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Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs debate -
Wednesday, 14 Sep 1994


I move amendment No. 16:

In page 12, subsection (2), line 18, to delete "section 5 (1)" and substitute "subsection (1) or (2)* of section 5".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments No. 70 and 74 are related and amendment No. 75 is consequential on amendment No. 70. Amendments No. 17, 70, 74 and 75 may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 17:

17. In page 12, subsection (4), lines 35 to 40, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:

(b) Clerk shall, as soon as may be after the correction of an error under paragraph (a) or the receipt by him or her of a statement referred to in paragraph (a)

(i) cause a statement of the correction or a copy of the statement referred to in paragraph (a), as the case may be, to be laid before the House and published in Iris Oifigiúil, and

(ii) if either of those statements relates to a Minister or Minister of State, furnish a copy of it to the Taoiseach.".

The main purpose of these amendments is to address an overlap between section 6 which is the register and section 28 which deals with statements of interests outside specified periods. Both provided for the laying of a statement received under section 28 (1), in other words updates to statements, late statements or a statement in response to guidelines received. Among other changes these amendments make appropriate deletions in section 28.

The fundamental purpose of amendment No. 17 to section 6 (4) (b) is to ensure that statements of registerable interest which are received after registration day receive equal publicity and circulation as those received on time. Such statements could arise from a change in Members interests where the deadline is missed, or could follow from advice or determinations of the commission or the select committees.

Amendment No. 17 also addresses an oversight in the original text which would have allowed the Clerk to publish late statements of additional interests. "Additional interests" refers to the interests of spouses and children which are made confidentially. This is a technical amendment to deal with this situation.

These amendments tabled by the Minister are a tidying up operation. I have no objection to the declaration of Ministers' interests and those of their spouses. The provisions in regard to the interests of children who are over the age of 18 are unconstitutional and will not stand up. I refer to the Pádraic Haughey case. His legal team fought a case in the High Court and in the Supreme Court and that was the end of that. The Ministers of the day cannot be held responsible if they do not disclose an interest of a son or a daughter. They may not know about such interests, but a couple of years after they make a declaration it may come to the attention of the Clerk of the Dáil and to the Oireachtas that they had substantial interests. Under the terms of the Bill a review committee may have the right to take that child to a hearing.

In my opinion as a layman that is unconstitutional because it infringes on the interests of that child. I have no objections to provisions in regard to Ministers and their spouses, but I have no doubt that if it is brought to court we will lose and the Bill will be deemed unconstitutional. That cannot be allowed to happen. I pointed out carefully the background in regard to the interests of a spouse. If this provision is contested in court and found to be unconstitutional, the Bill will be unconstitutional. What was the advice of the Attorney General in this regard? The advice is that the Bill is constitutional but a court may decide otherwise and that is where I see problems in regard to the childrens' interests.

I do not want the public to have a false perception of the Minister of the day, that he or she did not declare interests which they knew their children to have. It would be difficult to prove to the satisfaction of the public that the Minister did not know of those interests.

There is a perception of Members of the Oireachtas that our standards leave a lot to be desired at times. It is sad that there is a perception that some Members may be on the make, which is totally untrue. I have a reservation in regard to that provision and I would like the Minister to have a look at this provision before Report Stage. The advice I have from eminent legal people is that it would not stand up in court.

This amendment is purely technical. We are satisfied that the Bill is constitutional in all its aspects. It has been teased out line by line with the Attorney General's office. Every Bill must be approved by the Attorney General as being in his opinion in conformity with the Constitution. On an ongoing basis my officials check out any legal points which arise in the course of the debate and we will do so in the case of Deputy Connolly's point.

Why must errors and corrections be published in Iris Oifigiúil when the original matter to which the correction is being made is not?

Under section 6 (3) a copy of the register has to be published in Irish Oifigiúil.

I had not noticed that.

It replicates the provisions.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.

There is an amendment to amendment No. 18 and amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 12, lines 43 to 50, to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following:

"(2) A member who proposes to speak or vote in proceedings to which this section applies and who has actual knowledge that he or she or a connected person has a material interest in the subject matter of the proceedings shall

(a) if he or she proposes to speak in the proceedings, make a declaration of the fact aforesaid in the proceedings before or during his or her speech, and

(b) if he or she proposes to vote, but does not speak, in the proceedings, make the declaration aforesaid in writing and furnish it before voting to the Clerk, or the clerk to the committee, concerned, as may be appropriate.".

Amendments Nos. 18 and 20 derive from concerns expressed on Second Stage by both sides of the House, in particular about the fact that declarations under this section would appear on the Order Paper. Amendment No. 18 provides for oral declarations in the case of Members speaking and written declarations to be handed to the Clerk before voting. Amendment No. 20 provides that each such declaration is to be included in the Official Report; in the absence of such a report it must be published in a manner to be determined by the relevant clerk.

It is now proposed that this apply to material interests held by connected persons. In this respect does it differ from section 5?

Throughout the Bill we have two forms of declaration. First, there is a declaration of registerable interest where one logs on an annual basis one's own holdings which exceed the threshold values. Second, there are ad hoc declarations for all categories where, if something arises in the course of the performance of one’s function which affects one or a connected person, one must make a declaration of the fact that one has an interest.

If a Deputy engages in a pairing arrangement with another Deputy but has an interest, is he or she required to declare this?

The requirement in the section refers to a Deputy who speaks or votes but not to a Deputy who is absent or abstains.

Is it not of crucial importance that somebody who has an interest and through his Whip pairs off his vote against another vote should be treated in the same way as someone who has the opportunity to attend and vote? How can we exempt someone who has a pairing arrangement from a declaration of interest? It seems extraordinary that Opposition Members can pair with Ministers or vice versa and be given the benefit of votes but not have to declare their interests.

How do we define "connected person"?

It is defined in section 2.

Deputy McDowell raised an interesting point. At local authority level, if one has an interest one declares it to the city manager or one stands up at the start of a meeting, declares that interest and leaves. The city manager, the committee or the members of the city council know of this interest.

Deputy McDowell poses an interesting question. We are trying to make sure that everyone who has an interest which might have some reflection on how they vote should declare that interest. Someone who does not speak or vote does not have to declare an interest. I can understand this. If they do not speak or vote they are not attempting to influence the decisions of others, although they could do this by lobbying. It is hard to see how this could be controlled. An application by a Member to his or her Whip to arrange a pair has an influence on the voting pattern because it cancels a vote on the other side if a pair is arranged. Two people in different parties may have similar interests and decide to pair but they would not have to declare an interest. Since we are trying to cover as many eventualities as possible, we should cover this possibility. It may be a remote possibility but even more remote ones have been taken into consideration.

As a former chairman of a local authority, I can tell you they are not that remote.

There may be lengths to which individuals might go to avoid declaring interests. We cannot avoid this possibility and should give some consideration to it. I would like to hear the Minister's response to this.

At local authority meetings members state their interests and leave. This is how it operates in my part of the country. As a Member of the Oireachtas, if I have an interest in a property, decide not to speak and make a pairing arrangement, under the amendment I do not have to declare that interest.

The Deputy could take to the hills.

I was never a man to take to the hills.

Or the plains of Offaly.

Part (b) of the amendment should be tidied up. Two Members from different parties may have a similar interest and there may be a two way process with regard to a pairing arrangement. Interests may not be declared because a Member may have acquired an interest in a property under a purchase made two months, two weeks or one week ago or even on the day he or she signed the contract. The Member can say that he or she did not own the property or have an interest in a matter before the House when he or she had to make a declaration of interest but became the owner of the property subsequently, say on 12 September, 1994. The person concerned may not get up to speak because he or she does not want to disclose their interest in the matter before the House. There needs to be some tidying up before Report Stage.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 18:

In the last line of subsection (2) (b), after "appropriate." to insert "A member who speaks shall, prior to or during the speech, make an oral declaration to the House, or to the relevant Committee.".

Is it clear that the material interest referred to does not need to be a registerable interest? In other words it is a situation that could arise, as Deputy Connolly said, after one makes one's declaration but you might still have a material interest in a pending decision that has nothing to do with the interests registered. That is an important point to clarify. Can the Minister comment on my amendment which sought to do the same thing? Does she consider that it is redundant having regard to her own construction?

What Deputy Rabbitte is trying to do is taken on board in the amendment we have tabled. We are providing for an oral declaration which is in line with the reasonable points made on Second Stage.

Deputy McDowell raised an interesting point in relation to pairing. When we were drafting this section we looked at issues relating to abstentions and our judgment at that stage was that it would not be reasonable or workable to have a series of declarations made by people who were not there on the day. If Deputy McDowell can come up with an appropriate amendment to meet his concerns I will certainly look at it with great interest on Report Stage.

It occurs to me that even to confine it to formalised pairing arrangements does not really deal with the issue because most people in this House do not realise the predicament that I am in. In all the time that I have been in this House I have never been a party to any pairing arrangement because there is no pairing arrangement affordable to somebody who is not in the main Opposition party. Much as I would like, on occasion, to be paired with some of my colleagues who have similar reasons to be elsewhere, I find that because I am in the wrong party I cannot make these arrangements.

There is an answer to that.

A matter of inferior judgment.

There is a moral to that.

There is speculation.

I know that there is speculation.

It is a matter of diminishing concerns.

There is a very good reason why he would do it.

It is about killing two birds with one stone.

Two stones with one bird.

Two stones with one bird.

Let us have no comments about birds in politics.

Can we wind up this party political broadcast?

If it is right to say of somebody who votes and participates in a debate that they must indicate their interest, it is equally right that somebody who abstains and allows something through — whether he or she is party to a pairing arrangement or simply goes offside on the day — must be under the same obligation. It follows that the principle of an appropriate amendment would be to require any Member of the House who is eligible to vote on an issue, whether they contribute and vote or not, to be subject to the same rubric as members of a local authority would be in similar circumstances. You are either in or out and on every occasion if you have a vote to cast and you refrain from casting it for whatever reason, you are in exactly the same position as somebody who did cast their vote. Otherwise it would lead to the strange position, which I cannot complain about personally, that because I cannot get a pair I could simply disappear on the night of a vote and nobody would know whether or not I was allowing something to slip through. That did happen in the 1987-89 period. It was possible for members of the Progressive Democrats, by their absence, to influence whether a matter went through or not. It was not confined to my party because Independent Members of the House could have brought about such a situation by being absent.

If it were the case that a reward was available to an Independent Member or a member of a smaller party for going offside on a particular night, that surely must be just as declarable and obnoxious, if discovered, as the failure of a Member of the Government or Opposition to reveal their interest.

That is a point that requires some response from the Minister. The Alderman Jinks phenomenon from you own constituency, Chairman, could be repeated with some profit when this Bill becomes law.

Long before my time.

Not that long.

I know that no existing Member of the House would do it, but it is quite possible to use your muscle in the party rooms to cause a certain decision to be made in a particular direction and, by simply absenting yourself, to benefit from the decision of your colleagues. But, of course, you had nothing to do with it and as the Bill now stands you are not even required to declare it.

I do not mean it in any offensive way when I say that there are loopholes in the Bill, but the Minister continues to be adamant that there are not. However, I think that this is yet another loophole. There is little point in corralling the small guys while somebody who wants to do what this Bills seeks to prevent can simply do so by absenting themselves.

There is a good point here which has been well made by Deputy McDowell. Can the Minister look at it for Report Stage?

I have already stated that I will look at the point. I said that if any Members wish to table amendments in this area that would help in our consideration of it I would welcome that very much. I am anxious as well to ensure that at the end of the day we do have something that is workable. Members might like to reflect on that because it was for that reason and that reason alone that it was not included. In my own local authority experience there have been situations where people have simply not been present on the day when things in which they had a material interest were debated, and where no form of declaration was made. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, interesting points have been made in the course of the debate. But before we come back to this point on Report Stage Members might like to reflect on how the substantive concerns might be met in a way that is actually workable for ordinary Deputies going about their business and who may be absent for genuine reasons, perhaps a family funeral. They then come back and find there is something they have to do in terms of back checking whether anything happened in their absence in which they had an interest.

We did not cover it at this point, not for any particular reason of principle but following consideration of the practicalities. However, I am open to look at the point being made and if Members can assist me in my deliberations on this I would welcome anything they have to say.

I wish to ask the Minister what the position is regarding members or relations of a family working in a particular business where their father or mother is a Senator, Deputy or Minister. The Bill mentions a connected person who has actual knowledge. Could the Minister explain her interpretation of a "connected person"? Could one classify a member of a family who may not have shares or any other interest in the company other than the fact that the family members are working in the company, in this way? What is the position in this case?

An obvious loophole relates to Members with pairs or Members who are absent, but it will require considerable ingenuity to close it. I sympathise with the Minister in this regard and I have sympathy with those she is trying to pass the buck to, that is ourselves, to suggest ways this loophole can be closed. As far as pairs are concerned, we may be able to find ways around that. Getting a pair is an organised and centralised issue in so far as it is not possible, as those of us who are lucky to be in major parties are aware, to approach a Member of another party and arrange a pair. It must be official and it must be approved by the Whip of the party. It may be possible to give a Whip some responsibility in such a situation to ensure that an interest is declared or to put questions to Members of the party in relation to any interest they might have.

It is a different matter if a Deputy or Senator is offside or does not turn up on an occasion. Questions may be asked as to why a person, who is a regular attender, has not turned up for a certain occasion either to speak or to vote. Unless the allegation is made in the House, it would be difficult to point out that he or she is doing so in order to avoid declaring an interest. I would not like to be the political correspondent who would suggest that someone did not turn up because he or she had an interest in a certain matter which they wished to avoid declaring. Deputy McDowell and his ilk make enough money without being given another opportunity.

It is difficult to know how we can change this unless we make a general rule that Members of the House, who have an interest, must declare that interest irrespective of whether they attend, speak or vote. Some people might consider that too wide, but if we are serious about this matter and if we believe the declarations and interests are important then we must find some way of covering loopholes like this. On one occasion Deputy Rabbitte said there were a number of loopholes in this Bill which one could drive an elephant through. One could drive an elephant through with Hannibal and an assembly of soldiers on his back. We must make an effort to close such loopholes.

I am not sure why this distinction is being made. The Minister seems to say that she arrived at her conclusion for pragmatic reasons because it might be unfair to someone who is absent from the House for a genuine reason, such as illness, and that this imposition would be unfair because they would have to return and back check. Her amendment, which is more elaborate than mine, requires actual knowledge. If actual knowledge is required, then it is not as serious an imposition on someone who is absent. They can put it right immediately on returning to the House if they have actual knowledge of it. We discussed that term in section 2. If someone has actual knowledge of it, it is a relatively easy matter for them to put it right on their return.

Who does the Deputy call a "connected person"?

A "connected person" is defined in section 2 which states that it "shall be construed in accordance with subsection (2)".

Does that mean next- of-kin?

Section 2 (2) (a) states:

Any question whether a person is connected with another shall be determined in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph ...........

(i) a person is connected with an individual if that person is a relative of the individual,

One must go back to subsection (1) for the definition of a relative.

Is he exempt if he is a co-director?

No. Section 2 (2) also states that a "connected person" is a person who "is connected with any person with whom he or she is in partnership".

Is the company accountant or secretary a "connected person"?

I would have thought the company accountant was providing a professional service and that the normal impositions of rules of chartered accountants would apply, which, as we know from recent days, are not onerous.

Is the company secretary a "connected person"?

I would have thought so.

We are now becoming involved in a complex area.

That is why I asked those questions.

When this Bill is passed, I envisage The Star pointing out the ways around it. I may get the retainer to write that article, so I do not want to use my best points.

Does the Deputy intend to defend a person who is found in breach?

Perhaps I should declare the interest now.

He is only half declaring an interest.

One asks if a person is a "connected person". Section 2 (2) (a) (iv) states that "a company is connected with another person if that person has control of it or if that person and persons connected with that person together have control of it". That is a fairly broad brush. I am worried that the amendment we are dealing with now is concerned with a situation where I do not turn up for a vote. Now that Labour and Fianna Fáil are in office with 100 seats, or whatever number they have as a majority after Deputy Cullen joined them——

He is not the first person to change horses.

I call it the swinging vote on this issue.

It is unfair to attack a Member of the House who is unable to defend himself at this committee.

I am not attacking him; it is not an attack to say he has joined Fianna Fáil.

He must have had a reason.

It is not an offence under the Act, although it might be unwise and imprudent.

In the context of an overwhelming Government majority, it is easy to understand that people will declare their interests by their attendance. The opposite was the case in 1987 and 1989. By not turning up on a particular day or by staying rooted to one's chair, one was the swinging vote. I remember looking at Deputy Gregory and watching Deputy Pat O'Malley. Deputy Pat O'Malley asked if he would scratch his name on the bench because if the man moved he would only be there for half an hour. I remember the discussion we had on this issue. On many occasions, when there is a tightly balanced Dáil, the swinging vote on many crucial issues depends on who does not vote. It is entirely naive to have a system which requires Members who vote to declare an interest but requires no explanation from a person who disappears.

The Minister has deftly attempted to cast on those of us on this side of the House the obligation of thinking up some way to deal with this situation. Frankly, it is her Bill. She says that this is going to clean up politics. I say that unless she deals with this issue she will not have achieved her end and the clever merchants will get around it. It is not sufficient for her just to say that she will be interested to hear how the Opposition will close a loophole if the loophole is, in practical terms, not capable of being cured as the Minister is implying.

To return to what she said before lunch about voluntary disclosure which excited Deputy Rabbitte to a considerable extent, we cannot have a situation in which some Members of this House are members of a kind of moral sodality where they go around the place flagellating themselves, declaring their interests and abasing themselves before the media and——

That would be a strange sodality.

——other Members simply opt out of this ethical regime. By shrewdness, studied indifference to the new ethical climate and tactical absences they put themselves in the position that they derive all the advantages of their misbehaviour while their more moral counterparts go through agonies of self exposure to prove that they are not dishonest. That is the crucial issue. I want a regime where if I vote on a matter and declare my interest, somebody else who humps off on a junket to the other side of the world by coincidence on the same day——

——is exempted in the Schedule.

Exactly. Those people just never appear. As Deputy Rabbitte said, it will not influence their conduct because they will go off on an interparliamentary party union meeting to X, Y or Z. Those people are making the decisions, perhaps for reward, while I am busily trying to explain why I own — which I do not — 10,000 shares in a company. That really annoys me as a proposition. There is no point in making high sanctimonious sounds about what one is achieving if one leaves open massive loopholes through which sheep — the black sheep in particular — will trot as a matter of certainty.

Along with the elephants.

Even black piglets.

The point made about pairing was an interesting one.

And absences.

And absences. I am very open to suggestions in this area. Members will have different views. I am anxious to secure a regime which is workable, effective and practical. I invite Members to reflect between now and Report Stage, as I will do and I will be consulting on this point, on what happens, for example, if a Member is sick for a prolonged period such as six months. Are we to expect them to backtrack over that period to see whether anything arose in which they should have declared an interest? Members may feel that this is a reasonable request. That would be the effect of requiring people who are absent to declare interests.

It is not a black and white point. As I said, my intention is to ensure that we have as effective a piece of legislation as is possible. I do not accept the charges being made about gaps in the legislation and sheep, elephants and other——

——fauna which it is alleged will come through it. That is not the intention. I approach this in a very open way but I also invite the other Members to reflect on how we can deal with the points made in a practical way.

The Minister said that when a Bill is printed Members will declare if they have an interest. Obviously, in the case where somebody has been ill for six months I presume that nobody is going to start saying that they should have declared their interests. It is an exceptional case. However, with regard to the point Deputy McDowell made — and certainly it happens at local authority level — a vote very much depends on who is absent as opposed to who is there. That happens constantly. People declaring that they have an interest in a matter when a Bill is printed will cover it.

A Member with a bona fide illness would not be presumed to have actual knowledge in the sense which is envisaged in the Minister's amendment.

My understanding is that the words "actual knowledge" refer to actual knowledge of material interests, not actual knowledge that the matter is being debated in the House. That is my understanding of the meaning of the words "actual knowledge".

One first has to know what is being debated and then one has to know that one is materially interested in it.

My understanding is that in this case the phrase "actual knowledge" modifies the phrase "material interest" rather than modifies proceedings of the House.

The Minister has asked us to reflect between now and Report Stage on how this loophole might be closed. I ask her to reflect also that the possibility of Members getting offside in order not to have to declare an interest is considerably increased in a situation where the Government has a large majority and where such people can refrain from voting without having any great effect on the Government.

I see a great deal of difficulty here also. For example, if a legal Bill is being taken or an amendment to a legal Act, will solicitors and senior and junior counsel who are Members of this House have to declare that casting their votes in favour of such a measure may mean additional remuneration for them? Does it also mean that if there is an amendment or a Bill dealing with the financial institutions those who may be deposit holders or shareholders in financial institutions will have to stand up in the House or inform the Clerk by letter of the amount of shares which they hold?

Like in the collapse of ICI, for example?

Yes. With regard to a legal Act which is being amended, will solicitors who are Members of this House get up and say that they voted for it? Newspapers were mentioned. Will the media say that a Member of this House voted in favour of a Bill and that as a result his fees on the sale of property have gone from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, which will mean an extra £30,000 a year for his practice? Are we into that arena? We are touching on some good stuff now.

I am concerned regarding the declaration of interests by Oireachtas Members. My understanding is that each Member would receive a declaration form in which to state all the different bodies with which he or she might be involved as a shareholder or otherwise. I find that strange in the sense that some of the areas in which an individual Member might make a declaration may not arise for discussion in the Dáil. I want to stress that point. The time for Members to be asked to declare if they have an interest in a particular Bill is when that Bill is going through the Dáil.

I ask the Minister to take that point into consideration. It is not fair or correct that an Oireachtas Member should be asked to declare all their assets or involvements, although that issue may not arise in any Bill during the course of that Deputy's time as a Member of Oireachtas Éireann. However, if a Bill is going through the Dáil, I agree that a speaker should declare any interest he or she may have before they speak or vote on it. I ask the Minister to take note of this point.

There is another interesting aspect to this. Deputy Rabbitte and I engaged in an elaborate convolution recently to ensure that something was debated in the Dáil. In order to elicit from Deputy Connolly his private interests in certain areas, I envisage that I could introduce a Bill in the House, which was directly related to interest. If he is obliged to declare an interest in that context or to absent himself, I have him where I want him. By introducing a Private Members' Bill and giving it a five minute run over the sticks, he is stuck. He must say that he either has or does not have an interest in this matter.

To put the shoe on the other foot, if I had an interest and Deputy Connolly decided to expose it in public, all he would have to do is table a motion in the House and force me, by demanding on the Order of Business that his matter is dealt with first, to vote on it. In that case he has me one way or the other.

The Deputy could also name me. He could just go down to the Companies Office.

Let us forget about the Companies Office. For example, if I knew that the Deputy had an interest in a property, or he knew that I had an interest in a property, he could introduce a Bill about property in Dublin South East or wherever and catch me on the hoof. I either have to absent myself and avail of the loophole we are discussing or tell the Clerk of the Dáil and make it public that I have an interest in the matter before I vote against his proposition. As the Deputy said, we are into heavy stuff if that starts. If Deputy Rabbitte and I had the ingenuity to do a one two to elicit a matter and get it onto the floor of the House, I imagine if any of us knew of some interest of anybody else in the House that they could isolate by this manoeuvre, they could introduce a Bill and see if the person comes forward or shies away.

I could put the Deputy into the ring the next week.

I do not think the general public would put down the legislators in that regard. The public is concerned when individual cases arise regarding whether these people have an involvement or otherwise. The public is not looking for a general and full declaration by Oireachtas Members and I suspect that it may be unconstitutional. I do not disagree with the fact if a particular Bill or legislation is due to be dealt with that Members of the Oireachtas are entitled to declare their interest on the issue. However, the rest of their business is private.

As Deputies McDowell, Hilliard and others pointed out, we are in a minefield. If one wished, one could enter a complex arena in that regard. I agree with Deputy Hilliard that the public is not concerned about day-to-day operations of Members of the Oireachtas. They may be concerned about a certain issue that arises when they know that a Member has an interest or owns a property in an area. Otherwise, the public is uninterested.

I am the longest serving Member here and all the Members during my time have been extremely honourable. Many sacrificed much to become Members. I would not like anybody to think that Members of both Houses are not honourable. I have no doubt that they have performed their duties with great integrity over the years. If they had been in other employment, the remuneration of many Members, both past and present, would have been much higher. I may be a little out of line but I must make it clear——

The Deputy is a long way off the rails.

We are being slammed for a salary increase of 2 to 3 per cent. However, everybody here realises that half of it goes on tax. People say we are getting £1,200 but I divide that in half. The same applies to us all. I have been a Member of the House for over 25 years and in general over the years Members across the party divide have carried out their duties honourably. When it comes to declarations, integrity and perception Members have been honourable over the years.

Is amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 18 being withdrawn?

I accept the Minister's point that it is encompassed in her amendment. Can we be clear that the Minister will come back to us on Report Stage to deal with the question of absences?

Yes. I would also welcome matters communicated to my office in the meantime.

She certainly would.

She would welcome them now.

Will the Minister also come back on the issue of general declaration? This is important and should not be simply brushed aside in the debate. I would like a comment on it.

We will deal in depth with that issue on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 18, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 19 in the name of Deputy Currie has been discussed with amendment No. 18.

Yes, by agreement earlier.

An element of it was not covered. It is different from the other amendments.

If he wishes the Deputy may deal with it when we debate the section.

Amendment No. 19 not moved.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 13, lines 13 to 16, to delete subsection (5) and substitute the following:

"(5) A declaration under subsection (2) shall——

(a) in case an official report of the proceedings concerned is published, be included in the report, and

(b) in case such a report is not published, be published in such manner as the Clerk, or the clerk to the committee, concerned may direct.".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

There is a difference between my amendment and the other amendments which have been discussed. My amendment states: ...a member who speaks in proceedings to which this section applies shall be entitled to make a declaration of a material interest in the subject matter to the House in the course of his or her speech on such proceedings, and where a member makes such a declaration it shall not be published in the Order Paper of either or both Houses in accordance with subsection (5).".

The declaration of interest applies not only to the Member's own interests but to members of his or her family and also in relation to companies. One does not have to be a principal in a company to require such a declaration. I understand one may only have a small involvement in a company. Such a declaration must be made to the Clerk of the Dáil or the Seanad and it is published in the Order Paper. I am not sure how this will work. I assume when this legislation becomes law, such declarations will be published in a section of the Order Paper and that if one makes a declaration of an interest to the Clerk of the Dáil or if in the course of a speech one declares an interest, it will be published in the Order Paper, which is not a large document.

Perhaps I could help Deputy Currie. The amendment we just agreed to substitutes the original proposal of the Order Paper with the printed record of the House in the case of making a speech and provides that the printed record of the speech would be the declaration of interest. The Order Paper has already gone.

Will a declaration made to the Clerk of the Dáil or in the course of a speech not appear in the Order Paper?

No, it will be published in the record of proceedings in the House.

That means in circumstances where a declaration is made to the Clerk, it will be attached to the Official Report. That is better because I was concerned that in circumstances where a declaration of interest by a person who was not a Member or who might have small connection with a company was made, people of a curious nature or someone interested in sensationalism — I am thinking about a type of journalist who we do not normally find in the House — would look over the Order Paper or the record of the House for the specific purpose of finding out who had made a declaration of interests. Where there is an important interest to be declared, I would understand that. However, this would be unfair to relatives and those with a minor involvement in a company if this was the case. I am delighted it has been removed.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 4.5 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.