I did not support Senator Bannon's previous amendment but I am happy to support him on this occasion.
The purpose of amendment No. 6 is to stress the paramount role of the Oireachtas in the implementation of this legislation. A sliding scale of importance attaches to ministerial orders. This is expressed by the way the orders are presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas. In matters of a purely routine nature, it is customary to require no more than that the order be laid on the table of each House. We see this regularly and that is what is provided for in this section. With more serious matters the custom is different. In such cases the order is not deemed to come into effect until a resolution approving it has been passed by both Houses.
There is an important difference between the two approaches. A matter which goes to the root of our electoral process is of such importance that the second approach is more appropriate. That is why I have tabled amendment No. 6. It provides that any commencement order shall not come into effect until after a resolution is passed by both Houses.
In proposing this I am aware that during every sitting week we pass a raft of resolutions of one kind or another which, by agreement among the Whips, are not debated in either Chamber and there is seldom any discussion about them. Nevertheless, there is an important reason for requiring that some matters be treated in this way whereas others are considered to be of such a routine nature that they do not even require the waiving of a resolution. This difference relates to the fundamental importance of the matter at hand.
By allowing an order to come into effect without a resolution approving it, we shout from the roof tops that it refers to a matter of routine unimportance. By requiring that an order go through the process of approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas we are saying it is not a routine matter but one which requires a level of Oireachtas scrutiny, even if it is only of the most cursory kind as is often the case.
The importance of a commencement order in regard to this legislation springs from the nature of the subject matter itself. As Senators Bannon and Brian Hayes have said, the electoral system underpins our democratic process. There must be no doubt about that and there must be confidence in the electoral process. If we consider democracy important, as I am sure we do, we must attach a similar degree of importance to the process by which we put democracy into effect. We must do so because the respect legislators show for the democratic process and all that underpins it affects, in turn, the respect of the general public for that very process.
In the course of debating the issue of electronic voting, both inside and outside the Houses of the Oireachtas, in recent months, much has been made of the need to maintain public confidence in whatever electoral system we use. We are right to be concerned about that issue and my amendment responds to that need. By passing the Bill in its present form we signal to the general public that commencement orders under the legislation are trivial matters which are so unimportant that they do not merit the few seconds it takes to waive a resolution in the House. We should not send such a signal to the public. Instead, we should send the contrary signal that we respect the principle of democracy and, by extension, the electoral system under which democracy works and that anything to do with changing that process is a matter of fundamental importance to the Houses.
There is a difference between the two approaches. Accordingly, I commend the amendment to the House. I believe it is important and that the Minister, when he considers the matter, will recognise the difference between the two approaches.