Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2020: Committee Stage (Resumed)

NEW SECTION
Debate resumed on amendment No. 25:
In page 104, after line 20, to insert the following:
“ Review of operation of Act
135. (1) (a) The Minister for Foreign Affairs shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any part of this Act, carry out a review of the operation of this Act.
(b) The Minister for Health shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Part 2 or 3, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(c) The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Parts 4, 5 or 15, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(d) The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Part 6, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(e) The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Part 7, carry out a review of those sectionst.
(f) The Minister for Finance shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Parts 8, 9, 10 or 11, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(g) The Minister for Transport shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section in Parts 12 or 13, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(h) The Minister for Social Protection shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any section of Part 14, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(i) The Minister for Justice shall, not later than 12 months after the commencement of any section in Parts 16, 17, 18, 19 or 20, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(j) The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any sections in Part 21, carry out a review of the operation of those sections
(k) The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any sections in Part 22, carry out a review of the operation of those sections.
(2) The Minister for Foreign Affairs shall, not later than six months after the commencement of the review carried out in accordance with subsection (1)(a), make a report to each House of the Oireachtas of the findings made on the review and of the conclusions drawn from the findings.
(3) The Ministers referred to in paragraphs (b) to (k) of subsection (1) shall, not later than six months after the commencement of the review, make a report to each House of the Oireachtas of the findings made on the review and of the conclusions drawn from the findings.”.
(Senator Alice-Mary Higgins)

We are turning now to amendment No. 25. Does the Minister of State wish to respond to Senator Higgins?

I thank Senator Higgins for her amendment and all the Senators for their contributions today on this Bill, which is not a normal one. The purpose is not for new significant policy initiatives but is to protect existing arrangements and rights. This is not about new rights or arrangements but is simply to keep what we can, insofar as we can, in the context of Brexit. The Bill protects citizens and consumers, facilitates the sound functioning of key sectors, ensures our businesses are not disadvantaged and supports the common travel area and North-South co-operation. It is not generally proposed to give delegated powers to a Minister to introduce legislation in new areas without recourse to the Oireachtas. It is instead about giving Ministers power to maintain existing service levels. The Attorney General has guided the approach and we are comfortable with it.

What the Senators are proposing is constructive and we are grateful both for their co-operation here today and for their constructive engagement on what would be post-enactment scrutiny, which is an important issue. I am not in a position to accept the proposed amendment. I agree with the purpose of the amendment and the intention behind it and the Government fully agrees that it is appropriate to reflect on and review the legislation in due time. However, rather than accept the amendment proposed, I am advised that our intention is to rely upon Dáil Standing Order 197 and Seanad Standing Order 168 which read separately but coincidentally as follows:

Twelve months following the enactment of a Bill, save in the case of the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill, the member of the Government or Minister of State who is officially responsible for implementation of the Act shall provide a report which shall review the functioning of the Act and which shall be laid in the Parliamentary Library.

In addition, Ministers are committed to ongoing engagement with relevant Oireachtas committees, and this has already happened, on any impacts of the measures in their parts of the Bill to address any unforeseen effects. For those reasons and while I understand what the Senators are putting forward, I cannot accept them. It is worth doing the reviews and I am saying they will be done.

Separately from that, it is also the case that issues will arise in the new year as Brexit happens, which may well bring us back into these Houses to make further changes or there may be issues that we have known about but will cause unexpected changes for citizens through no fault of anyone in these Houses or on this island but through the decision of parts of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendments but I certainly agree with the spirit of them and I expect they will, in effect, be complied with in any event.

In the context of the Minister’s commitment to engage with the formal process of post-enactment scrutiny but also to other and supplementary engagement because my concern is in respect of orders and regulations and not simply the letter of the Act itself, I am happy to withdraw my amendment in the context of constructive engagement.

In view of what Senator Higgins is saying, I agree with the Minister State that there should be scrutiny and reporting but the Houses of the Oireachtas will be in a position to do so without a plethora of reports and therefore, that seems reasonable.

I want to note for the record of the House that the Leader’s amendment to the Order of Business has effectively been to guillotine the discussion on Committee Stage at 6 p.m. today and to provide for a debate on Report Stage on a subsequent day. I am quite happy with that. I saw what happened earlier and I understand and am not going to embarrass anybody about this but I make the point that when one abrogates, as a matter of habit, the differentiation of Report Stage from Committee Stage, it is usually done for the convenience of the Government. I now see that the opposite can be done, for the convenience of the Government. That is all I will say on that point and I will not put it any further than that.

We had been hoping to have Report Stage this evening.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
Amendment No. 26 not moved.
TITLE
Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

I wish to make one brief comment on the Long Title, which will not delay us. The United Kingdom leaving the European Union is a real tragedy. Whatever the views other member states may have of this, Ireland should adopt the position henceforth that the United Kingdom would be very welcome back into the European Union as soon as the people of the United Kingdom so wish and that no obstacle should be put in the way of redressing the wrong that was done by the Brexit referendum.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 8 December 2020.

I thank Members for their co-operation with this very long debate. In accordance with the order of the Seanad today, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 December 2020 in the Dáil Chamber.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.59 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 December 2020.