I move amendment No. 3:
In page 22, to delete lines 14 and 15.
A fundamental principle is involved here. Section 15 will give the Minister extraordinary power to introduce provisions by regulation. The section gives special powers enabling Ministers to make regulations to give effect to European Communities instruments relating to communications matters. Transposing European legislation into Irish law is an extraordinarily serious issue. The surreptitious way in which it was done by various Governments in the past is one of the reasons for the alienation of citizenry from the European project. This section contains the most extraordinary proposal, which is the power for the Minister by order "to provide for the offence to be also triable on indictment". This is not primary legislation but secondary legislation which will sit in the Oireachtas Library and is not required to be discussed in either House of the Oireachtas. It can be annulled by either House but does not need to be discussed. Subsection (6) provides that:
The maximum fine that may be provided for in regulations under this section shall—
(a) in respect of the conviction on indictment of a body corporate of an offence under the regulations, not be greater than—
(i) €4,000,000, or
The Minister is taking on himself the power to write an order that does not need to be discussed in either House of the Oireachtas, which could result in a body corporate being fined €4 million. If the matter is dealt with in that way a person can be fined up to €500,000. If a person is fined €500,000 and does not pay the option is for the person to end up in jail. This introduces the most extraordinary rule by decree.
I have a soft spot for Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela. When he claimed the power to rule by decree, half the western world exploded in anger. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, is here claiming the power by decree without any obligation to consult the Oireachtas to introduce offences, which could cost an individual a fine of €500,000. This is dangerous stuff. I do not expect to find myself in court because I break some European regulation. However, this will allow European regulations to be introduced without Oireachtas debate and people will not know about them. An individual could find himself or herself in breach of them and could be fined €500,000 on indictment.
The Minister will be permitted to introduce indictable offences. I believe this is unconstitutional. I know the Attorney General advised the Minister it was constitutional. However, we know the type of advice the Attorney General gives — we witnessed it last night. To introduce by decree indictable offences is unconstitutional and will be so ruled when some corporate body is summoned under these regulations. It will appeal to the Supreme Court, which will rule that such provision should have been introduced by way of primary legislation. I am saying this now because we could save ourselves considerable trouble by simply accepting the amendment to delete the subsection that allows the Minister "to provide for the offence to be also triable on indictment". This is pure laziness on the part of the Department, which is unwilling to go through the tedious process of having the nuisances on the backbenches of two Houses of the Oireachtas ask awkward questions. It is much simpler to do it by decree. It always has been the instinct of Departments to rule by decree and this is a classic example.