Thursday, 10 September 2020
Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
James Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
I thank the Senator for putting forward this amendment. Her amendment seeks to amend section 17 of the Bill to prevent the Houses of the Oireachtas by resolution from extending the operation of this Bill beyond 9 November 2021. The enforcement powers provided in this Bill are temporary measures to deal with issues of public health and public safety in licensed premises and clubs. As such the measures can only be used in respect of breaches of penal regulations made under the Health Act that are specific to Covid-19. The provisions of the Act will expire on 9 November. The reason for the renewable expiry date of 9 November 2020 is that this is the renewable expiry date for Part 3 of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020. This inserts section 31A into the Health Act 1947, which is the basis of the Covid-19 regulations made by the Minister for Health. As the purpose of this Bill is to provide enforcement mechanisms for prescribed penal Covid-19 regulations the expiry and renewal provisions of this Bill must be the same of those of section 31A of the 1947 Act. It will be for the Houses to decide whether those provisions should be renewed at a future date. As we do not know how long the public health response to the pandemic will require us to restrict the operation of licensed premises, we cannot therefore know just how long the associated enforcement powers will be needed for. I, like everyone in this House, am hopeful that life will return to normal by this time next year. However, we need to have flexibility to respond adequately and appropriately if that does not prove to be the case. This is a practical and necessary provision which places the decision to extend the Bill in the hands of these Houses. In short, this Bill can only be extended beyond 9 November 2020 where a resolution is passed by both of the Houses so in that respect the Houses can apply the brake at that point if they so wish.