Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Committee on Transport and Communications: Select Sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Sport Ireland Bill 2014: Committee Stage
We have a quorum. The meeting has been convened to consider the Sport Ireland Bill 2014, the purpose of which is to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as Sport Ireland, the dissolution of the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority, update the law on doping in sport and for related matters. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, and his officials to the meeting. As there are a number of related amendments, grouping arises. I ask members to switch off their mobile phones.
I move amendment No. 1:
This is a technical amendment recommended by the Office of the Attorney General. It is intended that all parts of the Bill shall commence on the same day. Nearly all the provisions of the Bill refer to Sport Ireland being established on the establishment day. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that Part 4 of the Bill, which relates to anti-doping powers, also comes into effect on the establishment day.
In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:"Short title and commencement1.(1) This Act may be cited as the Sport Ireland Act 2014.(2) Part 4shall come into operation on the establishment day.".
I move amendment No. 2:
The effect of this amendment will be to move section 39 in the published Bill to section 5. It is a technical amendment on foot of the parliamentary draftsman's advice on the structure of the Bill. It helps to make for easier reading.
In page 8, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:“Repeals5.(1) Subject to section 44, the Act of 1999 is repealed on the establishment day.(2) The Act of 2006 is repealed on the establishment day.”.
I move amendment No. 3:
Amendment No. 3 is a technical amendment which is necessary to be clearer about the role of Sport Ireland on hearings. The role of Sport Ireland will be to attend and present before hearings of the independent Irish sport anti-doping disciplinary panel. Sport Ireland will not conduct hearings itself. Hearings may relate to the other rule violations, not just the test results of samples. This is why the words "relating to the test results of samples" are being deleted.
In page 8, line 34, to delete "conduct hearings relating to the test results of samples" and substitute "attend hearings, as required".
I move amendment No. 4:
The wording of the amendment reflects the fact that sponsorship is only one of a number of means by which individuals and the private sector might invest in or contribute to sport. The amendment will allow Sport Ireland to encourage other means of investment rather than to limit it solely to sponsorship. Sport Ireland will also play a major role in relation to volunteerism in sport, which is reflected well in the proposed wording. People contribute to sport in a variety of ways, not just financially, and that contribution is very important.
In page 9, to delete line 16 and substitute the following:"(o) to encourage individuals and the private sector to contribute to the development of sport;".
Does the Minister of State have in mind in this regard voluntary input rather than financial contribution for some reward or return or could it allow also for a financial contribution which is not part of a sponsorship arrangement?
Yes. Volunteerism is a contribution made voluntarily and there is no payment. If the State had to provide funding for that, the cost would be in the billions and would not happen. In relation to sponsorship, we are looking at ways and means to encourage multinational companies and others to contribute to sport without leaving it to volunteerism and sponsorship itself. We are asking Sport Ireland to go out there to find ways to get further funding.
There is a variety of ways for people to contribute to the development of a sport. Sport Ireland can encourage people to contribute in any of those ways. Sponsorship is only one way to invest in sport. Sport Ireland will continue to encourage support through sponsorship, but it will also encourage other forms of investment and support, including, for example, capital investment in sport. Volunteering in sport is a form of support that everyone can give and it makes a very great difference. People can make a contribution on capital, but volunteerism is the big issue where people can give of their time and, in some cases, of their professional expertise and time. We encourage more and more people to make that kind of contribution.
Exactly. We are leaving it so that Sport Ireland can look at any proposal that comes in. We are leaving it open.
We are not saying it can do "A" or "B", rather that if there is somebody out there who wants to make a major contribution to Croke Park, the Aviva Stadium or any sporting organisation throughout the country, they can sit down and make that contribution.
The Federation of Irish Sport suggested that we look at ways of giving tax breaks to people who make a contribution to sport. That happens with charitable groups. If one makes a donation to a charitable organisation or a church every year and it goes over a certain figure, the organisation or church can apply to the Department of Finance and get that tax back. We are setting up a group to look at this. While we will set up the group, it is the Department of Finance that will make the decision on it because it is all about finances and revenue. We will set up a group and bring in a number of people who will make some suggestions to the Department but at the end of the day, it will be the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance who will make the decision.
This section deals with providing the new authority with the capacity to appoint consultants and advisers. While I can understand it, it is always good when one is drafting primary legislation to deal with potential circumstances that one might not have thought of in advance. What did the Government have in mind here? We are always concerned about consultants, particularly in light of some of the activities that have happened in the more recent past. I am not saying it is confined to this Government.
I would have the same concerns as the Deputy. I would prefer to see money spent on sport rather than on consultants but sometimes there is a need for consultants to be hired in specific instances. It is a standard provision for State bodies and was previously included in both the Irish Sports Council Act 1999 and the National Sports Campus Development Authority Act 2006 so it is nothing new. In future, the chairman of the Irish Sports Council will have to consult with the Department in respect of the hiring of consultants because I would prefer to see money spent on sport rather than on consultants. There are times when it is necessary to get consultants in to advise us on different issues.
While I accept the Minister of State's point that it was part of the two previous entities, that in itself might not necessarily be a reason that it should be included here. I am sure the Minister of State will appoint a board that comes with its own skill sets. We need to put much more emphasis on the kind of people we appoint to these boards so that it is about capturing their knowledge, ability and ideas rather than being a reward for services rendered. I often think that this is where the external advice should come from. It should come via the board and I often wonder if it is necessary to appoint these consultants. Once the legislation is there, it provides for it. I accept that there are the usual strictures on it that talk about the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and all the guidelines that exist. I will not oppose the section but I am just-----
There are times when we do not have the expertise on the board and consultants must be hired. Deputy Dooley made a point about expertise, which is one of the things we will discuss later in the Bill. The new Sport Ireland board must contain an accountant and a lawyer so that the board has their expertise. However, there are times when expertise is needed and the board members or the chief executive do not have it but it will be done in consultation with the Government and the board must comply with Government guidelines. That is the reason behind this section.
This section states:
Would this be based on some report that the Government might have created, some policy position that it would take or decisions that get taken on a more ad hocbasis?
The Minister may, in relation to the performance by Sport Ireland of its functions, give a direction in writing to Sport Ireland requiring it to comply with such policies of
the Government as are specified in the direction.
As the Minister of State is aware, there are two entities. What understanding or arrangements exist? What is the expectation in terms of the appointment of a chief executive? Is there any understanding on the part of either of the executives in the current organisations regarding becoming the chief executive of this entity? Has any agreement been reached there?
My intention is that a competition will be held to select the person who will head up Sport Ireland. This will be a fair and open process and candidates will be able to throw their hats into the ring. My officials are drawing up guidelines for this.
So the Minister of State's officials are drawing up the criteria that an applicant would have to satisfy? Does the Minister of State expect that it will be a requirement that an applicant must have worked in either of the organisations that are amalgamated?
I only asked the officials to draw up the spec last week and they are doing that now. I am being honest when I say that. We want to get the legislation through but at the same time, I am putting it in train because when the Act comes into force, neither the Irish Sports Council nor the National Sports Campus Development Authority will exist so I need to have a chief executive. We will not have a board until we appoint a new one.
The legislation should clearly set out criteria and if not the criteria, it should most certainly set out the process by which the chief executive will be appointed. I do not see anything here that tells me that a chief executive must come through the Public Appointments Service process.
The Bill provides that the Minister will make the first appointment, after which a process for appointments must be put in place. This is being done because the organisation does not yet have a chief executive or board. Once a board has been established, it will select future chief executives. When the two current bodies are amalgamated, the new agency will not have a board or chief executive. Rather than delaying proceedings, I want to appoint a chief executive. A board will be then appointed and Sport Ireland will get up and running.
It is not acceptable that this appointment should be made by the Minister. I am not making a personal criticism of the Minister of State. However, appointing a chief executive and proceeding from there is an exceptionally bad way to approach this issue. A fair, open and transparent competition must be held. From that point of view, I put the Minister on notice that I will vigorously pursue this matter and insist, to the best of my ability, that the process be seen to be open and transparent.
The State has invested a great deal in implementing a mechanism for the appointment of individuals to senior positions in the public service. The Minister of State will be aware of Government proposals which will require even those who wish to be appointed to a board to apply for appointment and undergo a degree of vetting. This is an appropriate and fitting approach that moves in the right direction. It is not acceptable to have any type of ad hoc system in place for the appointment of the chief executive of Sport Ireland. I am not satisfied with this provision because it does not spell out how to ensure the appointment system will be seen to be fair, transparent and open. I am not attacking the Minister of State but seeking to provide protection for him. I will work with him to try to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone concerned.
This is a standard provision. It is not normal practice to include references to the chief executive in legislation. We will work on the guidelines issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for the competition, which will be open and transparent. The position will be advertised and people will have an opportunity to apply for it. I cannot do any more than that.
Two issues arise. The first is openness, which means having in place an open process by which people can apply. The transparency of the appointment is another issue. On the appointment, a clearly independent process is required for selecting a candidate from a pool of individuals who apply for the position. The process must be open, fair and transparent. We must not allow a perception to arise that the Minister will be able to appoint someone to the position owing to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. For this reason, I ask the Minister of State to indicate what methodology he and the Department intend to use to deal with the appointment of a chief executive of Sport Ireland.
I am not suggesting that would be the case. However, the Minister of State indicated the Minister would make the appointment. While I accept that, the Minister's decision must be based on a recommendation arising from an independent procedure that is external to the Department. It is for this reason that the Top Level Appointments Committee handles appointments to the higher echelons of the Civil Service. I hope the appointment will be handled outside the Department in a manner that gives everyone confidence that the process is open and independent.
As I stated, I am putting the Minister of State on notice that I will pursue this matter. I would prefer if he were to indicate either now or on Report Stage the methodology he intends to deploy for the appointment. I accept that he has asked his officials to set out the criteria and that this is probably the most difficult aspect of ensuring the right person is appointed. It is equally important, however, that the appointment process is viewed as open, transparent and fair and that all those who apply for the position will have an equal chance of being appointed. This will require the establishment of an appropriate decision making entity, one which is not connected to the Department and has the appropriate buffers and safeguards built in to ensure the best person possible is appointed to the agency.
I move amendment No. 5:
This amendment will move the definitions relating to the anti-doping part of the Bill from what is section 45 in the published Bill to a new section 40. This means the definitions related to anti-doping will become available at the start of Part 4. This technical amendment is related to the parliamentary draftsman's advice on the structure of the Bill and makes for easier reading. With one exception, all the definitions in the old section 45 are the same as the definitions in the new section 40. In the case of the definition of the term "relevant purpose", I am proposing a new wording as follows: ""relevant purpose" means the purpose of preserving the integrity of sport through the detection, prevention and elimination of doping in sport, including the application of sanctions in connection with such doping, on public interest grounds and for the benefit of sportspersons generally;". The new wording gives more detail about the type of activity in which Sport Ireland will engage to help prevent and eliminate doping in sport. This will include detection and sanctions.
In page 24, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:"Definitions for Part 440. In this Part—
"anti-doping organisation" means a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code that is responsible for adopting rules for initiating, implementing or enforcing any part of the doping control process including, without limitation, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, WADA, international federations for sport, national anti-doping organisations and other major event organisations that conduct doping testing at their sports events;
"data subject" has the same meaning as it has in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003;
"doping in sport" has the same meaning as it has in the UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention;
"Irish Anti-Doping Rules" means the rules made by Sport Ireland under section 41;
"national anti-doping organisation" has the same meaning as it has in the World Anti-Doping Code;
"personal data" has the same meaning as it has in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003;
"processing" has the same meaning as it has in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003;
"relevant purpose" means the purpose of preserving the integrity of sport through the detection, prevention and elimination of doping in sport, including the application of sanctions in connection with such doping, on public interest grounds and for the benefit of sportspersons generally;
"sensitive personal data" has the same meaning as it has in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003;
"UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention" means the International Convention Against Doping in Sport adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at Paris on 19 October 2005, as amended;
"WADA" means the World Anti-Doping Agency constituted in 1999 by the Constitutive Instrument of Foundation of the Agence Mondiale Antidopage;
"World Anti-Doping Code" means the World Anti-Doping Code adopted by the Foundation Board of WADA on 5 March 2003 at Copenhagen, as amended from time to time.".
I move amendment No. 6:
Amendments Nos. 6 and 13 deal with the same change of wording. The world anti-doping code is the code mentioned in section 40(a) and the phrase "code-compliant" is well known and widely used in respect of anti-doping and among organisations working in sport. We are adjusting the text in line with this well understood phrase in the sports sector.
In page 24, line 15, to delete "to organisations which comply with the World Anti-Doping Code," and substitute "to organisations that are code-compliant with the code mentioned in section 40(a),"
I move amendment No. 7:
These amendments make changes to the list of rules and arrangements relating to the Irish anti-doping rules. The purpose of the changes is to ensure the matters listed in the Bill are consistent with the world anti-doping code.
In page 24, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:"(a) application of rules;".
Amendment No. 7 is a technical amendment to correct an omission in the original text. An additional point on the application of the rules is being included in the list to allow for arrangements with regard to those to whom the rules apply. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are to insert the words "and methods" after the word "substance" to ensure the rules are consistent with the language in the world anti-doping code.
In amendment No. 10, I am proposing to insert the word "implementation" in the list set out in section 41(2). This is to make clear that Sport Ireland can make and implement decisions as well as report on the decisions it has implemented.
I move amendment No. 11:
Personal data has a defined meaning in the Data Protection Acts and includes sensitive personal data. I propose to use the term "personal data" in place of "personal information" to declare that Sport Ireland has power to share sensitive personal data.
In page 24, line 32, to delete “including personal information,” and substitute “including personal data,”.
I move amendment No. 12:
This is a technical amendment to correct the reference to the Irish Medicines Board which was renamed the Health Products Regulatory Authority in July 2014.
In page 24, to delete line 33 and substitute the following:“(a) the Health Products Regulatory Authority;”.
I move amendment No. 14:
These amendments are to change the wording in section 42 which deals with data protection and the sharing of information. "Best practice" is a phrase that is vague and hard to define. I therefore propose to use these words which give Sport Ireland more scope. The new body will have to be aware of and have regard to best practice. However, there will be no absolute duty to ensure everything Sport Ireland does is fully in line with best practice. I believe this to be a better wording.
In page 25, line 6, to delete “to ensure the attainment of” and substitute “having had regard to”.
I move amendment No. 15:
This is to make it clearer that information can be shared by Sport Ireland with persons, bodies or organisations listed in section 41(4). the original wording was not as clear as it only mentioned "persons".
In page 25, line 9, to delete “persons” and substitute “persons, bodies or organisations”.
I move amendment No. 16:
This is similar to amendment No. 15. This is to make it clear that the data to be shared by Sport Ireland and possessed by other bodies will only be shared with a list of persons and bodies set out in section 41(4) and can only be processed by then.
In page 25, lines 22 and 23, to delete “with such persons or bodies as it thinks fit” and substitute “with the persons, bodies or organisations referred to in section 41(4)”.
I move amendment No. 17:
This section defines the group of people who might be penalised under section 43(2) if they do not comply with the Irish anti-doping rules. This change in amendment No. 17 will mean that all national governing bodies are now included, both the ones that receive funding and the ones recognised by the State body but who do not receive funding.
In page 25, line 29, after “is” to insert “recognised by or”.
I move amendment No. 18:
Amendment No. 18 is to change the wording in section 43(1)(b) to include "athlete support personnel". The concept of athlete support personnel is set out clearly in the international anti-doping convention. It includes coaches, managers, medical support personnel and others. I am proposing this change so that the Bill will be consistent with the convention.
In page 25, to delete lines 31 and 32 and substitute the following:“(b) represents the State, whether—(i) in a competitive capacity, or
(ii) in the capacity of athlete support personnel (within the meaning of the Convention referred to in section 40(b)),”.
I move amendment No. 19:
There was some concern that the original wording of this section could have been taken to mean that this would impose a lifetime ban. The Irish doping rules provide for a range of penalties up to and including a lifetime ban depending on the particular violation. The proposed amendment allows Sport Ireland to apply a ban for a period up to and including a lifetime ban in line with the periods set out in the rules.
In page 25, line 34, after “eligible” to insert “, subject to those Rules”.
I move amendment No. 20:
Amendment No. 20 is to make clear that all of the functions in section 7 which relates to anti-doping are included in the paragraph which sets out the role for the anti-doping board sub-committee of Sport Ireland.
In page 30, lines 1 and 2, to delete “the performance of its function under section 7(1)(e),” and substitute “the performance of its functions under section 7(1)(d) to (g),”.
I move amendment No. 21:
The wording is being changed to make it clear that the chairperson of Sport Ireland will be consulted before the Minister appoints the chairs of sub-committees.
In page 30, line 17, after “Minister” to insert “, having consulted with the chairperson of Sport Ireland,”.
I move amendment No. 22:
This amendment reflects the role of Sport Ireland and the development of sports in the State. The insertion of the word "development" in the Long Title shows the role for Sport Ireland in the improvement and growth of sport as well as its role in the ongoing operations and management of the sports sector.
In page 5, line 5, after “administration” to insert “and development”.
I will also be tabling some amendments on Report Stage. There are a few technical amendments required to correct cross-references in the Bill and there are some other matters that are still under consideration with the Attorney General. If necessary, I will table amendments on these areas on Report Stage.