Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007: Second Stage.

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

Will the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources take the debate on behalf of the Government or is it anticipated that one of his ministerial colleagues from the Department of Finance will do so?

I will take it for the moment.

The Minister is a man of many parts.

I wish to share time with Deputies Gogarty, Eamon Ryan, Crowe, Cowley and Harkin.

Acting Chairman

That is agreed.

I presume the Minister has read up on the Bill, particularly as he is taking the debate on it on behalf of the Government.

I read up on it and I do not agree with it. The Deputy should proceed.

This reflects the Government's attention to detail in respect of legislation proposed by Members on this side of the House.

In the 85-year history of the State, our progress to democratic principles has been largely without awkwardness. We came through a short but bloody civil war and managed to establish institutions of State in the form of a judicial system and a publicly acceptable police force. Within ten years of the foundation of the State, we managed to effect a change of Government by democratic means. Ireland was the first of the post-colonial nations to do so and other colonial nations looked to its example as a template to follow in the context of how independence could be achieved and how democratic structures could be put in place.

Our road to democratic principles has not been easy. Part of the reason there was such calm during the early history of the State relates to the degree of influence certain institutions were allowed to have over public opinion and the unwillingness, through a lack of democratic behaviour, of the public to challenge and question that type of institutional control of democratic procedures.

As the nation grew up, so did its citizenry. We have improved the nature and quality of democracy here. There were, however, some major difficulties along the way. The acceptance of democratic procedures that are less than perfect means that a culture under which corruption is practised and, even worse, tolerated can be brought into being. A number of tribunals dealing with the most obvious examples of the corruption that was practised in the past are currently in operation. There may be a need for further tribunals of inquiry to investigate whether political behaviour has always been of the highest standard.

One of the reasons political behaviour has allowed corruption to be practised relates to the existence of petty levels of corruption, involving the abuse of political patronage, and the onset of cronyism. The latter has everything to do with how we have selected people to represent, and make contributions to, public State bodies. The overwhelming majority of those selected to serve on State bodies are individuals of ability who contribute out of a sense of public spiritedness. However, we must make a distinction between the people who are chosen and the methods used to select them. In terms of winning public confidence and having the highest quality of standards of democracy, the system and the process must always be beyond reproach. Some 85 years after the foundation of the State, there is unfortunately still a perception that many public appointments are made on the basis of who one is, who one knows and on one's political affiliation. This does not stop people of ability from coming through. However, it does not in every instance provide the people of greatest ability.

The Bill is an attempt to make the process of public appointments more open and transparent and, by so doing, to win greater public confidence in our political system. It is a challenge to the Government, which has been in power for ten years — the main party in the Administration has been in office for the vast bulk of the State's history — to say that the type of politics practised in the past did not necessarily serve the best interests of the country and that the time for change has come. It is also a challenge to other parties to join the Green Party's initiative on this area of political reform. We are on the eve of a general election that will be about the process of change. If the election involves merely changing the names and faces of people on the benches opposite, it will be a poor day's work. People must be offered not only a choice but a choice that leads to real change. The Green Party believes changes in the area of political reform are most necessary to reignite public confidence in the political system.

The Bill proposes several simple measures that can help restore public confidence in the system. It suggests that all public appointments to State bodies and agencies — regardless of whether these have validity — should, in the first instance, be approved. We propose that an Oireachtas committee on appointments to public bodies be established. Part of the remit of this committee would be to examine whether what any member of the Government proposes in the context of State agencies, task forces or study groups is worthy of spending public moneys, has a specific remit and is worth following through.

The Bill also suggests that a special unit should be attached to the Public Appointments Commission. This unit would act as a clearing house in respect of applications from people in respect of advertised positions on public bodies. It could assess those applications and make recommendations to the relevant Minister. Instead of, as is currently the case, exercising the gift of patronage, the latter would make nominations that would be placed before the Oireachtas committee on appointments to public bodies, which would be responsible for approving the individuals who would serve as chairpersons on such bodies and those who would comprise their general membership.

What we propose, therefore, is a three-stage process that would consider whether a body is necessary, whether the people applying to serve on it are of the highest ability and whether the Oireachtas was fully involved in the decision to appoint it and its members following a full ratification process. We believe that such a process would be open and transparent.

The Oireachtas should have a further role in ratifying nominations made by the Government in respect of special international appointments. In the past, appointments to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a score of other bodies were referred to as "Government appointments". We argue that those appointed in this regard are representatives of the State and that there should be a wider process of ratification in respect of them. We suggest that the Government should make its nominations and then put them forward to be ratified by the House. There could, if necessary, be a debate — in most cases this might not be required — and a vote. The latter would be unlikely if the person nominated was of sufficient quality.

The prime motivation behind the introduction of the Bill is that public appointments must be seen as being other than a reward for political service, other than compensation for those who have been disappointed politically and other than an exercise of jobs for the boys. If we can make this type of change with this legislation, the other types of necessary political reform, which form part of my party's programme for Government and which we are prepared to implement with the co-operation of others and put to the electorate for ratification, then this is a process that could help clean up Irish politics once and for all.

I support the work of my colleague, Deputy Boyle, in putting this Bill together. As the House can see, from the outset the Bill was put forward in his name. It is all pretty much his work. Often Bills are initiated in the names of all of the Teachtaí Dála within the parliamentary party, but it is testament to Deputy Boyle's ownership of this Bill and to his capabilities to work with experts and to use his own nous that it was initiated in his name. I say this because I do not want to take any credit for the drawing up of the Bill, except in a role of moral support.

I want to outline why the Bill is important. We have seen numerous planning decisions in my constituency. Nine times out of ten, whether in the case of road proposals, the Adamstown plan or appeals on Quarryvale, An Bord Pleanála has been involved at some stage. I am not casting any aspersions on the board of An Bord Pleanála, but it is fair to say that in many instances nationwide the inspector's report tends to be overturned. In order to ensure transparency we need boards like that of An Bord Pleanála to be appointed totally independently without any political input in future.

The same would apply for any other State body such as those in the education field, for example. In the case of a number of Bills with which I have been involved during this Government's term of office, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has been requested to allow certain bodies representation on a board and various education partners have been requested to be on the boards concerned because of their specific skill sets. The Minister has always stated that she retains the right to appoint and she will weigh it up on balance. That is not good for democracy. The Government has made many mistakes in education but the Minister is an honourable woman. Whatever her merits or the merits of existing or former Ministers, we must acknowledge that in the 85 year history of the State there have been some crooks in office and I make no bones about saying that. Even if there have been decent people in office who have not been under suspicion and who have had no hand, act or part in any corrupt, semi-corrupt or incompetent activities, taking such appointment decisions out of the hands of individual Ministers or the Cabinet is the safe action to take.

Recently at my party's Ard-Fheis I pointed to the case of people who serve in public bodies acting in a private capacity. I mentioned the former county manager in South Dublin suddenly working for Mr. Jim Mansfield and I mentioned Colm Tyndall, a local councillor, suddenly working for developer Con McCarthy, and, coincidentally, buying a house right next door to him. These are all people trying to do their jobs in private enterprise and there should be no aspersions cast on their good character, but public bodies and public servants going to work in the private sector should be subject to some form of control. In the case of public servants going into the private sector, my colleague Deputy Cuffe suggested a cooling off period.

This Bill is about how people are appointed to public boards. We have seen the suspicion that has been cast on the body politic by all sorts of payments to politicians. We have seen that people have ever less faith in the political process. We also see anecdotally how people always refer to jobs for the boys, as Deputy Boyle mentioned, regarding appointments to boards. Whether they be up and coming Teachtaí Dála, Senators or people who have lost their seats, it is like a pat on the head, saying well done and giving a few quid to keep him or her going. That is not the way business should be done. That is why we need proper prescriptive legislation, which recognises the merits of people, which allows for a process whereby an Oireachtas committee on public bodies could see whether the people nominated are of the highest ability. Such a committee might merely involve a exercise in rubber-stamping, but only when the necessary criteria have been met and aspersions cannot be cast in respect of the persons to be appointed. It is the correct way to do it and I wholeheartedly support my colleague's Bill.

I, too, commend my colleague Deputy Boyle on this Bill. There was an interesting article in The Irish Times on Saturday last. Ms Mary Davis, who was commissioned to look into the issue of active citizenship and return with a report, which I believe is due out tomorrow, stated in that short interview, as I am sure she will reiterate tomorrow, that when they went out and spoke to the public about how they perceive political life in Ireland, they found that the public was deeply cynical by international comparison and that in a sense they see the system as corrupt. This particularly relates to a dysfunctionality in local government. That has a considerable crippling effect in terms of the connection between citizens and the State in the sense that one does not have real power at local democratic level, which has an effect in terms of engendering such cynicism.

The Irish people are not stupid and they see it as it is, that the parties opposite have been so long in power that they have become corrupted by power, and that they appoint friends to bodies on the basis of medieval kings in their fiefdoms granting favours. While in many cases, as Deputy Boyle stated, people appointed are of the highest calibre and do a significant job, giving their time selflessly to such work, the cynicism among the public about the process is well justified because the system, as applied by the parties opposite, is clearly flawed and corrupt, or certainly corruptible. It is not just about politicians receiving favours in terms of money. The corruption can be in giving favours as well, where one might sanction a project that might use millions of euro of taxpayers' money favouring certain private individuals against civil servants' advice and without proper planning. Such favours and favours in terms public appointments are practices we need to stop.

We need to restore power, respectability, involvement and role to the committees of the House. The new committee proposed in the Bill is one that would raise the profile, stature, credibility, interest and calibre of the people who would apply for jobs on State boards. It is utterly sensible. It leaves the final say with the Minister, as is appropriate. We are not saying in the Bill that we should completely take away the role of the Minister in central Government in a directly-elected Parliament to make the final say, but it would be done in the full glare of public light and full analysis of the candidate's credentials. That can only be to the good.

One of the other aspects of the Bill I want to commend is the review of the number of public bodies we are creating. In various Bills I had a sense that we were setting up a public body to allow a Minister dish out an entirely new brand of favours. There are authorities for driver testing, taxis, aviation and transport. We could easily amalgamate those into a single authority and do away with the plethora of boards which the parties opposite seem to enjoy setting up.

Of course I also commend this Bill's requirement that the term of boards would be limited. There are many authorities in the enterprise area. Those in the research area include SFI, the HEA, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the IDA, FÁS — one could continue the list. If one looks at the output, it is not evident.

We have passed Bills where two thirds of the provisions deal with the nice pension entitlements to be put in place for the members of the boards. Unsurprisingly, there is always one for the Progressive Democrats and whatever number for Fianna Fáil. That must stop. That cushy system of cronyism is not providing us with the best possible board structure. It is not carrying out a review of the strategic interests and vision of the people involved. I commend this Bill as a sensible, rational and reasonable approach to putting in place properly democratic systems for a democratic State.

I support this Bill and concur with much of what has already been said. Widespread cynicism exists among the public, based on people's experience of those in high places and Government appointed members of bodies.

I wish to speak about An Bord Pleanála, a body that merits closer scrutiny. In reviewing planning decisions, it performs one of the most important functions of any board in this country. We have seen the results of its deliberations on the Indaver incinerator in County Cork, where it succumbed to Government policy in allowing the project to proceed. The board also overturned the recommendation of one of its inspectors against proceeding with the Corrib gas project. Many similar cases can be instanced.

The board comprises ten ministerial appointees. The chair, vice-chair and two other members are representatives of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The remaining six members are supposed to be nominated by 40 panels but there has been contrivance in that regard. I have learned from replies to parliamentary questions and through working with the Irish Rural Dwellers Association, of which I am a founder member, that two former employees of An Bord Pleanála are now members of the board as nominees of the panels. I use the word "contrivance" advisedly and do not mean to criticise the people concerned. The five-year term of membership expired in 2006 but the members have been re-appointed for a further five years. Will it be the case that the entire board will be filled by former employees of An Bord Pleanála? I welcome this Bill as a way of preventing that.

Where is democracy and the will of the people? Where is the legislation that will represent the people on the ground or re-examine a planning decision? The board is completely filled by ministerial appointees, although ICTU has also been involved as a nominating body. Serious questions must be asked and I see this Bill as the way forward. An Bord Pleanála is just one example of the questions that need to be answered.

I wish to share time with Deputy Sargent.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important Bill, which outlines a new procedure for appointments to public bodies. Its introduction in advance of the general election is timely because the public will now be able to see where the various political parties stand on this issue. While I heard a Minister express his opposition to the Bill and will have to await his arguments, it will be a matter for the next Government to implement it if it passes.

The Bill gives us an opportunity to restore public confidence in the workings of our democracy and faith in our institutions. We would let the Irish people see that the system belongs to them rather than being the preserve of any political party or the gift of Ministers. Appointments to public bodies should be transparent, fully accountable and public in the sense that they should be open to all members of the public. That may be the case in theory but we are all aware it is not the practice. There should be public ownership of the process through the appointment of a public bodies unit which would establish, monitor, approve and carry out appointment procedures.

The widely held perception is that appointments to public bodies are rewards for faithful service to the party, a little thank you for services rendered or a recognition of party allegiance or financial contributions. That has not always been the case and, as has been noted by many other Deputies, there are many excellent appointees to public bodies. Being a supporter of any political party should not disqualify a person from appointment to a public body. However, it is also the case that appointments are often a reward for those who have supported a party in one way or another. Is it any wonder the public is cynical? With this Bill, we have an opportunity to change things for the better and to practise a new kind of political approach, whereby members of public bodies are appointed by merit on the basis of appropriate skills and backgrounds. This Bill would ensure transparency in that process.

Tomorrow, the Taoiseach will publish a report on active citizenship, one of his favourite topics. Tonight is a perfect opportunity for the Taoiseach and the Government to endorse active citizenship in action. Theory could be put into practice by demonstrating that active citizenship allows ordinary people to play a meaningful role in shaping a better society. Those who do not support this Bill pay lip-service to active citizenship. They tell people what they think they want to hear, using all the right words about inclusion, citizenship, community and social capital and making soothing noises about participation and consultation, but when it comes to the crunch, they keep all the power and decision-making processes to themselves and, in many cases, hand out positions on public bodies to their friends, supporters and those who can be relied on to toe the line.

An example of this was the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Where were the board members to defend the public interest in that case? The Aer Lingus board basically acted on the wishes of the Government. Where were the people who took the national perspective? Aer Lingus is now in private hands, sold so cheaply that it is ripe for take-over. Will the State, the Irish people or the shareholders benefit from that? The shareholders or those who have the money to invest will reap the rewards. The Irish people no longer have control over air access to this island nation and the residents of Shannon and the west of Ireland will probably pay the price for the open skies regime. The shareholders of Aer Lingus, many of whom are not Irish, will call the tune. This came about because the public interest was not being served.

There will be many positive outcomes from public scrutiny and control over appointments to public bodies. One such outcome should be better gender balance. Several Deputies referred to jobs for the boys. The establishment of a public bodies unit would also ensure jobs for the girls. If those boys and girls come from the wider public and not only the select few who enjoy the favour of political parties, that would be the most positive outcome.

Tá áthas orm deis a fháil labhairt an an mBille um Cheapacháin chuig Comhlachtaí Poiblí 2007. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le mo chomhghleacaithe an Teachta Boyle, a dhein an-chuid oibre chun an Bille a ullmhú. Ba mhaith liom aitheantas a thabhairt do na heagraíochtaí eile atá ag lorg athbhreithniú le fada an lá chun feabhas a chur ar an gcóras ceapacháin chuig comhlachtaí poiblí. Caithfidh mé eagraíochtaí ar nós TASC, an Democracy Commission agus Transparency International, atá ag impí ar an Rialtas le tamall fada athbhreithniú agus athstruchtúrú a dhéanamh ar an gcóras — nó easpa chórais, go minic — atá ann faoi láthair, a luadh sa chomhthéacs seo.

It is ironic that the Taoiseach will launch another report on active citizenship tomorrow. I have asked him many times in the House about the manner in which people are appointed to State boards, task forces, agencies and the plethora of organisations established by the Government parties over the past ten years. The Taoiseach does not realise that improvement is possible in this regard and he has a defeatist and almost depressing belief that nobody would like to be appointed to these bodies anyway and, therefore, he must rely on his little black book or other contacts he has to seek somebody who will selflessly take on these positions.

That argument is a sham and it is unacceptable to many people. It would also be unacceptable to the Irish Human Rights Commission. Its original membership comprised political appointees but, under the chairmanship of Maurice Manning, the commission decided, wisely and responsibly, at the end of its term to place an advertisement in the press seeking expressions of interest. This was followed by fundamental reform of the way in which appointments to the body are made. That is from where the Green Party is coming. Change is needed urgently in the appointments process so public confidence in the political process can be restored and a level of accountability brought to bear on organisations working on behalf of the people, which in many cases have large budgets comprising taxpayers' money.

The Government parties have made more than 6,000 appointments to various bodies over the past ten years. The manner in which such appointments are made should be examined to improve the way in which they are assessed. Currently, there is a lack of assessment and it is difficult to know the criteria for membership sometimes, although it is obvious in other cases given the background of the person and the skills they bring to the position. We do not seek to reinvent the wheel but in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and other jurisdictions, the process involved in such appointments has been examined and improvements made. New Zealand officials examined the plethora of task forces that had been appointed to bring about what they call "deagencification". That is the first time this word has been used in the House and New Zealanders are ahead of us in this regard. They are rationalising the number of task forces.

Would that be allowed under REPS given that it sounds toxic?

What about decentralisation?

That is another big word. The Minister of State should get to grips with decentralisation first and then he can move on to the New Zealand model.

Unfortunately, as we discussed during Taoiseach's Questions earlier, we have a legacy to deal with in this regard. The various tribunals of inquiry have highlighted the aloof manner in which appointments to State bodies took place. Former Deputy Ray Burke made a number of appointments to An Bord Pleanála, which came back to haunt him, and we are all the worse off for that. It is not possible even today to establish clearly the criteria under which appointments to bodies such as An Bord Pleanála are made. For example, an individual appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency was a former employee of an incineration company. Given the remit of the agency, that appointment did not add to the organisation's objectivity and impartiality because procedures were not in place to remove any doubt about a motivation that was less than honourable. That leaves question marks, which does not do the body politic any good nor is it good for public confidence in politics.

At the same time, when one seeks to investigate appointments, a number of the bodies are not covered by freedom of information or Ombudsman legislation and we are left with more questions. This is important in the context of questions being raised by school boards of management through the State. On the one hand, appointments are made to prison visiting committees with the only criterion being that the person must live many miles away from the prison to be visited so he or she can benefit significantly from the mileage allowance that can be garnered from the work involved.

That has all changed.

That legacy needs to be addressed more widely.

It has been addressed.

Boards of management will need to seek volunteers from the end of this year because those who volunteer will have to accept legal liability for abuse, misdemeanours and other problems that may arise following staff appointments to the schools for which they have responsibility. On the other hand, appointments to other bodies are made on the basis of political patronage which, in many cases, involves medieval handouts in the tradition of gifts and favours for whatever was rendered by the appointees in the past or for loyalty to the party. Volunteers to boards of management usually are the parents of the children attending the school and they give their time and expertise so they can help their children. They must also pay for training courses so they are updated on legislation relating to the work environment, appointments procedures, health and safety and so on. The contrast is stark and it is an absolute disgrace the Government is telling them that they will be legally liable for any problem in their school as a result of appointments made by them.

In considering this legislation, I ask the Government to address the injustice it is visiting on school boards of management. They are wondering how they will be able to continue and find volunteers to fill vacancies when their terms end and how they will be able to run schools, which are the responsibility of the State and not of the parents who are doing their best to help a Government which is not prepared to pull its weight. Unless this is addressed, Government Members will be reminded of this injustice on the doorsteps by people who will say it is unacceptable for a Government to walk away and place liability for problems that may arise as a result of staff appointments in the hands of volunteer parents who are doing their best for their children.

The Private Members' Bill put forward by Deputy Boyle proposes the creation of new procedures for the appointment of the chair and boards of public bodies and for special appointments to international organisations currently at the discretion of the Government. The Government does not support this Bill.

Surprise, surprise.

Before discussing the Bill in detail, I should note that Ireland is fortunate to have a strong tradition of public service whereby many people with proven abilities give the very best of their talents, experience and energy to lead, direct and account for their stewardship in demanding roles in key public agencies. On making appointments or nominations, the Government carefully considers the attributes of the persons selected in the context of the requirements of the post. The practices and procedures adopted by the Government follow those adopted by its predecessors. A strong public sector has evolved from these procedures that delivers effectively a range of public services.

The House must be mindful of the enormous contribution made by such people and refrain from putting in place procedures that would serve to deter rather than attract people to positions on public bodies. A recent study carried out by the Institute of Public Administration, "The Corporate Governance of Agencies in Ireland — Non Commercial National Agencies", identified 601 agencies operating in Ireland. This figure gives the House some idea of the scale of the contribution to public service made by people appointed to public bodies.

I will comment on current arrangements to clarify for the House the robust procedures that are in place. The arrangements for the composition of and appointments to the boards of State bodies are usually set out in the legislation establishing such bodies. Usually, such appointments are made by the Minister with responsibility for the body in question, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance. Ministers must consider the merits of their appointees and must ensure they have the appropriate skills and experience for their appointments. Ministers are answerable to this House for such appointments.

They are not.

I make no apology for such a system, which has been tried and tested and has been shown to work. Approximately 500 public bodies have boards and as many such boards have up to ten or 12 members, it can be seen that the numbers involved are large. A vast range of experience, skills and background is required to ensure the composition of the board of each body is appropriate. A balance must be struck in the composition of boards, which require qualities including sectoral knowledge, business experience, technical expertise or the representative voices of those served by a particular organisation. In some cases the legislation establishing the body in question might also specify worker representation or that elected representatives, Departments, local authorities or sectoral bodies be represented on boards.

Ministers must have flexibility to choose members of boards. The range of skills and experience required for the board of a major commercial State company is significantly different to that required for a small, regulatory body of the kind of which there are several under the aegis of, for example, the Department of Health and Children. A Minister with sectoral responsibility for such bodies will be aware of the needs of these organisations and is best placed to approach those who he or she considers most suited for the board in question.

It is normal commercial practice for the shareholder to nominate the board to look after the shareholder's interests. In the case of commercial semi-State bodies, the Minister with financial responsibility for the area will nominate people to the board while taking account of the type of company involved. The Minister for Finance as shareholder or joint shareholder is consulted on the nomination. I do not see anything wrong with the existing system and the success of the commercial State bodies over the years supports the view that the boards nominated by various Governments have worked well.

Deputy Boyle's Bill does not have due regard for the nature of State bodies in Ireland. State bodies report to the Minister who has sectoral responsibility for them and the relevant joint committees of the Houses already have authority, if they wish to exercise it, to call before them the chairmen and top management of each State body.

After their appointment.

In most cases such bodies are established by legislation, which also sets out a range of functions and responsibilities possessed by the Minister and the parent Department, as well as the Minister for Finance and the Department of Finance. In most cases these include the functions to be performed by that body, the submission of annual reports and accounts, borrowing, pay and pension matters, recruitment of staff, increases in fees or prices, as well as a range of other matters peculiar to individual bodies. Ministers also set out the general policy to be followed by individual bodies. When all such matters are considered, it seems extraordinary that one would contemplate removing from the Ministers, who are obliged to perform this large range of functions, the power to choose and appoint the boards and chairpersons of these bodies, which are essential to ensuring adherence to the Minister's general guidelines and the State body's responsibilities.

This aspect is one of the great strengths of the present system, namely, that Ministers can approach those who they consider to have the qualities necessary for the bodies under their aegis. In many State companies, there are men and women with vast experience in business or other areas of life who have been willing to accept positions on the boards primarily out of a sense of public duty. I very much doubt whether many such people would wish, as proposed by Deputy Boyle, to reply to advertisements and to go through a competition for positions.

Has the Minister of State asked them?

Such an approach is appropriate for employing people within organisations rather than the appointment of those who are to be directors or chairpersons of State bodies, which is fundamentally different to full-time employment. Is it credible that senior, experienced professionals and business people, who have already created a successful career in the private sector would wish to go through the processes that would be required under this Bill? In many cases such people have numerous demands on their time and while they may be willing to respond positively to a request from a Minister, they would be unwilling to put their name forward as if applying for a job.

Tapping the experience of business people has been useful to the public sector especially in the area of State companies but also in advisory capacities.

Tapping or touching.

A number of advisory groups have advised Government on future policies and strategies over the years, including various groups devoted to industrial policy, competitiveness and aspects of social policy. In addition, groups such as the National Economic and Social Council have helped by giving advice and have contributed to overall development. This Bill would deprive us of access to knowledge and experience that is needed in the public sector and that has proven useful in the Public Appointments Service in State companies.

I also point out that once a prospective board member accepts an offer of a position on a board, he or she is subject to the requirements of a range of legislation and guidelines, most notably the Ethics in Public Office Act and the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. The code of practice sets out guidelines to seek to ensure that public bodies are run to the highest possible standards. It is not a prescriptive list as to how the body should be run but rather it seeks to guide bodies and their boards to ensure that best practice is followed and that the requirements of other guidelines or legislation are adhered to.

In October 2001, the Minister for Finance issued the code of practice for the governance of State bodies to his fellow Ministers for promulgation within the various State-sponsored bodies under their aegis. The purpose of the code is to provide a governance framework within which the internal management and internal and external reporting relationships of State bodies is to take place. This code was formally approved by the Government, which had decided that it should be binding on all State-sponsored bodies. The code consolidates the various initiatives, both within the Irish public sector and more generally, which had been taken between 1992 and 2001, to enhance corporate governance.

The framework within which boards must operate is effectively set by the code. It sets out clearly the Government's expectations in this regard. It also provides board members with an invaluable instrument against which to measure their actions. The code of practice is far-reaching in its scope and stresses the need for appropriate codes of conduct for directors and employees and that these should be in written form. A template is set out in the code to guide bodies in this regard.

It also requires that in respect of internal audit, all State bodies must have a properly constituted internal audit function or engage appropriate external expertise. The code also refers to the procurement and disposal of assets and states that competitive tendering should be normal procedure in the procurement process of State bodies and that national and EU public procurement rules applicable in the public sector should be complied with. The code also provides that the disposal of assets above €70,000 must, as a rule, be done by competitive tendering or auction. As with all the provisions, any exceptions to this procedure must have the consent of the board.

The code also deals with how diversification of activities, the establishment of subsidiaries and acquisitions by the body should be dealt with. In such cases, the establishment of subsidiaries and the acquisition of shares are subject to the relevant Minister's approval given with the consent of the Minister for Finance. As for value for money, it places an emphasis on the need for appropriate investment appraisal and requires that all State bodies must comply with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure that were issued by the Minister for Finance.

Moreover, in respect of remuneration and directors' fees, the code requires that all State bodies must implement Government policy on the remuneration of chief executives, managing directors, directors and other staff.

Strategic and corporate planning is also mentioned and requires that annual rolling five-year plans be produced. The plans, reflecting the shareholders' objectives and strategic mandate, are to be approved by the board. The code requires that all State bodies should be tax compliant and not engage in any offensive tax avoidance transactions. The code also sets out a framework for best practice for corporate governance in State bodies and principles for quality customer service.

Extensive though this list may seem, it cannot deal with all situations which may arise. Directors and employees of State-sponsored bodies and their subsidiaries are advised in the code that it is primarily their responsibility to ensure all their activities, whether covered specifically or otherwise in the code, are governed by the ethical and other considerations implicit in the code.

Membership of the board of a State body is not a sinecure. It is a demanding role. The stringent requirements imposed by the Government under the code of practice bring with them significant responsibilities for all directors. This means a high degree of accountability is associated with board membership which is as it should be.

In the area of corporate governance and public bodies generally, I would like to say a few words on the developments that have taken place in the last number of years. The Government's commitment to enhancing overall corporate governance, including within the State bodies that have company status, is evident in the legislative and structural changes that have been introduced since 2001.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, established in 2001, has a mandate to improve the compliance environment for corporate activity in the economy by encouraging adherence to the requirements of Companies Acts and bringing to account those who disregard the law.

The Standards in Public Office Commission was also established by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. The commissioner is responsible for supervising the implementation of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 as they apply to office holders such as Ministers, the Attorney General, special advisers to Ministers, senior civil servants and designated directors and executives of prescribed State bodies.

The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 also have implications for directors. The ethics Acts require the directors of these public bodies to provide annual statements of interests to a nominated officer of the body, such as the chairperson of the board or the company secretary. The statements of interests must also be given to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The type of interests disclosed include details of occupations, shares, other directorships, land, travel or accommodation services provided at less than the commercial price, public service contracts and gifts. Directors can also voluntarily disclose other interests not listed in the legislation.

If a director needs to carry out a task and discovers he or she has a material interest in this task, the director must inform the other directors of this interest. The director must not perform the task unless compelling reasons exist to do so. If this is the case, the director must inform other directors and the standards commission of the compelling reasons.

The standards commission is also responsible for the publication and distribution of codes of conduct. The codes are drawn up following consultation with the standards commission. A code of conduct for designated directors and holders of designated positions in the wider public service is being prepared. Consideration is being given to developing separate codes of conduct for the commercial and non-commercial sectors.

The standards commission acknowledged concerns at the proliferation of different types of codes, statutory and administrative, which are emerging in this area. State bodies are subject to the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, published by the Minister for Finance in October 2001, which includes a code of ethics. In addition, some statutory bodies were established under legislation which provides for codes of conduct specific to those bodies. The danger of confusion as to the relevant provisions of such competing codes, and even the possibility of conflict between the codes, is evident.

The standards commission notes that section 10 of the 2001 Act provides that a code of conduct drawn up under the Act shall indicate the standards of conduct and integrity for the persons to whom it relates in the performance of their functions and with regard to any matter connected with or affecting or likely to affect such performance and with regard to such other matters, if any, as may be specified in the code.

Tonight, we are asked to adopt this Bill as proposed by Deputy Boyle. However, the Bill is not workable, necessary nor adds value and indeed it fails on all those aspects. The fact is that the current system works and has done so over time. It may not be a perfect system but no system is. The Bill proposed is heavy handed and bureaucratic and would make it difficult to recruit appropriate people to State bodies and advisory groups.

Does the Minister of State know who are the appropriate people?

The proposals in the Bill include the establishment of a public appointments unit in the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments. This would be responsible for monitoring, approving and carrying out appointment procedures to public bodies. Section 8 of Deputy Boyle's Bill includes a proposal to establish a new joint Oireachtas committee on public appointments. Among other duties, it would decide which public bodies and special appointments would be covered by the new procedures.

The Bill purports to include all executive bodies, advisory bodies and taskforces within its remit. In excess of the 500 to 600 bodies and agencies would fall to be considered by the Oireachtas committee for the purposes of deciding which should come within the remit of the Bill, a considerable task by any reckoning.

In addition to this, section 10(1) of the Bill states the joint Oireachtas committee "shall carry out a review of all procedures in place for the appointment of chairpersons and board members of existing public bodies and establish a listing of those appointments which should henceforth come under the new procedures set out under this Act within one year". In my view the proposals would impose a disproportionate administrative task on any Oireachtas committee.

In addition the joint Oireachtas committee is left in the dark about the criteria to be used to select the bodies to come within the remit of the Act. This is despite the fact the public sector comprises organisations which are both commercial and non-commercial in character, in other words bodies which do and do not derive the bulk of their revenue from trading and commercial activities.

The procedure set out in section 6 of Deputy Boyle's Bill for appointment to public bodies would involve the establishment of a public appointments unit in the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments which would be responsible for monitoring, approving and carrying out appointment procedures to public bodies. Under section 11(1) the public appointments unit would be required to draw up a code of practice to govern the appointments to public bodies.

The principles applying to the code are set out in section 11(2). Subsection (f) states the principle that all public appointments would be advertised. The lack of proportionality of such a provision illustrates the lack of a commonsense approach being taken in this Bill. Not only would recruitment be by open competition under section 13(1) of the Deputy’s Bill, but the appointments would then be subject to ratification by the Oireachtas joint committee. This appears to be an additional layer of unnecessary delay imposed on an already unwieldy and lengthy process which lacks the proportionality already mentioned.

Sections 17 and 18 of the proposed Bill provide that the chairpersons would be answerable to the Oireachtas joint committee and may be dismissed by them upon recommendation of the relevant Minister. In my view it is not appropriate to deal with the dismissal of a chairman or board member in the context of this Bill. The dismissal of board members is a matter for another context and must take into account fair procedures and natural justice. The inclusion of provisions on dismissal in the manner outlined suggest a lack of understanding of the public service ethos on which we rely to fill positions on boards of public bodies.

I reiterate the Government is committed to strong and effective corporate governance of our public bodies and has put in place a code of practice for the governance of State bodies. The code is kept under review in consultation with all stakeholders. In my view, the proposals from Deputy Boyle will make the job of improving corporate governance in our public bodies more difficult to achieve by deterring rather than attracting candidates of the calibre needed.

I am satisfied the accountability of bodies to Ministers and the House through the committee system is satisfactory. As I stated, the proposed Bill is cumbersome and would not improve the system. I am satisfied that current arrangements for appointments to various State bodies and groups are workable, practicable and help recruit people from whom the public service benefits.

On a point of order, the Government slot has run short by ten minutes. The next slot is 20 minutes in duration. The Government will not present another speaker now and a danger exists the Government will not present a speaker after the next speaker and the Bill may collapse. On those grounds, I call a quorum to outline the contempt the Government seems to show this legislation. It is Government time. I call a quorum.

It is Private Members' time.

Is it in order that the next speaker can continue? I have a fear the Bill will collapse.

I am thankful for the opportunity to address the House on the Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007. My friend the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, must have drawn the short straw tonight as it is the first time in my 18 years in the Houses I have seen Private Members' business almost collapse for lack of speakers from the Government side. Although it has not collapsed as such, the Government has given over ten minutes of its time.

It is amazing the Government did not send in another speaker on this Bill. Its lack of interest is shown by the fact that none of its members is here. A Progressive Democrats Minister of State was sent in to take the flak, which must indicate the issue is a hot potato with which the Government does not want to deal. It has implored that somebody go to bat for the Government and see how it goes.

The Deputy should look around him.

It is surprising but maybe there is a bigger show somewhere else in town and that is where everyone is tonight. It is interesting events have panned out in that way and that the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, has been sent in with the script to say the words.

There are some interesting aspects in the Minister of State's speech. He stated:

Ministers have to consider the merits of their appointees and ensure that they have the appropriate skills and experience for their appointments. Ministers are answerable to this House for such appointments.

Let us have a look back, my good man, over the years and consider some of the people who have been appointed to boards. I will not go through the list but we could question severely the skills etc. that some of the appointees have had to various and very important boards.

Name them.

I thank the Deputy for his kind intervention. I will leave that to him.

The Deputy should name them. He made an allegation.

The Deputy can stand over them.

I am not entitled to name people outside the House, as the Deputy knows.

The Deputy is in the House.

Deputy Paul McGrath, without interruption.

I am not entitled to name people who are not Members of this House. The Deputy should know that.

That is untrue.

I know the Deputy is not here that long.

The Deputy has made an accusation, he should follow it up.

He will learn in time.

It is empty rhetoric.

Empty rhetoric.

To continue, without interruption, my comments must have stung. I have certainly generated a bit of comment, which is good.

The Deputy discovered another Deputy speaking in the House anyway.

Fine Gael is in favour of giving this Bill a second hearing and will support it. We think it has much merit. For example, openly advertising positions for State boards is a good idea with much merit. Recent experience with other bodies has shown surprising people with fantastic skills coming forward to offer their services to the State free of charge. That is worthwhile and such events will open up a gamut of people with experience and skills who can be of benefit.

People would need to have the required skills for the boards and an independent assessment would be required. There should be a procedure for any of the appointments, and this is an aspect of the Bill which should be added to with relevant sections. We must consider who will be ultimately responsible for any of these measures. A body or person should be accountable to this House.

In this context we feel strongly that there must be ministerial responsibility. We can consider what has been done as a State over the past number of years. Over a long number of years, we as politicians have given away our responsibility. For example, there is the case of the National Roads Authority. There was a time when the Minister was responsible for deciding the allocations for specific roads, the roads that needed to be worked on etc. The Minister now hands over a bunch of money to the NRA and it decides where it is to be spent. If the Minister is asked a question about spending of NRA money, he or she will state the Minister has no responsibility in the area.

When it comes to cutting tape on a particular road, the Minister would suddenly have responsibility and be the one who delivered all the goodies. A Minister cannot have it both ways and we as politicians should not be handing away responsibility. We should be answerable to the people. A section of the Bill would make the Minister ultimately responsible but the context of the Bill implies he or she may not be. I am concerned about that.

To continue on the trend of giving away our responsibility, we can consider the shambles we have created with the HSE. If a question is put down to the Minister about an issue in the health service across the country we get back an anodyne response stating it is not the responsibility of the Minister. The matter is passed on to the HSE, which answers in due course. A letter might be received in three to ten weeks.

Some of the matters are urgent. For example, in Tullamore a brand new hospital is being built but they are knocking down part of it already. Did the Minister of State know that? It is in his constituency.

I am sure the Minister of State is glad he came to hear my wisdom. I am able to relate matters pertaining to his constituency.

I hope the Deputy has more backup than he had with his earlier accusations. He should tell me which buildings.

It is true. It is within part of this new hospital, which has just been built. I am sure there will be a tape-cutting ceremony of some description before the election. The Minister of State will want it as he needs to bolster votes because he is in trouble. If the Minister of State tries hard, he will get something to put a tape on.

I did not run away with my tail between my legs, seeing the writing on the wall.

The Minister of State will see when he goes to the new hospital in Tullamore that parts of it have been knocked down. It is a brand new building that has never been occupied. Taxpayers' money has been used putting it there and for digging it out again and knocking it, and taxpayers' money will be used to rebuild the new parts. What kind of planning is that?

If we ask the Minister about it she will state it is not her responsibility but the responsibility of the HSE. That has happened. I put down a question on the issue, which has been referred to the HSE. When will I get a response? More than likely it will not be this side of the election as the HSE would be too cute to do that. We will not hear a word about it.

We will invite the Deputy to the opening.

It is another case demonstrating how we as politicians have handed over responsibility to other bodies to do the work for us and be responsible.

We do the same in all sorts of other areas. For example, the Road Safety Authority deals with a crucial issue. We have again given over responsibility to somebody else. The authority does excellent work in issuing reports and the chairperson goes on radio and television telling us what needs to be done. A former chairperson was so disgusted with the lack of delivery from the Minister that he resigned, despite him doing a good job, a fact agreed across the board.

Who took responsibility in that case? Instead of the Minister, who is responsible to this House, responsibility was hived off to the Road Safety Authority and its chairperson. Is it not absolutely crazy that we hive off all these responsibilities? The taxi authority is another example of a body where somebody else has taken responsibility. Does that make sense?

We were elected to this House to take decisions and be answerable primarily to this House and to the electorate. What are we doing? Much of the time we are doing our damnedest to hand over responsibility to somebody else. There is a whole list of examples.

Some people who spoke earlier on the Bill are a little confused. Deputy Cowley spoke at length about An Bord Pleanála and was fairly critical of the body. He stated that in some instances An Bord Pleanála went along with the reports of its inspectors and in others the board went against the decisions of the inspectors.

Curiously, he stated that some members of An Bord Pleanála were former inspectors and that he was against their appointments to the board, but would those appointments not have been good? Given that the people used to be inspectors, they had learned the ropes and knew what it was like to have their reports accepted, rejected or queried, would they not be in a strong position to be able to judge fairly what was occurring in a particular sector? I was surprised to hear that criticism. It makes sense that a person who went through the ropes would make good decisions.

Deputy Sargent, the leader of the Green Party, discussed school boards of management. Was he suggesting boards should advertise for people with the necessary skills? I hope not.

That is not what he was saying.

The local communities want control of their boards of management to remain local. They know who they want on the boards and there are strict controls in place.

We need to clear up the confusion in respect of some appointments and what is proposed in the Bill goes a long way towards clearing out some of the problems. It is akin to the system governing the appointment of judges, which was introduced in 1996. When appointments to the Judiciary are to be made, judges can express interest and there is a panel of review. It is important that at the final stages, two or three names are nominated to the Minister, who makes the final decision. That is a good system because it gives the Minister the opportunity to determine the situation. For example, difficulties may have arisen during the process. It is healthy that the Minister shoulders the responsibility, as it instils public interest and confidence in what we are doing and is worthwhile.

What would the public say if an appointment was made by a board of adjudicators? We must know who is making the appointment. We do business by having the Minister responsible for making the appointment. An aspect of the Bill that must be strengthened relates to the Minister's responsibility.

In that context, I compliment Deputy Boyle for introducing the Bill, as it is difficult to try to draw up a Bill and get it drafted properly. He has done a great job. It is interesting the Bill has provoked this worthwhile discussion, during which we will hear many contributions.

I want clarification on another aspect relating to appointments that is overlooked in the Bill, namely, the matter of State boards such as Bord na Móna. Currently, provision is made for worker directors who form an integral part of the boards. While I have not served on a State board, I know former worker directors who did excellent jobs and provided a vital input in the management of the boards. The Bill must provide for that practice. On the next stage, perhaps Deputy Boyle will include a section to preserve the State boards.

I am approaching my swan song in the House, as I will retire in a relatively short time. As politicians, we must shoulder our responsibility to the House and we cannot run away from our decisions. We must stop forming bodies and quangos and appointing all sorts of people to them. In some cases, the people do good jobs. In other cases, the jobs they do might not be as good.

Responsibility must rest with the Minister. For example, I do not doubt that the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, will take responsibility for failing to spend €56 million in the Office of Public Works last year. He will not blame his officials for not spending the money quickly enough, preparing the plans, upgrading Garda stations that should have been upgraded or carrying out necessary flood works or tasks in respect of public parks. As he should, he will take responsibility for the €56 million, which could have been used, that he handed back to the Exchequer. Let us not run down the road of giving that responsibility to someone else, such as the commissioners of the OPW, who will hide while the Minister of State says he has no responsibility for the matter. It would not be good enough.

Deputy Boyle might consider another matter when he is summing up. Some people who could do excellent jobs on State boards might not want to put their names forward in answer to advertisements. I will identify someone who is outside the House, but he will not mind, namely, Mr. David Andrews. A former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Government appointed him chairman of the Irish Red Cross. He is an ideal person for the role, as he has the contacts, management skills and intelligence to do a good job.

Can the Minister of State countenance a situation in which the Government is looking for a board for the Irish Red Cross? Mr. Andrews would not send in his curriculum vitae or say he was the man for the job. We must provide for the Minister, in the heel of the hunt, to be able to make the appointment. If someone such as Mr. Andrews is available, he or she should be able to enter the fray rather than be excluded by virtue of the fact he or she did not answer an advertisement. There must be flexibility. It returns to the point I am harping upon, that is, Ministers must live up to their responsibilities. The day of slipping out from under that responsibility and getting someone else to form a board is gone.

Fine Gael supports the reading of the Bill on Second Stage, as many of its aspects have merit. We would like additional elements and, while section 5 relates, a firmer provision to the effect that responsibility lies with the Minister.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on Second Stage of the Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007. I congratulate Deputy Boyle on introducing the Bill because it is important for the Oireachtas to have a genuine debate on the calibre of members on our State boards, which have important functions. We also need to discuss the process by which they are selected. I have always known there are many State boards, but I was staggered to learn in the Minister of State's speech there are between 500 and 600 such boards. If we take nothing else from this debate, I propose we initiate a root and branch review of all these boards. I do not believe 500 or 600 boards are required in a State with a population of 4 million, 5 million or even 6 million. Each of the boards has its own office, Christmas parties, computer systems and glossy brochures. Does Ireland need 500 or 600 such boards? I challenge anyone to support the proposition that it does. The introduction of this Bill is a worthwhile exercise because it facilitates a discussion on the method of appointment of people to State boards.

The Government is right to oppose this Bill because it is based on a deep-seated confusion between the roles of the Executive and the Legislature. The Executive is responsible for governing, whereas the Legislature is responsible for introducing and passing laws and reviewing and monitoring the performance of the Government. Deputy Boyle will agree that the duty of the Government is to govern. Semi-State bodies and boards are executive bodies, by and large, and not legislative bodies. Therefore, it is totally appropriate that the Executive should have the direct power of appointment to such boards. I do not suggest that such appointments should not be subject to a screening process and I welcome this Bill's proposals in that regard. We should set out a set of criteria, including the necessary qualifications, to be followed when people are appointed to boards. Perhaps we should provide for such positions to be advertised. It is better for the members of these boards to be appointed by the Executive than for the Legislature to interfere in this process.

I accept my argument does not apply to appointments made to boards which are closely linked to the Legislature. The Joint Committee on European Affairs sends delegates to COSAC, for example. I am sure Deputies are familiar with that EU organisation, which comprises parliamentarians who are members of European affairs committees. This House also sends representatives to the Council of Europe and the United Nations. There is merit in the proposal to allow the Oireachtas to vet those who want to represent the Legislature on such bodies, and then to vote on the potential delegates. It is correct that there should be a distinction between the Executive and the Legislature.

I was sorry to hear Deputy Paul McGrath making a clear allegation during his contribution. He seemed to imply that many people who served on semi-State boards in the past simply did not pass muster. I do not suggest that each of the thousands of people who have served on hundreds of boards since the foundation of the State was perfect. Nobody is perfect and no large system of this nature is ever perfect. I agree with the Minister of State's comment that Ireland has been extremely well served, by and large, by the men and women who have served on semi-State boards since the foundation of the State. Many of them have given large amounts of their time for very small or no remuneration. We should acknowledge the contributions of people at the top of their careers and the height of their professions who have given their spare time to serve on boards of this nature. I do not believe it would be appropriate for the Oireachtas to denigrate the reputations of those people in any way by casting a pall of smoke over them. The vast majority of those who have been appointed by Ministers to give their time to the State, for little or no remuneration, have done an excellent job. Any objective analysis of their work over the years will prove that has been the case.

I ask the Minister of State to send a memo to the Government in consideration of an excellent proposal that is made in the Bill. I refer to the suggestion that most public positions should be advertised. I do not have an objection to that excellent idea. When Ministers are considering appointments to boards, they may be unaware of the talent that is available among the public. I do not see why we should not advertise the availability of positions on boards. I do not suggest the discretion of Ministers in making appointments should be fettered in any way. Ministers should continue to be able to appoint people who do not respond to advertisements. Deputy Paul McGrath made the compelling point that it would be patently ridiculous to require somebody of the calibre of the chairman of the Red Cross to reply to an advertisement by forwarding his curriculum vitae, when his abilities are clear to all and sundry.

I have a problem with the proposal to establish two public bodies under sections 6 and 8 of the Bill. As a matter of conscience, I must oppose the development of two new layers of bureaucracy. Section 6 proposes the establishment of an appointments to public bodies unit and section 8 proposes the establishment of a Dáil committee on appointments to public bodies. As I feel that less government is better government, by and large, I am not in favour of adding two more layers of administration to the decision-making process. Such a measure would necessitate the recruitment of many more public servants, who would have to spend a great deal of time processing these new responsibilities. I doubt that we would get a better result.

I question the constitutionality of section 19 of the Bill, which proposes that "all special appointments which are currently made by the Government to all international organisations shall be subject to a vote of approval by Dáil Éireann". As I indicated earlier, the Constitution is based on a clear line of demarcation between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Executive's job is to govern and the Legislature's job is to legislate. I will give two pertinent examples of special appointments. I refer firstly to the Government's duty to appoint somebody as Ireland's representative on the European Commission, and secondly to Mr. John Bruton, who——

Solomon has come to judgment.

——was nominated by the Government as a suitable person to be appointed by the EU as its ambassador to the United States. We must make a distinction between executive and legislative bodies. I agree with the sentiment of section 19 as it relates to the appointment of Ireland's delegates to the Council of Europe. The Dáil should have a role in scrutinising this country's possible delegates to other parliamentary bodies. I welcome this Bill's attempt to seek to create a new space in which the Dáil can be involved in that process.

This is not the first Green Party Bill to have some very good elements. As Deputy Boyle is aware, the Government recently decided to support the Noise Bill 2006, which was proposed by the Green Party. The Government hopes to introduce amendments on Committee Stage to sort out some of the severe problems with that Bill. I hope the Green Party appreciates the Government's open-mindedness in this regard.

Great minds think alike.

However, I cannot support the Bill before the House for the reasons I have mentioned.

That is disappointing.

Debate adjourned.