Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, to delete lines 18 to 25 and substitute the following:

“(a) section 344;

(b) section 935A;

(c) section 935B;

(d) section 935C;

(e) section 935D;

(f) section 936;

(g) section 941A;

(h) subsections (4) and (5) of section 996;

(i) subsections (7) and (8) of section 1220;

(j) subsections (3) and (4) of section 1277;

(k) section 1441;

(l) section 1448.”.

With this group of amendments we are asked to choose how we should provide in law for the few companies which find themselves unable to meet the deadlines for transparency obligations. These are important obligations that come with the privilege of limited liability. They provide that an annual return and financial statement must be filed with the Companies Registration Office, CRO. The approach I propose in amendments Nos. 1, 3 and 6 seeks to help companies avoid late filing in the first place. After all, companies which file on time face no late filing fees or applications to court for more time, and keep any entitlement to the audit exemption. It also means the financial information provided is relatively up to date and therefore has the benefit of being useful to all companies.

Deputies Kelleher and Quinlivan have both tabled amendments proposing that we continue to permit companies which are late to apply to the District Court for extra time. That approach only benefits a few companies and undermines the protection that transparency brings for all, but I will return to their amendments shortly.

It is important to remember the purpose of asking companies to file on time. This is done because public filing by each company is an essential protection for all other companies, suppliers and employees who rely on meaningful financial information. The law currently allows up to 11 months after the end of a financial year for public disclosures. This is not onerous, especially when the recent simplifications that have been introduced are considered. Any further delay in publishing this information means that it becomes less useful for anyone trying to assess whether a company can meet its financial obligations, that is, pay its bills and wages owed.

My amendments will streamline the process for filing annual returns and financial statements with the CRO. We have excellent levels of compliance - approximately 95% - but we can still improve. My amendments seek to bring practical and real time saving benefits to all companies. The amendments retain the full period currently allowed for filing but remove one interim step so that the annual return and the financial statements may be filed in a single step. I hope that the amendments proposed will be supported by the House.

We have a choice between amendment No. 3, which is an integral part of my approach, and amendment No. 4 in the names of Deputies Kelleher and Quinlivan. Due to the way in which the amendments are structured, we cannot have both. Amendment No. 4 represents a backwards step. I accept the spirit in which both Deputies have tabled the amendment, and that they are motivated to act on behalf of the few small companies which are unable, for genuine reasons, to meet filing deadlines. I can see the point they are making, and I have received representations from local accountants on this matter. That is why I have tabled amendments to help those small companies avoid being in that situation in the first place. However, I do not agree that going to court is the solution.

The provision the Deputies are seeking to maintain only came into operation in 2015, and experience has shown that it is not appropriate as it risks undermining transparency and can be used to avoid proper disclosure. Last year, just over 1,000 companies were granted an extension of time by the courts. That may not seem like many companies, but each one of those is likely to have a network of suppliers, employees and other creditors. The purpose of filing annual returns and financial statements in the first place is so that those suppliers, employees and other creditors can access that information. Each time a company goes to court for an extension of time, the result is that its financial statements may not be publically available for as much as two years after the end of a financial year. This renders the information almost useless to third parties. Clearly this undermines the protection that transparency is intended to give to creditors and employees. In effect, amendment No. 4 rewards the few companies that fail to meet deadlines at the expense of the vast majority of companies that comply with the law every year.

I am advised by my officials that the experience of the CRO is that a number of companies are persistently late. These companies do not face a once-off, genuine circumstance we can all understand, but rather are repeat offenders. They are happy to work the system by paying the late filing fees and applying to the courts to withhold information. It is not right that some companies can deliberately abuse the system in that way. As legislators, we have made several changes over the past few years that make filing and financial reporting obligations easier and simpler.

We have extended the audit exemption to more companies. It is only correct that we also consider the rights and the interests of others that rely on timely and meaningful disclosure. For this reason I have reservations about the amendments proposed by Deputies Kelleher and Quinlivan, but I am happy to listen to their arguments. With the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's permission, I would like the opportunity to reply to those when we come to amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

We are discussing all amendments together, so if the Minister has moved amendment No. 1, she will have two more opportunities to speak. She will have to take one of those opportunities to respond.

Are we discussing all the amendments together?

We are discussing amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6 together, which are related. Amendment No. 4 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 3.

I thank the Minister. Nobody wants to be argumentative about ensuring compliance with company law. In recent times, there have been some high profile cases of people breaching company law. We need, therefore, to ensure integrity in the process and that we have a system in place where suppliers and people who trade with companies have confidence in the accounting system and certainty that the books they present on an annualised basis are fair and compliant. It is critically important for the confidence of people trading with a company to know that what is said in the accounting system and on their accounts is audited and signed off. By and large, that happens with almost all companies. However, a small proportion of companies fail to comply in a timely manner each year. They currently apply to the District Court. Fewer than 0.5% of companies apply to the District Court because of late filing. It is not as if the number of companies that are taking this particular route is hugely significant.

With that in mind, we believe that this procedure should be retained at District Court level. Most of the companies that apply are doing so for genuine reasons. This change would penalise small companies by forcing them to pay exorbitant fees to go to the High Court. An appearance at the High Court will cost at least five to six times what it will cost to go to a District Court. That in itself is a huge inhibitor for companies that have been unable, for good reasons, to comply with the filing process laid out in statute. That is the main reason.

Within that, the companies could have genuine reasons for late filing. There could be force majeure in the form of something happening to one of the directors. There could be myriad reasons why they are late in filing, yet we will compel a company to go to the High Court if this legislation is passed. That is unacceptable given that every day of the week we come in here and talk about small and medium-sized businesses being put to the pin of their collar. We were talking about it today during Oral Questions. We talk about the pressures on small businesses, the exorbitant costs, the creeping anti-competitiveness in the economy and so on. To be consistent, these matters should be dealt with by the District Court. That is why we will oppose amendment No. 3 and press amendment No. 4.

We need to ensure that there is unanimity in the House where corporate governance is concerned. We need to ensure there is integrity in how we govern companies and how we enforce company law. I believe in all of that. Equally, I also believe in fairness, proportionality and in ensuring that we do not use a sledgehammer to crack the odd nut. Unfortunately, the High Court is a place where we will be sledgehammering an awful lot of small nuts. Instead, I urge that we go down the route of proportionality and leave these matters to the District Court. It is not a huge number; just over 1,000 companies go to the district court because of late filing. It is less than 0.5%. It is not locking up the court system or judicial system, but it does allow a company with a good reason to make its case to the District Court without having the burden of exorbitant fees placed on it, which would arise if it had to make its case at the High Court. I urge the Minister to look at it through the lens of proportionality. That suggests that the District Court is the place to be.

First, thank the Minister and her officials for forwarding the notes on the 40 amendments she has tabled to what was a complex Bill.

Along with Deputy Kelleher, I have tabled two amendments. A large number of small and medium enterprises, SMEs, and accountants got in touch with us during the last few months. They were concerned about sections 9 and 10 of the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017. They were unhappy about changes in this Bill which would see District Court judges being allowed only to waive the late filing fees and not to save the audit exemption. To preserve the audit exemption status of the company, an application will have to be made to the High Court, which will be prohibitively expensive for most companies. Therefore, our amendment seeks to maintain the current situation, which would allow companies who have missed the filing deadline due to mitigating circumstances to make an application to the District Court to save the audit exemption.

This is a fair approach to take for most SMEs. I have an issue with amendment No. 3, which provides for the deletion of section 343(7) of the Companies Act 2014. Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil's amendment seeks to retain this subsection while deleting lines 4 and 5 of page 8 of the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017. We cannot support the Minister's amendment as it goes against our own amendment. In addition, Sinn Féin will not support amendment No. 7. We are happy to continue to support the other amendments tabled by the Minister, and to support the rest of the Bill.

I too have no big issue with the Bill. As Deputy Kelleher said, fewer than 0.5% of companies apply to the District Court on foot of late filing. However, that option is available. It is a local solution and it is not overly onerous or expensive. I know that we want to uphold the concepts of good governance and proper accounting, but I feel we are legislating here to deal with white collar crime, or bigger companies who might prevaricate and delay or go to courts for reasons that are not always genuine. In doing this, we will catch and penalise small companies. I refer to limited companies that are small and that do not have the resources, the time or the ability to go to the High Court. They can put their reasons for late filing forward at the District Court. They can file returns late if they have genuine reasons. The matter is resolved locally, and the companies are not afraid to go before their peers or the local District Court. The High Court, as any of us who has been there will have seen, has a backlog amounting to hundreds of cases. It is a totally unwieldy system as it is. All kinds of cases are heard, and a business that has to appear there will have to pay solicitors and barristers and junior counsel for three days, which is punitive. It is using a sledgehammer to crack a chestnut and it does not make sense.

Let us leave this at local level to the District Court. I ask the Minister to consider sections 9 and 10, because they provide for another layer of expense and difficulties foisted on SMEs and small companies that cannot afford it.

It is different for the conglomerates and the big heavy hitters as they have their own legal teams on hand all of the time. They are used to dealing with various issues causing late filing, for example, trying to take over other companies. There are genuine cases where people have ill-health or something has happened so accountants are unable to file. A couple of years ago my accountant's mother died. One tax officer was very lenient with him but another was very demanding that all of the companies he represented had to have filed by the deadline no matter who died or what happened. There needs to be flexibility. As we know, the majority are paying their way and paying their taxes. They want to work with their accountant locally. The accountant does not have time to be going off to the High Court. I appeal for common sense to prevail. It is difficult enough for businesses having to engage with company legislation and the plethora of other legislation, such as employment legislation and health and safety legislation. It is putting huge demands on companies and there is not a lot of leeway. I support the amendments that have been tabled proposing that this be left at local level in the District Court.

I acknowledge the Minister sent us an explanation of her amendments, and she has moved a little in terms of the 56 days and some modification on the link with audit exemption. The one year period is somewhat of a change. The point being made, which was made in correspondence we all received, is that Ireland is the only country in the EU that links audit exemption to late filing. It is this link that is the problem. It is because the two are linked that the late filing issue is of such concern.

I am concerned that any process whatsoever for anybody, in particular for a small business, would be prohibitive in terms of the cost of the High Court as opposed to the cost of the District Court. I do not understand why the District Court is not kept within the picture. Surely anything that can be done at District Court level should be done at that level rather than at High Court level. The response we have received is still that the accountancy companies are concerned, particularly with the effect on a relatively small number of small businesses. We all acknowledge this is a complex Bill, but for the sake of what are relatively small proposals coming from the Opposition, I ask the Minister to consider what is being proposed.

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this because I have a gripe with regard to small companies having to go to the High Court to get the deadline extended. Today, I had contact from a person whose accountant was sick. That person received a fine because the deadline was missed by a few days. The small companies in my neck of the woods are all family-run operations. They have to work all of the hours God gives them to make ends meet. On my way here this morning, I received a call from a fellow trying very hard and just because his accountant was sick and could not do the accounts he has to pay a fine. This man can do everything but he is not good at paperwork and he depends on his accountant to keep things straight. This is what has happened to him.

It will be very prohibitive and costly for companies if they have to go to the High Court and employ barristers, and we know what they cost. I appeal to the Minister and I will vote against this part of the Bill because it is not fair on small companies. I do not know who thought up this idea. I do not know whether it is the Government or the officials, but I regret very much this is what they are at because these small companies are the people keeping us in here. They are paying the Bills for the civil servants, the Members and the local authorities, and they help to pay for the services. If we nail these people by insisting they must go to the High Court to extend the deadline it will be a very regrettable day.

I am glad I have an opportunity to lodge my complaint against this. There are many things going through the House, but we are going to hurt small companies with this. The District Court is well able to deal with it. The way the thing has gone now, it is totally loaded on the side of the State because there are only so many days to make returns. People do not have a C2 certificate for the year any more. It is now on a two monthly basis. It is a hard struggle for many companies out there. I do not know what line of business the Minister is in besides politics, but I know what small employers are going through because I am one and I know about many others.

What happens on top of everything is the people who are working hard are caught by the big contractors for massive sums of money at the end of the jobs. We have asked the Government to do something about this. The big contractors do not care when they are tendering because they know they will not pay the subcontractors at the end of the job but will let them go whistle their ducks and not pay them the last of their money. I know of one company that had €20 million practically written off. It reddened people from Malin Head to Mizen Head and down through the country, including small shopkeepers and operators who needed their money but they left them without it. They are after getting away scot clean. They are out now and they will pay a sum of 5 cent in the euro to all of the creditors who are struggling. One young fellow was left without €600,000, and that is the truth.

We are doing nothing to help the people who are affected. We are doing nothing to prevent the larger companies from doing this. They are able to get these jobs because they have such a big turnover. There are only so many of them allowed to tender for the big contracts or any worthwhile contract. One of the bars to being allowed to tender is turnover. These companies have the turnover, which is why they can put in whatever price they like and let the small businesses suffer at the end of the line because they will not get the last of their money. This is happening. It is not happening just in Kerry. It is happening throughout the country. To think we are coming in here this evening and agreeing that these poor contractors or companies, that are trying to put bread on the table and working very hard for their money and not getting it for nothing, should come up to the High Court or go to the High Court in Tralee or Cork to extend their deadline. This is highly unsatisfactory and I ask the Minister to drop it because it will hurt a lot of small businesses and drive them further into the ground.

I agree with Deputy Danny Healy-Rae that small companies are the backbone of the economy. We need to be very careful the actions we take do not hinder them in trying to survive.

We have seen some of them survive for many years on very little and they have kept many people employed, sometimes to the detriment of the company owner, etc. We need to bear that in mind.

I have not followed this Bill's passage through the Houses so far but it is odd that the Minister is suggesting we go to the pre-2015 mechanism of the High Court. Anybody who has been to the courts or looks in the newspapers can see that the High Court is clogged and one cannot get hearings but the Government wants to transfer this process from the less onerous District Court, where it could be done quite quickly. If the process is transferred to the High Court, there would be a huge cost both for the State, I presume, and also for small companies that cannot afford the expense. We need to be careful with any step we take that there are no unforeseen circumstances.

When the Minister introduced the amendment, she spoke about persistent offenders and companies that continuously file late. There is usually a reason for this but if companies are persistent offenders, there is a way to address the issue. I presume that the State can go to court and argue that it is the first, second, third or tenth time that a company has applied for an extension. An extension would not have to be granted because in a court, a judge can take a decision based on the evidence. If the Revenue Commissioners are not happy with the same companies persistently seeking extensions, they should note that in court.

It is correct that deadlines are onerous and that our tax system is secure. Another recent change in society is the trend towards making everything into a company. Community development projects are now companies, as are sports clubs and charities, although they have charitable status. I do not have a problem with all of those having to comply with the law but it can be very onerous on a community development programme, for example. I am involved with a number of these and I am the treasurer at one of them. It comes up every year and we must comply with the law like everybody else, despite it being so onerous. It is the same with charities, which do not operate at a profit and which cannot necessarily always afford the large fees charged by auditors and accountants. They often try to make do with their own books and when the time comes to file, they may not be in the correct order. The onus is on a small company, charity or community development project to organise its affairs in a proper manner. I am not saying they should not do so. There is the threat of High Court proceedings, with such an extra cost that could end up damaging companies trading with nominal costs, such as charities. It could end up with those companies closing.

Will the Minister bear in mind that she should not move towards a High Court process? The District Court is sufficient, particularly for the smaller companies. With persistent defenders, the State just needs to defend itself and argue that these companies cannot continuously get extensions. Perhaps the Minister should consider giving companies only three extensions in a ten-year period or something of that nature. It could be the mechanism to force companies to get their act together, which must happen. Companies must ensure that files are returned, although there will be occasions when some may not have the wherewithal to do that. Sometimes there are odd incidents where people have not been able to file an account because of sickness, etc. Such things happen and that is why the mechanism is there in the first instance. It is not meant to be as onerous as having the large cost of a trip to the High Court for a small company.

As already stated, I have reservations about deleting section 9. However, I have heard the Deputies' arguments and I realise that there is a support for removing it in its entirety. On that basis, I will not move amendment No. 3. I have also outlined my concerns about the application to the District Court for an extension of time but I accept the spirit in which Deputies Kelleher and Quinlivan have brought forward this amendment. I clearly say I am not trying to target small companies which for genuine reasons may end up filing late but I am trying to target companies repeatedly filing late, perhaps for cynical reasons and in order to withhold information and reduce transparency. By deleting section 9, this will continue. It sometimes happens that a company waits until the CRO sends an enforcement notice and then it applies to the court, which puts a stay on any enforcement until the grant decides on whether to grant a time extension.

The CRO is introducing a new information technology system that will make it easier for us to obtain accurate figures on the profile of companies that are persistently filing late. Deputies will agree that there should be repercussions for those companies that are abusing the system. I hope the Deputies will keep an open mind and perhaps this is a matter we can keep under review. If, when we collect the data, we find there is a cohort of repeat offenders, perhaps we can revisit the matter. As public representatives, we should not stand over a position where companies use the courts to withhold information that should rightly be in the public domain much sooner. Having said that, I am happy not to move the amendment No. 3.

I thank the Minister for listening to us. The European Union set out the thresholds for companies needing audits under EU Directive 2013/34/EU as companies with a €12 million turnover, €6 million on the balance sheet or over 50 employees. All we are saying is that small companies late with their filings should still be able to go to the District Court and apply to retain the audit exemption. We are one of the only countries that attaches a loss of audit exemption with late filing. Most other European countries do not do it. We would be forcing small companies into a very onerous position.

I acknowledge the Minister's views and bona fides in this regard. Nobody in this room is trying to create a loophole for rogue corporate structures but we are highlighting a small number of companies. Across Europe, the audit exemption is not lost to a small company if it files late but it is lost in this country. That we can retain this option in the District Court at least lightens that burden and potential cost. We should bear in mind that this could happen for a genuine or a force majeure reason. We do not know why a company might be delayed in presenting its accounts for filing. I welcome the Minister's intervention. To be clear, she is not going to move amendment No. 3.

I am not moving amendment No. 3.

I thank the Minister for acceding to our request because the protection of small family companies in particular - I know so many of them - is paramount. It would be very harsh to make a law meaning they would have to apply to the High Court for this process because it entails costs such as hiring barristers. There is also the worry for people in these small companies, which would be too much. I thank the Minister and I hope that is the end of this.

I thank the Minister for taking our concerns into consideration. We welcome the work done on this by the Minister but we had a problem with the amendment put down by her. Thankfully, she has listened to us. That is good politics.

This is basically a question of getting the balance right between oversight and good governance on the one hand and not having too much pressure on small businesses on the other hand. I support the Minister's comments on monitoring of repeat offenders. Essentially, everyone wants to ensure we do not have people abusing the system for their own benefit. That is not what has been argued for here and the Minister understands that. Certainly, if the Minister has to come back at some stage to find a better way to deal with repeat offenders, I imagine she will find support from the Opposition.

I accept the spirit in which the Deputies have put forward the arguments and I am happy with that. I am not going to move the amendment.

Amendment No. 4 is also grouped. I do not oppose amendment No. 4 either.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2, 12, 27 and 35 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, to delete lines 13 and 14 and substitute the following:

“(c) by the insertion of the following definitions:

“ ‘public-interest entity’ has the meaning given to it by Part 27;

‘Regulation (EU) 2016/679’ means Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 20161 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation);”.”.

The amendments in this group are technical. They update the references in the Bill to the Data Protection Acts to take account of the 2018 Act, which was enacted in May and which inserts references to the EU regulation on data protection.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Amendment No. 4 has been already discussed with amendment No. 1.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, to delete lines 4 and 5.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, to delete lines 6 to 20.

I welcome the fact that Deputies Kelleher, Quinlivan and I are agreed on this issue. Amendment No. 5 deletes section 10, which is the section that proposes to introduce the possibility for a company to apply to the District Court for a waiver of the late filing fee. However, following representations made to me and other Deputies, I can see this is not practical. The late filing fee is €100 for the first day and €3 for each day after that up to a maximum of €1,200. On that basis there might be little or no saving for a company that applies to the courts. For this reason I support amendment No. 5.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 6 has been already discussed with amendment No. 1.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 8, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 346 of Principal Act

11. Section 346 of the Principal Act is amended, in subsection (2)(a), by the substitution of “56 days” for “28 days”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 8, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Principal Act - substitution of sections 363 and 364

12. The Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following sections for sections 363 and 364:

“Audit exemption (non-group situation) not available in certain cases

363. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and notwithstanding that section 358 is complied with, a company is not entitled to the audit exemption referred to in that section in respect of its statutory financial statements for the 2 financial years immediately succeeding a financial year (in this section referred to as the ‘relevant financial year’) where the company failed to deliver to the Registrar, in compliance with section 343, the company’s annual return to which the statutory financial statements or (as appropriate) abridged financial statements for the relevant financial year are annexed.

(2) Subsection (1) shall not apply in the case of an annual return of a company which is the company’s first annual return referred to in section 349.

Audit exemption (group situation) not available in certain cases

364. (1) Subject to subsection (3), in this section a reference to a relevant body is a reference to the holding company or any other member of the group.

(2) Subject to subsection (4) and notwithstanding that section 359 is complied with, a holding company and the other members of the group are not entitled to the audit exemption referred to in that section in respect of their statutory financial statements for the 2 financial years immediately succeeding a financial year (in this section referred to as the ‘relevant financial year’) where any relevant body failed to deliver to the Registrar, in compliance with section 343, the annual return of that relevant body to which such body’s statutory financial statements or (as appropriate) abridged financial statements for the relevant financial year are annexed.

(3) There shall not be reckoned as another member of the group for the purposes of this section (other than for the purposes of the expression ‘other members of the group’ in subsection (2)) a subsidiary undertaking that is not a company registered under this Act or an existing company and the construction provided for by subsection (1) (of references to each of the relevant bodies) shall be read accordingly.

(4) Subsection (2) shall not apply in the case of an annual return which is a relevant body’s first annual return referred to in section 349.”.”.

I signalled this amendment on Committee Stage with a view to reducing the impact of losing the audit exemption where a company has filed an annual return late. Since 2003 it has been the policy of successive Governments that where a company files its annual return late, any entitlement to the audit exemption shall be lost for two consecutive years. As things stand, this applies to a past financial year and the current financial year. However, this look-back to a past financial year that may be long finished can be particularly costly and time-consuming. Therefore, my amendments to sections 363 and 364 of the Companies Act 2014 remove the requirement to audit the current financial year as, in practice, this is the past year, as well as the following year, which is typically the year in train. We have replaced that requirement with an obligation to audit the financial year in train and then the following year. These amendments will be of practical benefit for those few companies which find that they are unable to meet their filing deadlines. There no longer will be a need to look back in time to conduct the audit. This should reduce the cost and impact of the audit for companies. I understand that two of the larger professional accountancy bodies have supported this move as a practical improvement.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, 13 to 17, inclusive, 19, 22, 26, 28, 31 and 32 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 16, line 3, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

The amendments in this group are all technical. They amend section numbers and some cross-references. They correct a small number of grammar matters for clarity. They change a reference to the supervisory authority, as it should be a reference to a recognised accountancy body.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 17, line 9, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 17, line 11, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 35, line 19, to delete “subsection (1)” and substitute “subsection (2)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 39, lines 20 and 21, to delete “and 2003” and substitute “to 2018 and Regulation (EU) 2016/679”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 40, line 38, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 41, line 28, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 41, line 32, to delete “section 957A” and substitute “section 957AA”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 45, line 10, to delete “after section 957” and substitute “before Chapter 4 of that Part”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 45, line 12, to delete “957A. In” and substitute “957AA. In”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 18, 20, 21, 23 to 25, inclusive, 29, 30, 33, 34 and 36 to 41, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 53, line 18, to delete “annual or group accounts” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

The amendments in this group are technical. They amend financial terms in sections of the Bill to ensure consistency of terminology used in the Companies Act 2014 in respect of how the Act distinguishes between Irish companies and external companies.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 53, line 21, to delete “by a” and substitute “by the”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 53, line 22, to delete “annual or group accounts” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 54, lines 7 and 8, to delete “individual accounts or group accounts” and substitute “entity financial statements or group financial statements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 56, line 6, to delete “a counterpart” and substitute “the counterpart”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 58, line 26, to delete “individual accounts and group accounts” and substitute “entity financial statements and group financial statements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 73, lines 21 and 22, to delete “annual and consolidated” and substitute “entity and group”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 75, line 13, to delete “annual or consolidated” and substitute “entity or group”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 76, line 29, to delete “the Supervisory Authority” and substitute “a recognised accountancy body”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 90, line 32, to delete “and 2003” and substitute “to 2018 and Regulation (EU) 2016/679”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 91, line 21, to delete “audit firm” and substitute “statutory audit firm”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 113, line 8, to delete “annual and consolidated” and substitute “entity and group”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 113, line 29, to delete “accounts” and substitute “financial statements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 117, line 38, to delete “a counterpart” and substitute “the counterpart”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 117, line 41, to delete “a counterpart” and substitute “the counterpart”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 120, line 22, to delete “annual or consolidated financial statements” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 120, lines 27 and 28, to delete “annual or consolidated financial statements” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 121, line 11, to delete “and 2003” and substitute “to 2018 and Regulation (EU) 2016/679”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 123, lines 33 and 34, to delete “annual or group financial statements” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 126, line 11, to delete “annual or group financial statements” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 126, line 34, to delete “annual or group financial statements” and substitute “accounts or consolidated accounts”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 138, line 22, to delete “annual and consolidated accounts” and substitute “entity and group financial statements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 139, line 9, to delete “annual” and substitute “entity”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 139, line 10, to delete “consolidated” and substitute “group”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I will take this opportunity to thank the Deputies for their interest in this Bill and their contribution to its passage through the Dáil. I am pleased that the key features of the Bill, such as those on oversight of statutory audit, have been welcomed on all sides. These are important provisions and I believe they will strengthen our system of oversight and support the other audit reforms that came in two years ago.

I also wish to thank my officials. They put a huge amount of work into this Bill and I thank them for all their work and the long hours that they spent on it. I look forward to introducing the Bill in the Seanad.

I thank the Minister and her officials who provided briefing materials to us, as well as briefing time. We can have consensus on this issue. I accept it may need to be kept under review but the amendments were put forward for the right reasons. I thank the many organisations, professional bodies, accountancy firms and individual companies that got in touch with us and related their experiences in the context of the current legislation and the impact the proposed changes would have on them. Common sense has prevailed but, as the Minister says, it will be continually under review and we can address issues if they arise.

Question put and agreed to.

A message shall be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.