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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 9 Dec 2003

Vol. 174 No. 22

Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Bill, 2003: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 2 is consequential on amendment No. 3, and amendment No. 4 is related. Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 25, after "purpose," to insert "in addition to the requirements of subsection(1),".

The purpose of these amendments is to add to the legislation. They are minor amendments and I ask the Minister of State to consider and accept them. Amendment No. 1 is tabled in order to make line 25 of subsection(1) clearer. Paragraph 2(1)(1A)(b) states that in determining costs, the sole member or chairperson shall have regard to the report of the tribunal. The amendment is designed to ensure that the person determining costs also has regard to other factors, as already provided for in section 6(1) of the 1979 Act.

What is provided for in amendment No. 2 may not be quite what I wanted. The idea was simply to delete the inverted commas at the end of line 27 on page 3. This is merely a technical amendment which would then allow for amendment No. 3 to follow on as part of that subsection.

Regarding amendment No. 3, subsection(2)(1) effects a textual amendment. When subsection (1A) is inserted into the 1979 Act, it should be accompanied by subsection(2), which strengthens subsection(1A). They should be read together. My amendment will also be of assistance when it comes to preparing a statute law restatement of these Acts.

Amendment No. 4 proposes the insertion of a new sub-clause between lines 31 and 32 in page 3. The purpose of this amendment is to reinforce the section. I propose it to give absolute clarity to the intention of the section. It is in this spirit that I propose the amendment and I urge the Minister of State to accept it.

I thank Senator Terry for her close attention to the Bill. However, her amendments are more in the nature of drafting points than substantive amendments. The Bill has been carefully drafted with the full involvement of the Attorney General's office in the process. Accordingly, I am not convinced that the amendments proposed are necessary or improve the work of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. The amendments are, therefore, opposed.

I believe there is an error in the wording of section 2 and I ask the Minister to look at that amendment before Report Stage. My amendments are not intended as a criticism of the Bill but as a means of improving its final provisions.

I have a certain sympathy with what Senator Terry is suggesting. I ask the Minister to look at these amendments before the Bill is presented in the Dáil. There may be merit in what is being said and this would be a way around the impasse. An amendment in the Dáil would necessitate bringing the Bill back to the Seanad, but that would only be a matter of a few minutes.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Attorney General are very happy with the drafting of the Bill and, therefore, they are not willing to consider these amendments.

I thank the Minister of State. I also thank Senator Dardis for his intervention, but I ask the Minister of State and his officials to consider these amendments before the Bill is presented in the Dáil.

I support Senator Terry and Senator Dardis and I ask the Minister to consider the amendments again. Senator Terry's amendment No. 2 may be correct with regard to punctuation.

Far be it from me to counter the weighty advice of the Office of the Attorney General—

He sometimes makes mistakes.

These amendments came under the most extreme scrutiny. It was with that in mind that the section was drafted and the Attorney General's office is confident that all angles have been covered.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Section 2(1A)(b), states that the chairman of the tribunal shall “have regard to any report of the tribunal relating to its proceedings in the period before his or her appointment”. I would have thought the chairman of the tribunal would have had regard to such a report without it being specified in the legislation. I understand the cost aspect but I do not understand why this needs to be specified in the legislation.

Judge Mahon was not party to the hearing of the evidence heard by Mr. Justice Flood. The provision is included to make doubly sure that the findings of Mr. Justice Flood and the report submitted by him would be a basis for the decisions of Judge Mahon. The provision may not be strictly necessary, but it galvanises the legislation and ensures that no opportunity will be presented to undermine the tribunal.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, subsection 2, to delete lines 23 and 24 and substitute the following:

"(6) This section applies to all tribunals irrespective of their date of appointment."

Subsection 3(1) effects textual amendments to the 1997 Act while subsection 3(2) effects a non-textual amendment to that Act. The purpose of my amendment is to change subsection 3(2) into a textual amendment to ensure that subsection 3(2) is read in conjunction with changes made by subsection 3(1). In the context of any statute law restatement it is important that the amendment and its temporal application are read together.

I appreciate the efforts made by Senator Terry to improve the Bill. However, I do not believe the amendment will add to the already clear provision in the Bill in this regard and the amendment is opposed.

Regarding the previous point, we will look at the matter to see if a change in punctuation is necessary. I have very high regard for the Attorney General's legal expertise, but we will consider his grammar to ensure certainty before the Bill comes before the Dáil.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 3 agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State for his attendance and for bringing the Bill before the House. I also thank Senators, particularly Opposition Senators, for facilitating the early passage of the Bill.

I apologise for the absence of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is attending a Cabinet meeting. The Minister of State is also engaged in Government business.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials. Opposition Members do considerable work on Bills and drafting amendments. If a Minister is unable to accept Opposition amendments, I ask that they be considered before a Bill goes to the Dáil. We do not do our work just for fun.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Will the Acting Leader move the suspension of the sitting?

It is nonsense that the House will now suspend for two and a half hours. However, the Order of Business was agreed this morning and we have no alternative but to suspend the sitting.

Sitting suspended at 12.30 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.