The Minister of Justice Andres Anvelt made a report to the Riigikogu on the implementation of “The Development Objectives of Legal Policy until 2018” in which he gave an overview of the development objectives of legal policy, and the analyses used to improve legislative drafting, and the involvement of the society.
“This is the first year when, in regard to all legislative drafts of the Government, we follow new rules which must ensure knowledge-based legislative drafting that involves the society,” Anvelt said. “The procedure is that, before the drafting of a Bill initiated by the Government is started, a proposal for a draft must be drawn up, that is, an initial analysis of the impacts of the new legislative act must be done. If it appears that the legislative draft may have a great impact, the planning of a more thorough impact analysis is begun.”
The Minister of Justice noted that, while 14 proposals for drafts had been drawn up in 2013, as many as 13 had been drawn up in the first seven months of this year. “But what is sadder is that proposals for drafts were drawn up for as few as one-fifth of the legislative drafts that were prepared in these 7 months,” he added. “It is clear that it is neither reasonable nor possible to draw up a proposal for a draft in the case of every legislative draft. For example, if a member state does not have the right of discretion in the passing of a European Union directive, then there is no point in seeking agreement on solution options, but there have been too many exceptions and there is much room for improvement.”
In Anvelt’s opinion, it is commendable that the quality of proposals for drafts, particularly the formulation of problems and aims, and identification of impacts has obviously improved in recent years. At the same time he said that significant impacts must be analysed more in legislative drafting. “In only about half of the cases where significant impacts have been identified a more thorough analysis follows,” he stated. He added that the greatest concern is that there is not enough time or flexibility to take into account the proposals arising from the impact analysis.
„Unfortunately, no post-legislative impact assessment has been done as yet. It is necessary in order to know if the aims of the legislative draft have been achieved,” Anvelt said. “However, it is post-legislative assessment that might be considered one of the next development steps of legal policy.”
The Minister of Justice also attached importance to the necessity of involvement in legislative drafting. “If we involve those whom a legislative act directly concerns then we bring new positions in the discussion of legislative drafting, and we also find alternatives that only the people who come into personal contact with the field can point out,” he said.
Neeme Suur, Mihhail Korb, Igor Gräzin and Marko Pomerants took the floor during the debate.
Neeme Suur pointed out that about one-fourth of legislative drafting initiatives come from the Riigikogu, and adherence to the principles of legal policy is relevant also in the case of initiatives emerging from the Riigikogu. “It seems to me that especially in recent months the importance of the work of the Riigikogu committees has become very clear to the public,” he said. “So much the more importance should be attached to the open organisation of the work of committees. In particular with Bills which have a wider resonance, it is very important to hear and take into account the opinion of target groups and stakeholders, both in case of initiatives originating from the Riigikogu and those of the Government of the Republic.”
Suur raised a question if the 10-day period for submission of motions to amend which is regarded as standard is sufficient. “It is through the submission of motions to amend that factions and the members of the Riigikogu can provide their input into the improvement of the quality of a legislative draft and the shaping of a draft,” he noted. “Organisations and persons from outside the Riigikogu can also intervene in the shaping of legislative drafts through motions submitted directly by lead committees, as well as through motions made by factions and the members of the Riigikogu. I personally think that we might consider also a longer statutory time-limit for the submission of motions to amend. The deadline for the entry into force of legislative drafts depends largely on the amount and character of the acts related to the legislative draft. In case there are many acts to be performed in connection with implementation, it is expedient to allow a longer deadline for entry into force than usual.”
In his comment, Mihhail Korb pointed out three examples of legislative drafting which, as he said, have met with the disapproval of the society – the Law Enforcement Act that eased the prohibition on alcohol consumption in public space, the system of ordering alimony, and the Bill on Compensation for Damage Caused in Offence Procedure which is in the legislative proceedings of the Riigikogu.
Igor Gräzin mentioned the fields in which the legislation is still deficient in his opinion. “First, I think that things are far from being in order as regards enterprise, despite our triumphant reports,” he noted. “Second, competition problems, as we can see at the moment in the organisation of the ferry connection competition. And, third, the legal status and regulation of state enterprises – ferries, for example, but also Eesti Energia.
Gräzin also found that Estonia needs an Act on lobbying and lobbying rights. “We have the problem with interest groups that we lack a very important Act, namely the Act on lobbying and lobbying rights, that is, how specific groups, including pressure groups, interest groups, etc., can legally access an MP without fearing labelling by the press,” he said. “I would like to stress that a lobby group actually represents voters. And a situation where voters as a lobby group cannot access the MP who represents them or represents their views, and it is often confused with corruption and I do not know what – such a situation is abnormal.”
Marko Pomerants said that, on a general plane, all is well with legislative drafting in Estonia. “But as it is, such moments of awakening happen when particular Acts or legislative drafts are discussed,” he added. In Pomerants’s opinion, for example, the practice of good legislative drafting had not been adhered to when the Cohabitation Act had been passed.
“The impact analysis is certainly also an important keyword, but I dare say that different impacts can be written down in the explanatory memorandum, and the Minister of Justice also spoke today about how his such a brilliant Bill has reached the Legal Affairs Committee,” Pomerants said. “It concerns the annual percentage rates for express loans, and we discussed it yesterday. I can say that, as a matter of fact, there is no clear understanding as to how many people will actually be impacted by this capping of the annual percentage rate after all.”
The Bill on Compensation for Damage Caused in Offence Procedure (635 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. It specifies and simplifies the procedure under which persons who have suffered damage due to taking into custody, exclusion from office or seizure of property without justification receive compensation from the state. The Bill establishes a regulation for compensating for damage to persons who have suffered moral or material damage in an offence procedure. The precondition for the compensation for damage is that the person has been the subject of a final acquittal by a court, or criminal proceedings with regard to him or her have been terminated. The bases for compensation include cases e.g. where a person has been taken into custody, detained as a suspect or excluded from office, a prohibition from departing from his or her residence has been imposed on him or her, or his or her property has been seized or taken away. In order to receive compensation, actual damage must have been incurred by the person, and a causal relationship between the damage and the abovementioned restrictions must be present. According to the new regulation proposed by the Bill, the compensation for damage will take place within the framework of the same proceedings. This means that a victim will no longer need to turn to an administrative court to initiate a new court action but the receiving of the compensation will be settled in the county court within the framework of the same proceedings.
The Riigikogu rejected the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic, (342 OE), submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction. It had been intended to make a proposal to the Government for Estonia’s accession to the 1960 UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education. 51 votes in favour were needed for the draft Resolution to be passed. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the draft Resolution.
At the beginning of the sitting, the Riigikogu held a moment of silence in remembrance of the late Member of the Riigikogu Tarmo Leinatamm who died on 13 October.
The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno&stcommand=stenogramm&day=13&date=1413273484
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