Seanad Éireann - Volume 111 - 05 March, 1986

National Development Corporation Bill, 1985: Report and Final Stages.

Government amendment No. 1:

1. In page 10, to delete lines 38 and 39 and in page 11, to delete lines 1 to 42 and substitute the following:—

“22.—(1) Where a director of the Corporation is—

(a) nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann, or

(b) elected as a member of either House of the Oireachtas or of the Assembly of the European Communities, or

(c) regarded pursuant to section 15 (inserted by the European Assembly Elections Act, 1984) of the European Assembly Elections Act, 1977, as having been elected to such Assembly to fill a vacancy,

he shall thereupon cease to be a director of the Corporation.

(2) Where a person employed by the Corporation is—

(a) nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann, or

(b) elected as a member of either House of the Oireachtas or of the Assembly of the European Communities, or

(c) regarded pursuant to section 15 (inserted by the European Assembly Elections Act, 1984) of the European Assembly Elections Act, 1977, as having been elected to such Assembly to fill a vacancy,

he shall thereupon stand seconded from employment by the Corporation and shall not be paid by, or be entitled [1016] to receive from, the Corporation any remuneration or allowances in respect of the period commencing on such nomination or election or when he is so regarded as having been elected, as the case may be, and ending when he ceases to be a member of either such House or such Assembly.

(3) A person who is for the time being entitled under the Standing Orders of either House of the Oireachtas to sit therein or who is a member of the Assembly of the European Communities shall, while he is so entitled or is such a member, be disqualified from becoming a director of the corporation or from employment in any capacity by the Corporation.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): Senators will recall that when I replied to their comments on section 22 of the Bill on Committee Stage last Thursday I pointed out that the section, as originally drafted, was on the lines of what I might call the traditional provision for membership of the Houses of the Oireachtas by directors or employees of statutory bodies. While I was aware that similar sections in recent legislation had, at the instigation of the Seanad, been amended, I had considered that the amendment to electoral procedures being examined by the Department of the Environment, which would apply to all enactments, would satisfy the House. The responses from the Leader of the House and Senators from both sides clearly demonstrated to me that such a situation was not acceptable to them. Having listened to their views, I readily agreed to move an amendment on Report Stage.

To meet the wishes of Senators I have, on the advice of the parliamentary draftsman, deleted the original section 22 in its entirety and substituted a revised section 22. The kernel of the amendment, as now provided for in section 22 (1) (b) and, section 22 (2) (b), is that directors and staff of the NDC will be required to give up their directorship of the corporation [1017] or stand seconded from their employment by the corporation only on election to either House of the Oireachtas or the Assembly of the European Communities. The provisions contained in the original section in regard to nomination as a Member of the Seanad or entitlement to sit in the European Parliament, by virtue of being on the replacement panel of that Parliament, have been incorporated into the section as amended. In drafting the proposed section 22 of this Bill, the precedent agreed to by Senators when debating a similar section in the Nurses' Bill, 1985, in October 1985 has been closely followed. I commend the amendment to the House.

Professor Dooge: I would like to say — and I think I speak for every Member of this House — that we are grateful to the Minister for the manner in which he has met us on this particular question. It is a matter of regret to me that the situation does remain that on every statute that comes in we have to raise this particular point. This is not done in an attempt to embarrass the individual Minister that is concerned with the piloting of that Bill, nor is it in any sense an attempt to differ with Dáil Éireann in regard to the form in which legislation is sent to us. But, as the Minister appreciated from our discussion on Committee Stage, it is now the firm view of all Members of the Seanad that this matter cannot be allowed to drag on further and, accordingly, that the Seanad will move to have an amendment similar to that now proposed by the Minister inserted in every statute to which it is relevant.

I want to add to that that I agree with the view that the Minister expressed on Committee Stage, that the simplest thing to do is to amend the Seanad Electoral Acts. I am already on record — almost two years ago — as even directing the parliamentary draftsman's attention to the fact that it would appear to this layman that a simple amendment of subsection (2) (c) of section 27 of the Seanad Electoral Panel Members Act, 1947, would do the job. It is just a question of looking up that section and getting down [1018] to the matter. I am sure every Member of this House and any Minister coming into this House would welcome a provision there that would govern this situation from now on.

In the meantime I want to thank the Minister who is present with us in charge of this Bill for his appreciation of the fact that the impatience of the Seanad is well justified and has to be satiated.

Mr. Fallon: I would like to support the view of the previous speaker and to say, as he said, that it is with some regret that it had to come in the form of an amendment rather than in the Bill itself. The Minister has referred to the Nurses' Bill; and I think it was also a feature of the Dentists' Bill — those two in particular — and legislation of this type. This amendment should form part and parcel of every piece of legislation of this kind. The Minister has obviously responded positively, as we have seen here today, to the views of the Seanad Members on both sides of the House on Committee State and for that I would like to thank him.

Mr. Ferris: I would like to express the Labour Party point of view on this. Last week when we joined Senator O'Leary, who saw the anomaly immediately, we called on the Minister to consider this matter and we want to thank him for responding positively. It is extraordinarily that the anomaly was discovered only in the Seanad. I am not casting any aspersions on the other House, but it is more than a coincidence that all the legislation with this anomaly in it has come through the other House, or, if it came from the parliamentary draftsman to us for initiation, we amended it before it went to the other House. We want to compliment the other House for accepting our views at all times on it. The Leader had indicated a way forward by an easier method so the draftsman will not have to be going to any rounds about it. It could be done by making the other changes in the Electoral Act. They say: “Live horse and you will get grass”. When we have the grass before us we grasp it. We are glad that in this case it is not a nettle. It is nice to know that the Minister [1019] responded positively to it. It has removed an obvious anomaly which was in the legislation and could be discriminatory. Possibly someone later could have taken a constitutional case about it, but why legislate in that way when you can do it in a clean and efficient manner? This amendment will meet our requirements. We have had the Nurses' Bill, the Dentists' Bill, the Combat Poverty Bill and now the National Development Corporation Bill amended in this House in this way. Three times or possibly four is enough warning for the parliamentary draftsman as an indication that we would not like to see it again unless the Electoral Act is amended.

Professor Dooge: Five times since 1981.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration and passed.