Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

For some time there has been a clear call from many quarters to ensure that the forces of the State were better coordinated so as to combat crime. The Labour Party, in a recently published policy document on combating the drugs and crime issue, proposed the establishment of a special agency with specific powers to take decisive actions against the professional criminals and the drug barons. The three parties in Government, Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left, separately and collectively, are fully in favour of this measure.

I am aware that other parties and some Independent Deputies are also in support of measures along these lines being implemented by the Oireachtas. For too long, many people, whose families or community were ravaged by the havoc caused by drug abuse, perceived that known or suspected criminals enjoyed a lifestyle which was not based on any real job or business. They, and their own families appeared to enjoy the rich proceeds of crime and drug dealing with apparent impunity from the law. They appeared to be untouchable. This Bill will end that.

From now on, the families, friends and partners of criminals will not be able to hide behind their own names while at the same time enjoying the proceeds, the property, the assets and the money which the criminals obtain illegally. All such assets will be capable of confiscation, if they can be proven to be connected, directly or indirectly, to criminal activity. This new measure will confront, defeat and impoverish the criminal drug barons.

The purpose of this Bill is to set up on a statutory basis the special unit to target criminal assets which the Government announced on 2 July 1996. The unit will be known as the Criminal Assets Bureau. It will be headed by a Garda Chief Superintendent and its objective will be to track and target the assets of criminals or suspected criminals. As Deputies will see, the bureau will comprise Garda, Revenue and Social Welfare officials working as a team in pursuit of criminal assets and the identification, seizure, or taxation of those assets as appropriate.

The bureau is being set up following a detailed review by a special working group consisting of officials from the Departments of Justice, Finance, Social Welfare, the Revenue Commissioners and senior Garda officers. I wish to express the Government's appreciation for the speed and efficiency of that group of officials in clearing the way and putting in place the necessary arrangements to allow it proceed with the establishment of this bureau, and to all concerned in the Revenue and in the Attorney General's office for the expeditious drafting of the legislation.

The working group recommended that pending the enactment of a Bill, the bureau should commence operations as soon as possible and that the head of the unit should be appointed without delay. The Bill dealing with the disclosure and exchange of information between Revenue, Garda and Social Welfare officials, which the House has agreed to pass today, will enable the team of officials to become operational without waiting for the passage of this Bill. The two Bills can be viewed together as important parts of the overall package.

The Government is anxious that the legal obstacles to the co-operation between existing agencies should be immediately removed so that the operational framework of the bureau should be put in place now. All three agencies are committed to the success of the bureau and to a concerted effort to deliver on the Government's anti-crime measures. There has been no lack of commitment in the past but the difficulties which have arisen from different agencies tackling the problem within their own functional remit and in accordance with existing legislation have become apparent.

The criminal activities of major criminals are multi-faceted and our response to these require new ways of directing the resources of the State and new structures through which the dedicated and determined efforts of the Garda, Revenue and Department of Social Welfare can be channelled most effectively. The challenge of finding new structures for more effective team working between Departments and agencies is a broader issue which is being tackled as part of the Strategic Management Initiative. We have a model here which is capable of being replicated where a concerted response is required from the State.

The setting up of a statutory bureau is a clear manifestation of the Government's determination to defeat the crime bosses. The establishment of the bureau, as I have said, is entirely in accordance with the SMI approach of ensuring effective and efficient management by having a clear statutory delineation of responsibility and accountability. This is especially so when dealing with cross-departmental issues where various statutory powers are being exercised. The essence of the bureau is that each of the three agencies will bring their own powers and expertise to the bureau and, by means of section 8 of the Bill, will exercise these powers in a mutually supportive and concerned manner.

The Government wants to give the Houses a full opportunity to discuss and debate this important initiative and to explore fully how best this statutory bureau can be made most effective in discharging its role. In the meantime, the bureau can go ahead on an operational basis. Indeed, the experience gained from the bureau's operation on the ground may be help inform and shape the final statutory provisions that the Houses will pass. It is the Government's intention that Committee Stage be taken as soon as possible by the relevant committee and passed by both Houses early in the new session.

Before going into details on the sections, it will be helpful to the House if I sketch out the operational arrangements for the bureau as recommended by the working group. The bureau will be an operational body of 30 staff or more made up of gardaí and expert civil servants from the Revenue Commissioners, including the Customs and Excise Service, and the Department of Social Welfare and any other specialists recruited as necessary. The chief bureau officer will be a Garda Chief Superintendent who will be appointed and take up duty in the near future. He will proceed to organise the personnel and other resources to enable the bureau to become a reality in the next few weeks. The management of the personnel, the determination of priorities, co-ordination activities and direction of operations will be the responsibility of the chief of the bureau. Arrangements will be put in place to secure the safety and security of the bureau and its personnel.

There will also be a legal officer appointed to the bureau who will report directly to the chief bureau officer. The legal officer will be responsible for providing legal expertise to the bureau. The appointee's role will be to participate fully in the work of the bureau in formulating strategies not just to ensure that the criminal assets are successfully tracked and targeted but, equally importantly, to process matters for prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions so that legal action to deprive the persons in question of the criminal assets, or to deny them the benefit of these assets, will produce the results desired.

The legal officer will therefore have a pro-active and central role, working in conjunction with, and reporting directly to, the chief of the bureau. The legal officer will also perform such other functions as decided by the chief bureau officer from time to time. The Government has in mind the appointment of a particular individual who has the expertise, the ability and the dedication to ensure the bureau meets with success in its endeavours.

The Garda, Revenue and Social Welfare personnel will bring to the bureau their own powers under the relevant criminal, taxes and social welfare legislation. The assignment of non-Garda staff to the bureau will be on a voluntary basis.

I will give a brief resumé of the principal content of particular sections. Sections 1, 2 and 3 deal with the interpretation of the Bill and provide for the statutory establishment of the bureau. Section 4 sets out the objectives of the bureau which are: to identify the assets of persons which derive or are suspected to derive directly or indirectly, from criminal activity, to take whatever action is necessary under the law to deprive criminals or suspected criminals of their assets or to deny them, in whole or in part, the benefit of those assets; and to carry out investigations and the preparatory work for legal proceedings in pursuit of the above objectives.

The mandate of the bureau will be pro-active and interventionist. Under the functions assigned to it by section 5 the remit of the bureau involves confiscating, freezing or seizing criminal assets, ensuring that criminal proceeds are subjected to tax and investigating and determining claims for benefit or assistance under the Social Welfare Acts by criminals or suspected criminals. Section 5 also makes it clear that nothing in the Act will interfere with the powers and duties of the Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners or the Minister for Social Welfare. Thus the Garda, Revenue Commissioners and Social Welfare officials in the bureau will retain their ordinary powers and responsibilities. Being a member of the bureau will not therefore prevent a Garda officer from exercising his general law enforcement powers.

Section 6 allows the Minister for Justice, by order after consultation with the Minister for Finance, to confer such additional functions on the bureau as the Minister sees fit. It is important to have this power to ensure that the bureau can respond to new situations or circumstances that may emerge in the conduct of its operations. Given the nature of the enemy to society with which we are dealing, we should equip ourselves with the necessary powers to respond speedily and flexibly.

Section 7 provides for the appointment of the chief of the bureau, to be known as the chief bureau officer. The chief officer will be appointed by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána from amongst the officers of the Garda of the rank of chief superintendent. The chief of the bureau will carry on, manage and control the administration and business of the bureau. Provision is also made for an acting chief to be appointed by the Commissioner in the event of the illness or absence of the chief officer.

Section 8 provides for the powers and duties of the officers of the Garda, Revenue and Social Welfare who will be the bureau officers. Each will have their own powers as a Garda, Revenue or Social Welfare officer. The powers will be exercised in the name of the bureau under the direction of the chief bureau officer. Section 8 enables the bureau officers to assist each other and, where necessary for the purposes of such assistance, to share powers as appropriate when co-operating in this manner. Provision is made to ensure that information, documents or material obtained by officers or officers assisting each other may be admitted in evidence. The bureau officers will be able to share information with each other and to disclose this information or material to their "parent" authorities. It is important for the effectiveness of the bureau to maintain these links especially in the case of the Garda, as such information on the activities of criminals or suspected criminals will be of material use to the Garda authorities generally in discharging their responsibilities for combating crime.

Section 9 provides for the appointment of other staff of the bureau and for the appointment of the legal officer, to whom I referred earlier. Section 10 provides for anonymity for bureau officers when, for example, making tax assessments, visiting premises or residences, conducting investigations, and giving evidence in court and appeal proceedings.

Section 11 makes it an offence to delay, obstruct, impede, interfere with or resist a bureau officer in the exercise or performance of his or her powers or duties. Section 12 makes it an offences to threaten or menace a bureau officer or member of staff or other families. Section 13 makes it an offences to commit an assault. Substantial penalties are provided for in the case of all these offences.

Section 14 sets out the arrangements for the transfer of staff to the bureau and the application of compensation arrangements under the Garda Síochána compensation schemes.

Section 15 authorises the Minister for Justice to provide the bureau with its own budget. It will be important to enable the bureau to be resourced to whatever level is necessary to discharge its functions. Section 16 provides for all tax collected by virtue of the bureau's operation to be paid to the account of the Revenue Commissioners and accounted for to the Collector-General. There are already provisions in the other relevant legislation as regards the disposal of the funds that may arise from other actions, such as confiscation, that may be taken by the bureau.

Section 17 requires the bureau to provide a report each year to the Commissioner and the Minister for Justice on its activities and for this to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. The Minister for Justice may also require the bureau to furnish information at other times on the general operations of the bureau.

Section 18 is the usual standard expenses clause in all Bills and section 19 recites the short title of the Bill.

This Bill is a forceful measure which will deliver a coherent and focused response to organised crime. We owe it to the memory of the late Veronica Guerin to make sure the Bill succeeds in its objectives and defeats the drug barons. I am sure the House will want to go into some details on the provisions of the Bill on Committee Stage. I will welcome a comprehensive and detailed Committee Stage debate drawing on expertise, both professional and political at constituency level. The Government's objective is to ensure that not only will a statutory established bureau operate as quickly as possible but that it is one which will be properly equipped legally to do the task we all wish it well in implementing. I commend the Bill to the House.

It is strange to be the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance facing the Minister for Finance in debate on the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996 and not the Minister for Justice. The definition section states that the Minister is the Minister for Justice and the Bill relates to the activities of the Minister for Justice. I do not know whether this Bill will be referred to the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs or the Select Committee on Security and Legislation because its contents are a matter for the Minister for Justice. Will the Minister clarify the matter?

The Deputy will be aware from his professional coverage of his portfolio that the Minister for Finance has overall responsibility for personnel matters in the Civil Service and this Bill involves membership of the Civil Service, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare as well as the Garda.

To which committee will the Bill be referred?

It should go to the competent committee, the Select Committee on Finance and the General Affairs, but that will be a matter for the Whips to decide.

I agree with Deputy O'Donoghue who raised this point on the Order of Business this morning. It is somehow ironic that the Minister for Finance has introduced a Bill which more properly should be introduced by the Minister for Justice. If I recall correctly, it was the Minister for Finance who masterminded the decision to cancel the prison at Castlerea, County Roscommon, and the women's prison at Mountjoy Prison when the Minister for Justice was abroad. The Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice, Deputy John O'Donoghue, described this accurately on one occasion when he said the Minister for Justice waded around the corridors of power telling everybody who was foolish enough to listen, that this was done to contain public expenditure. It is perhaps correct to assert that the Minister for Finance, in the light of his own portfolio, had a hand in depriving the Minister for Justice of many positive proposals she had with a view to tackling the escalating crime problem which now besets the country.

The Criminals Assets Bureau Bill, 1996, has been presented as a panacea for all society's ills. It is a necessary adjunct to Fianna Fáil's assets' freezing Bill and is somewhat consequential to it. It has been inspired by the Fianna Fáil Bill and the vacuum which would have been left by the Government's proposals. It must not be forgotten that the Minister for Finance and the Government have consistently rejected any notion that there should be a national drugs enforcement agency in this country. The Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Deputy Currie, said during Question Time a month ago that such an agency would only fragment the fight against drugs and that there was no need for it. Times have changed.

This Bill makes provision for the establishment of a body to be known as the criminal assets bureau. It defines its functions and provides for related matters. For many months we have called for the establishment of an agency which would present a unified and professional front in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking. In that respect, we welcome the general thrust of this Bill.

Section 10(2) and (3) provide that where a bureau officer, who is not a member of the Garda Síochána, exercises any of his or her functions or a member of staff assists in the exercise of such functions, they shall be accompanied by a bureau officer who is a member of the Garda Síochána who shall identify them as either a bureau officer or a member of the bureau. When it comes to an effective and productive bureau, one must not forget that the late Veronica Guerin was a one woman criminal assets bureau. She was probably more effective in following clues and leads than this bureau will ever be on the basis of the Bill as drafted.

Will crime bosses be quaking in their shoes because of the criminal assets bureau? I do not know but I agree with a unified approach. People are amazed that State agencies have not been in a position to co-operate with each other. I defend the right of anyone to get the best legal advice and to pursue their case through the courts so that justice is done. However, I thought all State agencies could have been fused together many years ago to pursue known criminals. Perhaps that is a tribute to our legal system. It is past time to establish such a body.

This Bill will set up a new unit comprising the Garda, the Revenue Commissioners and officials from the Department of Social Welfare. I welcome the anonymity given to members of the bureau who are not members of the Garda Síochána. When people join the Garda they must know that their job is to fight crime and that they will be in peril from time to time. They should not join the Garda Síochána if they do not know the rules of the game. Officials from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare are not trained in this regard and they did not think when they were first employed there that they would have to put their lives at risk.

Shortly before I became Minister for Social Welfare a deciding officer in the Department was kidnapped from his home, brought to a railway track, shot in both legs and left to die. This is well documented in the book by Mr Paul Williams, which is well written and gives a clear insight into the minds of criminals and the level of criminal activity in Dublin. People who think they may be doing the State a service by leaking the names of people who may have had their tax affairs investigated to the newspapers put the lives of people in the Department of Social Welfare and the Revenue Commissioners at risk. The deciding officer in the Department of Social Welfare who was kidnapped and shot in both legs had nothing to do with the case of the criminal who was denied social welfare.

Mr. McDowell

That did not matter.

Deciding officers are appointed up to the level of higher executive officers and the person who makes the decision may not be the investigating officer. This person had nothing-to do with that case. However, somebody was able to find out his name, where he lived, the number in his family, etc.

One can hardly blame officials in the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Social Welfare for not wanting to put their lives at risk. Some people would do so but the vast majority have their own lives to lead. I would not ask anyone to do what I would not do myself. At a recent meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts, it was obvious that the Revenue Commissioners did not feel it was their duty to pursue criminals and put their lives at risk. I understand why they feel like that but it is different for the Garda.

I welcome this Bill which will bring together the powers of various State agencies. As the Minister for Finance said, this may be used as the model to overcome problems in other Departments. Anyone who has been a Minister or a Minister of State will have learned the first rule on appointment from the officials in the Department and the agencies under their control that the Minister's job is to protect their patch even if it has outlived its usefulness. It is regarded as an honour for the Minister to be able to defend that even at budget time, although there could be good reason for getting rid of it. Journalists will write that a Minister is weak if they cannot protect their patch. That says more about the competence of journalists than that of the Minister.

When people in various Government agencies are brought together in a subcommittee, a working group or an interdepartmental group, rule number one for the official who has been sent from the Department to the meeting is not to give way to the other person and never give way to the Department of Finance.

That is why he is introducing this Bill.

The blackest sin of all is to allow the Department of Finance to have its way. This would make the Minister a laughing stock. The officials will take newspapers with them to show that a certain Minister is weak because he or she could not defend their patch. When interdepartmental meetings take place under the rules 1 to 10 officials should not give way. An officials who returns to his or her Department and states he or she gave way is held in disgrace.

The Deputy held the line well for MBG.

The Minister was formerly a member of the negotiating team at the Department of Tourism and Trade. There was no point in setting it up for him——

Fight it out elsewhere.

I thank the Minister's officials for briefing me on the Bill. I am anxious that officials involved in the bureau will retain their individual powers but that the bureau itself will also have powers. A fused approach is the correct route to take. The bureau can learn from Departments and their activities. Legislation relating to children falls within the remit of a number of Departments. Perhaps we could use that model to overcome problems in a wide range of areas.

As I stated earlier, the bureau will not operate correctly if the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Social Welfare are asked to appoint a specific number of people. It will not work if staff associations and trade unions stipulate that one assistant secretary, one HEO, one AP, etc., must be appointed. I advise the Minister not to allow this to happen. I discussed this issue privately with officials of the Revenue Commissioners during the past 18 months and the Minister is aware, from our time in Government together, that I support the establishment of bureaux such as this. The approach I advocate would be to invite people to volunteer to work in the bureau and then vet them for appointment. Certain people, not all of whom are in the top ranks of the Civil Service or working together in the same Department, are suited to this type of work.

One of the sections in the Bill can be interpreted as meaning that people in the bureau might be remunerated in a better manner than they would in the general service. That section gives the Minister for Justice power, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to organise affairs in this regard. If the bureau is to work, rewards must be given. Some people are motivated by striving toward the greater public good but others are motivated by money.

They do not stand for election.

No, they do not. People working in the bureau, be they members of the Garda Síochána or officials from the Department of Social Welfare or the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, must be highly motivated. I am glad to note the bureau is empowered to hire lawyers, accountants and other experts. This issue was discussed during the debate on an earlier Bill, but it is included in a particular section of this legislation. In the area of financial transactions, there are many sophisticated products that experts in the field cannot keep up with developments. Amazingly, however, one often meets the best experts, with knowledge of social welfare entitlements and ways to circumvent the social welfare and tax systems, while sitting in a pub. The most uneducated person in an area knows perhaps more than anyone about operating the system.

During the debate on the earlier Bill I mentioned the issue of international co-operation and referred to Mr. Justice Paul Carney's recent comments regarding money laundering. It is becoming more difficult to deal with the area of the financial management of criminal proceeds. Due to Ireland's membership of the European Union there is absolute free movement of capital and almost 100 per cent free movement of people within the countries of the Union. The articles of the Maastricht Treaty provide for free movement and people should be able to move freely throughout the EU without their passports. However, there are reasons this has not come totally into effect. With the free movement of capital and people, problems with controlling money laundering are exacerbated. A 1994 Act made money laundering an offence and the bureau must be given access to the relevant expertise which will enable it to trace the proceeds of crime and where they are being used.

It would strike outsiders as unusual that the law is so complicated that the Garda Síochána, officials from the Department of Social Welfare and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and people who act on the State's behalf were not able to use information in concert. However, it is not unusual in Ireland because we are great at protecting our own patch. For example, there are divisions even within the ranks of the Garda Síochána. I am aware of a number of cases where there is an unbelievable lack of co-operation between certain sections in the force whose work overlaps. The Minister for Justice is wasting her time banging heads together because this has been the position for a great number of years. There are also divisions and internal rivalries between members in certain sections of the Garda Síochána who do not co-operate with each other. A similar situation obtains within the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare and this is based on the premise that one must protect one's own patch. In my experience, this occurs to a lesser degree in the Department of Social Welfare than in the other two agencies.

I agree with the principle of establishing a bureau for the three agencies to come together to exchange information. However, it is amazing that, if Deputy O'Dea were a member of the Garda Síochána and I was an official of the Department of Social Welfare and we both worked for the bureau, a law must be enacted to enable us to exchange information and act on each other's behalf. An ordinary member of the public would assume this was already the case but, apparently, it was illegal to do so. That said, in the past I would probably have been first to object to the Revenue Commissioners giving out information about the affairs of individual taxpayers. It is time this type of legislation is enacted.

I am sure there will be an opportunity to discuss the various sections of the Bill on Committee Stage. However, we will be able to gauge whether the legislation is effective following a period of one year. One section of the Bill provides that a report be laid before each House. I do not expect that report to be very detailed in terms of it stating that "Mr. X" and "Ms Y" were investigated. However, it will be interesting to see how people from the different agencies work together. It is for this reason that the first year will be critical because organisations develop their own organic drive and ethos after a period.

The bureau officer, the chief legal officer and the other members of the bureau will have a great responsibility. Great care will have to be taken in vetting applicants for the position of bureau officer. I favour the approach of seeking volunteers from within the different agencies for the bureau. After that, great care should be taken to select those who can work together and give the bureau a good name. If done properly that system can work.

In setting up the bureau, the Government must have considered another approach such as the establishment of an independent body like the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States. I favour the Government's approach. If it fails we will have to look at another method. Its success will depend on the driving forces behind it and the key people involved. If it goes the way of many other agencies, protecting its patch and not co-operating with other sections, it will be a waste of time. In my contribution this morning I highlighted many of the points made by the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell. We need properly motivated people supporting it.

I do not know whether to laugh or cry at some of the commentary on issues affecting the public or the way politicians are held up to abuse. We bring much of the criticism on ourselves by some of the ridiculous poses we strike and the way we try to score points off one another. We have so many laws, recommendations, task forces and select committees that we would need an area as large as Croke Park to house them all. Members of this House are trying to do their best. Properly motivated people are needed, whether they are in the Garda, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Welfare or the Department of Health. I have come across officials in the health area fighting for their patches. Some officials forget why they were appointed in the first place. There are many officials in the agencies involved who are prepared to give the bureau their best shot. I wish the bureau well. I have liked the idea of setting up such a body for some time. If it does not work, we will have to consider the issue again. If this approach does not work I do not know what will, but it will be a commentary on Irish society, as much as on politicians, commentators and organisations, that people paid for specific work are not prepared to do it. I hope the bureau works well; I believe it will.

I wish to take up where the Minister left off on the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993. When I made my comments on this in the media over recent weeks, I carefully checked out the position. I also examined these areas, as did others more expert than me, with a view to ascertaining whether a problem existed with the tax amnesty legislation. Since the Minister had a short period towards the end of the debate on the last Bill to deal with the issue, I will take slightly longer to make my point so it can be dealt with here, elsewhere or on Committee Stage.

In order to avail of the tax amnesty, a person had to deliver a declaration in writing to the Chief Special Collector. It had to be under section 2 (3) of the Act: (1) it had to be made and signed by the individual; (2) it had to be on a form prescribed by the Revenue Commissioners and approved by the Minister; (3) it had to contain in relation to the individual — I ask the Minister to pay close attention to this — a full and true statement of the respective amounts, referred to in the Act as "the declared amounts", of the income and the chargeable gains referred to in subsection (2); (4) it had to declare that neither the declared amounts nor any part of the amounts arose from or by reason of an unlawful source or activity other than the evasion of tax or the noncompliance with the provisions relating to exchange control and (5) the individual had to pay the money before the relevant date.

The Minister has spoken in this House today about the capacity to reopen the tax amnesty in certain situations. The law relating to that is set out in section 5 (1) of the Act. It states that a Revenue official is,

"precluded from continuing with or commencing the said inquiries or continuing with or commencing the said action unless, on application by him to the Appeal Commissioners, he shows to the satisfaction of those Commissioners that

(a) inquiries or actions taken in respect of liability to tax (within the aforesaid meaning) of the individual for any period commencing on or after the 6th day of April 1991, indicate or

(b) there are other reasonable grounds which include"

The question is, what they indicate?

"that a declaration made by the individual to the Chief Special Collector under section 2 (3) (a) or 3 (6) (b) did not contain a full and true statement of the declared amounts or the amount of value-added tax comprised in the arrears of tax."

The only basis on which the Appeal Commissioners can reopen the matter under section 5 is if the declared amounts were not fully and truly stated. The only basis on which the Appeal Commissioners can reopen the matter on the instance of an inspector under section 5 is where the return does not contain a full and true statement of the declared amounts. That is the point I made carefully because if the Minister looks at section 4 he will see it states that a declaration given by the Chief Special Collector under section 2 (3) (a) shall be void on one of two grounds. The first is that it did not contain a full and true statement of the kind referred to in paragraph (iii) of the subsection — the full and true statement of the declared amounts — or second, it is proven to be false as far as the requirements of subparagraph (iv) of the subsection are concerned. I reiterate the points I made earlier with greater confidence having spent the last half hour poring over this, that there is no jurisdiction for the Appeal Commissioners to reopen under section 5 an inquiry or to allow it to proceed at the behest of an inspector, or any action to proceed on any other basis other than that the declared amounts were not fully and truly stated.

A person could be correct in the amounts, could say he has, £3.5 million in a bank in Jersey, it is all he has and wants to bring it to Ireland. The other declaration a person has to make about the amount is that it is not the proceeds of an unlawful activity. That does not have anything to do with the power of the Appeal Commissioners under section 5. That is the point I have been making for a number of weeks. I regret if I have not made it as clearly as I ought to. Perhaps I should have written to the Minister and made the point in those clear terms.

I am absolutely certain, having read the Act, that the power of the Appeal Commissioners to authorise the continuance of an inquiry or an action under section 5 of the Act relates to cases where there has been a subsequent failure on the part of the taxpayer to furnish returns of income after 6 April 1991 or where there are other reasonable grounds which indicate that the declaration in respect of the declared amounts was not a full and true statement. Those are the only circumstances in which a certificate can be declared inoperative or void and have no effect or concealing the unlawful nature of the moneys which have been truly stated. The only circumstances in which that happens is where it is proven that the declaration in question was false. It is not only my view but that of people whose judgment is based on much more experience than mine, that section 5 does not apply to a situation where somebody represents that money which they asked to be declared under the tax amnesty was lawfully obtained when in fact it was unlawfully obtained. The consequences are that to invalidate a certificate one must prove that the declaration as to the legality of the source of the income is false. If it was simply a question of under-declaration of declared amounts or misstatement of declared amounts under subparagraph (iii) of the relevant provision I fully accept all that would have to be done is for the Minister to go before the Appeal Commissioners and say there are reasonable grounds to believe there was such a failure to make a full and true statement in respect of the declared amounts. If it were not so, the wording of the Act would be quite different. I am not scoring points here. This has concerned me considerably recently.

The reason I took advice on this was that having considered all the recent controversy about crime bosses, I went back to the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993, to satisfy myself of what I thought was the case at the time, that they would not be able to reopen the investigation, in the hope that they would. I was advised by others who know more than I do about this but I am absolutely satisfied, having read the relevant provisions, that they are correct and that there is no power to reopen on the basis of a false declaration as to the legality of the income. The only reasonable grounds for reopening a case is an application to the Appeal Commissioners where there is a suspicion that the declared amounts are not being fully and truly stated. That is a serious flaw in this legislation because it means that the onus of proof is radically different when it comes to robbing someone of the benefit of the tax amnesty by reason of their failure to make a truthful statement as to the nature of the activity that gave rise to the money, as distinguished from their failure to state the declared amount truthfully on the relevant provision. The Minister replied while I went carefully through the section. I am quite satisfied that the advice I received is correct and that it is not possible to go to the Appeal Commissioners and say: "Although the amount of tax declared by A or B was correct, I now understand, it was not the proceeds of, for example, undeclared dealing in beef or cattle. I now have reasonable grounds to believe that it is the proceeds of drug pushing." That cannot be done and I ask the Minister to look carefully at the problem I have identified to see whether it is satisfactory that proof of falsity should apply in one case where reasonable grounds to suspect under-declaration is sufficient to reopen the issue.

I acknowledge Deputy McCreevy's knowledge of the organic politics of the Civil Service institutions and Departments and I fully accept his colourful description of the basic laws that motivate many of them. I also agree with the Deputy that if one is to have co-operation between Departments, agencies and institutions to succeed one needs to create a separate institution for co-operation. Normally I would be the first to object, as an ideological watchdog perhaps, to the creation of another quango. Yet it is essential on this occasion that a group of people who have much in common with each other, a collective sense of purpose and a clear statutory basis and mandate for co-operating with each other to come into existence on the basis suggested in this Bill. I would rather have this than avoid the proliferation of State agencies, which is what would normally worry us.

I also agree with Deputy McCreevy that the fundamental test for this is the determination to do something about exercise of these powers. Deputy Mitchell's speech was both convincing and a high point of good rhetoric when he got to the distinction between order and law. One can have a super abundance of law and if one does not have the determination to implement it there is, as the Deputy put it, virtually no order. I have one particular instance in mind. When one remembers that Deputy Broughan and others referred to the Beef Tribunal and the section 153 controversy, it reminded me of the distinction between the law and the willingness of the agencies to implement it. The chairman of the beef tribunal, Mr. Justice Hamilton, now Chief Justice, arrived at a number of conclusions which he expressed in clear and explicit terms.

For all the length of the report there were few enough hard conclusions which identified certain individuals. One was that in the Goodman organisation, he said there was a highly professionally organised tax evasion operation. He identified the tax loss as being in the region of £10 million. I appreciate that we live in a world in which it is one thing to express that view as the finding of a tribunal but it may be a different matter to institute criminal proceedings but surely the persons responsible for that fraud could have been dealt with under the Companies Act, 1990, which provides that the Director of Public Prosecutions is given a non-criminal function of applying to the High Court to disqualify people from acting as directors or shadow directors of companies where they have engaged in major fraudulent activity. Thinking along those lines I wrote to the then Taoiseadh, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment drawing their attention to this particular tribunal finding, and the fact that nothing appeared to have been done about it about one year later. In fact I recollect it was the present Taoiseach to whom I wrote. Suffice to say I have not had an adequate response from anybody as to the reason no further action was taken about the £10 million tax fraud, even to implementing the ordinary civil code of company law, disqualification from holding a directorship or acting as a manager or shadow director of a company.

On one occasion a I was upbraided by a journalist who was present this afternoon for not having done anything about this. I told him I had a file as thick as his arm of letters seeking implementation of this law. I think he half disbelieved me. The journalist asked to see the file. I gave it to him, he looked through it and wrote an article in the newspapers. Indeed, the only indication I had that an article would be published was when I received a letter from one of the people to whom I had addressed my correspondence to the effect that I would be receiving a further letter very soon. That was about six months ago. I have not received that further letter, yet the heat is off.

The only reason I bear down on this issue is that it is one thing to give people powers; as the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Mitchell said, it is one thing to pass laws, to enact powers in statutory form, but a very different matter to go after somebody, to devise a co-ordinated approach to implement those laws.

In 1990 we all bent over backwards to say how wonderful it was that rogue directors at last would be brought to book. A tribunal of inquiry found that the top management of one group, and their professional advisers, put together a £10 million tax evasion scheme and, as far as I know, nobody has been brought to book for that. Even more appalling, the tax amnesty applied to the whole caboodle. Is it any wonder that I sometimes lose faith in our ability to implement our laws. It is one thing to pass a law stating that directors cannot behave fraudulently but, whenever it is found to have happened and no action is taken, that seems to cut at the very foundation of public confidence in the administration of law and, for that matter, in the political process.

Therefore, I am entirely supportive of the creation of this bureau. While some people may contend it is a reaction to recent events — perhaps it is in some measure — as the Minister said on the last Bill we dealt with, it represents the culmination of a good deal of thought on these issues.

I am also particularly glad that we are not taking all Stages of this Bill today because, from a quick examination of its provisions, it appears some amendments are required.

I was glad to note that the Bill extended the provisions of the Garda Síochána compensation code to officers, staff and members of the bureau. Nonetheless sections 12 and 13 have been somewhat inelegantly drafted. Section 13 (1) states:

A person who assaults or attempts to assault a bureau officer or a member of the staff of the Bureau or any member of the family of a bureau officer or a member of the staff of the Bureau shall be guilty of an offence.

It does not specify who is "a member of the family". That needs to be more thoroughly defined. To some extent, it must be tied into the bureau's activities. There is need for a provision to verify that the attempted assault took place in circumstances giving rise to the reasonable inference that it was related to the activities of the bureau. It appears that one does not need the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to implement the provisions of this section. To imprison somebody for ten years for assaulting a member of the family of the bureau, without such protection, might be perceived by some to be somewhat draconian. Certainly, a fine of £100,000 would be very strange. What would happen if one member of the family assaulted another member of the family? Would the guilty person be sent to jail for such a long period?

Other aspects of these provisions could do with some improvement or tightening up. Introducing this Bill today was a worthwhile exercise although the Minister said he could establish the bureau without legislation. He said the establishment of the bureau would not be delayed by reason of the slowness of the Legislature to consider this provision. Presumably, it will make all its preparations and establish all its procedures provisionally while awaiting the enactment of the necessary legislation. It is important that it be demonstarted publicly — this is not just spindoctorism — that, in the Bill debated earlier, we are not simply creating new powers without allocating them to people who will have a specific mandate to yield results.

On foreign assets, while it may not be necessary to say so, I hope the bureau, either in its own terms or by necessary implication, carries the function of investigating the issues and instigating inquiries inside and outside the country, that its mandate will not be confined in any sense to this country. I know we cannot start freezing assets or raiding people's premises in Jersey and so on. I am not suggesting that, but it should be made clear in section 4 or 5 that nothing in those sections precludes the bureau from making inquiries, collating information or following assets with a view to co-operating with other EU member states in putting those assets into some form of official captivity.

Deputy McCreevy mentioned earlier the phenomenon of people suggesting that, in certain circumstances, lawyers are part of the problem. I agree fully with what the Minister said, that there are some rogue lawyers — I presume there are also some rogue accountants but I do not know about them — who actively assist in their clients' affairs to the extent of setting up accounts for them, laundering their money and advising them how to avoid any legislative loopholes.

On section 153 of the Finance Act, 1994, I might point out to Deputy Broughan that I am referring to a solicitor, or anybody else, who assists in moving the proceeds of crime. Unfortunately, from time to time, a solicitor, as part of his duties, will be approached to render a service to an accused person or a suspect who is actively participating in the handling of either stolen money — usually drugs money is stolen money — or the proceeds of an illicit trade. No solicitor has any mandate, moral, legal, or under the Constitution, to carry out that function. There has been comment, some of it in theSunday Independent, about barristers representing people who have been in the eye of public controversy in recent times.

It is opportune to finish by expressing my views about such comment. Of course lawyers use arch language and are over defensive on occasion of what they consider to be their rights and others see as their privileges. I accept that a time cannot come when the media can seek to embarrass honourable people from discharging their basic fundamental professional duty, that is, if they practise criminal law, to represent any client, irrespective of who that client is, on a taxi rank principle. If we go away from that principle how are we to ask, for instance, the lawyers of England of 20 years ago to stand up for the rights of the Birmingham Six if they can be publicly embarrassed by people asking who these people are who vociferously put their clients' case and use all their ingenuity on their behalf?

There cannot be a double standard in this regard. I say this particularly of barristers and solicitors who represent clients in criminal matters. They cannot be fairly subjected to pressure or innuendo in that by standing up in court and representing their clients fearlessly in accordance with their clients' instructions they somehow become part of the problem. The problem would be immensely worse if barristers or solicitors felt under public pressure to abandon or refuse to act for people whom a newspaper informs us is or is not a prime suspect for a certain crime, regardless of how outrageous the crime is.

I stand up on behalf of my profession, which is very much a castigated profession, to say that I totally distinguish between the role of a corrupt solicitor — it would not arise in the case of a barrister because they never see these things — who advises a client on how to launder his money and the professional duty of a barrister who practises criminal law to take any case that comes and never to refuse to act in a case because they would be embarrassed to look in the eye of their friends, neighbours or someone in the media and say that this person was so much the subject of public obloquy or suspicion that they should not be represented in court.

I strongly identify with what Deputy McCreevy said about the danger — I do not wish to become arch about this or excessive on the subject — of some journalists writing articles calculated to expose people who are doing their job to the best of their ability, to the highest professional standards and in accordance with basic professional duties, not judging their own clients. We would expect any barrister or solicitor representing us not to act as our judge. I object strongly to journalists who try to excite public hostility towards those people based on the fundamental misconception that those barristers would not be just as happy to take the Director of Public Prosecution's brief to prosecute the individuals in question as they are to defend them.

I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Shortall.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

We are at last giving full and vigorous airing to the issues of law, order and crime. There has been much debate on this matter and I hope at the end of the day we will have achieved the respect of people who believe that we are going about this matter in the right way. I hope we are not selling them a pig in a poke and that after passing the five or six Bills introduuced today the public will feel a little more secure in their beds at night.

It is dangerous in politics to be cynical, but while welcoming particularly the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill and the legislation on the freezing and seizure of the assets of criminals, I hope the support that has been evident for other Bills today will be equally forthcoming in regard to the issues of the ministerial task force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs. Since the tragic death of Veronica Guerin we have tended to react to events, and one cannot help doing so, but it turns one's stomach to hear the Fianna Fáil spokesperson chide and deride those of us on this side of the House for apparent inactivity. We inherited a society that has been moulded and cultured by Fianna Fáil since the inception of the State. In the past 18 months we as legislators have tried to tackle problems that have been allowed to fester and get out of control because of the inactivity of Fianna Fáil and its partners in the past.

For example, the drug barons who are destroying communities which I represent did not appear suddenly in the last 18 months. What did Fianna Fáil do, for example, in the mid-1980s when the heroin problem was at its peak and in St. Teresa's Gardens parents of children addicted to drugs pleaded for assistance and understanding by the political establishment? There was not even a treatment centre at that time. Today we are reacting to the inactivity of previous Governments, particularly Fianna Fáilled governments.

Politicians are collectively responsible for this problem. We inherited a society that was nurtured and moulded by the politics mainly of Fianna Fáil down the years. I hope the Government will have the full and equally vocal support on this issue which has been forthcoming from Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats on other issues. Taxpayers' money should be spent on addressing what I would refer to as the spore body in society which continues to grow in size, the huge numbers of long-term unemployed, who did not become so in the last 18 months, and their families, those who have succumbed to drugs and those who have lost children and parents from AIDS because of intravenous drug use. I hope this bureau will be evident throughout my constituency at houses which have been purchased by known drug dealers. I hope there will be a public display of bureau officials circling buildings in a murder-type scenario so that the neighbours can applaud them for finally removing the scum who have destroyed their communities and returning them to the poverty whence they came.

Unless we seriously address the society from which these people come, we will not resolve the problem. We will be putting a soother before the electorate and saying that we have solved the problem because we are building more prisons, taking on 600 extra gardaí, compelling people to speak when arrested, introducing seven day detention and so on. Where are the policies to deal with bestowing full citizenship on this marginalised underclass? One should look at the under-resourced schools in which they are trying to have their children educated and the local authority slums in which they live. Why have they been ghettoised in these numbers?

We have heard laudable appeals for a 50 metre swimming pool which might cost £20 million to build. I argue, and I am sure those involved in swimming might agree with me, that if £20 million is available, it should be targeted at marginalised communities crying out for simple things like communities centres. It would be wrong to spend £20 million on a swimming pool when that resource could be far better used to upgrade the quality of life for thousands of people who are living in abject poverty without even having access to their local swimming pool, which are few and far between.

I cannot speak deeply or sincerely enough about the type of society in which we are living. It is a two tier society. The main body is these marginalised communities. They are there because the local authorities have placed them in these ghettos in great numbers and we continue to turn a blind eye. We all live a nice middle class lifestyle. Deputy Mitchell said that few TDs can comprehend the misery of an existence that is lived by hundreds of thousands of people in this city.

It is understandable that 12 and 13 year olds are getting involved or being seduced into the drugs scene today by either acting as lookouts, couriers or runners when they see their former older friends having made a good life out of drugs, moving into £100,000 houses and driving 1996 registered cars. We should provide them with work and give them some sense of hope of which they have been deprived since their birth. I saw young people coming out of Hollyfield buildings when I first became involved in politics and the parish priest in Seán MacDermott Street — the insult when the Pope bypassed there was a telling indictment of Roman Catholicism at that time — said to an audience, it may have been politicians, that he baptises these children and knows their ultimate destiny will be Mountjoy jail. As politicans, we must look into our hearts and ask why there is so much alienation, marginalisation and a large and ever increasing underclass.

While it is easy for people to argue for spending up to £1,000 million on law and order issues — this must be spent — if we only see that as the solution to the problem it will not happen. The next generation of young Fagins and drug barons are now out on the streets. One can only resolve that problem in a proactive rather than a reactive way. I hope my words are proven wrong in ten years' time but I doubt it. Unless the resources are deliberately injected into those communities and that portion of our society which is growing numerically, I am afraid the battle will continue to be lost.

I thank Deputy Byrne for sharing his time. I warmly and enthusiastically welcome this Bill which provides for the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau. We have before us a package of criminal justice mesasures designed to tackle the drugs and crime problem which currently pervades the whole country. However, this Bill is by far the most significant of this legislation.

For too long we have been hearing about the activities of the main players in the drugs and crime trade. They are all well known to us. We know their nicknames and hear about their properties, cars, and foreign holidays. Veronica Guerin devoted much of her career to exposing these people. One must also recognise the role that many other courageous journalists have played in that regard. In reading about these criminals, the public is affronted by the fact that while all the details about the criminals' activities and careers were known, it appeared they were untouchable. This has rightly and understandably angered and incensed most ordinary people.

The abandon with which many of these criminals seem to be able to operate provides the most appalling example to a great many of our young people living on the fringes of society, the kind of people referred to by Deputy Byrne. Many of them are addicts and have become addict dealers. They have little in terms of life opportunities and are living on the fringes. At the moment it appears that getting involved in crime is a good risk. We must change that situation radically.

Over the last few years there has been a great deal of talk in this House and elsewhere about the need for greater cooperation between the various agencies involved; the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda and the Department of Social Welfare. Unfortunately, much of this has been only talk. The Revenue Commissioners have been less than enthusiastic about getting involved in this area and their reticence is understandable. We must recognise the kind of people about whom we are talking, they are the most dangerous imaginable. They have all the necessary resources to provide their own professional advice and protection. Most of the people working in the Revenue Commissioners are administrative workers who have not been afforded the kind of protection given to members of the Special Branch or the Drugs Squad. The are ordinary people, many with families, who understandably fear for their safety. In many ways it has been unfair and unrealistic to expect people in the Revenue Commissioners to get involved with these dangerous people.

I have always thought we should set up a dedicated unit which would incorporate the expertise of the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda and the Department of Social Welfare and have the extensive powers of the Revenue Commissioners. There has been much talk about granting special powers. Sufficient powers already exist and are vested in the Revenue Commissioners but we need to extend them to the people working in a dedicated unit. The people who will work in the unit will have to be afforded full protection. It will probably be necessary for them to be armed or, at least, to have armed protection at all times. I will deal with this matter in greater detail on Committee Stage. It should go without saying that the question of funding should not arise. This will be a dedicated unit which will have to do extremely dangerous work and it should be provided with whatever resources are necessary.

It will be possible for the Criminal Assets Bureau to systematically target all known criminals and drug dealers and to pick them off one by one. One may ask why the Garda Síochána have not been able to do this. One of the reasons is that most of the main drug dealers operate at a sophisticated level and are in receipt of top professional advice. They rarely dirty their hands. This makes it very difficult to catch them for their involvement in the drugs trade and organised crime, including the sale of contraband cigarettes and the supply of guns.

We are taking the right approach in setting up this unit which will have the same powers as the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána. These people should be asked about the property and assets they have accumulated during the years and to provide evidence of the sources of their wealth. As time passes, we will find that the strength of the unit will have to be increased. There is a tendency to underestimate the scale of the problem.

There is another aspect which has not received sufficient attention, the numbers of gardaí involved in drugs detection. The Garda Síochána accept that up to 80 per cent of crime is drug related but, despite this, only 1.5 per cent of Garda personnel are directly involved in drugs detection. I hope this matter will be looked at by the new Garda Commissioner.

There is another role that the Criminal Assets Bureau could play which is closely related to the work of the drugs squad in dealing with the smaller dealers. The drugs squad does not always find drugs when it carries out raids on houses or flats, it sometimes finds money. As things stand, the Garda Síochána are powerless in dealing with such cases and they should be able to refer them to the bureau for further investigation.

The criminal justice measures we are considering today are only one aspect of the solution to this huge problem. We have to seriously consider — I regret that we are not in a position to make proposals — greatly increasing the number of treatment facilities available for those already addicted to drugs. Parents demand that we take action against the drug barons and this bureau will be a major plank in tackling them. Parents also demand that we provide treatment facilities for their sons and daughters for whom they are trying to buy substitute drugs on the black market. The provision of treatment facilities for the large numbers who require them is an equally effective way of tackling the drug barons. We need to hit them where it hurts by eliminating the market.

I wish to share my time with Deputies O'Rourke and Woods. The Minister has kindly agreed to cede five minutes of his time.

I enthusiastically welcome the Bill. I will not get involved in a dispute with the Labour Party which claims paternity but this course of action has been recommended by individuals on all sides of the House for some time.

We had the usualcri de coeur from Deputy Eric Byrne about poverty and deprivation in his constituency. He should be aware that the problem is not confined to his constituency, let alone Dublin or Ireland. Politicians on all sides of the House must be committed to solving the problems he identified as much drug related crime originates in that way.

The public is demanding an immediate response on the justice and law and order front. That is the reason I enthusiastically welcome the legislation and we support it. I agree with Deputies McCreevy and McDowell that it will be as effective only as the people who will be employed to implement it. They must have the will and obstacles must not be placed in their way.

I agree with Deputy McDowell about the beef tribunal. Let me mention an analogous but more general case. In 1990, after much deliberation, we passed legislation to enable, among other things, company directors to be disqualified in certain circumstances. there have been tens of thousands of liquidations, voluntary or otherwise, since then. I do not know how many instances involve fraud but I was informed in response to a recent parliamentary question that only two directors have been disqualified under that legislation. This reinforces the point made by Deputies McDowell and McCreevy. Even though I had some doubts initially, on reflection I agree with the approach the Government is taking to delay Committee Stage until we see how it operates in practice. Certain amendments may be necessary.

It is frightening that we have to write in provisions in this legislation to provide for giving evidence anonymously behind a screen, whether in the appeal commissioner's office or in court. The last instance I can remember was where members of the SAS were prosecuted following the deaths in Gibraltar. There have been instances in Northern Ireland. This shows what this country has come to. It is, however, necessary to do so.

A gentleman who used to work in the Department in which Deputy Woods was Minister was taken to the Dublin Mountains and shot because he disqualified somebody from receiving unemployment assistance. He was later transferred to the section in the Department of Justice for which I was responsible. This caused great trauma and distress for his family. A very good friend of mine in the special investigations branch of the Revenue Commissioners has been subjected to death threats on a number of occasions. It is, unfortunately, necessary to provide for anonymity.

There is a general provision which states that everything that is reasonably possible should be done to conceal the identify of the members of the bureau. There is no harm including it but as this is a small country I doubt if it will be very effective in practice. I ask the media to be responsible in this regard.

The Deputy should not hold his breath.

That brings me to the point made by Deputy Shortall. I thought it was the Government's intention that the members of the bureau would have protection at all times but there is no reference to this in the legislation. It might be an administrative matter and it might not be necessary to write it into the legislation, but I would like some reassurance.

Deputy McCreevy said he thought there was something in the legislation which would allow these people to be paid over the odds. I have scrutinised the legislation in the short time available to me and have not found any such provision. However, people who are asked to take the front line should be compensated adequately, there should be provision for that. We compensate members of the National Treasury Management Agency in recognition of the work they are doing on behalf of the State. I would like a little more detail as to how this will operate in practice, but I suppose we will discover that by trial and error. From that point of view, I agree with the postponement of Committee Stage.

The solutions to poverty, unemployment, inequality, the problems of the underprivileged are long-term. These problems are world wide. However, Deputy Byrne should know that there is something his Government could be doing now. There are 7,000 heroin addicts in this city and less than one in 15 is receiving treatment. There are queues at the treatment centres on a daily basis. The Minister for Health, who is a member of the Government supported by Deputy Byrne's party and who has responsibility for these matters, spends his time tilting at windmills, international tobacco companies and so on. It would be far more useful for the Minister to put some effort into providing therapeutic facilities for people who have consciously made the difficult decision to come off drugs. That is the sort of action we expect from this Government rather than long-term "Creda cares" about solving problems that have bedevilled society since its inception.

While I agree with the Deputy it is worth noting that the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice in the Seanad, Senator Mulcahy, is on record opposing treatment centres in his own area.

They are not responsible for him.

This Bill and the other legislation we are debating here today——

When Fianna Fáil says——

Acting Chairman

This is very unfair. The Deputy had an opportunity to speak and now he is denying that facility to other people.

He cannot face the fact that his own Government has done nothing.

The Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson in the Seanad is opposed to treatment centres in his own area, to——

Matters have gone backwards since Deputy Noonan became Minister for Health.

——methadone treatment for heroin addicts.

Acting Chairman

I ask the Deputy for the last time to desist or leave the House.

Hypocrisy drives me mad.

This Bill will not have widespread application. It will not interfere significantly with civil liberties. It is only designed to interfere with those who would affect the civil liberties of others.

I thank the Minister for Finance for giving time to allow us contribute to this debate. It is a remarkable day but it is a very unreal day. I welcome the legislation with which our spokesman, Deputy McCreevy, has dealt very adequately as has Deputy O'Dea. I wish it luck in its manisfestation. It will need a hands on approach and I know the Minister will ensure that is the case.

I return to my original comment that this is an unreal day. We have five pieces of legislation and promises of additional gardaí and prison spaces. Suddenly we have extra everything, and rightly so. This day can be seen as a day of retribution when extremely punitive and proper measures are introduced against those who have benefited from depravity and people's sad situations.

It is a day of ire and anguish on the part of people who seek to express what they wish to vent on people who have lived and preyed off the community and, in particular the more vulnerable. It is right that on this day we should introduce all of this legislation. It is seen as a day when blows can be targeted against criminals, in the main those engaged in drug related activity, who will hopefully get their just desserts.

There is another side to the coin. Lest. I be denounced as a wimp, a wet, on the left or any of those terms which are used in situations like this to pour scorn on people, I am none of those. I recognise that severe measures are needed, but I also recognise that this problem has its roots in poverty and long-term unemployment. There is no point denying that we will hear of people from good areas who had jobs, leaving certificates, decent parents and so on but who have fallen prey to criminals. Of course, that happens, but in the majority of cases we are talking of people who have no hope in life.

Deputy Byrne talked about Fianna Fáil being in office. I am not trying to be smart, but in the past 23 years we have been in Government less than have Fine Gael or Labour. I do not mean that as castigation, but it is a matter which should be corrected. The Deputy talked about culture, but that is a plain statistical fact. I admit that the Deputy's party was not in Government, but those with whom it is now in Government have been there more often in the last 23 years than we have so we are all responsible.

There is a cycle in this life. There are insiders and outsiders. Insiders have jobs, respectability and status, but most of all they have hope. Outsiders have none of these. They have no reason to get out of bed, but they have reason to fall prey to pessimism and a feeling that there is nothing in life for them. It is easy to talk about fortitude, a "get up and go" attitude and other characteristics when one has a full belly and a modicum of a salary at the end of a week. Then one is able to cope with those strictures, admonitions and castigation. I have always admired fortitude, but one cannot preach to those who do not have the basics in life to enable them to get up and go.

There are two sides to this problem. There are the punitive measures which we must put in place and which I applaud today and there is the other side which is the accumulative growth in long-term unemployment over the last 18 months. Deputy Byrne does not like that and neither do I. I do not say so in a tone of glory but as a statistic. Each person who is long-term unemployed represents one who is daily losing more faith in his or her destination.

Let us look at strong, cohesive measures to tackle long-term unemployment. There should be one Minister with responsibility for it, not eight, and one Department, not eight sections of Departments. There should be a focused attempt to get to grips with the problem of long-term unemployment rather than be constantly prating about it as I do every month. I welcome the punitive measures, but I want to see the other side of the coin addressed as well.

I would like to be associated with the remarks of Deputies on all sides of the House. This is important legislation and I welcome it.

Education, the community and the family are fundamental. Rehabilitation is also fundamental and the crime package forms the third part of the equation. I was familiar with this area when in the Department of Social Welfare and I have been keen since then to see the establishment of a unit of this kind. I called for it on different occasions, the most recent being the debate on the Criminal Law Bill in May 1996.

On that occasion I called for a special action force. The people involved must be highly paid and I plead with the Minister to provide for that. It should also be anonymous for which the Minister is providing. The people concerned must be protected, not just part of the time but all of the time.

I was Minister for Social Welfare when an officer of the Department was shot by criminals. I spoke to him at that time. He knew what he was doing and he was very brave. He behaved as the first class public servant he was before, both during and after the experience. I will not repeat his name here because it should not be repeated, but I knew him particularly well at the time. Those officials must be protected at all times from the vicious criminals who know exactly what they are doing and will wait for their moment.

We will have an opportunity to discuss this legislation further on Committee Stage. One of the points I made on a previous occasion was that, other than members of the Garda, the Bureau should consist of people assigned to it on a voluntary basis. That may even be necessary in the case of the Garda. I ask the Minister to consider a three year term which may be desirable for many reasons. Specialists should also be available.

We can examine these issues on Committee Stage and see how the Bill can be tightened up to constitute a comprehensive and complete response from this House. There are only about 40 drug barons and key criminals and they must be targeted and pursued. I congratulate the Minister and the Government on this measure.

I think the House will accept that as time is short I cannot do justice to all of the contributions that have been made. I want to make some general points though.

I welcome the support that has been forthcoming for the legislation. We will get into the detail, of the Bill on Committee Stage which, I expect, will take place some time in September. It is our intention to put the Bill through both Houses in October. The regulation provision is a mechanism to enable us to add additional functions which will be derived in the light of experience, which was the thrust of the Deputy's argument. We will be informed by everybody's experience. An annual report to this House by the bureau would not be a bad idea. We will look at this in detail.

Regarding the integrated balanced package we are introducing, of which this is, as Deputy O'Rourke said, the punitive side, Deputy Eric Byrne, whose on the ground experience and knowledge I recognise and respect, made a couple of points with which I do not agree. I do not support the Californian theory that the reason one does not get out of bed in the morning is that one's grandfather was unhappy in his marriage. That kind of excusing people for not doing things is one of the cruellest forms of dependency culture one can put upon them. There are many reasons people take drugs, but no excuse. If one were to take Deputy Byrne's logic further, one could say that every person who is long-term unemployed is a potential drug victim, which is patent nonsense. In my constituency, which adjoins Deputy Byrne's people in fulltime, permanent public service employment became heroin addicts. One cannot say that long-term unemploymentper se is the cause. It is a contributory factor, a reason, but let us not say that people have an excuse for becoming drug addicts and are, therefore, not responsible for their own actions. There are parents who will be in pubs tonight who do not know where their young children are. That is their responsibility and nobody else's. That kind of responsibility, about which Deputy Jim Mitchell spoke earlier, has to be part and parcel of the overall solution.

Deputy McCreevy, in his comprehensive contribution, spoke about motivation and commitment. This legislation, when enacted, will be a partial solution to a complex and comprehensive problem. It will work only if the people who form the bureau are committed to making it work. For our part, we will do everything necessary to remove perceived impediments. Deputy Woods referred to them — anonymity, proper remuneration for risk, provision for taking people off the pitch after three years or less, or provision for simply removing them without explanation because they are at risk etc., proper security for themselves and their families and everything associated with that. This is not new territory. This State has experience of these things. Sections of the Garda Síochána have had to live with this reality from the very beginning. This House has such experience — when the first Government members of this State went to Cabinet, some of them lived under permanent security in Government Buildings. Sadly, we are not strangers to that kind of risk for being in the public service. While it is a sad reflection on society and the modern world, it is, nevertheless, a reality with which we have to cope.

I agree with Deputy Byrne that the corruption of society in recent times has been compounded in no small measure by the Prove culture of violence to which the criminal classes in Dublin have latched on. It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that the existence of Provo violence and the availability of guns is a unique factor. There are guns and violence in other European states that have no political overspill such as we have from the problems in Northern Ireland.

Deputy McDowell raised in a more detailed way the question of the amnesty and the interpretation of the legislation. I have taken additional advice, and the points I put on record earlier stand. I dispute the Deputy's interpretation. However, I will, when we have had time to reflect on it, get definitive legal advice on the Deputy's interpretation as against ours. If it appears there is some legal ambiguity, it behoves all of us to ensure it is resolved. Let us be clear about the focus of attention. We are not talking about criminals who have availed of the amnesty and, therefore, cannot be touched. We are talking about people who are known to lead a lifestyle that could not be sustained by any visible means of support. That is the points Deputies Shortall and Byrne made. Through the establishment of the bureau we can do precisely what Deputy Shortall suggested, which is to draw up a plan of campaign to systematically address the issue.

Of course, politicians cannot and should not be involved. It is hoped that the media will be helpful and responsible in this matter. What we are talking about is a social scourge that kills people including, sadly, a member of their own profession. There has to be room for manoeuvre. The last thing to help would be a competition among journalists to try to find out who the members of this group are, what they are being paid, how their rates of expenses compare with those of other groups, and all the things that excite and titilate the imagination and, effectively, immobilise the bureau. This legislation and the previous legislation which has passed all Stages, for which I again express my appreciation to the House, is a belt and braces operation. When the Seanad passes the previous Bill there will be clear statutory provision for the valid, legal and proper exchange of information between different organisations of the State. This will maximise the possibility of successful prosecutions. Deputy McDowell will be readily aware that in many cases people who, in the eyes of virtually everybody in the court, are, in all probability, guilty of the offences charged, were able to get off on a technicality, which was cleverly identified and used to good effect by the lawyers, the professional advocates, the intellectual mercenaries who were hired for their skills. The legislation we are about to pass will, it is hoped, ensure that information obtained through the activities of social welfare officers, tax inspectors, customs officials or the Garda Síochána can be properly used. This Bill and the role of the legal officer are particularly important. The legal officer will ensure that every operation planned and executed by this bureau will be planned in such a manner as to maximise the probability of a successful prosecution and conviction. That is why we have put such stress on this post and why the clear reporting relationship this person will have to the bureau's chief officer is of critical importance.

There are a number of operational issues in relation to the legislation that can be properly addressed on Committee Stage. I invite the Opposition, whose commitment in this area I do not doubt for one second, to take some time to look at the Bill, to consider making whatever observations they wish by way of correspondence or considered amendment. I assure the House that we will engage in proper, careful and constructive legislative work in September when we meet in Committee to deal with this to ensure that this new bureau will carry out the task for which it is being established and for which everybody has indicated full support. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.