Seanad Éireann - Volume 82 - 30 July, 1975

Employment Premium Bill, 1975: Report Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 can be discussed together.

Mr. E. Ryan: I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, line 19, after “may” to insert “by order”.

This is a further effort to persuade the Minister to make his regulations by order and lay the regulations before the House. If ever there was a Bill in which regulations should be made by order and laid before the House this is the Bill. As we complained in the course of the debate the Bill is vague in the extreme. Nobody is quite sure what the regulations will be. There will be considerable confusion as to the extent of the regulations which the Minister may make under section 3 and, generally speaking, it is a Bill in which regulations should be made and should be subject to the approval of both Houses.

The case for this seems to be overwhelming. As the debate on the Committee stage went on in regard to the power of the Minister to make regulations, it seemed to be more and more important that we should know exactly what regulations were to be made and that we should have an opportunity of seeing them and raising points if necessary. I have never come across a Bill where there is such a crying need for regulations to be made by order and for an opportunity to be given to both Houses to see these [1162] regulations and find out exactly what scheme is proposed by the Minister. In almost every Bill of any complexity there is the provision that the regulation should be made by order and should be available. These are Bills where the details are spelled out very fully, and where it is quite clear in the course of the Bill what is proposed by the Minister, what he can do, what he cannot do, and where it is quite clear exactly what is proposed. In these Bills the regulations are made by order and laid before both Houses.

There is an overwhelming case for that in this Bill. I cannot understand why the Minister was reluctant on Committee Stage to agree to the request for making regulations by order. Having regard to the course of the debate on Committee Stage, the case for it is much stronger now than it was even a few hours ago. I ask the Minister to agree to this amendment. If he is not disposed to agree to it, I ask him what case he is making against it. Why should he object to making regulations by order and laying them before both Houses?

Mr. O'Leary: As the Senator says, there is quite an amount of discretion permitted to me under the Bill. We had this discussion on an earlier stage this morning. It does not detract from the importance of what the Senator feels about the necessity of parliamentary reporting on matters of expenditure in a Bill of this kind. I remarked in reply to the debate this morning that when looking for extra money for this purpose I will be reporting to the other House. Quite a valid point was made by Senator Yeats that a similar procedure does not apply in reporting to this House. All I can say in defence of the lack of a necessity to have it by order is that the legislation must be so framed that there is the minimum of delay involved in the implementation of its provisions. Of course I am answerable to both Houses on the general direction of this legislation.

Suggestions have been made about changes. Senator West made the point about some further extensions in this legislation. I declare an open [1163] mind. He spoke about community employment. That would require a return to this House. In general, my feeling is that, subject to the control of the Oireachtas on all measures of this kind, I have laid down here the criteria and the objectives of this legislation. Senator Lenihan made the point that I should have given myself wider terms of reference which would have permitted me unstated powers in the matter of the industries to be assisted.

Senators will note I have bound myself to spelling out which industries should be assisted. Throughout the debate on this legislation, I have been as specific as possible in saying which were the firms and what were the kinds of industries and which were the categories of unemployed we wish to assist.

These are my main points in defending my position of not including the “by order” provision. By order is, in general, a good procedure to follow. It is not possible in the press of events in carrying out a programme of temporary duration to fulfil all the niceties of parliamentary usage. It is impossible. This is a question all democracies and parliamentary institutions have to face from time to time. The pressure of executive business is such that one may not, down all the avenues of decision-making, report back to Parliament. I take the Senator's point and these are my own points in reply.

Mr. Yeats: I am sorry the Minister is not willing to accept this amendment. He is under a misapprehension in thinking that there would be a necessity to carry out all the various functions under the scheme by order. All the intricate details inside the scheme—the selection of particular employers, the selection of particular employees and workers, the small details of the scheme to which we have had a good deal of reference in the discussion—would not need to be done by order. It would only be the original scheme and amendments to it. As I mentioned on Committee Stage, I do not think there is any real [1164] delay involved in this, certainly not as much delay as is likely to be involved in the constant requirement to obtain the consent of the Department of Finance.

Senator Ryan referred to the Minister acting by regulation. I am not sure that he needs to do anything as formal as a regulation. The whole thing can be done by some sort of administrative arrangement. I do not think a regulation is needed. It is outside the ordinary formal channels of ministerial activity. I do not think the amendment would in any way reduce the possibilities of carrying out the scheme. The Minister is perfectly right in referring to what Senator Lenihan said. We would be willing to give him greater powers if he would take them. Subject to the matter being laid before each House of the Oireachtas in the manner suggested by these amendments, we certainly would like to see him taking considerably greater power than he has in this Bill.

Mr. E. Ryan: I am conscious of the fact that this Bill will probably fulfil a useful purpose and that there is considerable urgency to get it through the House as soon as possible. Were it not for that, I would feel compelled to press this amendment to a division. In the circumstances of the time factor involved, I am withdrawing it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yeats: I move amendment No. 1a:

In page 2, to delete lines 29 to 32 and substitute:

“3 (1) (a) The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, determine (and shall specify in the Scheme) the industries or the activities in specified industries to which the Scheme applies and the persons or classes of persons to whom it applies.

(b) So far as the Scheme applies to agriculture (including horticulture), the consent of the Minister for Finance shall not be necessary.”

This is a drafting amendment. The [1165] aim is to leave section 3 of the Bill completely unchanged in meaning. It makes the matter clearer than in subsection (1) of section 3 as amended on Committee Stage, where the Minister sought to delete the necessity for the consent of the Minister for Finance in the case of payments to agriculture. It is not clear precisely where the commas fall. It depends entirely on the placing of a comma. To that extent an element of ambiguity creeps in which is unnecessary. Linguistically speaking, the amended subsection does not read well. It is cumbersome. I would suggest to the Minister that he should accept this amendment on the grounds that it is clearer drafting and somewhat less cumbersome in style, I hope.

Mr. O'Leary: This is the question of the comma. We covered it before. We may argue about which is the better English but the Senator will forgive me if with all its inelegance I stick to the formulation minus the comma. We are satisfied that minus the comma it sets out the position as we understand it.

Mr. Yeats: As Senator Ryan has already said on his amendment, we appreciate the necessity to head for another place with this Bill and, since we are obviously very anxious to see that it is duly enacted in time, and particularly with the Minister's amendment, I will let the matter go. It is obviously not of importance. My amendment would make this section read considerably more clearly than the Minister's version with commas so I am willing to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Bill received for Final Consideration.