Message from Dáil.

Thursday, 8 December 1977

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 87 No. 9

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An Cathaoirleach: Information on Séamus Dolan  Zoom on Séamus Dolan  Dáil Éireann has passed the following Resolution in which the concurrence of Seanad Éireann is desired:

(1) That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas (which shall be called the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities) be established consisting of—

[796] 18 members of Dáil Éireann and 8 members of Seanad Éireann (none of whom shall be a delegate to the Assembly of the European Communities)

to examine—

(i) such programmes and guidelines prepared by the Commission of the European Communities as a basis for possible legislative action and such drafts of regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions of the Council of Ministers proposed by the Commission,

(ii) such acts of the institutions of those Communities,

(iii) such regulations under the European Communities Act, 1972 (No. 27 of 1972), and

(iv) such other instruments made under statute and necessitated by the obligations of membership of those Communities,

as the Joint Committee may select and to report thereon to both Houses of the Oireachtas;

(2) That provision be made for the appointment of substitutes to act for members of the Joint Committee who are unable to attend particular meetings and that members of either House, not being members of the Joint Committee, be allowed to attend meetings and to take part in the proceedings without having a right to vote;

(3) That delegates to the Assembly of the European Communities be notified of meetings and be allowed to attend and take part in the proceedings without having a right to vote;

(4) That the Joint Committee, previous to the commencement of business, shall elect one of its members to be Chairman, who shall have only one vote;

(5) That all questions in the Joint Committee shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting and in the event of there being an equality of votes the question shall be decided in the negative;

[797] (6) That every report which the Joint Committee proposes to make shall on adoption by the Joint Committee be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas forthwith whereupon the Joint Committee shall be empowered to print and publish such report together with such related documents as it thinks fit; and

(7) That five members of the Joint Committee shall form a quorum of whom at least one shall be a member of Dáil Éireann and at least one shall be a member of Seanad Éireann.

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin David Senior Ryan  Zoom on Eoin David Senior Ryan  I move:

(1) That Seanad Éireann concurs with Dáil Éireann in its Resolution communicated to Seanad Éireann on 7th day of December, 1977, that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas (which shall be called the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities) be established consisting of—

18 members of Dáil Éireann and 8 members of Seanad Éireann (none of whom shall be a delegate to the Assembly of the European Communities)

to examine—

(i) such programmes and guidelines prepared by the Commission of the European Communities as a basis for possible legislative action and such drafts of regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions of the Council of Ministers proposed by the Commission,

(ii) such acts of the institutions of those Communities,

(iii) such regulations under the European Communities Act, 1972 (No. 27 of 1972), and

(iv) such other instruments made under statute and necessitated by the obligations of membership of those Communities,

as the Joint Committee may select and to report thereon to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

[798] (2) That provision be made for the appointment of substitutes to act for members of the Joint Committee who are unable to attend particular meetings and that members of either House, not being members of the Joint Committee, be allowed to attend meetings and to take part in the proceedings without having a right to vote.

(3) That delegates to the Assembly of the European Communities be notified of meetings and be allowed to attend and take part in the proceedings without having a right to vote.

(4) That the Joint Committee previous to the commencement of business, shall elect one of its members to be Chairman, who shall have only one vote;

(5) That all questions in the Joint Committee shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting and in the event of there being an equality of votes the question shall be decided in the negative;

(6) That every report which the Joint Committee proposes to make shall on adoption by the Joint Committee be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas forthwith whereupon the Joint Committee shall be empowered to print and publish such report together with such related documents as it thinks fit; and

(7) That five members of the Joint Committee shall form a quorum of whom at least one shall be a member of Dáil Éireann and at least one shall be a member of Seanad Éireann.”

Mrs. Robinson: Information on Mary Robinson  Zoom on Mary Robinson  In relation to the message from the Dáil that the Dáil has passed a Resolution, in which the concurrence of the Seanad is desired, stating that it is expedient to establish the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Community I should like to welcome the fact that the Dáil has passed the expediency motion and asked the Seanad to pass one in similar terms. I should like to draw attention to the [799] fact that the expediency motion seeks to enlarge both the size of the Joint Committee and the terms of reference of that Committee. I welcome this change in the terms of reference from the original Joint Committee established in 1973. It is in line with the 55th Report of the Joint Committee on the functions of work of the Joint Committee. That was a unanimous report. It emphasised that the original terms of reference were too narrow and tended to confine the work of the Joint Committee to a technical assessment of the implications of draft directives or draft regulations. It was the unanimous view of the members of that Joint Committee that the relationship between them and the civil servants in the relevant Departments had been a very good and constructive one but that the Joint Committee lacked political impact, lacked impact in relation to both Houses of the Oireachtas, and lacked impact in calling on the Minister to be accountable to the Joint Committee and to participate in sessions of the Joint Committee where particular policy matters were being discussed.

I welcome the fact that the membership is being enlarged because of the very substantial workload of that Joint Committee and its sub-committees. I welcome the fact that the terms of reference have been enlarged, in particular that under the first term of reference the Joint Committee would be enabled to examine such programmes and guidelines prepared by the Commission of the European Communities as a basis for possible legislative action and such drafts of regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions of the Council of Ministers proposed by the Commission. The possibilty for the Joint Committee to examine programmes and guidelines prepared by the Commission as well as actual draft legislation will open up the scope for examination of policy matters, such as the energy programme, the programme for social action or the programme for regional policy or development.

The importance of this is that it is vital that, when the Joint Committee prepared a report, at the stage where [800] the full committee are discussing the draft prepared by the sub-committee, if it is a matter of important policy content, the relevant Minister participates in the discussion before the Joint Committee. This is not something we can insist upon in an expediency motion. It is going to be a question of the attitude of the Government Minister to the work and the functioning of the Joint Committee. Similarly, and I believe this is a matter for the House, it is important that the reports of the Joint Committee be discussed on a regular basis by both Houses and, in particular, by this House which has more time at its disposal for such matters than perhaps the Dáil might have available.

The previous Joint Committee in four years in operation brought out 59 reports and not one of those reports was discussed as such by either House. Even though the Joint Committee's function is to report to both Houses, not a single report was tabled, discussed and examined for its implications. It is extremely important that the Seanad not only consider this Message from the Dáil and expediency motion to establish a Joint Committee but consider a change in our Standing Orders in the Seanad in order to provide for a regular debate on reports of the Joint Committee because unless we have that automatic facility for debating the reports it is going to be very difficult to ensure that time is given on a regular basis. In the 55th Report of the Joint Committee a suggestion was made that both Houses should amend their Standing Orders to allow time for debates in the Houses. It is under paragraph 5 of the Joint Committee's Report and it states:

If the work of the next Committee is to be effective, the Joint Committee believes it is essential that a definite arrangement be made under which the Committee's reports are debated in each House at regular intervals, and, in the Committee's view, the minimum required is two such debates each year. The Joint Committee would see no objection to the debate taking in other Community matters, if the Houses so [801] desired, but it does not believe that the debates should depend on the Government making time available as opportunity offers. The Joint Committee recommends that each House should make an order appointing a definite time for such debates. If thought desirable because of the pressure of other parliamentary business, there could be a limitation as to the time allowed both for overall debate and for individual speeches.

I should like to ask the Leader of the House for his attitude to this suggestion of the Joint Committee knowing that he was an active member of the Joint Committee. I should like to ask him if he would be prepared to bring in a motion for an amendment of Standing Orders to allow for an automatic debate twice a year on such reports of the Joint Committee as warrant this type of debate. Obviously, some of the reports of the Joint Committee which are concerned about the implementation of EEC regulations or directives in Ireland may be very technical. Some may just be examining the way it was implemented and not be a matter of important policy content or of political impact here. Others, particularly when we broaden the terms of reference of the Joint Committee, will be of very crucial importance.

It is vital that the Joint Committee relate to both Houses of the Oireachtas. It has a good working relationship with Departments and a reasonably good working relationship with the various sectors of society which might be affected by a particular proposal, but it has failed to establish a proper dialogue with the Houses themselves by having its reports debated on a regular basis.

Having waited so long for this motion to come before us, the last thing I want is to delay it being accepted by the Seanad. I should like to ask the Leader of the House if in his view it will be possible for us to proceed to establish the terms of reference of the Joint Committee and have the Committee of Selection meet in time for this Joint Committee to have its first meeting, elect a chairman and [802] establish a work programme before Christmas?

Dr. West: Information on Timothy Trevor West  Zoom on Timothy Trevor West  I should like to support what Senator Robinson said because this Joint Committee is of tremendous importance. It has a very heavy workload. There is a danger that we let our position go by default as far as legislation from the European Community is concerned. Unless there is an opportunity for a regular critical look at legislation being passed in Europe, we are not doing our duty as the Houses of the Oireachtas.

For members of the Joint Committee there is a great deal of paperwork. It meets very frequently and there is a heavy workload. I should like to pay tribute to the small group of members of the Joint Committee who in the previous session worked particularly hard to try and sieve through the legislation coming from Europe, particularly Senator Robinson who represented the University Members and Independent Senators on that occasion. She did a great deal of work of a necessary type. Unless Members are prepared to do this they should not go forward for this Joint Committee because it is a very important body. It is the main link between the Houses of the Oireachtas and the European legislative body. Unless we are prepared to go through critically what is coming to us from Europe we are failing in our duty.

Some of the other difficulties that face our legislators were touched on yesterday in the debate on the Bill dealing with direct elections. There is no doubt that the workload of the Joint Committee has increased. The Minister said yesterday in the Dáil when he was setting up this Joint Committee he hoped that the composition of the Joint Committee would be similar to that of the last session and that there would be a representative of the Independent Senators. I hope this will continue.

I support the motion. It is important that the Joint Committee be set up as speedily as possible.

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin David Senior Ryan  Zoom on Eoin David Senior Ryan  With regard to the amendment of Standing Orders, there is a lot of merit in that suggestion and [803] it should be considered by the Joint Committee when it meets. If they agree with that proposal suitable amendments can be drafted. In regard to setting up the Joint Committee I will do my utmost to see if it can be done before the Houses recess. In that case we could have a meeting of the Joint Committee early in the New Year. I will do my best to ensure that.

Question put and agreed to.


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