Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015: Committee Stage

I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald.

Sections 1 to 3 agreed to.
SECTION 4
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 8
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Section 9 agreed to.
SECTION 10
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 11

Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 12, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:
“(b) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (5):
“(5A) A statement or admission made by a person pursuant to a direction under subsection (3) shall not be admissible as evidence in proceedings brought against that person for an offence (other than an offence under subsection (5)).”,”.

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).

Amendment put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 12
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 13
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 14, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
"(7) A statement or admission made by a person pursuant to a direction under subsection (4) shall not be admissible as evidence in proceedings brought against that person for an offence (other than an offence under subsection (6)).".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 3:
In page 14, line 38, to delete "(7) If an inquiry" and substitute the following:
"(8) If an inquiry".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 4:
In page 15, line 5, to delete "(8) As soon as practicable" and substitute the following:
"(9) As soon as practicable".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 13, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 14
Question proposed: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
SECTION 17
Question proposed: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 18
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 19
Question proposed: "That section 19 stand part of the Bill."

Again, we are reserving the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to ensure the authority does not require ministerial approval.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 20
Question proposed: "That section 20 stand part of the Bill."

We reserve the right to propose an amendment on Report Stage to ensure the authority does not require the ministerial approval previously mentioned.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 21 and 22 agreed to.
SECTION 23
Question proposed: "That section 23 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 24 to 30, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 31
Question proposed: "That section 31 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 32
Question proposed: "That section 32 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 33 to 35, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 36
Question proposed: "That section 36 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
NEW SECTION

The acceptance of amendment No. 5 involves the deletion of section 37.

Government amendment No. 5:
In page 28, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
"37. Section 45 of the Principal Act is amended—
(a) in subsection (1)—
(i) in paragraph (a), by the substitution of "governance and financial matters" for "financial matters", and
(ii) in paragraph (c), by the substitution of "the Authority and the Minister" for "the Minister",
and
(b) in subsection (2)(a), by the substitution of "Government guidelines on governance and financial issues" for "Government guidelines on financial issues".".

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.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Section 37 deleted.
Sections 38 to 42, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 43

As amendments Nos. 6, 10, 11, 19 and 20 are related, they may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 6:
In page 29, to delete lines 26 to 31 and substitute the following:
"(a) in subsection (4), by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (c):
"(c) is made to a tribunal appointed under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2011, a commission of investigation established under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 or a committee within the meaning of section 2 of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 for the purposes of a Part 2 inquiry, within the meaning of that section, under that Act,",
and".

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.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 43, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 44

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 7:
In page 33, line 29, to delete "or" where it secondly occurs.

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.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 8:
In page 33, to delete lines 30 to 32 and substitute the following:
"(e) has a declaration under section 819 of the Companies Act 2014 made against him or her or is deemed to be subject to such a declaration by virtue of Chapter 5 of Part 14 of that Act, or
(f) is subject or is deemed to be subject to a disqualification order, within the meaning of Chapter 4 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014, whether by virtue of that Chapter or any other provision of that Act.".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 9:
In page 37, lines 35 and 36, to delete all words from and including "one" in line 35 down to and including line 36 and substitute "four meetings of the Authority with the Garda Commissioner in each year.".

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.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 10:
In page 40, lines 34 and 35, to delete "Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002" and substitute "Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2011".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 11:
In page 41, lines 1 and 2, to delete "inquiry within the meaning of that section under that Act" and substitute "inquiry, within the meaning of that section, under that Act".
Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 12:
In page 44, line 13, to delete "(other than the Chief Executive)".

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.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 13:
In page 44, line 17, to delete "(other than the Chief Executive)".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 14:
In page 44, line 22, to delete "(other than the Chief Executive)".
Amendment agreed to.

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.

Government amendment No. 15:
In page 44, to delete lines 23 to 43.

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.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 16:
In page 45, line 2, to delete "62S. (1) The Chief Executive" and substitute the following:
"62R. The Chief Executive".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 17:
In page 45, to delete lines 5 to 26.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 18:
In page 45, line 28, to delete "62T. (1) Subject to subsection (2)" and substitute the following:
"62S. (1) Subject to subsection (2)".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 19:
In page 45, lines 34 and 35, to delete "Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002" and substitute "Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2011".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 44, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

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.

Question put and declared carried.
Section 45 agreed to.
SECTION 46
Government amendment No. 20:
In page 47, to delete lines 8 to 14 and substitute the following:
"(b) in subsection (4), by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (d):
"(d) is made to a tribunal appointed under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2011, a commission of investigation established under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 or a committee within the meaning of section 2 of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 for the purposes of a Part 2 inquiry, within the meaning of that section, under that Act,".".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 46, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 47
Government amendment No. 21:
In page 47, lines 16 to 18, to delete all words from and including "(1) Section" in line 16 down to and including line 18 and substitute the following:
"(1) Section 90 of the Principal Act is amended--
(a) in subsection (1), by the substitution of "Ombudsman Commission shall, following consultation with the Garda Commissioner, issue guidelines" for "Ombudsman Commission may issue guidelines", and
(b) in subsection (7), by the substitution of "Ombudsman Commission may, following consultation with the Garda Commissioner, revise any guidelines issued under this section or withdraw those guidelines" for "Ombudsman Commission may revise any guidelines issued under this section or may withdraw those guidelines".".

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.

Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That section 47, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Sections 48 to 53, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 54
Government amendment No. 22:
In page 51, to delete lines 24 to 36 and substitute the following:
" "117A.(1)The Minister or the Authority, as may be appropriate, may monitor and assess the measures taken by the Garda Síochána in relation to the recommendations contained in a report prepared by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and submitted to the Minister or the Authority under section 117(2)(b).
(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1), the Minister may request the Authority to monitor and assess the measures taken by the Garda Síochána in relation to such of the recommendations contained in a report prepared by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, and submitted to the Minister or the Authority under section 117(2)(b), as the Minister may specify in the request.
(3) The Garda Commissioner shall supply the Minister and the Authority with such information and documents as the Minister or the Authority, as the case may be, may require for the purposes of this section.
(4) The Authority shall, as soon as practicable after a request to it under subsection (2), submit to the Minister a report on the matter the subject of the request and may include in the report any other matter connected with the subject matter of the request that it considers should be brought to the attention of the Minister.".".

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.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 54, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 55 to 59, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTION
Government amendment No. 23:
In page 53, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 18A of Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993
60. Section 18A (inserted by section 132 of the Principal Act) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 is amended by the substitution of "Garda Síochána and the Policing Authority as though they were Departments" for "Garda Síochána as though it were a Department"."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 60 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

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?

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 23 June 2015.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 18 June 2015.