I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald.
Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015: Committee Stage
Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Sinn Féin has certain reservations about the Bill. A number of amendments need to be brought forward on Report Stage to replace the advisory role given to the authority, where the Minister and the Government retain control, with provisions that take the power from the Minister and the Government and give it to the authority to use directly. A number of amendments are required, which would replace the words "upon agreement of the Minister/Government" with "authority". Specifically on Part 2, the Minister should not have the final say on what constitutes a security service and what constitutes a policing service. As one of the parties with control over one of the two services, to allow the Minister to have the final say on the difference between security and policing constitutes a conflict of interest, so we reserve the right to bring forward an amendment in this regard on Report Stage.
In line with the need for the authority to be truly independent, the Minister should not be permitted to appoint the deputy Garda Commissioner. The role of the authority under this Bill in recommending the appointment is not strong enough and this should be amended to allow the authority to directly appoint the deputy Garda Commissioner. If the deputy Garda Commissioner is to be accountable to the Garda Commissioner, who is accountable to the authority, the authority must have effective mechanisms to oversee the appointment and removal of the deputy Garda commissioners. We reserve the right to bring forward amendments in this regard on Report Stage.
Again, there is a need for the authority to have the power to directly appoint and remove ranks from superintendent up and, therefore, we may bring forward amendments on Report Stage in order that the Bill reflects this.
Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 have been proposed by the Office of the Attorney General for inclusion in the Bill in order to make it clear in statute what is, in practice, a constitutional protection. The amendments provide that a statement or admission made by a person pursuant to a direction during an inquiry under section 12 and proposed section 13A of the principal Act, in relation to a proposed removal, will not be admissible as evidence in proceedings brought against that person for an offence, other than an offence under the particular sections themselves. Sections 12(5) and 13A(6) create offences for failure to co-operate with the inquiries. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are purely technical amendments which change the numbering of the provisions in proposed section 13A to accommodate the new subsection (7).
The current provision allowing the Minister to initiate and oversee inquiries into policing matters may well need to be amended to give this power to the authorities; therefore, we reserve the right to bring in an amendment on Report Stage.
As we feel there may be a need to make a small technical amendment to this section, in line with the new provisions relating to the removal of officers, we reserve the right to propose such an amendment on Report Stage.
We reserve the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to give the Garda Commissioner with oversight from the authority, as opposed to the Minister, the power to appoint gardaí, sergeants and inspectors.
We reserve the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to provide that the consent of the Minister is not required for the appointment of civilian Garda staff and to give oversight to the authority in this regard.
We reserve the right to propose amendments on Report Stage to provide that the approval of the Minister for the setting of the priorities of An Garda Síochána is not required. We feel the authority should be independent in its functions and should be responsible for this oversight.
Again, we are reserving the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to ensure the authority does not require ministerial approval.
We reserve the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to ensure the authority does not require the ministerial approval previously mentioned.
We reserve the right to propose amendments on Report Stage to allow for the authority, not the Minister, to issue written directives to the Garda Commissioner. Sinn Féin believes the Garda Commissioner should be accountable to the authority and both should be independent of the Minister's control.
We reserve the right to propose amendments on Report Stage to remove the grasp of Government control and give the authority independence in its own functions.
In the original heads of the Bill, the Garda Commissioner was to be fully accountable to the authority. In the published version, this was watered down so that the Minister retains oversight and the Garda Commissioner merely reports to the authority. Sinn Féin believes the authority should be independent, rather than merely being fed small bones of delegated power from the Government. If the authority is to have real teeth, the Garda Commissioner must be accountable to it. The Bill needs to be amended to reflect this. We reserve the right to propose amendments on Report Stage to this effect.
We reserve the right to propose amendments on Report Stage in this regard. We are concerned about the Government's control over the authority and the authority's consequent lack of independence in its functions.
The acceptance of amendment No. 5 involves the deletion of section 37.
The purpose of this amendment, which is essentially technical in nature, is to reflect more accurately the role undertaken by the Garda Síochána audit committee, the functions of which are dealt with under section 45 of the principal Act. In practice, the committee provides advice to the Garda Commissioner on governance matters in addition to financial matters. The amendment confirms this by making appropriate provision for governance work as well as financial work. This reflects what audit committees do. It is being spelled out by the amendment.
As amendments Nos. 6, 10, 11, 19 and 20 are related, they may be discussed together.
The principal purpose of amendments Nos. 6, 10, 11, 19 and 20, which are purely technical and have been provided by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, is to insert the correct collective citation for the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts into the principal Act. The amendments also give effect to some grammatical changes which do not alter the substance of the relevant provisions. These amendments are technical.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These are technical amendments to take account of the recent enactment of the Companies Act 2014 and to update the reference to the Companies Act at proposed section 62F of the principal Act, which is being inserted under section 44.
This amendment is being tabled on foot of a request from the chairperson designate of the authority and changes the requirement for public meetings with the Garda Commissioner to no fewer than four per annum. The current text requires the authority to hold no fewer than one public meeting with the Garda Commissioner in each period of three months in each year. The chairperson designate has requested that a more flexible wording be provided. This is being done while preserving the requirement for at least four public meetings to take place between the authority and the Commissioner each year. This gives the chairperson flexibility in terms of when meetings are called. For example, summer might not be the best period. It will be left to the authority to determine when the best times to hold the four meetings will be.
Amendments Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendment No. 12 is intended to provide clarity as to the position of the chief executive officer of the authority. On foot of the amendment, he or she will be a civil servant of the State, not the Minister. This is in line with the arrangements that have been put in place for the chief executive officers of other State agencies. Instead of being contracted, this amendment clarifies that the CEO will be a civil servant.
Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 23. Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, and 23 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These amendments will bring the authority within the scope of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993. In that context, they have been cleared with the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The effect of the amendments is that, in practice, the authority will be subject to the same requirements as a Department in terms of the preparation of and accountability for its appropriation account.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 17 delete proposed section 62R and subsections (2) and (3) of proposed section 62S. Parliamentary Counsel has confirmed that the text being deleted is unnecessary, as it essentially restates provisions found in sections 3 and 19 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993. The provisions of that Act will apply directly to the authority on foot of amendment No. 23 and the chief executive of the authority will account to the Committee of Public Accounts in respect of the finances of the authority.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 18 are technical in nature and renumber proposed sections 62S and 62T as 62R and 62S, respectively.
Sinn Féin has a number of concerns about the authority's membership. We reserve the right to table an amendment on Report Stage in that respect.
The purpose of this amendment is to amend sections 90(1) and 90(7) of the principal Act to require that the Garda Commissioner be consulted on any revision of the guidelines relating to mediation or informal resolution of complaints that have been issued in accordance with section 90(1). Currently, section 90 does not make any provision for consultation with the Commissioner in respect of such guidelines. Section 47 changes this.
The purpose of this amendment is to amend proposed section 117A of the principal Act to make it clear that the authority will be able to monitor and assess measures taken by An Garda Síochána in respect of any Garda Inspectorate recommendation. While this function could be taken to fall within the general supervisory remit of the authority, I have decided that it should be specifically provided for in the Bill. The proposed change is provided for in the new subsection (1). As the insertion of this subsection entails a number of consequential technical changes to the section, the Parliamentary Counsel considers it appropriate to replace the existing text of proposed section 117A in full.
It is not agreed to.
I wish to inform the House that I will bring forward a limited number of amendments which will repeal existing legislation relating to An Garda Síochána and make some technical amendments to sections 8, 9 and 44, in particular.
On the Bill, we reserve the right to table a number of amendments on Report Stage.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
When is it proposed to sit again?
Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.