I move amendment No. 22b:
In page 36, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“(2) Of the members of the Board, an equal number shall be male and female.”.
I am speaking to amendments Nos. 22b to 24a, inclusive. Amendment 22b and amendment 24a both relate to the data governance board. This a major concern I have with this Bill. We have heard at length that there is a new process being proposed.
That is a process which is an alternative to section 38 of the Data Protection Bill which was agreed and passed by these Houses. The parallel process, and I accept there may need to be a new process, has as one of its key linchpins and proposals from Government a data governance board which will have oversight and decision-making in relation to what the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy O'Donovan, described in our last discussion as thousands of data sharing agreements. It is a very significant concern to me. I will speak more on this because supplementary amendments will touch on the same points and I will not repeat them. It is a very serious concern that at the moment the constitution of the data governance board does not provide lengthy detail or clarification around the membership process. We are simply told this data governance board, with its immense power and role, shall consist of not fewer than six and not more than 12 members, who shall be appointed by the Minister and that the Minister shall ensure they have the necessary knowledge, experience and competence. This is an extraordinary free hand for a Minister. Given the lengthy debates we are having, and will have, over the next few days around the judicial appointments process, for example, given the concerns we have had around the IHREC board and given that many here have spoken passionately today about the need for rigorous governance, real clarity and transparency, it is simply not acceptable that we would have a board appointed by the Minister which could end up being six to 12 heads of public bodies who would then sit and judge for themselves as to whether they should be given permission to share data. We are effectively talking about self-regulation for public bodies, potentially. For that reason, I will put forward a number of amendments and, as I said, I will not speak at length to each of them because they are grouped here. To make a general point, there are a number of amendments to try to put forward proposals for what a data governance board might look like. I am very conscious that when a very similar Bill was being debated in 2013-2014, Daragh O Brien and other data protection experts put forward proposals for what a data governance board might look like, but this is very different from that.
On the two amendments we are speaking to now, one is a proposal that the membership of the board should be male and female in equal numbers, which is in line with both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, board and the judicial appointments board which is being debated by these Houses. That is in excess, however, of what is currently required under legislation which is that 40% of the board should be of each gender. Will the Minister accept that amendment and, if not, will he put forward proposals? We know gender balance on boards is a crucial issue.
The other issue is the terms. It says that "[t]he Minister shall determine the terms and conditions of appointment, including the term of office". There is no clarity for us and, as the Legislature, we are being asked to sign off on such a significant new national infrastructure on data sharing, we need clarity around the board's function. I suggested in amendment No. 24a that the Minister may set clear periods of three years for appointment to a term, and reappointment for a maximum of two other three-year terms. I am very open to the Minister's proposals on this. This is me suggesting terms of office but I am happy to hear what he would suggest. We need to put some clarity around the terms of office of these officeholders would be in the Bill. The Minister's proposals are as welcome as mine and, if he brings forward proposals, I will not press mine.
Is amendment No. 23 covered by that, also?