The Oireachtas sub-Committee on Dáil Reform has published its draft final report on amending parliamentary procedures and the plans will be debated today.
The committee was set up after the election and has been tasked with overhauling many of the out-dated rules and procedures which govern the Dáil.
More than one technical group will now be allowed and the numbers required to form such a group will be reduced from seven to five.
This will provide greater rights to the opposition and will allow Independents and members in small parties to join forces to get a greater share of parliamentary set pieces, for example, private members’ time.
Ceann Comhairle and chairman of the sub-committee Seán Ó Fearghaíl said: “The prospect of reform has been embraced by all sides of the House. I’m delighted that we could get agreement on a number of important reforms which will improve and strengthen our parliamentary procedures and give more powers to the Oireachtas and members.”
In its draft report the committee said that the Oireachtas has “consistently performed poorly in international benchmark studies of budgetary oversight by parliament”.
As a result, a new Budget Oversight Committee will be set up to provide better scrutiny of the annual budgetary cycle. An Independent Parliamentary Budget Office will also be set up, which will ‘crunch the numbers’ for the new committee.
Parliamentary questions will also be overhauled after the committee said it received a number of complaints about questions to the Taoiseach which are “seen to be frequently irrelevant by the time they are answered”.
Sitting hours will be more family-friendly and it has been proposed to hold as many votes as possible during an allocated time slot on Thursday afternoons to make more efficient use of the House’s time.
To help the public better understand what goes on in parliament it is proposed that members will be able to place an explanation on the Dáil record as to why they voted a particular way.
The draft final report will be debated in the Dáil today, before a vote on May 24.