I take it that the Minister has nothing to say at this stage about this section. The section states:
This Act shall come into operation on such day or days as may be fixed therefor by order or orders of the Minister for Justice either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so fixed for different purposes and different provisions of this Act.
The Minister said that the Government decided, on his recommendation, that those provisions of the Bill giving increased powers to the Garda Síochána, which will only come into operation when a ministerial order to that effect, is made, would not be brought into force until a complaints procedure involving an assessment by an independent person or tribunal has been established. He said it had not yet been established whether legislation would be necessary to establish such a procedure or whether it could be introduced, at least in the first instance, on an administrative basis. The Minister then said that if legislation was necessary it would, in any event, have to be a separate Bill as the present Bill was concerned with the criminal law and procedure and could not appropriately deal with non-criminal procedures.
At the time we said this was a most unusual statement given the fact that the British criminal justice Bill — the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill — includes a complaints procedures at page 67. I find it hard to understand why this Bill does not include a complaints procedure. The Minster promised that one would be introduced in due course. I put down an amendment, No. 48, which proposed a draft Garda Síochána complaints commission. At 3.30 p.m. today I received a notice from the Ceann Comhairle to the effect that my amendment was ruled out of order as it was considered not to be relevant to the provisions of the Bill as read a Second Time. I find this hard to understand. A complaints procedures was mentioned in the Bill at its Second Reading. The Minister promised a complaints procedure in his speech and I would have thought it was relevant to put forward an amendment to this section which would cover that and which would allow a discussion on that procedure.
In reply to a question on 8 March, the Minister said that the new procedures would not be brought into operation until both Houses of the Oireachtas had an opportunity to discuss them. He also said that he expected to be in a position to inform the House of the proposals in the near future. He said that indications are that the scheme will be a statutory one. I am quite amazed that the Chair has decided to rule out of order the section which includes a complaints procedure.
Section 1 raises serious questions about the commencement of this Bill in the House in the first instance. I would like the Minister to tell us the present position in regard to the complaints procedure. The last information we have was given on 8 March when the Minister said that the indications were that the scheme would be a statutory one. I would like to make our position very clear on the commencement of the Bill. Sections in this Bill are very valuable and will have the support of almost all Members in the House and about these there is no concern. Naturally, we are anxious to see them brought into operation as soon as possible. They include such measures as majority verdicts, matters relating to alibis and the question of consecutive sentences. There may be different views about these. There is the question of improving the administration of the courts by way of allowing, in section 20, proof by written statement. There is the question of trial procedure and notice of alibi in trials on indictment. There are quite a series of them.
Concern arises on matters such as the increased powers given to the Garda and I want to clarify our position on this. We are prepared to grant these increased powers to the Garda. We trust the Garda as a body to use their powers appropriately, but at the same time we feel that there must be an acceptance of the fact that there should be adequate safeguards against the abuse of these powers. While in the course of discussions on this Committee Stage we will propose amendments to the Minister for his consideration in relation to the regulations which he is considering bringing forward in regard to the complaints commission, we will do this in the spirit and context of our supporting the basic principle that the Garda need additional powers at this time and that adequate safeguards should be provided against abuse of these powers. Of course we would prefer to see either the regulations, or as much information on the regulations as can be provided, put down and indicated clearly by the Minister here in the House, and we would like to see the complaints procedure which the Minister has promised put down in conjunction with the Bill. We see no reason why it cannot be included in the Bill. We would like to hear from the Minister in relation to that.