Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Investment Limited Partnerships (Amendment) Bill 2020: Committee Stage
Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill was waived. We agreed to that because we want to be constructive. However, in light of the events of the past week, when former Senator D'Arcy, who was the ultimate architect of the Bill, resigned in the manner in which he did, which I find really odd-----
I am staying with the Bill. Here is the thing. We know from the fallout relating to the Bill that there are concerns about lobbying in the sector. The problem is that when the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, wrote to the former Minister to express these concerns regarding section 22, the Minister of State who reviewed it and said there was nothing to do was none other than Michael D'Arcy. I am simply making the point that given all that has happened, Sinn Féin's position right now is that we need to go back to pre-legislative scrutiny and examine the Bill line by line.
Garret Ahearn, Niall Blaney, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Malcolm Byrne, Micheál Carrigy, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Lisa Chambers, Ollie Crowe, John Cummins, Emer Currie, Paul Daly, Aisling Dolan, Timmy Dooley, Mary Fitzpatrick, Robbie Gallagher, Róisín Garvey, Pippa Hackett, Seán Kyne, Tim Lombard, John McGahon, Erin McGreehan, Fiona O'Loughlin, Joe O'Reilly, Mary Seery Kearney, Barry Ward, Diarmuid Wilson.
Ivana Bacik, Frances Black, Lynn Boylan, Gerard Craughwell, Eileen Flynn, Paul Gavan, Alice-Mary Higgins, Annie Hoey, Elisha McCallion, Niall Ó Donnghaile, Lynn Ruane, Marie Sherlock, Mark Wall, Fintan Warfield.
This section relates to definitions and there are other sections of definitions in some of the Acts that this Bill proposes to amend. I am reserving the right to address some of the definitions provided and to consider the introduction of new definitions in respect of the Bill. As has been pointed out, there are concerns about the scrutiny of this legislation and there is a duty on all of us to ensure heightened scrutiny, given that pre-legislative scrutiny was skipped. There are also concerns about the Bill and its resemblance to the previous Bill. I am just indicating that I am reserving the right to submit amendments in respect of some of the definitions in the Bill on Report Stage.
Another section of Part 1 deals with commencement of the legislation and if there are particularly troubling parts of the Bill, I also reserve the right to suggest specific commencement dates.
I emphasise the point that there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny. We have concerns about what has happened here in the past week. I will read a quote we heard in the Chamber last week: "From my experience, investors are significantly ahead of everyone else." That was a contribution of our erstwhile colleague, former Senator D'Arcy. I ask the Minister of State to ponder that. We need proper pre-legislative scrutiny on this Bill and I reserve the right to bring forward amendments on Report Stage.
Garret Ahearn, Catherine Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Micheál Carrigy, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Lisa Chambers, Ollie Crowe, John Cummins, Emer Currie, Paul Daly, Aisling Dolan, Timmy Dooley, Mary Fitzpatrick, Robbie Gallagher, Róisín Garvey, Seán Kyne, Tim Lombard, Michael McDowell, John McGahon, Erin McGreehan, Eugene Murphy, Fiona O'Loughlin, Joe O'Reilly, Ned O'Sullivan, Mary Seery Kearney, Barry Ward, Diarmuid Wilson.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
4. Within 12 months of the passing of this Act, the Minister shall lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of the impact and use of the provisions in this Act, including a consideration of compatibility with the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) guidelines, and their impact, if any, on the Revenue Commissioners.”.
In addition to outlining the intent behind the amendment, there are some points relating to the wider section that I wish to address. This amendment relates to the introduction of a new section that would require the Minister to lay before both Houses a report looking at the impact and use of the provisions of this Act in terms of compatibility with the OECD base erosion and profit shifting guidelines. There would be real concerns if we found ourselves in a situation where the investment industry felt that it was ahead of the Oireachtas in the context of this Bill. With this amendment, I suggest that a report be provided by the Minister within 12 months of the passing of the legislation. Such a report would be crucial when it comes to compliance with and best practice in the context of the OECD guidelines.That is something we should look at before this Bill passes and why I concur with requests that we have a return to prelegislative scrutiny. The Bill is not so advanced that it should not be possible.
We know, for example, we are dealing with a large amount of money. The total value of investment funds domiciled and administered in Ireland is €4.9 trillion. The amount of money lost internationally on an annual basis due to base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, is €240 billion. Much of it is lost to some of the poorest countries in the world.
I am concerned, specifically, around some of the measures in this Bill that lessen liabilities. I note my amendments in respect of the Revenue Commissioners at a later stage. I am concerned about the lessening of potential liabilities in respect of our own tax base. However, I am also concerned about the erosion of liabilities in other areas of this Bill, including the revenue of other countries. I am somewhat concerned, specifically, about some of the provisions in the Bill on lessening liability and which seem to even lessen criminal liability. Again, there are positive aspects in this Bill in terms of tackling money laundering but there are also places where we are, in fact, removing offences or removing potential liability under offences. Again, in terms of due scrutiny and due process that is not ideal. It is something we need to look at.
I will be pressing this amendment. I will, however, also bring forward amendments to the effect that certain sections of this Bill should not commence until a review of compatibility with base erosion and profit shifting guidelines from the OECD is done. Indeed, I will also look to suggest the timeframe. Twelve months is the timeframe I gave. I wrote this amendment prior to the revelations about the progress of this Bill and the question marks that have arisen regarding appropriate best parliamentary progress being seen to be done. It is not just about being done but about that question being seen to be done.
It is important we have scrutiny of this Bill. I am hopeful the Minister of State might accept this amendment. I reserve the right to put forward stronger wording in terms of a report at a later stage. Given the trillions of euro in investment funds passing through Ireland, we have a huge responsibility to not only abide by the basic letter of the law but be seen to give leadership in terms of the highest possible standards. I will be pressing this amendment. I hope the Minister of State might be able to indicate that he will accept this amendment. It would give some signal of positive commitment to scrutiny and I will follow by hoping he will indicate that sections of this Bill might not commence until after the information has been provided.
I have a final request. If the Minister of State has information on the OECD and BEPS guidelines in this Bill he would like to make available to all in this House in advance of this Bill resuming, that would be useful.
I really want to echo what Senator Higgins has said. As acknowledged by the Minister of State last week, this is a detailed and technical Bill which runs to 90 pages. The fact of the matter is that the key architect of that Bill has now transferred to head up a key lobbying organisation. The job description says that part of his new role will be to ensure the association's policies and views are clearly communicated in a timely manner to target audiences, in particular, governments, departments and regulators.
It is time the Minister of State addressed the elephant in the room. We want to work with him. We need to go back to prelegislative scrutiny of this Bill. It is too important. Finding out loopholes in a few years' time will be no good. It is too important and I plead with the Minister of State to address this issue.