Business of Joint Committee.

The purpose of this meeting is to consider the draft guidelines of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform providing for the establishment of joint policing committees by local authorities and the Garda Síochána. The draft guidelines were forwarded by the Minister for the committee members' observations. I understand the Minister intends to issue them at the end of this week.

I welcome the officials from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Chief Superintendent Michael Feehan. A briefing note from the Department was circulated to members of the committee yesterday. It is proposed that Mr. Michael Flahive, assistant secretary in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform outline the main points in the briefing note, after which the officials will take questions from the members.

On a procedural point, I regret that the Minister or a Minister of State is not present. It is well and good that the officials can be helpful in explaining the guidelines but they cannot change them without ministerial authority. The officials will basically serve as a conduit and we can e-mail them if we want to send messages. When an Oireachtas committee is discussing draft legislation, heads of Bills or guidelines consequent to legislation, it should be the norm for a Minister to be present. I do not intend to be discordant at the outset but I genuinely hold this view.

I take that point. Later, in private session, we will ask if there are specific points members would like to communicate to the Minister.