The Government approved an expansion and reinforcement of the arrangements for pre-legislative scrutiny in September 2013. A number of new Standing Orders were adopted by the Dáil on 17 October 2013 in order to underpin these new arrangements and these Standing Orders came into effect on 5 November 2013.
In order to clarify the operation of these new Standing Orders, an Agreed Protocol for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Heads of Bills by Oireachtas Committees was published in September 2014. This protocol provides that certain Bills are exempted from the requirements for pre-legislative scrutiny, including Bills which are required to implement Budget changes such as the Finance Bill, Social Welfare Bills and “emergency” Bills.
My Department has made two applications to the Oireachtas Business Committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary legislation since 1 January 2017. The details of each application are below.
In April 2019, Minister Doherty applied to the Oireachtas Business Committee to grant approval for a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny for the publication of the Civil Registration Bill 2019. This Bill included some important provisions related, in particular, to the difficulties being experienced by parents of children born by way of donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR). The Business Committee granted a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny, in part because a number of the provisions of this Bill had already been drafted as part of the Social Welfare Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017 and had already undergone pre-legislative scrutiny in May 2017. Other provisions, including those relating to DAHR birth registrations, had been drafted following Government approval and were to be included as Committee Stage amendments in the Social Welfare Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017. The DAHR provisions were technical amendments to correct errors in existing legislation and were not seeking to implement a new policy proposal. The Business Committee were asked to waive pre-legislative scrutiny on the basis that many members of the Oireachtas had called for the early and urgent introduction of these provisions to address the deficiencies identified.
In July 2020, I applied to the Oireachtas Business Committee to grant approval for a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny for the publication of the Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020. This Bill provided for the placing of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment on a discrete, statutory footing as well as allowing for the attribution of paid social insurance contributions to people in receipt of this payment and jobseeker payments and to employees availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. It also allowed for a certain apportionment of the cost of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be charged to the Social Insurance Fund. The Business Committee granted a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny in this case due to the emergency nature of the Bill.
The other Bills which have been initiated by my Department since January 2017 fall into the categories of Bills exempted under the agreed protocol from the requirements for pre-legislative scrutiny or they underwent pre-legislative scrutiny or the relevant Committee did not deem pre-legislative scrutiny necessary.