Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 [Seanad]: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

There are many important provisions in the Bill on a wide range of measures. The Bill provides for amendment of the law on civil legal aid, civil liability, private security services, intoxicating liquor, equality, bankruptcy, maintenance of spouses and children, coroners, immigration and citizenship, conveyancing, taxing masters, personal injuries, solicitors, statutory declarations, domestic violence, official languages and court matters. The changes are designed to strengthen the law and make it more efficient and effective. Some of the changes will help to modernise further the agencies that operate under the aegis of my Department.

While the Bill draws on the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010, which had commenced Second Stage examination prior to the dissolution of the Dáil, I have significantly amended aspects of the Bill and added new provisions, such as amalgamation of the coroner districts of Dublin, amendments to immigration and citizenship law and amendment of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and the Registration of Title Act 1964 with regard to certain rights of way without the need for court order. I propose to highlight the most important changes in the Bill rather than run through all 15 parts of the Bill. Should Deputies raise matters I have not focused on, I will be glad to pick up on them by way of response at the conclusion of our debate.

Part 2 of the Bill gives statutory backing to allow the Legal Aid Board to provide legal advice on criminal matters to alleged victims of human trafficking offences. The provision will enable full effect to be given to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings and to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Both of these instruments were ratified in 2010 and are in operation in the State. The legal aid system operated by the Legal Aid Board is essentially intended to provide legal assistance in the civil law area. The Bill extends this into providing legal advice to those who are the victims of human trafficking so they are made fully aware of the law applicable, of the assistance they can give to An Garda Síochána, of what will occur should a prosecution take place and of the court processes.

Part 3 builds on recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in its 2009 report, Civil Liability of Good Samaritans and Volunteers. It amends the Civil Liability Act 1961 in order to give clear statutory protection from liability to those who help others in good faith. The objective is to protect from liability those who, acting with good intentions, go to the assistance of others who are injured or ill as a consequence of an accident or emergency. Protection from liability is also provided for persons working as volunteers for charitable or other organisations for the benefit of society, including sports, recreation and rescue. Volunteers will be required to act in a way that does not contribute to gross negligence, while the volunteer organisations with which they operate will be held to the higher standard of ordinary negligence. While the higher standard will apply for volunteer organisations, provision is made for account to be taken of the benefit accruing to society as a result of the organisations' work in determining whether it is just and reasonable to impose liability.

The effectiveness of the Private Security Authority will be improved by changes provided for in Part 4. The amendments provide for improvements to the licensing process of the authority, including technical changes to certain aspects of the renewal procedure and the power for the authority to grant temporary licences in particular circumstances. The Bill also increases the authority's powers to request information about individuals who are involved in the running of security companies. This will augment further the controls on the management of security companies, in addition to the tax certification and other compliance measures which are already in place. Amendments provided for in the Bill also facilitate changes in the fee structure of the authority and will allow the authority to appoint persons in addition to its own staff to the position of inspector. The authority will be in a position to issue a temporary licence to an applicant who is a new entrant to the industry for a period not exceeding six months, during which the applicant can prove he or she has the necessary competence to perform the security services in question. The authority may in exceptional circumstances extend the temporary licence period for a further three months.

A small number of amendments were made to the Bill on Committee Stage in the Seanad. These were mainly of a technical nature, regarding definitions in the Act of 2004. Amendments were also made to section 37 of the Act of 2004, which relates to the prohibition of unlicensed security services. The effect of the amendment is to allow the Private Security Authority more flexibility in its current licensing practices. A further amendment was made to section 48 of the Act of 2004 to allow for the possibility of costs and expenses to be awarded to the Private Security Authority in cases prosecuted by the authority. There is currently no express jurisdiction to award costs, and the amendment rectifies this situation.

Part 5 introduces a new provision in licensing laws. Section 16 provides for the preparation and publication of codes of practice for the purpose of setting standards for the display, sale, supply, advertising, promotion or marketing of intoxicating liquor. Such codes are intended as a practical mechanism for promoting compliance with the licensing laws by licensees. They are not intended and will not operate as an alternative to Garda enforcement. Nevertheless, while breach of a code will not be an offence, it will constitute a ground on which an objection can be lodged by the Garda to renewal of the licensee's licence. It will then be a matter for the court to decide under what conditions the licence will be renewed.

In the Seanad, I expressed regret that the vintners' bodies had withdrawn their support recently from an existing MEAS, mature enjoyment of alcohol in society, code which is designed to ensure alcohol is promoted and sold in a socially responsible manner. I expect both organisations to participate in the preparation of future codes in this sector and to support their implementation. There is scope for using the code of practice mechanism to deal with aspects of licensing law which are difficult to specify in legislation.

For example, it can be difficult to define aspects of marketing or promotional activities in a sufficiently watertight and comprehensive manner to restrict or prohibit them. However, practices which generally tend to lead to excessive alcohol consumption could be addressed under an appropriate code. Staff training is recognised as another important area. Moreover, it can be difficult to specify comprehensive standards in legislation. Incorporating such standards in a code could provide a more practical and flexible way of dealing with the matter.

Part 6 provides for several amendments to the Equality Acts which are intended to improve the efficiency of the Equality Tribunal in handling complaints and also to take into account legal decisions at both national and EU level. The amendments provide that the tribunal may, where appropriate and where neither the complainant nor the respondents object, deal with cases on the basis of written submissions alone; the tribunal may state a case to the High Court and avoid further litigation by way of appeal; situations where mediation has failed, the deadline for application for resumption of the hearing is extended; and the maximum amount that may be awarded in employment equality cases is increased to two years' remuneration or €40,000, whichever is greater, to provide for greater redress in situations of low-paid employment. This is designed to align the text of national law more closely with EU equality directives.

Several drafting and technical amendments were made to Part 6 during the Seanad Stages to improve the text. It may be necessary to make further technical amendments in this House.

The most critical change proposed in Part 7 is the replacement of section 85 of the Bankruptcy Act 1988. The period for application to the court for discharge of bankrupt persons is reduced from 12 years to five years. Discharge does remain subject to the existing conditions which are payment in full of all expenses, fees and costs of the bankruptcy, as well as all preferential payments primarily to the Revenue Commissioners and to former employees. The costs and preferential debts involved may amount to quite large sums. In a good number of cases the debtor will be unable to meet these amounts at any stage and so may remain bankrupt for some time. The amendment, however, will give some a chance to recover and to begin anew.

Another change to section 85 is that it will provide, for the first time in law, for the automatic discharge of bankruptcies on the 12th anniversary of the adjudication order in those cases. This will assist in the discharge of long-term bankruptcies and will allow the official assignee in bankruptcy to bring closure to 365 so-called legacy bankruptcies that clog up the system.

While I understand there may be justifiable demands to go further in our reform at this point, I cannot accede to them in this Bill. It would be premature to do so. We must be mindful of the need to ensure the economic and financial effects of certain of the new arrangements that are in contemplation are carefully assessed to ensure all relevant issues are addressed and their impact is fully anticipated and understood.

In line with a commitment in the programme for Government, a personal insolvency Bill is in the course of being developed in my Department to provide for a new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency. The commitment under the EU-IMF programme for Ireland is to publish the Bill in the first quarter of 2012. My Department is working to meet that deadline or to be in advance of it if possible. A key objective of this legislation will be to achieve a balance, in so far as is possible, between the interests of creditors and debtors. The objective also will be to create a system that avoids as far as possible the need for expensive bankruptcy procedures and court involvement.

Part 8 inserts new provisions in the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976 that will empower the District Court to regard as contempt of court failure by a maintenance debtor to comply with a previous court order and to deal with it accordingly, including by means of imprisonment. The amendment makes clear that, since a civil contempt would be involved, the parties could avail of civil legal aid subject to them being otherwise eligible under the scheme of legal aid. The object is to strengthen the law on enforcement of orders of the court to pay maintenance.

It will also address difficulties which have arisen consequent on the High Court judgment in the McCann case in 2009 concerning the enforcement of orders for the recovery of civil debt. The High Court found that the Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1940 lacked several necessary safeguards in circumstances where a person is at risk of imprisonment. Following that judgment, the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 inserted a series of amendments designed to protect debtors and impose obligations on the creditor. Following a review of the operation of that Act, the provisions in the Bill are specific only to the better enforcement of maintenance orders as distinct from debt generally.

I know there are some difficulties at District Court level in enforcing maintenance orders, particularly when they are made against spouses who are self-employed and who are unwilling to make maintenance payments that they can afford to make. The attachment of earnings system is not of assistance in enforcing payments due from self-employed parents in such circumstances. Many of those working in the District Court system regard the enactment of this reform as a matter of great urgency.

I intend to bring forward a further amendment in this area on Committee Stage and repeal the arrest warrant provision in section 8(1) of the 1940 Act while retaining the section to allow it to be used for the enforcement of foreign maintenance orders. This amendment will be more in keeping with the principles outlined in the High Court judgment in the McCann case.

The Coroners Bill 2007 is before the Seanad having been restored to the Order Paper on my initiative. The Bill is in the course of being reviewed in my Department with a view, among other matters, to making it as cost-effective as possible. In the meantime, Part 9 provides for some early reform of the coroner system to provide for the amalgamation of districts in Dublin and for certain other matters in the filling of a vacancy of the office of coroner or deputy coroner.

Part 10 will provide for a flexible system of fees for citizenship applications. Part 11 is intended to remedy the situation, following the High Court ruling on 25 March 2011 in the case of Ebere Dokie v. Director of Public Prosecutions, the Irish Human Rights Commission, Ireland and the Attorney General, that section 12 of the Immigration Act 2004, dealing with the requirement to produce documents of identity, was inconsistent with the Constitution. It will also provide for a flexible system of fees for certain immigration services.

On Committee Stage I will bring forward amendments to reflect the discussions in the Seanad and permit the further development of immigration and citizenship law. I will be fulfilling a commitment given in the Seanad to amend the immigration law in respect of civil partners. This issue arises following enactment of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2010. It will place civil partners on a similar footing to married persons in the granting of a certificate of naturalisation.

I will also be introducing an amendment to give a statutory backdrop to citizenship ceremonies. These would be dedicated occasions to provide a dignified and fitting ceremony to mark the granting of Irish citizenship to those granted that privilege. Recently, I arranged a pilot citizenship ceremony in Dublin Castle which went very well. Arrangements are being made in my Department for a series of ceremonies to take place during the last week in July. It is envisaged that arrangements will be made for further such ceremonies in the weeks and months ahead. Some of these ceremonies will take place in parts of the country other than Dublin. It is anticipated that a ceremony will be held in at the Garda college in Templemore. There will also be a ceremony in Cork. My Department is working towards arranging for ceremonies to be held in other locations throughout the country that will be appropriate in the context of residents from such locations being granted citizenship.

My proposals will, for the most part, replace existing legislation which provides, in respect of a person granted citizenship in this State, that once the Minister makes a decision, the person registers with the District Court clerk and is given a date upon which to return to swear his or her fidelity to the State. However, in this regard people are often left sitting at the back of the court and are slotted in between a couple of criminal trials. Instead of the day on which such individuals are granted citizenship proving to be a memorable one, it is something which some find a great deal less than remarkable.

Parts 12 and 13 deal with the registration of property rights such as rights of way. The background to these parts is as follows. Part 8 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, which entered into operation on 1 December 2009, updated the law concerning the acquisition of easements and what are termed "profits à prendre”. The former are rights over neighbouring land — such as a right of way — while a profit is an established right to take, for example, turf or timber from land. Many of these property rights have been the subject of an express grant and are, therefore, already registered in the Land Registry. However, where the right in question results from long usage — that is, what is referred to as acquisition by “prescription” — it may never have been registered and one of the aims of the reforms in the 2009 Act was to ensure registration of such rights. Such registration will facilitate the introduction of electronic conveyancing of land.

The law concerning acquisition of easements and profits by prescription has been greatly simplified and streamlined in Part 8 of the 2009 Act. It provides that such rights may in future only be acquired by prescription on registration of a court order with the Property Registration Authority. In late 2010, however, the Law Society made a submission to the Department in which it expressed concern that in cases in which there was no conflict regarding the existence of these rights, the requirement to obtain a court order would lead to an unnecessary expense for landowners and an unnecessarily increased workload for the courts. The Government has accepted the thrust of the Law Society's submission and the main purpose of the amendments to the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and the Registration of Title Act 1964 in Parts 12 and 13 of the Bill, respectively, is to permit the Property Registration Authority to register the rights concerned, without a court order, where there is no disagreement between the parties concerning entitlement to the right concerned.

The proposed amendments will allow a landowner, who claims to be entitled to a right on the basis that the relevant requirements set out in the 2009 Act have been met, to apply to the Property Registration Authority to register that right on his or her Land Registry folio and will permit the authority to do so where a claim has been substantiated to its satisfaction. In order to be satisfied that an owner's claim has been substantiated and is not the subject of a dispute, the authority will serve notice on the relevant parties. The detailed notice and other statutory requirements will be published by me in the form of a statutory instrument. The authority will also publish practice directions for the guidance of practitioners. The amendments to the 2009 Act also extend the three-year period during which existing rights of way must be registered to 12 years — that is, from December 2012 to December 2021.

Part 14 relates to the Office of Taxing Master. This is an interim measure, pending more detailed reform of the office in line with commitments in the programme for Government and in the EU-IMF programme of financial support for Ireland. Part 14 amends the law so as to widen the qualifications for appointment as a Taxing Master. The post is currently confined to solicitors of ten years standing but will now be open to barristers and legal costs accountants. In the published Bill I had intended to reduce the existing retirement age of 70 years to 65 years. However, having regard to the debate on the issue in the Seanad, I was happy to move an amendment to the Bill on Report Stage so that it will remain at 70. The period of appointment will not exceed five years.

These modernisation measures for Taxing Masters are in keeping with recommendations of the legal costs working group and the Competition Authority and with our ongoing EU-IMF commitments to structural reform in the legal costs area. In that connection, my proposals for the legal services Bill are at a very advanced stage of development. They will provide for fundamental reform of regulation of the legal profession and of legal costs. I propose to put in place a new structure for the assessment of legal costs. It is envisaged that, ultimately, this will replace the current structure that obtains under the Taxing Master's office. The timeline for publication of those proposals is the third quarter of this year. I anticipate that the Bill should be published by the end of September.

Part 15 proposes a number of miscellaneous improvements of the civil law. The Bill amends the Domestic Violence Act 1996 so that a parent may now apply for a safety order against the other parent of their child, even where the parents do not live together and may never have lived together. This will ensure that the full protection of the law will be available where access to a child is an occasion of intimidation or even violence between disputing parents. Other amendments to the Domestic Violence Act mean that the protections of the Act are available on the same basis to unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples who have not registered a civil partnership. In addition, couples will no longer be required to have lived together for a minimum period before one of them can obtain a safety order. In line with a commitment in the programme for Government, I have asked my Department to develop proposals for a stand-alone Bill to amend the law further in respect of domestic violence. It is intended that the latter will consolidate our domestic violence legislation into one Act of the Oireachtas.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 is amended in Part 15 so that it applies to any applicable limitation period including the limitation periods set under the Civil Liability Act 1961. The amendment will also provide that the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act shall not apply to a civil action involving personal injuries sustained by a person on board a vessel at sea or a passenger on board an aircraft operated by or on behalf of an air carrier. I have included the amendments in the Bill at the request of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton.

Section 7 of the Official Languages Act 2003, which came into effect in July 2006, provides for the printing and publication of Acts of the Oireachtas in both official languages simultaneously. The amendment in section 46 in Part 15 of the Bill will allow the publication in one official language only in electronic format of Acts of the Oireachtas in advance of their printing and publication in both official languages. I emphasise that this will merely provide for the initial publication in electronic format in one of the official languages. This will ensure that a version of the Act will be available to the public pending the official translation. The practical reality is that translations take a few weeks, and sometimes longer, to publish.

I assure the House that there is no intention to cease publishing legislation in both official languages. This matter seemed to give rise to some confusion in the Seanad. The difficulty which arises at present is that essentially we enact legislation through English and that the amendments tabled are in English. When the legislative process is completed, the final version of the Bill, as amended on Report Stage and signed by the President, can neither be printed nor made available in an electronic version until the translation has been effected. This can mean that those who may find themselves being prosecuted under the criminal law and who need to obtain immediate access to information as to the content of an Act on the day after the President has signed it, cannot access the final version of such legislation. That is simply not acceptable. It is necessary, therefore, to ensure that legislation be made available in electronic form immediately following its enactment. As is currently the case, legislation will continue to be printed and published in both official languages.

The importance of this can be seen in the context of particular provisions contained in the Bill. I refer to the new provisions relating to the making of safety orders to the benefit of individuals in cases where there is domestic violence in circumstances such as those which I have already outlined.

Following the enactment of this Bill if, in circumstances where the parties have never lived together, a father intimidates and threatens the mother of his child and the mother seeks protection, the Bill will, for the first time, allow the mother seek a safety order. It would be unacceptable to leave a mother or lawyers representing that mother unaware for some weeks following the passage of the Bill of the final format of that section.

We need to address the situation so that immediately upon completion of the legislative process, legislation can be made available to the public in an electronic format. The amendment will help avoid the risk of a challenge from somebody whose rights are affected by a piece of legislation which is not readily accessible. It will also ensure that all interested persons will have access to an official text of an Act as soon as it is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. I have included this amendment in the Bill at the request of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan.

We had some heated discussion on this matter in the Seanad. However, I reiterate that this is an amendment of a technical nature which simply allows for publication in an electronic form of legislation as soon as it has been signed by the President, in order to provide instant accessibility to what the legislation contains. I should mention that the previous Government had made the decision that it was necessary to introduce this provision in the law and it was being prepared to be included in the smaller Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that my predecessor published in 2010. The proposal has also benefited from the advice of the Attorney General and the previous Attorney General, neither of whom believed there was a constitutional difficulty of any nature and both of whom believe there is a need to enact this particular provision.

Part 15 also makes amendments to the Second Schedule of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 so as to make provision for a number of functions to be undertaken by county registrars, with a view to optimising resources and value for money. The amendments will empower registrars to waive notice periods for intention to marry or enter a civil partnership; make orders in certain circumstances relating to notice of applications to appoint a care representative for persons lacking mental capacity, a function which was conferred on them under section 22 of the Nursing Home Support Scheme Act 2009; enlarge or abridge the time for service of documents or doing any act; and make an order enabling the title to land to pass from a deceased owner to a successor in title.

Inevitably, for a Bill of this kind the addition of some further measures is being contemplated. These will be small in number and if ready in time, I may seek further co-operation from the House for their inclusion. These will, if possible, concern the transfer of responsibility for the provision of legal aid for persons involved with a mental health tribunal to the Legal Aid Board, measures that will help the Legal Aid Board to promote mediation, procedures with regard to the disposal of documentation following a tribunal, certain improvements and efficiencies in courts procedures, improvements to the provisions governing the appeals board of the Private Security Authority, immigration, other amendments to equality legislation, and a number of other minor amendments.

In the preparation of this Bill, some 40 different Acts of the Oireachtas had to be consulted. The amendments included in the Bill range across those 40 different Acts. The Bill is an attempt to address a number of urgent issues in a broad range of areas of the law and a number of areas that have required tidying up for some considerable time. I hope the Bill will have the support of the House.

I welcome the majority of the provisions of the Bill and commend the Minister and his officials on its introduction. It is complex legislation as demonstrated by the range of measures covered by it. The main headline issues of the Bill concern the bankruptcy laws and the various provisions being introduced to strengthen family law. There was vigorous discussion in the Seanad on the bankruptcy issue and I will get to that later. The strengthening of family law, particularly the provisions for the enforcement of the various family law maintenance orders, is welcome. It would be improper for me not to acknowledge the Minister's record in this area over many years, in terms of introducing from this side of the House much of the ground-breaking legislation we have.

The range of issues dealt with in the Bill illustrate how important it is that such a Bill be introduced on an annual basis in order to ensure that our law is kept up to date in the many areas covered. While I recognise significant work has gone into this Bill, it is not good for legislation to have to introduce so many different provisions at one time and we would be better off to ensure that time is given next year to anticipate a further round of this legislation.

I would like to highlight some particular issues. The Irish Heart Foundation has welcomed the Bill. However, having engaged with us on some of the provisions covered in Part 3, it seeks greater clarity on the definition of a "volunteer" and the issues of good samaritans, volunteers and volunteer organisations. The Irish Heart Foundation is of the view that its many members, which include myself, could be included in this provision. The foundations seeks clarification on what authorisation a volunteer organisation needs and what this means for the liability of individuals who are trained as first responders by the foundation or any other organisation. It also has some recommendations to make on the definitions. Perhaps the Minister can reflect on these issues. Since the death of Cormac McAnallen, a range of organisations has become involved with defibrillators and this whole area. Many of these people are trained, but we do not know to what standards and many of them present themselves when a difficult situation arises. I suggest we should look to the advice of the Irish Heart Foundation and any other advice the Minister has received on this issue.

The foundation also seeks tighter definitions with regard to the concepts of "damage" and "gross negligence" and with regard to the responsibilities of those who transport people from the scene of an emergency to a place where they can receive medical care. I do not wish to reopen previous debates, but I suggest this will be a significant issue over the next couple of years. I assume the foundation has communicated directly with the Minister on the range of issues on which it has concerns and would appreciate some clarification from the Minister in that regard.

Section 5 relates to the issue of intoxicating liquor and I read somewhere that the Minister intends to look at this area in its totality. The figures produced by the Health Promotion Agency today show that we have a serious problem with intoxicating liquor in this State. The scary fact is that the problem affects an increasingly younger age group. I am aware the Minister criticised the vintners on the suspension of their involvement with MEAS, but the problem goes well beyond the vintners. I believe the problem lies at supermarket level and to a lesser extent off-licence level. Supermarkets, in particular the multiples, have ridiculous offers on beers, spirits and many other alcoholic drinks. The social media also promotes drinking parties in car parks and people are continually encouraged to buy drink. To make no bones about it, alcohol is being sold in many of our major supermarkets at below-cost level. This is hidden and the offers are dressed up in various ways. There is gross negligence of the law in supermarkets and supermarket multiples throughout the country.

We must do something about this, but we may be too late because we already have a serious health issue. A code of practice is fine and is a good start, but we all know what happens with regard to codes of practice in the supermarket industry. The code is something nice that goes up in a frame inside the door, but that is it. The frame is cleaned once a week, and nobody heeds the code once it is put on the wall. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, is here wearing her justice hat, but perhaps she should put on her health hat. As a Parliament, it is urgent that we address the issues of under age drinking and the accessibility of alcohol. While the introduction of a code of practice is a beginning, there must be a far greater concentration on this issue.

I understand there were lively exchanges in the Seanad regarding the Bill's bankruptcy provisions. I am quite satisfied with the provisions, which represent a major change in the existing situation. We must allow the changes to bed down and see how they work in practice. I understand the Minister is intent on bringing forward proposals as part of the bailout agreement deal with the EU and IMF which will incorporate this and associated issues. Perhaps this matter can be revisited early next year as part of that broader review. While there is a need to change the law, there is no sense in weakening it to the extent that it becomes ineffective. Bankruptcy should not assume the status of a code of honour or become like a tattoo. It has to mean something and must be a strong enough sanction. The Minister's proposals in this regard in Part 7 are satisfactory.

I have spoken about the Minister's track record in respect of the proposals in Part 8 which seek to allow greater access to legal aid. We had a brief discussion on this matter at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and I welcomed the tone of the Minister's proposals on that occasion. They are as relevant to this section as they were to our previous discussion. Unfortunately, even though we are changing the law, many people may not be able to access legal aid simply because the resources are not there. This is in no small part due to aid being granted to people who should not receive it. As I recall, the Minister referred to resources of "unknown background".

I referred to resources "of uncertain origin".

Yes. Every Member is aware of people with resources "of uncertain origin". This is an area to which we will have to return.

The Minister referred to his intention to introduce a Bill to reform the coroners service. It is important that the legislation be brought forward as soon as possible to accommodate the changes that have taken place in this area in recent years. Technology has moved on, for example, and public interest in the role of coroners and the nature of their work has increased through the intervention of television. In addition, in the case of unexpected and unexplained deaths, families are increasingly seeking the services of coroners to present a case. This has arisen recently in respect of several road traffic accidents. The legislation must be brought up to date with the demands now being placed on the coroners service. The entire system must be examined to determine whether it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. In that context, the provisions in the Bill are welcome.

The Minister will know from his professional and political experience that any changes to land law do not always work out as one hopes they will. Nevertheless, I welcome the thrust of the proposals in this area. On the issue of the serving of notice, the Minister referred to "relevant parties". Land may fall into use of a neighbour when its owner has been gone from the area for a long time or when an elderly person dies and family members do not know they have a right to his or her land. The Property Registration Authority, for all its benefits, cannot be in charge of everything. What provisions are in place to ensure we do not have land grabbing or land stealing? The Minister referred particularly to turf. The issue of commonage, and common bog in particular, is already a fraught area without opening up further issues. Will the Minister clarify what protections are in place under Parts 12 and 13 to ensure land is not taken, whether with good intentions or otherwise, and that people are not deprived of their land rights? Again, this is an area that will require further consideration.

On Part 15, it is ironic that, on the day the President of the European Parliament is visiting us, the House is considering a proposal that would serve to diminish the status of the Irish language. The Minister has outlined the legal and constitutional reasons for the provisions in section 46 but their effect will be to send a signal that we are willing to countenance a diminution of the standing of the Irish language in our legislation. That is the wrong signal. I was not aware that the previous Government had considered introducing this proposal. I assure the Minister that if it had come before the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party it would have had to be reconsidered. It is difficult to comprehend that this provision was put forward by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In any case, the proposal is premature given that the programme for Government includes an undertaking to review the relevance of the Official Languages Act and to examine whether its effect is in any way obstructive. Introducing this section in advance of that review is to predetermine its outcome. It sends a signal that the Government has a certain direction in mind for the review.

I acknowledge the Minister's concerns regarding barring orders and the potential impairment of people's rights. Why do we not publish the Irish translation online? We have enough translators about the place and it is far easier to publish content as Gaeilge online than to print it. It should be made available online in both Irish and English so that nobody can justifiably say they did not have access to information. In advance of Committee Stage on Thursday morning, I ask the Minister to consider withdrawing this proposal in advance of the review of the Official Languages Act. Many people in this House and outside it campaigned to have Irish recognised as an official working language of the European Union. It sends entirely the wrong signal if Oireachtas na hÉireann says it is happy to reduce that status. As sure as night follows day, if the provisions in Part 15 come into law, they will be included in every Bill coming before the House. Every Department will take it as a green light to diminish the status of Irish. Let us put the red light back on ahead of the review of the official languages legislation.

In general, I welcome the provisions of the Bill, notwithstanding that more comprehensive legislation will be required in many of the areas covered in the next four years. Legislative provision regarding intoxicating liquor is of particular urgency. Health statistics released this morning show clearly the damage caused to society and to the health system by alcohol abuse. The Government and the entire parliamentary system needs to wake up in this regard. We must send out a very strong message on alcohol abuse. Let these provisions be the first of many to strengthen the legislation in this area with a view to clamping down on the abuse of alcohol in our society.

My first experience of a miscellaneous provisions Bill was something of an eye-opener. The Bill refers to an extensive range of content, incorporating more than 40 Acts. While many of the provisions are straightforward and some serve merely to bring clarity to existing legislation, the Bill nevertheless presented a significant amount work to get through in a short timeframe. The Bill was passed by the Seanad only last Thursday, was printed on Friday and we are debating Second Stage today and Committee Stage on Thursday. That presented time pressures in analysing the proposals and drafting amendments. Having said that, I understand why legislation is presented in this way. It is a good idea to deal with so many legislative provisions at once and to tidy up where necessary.

However, my concern in dealing with such wide-ranging legislation is the ability to reach a consensus. We have seen that in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011, especially with the changes to the Official Languages Act. The broader the range of the Bill, the greater the possibilities that Members will disagree on its contents. I ask the Minister to consider limiting the number of Acts that will be covered in miscellaneous Bills as I feel that would lend itself to gaining consensus, especially when aspects of the Bill are urgent. Those parts of the Bill would have an easier passage if their number was confined.

Having said that, I welcome Part 2, which relates to civil legal aid. As Deputy Calleary has pointed out, we had a good discussion in the committee on the role of the Legal Aid Board and came up with improvements that we believe can be implemented. I welcome this provision and commend the Minister for bringing it forward at such an early stage during this session.

Human trafficking is a major concern to Deputies. The Garda Síochána has identified it as one of its priorities in its annual policing plan. The Garda has made some moves to address the problem by establishing a human trafficking investigation and co-ordination unit in the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The proposal to extend the Civil Legal Aid Act to victims of human trafficking is a step in the right direction. While recognising that, in an ideal world one would like to see more substantive provisions beyond providing legal advice and to extend it to cover the issue of legal representation. The Immigration Council of Ireland and FLAC have expressed this as well. However, in the context of the debate in the committee this morning, I am also a realist. The Legal Aid Board is stretched to its limits and given the current economic situation, that is not surprising. While resources are stretched and budgets are being cut, it is important that we continually review this matter. The Minister suggested bringing forward more comprehensive legislation. When we come to do that, I ask him to consider legal representation for these people.

I welcome Part 3, which addresses the recommendations of the 2009 report from the Law Reform Commission which called for clarity about negligences arising from acts of good samaritans and putting the voluntary organisations on a statutory footing. In these tough economic times, the role of the volunteer comes into sharp focus. The contribution of volunteers to society cannot be under-estimated and one cannot put a value on it. Deputy Calleary referred to some of the concerns of the Irish Heart Foundation which I hope the Minister will take on board between now and Thursday and if that is not possible, I hope we can look at the recommendations before Report Stage to see if they can be included. The Irish Heart Foundation made some good observations that would be worth including.

We also have seen how individuals contribute to society. Over the cold snap last winter we saw how individuals tried to play their part by salting the footpath outside their homes. I understand that the Bill will not cover individuals and if that is the case, drafting legislation to deal with individuals rather than voluntary organisation will take time but we should focus on it, because we need to provide protection for individuals who believe from the goodness of their heart they are doing the right thing. The Minister made a commitment during the debate in the Seanad to look at this area.

I will not dwell on Part 4, but I welcome it. Part 5 deals with intoxicating liquor and the culture of drink in the country. The report published today by the Health Research Board brought this into sharp focus. It shows an increase in the number of alcohol related deaths. While many people in the drinks industry are very responsible, a few will buck the trend and use the opportunity to make a fast buck. They are less than responsible in how they market their products. The Intoxicating Liquor Act introduced penalties for those who sell alcohol to underage people as well as other progressive measure. However, enforcement remains the issue. One only has to sit outside certain supermarkets or off licences in the community on a Friday, Saturday or on any night to see the evidence of the failure of enforcement. That is no fault of the Garda Síochána because its resources are stretched. An issue that must be addressed is how we enforce the legislation that is passed through the House.

It is important to state that alcohol of itself is not the problem but the abuse of alcohol causes problems. I am a non-drinker but one has only to read the court pages of the local newspaper to see the damaging impact of alcohol on society. Cases come before the courts where alcohol consumption is put forward as a defence . The scale of this is frightening because in almost every case that comes forward, drink or drugs are cited as a mitigating factor. While personal responsibility is important, we must also ensure that those selling drink act in good faith. We need properly trained staff, responsible advertising and marketing as all of these factors have a role to play in addressing the issue of alcohol abuse. Stricter Government regulation is needed in regard to this and that is the reason I welcome this provision.

There is no doubt that alcohol advertising and marketing can be a very powerful tool and whether we like it or not, it has the ability to shape attitudes, especially the attitudes of young people. It plays a determining role in the lives of impressionable young people where alcohol advertising and marketing can be a factor in the decision to begin drinking. It even goes beyond that as it has the ability to influence their drinking habits. It is an area where we need much more work to be done. I have no hesitation in supporting this Part as the codes of practice on how we sell, display, market and promote alcohol will help.

Part 6 includes some technical amendments to the Equality Act, which are very welcome, and Part 7 deals with bankruptcies, probably the part of the Bill which has received most media attention outside the House. That is no surprise, given the current economic situation and the number of people who are struggling with personal debt. The Department is currently considering comprehensive legislation on personal insolvency for early next year. What is contained in this Bill is more of a stop-gap measure, nevertheless it is very welcome because every bit helps.

From reading the transcripts on the Seanad debate on the Bill much discussion centred on the timeframe, whether it should be three or five years or whatever. Whatever the timeframe, it will be less than what it is, so that will be a help. We will probably give it more consideration when we are drafting the more comprehensive legislation. In the North it is one year but that is sort a timeframe. A timeframe should be put in place and whether it is three or five years is something that can be debated when drafting the new comprehensive Bill.

I welcome Part 8, which is long overdue. It will go a long way to improving the personal circumstances of those who are the beneficiaries of maintenance orders. If someone is in receipt of a maintenance order and it is not paid, there are direct consequences for the individual. More often than not, it has direct consequences on children. If someone fails to pay a maintenance order, the person relying on this to put food on the table and pay bills suffers in very real terms and very quickly. It is not something we can tolerate or that should be happening. When a maintenance payment does not come through, the individual will go to the local welfare officer but the local welfare officer is not in a position to help because a maintenance order is in place. We need further consideration of the situation.

The amendment empowers the District Court to regard as contempt of court failure by any individual to pay a maintenance order, which will result in the issuing of a summons forcing the person to appear before the District Court. If the judge is satisfied the failure to pay the maintenance order is not the fault of the debtor or is down to a genuine inability to pay, the judge has the ability to change the maintenance order. That is important because imprisonment for failure to pay should be a last resort. No one wins in that situation. The most important thing is that the person relying on a maintenance payment receives the money. Imprisonment is a last resort. The ability to change the maintenance order at the hearing can help.

The Minister and I are not close in terms of our views on the subject of immigration. We come from different parts of the political spectrum in that regard. The amendment proposed by the Minister addresses section 12 of the Immigration Act, following the outcome of the recent High Court case, Dokie v. DPP. I welcomed that judgment because section 12 of the Immigration Act is a repressive measure and discriminates against people. I would prefer if it was discarded. Some will argue that section 12 is designed as an immigration control mechanism but the reality is that it discriminates against people who may have a different accent, look different or have a different ethnic background. Irish citizens are not required by law to carry identification cards, yet immigration legislation states that non-nationals must present identification on demand. How does a garda or an immigration officer determine who to ask for an identification card? It leads to racial profiling, which is why I would prefer to see it abandoned rather than on our Statute Book. We should not have included it in this legislation.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which has been kicked from pillar to post by all parties in the Chamber, was reinstated on Committee Stage when the Minister took office. It is high time we had a robust debate on immigration laws in this State. The opportunity exists through the reinstatement of this Bill on Committee Stage and I hope we can debate it after the summer recess as a matter of priority.

I welcome the amendment to this section proposed by the Minister. During the debate on the Finance (No. 3) Bill, I referred to the need to update our immigration legislation to take account of civil partnerships. I welcome the legislation and the matter of citizenship ceremonies. Two weeks ago, the Minister held a ceremony and today he indicated that there will be three more in Cork, Templemore and Dublin. It is a proud moment for people when they gain citizenship. If this society does not value it, it is difficult for those people to value it even though they do. We should make a big deal about it and I welcome the amendment concerning the ceremony, which will help.

I also welcome the proposal regarding county registrars because it will increase efficiency and save costs. We can assign some of the functions currently assigned to the courts to county registrars.

I welcome Part 15 concerning domestic violence. This takes into account the provisions of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act. Abuse is not confined to opposite sex relationships. It is important to place this measure on a statutory footing. One of the sections of society most vulnerable to domestic abuse is women who have children by men to whom they were not married and with whom they never lived. I welcome the provisions proposed in this Bill. The Minister spoke of more comprehensive legislation to bring together all aspects in this area into one Bill. I look forward to it.

It will come as no surprise that my final comments concern the Official Languages Act. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not pay enough attention in school and, unlike other Deputies, I am not fluent in Irish. Nevertheless, I am proud of the Irish language. My children are taught in gaelscoileanna and I hope they pay more attention than I did and that they are fluent.

Our language sets us apart from every other nation and is our one unique characteristic. We need to protect and foster it at all times and that is one of the reasons why I was disappointed at the inclusion of this part of the Bill. When dealing with a miscellaneous provisions Bill, which is so broad, it is inevitable there will be one or two sections that do not secure the unanimous backing of the House. The Minister must realise that proposing this would cause a division in the House. Perhaps I am underestimating the situation.

Given the grá many Members have for the Irish language, apart from the immigration provision this provision was always going to be the one that proved divisive. We will table an amendment on Committee Stage for this section to be deleted. I ask the Minister to seriously consider it because, as pointed out by Deputy Calleary, there is a commitment in the programme for Government to review this Act. Proposed changes should be made in that Bill rather than tacking them onto a miscellaneous provisions Bill. This does not do justice to the Bill or to the issue of the Irish language. I hope the Minister will consider this point over the next day or two, and withdraw the section or consider supporting one of the amendments to it.

I was as shocked as Deputy Calleary to find out that the Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht has asked for this to be included. Sometimes one has to wonder about these matters. I ask the Minister to examine that Part because he may be surprised to find out that he will get much more support for the Bill as it progresses.

Before concluding I wish to refer to the financial memorandum accompanying the Bill. It states that the proposals contained in the Bill are not expected to give any rise in significant costs to the Exchequer. It further states that there is a possibility that there could be a saving to the taxpayer as proposals in regard to the Coroners Act should give rise to cost savings and efficiencies following the amalgamation of the separate Coroner districts in Dublin.

I raised previously on the Order of Business the position regarding the previous Fines Bill because we brought in legislation but did not put the resources in place to allow people to pay by instalment. I do not know how the financial impacts are done when legislation is being drafted and therefore the Minister will forgive me if I am not too familiar with it but I can see, particularly in this legislation which is broad, a number of areas where there might be financial consequences, for instance, the changes in the family law section in respect of maintenance orders. I do not know how we can quantify the number of people who may end up going to prison as a result of that change. I do not know how we can quantify in financial terms the impact of the changes in regard to the PSA and the Equality Authority. I am not raising concerns but would like some clarification in terms of the financial memorandum that accompanies the Bill.

We intend to submit some amendments for Committee Stage which we look forward to debating on Thursday.

I call Deputy Clare Daly who I understand is sharing time.

I am sharing time with Deputies Halligan, Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins and Mattie McGrath.

Like the other speakers I believe this Bill represents a tidying up of a diverse range of areas, many of which are welcome and non-controversial but a number of which do not go far enough and represent somewhat of a lost opportunity. I will comment on a number of those.

The first is the area of human trafficking which has not been sufficiently dealt with by the State in the past. I am not in the habit of quoting from United States State Department reports but I will break with tradition now. It is an indictment of our dealings in this area that Ireland has been cited by the US State Department as having a very poor role in dealing with this area because while we are ranked as a tier 1 country, which means we recognise human trafficking, we only meet minimum standards and have serious flaws in terms of how we deal with this issue. We have formally identified only five people as victims of trafficking in the past year, despite the State identifying potentially 78 people in that category. It is a poor reflection on us that only one person was prosecuted in the past year for sex trafficking offences in Ireland. The question is whether this legislation improves or disimproves that position.

While it is welcome that the victims of trafficking are getting a chance to access legal advice in regard to the State's prosecution of traffickers, as the Immigrant Council of Ireland has stated, in not providing them with legal representation the legislation falls short of what is necessary if we are to truly deal with this scenario. The victims of trafficking are extremely vulnerable people whose status in this country is insecure and who have been through severe trauma. They need legal representation. Could we envisage a cross-examination scenario where the victim is brought to give evidence on behalf of the State against a powerful trafficker who has access to money and resources? The only representation they are allowed is in regard to questions about their past sexual history and nothing beyond that. There must be more in that regard. There must be more than a six month extension to their residency as well if we are to expect those people to assist the Garda to tackle trafficking.

The other aspect is the issue of the changes to the Immigration Act. As Deputy O'Brien stated, this has been brought about as a result of the High Court case regarding the Garda being allowed to demand identification on the flimsiest of grounds where non-Irish nationals face prosecution if they fail to produce identification with what was called a satisfactory explanation, but that is open to abuse and to racial profiling. They did not even have to suspect the person of committing a crime. If they had different coloured skin or a different accent and they did not look Irish they could be stopped. It is not an insignificant matter given that almost 300 people were convicted for failure to produce their identification in 2008.

In any legislative position a law must be clear, particularly if the activity is to be criminalised. The distinction between replacing a satisfactory explanation with reasonable cause is not sufficient to overcome the difficulties. There will not be any difference in terms of racial screening or the tendency to stop people because they look or sound different. That is vitally important because people being stopped and questioned by the gardaí or immigration officers on the streets contributes to attitudes in that people wonder what they did and think there is something afoot. That contributes to racism. In that regard we have a responsibility to deal with this issue but and this legislation does not do that.

The other aspect which has got a great deal of focus is the issue of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a means to provide relief for creditors, where somebody is unwilling or unable to pay their debts, to ensure there is an equitable distribution of property. These are quite different scenarios because we know of many people in this society with massive bank accounts who were unwilling to pay their debts and have exited this country and taken their moneys and resources with them or signed them over to their wives. That is a different situation to that of people who are unable to pay their debts and who have struggled to attempt to do so but who clearly do not have the means to address that situation. It is the case that Ireland is severely out of kilter with our European neighbours in that regard.

I welcome the fact that the period has been reduced to five years but it is still too long. The point has been made that in Britain the period is one year. We should look in that direction because, sadly, there is an increasing number of small business people and individuals whose level of over-indebtedness has been used to put them into a position of potential bankruptcy.

In regard to the need to protect the family home in particular, we must examine legislation in a more coherent way. There is a distinction but we must address that. It is a step in the right direction but there is a basis for going further with it.

While I broadly welcome the Bill, I will comment on some aspects of it. Part 2 will amend the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and enable the Legal Aid Board provide legal advice to victims of human trafficking. While I welcome the extension of legal aid I do not believe the measure goes far enough as it does not extend the right of representation in court to those victims. These are the most vulnerable women imaginable. They were brought out of their own country on the pretence of having a better life here and then subjected to brutality and enslavement.

There are two groups operating in this area. The first, Turn Off the Red Light, opposes all forms of prostitution and from which we have had representation while in the case of the second, Turn Off the Blue Light, I have met its representatives who believe in legalised prostitution in a managed way. Both agree, however, that very many women who are enslaved in the country are brutalised because of human trafficking.

A report from the Immigration Council of Ireland states that between 2007 and September 2008, 102 women were identified by ten services throughout the country as having being trafficked through or into Ireland. These women were aware of a substantial number of other women who were trafficked into Ireland. The Council of Europe stated this phenomenon has reached unprecedented levels in Europe. The level in Ireland must be the same as in the rest of Europe.

According to the free legal advice centres, the bulk of assistance offered is confined to the limited crime of trafficking. As said by the previous speaker, very few people in Ireland are identified formally in this regard. Although all the statistics show that very many women are brought into the country, very few people are charged. Legal aid is available only in respect of matters connected to the commission of the trafficking offence or any other offence connected to the alleged trafficking offence. Thus, it does not appear to cover assistance or representation, as necessary, to help victims with immigration or domestic problems, or with seeking compensation from the wrongdoer. A woman who has been trafficked and who wants to take the trafficker to court has no legal representation. She is, therefore, hardly likely to proceed to court in the first instance. This is fundamentally wrong. We should amend the legislation in this regard. We should think about this matter very carefully before we vote on the Bill.

We are not doing much to help affected women if we cannot afford to them the opportunity to identify and take to court the people responsible for trafficking them. Under the Bill as it stands, such women do not receive legal representation in court, only legal advice. An amendment is necessary to allow the Legal Aid Board to provide representation for a victim of human trafficking at the criminal trial of the accused. The legislation needs to be amended to include representation for victims of the sex trade who do not fall within the narrow definition of "trafficking". We do not know what is defined and what is not.

It is essential that those who are identified as victims be given access to a panel of immigration advisers who specialise in trafficking cases. They are not at present. Obtaining legal advice should not involve a lottery. If we are to do something for the affected women, we should pull out all the stops. We should not pledge half measures to protect the women. The women are very vulnerable and some of those under 16 were forced into the country. We need to do all we can to deal with this issue. One way to do so is to speak to the women. If they bring the alleged traffickers to court, they need all the help they can get from the State. I urge the Minister to consider this, go further and give full legal representation to women who feel strong and willing enough to go to court.

Part 5 provides for the creation of codes of practice for the sale and marketing of alcohol. According to the proposal, if the holders of alcohol licences fail to act responsibly, they could face an objection at the time of the renewal of those licences. It would then be up to the courts to decide whether to renew them. This has occurred a number of occasions. I welcome the fact that new legislation gives legal recognition to the code of practice for the sale and marketing of alcohol for the first time. However, it is a grave mistake on the part of the Government not to include a statutory code on responsible drinking.

I was disappointed to learn that the two main vintners' organisations withdrew their support from the mature enjoyment of alcohol initiative promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol at a time when public concern over excessive alcohol consumption remains high. I do not need to remind the Minister that a large number of public order offences are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The vintners and publicans need to be reminded that compliance with the licensing laws is not optional. It is important that the alcohol industry meet its responsibility and accept there is a problem with alcoholism.

One need only be on any street on any Thursday, Friday or Sunday night to note that publicans or licensed vintners take no responsibility in that they force alcohol into people and give them as much as they like. The consumers come out of licensed premises onto the streets and sometimes engage in anti-social behaviour or commit public order offences. The publicans are not held responsible for this. It is all well and good to hold to account the person who commits the crime but the licensed vintners and publicans must also take responsibility. I agree that a person full of drink who wants to create chaos in his estate or on his way home should be held to account but licensed vintners and publicans must take responsibility if they are giving alcohol to people who are already intoxicated when they enter their premises. Nobody should tell me this is not happening because it is.

I urge the Minister to consider my points on legal advice for victims of human trafficking and on Part 5. He should make the alterations I suggest; his doing so would help me to support the Bill.

I agree with those speakers who said this Bill is dotting the i's and crossing the t's but believe it has potential to go a little further in regard to some of the issues that arise.

There are two issues I wish to raise, both of which relate to homeowners in arrears with their mortgages who face the repossession of their homes and bankruptcy. There have been 106 repossessions this year alone. Over 200,000 homeowners are in serious arrears of three to six months. None of these people is entitled to free legal advice or aid. They face the brutality of being taken to the High Court, particularly by the sub-prime mortgage lenders. The people have no financial assistance to allow them to obtain a barrister or solicitor, which could cost €10,000 or more. They are already in arrears of €40,000 to €60,000 and face a High Court judge.

This Bill presents an opportunity to address this problem and I will table an amendment with this in mind. I hope I obtain the support of the Minister because the issue will become very serious. People cannot afford legal costs and are entering the courts undefended. They face big companies with money and power and they feel very distraught and distressed, which in some circumstances leads to suicidal tendencies. These emotions were very much reflected at a convention we were able to organise and assist with a week and a half ago on the Naas Road. People facing repossession and eviction met and told stories about their experiences and the cases they face in court.

Having no legal advice or representation puts one in an impossible position. There is effectively no defence against a claim of the bank or the loan sharks. It is for these reasons that the group New Beginning has provided some legal advice and representation free of charge. One has a right to legal defence and it should be provided by the State. A simple amendment would suffice to achieve this.

With regard to the bankruptcy laws, the bankruptcy term should be reduced to five years, particularly in respect of one's principal residence. I do not refer to people with 20 homes or 200 apartments. One should never face bankruptcy in respect of one's principal family home. A constituent of mine who had a small business and remortgaged his home to cover his debts lost his job and was evicted from his home with his young family. He was then advised to seek the protection of the courts through bankruptcy. He is 38 years of age and now faces 12 years in which he will not be able to get a job or earn over a certain amount. He cannot get on with his life. If the bankruptcy period were reduced to five years, it would be a step forward but bankruptcy legislation should not apply to the principal family home or small businesses.

Those who are declared bankrupt face dire circumstances because of the greed of the banks and developers. Deputy Clare Daly made the point that the banks and developers got away with murder. They are walking away from the problem and are putting money into their wives' accounts while people with young children are losing their family homes and being declared bankrupt in the courts.

Debate adjourned.