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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Jul 1996

Vol. 468 No. 4

Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Bill, 1996: Second and Subsequent Stages.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." I notice Deputy McDowell is in the House and I would ask him to take this opportunity to retract unreservedly the vicious allegation he made on the airwaves this morning to the effect that I and my friends in the Labour Party had availed of the tax amnesty. The Deputy is a lawyear with considerable skill. Somebody in the newsroom of "Morning Ireland" discovered that an error was made and an inadequate statement was made by David Hanley on behalf of RTE at the end of the programme. I invite Deputy McDowell to avail of the privilege of this House to retract that statement and apologise for it.

I most certainly retract what I said. I did not mean to say that the people concerned had availed of the amnesty; what I meant to say was that they had politically reaped the benefit of the amnesty. I was told by people whom I trust that I used the term "avail", but I hope the Minister accepts that I did not mean that. If for one moment I sought to convey that a Minister or individuals in this House availed of the amnesty I would have made that much clearer. I regret very much if the remarks I made today on the radio tended to suggest that the Minister or any of his colleagues had availed of the provisions of the tax amnesty Act. I meant to convey that they had availed politically of the proceeds of the amnesty and nothing more.

What Deputy McDowell stated, subject to the transcript taken by my office was——

I accept that.

Since the Deputy put it on the record this morning I will now put it on record. He stated that I and my friends in the Labour Party who availed of the tax amnesty were warned at the time by Deputy O'Malley and Deputy McDowell in the Dáil time after time that major criminals would use that means to launder their money. It was outrageous to suggest that I and my friends in the Labour Party, of which I am unequivocally proud, had availed of the tax amnesty. To make that statement in such a manner is beneath contempt, and the Deputy did not have the guts, at the end of the programme, to apologise.

I did not know I had used the term "availed" until I heard it while travelling home in my car. I would ask the Minister to take on board what I have said as sincere, that I did not intend to suggest he or his colleagues had availed of the provision of the amnesty. What I intended to convey was that the Labour Party had availed of the proceeds of the amnesty and had defended it. I hope the Minister accepts that is all I intended to say.

Deputy McDowell is using his own phrase of weasel words. The Labour Party did not get a single penny from the amnesty moneys. It is outrageous for Deputy McDowell to suggest that we availed of the amnesty money. He should apologise unreservedly and stop qualifying his statement. Has Deputy Harney any control over her so-called spokesman on Finance?

I have said twice that I did not intend to suggest that the Minister or any of his friends in the Labour Party had availed personally of the amnesty. As the Minister well knows, what I meant to convey — I have said this on many occasions — was that the Labour Party had defended the amnesty and expenditure of the proceeds of the amnesty. That is all I intended to convey and if I gave any other impression I unreservedly withdraw it.

Fewer than 100 people present today have heard that unreserved withdrawal and I trust the Progressive Democrats will ensure that a wider audience, equivalent to that which listened to this morning's programme, will hear it also.

One of the steps the Government has taken to counter major organised crime, particularly in the drugs area, was to set up a special group to examine ways of targeting the assets and proceeds of criminal activities. This group which was chaired by the Department of Justice comprised representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Welfare. The group made a number of proposals aimed at improving co-operation between State agencies in their fight against organised crime and to remove any obstacles which would hinder their efforts in tracking and targeting the assets of criminals.

First, the group put forward a series of measures to allow for free pro-active exchange of information between Revenue and the Garda Síochána in the case of suspect assets and activities than is allowed to date by law. Changes were also recommended to secure the anonymity, and thereby the personal safety, of Revenue officials in pursuing tax assessments of suspected persons, and to allow for the use by Revenue of Garda intelligence information in making tax assessments without disclosure of the source of this information, unless authorised by a senior Garda officer.

The group also recommended a number of amendments to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. The purpose of this Bill is to implement the important and necessary legal changes recommended by the working group and thus clear the way for closer and more concerted co-operation between the State agencies in the fight against organised crime. The implementation of these measures will form a useful part of, and has to be seen in the context of, the overall action we are taking.

As part of this it is necessary to amend and extend the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. There is a doubt whether information or material obtained under the "money laundering" provisions of that Act could be used by the Garda Síochána and Revenue in relation to other criminal offences or Revenue offences. The money laundering provisions of the Act were passed specifically to meet the obligations of an EC Directive. The Directive itself, however, permits the use of "money laundering" information or material in the investigation and prosecution of other offences provided specific legal provisions is made to do so. This Bill includes a suitable amendment to the 1994 Act to allow for the wider use of money laundering information.

The 1994 Act already makes provision regarding applications to the courts by the Garda Síochána for search warrants for purposes related to drug trafficking and related offences. Under existing law the warrant may be issued to "a specific member of the Garda Síochána, accompanied by such other members of the Garda Síochána as the member thinks necessary". In the context of the proposed attack on criminal assets it would clearly be desirable that the warrant should allow for any non-Garda person working in or with the proposed Criminal Assets Bureau, including Revenue and Social Welfare officials, to take part in the search. A suitable amendment to the 1994 Act has been included in this Bill.

Further, the Bill also makes certain changes, which I will outline later, to the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1879, relating to access by the Garda to the books and records of all relevant financial institutions.

I will turn now to the individual sections of the Bill. The first four sections amend the Garda Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Section 1 inserts a new section into the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. This new section allows Revenue to provide information to a garda not below the rank of chief superintendent or to a body set up under statute or by the Government to target the assets of criminals. To release information the Revenue Commissioners must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the information relates to a person who has derived profits from an unlawful source or activity and that the information will assist in a relevant investigation.

This provision will allow for exchange of information without requiring a court order and, at the same time, provides reassurance for ordinary law abiding taxpayers. The section maintains existing safeguards for information received by the Revenue Commissioners from another state under a double taxation treaty.

Section 2 amends section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, in two respects. First, it ensures that documents and materials concerning the identification of customers and transactions are retained by the designated bodies for use as evidence into any offence and not solely money laundering offences as provided for at present. Second, it inserts a new subsection to enable the Minister for Justice, in prescribing a designated body by order under that section, to exempt that body from some of the obligations generally imposed on designated bodies by the 1994 Act. This will basically allow any such order to deal with the issue of legal professional privilege where an order is made extending, for example to solicitors, the obligation to report money laundering.

Section 3 is related to section 2 and it amends section 57 of the same Act to permit information reported under that section to the Garda Síochána to be used not only in any investigation concerning money laundering but for an investigation into any other offence.

The working party considered the question of extending the list of bodies and professions to which section 32 and 57 of the 1994 Act dealing with money laundering apply. The group, and indeed the Government, acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of the members of these professions are law abiding people who would be horrified if they thought they were involved in laundering the proceeds of crime. Nevertheless, the group was firmly of the view that the extension of the money laundering reporting requirements in this way would be of considerable assistance in the fight against organised crime. The Government has decided, therefore, that the reporting requirements of the money laundering provisions of sections 32 and 57 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, should be extended to solicitors, accountants, auctioneers and estate agents. This can be done by the Minister for Justice by order under the 1994 Act but will take place only following detailed consultations with the professional bodies on the operational procedures and standards to be applied by the professions in question. This will ensure effective reporting and allow for the practical operation of the requirements at professional firm level. For the information of the House, there have already been discussions between my Department last year and the bodies representing solicitors and accountants on the operation of the existing money laundering provisions.

Section 4 amends section 64 of the 1994 Act to enable a member of the Garda Síochána carrying out a search under a warrant issued under that section to be accompanied by any other persons, for example, a Revenue or social welfare official, rather than, as section 64 currently provides, only other members of the Garda Síochána.

Sections 5 to 9 are alike, making similar provisions in relation to a number of different tax heads. Section 5 amends section 184 of the Income Tax Act, 1967. That section provides for the making of an assessment to income tax in the absence of a return or in circumstances where the inspector has received information as to the insufficiency of any statement received from a person. Section 5 puts beyond doubt that the inspector may, in making an assessment, use information received from the Garda Síochána. It also provides that where Garda information is used the origin of the information is not to be revealed except with the permission of a Chief Superintendent, to protect Garda intelligence gathering. Sections 6, 7, 8 and 9 make similar provisions in relation to corporation tax, stamp duty, capital acquisitions and residential property tax, respectively, as section 5 does for income tax. Sections 10, 11 and 12 provide for anonymity for the Revenue officials in particular circumstances. Section 10 amends section 18 of the Finance Act, 1983, which provides that where an inspector of taxes has reason to believe that an account in a financial institution is being concealed by a person for tax purposes, an authorised officer of the Revenue Commissioners may apply to the High Court seeking information regarding the account. The changes now being made provide that, where the court is satisfied that it is in the public interest, any documents relating to an application or order under the section will omit the name and address of the authorised officer, and in any cross-examination or depositions made, the name and address of the authorised officer will not be revealed in court and the officer may give evidence in the sight and hearing of the judge and only in the hearing of anybody else.

Section 11 amends section 19 of the Finance Act, 1983, which provides for the assessment of tax of profits or gains arising from unknown or unlawful activity. The amendment related to the investigation by any body set up to target the assets of criminals and provides that where, following an investigation by such a body, an assessment is raised under section 19 of the 1983 Act by an inspector who is a member of that body, the assessment may be issued, and the tax due demanded, in the name of the body rather than in the name of the individual officer.

Section 12 also relates to the anonymity of Revenue Officials involved in any body established to target criminal assets. In particular, the section provides that, when exercising his or her powers and duties on behalf of the body, a Revenue official will not be required to identify himself or herself but will be accompanied by a member of the Garda Síochána who will confirm that the official is an officer of the body. Furthermore, the Revenue official will perform written duties in the name of the body and not in his or her name.

Moving on to sections 13 and 14 of this Bill, it is also proposed to amend the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1879 in three ways. The purpose of these amendments is to allow the Garda greater and speedier access in a criminal investigation to documents and records in the possession of financial institutions and other entities.

Under the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, the High Court may grant, on the application of a garda of superintendent rank or higher, an order permitting the Garda to inspect and take copies of the books and records of licensed banks, the State banks and building societies. However, as pointed out by the Advisory Committee on Fraud established by the Government and chaired by Mr. Peter Maguire SC, the Act can be used only in relation to a limited number of financial institutions.

It is proposed, accordingly, in section 13 to extend the application of the Bankers' Books Evidence Act to allow the courts to make an order allowing the Garda to inspect and take copies of the financial records of credit unions, Stock Exchange member firms, investment intermediaries, moneybrokers, bureaux de change, life assurance undertakings and futures exchanges. It is also proposed to provide that the Minister for Finance may, following consultations with the Minister for Justice, add to the list of entities to which the Bankers' Books Evidence Act applied. The list of entities is broadly similar to the list of designated bodies in section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, on which duties in respect of suspected money laundering are imposed.

Sections 14 amends section 7 (a) of the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1879, in two ways and in line with the recommendations of the Maguire report. First, it extends the definition of a "banker's book" to cover documentation associated with or related to a bank's books and records, including such documentation in electronic form. This means it will be possible for the Garda, on foot of a court order, to inspect letters and other documentation in the possession of a bank or other entity defined in the amendment to the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1879, contained in section 13 of this Bill. The reason for this amendment is that the Garda currently have access to the books and records of financial institutions but not to the underlying documentation on which such records are based, such as letters and lodgement slips.

Second, this section provides that the Garda may apply to the District Court or the Circuit Court as well as to the High Court for an order allowing it to inspect and copy extracts from the documents of an entity to which the Bankers' Books Evidence Act applies. This amendment will speed up the process of applying for an order under section 7 (a) of the Bankers' Books Evidence Act.

The introduction of these provisions is an urgent, measured and important part of the overall package we are introducing in response to crime. The Bill establishing the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is before the House, will consolidate the effectiveness of the measures in this Bill. At the same time, this Bill will clear the way for the operational parameters of the bureau to be put in place now in advance of the enactment of the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill and for on the ground action and co-operation to take place. I am grateful to the House for its agreement to take all Stages of this Bill, which I commend to the House.

The initial stages of this debate were taken up with an altercation between the Minister and Deputy Michael McDowell. I listened to "Morning Ireland" on the car radio. While Deputy McDowell was disingenuous in the comments he made about the tax amnesty provisions with which I will deal later, the Minister was disingenuous when he accused Deputy McDowell of trying to suggest that the Labour Party availed of the tax amnesty provisions. Even before the apology was announced at the end of the programme I clearly understood that was not Deputy McDowell's intention. In the interests of fair play, I do not believe for one moment the Minister thinks Deputy McDowell made that allegation.

Having listened to the Minister for Justice reply to the earlier debate and to the Minister for Finance, a man of eminent commonsense, I am convinced that a general election is just around the corner. If there is to be such hysteria, if we are to tie ourselves in knots and get so upset in July 1996, an election is much nearer than I anticipated. If not, I am afraid that between now and the time an election is called the level of debate in this House will sink to a low level.

This Bill which I welcome would strike most ordinary people as being quite odd. Even persons such as me who are accountants by profession appreciate the need for many of its measures to preserve evidence and allow for co-operation between various organs of State. We must operate an unusual system, because ordinary people assumed this was being done. Most ordinary people and most politicians find it extraordinary that Bills have to be introduced to allow happen the things the Minister outlined. At Question Time and on the other occasions with representatives of the Revenue Commissioners I argued for greater co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners and various reasons were given as to why this could not be done.

There is a need for some of the detailed sections of the Bill because eminent counsel and solicitors all over Ireland have succeeded in protecting their clients when they should not have. It is an enabling measure only which allows for anonymity for inspectors of taxes who may have to give evidence in court. Why is it necessary to do this?

The interesting debate on crime in recent months has brought home to me a few stark facts. I now see things in a different light and have begun to question the way middle-class Ireland thinks. The death of the journalist, Veronica Guerin, brought home to everybody, including the media and politicians, that something had to be done about crime. Many Deputies and journalists, in well researched articles, have preached this for a long time. Other journalists have raised the issue of civil liberties and argued there are only certain steps we can take. It was only when something happened to one of our own that this House decided it had to be seen to do something about the crime problem. We respond in dramatic fashion when one of our own is affected.

This is not directly related, but by way of analogy, the Minister and I were members of a Government which made some adjustments to the residential property tax. In the order of £2 million would have been collected as a result of those adjustments which were made by Deputy Ahern as Minister for Finance. It amounted to tinkering at the edges.

I have been an opponent of the residential property tax from the day it was introduced, but the interesting point is that this caused a furore, although for many the adjustments meant an increase of 50p per week. The reason it caused a future was that the adjustments affected a small group of influential people, many of whom sit in the gallery of this House and write for newspapers which report its proceedings. They did not affect ordinary men and women.

I do not blame the Minister for reversing the adjustments last year. He is well aware of my view that the residential property tax should be scrapped. The reason the adjustments were reversed was that a small group of our own were affected. The assassination of Veronica Guerin——

I should not use the word "assassination" which was used by somebody else earlier. It does not give it legitimacy but more "respectability". Because Veronica Guerin was one of our own we decided that something had to be done and are now bending backwards to be seen to do something.

All political parties in this House want to ensure they are stronger and tougher than other. When one goes down that road it is inevitable major mistakes will be made. Legislation which has not been properly thought out will be put on the Statute Book and we will come to regret it in time. It is not that Deputies are stupid or self-serving, as implied by many commentators who write about politics, or ask themselves each morning what grandiose scheme they can think up to fool the people, politicians elected to this House, whether on the far right, the far left or the pragmatic centre, try to represent their constituents as best they can. The attitude of those who write about politics and public affairs amazes me on occasion. If they think about it further, they are doing a disservice in some of the articles they write.

I welcome the Bill which makes the necessary changes to allow for greater co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. The issue of motivation is of as much concern to the Revenue Commissioners as it is to the Garda, the offices of the Department of Social Welfare and whatever officials will operate in this area. We can introduce all the Bills we like from now until the year 2010 and close up every loophole, but unless we have highly motivated officials at the coal face we will be at nothing. That is as important as putting the legal framework in place. It is never viewed as politically popular to say these things, but it is not usual to say them either.

We have to face up to a number of basic simple facts. Prisons are for keeping prisoners; they are not for the benefit of prison officers. Schools are for teaching and educating children, not for the teachers. Hospitals are for the sick and people who are in need of treatment, not the consultants and those who work there. That may seem to be logical, but it is lost on some people.

Would the Deputy apply that logic to Leinster House?

I will come to that presently. Those comments had to be made.

In responding to the crime problem people think that something great will come out of shouting down others to prove who is toughest. Unless we have highly motivated people who are given responsibility by legislators to do that job we are at nought. That is one of the reasons I welcome the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau. It is one way of encouraging highly motivated people to work in that area.

We might as well face the fact that a large number of the gardaí lack motivation as much as most of the population. The good garda is asking why he or she is wasting time and effort to bring criminals to book when before he or she gets home in the afternoon the criminal is back home laughing at the garda. That puts the garda off as much as it does the victim of the crime. A few simple comments like that must be made.

One of the reasons the Minister for Finance opposed the building of prisons is that regardless of the capital cost, whether it is £10 million or £40 million, he knows that the ongoing costs will outweigh the capital costs in a few years time. That is what the officials will tell him. More procedures will have to be put in place and trade unions will require that there be X number of prison officers with Y days off for most of the year. That will be the cost. The burden on the taxpayer will mean that fewer gardaí will be on the beat because more money will be going somewhere else. We should face these facts. It might not be possible to say that on all occasions.

The objective of this legislation is to allow for a certain level of co-operation between the different organs of State and lead to successful prosecutions. In recent days some newspapers have headlined this Bill as an extension of the whistle blowing provisions applicable to solicitors, accountants, auctioneers and so on. The involvement of the Revenue Commissioners meant that this Bill has to come under the auspices of the Department of Finance. However, its provisions relate mainly to amendments to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 which dealt with money laundering.

I know the Department of Justice will have read the recent comments of Mr. Justice Carney, president of a European organisation which deals with this issue and I hope the Department of Finance will also read them because it is important to examine the question of money laundering, not just in an Irish context but in a European and international context. Only the most stupid of the drug barons and major criminals will put cash in banks and financial institutions here. They would want to be pretty thick to do so, even under existing legislation. Combating this type of activity requires co-operation between all European and international agencies, otherwise we will not be successful.

The Minister is only giving himself power in this Bill to designate some professionals as whistle blowers in the future. I understand that consultations will take place between the professional bodies and the Ministers for Finance and Justice regarding this matter.

I may be accused of not declaring my own professional interest. As I am sure everybody knows, I am a practising chartered accountant and I have no objection — neither can I safely say does the Institute of Chartered Accountants — to any legislation which would require accountants to report money laundering. There is a big difference between this provision as it relates to money laundering and the provision in its raw state which the Minister for Finance introduced last year.

Any reputable accountant who would condone or not report any criminal activity or money laundering which he encountered in the books or accounts of a client would be failing in his duty as a professional accountant.

Why did the Deputy oppose this measure last year?

This is totally different. There is a difference between this and what I might term Lester Piggott tax evasion.

The Deputy defended the money laundering last year.

As I said last year, there is a big difference between tax evasion by people in legitimate business and a criminal who is engaged in drug offences. Others may not, but I draw a clear distinction between those two types of activity.

The Deputy is changing his tune.

I am singing the exact same tune as I did last year.

I would be concerned about one issue and I hope the negotiations between the Minister and the professional body of solicitors will attend to it. Regardless of what a person has done, he or she is entitled to the best legal representation he or she can afford. I have always been of that liberal view. I did not like comments I read in recent weeks which seemed to imply that barristers and solicitors were somewhat negligent in their duties in not reporting people and also when they defend certain people. If that is taken to its logical conclusion, one can see that we are heading down a very slippery slope.

Down the years I have been very critical of the legal profession, particularly barristers.

The problem is that they act for both sides.

It would be detrimental if as a result of the current crime problem measures were adopted and legislation put in place which would hinder barristers and put the lives of those whose job it is to defend criminals at risk. The president of the Bar Council said recently that some of his members had been telephoned by irate citizens complaining that barristers had defended some of these people. No politician worth his or her salt should go down that route. While one may have legitimate criticisms of the legal profession it would be a bad day for this House if we did anything to jeopardise people receiving a fair trail and the best representation possible.

What brought the taxation system into disrepute as it relates to the criminal fraternity is that the compliant small businessman who goes to the trouble of starting up a business, mortgages his house and puts everything on the line receives letters from the Revenue Commissioners within weeks about PAYE, VAT, PRSI, corporation tax etc., and from the local authority about the planning laws. The Revenue Commissioners give him a tax number and go after him if they think he is evading taxes. They will keep after him day and night and persecute him until the end, and take his business from him. The local authority will do the same regarding planning. Likewise, the Garda Síochána will go after the person who has no tax or insurance on his car. That should come as no surprise. Politicians do the same. They go where they think most of the votes are. The Revenue Commissioners go after what I term the compliant taxpayer because they can nail him. We are trying to give the legislation enough teeth to allow the State to go after people with whom others do not want to be involved.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill which protect the anonymity of Revenue officials because the Revenue Commissioners are charged with the care and management of taxes, not with going after criminals. I hope when the new bureau is set up people will be allowed to volunteer to join it — there are people in the various organisations who will want to have nothing to do with it, but there are others who are anxious to be involved.

Deputy McDowell raised the matter of the tax amnesty this morning on "Morning Ireland". I defended Deputy McDowell against the Minister's unjustified allegations here in this House. However, Deputy McDowell, with whom I generally agree on most issues, is wrong about the tax amnesty. I recognise that Deputy McDowell opposed the tax amnesty at the outset and has been consistent in his opposition to it since it was first introduced by the Government. I admire his consistency in this regard. However, I believe he is wrong in what he said during the past few weeks and on radio this morning. To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he genuinely believes what he is saying in regard to this provision. On the other hand, perhaps he is being as disingenuous as I accused the Minister of being in his comments this morning. The purpose of the tax amnesty was to give an amnesty in regard to taxation. It was never the intention that it should apply to the proceeds of criminal activity. There is nothing the Revenue Commissioners can do about taxes owed by a person involved in legitimate business who availed of the tax amnesty. On the other hand, if the Revenue Commissioners investigate assets which they suspect are the proceeds of criminal activity and the person involved produces a tax amnesty certificate, the Revenue Commissioners can discount it because the assets being investigated are the proceeds of criminal activity. With Deputy McDowell's intellectual brightness I suspect he can work that out as easily as I can.

The tax amnesty provided for anonymity, but in the recent past some journalists have said that particular criminals have availed of it. I do not know whether that is correct and it cannot be proved one way or the other, but if journalists can speculate so can I. I understand that perhaps one criminal involved in drugs availed of the tax amnesty. However, that is speculation as is the suggestion that many criminals availed of it. I agree with what the Minister said in his interview this morning about the tax amnesty, but I disagree with the political allegations he made in the House against Deputy McDowell. I think he knows they were just political allegations because Deputy McDowell never intended what the Minister said he intended.

I welcome this Bill as far as it goes and I hope it will close any loopholes which are being exploited to prevent close co-operation between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána. On behalf of us all, I wish success to the people who will be pursuing the criminals.

Under no circumstances would I make an accusation which imputed any impropriety to the Minister of whom I am fond and whom I admire. I was driving home when I heard what he calls a mealy-mouthed apology from RTE. It was the first I heard of it and the first I had heard that any such inference could be drawn from any remarks that were made on the radio. When I checked to find out whether it was I or the interviewer who was supposed to have said the offending words. I was told by colleagues whom I trust that I had said them. I have to accept, therefore, that I used the words the Minister quoted me as saying. Let me say definitely — and I hope "Morning Ireland" will make use of this statement — that under no circumstances did I ever intend to imply or in any way insinuate that the Minister or anybody connected with him had personally availled of the tax amnesty in respect of their own tax affairs. I never intended to make such an implication and, in so far as anybody drew any such inference from what I said, I unreservedly withdraw it and regret that any inference was drawn. I agree with Deputy McCreevy that it was obvious that my sense was different, but when I hear the words in the way in which the Minister repeated them in the House, I clearly accept that some people might have drawn another inference from what was said.

The Minister will know that nobody in this House can have any knowledge of these matters. Therefore, I would never assert on the public airwaves something which I did not believe, least of all about a person whom I admire and in whom I have trust and confidence with regard to his personal and professional integrity, my constituency colleague, the Minister for Finance. I regret if anything I said upset him or suggested that I suspected him or anybody close to him or connected with him of having availed of the tax amnesty in the conduct of their tax affairs. I would never say such a thing and I hope that is accepted. I would not attempt to imply such a thing either. I hope the Minister will accept the substance of what I said this morning and that I never wished to say anything such as that which the Minister inferred from my remarks.

Deputy McCreevy and the Minister suggested that the tax amnesty, in so far as people make declarations under section 2 (3) (iv), is fully proofed against abuse to launder criminal assets. On paper one might think that is the case. My difficulty — perhaps it is a subtle point but it is not disingenuous — is that my regarding of sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Act suggests that the only circumstance in which a certificate can be assailed in respect of the illegitimate source of the moneys which were the subject of the certificate is if it is proven that they were the proceeds of an unlawful activity. However, if proof such as would permit the certificate to be cancelled in those circumstances exists, the people involved would be liable to other, more stringent and radical procedures both in criminal and civil law.

The Minister, Deputy McCreevy and Deputy O'Dea, who is taking a close interest in this matter, should consult the 1993 Act carefully. There is a separate procedure to permit reopening a case where it is suspected that people may have under-declared their tax liability. My point, and I am confident I am correct and that it is not in any way disingenuous, is that if there is an assault on the certificate under section 2 (3) (iv) of the Act, an investigation cannot be started until there is proof of abuse. The provision is fine on paper because one can say, as the Minister did this morning on radio and as Deputy McCreevy started earlier, that the Act is proof against abuse of this type. However, if the illicit nature of the moneys which are the subject of the amnesty and the certificate must be proven before the special collector can be asked about the documents that were furnished, and if proof is a prerequisite to investigation involving the divulging of any information under the Act, the apparent safeguard is effectively illusory.

One of my constituents wrote to me, and probably to the Minister, outlining what Deputy McCreevy said today. However, one must look at the minutiae of the provision. It appears — and I would be happy to be disabused of this view although I am convinced of its truth — that the only circumstances in which the special collector or the Revenue Commissioners can refer to the records relating to the tax amnesty and see what money was laundered or dealt with under the Act is on a charge not of under-declaration but that the moneys were illegally obtained. The only circumstances in which the matter can effectively be reopened is where it is proven that the declaration that the money was legally obtained is false.

The Act should be amended. I opposed the principle of the amnesty and I always believed that the apparent safeguard that people who obtained their money unlawfully can in theory be investigated is much less than it appears because a precondition to reopening of the matter is proof that the relevant declaration under section 2 (3) (iv) is false. It requires proof in the accepted meaning of that term which includes evidence that it is so and not mere suspicion.

In that context my amendment to this Bill comes into play. It proposes that the issue as to whether somebody should have their tax amnesty affairs reopened should not require proof of the falsity of the declaration as a precondition, but should require that where somebody who is responsible, a relevant person within the meaning of section 1 of this Bill, certifies to the Revenue Commissioners that he has grounds to believe, or reasonable grounds to suspect, that the funds to which a certificate relates were illegally obtained, he should be able to break the secrecy provisions of the amnesty with a view not to sustaining the matter by proof but investigating whether it is true.

I accept that the principle of an amnesty is to provide certainly, draw a line under somebody's affairs and say that there will be no fudging or uncertainty about the effect of the amnesty. Otherwise people probably would not proffer their money under an amnesty. However, in a case where there are good grounds for believing, particularly in the case of an individual who was quoted in the newspapers as saying that he had availed of the amnesty, that there may have been a false declaration under section 2 (3) (iv) of the Act, it should be open to somebody in authority to reopen the issue without proving as a precondition the falsity of the declaration in question. That is my main point and it is not fanciful, contrived or disingenuous. It is my understanding of the Act.

I also draw the attention of the Minister and Deputy McCreevy to the different provisions which allow a matter to be reopened on grounds of under-declaration or misdeclaration. A specific provision regarding the illegal origin of moneys was included which erects a higher procedural onus of proof on those who wish to reopen a matter on those grounds alone than exists in respect of other matters. This is an important point. I am open to persuasion that I am wrong about this and I would welcome being persuaded that I was wrong, but my reading of the Act is as I have described. It affords much less protection than was imagined at the time. The use of term "proven" to be false demands a standard of proof which we should never have permitted in respect of somebody who was later suspected of having abused the amnesty to launder the proceeds of crime. That is why I tabled the amendment.

On the wider principle of the Bill, I agree with Deputy McCreevy that, in general terms, this is an overdue provision. I congratulate the draftsmen for putting such ingenuity and commitment into drafting it in such a short period. I know from the Finance Bill each year that the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners have an invaluable resource in terms of skilled draftsmen to produce legislation very rapidly.

This is from the same stable of expertise.

Remarks were made today about the division between Labour and the Department of Justice. I can see the hand of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners draftsmen throughout this Bill and I commend them for their comprehensive approach to the problem. Why has it taken until now for us to do this? I am not making any points because this problem has existed for a considerable period, and virtually every party in this House has been in office at some stage during the period in which the problems which this Bill is trying to deal with arose.

It is sad that anonymity has to be granted to Revenue Officials and that we have to provide in law for the erection of screens in the appeal commissioner's courtroom and in any other courtroom. It is a sad degradation of the administration of justice in public that these provisions are being brought before us but certainly they are necessary.

I do not blame Revenue officials for being reticent about becoming involved in a high powered agency to pursue bosses of organised crime when one has regard to what has happened in the past to inspectors and Revenue officials who have attempted, without such protection, to pursue their duties. It is true, as Deputy McCreevy has said — and it is probably correct in one sense — that they concentrate their efforts on where the greatest reward is available, because that makes common sense in terms of maximising the State's revenue. By the same token, the State must be careful and jealous to ensure that no hint of intimidation or threat has the effect of procuring immunity from taxation, social welfare laws or the ordinary criminal laws, for a small minority. Lamentable though it may seem to some, that people will give evidence from behind a screen and much though we have deprecated people in Northern Ireland giving evidence from behind screens perhaps in circumstances where there was not adequate justification for it, we now find ourselves dealing with a situation where such protections are necessary.

In my constituency — the Minister will agree because he shares the same constituency — there have been occasions when hardened criminals have done things to our constituents, both individually and collectively, which would normally speaking, evince some condemnation by their local elected representatives. There have been occasions when I have been careful to consider whether I would make a statement in public or condemn in public particular activities, because of the same feeling that, doubtless, the Revenue Commissioners officials have. It is all very well to say something in public and to issue a press release but it is a different matter to deal with an annonymous note about the route your child takes to school. Politicians, including me, should not by anything we say suggest that these lamentable but necessary provisions might not be necessary if others were willing to do their duty. That is not the case. One cannot expect ordinary people who serve the State well and diligently in every respect to expose themselves and their families to the kind of blackguardism and the savagery that has been meted out to some. Some people have been seriously injured orhave lost limbs. I refer to a former forensic scientist who was seriously mutilated for taking on not subversive crime but organised crime. Other people in the Department of Social Welfare paid a very heavy price in terms of assaults on their person for similar activities. Others have had their property destroyed when trying to carry out their duties under the social welfare and taxes Acts. In that context we have to be realistic. If we are to get tough on crime, let us at least give every decent protection to those whom we expect to be the front line soldiers in the pursuit of the assets of organised criminals.

This is well thought out legislation. Doubtless there are aspects of it which could have been improved if more time had been available. By the same token I fully appreciate the position in which the Minister found himself. A year after inter-agency co-operation was announced as desirable in principle and was about to be put into practice, he found there were genuine obstacles to procuring such co-operation which had to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Politics being what it was, if he had spent months preparing this legislation and allowed months between each Stage and months sending it through the Seanad he would probably have got a fair amount of stick from this side of the House. I have to concede there is an element of urgency about getting on with this process which this Bill will adequately address.

I support the provisions of the Bill but, for the Minister's and Deputy McCreevy's benefit, the amendment I have tabled is solely required because my interpretation — it may be an erroneous interpretation — and my conviction is that there is an error in the tax amnesty legislation. Although the tax amnesty legislation provided that somebody could not avail of it in respect of illegally obtained money and required a declaration to the effect that all moneys, subject to the amnesty, were not from an illicit source, the Act also provided that the certificate granted under the amnesty was liable to revocation if that were not the case. Unfortunately an overly high standard of proof was required, that the Revenue Commissioners or whoever wanted to reopen the matter had to prove the falsity of the declaration made under section 2 (3) (iv) of the 1993 Act. That requirement conferred an immunity in practice —which was probably not the intention of anybody who drafted the legislation — except in the most unlikely of circumstances where proof becomes available to the Revenue Commissioners which would enable them to reopen the matter. A lower standard of proof should be required to reopen the tax amnesty legislation on this point. Under a lower standard of proof, someone who is in a responsible position, such as a relevant person within the meaning of section 1 of this Bill — which will be inserted in the 1994 Act — could in a certificate, state that he had reasonable grounds to believe there had been an abuse of the tax amnesty to achieve the laundering of illegally gotten moneys and that in those circumstances he would be entitled to inquire into the circumstances and the representations made by the person claiming the amnesty and the benefit of the certificate, not merely to revoke but to investigate whether revocation of the certificate was appropriate in any particular case.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Bree and Costello.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

It is with some reluctance that I contribute to this debate as I am very much afraid there is a danger that one is participating in a kind of gadarene rush to legislation without really examining what we are legislating for. Last Sunday I was struck by the remarks of the new Garda Commissioner when he recalled the simple fact that our legal system requires that in order to obtain a conviction matters must be proven in court and that the Garda Síochána must produce evidence. I am not accusing the Minister for Finance of trying to subvert this requirement but there is very much an atmosphere that wants to do away with it. However, we would do away with such a requirement or interfere with it at our peril.

Some of the immoderate language we have heard recently about the need for legislation has shown the dangers of this. For example, yesterday on radio Deputy O'Donoghue made the most amazingly idiotic statement that no Bill had ever been brought before this House about which there was the slightest constitutional doubt. If that had been the case we would hardly ever have heard from Deputy Michael McDowell whose stock-in-trade is to come into the House and say there is a constitutional doubt about a Bill. There is room for doubt about a Bill which will be before us today. Some days ago I read the remarks by Deputy O'Donnell — one of the great proponents of legislation in this case — about this other Bill and if she is not getting cold feet then she at least has some chilliness in her toes because she now accepts there may be some constitutional difficulties. That is the danger of rushing into legislation in cases like this.

The Bill illustrates the opposite difficulty. I would like to know — I ask the Minister for Finance to speculate a little on this — why this action has not been taken before now, particularly as some provisions in the Bill build on provisions put into our legislation at various times since 1983 to deal with criminal activity. One of the provisions in the Bill builds on a provision I put into the Finance Act, 1983, and which was specifically designed to deal with the problems now facing us. There is no evidence that that provision has ever been acted on with any particular energy and I would like to know why. I would like to hear successive Ministers for Finance since 1987 say why this is so, given that it is not only this year we have had difficulties and a public outcry that some people with large amounts of unaccountable income seem to get away with it and have not been hassled or harassed by the Revenue Commissioners in the same way they have hassled or harassed many ordinary law abiding citizens, including old age pensioners who happen to have an income from a pension other than a State pension, and who a few years ago got assessments from the Revenue Commissioners for amounts of tax assessed to be due which they could not possibly owe.

I understand that there have always been difficulties in inter-agency co-operation between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda. It is a scandal that the Minister for Finance now finds, a year after this was expressed as firm Government policy, that he has to deal with the obstacles. What is worse is that although this problem had been identified as long ago as 1983 neither the Revenue Commissioners nor the Garda seem to have worked out what their problems are in practice in the meantime. This is not to blame successive chairmen of the Revenue Commissioners or successive commissioners of the Garda; it is due to the fact that a succession of Ministers for Finance did not spend the time to annoy and provoke successive commissioners of the Garda Síochána and successive chairmen of the Revenue Commissioners to make the system work.

Section 1 enables the Revenue Commissioners to delegate their functions to certain authorised officers. What was the reason for the delay in enabling them to do that up to now? This is not to say that I oppose the measure. I support it and welcome the fact that at long last the Fianna Fáil Party also supports it. It is curious that between 1983-87 — and I speak with knowledge of the facts — every provision of this kind proposed in a Finance Bill, and many were proposed and legislated during that period, was opposed by the Fianna Fáil Party. It would make a cat laugh to now hear the moral indignation of that party about the length of time it has taken to do these things.

Section 4 contains a new provision under which members of the Garda Síochána who are carrying out a search in certain conditions can be accompanied by another person rather than a garda. This is a key provision and I would like the Minister to outline the persons other than members of the staff of the Revenue Commissioners he might have in mind. As the section is now drawn, the Garda Síochána could decide that anybody else would accompany them. I am not against this as it would be useful for them to have members of the staff of the Revenue Commissioners accompanying them, but does the Minister for Finance think there are other people who should be authorised in this way and why? I cannot offhand think of any other branch of the State administration which should accompany the Garda but I would like to know if there is another group the Minister thinks should accompany them in those circumstances. I ask this question because, as it is framed, the section is very wide and we should not leave it so wide that it could be used for a purpose not intended by the legislation.

Section 5 amends section 184 of the Income Tax Act, 1967, it provides extra powers for the Revenue Commissioners to make assessments and builds on a power they already have. Will the Minister for Finance say to what extent the Revenue Commissioners have used their existing powers and, if they have not used them up to now, why not? This is a fault many Members on all sides of the House and the public have seen up to now. The difficulty in the public perception of tax administration is that it seems the only people who have been pursued up to now are those already in the system. People who are not in the Revenue system were not pursued and it cannot be argued that they were not pursued because we did not know they were there. There has been enough talk over the past 15 years about this problem, including unregistered contractors and unregistered people of all kinds, to have altered the Revenue Commissioners and successive Ministers for Finance, the people with whom I have an argument, to use the powers and go after them. It may well be legitimate to expand the powers but the lesson we should learn from the situation which has existed on up to now is that it will be incumbent on the Minister for Finance for as long as he is in office — and long may he reign — and every one of his successors to make themselves systematically obnoxious to the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Commissioner to make sure they use the powers they are being given in the fashion intended.

The evidence is that both arms of the State have been failed to use powers they have been given since 1983 in a way which would have made some inroads in dealing with this problem. If those powers needed to be amended in the way we propose to amend them today we could have had those amendments in place long before this debate took place, as we should have if there is a real need for them.

I agree with Deputy McDowell's last comment. Provisions in this Bill provide anomymity for some of the staff of the Revenue Commissioners. It is a measure of the problem that has existed in this State for many years that we have to do that. That has been the position in regard to Customs officers for a long time. I am delighted we are adopting this measure so those officials can operate properly in conjunction with the Garda Síochána.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to today's important debate on crime. The drugs epidemic is a crisis facing Dublin and many major urban areas. Organised crime here is represented by a group of vicious and ruthless individuals. However, we are fortunate that this group is still relatively small and can be tackled effectively with the right measures and sufficient determination. It should be emphasised that, according to the most recent information available, the number of recorded crimes in this State has fallen. A number of years ago elderly people living in remote areas in my constitutency and indeed, throughout the west, were terrified by gangs carrying out a campaign of terror of robbing and plundering pensioners' homes in rural Ireland. However, thanks to the joint efforts of people in rural communities and the Garda, the number of such attacks has been reduced dramatically.

In essence, we are talking about the drugs crisis today. It is clear that the interaction between organised crime and drugs is the major threat. However, it must be said that the legislation before us taken in isolation does not and cannot provide the answer to all our problems. It is only part of the overall package and until such time as all aspects of the package are put in place we will have difficulties in overcoming the drugs crisis. It must be emphasised — unfortunately many Members of the Opposition tend to ignore this — that the drugs problem has its roots in poverty, unemployment and social disadvantage. Its effect is to ravage communities already blighted by other problems.

Even the most draconian law and order legislation will not resolve the drugs problem if genuine efforts are not made to reduce social disadvantage and poverty and if further efforts are not made to provide employment opportunities for thousands of our young people. It is obvious that in Dublin the drugs problem has ravaged whole communities already plagued by other social problems. Statistics show that more than 80 per cent of those being treated for heroin addiction in the Dublin area are unemployed, yet what positive proposals are put forward in this House to address issues of inequality when increased funding is allocated to public and social housing, health and social welfare services, improved education services and employment creation? The same Opposition Deputies who called for action on the drugs problem are the first to call for cuts in public spending.

On this legislation it should be noted that concern has been rightly expressed on the issue of civil liberties and the need to protect the rights of citizens. Many Members remember the activities of the infamous heavy gang, a group of thugs who destroyed the reputation of the Garda Síochána in the 1970s. All Deputies have an obligation to ensure that there will never be a return to the tactics of the heavy gang, and in this context it would be most useful to review the anti-drugs legislation from time to time as the fight against the drug barons continues.

The drugs epidemic is a crisis facing Ireland. It demands a crisis response. The growth of organised crime also demands that we be prepared to fight fire with fire and to do so without undermining our democratic institutions. The interaction between organised crime and drugs is the major threat. We are not dealing with small time pushers or a small time problem. The base from which we must start is that the corruption of young people through hard drugs is the key to a lucrative business for the people involved in the trade. We know that they are prepared to stop at nothing and our response must be as determined. However, it must also be measured and accountable. I support the Bill.

I support this legislation and congratulate the Minister for Finance on introducing it. Ironically, this legislation could have been in place more than 12 months ago were it not for the opposition of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil at that time to section 153 of the Finance Bill, 1995. Both parties have behaved with incredible hypocrisy. They vociferously opposed that section which allowed for the curbing of tax evasion by requiring tax advisers, accountants and solicitors to disclose any evidence of tax evasion to the Revenue Commissioners, at the time of its introduction. If that measure had been adopted we would not have to introduce legislation to deal with the matter today.

Your own Attorney General said it was unconstitutional.

We have managed to get around the constitutional difficulties. I recall that at the time Deputy McDowell stated that the measure was anti-enterprise and was a snitchers' charter.

It was also argued that it was unconstitutional.

Now everybody is in favour of it.

Yes. What has changed? The argument we are hearing is that it is unconstitutional. That argument was not used 18 months ago when the Minister for Finance in his first budget introduced a similar measure.

It was the only recommendation of the beef tribunal.

It was the single targeted recommendation of the beef tribunal that was being put before the House. The Minister introduced it at the earliest possible opportunity, in his first budget, and it was opposed by the other side of the House. We must put that on the record.

It was withdrawn when your own Attorney General said it should not be introduced.

I am delighted that both Opposition parties are prepared to accept this measure.

That has nothing to do with it.

Let us be clear that this measure, and the provisions in this legislation, emanated from the beef tribunal and from the Minister for Finance's financial legislation 18 months ago. We are delighted that at last everybody is of the view that the legislation is appropriate and that it will deal with the problems of tax evasion in areas that have not been dealt with before. All tax advisers, accountants, solicitors and so on will be required to disclose any evidence of tax evasion to the Revenue Commissioners and that is extremely important.

I am delighted with the package produced by the Government. There is a serious intent by the Government to introduce legislation but, at the same time, I acknowledge that we have severe legislation that could be described in most democracies as draconian. There is provision for seven day's detention, the right to silence has been limited and there will be a constitutional referendum on bail in the future. However, unless we implement that legislation in the manner in which it is intended, we will not make progress.

The Garda Síochána approached legislators after the previous administration took office in 1992, and demanded that we introduce a public order Bill that would allow them to move on or arrest people loitering at street corners which is where the drug pushers meet and peddle drugs. This legislation has been in place for nearly three years and it has scarcely been used. The reason the Garda wanted it was because the old law of loitering had been found to be unconstitutional.

The new legislation has scarcely been used for the purpose for which it was intended. Unless we have targeting of suspects by the Garda, a willingness and determination by the Garda and efficiency and direction of resources by the Garda this legislation will be dangerous and futile.

This is only one part of a package. The other part is at least as important. If we do not introduce measures to deal with poverty and unemployment, provide treatment, education and estate management services and hand power back to local communities to deal with the problem at a local level, as many communities are anxious to do, this part of the package will be useless. While the provision of £60 million is important, the other half of the package is equally important.

I wish to share time with Deputy Andrews.

I am sure that is agreed.

I opposed the infamous section 153.

The Deputy's party opposed it.

I personally opposed it and stand over everything I said about it at that time. If Deputy Costello rereads section 153 he will realise it deals with a different matter. This legislation will enable the Minister for Finance extend to the professions the provisions of the money laundering legislation which currently exist for financial institutions. That is an entirely different provision from that contained in section 153. As Deputy McDowell correctly stated, that section was withdrawn by the Government after the Attorney General said it was unconstitutional. It was not accepted by all sides of the House. I did not accept it, but I cannot speak for other members of my party, whom I am sure will stand over what they said at that time. Some other criticisms have occurred to me since then.

The opposition to it was not based on its constitutionality, it was called a snitcher's charter.

I stand over everything I said before the Attorney General claimed the section was unconstitutional. Constitutionality was not one of the arguments I advanced.

The Minister stated that section 2 of this legislation will enable him extend money laundering provisions to the professions. This will be done by order following consultation with the professions. While I welcome the provisions of section 2, will the Minister clarify whether the House will have an opportunity to debate the order? The Minister accepts that it will not apply to the professions in the same way as it applies to the financial institutions under the 1994 legislation, there will be exemptions, exceptions and so on. A debate on this matter is currently taking place with the professions. As the order will institute far-reaching changes, the House should have an opportunity to debate it when it is finalised.

I do not have a great deal to say about this legislation mainly because I received it only last night. While I appreciate the Minister's difficulties in this regard, as the Bill contains significant, but desirable changes, we should have had more time to examine its details.

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson was briefed on the text of the Bill on Tuesday afternoon.

The spokesperson may have been briefed, but the rest of us who want to participate in the debate should have received the Bill earlier. Twenty four hours advance notice is not sufficient when dealing with important legislation that must pass all Stages in one day. The next legislation to be taken deals with the establishment of a special bureau to investigate criminal assets. I received that Bill only one and a half hours ago. While we all appreciate the necessity for urgent action——

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson was briefed on that legislation yesterday afternoon.

——we should get more notice of legislation we are expected to pass in one day.

The legislation basically provides for the free flow of information between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána. The Minister may be aware that this was the subject of a Law Reform Commission report in the early 1990s which stated that such a procedure might present legal difficulties. This was dealt with in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, which provided that an application had to be made to the District Court for an order to allow the Revenue Commissioners provide such information to the Garda. Has that provision ever been used?

Has an application in that regard been made to the District Court and, if so, how often? There are hundreds of pages of legislation giving greater powers to the Revenue Commissioners but they are reluctant to use them. I can recall many cases in which they could have used all those powers without exposing anybody to danger, but they did not do so. I recently tabled a question to the Minister for Finance outlining the powers that have been in existence since 1983 and asking how often the Revenue Commissioners used them. In most cases the answer was "never". They availed of one of the minor provisions approximately three times. Why do they not use these provisions? Fear cannot be the only explanation. I recall circumstances in which the power to enter premises and seize documents could have been used without exposing anybody to danger, but it was not. Deputy McCreevy is correct in stating that this legislation will only be as good as the officials who implement it. The Revenue Commissioners constantly demand these powers. It is pointless enacting legislation if its provisions are not implemented. Perhaps the new bureau will assist in this regard. The attitude of the Revenue Commissioners must change.

The legislation provides that the Revenue Commissioners shall give the Garda certain information. To do so a Revenue official will have to form the opinion that the information will assist the Garda in their investigation of a crime and that it is in the public interest. What would happen if the official did not believe the information would be in the public interest or assist in the investigation of a crime? A mechanism should be built into the legislation to break such a logjam. Time will be of the essence in implementing the provisions of this legislation.

The legislation states that the Revenue Commissioners will accept as reasonable an assessment of residential property tax if it is submitted within 30 days after the date of the assessment made by the commissioners, but that does not apply to other forms of taxation. Is there a particular reason for inserting that additional provision in respect of residential property tax?

Sections 5 to 9 will allow the Revenue Commissioners use information they receive from the Garda in making assessments. As there were some legal doubts about the extent to which they could use such information, I am glad sections 5 to 9 clarify the matter.

If this legislation provides for the free flow of information between the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners, what section compels the Garda to supply information to the Revenue Commissioners for tax assessment purposes? The legislation compels the Revenue Commissioners to supply information to the Garda, but there is not a corresponding provision which compels the Garda to supply information to the Revenue Commissioners when they request it.

Section 10 amends section 18 of the Finance Act, 1983. As far as I can deduce, the only amendment in this legislation is to protect the identity of the authorised officer conducting the investigation, which is necessary with the establishment of the bureau, and in light of the current crime situation. However, how often has section 18 of the Finance Act, 1983, been used since it was passed 13 years ago?

Section 11 amends section 19 of the Finance Act, 1983 which allows the Revenue Commissioners to raise income tax assessments where they are uncertain of the origin of the proceeds or where they think they may be — or are certain they are — from an illegal source. How many times has this provision been used since the Act was passed?

I listened to what Deputy McDowell said about the tax amnesty. I have not had an opportunity to consider his amendment and I cannot comment properly on his argument without looking at the sections to which he referred. However, a parallel argument has been advanced outside this House to the effect that the tax amnesty would somehow put a barrier in the way of investigations in an application to freeze the assets of suspected criminals. Let nobody be under any illusion that that is not so.

The position under the legislation initiated by Fianna Fáil in relation to the freezing of assets is that if the Revenue Commissioners or the Garda Síochána form the opinion that these assets represent the proceeds of crime they can apply for an interim order which will last for seven days ex parte— the respondent will not be told about it. After those seven days have expired, the State can apply for an interlocutory order which will freeze those assets for up to seven years. After that period has elapsed, the State can apply for a disposal order to sell them. If the person who owns or controls the assets wants to retain them he will have to prove on the balance of probabilities that they do not represent the proceeds of crime. Everybody here can be certain that the production of a certificate stating that the person has availed of the tax amnesty will not discharge that burden of proof.

It is fairly common knowledge that the offshore subsidiaries of the four main banks, particularly those in the Channel Islands, are being used on a wide scale by criminals for money laundering purposes. Have the four main banks and their offshore subsidiaries ever been audited by the Revenue Commissioners? If not, why not? Will the Minister give us a guarantee they will be audited now?

Under the Finance Act, 1986, the Revenue Commissioners have the right to inspect the register of offshore accounts. It is my information that the Revenue Commissioners have not availed of this power, which they have had for a decade. Will the Minister confirm or deny that? If not, why not?

This legislation is part of an overall package. I welcome it and compliment the officials in the Department of Finance on drafting it so quickly. It is one part of the legislative response to the crime problem. Neither the legislative nor overall response, in so far as we have heard the Government's intentions, will be sufficient. We need a response, not just on the legislative front, dealing with policing methods, the prison system, the rules of evidence etc. which will not just create the illusion that we are trying to get to grips with the problem or just trying to score political points with the public and the media, which have understandably been affected by the death of the late Veronica Guerin. Today's debate and the legislation we are passing must be part of the process of putting an end to the phenomenon of untouchability in Irish society. The public will accept nothing less.

I saw a television programme last night presented by Mr. Derek Davis, the message of which was quite remarkable. It indicated to me, and other viewers, the dreadful problem this community faces. The message from the "Davis" programme was that this is a national emergency. At the end of the programme Deputies and Senators were urged to go to a meeting at Buswells Hotel in Kildare Street this afternoon between 1.30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

I went to that meeting and was startled by what I heard there. We had a very serious drugs problem in Dún Laoghaire which I was very involved in trying to exterminate, but which is tragically beginning to rear its ugly head again. The meeting in Buswells Hotel was presided over by a number of inner city community representatives. The communities are doing their best to deal with this emergency in the inner city and on its periphery. I was startled by one figure they provided, which is that £260 million is exchanged annually in the so-called drugs industry among the hierarchy of drug barons, peddlers, pushers and addicts. This Bill is part of the mosaic of legislation to deal with this industry with which we are being asked to deal in a rather hurried fashion today, unfortunately. As Deputy O'Dea said, the Minister has produced a Bill which we are being asked to pass without examining it. I take the Minister's point that certain members of my party saw the Bill in advance, and probably sufficiently far in advance to study it.

I express my appreciation to the people who held the meeting in Buswells Hotel for the work they are doing on a voluntary basis. They are dealing with a growing problem and this House has an obligation to support them. They said the package of legislation produced is worthwhile to the extent that it will effectively remove the drug barons. However, it will not deal with another fundamental problem which must be dealt with by treatment, education and supporting the local communities to deal with the problems in their own communities — the old Sinn Féin policy of "we ourselves". The people want to deal with this problem but they need support. That is the message from the meeting in Buswells Hotel, for which I am deeply grateful. The important message is that while the questions of bail, prisons and extra gardaí must be addressed to deal with this huge emergency, other matters are not being dealt with at present by this House.

I appreciate the civility of the Minister for Finance but he should teach the Minister for Justice a lesson in good manners. If we are to deal with this problem, can we do so on a consensus basis? Can we deal with it as a House rather than have this constant confrontation? I find it quite unacceptable and tedious.

I will repeat what I said when I was on the Opposition benches; it is not an exaggeration to say that the drugs and crime problem is the greatest epidemic since the outbreak of TB and unless we treat the crime problem with the necesary seriousness, we will not solve it, irrespective of what laws we pass. There is an element of point scoring and political game playing associated with it, but they do not contribute to solving the problem. I am thankful such game playing has been largely absent from this debate and I do not seek to inject it into it.

We need a comprehensive plan to deal with this problem and some elements of it are in place, but by no means is it complete. A meeting of the ministerial task force chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, of which I am a member, will take place at 5 p.m. and will consider another element of that plan.

An implementation council is also required. We must call a spade a spade if we are determined to solve this problem. Many people who are not elected politicians are playing politics with the crime problem. People outside this House play games and play one Member against another and some of them are well remunerated to do their jobs. Officers of this State who are remunerated to do a particular job should be made more accountable. We should seek to ensure that politics are left to the politicians; this is an issue on which Mr. Justice Carney commented during the week. The leaking of evidence to journalists which could prejudice a case, as in the case of a dispute between Garda management and Garda trade unions where somebody gets a favour which can be called on at a later stage, is not the way to run the Garda force, but such games are being played.

I will repeat what I said a few weeks ago. There was a time when a TD could have a garda moved, but now a garda can have a TD moved. It is time we had the courage to stand up and say that; it is what we are all saying sotto voce. We must not put the cart before the horse. The Garda force must be fully supported, but we are entitled to require that its members behave in an impartial, non-political manner and keep their noses out of politics, whether they are members of Garda management or Garda trade unions.

I wish the incoming Garda Commissioner well. He has a difficult task ahead of him. He should keep away from high society receptions and meet the ordinary people. If Garda management spent more time meeting the local community — this was not possible on many occasions in the past although there were exceptions — and less time at high society functions, it would get a feel for people's concerns about crime. People, be they politicians, civil servants or members of the public, are saying sotto voce that the present Garda operation is not contributing fully to solving this problem. For that reason the examination of the Garda force is important.

When the elements of the plan are fully in place an implementation council, similar to the European co-ordinating committee chaired in the past by Deputies Kitt and Geoghegan-Quinn and which I chair now, should be established where those responsible for elements of it can come together and shortcomings can be dealt with by directing people to address them. Unless there is such accountability, we will fail to solve this problem.

The crime problem is associated more with order than with law. The vacuum in the law is largely being filled by the type of Bills introduced by my colleagues, the Ministers for Justice and Finance. We can pass as many laws as we like but we will still have a serious problem if there is no order. By "order" I mean that any offender sentenced to prison by the courts should serve the full sentence handed down. Offenders should know that there is a prison place for them. Any person who does not need to be in prison should not be sent there.

The prison system should not be part of the problem, it should be part of the solution. Mothers accept that their sons have done wrong and that they should serve their sentences but they plead with me to ensure they do not serve their sentences in Mountjoy. They tell me their sons do not take drugs but, if they are sent to Mountjoy, they will come out of prison taking drugs. They ask if their sons could be sent to Cork Prison and that they would travel to see them. That is the prison system which this Government administers. I and both sides of this House are part of the problem because we have allowed it to develop. When talking about providing more prison places, we must also talk about prison reform. If people say we are bleeding hearts, they are also part of the problem and we must give them leadership.

I would favour the appointment of an independent prisons inspector. I am not talking about somebody being remunerated: It could be a former bishop, ombudsman, an honest broker who would tell it as it is. The prison system is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.

I have been a member of the housing committee of Dublin Corporation for 16 years, Lord Mayor of Dublin, a Member of this House since 1981 and a Minister of State with responsibility for local development, and, consequently, for training for tenants in the context of the local partnership. Two weeks ago I wrote to Dublin Corporation about a house in my constituency. The essence of my letter was that there is a house which is owned by the corporation; the elderly tenants on either side are terrified; the house is open day and night, the lock is broken; there is a drug pusher living there and all types of people are frequenting it and the people next door find needles in their gardens. I pleaded with the corporation to do something about the problem. I received a letter from Dublin Corporation a fortnight later thanking me for my representations. I was told that if I could get four local people to put the complaint in writing, the corporation would investigate it. I rang the person in charge of the housing department and asked him what he would do if the house was privately owned by him. I said I was sure he would secure his premises.

What is happening in Dublin Corporation given that this type of estate management is tolerated? Where is the order in that? We are not being heeded. Officials in Dublin Corporation, and perhaps in other authorities, whether in management or trade unions, are thumbing their noses at us and getting away with it. I was Lord Mayor and I failed to deal with this problem and the housing committee of Dublin Corporation continues to fail to deal with it. We will not solve the problem unless we bring the management, the local authority tenants, the Garda and the trade unions involved together. We have the funds to train them together to manage their estate. All that is needed in complexes such as Dolphin House, Fatima Mansions or St. Teresa's Gardens, where there are 400 flats, is one or two drug pushers or other criminals and the complex becomes run down because nobody is in charge. The people living there are terrified and decent tenants move out and these complexes become the centre of criminal activity. People travel from Dún Laoghaire and other nice areas by bus or taxi to such areas to buy drugs because we do not insist on establishing order, not law but order. Who takes responsibility? The City Manager, the City Council and all those people who are paid in the Custom House should take responsibility and the Government and the Legislature are entitled to ensure that they take responsibility. If we restore order in the prison system, in estate management, in the Garda Síochána and throughout the system, we will help solve the crime problem.

We have created an unprecedented number of judges. It was recommended by the Denham Committee that we might consider establishing a court services authority, which I favour. I want a tough person appointed chief executive of such an authority who will stand up to the judges and say that the administration of the courts will not be at the mercy of the judges who are there to serve the people, not the judicial system. The judges have got away with murder for long enough. They have a well remunerated if difficult job, they are honourable people but they must be called to account. They are paid out of the public purse and we are entitled to require that they deliver a service and furthermore, they should mix with the people whom they do not live among. Some of us do not reside in our constituencies but we are there all the time. One of the faults of this parliamentary system is that we are among the people so much. The judges are not out there among the people. In the past they required Dublin Corporation to produce four witnesses and written evidence which was totally unrealistic. We are entitled to say to the judges that we have had enough of their interfering with the Legislature and the Executive. The tail will have to be wagged a bit and judges will have to change the way they do their business. That is what is called establishing order. There will, of course, be a strong lobby against that.

If we are serious about law and order, let us talk about being tough enough to call public servants to account whether they be judges, civil servants or Garda management. We must ask them what they do to earn their keep. It is not just about law, the Dáil and the elected politicians, including the Minister for Justice. There is a serious absence of order.

I have not heard enough in this debate about the absence of social justice. We have had an unprecedented growth in material wealth. Never at any stage in our history has the country been as materially well off as it is now.

Hear, hear.

Yet, there are terrible divisions in society. We are in danger of doing what centuries of invaders have never done; creating a two nation state of haves and have nots. Our primary vehicle for trying to turn around disadvanaged communities is called local development. Few Members understand local development, perhaps it is too new a concept. Deputy Seán Haughey was complimentary about it recently. He has a pilot scheme in his constituency and he understands it. Members should try to understand it. It is an integrated plan because it supplements education and training facilities in poor communities. It assists in removing environmental dereliction which brings down a community. It provides money for training tenants in estate management and for the creation of jobs in local communities.

We will facilitate targeted communities in creating over 8,000 jobs in the coming four years. These local development plans are tailored to communities so that one for a part of Dublin will be different from one for Donegal. Because local people are involved it empowers them, but it also requires them to take responsibility. We must breed the taking of responsibility. People are quite capable of running their communities if we give them the power to do so. We cannot, however, give power without responsibility or responsibility without authority. Local development is an exciting Irish concept we can actually make work to bring about a greater sense of social justice.

In the inner city part of my constituency some 15 per cent of people have access to third level education. What view would Members have of themselves if they lived in a community where there was no access to third level education, huge unemployment and where housing estate management is left to go to rack and ruin? Would they identify with the establishment? Would they feel themselves a part of the system? That is the sort of society we are running but local development and local authorities can do something about it.

The Eastern Health Board has a plan for treating drug addicts. I used to be horrified by the idea of exchanging needles but I have overcome that fear because needles are being abandoned everywhere. In church grounds and school yards young and old alike can prick themselves with such needles and must then worry about whether they have contracted HIV. At least with a needle exchange you get the needles back. A priest in my constituency tells his helpers when they are cleaning out the yard to wear rubber gloves when cleaning behind barrels, etc. People heat heroin over candles in church. This is the sort of society we have. In broad daylight people are extracting all sorts of drugs from private orifices. They swallow drugs and then vomit them up again. These are terrible words to use but it is the reality of life in inner city Dublin.

The health board has come up with a plan. I do not know if it will work but we should give it a try because it was proposed by qualified people. We should keep it under review and should be able to amend it or adjust it if we have an implementation council. However, although it is a community-based approach, the resistance to this plan is coming from the very communities, for example, the Eastern Health Board is trying to help. As elected representatives in those communities we are all over the place but we would perform a public service if we stopped going to meetings where all sorts of irrational nonsense about these issues is applauded. Instead, the health board should consult people by way of public information days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. I gather the Eastern Health Board is about to do this and in that way cannot be descended upon by large numbers. People can come in twos and threes to have their questions answered instead of being drummed up into a frenzy by some chairman who says "Get it off your chest so that we can block the attempt to deal with the drugs problem". The health board needs to approach it in that way. They have a plan so let us work at it and keep it under review. That is also called order.

We have moved greatly towards filling the vacuum with some of the laws we have put forward but it will not work unless we also tackle the order problem and unless there is somebody tough and determined enough to upset a few people. I am sick and tired of listening to permanent paid officials lecturing the Legislature and the Executive. It is time we gave them a lecture and told them to do the job for which they were appointed. It is time we had accountability from the system so that the problems I have outlined will be attended to.

I hope that some of the matters I mentioned will be implemented as a follow up to what happened in the last few weeks. People think that being a law and order Deputy is to be right wing but I am not a right winger. Law and order means social justice to me. If there is no law and order the person who suffers most——

Is at the bottom of the pile.

——is the most feeble member of the community who cannot stand up for himself or herself. That is what law and order means to me. It is natural in the adversarial system that we have to try to score points off one another but when we talk privately we know what the problem is. It is time for us to seek the solution from the system. Much more reform is needed before we can have a complete plan in place. It is not the responsibility of any one Minister. Part of it is my area as Minister of State with responsibility for local development and for European affairs.

While the problem is mainly one for member states the European Union could do much more collectively to deal with the problems at source. There could be centres of excellence for member states to feed off for best practice in implementing national rules. It is time that more Members understood the problem. This is the worst epidemic we have had since TB and unless we take the same serious approach to it, not just a fire brigade service, we will not overcome it. We have shown we have the elements of that in the legislative area but we now also need to cover other areas in a comprehensive plan which will be overseen and implemented.

I thank Members for the way they have dealt with this issue. I apologise that, of necessity, legislation was brought in without much notice. I accept some Members of the Opposition did not have the time they would normally require to review the legislation but I do not take their comments or criticisms as being negative because of that. Nevertheless, there is a necessity to move on this matter. I will cover the points that have been raised as quickly and succinctly as possible.

This legislation is part of an overall package and has to be seen in that context. I am not suggesting that this legislation alone is the solution to that problem. My colleague, who represents an adjoining constituency but lives in mine, has clearly indicated the extent of the problem, the comprehensive way in which it has to be analysed and addressed and the obligations upon us all to do so. The legislation should be looked at in the context described by the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell.

This legislation has not been rushed because of the murder of Veronica Guerin. A working group to look at the comprehensive nature of this problem was brought together by the Government at a meeting in July 1995 with representatives from the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Síochána, Customs and Excise and various Government Departments. Organised professional criminals have professional advisers. Every profession has its own set of rogues and these rogues advise and assist criminals in ensuring they maximise their position in the legal and civil system. The complexity which organised criminal groups have brought to this issue requires a more sophisticated and complex response to resolve and ultimately defeat this scourge. I should inform Deputy McCreevy that this legislation is not a response that was put together in the last four or five weeks. It has been worked on over the last 12 months. However, it would be wrong and misleading to say that the murder of Veronica Guerin did not add an additional sense of urgency to the work we were doing although it was not its sole cause.

Deputy McCreevy referred to criminals putting money offshore with the assistance of their professional advisers. His colleague Deputy O'Dea referred to the four associated banks in Ireland and seemed to suggest they were actively assisting, if not colluding, in placing money offshore. He specifically mentioned money in the Channel Islands which they knew or suspected was criminally obtained. Under the EU directive on money laundering and the 1994 criminal justice legislation, the banks would be in breach of the law if they knowingly facilitated that activity. In many cases the banks have already reported deposits of sums of money they suspect may come under the provision to the appropriate authorities. I will get the precise number in the course of the debate. We are not talking about half a dozen cases — from memory, it is a couple of hundred. As the expertise of bank officials and their sensitivity to this kind of activity develops that incidence will increase.

The core of this legislation and the next Bill which this House will discuss is the mutual exchange of information obtained separately and independently by different sections of the apparatus of the State. This was previously, and in some respects still might be, covered by confidentiality clauses or the Data Protection Act, 1988. We must ensure information obtained by one section of our society and by our systems of Government can be properly and promptly exchanged with another section to track and confiscate the assets of criminals.

Deputy O'Dea is absent although he is probably monitoring this contribution or will read my response to his comments. He asked why the gardaí do not give information to the Revenue Commissioners in respect of matters they come across. The inference was that the Revenue Commissioners would then be able to demand tax. These measures are not about improving the efficiency of the Revenue Commissioners to obtain tax revenue. This measure and the next Bill are designed to confront and deal with the problem of criminals who use various devices to launder money they have obtained criminally. It will enable us to catch them for related offences because they have distanced themselves successfully from the supply and distribution of drugs and put them behind bars. Their property will be confiscated and I hope they, their families and associates will be impoverished so that everybody will see that crime does not pay. This is the message we must convey as part of the overall package. This measure alone will not deal with the relics of addiction and human dereliction resulting from heroin and other kinds of drug addiction.

Deputy McCreevy also suggested that our sense of urgency has resulted from the middle classes being affected by this particular issue and that we have been galvanised into action by what a former Minister for Finance from Deputy McCreevy's party referred to as a "well-heeled, articulate group of people". He had a particular gender in mind at the time. I think the late Deputy Colley's reference was to a particularly influential group in society and similarly, Deputy McCreevy suggested if it was not because of this particular group we would not have this hype and publicity. I agree with the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell, that we have been talking about constituencies affected by this problem for some time.

We did nothing about it.

Much has been done but the problem has worsened. I was a Minister of State on the task force from 1983 to 1985, when we dealt with the first generation of heroin drug addiction in this city and the infamous Dunne family were imprisoned. At that time, the cost of heroin on the streets was prohibitive. We dealt with it at that point. The criminals have returned with more sophisticated methods and distanced themselves from drug distribution. This factor, combined with the dramatic drop in the cost of heroin and its artificial substitutes, has resulted in a new form of drug addiction which did not exist in the early 1980s. A problem which was partially resolved has returned in a new manifestation. The Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell, referred to people smoking heroin and using candles in churches to light it. The form of smoking heroin through tinfoil did not exist as a phenomenon in the early 1980s. A much younger age group are now using drugs. Parents have no cultural, physical, organisational or social relationship with them to help them understand the addiction in their family. They know when a child is sick because of excessive drinking or smoking a cigarette when they are too young. Parents can relate to these kinds of experiences because they can read the warning signs but there is a generation of Irish parents who cannot relate to the drugs problem because they have no direct experience of the type of drug abuse now occurring and the side effects or symptoms that manifest themselves. This can be seen in relation to raves, ecstasy tablets and the way water is used.

A good deal of work has been done, but much of it not as effective as we would like. I refer again to the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell. Such issues as needle exchange, treatment centres and community response as an antidote to the concerned parents type of response have been in the air for a long time. Deputy McCreevy is not correct in saying that this has only come about because of the murder of Veronica Guerin on the one hand and a highly articulate group of middle class people who own, if not control, the pages of either the Sunday Times, Irish edition, or the Sunday Independent, Irish edition, and that we, the politicians, are not aware of this situation. That is not the case. Deputy Michael McDowell made a considerable point on the question of the amnesty and referred to his amendment. With respect to the Order of the House, I propose to deal with that when we discuss the amendment.

I agree with the conclusions of Deputy McCreevy. I have notes here which have been supplied to me by the Revenue Commissioners and by my departmental staff to confirm the points we will make. Rather than get into the issue on Second Stage, I will deal with it comprehensively and to the satisfaction, I hope, of Deputy McDowell and others.

Deputy Dukes made a number of points, going back as far as the Finance Act, 1983, when he talked about legislative changes he introduced and asked why these have not been used as much as people would like. It is interesting to note that section 19 of the Finance Act, 1983, provides that "Revenue may assess a person to tax on the gains or profits which have been derived from an illegal or unknown source." This legislation was introduced to deal with a situation which arose as a consequence of a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Hayes v. Duggan. In that case the Supreme Court ruled that the profits of an illegal activity were not taxable. I do not think Deputy Dukes — and he has been inspired by many things — was particularly inspired by a sudden realisation to do something on this issue because of the manifestation of his knowledge that this happened. This, like a lot of Finance legislation derives from the consequences of court cases.

I hope we will be able to get more information in the course of this debate. If not, I will write to the Deputy because he posed a number of questions about frequency of use and other matters. Since the introduction of legislation the Revenue Commissioners have used it on a number of occasions. While no record has been kept of the precise number of cases in which it has been used, seven cases have been identified where recoveries of approximately £1 million were made. It is not known whether the profits assessed in those cases were derived from illegal activities. In recent months, the Revenue Commissioners have entered miscellaneous income assessments on a number of individuals who are suspected of having derived profits or gains from drug trafficking. It is considered that the criminal assets bureau will, with the assistance of information provided by the Garda, be in a position to establish the basis for raising section 19 assessments in other cases.

Perhaps I can assist the Minister so that an erroneous impression will not be given. Section 19 has been used in the past to settle ordinary back duty tax cases, not in relation to criminal activities. It suited everybody, including the Revenue Commissioners, to issue an assessment under section 19 because the taxpayer concerned, for one reason or another and with the agreement of the Revenue Commissioners, did not want to say what the activities were but those were by no means criminal. It would be wrong to give the impression that the seven cases mentioned by the Minister were related to criminal activities. In my view none of them did. I am sure the Minister can confirm that with officials from the Revenue Commissioners.

I thank the Deputy for that professional and well informed intervention. Deputy Dukes made two other points. In section 4 of the Bill before us there is a general power for the Garda to be accompanied by revenue commissioners and other such persons and the Deputy asked who would be the other persons. It must be borne in mind that the object of this bureau is to attack criminals and to deprive them of their assets and that can only be done under due process of law. I am not for one moment, nor is anyone in this House, suggesting that we abandon due process of law. On the contrary, we have to consolidate it, but its consolidation must ensure that there is proper evidence to achieve a successful prosecution and not have cases which, while considered proven would be dismissed on a technicality as has happened in the past. It is necessary, for example, that when gathering information following a raid on a premises, competent people are involved, people who know what to look for and how to look for it. Such people could be scientists, forensic experts, accountants or computer specialists because much of the information could be on electronic data. In the latter sections of the Bill, I refer to the amendment of the Bankers' Book Evidence Act, 1879, to include all of these things. Regrettably, but perhaps fortunately, and on balance I use the word, "fortunately", our courts ensure that people can be convicted only if the law is properly interpreted and applied. Therefore we need a belt and braces and, as the late Frank Cluskey might have said, "bicycle clips as well" approach to this kind of legislation. We need to ensure that all facts, eventualities and descriptions are specified in law and that is why we want the power. We do not want some technicality emerging in a prosecution where the person who acompanied gardaí on a successful raid was not lawfully there because they happened to be a particular kind of chemical expert who could clearly state that the substance in question was not some form of high degree fertiliser but was a heroin substitute and an illegal drug substance.

Deputies McDowell and Dukes referred to the tragedy of the need for anonymity in the introduction of the legislation. Minister of State Mitchell talked about the intimidation that people endure with regard to estate management. I share a constituency with Deputy Eoin Ryan and with Deputy McDowell. We could give this House, as we have given Dublin Corporation, chapter and verse in relation to intimidation. In two estates not a million miles from where Deputy McDowell lives and where I have my clinic, I have volunteered to go to court on evidence because our collective constituents, who had been to see all of us, were simply terrified to go to court themselves. Yet when this is said to Dublin Corporation officials they enumerate difficulties and one finds there a certain reluctance on their part. Part of this is because officials of the district courts which deal with eviction cases — I am referring to eviction cases or repossession by Dublin Corporation of property that is being improperly used — either do not feel sufficiently motivated to do their job or have been intimidated. There are examples of such intimidation, hence, the need for anonymity. Tragically, in the short-term that anonymity will probably be more necessary than has previously been the case but it will be balanced by ensuring that the rules of the court will be observed, that the judge will see fully the face of the person giving the evidence, will be able to ensure that the evidence is given properly, is not some kind of trumped up set of evidence, simply because the police or a group want to get a particular individual.

I could not agree more with Deputy Bree when he talked about the outrageous behaviour of the heavy gang in the 1970s and the way in which they discredited the entire reputation of an honourable force, the Garda Síochána. We have to learn from the abuses of power and the illegality that was associated with activities of some members of the Force acting as they, perhaps, believed in the interest of the State but acting clearly outside the law. We have to balance the legal rights and entitlements of every citizen with the need to protect society itself and that is what this law is trying to do.

Mr. McDowell

On a point of order, are all Stages of the debate to conclude by 4 o'clock.

Mr. McDowell

Perhaps the Minister could reply in the Seanad.

It is almost 4 o'clock and time to put the question.

I apologise for that and hope the House will bear with me. I was not trying to be evasive with regard to the question of the amnesty. I take the point the Deputy has made and he has consequently put down an amendment. I do not see the need for the amendment proposed by the Deputy nor am I as pessimistic as he is about the possibliity of dealing with the cases he has in mind. The amnesty legislation specifically provided for denying its benefit to cases of false declaration whether in respect of the amount or the source of the income. As regards the source of income, the 1993 legislation required a declaration to the effect that any income being declared to the chief special collector for the purposes of the amnesty was not from an unlawful source. If such income was declared it would not be protected under the amnesty legislation.

Two provisions of the amnesty legislation are relevant where false declarations are made. First, the amnesty provides a specific and readily usable mechanism when an inspector of taxes has reasonable grounds to believe that an improper declaration as to the income being declared has been made. He or she can seek permission from the appeal commissioners to inquire further into the case and thus break the special confidentiality arrangements. If the appeal commissioners are satisfied that the grounds are reasonable, they will permit further inquiries and actions to be taken by the inspector. "Reasonable grounds" in this instance could include information from the Garda that income declared for the purpose of the amnesty was from an unlawful source.

Where the appeal commissioners permit further inquiries to be taken the inspector can establish a false declaration and can raise tax assessments to ensure the proceeds are brought fully into charge to tax. This mechanism is already being used and the appeal commissioners have allowed. Revenue to conduct inquiries unrestricted by the amnesty in a number of cases — I do not have the exact figure here.

Second, there is a further provision which the Deputy pointed out. If it can be proven that a false declaration has been made as to the source of the income being declared for the purpose of the amnesty, the benefits of the amnesty are denied and full tax interest and penalties will apply. The arrangements we are putting in place, including the proposed Criminal Assets Bureau, will significantly enhance the prospects for establishing the necessary proofs which can be pursued through the courts as required.

Abuse of the amnesty is an offence in its own right which can give rise to penalties ranging from a fine of £1,200 to a term of imprisonment not exceeding eight years where the amount of tax evaded is significant. It is the latter end of the scale which could apply if and where large amounts of income from unlawful sources are declared for the amnesty.

As it is now 4 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the Bill is hereby read a Second Time; that sections 1 to 15, inclusive, and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put and agreed to.