Why ECB opinion now vital on any Private Members’ Bills

Bank keen to run rule over any legislation deemed to impose a charge on the Republic

Under the European Union Treaties, there is an obligation to seek an advisory opinion from the ECB where domestic legislation is proposed which affects the workings of the Central Bank. Photograph: Reuters

Under the European Union Treaties, there is an obligation to seek an advisory opinion from the ECB where domestic legislation is proposed which affects the workings of the Central Bank. Photograph: Reuters

 

The European Central Bank has insisted opposition parties must seek and consider its opinion on any Private Members’ Bills which could impose a charge on the State.

The ECB has written to the Government seeking scrutiny of all proposals by Opposition TDs that could incur a charge.

The body is requesting any Private Members’ Bills that could have effects for currency, means of payment, national banks and certain matters relating to financial institutions.

The correspondence was forwarded to the Dáil’s business committee, which was warned of “potentially very serious consequences” for failure to comply.

Legal advice offered to the TDs said a refusal to consult could mean the European Commission taking proceedings against Ireland.

The Irish Times understands the ECB’s intervention was sparked by a Fianna Fáil motion on mortgage interest rates.

New powers

It is understood the ECB then contacted the Government to insist on such measures being forwarded to them in future.

The requirement to consult with the ECB was only a necessity for the Government and was managed through the Department of Finance. However, an issue has now arisen because of the make-up of the current Dáil and the increased likelihood of Private Members’ Bills progressing through the Houses and becoming law.

The legal advice sent to TDs says it is “necessary to have a clear system for consultation with the ECB” on relevant Private Members’ Bills.

It says the Oireachtas must take responsibility for consultation as the authority preparing a legislative provision.

The legal advice warns the obligation to consult does not mean just seeking an opinion but ensuring it is taken into consideration. However, the ECB position is not binding on the member state.

The parliamentary legal officer said failure to consult and consider could lead to “infringement proceedings” against Ireland. It could also form part of a challenge by an individual against the State in the Irish courts.

Shock

Under the European Union Treaties, there is an obligation to seek an advisory opinion from the ECB where domestic legislation is proposed which affects the workings of the Central Bank.

TDs are to consider the correspondence further next week.

The legal advice insists there is flexibility on how the duty to consult should be complied with.

Two options are being examined, including adopting new Standing Orders or delegating this function to an Oireachtas committee.