Counterfeiting Bill 2020: Committee Stage

I welcome all members to the Chamber. It is good to see we are getting some use out of it, even if we are not here regularly. We have apologies from Deputy Costello, communicated to me earlier; otherwise, we have almost a full house.

The meeting has been convened to consider Committee Stage of the Counterfeiting Bill 2020. I welcome to our meeting Deputy James Browne, Minister of State at the Department of Justice with special responsibility for law reform. We will proceed with consideration of the Bill. Before we take it section by section, I invite the Minister of State to make a brief opening statement to put the Bill in context.

I thank the Deputies for facilitating the Bill through Committee Stage today. I wish to take the opportunity to inform the House that I expect to bring forward some amendments on Report Stage. They are in respect of sections 1 and 6 and a new section to be inserted. The new section under consideration is in respect of the recovery of costs by the Central Bank of Ireland regarding the operation of the Coin National Analysis Centre. This amendment arises from the ECB opinion on the Bill and is being worked on by the Department of Finance and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, OPC. The other amendments being considered are in respect of section 1, to make the commencement arrangements for Part 4, and section 6, to further refine the elements of the offences relating to possession and manufacture of materials.

We will now proceed to the Bill proper. If any member wishes to speak on any section, please indicate and you may do so.

Sections 1 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Martin Kenny sends his apologies.

Regarding section 9, the defence seems to be the same as that put into the money laundering and terrorist financing Act, which I think we have discussed before. We are not opposed to this defence per se but we feel we should not leave it up to the courts. We may wish to come back on this on Report Stage. Obviously, we need strong legal and policy safeguards against white-collar crime, given the interaction with other forms of crime. I am just flagging that we reserve the right to table an amendment on Report Stage.

Very good. That is in order.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
Section 12
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

Is this the section that the amendment is to be made to?

There are amendments in relation to sections 1 and 6, and a new section to be inserted.

Where will that new section be?

We do not have a place for it yet. It is only being flagged. The new section under consideration is in respect of the recovery of costs by the Central Bank of Ireland in relation to the operation of the coin national analysis centre. Effectively, the coin national analysis centre cannot come directly under the finances of the Central Bank and it has to be recovered. It is a technical point that was raised by the ECB.

As a matter of interest, what does it do?

As far as I know, it weighs and measures coins to make sure that they are accurate, and what they are made out of. That is my understanding of it. There is probably a far better and more official definition than that to it.

From whom is the money to be recouped?

Is that as in where is the accounting for the coin national analysis centre?

No. I thought the Minister of State was saying that the cost of the centre is to be recouped and that is the import of the section. Is that what Deputy James Browne is saying?

I will have to get that clarified for the Deputy.

I do not have that specific answer on it. It is that it cannot come directly out of the Central Bank.

I was wondering, in a counterfeiting Bill, who exactly is the charge to be levied upon? Anyway, the Minister of State can come back to me on it.

I will come back to the Deputy.

The Deputy is referring to a new section that the Minister of State has indicated will be inserted but the comment came under section 12 in terms of the debate here.

It is just a number - section 12.

I recall we passed a Bill a couple of years ago here on hallmarking which, it strikes me, has some similarities to the type of analysis that is being referenced in that agency or new agency. The Minister of State will come back to us with some clarification on that for the purpose of the role of that authority.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 13 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.
Section 26
Question proposed: "That section 26 stand part of the Bill."

I reserve the right, similarly, to come back to this in relation to subsection (2).

Question put and agreed to.
Section 27
Question proposed: "That section 27 stand part of the Bill."

This refers to the national analysis centre on which we had a discussion. Section 27 is designation of a national analysis centre for euro notes and coin analysis.

I can give Deputy Howlin the clarification on that matter now, if it helps. In effect, what the ECB has stated is that the coin-related tasks conferred on the Central Bank of Ireland, CBI, do not form part of the functions of the euro system and that coins in euro are issued through the CBI as agent for the Minister for Finance. In effect, instead of coming out of the Central Bank of Ireland, it will come directly from the Minister for Finance.

The Central Fund.

Central funding, yes.

I thank the Minister of State for the clarification.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 28 to 31, inclusive agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.