Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage

I have apologies from Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly. This meeting is being convened for consideration of Committee Stage of two Bills, the first of which is the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019. Before we proceed further I wish to remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

We are joined by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, and his officials. I welcome them all to the meeting this morning. There are no proposed amendments to the Bill. At this point I will ask the Minister if he wishes to make any opening remarks before we address the sections.

Thank you, a Chathaoirligh, and I thank committee members for scheduling this short but nevertheless important legislation for this afternoon. I am joined by my officials, Mr. Richard Fallon and Mr. Patrick McHale.

The Bill, as committee members will be aware from Second Stage, deals with the amendment of section 1A of the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961. The provisions deal with judicial resources. The purpose of the amendment is to amend section 1A(2) of the 1961 Act and provides for the increase by six, from the current number of nine to 15, of the maximum number of ordinary judges of the Court of Appeal. The amendment will achieve the primary purpose of the Bill, as initiated.

I propose to proceed through the sections.

I wish to make a general remark.

By all means. Go ahead, Deputy.

I welcome the Bill. There is a significant backlog in the Court of Appeal so obviously it is welcome that this is being addressed. We will support the Bill. We have no amendments and I imagine we will have none on Report Stage either.

A related matter arises concerning the courts and the Judiciary and so on. The Judicial Council Bill is proceeding to Report Stage this week in the Seanad. Does the Minister have any sense of when it may reach Second Stage in the Dáil, pending passage in the Seanad? Does the Minister have a timetable?

Yes, it is my intention to commence Report Stage of the Judicial Council Bill tomorrow afternoon in the Seanad. With co-operation it may well be possible to complete Report Stage tomorrow, whereupon I will be keen to contact the Business Committee with a view to commencing Second Stage in the Dáil. I do not have proposed dates with me but I would be happy to have the Opposition spokespersons, Deputies Ó Laoghaire and O'Callaghan, contacted immediately after this meeting to ascertain their views on the matter. We have the remainder of this week and then three more weeks. My desire is that we could schedule Committee Stage of that Bill during the course of those three weeks. Again, I would be in the hands of the committee in that regard. There is a public sense of urgency with that legislation. It is one of several tranches of priority legislation. However, I understand the committee has a schedule of business and certainly it would not be my intention either to interrupt or disrupt that. I am keen to contact the Deputies in advance of Report Stage in the Seanad tomorrow.

The committee will do its utmost to facilitate what the Minister has requested. I propose to proceed now with the sections. There are no amendments.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.