Seanad Éireann - Volume 88 - 26 April, 1978
Select Committee on Statutory Instruments: Motion.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: I move:
(1) That a Select Committee be appointed to consider every statutory instrument laid or laid in draft before Seanad Éireann in pursuance of a statutory requirement with a view to determining whether the special attention of Seanad Éireann should be drawn to it on any of the following grounds:—
(i) that it imposes a charge on the public revenues or contains provisions requiring payments to be made to the Exchequer or any Government Department or to any local or public authority in consideration of any licence or consent, or of any services to be rendered or prescribes the amount of any such charge or payments;
(ii) that it appears to make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the Statute under which it is made;
(iii) that it purports to have retrospective effect where the parent Statute confers no express authority so to provide;
(iv) that there appears to have been unjustifiable delay either in the laying of it before Seanad Éireann or in its publication;
(v) that for any special reason its form or purport calls for elucidation;
(vi) that its drafting appears to be defective; or
on any other ground which does not impinge on its merits or on the policy behind it; and to report accordingly;
(2) That the Committee consists of nine members of whom three shall form a quorum;
(3) That the Committee has power to require any Government Department or other instrument-making authority concerned to submit a memorandum explaining any statutory instrument which may be under its consideration or to depute a representative to appear before it as a witness for the purpose of explaining any such statutory instrument;
(4) That the Committee has power to report to Seanad Éireann from time to time any memoranda submitted or other evidence given to it in explanation of any statutory instrument;
(5) That it be the duty of the Committee before reporting that the special attention of Seanad Éireann should be drawn to any statutory instrument to afford to any Government Department or other instrument-making authority concerned therewith an opportunity of furnishing orally or in writing such explanations as the Department or authority may think fit;
(6) That every report which the Committee proposes to make shall on adoption by the Committee be laid before Seanad Éireann forthwith whereupon the Committee shall have power to print and publish such report together with any memoranda or evidence given to it in explanation of any statutory instrument.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to one or two of the advantages that attach to this motion. It is fairly long so I do not propose to read it but it is to the effect that a Select Committee be appointed to consider every statutory instrument laid in draft  before Seanad Éireann in pursuance of the statutory requirement with a view to determining whether the special attention of Seanad Éireann should be brought to it on any of the six following grounds. The purpose of the instrument is to see that the drafting of legislation is pretty well streamlined and copperfastened before it reaches the House. Since the Committee was set up ten years ago under previous Governments it certainly has had the effect of streamlining procedure. It has meant that a great deal of unnecessary wrangling and unseemly debate have not arisen from the drafting and presentation of instruments to the House. It can be seen from the six provisions mentioned that by and large it is concerned not with substantive matters. In other words, its objection to any instrument does not impinge on the merits or on the policy behind it but merely on its presentation. It looks out to see that, for instance, the statute in question would not make any unusual or unexpected use of powers conferred by the statute under which it is made; that it would not have a retrospective effect where the parent statute confers no express authority so to provide; that there would be no unjustifiable delay; that there would not be sufficient elucidation and that it would not be defective in any of the formal ways that I have suggested.
The second section of the motion is concerned with the powers and procedures of the Committee. What we have to do is to call the Committee into existence for our own lifetime and its powers and procedures are outlined there. I would draw the attention of the House to one provision which is new and which is to be welcomed, that is subsection (vi) which states:
That every report which the Committee proposes to make shall on adoption by the Committee be laid before Seanad Éireann forthwith whereupon the Committee shall have power to print and publish such report together with any memoranda or evidence given to it in explanation of any statutory instrument.
That means that in the future, once  the Committee makes its report, it is possible for the Committee to have that report printed and laid before it. In the past it was necessary to have that approved by the House before the printing could take place. This has been checked out with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the Seanad itself should welcome the motion because it certainly will help to clarify and streamline debate and to focus attention ultimately on the substance of Bills and not waste the time of the House with their framing and with their drafting. It is on those terms that it gives me great pleasure to move the motion.
Mrs. Hussey Mrs. Hussey
Mrs. Hussey: I second the motion.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: I should like to support Senators Martin and Hussey in proposing the motion to establish the Seanad Committee on Statutory Instruments. This is a very useful Committee of the Seanad. I participated in previous Committee sessions and it is an important scrutiny of the form of delegated legislation. This is of increasing importance because of the tendency in modern legislation to give more power to Ministers to make regulations to implement the provisions of the Bill. We tend more and more to bring in what might be called skeleton legislation and then let it be fleshed out by statutory instruments being brought in by the appropriate Minister. This is necessary because of the complexity of modern legislation but I think it is essential that a Committee of this type should exist and it is appropriate that it be, as it has customarily been, a Seanad Committee.
I also welcome the fact that this motion has been moved by Independent Members of the House, as is the tradition when establishing this Seanad Committee on Statutory Instruments. I am glad that there is now provision for automatic publication of the reports of the Committee on Statutory Instruments, that permission does not have to be sought in the case of each individual report. I would hope that when this newly formed Committee does issue its first report that we might have a debate on the report itself and hence be more aware of the very important  on-going work done by this Committee. I welcome and support the motion.
Question put and agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 88 Select Committee on Statutory Instruments: Motion.