I was unable to listen to the Minister of State's contribution but I have read his speech and studied the Bill. Fianna Fáil supports the Bill although we have a number of concerns about it.
This Bill follows the break between the Irish and London stock exchanges. A separate Irish takeover panel is being established in law. There is no similar legislation in Britain and its takeover panel does not have a statutory basis. Although I do not disagree with our panel being given a statutory basis, I would like to know why this is being done. In general it is more beneficial to underpin such bodies with legislation. The statutory basis being accorded may be related to the Constitution and the difficulty in delegating judicial powers. In his reply, perhaps the Minister of State would indicate if this is the Attorney General's advice.
If the argument for legislation is that a judicial review of the takeover panel's decisions might have resulted otherwise, judicial reviews may still take place. Section 13 makes specific provision for persons to challenge rulings of the takeover panel by way of judicial review.
Leaving aside the issue of the need for legislation, I have two other concerns. The first is that the Bill is being brought forward at a time when the EU is finalising a directive on this subject. Second, the legislation has been introduced by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment even though the legislation on the Stock Exchange was introduced by the Minister for Finance. I do not know the reason for this. The Department of Finance is very good at talking about Bills but when the work has to be done it hives them off to other Departments. It does not seem to want the burden of implementing, explaining and monitoring the legislation or of mopping up when things go wrong. This Bill was announced by the Department of Finance to great fanfare but it has been introduced by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment.
I understand a directive on take-overs is being drafted in Brussels. This directive will set out the Union-wide rules governing take-overs and standardise practices. Once the directive is finalised there is a strong likelihood another Bill will be required to implement its provisions in the next year or two. I have argued on many occasions that Ministers need to assess whether a Bill is being introduced at the appropriate time. Before we agree EU directives there should be discussions with the relevant interest groups. There is often no consultation in advance and the first we hear about many regulations is when they become law. There is an urgent need to establish a monitoring group on EU directives under the auspices of the national agreement currently being debated. We need greater spotlight on new proposals during the embryonic stage.
When I was Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment I frequently visited Brussels to discuss labour law. During the intervening period between the first meeting in, say, November and the second meeting in January or February, COREPER and the very competent officials continued their work. However, the files on the positions arrived at do not have a political slant as the relevant Minister is not kept up to date on developments. When I asked the reasons behind certain decisions the very fine official dealing with the directive took it upon himself to brief me between meetings on the progress being made. While I found this very useful. I was frustrated by the lack of direct political input into the directive. On one occasion when I refused to accept the beautifully prepared words set out in the dossier I got into hot water with the Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, but I got my way in the end.
I was involved in the discussions on the directive dealing with working hours which will soon be implemented by way of legislation. In November 1993 we provided for the option of a voluntary opt out. This option has disappeared and I do not know why. I have been contacted by many workers who do not want to lose out on much needed overtime.
Directives are conceived behind closed doors in Brussels and most people only hear about them after they have been signed. There is no proper consultation in advance on the measures being adopted by Ministers. The attitude is that because Europe has said so it must be right. This procedure needs to be changed so that there is full appraisal of the proposals in advance. There is no consultation in this Chamber. Matters can be raised at a committee but this has no effect. During my three years as Minister I was not requested to appear before the Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities which was supposed to check proposals from Brussels. Large employers, unions, small businesses, consumers and other interested parties should come together under the auspices of the national agreement and form a monitoring committee on EU directives.
Given that there will be a directive on take-overs, should this Bill have been introduced now? Would it not have been possible to proceed with the interim take-over panel which includes such eminent people as John Cooke, Senior Counsel, who is chairman, Leo Conway, chief executive, Danny Kitchen, Leonard Abrahamson, Caitríona Murphy, Brian O'Connor and Ann Fitzgerald? Will the Minister ensure this directive will not require further legislation, that it is in keeping with what operates efficiently here and that it does not give rise to more bureaucracy? Perhaps he should argue there is no real need for another directive as we have our own legislation. I am concerned the Minister for Enterprise and Employment is steering this legislation through the House, given that it was the Minister for Finance who introduced the Stock Exchange Act, 1995. This reminds me of the scenario involving the investment intermediaries legislation introduced by the Minister for Finance but implemented by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. I am worried that the same scenario may arise in regard to this Bill. It does not make sense for the Minister for Finance to be responsible for the separation of the exchanges while the take-over legislation comes under the ambit of the Department of Enterprise and Employment. These demarcations of power are a throw back to a much less complicated time. Making different Departments responsible for various elements of the same function leads to difficulties, as we saw in the Taylor affair.
There is a relationship between the Stock Exchange legislation and this Bill and it would be preferable if the same Minister was responsible for both of them. One would have expected some of the many Government advisers to examine these anomalies and seek to update the responsibilities of various Departments. This second guessing and buck passing between the parties in Government is particularly relevant in other areas. Approximately ten days ago panic erupted over the Channel Tunnel and officials in the Department of the Marine said it had nothing to do with the matter even though correspondence relating to it was on a desk in the Department.