(Limerick East): I tried to enter the debate earlier but out of courtesy to Deputy De Rossa I yielded to him. In the amendment I am proposing that sections 3 to 8 and 14 to 18 shall cease to be in operation at the expiry of five years from the commencement of the section unless a resolution has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas. I did not put that down because I considered the Bill to be emergency legislation or because I thought the provisions represent emergency legislation. I will continue to make the case that the Bill stands on its own merits. I tabled the amendment for other reasons. In a serious Bill such as this, where the rules of evidence are being changed in some sections and where in other sections extra powers are being given to the Garda Síochána, it is important in a country such as ours with a reasonably homogeneous community as a whole that the greatest possible consensus is established. People were concerned and worried about certain provisions in the Bill. I introduced many safeguards when the Bill was first published and I have tabled a lot of amendments for Committee Stage. I do not think there is any reason to put a five year time limit or any other embargo on the Bill but because there is concern I am willing to do that because it will help to establish a greater concensus here and outside.
A reasonable time is necessary but I do not think one year is sufficient. If we are to allow the powers of these sections to die at the end of a certain period and if it requires a resolution of both Houses to reactivate those powers there must be an adequate period in which those new provisions can be assessed. In regard to sections 14 to 18 particular cases would have to be taken through the courts and the different courts of appeal. One year is not adequate for that.
Deputy De Rossa made reference to other legislation which he said is reviewed annually. That legislation is not reviewed in the House annually, it is renewed by Government or ministerial order. We are proposing that the powers being given in the Bill should die unless this House, and the other House, reactivate them. The Minister will put down a resolution and there will be a debate on the provisions and how they have operated over a period of time.
Deputy Woods and other Deputies made the point that five years was too long and suggested that the time limit should be three to four years. I am of the view that it should be either five years or four years. I am open to argument on that. I believe that at least four years is needed and I am not tied to five years. I am prepared to come back on Report Stage and change it to four years if that establishes a greater consensus. However, I need adequate time to see how these sections operate so that the House will be in a position to decide when a subsequent Minister comes back in four or five years after the commencement of the Bill to reach a decision.
Deputy O'Dea asked if in the event of these sections being amended in the interval over the five year period would those sections, as amended, also cease to operate. They would. I have been informed by my advisers that the Interpretation Act, 1937, states that references to an enactment are to be construed as reference to that enactment as amended. That brings to mind an important point, that there is not anything in the amendment to prevent me or a subsequent Minister from coming to the House before the end of the five year period with amendments. The amendment does not constrain me, or my successors, in any way from bringing in amendments if the provisions of the Bill are not proving effective or are not operating properly.
Deputy Shatter and other Members yesterday afternoon asked about the provisions of adequate statistics, particularly on the detention section, so that we have them when we are reviewing the provisions of the Bill. In view of the time limit it is proposed to collect statistics. I do not consider it necessary to make specific statutory provision for this. For example, it is envisaged that the regulations relating to the treatment of persons in custody will prescribe the keeping of certain records. It is considered that these records, together with other data which can be complied on an administrative basis, will provide the basic statistics for monitoring these provisions. I do not think it is necessary to write that into the Bill. I take the Deputy's point, particularly in regard to detention. It would not be possible for the House on the information presented to it by a Minister for Justice in five years' time to adequately make up its mind if it did not have adequate statistics on which to base its opinion.
Deputy Andrews and other Members asked in what light a Minister would come to the House in five years' time and what the basis for the review would be. It would be based on the experience of the operation of the sections as evidenced by the statistics, the examples of how the other sections operate in court and how the courts deal with them on appeal. They would have to be examined and reviewed in the light of the general crime situation, the incidence of serious crime and prison committals. In the meantime the Whitaker Committee on the penal system will have reported and the House, in the light of that report, will have extra information. Even though that committee of inquiry is centred on the prisons its terms of reference are wide enough to permit it to examine why people are sent to prison, what happens to them when they leave as well as how they are treated in prison. That material could be considered in the course of the review.
The reason I am bringing in this amendment is to help to establish a greater consensus. It is no harm that legislation be reviewed periodically. People see these as serious new powers and I have no objection to their being reviewed and, if necessary, renewed. I am not tied to the five years but I am certainly committed to an adequate period. I do not believe I would be prepared to go below four years but I will consider that matter between now and Report Stage and see if it is necessary for me to come back with an amendment to, as Deputy Woods suggested, reduce the time limit. Of course, there is not anything to prevent me, or my successors, coming to the House before the end of that time to make any amendments necessary.