Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill 2016: Committee Stage

This meeting has been convened for the purpose of consideration by the select committee of the Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill 2016 which was referred to it by order of the Dáil on 6 April 2017. Apologies have been received from Deputy Niall Collins. I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and her officials. I thank her for facilitating the taking of Committee Stage of the Bill today as originally scheduled. It is appreciated. Before we begin our consideration of the Bill, on behalf of the committee and all of its members, I congratulate her on her new appointment. We wish her well and look forward to working with her in the future. I also thank the former Minister, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, for her contribution and work with the committee. I wish her well in her new role.

I ask members to ensure their mobile phones are switched off or left in airplane mode for the duration of the meeting as they interfere with the broadcasting of the proceedings, even when left in silent mode.

No amendments have been tabled to the Bill and it is intended to conclude Committee Stage today. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I thank the Chairman for her words of welcome and wish to say how much I am looking forward to working with the committee. Its work in the area of jobs, enterprise and innovation is extremely important. I am very excited to have been appointed Minister and very much look forward to working with the Chairman and members.

Section 2 provides for amendments to section 1 of the Hallmarking Act 1981 by amending the definition of "articles of precious metal" to add palladium and mixed precious metals and including a definition to cover hallmarking in assay offices outside of the State, as well as a definition of "forged hallmark". I intend to submit an amendment on Report Stage to add "mixed articles of a precious and non-precious metal" to the definitions in the Act. This is being done on foot of requests to include such articles to ensure the precious metal part of such articles will be properly hallmarked and that the non-precious metal will be clearly visible and marked also. Given the technical nature of the Bill, such an amendment will result in consequential amendments to other sections, including sections 3 and 12. I inform the committee that these amendments will also be submitted on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister has stated she will table an amendment to this section on Report Stage.

Will amendments be made to sections 2 and 3 or section 3 only?

I believe amendments will be made to sections 2, 3 and 12.

Are all of the amendments linked with each other?

They are technical because of the technical nature of the Bill. The amendments to sections 3 and 12 are mostly consequential on the amendment I have outlined to section 2.

On a personal note, in a former life I worked in the jewellery business for ten years. My sister is a jeweller. The Assay Office plays such an important role in the life of the jewellery business. I have considered the Bill in detail and spoken to members of Retail Jewellers of Ireland, all of whom are very happy with the Bill which is essential. There are gold and silver and different levels of fineness such as nine-carat and 18-carat gold, but the new metal palladium which is used mostly in men's wedding rings has not yet been recognised in legislation. Therefore, the Bill is very important and I am supportive of it from a personal point of view.

That is good. I understand it will also give greater protection to the consumer.

Yes. It is very important, when one buys a piece of jewellery, that a hallmark be on it. If it is nine-carat gold, the stamp reads "375". It is only when one works in the business one realises how important it is to be able to authenticate the article being bought or sold.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 4 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

This section provides for an amendment to section 9 of the Hallmarking Act 1981 to allow the Irish Assay Office and a sponsor to make arrangements for the sponsor's mark to be struck by the assay master or an authorised assay office as soon as is practicable after the submission of the article for the striking of an approved hallmark in accordance with section 6 of the Bill. Regarding the issue of sponsors' marks, provisions had been made in the Bill, in section 10(a)(ii), to transfer the approval of sponsors' marks from the assay master to the Company of Goldsmiths, the body under which the Assay Office operates. Since the Bill was published, it is now considered to be more preferable to delete this provision to ensure there are no possible governance issues and that the Assay Office and the assay master will maintain their independence from the Company of Goldsmiths in this matter. I will submit an amendment to this effect on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

This section provides for the inclusion of provisions dealing with offences and penalties related to forged hallmarks. Since publication of the Bill, a reappraisal of the section has indicated that some additional text clarifying the definition of offences should be included. We will propose the amendments on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 13 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.

I thank the Tánaiste and her officials for attending. I remind members that as Report Stage may be ordered at short notice, it is recommended that amendments, if any, be submitted to the Bills Office as soon as possible.

Bill reported without amendment.