Regulatory Client Update: Government's Legislative Programme for Spring/Summer 2018

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Regulatory Client Update: Government's Legislative Programme for Spring/Summer 2018

Published 23 February 2018

The Government Chief Whip recently released a list of the Government's legislative priorities for the Spring/Summer Oireachtas term.

From a regulatory perspective the below list is similar to our previous update in this area. While this is the case it must be borne in mind that the below is only a small representation of the legislation before the Oireachtas. Many of the bills set out below are now well into the formative stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The key changes since the last update are as follows:

  • The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill and Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill are both now included on the Priority Legislation list;
  • The Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill has been moved from the Other Legislation list to the Priority Legislation list;  
  • The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill is now on the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny list.

Priority Legislation

A total of 49 bills have been prioritised for publication in the Spring/Summer Session, including:

The Regulated Health Professions (Amendment) Bill.

This started life as a Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill back in December 2015 with pre-legislative scrutiny conducted at that stage and again in December 2016. The revised title more accurately reflects the changes being introduced with the purpose of the bill being to amend the legislation relating to the Medical Council, the Dental Council, CORU, the Pharmaceutical Society and the NMBI as well as amending the Health Acts of 1953 and 2004.

One of the amendments is to provide for the availability of an appeal against "minor" sanctions being imposed against a regulated professional. Currently, an appeal to the High Court is not available if a registrant wishes to challenge the imposition of an advice, admonishment or censure.  This point has been raised before the Courts on a number of occasions, most notably in the case of Corbally v. the Medical Council

Other matters to be addressed by the bill include the transposition of Directive 2013/55/EU on the recognition of professional qualifications and the action to be taken by a regulator if a person has been prohibited / restricted from practising in another county.

Data Protection Bill

Please see our separate detailed alert on this topic.

Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill

The heads of bill were approved in March 2017 and pre-legislative scrutiny has also taken place but this is not designated as a priority for the government in the current session. This will update the 1958 Act and is intended to "ensure that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly laid down in primary legislation". Among the main amendments will be:

  • A change in name from Bord nag Con to "Greyhound Racing Ireland"
  • The introduction of a racing code and racing sanction, providing a basis for administrative sanctions for breaching the applicable rules, moving away from the criminal sanctions under the current regime.
  • The implementation of recommendations from the Indecon Report to include amendments to the corporate governance arrangements in place for the current board to reflect the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, conflict of interest disclosure requirements, effective delegation of functions to the CEO, and placing existing ministerial powers to remove a Board member on a primary legislation footing. 
  • A statement of the functions of Greyhound Racing Ireland
  • An extension of the Board's regulatory powers to control racing officials and powers to deal with doping of greyhounds with a view to introducing a comprehensive set of anti-doping rules.
  • The appointment of Authorised Officers (for the first time in primary legislation) to investigate issues, including the use of prohibited substances.
  • The transfer of decisions on the application of sanctions to the Control and Appeal Committees (both of which have their powers and roles dealt with in the legislation). These are independent of the Board in the exercise of their functions and the provision that all participants in the sport subject themselves to the jurisdiction of these Committees.
  • The extension of disqualifications and exclusion orders to be more effective.

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill

Work is said to be underway on amending the 1990 Act which will give the representative associations of An Garda Siochana (the Garda Representative Association ("GRA") and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors ("AGSI") access to the workplace relations commission and the Labour Court.

The proposed legislation was mentioned to the Dáil by the then Taoiseach in November 2016 where he noted that he had instructed the Attorney General to move as quickly as possible to put the required legal frameworks in place. It was reported earlier this year that this legislation would not be in place until the end of 2017 at the earliest but as no heads of bill are approved at this stage and the fact that it does not appear in a priority list, it seems highly unlikely that there will be any significant progress by the end of this year.

Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) (miscellaneous Intellectual Property Bill)

The Bill is to adopt recommendations made by the Copyright Review Committee in its report "Modernising Copyright: The Report of the Copyright Review Committee #CRC13". The Bill is intended to modernise the area of copyright law in Ireland. It is designed to specifically provide for stronger rights for copyright owners and provide for changes identified by the Copyright Review Committee in its report. 

Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill

The aim of this Bill is to provide for recognition of qualifications previously recognised by another State body. This will affect all professions regulated by CORU.

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill

It would seem from the aim of this Bill that the Government is seeking to address issues identified in the private residential tenancies sector in respect of security of tenure. It is proposed that the Bill will amend Sections 66 and 151 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and will provide for greater notice periods for tenants in current occupation. For example the legislation, if enacted as it is currently drafted, will increase the minimum notice period (for tenancies of less than six months) from 28 to 90 days.

The amendment to Section 151 will require additional information to be provided to the Residential Tenancies Board which may also serve to increase security for tenants.

Communications (Retention of Data) Bill

To bring the Irish legislative framework in line with recent European cases in this area the Government has indicated that this Bill is now a priority piece of legislation. The Bill aims to address the issues highlighted in recent European Court of Justice cases which have significant impact on the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. 

Pre-legislative scrutiny

Aside from the priority bills, a further 30 bills are expected to undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny in the current session. From a regulatory perspective, the following are of interest:

Building Control Bill

The heads of the Building Control bill were approved on 30 May 2017 and the purpose of the new bill is stated as "to place Construction Industry Register Ireland or CIRI on a statutory footing and thereby provide in law for the registration of builders, contractors and specialist sub-contractors". CIRI was established by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) with the support of the Government and provides a list of construction professionals who are deemed to be "competent" for the purposes of signing certificates of compliance on completion of projects as required by Regulations introduced in 2014.

  • The CIF is proposed under the General Scheme to be the registration body who will be tasked with establishing an admissions and Registration board (such a board already exists for the purposes of dealing with applications to be placed on the CIRI).
  • The scheme requires builders to be registered before carrying out building works (though a number of works are excluded from the remit of the Act)
  • It also provides for the introduction of specialist divisions to the Register but must have regard to 7 specified considerations before doing so.
  • It also provides for minimum competencies, a Code of Conduct and a complaints investigation mechanism in respect of registrants which will be overseen by the Admissions and Registration Board. 
  • The Board will be able to conduct investigations and appoint inspectors. Findings include improper conduct, poor professional performance and breach of registration requirements. Possible sanctions will range from advice / admonishment up to suspension and erasure from the register with the more serious sanctions requiring High Court confirmation, mirroring that of other professional regulatory bodies.
  • A separate appeals committee will be established to deal with appeals by members / applicants who are adversely affected by a decision of the Admissions and Registration board.

The date of pre-legislative scrutiny is yet to be determined.

Assisted Human Reproduction Bill

The progress of this Bill has been quite slow however it has moved somewhat over the past year. This time last year the Bill was on the "Other Legislation" list in the legislative program. This year it has moved to the "Pre-Legislative Scrutiny" part of the program. The Bill is designed to regulate the area of assisted human reproduction which, while some regulation exists in the area, remains a largely unregulated area of the healthcare sector. The legislation will provide for a legislation framework in relation to assisted human reproduction practices, healthcare and research.

The heads of the Bill were agreed on 3 October 2017 and it is expected that pre-legislative scrutiny will begin soon.

Other legislation

Irish Aviation Authority (Amendment) Bill

Work is said to be underway with respect to Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of this bill which aims to amend existing legislation dating from 1997 "to extend the existing powers of the IAA, with regard to its safety regulation function, to recoup costs through fees and charges for its aviation security regulation functions". It is also planned to recognise the IAA's role in compliance monitoring under Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention which deals with security of civil aviation. 

This legislation was part of the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny list during the last session but appears to have slipped back in the order of priority despite fact that its progress has been in the offing for quite some time.

Authors

Gary Rice

Gary Rice

Dublin

+353 (0)1 231 9654

Niall Sexton

Niall Sexton

Dublin

+353 (0)1 231 9675

Aidan Healy

Aidan Healy

Dublin

+353 (0)123 19669

Brian Ormond

Brian Ormond

Dublin

+353 (0) 12319691

Aideen Ryan

Aideen Ryan

Dublin

+353 (0)86 042 4405

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