Cabinet has approved a proposal by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to provide a definition of sexual consent in legislation already published.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill includes a new legal definition of consent and a number of new offences in regard to online and sexual predators.

Following the approval of the consent proposal, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has secured Government agreement to review the defence of honest belief that consent was given in rape cases.

This is when an accused can and must be acquitted of rape if he can persuade a jury and the court that he honestly believed consent existed, no matter how mistaken or illogical that belief.

The Law Reform Commission will examine ending the practice of accepting a defence of honest belief alone.

Speaking after the decision, Ms Zappone said "the defence honest belief in the consent of a victim, no matter how unreasonable, is outdated.

"We now have an opportunity to introduce in law the need for those accused of rape to demonstrate an element of reasonableness in relying on the defence of honest belief," she added.

The minister also said she hoped to have a draft bill before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a senior law lecturer at NUI Galway has said that putting a definition of consent to sex into statute law is extremely valuable, although he does not believe the proposals will alter existing laws much.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Tom O'Malley said the bill would probably set out a number of circumstances where a person would be deemed not to be consenting.

He said that the law is constantly trying to catch up with technology but this bill does a good job in attempting to deal with problems that exist.

Mr O'Malley added that it would be necessary to create a significant number of offences, such as people trying to contact children over the Internet and grooming.

Separately, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the Cabinet has agreed to initiate a public consultation process on a new working family payment.

The payment is promised in the Programme for Government as a means of attempting to reduce child poverty, and ensuring that families are not better off on welfare than in work. 

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he secured agreement at Cabinet to begin the public consultation process.

Ms Zappone also briefed her colleagues on proposed legislation on the new affordable childcare scheme, which will be introduced in September.