The Cabinet has approved legislation to regulate assisted human reproduction, which will lead to financial aid for couples struggling to afford treatments such as IVF.

It is the first time regulation has been approved in the area of assisted reproduction.

Minister for Health Simon Harris says this will lead to financial aid for couples.

He said that he will bring forward proposals on how this will work by the end of the year.

Mr Harris said the bill will then be sent to an Oireachtas committee and he hopes to have it in law next year.

The Cabinet has also agreed plans to extend maternity leave and benefit in cases of premature births.

Currently maternity benefit is paid by the State for 26 weeks.

Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty brought a memo to Cabinet to extend this payment and leave from the time a baby is born prematurely.

These will be added at the end of the 26 weeks.

There are around 4,500 premature births in Ireland annually.

Meanwhile, the Government has published draft legislation that aims to provide clarity around phone records and who can access them.