NOTES ON PROPOSALS FOR POLITICAL REFORM MADE AT SEMINAR OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENTARY (FORMER MEMBERS) SOCIETY HELD IN THE DAIL CHAMBER ON FRIDAY JANUARY 21ST 2011.
Posted on behalf of Gemma Hussey by David Farrell (March 2, 2011)
1. A draft of expenditure proposals in the Budget should be published six weeks in advance with a view to an open debate on the Government’s proposals.
2. The powers of the Public Accounts Committee should be extended to enable it to check for effectiveness, viz performance versus promise. The Committee should be empowered to require the attendance of Ministers.
3. In relation to Committees, there should be a general power for these to compel the attendance of Ministers and others. There should be ten or perhaps slightly more Committees, and no Whip should be applied at Committee meetings. The power of alternates and accountants to attend and vote at Committees should be dropped.
4. The practice of Ministers being responsible for the actions of their civil servants should be dropped, and civil servants should be responsible for decisions in their area of administration, with appropriate discipline where failures occur.
5. An independent Fiscal Control Council should be established to advise on budgetary policy, including credit policy, and to set targets for the main elements of the budget and to identify possible future risks.
6. There was general agreement on the need to review the electoral system. No specific revision was recommended.
7. In relation to the low female membership of the Dail, it was proposed that no more than one-third of candidates nominated by a Party prior to an election should be of either sex. In practice, this would involve a requirement that one-third of candidates should be women, leaving it to the electorate to decide whether they wanted to elect them or not.
8. The hours of the Dail should be reviewed so as to make participation with its work more compatible with family responsibilities.
9. With respect to the EU, there should be quarterly meetings in advance of EU Ecofin meetings, at which discussion would take place on the position proposed to be adopted by the Minister at that meeting.
10. Abuse of the guillotine should be ended by bringing legislation forward in good time so as to enable its enactment after adequate debate.
11. The practice of Green and White Papers presenting Government proposals should be restored.
12. The civil service should be adequately endowed with the necessary expertise to make possible the preparation of legislation with the system, rather than employing outside consultants or legal firms for this purpose.
13. The Ombudsman’s responsibilities should be extended to areas from which at present she is excluded. Limitations imposed on Freedom of Information should be removed and civil servants should be required to record the advice they give which, at present, is often suppressed by the destruction of notes prepared for Ministers.
14. There should be much greater willingness to consider and accept amendments to legislation from members of the Dail.
15. The Dail’s power to undertake public enquiries should be restored.
16. To the extent that Social Partnership may be restored in some form, the Dail should have a role in assessing proposals from that source.
17. There should not be more than six or seven Ministers of State
18. Committees should be empowered to choose their own Chairman.
19. The Senate should be retained in view of its valuable legislative role.