Inland Fisheries Bill 2009: Committee Stage.
Sections 1 to 6, inclusive agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 15, subsection (4)(b), line 24, after “Minister” to insert the following:
"following consultation with the relevant all party Oireachtas Committee".
This is a fairly straightforward amendment, which should be accepted by the Minister. It broadens the democratic process in that a joint Oireachtas committee would have a say in what goes on.
The purpose of the subsection to which the amendment refers is to oblige Inland Fisheries Ireland to establish and manage a national inland fisheries forum, the terms of reference of which would be subject to the agreement of the Minister. This forum is seen as a means of formalising interest group input into policy formulation and will act as a conduit to provide advice and inform policy deliberation on the conservation, protection and management of all inland fisheries species.
The Senator is seeking to have the terms of reference of this forum subject to consultation with the relevant joint Oireachtas committee. As previously stated, the establishment and management of this forum is primarily an operational matter for Inland Fisheries Ireland. Given the Department's corporate governance role over this body, the legislation makes provision for the terms of reference to be subject to the agreement of the Minister. It is neither appropriate nor necessary for the joint Oireachtas committee to be part of that process. The agreement of the Minister should be sufficient to ensure the terms of reference are fit for purpose. Any additional consultation requirements could unnecessarily delay or complicate the establishment of the forum.
I already gave an undertaking during the passage of the Bill in the other House to have the draft terms of reference for the forum circulated to members of the joint Oireachtas committee for their information. I expect the terms of reference will be circulated to members shortly.
There is nothing to prevent the joint Oireachtas committee making a submission to the Department or Inland Fisheries Ireland on the operation of the forum and I assure the House that any submission received will be given full and due consideration. It is not appropriate to legislate for consultation with the joint Oireachtas committee on what is an operational matter for Inland Fisheries Ireland. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
Section 8 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 17, lines 29 to 44, to delete subsections (2) and (3).
Section 9(1) sets out how this will operate while subsection (2) basically states the Minister can change his mind in this regard. It is a rather unusual way for legislation to be enacted.
While the legislation provides that Inland Fisheries Ireland must report and manage its business on the basis of river basin districts, one must be cognisant of the fact policy in this area is ever evolving. Consequently, there may be a time when it is not appropriate for the new body to manage its operations precisely on this particular basis.
Subsections (2) and (3) were included in the Bill to allow the Minister to amend, by order, this arrangement. Either House of the Oireachtas can annul an order made under this section within a 21 day period of it being laid before it. If we remove this provision, as suggested by the amendment, the only way any management and reporting arrangements can be amended in future would be by means of new primary legislation. This could be unnecessarily cumbersome if a minor adjustment for operational reasons were required. This is an important provision that needs to be retained in the legislation.
This particular provision was the subject of detailed debate during the passage of the Bill through the other House. Having taken the discussion on board, there is now provision in the Bill that the joint Oireachtas committee shall be consulted before any such order is made. This amendment to the Bill made by the other House addresses the concerns of the Senator and in the circumstances I am not inclined to accept his amendment.
It is important to reiterate that this came up in the other House. In the spirit of what the Senator suggested, I made the concession that should a Minister choose to change the operational mandate or area from it being other than a river basin district, one would notify the committee of that intention so members would be involved. Effectively, it means that if there were to be minor adjustments or changes to the river basin district, in other words if one were to decide to move part of one river basin district into another for purely operational reasons, one would not have to go back to the House with formal legislation as it would be done by way of an order. It is for administrative convenience. The other House addressed whether it would be open to a Minister to re-carve entirely the basis for the management of the inland water resource. That is unlikely because a major move of that kind would require extensive consultation.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 9 agreed to.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 19, subsection (3)(b), line 4, after “persons” to insert “proposed to be”.
Under the Bill as it stands, the joint Oireachtas committee can only suggest three names. All the other board members are notified to the committee after they are appointed. This seems to be something of afait acommpli. We suggest that all the members are notified to the committee in advance. The committee can then nominate three members and comment on the remainder.
The paragraph under discussion obliges the Minister to provide to the joint Oireachtas committee a statement indicating the relevant experience and expertise of persons appointed to the board of inland fisheries Ireland on the nomination of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and on the Minister's own nomination. The purpose of this provision is to ensure the committee is fully informed as to the qualifications and experience of the persons appointed to the board so it can ensure in making its nominations that there is an appropriate balance of skill sets on the board.
It would appear the amendment proposed by the Senator would only serve to delay these appointments to the board. On Committee Stage in the other House, I advised of my intention to announce details of my appointees who will form the basis of an interim board pending establishment of the IFI. Following consultation with the committee, I will provide the statement as set out in this section so that it will be fully informed in making its nominations.
I advise the House that this provision was amended during the Bill's passage through the other House to ensure the joint Oireachtas committee can input into the statement to be provided by the Minister on his or her appointees. Accordingly, for the reasons outlined, I cannot accept the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."
This is a relatively new initiative. The first appointments by the joint Oireachtas committee were to the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTE. We are now considering appointments to the board of TG4. It is good the joint Oireachtas committee is involved in this. It is a slight departure and places an onus on members to ensure the process of selection is done in a way which enhances the contributions these people can make to the organisations to which they are being appointed. We should acknowledge that it is a good initiative.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 13 to 16, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 24, subsection (2), line 9, to delete paragraph (b).
The section states that a member of the board of inland fisheries Ireland shall cease to hold office, or is disqualified from office, if he or she makes an arrangement with creditors. That seems to be fairly harsh. Does that mean that if somebody is unable to pay his or her mortgage and his or her house is repossessed, he or she can no longer serve on the board of inland fisheries Ireland?
This is an important point. While I am aware that exclusion from boards is virtually automatic in the case of persons who become bankrupt, subsection 2(b) rolls back the barrier considerably. In the current economic climate ordinary people have extended themselves, primarily due to poor banking practices, and now find themselves stretched. They may, therefore, have to come to an arrangement with their bank or creditors. How will this provision apply to such persons? For instance, an agreement under which an individual arranges with a bank to pay interest only on a loan for two or three years, rather than meeting the capital and interest repayments, amounts to an arrangement with a creditor. It is not necessary to debar a person who reaches such an agreement from membership of a public body. Given that, under this provision, a person with an arrangement with a creditor is automatically disqualified from membership of the IFI, any such person will be compelled to resign from the body, which would be a matter of some embarrassment and consequence. I ask the Minister to examine this matter before Report Stage to ascertain whether that is the case. It appears to be the effect if one takes a literal interpretation of the text. I ask the Minister of State to clarify the matter.
I remind the Minister of State that we live in changed economic times. This provision may affect people who may well have met the criteria set out in this section in the past and are worthy of consideration for membership of the board. In light of the ever changing economic fortunes of the country and the unfortunate economic circumstances facing many individuals, the amendment should be accepted. Given the manner in which Members are losing income through pay cuts, pension and income levies and, more recently, foregoing their pensions, as someone stated this morning, by the time we leave the House some of will qualify for family income support. Even the Minister of State may fall into the bankrupt category before the term is out.
Senators should excuse me for chuckling in response to Senator McCarthy's intervention.
This is a standard provision which applies in the case of the majority of appointees to State boards. Appointees to State organisations must be upstanding in all matters, including financial matters. If an individual is financially compromised, he or she could be open to undue influence. This provision is designed to protect the integrity of the board.
Following concerns voiced about this provision during the Committee Stage debate in the Other House, advice was sought as to the precise meaning of the term. As a number of Senators noted, when one coldly reads the legislation, the provision appears to be rather threatening. I am advised, however, that the phrase used is a technical term borrowed from the bankruptcy code. It refers to an arrangement made with creditors under the Bankruptcy Act 1988 or a composition made with creditors under the specific terms of the Act. The provision has a specific meaning and cannot be construed as meaning all arrangements between a debtor and creditor, for instance, a renegotiation of the terms of a mortgage, the example cited by Senator Walsh. It is important that Members are satisfied that the phrase is specific to the Bankruptcy Act 1988 and does not have a wider meaning which encompasses people who have a stressed mortgage or business but have not been subject to the Bankruptcy Act.
I accept the concerns voiced in this and the other House on this matter. I welcome the appointment of a specific group within the Government which is seeking to implement the measures set out in the Law Reform Commission report regarding the Bankruptcy Acts. I understand the group will seek to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1988. This will present an appropriate forum for further debate on this matter. At present, however, I regret I am unable to accept the proposed amendment.
I reassure Senators that the provision does not have the alarming meaning that any ordinary person would construe from a reading of it. I do not pretend to be wiser than any other Member. While the provision may appear alarming, it is specific to the Bankruptcy Act.
The Minister of State's explanation shows that I have a poor understanding of the Bankruptcy Act as I still do not have the foggiest notion who is covered by the provision.
Thankfully, it will not apply to us.
I hope we will not have to give a broader opinion on it. According to the Minister of State, the provision will not apply to individuals who may have to renegotiate their mortgages but are not deemed to be bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act.
It applies only to people who are declaring for bankruptcy under the Act.
I welcome the clarification provided by the Minister of State. As I, like Senator Twomey, have not read the Bankruptcy Act recently, I am not in a position to interpret it. Legislation should be drafted in the simplest and most understandable manner possible. Perhaps the Minister will consider inserting a reference to the Bankruptcy Act to qualify the literal interpretation of the current wording. While I am not a lawyer and do not know whether such a step is legally necessary, as the Minister of State acknowledged, the current wording gave rise to concerns in both Houses. The use of phraseology that is not simply understood allows the legal profession to charge exorbitant fees.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 17 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 24, subsection (1), line 26, after "Minister" to insert ", with the approval of Dáil Éireann,".
The amendment proposes to improve accountability to the Oireachtas in respect of the legislation by providing that the Minister secure the approval of the Dáil or relevant Oireachtas committee before removing a member from the board. This will allow people to become aware of the reasons for the removal and improve accountability to the Oireachtas.
Section 18(1) provides that the Minister may, in certain circumstances, remove all of the members of inland fisheries Ireland. The amendment proposes to have such a removal subject to the approval of the Oireachtas. The Minister is primarily responsible for the corporate governance of inland fisheries Ireland, including its board, and it must be open to him or her to decide to remove the entire board if the specified circumstances occur. It is not appropriate for this provision to be subject to prior Oireachtas approval as the criteria under which this action can be taken are very specific.
Following the Committee Stage debate on this section in the Other House, I agreed to include a provision whereby the Minister will provide the joint Oireachtas committee with an appropriate statement indicating the circumstances of removal of all members under this provision. The Senator will note that this provision has been included at subsection (2). I trust the amendments made to the Bill will alleviate the Senator's concern in this matter. He will understand that, in the circumstances, I cannot accept the proposed amendment.
In short, I amended this provision in the other House by introducing a specific requirement on the Minister, should he take the rather extreme step of removing the board, to engage in a formal notification process to the Oireachtas committee. This requirement was not provided for in the legislation as originally drafted and moves some way in the direction sought by the Senator.
The Senator's party is riding high in the opinion polls and he may be in a ministerial position in future. In such circumstances, he would understand that the executive authority for removal must lie with the Minister. Clearly, the idea of a statement in the event of such an extreme form of removal occurring would, of necessity, involve the Oireachtas in intense debate as to the reasons for such a ministerial decision.
Notwithstanding the Minister of State's positive aspirations for my future, legislation should improve accountability to the Oireachtas, rather than increasing the powers of the Executive. Since the foundation of the State, the Executive has wielded all power. Even if the Fine Gael Party is in power following the next general election, we would like powers over legislation and its implementation to be shared between the Oireachtas and Executive. We should give the Oireachtas greater responsibility for legislation.
My well publicised private views on this matter are in accordance with those expressed by the Senator. The authority of the Executive has been strengthened to an excessive degree in our system. My personal view is that the only way to resolve the matter is to strenghten Parliament by having an Executive Presidency, which system is probably more accountable than ours. I do not want to bore the Senator, but I agree with him in his view that the Executive has accumulated almost too much power in our system.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 18 agreed to.
Sections 19 to 28, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 32, lines 19 to 22, to delete subsection (9).
Under this amendment the gag on the chief executive would be removed.
This is a standard legislative provision which appears in many other enactments and applies in general to State bodies. It is also one that is frequently the subject of debate when enacting legislation. The purpose of the subsection is to separate the position of chief executive when appearing before an Oireachtas committee. At the end of the day, it is the Minister who is responsible for policy and politically responsible to the Oireachtas. The chief executive has a means of influencing policy within the Department and I am satisfied that the mechanisms available are sufficiently robust. It is the function of the Opposition to scrutinise and criticise Government policy. The chief executive deserves protection from Opposition Deputies and Senators when he or she appears before them.
The subsection does not preclude the chief executive from discussing matters of public interest. The chief executive is employed by a public body and obliged to work within its structures. It would not be a good policy for a chief executive of a State organisation to be able to criticise Government policy when appearing before an Oireachtas committee. This provision reflects existing practice under legislation and I am not willing to exempt the chief executive of inland fisheries Ireland from this exclusion. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment.
There was a detailed discussion on the issue at the committee. A chief executive who has such deep-seated difficulties with Government policy has a number of options, including resignation or robustly raising the matter internally with the Minister. It would not be helpful if a chief executive could depart from that reporting line, through the Executive and Parliament. It is possible for a chief executive who is getting nowhere but who does not wish to resign to informally enlighten Opposition Members of how his or her concerns are not being met. We know this has occurred frequently during the years when Opposition Members were very well informed of what was going on in some bodies. That is proper and sufficiently robust.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 29 agreed to.
Sections 30 to 34, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 35 stand part of the Bill."
I welcome this section which deals with standards of integrity and places a statutory obligation on the employees and chief executive of the company. There is a lacuna in much of our legislation in this area. There is a need to place a statutory obligation on the CEO of and other senior managers in the IFI or similar companies to adhere to good corporate governance practice, especially in financial and general management matters to ensure value for money is achieved for the taxpayer. I have been told before that this is understood, but it is not. It was not understood by the chief executive of FÁS that there was this obligation on him. If there was such a statutory obligation and it was flagrantly breached by somebody, the Government would be in a position to dispense with the services of that individual without additional compensation. We have seen such examples which have brought the administration of public services into disrepute. People were paid huge sums of money on termination of their employment, especially where they had demonstrably failed to carry out their duties in a reasonable manner that would have been expected by any employer availing of their services.
I welcome the provision on integrity, but the commercial requirements of ensuring value for money for the taxpayer and complying with and operating to the best standards of corporate governance mean wastefulness and profligacy in a public company should constitute grounds for dismissal. That would place an onus on persons in senior public positions to use the resources of the company in a way that would stand up to scrutiny. Given recent serious failures, we should be looking to insert this as a provision. While I welcome the provision on integrity, we need to go beyond it a little.
There is a reference in the Bill to an obligation on the chief executive to exercise his or her role in respect of the "economy and efficiency" of the IFI. These words are more old fashioned than the phrase "value for money" that has recently been more popular. The integrity of public bodies and institutions such as the Houses is very much guided by the culture of the organisation concerned; therefore, it is possible to prescribe these matters in legislation. In regard to the Enron scandal, highly educated individuals managed to run a coach and four through the rules precisely because there was overprescription in guidelines to a point where intelligent people were motivated to find loopholes in them. Much depends on the culture of and the leadership shown in an organisation.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 36 to 39, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 39, subsection (1), lines 3 and 4, to delete paragraph (a).
Section 40 states,inter alia, that where a member of the IFI, a member of a committee of the IFI or the chief executive is nominated as a candidate for election to either House of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament, thereon he or she should cease to hold office. That is unusual because it relates to someone who is not a Member of either House or the European Parliament but who is seeking a nomination to become a Member and who must then resign his or her position, regardless of the outcome of the election. That is a little harsh for a member of the board. It might be acceptable where he or she managed to be elected, as he or she would have other extensive duties to perform.
The section also states the person concerned must resign if he or she becomes a member of a local authority. What is wrong with county councillors that they are considered to pose such a threat to the IFI? I would like to hear the Minister of State's explanation as to why such an individual would pose such a danger to the integrity and the corporate governance of the IFI that he or she could no longer hold office.
I concur with some of Senator Twomey's comments. This House has often debated the issue of the automatic exclusion of people involved in local government. Councillors represent a wide spectrum of society and have diverse expertise. Some of them have served with great distinction in the fisheries sector and many other bodies. This automatic, blanket exclusion of councillors from participation at board level is highly discriminatory. I can understand why Members of the Oireachtas are excluded because they are involved in policy-making; therefore, there is a clear distinction, but that does not apply to councillors. That is not to say, however, that I wish to interfere in any way with the principle of ministerial discretion in the appointment of board members. The Minister will continue to retain discretion. It is open, therefore, to the Minister to decide whether somebody is suitable and who the best people are to serve on these boards. That would not be in any way affected by the removal of paragraph (e) which relates to local authority members. I strongly urge the Minister to take this on board. If he could do so, the House would be grateful. Some Ministers have acceded to this reasonable argument which has been made here. It is generally the unanimous position of the House. Other Ministers have not been so amenable. It would be a pity if this provision was allowed to remain in the Bill simply because somebody thinks it is generally a good idea. I, therefore, ask the Minister of State to consider the amendment favourably, particularly as it applies to the membership of local authorities.
I support the amendment and the points made by Senators Walsh and Twomey. In recent years we have seen the role of councillors being reduced and their powers consequently being limited. For many years they fought with successive Governments to achieve their current level of remuneration. Councillors' organisations eventually succeeded in having the facilities for and resources available to local authority members improved. We must be mindful that, as a result of the economic cutbacks, the political classes have suffered the most in losing resources and facilities.
We are not suggesting all 850 councillors should suddenly be appointed to State boards because that would never be the case. However, some of them, in some parts of the country, could be appointed from time to time. We should not restrict the areas of activity in which they could become involved. They might well bring expertise to various boards, which they bring to their respective local authorities. From the smallest town councils to the largest city and county councils, local authorities constitute a fundamental unit of democracy. Councillors are elected on merit by voters to serve and lead their communities, as well as to make decisions on their behalf. This would be an automatic extension of that franchise.
I have been greatly impressed by the arguments advanced on this matter by Senator Walsh. Overnight I decided to accept the amendment concerning local authority members. In other words, I agree that it is highly discriminatory to impose a ban on local authority members being members of this particular board. If someone is suitably qualified to perform a function and happens to be a member of a local authority, he or she should not be excluded from membership of this board. Because of the submissions and statements made by Senators Twomey and McCarthy, I am accepting the amendment, even though it would suit me and my officials better to have the Bill passed today. Nonetheless, we will go back to the Dáil. We will delete paragraph (e) of section 40(1).
I am not so minded to change other paragraphs referring to the nomination of a person as a candidate for election to the Dáil or the European Parliament, however successful or unsuccessful they may prove to be. There is a genuine reason persons who are highly politicised and contesting an election for membership of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament should not be on the board. It is discriminatory, however, to prohibit a suitably qualified local authority member from serving. In deference to the Senators' views, therefore, I am changing that part of the legislation.
As I suppose everything in politics is about compromise, we will have to agree with the Minister of State. I will, therefore, withdraw my amendment. I am glad the Minister of State has taken on board the fact that there is no need to discriminate against those who are elected to a local authority. I can see why the insertion of such a provision can be irritating to those elected as county councillors. As a profession, politics has been subject to a fair degree of scrutiny and negative commentary recently. In some respects, inserting such a provision in the legislation almost confirms the argument that there is something wrong with entering political life. I am glad, therefore, that the Minister of State proposes to delete paragraph (e) which might start the rehabilitation process for all politicians in society. There is a need to have a serious debate on the role of politics because all politicians are coming under sustained attack, although much of it is unreasonable and unbalanced. We should avoid inserting such a provision in legislation, as it only confirms the negative ideas often cited against politicians.
On a point of clarification, did Senator Twomey say he was withdrawing his amendment? There is no Government amendment in this regard. As I understand it, the Minister of State is accepting amendment No. 8.
Two amendments are being discussed together. Amendment No. 7 proposes the deletion of paragraph (a), while amendment No. 8 proposes the deletion of paragraph (e). I will not push for the deletion of paragraph (a), but I will accept the deletion of paragraph (e).
I am sure everyone in the House will thank the Minister of State for his decision. I thank him personally because, as he mentioned, I had a long conversation with him last night on the issue. At the time he was aware it posed a certain difficulty in that the Bill must now be returned to the Dáil. It is a measure of his responsiveness to reasonable suggestions that he was prepared to accept that inconvenience in order to amend the measure. There will be a consequential amendment to another section. Section 40(4) deals with someone becoming a member of a local authority, but I hope the Minister of State will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to section 44. I thank him on behalf of the many people involved in local government, hundreds of whom give of their time more or less on a voluntary basis and often at great cost to themselves and their families. They will regard this as a recognition of their position and the work they do. I applaud the Minister of State for taking that aspect fully on board.
I thank the Minister of State for having listened to the points of view expressed here. He has demonstrated flexibility in dealing with the legislation. We have always said we are here to initiate, amend, pass and enact legislation. This is a fine example of the effectiveness of Seanad Éireann, including the connection we still have with local government, despite the abolition of the dual mandate. We still have the best interests of elected public servants at heart. I sincerely thank the Minister of State for his willingness to accept the amendment.
As there will be a consequential amendment to section 44 on Report Stage, I will revert to the House at that stage. I acknowledge the contribution of the Tánaiste, Deputy Coughlan, who was very firm on the matter when I spoke to her earlier today. She has constituted the new FÁS board on the basis that there cannot be an exclusion of a member of a local authority. I was guided by her advice on the matter also. I thank Senators for their kind words.
As the Minister of State mentioned the FÁS board, it is interesting that Councillor Tony Dempsey from County Wexford was placed on that board. Having had a long experience of Councillor Dempsey, both locally and nationally, he will be a great addition to the board.
I concur with those comments.
Is Senator Twomey withdrawing amendment No. 7?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 39, subsection (1), line 11, to delete paragraph (e).
This amendment is being accepted by the Minister of State.
Is the amendment being accepted?
Amendment agreed to.
Section 40, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 41 to 56, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 48, subsection (5)(b)(ii), line 9, to delete “(if any)”.
In this amendment, the words "if any" mean that inland fisheries Ireland is at liberty not to maintain a website. There should be a clear obligation on it to have a website and to publish the by-laws on it. On Committee Stage in the Dáil, the Minister stated the amendment would cause difficulties and one could not compel a body to have a website. However, that is incorrect because other legislation enacted by both Houses do that. For example, the Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill refers to publication on a website, as do a number of other pieces of legislation. I hope the Minister of State is still flexible and that he will accept this amendment.
This amendment relates to the publication of any by-laws made under section 54 of the Bill on the website of inland fisheries Ireland. The Senator seeks to have the term "if any" removed from the provision. I have consulted the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and am advised that this provision should not be amended. The inclusion of the phrase "if any" offers protection to inland fisheries Ireland in case of any unforeseen difficulties with its web page. Furthermore, I am advised that by removing the provision, there is a real risk that potential prosecutions could be prejudiced. A defendant could use the fact that he or she was unable to access a by-law on the website of inland fisheries Ireland to thwart a prosecution for breach of the by-law. Accordingly, I am unable to accept the amendment.
I thank the Minister of State for his response and will withdraw the amendment. However, on a general legislative basis, this is an amendment we could put forward for other legislation and I would like to see it accepted in the interest of conformity and consistency.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 57 agreed to.
Sections 58 to 67, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 59, subsection (1), line 16, after "Finance" to insert "and the approval of Dáil Éireann".
The Minister has included a new subsection (3) here, which may be to cater for the fact that he wants the approval of Dáil Éireann for the sale of any property by IFI. The new subsection states: "The Minister shall, as soon as practicable, notify the Joint Oireachtas Committee of the details of any sale completed in accordance withsubsection (1).” Would it be possible to alter this so the Oireachtas committee could be informed before the sale is completed, not in order to allow the committee alter the sale agreement, but to allow it express any concerns and influence the sale? It should not be a fait accompli where the Oireachtas committee has no real say because the sale has been completed.
This amendment concerns section 65 of the Bill, which is a restatement of section 45 of the Fisheries Act 1980. It allows the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to sell certain fisheries, fishing rights and businesses vested in him or her. Senators O'Reilly and Twomey seek to have any such sale subject to the approval of Dáil Éireann. Such a restriction is not applied to other agencies or Ministers and I do not feel it is necessary in this instance, particularly as the provision is safeguarded by requiring the approval of the Minister for Finance. Nevertheless, having taken on board the point made following the debate on this section in the House, the Bill includes a provision whereby the Minister will notify the joint Oireachtas committee of the details of any sale completed under this section. I trust Senator Twomey will understand that in light of the amendments already made to this section, I am unable to accept the proposed amendment.
I remind the Senator — I know this from my late father's experience in returning the famous weir in Galway into Irish owned hands — that often opportunities for a quick purchase or sale arise in unique circumstances and a Minister must have the flexibility to execute the sale in a timely fashion, before the mood of the seller changes and it cannot be done.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 68 agreed to.
Sections 69 to 83, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
Report Stage will be tomorrow, because of the need for the Government to bring forward a consequential amendment. I thank the Minister of State for accepting the amendment. I know its acceptance is inconvenient for him, but we are grateful to him for accepting it. Hopefully, Report Stage can be rescheduled for tomorrow morning.
Report Stage ordered for Thursday, 29 April 2010.
Sitting suspended at 12.30 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.