Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Bill 2018: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister of State. I acknowledge that our esteemed former colleague, former Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh initiated this legislation in the previous Seanad.

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 148, 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 Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister of State will deal separately with the subject matters of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping to the House. Senators may speak only once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

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

I am pleased to have the opportunity to present the Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Bill to the House for Report and Final Stages. As the House is aware, the purpose of the Bill is to consolidate and simplify the law relating to offences and related offences.

The Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Bill 2018 aims to establish a statutory criminal offence, much like theft or burglary, for perjury that could clearly be understood by the public, enforcement authorities and prosecutors alike. The Bill proposes penalties of up to 12 months for conviction on a summary offence and up to ten years for conviction on indictment, and these clear statutory penalties for perjury and related offences will act as a deterrent to the offence of perjury and facilitate effective prosecution of the offence to reflect substantial damaging effects caused by perjury.

The amendments brought by the Government to the Bill in the Dáil, all of which were taken on Committee Stage, were necessary to take account of various matters identified by the Office of the Attorney General and in consideration of the observations of other Departments and the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions which might have affected the ability of the State to prosecute effectively under the legislation. Most of the amendments were technical in nature and reflected the advice of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel as to how best the provisions should be drafted. Others were designed to ensure the new legislation can deal effectively with statements of truth, which are an electronic form of providing formal statements in civil proceedings in place of affidavits and statutory declarations which were introduced by the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020. Many of the amendments were focused on more clearly clarifying the provisions in the Bill to ensure the offences in the Bill can be prosecuted effectively.

Turning to the detail of the amendments themselves, these are all Government amendments taken on Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann. The first group of amendments are Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, 27, 28 and 36. These are amendments to sections 1 and 17, and to the Title of the Bill. Amendment No. 1 allows for the inclusion of a reference to the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, to which we refer in this Bill, in relation to statements of truth. Amendment No. 2 provides for the enactment of the Bill as having the same meaning as in the Interpretation Act of 2005, while amendments Nos. 3 and 5 provide clarity on interpreting references to perjury and subornation of perjury under this Bill. Amendment No. 4 deletes a reference to "relevant Act" which is not required in light of the wider, more comprehensive reference to enactment, which covers secondary as well as primary legislation for the purposes of qualifying offences under section 6 in respect of false statutory declarations and other false statements without oath. Amendment No. 6 provide that section 21(3) of the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 does not apply in the case of this Bill. This is because a subsection of the 2020 Act assumes references in any enactments to affidavits and statutory declarations as references to statements of truth made in place of such affidavits and statutory declarations, whereas in this Bill those affidavits and statutory declarations are treated separately and distinctly and do not need to be included here. Amendment No. 27 amends the Short Title of the Bill in accordance with the usual formulation used for Government Bills which would provide for criminal offences by renaming it the Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021. Amendment No. 28 is a technical amendment while amendment No. 36 is on foot of proposed new wording from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Is it proposed to continue this item until 1 p.m. given we started 15 minutes late, or must we conclude at 12.45 p.m.?

That is a pity because we have cut 15 minutes off this discussion on what is a Seanad Bill which was initiated by our former colleague. I was not a Member of the Oireachtas at the time but it is an excellent Bill which is overdue. I give credit to the Government for accepting it and moving it through the Houses and back to us now. It is important to recognise that all legislators have a role in making legislation. We do not need to rely solely on Departments to bring legislation or ideas for legislative proposals forward. It is welcome it was accepted by the Government and turned into a Government Bill.

I think the changes to section 17 and the renaming of the Bill was unnecessary. It comes back to the control that is exercised over the legislative process by the various Departments. Sometimes the Department of Justice has its style, and I make no criticism of that, but the original name of the Bill was perfectly adequate. I do not think it needed to be renamed, and renaming does not advance anything in the legislative content of the Bill. It may well conform to legislative nomenclature conventions but that is all. The name originally given to it by the proposer was adequate.

If time is limited, I will not speak for long but I welcome that important amendments were made in the Dáil on definitions that will make this much stronger legislation. The inclusion of the offence of suborning perjury is particularly important because we know so many instances of perjury can come from pressure being put on an individual by another person.

Reading the Second Stage debates in both Houses, I know the provenance of the Bill came from an idea that it would help to address issues of fraud, especially around insurance claims. That is very welcome. It is very important we send out the message that people who lie in insurance claims and bring false claims and back that up by making false statements before the court must suffer the rigours of this kind of legislation and the penalties that come with it, but it goes beyond that. People make sworn statements and give sworn evidence in every type of legal case from criminal matters to family matters to civil disputes and personal injuries cases. This legislation will benefit every one of them. It gives a greater strength and importance to the oath that is given by a witness in a given case, or indeed to the statements of truth that are given in relation to legislation that we passed last year. It is very welcome in that regard.

I hope this will bring a serious indication from the Houses of the Oireachtas that the State will not tolerate lies being told in the context where a person has made it clear it is a statement of truth or given so under oath and I hope that message goes out in relation to any such statements.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the Chamber. I compliment our erstwhile colleague, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, on his excellent work on this area. I know the long hours he put into the Bill. As he is from a business background, he was acutely aware of the difficulties caused by not having proper legislation dealing with this area. On a side note, I was sorry to learn that he would no longer be with us. He was an excellent Senator who contributed significantly on a vast number of areas. The Seanad is poorer for his absence.

As regards the point made by Senator Ward on the renaming of the Bill, I agree with him that it was unnecessary. There was nothing wrong with the Title as drafted.

To move on to the substantive point, which has been covered by other Senators, this legislation is long overdue. It is sad to think that people will take the oath and lie for financial gain but, unfortunately, when it comes to the insurance industry, that is exactly what is happening. We have to send a clear message from both Houses of the Oireachtas that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Let us make no mistake about it: this is costing every man and woman money. Whether through motor vehicle, business or other insurance, everyone is paying for it and we cannot allow this practice to continue. I look forward to the House concluding the Bill today and it being enacted into law.

I, too, compliment former Senator, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, on the excellent initiative he brought to the House in this legislation, which puts on a statutory footing what was already an offence under common law. This body of work is a credit to him. It is good that the Government accepted it and that amendments were made in the Dáil on Committee Stage. Indeed, at the time this was being discussed in the Seanad, former Senator Ó Céidigh credited the advocacy of the Irish SME Association on this issue because it was clear that many businesses were being affected by false and misleading claims made under oath in the context of court proceedings.

I acknowledge the remarks of Senator Ward. I agree with him 100% that it is regrettable that the time for the discussion of the Bill has been foreshortened. By the way, the reason for that is the Government insistence on guillotining the consideration of legislation. That has to be challenged. It led to an unnecessary vote and, as a result, we have less time for the discussion of legislation. I urge the Government, and Government Senators in particular, to stop guillotining the detailed consideration of legislation, particularly on Committee Stage. It is a scandal and it is increasing disrespect among the public for the Houses of the Oireachtas and for the Seanad in particular. It is an irresponsible thing to be doing and it is disrespectful of colleagues and of our responsibilities as legislators.

The second issue on which I agree with Senator Ward is that the Bill points up the ability of the Legislature to bring forward important initiatives, that is, to legislate, and that not everything has to come by way of an initiative from the Government. In that context, in the House earlier we witnessed an example of the resistance of the Government to taking on board important ideas with regard to the amendments that need to be made to legislation. The Minister of State, Deputy Browne, responded on a related issue I raised as a Commencement matter this morning, that is, the fact there is no legal penalty of any kind for making false or misleading statements in an application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, for a claim of damages. In the context of the legislation before the House, which applies to court proceedings and statements made under oath or subject to a statement of truth, as Senator Ward reminded us, it is clear why it should be a criminal offence to make a false and misleading statement in a court context, but it is not just an offence to make false and misleading statements in a court context. I gave several examples in that regard earlier. I mentioned statements made to the Revenue Commissioners or in the context of applications for social welfare benefits. It is interesting that the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, actually denied this is a lacuna in the law. I was astounded by what he said this morning. He said it is on purpose and he seemed to say it is because the PIAB is somehow not a quasi-judicial body, when I had given him the example of another non-quasi-judicial body-----

If I may interrupt the Senator, we have to stick specifically to the technical issues relating to the first group of amendments.

Very good. I will conclude on this but I want to make the point clearly-----

I ask the Senator to stick to these amendments specifically.

I will. I will just finish the point clearly because the Minister of State is present. I have given him the example of another non-quasi-judicial body, namely, the HSE, and in the context of the nursing home support scheme-----

That is not related to the first group of amendments. I am sorry to draw the Senator back.

There are stringent provisions against making false or misleading statements to the HSE, with a penalty of up to three months in prison and a fine of €5,000 for knowingly or recklessly giving false or misleading information in an application under the scheme. The point I am making is that the Government has to stop coming into the House and giving cooked-up and on-the-hoof replies to legitimate questions about-----

That is extraneous-----

It is not extraneous to this extent------

We are dealing with the first group of amendments specifically.

We are discussing legislation that makes it a criminal offence to give false and misleading information in court proceedings but we have a body that is set up to reduce insurance awards------

The Senator has made that point. Can we move on, in deference to colleagues? There is a queue of Senators waiting to get in.

------and to save money, yet the Government is fatuously opposing or denying there is a need to amend the law to make it an offence to give false and misleading information to PIAB. It makes no difference that PIAB will only determine a matter where liability is not in issue. There can be situations involving conspiracy between the person making a claim and the putative defendant of that claim. There are all sorts of situations in which harm could be done to other parties and to the public by people making false claims that are not under oath to PIAB. Is the Government only concerned with protecting the State in the way it does by making it an offence to give misleading information to the HSE regarding the fair deal scheme? Is it not-----

We have to stick specifically to the amendments. That is-----

-----concerned about the rights of private parties? That is a completely unacceptable state of affairs.

We have to stick to the technical amendments.

I am raising the issue because it is relevant to the issue of giving false and misleading claims in the context of disputes that could end up before the courts, but in this case do not end up there. It seems to me that the public good is not being served------

Thank you. Please show deference to colleagues waiting to get in.

-----and I want to give the Minister of State another chance to consider the matter.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Chathaoirleach agus ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an méid a bhí le rá aige agus ag comhghleacaithe eile faoin iarSheanadóir Pádraig Ó Céidigh mar tá ardmholadh tuillte aige. Is cuimhin liom an chaint ar an mBille seo in 2018 nuair a phléamar é sa Seanad an uair dheireanach agus dúirt mé gur éacht a bhí ann nuair a bhí duine in ann tús a chur le reachtaíocht cosúil leis seo. Ach is éacht ar leith atá i gceist é nuair a bhíonn duine in ann é a chur go hiomlán tríd an Oireachtas. Tá súil agam gurb é sin an pointe ina bhfuilimid inniu.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I echo the remarks made by other colleagues on the work of the former Senator, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who initiated this Bill in the last Seanad. I welcome the Government's support and the cross-party support in both Houses because this is important legislation in terms of what it seeks to achieve. I spoke extensively as the Bill passed through the Seanad the last time.

I refer the Senator to the technical amendments.

In deference to the guidance of the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the procedure, I do not need to say a great deal more other than to welcome the return of the Bill and hope it will be successfully concluded in this House today.

Senator Conway is next and he will be followed by Senators Vincent P. Martin and Paddy Burke. I ask Senators to bear in mind that many Senators want to get in.

Like others, I want to pay tribute to our former colleague, Pádraig Ó Céidigh. This Bill is part of his immense legacy from the period he spent in this House. He quite rightly identified the abuse associated with people committing perjury, but nothing was done to deal with the matter. Perjury should be considered a very serious crime. This welcome legislation will ensure that happens. The amendments that were made in the Dáil and brought back to the Seanad make a lot of sense because they strengthen the Bill. I agree with Senators Ward and Mullen that this Bill warrants a lengthier discussion. In deference to our former colleague, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who put enormous work into this Bill, and to the importance of the subject matter, this Bill should have got a longer hearing.

The point is well made.

The passing of the Bill is most important and I am glad we will see that happen here today.

As a lawyer, Senator Martin might stick to the actual amendments.

I will be as brief as possible. The Minister of State said that the Bill will "consolidate and simplify the law" on perjury and place it on a statutory footing. I contend that the offence of perjury already exists in common law but has seldom, if ever, been activated historically.

It is all about intent. One can have all the laws in the world but will there be follow-up now that it is on a statutory basis? Maybe its very presence will make people reflect. I also think that fraud is a serious matter that must be challenged.

I must draw a man even of the Senator's eminence back to the amendments.

Yes. At times there is a little bit of exaggeration. Insurance companies hide behind the legislation as a veil along with legal costs when they are not transparent with their own business. They ratchet up fees for ordinary consumers.

We are having a set of Second Stage speeches but I know Senator Burke will depart from that.

I join other Members of the House in congratulating the former Senator, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, for starting and bringing forward this legislation, which has gone through the other House with amendments, which are now before us.

I would like to ask the Minister of State about some of the issues that were mentioned by Senator Martin. I agree with the Senator that perjury is already there. The courts knew and know that perjury is committed in lots of cases. How come action has not been taken before now?

According to amendment No. 23, on page 4, the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, must bring forward a case. I am sure somebody must bring a case to the attention of the DPP so that it can proceed. Where does responsibility lie? When the courts know that perjury has been committed, who must bring a case to the attention of the DPP? Who forwards a case to the DPP? Is a reporting mechanism in place? Does responsibility lie with ordinary citizens to bring a case to the attention of the DPP? Do they have to go to their own legal people? Do they have to go to the cost of bringing a case so that the DPP can be contacted?

During the recession, a great deal of blame was put on the banks because it seemed like the four walls of each bank made the decisions. Nobody seemed to have responsibility and nobody knew who made the decisions. Who will bring perjury cases to the attention of the DPP? All of those who go before the courts, like the officers of the courts, know that perjury takes place. Who reports or brings perjury to the attention of the DPP so that the DPP can take the action that is set out in the various sections that have been brought in by the Dáil?

I note the concerns expressed by Senators about the Title. The Title was changed for the purposes of consistency on the advice of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I note the Senators' remarks in that regard. I cannot say why perjury was not put on a statutory footing before now. All I can say is that the provision is now going to be enacted and brought into law.

I acknowledge the tremendous work done by the former Senator, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, and his team to bring this legislation forward as a Private Members' Bill in 2018. If there is a chance towards the end of this debate, I would like to give him greater acknowledgement.

A Senator asked me to outline who can bring a prosecution. Perjury is a criminal offence. Anybody can, in the normal course, make a complaint to An Garda Síochána. Of course it is always open to any judge who believes a false statement has been made in court to refer the matter.

I invite the Minister of State to address the amendments in group 2.

The second group of amendments comprises amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, amendment No. 20 and amendment No. 21.

This group of amendments relates directly to the offence of perjury and subornation of perjury. Amendment No. 7, in section 2, amends the definition of perjury so that it may apply to statements of truth in addition to sworn statements and affidavits.

Amendment No. 8 is necessary to provide a clear definition of "subornation of perjury" in section 3. Subornation of perjury means persuading another person to commit perjury. This is a serious matter because of the effect it has on legal proceedings. The section provides that a prosecution for subornation of perjury can take place even where the person committing the perjury in question has not been convicted of the offence. The perpetrator of the offence of subordination of perjury must know or be reckless to the fact that the other person is committing perjury. This means that he or she must at least know there is a significant risk that perjury would be committed as a result of his or her actions yet press ahead regardless.

Amendment No. 9 separates the different types of references already on our Statute Book into Schedules for clarity.

Amendment No. 20 is a technical amendment to adjust slightly the wording used in the current section 8 to match the more usual formulation used in primary legislation.

Amendment No. 21 is a technical amendment to the current section 10 to bring it into line with other provisions of the Bill.

I apologise to Senator Davitt who is located in a bad position in terms of vision and had indicated earlier. Does he wish to speak now? I sincerely apologise to him for missing him earlier but we will have his wisdom now.

If I was any nearer to the stage I could sing and dance.

I suggest that Senator Davitt goes for it.

I ask Senator Ó Donnghaile not to compare me to Arlene Foster. We are bad enough but I am from a different gene pool.

I thank our former colleague, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, for all the great work that he has done on this legislation. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne. I am surprised by the remarks made by Senator Mullen because only for the good work done by the Minister of State, this Bill would not be here today. I am very disappointed.

We will not comment on Senator Mullen in his absence.

Senator Mullen is here and he has spoken. I do not know if Goldilocks was in his bed when he went home last night and ate his porridge this morning because he has been in a bad humour since he came in. I am disappointed with the reaction to the Minister of State and the work done by him. Without that, this Bill would not be here, so I take exception to what has been said.

There will be no more naming of people who are not here.

Senator Davitt is correcting the record.

I take exception to what has been said.

I draw the Senator back to the amendments.

To get back to the Bill and the amendments, I firmly feel this is a worthwhile Bill and I will certainly back it.

I thank Senator Davitt and am sorry to have missed him earlier.

I thank Senator Davitt for his comment on that matter.

I invite the Minister of State to address the amendments in group 3.

Amendments Nos. 10 to 19, inclusive, are in group 3. The group of amendments relates to sections 5 and 6.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are technical amendments to the wording of this section on the advice of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. Amendments No. 13 is a technical amendment to section 5(2), rewording the subsection so that it reads more clearly. Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are technical amendments to the wording, made on the advice of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. Amendment No. 16 is a technical amendment which deletes the reference to "material in those proceedings" in section 6(1) regarding a person making a false statutory declaration or otherwise false statement without oath. Amendment No. 17 extends the ambit of potential offences in this section of the Bill to include false statements of truth made in place of a statutory declaration. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 extend the scope of the application of the offences in section 6(1)(b) and 6(1)(c) regarding the making of a false statement and declaration so that they may apply to enactments rather than only Acts and therefore cover false statements and declarations made under secondary legislation as well as primary legislation.

In the absence of interventions, I invite the Minister of State to address group 4.

I note there is an old section 8 which has also been deleted. It is not in any of the groups but I note it for the record.

Amendments Nos. 22 to 24, inclusive, are grouped. These amend sections 13 and 14. Amendment No. 22 creates a new section to provide that the directors or other officers of a body corporate may be liable to be proceeded against under this Bill where the offence is committed by the body corporate with the connivance of that director or other officer. This is a necessary and common provision in statutes such as this whereby offences can be committed by a body corporate, but there is an additional liability for directors if the offence is proven to be committed with their consent or connivance. It is important, therefore, that I provide for it in this Bill so that offences of this type are not overlooked.

Amendment No. 23 revises slightly the wording in section 14 in accordance with the usual formulation used in primary legislation, stipulating that no proceedings under this proposed Act or for an offence of perjury or subornation of perjury shall be brought except by, or with the consent of, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Amendment No. 24 amends the reference to summary proceedings in section 14(2) of the Bill so that it reads "summary proceedings in relation to an offence under this Act or an offence of perjury or subornation of perjury under any other enactment or law". This is a technical amendment to wording on the advice of Parliamentary Counsel.

In the absence of any further interventions, I ask the Minister of State to address group 5. He may have done a little already since these amendments overlap with group 4.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are grouped. Amendment No. 25 provides for the rewording of section 15(3) which provides that a relevant offence that is punishable exclusively on summary conviction under enactments may be proceeded against under the other enactment only to avoid the possibility of the imposition of a higher penalty than would otherwise apply when the legislative offence was committed. Amendment No. 26 deletes section 15(2) on the basis of advice we have received from the Office of the Attorney General. The inclusion of this subsection is not needed as none of the provisions of this Bill would apply to such unsworn evidence in the first place and therefore this subsection serves no purpose and is not required.

We will move on to group 6.

Group 6 includes amendments Nos. 29 to 35, inclusive. It refers to Schedules 1-----

It is amendments Nos. 25 and 26 according to this document. The next is the other grouping and Senator Burke has indicated he wishes to speak on it.

I already addressed amendments Nos. 25 and 26.

The Minister of State might have missed out on group 4. Would he read the note on group 4 for the record?

Group 4 is amendments Nos. 22 to 24, inclusive.

Group 4 is about the deletion of section 8 of the Bill as passed by Seanad Éireann.

I mentioned a few minutes ago that section 8 was being deleted. The amendment deletes section 8. Section 8 provided for an offence of making a false declaration or representation in obtaining registration for a profession or calling. An extensive review of the regulated professions in this State was undertaken by my officials and it became apparent those professions which maintain a statutory register for entry into the profession already provide for a carefully calibrated set of penalties or sanctions for this type of offence, together with appropriate practical consequences that flow from such behaviour or conduct in falsely obtaining registration for a particular profession. I consider it more appropriate that the existing relevant statutes and legal architecture across a range of health, social care and other specific roles requiring statutory registration in the State continue to provide for and deal with the matter of sanctioning the obtaining of false registration in such roles rather than doing so on a general level in this Bill, which would unnecessarily undermine the tailored approach that is already available to deal with those types of offences within those professions.

The last group we completed was group 6 and the Minister of State reverted to group 4. I ask Senator Burke to speak on group 6.

Does this deal with Schedule 1? That is in the next one.

Yes. Sorry. I call Senator Ward.

I support the Minister of State with respect to the deletion of section 8. The original section 8 was well intended but it is clear from an examination of the various penalties involved in professional registrations that the section could potentially have impeded on the ability of regulatory bodies to penalise people who lied on applications, so it is important that that section be deleted.

We will address group 7 and then Senator Burke's intervention.

Group 7 includes amendments Nos. 29 to 35, inclusive. This is a series of technical amendments to Schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill. Amendment No. 29 updates Schedule 1 to reflect changes made to section 4. That section is now amended and provides that where an offence of perjury is committed under older enactments, which are set out in Schedule 1, the offender shall be liable to be proceeded against under this new Act. Similarly, the Schedule is amended so that references to perjury and subornation of perjury, which are now set out in the new Schedule 2, are to be construed in accordance with their definitions in this proposed Act.

Schedule 3 to the Bill currently provides for amendments to certain older Acts which contain perjury provisions so that they may be consolidated under this proposed Act and have this new statute applied to them. Many of the Schedule 3 amendments delete outdated penalty provisions for false statements in historical legislation so that they may be replaced by the penalties section of this Bill. This combination of the approach taken with section 4 and Schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill provides a more consistent approach so that perjury offences under other, older enactments are subject to the relevant provisions in this Bill.

Amendment No. 30 is a technical amendment which deletes the provision deleting section 2 of the Perjury Act 1791 from Schedule 2. Amendments Nos. 31, 32 and 33 are technical amendments to the text of Schedule 2, pertaining respectively to the Assurance Companies Act 1909, the Checkweighing in Various Industries Act 1919, and the Statutory Declarations Act 1938, to update the reference to this proposed Act in the amending text to provide that the text reads more clearly.

Amendment No. 34 deletes the text providing for changes to the Dentists Act 1985 in respect of updating penalties for falsely obtaining registration under that Act. The solution is no longer required or warranted as section 8 was deleted from the Bill for the reasons I outlined earlier.

Amendment No. 35 is a standard amending provision to the Bail Act 1997 in providing that specified serious offences are added to the Schedule to that Act. A serious offence under that Act means an offence with which a person of full capacity and not previously convicted may be punished by a term of imprisonment of five years or by a more severe penalty. Offences under this proposed legislation are, therefore, to be added to the Schedule to the Bail Act.

I welcome what the Minister of State has said and I welcome him to the House as well. A number of Acts relating to bodies are listed under Schedule 1 in respect of which there may be proceedings. Some years ago the Government proceeded with a referendum to give more power to Oireachtas committees to carry out inquiries. Are Oireachtas inquiries covered under this Bill? The banking inquiry was a significant inquiry that brought many witnesses before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Are Oireachtas committees covered under the Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Bill 2018? If not, will this be considered? Will new bodies that are being set up, like the Land Development Agency, and other bodies to be set up in future be covered under a different section or different part of the legislation? The Minister of State might comment on my question on the banking inquiry.

The areas covered are those as set out in the Schedule. The Oireachtas governs its own house in terms of how it conducts matters in that respect. Any Acts relating to future bodies that would be brought under it will refer to this Act if they apply.

Senator Gallagher, had you indicated?

I am okay. I will wait until the end.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Does the Minister of State wish to make a final comment? We will let Senator Gallagher in and then the Minister of State will have the last word.

I thank the Minister of State for his contribution this afternoon. I might digress somewhat with some latitude from you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. As the Minister of State and Members are probably aware, thousands of people have made the journey here today from Donegal and Mayo to raise their plight in respect of mica.

I understand your concern about the mica issue, Senator Gallagher, but it is out of order.

I appreciate that but I wanted to mention it.

Anyway, you have got it into the record of the House.

I wish to comment before the Minister of State speaks. I commend the realignment and reconfiguration of the penalties on a statutory basis. They are justifiably significant at the upper end of indictable offences if they are brought home. It will be a reminder for all legislators that a great deal is at stake. The standard principles of beyond reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence will apply. I anticipate these will be properly contested.

We are running out of time, Senator.

It will be difficult. As the Minister of State said in his earlier remarks, there will be an onus, hopefully, on judges to refer directly to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Thank you, Senator Martin, for your professional wisdom. The Minister of State will have the last word.

I thank the Members for supporting the former Senator, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, in bringing this Bill in the first place. It shows the importance of relying on all the abilities across the Houses and not simply on Departments. That is an important point to make. I wish to pay tribute to my Department for taking up this Bill and for the hard work the officials have put into it as well as the work of previous and current Ministers in the Department.

Mr. Ó Céidigh introduced this legislation in 2018 as a Private Members' Bill. He was instrumental in the successful passage of the Bill as was the cross-party support. A debt of gratitude is owed to the former Senator.

Historically, it has been difficult to prosecute perjury and subornation of perjury as a common law offence. This new Bill will make it effective. It will streamline the process and make prosecutions far easier by putting the offence on a clear statutory footing.

Perjury, fraudulent claims and exaggerated claims have a significant impact on our businesses and on the premiums people have to pay. They undermine justice when people can get away with making false statements. It is part of the plan of the Government on insurance reform. As was rightly pointed out by Senator Ward, this will apply to family law and other civil law cases. It will also apply to criminal law because sometimes we see people bringing forward false alibis. This will not only make it an offence for people to perjure but to seek for someone to perjure as well. It is a historic Bill in that this will be codified for the first time. It is most welcome and I thank the Houses for their support.

My thanks and congratulations to you, Minister of State, and to colleagues. Thank you for your co-operation and efficiency in getting this passed. I apologise to my good friend, Senator Gallagher. I recognise his concern about the mica issue but we cannot take it at the moment.

Question put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 12.50 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Friday, 18 June 2021.