Private Members' Business. - Electoral Bill, 1994: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Carlow-Kilkenny): We come to amendment No. 35 in the name of the Minister.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 13, line 47, to delete "political".

Deputy Michael McDowell raised the necessity for and relevance of the word "political" as used in the expression "qualified political parties" in section 16 (3) when we debated this issue on Committee Stage. This was raised in the context of "qualified party" which is already defined as a political party to satisfy certain conditions. I agree with Deputy McDowell that the word is not necessary and my amendment seeks its deletion.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 14, lines 23 and 24, to delete "Public Offices Commission" and substitute "the Minister".

This amendment arose directly out of a submission to the committee by the Public Offices Commission. It is fair to say that the commission felt very strongly that the drawing up of guidelines under this section was not one for its members but was more properly a matter of policy in respect of which the Minister and his Department should draft the relevant guidelines. There is a justified fear on the part of the Public Offices Commission that, in enforcing its members to draw up these guidelines, they would be politicised or have their independence impaired. Because of the very strong reservations expressed to the committee I ask the Minister to give this amendment favourable consideration.

I have considered it since Committee Stage and am not minded to accept it for the very reason that I do not want to politicise the guidelines to be issued. As drafted, the Bill requires the guidelines to be drawn up by the Public Offices Commission whereas Deputy Dempsey's amendment would require the Minister to do so. That runs counter to the whole thrust of the Bill, which requires guidelines on a variety of issues to be drawn up by the independent Public Offices Commission.

The matter provided for in section 17 is extremely politically sensitive. For example, it involves regulating how a party can spend money it receives from the State. It would be undesirable, a bad precedent, for those guidelines to be drawn up by a politician, that is a Minister, rather than by the Public Offices Commission who should be given the necessary support which I intend doing between now and 1 January next in terms of the resources it needs to provide such guidelines. It would be a move in the wrong direction to remove from that body the power to draw up these guidelines and give it to a political officeholder.

I ask the Deputy not to press his amendment.

It appears the Minister and I are diametrically opposed. Under this Bill the Public Offices Commission will have a statutory obligation to ensure that its provisions are enforced and the intentions of the Oireachtas carried out. I am not sure I agree with the Minister, that allowing his Department to draft the guidelines, to interpret the intentions of the Oireachtas, would politicise the issue or cause any great difficulty. If the Minister issued guidelines on how the Public Offices Commission should perform its part of the task, I would accept his argument but, since its role is to police the legislation, regulations and guidelines set down by the Minister, I do not think that body should itself undertake the task.

I ask the Minister to reconsider this amendment. For the sake of clarity and honouring the political wishes of this House in the broadest sense — rather than within a party political manner — those guidelines should emanate from his Department with no interference thereafter. If the Public Offices Commission has to draw up these guidelines, at a later stage, that body could be in dispute with political parties and individual Members.

We appear to have a difference of opinion on this matter. Acceptance of Deputy Dempsey's amendment would cause difficulties if the guidelines, which are very sensitive and important in relation to this Bill overall, were seen to be tainted in any way by having a political slant, as they would if drawn up by a Minister. It is much safer that when the Bill is enacted, the guidelines — the "do's and don'ts"— are drawn up independently by the Public Offices Commission, comprising people of the highest independent calibre. That would safeguard the overall thrust of the legislation whereas acceptance of Deputy Dempsey's amendment would dilute it.

I must request him not to press his amendment.

I warn the House that this will be a point of contention, that at some stage in the future — perhaps when the Minister and I have long ceased to be Members of this House — it will cause problems, when we may well be accused of political bias. While it would be better if the Department laid down the guidelines, I will withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 37 in the name of the Minister. I note that amendment No. 38 is related and suggest, with the agreement of Members, that both be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 15, line 2, to delete "Part" and substitute "section".

This is a simple drafting amendment, amendment No. 38 being consequential on an amendment already made to section 1 which brings Part III of the Bill into operation on 1 January next. Under the Bill as drafted, payments to parties will apply from polling day at the next general election and continue until the day after polling at the subsequent general election. We have agreed that any such payments should not begin before 1 January next. This amendment provides that the first payment to qualified parties shall not be made until not less than three months will have elapsed after 1 January 1998. It also provides that payments made after 1 January 1998 will apply from the date before polling at the next general election thereafter. The commencement procedure for payments to political parties, as envisaged in the Bill, will begin from 1 January next, with the first payment being made three months thereafter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 15, to delete lines 4 to 16, and substitute the following:

(2)(a) The first payment under this section shall not be made until not less three months have elapsed after the coming into operation of this Part.

(b) Payments made under this section, calculated in accordance with section 16, after the date on which this Part comes into operation shall apply from the said date and such payments so calculated shall continue to be made in respect of the period up to and including the day before polling day at the general election held next after the said date.

(c) Payments made under this section after the general election next held after the coming into operation of this Part and each subsequent general election shall apply from polling day at such election and such payments, calculated in accordance with section 16, shall continue to be made in respect of the period up to and including the day before polling day at the general election held next after the first-mentioned polling day.".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 39 to 43, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 15, to delete lines 24 to 35 and substitute the following:

"(4) No payment shall be made under this section after the thirtieth day of April in any year (other than the year in which this Part comes into operation) unless and until the statement and the report of the auditor referred to in section 19 and the donation statement and statutory declaration referred to in section 23 as respect the party concerned for the preceding year have been received by the Public Offices Commission and the said Commission has furnished a copy thereof to the Minister for Finance and certified to the said Minister that the said statement and report, and the said donation statement and statutory declaration were completed in accordance with guidelines issued by the Commission under section 4 and comply with the provisions of this Part and Part IV, respectively.".

In the course of considering amendments tabled by Deputy Dempsey during the long Committee Stage debate, I agreed to consider changing the arrangement provided for in the Bill under which the annual audited statement to be prepared each year by the appropriate officer or qualified parties in relation to the use of payments received by them is to be furnished to the Minister for Finance. Under section 19 the audited statement is furnished by the appropriate officer to the Minister for Finance, who is required to furnish a copy of the statement to the Public Offices Commission and to cause a copy of the statement to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Deputy Dempsey made a strong argument that the statement should be furnished to the Public Offices Commission in the first place and that the commission should be responsible for sending a copy to the Minister for Finance and for subsequently causing a copy to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Having considered the matter, I agree this arrangement is logical and I have tabled amendments Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, to make provision accordingly.

I thank the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 15, line 38, to delete "Minister for Finance" and substitute "Public Offices Commission".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 15, line 39, to delete "Public Offices".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 15, line 47, to delete "Minister for Finance" and substitute "Public Offices Commission".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 15, to delete lines 49 to 52 and substitute the following:

"(3) The Public Offices Commission shall cause a copy of each statement and auditor's report furnished to it under this section to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and shall furnish a copy thereof to the Minister for Finance.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 20, line 23, to delete "7" and substitute "14".

Amendment No. 44 flows from discussions on Committee Stage. Deputy Dempsey will note how I listened to his comments and proposals on Committee Stage.

The Minister should look for a job in the draftman's office.

The amendment arises from a commitment I gave on Committee Stage when Deputy Dempsey agreed to withdraw an amendment which proposed to allow candidates at an election a period of 14 days after polling to surrender anonymous donations received by them. I am now making provision for that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 20, line 47, to delete "28th day of February" and substitute "31st day of March".

Section 23(1)(b) provides that a political party shall furnish a donation statement to the Public Offices Commission not later than 28 February each year in relation to donations received during the previous 12 months. I have taken account of the views expressed by Deputies Dempsey, Penrose and O'Hanlon on Committee Stage that political parties need more time to prepare their statements to ensure donations from all units of the party — we were given a vivid account of how strong and wide-ranging some political parties were — to make proper accounts. This amendment provides for a change in the deadline to 31 March, which meets the views expressed on Committee Stage. I hope the House will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 46, 48 and 70 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 21, line 17, after "subsection (4)" to insert "including in the case of a candidate at a Dáil election, donations received in relation to that election at any time before the issue of the writ or writs in relation to the election and, in the case of a candidate at a European election, donations received at any time before the date of the order appointing polling day at the election".

Amendments Nos. 46, 48 and 70 arise from contributions on Committee Stage on this section. Section 2(a) and (b) relate to disclosure of donations received by candidates at elections who are not subsequently elected. Under subsection (2) they are obliged to furnish a statement of election expenses to the Public Offices Commission within 56 days of polling or the close of poll at the Seanad election, as is appropriate.

The point made on Committee Stage was that, as drafted, the section might not cover donations made to a person before he or she is nominated as a candidate. It was stated that the section could be construed as not applying to donations received by a person before they were nominated. The point was also made that an outgoing Deputy who, on dissolution, ceased to be a Member could argue that he or she is not required to furnish details of donations received between the dissolution of the Dáil and the time when he or she is nominated officially as a candidate at the subsequent general election.

These amendments provide clarity on this point. Under the amendments it is specifically provided that donations received by a candidate at any time, including those received before the issue of the writs at an election or the making of an order appointing dates and times for a Seanad election, in relation to the election must be disclosed. Again, the key phrase is "donations in relation to the election". This clarifies the issue and removes the doubts Members expressed on Committee Stage. I ask the House to accept the amendments.

The Minister has gone as far as he can to address the serious concerns expressed on Committee Stage. There were grounds to believe that the Bill, if it were not amended, would be found unconstitutional. It would have been contrary to the McKenna judgment because it would have allowed people who were not Members of the House to receive large donations and spend a considerable amount of money before they lodged their nomination papers. Having looked at the Minister's amendments, I no longer see a loophole. This levels the playing field between Members of the Oireachtas and non-party candidates, who may collect money well in advance of an election. It even covers the point about Members of the House who would not be candidates until ten days after the moving of a writ. I thank the Minister for addressing the concerns we expressed. We support these amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendments Nos. 47 and 49 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 21, line 19, to delete "paragraphs (a) and (b)" and substitute "paragraph (a)".

Amendments Nos. 47 and 49 are purely drafting amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 21, line 28, after "subsection (4)" to insert "including donations received before the date of the order appointing days and times at a Seanad general election under section 12 the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act, 1937, or a Seanad general election order made under section 24 of the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947, or the date of a Seanad bye-election order under either such Act, as the case may be,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 21, line 30, to delete "paragraphs (a) and (b) " and substitute "paragraph (a)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 22, line 1, to delete "April" and substitute "May".

Under section 18(4), as amended by an earlier amendment, no payment may be made to a qualified party after 30 April in any year unless and until the donation statement for the preceding year has been furnished to the commission by that party. Section 23(7) (b) provides that on or before 1 April each year the Public Offices Commission should inform the Minister for Finance whether a donation statement for the previous year has been received from that qualified party. This amendment proposes to put back the date from 1 May in line with the extra month given to parties to submit donation statements to which we have agreed.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 25, line 23, after "shall" to insert "notify the Public Offices Commission in writing and".

Section 27(2)(a) provides that a candidate must notify the returning officer of the name of the election agent appointed by him or her and the address of that officer or agent. I agreed to withdraw an amendment I moved on Committee Stage which would have required the candidate to notify the details also to the Public Offices Commission. I did so to consider a suggestion put forward by Deputy Dempsey to require the returning officer to notify the details. It was stated that this would cut down on the amount of paperwork involved for an individual candidate. Having considered this, I agree that it is a sensible suggestion, one of many from Deputy Dempsey, and this amendment takes account of it.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendments Nos. 52 and 72 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 27, line 2, to delete "election." and substitute:

"election;

and shall be deemed to include all expenditure incurred in the taking of an opinion poll or other similar survey relating to an election within the period of 60 days before polling day at the election by or on behalf of a political party, a political group or a candidate at the election.".

On Committee Stage I tabled amendments to provide that expenditure incurred in the taking of an opinion poll by or on behalf of a political party or the candidate would be deemed to be an election expense. This gave rise to a lengthy debate. I eventually agreed to withdraw the amendment so I could examine the possibility of clarifying that it is only such a poll carried out in regard to an election which could be deemed to be an election expense, because an opinion poll taken 12 months earlier could be deemed to be part of the election campaign. To clarify that it relates to an election. I decided a period of 60 days before polling would be appropriate and I tabled the amendment accordingly.

The Minister has gone a long way towards meeting our objections to this section. Will he clarify why he decided on a period of 60 days before polling day? This section deals with matters that could affect the outcome of an election campaign. The Minister made the case for his predecessor who, in attempting to pass an Electoral Bill in 1992, wanted to ban opinion polls during the course of an election campaign. It may be time to reconsider that aspect of electoral law. Despite what may have been argued in the previous Bill, in this Bill we accept that an opinion poll may influence an election campaign and therefore there is a case to be made that opinion polls should not be allowed during the course of an election campaign. That matter will have to be considered in the near future.

Opinion polls were discussed on Committee Stage and it was stated that Fianna Fáil may have invented them during the last general election. I was somewhat surprised to note in Cork recently the Labour Party was accused of inventing or distorting opinion polls. At least we all play on a level playing field. The period of 60 days has been plucked out of the air. It could have been 30 days, but I will accept the amendment.

The period of 60 days is reasonable in terms of deeming that period to be part of an election campaign. I do not accept the argument that an opinion poll affects the result of an election, but it is a useful election tool and, like a poster campaign or an advertisement in the local paper, should be deemed to be an election expense. I expressed my view on banning opinion polls during an election campaign. If an opinion poll is not a legitimate published poll from a reputable organisation, it is an invented poll, and all political parties try to bolster their position. I gave the instance on Committee Stage of reputable opinion polls stating the reality while the Deputy's party had its own tracking polls which gave a different result. It is important that there is not distortion of the position by invention — if there is to be distortion, it should at least be predicated on reality. I would have no difficulty in setting a moratorium period close to an election date, and that may be discussed in the future because there should be a calm period in which people can make up their minds without being barraged by influences in the last day or two of a campaign.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 27, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

"(vi) expenses incurred in the provision of property, goods or services used at an election where such property, goods or services was or were provided in respect of a previous election and the cost of providing such property, goods or services was included in the statement of election expenses furnished to the Public Offices Commission in relation to the said previous election by the national agent of the party or election agent of the candidate, as the case may be.".

Deputy Dempsey agreed to withdraw an amendment tabled by him on Committee Stage which sought to provide that materials paid for and declared in an election campaign may be reused — which, from an environmental perspective, is very desirable — without declaration to the subsequent election. I agreed in principle with the amendment and said I would come back on Report Stage with an amendment. I commend my amendment to the House.

The Minister drafted an amendment which is much better than the one I proposed and I have no problem accepting it.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendment No. 54 in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 69, 74 and 78 are related and I suggest they be taken together if that is satisfactory.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 28, between lines 47 and 48, to insert the following:

"(10) The publisher of a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication shall not publish any advertisement or notice in relation to an election purporting to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a political party or a candidate at that election at the request of any person other than the national agent of a political party or a person authorised in writing by such agent, or a candidate at the election or the election agent of such candidate, or a person authorised in writing by such candidate or agent, unless the person produces to the said publisher a certificate from the Public Offices Commission that that person has complied with the provisions of subsection (7) in relation to that election.".

In the course of Committee Stage we dealt with the provision requiring persons or bodies not directly involved in an election incurring election expenditure such as advertising for or against a candidate or party to register with the Public Offices Commission. The chairman of the select committee, Deputy Mitchell, said it should be an offence for newspapers to carry an advertisement unless a certificate is produced by the Public Offices Commission. I was not sure whether it was possible to provide for that and in the interim I took the advice of the Attorney General. I have concluded that Deputy Mitchell's suggestion is a sensible one and would help ensure compliance with the general thrust of the provisions in this section.

A strong feeling was expressed during Committee Stage that a third party could simply ignore the registration requirements and canvass by buying advertising space against an individual party or candidate. Newspapers are now required to ensure such a party has declared its position with the Public Offices Commission before accepting such an advertisement. I recommend the amendments to the House.

I thank the Minister for the amendment and commend the ingenuity of the person who came up with the format. It addresses the serious concerns expressed by a number of members of the committee, particularly the chairman. Having considered the matter, the Minister has gone as far as he can to ensure people act responsibly. It puts the onus on the publisher not to accept an advertisement unless a certificate is received from the Public Offices Commission. On the earlier point about having proper offices and staff available to the Public Offices Commission, I am concerned there should be no undue delay in the processing of certificates. I commend the Minister and his officials on the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendments Nos. 55, 56 and 57 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 29, line 8, to delete "£14,000" and substitute "£20,000".

This relates to the expenditure limits imposed on candidates and parties in individual constituencies. The amendments seek to raise the limits in the Bill of £14,000 for a three seat constituency, £17,000 for a four seat and £20,000 for a five seat to £20,000, £22,500 and £25,000 respectively. I explained in considerable detail on Committee Stage the problems larger parties have with two or three candidates in four or five seat constituencies. It is something the Minister would not be familiar with being a member of a party which generally fields one candidate per constituency. I hope I never have to spend £25,000 in a five seat constituency but, by tabling these amendments, I ask the Minister to allow a little headroom for parties which field more than one candidate in each constituency. The increases I suggest are not outrageous when one considers that those figures will be cut in half because of inevitable agreements between the national and local party. In a five seat constituency such as mine, Meath, it means each candidate being allowed to spend £12,500.

It is enough if they are spending it. Without revealing any secrets to the opposition at this stage, there is a budget of £20,000 from the Fianna Fáil Party for the coming election in Meath to cover organisation. If the provisions of this Bill were in place, the total amount available to the constituency for three candidates would be £60,000. This would be halved to £30,000 because of the 50 per cent rule.

It is not necessary to give that much. The maximum is 50 per cent.

Yes, but I am assuming in this case that 50 per cent will be given to national party headquarters.

Up to 50 per cent.

Realistically, for a party of our size——

If it is assumed the Deputy's party's national average expenditure per candidate is £20,000, the total expenditure for the three candidates to whom he referred is £60,000. That means they will have £40,000 to spend between the three of them.

No, they will not. Let me explain. If we have a total of £60,000 to spend, half will be given to the national party headquarters because it comes into the reckoning for expenditure limits. That leaves £30,000. The constituency party may decide to spend £20,000 on the election campaign, some of which will admittedly be for posters for the three candidates. That leaves £10,000 between the three candidates, which is less than £3,500 each. I do not care how modest one's campaign will be but one would almost spend that much on petrol, meals, etc., during the course of an election campaign. The Minister would not understand the difficulties which arise in a constituency where three candidates contest the seats.

It is an advantage.

There are advantages in savings made in certain areas.

There is three times as much to spend.

It would not be spent on a single candidate.

It costs as much to do a mailshot to an electorate of 80,000 for one candidate as it does for three. This means there is triple the money left to spend. If there are three candidates, it divides up the constituency. Therefore, there would be the same number of posters with different faces in different areas.

That increases the cost.

It may do so but the same number of posters covers the area regardless of the number of candidates and, if three candidates stand for election, it means each has publicity for a third of the cost which is a great advantage.

No, it is not. The Minister does not understand the intricacies of fielding more than one candidate in a constituency.

What is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's view?

There is a difficulty which the Minister does not recognise. I do not fault him for that because he has not experienced it. Where three or four candidates of a political party run in one constituency, they are entitled to half the limits set in the Bill. I do not seek the modest increases in my amendments for us to go mad spending money in the election campaign. I will not breach any of the limits and neither would most people. The figures I propose are more reasonable than the Minister's for parties with more than one candidate in a constituency. The Minister told me he would discuss this with his Government colleagues and I know those in Democratic Left would not be favourably disposed towards it. Perhaps he might implement this on the eve of the general election without informing anyone until afterwards.

I am not convinced one is at a disadvantage by having more candidates because one has a larger amount to spend. The economies of scale must affect the efficient use of money. The organisation, canvassing and structure is not tripled because the geography remains the same for a single candidate as for three candidates. Most people would see limits of £14,000, £17,000 and £20,000 as reasonable and they apply to each candidate. Having considered them, I am not disposed to accept the amendments which are not modest as they propose increases of between 25 and 43 per cent. My limits are reasonable and it will be good for politics as well as for our pockets when they are put in place because much money is wasted on elections.

I knew the Minister did not understand the plight of candidates of the larger parties and the thrust of the Bill displays that. There are no economies of scale for election candidates, whatever their political affiliations. The reason the budget in Meath is so modest for this election — it was £30,000 for the last one — is that we have three candidates to take three seats. There would have been four candidates previously.

I hope it stays fine for them.

I will have a wager with the Minister on it if he wants.

I accept.

It will be for a tenner.

A tenner is fine. Are we allowed to do this?

The economies of scale do not operate in that case because there are four separate election campaign costs. There are disadvantages in that it is much more difficult to get your name across, particularly as a Euro candidate, if you are one of four rather than one. Given that the Minister will not accept the argument, this section will disappear after we get back into Government.

Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We come to amendment No. 58. Amendments Nos. 59 to 63, inclusive, are related. I suggest Amendments Nos. 58 to 63, inclusive, be discussed together if that is satisfactory. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 29, line 19, after "agreed" to insert "in writing".

This amendment arises from discussion on Committee Stage and underscores the great trust that exists between politicians and their national parties. When exhorted by all sides I accepted that the agreement reached between a party and its candidate on the amount of expenditure which the party may incur shall be in writing.

As national treasurer of my party I agree with the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 29, lines 29 to 33, to delete all words from and including "difference" in line 29, down to and including line 33 and substitute "sum of the amounts of election expenses agreed in writing pursuant to subsection (1)(b)(i) between the party and candidates whose candidatures were authenticated by the party at the election.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 29, line 46, after "agreed" to insert "in writing".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 61:

In page 30, to delete lines 6 to 10 and substitute "sum of the amounts of election expenses agreed in writing pursuant to subsection (1)(b)(i) between the party and candidates whose candidatures were authenticated by the party at the election.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 31, to delete lines 3 to 6 and substitute the following:

"(iii) the amount of election expenses (if any) agreed in writing pursuant to section 31(1)(b)(i) or 32(1)(b)(i), as may be appropriate, between the party and each such candidate and the amount of election expenses incurred by the said agent pursuant to section 31(1)(b)(i) or 32(1)(b)(i), as may be appropriate, in respect of each such candidate.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 31, lines 11 to 14, to delete all words from and including "incurred" in line 11 down to and including line 14 and substitute "agreed in writing pursuant to section 31(1)(b)(i) or 31(1)(b)(i), as may be appropriate, between the candidate and such party.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 31, after line 49, to insert the following:

"(6) This section shall apply to an agent appointed under section 27(5)(b), subject to the proviso that the statement of election expenses to be furnished by the said agent shall be furnished to the Public Offices Commission within the 56 days next following polling day at the election or as soon as practicable after the expiration of that period.".

I tabled this amendment to take account of a pertinent point made by Deputy Lenihan on Committee Stage. Under section 35, all statements of election expenses have to be submitted to the Public Offices Commission within 56 days after polling. This would include a statement furnished by the agent of a candidate who dies at some stage during the election period. Every eventuality was discussed in detail during our long days in committee. The amendment relates to a very specific case where a candidate who has acted as his or her own agent under the Bill dies. In that case the personal representative of the candidate may appoint another agent to look after the candidate's election affairs. Deputy Lenihan pointed out that 56 days may not be sufficient to allow for probate etc. to have been duly processed in that eventuality. The amendment makes it clear that in such a case where it is not possible to comply with the 56 day limit, the statement should be furnished as soon as is practicable.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We come to amendment No. 65. Amendments Nos. 65, 66 and 68 are consequential on amendment No. 67. Amendment No. 77 is related to amendment No. 67. Therefore, I suggest amendments Nos. 65 to 68, inclusive, and 77 be taken together. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 34, line 27, to delete "section 31, 40 or 41" and substitute "section 31 or 41".

Unfortunately this amendment is as morbid as the previous amendment. Section 40 provides for a situation where, due to the death of a candidate, a fresh election is held in a constituency. The section provides that the original election and the fresh election are deemed to have been a single election. It provides that where a candidate had contested the original election and contests the fresh election, expenditure limits specified in sections 31 and 32 would be increased by one half. There was some debate on that provision. Having considered the matter I am now of the view it would be appropriate to treat the original election and the fresh election separately with separate accounting for election expenditure in each case. Rather than the more complicated position proposed in the Bill I suggest where a candidate dies the election would simply stop and the new election with the new candidate would begin as a fresh election and fresh accounting period and new limits would apply to that case. That is clearer and in line with the views expressed on Committee Stage.

I am in agreement with the proposal but will the Minister clarify the exact amount he will allow?

The full amount. The idea would be that whether it is two days or on the eve of polling the curtains would come down on that election and election expenses would be produced. A new election would start with fresh election expenses, in other words a clean slate.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 34, lines 38 and 39, to delete "section 31, 40 or 41" and substitute "section 31 or 41".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 34, to delete lines 46 to 50 and in page 35 to delete lines 1 to 11 and substitute the following:

"40.—(1) Where a fresh election is held in a constituency under section 62 or 63 of the Act of 1992 or Rule 27 of the Second Schedule to the Act of 1997, the original election shall be deemed to have been an election for the purposes of this Part and the provisions of this Part including section 35 shall be complied with in relation to the original election by the national agent of a political party and by the agent of each surviving candidate, as may be appropriate.

(2) The limits on election expenses at the fresh election for surviving candidates and candidates nominated at the fresh election shall be the relevant amount specified in section 31(1)(a), or in an order under section 32(1)(a), as the case may be.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 36, line 22, to delete "section 31, 40 or 41" and substitute "section 31 to 41".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 36, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

"(4) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she publishes in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication of which he or she is publisher an advertisement or notice in relation to an election purporting to promote or oppose the interests of a political party or a candidate at that election at the request of any person other than the national agent of a political party, or a person authorised in writing by such agent or a candidate at the election or the election agent of such candidate, or a person authorised in writing by such candidate or agent, unless that person produces to the said publisher a certificate from the Public Offices Commission referred to in section 30(10).".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 41, line 12, after "value" to insert "including donations received at any time before the date of the order appointing polling day at the election".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 71:

In page 43, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(9) The provisions of this section, in so far as they apply to a presidential election held before the first day of January, 1998, shall have effect in relation to that election as if in subsection (1)(a) `On or before the last day for receiving nominations' was substituted for `Before incurring any election expenses' and `said' was inserted after `not later than the'.".

As already provided in the amendment to section 1 relating to the commencement of the Bill, the only provisions which will have immediate effect, when the Bill is passed, are the donations provisions in Part IV and in Part VI which relate to donations at a presidential election. Part VI provides that the donation statement to be furnished on behalf of a presidential candidate should be prepared and furnished by the election agent of the candidate appointed under section 49. While the election expenditure limits will not apply at the 1997 presidential election, it is necessary to bring in section 49 in so far as it relates to disclosure of donations. Exactly as it relates to the Dáil election, the mechanism for expenditure limits and refunds will not apply but disclosure of donations will apply. This amendment provides for a modifications of section 49(1)(a) as far as its limited applications to the 1997 presidential election is concerned. I ask the House to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 43, line 33, after "election" to insert "and shall be deemed to include all expenditure incurred in the taking of an opinion poll or other similar survey relating to a presidential election within the period of 60 days before polling day at the election by or on behalf of a candidate at the election.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 43, line 38, after "candidate" to insert "or any person or persons working on behalf of the candidate on a voluntary basis".

On Committee Stage I accepted an amendment tabled by Deputy Dempsey which proposed to exclude from the definition of election expenses at a Dáil or European election the reasonable living expenses of persons working on behalf of a candidate on a voluntary basis. This amendment provides for a similar amendment to section 48 relating to the election expenses of a presidential candidate.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 45, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(9) The publisher of a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication shall not publish any advertisement or notice in relation to a presidential election purporting to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a candidate at that election at the request of any person other than a candidate at the election or the election agent of such candidate, or a person authorised in writing by such candidate or agent, unless the person produces to the said publisher a certificate from the Public Offices Commission that that person has complied with the provisions of subsection (6) in relation to that election.".

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We come to amendment No. 75. Amendment No. 76 is cognate. I suggest we discuss amendments Nos. 75 and 76 together. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 48, line 29, to delete "50" and substitute "57".

Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 are merely drafting amendments to correct incorrect references in section 58.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 48, line 35, to delete "50" and substitute "57".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 49, to delete lines 1 to 8 and substitute the following:

"59. (1) Where a fresh presidential election is held under section 31 of the Act of 1993, the original election shall be deemed to have been an election for the purposes of this Part and the provisions of this Part including section 55 shall be complied with in relation to the original election by the election agent of each surviving candidate.

(2) The limits on election expenses at the fresh election for surviving candidates and candidates nominated at the fresh election shall be the relevant amount specified in an order for the time being in force under section 52(1)."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 50, between lines 6 and 7 to insert the following:

"(4) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she publishes in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication of which he or she is publisher an advertisement or notice in relation to a presidential election purporting to promote or oppose the interests of a candidate at that election at the request of any person other than a candidate or the presidential election agent of a candidate, or a person authorised in writing by such candidate or agent, unless that person produces to the said publisher a certificate from the Public Offices Commission referred to in section 51(9).".

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We come to amendment No. 79. Amendment No. 80 is consequential. I suggest we take amendments Nos. 79 and 80 together. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 58, line 13, after "Commission" to insert for a period of 3 years".

Section 72 provides for the retention by the Public Offices Commission of documents furnished to it under the Bill. Paragraph (c) provides for the retention of statements of election expenses and statutory declarations accompanying such statements for a period of three years. These are purely drafting amendments which provide for the retention of all documents listed in section 72 for the three year period. The initial documents being brought within the scope of the three year limit are audited statements on the use of payments received by political parties, donation statements and notifications of receipts of anonymous donations.

I accept this amendment. This applies not just to political parties but to individual candidates.

Correct.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 58, line 22, to delete "for a period of 3 years".

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendment No. 81 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 82 to 86, inclusive, are related and may be taken together.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 61, to delete lines 34 to 41, and substitute the following:

"(4) An application by an elector to have his name entered in the supplement to the postal voters list received by the registration authority after the date of the dissolution of the Dáil at a general election or the date of the order appointing polling day at a Dáil bye-election, or a presidential, European or local election or a referendum shall not have effect in relation to that election or referendum.".

Section 72 provides for various amendments to the 1972 Act relating to the registration of electors. Among these amendments are proposals to allow eligible electors, not already on the postal voters list or the special voters list, to apply for entry to the supplement of the postal or special voters lists during the lifetime of a register. The provision provided for a cut-off point of 50 days before polling.

I was of the view that this is a long time and sometimes elections occur with less predictability than the one we are facing. That period was originally suggested to allow for applications to be processed and a supplement printed and published in good time for the poll. In this context the postal ballot papers are issued and special voting takes place relatively early in the course of an election or referendum.

The period could be shortened and still allow adequate time for applications to be processed before the supplement is used. It is in all our interests to bring the date as close as possible to the date of polling. These amendments propose to fix the cut-off point for entry onto the supplements as the date of the order appointing polling day at a referendum and at all elections, except Dáil elections, where it is the day of the issue of the writs. I hope this is practical and am advised that I am cutting it close. I hope presiding officers and others will not find this too onerous a responsibility but it is worth attempting.

I accept these amendments. I too hope returning officers will not find it too onerous. However, the basic thrust of the amendments and the committee's approach was to be as inclusive as possible during Committee Stage. These measures will not apply to the forthcoming election. I presume they apply to all of those we discussed. We discussed those who had become 18 years of age since the drawing up of the register. Will the Minister clarify if they will be eligible?

They will not be eligible for a Dáil election should it occur in the immediate future. However, we hope to have this in place as soon as possible thereafter. The categories that it would apply to are 18 year olds who became 18 subsequent to the coming into force of the register but previous to the date of the poll, to people who by virtue of their occupation find themselves unable to vote at elections — this would include students — and people who have moved house and are not on the register at their previous or new address.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 61, line 42, to delete "may be" and substitute "practicable".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 61, lines 52 and 53, to delete "fiftieth day before polling day" and substitute "date".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 62, to delete lines 41 to 48, and substitute the following:

"(4) An application by an elector to have his name entered in the supplement to the special voters list received by the registration authority after the date of the dissolution of the Dáil at a general election or the date of the order appointing polling day at a Dáil bye-election, or a presidential, European or local election or a referendum shall not have effect in relation to that election or referendum.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 62, line 49, to delete "may be" and substitute "practicable".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 63, lines 8 and 9, to delete "fiftieth day before polling day" and substitute "said date".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 64, line 14, to delete "The Act of 1994" and substitute "The Referendum Act, 1994".

This is a drafting amendment. There is no definition of the expression "The Act of 1994" in the Bill. There is only one other reference to the Referendum Act, 1994, in section 78. It is, therefore, necessary to refer to the 1994 Act in this section by its full title.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 66, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"80. — Section 25 of the Act of 1992 is hereby amended—

(a) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (10):

`(10A) Any doubt, dispute or question arising in connection with the particulars required to be entered in the Register of Political Parties pursuant to subsection (4) shall be decided by the appeal board and shall be deemed to be an appeal under subsection (9) and the provisions of paragraphs (d) to (g) of the said subsection (9) and paragraph (c) of subsection (10) shall apply to any such appeal,';

(b) by the insertion, in subsection (12), of the following words after `section'; `and may, for the purposes of this subsection, further require that information so given shall be in the form of a statutory declaration'.".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Few Bills I have dealt with have had such detailed discussion. This runs counter to the views expressed that this Bill would be guillotined through. This is a better Bill because of the detailed consideration it received. I thank Deputy Dempsey for his consistent involvement in the debate, tabling detailed amendments.

This Bill puts our electoral process on a more transparent, open and better basis. It is not the end of our reform of electoral law. There is much more we can do. We have commitments, for example, on the registration of political parties that I will live up to if and when I am in a position to do so after the next election. We are moving inexorably to a more open and inclusive type of political involvement which will allow more people to participate in the political process and I hope this Bill will advance that move. I believe it will. It is an extremely important advance in electoral law and I commend it to the House.

I thank the Minister, Deputy McManus and their officials for their assistance and co-operation. There were fears expressed on both sides of the House that this Bill would be rushed through and we would end up with an unworkable Bill which would bring us into disrepute. Having initially feared unnecessary delays, the Minister accepted the bona fides of Opposition Deputies that, whatever disagreements we might have on specific aspects of the Bill, at least if it was passed it would be reasonably workable. Thanks to the detailed Committee Stage, Report Stage has been very good. I thank the Minister and his officials for the way they took the spirit of our amendments on board, if not their exact wording. The Bill is the better for it. There are other areas at which I would like to have a good look. These include the establishment of the Public Offices Commission as an independent body and its staffing arrangements, the registration of political parties to which the Minister referred and the establishment of an independent referendum commission.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Ceann Comhairle, the chairperson of the committee and, in particular, the Minister and his officials for their assistance in dealing with the Bill.

The officials of my Department, some of whom are present, worked extremely long hours in drafting and redrafting the Bill in which the judgments of the Supreme Court and tortuous legal opinions were taken into account in order to fine tune it. I sincerely express my gratitude to them publicly — I will also do so privately — for their diligence, thoroughness and accuracy in this work. It is envisaged that the Bill will be taken in the Seanad tomorrow. This means that my officials and those of the House will be burning the midnight oil. I owe them a debt of gratitude. I also thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and his staff for their help in drafting and fine-tuning the Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

I thank the Minister. Incidentally, that bet was witnessed and participants will remember that all bets are declarable under the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.