Parliamentary Scrutiny of Appointments (European Commission) (No. 2) Bill 2014: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the parliamentary scrutiny of the Government's proposed candidate for appointment as a member of the Commission of the European Union and to provide for related matters.

This Bill was introduced to the Seanad by the Independent Members of that House, Senators James Heffernan, Paul Bradford and Sean D. Barrett. It is sponsored in the Dáil by Deputies Terence Flanagan, Denis Naughten, Billy Timmins, Peter Mathews and me. The objective of this Bill is very simple as it aims to provide a more democratic and transparent process for the nomination of an Irish Commissioner to the European Commission. If the Bill is accepted it will oblige the Taoiseach in no less that 12 days, before the formal candidacy is announced, to lay before the House the Government's proposed nominee. The proposed nominee would then appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs and a full debate would ultimately take place in the Chamber of each House.

Ireland's nomination to the European Commission is an extremely important Government nomination. It may be the most important nomination the Government will make.

The entire Oireachtas should have a role in scrutinising and ensuring there is accountability in the proposed appointment. This Bill should contribute substantially to the promised democratic revolution of which we heard so much from the Government parties prior to the last election.

Last week I spoke in the Chamber of the need to put forward the best possible candidate as Ireland's nominee to the European Commission. I also spoke of the need to secure an important economic portfolio in the interests of Ireland and the European Union.

The Ceann Comhairle was here yesterday to witness an unfortunate, unparliamentary and scurrilous contribution by the Taoiseach when he referred to my concerns for transparency and securing Ireland's national interests as "a personal rant".

If wanting to send the best person to secure an influential role in the European Commission on behalf of Ireland and Europe is considered by the Taoiseach and Government as a personal rant then I am pleased to inform them that they will hear much more from this quarter to that end.

The job of European Commissioner should not be a matter of patronage or rewarding those leaving the Oireachtas or Cabinet. It most certainly should not be used as a means of removing an unpopular Minister who is lowering the Government's poll ratings.

The job of European Commissioner ought to be decided on merit. It should be a matter of finding the best person for the job, a person who will best represent Ireland and its citizens. The chosen person should have the best chance of securing a relevant portfolio that is of strategic importance to our national interest and the economic interests of the European Union.

I believe Irish citizens are sick and tired of deals being done behind closed doors.

They want to see the interests of Ireland and Europe protected and advanced, rather than jobs for the boys and jobs utilised to get rid of unpopular members of Cabinet who damage the public perception of the Government.

If the Government is prepared to stand over its nominee to the European Commission and have confidence in that person, whoever he or she might be, it has nothing to fear from this proposal. This legislation simply ensures the Oireachtas can scrutinise, question and ensure the person put forward by the Government has the requisite qualifications, attributes and capacity to do the job. The Government has nothing to fear.

My colleagues in the Swedish Government inform me that they consult with the opposition as a matter of course. Consensus is reached without controversy over an appointment. It is the official policy of the UK Labour Party to introduce precisely the type of legislation before us today and for this reason it is unfortunate no member of the Irish Labour Party is present here. The Labour Party is the self-appointed conscience of the Government and it could look across the water for guidance.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.