European Communities Bill 2006 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 4:
In page 3, to delete lines 16 to 33 and in page 4, to delete lines 1 and 2.
—(Deputy Costello).

In the interventions, Deputies Allen and Crowe made negative general comments about the European Union.

No. we did not.

Deputy Allen said we ought to stop praising the European Union and respond to public concerns over jobs and enlargement. I do not agree with him. Fifty years of European achievement is well worth celebrating, as happened in Berlin last weekend. The EU has transformed Europe into a peaceful and prosperous place. It has also transformed Ireland. We need to remind ourselves of these gains and move on to tackle the new challenges that lie ahead. Deputy Allen blames the EU, particularly enlargement, for certain negative developments. This is a strange position for a Deputy who is pro-European. I am convinced the European Union remains the best prospect that we in Ireland have of securing a future in which the undoubted gains we have made since 1973 can be maintained and built upon.

As regards enlargement, there is now a natural pause in the process. No further accessions are planned for some years. This allows time for all of us to make the best of the 27 member state Union that exists. Future accessions will take place when a candidate country meets all the conditions for membership. In all the negotiations we have had since 2004 and since the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, Ireland and its colleagues have made it clear that all candidate countries will have to meet all the conditions for membership. I do not envisage any large-scale enlargement in the coming decades along the lines that occurred in 2004 when Ireland held the Presidency.

Deputy Crowe spoke of his party's fundamental opposition to Ireland's membership of the European Union. He called this legislation a "nightmare" and spoke of the European superstate. He used the word "nightmare" in his attack on the Bill and on the European Union generally. All I can say is that the isolationist path favoured by the Deputy and his colleagues would be a nightmare for this country if we were forced to reverse and to have to stand alone against the ravages of international pressures, global inflation, major financial decisions being taken in international headquarters and capitals throughout the world and had to compete in a market where we were totally dependent on our own resources without any support either structurally or financially from an external organisation like the European Union. Are they in denial about the vast gains we have made since 1973, many of which are attributable to our EU membership? Do they want us to return to a time of high unemployment and high levels of emigration when our best and largest export was the brightest people we had, we left this country to build up economies across the world to the detriment of our own? That would be the likely result of following the anti-EU line advocated by the Deputy and his party.

I remind the Deputy and his party colleagues that this Bill is a subject for debate, which is an honest response by the Government to the judgments of the Supreme Court. We did not ask for this situation but as constitutional parliamentarians we are all obliged to accept the decisions of that court and respond to them. Members of all parties in this House over the years have recognised the primacy of that court and the implications its decisions has for us as legislators. I have made that point time and again since 1 December last when this debate commenced in the Seanad.

Deputy Crowe used the term "coup d’état” in describing the implications of a Bill to alter the way that this State transposes its EU obligations. This is an offensive exaggeration. Some might suggest that these words roll easier off Deputy Crowe’s tongue given his party’s recent acceptance of the democratic principles on which this Dáil and State are founded. Deputy Crowe’s intervention reveals once against that his party’s politics on the European Union are at least 40 years behind the times.

Therefore, the Minister agreed with them 40 years ago.

I was a little boy in national school 40 years ago.

The Minister of State is acting like a little boy now with his reply.

I am now a mature adult having served 25 years in this House——

The Minister of State's party might have agreed with them 40 years ago.

——and I am blessed to have great advice and great colleagues. I am guided by the wisdom of this House at all times——

There is very little wisdom on the Minister of State's side of the House.

——and, more particularly, the wisdom of the Irish nation — the people of our country.

I would have thought that a party which boasts two Members of the European Parliament would be better informed of the particular realities of defending Ireland's interest in the European Union in 2007. I am sure that Deputies Costello and Allen would agree with me that whatever our concerns about the direction of certain European policies, we continue to respect fully the democratic decision of the sovereign Irish people taken almost 35 years ago on 10 May 1972 to pledge our future to peace and prosperity in Europe.

If the Government had lost that, it would have asked for a second vote.

The late Jack Lynch spoke on the debate in this Chamber more than 40 years ago when we had made the decision to reactivate Ireland's second application for membership for membership of the European Economic Community. He opted for EC membership because he understood, as leader of the nation at the time over 40 years ago, that our economic future lay in the Common Market and he saw that Irish people wanted to prolong and share in the ideal of a united Europe that was economically strong and a powerful influence for peace. How right he was. He said in this House that the freedom we enjoy has been hard won, other nations have fought hard for their freedom and they treasure it no less than we do. The countries which have subscribed to the Rome treaty value what they have achieved as separate nations. They value too what they are creating in common. Our wish is to share in this great task.

Deputy Crowe and his party are slow learners on EU issues and on the pooling of sovereignty that membership involves. They seem to see the political task facing this country through the lens of narrow nationalism. The Government and main Opposition parties recognise and are aware that the task we face is a broad one. Promoting and defending Ireland's interest in the European Union is a real national interest about which there is no doubt. This Bill is part of our response to our evolving obligations in the European Union. We will not be found wanting in that national objective by snipping comments about the European Union from the Sinn Féin backbenches. It is time that members of that party recognised that they, too, as citizens of this country like all other citizens have benefited from the European Union. What we are doing today is simply putting through legislation that recognises the responsibilities we have as a result of the two Supreme Court judgments and vis-à-vis the European Union and that links the initial legislation of 1972 with our evolving requirements through legislative processes both primary and secondary since 1972 to today. We are refining our legislation to take account of the strength of the Union and of Ireland and our strong responsibilities to ensure that our laws concur and are symbiotic and parallel with the directives of the European Union to ensure that we can fulfil our legislative operations and requirements as a sovereign state within a proud and successful European Union.

I will not give a long response to the Minister of State's bait other than to say that nobody is denying the benefits of EU membership. What we are denying are the benefits of further integration, further loss of sovereignty and a further reduction in our independence. We welcomed and encouraged further enlargement and we have gone further than the Minister of State in encouraging that all new member states accede to the Union on an equal footing with existing member states. Earlier this year the Government refused that to Romania and Bulgaria.

Turning to the Bill before us, I asked the Minister a number of questions on Committee Stage about the effect of this Bill when enacted and what legislation it will cover. What are we retrospectively trying to endorse by this legislation? That is the nature of this Bill. The Supreme Court asked us to do this otherwise those legislative measures would have been found unconstitutional. I accept this must be done. I have not denied that but it should be done by the House on an individual basis in terms of the legislation concerned or at least in the full knowledge of the legislation that will be covered by the enactment of this Bill.

We do not have full knowledge of that. The scraps of three sheets of paper that make up this Bill do not properly explain the full extent of what we are dealing with today. I asked the Minister to insert in the Bill a schedule of the laws and statutory instruments to be retrospectively endorsed, but that was not produced. As the Minister has not proceeded that way and refused on Committee Stage to produce such a schedule, my amendment proposes to delete this and other sections of the Bill. Without the inclusion of such a schedule the wool is being pulled over the eyes of Members of this House but also, as my colleague suggested, this Bill is a coup d’état to a degree.

What we are doing is handing the Minister of State and future Ministers additional powers but we are handing the Minister of State in particular the power to retrospectively endorse a swathe of statutory instruments and legislation. For any person to have that type of power amounts to a coup d’état. At the very least and out of respect to this House a list detailing the full implications of this legislation should have been produced. The explanatory memorandum does not contain a such list. We do not know the number of legislative measures being dealt with in this regard.

I expected that we would have a fairly adult and mature debate on the issues before us but——

The Deputy has two minutes.

I will deal with the matter in two minutes. I expected us to have an adult and mature debate on the issues. I tried to be as constructive as possible in my earlier contribution but the Minister of State misrepresented my position. He spoke about being a little boy in short pants but he is behaving like one now in attempting to misrepresent my views and those of my party. I said in my earlier contribution that my party and I are strongly pro-Europe but that the actions of the Minister of State and of the Government in trying to bypass this House by introducing European directives and legislation by means of statutory instrument undermines this House and Irish law. We set out procedures which could be followed to safeguard the integrity of the House, but he is not prepared to deal with those positive proposals from this side of the House.

I said that I feared for the European Constitution and the referendum that may be held within the next two years. I fear for its passing because I believe the Minister of State's actions and those of the Government as well as what has been happening in this country in recent times raise grave doubts in people's minds. I referred earlier to the drift of jobs from west to east, the new member states and people's fears about the ongoing rush towards enlargement. I stated there would need to be time out, as they say in basketball, to reassess the ability of the European structures to accommodate the accessions that took place since 2004.

We should not lecture people by telling them that Europe is good for them but rather we should listen to the people's opinions and fears and try to address them. One issue of concern is the undercutting of salary and wage rates by people coming from the new member states. That is not the fault of the people coming into this country but rather of Fianna-Fáil led Governments for failing to have a decent inspectorate to deal with undercutting and the non-compliance with the minimum wage in many cases, of which the Minister of State and I are aware. All these issues raise concerns which will make things difficult. To top it all, the Minister of State is bypassing the Dáil with this type of legislation. There is a way around it which will keep the Opposition happy and alleviate people's fears. The Minister of State's response is to misrepresent our position and that is wrong. We asked for a full and frank discussion, but the debate must end at 4.45 p.m., which is not a full and frank discussion. We will be opposing this Bill.

The Minister of State was busy during the sos putting together that tome he has just delivered to the House. None of us on this side of the House said one bad word against the European Union. We are in favour of the European Union, which we strongly support. It ill-behoves the Minister of State to try to paint us as opponents of the European Union.

Our concern is that, because we support the European Union, we want to ensure that we get this legislation right so that others who do not support the European Union cannot use the legislation to undermine our position and the good work of the European Union. If proper channels of accountability are to be bypassed by means of this legislation, we are not doing a good day's work. This is our concern and we pointed out what we consider to be the unacceptable aspects of the legislation. It confers on the Minister a power which up to this has never been conferred on any Minister in the history of this House. It allows a Minister to alter and amend a directive or legislation and present it to the House as a final product which must be obeyed under severe penalty by every citizen of the State. The penalties are not summary but indictable penalties. This has never happened before and it would be a bad day's work if this House were to rubber-stamp it.

The Opposition wants to ensure that the European Union has a future and will not be undermined by Eurosceptics because we have left the gate open here. Deputy Allen is Chairman of the Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny. This legislation should be properly processed through this House so that citizens recognise we are not undermining the House by means of European legislation.

When I heard the Minister of State's reply I returned to the House to reiterate my position on this Bill. Before the sos I outlined my concerns about the Bill, but the Minister of State or whoever wrote the speech for him seems to have come up with a different version of events. I expressed concerns about the direction in which this Bill is going and that we were being asked to agree to a blank page regarding future legislation.

I know that the Minister of State is accustomed to gilding the lily and he ended up before a tribunal about gilding the lily on a radio station. He has gilded the lily again today and I ask him to retract his statement. Neither I nor my party are anti-European, we are pro-European. I am not anti-democratic but I believe this Bill is. The Minister of State's remarks are regrettable in the manner in which he described our organisation and our party. We were trying to outline our concerns about this Bill in a sane and logical manner. These concerns are shared by many in this country and by many in this Chamber, in particular on this side of the House.

The Minister of State is trying to back us into a corner and implying we are trying to do something that we are not trying to do. I ask him to reflect on my remarks made before the sos as they will be written in the Official Report of Dáil proceedings. I outlined the undemocratic nature of this Bill, which is bringing us in a direction that is of concern. I ask the Minister of State to read my exact words on this issue.

I listened with great interest to all the contributions before the sos. I always listen to contributions and I take notice of what is said. The best advice I could give to Deputy Crowe is to refer him to a Latin maxim, verba volant, littera scripta manet, meaning, words fly, the written word remains. I ask him to read the record of the House and balance what he said against what I said in response and we can discuss it on another day. I have been positively appraising, to the best of my ability, all the remarks made. I made it clear that the two main Opposition parties, with the Government, are completely pro-Europe——

I did not say what the Minister of State said I did. I am concerned about what legislation is getting past him.

The Minister of State did not make the position clear.

Deputy Costello might not have been listening but I did so. A number of Members referred to sweeping powers being granted under this legislation. I wish to make two points. First, such powers will be limited to Ministers and, second, they can only be used, where necessary, to give effect to our European Union obligations. We are not creating a carte blanche situation.

The Government is doing so.

The Deputy is an experienced Member of Parliament and he knows that we are not doing so. Every Minister is an elected Member of Parliament——

The Minister of State should reread section 4(2).

Is this Deputy Costello's third contribution?

I would like to make a fourth contribution if I may.

I am somewhat confused. I was of the view that on Report Stage we could only focus on the amendments and that the proposer, Minister and other Members could each make contributions before the proposer replies to the debate.

Why then is the Bill being guillotined?

I want everyone to have an opportunity to debate the various amendments.

This debate is due to conclude at 4.45 p.m. The Bill is being guillotined.

We are not granting sweeping powers to Ministers.

The Government is doing so.

Ministers are elected and then appointed by the Parliament. They are guided by the Attorney General of the day, the parliamentary counsel and other legal advisers who help to ensure that legislation, both primary and secondary, conforms with the Constitution and takes account of previous Supreme Court decisions and our obligations as a sovereign domestic Government and as a member state of the European Union.

The Minister of State's two minutes have concluded.

The Minister of State forgot to mention one important point, namely, that the Government is accountable to Dáil Éireann.

May I respond on the amendment?

We want to be given the same time to contribute as the Minister of State.

If the Minister of State had not been spoofing for two minutes he would have had plenty of time in which to comment on the amendment.

On a point of order, the Minister of State indicated——

Deputy Costello may reply to the debate at this point.

I would like to respond on the amendment.

The Minister of State responded to interruptions that were made, which he should not have done. Is the House prepared to allow him to comment on the amendment?

No, we do not have enough time to allow him to do so.

I hope Deputy Allen remembers that time is short during the remainder of the debate.

The first point I wish to make is that the Bill will be guillotined. The Supreme Court made the two landmark decisions to which the Minister referred, in 2003 and 2005, but it was not until June of last year that the Government decided to examine the matter and, as a result, the legislation must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. If it is so urgent, why have we been obliged to wait four years for action to be taken? Why, in the dying days of this Government's term of office, is a guillotine being applied in respect of a matter that is so important in the context of democracy and the European Union?

I must point out to the Minister of State that all power is being transferred to the Minister. He stated that such power will only be used where necessary. However, section 4(2) states:

A statutory instrument made for a purpose referred to in subsection (1) may contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister of the Government making the statutory instrument to be necessary for the purposes of the statutory instrument (including provisions repealing, amending or applying, with or without modification, other law, exclusive of this Act, the Act of 1972 and the provision of the statute under which the statutory instrument is made).

The provision does not refer to such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister, the Government and his or her advisers to be necessary. It refers, however, to "repealing, amending or applying, with or without modification, other law". It is, therefore, as all-encompassing an item of legislation as I have ever seen introduced in the House. The Minister will be able to do what is outlined in section 4(2) without reference to the procedures used to introduce and process legislation in the House. If the Minister of State tries to say that it does not do so, he should, as he quoted earlier in Latin, allow the legislation to speak for itself.

I am opposed to the Bill because I believe we should not do our business in this fashion. I am also opposed to it because it sends out a message to the Eurosceptics and everyone who has a bone to pick with the European Union that this House is transferring power to a Minister of the Government to legislate on behalf of Europe for this country and its citizens. The Minister of State indicated that the Minister is elected by the people, but that is not the case. The representatives in this House are elected, while Ministers are appointed. Members are elected to legislate but Ministers are not elected to legislate, they are appointed to be part of the process of legislating. The Bill before us will make the Minister the legislator and will give him full authority to usurp the functions of the Dáil and the Upper House. That is why we have raised these fundamental issues of democracy.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 59.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Kehoe.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, are out of order.

Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 8 in the name of Deputy Costello. Amendment No. 9 is related. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 will be taken together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

""(5) Regulations under this section which create an indictable offence shall cease to have effect after 3 months unless confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas which sets out in substantive form the terms of the offence.".".

This amendment is being brought forward because the Minister is abrogating to himself enormous powers which no other Minister has ever had. He will allow himself and the Government the power to introduce laws by way of statutory instruments, the penalty for breaches of which will be up to three years in prison and a fine of €500,000. No other Minister in the history of the State ever attempted such a dastardly action. He should be ashamed of himself for what he is doing today.

He wants to make a mark before the general election.

He is certainly making a mark. This side of the House has a problem with the principle of guillotining the debate on a Bill without providing an opportunity to discuss it fully. The normal procedures of the House which we were elected to follow are being bypassed. This sends a bad message to those Eurosceptics who wish to attack the European Union. They will be able to say the Union is totally unaccountable because legislation is being introduced by way of ministerial instrument. This will not just involve any old directive because the Minister is giving himself the power to amend or appeal legislation from the European Union as he sees fit. He will be able to do what he likes, while avoiding the House. Clearly, anybody who wishes to take exception to the European Union will be able to cite this bad day's work of undermining normal procedures in respect of legislation emanating from the European Union.

The explanatory memorandum makes no bones about the fact that the Bill amends the European Communities Act 1972 to provide for indictable offences. My amendment tries to rectify this to some extent by providing that where an indictable offence is created, it should cease to have effect after three months unless confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas which sets out in substantive form the terms of the offence. We are not great at transposing European directives into domestic law and are particularly far behind on all important environmental directives. However, if we transpose a directive at short notice or in an emergency with the result that an indictable offence is created, we would at least have the fall-back position of having to reconsider it in the context of substantive legislation after three months. The minimum the Minister should do is give us a period of reflection where a transposed European directive carries a penalty of up to three years imprisonment or a fine of €500,000. The Oireachtas could deal with the issues involved in the normal fashion and then get on with its job.

This amendment concerns the supremacy of the Oireachtas and its right to make or retain laws without being bypassed on the whim of a Minister. The Minister was given a way out on Committee Stage when reasonable proposals were made by Opposition spokespersons. He had the opportunity to redeem himself and retrieve the situation but he chose to ignore it.

I will not try to misrepresent the Minister of State in the way he misrepresented us earlier. He said on Committee Stage that severe pressure could be put on the Government to introduce a regulation from the Europe Union at short notice. Lack of action could, for example, result in the country being penalised. For that reason, he was unable to accept one of our amendments. However, the record is pathetic with regard to transposition of EU regulations into domestic law. Replies to questions I asked last week indicate that a wide range of Departments have failed utterly to deal with many of the directives coming from the European Union. I do not wish to be unfair to Departments as I do not have the figures to hand, but 50 to 60 directives pertaining to the Department of Transport have only partially been transposed. In the area of the environment the Government has failed to transpose a range of regulations. Few Departments are without sin in this matter. Therefore, the excuse that fear of the heavy hand of the European Union forces the Government to bypass normal democratic procedures and principles is pathetic.

In the seven minutes that remain on Report Stage I ask the Minister to State to treat us in a realistic and fair manner. He should either consider Deputy Costello's amendment or entertain the proposals made on Committee Stage that regulations should not take effect until after they have been laid before the Dáil for a period of 21 days. Members would then have an opportunity to raise the contents on the floor of the House.

I support the amendment, although I would prefer if we never had to deal with this issue. The primary approach should be to confirm in the Oireachtas any legislation retrospectively validated by the Bill.

Last week I put a series of questions to Ministers and received varying answers. My intention was to receive a list of legislation and statutory instruments in order to bring forward an amendment which would set out in a Schedule the laws and statutory instruments affected by the Bill. Deputy Costello's amendment would ensure regulations would have to be endorsed within three months. The Ministers for Defence, Social and Family Affairs, Education and Science, Foreign Affairs, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Arts, Sport and Tourism replied that no such instruments pertained to their Departments. The latter two qualified this by stating their Departments have only existed in their current form since 2002 and, therefore, other legislation may have been enacted in the past. The remaining eight Ministers were unable to supply a list of the laws and statutory instruments within the time available. That period is dictated by the Government, not me, and the Government has guillotined this legislation at every turn. That is a living disgrace and it is the reason people are suspicious of the EU and this House. This is the most undemocratic legislation that has been introduced since my election to the House. It is an insult to those who take the time to elect us on the basis that we pass legislation——

The Deputy should confine himself to the amendment.

The amendment provides that legislation or statutory instruments would have to be endorsed within three months by the House or it would fall. A list of the relevant legislation has not been provided and this debacle has been presented to us in this legislation. Most Bills, which refer to a range of legislation and statutory instruments, have Schedules attached but that is not the case with this legislation. It is that undemocratic. It will stand to us in the Opposition that we tried to ensure the public was aware of what was being done.

I do not say we would have opposed all the legislation passed previously or that we disagree with retrospectively endorsing it because a mistake was made but that opportunity is not being provided to us because a number of Departments have been unable to provide us with the necessary information to properly scrutinise the Bill. The Minister of State and others have stated how important it is for Members to scrutinise European legislation. We cannot even scrutinise legislation introduced in the House, never mind the European Union, because we have not been supplied with the relevant data. We do not know what will be the full effect of this legislation. That is how disgraceful and undemocratic is this legislation. It is a further disgrace that the debate is being guillotined. The public will understand our position that at the very least we should have had a proper debate and sufficient time to discuss the full impact of the legislation.

One would think we were reinventing the wheel, which is not the case.

The Minister of State is creating a new wheel.

He is ruining the wheel.

Governments have been doing this since 1922 through primary legislation and statutory instruments. The constitutional validity of our approach is set out clearly in this legislation and it was accepted in the Supreme Court in the Meagher v. the Minister for Agriculture case in 1994, IR 329, regarding the equivalent provision in the 1972 Act.

That is not true.

The Minister of State should list the relevant legislation.

We are responding to two Supreme Court judgments and updating the legislation.

As I stated on Committee Stage, I cannot accept Deputy Costello's proposal that regulations which make provision for indictable offences should cease to have effect after three months unless confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas. This arrangement would be completely unworkable, as it would be a retrograde step, which would seriously and unnecessarily delay the implementation of European Community law in this State. It would leave us open to the damaging accusation of failing to live up to our EU obligations.

What about the Government's Irish obligations?

Allow the Minister of State to continue.

That status of regulations made in good faith by Ministers to give effect to European Community law would constantly be in doubt. Failure to pass the required Act of the Oireachtas within the three-month period would cause significant uncertainty for both the Government and the citizens and that would not be fair. We cannot create a scenario where there is doubt about it. Deputy Allen referred to the Government's failure to implement European directives but we have a very good record. We have been very measured and careful in certain areas where the pressures are very complex and to ensure the legislation is refined, a great deal of attention and time is devoted to it.

According to the Internal Market for the first quarter of 2007, we are the third best in the Union.

We are not playing soccer.

Were we relegated last year?

Our transposition rate is 2.7% and still reducing.

The debate is over. The time is up.

The Minister is blustering.

Allow the Minister of State to conclude.

We adhered to the guillotine.

If the Deputy had his way, the guillotine would have applied a long time ago. He has prevented the Minister from making his contribution.

The amendment is inspired by the original sunset clause in section 4 of the 1972 Act. That clause has proved to be completely unworkable, as I stated on Second and Committee Stages. The wisdom of Parliament subsequent to that was that it was deleted by the Oireachtas shortly after the Act came into force. The original section 4 arrangement was less practical than Deputy Costello's complex suggestion. It envisaged a sunset clause of six months and gave the Oireachtas more time to assess and approve secondary legislation. We should not return to a totally unworkable proposal that was discarded more than three decades ago. I regret I cannot accept the amendment.

As it is 4.45 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 59.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Neville and Stagg.
Question declared carried.