Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 113, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. Senators may contribute once on each group of amendments. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I welcome the opportunity to return to the House to report on the further amendments made to the Bill in Dáil Éireann. A total of 33 amendments were proposed and approved during Committee and Report Stages. These were all Government amendments and were for the most part technical changes or text corrections. Two new Parts were added to the Bill, concerning the handling of documentation on the conclusion of tribunals of inquiry and the transfer of the family mediation service to the Legal Aid Board. All of the amendments made to the Bill since its passage by the Seanad have been in preparation by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, and I am pleased that they became available for inclusion during the Dáil stages.

I should also mention that among the amendments approved by the Dáil were those dealing with the extension of rights to civil partners with regard to the acquisition of citizenship, which I promised we would address when the Bill first came before the Seanad. This had been advocated by Senators, particularly Senator Zappone, and I am pleased to report that progress. For ease of reference and to facilitate the debate, I will group the amendments to correspond with the different Parts — 15 Parts in total — in the Bill as passed by the Seanad and the two new Parts derived from amendments in the Dáil.

The first group of amendments is Nos. 1 to 5. These essentially relate to the Long Title and to Part 1 of the Bill. Amendment No. 1 amends the Long Title, while amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 concern corrections to the collective citation of the Bill, while amendment No. 5 refers to the commencement provisions. Those sections of the Bill that will require commencement orders are clearly set out.

I call on the Minister to speak on the subject matter of the amendments in group 2.

I presume the first lot of amendments have been accepted.

We will have one question at the end of the debate.

Amendment No. 6 relates to amendments made to Part 4 and concerns the appeals procedures with regard to decisions of the Private Security Authority. Amendment No. 6 provides for a new section 16 to the Bill, in Part 4, the purpose of which is to make a number of amendments to the Second Schedule to the Private Security Services Act 2004 in order to simplify and streamline the procedures for making appeals to the appeal board and for the determination of those appeals in as speedy a manner as possible. The amendments will allow the appeal board to make decisions more quickly. This will be of tremendous benefit to those who make appeals on decisions of the authority — decisions which may have an impact on their ability to carry on a business or take up or continue in employment. To that extent, the amendments are very much in line with the commitment of this Government to remove or minimise any barriers to business or employment.

Does the Acting Chairman wish me to move on to the next group of amendments?

Yes. It is an omnibus question, so I call on the Minister to speak on the third group of amendments.

Will I go through all of it?

Yes, unless someone wishes to speak, in which case I will intervene appropriately.

I did not want to prevent that.

Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 11 are technical amendments to improve the text. They are amendments made to Part 6 with regard to the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000. Amendment No. 9 adds a subsection to section 20, the purpose of which is to remedy an omission in section 75(7) of the Act of 1998 to protect the independent functions of the officer delegated to hear and issue a decision in a discrimination case.

Amendment No. 12 adds a subsection to section 23, the purpose of which is to clarify an ambiguity that arose in the amendment of the text of section 79(6) of the Act of 1998 by the Equality Act 2004. The amendment ensures that investigation of a preliminary matter carried out under either section 79(3) or section 79(3A) will be followed by investigation of the substantive case.

Amendment No. 13 adds a new section to the Bill to correct an omission in the Equality Act 2004. Section 83 of the Act of 1998 provides for the hearing by the Labour Court of appeals to decisions of the director of the Equality Tribunal. A case in which a preliminary issue is successfully appealed to the Labour Court is referred by the court to the director for investigation of the substantive issue under section 83(5). This amendment ensures that this arrangement applies also to preliminary issues considered under either section 79(3) or the new section 79(3A).

Amendment 14 relates to amendments made to Part 10 concerning amendment of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. The purpose of Amendment 14, which amends section 31, is twofold: to provide for statutory backing for citizenship ceremonies for those applicants granted Irish citizenship, and to make the necessary amendments to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts to give effect to the Civil Partnership Act of 2010 and to improve recognition of the position of civil partners, thus making it easier for them to acquire citizenship.

I wish to highlight the following points in section 31. Paragraph (a) inserts a definition of “civil partner” in section 2. Paragraph (b) contains an amended version of “citizenship ceremony” to allow a ceremony to be held before “such other person as may be designated for that purpose by the Minister”, in addition to judges or retired judges. Such persons could be, for instance, county registrars. Paragraph (d) includes a number of amendments to section 16 to amend the definition of “Irish associations” to include civil partners. Paragraph (f) is an amendment to section 19(1)(e) to include a reference to civil partnership, while paragraphs (g), (h) and (i) replace sections 20, 22 and 23, respectively, with appropriate wording referring to civil partners or civil partnership.

Our citizenship laws do not, as stated in the Seanad, make specific provision for citizenship ceremonies. The pilot ceremony held was based on a provision in the legislation that allowed the Minister, in specific circumstances, to arrange for the swearing in of citizens in a place other than a District Court. The exceptional circumstances that facilitated these arrangements derived from the huge backlog that had accumulated and the incapacity of the court system to cope with the extent of the backlog arising from decisions made on citizenship applications. This lacuna needed to be addressed to ensure that when the backlog was addressed, there would be a statutory basis for continuing to have citizenship ceremonies. The object was not to return to a position where individuals granted citizenship would find themselves required to attend at District Court sittings around the country, possibly to be fitted in somewhere in the middle of criminal prosecutions or at the end of a day of criminal hearings in circumstances with no sense of ceremony or importance attached to their becoming citizens.

Citizenship ceremonies are intended to mark in a formal way the significance of the granting of citizenship. Following a successful pilot ceremony on 24 June, we decided to have further citizenship ceremonies in the State for all successful applicants for a certificate of naturalisation. Senators may be interested to know that, throughout Thursday and Friday of this week, in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines there will be citizenship ceremonies to facilitate the swearing in as Irish citizens of in excess of 1,300 applicants whose applications proved successful. I hope the ceremonies will be regarded as significant, memorable, important and worthy of celebration by the applicants and those accompanying them. I hope they will provide a sense of dignity that was not evident prior to the pilot ceremony. All being well, it is planned to hold a further ceremony outside Dublin in August for which arrangements are being made. It is intended to hold a ceremony in Cork in September and there will inevitably be further ceremonies organised in Dublin.

The civil partnership amendments stem from Senator Katherine Zappone's proposals in this regard. As we did not have time to debate her amendment in the Seanad, I assured her that I would, in so far as possible, introduce amendments in the Dáil to address further areas of citizenship law in the context of civil partnership. I believe I have kept my promise in that regard

The fifth group of amendments, Nos. 15 to 19, creates a new Part 15 to provide for the handling of documentation following the end of a tribunal. Amendment No. 15 sets out relevant definitions, while amendment No. 16 is a technical amendment.

Amendment No. 17 provides the statutory basis for the procedures for the deposition of material following the completion of a tribunal. It is to be transferred to the Minister under whose aegis the tribunal was established. However, certain material may be returned to the person who gave it to the tribunal if the chairman is satisfied its retention is not necessary in order to understand any of the proceedings, any interim report or the final report of the tribunal.

Amendment No. 18 provides for the application of the provisions of the National Archives Act 1986 to tribunal documentation other than material that constitutes departmental records. Amendment No. 19 provides for the extension to tribunals of inquiry of the existing provision in section 40 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 regarding the non-applicability of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003. The amendment was designed to ensure material internal to a tribunal, including documentation relating to parties not the subject of public inquiry and also documentation relating to the internal deliberative process of the tribunal which was not subject to a freedom of information application for obvious reasons during the existence of the tribunal, would not then become subject to a freedom of information request after the tribunal was finished. The exclusion concerned will not relate to material where the record was created before the making of the order establishing the tribunal and material relating to the expenses and administration of the tribunal. These will continue to be subject to freedom of information requests. These issues are addressed expressly because they were raised as issues of difficulty that needed to be addressed by Mr. Justice Mahon in regard to the Mahon tribunal.

The sixth group of amendments, Nos. 20 to 26, relates to a new Part, Part 16, to provide for the transfer of the Family Mediation Service to the Legal Aid Board. The amendments provide for the necessary measures to effect the transfer. The promotion of mediation in the legal system is a commitment in the programme for Government and I have great personal enthusiasm for it. I mentioned in the House that I would try, if possible, to include in the Bill provisions for the transfer of the service to the Legal Aid Board. With the considerable assistance of the Attorney General's office, the Parliamentary Counsel, the Legal Aid Board and my officials, it proved possible to make legislative provision for this transfer on Report Stage in the Dáil. The new Part 16 provides for the transfer of responsibility for administration of the service to the Legal Aid Board; the necessary amendments to the Family Support Agency Act 2001 and the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995; and the transfer of staff and property of the service to the Legal Aid Board. The House will agree that it makes good sense to reorganise the service in the way proposed. My overall strategy on mediation will involve at a later stage the publication of a comprehensive mediation and conciliation Bill to provide a framework for the better operation of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in our legal system. Proposals for that Bill are at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department.

The seventh group of amendments, Nos. 27 to 33, relates to the original Seanad Part 15, headed "miscellaneous", and deals with a number of appropriate miscellaneous provisions. Amendment No. 27 is a technical amendment to section 42 of the Bill. It provides that,inter alia, all civil actions involving accidents sustained by a person on board a vessel at sea will be excluded from the remit of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. Legal advice has clarified that EC Regulation 392 of 2009 which provides for the implementation of the 1974 Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea, as amended by the protocol of 2002, will not take effect in Ireland for a number of months. It is, therefore, necessary to insert an amendment to include a reference to Part III of the Merchant Shipping (Liability of Shipowners and Others) Act 1996. Part III provides for the implementation of the version of the Athens Convention of 1974, as amended by the protocol of 1996 that has effect currently. The amendment also makes future provision for the effect of ratification of the Athens Convention, as amended by the protocol of 2002. The amendment confirms, in the minds of Senators, that this very comprehensive Bill has an international and transnational flavour in that at this time of the year it has allowed us to travel to Greece as well as remain in this House.

Amendment No. 28 is a drafting amendment to correct the collective citation of the Freedom of Information Act as it appears in section 40 the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. Amendment No. 29 realigns the fines provided for in the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 with the fines for offences under the family law code. It is designed to eliminate the risk that a higher penalty applies where a spouse commits the offence than if the same offence were committed by a civil partner.

Amendment No. 30 provides for the enforcement of foreign family law maintenance orders. This is an important provision and relies on section 8 of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1940. This provision will allow a judge, if he or she feels it would be effective, to make what would generally be termed a garnishee order if there are moneys owed to the debtor by a third party in order to ensure money is directed to the creditor; and to make an order that is broadly similar to the concept of appointing a receiver by way of executable execution if there are moneys which will become due. These two provisions cover circumstances where money may be owed to a maintenance debtor for work done. The amendment limits this to the extent of any maintenance outstanding. The final element retains an existing power in the 1940 Act to allow a judge make an order to sell goods if he or she feels this would be effective to recover the debt due to the maintenance creditor. This was rarely used in the past, but it is worth retaining as it may be useful on some future occasion. An existing pre-emptive arrest provision has been deleted on the advice of the Attorney General.

Amendment No. 31 will insert a new section 48 to make changes to the provisions of sections 32, 34, 35, 36 and 38 of the Courts of Justice Act 1936 in respect of sittings of the High Court on circuit. They will replace the current requirement applying to such sittings to allow for increased efficiency in the delivery of service, greater flexibility and use of limited judicial and administrative resources.

The amendments concern a technical amendment regarding the revised second schedule of appeal towns; the replacement of the requirement that sittings take place twice yearly with a requirement that they be held not less than once a year; that Dublin will become the default venue for hearing Circuit Court appeal cases; that the President of the High Court will henceforth decide whether a High Court sitting is warranted or whether the list might be amalgamated with a list in another location; and the repeal of a dormant provision about Commissioners of the High Court.

Amendment No. 32 amends section 65 of the Courts of Justice Act 1936 to provide a clear legal authority for the prescription of certain court fees to contribute to the recovery of the directly attributable costs of court services provided in the various court jurisdictions and offices and in particular, the fees charged in respect of proceedings conducted in the Commercial Court, which was a recommendation in 2009 of the special group on public sector numbers and expenditure. Amendment No. 33 is a technical amendment regarding the revised second schedule of appeal towns.

I hope Senators can see the benefit of the amendments tabled. In them I have also tried to respond to issues raised by Members of the Seanad and Dáil during the course of the comprehensive debate on the Bill. As I also stated when debating the two measures we dealt with earlier, I appreciate the Seanad sitting until 27 July to facilitate completion of the enactment of this Bill which impacts on a broad range of legal areas and which, I believe, will be of substantial benefit in implementing many reforms which are long overdue.

I thank the Minister for his very comprehensive report on the amendments. As he may have anticipated, I wish to offer some comments. When we were last together in the Chamber, I had tabled amendments to the Bill. As he promised, he raised these issues in the Dáil. My amendments were rooted in an attempt to ensure civil partnerships registered in Ireland or recognised by Irish law would be treated the same as marriages in the area of immigration. I find amendment No. 14 to be serendipity in law, as it also includes the Minister's wonderful innovation of a citizenship ceremony. I acknowledge what a great idea this is. I know it will mean a great deal to many people.

I acknowledge the Minister's support, and the support of the officials in his Department who were in contact with me as this progressed since we last met, for the comprehensive and fair reform of law which is taking place through this comprehensive Bill. It will make a very important difference to the lives of many, particularly to their stability and sense of security. This is a very good day for them and for others who are following in their footsteps. It is a particular pleasure that this can be concluded in the Seanad.

I thank the Minister for bringing forward the Bill. Section 32 of the Bill deals with the Coroners Act. Coroners are not required to hold inquests within a specific period of time. I raised this matter with the Minister previously, along with my colleague, Senator Tom Sheahan, who was also aware of an unreasonable period of time being allowed to elapse before an inquest was held. I know this point cannot be dealt with in the Bill but I ask the Minister to take it on board and deal with it in future legislation. I welcome the Bill. It covers a wide range of areas. It is of a very technical nature but it is also very important.

I wish to add my voice in support of the Bill. I compliment the Minister on taking on board certain matters raised in the House and returning to us with amended legislation, which indicates the capacity of the Minister to accept amendments, particularly the amendment raised in a heartfelt and sincere way by Senator Zappone.

I congratulate the Minister as I received an e-mail stating he will put in statutory form the vetting of people dealing with children. This is a welcome move and was an issue dealt with by the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. I thank the Minister for bringing it forward.

With regard to tribunals, I have held the view for many years, which I have expressed in both Houses, that I have some degree of difficulty with how the nation has dealt with tribunals of inquiry. During his time in office, will the Minister analyse the benefits and salient features — and those features not so salient — of tribunals of inquiry? I was involved in the Whiddy disaster tribunal in the early 1980s, and as I understand the original legislation three of four events have warranted tribunals of inquiry. One of the these was the Whiddy disaster which saw the loss of 50 lives and another was the Stardust disaster. However, have we coughed up too easily on tribunals for non-serious reasons? I am not taking away from any of the tribunals, but any tribunal lasting for ten or 12 years and costing the State excessive sums of money does not do justice to the notion of what tribunals are for. I know it does not affect this Bill, but perhaps in the course of the Minister's term of office he will examine the concept of the tribunal of inquiry. Do they deliver what it was intended they would deliver or are they a glorious waste of money with few or no results? The Minister may not wish to answer this today, but on another occasion he is in the House he might provide a balanced answer in this regard.

The Minister has referred to what becomes of tribunal documentation and I would like to know where all of the documents from the Mahon tribunal are stored. One would probably need a room much bigger than the Seanad Chamber to store them. Perhaps they can be stored on disk.

I thank the Minister for the Bill, which will be important. Some of the Minister's predecessors had a notion to attempt to codify the entire criminal law. I am not sure whether this is a utopian dream. Will it ever happen? Can the Minister see it being achieved? From an academic point of view it would be wonderful if sometime in this new century, perhaps in five or ten years, we had codified, omnibus criminal law legislation or an all-encompassing document that would piece everything together. Perhaps that is a dream rather than a possibility.

I welcome the amendments to the Bill, on which we have had a full debate. We were conscious that a wide range of issues were covered and the amendments also cover a similar range of issues.

With regard to Senator Denis O'Donovan's comment on codification, I raised this issue with the Minister in the context of this legislation because it is a hobby horse of mine. Having endless miscellaneous provisions Bills is not the best way to reform the law, although I accept that is the way we tend to do it and that piecemeal reform of different areas of law is necessary. I welcome the reforms in this legislation, but the codification project initiative on criminal law initiated by a previous Minister, as Senator Denis O'Donovan said, is worth continuing. I could not see where it was at the last time I checked. Perhaps the Minister has information on it. UCD had a team examining how to go about the project and a report was produced last year, but I do not know what the current position is.

I particularly welcome amendment No. 14 concerning citizenship and civil partnership which will have a profound effect on the lives of persons who have entered civil partnership with those who are not Irish citizens. Once they fulfil the conditions, they will have the right to apply for citizenship. I echo the comments Senator Katherine Zappone in welcoming the amendment. Like Senator Denis O'Donovan, I welcome the Minister's signing of the vetting provision.

I thank everyone for their kind comments. As I said when I was appointed Minister, it came as a shock to the principal Opposition spokespersons in the Dáil when I took them aside and said that if they produced worthwhile amendments to legislation, I would take them on board. If they are worthwhile ideas that are not well put technically, I will examine how they can be reframed. In the past ten years we had reached a point where Governments had an automatic knee-jerk reaction to amendments tabled by Independent Deputies and Senators and other Opposition Members. It did not matter how valid a proposal was. There was always a reason it could not be taken on board, but too frequently the reason was spurious and it was more about the Minister preserving some sense of personal importance than the legislative process.

I have particularly enjoyed our engagement on this legislation because I have a menu of another three dozen issues I would have liked to have addressed in it, but we did not have the time to do so. The gap between the Seanad and Dáil debates gave us a little more time. It was always my intention that we would address in legislation the issues raised by Senator Katherine Zappone and we had the opportunity to do so. However, we did not have the opportunity to address a few more that I wanted to raise. I am not sure whether another civil law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill will be introduced this side of Christmas, but we will have another one next year. Whether additional family law reforms will be included in it or whether we introduce a family law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill in the new year is an issue on which I have to make strategic decisions. It may be partially influenced by how much time I have available during August.

The changes we are making in the citizenship area and citizenship ceremonies are important as they are symbolic of a new approach in a new Ireland by a new Government. Through this approach we value those who have come to reside on the island with us and their wish to remain part of an Irish community and acquire Irish citizenship. We treat them with respect. The oath used at District Court level is somewhat antiquated and Senators may have missed the fact that I reframed it to extend the wording used. Previously, one made a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State and that was the extent of what an applicant swore but the 1,350 applicants who between 10 a.m. tomorrow and 5 p.m. on Friday will be sworn in in a series of ceremonies can make a new oath. It will comprise a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State and also an undertaking "to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect our democratic values". That is important and adds meaning to the oath people will take.

Senator Colm Burke again raised issues relating to the Coroners Acts. I am conscious coroners must have discretion regarding when they hold hearings because there can be many background reasons hearings are delayed. For example, a Garda investigation may be under way and a hearing in the Coroners Court could create a difficulty and prejudice a criminal trial. Care needs to be taken in this regard. Toxicological results may also be needed. There is a broad range of reasons for delays, but I am well aware from my days in legal practice that there have been occasions on which for no apparent reason a hearing has been unduly delayed or prolonged or where there has been a partial hearing and an adjournment and I am concerned that the issue be examined. I will consider the general legislation applying to coroners to establish whether it can be updated. I am conscious that one cannot fix a definitive date by which a hearing must take place and a verdict brought in by the jury in the Coroners Court but within the provisions of allowing an exercise of discretion based on background circumstances, there has to be some meeting point whereby it can be ensured where background reasons for delay do not appear to remain that no undue delay occurs because that can cause substantial additional distress to bereaved family members in circumstances where a coroner's verdict is required. It can also create major legal difficulties in addressing issues arising from a person's death.

Senator Denis O'Donovan keeps raising issues and says he does not expect a reply and that he will give me time to reply. I appreciate that, but when I am not aware of something, I will not jump in and reply. I am happy to reply to all the issues the Senator raised, albeit some of them do not arise under the Bill. I hope to bring forward sooner rather than later a comprehensive Bill relating to tribunals of inquiry to replace all existing Bills, update our law in this area and address issues of concern. Based on our experiences of the longevity of many tribunals and their cost, there is an understandable lack of enthusiasm for further tribunals. Some have sat for an extraordinary period. I got into difficulty recently when I tabled motions before both Houses relating to a tribunal that had been sitting for six years without anyone knowing where matters stood or without transparency as to where matters stood in order that we would receive a report. The consequent report was helpful and gave some indication as to what was happening. We cannot allow tribunals appointed to deal with matters described as "urgent and important" to carry on for many years at enormous public expense with the matters having long since ceased to be urgent. They may remain important, but the urgency becomes lost in translation between the time a tribunal is established and hearings are completed and reports published. We need to take much more care of this issue in the future. I hope we can address these issues.

I am conscious that the 2004 Act which provides for inquiry in a manner that is less expensive and prolonged and, in some ways, more efficient than tribunals of inquiry also provides us with an alternative mechanism to which we can resort, when necessary. None of us can anticipate when in the future another tribunal may be required and it is important to bring the laws surrounding them up to date. The legislation governing them is from the early 1900s and I hope to bring forward amending legislation before the end of the year. A substantial amount of work has been done on it in the Department already.

There are, however, several matters making their way through the Supreme Court that need to be clarified before we finalise the legislation. Several comments were made by a member of the Supreme Court in recent days with regard to the impact of tribunals, the importance of the views expressed by them and their costs. A number of people would have some sympathy with the views expressed in Mr. Justice Hardiman's recent judgment.

The criminal law codification project is important and much time and work is required to bring it to finality. The more compact and coherent we can make our laws, the better it is for public access to them and their general understanding by legal representatives and those required to administer them.

While it is straying from the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, I thank Senator O'Donovan for raising the matters of giving statutory effect to the Garda vetting bureau, providing for the use of soft information and providing mechanisms as to how organisations will register for vetting purposes and obtain such information. The good news is that today, at 2 p.m. we published the heads of a Bill to deal with these provisions as well as prescribing criminal offences for circumstances in which an organisation fails to deal with or ignores a vetting issue of an employee who may have unsupervised access to children. Each head contains detailed explanations. The Bill will be worked on over the summer by my Department and the Office of the Attorney General.

This afternoon the heads of the Bill will be sent to the chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, with the request that the committee members receive them for consideration. The Government wants to involve Members of both Houses to assist in the development process regarding the detailed provisions as further consideration is required to bring it into the formal full state of a drafted Bill.

There is sufficient detail in the heads which will facilitate Members and allow them to make their observations on the legislation by the end of September. The objective is to publish the final form by 31 October and to commence Second Stage in either this or the Lower House, subject to parliamentary availability, in early November with enactment before Christmas.

This is long-promised legislation and, as a member of the former Oireachtas committee on children, I recall recommending the former Government publish it by December 2008. A series of promises were subsequently made by the Government about heads of a Bill and so forth but nothing came forward. When we took office, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and I discovered some initial but not substantial work had been done. I agreed with the Minister to take over this work. I promised Cabinet colleagues that I would publish this legislation by 31 July and I am pleased I have managed it four days sooner.

I look forward to people's inputs to the Bill. It is not being published on tablets of stone and I have no doubt more work will have to be done on it. I thank my officials for the substantial work they have done. I reacquainted myself with comparative legislation in other countries. The approach we are adopting is very different to the UK and Northern Ireland, which has recently been the subject of criticism because of the enormous volume of information and bureaucracy it is creating that may make it ineffective. It is a good coincidence that on the day the House is debating the Cloyne report we have published this important and substantive measure in child protection.

I thank Senators for their support for the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the amendments we brought forward.

Question put and agreed to.
Question, "That the Bill do now pass.", put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 3 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.