that a Minister living in a rural area is at breaking point in order to meet the requirements of his constituency, his Department and the requirements of his portfolio in Brussels and Strasbourg and elsewhere. If we are to get men of the required calibre to ensure that we get the best out of Brussels, the remuneration that we are giving our Ministers now will have to be at least updated to compare favourably with that of Ministers of State from other nations.

I do not go along with Senator West's suggestion that some of the Ministers from this side of the House could be regarded as “their master's voice.” I would much rather regard [418] them as their party's voice. We are very proud to have no fewer than 115 Members in these Houses. From those numbers we will get the best selection of people to represent us. We have the best material with which to represent Ireland in the European Parliament. I have no doubt that we require the best brains in this nation to pit against the best brains against us in Brussels and in Strasbourg. I am sure we will be able to match them for many years to come. All our 115 representatives were elected under the democratic election system. That cannot be said about other Members in this House. That is a credit to our party and a credit to the people. The Minister's targets are large and they are targets that we look forward to achieving. I have no doubt that the Minister has the ability, the energy, and the drive to make this new Department a success, and I wish him well.

Ministers very often on returning to Ireland from the European Parliament, having done a good job there, are faced with constituents' problems which they did not have time to deal with before going abroad. Because of our democratic system Ministers must deal with these problems if they wish to be re-elected at the next general election. Ministers are under constant pressure to meet the demands of their constituents and the demands of the European Parliament. I wish each one of them well. We can spare at least 25 of our top class people to go to look after the affairs of the State. With such a large party, we have plenty left to do the old chores that require to be done here. In the not-too-distant future I can foresee some back-up support being provided for a Minister of State. In order that every member of the European Parliament would regard our members in the same light as they regard their own it is necessary to get rid of the term “Parliamentary Secretary” and substitute the term “Minister of State”.

I wish the Cabinet and the additional members many years of success. I hope they will get the best out of Europe for our people. It is only by giving the best to Europe that we will get the best return.

[419] Minister for Economic Planning and Development (Professor O'Donoghue): I thank the Members for the constructive way they received the Bill. I was interested in the various viewpoints expressed. Essentially there are two points on which I ought to touch by way of reply.

The first is the question of the number of additional posts being created under the Bill. The bulk of the speakers, especially from the Opposition side, seemed to feel that three were too few. There is always the difficulty about trying to determine in advance the precise number that is appropriate on any occasion. The essential point in tackling this issue is to draw very clearly the distinction between laying down a structure of Government where there was no existing structure of Government, and where one is going to draw up a blueprint, and between the question of what I might call the “business-as-usual-during-alterations” approach, which is essentially the approach which we have before us today. We have a structure of Government. We have an ongoing system and an ongoing workload so we cannot close down the shop and say “Come back in three or six months when we have rebuilt and installed the new system we have in mind.” We have no option but to tackle the problem on the basis of what changes can be accommodated without impairing the day to day activities of Government.

Essentially we are trying to answer the question of what is the tolerable or sustainable rate of change which the system can accommodate. There is no perfect answer to this question. There is no ideal formula which one can consult, I tend to favour a smaller number, Three is about as many as one can accommodate at any one bite of the cherry. I was interested to note that Senator Harte adopted a similar viewpoint. As a person who in a very different context has been through a period of substantial structural change in major industry, it is interesting that he in effect echoed the same viewpoint. The Senator said that we should see what changes can be put through, what changes will be understood and accepted and we must explain them as we go along, and that if we find at [420] a later date that we want more change, we should be able to come back and get it. That is the appropriate approach in this context also.

I must emphasise that if we are going to change, it is not only a question of winning acceptance among the political parties and among the practising politicians, whether inside or outside the House, it is also a question of accommodating the changes in the political structure to the structure of administration. Here we are dealing with a very large number of people and with very complex existing structures for the administration of business. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone consciously or wilfully obstructs progress — I do not think they do — but if we are going to bring people along with us in enthusiastically making the changes work, then we must embark on a fairly time-consuming process of consultation and explanation. Even if one has a blueprint locked away in the desk, it is not appropriate to come in here and say “Here is the total system of restructuring which we have in mind and we are going to try to implement it in one fell swoop.”

The approach which the Government have adopted is the correct one. There have already been some reallocations of ministerial responsibilities and duties. It is appropriate that they should now be supplemented by the addition of more members to the administration.

The next point to be considered is whether we should have two tiers of ministerial rank or three tiers as some speakers on the opposite side of the House suggest. Frankly I would not welcome at all the task of any Taoiseach who found himself faced with the necessity to classify members of his administration into three ranks. Even classifying them into two ranks in a sense, or two categories, members of the Government and other Ministers of State, is itself quite a complex and delicate operation but at least one can justify the need for that distinction into two categories. On the basis of the existing constitutional limitation of 15 members, you might well say that that is no long-run impediment and you [421] can always bring in a constitutional amendment. So you can, but there is a second reason why there is some merit in a number, be it 15 or any other number, and that is that if you are going to retain the effectiveness of the Government as a collective decision-making unit the total membership of that unit has to be relatively small. If you are trying to deal with many, varied and difficult questions from large numbers of people, if they are all to make effective contributions you are going to have incredibly long meetings. Therefore, if you had a Government made up of, say, 25 Ministers I could envisage the Cabinet in virtually permanent session and I hope nobody wants to inflict that upon us in the interest of an alleged form of Government.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Absenteeism would become a virtue.

Professor O'Donoghue: Absenteeism would become a virtue indeed. Therefore, you must keep the number of members of the Government down to a reasonable level, and since the Constitution already specifies the number 15, which has worked and which still does work, I see no reason from departing from that. That gives a basic logical reason for one category of Minister, Minister of the Government. After that if we find that for purposes of administration we require more than that, let us have more. How many more? We are saying ten more at the moment but we should not attempt to draw distinctions between those Ministers. Apart from anything else if we did it would further complicate the process of redistributing work as between members of the Government and other Ministers.

What we are seeking with this Bill is the greatest degree of flexibility. We are saying: “Give us ten other Ministers in addition to the 15 who are members of the Government and let us assign those additional ten Ministers as the Government of the day think appropriate.” Therefore, would it really help if we were to say: “We really think there is a need for one additional member in Department X [422] or Department Y?” Surely not. The actual workloads, while they have been building up in every Department, tend to build up at faster rates in some Departments than in others but also the actual burden of work in areas tends to vary a bit from time to time as the circumstances of the period warrant. It is entirely appropriate that the Taoiseach and Government of the day should have the flexibility to assign their Ministers, be they members of the Government or the other ten Ministers proposed here, in whatever manner is felt appropriate to the circumstances of the day. That is why one of the welcome provisions in this Bill is the abolition of the existing restriction which says that you can have only one Parliamentary Secretary to one Minister. I can see the possibility of one area of administration requiring the attention of perhaps three Ministers at one time, that is one member of the Government and two other Ministers. For that reason, while I understand the reasoning which led to the comments about the possible inadequacy of three as a number and also to the suggestion of retaining the existing title of office of Parliamentary Secretary, on balance the arguments against those viewpoints must prevail. It is my firm conviction that we are right in setting about this process of reform in a systematic way, not attempting to bite off more than can be chewed at any one stage, and that there is an overwhelming argument for having not more than two categories of Minister.

Those are the essential points. I was asked if I would comment in my reply on this question of the role of advisers, and I may also link that to a request from one or two other speakers about the other ways in which it was envisaged the workload of Ministers might be lightened.

On the latter of those other methods it is no secret that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and myself, speaking at various times this month, have made clear that we want to press ahead with the whole question of public service reform and that part of that reform and restructuring would be to introduce something akin to the Aireacht concept [423] as put forward in the Devlin Report. I leave aside today the precise manner which we might set about introducing those proposals because it is not appropriate to this debate, but certainly any restructuring along those lines would permit a greater delegation of detailed administrative functions to members of the Executive, to members of the civil service Departments. We would get rid of the position, which in a sense has to be largely fictional, that the Minister is personally responsible for every action of his Department. While that may sound nice as a legal position it is in practice a sheer impossibility. While no-one is suggesting relieving Ministers of the ultimate responsibility for the direction and functioning of the Departments it is perfectly permissible to think in terms of the approach which would favour a greater degree of delegation to the permanent staff members of Government Departments. That is one area in which, while not debating it today, I can indicate the possibility of some lightening of the workload.

With regard to bringing in people as advisers who would not be permanent civil servants someone implied that almost by definition they had to be people with political affiliations. That is not necessarily so. Yes, there is a valid case for bringing in people for various periods to form a type of cabinet. This again is a way in which you could ease the workload on Ministers while at the same time making sure that they have the best possible information and advice available to them. A number of Ministers in the Government, including myself, have already made such appointments and I would expect that further appointments would follow. That is an area in which we are again willing to experiment and to proceed at what we would regard as a tolerable pace of change.

I realise that in discussing these matters of the possible role or involvement of advisers and the other administrative reforms that might take place I am straying somewhat from the specific content of the Bill before the [424] House, but I felt it appropriate to touch on them since a number of speakers asked that I refer to them. I hope that what I have said, therefore, is sufficient, taken in conjunction with the statements that have already been made with specific reference to this Bill. I hope that they are sufficient to indicate the seriousness of purpose which the Government have in mind in bringing this Bill before the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take Committee and Report Stages today.

Bill put through Committee, and reported without amendment.

Fifth Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30th November, 1977.