Companies Bill 2012: Fifth Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

This has been a gargantuan task thus far. I wish to extend my gratitude and that of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to everyone who has been involved in the process. It has been a collaborative effort. I thank the Members opposite for their role in bringing the legislation to this point. I thank the people to my right, who, to be fair to them, have done Trojan work in putting all of the Schedules together. It has been a mammoth task.

Several issues were raised by Deputy Calleary, in particular the accountancy issue. That is something we are trying to grapple with in good faith. I appeal for it to be seen in this light in terms of how the Minister, Deputy Bruton, will deal with the review. I hope we can continue in the same vein in terms of expediting this legislation as quickly as possible. I do not mean to be verbose but it is a landmark legislative project and has involved many years of detailed and comprehensive work by the officials in my Department, the Company Law Review Group and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. We extend our gratitude to everyone involved.

I join the Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, in paying tribute to everyone who has been involved in this work of 12 or 14 years. I pay tribute to all who have served on the Company Law Review Group and all the officials involved. In recent months in particular they have been remarkably helpful with briefings. I pay tribute to the predecessors of the Minister of State, many of whom saw this through, as well as to the various chairmen of the enterprise committees. I remember coming to the House in 2007. At the first meeting of the enterprise committee in 2007, Deputy Willie Penrose, who was chairing, advised us to clear our diaries for the first quarter of 2008 because the Bill would come through at that stage. I thank him and Deputy Damien English, who guided this through the committee very well.

The point I made earlier today in respect of resources is important. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is in the Chamber now. He may wish to note that this is how public service reform should be done. The resources to disseminate the requirements of this Bill need to be given to the relevant agencies because they are considerable. It is a sea change. As I said earlier, we have seen how lacunae and gaps in company law legislation have let this country down. We have put a good deal of work into ensuring that those gaps are remedied. It would be a major loss if, for the want of resources relating to information, that work went to naught. I congratulate everyone, including the Minister of State for being the person responsible for getting this legislation over the line, finally, after 12 years.

Ba mhaith liom míle buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a ghlac páirt sa tasc ollmhór seo agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire Stáit as é a bheith críochnaithe, sa Teach seo ar aon nós. The issue of modernising company law has taken in many people and many different views. It has seemed like an impossible task, looking back on it. However, it has been done by people paying attention to detail and it has taken a vast amount of effort as well.

We take the view that the Companies Bill should have been an opportunity to solve several major problems that are affecting society. I understand the Government has probably taken the view that this is separate to those problems and that those particular problems should be dealt with elsewhere. We take the view that where an opportunity exists, we should take it and ensure we fix the problem.

Some of those problems come about with regard to the lessons we have learned concerning regulation since the crash. I believe opportunities have been lost with this Bill in that regard. The robustness of the compliance statements and responsibilities have not been to our liking. Some of the unions and ICTU have indicated their concern that companies will gain more legal personality and that this may conflict in future with citizens' rights and protections.

The idea of Irish-registered non-resident companies is problematic, as is the difficult and wrong tax problem that is affecting the level of funds that comes into this State and the reputation of the State internationally. This is one of the biggest problems the State is facing with regard to loss of revenue and loss of reputation. We would have preferred to see these issues dealt with in the Bill. I have already remarked on compliance.

We took the view that there are several issues with regard to the winding up of companies. We have seen in the past 18 months especially a large number of employees who have been on the wrong side of businesses and companies which have wound up. Every day we see unscrupulous companies - they are by far in the minority but they exist none the less - which use company law to aid their efforts in reducing their exposure to fulfilling their rights to employees. We believe employees are insufficiently protected and we would prefer to have seen this reflected in the Bill. The opportunity remains for the Government to address some of these problems and we hope it will consider these and the Sinn Féin proposals in the Seanad.

I was tempted to call a vote on the Bill but it would be a little unfair. The Bill makes progress.

Deputy Wallace should say that again.

The Bill makes progress, although not as much as I would have liked-----

Deputy Wallace is correcting the record.

-----but then it is difficult to get everything one wants in life, irrespective of where one is.

Deputy Wallace is rather philosophical.

Deputy Calleary pointed out that the Bill has closed certain gaps, and it has done so, but not all of them, unfortunately. I believe it will probably be revisited in the coming years and that is perfectly doable. The race to the bottom in how we structure much of our business activities will be addressed in the coming years and I believe that changes will have to be made.

Deputy Tóibín made the point that our reputation has not really done well when it comes to how we have dealt with some of the multinationals which have invested more money in avoiding tax than anything else. This, too, will become an issue in the years ahead. There is a vast amount in the Bill, there are plenty of good things in it and I welcome it.

Question put and agreed to.