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In detail: the 30 Bills the Government is planning this spring

The coalition has published a list of 30 Bills it’s hoping to get published before the end of April. Here’s the lot.

Leinster House will be a busy place if the government gets to publish all 30 of the Bills it wants.
Leinster House will be a busy place if the government gets to publish all 30 of the Bills it wants.
Image: Anosmia via Flickr

THE GOVERNMENT chief whip Paul Kehoe this week published a list of 30 pieces of legislation it hopes to complete drafting and to have published by the end of the current Dáil session.

The list contains Bills being compiled by 11 of the 16 Government Departments, and includes proposals like establishing a national DNA database, merging quangos and a new legal framework for Oireachtas inquiries.

The full list of Bills – and our guide to what they’ll contain – is below.

The list is sorted in alphabetical order by the Department responsible for it.

Agriculture Food and the Marine

  • Forestry Bill Legislation which the government says will support “the development of a modern forestry sector” – presumably by allowing the likes of Coillte to sell off some of their trees while keeping property of the land. This has been on the ‘A list’ (of the highest-priority bills) since last April.

Children and Youth Affairs

  • Child and Family Support Agency Bill This has been in the pipeline since confirmation of the Children’s Rights referendum, and will see the setup of a new child and family support agency which will take responsibility for related social services away from the HSE. The rollout of this legislation could be delayed by the High Court challenge to the outcome of the referendum, which is due to be heard next week.
  • Child Care (Amendment) Bill Currently, the HSE is allowed to seek a court order to take a child into its care – without the consent of its parent – for a maximum of eight days. This amendment proposes to extend this period to 29 days.
  • Children First Bill In 1999 the Department of Health published a lengthy document called ‘Chlidren First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children’. The Programme for Government includes a comment to have these become law. The Children First Bill has been on this priority list since last summer.

Communications Energy and Natural Resources

  • Minerals Development Bill The government says this Bill would “modernise and consolidate all mineral development legislation”. Ireland’s laws on mineral extraction are a relative hodge-podge at the moment; this proposal would update older laws and have a single piece of legislation to govern mining, drilling and the like.

Education and Skills

  • Further Education and Training Authority (SOLAS) Bill This would abolish FÁS and replace it with ‘SOLAS’ which will have “responsibility for integrating, developing and modernising the further education and training sector.”

Environment Community and Local Government

  • Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill No doubt one we’ll all look forward to. The increase in motor tax rates approved on Budget Day is actually only on a provisional basis. This Bill is needed in order to make those changes permanent.
  • Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill Another Bill relating to motor tax. Right now, if you’re renewing the motor tax on a car a few months after the last disc has lapsed, you have to legally declare that the car was off the road in the intermittent time. This means some drivers will risk driving without a valid tax disc for a period, knowing they can merely sign a form saying ‘My car wasn’t on the roads’ whenever they go to get a new disc. This Bill will require motorists to declare an off-road period in advance of it happening and not afterward.

Finance

  • Finance Bill Many of the measures announced in the Budget don’t yet have legal effect. Every year there’s a Finance Bill which tends to be approved around April, and which brings the Budget proposals into law.

Health

  • Health (Amendment) Bill This will give effect to the government’s ambition To provide for the phased extending of a publicly funded GP service without fees
  • Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill Somewhat cryptically, this omnibus Bill will “clarify and update a number of issues that have been identified over time”, apparently with specific reference to the Health Act 1970, which set up the old Health Board system and also governs subjects like maternity grants and dental treatment. This Bill also intends to reflect changes outlined in Budget 2013.
  • Health (Private Patient Charges) Bill Legislation which will levy charges on all private patients staying in a public hospital.

Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

  • Consumer and Competition Bill This will merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority into a single body, as well as creating a legal ‘code of conduct’ for grocery sellers, and putting in place a new legal framework for mergers and takeovers of media companies
  • Employment Permits Bill Updating existing laws on work permits for foreign citizens into a single piece of legislation, which will also be updated to take into account the growth of the European Union and the rights of citizens from those countries to live and work in Ireland.
  • Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill There were 1,111 Industrial or Friendly Societies registered in Ireland at the end of 2010, such as insurance co-operatives, group water schemes and theatre restoration groups. This Bill will aim to make it slightly easier to set up and run such groups on a legal basis.
  • Industrial Development (Micro-enterprise and Small Business) Bill This will abandon County Enterprise Boards and transfer their responsibilities to Enterprise Ireland.
  • Workplace Relations Bill A general once-over of the laws surrounding workplace relations bodies like the Labour Relations Commission.

Justice and Equality

  • Assisted Decision-making (Capacity) Bill A long-running feature on the legislative lists, this proposes to reform Ireland’s laws on decision-making for those with intellectual disabilities (currently governed by the 1871 Lunacy Regulations Act). The new laws will reflect a report from the Law Reform Commission on this subject which was published in 2006.
  • Courts Bill Current laws forbid media reporting of some family law cases, particularly where children are involved. Two months ago Alan Shatter said he wanted to relax this, in order to allow greater transparency in these areas, and this Bill proposes to do just that.
  • Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill This will set up a national DNA database and adjust other laws accordingly.
  • Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill The most recent legislation on money-laundering was introduced in 2010; this proposes to update those laws in light of more recent technological and real-world developments. #
  • Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill In late 2011 the EU adopted a new directive on preventing human trafficking. This will be given legal effect in Ireland by this Bill.
  • Family Leave Bill Ireland’s current law on parental leave is a bit of a hodge-podge – this will consolidate the laws in this regard, as well as bringing Ireland in line with an EU directive from 2010 creating a new system of transferable parental leave.. The directive says each EU member state will allow at least four months of parental leave for the birth of a child, to be split by the parents as they wish, though at least one month will be non-transferable. Ireland has until the end of March to bring this into law or face ECJ fines.
  • Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill The Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority are currently separate institutions; this will merge them. It will also adjust Irish law to account for recent rulings at the European Court of Justice.
  • Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Bill The High Court found in 2011 that, because of the adoption of new laws on home repossessions in 2009, anyone who took out a mortgage before 1 December 2009 cannot have their home repossessed – because the laws allowing them were scrapped under the new 2009 rules. The government has agreed with the Troika to address this in order to help banks get back to profitability.

Public Expenditure and Reform

  • Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill A draft edition of this bill (PDF link here) has already been published; this will expand the current Freedom of Information laws so that more bodies – including NAMA and the Gardaí – are subject to FOI requests.
  • Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privilege and Procedures) Bill Okay, so the public might have rejected the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum in 2011. That doesn’t mean the Oireachtas is barred from holding any inquiries, though – it just means it can only do so within the parameters of the Constitution (which basically mean it can’t act as if it was a court). This will outline the general legal limits for any such inquiries – and will be keenly watched given the likelihood of an Oireachtas inquiry into the banking collapse later this year.
  • Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill This gives legal protection to whistleblowers, making it illegal to seek “reprisals and victimisation” against someone who blows the whistle on wrongdoing in their workplace. This also proposes to ensure that correspondence with public representatives has the legal protection of confidentiality.
  • Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill While the current recruitment rules do allow public servants to be retrained and redeployed elsewhere in the public sector. This is made slightly more complicated by the existence of multiple legal entities in the public sector, though – so this aims to iron out some of those difficulties and to ensure that existing pension rights, for example, are not affected by moving between bodies.

Transport Tourism and Sport

  • Road Traffic Bill Finally, a general once-over of Ireland’s motoring laws, including new laws on testing for alcohol and drug influence, as well as updates to laws to allow for the new ‘credit card’-style licences which will be issued from Monday.

Read: Explainer: How does a Bill become a law?

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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