European Assembly Elections (No. 2) Bill, 1977 : Committee Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed : "That the First Schedule be the First Schedule to the Bill."

I understand we are taking it page by page. I believe we are dealing with page 45 of the Bill.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I made the case that the penalty or penalties for a certain offence should be taken from paragraph (2) of Rule 91 and put into paragraph (1). I understood the Minister would look into it.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Rule 92 provides that where a person is charged with personation on the allegation of a personation agent and that agent does not turn up to prove the offence, or if the offence is not substantiated by him, the Criminal Court hearing the charge has power to award the person charged damages up to £200.

I am looking for information here. There was a similar provision in the Road Traffic Act, 1965. Where a person was involved in a road traffic accident causing damage to a third party and where that person was charged with driving without insurance on the occasion in question and was convicted of driving without insurance, the Road Traffic Act empowered the Criminal Court hearing the charge of driving without insurance to award damages. I believe that section was the subject of proceedings in the High Court, that its constitutionality was tested. The High Court may have held that it was unconstitutional and that it was not enforceable. I am not sure about that and perhaps the Minister would tell the House the position. It is a highly technical matter and he may not be able to do so now; in that event perhaps he will look up the matter between now and Report Stage and tell us the position.

I am not sure of the position in that matter but I will seek the information. With regard to the compensation provision in Rule 92, this is as it has been in previous legislation. The only change is that the amount has been raised from £20 to £200. The figure was not reviewed for many years up to now.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I may not have rounded off my argument. If my impression about the Road Traffic Act, 1965 is correct, in my opinion this provision would not stand up either.

We will check the position.

(Cavan-Monaghan): With regard to page 46 of the Bill, the Director of Public Prosecutions is introduced into Rule 96. I presume the Act that established the office of Director of Public Prosecutions entrusted him with this function?

Yes. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is quite a new one and this is the first time he has been involved.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I know he has taken over the functions of the Attorney General in regard to prosecutions. Does the Act that established his office entrust him with functions in regard to election petitions? I assume it does.

Yes. It was transferred from the Attorney General in previous legislation.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Rule 98 (4) states:

Where a petition has been lodged with the court, as soon as may be the petitioner shall give a copy of the petition—

(a) to any person to whose election the petition relates,

(b) to the Minister,

(c) to the chief returning officer,

(d) to the returning officer for the constituency to which the petition relates, and

(e) except in the case of a petition presented by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I note that provision is not made for giving a copy of the petition to the local returning officer. It is very likely that a local returning officer would be heavily involved in the petition and a copy should be given to him.

We will look into that matter and see if we can deal with it on Report Stage.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I assume that the remainder of the Schedule is in line with procedure for petitions in the other electoral Acts?

The procedures for local elections.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I have no comment to make on page 48 of the Bill beyond what I said about the Schedule in general.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill."

(Cavan-Monaghan): This is the Schedule that outlines and creates the four constituencies from which the 15 Members will be elected. It is pleasant that this Schedule comes before the House as an agreed measure, as an arrangement of the constituencies which is acceptable to the Opposition as well as to the Government. That is the case because the constituencies, as outlined in the Second Schedule, have been arranged by an independent commission consisting of Mr. Justice Brian Walsh of the Supreme Court, Mr. Tobin, the Clerk of the Seanad, and Mr. Maher, Secretary of the Department of the Environment. These learned gentlemen have already been complimented on doing a very good job expeditiously.

There were a number of options open to the commission in regard to the manner in which they should arrange the constituencies. It is true to say that a different commission might have arranged a different set of constituencies which might have been equally acceptable, efficient and fair. The constituencies as outlined in the Second Schedule are reasonable and fair and no reasonable person could raise an objection to them.

The Bill is unique in constituency revision Bills or constituency creation Bills because the constituencies are agreed, and that is because they were arranged by a commission. Since the foundation of the State these constituencies have been revised from time to time in accordance with the Constitution by the Minister for Local Government of the day. They were never accepted by the Opposition, whether the Opposition was Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael or Labour. There was always an angry prolonged controversial debate. This Bill is unique because that controversy and wrangling did not take place on this occasion.

As I said before, most probably Fianna Fáil were the right party to introduce this method of revising constituencies because they had the privilege of devising and arranging constituencies over the years, with one solitary exception. Now that new ground has been broken and this good precedent has been established, on behalf of my party I hope that will be taken as an established precedent and that on all future occasions when constituencies have to be revised they will be revised by an independent commission. When the report from that commission is presented to the Government, I hope it will be published and accepted by the Government of the day.

I should like to join with Deputy Fitzpatrick in welcoming this Second Schedule which sets out the constituencies and has the full agreement of all parties. The Labour Party made a submission to the independent commission. I am glad to say that we found the results of their work more or less in line with our thinking in that submission. The inclusion of the recommendations of the commission without any alteration is a credit to the Government and we acknowledge this fact. I hope this will be the forerunner of a new boundary commission which will be set up for the purpose of setting the new boundaries for Dáil elections.

It was a simpler job to deal with very large constituencies because the variations from one constituency to another would not create the personal and immediate problems of representation as happens when one changes boundaries for small constituencies in relation to Dáil elections. In those circumstances there are outgoing Deputies who are well aware of the situation. In this case nobody has represented these constituencies before and therefore they are acceptable to all parties.

My party are happy with the work done by the commission and wish to compliment them. Once again I believe the east has been under-represented to the extent that the population has changed a great deal since the last census. The Minister, I am sure, will be quick to point out that it is not his fault there has not been a census in the interim. I want to remind him of the actual situation that Leinster and the county and city of Dublin have a much higher population than the figures used by the members of the commission. I hope that when the Minister gets another opportunity up to date figures will be used in any new bounary changes for this type of election or in the local or general elections.

I should like to express my appreciation for the work done by the commission. The proof of how well this work was done is the fact that their constituencies were accepted by all parties without dispute. They did an excellent job in a very short time.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Next week.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not think that would be reasonable. We would like to read the debate and I will be putting down amendments. I was going to suggest the 6th December, in three weeks time but may be that is too far away.

From our point of view that would be too far away because we need to have this legislation passed through both Houses before Christmas.

(Cavan-Monaghan): What about Tuesday week, the 29th November?

That leaves very little time because there is a matter of regulations involved here. I would like to co-operate but——

(Cavan-Monaghan): This is Thursday and the report will not be available until next week. Therefore next week is not reasonable. In view of what the Minister says I would have no objection to the 29th November.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 29th November, 1977.