Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013: Committee Stage

6:45 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 27, subsection (6), line 37, to delete “in any way” and substitute “for that reason alone”.
Section 17 deals with the power of the Chairman to give directions. Subsection (3) provides that the House may, by resolution, remove a committee member from a committee for contravening a direction given to him or her pursuant to the section or who has otherwise contravened a requirement of the Bill. Subsection (6) of section 17 provides that the removal of committee members shall not in any way invalidate the proceedings of a Part 2 inquiry up to the point of such a removal.

Section 18 of the Bill deals with perceptions of bias. It provides in subsection (3) that a committee member shall recuse him- or herself from the Part 2 inquiry by reason of his or her connection with any matter in the subject of the inquiry or by his or her utterances on that subject matter. Under subsection (4), where the member fails to recuse him- or herself, the member may be removed from the committee in accordance with the rules and Standing Orders of the House. Subsection (5) of section 18 provides that the removal of a committee member shall not in any way invalidate the proceedings of a Part 2 inquiry up to the point of removal.

The purpose of these amendments is to clarify the wording of sections 17(6) and 18(5) of the Bill. The wording of these two subsections in the published Bill states that the removal of a member for contravening the bias provisions or not complying with direction "shall not in any way invalidate the proceedings". I have been advised that the wording might be interpreted as suggesting that the proceedings will not be invalidated even if that member's prior conduct might give rise to genuine doubts about the fairness of the proceedings up to that point. I hope I am being clear. In essence, if somebody is removed in the middle of inquiry we want it to proceed unless, objectively, the person has been so contaminated that it would not be fair for the inquiry to proceed. I am advised that the phrasing in the published Bill might mean that we would not be able to stop an inquiry. The new phrasing gives clarity in providing that an inquiry may proceed unless, objectively, the proceedings have been completely contaminated by the utterances of the member.


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