Seanad Éireann - Volume 87 - 02 November, 1977
Industrial Credit (Amendment) Bill, 1977: Committee and Final Stages.
Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: “That section 2 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I considered when the Second Stage was going on whether I would make my contribution at that Stage or now. I was made to shrink back into my place by the contributions that were made, because the points I wanted to make are on a different level, a type of technical level and not an unimportant technical level. It is with regard to the format of this Bill. It is appropriate to look at this section when we are talking about the format of this Bill.
Without hearing what the Parliamentary Secretary had to say or having followed what went on in the other House, what in God's name would that seem to someone who had not spent a long period of time locked up with  a series of books and a series of crazy tutors telling him how to read them? We are on the margin, “Amendment of Schedule to Industrial Credit Act, 1933”. What is that to begin with? Why did they not bother to tell us what the Schedule to the Industrial Credit Act was? Later the Bill states that “paragraph 4 is hereby amended by the substitution in clause (i) of sub-paragraph (d)”. In case for a moment one is beginning to grasp what they are at they knock one crooked by adding, “(inserted by the Act of 1971)”. They will not even tell one what section of the Act of 1971 it is. One has to search through the entire Act of 1971 to find out what the section is. I could go on but I have made my fundamental point here.
It is a bit of fun for the likes of me to be trotting around these Bills but the more our statute law becomes a kind of professional secret shared between the enlightened lawyers and civil servants who he behind ever changing Ministers, the worse it is for those who have to do business knowing what their rights are. What is disappointing to me is that at a certain stage during the late increasingly lamented regime some attempt was made to improve the quality of draftsmanship. That attempt, I regret to say, having read some of their most recent Bills, was abandoned. A new practice was developing. I dug up portion of one section which states:
and the said paragraph, as so amended, is set out in the table to this section.
One could read the whole paragraph and know that the 75 chickens cut up at the dinner had finally reassembled as in the paragraph or table. That that has been abandoned is bad enough but what is worse is that this is the worst drafted Industrial Credit Bill since 1933 and they have had 44 years of attempting to achieve the record. Every single previous amendment does the very thing I suggested this section ought do.
If one looks back for example, having plenty of time on hands like me, to discover the actual section 5 of the Act of 1971 which inserted this stuff, one finds that the side note to section  5 which would have been a great help to anyone reading this Bill the first time, states: “Power of the company to raise or borrow by means of debenture or otherwise”. One cannot discover that except by an internal reference to the substitution in paragraph (d) of what was put in in 1971 of the following sub-paragraph for what was put in in 1974. One can only infer that this is actually giving increasing borrowing power to the company. Why do they not say that in the side note? A very funny thing happens. This may seem like a lot of nonsense because the Seanad have heard the Parliamentary Secretary talk and Members probably looked at the debate in the Dáil if they were misguided enough to think that that was a wise thing to do. But time will pass on and the debates will get separated from the Bills, the Bills will be bound when they become Acts. They will be bound in a big volume and if one turns to that volume one has to go to an index to discover the other Acts referred to. One has one foot here, another foot there, two feet holding down different documents trying to bring them all together, Of course, one does not have the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation about what it all means; that is in another volume.
This is immensely important. I am going to pin the blame for this on the Department of Finance, not on the parliamentary draftsman. The parliamentary draftsman or whatever office he is in, which I believe to be the Attorney General's in ultimate representation, does what his client tells him to do, like any lawyer. If his client tells him to make it clear he makes it clear but if his client tells him to make it obscure he makes it obscure. I invite the Minister for Finance, through the Parliamentary Secretary, to give directions hereafter in relation to the preparation of Bills in his Department, if the Government do not accept the suggestions of Senator Keating that the whole thing be transferred from him anyhow to the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, that these Bills be made as quickly readable as possible for people who have to operate them. Apart from ourselves, apart from solicitors, there are, believe it or not, people who  will want to know and who will have to make rapid decisions. They cannot spend hours at this and will go away crying if they cannot work it out. It may marginally affect their position but they must waste time on it, time that could be better spent and, may I say, they will waste money also.
Mr. Wyse Mr. Wyse
Mr. Wyse: This criticism is most unfair. I should remind the Senator that we cannot repeat all previous legislation. This Bill is just amending existing legislation but we cannot repeat all of it.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I do not wish to delay the House but I did not invite the Parliamentary Secretary to repeat all previous legislation. I invited him, however, to consider how this could be clarified. For example, there is no problem about the side note. One does not have to re-enact anything about the side note. Secondly, there is no difficulty whatever about putting in a table at the foot of section 2 a summary of what the effect on paragraph (IV) of the Schedule is on the amendment affected by this section. That presents no difficulty to any draftsman. He has only to be told to do it.
Ruairí Brugha Ruairí Brugha
Ruairí Brugha: I do not think that what Senator FitzGerald is saying is intended to be a criticism of the draftsmen. He is finding it difficult as I do when I come to a Bill like this. If it was not for the debate and also the debate in the Dáil it would be difficult to figure out what the thing is about. I have got into the lazy habit of looking at the money figure and that is  the key to me. It is almost, in a sense, a sign language. The suggestion Senator FitzGerald made that the explanations be expanded a little is a good one. It is not a difficult thing to do and it could be helpful to some of us who are not accustomed to legislation of this type.
Mr. Wyse Mr. Wyse
Mr. Wyse: I have a note of what has been said.
Mr. Keating Mr. Keating
Mr. Keating: In his mode Senator FitzGerald is both vehement and funny but in this matter he is very important. I have no intention of opposing this section, the matter is urgent and, in general, we approve of it. What I take Senator FitzGerald to be doing is making a plea, to which I should like to add my voice, to all those persons involved, be they in the parliamentary draftsman's office or any Department, and who have to try to express themselves in legal language, to do so as clearly as possible so that the law we are here enacting may be as accessible as possible and as applicable as possible as easily as possible by the largest number of people. That is a proper plea and I support it.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.10 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 9th November, 1977.
Seanad Éireann 87 Industrial Credit (Amendment) Bill, 1977: Committee and Final Stages.