I move amendment No. 42:
In page 12, lines 20 to 26, to delete subsection (3) and substitute:
"(3) Every regulation made under this Act shall be approved by resolution of each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if the motion is rejected by either such House, the Regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder."
I am not sure they are alternatives to each other or options but I see that they should be addressed at the same time. They are quite different, in fact. Senator Murphy's amendment is very like my amendment but Senator Naughten's is quite different. The issue here is very simple. To use an absolute illustration I am reading from today's Order Paper and today the order of this House carries five statutory regulations and they are as follows: "Solicitors Acts, 1954 and 1960 (European Community Lawyers) (Fees) Regulations, 1991." I defy anybody in the House to give me the slightest inkling of what that is about. That is a statutory regulation arising out of an Act. The second staturoty regulation is: "Qualified Lawyers (European Community) Regulations, 1991." The third one is: "Merchant Shipping (Light Dues) Order, 1991. Then there is: "Social Welfare (Modifications of Insurance) Regulations, 1991. That is the way items are laid before the House. They come here in a list. On this Order Paper we have perhaps 20 and I have often seen up to 50 on it.
It is well that people understand that this Act will work by way of regulation. The Minister or the Department will determine specific areas of regulation, as they are required to do, and we are all agreed they should do. This is presented as a paper to the Librarian of the House who enters it in a book, who ensures that it is included in the Order of Business and as far as we are concerned that is then a regulation laid before the House. It is an activity which is unacceptable. I am sure if we were to check on those five statutory orders before the House today they are there on precisely the same conditions as this one here. In other words, unless the House rejects this regulation over the period of the next 21 days it becomes law.
I have always maintained this is not the way to deal with legislation and I have always felt that it should be an affirmative process where the House should decide. In other words, that the Minister should not simply present the new regulation to the Librarian of the House but should come into this House, have it printed for the Members of the House and say: "We are now proposing that this be included as the regulations that go with this Act" and if it is approved by the House then it would become law. It is not the way to pass law. We have seen all sorts of ridiculous regulations coming through, unmarked and unnoted over the past couple of years. I will give one classic example and this is just by way of illustration.
The legislation dealing with the granting of licences to restaurants produced regulations which were so impossible to meet that very few restraurants were ever able to qualify for an alcohol licence because they had to put doors here and toilets there. It was constructed in such a way that it made it impossible. We never get the opportunity to actually address those things. They just slip through the House. I am not saying this is done as a cover up. The reason it is written in this way is because the parliamentary draftsman feels this is the easiest way to do business with the Department and, of course, he is right because once they get this out the door of this House we will never again see a regulation except as a line on the Order Paper. We will never get the opportunity of discussing it, we will never get the opportunity of amending it and we will never get the opportunity of rejecting it. The process of rejection would mean that I would, first of all, have to check what those five papers mean, compare them with the legislation that was passed in 1954, 1960, 1991 and various other years and then say: "I do not agree with that and we now need to get this on the Order Paper". It is an impossible process. In my time in the House I have never yet heard of a regulation being discussed. That is the reality.
Assuming the Minister can stand by the regulations she would wish to bring into operation, then what should happen is that each regulation under the Act shall be approved by resolution of each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if that is rejected by either such House the regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done hereunder. That is the process of law, the process of legislation where it is proposed, discussed, amended or changed.
I used the word "amended" quite casually. In fact, it is not possible to amend regulations anyway so there is no danger to the Department of having a set of regulations torn apart; they are either acceptable or they are not acceptable. I have infinite confidence in the public service that they would bring forward sets of regulations which would be acceptable to the House on all occasions. What we need here is an affirmative process to determine the regulations rather than the negative process, as I call it, which means that it just simply slips through, the negative being that it has to be rejected by a House of the Orieachtas. The proposal here is that every regulation becomes a regulation unless it is rejected by a House. I am objecting to that because it is a very passive way of dealing with it and, secondly, because we never actually get to see these regulations, they are not even circulated to Members of the Houses and I want to stress that point. They are simply sent to the Librarian. That is the effectiveness of laying something before the House. The affirmative process, on the other hand, would require that each regulation was circulated, was placed on the Order of Business, was proposed, discussed and accepted. I think there is no comparison between the two processes.