Committee Reports::Report - Remuneration of Ministers and the Allowances to Members of Oireachtas, 1929::04 December, 1929::Proceedings of the Joint Committee



Dé Céadaoin, 4adh Mí na Nodlag, 1929.

Wednesday, 4th December, 1929.

1. The Joint Committee met at 11 a.m.

2. Present: Senator Hooper (in the Chair); Deputies Hennessy, Lemass, O’Mahony, Smith, Thrift and Tierney; Senators Mrs. Costello, Johnson, The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, Milroy, Colonel Moore and O’Hanlon.

3. The Draft Report brought in by the Chairman was read the first time as follows:—

The Joint Committee appointed to reconsider the general question of the remuneration of Ministers and the allowances payable to members of the Dáil and of the Seanad, reports as follows:—

Remuneration of Ministers.

1. The Committee recommends:—

(a) That the salaries of Ministers remain as at present fixed:

(b) That a scheme be introduced under which ex-Ministers should receive special allowances, provided that they shall have held office for a minimum period to be specified, such allowances to continue for a period not exceeding five years after their retirement from office.

The majority of the Committee favoured some improvement in the financial provision now made for Ministers, but diverse views were expressed as to the form in which this improvement should be made. Some thought it should be effected directly by an increase in the present salary scale and that provision for the future of ex-Ministers should be left to themselves. Others took the view that salaries should remain as at present, but that allowances under certain conditions should be available for ex-Ministers. A third group, while in favour of such a scheme of allowances, considered that it should be conditional upon reduction of ministerial salaries. On the other hand, a minority of the Committee was strongly opposed to the adoption of any of these courses, holding that, in view of the financial and economic conditions prevailing in the Saorstát, the present salaries of Ministers are excessive, that they should be reduced substantially, and that there should be no allowances for ex-Ministers.

2. In arriving at the conclusion set out in sub-paragraph (b) above, the majority of the Committee had in view the strong probability that for many years to come Ministers of the Saorstát will be recruited mainly from members of the earning class. It was held to be unreasonable to expect men of this class possessing the capacity requisite for ministerial office to relinquish their private avocations and undertake the burdens of Government for a number of years without, at least, some assurance that on retirement they would not be too seriously handicapped in their efforts to re-establish themselves in their ordinary occupations. The majority was satisfied further that the present scale of salaries is insufficient to permit of Ministers while in office making any provision of this nature for themselves, and was of opinion that if men of the desired qualifications are to be encouraged to accept ministerial responsibility the State itself should make provision for them. It was considered, moreover, that the proposal recommended would constitute an additional inducement to ex-Ministers to continue as members of the Oireachtas, thus securing to the State the benefit of the knowledge and experience gained by them while in charge of their respective Departments. Some members of the Committee attached so much importance to this point that they wished to make the grant of any allowance conditional on the ex-Minister remaining in the Oireachtas, but the majority beheved that the recommendation decided upon would ensure this object in most cases, and at the same time would meet the case of any ex-Minister, who for any reason, might not seek, or seeking, might not secure, election.

Allowances to Members of the Oireachtas.

3. The Committee does not feel justified in recommending any reduction in the present scale of allowances paid to members of the Oireachtas. In arriving at this conclusion the Committee was influenced by two main considerations: (a) that in a democratic State, membership of either House of the Legislature should be open to citizens of every rank without undue sacrifice of private interests, and (b) that having regard to the actual interference with such interests and to the expenses inevitably incidental to their position as members of the Oireachtas, Senators and Deputies who discharge their duties conscientiously give full value to the State for the allowances now paid to them. A minority contended that in view of the differences in the parliamentary duties and public activities which Deputies and Senators are called upon to undertake, the allowances to Senators should be reduced. This contention was not accepted by the majority, which held that the existing allowance rate should be regarded as a minimum for members of either House, that there should be an increase in the amount of work entrusted to Senators, and that if any financial change were to be made it should take the form of an increase in the allowance to Deputies.

4. The methods of payment of members in different countries were considered and it is agreed unanimously that the present system of payment at a fixed rate is the most satisfactory arrangement. It is held that a person who becomes a member of either House of the Oireachtas, whether his attendance at the House or at Parliamentary Committees be required frequently or not, must be prepared to devote much of his time and attention to parliamentary business in general, and that attendance at sittings would provide a false basis on which to assess the actual amount of work he is expected to perform. The Committee is not in favour of departing from the present practice under which no special allowance is made for service on Parliamentary Committees.

5. It was brought to the notice of the Committee that occasionally there have been members of the Dáil and Seanad, who by lax attendance at sittings, have shown disregard for their obligations as legislators. These, however, are exceptional cases, and in the opinion of the Committee, should be the subject of special provision. The Committee is not satisfied as to the feasibility of any general scheme involving automatic diminution of allowance on account of non-attendance, but thinks that the law should be amended to permit of each House establishing a procedure for dealing with special cases of protracted absence or irregular attendance of its members. The Committee recommends that such procedure should make provision for the summoning by the House of the member to attend, failure to comply with this summons without adequate explanation to be followed by withdrawal of his allowance, either wholly or in part, for a specified period.

Leader of the Opposition.

6. The Committee considered the question of recommending a special allowance to the Leader of the Opposition. It realises that the amount of work which the Leader of the Opposition, or of any large party continuously in opposition, has to perform to enable him to deal adequately with the various matters which come before the Legislature is exceedingly heavy, and all the more so by reason of the fact that he has not access to technical advisers, nor the use of an official executive staff, such as are at the service of Ministers. While agreed as to the desirability of provision being made by the State for the Deputy holding this onerous and responsible position, the Committee finds itself unable to make a definite recommendation owing to the practical difficulties involved. Chief of these difficulties is that a House elected under the system of Proportional Representation is likely to consist of several parties, and if these should be almost of equal strength it might not be easy to decide who was entitled to the rank of “Leader of the Opposition.” It is thought that the matter might await further experience of our parliamentary development.

Travelling Facilities.

7. The Committee considers that the system of providing travelling facilities for Deputies and Senators so far in operation has been unsatisfactory, both from the point of view of Deputies and Senators, and of the cost to the State, and that the State should take up with the transport companies the question of providing full facilities for travel in all parts of the Saorstát.

It is considered desirable in the national interest that members should be facilitated and encouraged to make themselves acquainted with the conditions prevailing in all parts of the Saorstát, and thereby emphasise the fact that their responsibility as legislators is not merely local, but national. The Committee considers that even if the cost of such extended facilities were to exceed somewhat the amount voted for travelling facilities in recent. years the expenditure would be justified. If for any reasons this proposal is not approved the Committee recommends that Deputies should at least be given facilities for free travel on public conveyances anywhere within their constituencies.

Postal Facilities.

8. The attention of the Committee was drawn to the expenditure incurred by Deputies in respect of postage arising from their position. It was pointed out that in many cases this reaches a comparatively large sum, and a proposal was submitted that each Deputy should be supplied monthly with a number of franked envelopes for use in correspondence of this kind. This motion did not, however, find favour with the majority of the Committee.

Motion made (Deputy Hennessy):

“That the Chairman’s Draft Report be read a second time.”

Question put, and agreed to.

Report considered, paragraph by paragraph.

(i) Paragraph 1.

Amendment proposed (Senator O’Hanlon):

“To insert in sub-paragraph (b), after the word ‘specified’ the words ‘by the Oireachtas’.”

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Lemass):

“In the last sentence of the paragraph to delete the words ‘are excessive, that they’.”

Question put, and agreed to.

Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.

(ii) Paragraph 2 agreed to.

(iii) Paragraph 3.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Lemass):

“To delete all words after the words ‘a minority contended that’ to the end of the sentence, and substitute therefor the words ‘the allowances to Senators should be reduced because the parliamentary duties and public activities which Senators are required to undertake are not so extensive as in the case of Deputies.”’

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Lemass):

“To delete the words ‘that there should be an increase in the amount of work entrusted to Senators.”’

Question put, and negatived.

Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.

(iv) Paragraphs 4 and 5 agreed to.

(v) Paragraph 6.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Lemass):

“To delete the words ‘While agreed as to the desirability of provision being made by the State for the Deputy holding this onerous and responsible position.”’

Question put, and negatived.

Amendment proposed (Senator Hooper):

“To insert after the word ‘While’ and before the word ‘agreed’ the word ‘generally.”’

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Lemass):

“To delete all words after the words ‘chief of these difficulties is that’ to the end of the sentence, and substitute therefor the words ‘of devising a method, applicable to the various circumstances which might arise, of determining the person who should be regarded as the “Leader of the Opposition” in a House elected under the system of Proportional Representation.”’

Question:—“That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the paragraph”—put, and negatived.

Question:—“That the proposed words be there inserted”—put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Thrift):

“To delete the sentence as amended.”

Question put, and negatived.

Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.

(vi) Paragraphs 7 and 8 agreed to.

Motion made (Senator Johnson):

“That the Chairman’s Draft Report, as amended, be the Report of the Joint Committee.”

Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered: To report to both Houses accordingly.

4. The Committee concluded at 1.35 p.m.