Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Labour Services (Amendment) Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

3:00 pm

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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On a point of order, with regard to the ordering of today's business, if I had not called into the House, I would not have been aware of the changes that are now taking place in terms of timing. I want to register a protest at the lack of communication on the change to the order. While I will leave it for the Fine Gael Senator to comment, I might well not have been here for lack of communication and some of the amendments could have fallen.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I fully support the point made by Senator Ryan.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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I will register the complaint. The business was ordered this morning. If there were amendments to it, I would have thought it was by agreement. I will make the point known to the Leader of the House.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to endorse Senator Ryan and Senator Phelan's remarks relating to the ordering of today's business. We too were left in the dark until quite late.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.

SECTION 3.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

"(9) No compensation upon leaving office shall be payable to the Director General or any other officer or employee unless the terms of the compensation are approved by a committee appointed by Dáil Éireann for the purpose.".

In light of significant public comment and disquiet regarding recent events, the amendment seeks to ensure there is a control on golden handshakes for senior staff by having the terms of compensation agreed by a committee of Dáil Éireann. We need to ensure there is no significant bumping up of payoffs and a committee specifically set up to deal with the matter would be a useful control. It is a significant matter. While the Minister of State may suggest the relevant Minister is accountable to the Committee of Public Accounts, we are not necessarily sure how payments are computed on the cessation of employment. In regard to the most recent matter concerning Rody Molloy, serious concerns were raised in terms of the payoff as to whether it was in keeping with guidelines. The amendment seeks to deal with concerns in that regard.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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We oppose the amendment on the grounds that, as we have discussed at committee level, it is a matter for the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance to determine the terms and conditions of the director general of FÁS and to determine the mechanism for determining the remuneration of FÁS employees. The Minister is responsible to the Oireachtas in this matter.

The issue of severance packages to chief executive officers is a more general one. The Government is reviewing the issue of severance and retirement packages as part of a broader examination that is under way following the publication of the Green Paper on pensions. The Green Paper addressed, among other options, items that might be considered for future pensions development. Our objective is to put in place a pensions system that is financially, economically and socially sustainable. The issue of public service pensions is addressed in Chapter 13 of the Green Paper. We are at an advanced stage in the development of this matter and hope to be able to bring forward proposals in the near future.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I echo the sentiments expressed by Senator Ryan. The amendment arises from what we have seen in the recent past in FÁS in terms of the payments that were made to the ex-director general of that organisation, the completely unsatisfactory manner in which the Tánaiste explained those payments and the complete lack of transparency as to how figures and settlements were arrived at.

I fully support the Labour Party amendment. While the Minister of State has given some sort of positive indication in his remarks, he will not take the amendment on board. I would not be particularly happy with that but I will leave it to Senator Ryan to indicate whether he will put the amendment to a vote. It is important in this Bill, which deals specifically with the board and operations of that body, that we should insert some sort of framework so the fiasco that happened with Mr. Molloy's resignation and subsequent settlement does not happen in the future. This Bill is the correct place to insert that.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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The Minister of State's comments outline a number of issues coming down the track. There is nothing like striking while the iron is hot and there is an opportunity to put something significant into the legislation to deal with the matter. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendment.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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There is a far broader issue at stake here rather than just FÁS. With regard to Senator Phelan's comments, I direct him to the hearings of the Committee of Public Accounts last Thursday, which provided some clarity on the position of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the issue.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 3 agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, to delete lines 27 to 30.

The intention of this amendment is to remove the gag on the director general in commenting on Government policy. We want to find a mechanism whereby the director general can comment on what he or she may feel about an issue when appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts or any other committee. We live in a democracy and it should be possible to raise matters of policy which are causing public concern. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I second Senator Ryan's amendment. This particular type of phraseology is much used in legislation I have seen going through the House with regard to State agencies. It is important where serious consideration is given to whistleblowing legislation across the board in certain new items of legislation. I believe it is part of the renewed programme for Government that such provisions are made.

This is not strictly a whistleblowing amendment but it is an opportunity to allow the director general of FÁS to express an opinion. The Minister in response will point out that it would be unsatisfactory if the director general expressed a view that was completely contrary to Government policy. The phraseology of that part of section 4, which states that in the duties of the director general they shall not question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or a Minister, is archaic and does not fit with the times in which we live. It certainly should not fit with any attempts by any Government to introduce transparency into the way it operates the semi-State sector.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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This is a standard provision in all legislation with regard to State bodies. There are plenty of roles in which any CEO of a State body can express an opinion on Government policy. The provision proposed to be deleted here is standard in all legislation and we cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 4 agreed to.

Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.

SECTION 7.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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It is proposed that we discuss amendments Nos. 3 and 4 together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 3:

In page 9, line 22, after "Foras" to insert the following:

"or the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment".

This amendment extends the whistleblower protection to cover the Department. It is afforded to FÁS officials and we deem it important to be extended to the officials of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who deal with relevant issues. I urge the Minister of State to accept this reasonable amendment and look forward to his comments.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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We are not in a position to accept the amendment as a Government decision of 7 March 2006 has formalised a sectoral approach to addressing the issue of whistleblowing. That decision requires Ministers to include, where appropriate, whistleblowing provisions in draft legislation relating to specific sectors. The inclusion of this overall provision in the Bill is consistent with a sectoral approach and to include the overall Department would be against that approach. We cannot accept the amendment.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Will the Minister of State elaborate on the 2006 decision? When will we see its full effect? Must we wait for different pieces of legislation before we get the implementation of the 2006 decision?

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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My understanding is that approaches to whistleblowing are being included in every piece of relevant legislation. There is a sectoral approach and this legislation is consistent with that approach.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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If there is no further legislation, gaps will remain.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Yes but it is an issue that the Government is committed to and it is kept under review.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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How stands the amendment?

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are very similar and I do not intend to press them.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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Does the Senator wish to discuss amendment No. 4?

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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No, as it is the same point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, to delete lines 26 to 31.

This is essentially the same point and I anticipate the same response. I do not intend to press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 7 agreed to.

Section 8 agreed to.

SECTION 9.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 6:

In page 11, line 39, to delete "chairman" and substitute "chairperson".

This amendment inserts gender-neutral language in line with modern drafting. The Minister should accept it but I anticipate that he will not. I am interested in his comments to justify anything other than accepting the amendment.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I will surprise the Senator some day. This is an amendment Bill which relates to a Bill published prior to 1993. For all legislation enacted after 1993, the convention for amendment Bills to Acts originally written with the masculine form is to maintain that form. There is an understanding that it refers to both male and female chairpersons. It is not proposed to accept the amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and it is proposed to discuss them together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 7:

In page 11, line 40, to delete "10 ordinary members (including" and substitute the following:

"8 ordinary members (including a worker director and".

This amendment seeks to reduce the size of the board and include one worker director. There is scope to reduce the board further in this case and business can be done more effectively and efficiently with a smaller board. There is also a concern with this aspect of the legislation because of a failure to allocate a place for worker directors. There is a strong case for worker directors. We propose that room be made for one worker director on the newly constituted board. In the past, worker directors have played a significant and positive role on various semi-State bodies and they could do so in the future. In theory, having a worker director on the board should work in favour of a company because the director would be aware of the context and reason for difficult decisions. As a worker elected to the board, the director must justify his position on the board to the workers. This is a positive thing and is a tried and trusted practice. We have worker directors on the boards of RTE, Bord na Móna and other semi-State bodies. I believe there is a good case for continuing that tradition and, therefore, urge the Minister of State to accept our amendment.

4:00 pm

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I support Senator Ryan's amendment which is similar to my amendment No. 8. There is a small difference in that the Labour Party amendment seeks to reduce the size of the board further than is proposed in the Bill. Both amendments seek to include a worker director. I do not understand the logic behind removing the worker director from the board. I understand that legislation enacted in 1977 laid the foundation stone for worker directors to be placed on the boards of semi-State authorities. It seems a step backward to remove this provision.

To cut to the chase, this Bill would never have been introduced were it not for the sterling work of a number of Members of this House and the Dáil in unveiling difficulties that emerged within FÁS. However, despite the profligacy of certain senior managers and the lack of oversight by the board as evidenced in the coverage those issues have received, everybody has pointed out that the ordinary staff of FÁS provide a vital service the length and breadth of the country. Both the community employment schemes and the apprenticeship schemes FÁS operates have been acknowledged around the world. These have been very successful. Everybody acknowledges that the role of the ordinary worker in the organisation has been undermined to an extent by the activities of senior management and, perhaps, a lack of oversight by board members. However, I believe those ordinary workers should continue to have a representative voice at board level within the FÁS structure. It is for that reason I have tabled amendment No. 8 and support amendment No. 7.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I endorse Senator Phelan's remarks on the workforce of FÁS generally. The workers are outstanding, apart from the small minority whose activities have been revealed. Senator Phelan spoke about the quality of the apprenticeship system. That quality extends throughout the organisation. Our decision not to have a worker director on the board is no reflection on that.

The Department has moved away from the model of a worker director over a number of years. We consider FÁS as an agency as opposed to the commercial semi-State companies to which Senator Ryan referred. Our other agencies, such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Shannon Development, do not include worker directors on their boards. The main objective of the Bill, as recognised by both Senators, is to reform and strengthen the board. We are moving completely away from the sectoral basis of appointment, which dictated the formation of the FÁS board until now, towards a board that will be appointed by the Minister and for which the Minister will be answerable to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Another change is that the director general of FÁS will now be an ex officio member of the board. Therefore, there is a formal link with the staff and with the day-to-day operations of FÁS to the board through the director general of FÁS being at the table. Therefore, we cannot accept the amendments.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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The Minister of State indicated in his response that the objective of the legislation was, more or less, to bring FÁS into line with other agencies and he has attempted to differentiate between agencies and semi-State bodies. I am not sure I understand the rationale or reason for that. It makes sense to have worker directors and it is beyond me why it makes sense to have worker directors on semi-State boards but not on agency boards. Will the Minister of State comment on that?

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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There is no major science to it. We are moving towards a different method of board selection and the agencies are directly within our remit. There are different restrictions around the commercial semi-State bodies. I would point out that the director general will be around the board table and will, as happens currently, have a direct role in the input of the board activities. He can and will be in a position to reflect the views of the staff.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I am sure the director general will be a person of the utmost quality. However, it is not that long since the ordinary staff of FÁS would have felt their views would not have been adequately represented by the person who filled that position. Therefore, that provision is not particularly acceptable. The Bill proposes to reduce significantly the number of people on the board, but the board will still have a membership of 11, including the chairperson and the director general. I do not see any reason one of the other nine people could not be a representative of the staff of the organisation, someone independent of the director general of the organisation. I feel it is important to provide for this.

In general I am not someone who stands up here to support union interests or such things. However, if we have learned anything from the morass in FÁS over recent months, we should take on board the view of the ordinary workers in FÁS who operate the agency who felt they were not listened to sufficiently and were badly managed by those in senior management positions. This has proven to be the case. It is not acceptable for the Government to say the workers will be represented by the most senior manager in the organisation on the board.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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The tradition in Ireland in terms of worker directors has been that there has been a strong association between the worker director and the unions. However, the case we are putting in the amendment does not concern the unions as such, rather the concept of the worker being elected to the board and becoming a director. The Minister of State suggested that because the director general will be on the board, this somehow fills the gap. I do not accept this to be case. I spent time in the private sector up to two years ago before I became involved in full-time politics. I had arrived at the point where I had moved to the other side of the table and was negotiating with the unions. If I had said to them that I would represent them well, I am sure I would have been told where to get off. They would have been of the view that they did not need the chief executive or the general manager to represent them. Notwithstanding the Minister of State's rationale in terms of agencies, I think it is worth holding on to worker representation on the board. Therefore, I will be pressing the amendment.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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Does the Minister of State wish to reply further?

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate the sentiments of both Senators. I would also point out that advertisements were placed in the national newspapers some weeks ago to invite expressions of interest from people interested in serving on the board of FÁS. I have not seen the final list of applicants but there is potentially a provision there for members of staff to apply. When this Bill was being considered on Committee Stage in the Dáil, I gave a commitment that submissions from the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment would be considered. I do not wish to comment on another amendment but if a member of staff of FÁS were to be part of that submission then I would give it precedence. However, I cannot accept this amendment.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 27 (Martin Brady, Larry Butler, James Carroll, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Maria Corrigan, Mark Daly, Déirdre de Búrca, John Ellis, Geraldine Feeney, Camillus Glynn, John Gerard Hanafin, Cecilia Keaveney, Terry Leyden, Marc MacSharry, Lisa McDonald, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Labhrás Ó Murchú, Francis O'Brien, Denis O'Donovan, Fiona O'Malley, Ned O'Sullivan, Ann Ormonde, Kieran Phelan, Jim Walsh, Mary White, Diarmuid Wilson)

Against the motion: 21 (Ivana Bacik, Paul Bradford, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Maurice Cummins, Paschal Donohoe, Frances Fitzgerald, Dominic Hannigan, Fidelma Healy Eames, Nicky McFadden, Joe O'Reilly, Joe O'Toole, John Paul Phelan, Phil Prendergast, Feargal Quinn, Eugene Regan, Shane Ross, Brendan Ryan, Liam Twomey)

Tellers: Tá, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Dominic Hannigan and Brendan Ryan.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I move amendment No. 8:

In page 11, after line 41, to insert the following:

"2) Of the ordinary members, one shall be a worker director.".

Amendment put and declared lost

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)
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Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are related and may be discussed together.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 9:

In page 12, line 2, after "Minister,", where it firstly occurs, to insert the following:

"with the approval of a committee of Dáil Éireann nominated for the purpose".

The amendment would provide for Oireachtas scrutiny of the appointment of members of the FÁS board. It would stipulate this should be done with the approval of a committee of Dáil Éireann nominated for the purpose. As I stated on Second Stage, I support the reduction in the number of board members but I still have difficulties with the manner of their appointment because the appointment of friends of the Minister of the day remains a possibility, which is a major concern of my party. Oireachtas scrutiny should be provided for and the old days of political appointments must come to an end. The amendment would go some way towards addressing the problem which, I hope, will be solved.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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The two amendments are related, although mine is slightly different. They are designed to ensure the Oireachtas would be enabled to scrutinise whoever was appointed to the board in the future. The Labour Party amendment refers to a Dáil committee whereas mine refers to the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment which should have the final say. It is time the Government not only published advertisements in newspapers seeking suitably qualified persons, with which we all agree, but that it also opened the process to complete scrutiny by the Oireachtas by allowing the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to have the final say on appointments to the board.

Senator Ryan has correctly pointed out that, ultimately, the Government's proposed new appointments mechanism does not mean the primary qualification to be a member of a board will not be friendship with the Minister for the day or political affiliation. That is not acceptable in this day and age, although numerous people with political affiliations have fulfilled their functions correctly and admirably on State bodies during the years. However, a new approach is needed to the appointment of board members and this legislation is the correct vehicle to get the ball rolling. The amendments seek to introduce a new level of transparency in appointments to the board of FÁS in the future and I urge the Minister of State to accept them.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I thank both Senators. The purpose of the Bill is to fundamentally change the structure and culture of the board of FÁS. Throughout the passage of the legislation, I have repeatedly stated we are seeking people with an interest in, or experience of, the functions of FÁS, including those with a background in finance, corporate governance and public administration. I am glad Senator Phelan clarified his remark about political affiliation.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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It should not be a bar. Nobody would say that.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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It should not be a barrier if people are qualified.

With regard to the construction of the new board, we have examined a different approach. The Department placed advertisements in the newspapers to which it received in excess of 150 responses which are being assessed. I also made it clear at the select committee and in the Dáil that, having served on the joint committee, I would give credence to submissions made by the committee before the board was appointed. I invite such submissions again. Both Senators are members of the committee. When the legislation is passed, we will move quickly to appoint the members of the board because we have put a great deal of thought into the calibre of persons we want to see on the board and where the organisation should go following the events of the past year which have not been a good advertisement for the public service. We want to use the board to change this. Ultimately, the Minister will make the appointments. She is answerable for them to the Dáil, the Seanad and the joint committee.

The wider issue relates to the manner in which political appointees in the United States are called before committees and put through the mill before being appointed. That is not the road we should go down in making part-time appointments because Ireland is too small a country. There is merit in having a board answer for its performance while in office to a committee and I would like to flesh out that proposal at some stage. Questioning appointees before they take up a post may prevent people from applying or discourage them from getting involved in State boards and result in us losing talent. We have made changes to the construction of the board and to the way we approach this. I am open to suggestions and the proposal of names. I welcome names from any field that a Member feels have a role in rebuilding FÁS. We are not in a position to accept formal amendments on this.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I welcome much of what the Minister of State said. We agree that we want the best people willing to serve on the board of FÁS and a series of other agencies. While we are talking about FÁS today, should we be talking about another agency tomorrow we would propose the same principle on the need for in-house approval. The Minister of State indicated a departure, whereby positions on the board will be advertised and expressions of interest will be sought. It is still open to the Minister to ignore those applicants. There is no onus on the Minister to accept these candidates. The Minister can appoint whoever he or she wishes. That does not address the issue. Our amendment, referring to the approval of a committee, means that this is open to flexibility thereafter in how this is done. Accepting this amendment does not mean the applicants must troop in before a committee. It could be done in a variety of ways. The flexibility and creativity could be generated by the committee in respect of dealing with concerns people may have. This is an important amendment. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I do not accept the explanation of the Minister of State in refusing to accept either of these amendments. When any changes are proposed to how State boards are appointed, we are told that any change in the structure will result in qualified people being lost. Despite this, the Government has come some way down the road to reforming how these appointments are filled.

Senator Ryan pointed out that the Government has a majority on the committees of the Oireachtas. Ultimately, if the Government wishes to pursue the appointment of an individual against the wishes of a minority on the committee, that can still be done. The principle is that the committee should be empowered to question the suitability of someone to hold such a position. Ultimately, the person in question should be in a position to give an overview of the role and what he or she wants to do as the officeholder. Any provision to open up the appointments process to that level of scrutiny should be welcomed and should be accepted by the Government. The Minister of State should change his mind.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Despite the background music, I am not in a charitable humour and I cannot accept any of the amendments.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I move amendment No. 10:

In page 12, paragraph (a), between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

"(3) (a) The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment shall, for the purposes of making recommendations to the Minister under this section and making recommendation in respect of any casual vacancies or other vacancies as they arise on An Foras, may establish a panel, for such duration, and consisting of such number of persons as the Joint Oireachtas Committee thinks proper.

(b) Persons placed on a panel established under paragraph (a) shall have experience of or have shown capacity in one or more of the following areas shall be chosen with a view to representing the public interest—

(i) the functions of An Foras, or

(ii) finance, trade, commerce, corporate governance or public administration.

(c) The Joint Oireachtas Committee shall, insofar as is practicable, endeavour to ensure that among the persons placed on a panel under paragraph (a) there is an equal balance between men and women.

(d) The Joint Oireachtas Committee shall have sole responsibility for the selection and placing of candidates on a panel established under paragraph (a).".

Amendment put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 22 (Ivana Bacik, Paul Bradford, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Maurice Cummins, Paschal Donohoe, Frances Fitzgerald, Dominic Hannigan, Fidelma Healy Eames, Nicky McFadden, Rónán Mullen, Joe O'Reilly, Joe O'Toole, John Paul Phelan, Phil Prendergast, Feargal Quinn, Eugene Regan, Shane Ross, Brendan Ryan, Liam Twomey)

Against the motion: 26 (Dan Boyle, Martin Brady, Larry Butler, James Carroll, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Maria Corrigan, Mark Daly, Déirdre de Búrca, John Ellis, Geraldine Feeney, Camillus Glynn, John Gerard Hanafin, Cecilia Keaveney, Terry Leyden, Marc MacSharry, Lisa McDonald, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Labhrás Ó Murchú, Denis O'Donovan, Fiona O'Malley, Ann Ormonde, Kieran Phelan, Jim Walsh, Mary White, Diarmuid Wilson)

Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and John Paul Phelan; Níl, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I move amendment No. 11:

In page 13, line 23, after "Foras" to insert the following:

"or any person whom is classified within An Foras as a Director or Assistance Director General,".

This amendment seeks to extend the category of staff member in FÁS who can have his or her employment terminated for one of the listed reasons for non-performance of his or her duty. As stated previously, this Bill was introduced following a number of revelations about activities that took place in FÁS. The Bill is aimed principally at remedying the lack of action that was taken and the lack of oversight by the board of senior management within the organisation. The legislation, as put forward, does not include any level of direct supervision by the Minister of the activities of senior managers. From the knowledge we now have of what happened in FÁS, we know it was those senior managers who took many of the bad decisions and who managed to squander, in some cases, quite large amounts of public money. The fact that there is no provision for the Minister to deal directly with those senior managers in terms of the performance of their roles and their functions in the organisation is a significant loophole. The purpose of the amendment is simply to extend to senior management the same provisions proposed under the Bill for board members if they fall down in the operation of their duty as senior managers with FÁS. The amendment is especially important in the light of what we know about what went on in FÁS and will be instrumental in ensuring similar activities do not occur at senior management level in future. I trust the Minister of State will be in a position to accept the amendment.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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It is not appropriate for a Minister to have any function in the day-to-day human resource management of any organisation. Senator Phelan is correct to state that what took place in FÁS was wrong. I will reflect on this matter at the conclusion of the process. There were checks and balances outside FÁS but it was the supervision of FÁS that floundered. A properly structured and appointed board with effective sub-committees along with a properly empowered director general will fulfil the role. We cannot accept the amendment because it is not appropriate for a Minister to be involved in matters which are the responsibility of the board and the director general.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I understand the Minister of State's logic and explanation but it seems ironic to propose legislation designed to ensure the activities uncovered in FÁS do not reoccur while completely ignoring the major source of the activities and difficulties which arose. I understand it is undesirable for the Minister to have a direct involvement. However, this amendment is very specific in that it limits the category of employee affected to a small number of senior managers within the organisation. It spells out specifically the criteria under which the Minister may become involved. We have seen a litany of abuse of public expenditure by certain senior managers within FÁS over a protracted period. Any legislation that seeks to remedy that but which does not seek to deal with the people directly responsible is deficient. I understand the Minister of State's explanation but I do not accept it. A similar provision, although not necessarily worded in the manner of this amendment, should be accepted to ensure such activities do not recur in the future.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 9 agreed to.

Sections 10 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Senators for their time and input to this process in recent weeks. I thank the officials of both Houses, including the Clerk of the Seanad and the Clerk of the Dáil, the clerk to the Select Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment and officials in our Department who have worked very hard on the legislation at a time when their attention has been diverted to other issues in respect of FÁS.

I reiterate the remarks of Senators and Deputies during the passage of the legislation concerning the staff of FÁS. The actions of a small number of people have damaged the whole organisation. However, this should not take away from the quality, commitment and passion for their work of the people in FÁS. Throughout the country, whether as part of apprenticeships or community employment schemes, people's lives are being enhanced by the work of FÁS. What took place in FÁS should in no way diminish the role the staff have played in the running of the organisation and their contribution to society.

This House and the other House have come out of this process well in respect of the role of the Committee of Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It shows we have an effective committee system that can be used well and which has great potential. I acknowledge my thanks to the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, Deputy Bernard Allen, the Vice Chairman, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and other members for the role they have played and continue to play in respect of FÁS. I trust every Senator will join me in offering my best wishes to the new director general, Mr. Paul O'Toole, as he attempts to deal with the issues that arose in the organisation and, more important, as he tries to deal with the task at hand in terms of addressing the needs of the 430,000 unemployed. That figure increased today and it should be our focus in respect of FÁS and in terms of providing the best possible service for these people at a very difficult time in their lives. We must refocus our attention and energies on that job. It was never more needed than now. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Chathaoirleach, an Seanadóir O'Malley agus gach éinne eile a bhí páirteach sa phróiséas seo i rith sa seachtaine.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister and his officials who were most accommodating towards me before the Bill reached Second Stage. I reiterate the earlier comments of Senator Ryan. There was a lack of information available concerning when Committee Stage would be taken. That was very unsatisfactory and I trust the Leader will be in a position to order the business of the House more clearly in future.

I echo the sentiments of the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, on the role of FÁS, especially his final comments on the importance of FÁS now at the juncture in which we find ourselves. FÁS is crucial and has fulfilled an important role up to now but for those who find themselves unemployed, the importance of a State training agency cannot be overstated. I trust the Bill will ensure that what was uncovered in FÁS in recent months cannot happen again. I was disappointed several amendments were not accepted which could have strengthened the Bill further. Nevertheless, I support the thrust of the Bill, the emphasis it places on improving the transparency of certain aspects of the operation of FÁS and the need to ensure there is a proper State training agency to deal with the difficulties facing the country.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I wish to be associated with the comments of Senator John Paul Phelan. I welcome the Bill, as I did on Second Stage. It is necessary legislation but it could have been improved if the Minister of State had accepted some of our amendments and that is a loss to the legislation. Hopefully, it will serve its purpose.

I recognise the great work done by the thousands of people who work in FÁS and all sides of this House and the other House have recognised as much at different stages of the Bill. I offer my best wishes for the legislation. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for the manner in which they introduced the legislation to the House. Most important, I wish FÁS well for the future. In the current economic climate it is vital that it is successful.

Photo of John CartyJohn Carty (Fianna Fail)
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I compliment the Minister of State and his officials on the way in which they have dealt with this legislation. I wish FÁS well at this critical juncture in the country's economic history. I also wish the new chairman of FÁS, Mr. Paul O'Toole, well in his new office.

Question put and agreed to.