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The legislative process - can someone explain how bill differences between houses...

  • 09-11-2017 2:36pm
    Registered Users Posts: 17,797 ✭✭✭✭

    ...are resolved?

    Just looking at the proposed minimum alcohol pricing bill, which finally passed committee stage in the Seanad last night.

    The way I understand it, this bill was initiated in the Seanad, or at least that's what it looks like from its page on the Oireachtas website:

    As you can see, only the sections for Seanad Eireann have been filled. So this bill was essentially initiated in the Seanad, and will presumably have to pass all stages in the Seanad before being referred over to the Dail, where it will have to pass all five stages again.

    Where I get a little hazy is this. Suppose the Dail makes very significant amendments to the bill passed by the Seanad, at the committee stage in the Dail for instance. If this happens, I understand the revised bill has to go back to the Seanad to be reconsidered - but at what stage is it reintroduced in the Seanad? For instance, if the Dail makes significant changes at committee stage (adding a provision to require all shops to guard their drink cabinets with a shotgun, for example) does it have to go through the whole committee stage again in the Seanad, or is it reintroduces to the Seanad at reporting stage? How does this work?

    There are several websites which do a very good job of explaining the Irish legislative process and all the stages, but none are particularly clear on this. Beyond stating that a bill passed by one house must then go to the other house and pass all the stages in the same manner, no source is entirely clear on how many stages a bill must RE-visit in a house that has already passed it, if the other house significantly amends the bill subsequently.

    Can anyone clear this up?


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    This is dealt with in the Standing Orders of each House.

    If a Bill has been through all stages in the Seanad, and then goes to the Dáil and gets amended there, when it comes back to the Seanad it's "deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and shall be placed on the Order Paper for its Fourth Stage" (Seanad Standing Order 148(1)). At Fourth (Report) Stage the Seanad can vote to receive the Bill as it stands (i.e. as amended by the Dáil), in which case it then goes to Fifth Stage, they vote to pass the Bill and it goes to the President for signature. Or, on the motion of any member, they can vote to put the Bill back to Third (Committee) Stage, where they can unpick some or all of the Dáil amendments, make new amendments of their own, etc, etc, and carry on from there. In that case, when the Bill finally makes it through Fifth Stage, it doesn't go to the President; it goes back to the Dáil so they can consider the changes made by the Seanad.

    It's slightly different in the Dáil. If a Bill goes through all stages in the Dáil and then goes to the Seanad where it gets amended, when it comes back to the Dáil it goes into Committee (Third) Stage (Dáil Standing Order 194). The Dáil will consider the Seanad amendments. It can accept them, it can reject them, or it can modify them and then accept them as modified. But unrelated amendments, not connected with or arising out of what the Seanad has done, cannot be considered or made (Dáil Standing Order 195). It then goes on through Fourth and Fifth Stages and then goes to the President (if the Dáil has accepted the Seanad amendments unchanged) or back to the Seanad (if it hasn't).