BY MINISTER OF FINANCE ON THE SUBJECT OF THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE SEANAD ON ARTICLES 21 AND 23 OF THE CONSTITUTION AND SUGGESTED APPOINTMENTS AND REMUNERATION OF OFFICERS OF THE SEANAD.
1.—Article 21 of the Constitution leaves it to the Seanad to determine the powers, duties, remuneration and terms of office of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, and the recommendation in paragraph (a) of the first part of the Report regarding the remuneration of the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Cathaoirleach proceeds in accordance with the provisions of that Article.
2.—Article 23 of the Constitution says that the Oireachtas shall make provision for the payment of members and may provide for free travelling facilities. The provision under this Article should apparently be made by an Act of the Oireachtas covering both Houses, and it would not appear to lie with each House acting separately to determine the payment of its own members and the grant of free travelling facilities. The recommendations for payment of Senators in paragraph (a) and for granting of free travelling facilities in paragraph (b) of the first part of the Report fall therefore to be considered when a Bill is introduced in the Dáil for giving effect to Article 23 of the Constitution. The Bill should initiate in the Dáil on the motion of a Minister inasmuch as it is a Money Bill within Article 35 of the Constitution.
3.—The second part of the Report:
(1) prescribes the principal posts of the staff of the Seanad:
(2) recommends certain persons for appointment to these posts, and
(3) makes certain recommendations regarding the junior and reporting staff for the Seanad.
The Constitution is silent as to the power of appointment of and as to the fixing of remuneration for the officers of either the Dáil or the Seanad. The remuneration of officers of either House must be, of course, the subject of an Estimate to be presented in the Dáil and passed by the Dáil in common with all other Public Service Estimates before remuneration can be payable.
4.—In the time available it has not been found possible to obtain any information as to the practice in Canada or in other Dominions, and the only information available is the practice obtaining in the British Parliament. The British Parliament is not a correct precedent for the present purpose inasmuch as the House of Lords occupies in the British Parliament a different position from the Seanad in the Saorstát, and has certain functions which are not vested in the Seanad of the Saorstát. The following outline of the arrangements of the British Parliament may, however, be of help in considering the arrangements to be adopted in the Saorstát:—
(a) The principal officers of Parliament, namely, the Clerk of the Parliaments (House of Lords), the Clerk of the House of Commons, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, and the Serjeant-at-Arms are appointed by the Crown.
(b) The Second and Third Clerks in the House of Lords are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and the Second and Third Clerks in the House of Commons are appointed by the Prime Minister, on the recommendation of the Speaker, from the House of Commons Staff.
(c) The Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of the House of Commons have, as a general rule, the power of appointment of the Clerks, Librarian, & c., but in the case of certain posts the appointment is reserved to the Speaker and to the Offices. Committee of the Lords. The recruitment of staff is carried out by both the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of the House of Commons by a limited competition for which candidates must be nominated.
The House of Commons has a statutory Committee or Commission consisting of the Speaker, the Secretaries of State, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Master of the Rolls and the Attorney and Solicitor-General for the purpose of regulating the numbers, salaries and pensions of the House of Commons staff. The Speaker is Chairman to this Committee, three constitute a quorum, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is always present.
The House of Lords has an Offices Committee composed of Peers drawn from both sides of the House, appointed at the beginning of each Session to regulate numbers, salaries, and pensions of House of Lords staff.
The direct control exercised by the Treasury in relation to staff in the Public Service does not extend to the remuneration of staff of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. In the case of the House of Commons Treasury influence is maintained through the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a Member of the Commons Commission. Estimates for the House of Lords and the House of Commons are only criticised by the Treasury in regard to expenditure other than personal remuneration. In practice the Estimates of the House of Lords as regards personal remuneration are not challenged in the House of Commons, but the right of the House of Commons to do so was exercised in 1893, when the House of Commons reduced the Vote for the Clerk of Parliaments and other staff of the House of Lords by £500.
5.—The analogy of the British Constitution points to a Statute of the Saorstát to determine the principal posts and the remuneration thereof in the Dáil and the Seanad, and to provide machinery to regulate the numbers, salaries, etc., of the junior staff. In the report of the Séanad Committee it appears to be assumed that it is a matter exclusively for the Seanad to determine what officers it will have and what their remuneration will be, but there is nothing in the Constitution to that effect, and it is clear that as the responsibility rests with the Dáil of providing the money, some machinery should be provided to bring the two Houses into accord as regards numbers and salaries of officers and the regulations governing their appointment. It is suggested that for appointment to the principal posts in both the Seanad and the Dáil a Committee should be constituted consisting of the President, the Chairman of the Dáil, and the Chairman of the Seanad, with the addition of the Law Officer should a legal appointment be under consideration. It is suggested that as regards remuneration and numbers of junior staff, there should be a Standing Committee consisting of the Minister of Finance, the Chairman of the Dáil and the Chairman of the Seanad.
6.—As regards junior staff, it is suggested that until experience shows that there is sufficient work to justify the creation of separate staffis an attempt should be made to carry on with one common staff. The report of the Seanad Committee recognises the desirability of a common reporting staff, and the principle should, it is suggested, be extended for the present to the Junior Clerical Staff and any typing staff that may be required. It is suggested also that there should be one common Parliamentary Library.
7.—As regards recruitment of junior staff, the British Parliament has a limited competition with nomination for each House. Open competitive examination is not desirable as, owing to the relations that must necessarily exist between the staff and members of the Seanad or of the Dáil, it is important that careful selection should be exercised. There appears, however, to be no good reason why the junior clerical staff of the Seanad and of the Dáil (whether separate or as suggested above, one common pool) should not be recruited in the future from an appropriate open Civil Service examination, subject to the condition that the successful candidates at that examination should be subject to selection before appointment. At the moment no suitable Civil Service examination is available. The Dáil, however, has obtained practically all its junior staff from the existing Civil Service, and has proceeded on the principle of building up staff to meet the growth of the work. Pending the creation of whatever machinery may be decided upon, the Clerk of the Dáil, in obtaining staff, has followed the practice of the Civil Service by obtaining the Finance Ministry sanction for appointments and salaries. If the Seanad is to have a separate junior staff it is suggested that the staff should be drawn from the Civil Service by selection.
L. T. MacCOSGAIR.
17adh Eanair, 1923.