Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Ceisteanna (40)

Niamh Smyth


40. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason no post-enactment reports have been carried out by her Department since 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1712/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Culture)

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has passed five Acts since 2011. Does the Minister believe this legislation is operating as intended? What oversight of this legislation is in place? Some of these Acts are technical in nature, but others have considerable scope. For instance, Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 provides for statutory language planning process to support the Irish language and provide for amendments to the board and function of Údarás na Gaeltachta or the Heritage Act. I do not wish to retread the arguments or discussions which took place during the legislation but to ascertain and identify the current mechanisms within the Department for legislative review once a Bill has passed through the Houses. Why has none been conducted?

Post-enactment reports, as referenced in Standing Orders of both Houses of the Oireachtas, serve as a review of the functioning of an Act 12 months following the enactment of a Bill. The Government’s support for this process is reflected in the programme for partnership Government 2016. My Department was responsible for six Acts passed by the Oireachtas during the period specified by the Deputy.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2012, extended arrangements set out in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 regarding provisions that deemed all holders of valid firearm certificates issued for shotguns between 15 August 2009 and 31 July 2012 to be the holders of a hunting licence under the Wildlife Acts for the purposes of hunting game bird and hare species. Given that the practical effect of this change was considered minimal it has not been considered necessary to undertake a post enactment report.

Acht na Gaeltachta 2012, provided for the introduction of a language planning process, primarily in Gaeltacht areas, as set out in the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and for changes in the size of, and method of appointment of members to, the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. As the full impact of both of these provisions would only become fully evident over an extended period, the appropriate timing for the undertaking of a post-enactment report of this Act remains under consideration.

The purpose of the National Cultural Institutions (National Concert Hall) Act 2015 was to place the National Concert Hall on a statutory footing and provide for appropriate reporting and accounting to the Minister and onwards to the Oireachtas, while not impinging on curatorial independence. I am advised that work on a post-enactment report in respect of this legislation is under way and that this report will be laid before the Oireachtas when complete.

My Department is also responsible for the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018, the Heritage Act 2018 and the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act 2018. The conduct of post-enactment reports in respect of these Acts will be addressed in due course.

I thank the Minister. Evidence suggests that an effective process of post-enactment scrutiny includes roles for Departments, the Parliament and independent external bodies and agencies. Experience in the UK and Scottish parliaments suggests that where the initiative rests fully with a parliament to prioritise the legislation for review and then conduct that review, the associated barriers may be too high. These barriers include information asymmetry, capacity and resources. Is the Minister satisfied that the level of post-enactment scrutiny undertaken by her Department is sufficient?

I made brief reference to the various Acts. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service's spotlight report on this issue mentions that while there is no single approach to undertaking post-enactment scrutiny, there is some consensus that its primary purpose is to ascertain whether the legislation, which is usually an Act, has achieved the original policy objectives. The report also highlights that it may be inappropriate to carry out post-enactment scrutiny until a substantive period has passed and that such periods may justifiably differ depending on the Acts involved. This means that it may take longer in some instances, depending on the particular Act, for the post-enactment report to be compiled. Some have said that it is likely to be in part related to the short one-year timeframe.

The purpose of the process is simple. It identifies whether laws made in this House are having the desired impact. Indeed, the programme for Government and that which preceded it contain commitments to support that process. I fully accept that there is a limited capacity to deliver and that it is the responsibility of the Oireachtas committee to request that these reviews to be conducted. I am not doing this because I am advocating the commissioning of a report into a specific legislation or because I am seeking to influence the workings of the committee. I am asking the Minister to outline the process by which the Department ensures that legislation has the impact we desire.

The Deputy is correct. The primary purpose of these post-enactment reviews is to enable us to demonstrate clearly whether an Act has been implemented in the way originally envisaged and whether it is doing what it was designed to do. This is a very valuable process. Post-enactment reports were not required before 2011. As part of the political reform agenda, the Government aspires to implement a process of post-enactment scrutiny for all legislation. The programme for Government contains a commitment to supporting post-enactment review of legislation by Oireachtas committees. This reiterates the previous Government's commitment to the concept. While there is no single approach to undertaking this type of scrutiny, there is some consensus that its primary purpose is to ascertain whether the legislation, usually an Act, has achieved the original policy objectives.

Question No. 41 replied to with Written Answers.