Regulation of Lobbying (Post-Term Employment as Lobbyist) Bill 2020: Second Stage [Private Members]

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

I welcome the opportunity to advance the Regulation of Lobbying (Post-Term Employment as Lobbyist) Bill 2020. I sincerely hope that the legislation will be supported by all Deputies and all parties. Ireland's standing in the global corruption index has fallen. We now sit well below the states against which we like to compare ourselves. According the latest Edelman Trust barometer, fewer than half of people surveyed trust our Government leaders. Trust in politics and in public administration is intrinsic to democracy. It should be especially so in a republic. For much of our short history as an independent state, the political culture and the dominance of one political party saw our politics poisoned by abuse of public office at the highest levels. In the 1980s, when this country was on its knees, some of our elite politicians were living high on the hog, having enriched themselves through the high offices they held.

One of the many reasons I became a member of the Labour Party is because of our position on corruption and on the need for transparency and integrity in public life, and because we linked those very principles to the health and quality of our democracy. From the first moves to bring in ethics legislation to the initial Freedom of Information Act in 1997 to taking money out of politics and other such important measures, real reform in the space of ethics in public office tends always to start with us. We are proud of our record. The latest initiative came in 2015. The last Oireachtas was sadly largely an ethics reform-free zone. The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was an important initiative by my colleague, Deputy Howlin. This Act is six years old. Given the passage of time and given what we and the regulator have learned about how these relatively new laws have worked in practice, it is timely that they be reviewed and tightened up.

I have no difficulty with lobbying. Some people seem to, but I do not. I believe it is important for our democracy. One person's lobbyist is another person's advocate. Lobbying and advocacy are part of an open and democratic society. It is how we choose to regulate and limit such activity, and how transparent we choose to make it, that defines our decision-making processes. While the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 has been lauded in many circles as an important public policy measure, there are few sanctions in the Act to enforce compliance with regard to certain kinds of breaches. This is despite repeated requests by the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, and other experts in recent years to give our political watchdog more bite.

The Act was never meant to stay still. Calls by SIPO to legislate to give it more firepower have fallen on deaf ears. We have seen too many cases of former Ministers and others leaving office on a Friday and walking into a new gig on Monday without even bothering to send a cursory note to SIPO looking for an exemption. This kind of behaviour, carried out with impunity, rightly drives the people we represent mad and does nothing to dislodge the narrative that politicians are all at it, are all the same and are all out for themselves.

The cases of top politicians with which we are familiar do not, however, highlight the full extent of this problem. The revolving door is also alive and well among special advisors and senior civil servants, although this is less well known and receives less coverage. Allowing those with intimate knowledge of the corridors of power to be so easily poached and employed to act on behalf of big corporations and lobby groups undermines the credibility of our system of governance. Today we must finally make a start in closing some of these glaring loopholes, which allow former officeholders and senior officials to act without consequence.

The Regulation of Lobbying (Post-Term Employment as Lobbyist) Bill 2020 is a short and simple Bill. It is a first step in strengthening and further enhancing the powers of SIPO and in properly regulating the conduct of former officeholders and others post employment. As it stands, SIPO has the power to investigate relevant contraventions of the 2015 legislation. These include failing to register, failing to make returns to the lobbying register, providing false or misleading information and failing to co-operate with investigations. Under section 18 of the Act, SIPO may initiate an investigation of a person who it reasonably believes has failed to comply with an investigation or is obstructing an investigation. However, the crux of the issue is that section 22, which is supposed to prohibit former designated officials from undertaking lobbying activity for one year after departure from their posts, is not currently included in section 18 as a relevant contravention. Put simply, SIPO does not have powers to investigate contraventions of, or to enforce, this provision of the Act in such cases. This new Bill proposes to address this omission by adding the contravention of section 22 to the list of relevant contraventions SIPO may investigate.

In so doing, section 22 of the Act as it will be amended will impose restrictions on post-term employment as a lobbyist which apply to persons who have served in certain sensitive positions. The legislation provides for a one-year cooling-off period for Ministers and Ministers of State, special advisers and senior civil servants, as has been the case since the enactment of the 2015 Act. This means that for one year from ceasing to hold such a position, an individual may not, except with the formal consent of SIPO, carry out lobbying activities or be employed by a person carrying out lobbying activities that involve the Department or body in which that individual served during his or her last year of office or employment.

As I have noted, we know that in a recent high-profile case no such permission was sought from SIPO by a recent officeholder who moved seamlessly into a job in the industry for which, until recently, he had held ministerial responsibility. As it stands, SIPO has no power to investigate, rebuke or impose sanctions. This is manifestly absurd. The case to which I refer, along with other cases, have brought into stark relief the fact that the some parts of the 2015 Act do not contain sufficient enforcement powers. I make that point with particular reference to section 22 and the fact that contravention of that section is not an offence.

The purpose of the Bill is to regularise the situation by enabling section 22 to be properly enforced in a way the public has a right to expect. The Bill clearly defines contraventions, the power of SIPO to authorise an investigation and that any person found to have contravened the section would be guilty of an offence. At the lower end of the scale, the proposed amendments would use the punishments already set out in the Act and providing for a class C fine of up to €2,500 on summary conviction in the District Court. However, under this proposed legislation, if a case were to proceed to a jury trial in the Circuit Court, the punishment applicable on conviction would include a fine or imprisonment for up to two years, depending on the severity of the offence.

In closing, although I welcome the fact that the Government previously committed to a review of SIPO legislation in respect of this and other matters, it is absolutely essential that it acts quickly on this particular glaring loophole. Confidence in politics depends on it.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann:

— recognises that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 has just concluded; and

— resolves that the Regulation of Lobbying (Post-Term Employment as Lobbyist) Bill 2020 be deemed to be read a second time this day six months, to allow for a proposal for draft legislation to take account of the recommendations arising from that review to be brought forward.”

I thank Deputy Nash for bringing forward the Bill and for the opportunity to discuss this important matter. When the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and I contributed to the discussion on the regulation of lobbying on Second Stage of the Regulation of Lobbying (Amendment) Bill introduced by Deputies Mairéad Farrell and Doherty on 24 November 2020, we committed to working with Deputies to address the issues raised. If I recall correctly, Deputy Mairéad Farrell pointed out at the time that there was cross-party consensus on the need for change. All present are in agreement on the importance of transparency and accountability to protect the public interest and to underpin public confidence in politics and in our democratic institutions.

I propose to outline to the House some background detail relating to the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. This is important in providing an overall context to the Bill being discussed this evening. I will set out information on the current operation of section 22 of the Act and provide an update on the review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act which has recently concluded.

Communication, dialogue and engagement are central to a well-functioning democracy. Interest groups, representative bodies, industry and civil society organisations, NGOs and third-party professional lobbyists all provide crucial input and feedback to the political and public administration systems. It is important that this activity is transparent and open to public scrutiny as part of the proper checks and balances that mitigate any attempt to seek to exert undue or improper influence on the conduct of policy formulation, development and decision-making.

The Regulation of Lobbying Act has been in operation since 1 September 2015. Its purpose is to bring that transparency. Since that date, there has been a requirement for those who lobby designated public officials, DPOs, as they are termed in the Act, to register and report on their lobbying activities every four months on the register of lobbying. Designated public officials include Ministers, Ministers of State, Members of the Oireachtas, MEPs, local authority members, special advisers and senior Civil Service and local authority officials. The register, which is a web-based system, can be viewed at www.lobbying.ie and is overseen by the Standards in Public Office Commission. Currently, almost 2,200 organisations or individuals have registered their lobbying activity on the register and almost 56,000 returns are available to view. The lobbying.ie website includes a suite of information tools designed by SIPO to help lobbyists, DPOs and the public to fully understand the Act and its obligations.

As Deputies are aware, the Regulation of Lobbying Act contains a statutory review provision requiring that the operation of the Act be reviewed every three years. To date, two statutory reviews have been carried out. Public consultations were conducted on both occasions and the final reports were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The second statutory review found that there is widespread acceptance and support for the legislation, with the Act and the register viewed in a positive and constructive light. It is clear from the submissions to both statutory reviews that the Act and the lobbying regulations it introduced have been well received and are now accepted as the norm. The Act is generally perceived to have met the intended objective of increasing transparency and accountability around the lobbying of DPOs, underpinned by a register that is easily accessible and navigable. In this regard, I compliment the work of the Standards in Public Office Commission, particularly with regard to the significant amount of guidance notes, website content on www.lobbying.ie, information notices and the tailored outreach that it conducts.

Turning to the specific context of section 22 of the Act, the section deals with restrictions on post-term employment as a lobbyist. It provides that certain designated public officials, such as Ministers, Ministers of State, special advisers and prescribed public servants, are restricted from engaging in lobbying in certain circumstances for a year after they leave their employment or office unless they obtain permission from SIPO. These circumstances are where the lobbying activity involves a public service body with which the relevant DPO was employed or held office in the year prior to his or her leaving or is to a person who was a DPO connected with that body in the year prior to the individual leaving. It is the responsibility of the relevant DPO to seek consent from the Standards in Public Office Commission to waive or reduce his or her cooling-off period prior to taking up the offer of employment. A relevant DPO who is unhappy with the decision of SIPO can make an appeal. Since the Act commenced in 2015, SIPO has received 20 such applications.

The purpose of section 22 is generally to manage the potential for conflicts of interest between the public and private sectors and to place restrictions on what has been perceived as a revolving door between the public and private sectors. There are no enforcement provisions associated with breaches of section 22 of the Act. The current approach was informed by the need to balance the right of a person to work and the proportionality of any limitations and any sanctions that may be imposed. It also did not want to have the unintended impact of deterring participation in politics or in public service roles, particularly those in positions of short to medium term duration.

The former Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, addressed section 22 on Committee Stage of the Regulation of Lobbying Bill in the Seanad in February 2015. He stated:

The imposition of restriction on post-term employment as a lobbyist on relevant designated public officials must be proportionate and practical because people have constitutional rights. One of the most difficult things is to narrow or circumscribe people's right to work, which is what this provision does.

The Bill before the House seeks to amend section 18 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 by including a contravention of section 22 within the definition of relevant contravention. It proposes that the proposed amendment would have retrospective effect.

As Deputies will be aware, the Taoiseach indicated in the House in late September last year that a review of section 22 of the Act was to be undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. In response to the request of An Taoiseach and in the context of the two statutory reviews of the legislation conducted in 2017 and 2019, the Bill before the House and that initiated by Deputies Mairéad Farrell and Doherty, a thorough review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 has been conducted and recently concluded. That is the commitment that the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, and I made to the House last November. It must be remembered that this is a complex policy area and a detailed review was necessary to properly assess the policy, legal and practical implications of the issues raised. I assure Deputies that the review was informed by the concerns raised and points made in the House last November. It is the intention of the Minister, Deputy McGrath, to bring a memorandum to the Government before the summer break, outlining the findings of the review and setting out associated recommendations.

Given the substantial overlap between the Bill before us and the wider review of the Act that has been completed, the proposed time-limited amendment of six months to the motion that the Bill be read a Second Time would allow a sufficient period to bring forward a proposal for draft legislation to take account of the recommendations arising from the wider review, subject to Government approval.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, tréaslaím leis an Teachta Nash as an mBille seo a chur os comhair na Dála. I commend him on bringing forward this Bill. I welcome any legislation that seeks to shut the revolving door between Government and vested interests. We need to keep in mind the scandals of the past year that brought this issue to the fore, including the appointment of a former Minister of State at the Department of Finance to a position with an investment fund lobbying group. This showed very clearly the need for increased regulation of lobbying. That particular appointment breached the cooling-off period set down for such appointments, which sent shock waves through the general public. People were really baffled by how easily it could be done. What is even more shocking, as already mentioned, is that there are no enforcement powers relating to the designated cooling-off period.

Deputy Nash proposes to empower the Standards in Public Office Commission to investigate suspected contraventions of section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. That section prohibits former designated public officials from engaging in lobbying activity for one year after leaving their post. This is what is referred to as a post-employment cooling-off period. SIPO's power to investigate would apply to contraventions of section 22 that occur after the Bill is enacted, even if the former public official left office before that date. This would undoubtedly be an improvement on what is currently in place.

There is scope to go further still, however. For example, it would be best practice to extend the cooling-off period from one to two years. The first Bill I co-sponsored in the Dáil, together with Deputy Doherty, sought to implement 13 of the 22 recommendations that were submitted by SIPO to the Government in May 2019 to extend its investigative and sanctioning powers. I will not go through all of them but will highlight a few. The recommendations included providing the commission with further powers to investigate and report on breaches of the code of conduct. Greater oversight of lobbying would be provided by extending the scope of section 22 of the 2015 Act to make a failure to comply with that section an offence. This would place SIPO on a surer footing when investigating complaints.

We have had a review of these issues but what we really need now is action. This Bill, if not the Bill I brought forward, should be enacted as soon as possible. We need to deal with the issues head on and without delay to restore public confidence. In the interest of accountability and transparency, we need legislation urgently. A revolving door between politics and the lobbying industry is corrosive to democracy and undermines public confidence that our political system is responsive to the needs of the people of this country rather than those of unelected vested interest groups.

I commend Deputy Nash on bringing forward this legislation and affording us another opportunity to deal with the issue of lobbying. In fairness to the Minister of State, he acknowledged the lack of enforcement in regard to this matter and the need for such enforcement. This is not the first time I have spoken on this issue. My colleague, Deputy Mairéad Farrell, referred to the legislation she and Deputy Doherty brought forward. We welcome some aspects of Deputy Nash's Bill, particularly the proposal regarding the cooling-off period. Deputy Mairéad Farrell put it really well when she said that we need to shut the revolving door between politics and big business and lobbyists. There is a general perception that such a revolving door is in action, which is possibly sometimes unfair. We leave ourselves open to that perception when we do not close off these particular loopholes and problems. As Deputy Mairéad Farrell said, our party is in favour of a cooling-off period of two years rather than one.

I am very interested in the Minister of State's comment to the effect that a review of this issue has been carried out and his reference to a memorandum that will be brought to Cabinet before the summer recess. We need action as soon as possible. Whether that is by way of this legislation, Deputy Mairéad Farrell's Bill or a third legislative proposal does not really matter, so long as it reflects the significant information we already have. We know the recommendations SIPO has made on this matter. They just need to be implemented. As I said, the public's perception of the connection between politics and lobbying is not good. That has arisen because of things that happened in this State in the past that show a crossover between big business, the insurance lobby, the banking sector and politics. It is entirely necessary to separate politics from those interests.

When speaking on this issue previously, I made the point that accountability needs to happen at governmental level and more broadly at political level. People expect that to be done. I also made the point that I do not always get caught up in the idea of absolute accountability and transparency. I accept that we live in a world of grey and, from time to time, there is a necessity to get issues dealt with from the point of view of benefiting the public. What we have, however, and what is seen to be happening, is a connectivity between politics and a power base involving big business and elites. We need to ensure that we sever this connection in reality, as well as the perception of it. I also said in previous discussions that there is an element of people possibly not being overly concerned about this issue if we were delivering for them on the issues that matter. We all know what those issues are. We are at the tail end of the pandemic and we need to restore as many businesses as possible and continue whatever supports have been given to date to ensure business owners, families and the rest of society are supported. We know the difficulties there are for people in the taxi industry, aviation, hospitality, entertainment and many other sectors. The list goes on. We need to ensure we deliver for those people and we also must deliver on housing and healthcare.

What Deputy Nash is proposing in this Bill, and what was proposed previously by Deputies Mairéad Farrell and Doherty, is very simple. It is about ensuring that we clearly separate politics from big business lobbyists. We can do that very easily and it is worthwhile and absolutely necessary to do so. I put it to the Minister of State and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, that it is just a matter of getting it done as quickly as possible. It is a very simple request and we must deliver it.

As there are no more Deputies offering, I ask the Minister of State to respond to the contributions.

I thank Deputies Maireád Farrell and Ó Murchú for their contributions. I reiterate my thanks to Deputy Nash for bringing the Bill forward.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend section 18 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 by including a contravention of section 22 within the definition of "relevant contraventions". It is also proposed that this amendment would have retrospective effect. If a contravention of section 22 was deemed to be a relevant contravention under the Act, as proposed, then SIPO would be empowered to authorise an investigation to be carried out. Furthermore, a person who commits a relevant contravention of section 22 would be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a class C fine and, on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.

As Deputies will be aware, under section 22 of the 2015 Act, specific categories of relevant designated public officials are subject to a one-year cooling-off period during which they cannot engage in lobbying activities in specific circumstances or be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities in specific circumstances. The cooling-off period applies for a full one-year term unless the relevant designated public official applies to SIPO for consent to waive or reduce that term.

This approach was considered to represent a proportionate response to the matter on a case-by-case basis, rather than placing a mandatory blanket prohibition on relevant DPOs taking up particular roles which could be open to legal challenge by a person, for example, when moving from a relevant DPO post in the public sector to a specific post in the private sector. It is the responsibility of the relevant DPO to seek consent from SIPO to waive or reduce their cooling-off period prior to taking up an offer of employment or to provide relevant services in circumstances where such employment or services may be, or be perceived to be, encompassed by section 22. SIPO may decide to give consent unconditionally or give consent with conditions attached. It may also refuse to give consent for all or part of the cooling-off period. A relevant DPO who is unhappy with the decision of SIPO may appeal.

Since the Act commenced on 1 September 2015, SIPO has received 20 such applications. The apparent low level of applications received by SIPO has given rise to a concern on its part that there should be more applications for consent under section 22 than have been received to date. However, work undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2020 appears to indicate that this may not be the case. The Department sought to analyse the numbers of relevant DPOs who moved to lobbying positions or apparent lobbying positions between 2015 and 2020. Although this analysis has limitations because it relies on data that are publicly available, almost 250 individuals were identified as having left relevant DPO positions since the introduction of the Act to the present, with less than 20 individuals being subsequently identified as having a connection with specific lobbying posts. The analysis produced by the Department matches broadly with the level of section 22 applications that have been received by SIPO over the same period, although as SIPO's data in relation to section 22 applications are anonymous, as provided for in section 25 of the 2015 Act, the overlap between such applications and the Department's analysis cannot be definitively determined.

As I set out earlier this evening, the Act is generally perceived to have met the intended objective of increasing transparency and accountability around the lobbying of DPOs, which is underpinned by a register that is easily accessible and navigable. The submissions received during the public consultation that was held as part of the second statutory review highlighted some of the aspects of the Act which stakeholders perceived as important, including the additional transparency the Act has brought to the lobbying space. The legislation is seen as comprehensive in its regulation of a wide range of lobbying activities. The increased transparency provided by the Act in relation to lobbying activities was viewed as facilitating greater accountability. The register was considered to be easily accessible, free and updated regularly. The website was described as user-friendly and open to public scrutiny. The work of SIPO was praised and positive reference was made to the support and guidance given by SIPO via its regular communications and the availability of staff to provide advice to organisations on the register. The part the register plays in promoting the role of organisations in shaping public policy was also mentioned. The importance of the Act in recognising lobbying as a legitimate activity which promotes the development of appropriate and effective policy and legislation was highlighted. It was acknowledged that the Act has not led to a chilling effect on lobbying activities.

It is important to recognise that there is a solid foundation in place, but like all foundations, it needs maintenance, renewal and enhancement as required. The recently concluded review process allowed for a detailed assessment of a range of issues raised by SIPO and which we have discussed in the House. In addition to consultations with the Office of the Attorney General, the review included assessment of the current operation of key provisions of the Act; consultation with and consideration of the views of SIPO; and consideration of options to address concerns raised and the policy, legal and practical implications of different responses. The core consideration was to look at how the existing solid foundation could be enhanced most effectively and efficiently, strengthening any weakness which had been identified.

In conclusion, I am proposing an amendment which "recognises that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 has just concluded" and "resolves that the Regulation of Lobbying (Post-Term Employment as Lobbyist) Bill 2020 be deemed to be read a second time this day six months, to allow for a proposal for draft legislation to take account of the recommendations arising from that review to be brought forward". I will oppose the completion of Second Stage should my amendment not be agreed to.

I will not detain the Minister of State or the House for too long. I appreciate that it is late on a Thursday evening.

I thank the Minister of State for his remarks. Dare I say it, but I think he understands, appreciates and supports the overarching principles that have informed the development of the Bill. I wish to thank Deputies Mairéad Farrell and Ó Murchú, who spoke broadly in favour of the approach that the Bill seeks to take. I recognise the work that Deputy Farrell has done in the context of her own Bill, which was brought to Second Stage last November.

There is a general consensus around what needs to be done; the question is when it ought to be done. In my view, it ought to be done now. We do not know the minute or the hour when we might experience another case whereby, as I described in my earlier remarks, a Minister or a senior public official leaves office on a Friday and takes up another gig the following Monday that is directly related to the previous role that he or she enjoyed. I am not, for one minute, claiming that any individual who may take up such an opportunity does so for any other reasons than having an interest in the new role that he or she has been offered and to make a reasonable living for himself or herself. That is absolutely fair enough.

However, the perception is everything. The intersection between business, politics and public life more generally in this country has to be better managed. Lobbying has to occur through a pane of glass. The lobbying register itself has been an enormously important innovation in Irish public life. The Minister of State is right to assert that it is working very well. It attracts broad support. The website is navigable, clear, transparent and easy to use. Indeed, occasionally I look up the register to see who is lobbying who and for what purpose. That is most important. It is precisely what my party and Deputy Howlin, in his former role, sought to achieve back in the early 2010s when we developed the legislation.

The Minister of State referenced the fact that very few applications were made to SIPO for consent or an exemption under the terms of the Act. There are a number of different ways to interpret the information that the Minister of State has provided to the House. My view is that given that very few section 22 applications were made by those who were leaving particular roles and moving into new ones, that makes the case for this legislation. It will not always be the case that SIPO will decide to reach back to investigate an issue that may make it uneasy or may have caused some disquiet. SIPO can look at it on the merits of the case itself. As legislators, we need to provide SIPO with the opportunity to do that. It is an opportunity that it does not have currently and one which needs to be presented to it, because we all know that transparency in public life is key to public trust in democracy. We know that if there is not public trust in democracy, it affects social cohesion, trust in our institutions and our polity more broadly, and can lead to the rise of extreme politics and the collapse of society as we know it. That is no exaggeration. We know the impact that mistrust of democracy can have. In many ways, perception is everything.

The idea that one can leave a job on Friday and move into another one on Monday with absolute impunity, when those two particular roles might have been connected, does not sit well with the public or anybody who values democracy or this institution.

We need to be careful in how we proceed and proportionate in how we respond. I absolutely understand why Deputy Howlin, when he was framing the initial legislation, did not provide for a mechanism like this at that point in time. This was a radical departure in Irish politics and law. It was important that we had an opportunity to assess how the legislation actually operated in practice. Now after six years in operation, we can look at it in the round and identify how it ought to be improved.

This is not direct attack on or criticism of colleagues in Sinn Féin. The one-year cooling off period gets it about right. I know because I was involved tangentially in discussions about what this legislation might look like. I know that the Attorney General's office would have had serious concerns about introducing anything longer than a one-year cooling off period because the right of somebody to work and to provide for themselves is important.

When the recommendations are made, when the Cabinet discusses them and the memo is brought by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, is it the Government's intention, given that there have been several initiatives across the House in this area, to share those recommendations with those interested in this space? That would be an important step forward.

I would like to see this legislation enacted sooner rather than later because we do not know the minute or the hour when the kind of case which arose last September will arise again. Our focus needs to be on instilling, ensuring and guaranteeing trust in our democracy at all times. That is why the legislation needs to be enacted as soon as possible. That is why I, unfortunately, oppose the idea that we need to wait for another few months to allow the Government to develop its own legislation. That said, I hope the draft legislation brought to this House by the Minister of State will include many of the propositions contained in my Bill, as well as those in the Bill from Deputies Farrell and Doherty.

I thank the Minister of State for his interest in this area. I look forward to working with him over the next few months in an effort to get this right.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time next week.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.33 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 22 June 2021.