Committee Reports::Report No. 57 - Statutory Instruments [4] made under the European Communities Act 1972; Penalty Provisions::03 November, 1976::Proceedings of the Joint Committee



Dé Céadaoin, 4 Bealtaine, 1977

Wednesday, 4th May, 1977

1. The Joint Committee met at 4.15 p.m.

2. Members Present.

The following members were present:

Deputies Haughey (in the Chair), Desmond, Dockrell, Esmonde, Staunton; Senators Higgins and Robinson.

3. Draft Report on Penalty Provisions and Four Statutory Instruments made under The European Communities Act, 1972.

The Chairman brought forward a Draft Report which was read as follows:—

(i) New Sections.

Amendment proposed (Deputy Haughey):

“Before section 1 to insert the following new Sections:—

‘1.Penalty Provisions

The European Communities Act, 1972 provides that ministerial regulations made thereunder may not create indictable offences. It follows, therefore, that penalties provided for in such regulations should not exceed what would be regarded as reasonable for an offence triable summarily. In its thirtieth report (Prl. 5419) of 28th April, 1976 the Joint Committee suggested that a maximum fine of £500 might be excessive for such an offence.

In its forty-ninth report (Prl. 5940) of 9th December, 1976, the Joint Committee drew attention to two instruments providing for maximum fines of £500 and undertook to report further in the matter. Since then it has learned that the Attorney General sees no objection to such fines from a legal point of view.

It is noted that the Consumer Information Bill, 1976, which is at present before the Dáil provides for maximum penalties on summary conviction of a fine of £500 or 6 months imprisonment or of both the fine and the imprisonment. If this provision is acceptable to the Houses, the Joint Committee does not propose in future to raise objections, as a matter of principle, to such penalties in ministerial regulations. If in a particular case it considers a penalty to be wholly unreasonable having regard to the offence, it will draw the attention of the Houses to it.

2. Instruments Examined

Since it issued its forty-ninth report dealing with statutory instruments the Joint Committee has examined a further five instruments made under the European Communities Act, 1972. One of these is dealt with in a separate report and the remainder in this report.

3. European Communities (Non-Life Insurance (Amendment) Regulations, 1976 [S.I. No. 276 of 1976]

This instrument amends S.I. No. 115 of 1976 with which the Joint Committee dealt in its forty-ninth report. The purpose of the amendment is to give effect to a change in the basis of calculating the Community unit of account arising from Council Directive 76/580/EEC which changed the basis of valuation of the unit of account used for insurance purposes. The Joint Committee has no objection to the amendment’.”

Amendment proposed to the proposed amendment (Senator Robinson):

“In Section 1 to add the following paragraphs:—

‘A fine of £500 is the largest which the Joint Committee has seen imposed in regulations made under the European Communities Act, 1972 and consequently it must be assumed that it is reserved for the offences considered to be the most serious of those that can be created by such regulations.

The Joint Committee doubts if a contravention of the European Communities (Statistical Surveys) Regulations, 1976 comes within that category. That instrument provides for a maixmum fine of £500 or for up to 6 months imprisonment or for both the fine or imprisonment where industrial or agricultural employers fail to supply certain information regarding workers’ earnings or to reply truthfully and in time to questionnaires or where the information supplied is used for other than statistical purposes.

While such penalties might be warranted for using information obtained in the survey for taxation or other non-statistical purposes or communicating such information to third parties, the Joint Committee does not accept that a fine of up to £500 is warranted for failure to supply information or to reply truthfully, fully and in time to questionnaires particularly when one has regard to penalty provisions in other regulations made under the European Communities Act, 1972. For example, £50 is the maximum fine permitted under the European Communities (Road Traffic) (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations, 1975 [S.I. No. 178 of 1975] for using in this country a motor car normally based in another Member State without establishing that it is covered by insurance. Again, contravention of the European Communities (Fresh Poultry Meat) Regulations, 1976 [S.I. No. 317 of 1976] and the European Communities (Marketing of Fish) Regulations, 1977 [S.I. No. 114 of 1977], both of which relate to standards set to protect consumers of foodstuffs, attract maximum fines of £200.

The Joint Committee finds it difficult to accept that such offences should be considered socially less reprehensible than failure to supply information or to ensure that information supplied is accurate and made available in good time’.”

Amendment to proposed amendment agreed to.

Main amendment, as amended, agreed to.

(ii) Sections 1 and 2 deleted.

(iii) Sections 3, 4 and 5 agreed to.

Draft Report, as amended, agreed to.

Ordered: To report accordingly.

4. Adjournment.

The Joint Committee adjourned at 5.40 p.m.