I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:
Section 21: In page 17, lines 2 and 3, "unless the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, has authorised such issue" deleted.
This is an amendment to section 21 which is a standard provision found in legislation for State-sponsored companies. It was included in the Bill for that reason. It precludes the issue of shares in the companies additional to those issues of shares which are expressly provided for in the Bill except as may be authorised by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs with the consent of the Minister for Finance. During the course of the passage of the Bill a question was raised in reference to section 21 to an issue of shares additional to those issues of shares which are specifically provided for in the Bill. The opinion was expressed that the section might be seen as leaving a way open, however unintended, for privatising part of the equity of the company. In view of the provisions of sections 10 and 18 of the Bill which limit to specified categories the authorised and issued share capital of the company there is, of course, no such way open. I fully accept, therefore, that the reference which I now propose to delete is unnecessary and could therefore be confusing. The reference would only be required if the Bill was amended by further legislation to provide for issues of shares beyond the category specified in sections 10 and 18. No such legislation is envisaged. Accordingly, this amendment provides for the deletion of the reference in section 21 to additional issues of shares.
During the course of the Dáil debate on the Bill a number of amendments were introduced to ensure against privatisation or the sale of shares. This section was overlooked and it was drawn to my attention before it was introduced in the Seanad. I tabled an amendment in the Seanad yesterday on Committee Stage. I am glad that matter was drawn to my attention and to have the opportunity to table the amendment here so that there will be absolute consistency throughout the Bill as to our intentions in relation to the maintaining of the postal and telecommunications services firmly in the State sector.