Ethical Public Investment (Tobacco) Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]

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

I am pleased to move the motion that this Bill be brought to Second Stage and that we would have a debate on it in the Chamber. I am also pleased that the Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is present to respond to it, and I understand he has an interest in this area.

That is very helpful. I look forward to the Bill passing Second Stage and ultimately moving on to Committee Stage.

People will wonder what this Bill is about and if this is an anti-smoking issue. It is not; it is a more moral issue. It is about whether the Irish people should seek to make profits out of the tobacco industry. Everybody would be unanimous in the view that we should not seek to make profits out of the tobacco industry or from investments in that industry.

The purpose of this Bill is to prohibit investment of public moneys directly or indirectly in equity debt securities issued by tobacco companies. The Bill will end once and for all the practice of the State holding investments in tobacco companies. Everyone will agree it would be immoral for the State to make a profit on the sale of cigarettes and that it should not be allowed to happen. This is a policy issue for the Oireachtas which must be addressed by the Oireachtas because legislation is required to introduce this prohibition on the investment in the tobacco industry.

This is a health issue as well as a public investment issue. The fact that smoking remains a huge cause of preventable deaths and disease in Ireland is accepted by everybody. Tobacco-related illnesses cost the State more than €1.5 billion in health care costs and loss of productivity each year. It kills 6,000 people per annum. I know that people who are vigorously campaigning to reduce the incidence of cancer in the country will support this issue. We know the high incidence of cancer among smokers. Allowing for the fact that we are doing a great deal to encourage people to stop smoking, on the other hand it is incongruous that the State should be investing in the tobacco industry to make money out of the industry.

An average of 16 people die each day from the effects of smoking, tobacco-related cancer or other illnesses. More than 81,000 hospital bed days are taken up treating people with preventable cancer arising specifically from smoking. It is an issue everybody takes seriously and I am very pleased that Ireland has a very strong tradition in this area. Many years ago, when my party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, was the Minister for Health and Children, he introduced a ban on smoking in public areas and many workplaces. That is a measure many countries throughout the world have introduced and have followed Ireland's course. I would consider the passing of this Bill an extension of long-established practice in Ireland.

I will explain the reason I am introducing this Bill. I have been Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts since last July, and I took this view when I saw something at the Committee of Public Accounts that required changing by way of a legislative measure. On 26 July 2016, the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts to deal with the normal work in respect of which they appear before the committee. Towards the end of the meeting, I specifically asked the representatives about their ethical and social responsibility policies and they wrote to me shortly afterwards stating that ethical investment and other issues focus on aligning investors' social objectives or values with their investment portfolios. They stated that they look at issues such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling and ethically compromised companies such as weapons manufacturers. We have legislation in place which prohibits investment in the cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines industry. It was introduced in 2008. This is the only line of investment from which the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and the NTMA are prohibited from investing in by law. I want to extend the legislation we introduced banning investments by the State in the cluster munitions and anti-personnel mining industry to the tobacco industry. That is the reason I am introducing this legislation in the House.

The NTMA and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund are legally obliged to get the best return for the Irish taxpayer. If there is profit to be made in an area, they cannot willy-nilly decide not to do it because they do not like it. They need a legislative framework to make such strategic decisions and sometimes that has to be backed up by primary legislation passed in this House. It is important that we give a lead in this area. I am aware there have been many other calls to limit investment in the fossil fuel and many other industries.

They are bigger, broader and have far more profound impacts on our entire quality of life and what people do, whether it is driving cars or heating homes, factories, offices and workplaces, including even a building such as this. I accept that Bills on these issues may be introduced as well, and they would merit serious consideration, but this is a niche Bill on a specific, narrow area. I think people will appreciate it should not be confused with the broader issue. It is part of a broader debate, but I think we can, in the meantime, isolate the issue of investments in tobacco and deal with it individually.

As I said, I was pleased to receive correspondence from the NTMA via the Committee of Public Accounts, in light of my questions to the NTMA's representatives last July, stating that it would examine this area. I have with me the letter I received from the NTMA on 16 September. It covers many issues, among which, as I mentioned, the fact that it was due to examine this area in light of the fact that we raised it with the NTMA's representatives in the Committee of Public Accounts. I have no doubt but that it was already in their minds. They said they were reviewing their investment policy decisions. I am very pleased they had an open mind and was also very pleased with the open response we received from them.

I also acknowledge my colleague, Senator Keith Swanick, who raised this issue in the Seanad by way of a Commencement Matter some months ago. Being a doctor, he came at the topic from a health point of view. We all come at it from that point of view, but he has a particular interest in health matters. I thank him for raising the matter in the Seanad. It is important to highlight the matter in both Houses. He made it clear:

We know from the NTMA's most recent annual report that the State held more than €7.2 million in quoted equity and debt instruments for Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and other major tobacco firms. This is incredible [but] is [a small portion] of [the] €35 million of taxpayers' money invested in the alcohol, tobacco, aerospace and defence industries.

Again, the key point I am making is that we want to isolate this investment in tobacco and I think we can do it.

I was working on the Bill over the autumn when I got the response from the NTMA. I worked on producing a Private Members' Bill towards the end of last year and sought to introduce it here last December but the Christmas break came. It was the first week of January before I got to introduce it. I was delighted to see on 21 December a press announcement that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund had sold off its stake in tobacco companies. When I came into the House to introduce the Bill, I acknowledged that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund had made the practical efforts to do so. I was very pleased that it did so and was being proactive, and it was very important that it did so. Given that the divestment is voluntary, this policy decision could be reversed by the NTMA and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund at a future date if the financial return from the industry was to change. Therefore, it is important we put into legislation what is now their policy so there will be a legislative provision in place preventing anyone with a key role in the NTMA or the Ireland Stategic Investment Fund who may not have the same view of this matter as some of us do from reinvesting in these industries at a future date. I want to make sure this can never happen. The legislation acknowledges the position as adopted and implemented by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. We are on the one track on this. We all agree with the need to divest; I just want to go that step further by copper-fastening it in legislation.

I understand the Minister of State at the Department of Finance will support the Bill. I hope he will. I will be honest and say I read the 2008 legislation banning cluster munitions, and the wording of this Bill is almost a mirror image of that Bill. I have taken out the references to armaments and cluster munitions and substituted references to the tobacco industry. I accept I am no parliamentary draughtsman, but the essence of the Bill and the way in which it has been drafted must in substance be very good because it is a mirror image of legislation the House has passed on a previous occasion, bar a few words. I took this approach in order to make the passage of the legislation through the House easier. Rather than having to break new ground by drafting new legislation, I told myself I would work on legislation that has already been approved by the Oireachtas and make the minimal changes to achieve my aims in respect of the tobacco industry, and that is what I have done. I do not know whether the Bill requires pre-legislative scrutiny. I do not know the exact procedure in that regard. If it does, well and good - I think there will be agreement on it - but it should be passed through the Houses easily. I know there is a large backlog of legislation moving from Second Stage to Committee Stage but I hope this Bill can be progressed.

I wish to make a few specific points about the Bill itself. It is very short legislation. Section 1 deals with the definitions of "investor", "Minister", "public moneys" and "tobacco companies". Section 2 deals with the duty of investors to avoid investment in tobacco companies, and this refers to the Minister for Finance and, through him, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and the National Treasury Management Agency. Section 3 deals with direct investment in a tobacco company and investments in a company which the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund may be involved in. If that company goes on ultimately to acquire an interest in the tobacco industry, after the State has purchased shares in the company, it is provided that the company must divest itself of that investment. Section 4 deals with indirect investment in the tobacco company. This is to deal with various financial products that might not directly constitute shares. We want to cover those issues in those companies as well. Section 5 deals with the same issue in the case of derivatives based on a financial index. In other words, section 5 proposes: "Nothing in this Act shall prevent an investor [as in, the Irish State] from contracting derivative financial instruments based on a financial index." Many investments will involve spreading an investment over a group of companies based on a financial index. That index may include some companies that have investments in the tobacco industry. Specifically not to make a provision for investment on a financial index might inadvertently prevent the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund investing in a financial index in which it might otherwise wish to invest, so it is important that we allow that to happen. However, this is really to stop specific investment in those companies. Finally, section 6 is the Short Title and commencement, and the idea is that whenever the Bill might pass through the Oireachtas, the Minister would then introduce a commencement date.

I commend the Bill to the House and I hope it will receive support across all parties and Deputies in the House and that it will progress through Committee Stage and pass through the Oireachtas fully this coming year.

I thank Deputy Fleming for introducing this Bill and note its progress through First Stage on 19 January. He made reference to my own interests in this regard. The first Bill I introduced as a backbencher in the previous Dáil was very similar to this legislation. It concerned investment policy for our National Pensions Reserve Fund, as it was at the time, and divesting from investments held at the time in nuclear weapon development companies and delivery vehicles for such devices. It never made it to a Second Stage reading, unfortunately, and did not make it to Committee Stage as a result. It is important we have the Second Stage reading of this Bill, get it to Committee Stage and get to iron out some of the issues we have with the Bill. However, these are minor in so far as the general intent of the Bill is concerned.

The intention behind the Bill is well understood by both me and the Minister for Finance and colleagues in government, including the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and the Minister of State with responsibility for health promotion, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy. The Government considered the Bill at its meeting on Tuesday, 28 March. In doing so, the Government constructively engaged with the issues raised, in accordance with its responsibility to address and evaluate proposed legislation, irrespective of whether initiated by Government or by a Private Member, as is the case here. The introduction of this Bill is useful in that it allows the Oireachtas to have a constructive discussion on how such an important cross-cutting issue as ethical investment can be accomplished in the context of existing Government policy on tobacco control.

As I have said, the Government fully understands the intention behind the Bill and I commend Deputy Fleming on his work in preparing and introducing it.

The Government has agreed that the best approach is not to oppose a Second Reading of this Bill as it agrees with the principle behind it. Notwithstanding this, there are several uncertainties regarding the Bill's scope and detailed provisions, many of which appear to arise from the drafting of the Bill. Of course, subject to the Bill progressing, I hope that Committee Stage will afford an opportunity to address and resolve these matters. In this regard that I reaffirm the Government's commitment to work with the Deputy and other interested Members of the Oireachtas, in order to agree the best way to implement the provisions of the Bill.

I am happy to say that this Bill is in line with current Government policy on public health and tobacco control. A Programme for a Partnership Government commits the Government to making several public health interventions, one being to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025 which, in effect, would mean that less than 5% of our population would be smokers. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland has gained a significant international reputation as a tobacco control leader in recent years and is ranked second out of 34 European countries in this regard. Ireland has implemented a wide range of progressive tobacco control policies, the most recent being the signature this week, by the Minister of Health and Minister of State with responsibility for health promotion, of a commencement order which will facilitate legislation for the standardised packaging of tobacco to come into force in September 2017. This is a further progressive step taken by Government in the important area of tobacco control. These measures are important, given that smoking is a significant cause of ill-health in Ireland, and the measures are having a real impact.

The publication of this Bill also follows some important recent developments such as the divestment by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, of its tobacco holdings in December last year. Having taken all of these matters into account, the Government, at its meeting this week, took the decision not to oppose the Bill.

In his contribution on First Stage, the Deputy referred to certain tobacco investments held by ISIF and indicated that the purpose of this Bill is to prohibit such investments. As he will be aware, in December 2016 ISIF divested itself of these investments. The National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, chief executive, Mr. Conor O'Kelly, informed the Minister for Finance that, following a review of its tobacco investments, the NTMA's investment committee had taken a decision to divest all tobacco investments. The letter from Mr Conor O'Kelly was lodged in the library of the Houses of the Oireachtas, for the information of members of the Oireachtas, on 21 December 2016.

The divestment related to all tobacco manufacturing debt and equity holdings. As part of this divestment, managers were instructed not to invest in such companies. The updated position of ISIF investments will be reflected in the NTMA's annual report which is due to be published during the second quarter of 2017. In light of this, I accept that the purpose of the Deputy's Bill is not, primarily, to prohibit such ISIF investments, given its divestment decision, but to instead prohibit the, admittedly unlikely, potential reinvestment by ISIF in tobacco companies. This is acceptable, but should be considered in the context of the concerns that I will outline shortly about a potential small level of indirect exposure under ISIF's global portfolio, and the need for a certain level of flexibility.

As outlined, notwithstanding the Government's position on it, there are some uncertainties regarding the Bill's exact objectives and the scope of its provisions, arising from what we perceive to be drafting imprecisions. The Government expects that the Bill will require significant work on Committee Stage in order to tease out the various definitions and determine exactly what the Deputy intends the legislation to cover in terms of its scope. Until we have had that opportunity, there will be a degree of speculation regarding the precise objectives and scope of its provisions. This evening provides an opportunity to quickly articulate some of these concerns.

The purpose of the Bill, as per its drafting, appears to be to seek to prohibit investments through voted expenditures in tobacco, as well as the investment by non-voted public entities, such as ISIF, in tobacco. However, it would be helpful to clarify the exact scope of the Bill's provisions and the precise details of the intended definitions. The Bill provides that an investor must be satisfied that there is not a significant probability that public moneys will be invested in a tobacco company. As the Bill appears to cover both voted and non-voted expenditure, this would impose an uncertain, and potentially onerous, level of responsibility on any public sector treasury manager in how the manager invests cash. For example, pension funds in the commercial and non-commercial semi-State sector might hold pooled investments or investments in market indices products. Pooled investments refer to funds from a range of sources which are aggregated for the purposes of investment. The public sector entity may not have access to the detailed investment data and, therefore, may not be in a position to fully satisfy itself to a significant level of probability that the pooled investments are not in some way exposed to tobacco investments. In addition, terms included in the Bill such as "satisfied" and "significant probability" are imprecise and are open to interpretation. In dealing with these provisions it might be advisable, for example, to set a required level of due diligence, and what form that due diligence should take, in order for the investor to be satisfied. Such pooled investments could be very small and insignificant in the context of a broad diversified portfolio, as most of the public service pension obligations are unfunded. However, in order to avoid significant compliance costs, it would be worthwhile inserting an exemption where tobacco stocks are held in small quantities of the overall investment value as part of a pooled investment fund.

The Bill also makes reference to indirect investments. These are undefined and slightly vague. Referring to the previous example regarding an investor's access to investment-related information, this broad and undefined reference to indirect investments is potentially problematic as it does not sufficiently define what types or forms of investment it seeks to cover. By way of example, while ISIF currently has no direct investment in equity and debt securities issued by tobacco manufacturing companies, its global portfolio has approximately €3.7 billion of investments in collective vehicles or investment products, some of which have exposure to tobacco companies. To be clear, this is not €3.7 billion of tobacco exposure, but of total pooled investments. These pooled investments are market indices, which would include a very minor percentage of tobacco equities or debt. ISIF estimates that, as of November 2016, approximately €17 million of the €3.7 billion is exposed to tobacco. ISIF has advised that there should be some flexibility around the term "indirect", as also suggested in regard to the pooled investment issue under public sector pensions. This would provide scope to deal with portfolio management issues that may arise.

The flexibility might be in the form of a given timeframe to divest and toleration for a low exposure threshold such as less than 0.1 of 1%. Such minimum exposure thresholds are used by funds elsewhere. Otherwise, it could be very difficult for ISIF to implement zero tolerance or full prohibition of tobacco investments. These interpretation and implementation challenges could be dealt with on Committee Stage, if the Bill progresses beyond Second Stage.

It is important to consider the public health aspect of this Bill. I am sure the Deputy is well aware that smoking is a significant cause of ill-health in Ireland. It is one of Ireland's most serious public health challenges, with the greatest burden of disease, disability and premature death falling on the most disadvantaged in society. It has been estimated to cost Irish society a total of €10.7 billion annually in health care, productivity and other costs. The Government is committed to changing that through the implementation of the tobacco free Ireland policy, and this is reaffirmed by the programme for partnership government. Ireland has implemented a wide range of progressive tobacco control policies, including: cumulative increases in excise duties; the workplace smoking ban; the ban on point of sale display and advertising of tobacco; and the ban on smoking in cars.

This week we saw the signing of a commencement order for the standardised packaging of tobacco to come into force in September 2017. This is a further progressive step taken by Government in the important area of tobacco control. These measures are having an impact and the cumulative effect of Ireland's tobacco control measures has been a decrease in the number of people smoking, as evidenced by recent surveys. Reflecting this noteworthy progress, Ireland has a significant international reputation as a tobacco control leader in the past few years.

The Government considers this to be a well-intentioned Bill. It shares Deputy Fleming's ambition to ensure that legal provisions for State investment and expenditure are in accordance with and support the Government's policy on tobacco control. Such legal provisions will further build on the progressive steps which Ireland has taken in this core area of public health policy. In all areas of public policy, the implementation of changes to existing policies or arrangements is critical to ensuring the effective achievement of the policy. Indeed, once we have agreed on what must be done, we must turn our focus on to how it should be done. In this regard, it is important to consider carefully at pre-legislative scrutiny and Committee Stage how the provisions of this Bill would be implemented.

Regulation, by way of legislation, is one of the three key levers of formal State power; together with taxing and spending. It must, therefore, be used wisely, appropriately and proportionately; and, in legislating, we must ensure not to do more harm than good. This is particularly important in respect of preventing significant sales of existing State holdings in ISIF that may be caught under the current proposed Bill.

The Government is concerned that this current Bill, with its imprecise and vague definitions, could lead to interpretation and implementation challenges. I have articulated these concerns to the House. In the context of Ireland's progress in the area of tobacco control, and the commitment of the Government to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025, I reaffirm the Goverment's commitment to work with colleagues of both Houses to resolve the aforementioned concerns on Committee Stage if the Bill progresses. It is on this basis that the Government does not oppose giving the Bill a Second Reading.

I am pleased that the exchanges between the Deputy and the Minister of State are cordial on this occasion. I am happy to support this Bill and I commend Deputy Fleming on his initiative and on proposing the Bill. I also commend the Government and the Minister of State on not opposing it and on seeking to strengthen it on Committee Stage, which I always advocate unless there are substantial flaws or the Government does not agree with its intent.

The NTMA and the ISIF hold and invest the Irish people's money on behalf of the Irish people. It is only right that we, as the Dáil, act to ensure that money is invested wisely and ethically.

We recently supported Deputy Pringle's Bill to prevent the fund from investing in fossil fuels and for the same principled reasons, we are happy to support this Bill.

The facts from the Irish Cancer Society are cIear: smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer, causing one third of all cancers. Nine out of ten lung cancers are caused by smoking. Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. Half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. None of this should be tolerated. This is not an industry that needs our investment.

Each year at budget time we discuss how much should be levied on cigarettes. My party argues for increases in excise duty, not to raise revenue but on the grounds of public health. In the programme for Government, the ongoing increase in excise is thrown out as a means of offsetting the promise to abolish the universal social charge. That is certainly the wrong way to approach increasing revenue on cigarettes. If the Office of the Revenue Commissioners is asked, it will refer to its publicly available ready reckoner. It will also point out that increasing excise on tobacco is as likely to result in less revenue being collected as more.

It is political chicanery to claim that a 50 cent or 20 cent increase in the price of cigarettes for the next few years will even partly make up for tax cuts of thousands of euro to benefit the wealthy in this State. If this Bill passes, as I hope it does, we will have a country that forbids its investment arm to invest in tobacco but a cynical Government which is happy to rely on more and more income from tobacco as a way of funding hospitals and schools while it cuts taxes elsewhere.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, which is better known to many as the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF, is a key tool for investment. God knows we need investment, and we have had many exchanges with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the need for capital investment in many areas and for greater flexibility in the application of the fiscal rules. We all know there is a need for it when we see Department after Department make increased demands for increased capital investment. The investments of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund in the tobacco industry are so small that I have no concerns that this Bill will in any way hamstring its ability to fund investment.

Economically, I hope the tobacco industry's heyday is in the past. It makes sense for us to look at cleaner industries and technology as the key planks of our investment strategy.

Following on from this Bill and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, there is an opportunity to thoroughly examine our future investment strategy. Ethics should underpin that strategy. We must ensure we can stand over all investments from a development and human rights point of view as well as an economic point of view.

For all those reasons, I am happy to support the Bill. We will look at amending the Bill on Committee Stage, as the Minister of State has indicated he will. I commend the author of the Bill, Deputy Fleming, on bringing it to the House.

In the absence of any further speakers to avail of the remaining hour or so allocated to this matter, I will ask the Minister of State to respond to the debate.

The Government considers this a well-intentioned Bill and it has carefully considered the proposals in it. We share Deputy Fleming's ambition to further improve the health of Irish people. We must legislate carefully so that the desired impact is achieved. We must also be cognisant of the power of regulation.

Deputy Fleming used the legislation for the prohibition of investment in cluster munitions as a template for his legislation, as did I for my Bill. While it serves as a good template, it should not be copied exactly. That could lead to unintended consequences which would not arise in divesting from cluster munitions. For example, the administrative burden from non-investment in cluster munitions involves about 19 companies. In the tobacco area, that is approximately 130 companies. The risk of an inadvertent or accidental investment in one of those tobacco companies is far higher, so the administrative burden of protecting oneself from that is much greater. We need to ensure such concerns are addressed on Committee Stage.

The intention of the Bill is sound and the Government supports it and looks forward to addressing any matters on Committee Stage.

I welcome the positive response and support from the Government and Sinn Féin for the Ethical Public Investment in Tobacco Bill 2017 on Second Stage and when it progresses to the pre-legislative scrutiny stage or Committee Stage, whichever is decided on by the appropriate authorities. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet on this issue. We all agree something needs to be done and it is a question of how we fine tune the Bill.

A tobacco company is defined as a company involved in the manufacture or production of tobacco, cigarettes and cigars. I should have made that clear in my opening comments. The Minister of State highlighted the fact there are far more tobacco companies worldwide than armaments companies. I was not aware of the figures he provided. More care needs to be taken to avoid the unintentional or accidental holding of shares in tobacco companies. I would welcome the engagement of Members of the House or the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in resolving any issues in terms of imprecise drafting.

The Minister of State indicated that pension funds in the commercial or non-commercial semi-State sector might have pooled investments in the market indices. In section 5 of the Bill, I referred to the issue of investing in a financial index. I included a specific exemption for organisations investing in a financial index because, as the Minister of State pointed out, it would not be possible to take everything out and it might prevent investment in worthwhile financial indices on the basis that one might be exposed to investing in a tobacco company. That section dealt with derivatives based on a financial index. That probably needs to be broadened to include investments in a financial index. Whether it is referred to as a pooled investment fund or a financial index, that issue has to be dealt with. The Minister of State suggested a minimum threshold such as less than 0.1% which is a rate used by other investment funds worldwide. We will be guided by market practice. The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund operates in the international market to get the best return for the Irish taxpayer for future investment in pensions. We must not hamper its work in generating future required income for the Irish people. Much of what has been said deals with collective investment products which have exposure to tobacco companies. That seems to be the biggest issue to tease out. It should be possible to resolve it on Committee Stage and I look forward to that opportunity.

I welcome the fact the Minister of State referred to progressive tobacco control policies introduced in recent times. These include the cumulative increase in excise duty, the workplace smoking ban, the ban on point of sale display of tobacco advertising which has taken it out of the view of shoppers and the ban on smoking in cars. This legislation fits nicely with Government policy of making Ireland a tobacco-free country by 2025. While that deadline is still remote, we should be more ambitious. A tobacco-free country is interpreted internationally to mean less than 5% of the population. In Ireland, that would be 250,000 people, excluding children who are under age but who smoke. That is still too many smokers. I hope, as we get closer to 2025, that 5% target would be reached and exceeded as quickly as possible. That may depend on who is in the House at that time.

We have a strong international reputation on this issue. People from other countries have visited Ireland to see how this would work and we need to continue to take the lead on it in this State.

I thank the Minister of State and the Government for agreeing not to oppose the Bill on Second Stage. It can now move on to Committee Stage in due course.

Question put and agreed to.