Report urges 'scrutiny reserve' by Government for draft laws

 

THE TAOISEACH and Government Ministers should be compelled to know the views of the Dáil and Seanad on proposed new European legislation before agreeing to it, an all-party report has unanimously recommended.

A “scrutiny reserve” mechanism is the most significant of the 28 recommendations of the report, which reviews the role of the Oireachtas in European affairs.

A subcommittee chaired by Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton – and drawn from the Oireachtas’s two committees on European issues – concluded such a move would ensure all Ministers were aware of the views and stance of the national parliament before any draft legislation was agreed.

Ms Creighton described it as a “momentous step” that would change the status quo by compelling Ministers to be aware of the views of parliament on a particular European directive or piece of legislation. This would help prevent European directives being presented to TDs and Senators as a fait accompli.

“There is absolutely no point in dealing with legislative proposals after the horse has bolted. After the Lisbon Treaty, national parliaments have new obligations to engage with legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Ms Creighton was speaking at the launch of the report in Leinster House yesterday, attended by 10 members of the committees on European affairs and on European scrutiny, including chairmen Bernard Durkan and John Perry.

Another of the main recommendations of the report is for the prioritisation of which of the 500 pieces of legislation each year are truly important in relation to the national interest.

In an attempt to make Europe more accessible to citizens, the subcommittee advocated a kiosk be sited in the public gallery of Leinster House to cater for the 50,000 members of the public who visit the Oireachtas each year.

It recommended that for one week in May each year, the Dáil and Seanad should set aside all other business to focus on EU-related topics. Committee members dismissed the proposition that those initiatives would be tokenistic or saccharine, saying they could help fill big information gaps.

The report underlined the importance of the Seanad in scrutinising EU business, with Ms Creighton saying it would lead to a more robust chamber.