Thursday, 9 May 1985
Seanad Eireann Debate
I should like to join in the tribute to this committee for the work they do in pursuing on our behalf, and on behalf of the Oireachtas, all these Statutory Instruments. Senator Robinson raised a very fundamental point, whether the instruments are by departmental circular or by legislation. I am sure the Department of Agriculture would want to respond specifically in those areas. Arising from Senator Lanigan's comments I should like to point out that the EC referendum made a fundamental constitutional change in the governing of our country. In voting “yes” at that time people were not aware that they were voting quite a lot of their rights as an autonomous national Government to the Community in Europe particularly in the area of economic development. As a result, everything that involves any facet of economic life is governed from Europe. For that reason it is important that not alone are our members in the European Parliament vigilant but our Commissioner, our Ministers and the Houses of the Oireachtas, through this committee, must also be vigilant to ensure that these fundamental changes are brought to the attention of the public in view of the significant bearing they have on our whole economic life. We are very fortunate in that we have  people of the calibre of Senator Robinson, and others, on this committee. With enthusiasm they have teased out the legal problems that arise in some of these areas. I commend the motion to the House.
Mrs. Robinson: I should like to raise a point on this motion. It is a general point but it is one that is relevant to the reports on these Statutory Instruments. Members of the sub-committee, and of the joint committee, have drawn attention to the fact that the volume of Statutory Instruments which have now been made under the European Communities Act, 1972 has resulted in a situation where quite a number of statutes have been amended over the years. This has given rise to possibilities of confusion or obscurity in the law, even among legal practitioners. There is a need for a constant updating of the primary legislation after a period. I am thinking of areas like insurance law or company law, that if there are Statutory Instruments implemented, then an early opportunity should be taken to incorporate the changes which are made by Statutory Instrument in the primary legislation.
I want to raise one specific case that came to my notice recently to illustrate the point. When the EC directive in relation to free movement, a right of establishment of doctors, came in it was implemented initially, as Ireland was required to do, by Statutory Instrument but when the Medical Practitioners Bill was introduced a year or two later a section of that replaced the Statutory Instrument. We have the Medical Practitioners Act now which includes the provisions in relation to right of establishment in the EC. The joint committee have asked that the same situation prevail in relation to the Nurses Bill which is being discussed in the Dáil. There are regulations which we brought in to comply with the EC provisions in relation to the right of establishment of nurses, the European Communities (Recognition of Midwifery Nursing Qualifications) Regulations, 1983, Statutory Instrument No. 20 of  1983. The committee feel that this Statutory Instrument should be replaced by an appropriate section of the Nurses Bill, to become the Nurses Act, because it should be possible for somebody to look at the provisions of the Nurses Act and find within it the EC provisions.
The chairman of the joint committee wrote to the Department of Health and the response was that the Statutory Instrument existed and it was not at that time intended to accept the suggestion. Perhaps the Minister will take up that point. It is important that any provisions — these are quite important provisions in relation to the right of establishment of others to come and practise as nurses here — are covered in the Nurses Act. There should be a general concern to ensure that wherever possible in subsequent legislation matters that were initially done by Statutory Instrument are incorporated into the primary legislation. As Senator Lanigan made clear, there are a very significant number of these Statutory Instruments now and very few people can follow them or keep up with them. They are not widely known. There is no debate about them when they are made and, wherever possible, efforts should be made to try to incorporate them in a relevant subsequent Act so that people can know what the law is, an important part of participating in a democratic society.
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