I am sorry this debate is straying from the important constitutional and parliamentary point that is at the heart of these amendments. I can only regard the introduction of references to the Structural Funds as an attempt by the Minister to distract attention from a very serious issue.
The Minister, and the House, must take their responsibilities as elected representatives very seriously in this matter. The High Court has found that certain actions taken by an Irish Administration were invalid because they had not been properly approved in this House. The Fine Gael amendment is designed to ensure in law that this House, by its own authority in passing this amendment, must be brought into the process. Instead, Deputies such as Deputy Lenihan are willing to accept administrative concession from the Executive that, with grace and favour, it will refer directives to his committee. Deputy Lenihan should not accept that. It is a matter for this House to establish its rights in this issue separate from the Executive. It should be the law of this land that this House has a right, not a concession, to approve laws being made in our name. That is not happening and, because it did not happen in the previous case, the High Court found that the "angel dust" regulation was invalid. In other words, the High Court was willing to stand up for the privileges of this House but the Members of it are not. That is a disgraceful situation.
I have been a Member of this House for many years. I do not normally intervene in Committee Stage debates but I regard this as a matter of fundamental importance. Nobody has the right to make law here other than the Oireachtas. No Minister and no official making regulations can make law. This House makes law and it is wrong, therefore, that this amendment should not be accepted. I deplore the Minister's attitude in this regard, particularly in view of the fact that the Tánaiste gave an indication last-night that he was favourably disposed towards these amendments.
I am unwilling to accept some concession from the Minister that if we are all nice she will refer these regulations to the committee. That is not a matter for her to concede. The courts have found that this House as of right should be involved and it should not be a matter of administrative concession for the Minister to send documents — if she receives them in time — to Deputy Lenihan's committee. Deputy Lenihan's committee should be given the right, by this House and not by the Minister, to have sight of those documents. This should be governed by law and not by administrative concession.
I regard this as a matter of considerable importance particularly in view of the fact that the Executive has adopted aná la carte approach over the years to the implementation of EC law. They have abused the concessions given to them in this House under the European Communities Act, 1972 to make laws under the guise of EC directives that stretch beyond what is required by those directies. They have also taken unto themselves the right not to implement certain other directives when required to do so. For example, since the beginning of this year we are under a legal obligation as a State to outlaw money laundering. The Executive has decided not to act on that. On the other hand, they have decided to act on other EC directives. The decision to implement one directive and not another is a legislative decision and the Executive has no right to make that decision, that is a matter for this House. The choice not to act on money laundering but to act on some other directive is a legislative choice. It is a political choice, not an administrative one and is a choice that should be made by this House. All directives and regulations which are required to be incorporated into Irish law should be referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs so that politicians on all sides of the House can have an opportunity to air their views on whether a particular directive or regulation should be implemented.
In recent days I received a long list of directives that have not been transposed into Irish law by the Irish Administration. It is an appalling catalogue of inefficiency and ineptitude that our Executive has failed to implement laws which confer rights on our people. It was the intention of the European Community that these laws would come into effect but, because of administrative inertia or administrative choice — some Ministers may not even be aware in some cases that they have not acted in accordance with their legal obligations under the Treaty — they have not been incorporated into our law. I mentioned one such Act dealing with money laundering but I have a computer print-out of about 100 directives that have not been transposed into Irish law which I can supply to the Minister, if it is of interest to her.
This matter is of particular importance for another reason. Under the Francowich judgment recently reached by the European Court, it is open to any Irish citizen who feels their interests have been prejudiced in any way by the failure of the Irish Government to fulfil its legal obligations and transpose into Irish law an EC directive, to sue the Government for the loss they have suffered. The Exchequer is now in jeopardy of incurring substantial legal costs because of the failure of the Irish administration to implement particular directives — they are implementeda la carte with the Government choosing which they will implement.
The best enemy of that abuse of administrative discretion is a large dose of fresh air in the form of scrutiny as of right by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs of all directives on which we are required to act. This should be done not as an administrative concession by the Minister, gratefully accepted as promised from the ministerial table, but as of right. As a self-respecting Legislature we should decide that this is an obligation on the Executive imposed by the Legislature in regard to a legislative function. I strongly urge the Minister to change her mind and accept the amendments in the name of Deputy Philip Hogan because they enshrine a very important constitutional principle about the separation of powers to the effect that the rights of the Legislature should be protected by the Legislature and should not be the subject of grace and favour concessions from any Executive.
The Minister's politics do not prompt me to say this. Successive Governments, including Governments of which Fine Gael was part, probably have abused their powers in either going further than the directives provide or failing to implement directives. It is not a political matter; it is a matter of the rights of the Legislature as against those of the Executive. Deputy Hogan's amendment seeks to vindicate the rights of the Legislature in this matter and I urge the Minister to reconsider her rejection of the amendment. I particularly urge Deputy Lenihan, who has longer service in this House than I have, to assert the rights of the committee of which he is chairman rather than simply be willing to accept concessions from the Executive in a matter that is our proper province, not that of the Executive.