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Other Questions - Legislative Programme

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 68.  Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the date on which he will publish a new consolidated prevention of corruption Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6543/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The heads of a Bill to reform and consolidate the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010 are being developed within my Department and I hope to bring them to the Government before Easter for approval and publication. It is my intention to publish and refer them to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality prior to the drafting of the Bill. Given that the shape of the proposed legislation is not yet in its final form and that the Government has not yet had sight of the new proposals, I do not wish to comment in any detail on the content of the proposed legislation at this juncture. However, my overall objective is to clarify, consolidate and reform the provisions contained in the seven enactments that make up the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010.

The State is party to a number of international instruments in this area, including the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Last November, following the approval of the Dáil, I made arrangements to have the UN Convention against Corruption ratified by the State. Ireland’s full participation in the convention is important in demonstrating our commitment to tackling corruption within the State and in a global context. The State is also an active participant in the OECD working group on bribery in international business transactions and the Council of Europe group of states against corruption.

The new Bill will make corruption legislation more accessible by replacing seven overlapping statutes with one consolidated measure. It will also afford an opportunity to review and improve the legislation in this area in the light of our experience as a member of the international anti-corruption groups. I look forward to publication of the heads of the Bill which will allow all interested parties to make an input to this important anti-corruption measure.

I hope the number of Bills we intend to give to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for consideration does not overwhelm its capacity to do its work, but I am looking forward to the input Deputies Calleary, O’Brien and others may make to the development of that legislation.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I thank the Minister. The reason I have tabled this question is that we are considering the whistleblower legislation and I thought this Bill was essential to complement it. It would not make sense to have one without the other. I welcome the announcement that the committee will see the heads of the Bill before Easter. Getting the heads of the Bill before we get the Bill is very welcome; this has proved to be productive in the case of other legislation. The programme of legislation was set out in this area included a consolidation Bill, but the Minister has said today that he is also considering reforming and improving the law in this regard, which is welcome. As we are now in a completely different situation, this legislation needs to move beyond consolidation. However, I welcome the improvements and reform.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I thank the Deputy for his positive comments. As should be obvious at this stage, there is substantial work ongoing in my Department in modernising various areas [261]of the law and consolidating legislation. This area is particularly important; we need to ensure we have a coherent, accessible body of law to deal with corruption issues and the broad range of white-collar crimes, to which the Bill will make a substantial contribution. I hope it will also make life somewhat easier for An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions in addressing issues that arise to which the legislation is relevant. As I said — I genuinely mean this — I look forward to the input of Members on the heads of the Bill. If the heads are placed before the committee either just before or shortly after Easter, we should be in a position, certainly by the summer vacation, for the committee to report back in order that we can develop the Bill further with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I compliment the Minister on the initiative of placing the heads of Bills before committees which will make the legislative process a lot easier. Would he consider also giving the Bill to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and perhaps the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education to get their input? We would probably have a finer process at that stage.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The formula used in the House is that a Bill goes to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, but, as Members know, it is open to any Member to participate in a committee’s deliberations on a Bill. The membership of a committee is only relevant in the case of a vote; this would not arise in the consideration of the heads of a Bill. It is completely open, for example, to the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to have a joint meeting with the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, where that is seen to be appropriate, or to ask that or any other committee to make an input into its deliberations in order that when the committee reports, it can embrace the views of other Members of the House. That is a matter for the discretion of the Chairman. It is important that we ultimately receive feedback or a view from the main committee rather than obtaining a series of diverse views from other committees which may not engage in dealing with the legal complexities involved. However, I would certainly encourage the holding of a joint committee meeting if it was the view of members of the justice committee and the Chairman that it would be appropriate to have such a meeting.

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