Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006: Committee and Remaining Stages.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Kitt.

SECTION 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 34, after "text" to insert "in the English language".

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The point covered in this amendment was raised by my party during the debate on the Bill in the Dáil. The amendment seeks to reflect the fact that there are six languages in the original text. The Bill, as drafted, refers specifically to one language and we ask that this be reflected by the insertion of the words "in the English language" after the word "text". As the Bill stands, the Schedule referred to is only one-sixth of what is in the other conventions. A similar provision has been included in other Acts such as Aviation Act of 2006, the International Criminal Court Act 2006 and the Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006.

Section 1 contains the usual provision of a general nature dealing with such matters as interpretation and is a standard feature of all legislation. I have been advised by the Parliamentary Counsel's office that the Government cannot accept this Opposition amendment as the language used in the Bill in regard to the treaty in terms of the Schedule is English. Therefore, there is no need to insert the wording "in the English language" in the section. As the Senator said, this point was raised during the debate on the Bill in the Dail. I have been in contact with the Parliamentary Counsel's office and that is the advice I have received.

I fail to understand why the Minister of State will not accept this point. It is clear there are five other texts in the convention, yet this Bill only relates to the word text. We need to be specific and insert that the text is English. I will not push the amendment to a vote.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed.
SECTION 2.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 4, subsection (4), line 13, to delete "liable" and substitute "liable, on conviction on indictment,".

This section deals with the major offence of a person carrying out or causing to carry out a nuclear explosion in the State or outside the State or who attempts, conspires or incites the carrying out of this offence. It carries the penalty of a fine with no maximum limit and imprisonment for life or less as the court may determine or both. This insertion has been advised by the Parliamentary Counsel as an appropriate clarification that the offence is an indictable one. I commend the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 3 to 11, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 12

Amendment No. 3 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 4 is related and they may be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 3:
In page 10, lines 40 to 43, to delete subsection (3) and substitute the following:
"(3) A person who contravenessubsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both, or
(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.”.

Section 12 provides that the documentation required under this Bill is privileged unless it is required to be disclosed in the interests of public safety and it prevents communication of such information unless it is required to enforce the provisions of this Bill or the terms of the Protocol. This section prohibits the disclosure of information except in specified circumstances. It will be for the prosecuting authorities in the courts to determine this. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence, a summary conviction carries a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment up to six months or both, while an indictable offence carries a fine up to €50,000 or a maximum of two years' imprisonment or both. The fines and the prison terms have been advised by Parliamentary Counsel as appropriate for the offences under the section. They are separate offences from the main offence dealt with in section 2 and they are deemed to be appropriate and commensurate.

We are pleased the Minister has taken on board the essence of our amendment. We are happy with this compromise and will accept the Government amendment and withdraw our amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 13.

Amendment No. 5 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 6 is related and they can be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 5:
In page 11, to delete lines 3 to 6 and substitute the following:
"that is false or misleading in a material respect shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—
(i) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both, or
(ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.".

This section provides that the making of false or misleading statements or providing false or misleading information to the national and or international authorities is an offence. It will be for the prosecuting authorities and the courts to determine this. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence, a summary offence carries a fine up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both. An indictable offence carries a fine of up to €50,000 or up to two years' imprisonment or both. The fine and the prison sentences have been advised by the Parliamentary Counsel as appropriate and commensurate for the offences under this section. They are separate offences from the main offence dealt with in section 2.

Once again, we are pleased the Minister of State has proposed this amendment. It goes a long way towards meeting our requirements and as a result we will accept his amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.
Section 13, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 14 to 17, inclusive agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State and colleagues on all sides of the House for the passing of the Bill. The approach adopted by all sides is a victory for common sense. It clearly shows the seriousness with which members from all sides viewed the contents of the Bill.

I hope the other states who have yet to ratify the treaty will proceed to do so. I wish the Bill well. I hope it never impinge on this little State in any adverse way. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for the manner in which they have guided it through the House.

I, too, thank the Minister of State for bringing this Bill before the House. As I said on Second Stage I thank the officials who drafted this comprehensive Bill. It reinforces and enhances Ireland's position in regard to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. We are making a statement by enacting into law a Bill which legislates for issues which, as Senator Glynn has said, we hope will never have to face, namely, any nuclear explosions in the jurisdiction of this State by any person or citizen of this State. I wish the Bill well.

I congratulate the Minister of State and his officials on bringing this Bill to the House. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to speak on Second Stage, having missed by about ten seconds, but I made some points to the Minister of State afterwards. My only concern is that while the treaty was open for signature in 1999 it has yet to come into force. Some 176 countries have signed the treaty and Ireland is the 136th to do so. I congratulate the Minister of State for accepting the tenor of the amendments tabled by the Labour Party.

I also congratulate the Minister of State and his officials and thank him for taking on board the spirit of our amendments. Like Senator Glynn I hope the passage of this Bill will help other countries move on towards ratification, especially the United States. I hope a message goes out from our Government to the ambassador that this Bill has passed into law and I hope that will put some pressure on the US.

I thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, and all Senators who contributed to the debate and their co-operation in taking all Stages. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will make an important contribution towards preventing the proliferation of materials, technologies and knowledge that can be used for nuclear weapons — one of the most important challenges facing the world today. Like all Senators I hope we can get the remaining countries to sign up to and ratify the treaty. The treaty, through its verification system, will also bring scientific and civil benefits, including those I mentioned yesterday, such as tsunami warning systems and possible other disaster alert systems, through civil and scientific applications of waveform radio nuclide technologies and the use of the data. I thank all Senators for their positive comments and a constructive debate.

Question put and agreed to.