This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 82 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Committee Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On Report Stage the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the Report Stage of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad Bill. Therefore, the only matter that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of these amendments. Members are aware that they may speak only once on this question.
Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (European Communities) (No. 2) Bill, 1987: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.
The Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (European Communities) (No. 2) Bill, 1987, has been passed by Dáil Eireann with a number of what are purely technical amendments.
Senators will recall that the purpose of the Bill is to enable Ireland to ratify the 1986 EC Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters as amended by a 1978 Convention of Accession of Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom and the 1982 Convention of Accession of Greece.
The purpose of the amendments is to provide that the courts may consider the report by Professor Evrigenis and Kerameus on the Accession of Greece to the 1968 Convention, as amended by the 1978 Accession Convention, when interpreting the conventions. Section 4 (2) of the Bill already provides for the consideration by the courts of the report by Mr. Jenard on the original 1968 Convention, the 1971 Protocol and the report by Professor Schlosser on the 1978 Accession Convention. The report by Professors Evrigenis and Kerameus did not come to hand until after the Bill had been passed in the Seanad.
Amendment No. 3 provides for the insertion of the reference to the Greek report while amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4 are merely consequential.
I appreciate that the Minister has made clear that the amendments made to this Bill in the Dáil are technical and no issue of substance arises out of them. The Bill is a very important measure. It is quite a technical Bill but it does have very far reaching importance for the jurisdiction of courts and the enforcement of judgments, both in the commercial field which has been recognised by a number of legal articles which have been written assessing the implications, but also in relation to maintenance provisions. Regrettably, when this Bill was introduced in this House, I was not present for the debate which was fairly short and, because it is a very technical Bill, it went through very rapidly.
There is one matter which concerns me and I hope I might have just a margin of indulgence from the Chair to raise it. It does not strictly arise on the reporting of the amendment made by the Dáil and I accept the clear ruling given to us by the Chair in that regard. The issue is one of some importance because the Bill refers to the enforcement of maintenance orders in section 7 and refers in a number of subsections to orders made under the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930. I am puzzled by that and I hope the Minister may be able to clarify it for me.
The Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, was repealed by the Status of Children Act which was passed by both Houses on 7 December 1987. That Bill was introduced in the Seanad. When we finally passed it, having accepted the amendments made by the Dáil, there were expressions of appreciation on both sides of the House that the word "illegitimate" had gone from our legislation; that the concept was no longer part of our law and that the Status of Children Act had replaced it.
Section 25 of the Status of Children Act, as it now is, provided as well as for the repeal of the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders), Act, 1930, for a carry over of any orders made but as I understood it, they were to be carried over as orders made under section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976. Section 25 (1) provided for the repeal of the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, so that has gone. Subsection (2) provides that any order made by a court under the provisions of the Act of 1930 and enforced immediately before the commencement of this part shall, in so far as such order could have been made under section 5 (a) inserted by this part of the Act of 1976, had it been in operation when that order was made, be deemed for all purposes to be an order made under section 5 (a).
Why is there no reference in section 7 of this Bill to section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976. We seem to be giving new life to an Act that we repealed and the repeal of that Act was a very important statement by the Oireachtas that the concept of illegitimacy and the different treatment of illegitimate children was gone and yet, in the question of enforcing judgments of other jurisdictions under this Act, we are apparently giving it new life. The issue is, therefore, an important one and I would welcome an explanation from the Minister if he is in a position to explain it. I appreciate he may not have been anticipating the question but I do not want to see this Act given any further life in an Act passed in 1988. This Bill is likely to be considered by other countries because there will be comparisons between the way in which Ireland has ratified the Convention and how it has been ratified by other member states. We will be exporting an Act in 1988 which is still referring to a Bill relating to the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, which was repealed last December. Some clarification is required as to why that is so. If it is possible even at this late stage to make an amendment, it would be desirable to substitute section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976.
The relevant part of the Status of Children Act will not come into effect until mid June this year. We hope this Bill will come into effect prior to that on 1 June and the Interpretation Act should take care of the situation afterwards. The amendment to which Senator Robinson referred has been discussed at length with the Attorney General's Office and they are quite satisfied that we do not require an amendment.
If the Chair will indulge me I should like to pursue this a little futher. Do I understand——
We have to be careful, I made a ruling earlier.
I understand that and it is just specifically on the point. I will not take too much time and I am grateful to the Chair. This Bill is to come into effect on 1 June and the Status of Children Act will come into effect in mid-June? Is that what I understood the Minister to say?
The relevant part of it.
Surely then it makes every sense to ensure that we have the correct terminology in the section? Surely we can change the sequence of them coming into effect? Why not bring the Status of Children Act in first and then bring in the Bill for the enforcement of judgments. If I understand the Minister that would have the effect of substituting in the text of the Bill, section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976.
There would be a difficulty if this Bill came into effect prior to the Status of Children Act. The difficulty could arise here if it came in prior to it and by referring to it. This is the advice I have been given.
If it is only a matter of weeks, why not make sure it does not come in prior to it?
We are quite sure it will not come in prior to it. The Status of Children Act will come in in mid-June and this Bill comes into effect on 1 June.
I do not understand the Minister. The Status of Children Act will come in in mid-June, is that correct?
Is there any reason for this Bill not coming in at the end of June? I do not think it makes much difference if the effect was that the Interpretation Act would apply and that there would in fact be a substitution for the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, which is repealed by section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976. It seems to be a very minor technical problem and yet it is extremely important, if possible, that we have the Act which applies, the Status of Children Act and consequently section 5 (a) of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976, and not an Act which this House was very concerned would be removed from our Statute Book.
I should like to support Senator Robinson. Small technical points like this can be missed and somebody like Senator Robinson can pick them up and be aware of the potential difficulty. I also appreciate that the Minister is not the Minister responsible and, perhaps, it is difficult for him to get feedback on it. I urge caution on this and say that it is sufficiently serious. The amendment we brought in to the Status of Children Act is so fundamental and so important that it has to be right. I support Senator Robinson on that.
Did I understand the Minister to say that the Greek report was available after the Bill was introduced? If that is a correct interpretation of what the Minister said, then could I ask the Minister why there is such delay in publishing the Greek report?
Before the House gets involved in a debate on this issue I should like to make my position clear. The question we are dealing with is that the Bill be received for final consideration and I cannot allow a debate on that to open up. I appreciate the concern of Senators Robinson, Fennell and McGowan but I cannot allow the House to get involved in a Committee Stage debate on this issue. The rules concerning this matter are hard and fast and I must abide by them. While I am inclined to be tough when in the Chair, occasionally I permit debates to drift. Nice as the Minister is, and prepared though he is to answer questions, I cannot allow the discussion to continue.
I hope I can clarify points raised by Senators. We have been anxious to have the Bill dealt with but there were some delays in the Dáil. It was as a result of the Dáil accepting amendments to the Bill that it had come back to this House. We were anxious to have the Bill passed by 1 January. I regret that it is impossible at this stage to accept any amendments. However, we are satisfied that difficulties will not arise because the Interpretation Act can be used if necessary. Senator McGowan was concerned about delays and I should like to point out to him that we were not responsible for them. The delays were caused in the translation by the EC.
I would like to pursue this matter further but I appreciate the position of the Chair.
I would like to thank Senators for their co-operation in the passing of this Bill, those who took part in the debate at the initial stage and those who raised queries today. The Minister for Justice is anxious that the Convention should come into force as soon as possible and, subject of course to signature by the President, he will be pressing for ratification of the Convention without delay. Under Article 39 of the 1987 Accession Convention, the Convention will not come into force for Ireland until the first day of the third month following the deposit of our instrument of ratification. The Convention will not have retrospective effect and will apply only to legal proceedings instituted after the entry into force of the Convention except in the case of judgments which are given after entry into force but where the proceedings were instituted before entry into force and jurisdiction was established on one of the grounds acceptable under the Convention. The relevant provisions are set out in Article 34 of the 1978 Accession Convention.
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí agus an Teach seo as ucht a gcomhoibriú anseo inniu.
Like the Minister, I welcome the passage of this important Bill and the fact that it will enable us to ratify the Convention. I think I am correct in saying that the other countries who joined at the same time as us have already ratified it. I am not sure of the position of the countries who joined subsequent to us. It is, obviously, important but I have to say that I deeply regret, if I correctly understood it, that because of the timing and because we are intending to ratify and deposit the instrument of ratification in order to bring this Bill into effect on 1 June, section 7 relating to the enforcement of Community maintenance orders will continue for all time to refer to the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, although, as the Minister said, the Interpretation Act will apply and, therefore, it will be interpreted as meaning section 5 of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976. It is regrettable, it is unfortunate in the timing. It is very sad that we would in 1988 still have legislation expressly referring to incorporating and, apparently, relying upon the 1930 Act. I do take the Minister's point that very shortly after the Act comes into effect the relevant section of the Status of Children Act will come into effect and, after that, the Interpretation Act will apply. I am not satisfied with the position and I regret it but I think it cannot at this stage be remedied.