IMEACHTA AN CHOISTE.
THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE.
Déardaoin, 31 Eanáir, 1974.
Thursday, 31st January, 1974.
1. The Seventh meeting of the Committee took place at 2.30 p.m., in Room 114.
2. The following members were present:—
The Ceann Comhairle (Chairman), Deputies Andrews, Barry Desmond, Henry P. Dockrell, Lalor, L’Estrange, Fergus O’Brien and O’Malley.
3. Reform of Dáil Procedure.
A Draft Report brought in by the Chairman was read as follows:—
1. The Informal Committee on the Reform of Dáil Procedure was appointed in April, 1971 to review the procedure followed in Dáil Éireann and to make recommendations for improvements. In its report dated 1st December, 1972 it made a number of recommendations designed to improve the existing procedure and practice of the Dáil. On 13th November, 1973 the Taoiseach stated in the Dáil that the Government were in favour of implementing the recommendations and that action in the matter would be initiated in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
2. The Committee has examined the recommendations and as a result of its examination it recommends to the Dáil the adoption of the amendments of Standing Orders required to implement recommendation No. (1) and recommendations Nos. (6) to (13) inclusive, (15) to (20) inclusive, (22), (23), (26), (27), (28) and (30) to (34) inclusive as set out in the summary of recommendations in Part III of the report of the Informal Committee. These amendments are set out in Part I of the Schedule to this report. The explanations of them are contained in the body of the report of the Informal Committee.
3. The Committee does not favour acceptance of recommendation No. (2). It agrees with recommendations Nos. (3), (4), (24), (25) and (29) which do not involve amendment of the Standing Orders and in this connection it notes that Nos. (3) and (29) have already been put into practice. With regard to recommendation No. (5) it does not agree that questions seeking statistical information only should automatically be put down for written reply. It considers that a Member tabling such a question should have the right to an oral or a written reply. Recommendation No. (14) is recommended for acceptance on the understanding that the selecting of Bills to be referred to Special Committees will be done only with the agreement of the Whips and, subject to the substitution of a time limit of one hour for three quarters of an hour for speakers other than the first and main spokesman from each Opposition Party and the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary replying, the Standing Order required to implement recommendation No. (21) is recommended for adoption.
4. In examining recommendation No. (26) the Committee had regard to the provisions of Standing Order 86. It considers that, for the purpose of the Standing Order, a group should consist of not less than seven members and it has re-drafted paragraph 1 (b) accordingly. It has also taken the opportunity to provide in the definition in paragraph 1 (a) for Members elected at a bye-election. The following amended version of paragraph (1) is accordingly recommended for adoption:—
“86 (1) For the purpose of this Standing Order a group shall mean—
(a)any Party which had not less than seven members elected to the Dáil at the previous General Election or which, if it had less than seven, attained the number of seven members as a result of a subsequent bye-election, or
(b)all members of the Dáil being not less than seven in number who are not members of any such Party”.
5. The Committee also recommends for adoption the amendments of a technical or drafting nature which were recommended by the Ceann Comhairle to the Informal Committee. These amendments and the reasons for them are set out in Part II of the Schedule.
6. The Committee examined a number of amendments to the Standing Orders recommended by the Ceann Comhairle in addition to those contained in the report of the Informal Committee. These amendments are included in Part II of the Schedule and their purpose is to bring the wording of Standing Orders 19 and 21 into line with the procedure whereby a motion for a late sitting is dealt with by way of Order and not by Resolution. The amendments are recommended for adoption by the Dáil.
7. In considering what further improvement might be effected in the present procedure of the Dáil the Committee has had regard to the practice followed in relation to the making of Ministerial statements. It notes that statements can be made only with the agreement of the House and, where statements are permitted following a Ministerial statement, that the leaders of the principal Opposition Parties only may speak. It seems to the Committee unrealistic that the objection of an individual Member can prevent the making of a Ministerial statement and it appreciates that the existing practice makes no provision for Members who are not attached to the principal Opposition Parties. The Committee considers that a new procedure should now be devised which will dispense with the necessity to obtain the agreement of the House to the making of a Ministerial statement and give discretion to the Chair to allow additional statements. The following new Standing Order is, accordingly, recommended for adoption:
“A member of the Government who has given prior notice to the Ceann Comhairle may make a statement in the House on any matter. No debate shall be permitted on any such statement but further statements may be allowed at the discretion of the Ceann Comhairle.”
(i) Paragraphs 1 and 2 agreed to.
(ii) Paragraph 3 agreed to subject to the making of the following amendments:—
1. “In line 2, after (2) to add the following:—
‘and it recommends for adoption by the Dáil the following amendment to Standing Order 35 which is designed to remove a conflict in the existing wording of the Standing Order with the decision not to accept the recommendation:—
“In line 1 to delete ‘the’ and substitute ‘a’.” ’”
2. “To delete all words after ‘Whips’ in line 12 to the end of the paragraph and substitute the following:—
‘The Standing Order required to implement recommendation No. (21) is recommended for adoption subject to the substitution of a time limit of one hour for three quarters of an hour for speakers other than the first and main spokesman from each Opposition Party and the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary replying.’”
(iii) Paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 agreed to.
(iv) Paragraph 7 agreed to subject to the making of the following amendments:—
1. “In line 9, to delete all words after ‘statement’ down to and including ‘Parties’ in line 11.”
2. “In lines 11 and 12, to delete ‘The Committee’ and substitute ‘It’.”
3. “In line 21, after ‘Ceann Comhairle’ to add ‘from a spokesman nominated by a Party in Opposition’.”
(v) Schedule agreed to.
Draft Report, as amended, agreed to.
Ordered: To report accordingly.
4. The Committee adjourned at 4.10 p.m.