Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Business of Committee

9:00 am

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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We have a quorum so I will call the meeting to order. I remind all members to turn off their mobile phones. Apologies have been received from Senator Lynn Ruane. I propose that we deal with housekeeping matters in private session now. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The joint committee went into private session at 9.10 a.m. and resumed in public session at 9.18 a.m.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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Members will recall that at our last meeting we agreed to discuss committee resolutions today. Before I expand on this, and in response to queries from members, I want to make a point regarding motions in general. It relates to Standing Orders. Standing Order 84(2) of the Dáil provides:

It shall be an instruction to each Select Committee that-----(a) it may be only consider such matters, engage in such activities, exercise such powers and discharge such functions as are specifically authorised under its order of reference and under Standing Orders;

(b) such matters, activities, powers and functions shall be relevant to, and shall arise only in the context of, the preparation of a report to the Dáil.

Standing Order 70(2) of the Seanad Standing Orders provides for the same in respect of the preparation of a report to the Seanad.

A strict interpretation of this Standing Order means that motions are not allowed in committee. However, a more liberal and, certainly, a more pragmatic interpretation allows a motion in committee as long as it refers to matters within the remit of the committee and, when agreed, it is reported to both Houses. In my view, the liberal interpretation of Standing Orders should be applied. However, I do not think submitting motions and the inevitable amendments to the motions will enhance the work and the productive output of the committee. I believe this committee will be more effective if, as much as possible, we take a collegiate approach and make collective decisions on important policy issues that fundamentally affect the education system, students, parents and teachers.

In that context, it is open to the committee to agree the wording of resolutions that can be sent to the Minister for Education and Skills and-or other relevant Ministers for an urgent response. Such resolutions can also, where appropriate, include a number of succinct but clear recommendations. A resolution can take the form of a report by including a cover page and can be laid before both Houses, thus making it a public document. This way of working proved successful in a number of former Oireachtas committees, including previous committees on education. I propose that members raise issues that they wish to have discussed, with a view to agreeing a resolution under "Any Other Business". Alternatively, when a significant issue arises at a meeting, we can go into private session at the end of it to agree the wording of a resolution and resume in public session when it has been agreed to. Members may indicate if they wish to proceed in this way before a meeting concludes and I can initiate this if I believe the issue warrants it. It would be helpful if a member, either prior to the commencement of a meeting or possibly on the day before, were to indicate to me if he or she would like to raise a matter. Is that agreed? Agreed.