"That it be an instruction to the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, in relation to the African Development (Bank and Fund) Bill 2018, that:
(a) Standing Order 154 is modified as outlined in Standing Order 200 to provide that the Committee has power to make amendments to the Bill which are outside the existing subject matter of the Bill, in relation to sections 1 and 2 of the International Finance Corporation Act 1958, in order to allow for proposed changes in the International Finance Corporation's Articles of Agreement to be approved by way of Dáil Resolution rather than by primary legislation; and
(b) pursuant to Standing Order 154, the Committee has power to make amendments to the Bill which are outside the scope of the existing provisions of the Bill, in relation to section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and the confidentiality of taxpayer information, in order to allow for this information to be disclosed by the Department of Finance when authorised by the Freedom of Information Act;
and that it has power to make other consequential amendments required to take account of the changes above."
The purpose of my remarks is to explain to Members the background to, and the need for, amendments to the International Finance Corporation Act 1958 and the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, respectively, and to explain why they are being tabled by the Minister for Finance to the African Development (Bank and Fund) Bill 2018.
As Members will recall during his Second Stage speech on the Bill the Minister of State, Deputy D’Arcy, outlined that we were considering introducing a number of amendments on Committee Stage. While these amendments do not directly relate to the original intentions behind the Bill, which as Members will be aware serves to facilitate Ireland’s membership of the African Development Bank and African Development Fund, both amendments are of a time-sensitive nature, with the African Development (Bank and Fund) Bill considered an appropriate vehicle to address them.
I will now provide further details. Although outside the scope of the Bill as published on 25 September, the first proposed amendment relates to an issue that is relevant to Ireland’s relationship with development banks generally, through amending the International Finance Corporation Act 1958 which provides for Ireland’s relationship with the International Finance Corporation, IFC. The IFC is a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group. Its focus is to encourage private sector development in developing countries. Ireland has been asked to vote in respect of a proposed change to the IFC articles of agreement before the voting deadline of September 2019. The proposed legislative amendment seeks to alleviate the legislative burden associated with Ireland’s participation in the IFC through allowing for changes in the IFC’s articles of agreement to be approved by way of Dáil resolution rather than by primary legislation.
As Members may be aware the International Finance Corporation Act provides for the approval of the IFC’s articles of agreement and allows for the Minister to make payments related to this agreement. This is in line with Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution which provides that the State shall not be bound by an international agreement, including any amendments, which involves a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement have been approved by Dáil Éireann.
The proposed amendments to the International Finance Corporation Act will enable changes in the articles of agreement to be approved by way of resolution of the Dáil. Currently, as has been advised by the Office of the Attorney General, approval of changes to the IFC articles of agreement would require primary legislation. In the case of Ireland's membership of other international financial institutions, the Development Banks Act 2005 provides that such changes may be approved by means of a Dáil resolution. This approach has reduced the administrative and legislative burden associated with our membership of these institutions, while still allowing for full Dáil oversight via a resolution.
In summary the proposed legislative amendment seeks to replicate this provision in the case of the IFC legislation through amending the definitions within sections 1 and 2 of the Act. This would bring it in line with the legislation governing Ireland’s membership of other international financial institutions.
The second amendment proposes to amend section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 which provides the basis for confidentiality of taxpayer information. Section 851A also provides the basis for the circumstances in which such information can be disclosed by the Revenue Commissioners, including the limited circumstances in which such information can be disclosed to the Department of Finance.
The proposed amendment will address a conflict between the legislative provisions of section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act and those of the Freedom of Information Act, which currently prevents the Department of Finance from providing records to the Office of the Information Commissioner, even when it is statutorily required to do so in the context of the operation of freedom of information legislation.