SECTION 186.

We come to Part X on which the Minister might like to make a general statement before we move to the sections.

Part X of the Bill makes a number of important changes to the existing law in relation to auditors and accounts of companies. I am sure the members of the Committee need no reminding that the auditor plays a crucial role in relation to companies. The auditor's report has to be framed in accordance with the requirements of the Seventh Schedule to the Principal Act and Part X of the Bill proposes to restate in amended form the requirements in relation to such reports. Part X also proposes to amend and supplement existing provisions in relation to the resignation or removal of auditors. On the one hand, a resigning officer will have to say whether or not there are any circumstances connected with his resignation that ought to be brought to the attention of the members or creditors of the company and he will also be able to requisition a general meeting in certain specified circumstances to consider his report on the matter. On the other hand, we are giving the auditor certain rights to communicate his point of view to the members of the company, where it is proposed to remove him from office. The basic aim here is, of course, to strengthen and underpin the independence of the auditor.

Concern has been expressed from time to time regarding the inadequacy of the book of accounts which some companies keep and thus this problem is also addressed in this Part. The minimum acceptable requirements are being strengthened and those who do not observe the new standards will face the possibility of being held personally liable by the courts for all or part of the company's debts, where it can be shown that the non-observance contributed to the company's inability to pay its debts, or has resulted in uncertainty as to the assets and liabilities of the company.

Finally, Part X provides for the replacement of the existing company law provisions regarding the qualifications for appointment as company auditor. These provisions were last amended in the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1982, and essentially, since the transitional provision introduced in that Act expired, all new auditors qualify for appointment on the basis of being members of a recognised body. The Minister has the power to authorise individual applicants who have obtained similar qualifications otherwise than from the recognised body, but his right has not been availed of to any extent. While these powers are being retained, subject to some adjustments, Part X will now also enable the Minister to attach conditions to recognition and authorisation as well as approve codes of conduct of recognised bodies.

All but one of the amendments which I have tabled to this Part arise from my intention to avail of this Part of the Bill to transpose into international law the 8th EC Company Law Directive. This directive which was adopted on 10 April 1984 requires member states to establish minimum educational and professional training standards and examination requirements for persons responsible for carrying out statutory audits of annual accounts of companies and firms. It also puts an obligation on member states to ensure that statutory audits are carried out with professional integrity, and there are appropriate safeguards in national law to protect auditors' independence. The Eighth Directive was due to be incorporated in the laws of member states not later than 1 January 1990. The approach I propose to adopt will involve the minimum change necessary to the existing procedures for the approval of auditors. I will go into more detail as we discuss individual amendments.

Amendments Nos. 238a, b, c, g, h, i, j and k may be taken together for the purposes of discussion. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 238a:

In page 138, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following definition:

"‘the Council Directive' means Council Directive No. 84/253/EEC of 10 April, 1984 on the approval of persons responsible for carrying out the statutory audits of accounting documents;".

I would like the Committee to bear with me. My explanations of this group of amendments are somewhat lengthy but no more than is necessary. These eight amendments are the first in a series designed to implement the Eighth EC Company Law Directive about which I spoke earlier. This directive requires member states to establish minimum educational and professional training standards and examination requirements for persons responsible for carrying out statutory audits of the annual accounts of companies and firms. It also places an obligation on member states to ensure that statutory audits are carried out with professional integrity and that there are appropriate safeguards contained in national laws to protect auditors' independence.

It was section 162 of the Principal Act which first laid down the provisions on the subject of qualifications of persons for appointment as company auditors. These provisions were subsequently expanded by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1982. The 1982 Act for the first time also laid down minimum qualifications for public auditors for the purposes of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, 1893 to 1978 and the Friendly Societies Acts, 1896 to 1977.

In section 191 of the present Bill we are proposing to replace the existing section 162, as amended, and — in the process — make a number of important changes to existing law. Mainly these changes have to do with increasing existing safeguards to ensure that auditors are as independent as possible of the companies and other bodies whose accounts they audit. However, by virtue of the EC Directive it is now necessary to go further. Amendment No. 238c is the first substantive amendment which arises in this context. This amendment would substitute a new subsection (1) in the text of section 191 of the Bill. The proposed new subsection is still based on the existing recognition rules, that is that a person would be qualified to audit accounts through membership of a recognised body of accountants, by direct Ministerial authorisation — on the basis of having obtained similar qualifications from another accountancy body — or by holding a direct authorisation from the Minister prior to 3 February 1983 and continuing to hold such authorisation.

However, arising from the EC Directive we now have to make provision for two further categories of persons who will be qualified. The first is in the nature of transitional arrangements arising from Article 18 of the directive and will enable persons undergoing training on 1 January 1990 who, on completion of their training, would not fulfil the minimum conditions stipulated by the directive and would thus be debarred from recognition if some transitional arrangements were not available. This is akin to the existing so-called "grandfather" clause covering those who already hold recognition on the basis of practice, experience or expertise obtained before the minimum qualifications were introduced in the first place.

The second additional provision for recognition now being introduced by this amendment relates to approval of qualifications obtained outside the State. In addition to the requirements I have described and arising from the directive a person will not be qualified for appointment as an auditor of a company, or as a public auditor, unless details — which enable his name to be retained on a register of recognised people — has been forwarded to the registrar of companies.

Membership of a recognised body of accountants will continue to be one means of qualifying for appointment as an auditor, and amendment No. 238k contains the basic provisions which tie the Minister's recognition of bodies of accountants to the education, training and standards requirements of the directive. Essentially it provides that any bodies applying for recognition — which exist already as well as new ones — must be able to satisfy the Minister that their standards in relation to training, qualifications and so on comply with the requirements of the relevant articles of the EC Directive. The bodies concerned must also be able to satisfy the Minister that their subsequent control over persons who have been awarded practising certificates are satisfactory. The section being introduced by amendment No. 238k also contains, in subsection (2), a provision enabling the Minister to withdraw an existing recognition where the body of accountants concerned fails to satisfy the Minister as to the matters specified.

Under section 162 of the Principal Act, as amended, the Minister could grant an individual authorisation to a person who had obtained a similar qualification otherwise than from a recognised body. Effectively this enabled the Minister to authorise members of overseas accountancy bodies.

Amendment No. 238i makes provision for the Minister to declare that the holders of a qualification obtained outside the State will be qualified for appointment as auditors of a company; this implements Article 11 of the directive. However, subsection (2) provides that, before making a declaration under subsection (1), the Minister must be satisfied about a number of things. These include satisfaction that the standards of the body concerned are not less than those required by the Companies Acts in order for a person to qualify for appointment as auditor of a company or as a public auditor and, if necessary, that an applicant must hold such additional educational qualifications as the Minister may specify. For example, an overseas student may not be familiar with company law or tax law in Ireland and the Minister may require additional qualifications in that regard.

Subsection (2) (c) provides that, in making a declaration, the Minister may also have regard to the extent to which persons qualified in Ireland are recognised by overseas authorities. Sub-sections (3) and (4) contain the necessary technical implementating provisions.

Amendment No. 238j aims to help the Minister in deciding whether to recognise particular accountancy bodies or to authorise particular individuals. Essentially it provides that the Minister may consult with any person or body of persons in regard to conditions to be imposed or standards required by a body of accountants in connection with membership of the body or the awarding of practising certificates. This ability to consult would also apply in relation to individual applicants for authorisation.

It is very important that the Minister have such powers to consult and avail of whatever outside expertise is necessary to enable him assess applications made under this Part. For example, in relation to educational qualifications, consultation with appropriate academic authorities in regard to examinations, standards and so on, could be essential as the Minister is unlikely to have such expertise available within his Department.

Amendment No. 238h arises from Article 18 of the EC Directive and contains transitional measures in respect of persons already undergoing professional or practical training when the directive is implemented. If provides that people undergoing such training can be recognised by their admission to membership of a recognised body of accountants before the final cut-off date — 1 January 1996 — and are awarded and continue to hold a practising certificate by that body.

Subsection 191 (11) of the Bill was designed to provide that the existing recognition by the Minister of accountancy bodies and existing authorisation by the Minister of individuals would continue in force following enactment of the Bill. This was necessary because section 162 of the Principal Act, as amended, is being repealed by section 6 of the Bill and replaced by section 191. Implementation of the directives, however, requires a different approach in that all existing recognitions and authorisations will effectively have to be redone on a once off basis. In the circumstances, amendment No. 238g is designed to continue the existing recognition and authorisation until such time as the accountancy bodies and the individuals, already holding recognition or authorisation, reapply to the Minister. This group of amendments contain definitions of terms used in the new section. The first defines the meaning of the Council Directive and the second simply gives a definition of practising certificates, for the purpose of the new provisions we are preparing to insert here.

I am sorry my comments were so lengthy but I thought it was very important to place on the record the relevance of this legislation to the bodies and individuals who would be applying for recognition in due course.

I suggest, for the purpose of discussing the amendments, that we do not get into a general discussion on all the sections. Amendments Nos. 238a and 238b refer to section 186; amendment No. 238c replaces the existing section 191 (1); amendment No. 238g replaces section 191 (1) and amendments Nos. 238h to 238k, inclusive, are four new sections before section 192. In our discussion, could we address our comments to sections 186, 191 (1), 191 (11) and the four new sections.

It is amazing that the Minister has come in here now with a huge raft of amendments laying down qualifications for accountants, who will be dealing with all sorts of routine business, when a few moments ago he refused outright to even consider prescribing qualifications for examiners, who will be dealing with an extremely specified and detailed form of work. I cannot understand the thinking in the Department of Industry and Commerce that would go to the trouble of producing this vast tome of amendments and, at the same time, refuse to even take the discretion to apply similar requirements to the exercise of the function of examiner. I do not understand it. I will not go to any further with it. We would be much further on in this Bill if the Minister had adopted a more reasonable attitude on that suggestion earlier.

As I understand it, amendment No. 238c proposes to delete section 191 (1) (b) which says:

(1) A person shall not be qualified for appointment either as auditor of a company or as a public auditor unless—

(b) he is, having regard to the obtaining by him of an accountancy qualification that is, in the opinion of the Minister, of a similar standard to that of such membership as aforesaid, for the time being authorised by the Minister to be so appointed, or

In other words, it says that you do not have to be a member of a body to become an accountant, so long as you pass the exams that are equivalent. My understanding is that that particular provision is now being taken out and, henceforth, under this group of amendments, you must be a member of an accountancy body. It does not matter what qualifications you have, if you are not a member of an acocuntancy body you cannot be an accountant. While I am all for high standards, I have certain reservations about giving private bodies of any kind the key to the Kingdom of Heaven, in so far as qualification to practise in any profession is concerned — and that applies not just to accountants. For that reason, I am unhappy about this amendment. I do not see why section 191 (1) (b) should be deleted.

The existing company legislation already contains requirements for recognition of authorisation of auditors, which covers the point made by Deputy Bruton, what we are dealing with now is refining the requirements. Section 191 (1) is replaced by amendment No. 238c. Amendment No. 238c, section 191 (1) (a) (ii) reads: "he holds an accountancy qualification granted by a body of accountants that is, in the opinion of the Minister, of a standard which is not less than that required for such membership as aforesaid and that would entitle him to be granted a practising certificate by that body if he was a member of it and for the time being authorised by the Minister to be so appointed". He would not necessarily be a member of that body.

There is a difference. Amendment 238c says that a person holds an accountancy qualification granted by a body of accountants; there is no reference in the existing section 191 (1) (b) to a body of accountants. It simply allows the Minister to satisfy himself that the accountancy qualification, for instance, granted by a regional college, a university or some other educational body, is sufficient. I think that is reasonable. We should not say that in all cases only bodies of accountants — who have their own financial interests to look after — can authorise a person to qualify as an accountant. I think there should be an opportunity for a higher education institution, for example, to have their qualification in accountancy recognised by a Minister as being sufficient.

I would just like to add to what Deputy Bruton has said. If we are having such a fundamental change here, surely that should be followed by some statement by the Minister or some insertion in this section as to who serves on the accountancy bodies when setting examination standards, correcting papers, how you get elected to a position that places you in charge of these particular areas, etc. We recently had a great deal of controversy — you may have read it — in relation to the legal profession, where those who had qualified with legal degrees found it extraordinary that they were being failed in exams to the Bar and had no right of appeal. I recall it being taken to the courts. If we are going to make such a fundamental change here, surely there is an obligation to build into the legislation some protection. I am not saying that those people who are in these bodies at the moment are not of the highest integrity. Not for one minute am I suggesting that they would do anything improper, but this legislation that will be on the Statute Book for many years to come, and we should set down how exams would be set, the standards required and how people will pass exams. Will it be on the basis of vacancies in the profession? If there are X number of accountants required in this country, what standards will apply? All these things should be considered because this is a fundamental change.

I find it rather amusing that under section 191 a child of an officer of a company, who happens to be a qualified accountant, cannot be an auditor of the company. It could be a large, small or medium-sized company. The fact is that if one is the son or the daughter of an officer of a very large company one will be prohibited from being appointed the auditor of that company. There is a huge difference between being the child of a director of a two-person company and not being able to be appointed its auditor and being the child of an officer of a very large company. In the latter case why should one not be eligible to be appointed its auditor? This takes us back to the point that is made consistently by various bodies in relation to this Bill. We do not draw any distinction between different types of directors — non-executive directors, executive directors, directors of small companies, directors of large companies. All the provisions of this Bill apply to directors. Whether the company be small or medium and the director concerned non-executive or executive, we are entertaining the idea of excluding the child, sister, parent or a spouse of an officer. Why not exclude a first or second cousin?

The other matter I want to put on the record is that, like Deputy Bruton, I am absolutely astonished that the Minister saw fit to come in here with a number of amendments, listing all the details in relation to how one can qualify as an accountant or auditor. Yet when we asked him to take unto himself power to make an order in the future in relation to minimum standards for an examiner he could not see his way to doing so. It proves the point that the Minister was sent in here to bulldoze this Bill through. It would appear that any suggestions from this side of the House are merely a nuisance and nobody listens, and it is all the more amazing on the part of a Minister and the Leader of a party who talks consistently about the need for Dáil reform. It is such bad example to send in his Minister of State, instructing him to bulldoze this through and not to accept anything.

On the amendment, Deputy.

I share some, though not all of the views of the previous two speakers. If I were in Deputy Seán Barrett's shoes — given that they bogged the water with regard to local government reform and given all they have had to say about local government reform——

Would the Deputy please adhere to the amendments before us.

Excuse me, Chairman. I have sat very quietly here while you have allowed Opposition Deputies go on with this rubbish all afternoon. With respect, I am simply making a point. I would not be so fast to throw stones if I were living in their glasshouses.

Point taken.

If you would exercise the same guillotine with regard to extraneous comments from the far side, I would be appreciative. I do not want to press your patience in that regard. The latter points were rubbish. The points that have been very well made by the previous two speakers were those about qualifications. If one incorporates in legislation the tying of qualifications to a professional body, then one does leave it open to circumstances which can arise in which a professional organisation — governed primarily by rules set outside this country — can govern the number of people coming forward with accounting qualifications. For example, Dublin City University runs on excellent graduate course in accountancy, yet it does not qualify its participants to become accountants. I am conscious of the point made by Deputy Seán Barrett as being a very valid one.

A constituent of mine, with my advice, had to go to the courts some time ago regarding anomalies in the Incorporated Law Society's rules of admission. If we were to incorporate the same powers in law for accountancy bodies, in a few years time they could find themselves in the same position. At present we have a number of very good post-graduate qualifications in accountancy. For example, University College, Dublin runs a B. Comm. course in accountancy which is the same type of degree awarded by Dublin City University — a basic graduate level course in accountancy. They also run an extremely good post-graduate diploma course in advanced accounting. At the same time those students, the products of four or five years of accountancy training in University College, Dublin must go through the system in order to become members of the professional accountancy bodies. I do accept that the professional bodies always will set the standards to which one must adhere in order to become a member of their bodies and be able to append those professional bodies' letters after their names but that has been important only in a world in which there was nowhere else one could qualify as an "accountant".

In this legislation, if we are laying down in law what constitutes an accountant, we should also consider whether to allow the NCEA or the various universities to establish their own qualifications. In law we should recognise accountants produced by our third level institutions, otherwise we are creating the danger that we will allow a professional body — with a vested interest in limiting the supply of accountants — to do what they wish with a particular qualification.

Taking accountancy skills and training as they are developing, I believe it has become in recent years more a detailed subject for graduate experience. I am not denigrating the training that one gets in an accounting office, but increasingly in recent years, Irish boys and girls who want to become accountants have to go through three years in university, probably a year doing post-graduate work and then a number of years during which they are little more than indentured clerks in accounting offices where they provide audit firms with cheap labour and who — as we have seen on one or two occasions in recent times — do not exactly cover themselves in glory yet charge exorbitant fees. I would like to see the Department giving some consideration to that well made point.

With regard to the qualifications, I should say we are speaking about the appointment of auditors, as opposed to the qualifications of an accountant.

It follows on——

Possibly it does but the point is we are referring specifically to auditors in this case.

In relation to Deputy Bruton's point, I should say that very rarely does the Minister grant individual authorisations. Always the practice has been that an applicant must be a member of another accountancy body — usually overseas — before being authorised to practise here. In relation to Deputy Seán Barrett's point regarding the child of an officer being prohibited, the provision is designed to ensure the independence, that the auditor maintains an arm's length from the company, is one of the very important principles of the overall position. Deputy Roche also mentioned practical experience. Of course practical experience comprises an important aspect of qualification for appointment as an auditor.

It may well be the case that, in practice, the Minister has granted applications only which were submitted by people who were members of a body overseas, but the fact that professional bodies knew that the Minister had the residual power — which he will have had up to these amendment being tabled — to decide to recognise a person as an accountant himself, acted as a restraint on restrictive practices by accountancy bodies, in the sense that they knew that if they did get up to anything he had the residual power to issue certificates directly. That knowledge was sufficient for him never to have to use the power because the professional bodies behaved. If amendment No. 238c in its present form is accepted that will cease to be the case. The simple amendment to the amendment that would deal with the problem would be to remove, in amendment No. 238c, section 91 (1) (a) (ii) the words "granted by a body of accountants" after the words "he holds an accountancy qualification". It would then be open to a Minister to recognise as a public auditor someone who holds an accountancy qualification that is, in the opinion of the Minister, of a standard not less than would be required by an accountancy body. That would more or less preserve the wording in section 191 in its present form which has no reference at that point to accountancy bodies. I do not know why or where this reference to accountancy bodies crept into the new amendment. I think it is a retrograde step and I hope the Minister would agree to delete those words for the reasons explained.

To add to what Deputies Roche and Bruton have said, this is my first opportunity to see this list of amendments — I want to put that on the record — dated 29 May. I do not know if they were published prior to this but it is a bit late in the day to be seeing amendments relating to a substantive point like accountancy qualifications.

These were circulated on 8 May and they were put on a green list dated today.

Then I owe somebody an apology. There are a number of people practicing accountancy, by whatever name, who have not actually passed all the examinations set by the professional bodies. What we are talking about here essentially are qualifications to act as an auditor of a company, which is a fairly specific area. There definitely is a case to be made for creating more flexibility here. I am not happy that we seem to be confining all the power to grant people certificates to act as auditors to bodies of accountants, as Deputy Bruton has said. I recognise that the previous position was that the Minister rarely if ever — I cannot remember any instance where it happened — gave certificates to practice that were not recognised by the established accountancy bodies.

It seems to me that the amendment represents a step backwards. We seem to be concentrating too much power in the hands of the recognised accountancy bodies. I do not think that is necessarily a good thing having regard to recent experinece with other professional bodies. There are many people practicing accountancy who would not be qualified to act as auditors under the law as it stands. The amendment does not represent a substantial change from that in the light of practice, but I am not happy, at this point in our economic development, especially with the proliferation of financial services, the different roles for accountants, and the expanding role of the auditor, that we should be confining this right to people who get the certificate from the recognised accountancy bodies. It is not just a point of interpretation; it is a substantive point to decide what sort of people we allow to act as auditors. I think this should be reconsidered between now and Report Stage.

On the same point, to delete the words "granted by a body of accountants" in section 191 (a) (ii) would have the same effect as the present practice where the Minister and his Department simply acknowledge or accept the validity of a body of accountants for the process of certifying who can become an auditor but there would be the additional benefit because if there were some reason to complain about the operations of some of those bodies, the Minister could then make it very clear to them that he would rely on the powers he would have under the amended section to recognise alternative sets of qualifications. Notwithstanding the fact that experience in an accounting office is one of the contributory parts to the development of an accountant in the present day, I can foresee a situation where, for example, as we move into more complex types of accountancy, and modern information technology becomes more of a part of accountancy, to actually qualify as an auditor it may be necessary to have more than five years' experience in the carrying out of audits. You may need to have a whole lot of specific and specialised qualifications.

I think it would be well worth the Department's and the Minister's while to consider the deletion of the words "granted by a body of accountants". Let them make subsequent changes in the language in 191 (a) (ii), because I think that would extend the Minister's power, and extend the catchment area from where we are going to draw our accountants. If you vary the amendment like that, I think — and I give credit to Deputy Bruton for spotting this — you would achieve a great deal.

The wording at section 191 (a) (ii) is deliberate. That was always the practice. The Minister can use powers in amendment No. 241d to adjust the subsection if experience shows this to be necessary. Some very substantive points have been made by Deputies in relation to recognition and recognised bodies. I will agree to look at this on Report Stage in view of the points made by Deputies.

I do not think the Minister should rely on amendment No. 241d or on amendment No. 238j, which is another provision which allows him to consult — Deputy Barrett has drawn this to my attention — before recognising a particular body of accountants. I suppose he could say he would refuse to continue recognising that body of accountants if they were being too restrictive in granting qualifications. I know those powers exist. To be truthful, to follow either of those procedures would be to use, perhaps, a very large mallet to crack a very small nut. It would seem to be much better to proceed along the lines of giving the Minister discretion in respect of an individual applicant to give him a certificate to practise.

The Minister says this wording is deliberate. If it is deliberate what has happened between the time the original section 191 was drafted, which does not have this monopoly for accountancy bodies, and the amendment which does? What has happened to require the Minister to make this change?

The points put forward by the Deputies are very significant and I will have to come back on Report Stage to elaborate further on them. There is concern being expressed and I share some of that concern. However, I will have to come back to them on Report Stage because I am not in a position to bring forward any amendment at this stage. I am bringing this discussion to a conclusion on the basis that we have discussed it exhaustively. The Minister has given his position; nothing is going to change. Is amendment No. 238a agreed?

I intend to come back on Report Stage on that particular point. Deputies Bruton, Roche and O'Dea have made very specific points in relation to this area. I regard that as being very significant. I assure you that I will come back on Report Stage to see what I can do to satisfy Members in this regard.

This criticism would also apply to amendment No. 238b which also gives a monopoly to a body of accountants.

I will take that point on board.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 238b:

In page 138, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following definition:

"‘practising certificate' means a certificate awarded to a person by a body of accountants entitling that person to practise as auditor of a company or as a public auditor;".

Is the amendment agreed?

Question put: "That the amendment be made."
The Special Committee divided: Tá 5; Níl, 3.

Cowen, Brian.

O'Dea, Willie.

Kitt, Tom.

Roche, Dick.

Leyden, Terry.

Níl

Barrett, Seán.

Reynolds, Gerry.

Bruton, John.

Amendment declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 186, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I regret that we had to have that vote because I think we were going to have a small additional exchange of views on it. The same point about the monopoly power is valid here. I may be out of order, Chairman, but if the Minister is going to have a look at this in relation to amendment No. 238c I think it would be a good idea if he had a look at it in relation to amendment 238b, notwithstanding the vote we have just taken, and come back to it on Report Stage. It is the same point. If the Minister is looking at it in the light of the same set of. arguments, and he agrees to concede amendment No. 238c on Report Stage, then we would have an anomaly because of what we have done in amendment No. 238b. I think there would be no harm to look at it also, because the two things are encompassed in the same set of arguments.

I will be a little bit out of order; in fairness, given the discussion that has taken place here, I do not think the Minister should push these amendments. It would be better if he let the Bill stand and brought forward new amendments on Report Stage. We have no option but to vote against something if we disagree with it, as it stands at the moment.

I take your point, Deputy Barrett. The Minister of State has suggested that he will discuss with the officials of his Department what happened on Committee Stage to see if he will take on board the arguments and come forward with amendments. If people disagree with that, I will proceed in the proper way and if you wish to vote against it, it is your democratic right to do so.

He may not be here the next day.

I do not like to see a vote, but if there is to be a vote, so be it. We have discussed this at length and I have allowed discussion of the amendments to facilitate debate and I will now proceed with the section proper.

The section has now been amended to include a reference which it did not contain before to a practising certificate, which means a certificate awarded to a person by a body of accountants. They are the only people who can award a practising certificate to accountants now as a result of the decision just taken. I would suggest to the Minister that that is not the way it should be. I would suggest that a "practising certificate" should be redefined as "a certificate awarded in accordance with the provisions of this Act." I do not think that the statutory responsibility of this House should be taken from it ultimately, and I think that is how that part of this amended section should read.

I have given an assurance already that we will have this reconsidered on Report Stage irrespective of the vote. We had to vote because the amendments are there and they must be wrapped up. I will still take on board the points raised by Deputy Bruton in this regard on Report Stage.

Question put and declared carried.