While we are pleased that the Minister has come some of the way he has not yet, of course, answered the main objection which we voiced in this House and which has been voiced in the Seanad. Fine Gael object to new crimes being created by ministerial order. We object to new crimes being created without the necessary law being scrutinised under the microscope of Parliament. We believe it is dangerous to give this power to the Minister.
Quite severe penalties are available in the district courts for non-indictable offences. Those penalties can include imprisonment, fine, withdrawal of certain privileges or licences or other rights and it is no answer to say, as the Minister said again this morning, that it is illogical to even require this because under the legislation the regulations would lapse unless approved by statute. But the offence would, nevertheless, exist and could exist for a period of up to six months. It would be small consolation to somebody who had been punished by a fine or imprisonment to learn subsequently that when Parliament considered the matter they were of the view that the Minister should never have created such an offence. There will be innumerable occasions when people will be suffering or will have suffered the penalties before Parliament could pass the necessary legislation declaring the Minister's action to be without the approval of Parliament.
While we are now in the predicament that we either accept this amendment or reject it we find ourselves having to be grateful for this small crumb. It is nothing of which the Minister should be particularly proud. In our original amendment we sought not merely to require that legislation governing such crimes be put before the House but we also sought to ensure that the Minister could not create new taxation or money impositions by means of regulations. The Minister refused to consider that notwithstanding the constitutional recognition of the importance of Parliament in the imposition of taxation. The Minister has not paid any attention to the obligation which is quite clearly there in the Constitution, in the spirit if not in the letter, which requires that Parliament be fully involved in the imposition of taxation.
Out of the five heads that we tabled in our first amendment governing taxation, crime, making provision that nothing could be declared an offence which was not an offence at the time of its commission and a few other matters which do not come to mind at the moment, the Minister has only accepted one. But even for this small mercy I suppose we can be grateful and we do express gratitude. We are only sorry that the Minister did not go the whole way.