Government Proposals On Dáil Reform.

Gov Press release on Dáil reform.

Today, Taoiseach and Tánaiste today announced the Government’s proposals for the next phase in its programme of Dáil Reform. The Government is continuing on its reform drive by publishing specific proposals around Dáil Reform which are designed to, Make parliament more efficient, Give the public access to law making and improving oversight of the law making process.

Reforms to be implemented in upcoming Dáil term:

Extending Dáil sitting week and providing additional time for legislative debate.

The Dáil will start earlier each day meeting at 12.30pm on Tuesday and 9.30am on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday sittings will take place every second week and be extended to include a 2 hour debate on a Private Member’s Bill and a 2 hour discussion of a Committee Report.

More structured system for the drafting and enactment of legislation and reduced use of guillotine.

Meaningful role in law making for citizens and civic society groups

Oireachtas Committees will be able to consult with civil society groups, advocacy groups and individuals with expertise in a specific area at Pre-Legislative Stage to develop legislation before bills are drafted.

Pre-Legislative Stage will be a requirement for all Bills. Where a Minister does not bring a Bill to Committee for Pre-Legislative Stage, they will be required to outline to both the Cabinet and the Dáil the reasons for this decision.

Extended involvement of Oireachtas Committees in the Budget process

With the Budget now taking place in October, the Oireachtas Committees will carry out the Estimate process between Budget day and the Christmas recess allowing them to review the Estimates in advance of any funding being spent.

Oireachtas Committees can review the annual Stability Programme Update provided by the Government to the EU between April and the summer recess and provide Departments with a report in advance of the October Budget.

The Government have also decided that under a unicameral system, the next Dáil would include an enhanced Oireachtas Committee system and an additional pre-enactment stage in the legislative process.

Outline of proposed Reforms

More Public Involvement in Law Making

Expanding the current Oireachtas Committee Pre-Legislative Stage 

The Pre-Legislative stage before the relevant Oireachtas Committee will be required for all non-emergency legislation.

Where a Minister does not bring a Bill to Committee for Pre-Legislative Stage, they will be required to outline to both the Cabinet and the Dáil the reasons for this decision.

This will allow for an unprecedented and extensive engagement by the public in law making. The Committee can consult with citizens with expertise in the area, civic society groups and other interested groups – crucially, this will take place before the Legislation is drafted.

Where there has been Pre-Legislative Stage the Chair or Vice Chair of the Committee will have an equal right to speak as the Minister and the Opposition spokespersons before the Dáil to outline the Committee’s work.

Annual outline to Dáil of Government Priorities

The Government will publish for debate in the Dáil: an economic update and projections for the next three years (using the Stability Programme and National Reform Programme that are produced as part of EU-wide economic planning)

A new document called the National Risk Assessment, which will set out the risks (both financial and non-financial) which the country faces in the year ahead, a National Progress Report, produced independently by the CSO

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste will address the Dáil and set out Government priorities.

Over the course of the week each Minister will address the Dáil setting out their Departments achievements to date and their plans for the future.

gov proposals 3

Financial Scrutiny

Developing the role of Oireachtas Committees in the Budget Process

April to September

In April each year the Stability Programme Update is presented by the Government to the EU. Committees can review this information and report before the Budget in October.

The Department of Finance and the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council will provide briefing to the Oireachtas Finance Committee before the Budget.

October to December

The Budget and Spending Estimates will be published in October.

The Dáil and Committees will, for the first time, scrutinise the Budget proposals and the Estimates in before the beginning of the financial year, ie before any money is spent

A new, improved model of financial scrutiny which was piloted for five Departments in 2013 will be rolled out to all Departments by 2015.

New Dáil Schedule

Gov proposals 2

Additional time for legislative debate in the standard Dáil week

The total sitting time during a standard week will be increased allowing additional time for legislative debate.

The additional sitting time will be achieved by the Dáil starting earlier on Tuesday (12.30 pm), Wednesday (9.30am) and Thursday (9.30 am).

Leader’s Questions will take place at 3.15pm on Tuesdays and at 12 noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Friday Sittings 

The Dáil will sit every second Friday for four hours.

This will allow for a two hour debate of a Private Member’s Bill, followed by a two hour discussion of Committee Reports. In the event that no Committee Report is available two Bills will be taken on that day.

As with Private Member’s Bills the Committee Reports will be selected using a lottery system.

As with Private Member’s Bills the Minister or Minister of State will speak during the debate to outline the Government’s response to the Committee Report.

Topical Issues 

Availability of Minister

The Minister or a Minister of State from the relevant Department will be present in the chamber for a Topical Issue debate.

Where no Minister from that Department is available, and with the agreement of the Deputy concerned, debate on the topic will be deferred until a Minister from that Department is available when it will be given priority.

Multiple proposers for the same Topical Issue

The Ceann Comhairle may choose to divide the set time among four or fewer Topical Issues depending on the requests received from Deputies.

Oral PQs

Questions in the Chamber

An ordinary oral question will only be answered if the Deputy tabling the Question is in the Chamber when it is reached.

The Deputy will be given a brief period to outline the question before the Minister’s reply.

Opposition spokespeople can ask 5 ordinary Oral Questions in their own name instead of the current 2.

Grouping of replies will be notified to members in advance of the start of Question Time.

Legislative Debates in the Chamber

At First Stage the proposer of a Private Member’s Bill will be given a speaking slot of 5 minutes to outline briefly the purpose of the Bill.

At Second Stage the Chair or Vice Chair of the Committee which considered the Bill at Pre-Legislative Stage shall have a speaking slot to report to the Dáil on its findings. This slot will follow the Minister and Opposition Spokespersons.

At the end of the second stage debate 45 minutes will be allowed for concluding remarks by Deputies chosen by the Ceann Comhairle who had previously spoken. Up to fifteen speakers can be facilitated as follows:

Opposition spokespersons Slots 1 – 3
Committee Chair Slot 4
10 other Members selected by the Ceann Comhairle Slot 5 – 14
Minister/Minister of State Slot 15

gov proposoals 1

EU Scrunity

Additional Sitting Weeks on EU Matters

There will be two sitting weeks a year, in early May and early November, tailored to deal with EU related business.

In May the Dáil will focus on a full Government statement on key EU priorities for Ireland, our orientation across each Council formation and progress on Legislation at EU Level, with statements by each Minister.

In November each sectoral Committee will look at EU issues relevant to their own area.

Measures to improve the Legislative Process

A new system for the drafting and enactment of Legislation will include a reduction in the number of Legislative Programmes approved by Cabinet each year from the current three (one each term) to two (each for a six month period). More structured procedures for providing timetables and benchmarks for the drafting and enactment of Bills will also be introduced.

The new Dáil Schedule will increase the time available to debate legislation in the standard sitting week.

These steps will result in a reduction in the use of the guillotine in the Dáil.

Post Legislative Review

A Minister will report to the relevant Oireachtas Select Committee within 12 months of enactment to review the functioning of the Act. This will allow for the Committee to consult with civil society groups and individuals with expertise in the relevant area.

In the Next Dáil under a unicameral system

A Pre-Enactment Stage will be introduced between Report Stage and Final Stage. This would be undertaken by the Committee which had considered the Bill at Pre-Legislative and Committee Stages and will allow for that Committee to make recommendations to the Dáil for approval. This will take place with all Bills except in the case of emergency legislation.

A new structure for the Oireachtas Committee System will be established. This enhanced Committee System will have 14 Dáil Committees including:

Four strategic committees

They will focus on issues of major strategic and political importance (including PAC, Finance & Budget, EU scrutiny and Social Affairs).

They will be granted with additional powers to carry out their work such as those currently allowed to PAC.

They will take precedence over the sectoral committees.

Seven sectoral committees

They will shadow Government Departments; and

Three thematic committees

They would focus on specific issue (Oversight & Petitions, Good Friday Agreement, members’ interests).

Committees Chairs will be appointed using the d’Hondt system for a proportionate distribution of Committee Chairs between the Government and Opposition.

These Committees will have the power to consult civil society groups, advocacy groups and individuals with expertise in a specific area to inform and assist them in their work.

A lot of proposals, for the most part positive. More reform is being implemented by this Government than all of Bertie Ahern’s era, Which lets not forget Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin was a minister in.

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About Paul Duggan

Politics, humour, Liberal, Curmudgeon, Rogue. Creator and author of Irish Shades of Grey.
This entry was posted in Irish current affairs, Irish Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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