Charities Bill 2007: Committee Stage.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Select Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Debate

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Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Carey, and his officials. I propose that we proceed until 1 p.m., take an hour’s break, recommence at 2 p.m. and continue until 5 p.m. or a little later if we are making good progress. I call on the Minister of State to make an opening statement.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I take this opportunity to make a brief statement on certain matters relating to the Bill. Much of what we spoke about on Second Stage has been developed and I wish to update members.

I point out that as well as introducing some totally new provisions, the Bill also updates and refers to existing legislation such as the Charities Acts 1961 and 1973 and the Street and the House To House Collections Act 1962. Given this combination of new material, restatement of and reference to existing legislation, it is not always possible to accept amendments however well intentioned they may be in the way they are presented. Nonetheless, I acknowledge and appreciate the interest and the efforts made by members to enhance the Bill through the amendments which have been put down.

I draw the committee’s attention to the fact that a number of issues discussed on Second Stage have not yet been fully addressed through the necessary legal and departmental consultation processes. I will mention a number of them now but will do so in greater detail as we go through the Bill. Among the principal issues are first, definitional issues in section 3(8), particularly in relation to human rights and other purposes of benefit to the community. Second, avoidance of dual filing for charities which are already subject to regulation by other authorities such as the Companies Registration Office. Third, the effective regulation of charities without a legal presence in this jurisdiction. Fourth, the holding out provisions of section 41 which relate to issues such as second-hand clothing collections and fifth, but not exclusively, enhancing the permit and fund raising provisions in the Bill.

Although considerable work has been undertaken in an effort to finalise these matters since Second Stage I pay tribute to my officials on the work they have done there are complex issues involved which require careful consideration. In the circumstances, it will not be possible to finalise certain matters, such as those I have mentioned, until Report Stage when I look forward to bringing forward further amendments. I assure members that I will endeavour to take on board, to the greatest extent possible, any views they may express on these issues during Committee Stage.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I am glad we are on Committee Stage of this Bill. The Minister of State said there are some very complex matters which need to be dealt with and that some of the issues will be addressed on Report Stage. Many people have welcomed the Bill and want to see it passed by the Oireachtas. They want genuine charities to be protected by the law and the assurance that those who give money know it is going to a recognised charity.

I have tabled a number of amendments. There is much concern in regard to a number of areas, including the collection of clothes, mass cards and people with clip boards collecting money on the streets. We need to regulate that activity as strongly as possible. What we want from Committee Stage, and the Remaining Stages, is to produce a good Bill which is workable, does not put a big onus on the charities, makes it easy for them to be accountable to the regulator and which provides that the regulator doing his job will not overburden the charities and will allow them do their work.

I look forward to raising many issues with the Minister of State. I hope he would accept some of our amendments. They all are tabled to strengthen the Bill and the charities. People want to know that their donations are going to, and being spent by, genuine charities to which they make their donations.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I thank the Minister of State for his assistance on some of the amendments to the Bill about which we have spoken. His officials are also to be congratulated and thanked.

The Bill is of major significance to all the major charities. There are so many charities operating in the country that it is imperative we put good legislation in place. The Bill has been long promised. We hope today will be the first step in providing something that will legalise the system because there has been grave concern about many aspects of it. There is such significant work done by the volunteers and the full-time employees of charities that they too want something put in place which can provide a legal framework for the entire system and ensure for the future that the charity scene in Ireland is legislated for. Charities can build upon this Bill and adhere to it, and know that they are within the law in developing themselves.

Like Deputy Ring, my party tabled a number of amendments. I am sure the Minister of State will be sympathetic as far as possible in accepting them. They will not all be agreed but I am sure we will at least have an idea where the Minister of State and his officials stand on the matters. If, at that stage, we want to reintroduce amendments on Report Stage, we will be able to do so.

I look forward to the debate. With the good assistance of the Chairman we will progress in a relatively speed manner.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendment No. 1 is in the name of the Minister of State. Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 59 are related, therefore, amendments Nos. 1, 6, 7 and 59 will be discussed together, by agreement.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 1:

In page 9, subsection (1), to delete lines 4 and 5.

Amendment No. 59 to section 58, the production of documents and evidence on investigation, deletes the only reference to a “connected person” in the body of the Bill. The reason for this amendment is that it is considered in retrospect that placing an obligation to produce documents on a connected person such as a brother or sister of a trustee someone who may have nothing whatsoever to do with the charitable organisation in question would constitute an unfair burden and thus be unreasonable. As a consequence amendment No. 1 is required to remove the reference to connected person in section 2, the interpretation section. Accordingly, the references to “connected person” and “personal connection” in section 2 are being removed and replaced with a reference to “personal connection” only. Given the alphabetic nature of the listing, this requires moving the new reference to “personal connection” further on in this section, which is effected by amendment No. 6.

On a related matter, the definition of “personal connection” is also being expanded by amendment No. 7 to include the employee-employer relationship. After publication of the Bill a case was made by the charity sector that the definition of personal connection should also include the employer-employee relationship and following consideration of the matter, I have decided to amend the provision accordingly.

Amendment agreed to.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Deputy Wall. Amendment No. 5 is related, therefore, amendments Nos. 2 and 5 will be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 2:

In page 9, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

”(a) a body established by or under statute or statutory instrument or a body which is wholly owned by such a body or by a Minister of the Government, or a body whose members or any of them are appointed by such a body or by a Minister of the Government,”.

This was brought to my attention by a number of organisations in the charity sector. After consultation with my legal team, I want it withdrawn but discussed with the section and perhaps I will be in a position to put it forward as an amendment on Report Stage. There is a division between regular charities and those which are wholly owned by a statutory body such as the HSE. Our legal advisers believe other charities attached to different bodies may be affected by this change. Will the Minister of State outline in the context of the section how this amendment would affect the legislation?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I refer to amendments Nos. 2 and 5 which arise from a view that the independence of the charity sector might be undermined by not excluding statutory bodies from charitable status. A number of statutory bodies enjoy eligibility for charitable tax reliefs on foot of decisions by the Revenue Commissioners. I am concerned that the proposed amendments would have the effect of such bodies losing their existing entitlement to certain charitable tax exemptions. I would like to avoid such a scenario, as it is not the intention of the Bill to have such an effect. The Bill is consciously framed in such a way that the sole matters to be taken into consideration in making determinations as to whether an organisation is charitable are the purpose of the organisation and whether there is a public benefit. If statutory bodies meet these criteria to the satisfaction of the new authority, I fail to see a reason they should not be accorded charitable status. The status of the organisation, whether it is incorporated, a trust or a statutory body, is not an issue in making such determinations, nor should it be. I anticipate from information that will be available from the new register of charities, provided for in the legislation, that it will be apparent to members of the public who might have concerns as to whether an organisation is statutory or non-statutory.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Is there no way to distinguish between genuine charities such as Concern and, for example, bodies attached to the Department of Health and Children? By their very nature charities exist to deal with problems the State is not dealing with. Statutory organisations are controlled by a Minister and the Government. Should they be in the same category as voluntary charities? Should there not be two categories rather than having such bodies categorised similar to a charity? I would not like any charity, including bodies attached to the Department of Health and Children, to lose its funding or tax breaks but it is wrong that statutory bodies funded by the Government are in the same category as charities which raise funds from the public. What can be done to address this issue?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey A great deal of thought has gone into how this issue can be addressed. For example, bodies such as Pobal and the HSE do not fundraise. The line adopted in the Bill is most likely to accommodate the expectations of all involved in the sector. However, I acknowledge the comments of Deputies Wall and Ring and I am prepared to reflect further on the matter and come back to them on Report Stage. Many voluntary charities also get a considerable amount of funding, over 50%, from the Government. I am prepared to discuss the issue further with the relevant officials to see whether we can accommodate the concerns of Deputies Ring and Wall.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendment No. 4 is a logical alternative to amendment No. 3, therefore, amendments Nos. 3 and 4 will be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 3:

In page 9, line 25, to delete “, candidate or cause” and substitute “or candidate”.

This is one of the most controversial aspects of the Bill. I received more representations on this line in the Bill than on any other aspect. Many charitable organisations see the need for political intervention as they often have to make representations to their political representatives at national and international level with regard to a particular cause they follow and in which they want to ensure their charity is involved. If this line remains in the Bill, some of the charities could be excluded from charitable status which would have a major effect on them. For example, over the years many charities have made representations on issues such as the budget, particular Bills and what is happening on the international scene, across the Third World and Europe, where many of them operate and have contacts and employees. If we leave in the legislation the word “cause”, some charities would be excluded from charitable status, which would be detrimental to the overall thrust of the Bill, namely to ensure charities have a base and that the Government has a legal understanding with each charity with respect to how it should operate.

If we remove this important aspect of the work of charities by retaining the word “cause”, particularly in the international field where many organisations like Goal and Concern work, that would also be to the detriment of the Bill. There is no need for this word to be included. The Bill is supportive of charities in general, but this provision would exclude some charities. I urge the Minister of State to consider making this change.

In all the representations made to me this was the most prominent issue. There is concern that the right to make representations on a particular cause should not be removed from a charity. Will the Minister of State explain the reason behind this provision? It is a major concern for the bigger charities. I do not see any reason for retaining it. If the Minister of State accepts the amendment the charitable organisations will be grateful.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I submitted my amendment because this is an important issue on account of the nature of charities. Suppose, for example, the Government introduced some measure in the recent budget that would have a major effect on the poor. If the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Barnardos or some other charity felt there was an injustice and the Minister had made a genuine error which would have a major effect on the weak, it would be outrageous if they, as registered charities, could not lobby a Minister or Deputy and protest on the street to highlight it. It would be wrong if the regulator were to decide that a charity should be deregistered because it had engaged in political business. The Minister of State should accept this amendment. It would be wrong not to do so.

Charities deal with the weakest people in society, people unable to represent themselves in most cases. Many charities do work which should be done by the State. I am not one of those people who believe the State can do everything, however. Charities that work on behalf of the weakest and poorest people in society should not be penalised. If they feel the need to oppose certain decisions, as they did when the Government tried to introduce cutbacks known as the “dirty dozen” and the “savage 16”, they should be in a position to do so. Charities made the case in the past for weak and poor people who were suffering when the economy was going down the tubes. Organisations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul should be able to make political points. They should not be prevented from representing the poor simply because they are charitable movements, rather than political movements. Perhaps politicians are not always aware of what is happening. I ask the Minister of State to accept this amendment, which proposes to bring much needed clarity to this matter. We do not want problems to arise as a result of a lack of clarity. I hope the Minister of State will accept this reasonable amendment, which attempts to protect charities.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The relevant wording in the Bill was designed to allow a charity to engage in valid political work as a means of achieving its charitable aims, rather than as its primary activity. The advice I have received on the matter since Second Stage has confirmed that if an amendment of this nature is accepted, organisations that engage in political lobbying might be able to claim charitable status. I do not accept that charities should be predominantly engaged in political activities. The wording of this section achieves an appropriate balance. The regulatory authority will ultimately decide whether the primary objective of an organisation that is the key is the pursuit of a political cause. Any decision taken by the authority in this regard may be appealed to the charity appeals tribunal or to the High Court.

A draft provision that was included in the general scheme of the Bill would have prohibited charitable organisations from engaging predominantly in advocacy for political purposes. Perhaps Deputies Wall and Ring are talking about the issue of advocacy. It was decided to remove that provision during the drafting process. Practical issues had arisen, such as the need to protect the good work being done by certain bodies, like those mentioned by Deputies Ring and Wall. I refer to organisations supporting the victims of homicide and abuse, for example, or groups working on human rights issues. Such bodies would be likely to lose their charitable status if a restrictive definition of “advocacy” were to be adopted. It could be argued that many charitable organisations legitimately engage in advocacy as a means of achieving their charitable purposes. Groups like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Barnardos will be able to engage in advocacy under the provisions of this legislation. Although advocacy in itself might not be an organisation’s principal objective it is important to emphasise the word “principal” in that context the standard that has long been applied is that charities should not be primarily engaged in political activities. The wording of this section of the Bill maintains the status quo and should not affect any organisation that is currently eligible for charitable tax relief on foot of decisions taken by the Revenue Commissioners. On that basis, I am not in a position to accept the amendments before the committee.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I cannot agree with the points made by the Minister of State. Some charitable organisations might campaign on several causes over a short period in a manner that would cause concern to the regulator. That might not reflect the normal operations of the organisation it might be a consequence of what had happened. Such advocacy might not be the prime objective of the charitable group in the normal run of events, but when certain things happen, charities might have to make a point of raising certain issues over a short period. A Bill affecting some of the groups we are discussing, such as Barnardos, could result in significant political interaction during that time. For example, if a child is involved in a court case there might be interaction to change the legislation. A group might over a short period have reason to make political interventions. If the regulator says there is too much interference how would the organisation by virtue of the trust it holds, protect its actions and constitution, from the Government of the day or the actions of outside communities? That would achieve the opposite of what the Minister of State suggests and the regulator would say there is too much interference, that it is going beyond the remit of the Bill thus causing major problems that would not be of the organisation’s making.

There is no need for this provision. The Minister of State’s argument that some of the lobby groups could seek charitable status is covered at a later section of the Bill. I have letters from Wheel, Barnardos, Voice and other groups, all of which wanted to ensure that this did not happen. They do not want to confine their actions or give the regulator an opportunity to question their charitable status given their history. Wheel represents 1,000 charities, and was deeply concerned about this word. It could be excluded from the Bill if the Minister of State will forgive the pun because the definition of charitable status covers the problem he has outlined.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey We are speaking about excluded bodies and need to consider an organisation’s principal object. There is nothing to prevent any organisation, such as those Deputy Wall mentioned, from engaging in a concentrated period of lobbying or advocacy. For example, some of the pre-budget submissions we all receive are hard-hitting, some are unreasonable but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent their continuing.

I have given this serious consideration and strongly believe that including the provision for advocacy in the Bill takes account of the Deputy’s concerns. I am not being deliberately unhelpful but my proposal here strengthens the provisions of the Bill and does not detract from the right of organisations such as Barnardos, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Goal, Concern or any others to engage in valid and legitimate advocacy work.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I am curious that the word “political” is used in the Bill. Everything is political. The church is political, as are the GAA and soccer authorities. This is of major concern to charities and I can see why. We will make the law with the Minister of State, but a regulator will regulate implementation of the legislation and it is his or her understanding of the word that will matter. There are some sensitive politicians in this country who do not like to be criticised. The Minister of State is right. Every year we are all lobbied by groups, some of which come before this committee and make a case for what they want. Let us call a spade a spade. If the Government, the State and everything was perfect in this world, we would not need charities. We need them because the State is not able to cope with demand. Charities collect money and raise issues. Their role is to come before committees of the Oireachtas and make contact with politicians, if they perceive injustice. The only way they can do this is through political lobbying to have the law changed.

That is why the amendment seeks to have the word “political” removed. I ask the Minister of State to accede to it as it is a reasonable request by Deputy Wall and me and the parties we represent. We are trying to protect charities by preventing an insensitive Minister at some stage decreeing that a particular charity such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which might have crossed the line in its activities and strayed into the political arena should be dealt with by the regulator. We cannot have that. I ask the Minister of State to accept this reasonable amendment, one that would protect charities in keeping with the purpose of the Bill. This is an opportunity to do so.

I detect negativity about what is being proposed. How officialdom regulators and other officials determines the wording included in a Bill sometimes creates a problem. One of the most frequent complaints made as regards legislation is that Bills are not written in appropriate language. People do not understand precisely what is meant. Bills are drafted by officials and the Government to actually cause confusion, to ensure that if something unforeseen happens, it can be dealt with, by saying in effect: “That is what we meant when we had that word included in the legislation.” That is why I ask the Minister of State to accept the amendment. It would not create a major problem for him, but would help to clarify the role of charities.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The office of the charities regulator will be the body which will decide this matter; it is not one for a thin-skinned Minister, whatever his or her political persuasion. As long as I am around, I will strongly support the right of political groups to advocate and lobby. In this case, however, we cannot accede to the amendment. An “excluded body” means a political party or a body, the principal object of which is to promote a political party, candidate or cause. I shall repeat what I said: any decision by the authority in this regard can be appealed to the charity tribunal and the High Court. There is, therefore, a further appeals mechanism. Much as I support the sentiments of Deputies Ring and Wall, I am not in a position to accede to either of the amendments proposed.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall It is all right to refer to appeals and the mechanisms that will be in place to protect charities. However, in this instance we are talking about organisations which are household names in Ireland. We are saying, in effect, that if they step outside the remit of the Bill, the regulator will make a decision. As I said, it may not be the intention of a group or charity to infringe the terms of legislation but merely to highlight the circumstances of a case.

It would be a terrible indictment of Irish society if, due to a position that was not of the charity’s making, it was challenged by the regulator and had to appeal the decision. If we take out this particular word in the section and allow the charity to continue with representations and so on, then given the undue pressure on the charity to make many representations over a short period of time, the threat of the regulator will not be there. However, if the word is left in then that threat will always be there, despite the fact that the charity is only doing its work and protecting those it serves. The charity is only trying to protect itself by these actions, yet the regulator could determine its actions as outside the charity’s remit and could make it an excluded body. I would imagine that there is a stigma attached to a charity that has to appeal a decision. People would wonder about such a charity and why it had to appeal a decision of the regulator.

I understand the reasons given by the Minister of State, but the follow on from that and the appeal mechanism places a grey area around the charity. If a charity appealed a decision, peoples’ first inclination would be to think there was something wrong anyway. However, in this instance, there is nothing wrong other than the circumstances of the day where the charity had to make a far greater demand of the political system than the norm. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider this section and to discuss it with his officials. It has upset all the charities that I mentioned. We are talking about thousands of charities and there must be a logic to their argument on the issue.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Deputy Wall is quite correct. The charities have been lobbying us very hard on this issue. They have concerns and they would not normally lobby because they would prefer to be out doing their work. However, they are worried about this section and I can understand why. We all know how government works and how institutions work. Going through an appeal mechanism and possibly ending up in the High Court is not good for a charity. The word goes out. We have heard rumours in the past about charities that did not exist at all. That damages charities in general.

I find the Minister of State a very reasonable man and I know his officials will try to deal with this issue. I do not want to push this to a vote today, but I hope that he might reconsider it for Report Stage. If we do not get agreement, we will have to put it to a vote. We do not want to divide today, but we will later. These charities have lobbied hard and they have a concern. They only have a few concerns about the entire Bill, but this is one of the main points. I ask the Minister of State and his officials to have another look at this to see how we can get around it.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I take on board what Deputies Ring and Wall have said, without making any commitment. It is my understanding that the organisations to which I referred, and those referred to by Deputies Ring and Wall, currently enjoy charitable exemption. That will not change under this Bill. What we are discussing here is the exclusion of bodies whose principal objective is to promote a particular political party or a candidate representing a particular cause. I am prepared to look again at this issue with a view to reaching an accommodation that takes on board the concerns members have articulated. Unfortunately, I cannot offer a firmer commitment than that and I suggest the Deputies resubmit their amendments on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 5:

In page 9, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(f) organisations under the control of a Minister including public bodies or state agencies or organisations the constitutions of which contain clauses that entitle a Minister to set the form of, or exercise control over, constitutions/Memos/Articles of association or nominate a controlling number of directors.”.

In the discussion on amendment No. 2, I made the point that charities must be independent and that they are not and should not be controlled by the State. Various State agencies and charities, such as the HSE and Pobal, enjoy tax exemptions from the Revenue Commissioners. My objective is to simplify the situation so that State agencies and charities are separate. It is not my intention that the HSE or any State entity should lose its right to tax exemptions. However, it is important that the public is not confused as to the difference between charities and State bodies.

Charities are voluntary entities set up by volunteers to work for a particular cause. However, the HSE, for example, is not a voluntary organisation but is controlled by the State via the Minister. There must be clarity so that people can be clear on the difference. State agencies are controlled by a Minister and are obliged to implement Government policy. A charity, on the other hand, is independent of the State. Will the Minister of State explain whether there is any way to differentiate between State agencies with a charitable remit and voluntary charities? Is it possible to define two separate statuses?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I understand Deputy Ring’s point. I have already indicated in response to Deputy Wall that I am prepared to consider how these concerns can be accommodated in the Bill and the regulations. I will return to this on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, subsection (1), between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

““personal connection” shall be construed in accordance with subsection (2);”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 7:

In page 10, subsection (2)(a), between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

“(iv) a person is connected with any person by whom he is employed under a contract of service,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 8:

In page 11, subsection (2)(b), line 2, to delete “section 157 of the Corporation Tax Act 1976” and substitute the following:

“section 11 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997”.

This technical amendment is put forward on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 3.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 9 and 12 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, subsection (1)(d), line 9, after “community” to insert the following:

“including the advancement of human rights and the promotion of equality or for advancing social or economic policy”.

We have discussed this issue with the Minister of State and his officials. It is my understanding that an effort will be made by them on Report Stage to address the inclusion sought in this amendment. Last night, I read a report from the previous Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, which indicated that these headings were included in the 2006 Bill. Given the international dimension of our charities, it would be difficult to understand why what is termed “advancement of human rights and the promotion of equality or for advancing social or economic policy” would not be included. These comprise a major part of the Bill and I hope the Minister of State and his officials will address them. I will withdraw the amendment and resubmit it so that the Minister of State can address it on Report and Final Stages.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I hear what Deputy Wall is saying. Regarding Government amendment No. 16, a number of definitional issues were raised by Deputies on Second Stage, including the definition of “purpose that is of benefit to the community”. Having considered the matter, I am in a position to include in the definition the phrase “the advancement of the efficient and effective use of the property of charitable organisations”. This arises from a perspective that organisations established solely to assist charities in fulfilling their role in an efficient or effective way are worthy of charitable status. The word “property” in this context encompasses all of the resources of a charity and should not be interpreted as merely referring to lands owned by the charity.

Listening to the Deputies, I am conscious that the definition of charitable purpose in section 3(8) has been of considerable interest to the sector, particularly in regard to the inclusion of human rights. A number of amendments are here listed. In this context, I am continuing to consider some possible further amendments to section 3(8) that may be considered on Report Stage. This is being done in consultation with other relevant Departments and the Office of the Attorney General. As these matters are in the deliberative process, I am not in a position to offer a definitive opinion at this time. Nor am I in a position to accept amendments Nos. 9 and 17. However, I am committed to revert on Report Stage.

Regarding amendment No. 12, I remind members that the definition of “purpose that is of benefit to the community” includes the purposes listed in section 3(8). It does not rule out similar other purposes from being regarded as being of benefit to the community. For this reason, amendment No. 12 is unnecessary and I cannot accept it.

Amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 15 suggest changing the existing references to the “promotion” of certain purposes that are of benefit to the community to the “advancement” of such purposes. From the advice available to me, it is my understanding that these amendments, if accepted, would effect no substantive changes in the Bill as currently worded. Thus, I do not propose to accept them. However, I will revert to the committee on the human rights issue and a number of other matters.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following subsection:

“(3) A body which has charitable purposes and provides public benefit does not meet the charity test if it is or one of its purposes is to advance a political party or a political candidate.”.

This reflects amendment No. 3. I will withdraw the amendment with a view to resubmitting it pending the proposals by the Minister of State on Report Stage.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey On Second Stage, a number of people, including Deputy Ring, suggested that the wording relating to charities engaged in political activities might be changed to reflect the wording in the equivalent Scottish legislation. As a general point, much of the legal advice given to the Department during the drafting process has been to the effect that provisions in UK legislation do not transfer easily into Irish law however simple it might seem at face value. The relevant wording in the Bill is designed to allow charities to engage in valid political work as a means of achieving their charitable purpose rather than being the primary purpose itself. We will return to this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 11:

In page 11, subsection (5), line 26, after “concerned” to insert the following:

“, provided that for the purposes of this section, ’religion’ shall not include any organisation or cult which in the opinion of the Authority is primarily economic in nature or employs oppressive psychological manipulation of its adherents”.

I am moving this amendment because, in some cases, cults have used the oppressive psychological manipulation of persons to make them join. While the percentage of families involved is not high, many have suffered. There is a need for the Oireachtas to make a statement in the Bill reflective of that fact. My perspective on the Bill is known, but I would not want it to look as though we encourage such cults and organisations or that they should have charitable status. This is a major concern of mine. I will reflect on the response of the Minister of State but there is a public concern that such organisations are beginning to gain a foothold in Ireland, given the oppressive nature of their manipulation. We should consider this amendment, which would send the signal that such cults are not acceptable here as charitable organisations given the mechanisms used to attract members.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I acknowledge that this has been a concern for many Members but they are aware that the Bill provides that, as well as having to have a charitable purpose, every charitable organisation must demonstrate that it has a public benefit. The exception to this requirement applies to charitable organisations involved in the advancement of religion, in which case there is an automatic assumption of public benefit. This maintains the legal status quo, which is included in the Charities Act 1961. I appreciate that the proposed amendment refers to matters that were mentioned on Second Stage. The matter has also been raised directly with my Department. I have sought legal advice and, subject to advice received and further consultation with Government colleagues, I am prepared to consider if amendments to section 3 are required on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, not moved.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 16:

In page 12, subsection (8), between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“(h) the advancement of the efficient and effective use of the property of

charitable organisations,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 4 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 13.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 18:

In page 14, subsection (1), lines 16 to 43 and in page 15, lines 1 to 3, to delete

paragraphs (a) to (k) and substitute the following:

“(a) establish and maintain a register of charitable organisations,

(b) encourage, facilitate and monitor compliance by charities with the provisions of this Act, including by way of issuing (or as is considers appropriate approving) guidelines, codes of conduct, and model constitutional documents,

(c) carry out investigations in accordance with this Act,

(d) take remedial or protective action in relation to the findings of such investigations,

(e) give information or advice, or to make proposals to the Minister on matters relating to the Authority’s functions,

(f) do any other thing consistent with its responsibilities under this Act.”.

This refers to the regulator, that his or her function is to regulate and not to interfere with the running of the charity. The regulator may make observations but the role is to regulate and there should be no confusion between the regulator’s role and that of charities.

Charities are concerned that this be made clear as they believe the regulator should advise but not have any other capacity. The role and functions of the regulator must be clearly understood and they must not involve telling charities how to do their business. Observations can be made and views expressed in an annual report but it must not be part of the role to interfere in the day to day running of charities. As it is, we are over-regulated and while we need a regulator and accountability in the context of this Bill we do not want the regulator’s role to cross over and interfere with the role and functions of charities.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey This amendment would omit a number of what I consider to be important functions of the authority proposed in the Bill. It also seeks to confine the authority to a regulatory and enforcement role. The authority should have a supportive and advisory role for charitable organisations. The latter role will be particularly important to smaller charitable organisations which constitute the vast majority of charitable organisations in the country. The roles are not mutually incompatible and it is common for regulators to have both roles. This is appropriate.

The legislation provides for a review of the Act after five years. This would be the appropriate time to reflect on whether the range of functions assigned to the authority has operated satisfactorily. At this juncture, my Department has been asked to consider an issue relating to charities established or regulated by statute or charter and their access to commissioners of charitable donations and bequests and, following establishment day, to the new authority. I intend to address this matter on Report Stage by way of an appropriate amendment if necessary.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The regulator’s role requires clarity and the holder of the post should state to charities what they must do and not what they could do. The regulator’s role should be to implement the law of the land and advise charities on the law and not to state that charities could improve on aspects of what they do. Charities want clarity and they have raised concerns about this. While the regulator’s job will be to regulate, charities want to be able to seek independent advice and be run in a way they seem fit. Charities do not want the regulator’s role to cross over whereby he or she will tell charities how they could improve. This is why I seek clarity.

We will discuss this further on Report Stage and I hope for clear understanding on the roles and functions of the regulator and charities. The nature of charities means they depend on people giving of their time. It is not easy to find people to do voluntary work in this day and age.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I agree with Deputy Ring on this matter on which we have received a great deal of representations from concerned charitable organisations, some of which feel a conflict of interest will arise with regard to the regulator working both sides of the field. I have tabled an amendment on this matter as we must take cognisance of the individuality and independence of charitable organisations and their constitutions.

Concerns have been expressed that this appears to be a Big Brother situation where the regulator will look over the shoulders of charities at all times. That is the concern that has been expressed. Numerous charities have been in touch to say they are not happy with it and how it might affect them. The Minister should rethink this section to ensure the constitutions of the various organisations are unaffected and to give due regard to their independence. He must ensure that charity organisations are not undermined or upset by the actions of the regulator.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey One of the great strengths of this Bill is that it was developed in close consultation with the sector. A large number of charities are very small and will depend on the regulator to provide advice and support, as well as to act in a regulatory capacity. It is envisaged that consultative panels will be established to continue the consultation with the charities sector. A review mechanism is also built into the Bill, which is the best way to deal with this particular conundrum, regarding the policeman and pal approach. The dual role recognises the extent of voluntary involvement in charities. This differs from most other types of organisations which are professional and profit based. Thus, the regulator for charities needs to be able to advise and support charities, particularly the smaller ones. I am prepared to examine this to determine if any tweaking or modification can be made but I cannot make any firm commitment in that regard. The authority will not be the only source of advice or support to the sector. Independent umbrella bodies will continue to have a role and the Bill will not change that situation. There is also a commitment under Towards 2016 to assist the sector in this regard.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall The Minister of State has stated that there was close contact with the sector during the drafting of the legislation. If that is the case, why have so many individual organisations approached Deputy Ring and myself and argued that they have concerns about this section? As far as they are concerned, the wording of the Bill allows for too much interference, which will affect them negatively, if implemented. Section 13(1) of the Bill states:

The general functions of the Authority shall be to—

(a) increase public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and charitable organisations,

The word “increase” should be replaced with “maintain” because increase suggests that the regulator will be working from a position where there is a low level of public trust in charities.

We were given information by charities and have come to this meeting today with amendments which were drafted because of the concerns expressed to us by the various organisations. Some organisations made representations to us on behalf of a number of different charities. Seven separate groups voiced their concerns to me regarding this section. Each one of those seven was speaking on behalf of a number of charities. While I do not deny that due consideration was given to the views of the sector, concern has been expressed with regard to this section. Those making representations have argued that there could be too much interference by the regulator. They maintain there is a need for a reflective overview of this section. I ask the Minister to examine this section again. Otherwise, there may be a need to expand it or have a vote on it on Report Stage. However, I do not want to have a vote on it if agreement is possible. As I have said, seven groups representing many charities have approached me with regard to this section. They are obviously concerned and are unhappy with it. In that context, I ask the Minister of State to review it.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring This is about Big Brother getting involved, using an arm of the State to interfere in the running of the charities. Charities do not mind being regulated; it is the law and they accept it. However, they do not want to be over-regulated. We have seen this with other regulators. We have seen the Commission for Electricity Regulation seek an increase in the price of electricity while the company it regulated wanted to decrease the price. The regulator’s job is to regulate.

The regulator’s job in this case is to ensure that every charity in this country is above board and does its business properly, but not to interfere in their day-to-day running. That is what this is about. The charities' concern if the regulator is given powers, or if there is doubt over whether it has powers, is that it would interfere in the running of the charities. I have received the same representations as Deputy Wall. There is concern. In any job, people do not want to be over-regulated, but they want to know that existing regulations are clear. They want to know what the regulator’s job is and what the charities’ job is and to ensure that the two do not cross each other.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White Zoom on Mary Alexandra White Coming from a business background, I support the Minister of State’s view. Nobody wants paper mountains or over-regulation. People want to streamline their businesses and in this case I hope we can facilitate the charities and put in place a system that would be more pal than policeman. I trust the general thrust of this Bill and amendment that we would be able to support charities rather than come down with a heavy hand and overburden them with regulations. I presume that if we have further worries on Report Stage we can tackle them then. In a general spirit of trust I hope this Bill would support charities and not over-regulate them with paper mills, excessive red tape and bureaucracy. Who wants that? We do not. We want to ensure the smooth running of charities. I hope with the implied trust in this Bill, this will happen.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall That is what these groups are talking about. They do not want this. They want that compatibility with the Bill and that is why they have concerns about this section and why we ask the Minister of State to rethink it.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey As I indicated, we will have to return on other aspects of this section so I will think about it. I remind members that, from the outset of this Bill, there was a process of public consultation and it was always envisaged that the authority would have a supportive ethos. As Deputy White said, we do not want to create paper mountains and make it difficult for charities to operate. The overwhelming majority of those who made submissions did not have an issue on the proposal that the authority would have that supportive ethos. I will return with further thoughts about this on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 19 not moved.

Section 13 agreed to.

Sections 14 to 16, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 17.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendment No. 20, in the name of Deputy Ring, is out of order because it involves a potential charge on Revenue.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I would hate to put a charge on Revenue. I will discuss this on Report and Final Stages.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy It is out of order.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Deputy Ring can discuss it.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy If it is out of order it should not be discussed, am I right?

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Deputy Ring is entitled to speak on it.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I have the right to raise it if I wish.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy I would have thought if an amendment is out of order, it is out of order.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Although the amendment is out of order, the Deputy is entitled to speak on it.

Amendment No. 20 not moved.

Section 17 agreed to.

Sections 18 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 26.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 21:

In page 20, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) The Freedom of Information Act 1997 shall apply to the Authority.”.

This is a logical amendment as the Freedom of Information Act should apply to any such regulatory body and this case is no different. Unfortunately, the Freedom of Information Act 1997 has been diluted to the detriment of the public and it is sad that the decision to allow this was made. It seems to me that this dilution of the Act does not respect the right of the public to transparency in Departments.

In this case, there should be nothing for the regulatory authority to hide and people have a right to know what it does. Charity is very important and, given the funds raised by the many charities in Ireland, I see no reason that the Freedom of Information Act 1997 should not apply to the authority in question.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I agree with that as this may apply to many groups the Minister was to include vocational education committees and other groups. We either have a policy of freedom of information or we do not. We are all open to scrutiny and this applies to the proceedings of the Dáil. Freedom of information requests are made every day and that is fine. Such requests apply to Ministers, Departments and individual Deputies so there is no reason that the Freedom of Information Act should not apply in this case.

As Deputy Wall said, this is supposed to be an open society. Charities are doing their jobs and the regulator is doing its job so if a person wishes to table a freedom of information request, he or she should be allowed to do so. I see no justification for not including this provision in the Bill, particularly as it relates to charities and money people wish to see accounted for.

This issue is less about money and more about people getting information from the regulator and there is nothing wrong with that. As is the case with Members of the Oireachtas, personal information should not be given but anything relating to rules and regulations applying to charities should be available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I accept the intention of Deputy Wall’s amendment and I support the principle that the authority should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1997. Regarding the practicalities of accepting the amendment, I have been advised that the preferred method of ensuring that bodies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act is to update the Act’s Schedule. This is arranged by the Department of Finance on an ongoing basis and I intend that the authority will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and that it will be added to the Schedule of that Act at the appropriate time. I cannot accept the amendment at this time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 26 agreed to.

SECTION 27.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 22:

In page 20, subsection (1), line 17, to delete “in” and substitute “relevant to”.

This is a technical amendment that seeks to change the term “in the performance of its functions” to “relevant to the performance of its functions” as this would render the information that could be made available more pertinent. A number of groups sought that amendment in order that one would receive details relevant to the authority rather than just its performance.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey By way of background, the amendment seeks to restrict the authority in reporting a suspected offence to the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. As drafted, there is no restriction on reporting any offence, even where it is completely unrelated to the activities of a charity. Such a suspected offence might be uncovered by the inspector appointed to examine the affairs of a charity. The amendment would confine reporting of offences relevant to the functions of the authority. Any offence committed by a charity or its employees or volunteers is one that breaks the law and should be brought to the attention of the relevant authority. As we encourage citizens to report offences, I do not see why the authority should be any different. The proposed amendment is restrictive in nature. Therefore, I am not prepared to accept it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 27 agreed to.

Sections 28 to 30, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 26 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 23:

In page 21, before section 31, to insert the following new section:

31.—(1) The Authority may provide a relevant person with such information in the possession of the Authority as may reasonably be required for the purpose of enabling the relevant person to perform his or her functions.

(2) In this section “relevant person” means—

(a) the Garda Síochána,

(b) the Revenue Commissioners, or

(c) any other person charged under any statute with—

(i) ensuring compliance with the provisions of any statute, or

(ii) the detection, investigation or prosecution of any offence.”.

The Bill, as drafted, in the existing section 31, provides for co-operation between the authority and other regulators. However, the authority will also be required to work with other bodies which might not be regarded strictly as regulators. In the context of data protection legislation, the present wording would not allow such co-operation in information sharing. As it is considered beneficial to extend the scope for information sharing or administrative co-operation between the authority and other statutory organisations and agencies such as the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, the new section as set out in the amendment is proposed. It will also facilitate information sharing in compiling the register of charities or in granting permits for fundraising. I am satisfied that such information sharing will prove to be of considerable benefit to the charities sector.

Members will appreciate that I am anxious to ensure the possibility that discrepancies or anomalies which arise in establishing the initial register of charities vis-à-vis the Revenue Commissioners’ list of charities for tax exemption is minimised. To avoid this as far as possible, amendment No. 26 will expressly require the authority to consult the Revenue Commissioners. In this way the authority will be able to tap into the commissioners’ considerable knowledge and expertise in this area. The provision will complement the new section 31 dealing with information sharing.

Amendment No. 24 is purely a drafting amendment concerning the definition of regulatory bodies outside the jurisdiction. The original subsection has been redrafted to ensure greater clarity. On a related matter, a number of issues have been raised in the context of this section concerning operational issues in regulating charities based outside the jurisdiction. Legal advice has been sought and depending upon the advice received, it may be necessary to bring forward further amendments on Report Stage.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring As regards the information provided for various agencies, people are always worried about information being passed to the Revenue Commissioners or other State agencies. It is fine when it comes to the Garda Síochána because if something criminal is being done, everybody would support such information being passed on. Will this measure have any effect concerning charities in that information might be given to a Minister who may be allocating funding to a charity? For example, it might be found that a charity was raising a lot more money than was thought and might not need as much support as was provided in the past. Would such information be given to the Revenue Commissioners? I understand the Revenue Commissioners will need to know that the funding being collected is being used for charitable purposes and that the State is not being defrauded of tax. I always worry when information is passed from one agency to another. Recently, a lot of information went astray in Britain. Banks send people’s information to others. I would like the Minister of State to assure me that this provision will be in the best interests of charities rather than the Government and the State.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The Deputy took the words out of my mouth. What we propose is for the benefit of charities. The Bill will also remain subject to data protection regulations. Therefore, what the Deputy suggests will not happen.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I wanted the Minister of State to assure me because I am always concerned when information is passed on.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 31 agreed to.

SECTION 32.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 24:

In page 23, to delete subsection (6) and substitute the following:

“(6) In this section “foreign statutory body” means a person prescribed by regulations made by the Minister, in whom functions relating to charitable organisations or charitable trusts are vested under the law of a state other than the State.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 32, as amended, agreed to.

Section 33 agreed to.

SECTION 34.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 25 and 74 are cognate and may be discussed together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 25:

In page 24, subsection (4), line 2, to delete “effluxion” and substitute “efflux”.

These are purely technical amendments proposed on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General. I understand “efflux” is the more grammatically correct term. I do not know if any of the teachers present want to get involved.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White Zoom on Mary Alexandra White What does the word “efflux” mean?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It means the passage of time.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 34, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 35 and 36 agreed to.

SECTION 37.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 26:

In page 25, subsection (1), line 38, after “section” to insert the following:

“and after consultation with the Revenue Commissioners”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 27:

In page 25, after line 40, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) A once-off spontaneous collection to meet the needs of a specific community or personal tragedy or similar event which involves fund-raising of not more than €50,000 over a period of not more than three months shall not require to be registered under this Act.”.

This amendment was tabled because of concerns about spontaneous collections. Everyone present is au fait with spontaneous collections following a tragedy or an occurrence in an area, about which we spoke to the Minister of State and his officials. If there is a tragedy, for example, a house burning down or a major catastrophe, the local community might come together spontaneously to make a collection for the persons affected. In many instances, an account is opened in the local bank and a number of trustees are appointed. However, the concern is whether those involved have to apply for charitable status. If so, they are immediately caught up in the associated red tape. If charitable status must be applied for, it might sound the death knell for spontaneous collections. That is why a number of groups mentioned this issue. A number of colleagues in both the Dáil and Seanad also mentioned it to me. We seek an assurance from the Minister of State that such spontaneity will not be undermined in any way. Some, including Deputy Ring, say that in certain instances people have gone overboard in terms of spontaneity in that some have made collections which perhaps they should not have, even though there was goodwill in the neighbourhood and among those organising it. In general, such spontaneity is unique to an area. It is a sure sign of neighbourliness which we would not want the Bill to undermine in any way. That is why the amendment was tabled, to at least clear up the matter of spontaneous collections and what such people in a locality, neighbourhood or parish can do. In that way, none of that activity will be undermined or become subject to red tape, thereby making it an area in which people would not wish to become involved. That would result in localities losing all the momentum of goodwill and neighbourliness which has existed, not for years but generations.

I seek clarity on the question of spontaneous collections and on how they fit in with the core issues of the Bill. If the Minister of State can provide me with it I will not press the amendment.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I support Deputy Wall on this. Every Deputy and Senator has witnessed in the past where there is a serious tragedy in the community, for instance, such as a house fire where those concerned may not have insurance and all their worldly possessions are burnt, and the public wants to do something. In such cases there is a committee set up to collect money house to house and help the needy family.

I would not like to see that changing but there is also the question of accountability. Others would say there can be too many such collections but, generally, people in a community know if something needs such support and they will support those collections. The people have been very generous.

I am sure the Minister of State will assure us that such activity is not intended to be curtailed in any way by this Bill, that these are separate from the charities and that, as Deputy Wall stated, they are one-off instances where there is a problem with which the State agencies are not able to deal and about which the community wants to do something.

I have seen this occur in my area. I have seen collections for worthy causes such as people who found themselves in serious difficulty where the State and the charitable organisations were not able to reach out and provide the amount of money needed at the time to deal with the particular problem.

Like Deputy Wall, I want to ensure that in no way would such activity be affected. It is a necessary safety valve. Sometimes we need to use it where people can come together in a serious situation in the community with which the State agencies or the charitable organisations are not able to deal. As Deputy Wall stated, if there is a problem in a community a committee with two or three trustees is always set up and those people deal with the money in the best way for those who need it most. I am sure the Minister of State will reassure us that nothing in the Bill will interfere in any way with such activity.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I am in a position to clarify, I hope to the satisfaction of all the Deputies present, that the position on those types of spontaneous collections will not change. We discussed this matter earlier. The Street and House to House Collections Act 1962 will govern these types of collections. For clarity I will mention the following points as well.

The potential impact of the legislation on collections in aid of local or international tragedies has been raised. The Bill does not change the current position on spontaneous collections. What has applied up to now in the case of such collections will continue to apply. I would point out that spontaneous collections made within a workplace, an office or a private club do not require a collection permit as it stands.

However, I would suggest that spontaneous public cash collections have the potential to give, as Deputy Ring adverted to, unscrupulous people license to defraud the public. The public is entitled to know that its generous contribution to a spontaneous collection is properly accounted for, as in the case of a normal public collection that has a permit. The key point is that after enactment when whatever is collected has been handed over to a charity the public will be in a much better position than it is at present to verify that its contribution goes towards the charitable purpose to which it was intended.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I will withdraw the amendment. I do not doubt the Minister of State’s comments but I will only resubmit the amendment to give Members an opportunity when Report Stage of the Bill is taken in the Dáil because the issue was raised everywhere. Many Members will want to discuss it and I will resubmit the amendment for that reason only.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 28:

In page 26, subsection (2), line 4, after “Minister” to insert the following:

“, provided that no fee shall be charged in respect of a small charitable organisation, being an organisation which comes within a threshold proscribed by the Minister”.

I tabled the amendment so that small charities would not incur additional costs under this section. It is tough going for many charities to raise funds at the coalface and bear an additional cost because of this section. That would not be appropriate. The regulator, through the Exchequer should provide funding in this regard. If small charities were charged, they would collect from the people to give to the regulator and, ultimately, the Exchequer. The charity should use the money it collects from the public for the purpose intended. I hope the Minister of State will re-examine this issue. It would be a retrograde step to charge a charitable organisation fees relating to the regulation of their business.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Chairman ruled out an amendment of mine earlier on the basis that it would result in a charge on the Exchequer. Members of my party wanted to vote against the Bill because they feel we have too many regulations with no accountability to the Dáil. They felt the Minister of State and his Department should deal with the regulations rather than appointing a regulator. I am convinced, however, a regulator is needed. If we find in five years when the legislation is reviewed that the regulator is charging charities a fortune to operate on a day-to-day basis, that would defeat the purpose of the legislation. There is nothing wrong with charities incurring a nominal cost but they should not find themselves in a scenario where they must raise money to pay for the regulator’s office and his or her staff. That would defeat the whole purpose of the Bill and of charity in this country.

Members of my party were unhappy about the appointment of a regulator and I was sick and tired of tabling questions to the Minister for Health and Children which were then referred to Professor Drumm because she said she had no responsibility. The only time Ministers take responsibility is when they are announcing something good. When it is bad, they have no responsibility and refer everything to a regulator or another official. The same happens with questions to the National Roads Authority, with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government saying he has no responsibility in the area. The Minister of State might say charities are the responsibility of the regulator and not him.

However, I support the appointment of a regulator. I do not want in five years to find charities lobbying Members saying the regulator was a positive move but they did not realise they would have to pay for his or staff and the running of his or her office. I hope the Minster of State will reassure the committee that will not happen.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I stress that the proposal to charge a fee for registration is a standard, enabling provision and it is not mandatory. The authority will not be obliged to impose fees. It would be remiss of me not to include such a clause, though it will, ultimately, be a matter for further consideration with the requisite parties as to whether the clause is invoked. It is envisaged that the authority will be funded from the Exchequer and the Bill makes express provision to this effect in section 5. It would be entirely inconsistent with the supportive role of the charges regulator if any of the moneys donated to a charity were used for administrative purposes or charges associated with complying with the regulation. I assure Deputies that will not be the case.

The issue of accountability to the Dáil was raised by many Deputies on Second Stage. The authority will be answerable to various committees of the Oireachtas. It will not have a significant operational budget and will represent value for money. It has been estimated that the sector has a total economic value of €2.5 billion. What is being proposed is a small price to pay to ensure confidence in this valuable sector and to ensure this confidence is preserved.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 29:

In page 26, subsection (5), line 23, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:

“(c) specify the names of the charity trustees and the addresses at which they ordinarily reside,”.

The purpose of this amendment is to have charity trustees provide the addresses at which they ordinarily reside in their application for registration as a charity. This is considered necessary so the authority can, if it so needs, write to trustees and distinguish between trustees of the same name. There may, for example, be a John Murphy trustee of a registered charity in Cork and another John Murphy in Donegal. It will be necessary, therefore, to have an address for trustees. This may also be useful in setting up the register of disqualified trustees, provided for elsewhere in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 30:

In page 26, subsection (5)(d), line 24, to delete “where it operates” and substitute “where the charitable organisation operates”.

This is a technical amendment for the purposes of clarity in which the word “it” is replaced by “the charitable organisation”.

Amendment agreed to.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 31 to 34, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 31:

In page 26, subsection (5)(h)(i), line 36, to delete “in respect of the period of 3 years” and substitute “during the 12 months”.

Some further consideration has taken place regarding the requirement that as part of the application for registration charities should provide information on moneys raised during the preceding three years. It is now considered that this would place a heavy compliance burden on smaller charities and as newly formed charities would only be able to provide information since their formation, it is proposed in amendments Nos. 31 and 33 to reduce this requirement to 12 months. Amendments Nos. 32 and 34 are needed as a consequence of amendments Nos. 31 and 33.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 32:

In page 26, subsection (5)(h)(ii), line 40, to delete “each year” and substitute the following:

“the period”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 33:

In page 27, subsection (5)(m)(i), line 18, to delete “3 years” and substitute “12 months”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 34:

In page 27, subsection (5)(m)(ii), line 23, to delete “each year” and substitute “the period”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 35:

In page 27, subsection (6), line 33, after “practicable” to insert “, and in any event not more than two months”.

This amendment suggests a timescale should be placed with regard to an application to the regulator. Currently, the Bill states “as soon as practicable”, but we should insert a timescale, given the time and effort put into applications by organisations. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a decision should be made within a two-month period. This is necessary with regard to what happens in these situations. Organisations need to get up and running and to know they have charitable status so they can move on with what they seek to do. It is reasonable to seek a timescale for the regulator’s decision. I suggest a two-month maximum limit for the decision on an application.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I am satisfied that the existing provision in the Bill for registering charities is sufficient. The amendment would place an unwelcome burden on the authority, particularly in the initial stages of establishing the register when it is likely that a large number of applications will be submitted. The amendment would not provide any leeway, whereby the authority could seek an explanation or further documentation from the applicant. If we were to provide for a two-month timeframe, there would be a danger that charities might not have compiled all their documentation when they tried to register. The regulator would probably have to ask for additional information in such circumstances. The imposition of a two-month timeframe would be very restrictive. The burden it would place on the authority might lead it to make its decisions too quickly. The authority will be required to perform its functions in an efficient and timely manner, consistent with the best practice of such bodies. In this context, amendment No. 35 is unnecessary. While its intention is good, it would provide for too short a timeframe. Other jurisdictions where this process has been adopted have allowed for a long time in which the registration process can be completed. That will be necessary here because we are dealing with a vast array of charities with varying objectives.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I have a concern. Like any State agency, the authority should have to work within a specified timeframe when dealing with a particular issue. Many charities will make applications only to be told eight or nine months later by the regulator that the applications have not yet been considered. I am talking about people who are ready to move and set up. They are waiting for their registration to be approved. I would like the Minister of State to set out a timeframe on Report Stage to ensure the authority will be accountable to the people. Perhaps a two-month timeframe might be too short. We need to prevent the recurrence of circumstances in which the staff of the regulator would be too busy in their offices to deal with application forms which might have been received five years earlier. We should set out a timeframe within which the authority would have to respond to its clients. If it has not received the information it requires, it should look for further information, just as planning authorities do in similar circumstances. I agree with Deputy Wall that a timeframe should be imposed. A two-month timeframe might be too short, but we should provide nonetheless for a period within which applications should be handled. If there are problems with applications, paperwork should be available to inform interested parties that the proper forms have not been completed and further information is needed. That would be a reasonable request. When an application is made, it should be recorded and a timeframe set out within which it will be dealt with.

I understand the Minister of State’s argument that the new agency is likely to encounter teething problems. It will take time for it to get up and running but I would like something to be done in relation to a timeframe. We are familiar with the delays we encounter when we deal with civil servants, including the staff of health boards. It can take six or seven months for an application for family income supplement, for example, to be considered, unless somebody gets on to those dealing with the application. It is not acceptable. Those who are working with charities in a voluntary capacity would like to know how much progress is being made with their applications and what is happening, etc. I ask the Minister of State to let us know what he can do. Perhaps a two-month timeframe might be too short, but there should be something definite in the Bill setting out how particular cases will be dealt with.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy Let me make a suggestion to the Minister of State. Perhaps some form of interim certificate can be provided to acknowledge that an application has been made. A delay of one year might cause people to wonder whether a large organisation with a great deal of documentation was legitimate. When charities submit applications, perhaps they should be given some form of acknowledgement that they have been received and are being given attention. That might ease the concerns of those who might be questioning whether they should support a given organisation. When somebody rings the regulator to find out whether an organisation is a registered charity, it is possible that he or she will be told it is not. The bona fides of the charity will be questioned in such circumstances. I will suggest this if the Minister of State can bring it about.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Planning applications must be certified on submission to a council. In County Kildare the planners originally certified the file when they received it for final decision and it would be returned after almost two months. Now they certify it when it is received in the office and return it if documents are missing. That is perhaps what Deputy Kennedy is thinking about. The Minister of State should consider this because the idea was to have a decision made in order that an organisation knew what was happening. I understand his point about there being mayhem if 1,000 applications are submitted. However, some reflection is needed on how this can be advanced.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey There are several ways this could be done, for example, by way of a customer service charter for the organisation. My Department is funding several initiatives in respect of consultation and the development of best practice in the sector and is progressing that work. I can suggest that it work to find how to address this issue practically and sensibly, rather than by way of legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 37 and 46 are cognate on amendment No. 36. They will all be discussed together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 36:

In page 28, subsection (9), line 21, to delete “until” and substitute “before”.

These amendments are technical, with grammatical changes proposed on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General. Somebody went through the Bill with a red pen.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 37:

In page 28, subsection (10), line 31, to delete “until” and substitute “before”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 38:

In page 28, subsection (11), line 33, to delete “subsection (6)” and substitute “this section”.

This is a technical amendment made on legal advice. The original reference to subsection (6) is incorrect, as that subsection merely lists the information the authority will place on the register of charities.

Amendment agreed to.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 39 to 42, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 39:

In page 29, subsection (14), line 8, to delete “during”.

Subsection (14) allows established charities, following the commencement of the requirement to register, to continue to fundraise during the period in which they are allowed to apply for registration and the period which the authority takes to determine whether to register them. This relates to our earlier discussion.

Amendments Nos. 39 to 42, inclusive, are technical, as proposed by the Office of the Attorney General, to improve the reading of the subsection and clarify the two periods being referred to, that following commencement of the requirement to register during which established charities must apply for registration and that between their application and the authority’s decision on whether to register them. In respect of section 37 and the powers of the authority generally, certain clarification is being sought about its power to decide whether to accept or reject an application to enter an organisation on the register of charities which may lead to an amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 40:

In page 29, subsection (14)(a), line 9, to delete “the period” and substitute “during the period”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 41:

In page 29, subsection (14)(b), line 11, to delete “that period” and substitute “during that period”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 42:

In page 29, subsection (14)(b), line 12, to delete “that period” and substitute “the first-mentioned period”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 43:

In page 29, subsection (15), line 16, to delete “registered”.

Section 37 contains provisions relating to charitable organisations prior to their being registered. It is, therefore, necessary to delete the word “registered” from this section in order that the subsection applies to them as well as to registered charitable organisations. The amendment is being proposed on foot of legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 44:

In page 29, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following subsection:

“(16) The Authority shall make the register available for inspection by members of the public at all reasonable times at its principal office and shall also publish the register on the internet.”.

This new subsection is proposed to make it clear that the authority is obliged to make the register of charities available to the public. The register will be available to view at its head office, and perhaps, more importantly, will be established on the Internet, so that people throughout the country will have access to it. The public will, therefore, be able to check the bona fides of charitable organisations with which it is in contact, including, for example, bodies that collect second hand clothing door to door.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring As regards the Internet showing whether charities are registered, there will also be a campaign, I hope, whereby either the new authority or the Minister will notify people that the office of the regulator is in place. The public needs information on finding out which organisations are registered charities. At a later stage I shall talk about second hand clothing collections.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I agree with Deputy Ring that it is very important this type of information campaign is initiated by the authority as soon as possible. I would envisage that as soon as the Bill is enacted all of that will be developed in conjunction with the sector.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 37, as amended, agreed to.

Section 38 agreed to.

SECTION 39.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 45:

In page 30, subsection (1)(c), line 35, after “activities” to insert “whether in the State or elsewhere”.

The reason for this amendment is to ensure everyone is included. Given the international dimension of Irish charities, the fact that we insert “elsewhere” is relevant. Thank God, to my knowledge we do not know of anyone who has been involved in such activities. However, given the international dimension as this affects Irish charities, it is necessary to insert something which reflects that and that ensures the regulator has control, in the event.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It is already implicit in the existing wording that the offences relate to such activities anywhere in the world. I am advised that it is not necessary to state this explicitly and accordingly, the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 46:

In page 31, subsection (10), line 40, to delete “until” and substitute “before”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 39, as amended, agreed to.

Section 40 agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 12.58 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

SECTION 41.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 47:

In page 32, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) A person who—

(a) holds themselves or another person or a body (whether or not such a body is established under law or not) as a person or body,

(b) implies that such persons or such body, or

(c) in respect of such persons or such body a reasonable presumption can be made that they or any of them are persons or a body,

are acting or have acted in furtherance of charitable purposes, whether or not the word ”charity“ or any derivation of same is used in connection with such person or body, but where words and or expressions are used by them connoting or usually associated with charitable purposes or with appeals for such purposes, and, where such persons or body as the case may be has not been registered under this Act and where the Authority is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that such persons or body are not acting in furtherance of charitable purposes, such persons or body shall be guilty of an offence.”.

This is probably the most important part of the Bill. We must do something in the legislation to deal with a number of pathways. In regard to clothes collections, flyers are posted to houses requesting clothing urgently for the Third World, with collection to take place at the end of the week. However, there is often no name of a charity, nor a charity number or even a telephone number on the flyer. I was on a radio programme a few days ago discussing a supposed charity that had two telephone numbers and a website address. The number connected to a filled voice mail and the other did not answer. On checking the website address there was no such charity.

There are two ways to deal with this. People will have to put the name of their charity and the registration number on all documents. They will have to be registered with the regulator. We must make it an offence to lead people into believing they are supporting a charity when they are not. People might laugh, but there is even a problem with mass cards. The church authorities found that some priests’ names were being used who had been dead for years. In other cases writing was illegible and they were not able to discern who the priest was. In another case somebody had paid €4 for a mass card, but the priest who signed it only received 12 cents.

I hope the Minister of State will accept my amendment. We should never see the likes of this again. People should be able to see the registration number and the name of the charity on any document. People who give generously to charities should know where their money goes. This amendment should stop people pretending to act for a charity, who in fact act for their own business.

I am also concerned about people who go around our cities with clipboards, asking people for their personal details such as credit card numbers. People think they are signing up for a charity, but do not realise what they have signed up for until the deduction comes out of their account. It will not be easy to legislate for that, but I hope the charities, the Garda Síochána and the regulator can work out some kind of permit that can be easily monitored. We should always know that the charity is registered and has a permit. Collectors should have to explain to the public what they are about so that people are not conned. If people are not collecting for a registered charity, it should be an offence to collect for anything else.

If the Minister of State does not accept my amendment, I hope he brings in further amendments on Report Stage to deal with this. I have received correspondence from all over the country about this issue, particularly regarding clothes for charity. Many people who go to the expense of getting clothes cleaned before collection are annoyed that they have been conned. These are good clothes that are then sold abroad, which earns big money. We must target these people who are collecting clothes and robbing people who genuinely give to charities. I feel very strongly about this.

I hope the Minister of State can reassure me that he will strengthen the legislation to deal with such operators. The public generally wishes to support charity but people are angry about such activities. I made the point on Second Stage, as did the Minister of State, that people do not mind donating to charity provided they are confident the money will go to the charity in question. Everybody hates to be ripped off, and charitable donations should not be another facet of rip-off Ireland. We do not know who these people are or what they stand for. They should not be allowed to rip people off. I ask the Minister of State to accept my amendment to make it illegal for any person or organisation to feign charitable intent and to ensure it is possible to secure prosecutions for that offence.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I support Deputy Ring. In most cases, the clothing donation bag is simply shoved in through the letterbox and there is little or no contact with the home owner. In several instances, a local town hall or other community facility is indicated as the designated dropping-off point for clothing and other items but no permission is sought from the relevant committee. In some cases, the prime bags are taken and the remainder left behind for staff to remove. It is often difficult to establish contact with the organisers of these collections. Something must be done because such activities make people suspicious and reluctant to donate to genuine charities. They see that the items they brought to the town hall or community centre were discarded. This creates doubt in many people’s minds as to the legality of any charitable enterprise. We must consider how this issue can be incorporated into the legislation.

Another area that needs attention, as Deputy Ring observed, is the activity of people with clipboards seeking to sign people up for regular charitable donations. This generally involves asking people for bank and other personal details. The very significant increase in the incidence of ATM card skimming and other fraudulent activities is a cause for concern in this regard. In 2005, in response to a parliamentary question, I was told that only two cases relating to skimming offences were reported to the Garda in my area. I recently discovered that this number increased to 252 in 2007, an incredible increase. It is genuine charities and collectors who lose out in the atmosphere of suspicion that results from such incidents of fraud. I ask the Minister of State to consider what can be done in this regard.

Deputy John O’Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I strongly support Deputies Ring and Wall. We could all offer numerous examples of people in 4X4 jeeps calling to houses seeking charitable donations of clothing and other items. The natural generosity of the Irish people is under threat given the widespread awareness of the issues to which the Deputies referred. None us of us wishes to see that generosity quenched. That will happen, however, if the situation continues. I strongly support the amendment.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I fully understand the Deputies’ concerns. The mass cards and clothing collections are examples that arise on a regular basis. I took part in a presentation ceremony before Christmas on behalf of the Department to acknowledge the activities of a group involved in the recycling of clothing products in Dublin city as part of a drugs rehabilitation programme. Members of this group advised me that they are finding it increasingly difficult to get clothing for recycling because of these unscrupulous operators who are going around willy-nilly and seeking donations. There is a room in the departmental offices on Mespil Road that is wallpapered with the types of notices to which members referred. Consequently, I am anxious to strengthen this aspect of the legislation as much as possible.

My general response to the issues is that section 41 makes it an offence for charitable organisations which are not registered to present themselves as charities. Concerns have been raised with me pertaining, in the main, to whether this section addresses adequately those door to door collections of second-hand clothes that have become increasingly prevalent, as well as the sale in shops of pre-signed mass cards. The latter issue has been raised with the Department at a fairly senior level by some church authorities. I am well aware of these matters and the genuine concerns raised. As the matter was raised by the Deputy and other Members on Second Stage, I have sought additional information on section 41 and depending on the legal advice I will consider whether it is necessary to table amendments on Report Stage to strengthen these provisions.

Further provisions will be introduced. The Minister will have the power to regulate fund-raising practices, should concerns arise regarding the operation of the codes of practice. Moreover, the codes of practice will address how a collector should interact with the public and are designed to enhance public confidence and prevent people from being harassed by collectors. Strict codes of practice will include a monitoring and complaints procedure.

A number of options that are more than thoughts have been proposed to address the issue of mass cards. These include, for example, placing the charity’s number and contact numbers of other kinds on the back of a mass card. Similarly, one could ensure that clothing collectors are required to place their charity numbers and other contact details on any advertising material, plastic bags or whatever. We also should be able to provide a mechanism that enables the public to ascertain that some collectors are registered and, by definition, others are not. For example, I anticipate the register will be on the Internet. Consequently, if a plastic bag comes through one’s letter-box or is thrown into one’s front garden they rarely are put into letter-boxes any more people can check whether the organisation is a registered charity either by ringing a contact telephone number or getting on to the Internet.

I have outlined some of the approaches we will adopt. The officials have done significant work and while I am not in a position to accept the amendment at present, I certainly will return to it on Report Stage. I am anxious to include tightly-drawn provisions in the Bill to reassure the public, because that is in everyone’s interest.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring As the Minister of State will return to this issue on Report Stage, I will withdraw the amendment. While some may state that my point in respect of mass cards is not very important, the use of the church by people to con money from others is serious. The suggestion that the name and registration number of the charity should appear on mass cards seems reasonable. Were such information on the mass card, I would go along with the Minister of State on the basis that the information was available to those who sought it. However, on Report Stage it should be made an offence for people to sell mass cards or to take clothes for a charity on false pretences. It should also be an offence to mislead someone on the street as to the charity to which their money is going. While I will withdraw the amendment on the basis to the Minister of State’s commitment, I may re-introduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 48 and 49, which are related, will be discussed together.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 48:

In page 32, subsection (2), line 14, after “as” to insert “an “Irish Registered Charity”,”.

This was suggested by a group that sought to tighten up the legislation. Perhaps the Minister will tell me that its perspective was incorrect in this regard. The group believed that the section’s multiplicity of descriptions and definitions in respect of charities, could allow an organisation to get in under the title “charity”. The definitions are for “charity”, “charitable body”, “registered charity” and “charity registered in Ireland”. The group wanted the descriptions tightened to ensure an organisation would be registered as a charitable body under one heading instead of through other channels. Will the Minister of State give the committee an overview of his officials’ opinions in this respect? The amendment came about because the descriptions were too wide and varied. If there were one description, it would be more beneficial to the overall content of the Bill.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I acknowledge that Deputy Wall’s amendments Nos. 48 and 49 are intended to strengthen the Bill. However, by including additional specific descriptions that are to be interpreted as holding a body out to be a charity in subsection (2), it may be the case that the generality of this section might be undermined. Accordingly, I cannot accept the proposed amendments. However, I have sought additional clarification on these matters. Depending on the legal advice, I will consider whether it is necessary to table amendments on Report Stage to strengthen the provisions of section 41.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall We will resubmit.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 49:

In page 32, subsection (2), line 15, after “Ireland” to insert “or any other similar phrase”.

I will resubmit this amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 41 agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 50:

In page 33, before section 42, to insert the following new section:

42.—The Minister shall consult with charities—

(a) prior to the making of Regulations pursuant to or in relation to sections 42 to 46, and

(b) on the operation of sections 42 to 46.”.

This amendment relates to the concerns of small charities about not having the resources and funding to do accounts every year. They are concerned about the cost. The Minister and the regulator should consult with small charities before making regulations because the feelings of charities and what difficulties they will have must be known. Regulations that could have a negative effect on how they operate should not be made. Cost is an issue, but I ask for the Minister of State’s assurance that regulations will not be made by the Minister or regulator without consultation.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The Bill provides for mechanisms for consultation, including the establishment of consultative panels to reflect the wishes of the sector. In light of this and the fact that I have given a public commitment to consult further with the sector on such matters as the form of annual returns to the authority, I do not see the necessity to insert a specific provision in this instance.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister will meet with groups.

Deputy John O’Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I reiterate and support Deputy Ring’s comments. The Minister of State agrees that those involved should not be frightened off because of regulation. While the sector must be regulated, consultation would get over the issue.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

SECTION 42.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 51:

In page 34, subsection (7), lines 19 and 20, to delete all words from and including “, being” in line 19 down to and including “kept” in line 20 and substitute the following:

“(being a book of account required to be kept under this section)”.

This is a technical amendment intended to improve the reading of the subsection. At this point, I wish to advise members that I intend to table amendments on Report Stage to minimise the potential for dual filing of accounts and other information, particularly for charities that are companies. I am fully committed to the principle of the avoidance of dual filing to the greatest extent possible. The sections most likely to be affected by these amendments are sections 42, 43 and 44 and possibly sections 45 and 46. Other sections may be affected as a consequence. There may be a need to amend company law subject to legal advice, which I have discussed.

The Bill envisages that all charities operating in this jurisdiction will be required to register with the new charity regulatory authority and will be subject to the same obligations and regulation. An issue has been raised in this regard relating to the practicalities of regulating charities based outside the jurisdiction. Legal advice has been sought and, depending on it, I may introduce further amendments on Report Stage. These may affect section 42 and other sections. Similarly, in order to avoid the potential for dual regulation and consistent with the approach taken elsewhere in the Bill, it is proposed that social finance lenders be regulated by the charities regulatory authority and exempted from supervision under the financial services regulatory elements of the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2007. A similar issue may apply to friendly societies. These matters are under discussion with the relevant Departments and the Office of the Attorney General. I intend to propose amendments on Report Stage.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I welcome the measure dealing with dual regulation. Considering the nature of charities, it is important we try to limit paperwork. It must be either the charities regulator or the authority which deals with companies but it is difficult to produce dual accounts.

The Minister of State has discussed with us the loophole, whereby charities registered outside the State collect within it. This worries me in terms of clothing and mass cards. We need strong advice on this issue. We do not want to have our own regulated and living within the law, while those from outside the jurisdiction are not under the control of the Government or the regulator. The Minister of State must reassure us on Report Stage when he receives legal advice. We want to be kept up to date, perhaps with a briefing. It would defeat the purpose of the Bill if we were to regulate Irish charities, while those from outside the State were not regulated. We would be wasting our time and there would be no need for the regulator if this came to pass. It is important to keep us informed and that the advice of the Attorney General is passed to spokespersons and the committee in order that we can discuss it further.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I welcome what the Minister of State said on dual filing and company law. These measures are vital ingredients of the Bill and relate to matters raised by a number of people. It is vital to reduce the paperwork required of any charity, as reflected in the amendment. I welcome that matters of company law will also be addressed. We look forward to seeing this matter dealt with in amendments on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 42, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 43.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 52:

In page 35, subsection (1), line 4, after “Minister” to insert “following consultation with the sector”.

This is similar to the previous amendment and concerns small organisations. In the initial stages it is important that guidelines are set down for various charities. This is an opportunity to show we care for the various groups involved. We want to take measures such as those regarding dual filing as referred to by the Minister of State to make it as easy as possible for charities to prepare documentation. It can be soul destroying if much of the time and dedication of a few people in an organisation must be spent on the annual statement of accounts. I am not suggesting it should not be done correctly but consultation with the sector before the Minister makes regulations would be beneficial to all.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Consultation is a key feature of the Bill. The process is built around consultation. Given my public commitment to consult those involved in the sector, as referred to in my response to Deputy Ring’s amendment, there is no need for a specific provision to be inserted by this amendment which I will not accept.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 53:

In page 35, subsection (3)(a), line 22, after “organisation” to insert the following:

“, and such an account shall be reviewed by the charitable organisation’s accountants but need not be audited unless the Authority so directs”.

Unless a directive is issued from the authority the books of the charity should not be audited. If we include this in the Bill as long as a charitable organisation with not more than €100,000 income is reviewed it need not be audited unless the regulator is concerned and feels it is required.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The existing graduated approach to examination of audits, which is provided for, is the correct approach and I consider the proposed amendment is at odds with the existing provision. Under the existing provision, in the normal course there is no obligation upon charities with an income of less than €100,000 per annum to have their accounts audited save where the authority specifically so requests under section 44(3).

The wording of Deputy Wall’s amendment, particularly the inclusion of the word “audited”, could potentially place a greater burden upon smaller charities which contradicts the proportioned approach adopted throughout the Bill. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 43 agreed to.

Sections 44 and 45 agreed to.

SECTION 46.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 54, 65 and 75 are related and will be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 54:

In page 38, subsection (3), line 10, to delete “subsection (5)” and substitute “subsection (4)”.

This is a technical amendment and this subsection relates to documents which must accompany the annual report of charities to be sent to the authority. The original reference to subsection (5) is incorrect as subsection (5) relates to how long the authority should retain the documents. The references should be to subsection (4) which relates to documents to accompany the annual report of charities which are companies.

Amendment No. 65 is also a technical amendment to correct an erroneous reference in the text of the published Bill. This section allows the authority to impose intermediate sanctions rather than immediately prosecuting a charity for an offence, but only for breaches of the specific sections mentioned in section 66 (1). In the original text section 47 is mentioned, but as this section deals with public access to annual reports of charities it is incorrectly referenced. The correct reference is to section 43 which provides for the preparation of annual statements of accounts by charities.

Amendment No. 75 is another technical amendment. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 relates to the appointment of a replacement member during the term of appointment. Subparagraph (2) of paragraph 4 makes reference to paragraph 9 of the schedule. Paragraph 9 concerns conflict of interest at authority meetings and is therefore an incorrect reference. The reference should be to paragraph 8 of the schedule as this outlines how membership of the authority may be suspended.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 46, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 47 to 49, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 50.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 55:

In page 40, subsection (1), line 31, to delete “or had reasonable grounds for knowing”.

This section is causing concern to charities as it is difficult to see how the provision of the Bill as it stands might be practically implemented by the trustees involved.

My concerns with regard to this section relate to charities knowing that somebody is not fit to be a director or has broken the law. We do not want to oblige people who are entering voluntary organisations to sign a code of practice or some form to say they do not know of anybody acting illegally. We do not want people who are giving their time voluntarily to be held up while the charities check to see if they have been living within the law. That could have serious consequences for people who want to give their time and get involved in charity work. Such a scenario would turn people away from charities.

The wording I have produced would make it easier because it would not be putting the onus on the people involved in the charities. That is the way it should be. It is not for those involved with a charity to know that somebody else has broken the law or is breaking the law. If they had such knowledge, they would not allow such a person to become involved in the first instance. The current wording, particularly the inclusion of “knowingly”, could cause a problem for charities because the regulator could argue that they should have known there was a problem and could decide they can no longer be registered as a charity. Much concern has been expressed regarding this section and I hope the Minister of State will accept my amendment or introduce one himself which will deal with the problem.

We must remember that we are talking about volunteers, giving their time voluntarily. People do not want to hear of police checks with regard to their lifestyle if they are giving their time voluntarily. Police checks are fine if one is working for a statutory agency or starting a well-paid job. However, when one is working in a voluntary capacity, one should not have to submit to such checks. Furthermore, the onus for checking should not be on the charity itself. It is not the job of charities to certify that everybody working for them is law-abiding. Such a requirement would have major consequences for the charity sector and the Minister should revisit the issue.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I have sought guidance on this amendment. I understand that in the legal sense it is difficult to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that someone knew something at a specific point in time. Hence, the inclusion of the phrase “or had reasonable grounds for knowing”. The principle of a person having reasonable grounds to believe something is well established in Irish law, such as in the Education Welfare Act of 2000, as well as in criminal justice legislation. It would be difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a person knew that a trustee who gave the direction was not qualified to give it. For this reason, I cannot accept the amendment.

On the issue of charity trustees, I wish to notify committee members that is my intention, subject to legal advice, to introduce certain trustee provisions that had been proposed in the general scheme but were not included in the published Bill. A number of these provisions have since been raised by the sector and I am positively disposed to addressing them, subject to legal advice being available to me. These include provisions to enable trustees to indemnify themselves from personal liability using charitable assets and to allow them to receive remuneration for work undertaken that is not related to their role as a trustee.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Will the Minister of State introduce those provisions on Report and Final Stages?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Yes.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring That might deal with many of our concerns.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I cannot be absolutely certain at this stage but the principle of “reasonable grounds for knowing” is established in other legislation, including criminal justice legislation. In that context, I am not sure what we can do on that specific issue. However, the issue of trustees and some of the concerns raised in that regard will be addressed on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 50 agreed to.

Section 51 agreed to.

SECTION 52.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 56:

In page 41, lines 12 to 16, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:

“52.—(1) Where, in the course of, and by virtue of, carrying out his or her duties in respect of the charity, a relevant person obtains information that leads him or her to form the opinion that there is reasonable cause to believe that a material contravention of the Act of 2001 (other than section 8, 12 to 15, 49(1) or 52(8) of that Act) regarding the resources of the charitable organisation concerned has occurred, or is occurring, the relevant person shall notify that opinion in writing to the Authority as soon as practicable and provide details of the grounds on which he or she formed that opinion.”.

Having just re-read this amendment, I am more perplexed now than I was when I set out to submit it. Therefore, I will withdraw it now and resubmit it on Report Stage. Could the Minister of State, with good will, give us some background information on it?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I will.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall According to my reading, I have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey The Bill as it is currently worded provides that a relevant person shall be required to report that an offence has been committed under the 2001 Act to the authority irrespective of the circumstances in which that person comes to such a conclusion. This amendment would have the effect of limiting the scenarios from which a person may form an opinion that an offence has been committed. Under the proposed wording a person could form such an opinion only as a direct consequence of carrying out his or her job and could not, for example, form such an opinion on the basis of something he or she heard or saw outside the narrow workplace context, for example at a work-related social event. That is the reason we do not accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 52 agreed to.

Sections 53 to 57, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 58.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 57:

In page 44, subsection (1), line 19, to delete “or agent of a charitable organisation” and substitute “or relevant person”.

The aim of this amendment is to indemnify the trustees of particular organisations. The wording we propose would fulfil the aim of the Bill by clarifying the position.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey As there is no definition of “relevant person” in the definitions section of the Bill, the amendment as proposed is meaningless. There is a definition of relevant person in section 52(3), but it is confined to that section. Section 58(2) empowers an inspector to call on any other person the inspector considers may be in a position to assist investigations, to produce any books, documents or other records and attend before the inspector. Accordingly the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 58:

In page 45, subsection (6), line 19, after “organisation” to insert “an auctioneer,”.

This amendment proposes to add something to the Bill rather than subtracting. It was felt by the people I dealt with on this that an auctioneer should be included because many charitable organisations deal with property. If one had a solicitor, an auditor or a banker, an auctioneer should be included.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Without any disrespect to auctioneers, it is not considered that an auctioneer would normally hold books, documents or other records belonging to a charitable organisation. Section 58(2) already empowers an inspector to call on any other person the inspector considers to be in a position to assist the investigation, to produce any books, documents or records and attend before the inspector. Accordingly the amendment is not necessary. However, as an auditor is an agent for the purposes of this section, I intend to take advice for Report Stage on whether an independent person who examines accounts, as set out in section 45, should be added to the definition of “agent” in this and other sections where an auditor is mentioned in a similar context.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 59:

In page 45, to delete lines 25 to 30 and substitute the following: “charity trustee” includes, in relation to a charitable organisation, a person who was, but is no longer, a charity trustee of the charitable organisation.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 58, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 59.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 60:

In page 46, subsection (3)(b), to delete line 13 and substitute the following:

“(vii) the Director of Public Prosecutions,

or”

This is a technical amendment that comes on the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel. Section 59(3) sets out the three options the authority has regarding an inspector’s report at paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). The word “or” should have been inserted before paragraph (c).

Amendment agreed to.

Section 59, as amended, agreed to.

Section 60 agreed to.

SECTION 61.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendments Nos. 61 to 63, inclusive, are cognate and will be discussed together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 61:

In page 47, subsection (2)(b), line 1, to delete “that”.

The three amendments are technical in nature. The sub-clause is already subject to the word “that” in line 38 of page 46 so there is no need for the word at the commencement of each of the three sub-clauses.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 62:

In page 47, subsection (2)(c), line 3, to delete “that”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 63:

In page 47, subsection (2)(d), line 6, to delete “that”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 61, as amended, agreed to.

Section 62 agreed to.

SECTION 63.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 64:

In page 48, subsection (1), to delete paragraph (a), and substitute the following:

“(a) for the purpose of detecting, investigating or prosecuting an offence,”.

Section 63 sets out the circumstances under which documents obtained by the authority during the course of an investigation can be disclosed to others. One of these circumstances is set out in the existing subsection (a), namely, for the purposes of proceedings for an offence. It is considered, on reflection, that this is too narrowly defined. Accordingly, it is proposed to provide that documents can be disclosed for the purpose of detecting, investigating or prosecuting an offence.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 63, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 64 and 65 agreed to.

SECTION 66.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 65:

In page 49, subsection (1), line 32, to delete “section42, 44, 45, 46 or 47” and

substitute “section 42, 43, 44, 45 or 46”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 66, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 67.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 66:

In page 51, subsection (4), to delete lines 8 and 9.

This came about because a group approached me suggesting that the auditor of a charitable organisation should not be included as part of that organisation because he or she is independent. The members of the group felt such an individual could not be both a trustee and auditor of a charitable organisation and this is why they felt these lines should be deleted.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Clearly, the role of an auditor is key to any organisation that has its annual accounts audited. An auditor’s report to the trustees of a charitable organisation is one of the items the organisation will be obliged to forward to the authority. In addition, under section 52 of the Bill, an auditor will be obliged to give to the authority a report in writing of the particulars of an alleged offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. In the circumstances, if there has been any misconduct or mismanagement that relates in any way to the role of the auditor it is appropriate that the High Court should have the option of being able to make an order in respect of him or her. I do not propose to accept this amendment.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I will withdraw the amendment and resubmit it because the group that suggested it to me felt strongly on the matter. I will return to this subject on Report Stage.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey If anything, it may be that the Bill is quite restrained in this regard as a charity’s bank, solicitor and examiner of accounts could also have been included.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 67 agreed to.

Sections 68 and 69 agreed to.

SECTION 70.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 67:

In page 54, subsection (1), line 9, after “public” to insert the following:

“, unless the Tribunal decides, where it considers that in the particular circumstances of a case it is appropriate to do so, to conduct proceedings in private”.

The thinking behind this amendment was that situations could develop with regard to such an investigation whereby the tribunal would feel there is a necessity for it to go into private session. This was to help the tribunal to reach a decision with regard to such proceedings. People are afforded that privacy in presenting their cases in court, so it may be necessary concerning this tribunal in the context of intimidation or personal evidence. While the perspective may be different, Oireachtas committees go into private session to discuss or investigate certain private matters. The amendment solely concerns the protection from intimidation of a person or persons who may give evidence to the tribunal. We may talk about transparency but there are occasions when such transparency means we cannot get the necessary evidence without going into private session.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey One of the key principles of the Bill is to improve transparency for the benefit of the public concerning the operation of charities. This is reflected in section 70 where the charity appeals tribunal will be required to hold its hearings in public. There would not appear to be any compelling reason why the tribunal would not hold its hearings in public, so I do not propose to accept the amendment. Nonetheless I recognise what Deputy Wall has said. In particular circumstances where privacy is an issue the Bill provides that the tribunal may, where it considers it appropriate, order that the identity of parties to an appeal shall not be disclosed. This provides sufficiently for the protection of privacy, where necessary.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I accept the Bill’s perspective but in many cases a belt-and-braces position applies. This amendment provides for such an approach. Transparency is the name of the game nowadays but we also want to see final results. The sole reason for this amendment was to ensure that if a person was intimidated and had evidence he or she wished to give to the tribunal, the tribunal chairman could permit privacy in such circumstances. That was the thinking behind it.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I will have another look at the issue. It might be possible to include an enabling provision or something like that in the section to take account of the concerns that Deputy Wall has raised.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall On that basis, I will withdraw the amendment and resubmit it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 70 agreed to.

Sections 71 to 80, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I move amendment No. 68:

In page 57, before section 81, but in Part 7, to insert the following new section:

81.—(1) It is an offence for a charity to conduct public fundraising without holding a valid permit.

(2) The form and operation of the permit system shall be determined by the consultative panel provided for in section 34 (1).”.

I am not one of the biggest fans of non-cash collectors. Only that charities tell me they need them and that they make a lot of money for them, I would be opposed to them. People are put under pressure and do not know to what they are signing up. I would like collectors to have a legal permit and to see some regulation. Charities along with the regulator and the Garda Síochána should devise some type of code of practice.

To come back to the ethos of the Bill, people should know to whom they are giving money. I worry about these collectors and about elderly people in particular. People who have credit cards are getting used to them and young people might not have the same worries. However, it is only when people get home that they realise they have given information. I would like a permit system put in place.

There is a concern about the Bill as it stands in that if people hold a cash collection on a particular day, they will have the overall right to collect on that day the following year. That does not take into consideration new charities which will not be able apply to collect on that day. It would be wise to have some consultation between the regulator, the charities and the Garda Síochána, which will have to regulate this area.

I am not in favour of non-cash collectors but I realise they do a valuable job for charities and I have been informed by them that they make up much of their funding. If a cash collector has an option on a day or location, we must regulate in that regard. It is important these collectors have permits and that we know the day on and the area for which they are collecting. The detail of this must be defined. The Minister of State, the regulator, the charities and the Garda Síochána must address this matter. It is a very important part of the Bill.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I support this amendment. We have all been involved with associations and groups and, on occasion, we have seen a cross-over of collections and all the problems that creates. Some national organisations have pre-determined dates each year. I am involved with an organisation which collects on a specific date, although on some occasions there has been a cross-over which has caused all sorts of problems at local level where people seek to do what they can for their organisations. As Deputy Ring suggested, the matter must be determined to ensure there is no bad feeling at local level in regard to such collections.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I recognise this is an important area and we are still working on aspects of it. The Street and House to House Collections Act 1962 continues to be the legislation which governs the making of collections in public places. Under its provisions any collection of money in public by any person or group must have a permit issued by the local chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána. Subsection (1) of the amendment is therefore not appropriate in this context.

On subsection (2) of the amendment, the form and operation of the permit system for collections is already set out in the 1962 Act to which I referred. The system is controlled and monitored by the Garda Síochána which is the appropriate body. Subsection (2) if accepted, would conflict with the provisions of the 1962 Act and I cannot therefore accept it.

I have a number of amendments under preparation on fundraising arising from issues raised by the charities sector and I intend to bring them forward on Report Stage, subject to legal advice. These are intended to enhance the permit system within section 81 with the intention of introducing a more equitable approach to issuing permits for both cash and non-cash methods of fundraising.

A possible technical amendment to section 81(a)(ii)(b) is also being considered for Report Stage. To enhance security and increase public confidence, and consistent with the obligations placed on cash collectors, I intend to make further provisions on Report Stage relating to the duties of non-cash collectors in section 82.

We broadly support the thrust of what Deputy Ring stated but we must do some more work on the precise mechanism with which to do it.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I accept the Minister of State’s word that he and the Department are working on it. I will resubmit the amendment on Report Stage.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It is important to state that non-cash collections are currently outside any permit system and the Bill will bring them into the permit system for the first time.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring That is important. That is the point of my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Amendment No. 69 is in the name of Deputy Wall and amendment No. 70 is related. Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 will be discussed together.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 69:

In page 60, line 5, to delete “shall” and substitute “may”.

The purpose of this is to clean up the act of persons using collection mechanisms. There is an aggressive selling nature towards donors and in instances they are harassed and intimidated. Especially in the case of senior citizens, one sees many such sellers, particularly ones who are not au fait with the local area, picking up positions close to places such as shopping centres where there are trolleys. In that way, there is an element of intimidation in the method of collection where the senior citizen, in particular, feels that he or she must give something. That was the concern which motivated this amendment.

The position they pick reflects upon the way they seek to get subscriptions. We see senior citizens walking away and the collector following them. I hoped the Minister of State will see this amendment’s merits in that regard, so that a person who goes shopping, goes out to entertainment or goes for a casual walk is not be intimidated into supporting any charitable organisation, even the local ones. This has more to do with the ones who come into a town and are not au fait with the local area who have this habit of taking up positions of harassment and intimidation of persons such as in the cases of which I spoke.

I hope the Minister of State can consider accepting this amendment. In that way, this practice would not be allowed. It is certainly occurring at present.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Amendment No. 69 proposes a change in the issuing of collection permits by the Garda Síochána with the intention of allowing the district superintendent greater discretion in issuing permits for non-cash collections. As I stated when we discussed amendment No. 68, I have a number of amendments under preparation arising from issues raised by the charity sector, which I intend to table on Report Stage, subject to legal advice. These are intended to enhance the permits system under this Bill with the intention of introducing a more equitable approach to issuing permits for both cash and non-cash methods of fundraising. In these circumstances, I cannot accept amendment No. 69, as it may conflict with my amendments, though I fully understand and appreciate the intent behind it. The district superintendent has the power to refuse to issue a permit where he or she considers that the public might be excessively importuned. This could apply to the scenario outlined in amendment No. 70, which I do not consider necessary in the context I have outlined and which I do not propose to accept.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Is this covered by other legislation?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Yes, particularly street and house to house collections.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I can see where the Minister of State is coming from but I support Deputy Wall. Under the legislation to which the Minister of State referred, he might examine this issue again. Deputy Wall is correct that when people are asked to buy a line or whatever, they should be asked once and asked nicely. They should never be harassed or intimidated on the street, but that happens on a regular basis. People are complaining and, for example, one cannot go to the post office on a Friday or to a supermarket without meeting collectors outside. Some are nasty to elderly people and they put a great deal of pressure on them to support their charity. This issue must be addressed and clarification is needed on the existing legislation. Clearer regulations must be published. If somebody says “No”, that should be accepted and he or she should not be followed down the street. If the Minister of State travelled to my home town next Friday, he would meet collecters who target the post office, because they know people are picking up their pension payments, and the two or three supermarkets in the town. Nine times of out ten, they are not locals. They are driven into the town in high-powered cars to set up their stalls and they are gone again that evening. I agree with Deputy Wall that regulation and clarification is needed in this regard. The Garda Síochána need clear instructions on how to deal with such scenarios.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey A code of conduct and regulations will form part of the regime.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Deputy Ring’s comment on intimidation cannot be overemphasised.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I agree with him.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall When the Minister of State reviews section 81, can he not refer to this issue? Could the code of conduct be amended to ensure provision is made to address this issue, which is worsening all the time?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It is my firm intention that the regulation and codes of conduct will be specific, clear and enforceable.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I will withdraw the amendments with the intention of resubmitting them on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 70:

In page 60, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(2) The Chief Superintendent concerned may refuse an Application, or revoke a non-cash collection permit where he is of the opinion that collectors on behalf of the Applicant have previously, or are likely to, so conduct themselves, whether by way of harassment, intimidation, or assertive collecting as to be likely to give rise to complaints from members of the public.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 81 agreed to.

SECTION 82.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 71:

In page 62, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(a) the holder of a permit shall report to the relevant Chief Superintendent as to whether and to what extent the permit was availed of during the time permitted, and where a permit was not, or not fully, availed of, the Chief Superintendent may take that matter into account in determining whether to issue a further permit to the person concerned and in determining the duration of the permit;”.

This is a straightforward amendment relating to case history where a club or a charity obtains a permit and seeks the same date for a collection on a regular basis but does not take it up. Worthy charities in rural towns and villages sometimes find it difficult to obtain a date for a collection and, if dates are lost, they can lose funding. The chief superintendent should take this into account in determining where a further permit should be issued to an organisation. There should be a regular review as to whether permits being issued by a chief superintendent are being used to best effect. Some organisations might only collect in a specific area of a town and, therefore, it might be possible for two permits to be issued at the same time. I have seen this happen. Where thought is put into the issuing of permits, two organisations could operate a collection in one town. Based on the information honestly provided in an application relating to the specific location in which a collection would be made, another organisation could get funding by collecting in another area of a town. If a permit lapses or is not used, a strong excuse should be provided and the group concerned should not be provided with an extension of the permit for the following year.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey In the Bill as currently drafted, the permit for a non-cash collection will last for 12 months, but the holder will be obliged to notify the chief superintendent in writing of his or her proposal to hold collections, not earlier than six months and not later than 14 days before the date of the collections. In certain circumstances, the chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána can refuse the collection, notwithstanding that the proposed holder already has the 12-month permit for non-cash collections.

In the case of non-cash collections, therefore, it is the notification process which is the key element determining when non-cash collections may be held. The amendment would not, therefore, assist the chief superintendent in making decisions on the 12-monthly non-cash permits. As a result, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

As I have already indicated, I propose to revert to the matter of non-cash collections and permits on Report Stage. I want to be as helpful as I can be because I am anxious to have clarity across the board on the issue. It might be necessary to signal, for example, that dialogue will take place in due course between the Garda, the authorities and the charity sector with regard to how they can have a better understanding on the implementation of the regulations countrywide. This is something I will encourage. We will do further work on this issue and revert to members on Report Stage.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White Zoom on Mary Alexandra White I welcome the Minister of State’s statement on the issue, which is a concern. I take on board the points made by Deputy Wall. We all know some people collect from year to year, but perhaps some collectors might be termed “dormant” permit holders. As there are only 52 weeks in a year, if those groups sit on their permits, other organisations do not get a legitimate chance to fundraise. I welcome the Minister of State’s initiative to bring the issue forward on Report Stage and agree with Deputy Wall it is an issue that must be addressed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: “That section 82 stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I am involved in a sealed box collection for Aware each year. The sealed boxes are not a problem for me, as I come to Dublin a few days a week and can bring them with me. However, people in Donegal or other distant areas might also be involved in a sealed box collection for Aware. As Aware makes a national collection, its permit is a national permit. Therefore, those collecting in Donegal would have to bring the sealed boxes to Dublin. Currently, however, people collecting in Donegal can count the moneys collected and transfer them by money order through the bank. How will this issue be addressed? We all agree it is imperative to move forward on the issue of sealed boxes. I wonder how that will be addressed in the overall context of getting the money delivered from the most remote places, like parts of Donegal. I hope there is nobody here from Donegal Deputy McGinley is not here anyway. I am sure the Minister of State understands what I am saying. Those living near Dublin, where most national organisations are based, will have no problems delivering sealed boxes to addresses like 147 North Circular Road, in our case. People in other parts of the country might encounter problems, however.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Section 82 (1)(c) states:

Each collector shall deliver the collection box unopened and with its seal intact to——

(i) the holder of the collection permit granted in respect of the collection concerned, or

(ii) a person authorised for that purpose by the holder of the collection permit.

I assume that the holder of the permit in Dublin will be able to nominate a person in Donegal as his or her representative.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Okay.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I will check that.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Can the Minister of State make sure of that? I am sure he understands what I am saying.

I am also concerned about another aspect of this section of the Bill. When people are collecting money for charitable organisations to be put into sealed boxes, etc., they might be standing beside people who are selling tickets for similar organisations but putting the money into their pockets. We are insisting that some collectors use sealed boxes and observe the various rules in that regard. I regularly see people collecting on behalf of organisations with names which are similar to the names of national organisations. They are not actually collecting for the national organisation, however. I am asking about such cases, which are being experienced at present. I refer to people who are selling tickets for raffles, etc. Does this legislation cover such cases? Can they be examined under this section? The events I describe are certainly happening. Like other people, I have been collecting money with boxes when people beside me have been selling tickets. I support what the Minister of State said about people being nominated as recipients of collection boxes. That can obviously be dealt with. The other example I gave is a grey area as far as I am concerned. I wonder what can be done. Will anything in the Bill prevent that from happening?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey Permits are required by people collecting money in sealed boxes, just as they are required by those beside them who are selling tickets. I would have thought the local chief superintendent would have a role in this matter. Perhaps such problems can be clarified by means of regulation. I do not know whether we can cover every eventuality. We should try to cover as many of them as possible, by means of enabling provisions or by means of regulations. Following further consultation with the panels, etc., I hope we can iron out as many as possible of the anomalies which might exist.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall That seems to be a problem. I see it everywhere.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I see it myself.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I have seen people collecting money on behalf of “the disability organisation” or “disability members” or something like that. They are never clearly identified. I am sure the Minister of State is right when he says that permits should be acquired for all collections. That does not seem to happen in many instances.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It is hoped that many of these practices will be eliminated when the regulatory regime has been bedded down.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring That will depend on the Garda ensuring that the legislation is being complied with.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey It is important that dialogue takes place between the regulatory authority, the Garda and the charities sector

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Yes.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey to ensure there is uniform application of the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 83 and 84 agreed to.

Amendment No. 72 not moved.

Section 85 agreed to.

SCHEDULE 1.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I move amendment No. 73:

In page 65, paragraph 2, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“(3) One of the 9 Members of the Authority referred to in subparagraph (1) shall be a full time employee of a charitable organisation.”.

A full-time employee of a charitable organisation should be on the authority to reflect the major work of these individuals locally, nationally and internationally. This would be a true reflection of their dedicated work, often for minimal or no payment. We frequently forget the wonderful work of so many people that has won a name for Ireland, especially on the international stage. This work gives them a deep knowledge of charitable organisations which would significantly enhance the authority. I hope that the Minister of State will look favourably on my amendment.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I understand what Deputy Wall is trying to achieve but section 2(5) of Schedule 1 provides expressly for the appointment of persons from the charity sector as members of the authority. These members may for example be trustees, employees or board members of charitable organisations, or persons who have held such positions in the past. I do not wish to be too specific about the status of the persons from the sector to be appointed to the authority, to allow for flexibility in selecting the most suitable candidate.

An explicit requirement to appoint a current full-time employee of a charity could lead to a conflict of interest. For those reasons I am not disposed to accept the amendment.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I am disappointed. I could not see a conflict of interest in respect of a full-time employee of a charitable organisation whose knowledge would be of significant benefit to the authority in respect of guidelines and so on. This would also reflect what so many have done over many lifetimes for charities, especially those overseas where we have created a high reputation, for example, the work of the Defence Forces with charities. It would take little to accept this amendment and the sector would be grateful for it. The Minister of State’s response does not offer any guarantee that someone who has worked at the coal face would be on the authority. I wish to see such a person on the authority and the Minister of State should consider this amendment favourably.

It is only fair to expect that one among those working for 7,000 charities, from volunteers to full-time employees, should be recognised to give recognition to the work they have done.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I think I understand what Deputy Wall is trying to achieve but apart from the conflict of interest issue there is a danger that the “one” representative of the charities might become not just the minimum requirement but the maximum. I hope that people on the authority will be current or former practitioners. What is being proposed in the Bill will provide more flexibility in terms of a greater level of representation, including people with experience at the coalface, former employees or persons currently employed by a charity.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 74:

In page 65, paragraph 2(7), line 27, to delete “effluxion” and substitute “efflux”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I move amendment No. 75:

In page 66, paragraph 4(2), line 26, to delete ”paragraph 9“ and substitute ”paragraph 8”.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey I thank the Chairman and members of the select committee for the expeditious manner in which they dealt with the Bill on Committee Stage. There are significant aspects of the Bill to which we have to return and we shall be doing so on the floor of the House on Report Stage. I look forward to further dialogue and co-operation with everybody present to ensure we will have the best possible legislation we can produce.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I thank the Chairman and the Minister of State and his staff, as well as the outside agencies which helped us and gave us good advice on the Bill. Such persons are very much involved in the work charities do and only have their best interests at heart. We will return to many of the amendments discussed on Report Stage. Will we have an opportunity to retable them or will we have to submit new amendments?

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan I am advised that the Deputy will have to submit new amendments on Report Stage.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I thank the Chairman.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I thank the Chairman and the Minister of State and his officials for their help in the past few days. The ideal is to have a Bill with which we can all be happy and to which today’s debate will certainly lead. There are a number of amendments that the Minister of State will consider before Report Stage. Ultimately, we hope to have a Bill on which we will be able to rely as regards this major organisational aspect of Irish life, namely, charities. I trust that they will be happy with what we produce. As Deputy Ring said, given the number of organisations which have made representations to us, I hope we have done them justice today. We did our best.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy I concur with other speakers and congratulate the Chairman on the efficient manner in which he has conducted business. I also congratulate the Minister of State, his officials and committee members. It is a very important Bill, on which we have had a very good debate. However, I make a suggestion to ensure it would be easier to read. Rather than have two documents the Bill and a separate page of amendments the proposed amendments could be printed in red on the Bill. This would make things easier to follow. Deputy Wall was struggling with his papers, as he had tabled many amendments. One document with amendments printed in red would make things convenient.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey Zoom on Pat Carey We do not have any control over such matters. The Bills Office does.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy Maybe the staff might pass my suggestion to the appropriate body.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan I understand the Bills Office is looking at a simple way of dealing with all Bills. Perhaps the Deputy’s suggestion might be made to it.

Deputy Michael Kennedy: Information on Michael Kennedy Zoom on Michael Kennedy I thank the Chairman.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White Zoom on Mary Alexandra White I thank the Minister of State and his staff. There are excellent working relations in the Government parties. I look forward to resolving some of the issues raised before Report Stage. I share many of the concerns of the Opposition and hope we can come to a very good conclusion. I look forward to looking after charities. It is a key part of the Irish psyche that we are so good at voluntarily supporting the underprivileged. If we were to lose that aspect, it would prove detrimental.

Chairman: Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan I thank the Minister of State, his officials and members of the select committee for the businesslike manner in which they conducted today’s business.

Bill reported with amendments.


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