The Spring 2023 Legislative Programme sets out 38 pieces of priority legislation. In a departure from previous programmes, these priority bills are separated into two categories; those for priority publication and those for priority drafting, with the former more likely to feature this term.
Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton pointed to certain measures, primarily concerning housing and health, which will be afforded special priority. Some bills listed have featured in several previous legislative programmes.
The full programme and accompanying press-release are available here. We consider bills affecting key sectors.
Housing & Property
In the press-release accompanying the Spring Programme, the Chief Whip named three pieces of property legislation to be specifically prioritised. A draft of the Planning and Development Bill was approved by Government in December with the aim of replacing the Act of the same name from 2000. The Bill would see sweeping changes to the planning process, which we previously considered here.
Despite its inclusion in the Autumn 2022 Legislative Programme, the Land Value Sharing and Urban Development Zones Bill has yet to receive pre-legislative scrutiny but remains a Government priority. The Bill proposes the designation of urban development zones where local authorities would retain a portion of a site’s increased value resulting from a change in zoning for residential use.
A new addition to the programme, the Registration of Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill 2022 aims to deliver on the Housing for All objective of making more efficient use of existing housing by requiring properties offered for letting for 21-days or fewer to be registered with Fáilte Ireland.
Top of the list of health priorities is the Health (Abolition of Public Inpatient Charges) Bill. The Government has moved swiftly on this and has already put forward a general scheme for the Bill which would remove the acute public in-patient charge up to a maximum of €800 per-year.
Also featuring in the list of priorities for publication this term is the Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services) (Safe Access Zones) Bill which would ban certain protests and demonstrations within 100m of a site which can provide termination services. Similarly prioritised is the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill which contains measures prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes and other products to minors.
The Health (Amendment) Bill aims to enhance governance and oversight of nursing homes and other bodies. Since its inclusion in the previous legislative programme Heads of Bill have been approved and scrutinised. The Mental Health Bill and Health Information Bill are also retained from the Autumn 2022 Legislative Programme with no updates offered in this edition.
Several of the programme’s priority bills affect the formation and administration of public bodies. The Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill proposes to allow serious disciplinary action, including dismissal, to be carried out within public bodies below the level of an organisation’s head.
In terms of new public bodies, the Digital Services Bill, designed to implement the EU’s Digital Services Act would establish a new Media Commission. Read more on the Digital Services Act . The General Scheme of the Marine Protected Areas Bill would empower the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to establish an “Expert Body” to advise them on the designation of protected areas.
The programme does contain bills which, although not listed as a priority, are potentially very impactful. The Health (Adult Safeguarding) Bill has appeared in every legislative programme since spring 2018. No Heads have yet been published but the Bill could overhaul the interaction of vulnerable adults with the health sector with attendant consequences for the administration of healthcare bodies.
Another item to watch this year is the Defamation (Amendment) Bill which is intended to bring about wide sweeping reforms to the law. The General Scheme of the Bill was published on 28 March 2023, following government approval for priority drafting of the Bill. The bill is currently before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is expected that the Bill will be brought before the Dáil before year end for debate
The Spring 2023 Legislative Programme reflects the Government’s stated priorities with some potentially significant additions. It remains to be seen which of these proposals will materialise this term and which will again feature come autumn.
For more information on the Government’s Legislation Programme, contact a member of our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.