Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Dec 1989

Vol. 123 No. 12

Trustee Savings Banks Bill, 1989: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
In page 6, lines 33 to 39, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:
"(1) The Minister may make regulations for the purpose of effecting the transition from the enactments repealed by section 7 of this Act so far as the same may be necessary to give full effect to any provision of this Act.".
—(Senator Upton.)

I do not know why Senator Doyle is so concerned about what Ministers might or might not do when they are giving certain powers. When you are on this side of the House you agree with regulations and you trust them. When you go to the Opposition benches you disagree with regulations and you do not trust the Ministers. Section 4 (2) provides that "every regulation made under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made"——

Continue that sentence.

——"and if a regulation annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House has sat after the regulation is laid before it the regulation shall be annulled accordingly..."

The point is, "either such House".

The Minister explained in his last reply that while we are talking about power in this House on its own or power in the other House, we are not giving ourselves credit for the power if this House is not able to take a regulation. If it was to come here rather than come from the Dáil to us, are we not reducing our power rather than giving ourselves the power?

I would ask the Leas-Chathaoirleach to bear with us for a minute. We are not being unruly; we are trying to tease out an issue.

That is what Committee Stage is all about.

Normally it comes before the Dáil. We here may not get the opportunity to annul it ourselves.

This is the thing. I never find any trouble at all. Senator Doyle should realise she is in the Seanad, for whatever length of time it is, and take legislation as such and forget about the other place down there. Legislation comes before us here; we have taken quite a lot of the legislation before it went down to the other House — a new practice by two Governments and which has worked well. We should take the Bill here and forget about whether the Dáil has passed it or is to pass it. The Senator keeps referring to the Dáil: she did it again a fortnight ago. I realise that it may take a while for her to realise she is here and that we are to get the Bill through this House. By referring to the Dáil, she will sidetrack herself. Let us get the Bill through this House and let it go out of here a better Bill.

Senator Honan has no experience of the Dáil and she is not in a position to refer to past experience.

I do not want experience of the Dáil. I am fine where I am.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Doyle without interruption, please.

We are free to draw on our past experiences, particularly when it comes to legislation, and which gives us a greater understanding of how legislation is passed. I have done it and intend to continue to do so.

There is a consideration there for the Senator's benefit because she obviously does not know. In 1987 while I was Cathoirleach of the Seanad, 50 per cent of the legislation commenced in this House. Senator Doyle is a new Senator but she should not say Senators do not understand legislation.

I do not think I said that.

An leas-Chathaoirleach

I think the amendment is adequately discussed. Is the amendment withdrawn?

I want to correct a few issues that have been raised by the previous speaker.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

On the amendment?

Yes. The representation that the attitude of people on this side of the House should always be to oppose regulations is incorrect. There are some of us who take an independent line on such matters.

With reference to these amendments which are being discussed, we have gone through this discussion time and time again as to whether regulations should be presented to the House by an affirmative process, in other words, that when a Minister has a change to make he or she comes before the Houses and says, "I propose to make the following regulation: here it is", and it is agreed to by the House. We all understand that — the positive, the affirmative process of the democratic system. That is one way.

The other is the negative process. That is what is in this Bill. That is what I have found time after time since I was elected to the Oireachtas. I honestly believe it is just simply to facilitate those good and able supporters of ours in the public and Civil Service who know that it is a far easier way of doing business because all that it would need in the future would be simply to write the correction, give it to the Minister who passes it on to the Librarian in the House, who presents it to the Clerk of each of the Houses, who puts it on the back of the Order Paper on any given day. Most people do not even look at such orders because they are written in code.

To give an example, the Order Paper says, "Papers laid before the Seanad today: Fire Services Act, 1981 (Prescribed Premises) Regulations, 1989". How many people in this House could tell me what that is about? I defy anybody to tell me what it is about. The second item is, "Maintenance Allowances (Increased Payment) Regulations, 1989". I am merely using these to illustrate my point. I am not going to go through all four items listed. There are very few of them there today. I will give another example: University College, Galway, Statute CXCVIII which my knowledge of Roman numerals would make it out to be Statute 198. That is the code. Today we have accepted those four regulations. I defy any Senator, Minister, or member of Government to explain what those four papers are. Incidentally, they also appear on today's Dáil Order Paper and there is not one Member who could explain what any one of those is about. For all we know all our houses today might be prescribed premises under the Fire Services Act, 1981 as being in some way deficient. I make that point because that is what happens.

The proposal before the House is that this will be made through the affirmative process but the Minister disagrees with that and the reason given was that it would delay and make less efficient the implementation of necessary changes in regulations. That is a fair point in answer to the case that has been made by speakers on this side of the House but there is an in-between position in dealing with regulations and the advisers will be well aware of this. That position is, that the Minister could make regulations which come into effect immediately but he would be required on the first sitting day afterwards to present them to both Houses, or within a certain number of sitting days afterwards to present them to both Houses. In those circumstances, if either House rejected the regulations then they immediately become void. I make the distinction because I want to know the thinking of the Minister on the matter. This is not an amendment but, if I were to get an indication from the Minister that it would meet his argument and the arguments on this side I would be prepared to table such an amendment on Report Stage. I ask the Minister to respond to that suggestion.

If he does not accept the affirmative process as proposed here, would he accept the other little used process which is also there, that the Minister may make the regulations which come into operation immediately but that there is a requirement on him within a certain number of sitting days to present them to both Houses and in the event, and only in the event, of their being rejected by either House do they become void. Otherwise, it does not tie the hands of the Minister; we all get a bite of the cherry; we all know what is happening and the taxpayer and the small investor in a Trustee Savings Bank is even better protected than before. I am sure the Minister will accept that.

We are doing the same as under the Building Societies Act. That is the situation and I am not prepared to go any further on that.

We have been down that road.

I accept that but we have explained the position in full.

A couple of points have been made that need further clarification. Senator Honan spat a basinful and then left the Chamber before some of us could come back and reply to the point she made. I would like to reiterate a point that was made by a speaker behind me, and that is, that the Opposition always oppose or that, as Senator Honan tried to suggest, when we are on that side we support regulations and when we are on this side we oppose them.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would ask the Senator to deal with the amendments.

Yes. This is very important because it has to do with the whole regulation procedure. I have been very consistent over the years, dare I say it, in Chambers other than this, in my attitude towards the regulation procedure. Even as a junior Minister, I had a very strong view in that regard. The positive process is the most democratic process. Any amendment of legislation by way of regulation should come by way of the positive process by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Unforeseen technical difficulties may arise, we have been told, and for that reason a regulation will have to be popped in quickly within 21 days and put in some gobbledegook parliamentary language at the back of our Order Paper in the hope that none of us will notice and it will slip through quietly. Is it possible that the reason these quite extended powers are being requested is that the groundwork was not sufficiently done to head off unforeseen technical difficulties by those who put together this legislation? Are we trying to protect the Minister if a problem arises and has not been attended to in the Bill and he does not want to come back to the House to amend the legislation? We are giving him an out, a backdoor as it were, by way of the process he is now proposing. Could that be the situation?

It seems to me that we are talking about something that is a standard provision to allow the Minister to make the regulations. This is nothing new. It is there in many Acts. In the knowledge that this legislation has been around for the past ten years, any Government could have brought it forward and ought to have done so. The reality is that whatever Government were in power would have the section exactly as outlined in the Bill. It is done very positively and clearly to avoid any possible legal problems or as Senator Doyle said, any technical problems that may arise in the making of the regulations. It is standard and should not be deleted.

I am now convinced, on the basis of what Senator Fallon has just said, that we need to make an issue of this matter. The Senator is right. It is unfortunately becoming the standard process and no parliamentarian should be proud of that fact. Not only that, but I saw an item of legislation on the Order Paper of the Dáil recently, an amending Bill to an old Act of 1928. The amending Bill is for one reason only, is to change the affirmative process to the negative process. What Senator Fallon says is absolutely right. The Government now believe it is so important that they are bringing in, as they have put on the Order Paper of the Dáil, a Bill in that case to change the teacher's pensions or superannuation Bill of 1928.

This Bill has been brought in for one reason and one reason only, and that is to change the affirmative process which was the standard in the 1920s, to the standard of the 1980s. This is a vitally important matter. I know the Minister's and the Department's point of view. It is awkward. Do we have to go through all this difficulty? Democracy was never easy. The parliamentary system is inefficient and defective in many ways and it is seriously deficient in this regard. If it is important enough to change the legislation then it should come before the House clearly, openly and where people understand what it is that they are approving. I believe the Minister in his heart agrees with me on this point.

I do not think Senators should have any concerns about this. It is very straight forward. The provision is standard and Senators need have no fears in regard to it.

What about the Judiciary?

That is another avenue. The legal drafting in the Bill as put forward is what we discussing. Anything can be contested as the Senator knows but that is a matter for another Chamber. As far as we are concerned, we are quite happy with this provision.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 17.

  • Bennett, Olga.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Byrne, Sean.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Fallon, Sean.
  • Farrell, Willie.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Honan, Tras.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Michael.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McGowan, Paddy.
  • McKenna, Tony.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullooly, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • Ormonde, Donal.
  • Ryan, Eoin David.
  • Wright, G.V.


  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Jackman, Mary.
  • McDonald, Charlie.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Neville, Daniel.
  • Ó Foighil, Pól.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Raftery, Tom.
  • Ross, Shane P. N.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • Upton, Pat.
Tellers: Tá, Senators McGowan and Farrell; Níl, Senators Howard and Upton.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.