I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, to delete lines 15 to 32, and in page 4, to delete lines 1 to 10 and substitute the following:
"1.–In this Act, ‘legal instrument' includes any directive, regulation, framework decision, decision or convention that is made or drawn up by the Council of Ministers, regardless as to whether–
(a) the proposal for that instrument is made by the European Commission or, in relation to co-operation in the field of justice and home affairs or on common foreign and security policy, is made on the initiative of a Member State, or
(b) the making of that instrument is subject to co-decision by the European Parliament or otherwise.”.
Sinn Féin appreciated the positive intent of the provisions in the original Bill, tabled by Deputy Quinn, particularly regarding the increased Oireachtas scrutiny of EU legislation and the actions of Ministers within EU bodies. We wel comed the attempt to clarify and codify that Irish Defence Forces may only participate in overseas operations with UN forces and only after approval by the Oireachtas. Such clarification is necessary, even if we do not agree with how these portions of the original Bill were drafted. We opposed in the strongest possible terms both the Government amendments and the Labour Party's subsequent capitulation to the gutting of its Bill on Committee Stage last week. Given that we had our concerns about portions of the original Bill, as expressed on Second Stage, this puts us in the unenviable position of having to argue for large portions of the original Labour Party Bill as it has forfeited that right.
We, therefore, have tabled Report Stage amendments that restore large parts of the Bill that were positive and, combined with additional amendments, deal with the serious concerns raised on Committee Stage about inadequate limitations on ministerial discretion, which is a major contributor to the democratic deficit identified in relation to the conduct of EU business and our concern about the introduction of clauses that would in effect legislate Ireland's participation in the Rapid Reaction Force and Partnership for Peace, which is a further threat to our neutrality. We support full scrutiny by the Oireachtas of all EU legislation to the extent that sections 1 to 5 of the original Bill attempted to include all EU legal instruments as objects for scrutiny. These provisions needed to be strengthened which is what we are trying to achieve in this amendment. We oppose the amendments made to section 1 on Committee Stage.
Given our concerns for the inclusive and comprehensive definition of legal instruments for the purpose of this legislation, the Bill's definition of "measure" is unduly restrictive and unacceptable. In specifically referring to Articles 14 and 15 but not to 30, 31, 32 and 33, the Bill both excludes justice and home affairs, and common foreign and security policy. These areas must come under full scrutiny. The people have made their concern about this matter very clear. The attempt to shield these areas from enhanced scrutiny is reinforced in the deletion of the provisions in the original section 5 of the Labour Party's Bill which made specific reference to applying scrutiny provisions to common foreign and security policy. This is further reinforced by section 3 which enhances ministerial discretion by exempting measures from scrutiny which are, in the Minister's opinion, confidential. We want to ensure that no opportunity for scrutiny is forfeited under this legislation.