My apologies if copies have not been circulated. I will also arrange for it to be e-mailed to Senators.
Part 1 of the Bill contains the Short Title provisions, as well as definitions and repeal provisions. Section 4 contains a definition of security services for the first time. This is required to help to identify the relevant functions of the authority. As it will not have functions in respect of security services, it is important to provide clarity around what it is comprehended by security services. As I have said, the definition does not expand existing Garda powers in the field of security and provides for a specific exclusion relating to lawful advocacy, protest or dissent.
Section 5 sets out for the first time policing principles which are intended to underpin the provision of policing services in the State.
Part 2 gives the authority a significant role in the appointment and removal of senior Garda personnel. Sections 8, 9 and 12 make provision for appointments to senior ranks. In particular, under sections 8 and 9, the Government will make appointments to the ranks of Commissioner and deputy commissioner but solely on the recommendation of the authority. The Government will be obliged to accept the authority's recommendations but may and only in exceptional circumstances and for substantial and stated reasons ask the authority to nominate another person for appointment. Under section 12, the authority will make appointments to the ranks from Garda superintendent to assistant commissioner. I imagine Senators will be aware of the significance of these changes, for which people have been calling for some time.
Sections 10, 11, 13 and 14 deal with removals. While the Government will retain the power to remove the Commissioner or a deputy commissioner, the authority will be able to recommend removal from these positions on grounds related to policing services. It will be able to remove an assistant commissioner, a chief superintendent or a superintendent on grounds related to policing services. The Garda Commissioner will be required to obtain the consent of the authority for the summary dismissal of a member of An Garda Síochána not above the rank of inspector.
Section 15 continues the current arrangements for the recruitment of Reserve members, with a requirement for consultation with the authority rather than the Minister.
Section 16 requires the authority to publish, within 12 months of its establishment, a code of ethics for Garda members and civilian staff. Again, this is a significant issue.
Section 17 requires approval for the number of appointments of Garda civilian staff to be given by the authority. Furthermore, the authority will directly appoint Garda civilian staff equivalent to or above the rank of chief superintendent.
Part 3 sets out the roles that will be undertaken by the Minister, the authority and the Garda Commissioner. Under section 18, the authority will, subject to the prior approval of the Minister, determine and from time to time revise priorities and performance targets for An Garda Síochána in performing its functions related to policing services. It also inserts a new section 20A into the 2005 Act to allow the Minister to set priorities and performance targets related to security services. Again, this new provision is important.
I have mentioned that the three-year strategy has to be approved. Sections 21 and 22 make provision for the three-year report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the management and deployment of Garda resources and the yearly report of the Garda professional standards unit, respectively, to be submitted by the Commissioner to the authority rather than the Minister.
Section 23 enables the Minister, following Government approval, to issue a directive to the authority on policing services. It also allows the authority to recommend to the Minister that a directive be issued to the Garda Commissioner on policing services.
Section 24 modifies the functions of the Garda Commissioner as set out in section 26 of the principal Act to reflect the relationship between the Garda Commissioner and the authority on policing services. The position is being changed in this regard. In particular, the Commissioner will be required to assist and co-operate with the authority in the performance of its functions.
Section 25 provides a role for the authority in seeking the views of the public on matters concerning policing services. Again, this is an important measure. There can and will be public meetings at which gardaí will be asked by the authority to report on various issues. It will be at the discretion of the authority to decide when it will hold public or private meetings.
Part 4 makes provision for amendments to allow the transfer to the authority of the functions of the Minister related to joint policing committees. This is another area where we will see the transfer of authority and responsibility to the policing authority rather than them residing with the Minister. The same applies to CCTV schemes for the purposes of securing public order.
Part 5 deals in detail with the accountability of the Garda Commissioner for the exercise of his or her functions. The amendment to section 40 is key because this is where we specify that the Commissioner will report to the authority on policing services.
We also deal in the Bill with the secondment of personnel between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Part 7 allows for the establishment of the authority, its membership and functions. Section 62 provides that the authority will comprise nine members to be appointed by the Government. The chairperson will be appointed directly by the Government, while the other eight ordinary members will be appointed by the Government from a panel following the holding of a selection competition to be run by the Public Appointments Service. I emphasise that a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas agreeing to the appointments will be required. That is a significant power for both Houses. The section also provides that the chairperson designate will become the first chairperson of the authority.
It also provides for the ordinary members designate of the authority to be its first ordinary members. Clearly stringent procedures will have to be put in place if there is any question of removing a member of the board. The Bill provides for this in particular circumstances. Various other provisions in section 62 permit the authority to hold public as well as private meetings. The legislation requires the authority to hold one meeting in public with the Garda Commissioner every three months. Provision is also made for attendance at meetings by the media and for the public broadcasting of meetings. This will ensure public accountability of policing.
Part 8 includes amendments to the provisions of the principal Act relating to GSOC and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to take account of the establishment of the authority. The key amendments include a requirement in section 45 for GSOC to promote mediation and informal resolution of appropriate complaints and, as I have noted, a provision in section 48 to enable the authority to request GSOC to investigate matters related to policing services. Section 49 enables the authority, subject to the consent of the Minister, to request GSOC to investigate any behaviour of the Garda Commissioner in the context of his or her functions related to policing services that leads it to believe he or she may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would constitute serious misconduct. Section 52 allows the authority to request GSOC to examine practices or procedures of An Garda Síochána in policing service matters.
Part 9 contains various miscellaneous provisions.
The establishment of the new policing authority will bring about a fundamental change in policing, but this is not an end in itself. The ultimate aim of the Government's justice reform programme is to ensure the country has the police force it deserves. A number of reports in recent times highlighted key areas in need of reform. We have received responses on the reports from the Garda, but the reforms will not happen overnight. Some are short-term, whereas others are medium-term or longer-term reforms. We have, however, commenced implementation of the recommendations. We want a force that operates to the highest professional standards and is fully capable of dealing with existing and future challenges. The authority will play a pivotal role in achieving the Government's objective of reforming policing. This will be beneficial not only to the public but also the men and women who serve in An Garda Síochána. I commend the Bill to the House.