Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1983, Committee and Final Stages.

Tuesday, 5 July 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 344 No. 7

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Question proposed: “That section 1 stand part of the Bill”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Ba mhaith liom a iarraidh ar an Aire an mbeadh sé sásta cóip den Bhille seo a chur ar fáil dúinn i nGaeilge os rud é gurb é sin an t-aon chóip dleathúil má bhíonn aon chonspóid de bharr an méid atá scríofa sa Bhille seo. De réir an Bhunreachta is é an chóip i nGaeilge an ceann a shocraíonn cúis dlí, agus os rud e go bhfuil amhras ormsa faoi mhíreanna áirithe sa Bhille seo, tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Aire, ionas go mbeidh seans cóir ag an Dáil an Bille a phlé i gceart cóip den Bhille seo a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge sula dtosnaíonn an díospóireacht seo.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Is é an t-eolas atá agam ná de ghnáth ni chuirtear an Bille as Gaeilge ar fáil don Teach go dtí go mbeidh an Bille rite san Oireachtas agus ansin curtha ar fáil don phobal. Níl mé ag dul as an tslí sin an t-am seo ach tá súil agam go mbeidh sé ar fáil tar éis cúpla lá.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Níl sé sin sásúil ar chor ar bith. D'iarr níos mó ná Teachta amháin ar thaobh an Tánaiste cóip i nGaeilge den Bhille seo a chur ar fáil roimhe seo, agus cuireann se ionadh ormsa nár leanadh leis sin agus nílimid sásta chor ar bith a chloisteáil ón Tánaiste anois nach bhfuil sé sásta cóip den Bhille a chur ar fáil dúinn sula dtosnaíonn an díospóireacht anseo. Níl se féarálta dúinne sa Fhreasúra. Ní thig linn an Bille seo a mheas 1 gceart agus tá amhras orainne faoi phointí áirithe sa Bhille agus ba mhaith linn a fheicéail cen chaoi a scríobhfar an dlí seo i nGaeilge. Ní hé seo an chéad iarratas atá curtha os comhair an Tánaiste ag iarraidh air cóip den Bhille seo a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge agus tá uair a chloig den díospóireacht seo caillte cheana féin. Tá níos mó ná 70 leasuithe curtha síos agam féin agus Teachtaí eile chomh maith leis an Tánaiste é féin. Níl [1551] ach sé uair a chloig nó mar sin chun an Bille seo a phlé agus níl an rud sásúil in aon bhealach, agus iarraim arís — an bhfuil cóip den Bhille ar fáil i nGaeilge? Agus muna bhfuil, cén chaoi ar féidir leis dul ar aghaidh leis an Bhille i mBéarla nuair nach bhfuil an chóip i nGaeilge scríofa amach fós.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Níl an chóip ar fáil i nGaeilge ach ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl don Teachta Airteagal 25 (3) den Bhunreacht; tá sé soiléir ansin.

Is é téacs de Bhille a gcuirfidh an tUachtarán a lámh leis ná an téacs a ritheadh nó a mheastar a ritheadh ag dhá Theach an Oireachtais agus, má ritear Bille nó má mheastar é a bheith rite amhlaidh sa dá theanga oifigiúla, cuirfidh an tUachtarán a lámh le téacs Gaeilge agus le téacs Sacs-Bhéarla an Bhille.

Ar an ócáid seo is é an téacs Sacs-Bhéarla atá os comhair an Tí agus tá mise sásta gurb é sin an procedure ceart anois.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Dár ndóigh ní theastaíonn uaimse am a chur amú os rud é nach bhfuil morán ama ar fáil againn ach amháin a chur in iúl don Cheann Comhairle nach bhfuil sé seo sásúil ar chor ar bith. Meastar domsa gur masla é don Ghaeilge agus is masla é don Fhreasúra nach bhfuil seans againn an Bille a phlé sa teanga ina mbeidh an dlí á mheas amach anseo faoin mBunreacht.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Caithfimid dul ar aghaidh.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Would it be more appropriate for the Minister, in regard to the Principal Act and the Act of 1976, to have these defined in section 1 for the purposes of clarity, especially as both Acts are extensively amended in this Bill?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Principal Act is defined in the 1982 Act which is incorporated into this Act which is presently before the House. That situation is well covered.

[1552] Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 24, after “land” to add “necessary for the proper functioning of the Board”.

This is a technical amendment and I would like to hear from the Minister if he will accept it or why he feels it is not necessary. I feel it is necessary and that the board should only be involved in acquiring, holding or disposing of land if such is necessary for the proper functioning of the board. I cannot see what other purpose it would be required for.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I feel this amendment is unnecessary. The provision in section 2 (1) about the acquisition and the disposal of land is a standard one designed to enable the board to provide itself with premises for office use. To read into this standard provision a power to become involved in land dealings of a kind which has nothing to do with the functions of the board would be unnecessary and a bit far-reaching. I do not think it is quite possible. It is fair to point out that, quite apart from this altogether, the board will not have any resources to permit of land dealings. Even if it were legally entitled to become involved in this area, it does not have the power to borrow money and its annual programme for expenditure must be submitted to me and the Minister for Finance. I reject this amendment. As I have outlined, it is quite unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, subsection (2), line 28, to delete “section 27 (3)” and substitute “section 21 (3)”.

This is a straightforward amendment to correct a drafting error. Section 27 (3) appears in section 2 (2) whereas the reference should be to section 21 (3). In other words, the figure 1 inadvertently [1553] became a 7. The purpose of the amendment is to correct that error.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Why does the Minister deem it necessary to repeat the words in this section in view of similar sections in the Schedule to the 1976 Act. The construction seems extraordinary and points to the unwieldly and disjointed approach to this Bill. The section merely confirms the existing law. Why is it necessary to include the words in this section in view of the fact that it seems only to be confirming what is there already in the law? It says in subsection (1): “The Board shall continue” and in subsection (3) it again says: “Judicial notice shall continue”. These things are provided for in existing legislation. Is there a precedent for this?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  As the Schedule of the 1976 Act——

Acting Chairman (Mr. Conaghan): Information on Hugh Conaghan  Zoom on Hugh Conaghan  May I interrupt the Minister for a moment? We must dispose of amendments Nos. 3 and 4 before we proceed with the section.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, subsection (4), line 5, to delete “and to section 10 of this Act”.

It is evidence of the hasty way this legislation was put together that it appears the amendments have been listed in the wrong order. This amendment affects subsequent amendments in my name. There should be one date of commencement for all sections and in view of the peculiar circumstances of this Bill it is important that there be an established date for all sections. It is quite extraordinary the way the Bill has been worded, giving the Minister power to bring various sections into law as and when he considers fit. It appears to be a most disjointed way of implementing legislation and in view of the serious concern of [1554] my party with regard to the main provisions in the Bill we would not agree to give the Minister this power. We consider one date should be appointed for the commencement of all of the sections when the Bill is enacted. As the future role of existing members and the chairman of An Bord Pleanála is in question, it is a matter of extreme importance.

I wish to state at the outset that our contributions will be greatly inhibited because of the guillotine motion which has been introduced. I am conscious that I have not much time to explain in detail any of the amendments in my name. I know if we dwell too long on the early sections when we reach 10.30 p.m. the guillotine will be put into force and we will not have an opportunity to make any contribution on the later sections.

I ask the Minister to reconsider having a commencement date for all of the Bill rather than giving him the power to bring bits and pieces as and when he feels like it.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am at a certain loss because I thought the Deputy was addressing himself to amendment No. 3 but his remarks seem to be directed more to amendment No. 5. It is perfectly normal in the course of introducing legislation to adopt the procedures I have adopted. I will not accept the amendment in this case. There are many precedents in this House which allow a Minister latitude to introduce legislation as I am doing now.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister should not be under any misunderstanding. Section 10 is crucial because that is the one that deals with the removal from office of the chairman and the members. The way the Bill is framed it appears that event shall happen at the whim of the Minister and that other sections can be brought into law at different times. Because there is reference to section 10 in this section I considered it necessary to put down amendment No. 3. Will the Minister answer the point I made about bringing all sections into operation on one day?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Section 10 provides for the [1555] termination of the appointment of the existing chairman and the ordinary members. Section 2 (4) provides that the existing chairman and ordinary members will continue to hold office subject to the original terms of office but subject to section 10 of the Bill. This amendment is a consequence of further amendments to section 10 which Deputy Molloy has tabled and I will be opposing them in due course as I am opposing amendment No. 3. If this amendment were accepted the existing chairman and ordinary members would continue to hold office after the Bill is enacted. As I pointed out on Second Stage and as will be pointed out on Committee Stage, when we are setting out to restructure the membership of An Bord Pleanála it is desirable that we start ab initio. That is what will happen in this case.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The approach of my party is that the chairman and existing members of the board should continue in office. Therefore, I could not agree to the implementation of section 10. We are opposing the inclusion of section 10 and we are proposing the amendment in my name.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy will appreciate that the intention to have five ordinary members is not compatible with allowing the existing members to remain in office because there is scope for ten members at the moment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I would accept a consequential amendment from the Minister at a later stage if he thought that was necessary to allow him to agree to my amendment. That would not present any great difficulty.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  Will the Minister not agree that the Bill should be amended and allow the members of the board to continue in office?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I could not agree with that suggestion.

[1556]Acting Chairman:  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Yes.

Acting Chairman:  I am putting the question “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Níl mé ró-soiléir. An é an leasu atá síos agam atá dá cur?

Question “That the words proposed to be deleted stand” put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, subsection (4), line 6, after “office” to add “and Articles 6 and 10 of the Schedule to the said Act shall continue to have effect.”.

Articles 6 and 10 lay down specific provisions whereby the Government or the Minister may remove people from office. We feel that the provisions in the 1976 Act are adequate and that the Minister has been very negligent in his duties in seeking to remove people from office without giving any cause and without using the sections provided for such action in the 1976 Act. Article No. 6 states:

Where the chairman of the Board is a person who formerly held judicial office, the Government may remove him from the chairmanship if he has become incapable through ill-health of effectively performing his duties, or if he has committed stated misbehaviour, or if his removal appears to the Government to be necessary for the effective performance by the Board of its functions and in case a chairman of the Board is removed under this Article then the Government shall cause to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas a statement in writing of the reasons for the removal.

In the case of ordinary members of the board, under article 10 a similar provision [1557] is made — in other words, the Minister has power to remove ordinary members who have become incapable through ill health of effectively performing their duties or if they have committed a stated misbehaviour. In all cases the Minister if he acts under these articles has to lay a statement in writing before the Oireachtas setting out the reasons for the removal.

I participated in the extensive debate which took place prior to the enactment of the Planning Act, 1976, and it is very surprising some years later to find that sections of that Act which were made law by the Government are being completely ignored. It is quite extraordinary and exceptional that the Minister has refused to give any reasons whatsoever why the chairman or the members of the board should be removed from office. My amendment is merely re-enacting the provision which was made by this House in the 1976 Act.

It is obvious that the Minister is proceeding purely for political, vindictive reasons and was unable to find any grounds of misbehaviour or ill-health on which he could have the chairman and members removed, because those grounds never existed. Deputy Liam Cosgrave and Deputy Michael Keating said they had no objections to the board continuing in office provided they carried out their duties efficiently and in a proper fashion. They made it quite clear that they had no knowledge of any impropriety on the part of these board members or chairman. The Minister, therefore, is circumventing the wishes of the Oireachtas in the 1976 Act in his attempts to remove the members. He does so by way of the big stick, bringing in a completely new Bill, and it is a step which the Government will greatly regret.

The naked, political vindictiveness of such action is slowly beginning to dawn on people. There was an attempt in the early stages of this debate to convey the impression through innuendo and Government propaganda that the judge and the board members were not fit to carry out the duties which were entrusted to them. It now transpires that not one whit of evidence has been presented [1558] which would justify any complaints made against them. The opposite has been proved to be the case during this debate, that the dilatoriness on the part of An Bord Pleanála in arriving at planning decisions has been caused by lack of staff. The blame for that can only be laid at the feet of the Minister for the Environment, his staff, the Minister for the Public Service, the Minister for Finance and the Government. The last people who could be blamed for any dilatoriness in carrying out duties and making decisions on planning appeals were the people who were appointed to do it. We have shown that in the course of the debate and it is a disgrace that the Government have sought to convey otherwise to the community. The board members are innocent victims, honourable people who accepted their appointments and carried out their duties conscientiously and as properly and efficiently as the Government machine would allow. The Government, for shameful reasons, sought to discredit the chairman and the members. In time I am sure they will take action to clear their names, but it is a new aspect of our political life to see a Government attempting to destroy the good character, name and reputation of honourable people. I urge the Minister to accept my amendment. There are sufficient grounds in the 1976 Act for any Government to remove people from office.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I cannot accept this amendment. I have attempted to make it clear in the past couple of days that the primary object of the Bill is to change the system of appointment. I have been at pains to point that out on numerous occasions. The termination of existing appointments is a necessary consequence of this process. I have not and will not make allegations, as the Deputy seems to insist I should, about existing members. I will not discuss any personal histories or the background or qualifications of the individuals who have been appointed by my predecessor. As I have said on numerous occasions, I am not conducting a witch hunt and I have no intention of embarking on that course now.

I have at all times stated in the course [1559] of this Bill that because of the institutional changes which have taken place it is important, in order to restore public confidence in the board, to have a new system which can be made effective for the proper disposal of planning appeals and that the system of appointments be changed forthwith. Obviously it would not be acceptable, when one is setting out to change the system of appointments, that the existing board members should be allowed to retain office. It is a consequence of this change of the entire structure and constitution of the board that the appointments of existing members must be terminated. If these appointments were to run their normal course we would not be in a position to reconstitute the board until December 1987. It is quite reasonable that, where a new structure and system is needed to allay public concern and to increase efficiency, we must set about implementing that new system as soon as possible. The amendment suggested by the Deputy is totally inconsistent with my basic proposals of reconstituting the board and doing so quickly. Therefore, I am not in a position to accept the amendment.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Could the Minister give an example of how the new board will act more efficiently than the old board?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Five people should be in a position to come to decisions far more quickly and effectively than nine people. As I pointed out to the House, on a number of occasions the volume of the backlog within An Bord Pleanála seemed to increase directly with the increase in the number of board members. Far more decisions were made when the board consisted of five members. I am confident that the smaller group, the chairman and five ordinary members, should and I guarantee will be a more effective board than a larger number of people would be.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Does the efficacy of the board in carrying out their operations depend on the number of inspectors in the field who are to make inspections and report back to the members of the board?

[1560] I put it to the Minister that what he is saying is quite nonsensical. He says that the members of the board sit and adjudicate finally on the findings of the inspectors. It would be far more suitable if he were to add to the number of inspectors in the field and so expedite the processing of applications. Once he gets this Bill through will he appoint more inspectors and, hey presto, have a more efficacious board?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I have sanctioned the appointment of four additional inspectors since I came into office. Secondly, I dispute the conclusion arrived at by the Deputy that my suggestion before the House is completely nonsensical. As I see it, the larger board obviously took far more time than a smaller board would, and the figures I made available to this House last week substantiate that fact. Also the number of inspectors did not increase over the past three years. I cannot understand my predecessors in the Fianna Fáil Party in the Department of the Environment. If the concern was there, why did they continue to appoint additional board members if they believed that the problem was at inspectorate level, that the money would have been far better spent had they appointed more inspectors rather than adding to the board members which, to take Deputy O'Rourke's theory, would not be of any additional assistance in the processing of the decisions?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Implicit in the Minister's thinking is the idea that that is necessary because of the increased number of outstanding unresolved applications, and that patently cannot be so.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  Is the Minister still of the opinion that the present board are responsible for the delays in making decisions? He has mentioned that recently. Will he confirm it?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The record speaks for itself. Regarding the present board in terms of numbers, three appointments are available at present if one wants to [1561] go ahead and replace them, without any legislation. They have not been replaced. Perhaps the present board with a lesser number of board members would be in a position to make quicker decisions, but that remains to be seen.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  The Minister is avoiding my question. He stated clearly in the House last week that the present board were responsible for the delays in the decisions. I am asking him now to confirm that.

Mr. J. Doyle: Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle  I was concerned about what would be the appropriate number of members of the board in order that that board would function effectively and efficiently. Last Sunday I was pleased to hear a distinguished former chairman of the board state that he felt that five was the best number to have on the board.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The chairman also felt that the board should not be fired.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  I have reservations about the dismissal of the board. One must be very careful about it. The power of decision-making must be retained in Government Departments. I had some doubts about the appointment of An Bord Pleanála in the first instance, but they have proved necessary to some extent. We are dealing with vast amounts of money and it is important to have a board who are and are seen to be totally impartial in the decisions they make. The saving grace of the section under discussion is that the appointments that were made were wrong and, while casting no aspersion whatsoever on the persons so appointed, the appointment of members by an outgoing Government cannot and should not be condoned. In Ireland Governments are changing and from what we have seen recently it seems that we will continue to have changes of Government and a strong Opposition likely to take over sometimes. If we do our job well during our term of office, then in four-and-a-half years' time we will be returned to office and if we do not do our job well the people will decide how to treat us. Therefore, we should be [1562] trying to ensure that we retain in this House the decision-making process in the Minister.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Hear, hear.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  I will vote in support of any decisions taken on behalf of the Government and my party, but it is necessary to state my views to the House. The Minister is in a position of power and influence. It is necessary that we tread carefully in handing over powers to bodies who are not representative of the whole people of Ireland as distinct from particular interest groups.

As I said in this House in regard to other business recently, I am not in favour of the appointment of very large boards. I would like to see smaller boards appointed and the members selected very carefully. The Minister is right to reduce the number on this board from nine to five. That is a step in the right direction. Also I understand that the members of the board did not go down the country to investigate any appeal at first hand. Inspectors were sent to do that work and the board members were attached to offices, stayed in their offices and did their work there. The inspectors did the work at first hand.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Conaghan): Information on Hugh Conaghan  Zoom on Hugh Conaghan  I would like to remind the Deputy that he is going wide of the amendment.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  I will be brief in concluding. The inspectorate carried out the work. The members of the board did not inspect the sites at first hand. There is no necessity to have nine people on the board and I think five would be enough. They will be able to carry out the functions. Public money is involved and it is good to see the numbers on the board reduced.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  The question has been raised regarding the appalling delays that are taking place in An Bord Pleanála and whether that is the responsibility of the members of the board or due to lack of or inadequacy of inspectors. We have no way of knowing that with any degree of [1563] accuracy. However, the members of the board carry responsibility for that board just as the board of directors of any company do. We do not know what their personal workload was or the division of labour as between the members of the board and the inspectors. Indeed, that was one of the major criticisms that I always found of the operation of the board, and that format aroused a degree of public suspicion. There is a suspicion in the public mind that for the most part the decisions were not made by the members of the board at all but by the inspectors and that the inspectors would go and inspect or do the interviews or whatever and submit a report to the board, and one or more members of the board — we do not know exactly — would perhaps rubber-stamp the decision of the inspector. Possibly there is public suspicion again. We do not know and we have no way of knowing. Some board members might have overruled the inspectors' decisions or recommendations without any personal knowledge of their merits or demerits.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  False innuendo again. Will the Deputy base his argument on facts?

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  I do not know whether it is false or not.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister should make it his business to know.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  We had the ridiculous situation in the operation of the board, particularly in the context of oral hearings, that the inspector would sit in the manner of a judge, would hear evidence from both sides, and yet the people who were given the job of making the decisions never came face to face with the parties or heard the evidence. Yet they were the ones who were given the responsibility of making the decisions. Therefore, there should be a major rethink on other aspects of the board apart from their composition. I suggest that when oral evidence is given the person who [1564] takes it should be the person to make the decisions.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  I hope the Minister will expedite the appointment of inspectors. I do not know how many will be appointed but the appointments will take up to a year and in the interest of expedition I should like to know how the appointments will be made.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I sanctioned the appointments of four new inspectors with the approval of the Government and it is up to the board to appoint them.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  How long will it take? Will it have to go through the Appointments Commission? Will it take 12 months? We have all been talking about expediting the processing of applications.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It is not for me to carry out the functions of the board. I gave the authority to make the appointments and it is up to the board. Part-time inspectors, seconded from the Department, have been working with the board in the past number of months.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Perhaps part-time inspectors are at work, but surely the Minister should tell the House clearly that it is not a matter of the board simply picking the inspectors. I presume the appointments of these inspectors, architects or engineers, would come through the Appointments Commission. The board are tied to the Department's apron strings more closely now than ever and there will be much closer liaison between the two sides. Deputy Taylor's contribution was a classical example of double think. He spoke of the board members overriding decisions of the inspectors. Which way does he want it? His speech was full of suggestions and innuendos. All this stinks with that kind of thing. We heard about people talking of restoring public confidence. It needs to be restored after all that has been said about the board. The campaign began around Christmas with inspired leaks from sources close to the Government in regard to the alleged operations of the [1565] board. As one involved in the process before it came to the House and who might return again to the process, I do not care anything about the composition of the board but the sooner they begin to get their decisions out the better. The Minister said that the board were unable to come to quick decisions because of their size. That is plain bunkum and the Minister knows it. It is about time somebody spelled out what happens and how decisions are arrived at and we might know where we are. I request the Minister to accept this amendment, which does not call for any extraordinary change. We should forget the nonsense and the innuendo.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am quite happy to stick to the terms of the Bill. I have no intention of indulging in bunkum, as the Deputy terms it. I can give the facts as I found them in regard to An Bord Pleanála. In 1980 there was a five-member board making decisions at the rate of 262 per month. In 1981 membership was increased to seven and output dropped to 248 per month. In 1982, with between seven and nine members, output fell to 215 per month and in the month of January the board were averaging 180 decisions per month. I am totally mystified why the board was increased and not the inspectors.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  How many had you?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The number of inspectors did not change at all. Now I did not interrupt the Deputy and I would like the same courtesy from him. The number of inspectors from 1980 to 1983 did not increase by even one. Right throughout that period the only thing that increased was the number of board members. Deputy Molloy has now brought in the whole question of public confidence in regard to appointments to appeals boards. The very nature of the appointments and the manner in which they were made certainly left a great deal to be desired from the point of view of public confidence. The sole criterion was membership of a political party. I have been at a loss in the course of the contributions [1566] from the other side to understand the reluctance of the Fianna Fáil party to remove from the realm of politics the whole operation of An Bord Pleanála. I have been at a loss to understand why they have been creating such a fuss over the past number of days remembering that they themselves when in Opposition had an entirely different approach. At column 66 of the Official Report of 13 March 1974 Deputy R.P. Burke had this to say:

I have said that the board should comprise a Chairman and not less than four and possibly six members. If the Minister decides to increase membership to a maximum of six, I suggest that such bodies as the Confederation of Irish Industry, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Builders Federation or some similar bodies would be asked by the Minister to appoint nominees to the board. In particular, I mention the Confederation of Irish Industry and perhaps An Taisce or some similar organisation. I have gone a long way to implement the very things highlighted in the course of the Fianna Fáil contributions in 1974. In fact, I have gone 100 per cent of the way to meet these suggestions and improve once and for all appointments to An Bord Pleanála. It is different from any other board and the effect of its decisions can have very serious consequences on the lives of ordinary people. We are appointing members in a full-time capacity, not like other bodies which meet once a month or even less. This body will be full time and, as Deputy Molloy rightly pointed out in 1974, the members must have appropriate qualifications for the job, a job which can have serious and long lasting effects.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Tánaiste does not explain, of course, that the Coalition Government at that time did not accept the reasoned amendments from this side of the House. They did not accept that the people the Minister would appoint should hold certain qualifications and be deemed to be suitable to act on An Bord Pleanála. Our amendment was rejected [1567] by your colleague, Deputy Tully, who was then Minister, and by the Coalition Government and it is a bit much to have the Tánaiste now seeking to argue points we made to support what he is doing. We had no objection in the wide world then, just as we have no objection now, to people being appointed to the board who hold some form of qualification which will enable them to bring expertise to decision-making at board level. We never said everybody had to be a planner or an engineer. We argued it would be appropriate that some members should have these qualifications and our suggestions were rejected by the Coalition Government.

But that is not what is at issue here. What is at issue are the provisions of the 1976 Act which gave you all authority to fire the members of the board. They could be fired if they were guilty of some misbehaviour and you could show in writing they had not carried out the duties for which they had been appointed. We are arguing against your Bill because you have refused to do as you were required under the 1976 Act. If you make a political decision to fire all these people you can only do it under the law of the land by setting out in writing the reasons why you wish to do so and you must show they have committed some act of misbehaviour or because of age or illness were incapable and incompetent to carry out their duties and functions. You have not been able to prove that. You know you cannot prove that. You know it is not for reasons of inefficiency or because they have acted in an improper manner. The only reason you want to fire the board is because they were appointed when the previous Government were in office and you cannot be surprised that Deputies on this side would stand up here, if the members appointed legitimately carry out their duties conscientiously, to defend the character and good name of these people and demand of you to show your reasons and your grounds for firing them, which is what you are doing under this Bill. Why have you funked it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I would remind [1568] the Deputy that he should address the Chair.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Through the Chair, why has the Tánaiste not used the provisions of the 1976 Act to fire these people if he thought it proper they should be fired? Of course, if he did so he would have to put in writing his reasons, and there are no reasons other than mean, underhand political reasons. That has to be brought home. It is time we nailed the lie propagated by the Tánaiste in public statements, which he has repeated here and which he has failed up to now to substantiate. He has alleged that the members of the board have been responsible for unnecessary delays in making planning decisions and because of that they must be fired. Let us get to the bottom of this now once and for all.

Would the Tánaiste indicate to me what he did not indicate to Deputy Taylor, who said we did not know the board were responsible for the delays, a Deputy in the Tánaiste's own party, who attended Labour Party meetings in this House and debated and discussed this Planning Bill and whether it should be brought forward. The grounds publicly given by the Tánaiste were consistently that the board were responsible for delays. It is very surprising therefore that a Deputy of his party should state here that he does not know whether the board are responsible for the delays or not. All he had to do was to ask the Tánaiste who was stating that they were. He should ask the Tánaiste to tell him why they were alleging they were responsible for these delays. Deputy Taylor said we had no way of knowing. Of course that is not true. There is only one person who has statutory ways of finding out. There is provision in the 1976 Act for the Minister to require the board to supply him with information and he has the power to issue directives to the board. Has he done any of these things? It has emerged that the Tánaiste did not even seek a meeting with the chairman and the members of this board to put his great concern to them. That places a very big question mark over the Tánaiste's reasons and his credibility in this whole area.

[1569] Would the Tánaiste tell us now what is the average length of time that it takes for the board to decide a planning appeal?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  On average it would be in the region of nine months.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We are not in sixth class. There are certain procedures which are followed before an appeal is considered by An Bord Pleanála. A person makes an appeal to the board in writing. That appeal is received by the administrative staff who set about preparing an appeal file on that case. The administrative staff of An Bord Pleanála are the Minister's own staff. An Bord Pleanála only control one member of their staff, so the 70 or so people employed by the board are all members of the Minister's civil service. The appeal comes in and they prepare the appeal file. To prepare it they require the views of the local authority against whom the appeal is being made. Letters are sent out to the local authority informing them that an appeal has been received. They are asked to submit certain documents — maps, statements of policy, reasons for and against the proposal. Other legal checks have also to be made to ensure that the documents are correct and properly put together.

When that section of the Bord Pleanála staff have completed this work — and I am told it takes approximately four months — it is then allocated by the administrative staff to a planning inspector. Neither the chairman nor the board members are, at this stage even aware that an appeal has come in unless some very exceptional legal question has arisen. It is then handed to the planning inspector. The average length of time it takes for the planning inspector to dispose of cases has been six months. When the planning inspector has completed his report after six months and the four months that went before that, it is then allocated to the board members.

I do not know how the Tánaiste expects the House and the country to understand his arguments when he does not wish to give any of the details which are involved and about which he is critical. The file [1570] then goes upstairs to the chairman and the board members. That file, I understand from a former member, is distributed among the members of the board at random by a junior official of the administrative staff. A board member has no knowledge in advance of which file will land on his desk. The member then studies the inspector's report, the maps, the arguments for and against the proposal, the appeal letter and all the letters in support of it and all the arguments against it. Then he goes to his board meeting and he presents the case to the other board members. The other members have no knowledge of this appeal until this time. The case is presented by the individual board member who has received this file at random from this junior official. He reads the inspector's report, he makes his own comments on the case and a general discussion takes place following which a decision is made.

On average the length of time it takes for the board to make those decisions is one week, I am told. I am inviting the Minister to contradict me. Maybe he will say it is two weeks or three weeks. Even if the Minister says it takes the board members four weeks I am sure no fairminded person will accuse the board of being responsible for delays. The information I have is that it is only taking the board members one week to make these decisions. That is expeditious. The former member of the board who kindly gave me this information is either giving me false, inaccurate, misleading information or he is not. I can accept that in working out averages one could be a week or two out. The Minister has informed the House that it takes the board nine months. I am challenging him to answer my question directly. From the time the board members receive the planning appeal file ready for a decision, how long does it take for them to decide that appeal?

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  Deputy Molloy has very well expounded a lot of what I had to say, particularly in relation to the inspector's report. There is a question mark over the quality of the decisions made if when the inspector finally gets his report [1571] in and the files are distributed by an official of the Minister's Department to members of the board, one member of the board looks at a case and then goes to a board meeting and the decision is made. There is a lot to be wary about in that method. If we accept what Deputy Molloy says, that the decision is made in one week, it would be a major area of concern. I suggest to the Minister that when the inspector produces his report the applicant should receive a copy of that report before it goes to the board for decision. That might delay the proceedings by a further week. The problem is not in the first nine months' delay which according to the Deputy is not the board's responsibility, but the delay which occurs in the last week when it is presented to the board. That would give a period of one week in which the applicant would have an opportunity to make a case if he felt that what the inspector had produced was not fair. The applicant's submission could go to the board with the inspector's report and then the board could consider the inspector's report and a final submission from the applicant before a decision was made; otherwise there is a danger of innuendo——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Could I ask what amendment or section the Deputy is speaking on?

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Order, please, order.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair has been trying to follow the debate on the Bill. The Chair gets the impression that the Deputy is following Deputy Molloy.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  What amendment or section is the Deputy referring to.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputy is talking about a new system.

[1572]Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I have been here since the start of the debate. Most of the time Deputy Molloy has spoken he has spoken about things apart from the section we were dealing with. The Deputy's last address was very wide-ranging. I am addressing this section and I have looked for a part in this Bill to bring in my point about inspectors. I did not intend to speak for more than a minute. The Deputy is unkind not to allow a small point to be made about a crucial part of the Bill when he can waffle on for half an hour in general terms.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  In relation to the preparation of the file by the board, one of the difficulties relates to the question of innuendo. A lot of people have made accusations. One of the reasons for all the innuendo and talk about people being involved in political parties and this affecting decisions is that the inspector's report has not been furnished to either side.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputy might support one of our later amendments.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  If the inspector's report were furnished to both sides in the case and to the media, people would feel that the decision of the board was valid. If An Bord Pleanála were obliged to furnish a report this Bill would not have arisen. This is one of the key issues in the Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  That may be relevant to some other section or some other amendment.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Deputy Molloy has spoken at length both in the House and elsewhere regarding the procedures of the board and the factors which give rise to delays. The Deputy said that the board had no control over these matters. Because the board is full-time they must be regarded as having responsibility to see that action is taken to eliminate delays and to modify procedures and deploy staff as they see necessary. The Deputy suggested that the members of the board wait for files to come to them. [1573] This board are appointed to run the appeals process and if the picture painted by Deputy Molloy were true it would be an indictment of the board on the manner in which they conduct their business.

The Deputy outlined how up to a year's delay could arise in processing an appeal. The Deputy is misleading the House. The Deputy said that an average delay by local authorities in supplying information was three months. However, the figures supplied to me by the board show that at the end of April there were approximately 3,600 appeals before the board. The documentation from local authorities was outstanding on 400 of these cases. This shows that the average delay on the receipt of local authority documents could be nothing like three months. The Deputy also alleged that files were with the board for an average of six weeks. The board's figures at the end of April showed that only 8 per cent of the appeals were with the inspectorate for longer than six months. The Deputy should accept the information given by the board.

I refute the suggestion that the board are in a position or ever were in a position to deal with appeals on a weekly basis. If they were in a position to deal with appeals within a week there would be no difficulties. The latest information available is that at the end of May there were 471 files with the board. They could not deal with those in a week. I question if they could be dealt with within two months. I question Deputy Molloy's contention that the board had been at any time able to deal with an appeal in a matter of one week.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Will the Tánaiste say the average length of time it has taken for the members of the board to make a decision on an appeal during 1982 if he does not agree with my estimate of one week which was given to me by a former board member? That would have been before you started all the innuendo and allegations.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I do not have the average for 1982 here but it is at least two to three [1574] months, based on the figures I have just given.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This is extraordinary. This man has made a public allegation against the members of this board and he admits that he never sought the correct information. You have given information based on recent figures. You made allegations consistently over the past few months. I can quote from newspaper articles where it was clear that you intended to fire this board many months ago.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  It would be better Deputy——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is an important point and the Ceann Comhairle cannot interrupt me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Ceann Comhairle may interrupt if necessary. I am only appealing to the Minister and to the Deputy to use the third person, especially if we are getting heated. Address the Chair, and use the third person.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is extraordinary that the Tánaiste has admitted to the Dáil that he never at any stage established how long the board members took to deal with a planning file and to make a decision on it. The Minister should be ashamed of himself for having made allegations against this board of being dilatory, of being responsible for delays in disposing of planning decisions and stating that for that reason the construction industry were concerned at the effect it was having on employment — that the board members were responsible for it.

The real cause of the problem goes much deeper. The administrative and planning inspectorate staff of An Bord Pleanála are members of the Minister's civil service. The Minister said here that he would dispute why the board had not made arrangements to have appeals decided more expeditiously. Has the Minister carried out any study of what has been happening? For example, is he aware that all of the administrative staff except for one gentleman, the chief executive officer — and I do not know what [1575] function really he performs — are members of the Minister's staff on secondment for six or seven years? Is that correct, that they are the Minister's members who are running this board?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It is.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  A very whispered agreement with what I am saying. Why then did the Minister make an allegation that this board, the chairman and members had full control over their staff and that if they were dissatisfied with the manner in which appeals were being dealt with, the chairman and members could take measures to improve matters? The facts of the matter are that they could not, first of all, because they did not control the staff. Secondly, the staff available to them were all civil servants. There was an embargo on recruitment in the public service. I have said this to the Minister previously: I am not accusing him personally for the fact that this board were not given extra staff over the years. He was not the Minister for the Environment then and I could not make that type of accusation against him. But it is he who is making an allegation against the board members that they were responsible for the delays. Is the Minister aware of go-slows among the staff of An Bord Pleanála — the Minister's staff, not the staff of the chairman and members who have never been allowed to control them? Why have the civil servants wished to retain such a strong grip on the whole planning process in this country? Why was there such a brouhaha when a member of the Minister's staff was not appointed to be a member of An Bord Pleanála? That was when the mud hit the fan, when all the allegations began to emanate around the country.

The Minister has given very little information to the House or the country on which he could hope to substantiate his arguments. I think he feels that the less information he gives about the way in which the board have been operating the longer the false impression will continue, that the propaganda against these board members will sink home and that [1576] people will believe badly of them. We have a duty here to defend honest, honourable people. If there was something amiss about appointing people to a State board after an election date when a Government had lost an election, then the accusation should be made in that direction: that nobody should be appointed to a State board by a Government that had lost an election. Then all Governments in this State since its foundation will be found to have been guilty in this respect. There is no point in making that a Fianna Fáil sin.

We will remember the time, a Cheann Comhairle, when a former colleague of yours, a Deputy from Monaghan, after losing his seat very conveniently won a seat for a Coalition Government in a by-election in County Monaghan. But when it came to the general election there was not room for him and he lost his seat. Then, very conveniently, the Coalition Government, who had lost the election, appointed him as a member of the Land Commission, a semi-judicial post. Former Deputy Toal is a commissioner in the Land Commission to this day. That was a political appointment. We never sought to have his membership of the Land Commission terminated because we happened to come into Government a few days later. We allowed that appointment to stand, as we did several to the Judiciary. We have seen eminent political figures who spoke from where I am now standing on behalf of the Fine Gael Party for years and who contested Presidential elections on their behalf. When they failed they were given very lucrative judicial appointments by Coalition Governments. The Minister and the Government are seeking to introduce a whole new principle here. If they are, let them say so and not use false grounds for abolishing a board carrying out their duties.

The point we want to drive home here on this section, arising out of the fact that the Minister himself has raised it, is the one about delays. Sufficient has been said about that. The Minister has gone public on radio, television, in newspaper interviews and here in the House in his official script, and in all the statements he has [1577] issued to the papers, in an endeavour to condition the country to the decision to fire the planning board — in all of those he alleged serious dilatoriness on the part of the board in carrying out their duties, maintaining that they had been responsible for the delays. Today it is established that the Minister cannot inform the House the average length of time it took board members to decide planning appeals during the year 1982. If the Minister was concerned about the delays, if he felt that the board had been responsible for them, if there was any validity in his argument, that could be based on knowledge only. He has not got the knowledge. Therefore the rest of his argument falls. It is most surprising to hear the Minister make those false allegations.

We have explained to the House the position about planning inspectors, or lack of them, and that because of that the backlog developed. Whatever may have been the reasons — embargoes in the public service, or whatever — there were not sufficient staff to deal with the number of appeals coming in. I said in my contribution last week that successive Ministers for the Environment since An Bord Pleanála was established and the civil servants in the Departments — and the Minister must carry the buck for all of them — carry some responsibility in regard to such delays. But the way to deal with it was not to fire a board who are not responsible for the delays, who are not guilty. The amendment I have down here highlights the fact that in the 1976 Act there was provision laid down under which anybody who did not perform his functions on the board could have been dispensed with under certain measures to be adopted by this House. If the reasons were legitimate the Minister could have proceeded in that way. But because his reasons are illegitimate and false, he has sought to create a smokescreen of innuendo and bring in a completely new Bill, asking all of the Deputies who stand behind him to support it. As it has sunk in more we have heard some of them express their doubts. Deputy L.T. Cosgrave was the first, Deputy Keating the second and we have just had it now from [1578] Deputy Enright. I know there are decent people on the opposite side of the House who think that this action is absolutely despicable, that there is no justification whatsoever for it other than the false allegations made. It is very hard to expect that we would willingly and easily accept it. Therefore I am pressing my amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Is amendment No. 4 being pressed?

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  It is going out from this House that anybody who stands up to defend the rights of this board is defending something sinister. That is very far removed from the truth. My interest in this whole matter is because it will have repercussions——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair thinks this would be more appropriate perhaps to section 10.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  I want to make that point at the outset. It is most important that it goes out from this House that we are talking about something that will have further repercussions on other boards. We are talking about appeals lodged and delays in making decisions on them. We all know that appeal files are distributed by the administrative staff to board members when they are ready for decision. I should like to know where the delay occurs. Does it occur with the administrative staff before appeals are passed on to the board? The board does not have any control over files. I do not know any members of the board and I do not have any interest in them. The Minister should not be smiling because I am telling the truth.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I accept the Deputy's word.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  I am anxious that representations I make to the board should get through as quickly as possible. In order to establish a case against the members of the existing board the Minister should tell us where the delays occur. An inherent [1579] part of any delay in the appeals system is the necessity to protect the interests of all parties to the appeal by giving them an opportunity to comment on the grounds of appeal by other parties. That is vital. The principle of natural justice is that each party must be heard. That is the function of the board but leading up to that there is the work of the administrative staff. Has the Minister investigated that end of the work, which is his responsibility?

The Minister must establish a case for the removal of the board. There is no point in any Member saying that this would remove the board from the political arena because we will prove later that there will be an involvement by the Minister. In that event we are still talking about the political arena of An Bord Pleanála. In the interests of the members of the board, people I do not know anything about, the Minister should establish his reasons for removing them or otherwise it will reflect on the Minister and the Government and will have repercussions later in regard to other State boards.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  The Minister told the House that the new board would be a full-time working group as mentioned in the Bill. I should like to know what the position is in regard to the present board members. Do they work on a part-time basis or do they operate as full-time members?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It was not a prerequisite of the previous board that they should forego any private work they might be engaged in heretofore but in future it will be an absolute requirement that the people who become members of An Bord Pleanála take it up on a full-time and one-job-only basis.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This is typical of the type of answering technique the Minister has adopted. When he is asked a question he answers with something else. The Minister was asked by Deputy Walsh to outline the procedure of the existing board. He was asked if they work on a full-time basis. My information is that they work [1580] on a full-time basis, they work the normal nine to five office hours and, as Members are aware, when one is dealing with that type of work it often runs later than that because extra work is spent on files at home. The board members work a minimum of five days per week.

The Minister's reply is part of the innuendo and his style of answering, avoiding the question but creating a different impression. The Minister in saying that the new board will work full-time is implying that the existing members in some way have been lax in carrying out their duties. It is wrong to imply that about the existing board members. Is it not true that the existing board sit the full hours five days per week and that there is no question of this being a part-time job?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That is what would be expected of them certainly.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is a pity that the Minister has not said that all along.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question, “That section 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill”, put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The next amendment is No. 5 but amendments Nos. 44, 45 and 70 are related and may be taken with No. 5, by agreement.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  There is no agreement; we are taking each amendment as we reach it on the Order Paper. We did not get much time to prepare our amendments and we are not getting any time to debate planning. It would be very unreasonable to expect us to take all these related amendments together.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  In default of agreement they are taken separately.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We cannot possibly agree to that in view of the way the Opposition are being treated in regard to the Bill.

[1581] I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, line 7, to delete “section” and substitute “Act”.

We are anxious that the Bill when passed be implemented in toto. We should decide on a day to bring all the provisions into force. The Bill includes many sections which can be introduced piecemeal. Why should the Bill contain provisions that can be implemented separately with the Minister being in a position to press buttons to bring in different sections. Either he is going to implement the Bill in toto or not at all. It seems highly irregular to include sections which depend on commencement. There is no indication about the procedure for commencement. Who decides the commencement date? I am anxious to emphasise the need to enact the Bill in toto, if and when it is ever to be implemented. We are opposed to the Bill in its entirety.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I cannot accept the amendment. I dispute Deputy Molloy's contention that this procedure is highly irregular. It is common in the enactment of legislation to allow such powers to fall upon the Minister. The section states that on and from the commencement of the section the board shall consist of a chairman and five other members. Under section 26 individual sections may be brought into operation by commencement order made by the Minister. I cannot accept the amendment, which would delay the commencement of the provisions of the Bill. As I am committed to having a new board structure to enhance public confidence in the system and increase efficiency, we must set about implementing the provisions of the Bill as quickly as possible. It is important that the latitude provided in these sections can be availed of.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister has said that he cannot accept any amendments and wants to have the new board installed so that planning decisions can be dealt with expeditiously. Is the Minister going to continue with that false allegation. Will the Minister explain the changes he proposed which will enable the new board to [1582] deal more expeditiously with the planning appeal files than the present board? Will the Minister elaborate on that?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The section provides that the board shall consist of a chairman and five ordinary members, and Members of the Deputy's party have pointed out that a small board would be preferable to a large one like we have. I feel the number of full-time members provided will certainly be capable of dealing with the existing volume of appeals as they come on stream. I have pointed out already to the Deputy that with the later sections in the Bill which are technical sections — in fairness to the Deputy and most Deputies in the House they accept as being desirable and necessary for the day-to-day processing of appeals — and the technical changes which this Bill will be making in the planning laws and the restructuring of the board for a smaller unit, in which decisions should be made much faster than under the present system. This will meet the requirement which we are setting out to achieve in the Bill.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I presume the Minister expects the existing board to continue until the new board is appointed which could be a period of six months. Is that correct?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Yes.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I expect An Bord Pleanála will carry on in a responsible manner, which has been their character since they were first appointed. The Minister has, basically, no confidence in the chairman and the members of the board when he brings this Bill into the Dáil, but he expects this board to continue for the next five or six months and to deal with planning throughout the country. The Minister is firing all the members of that board. That is a very irresponsible act by the Minister. He is bringing before this House a dismissal notice in advance to the most capable and competent people who have been in An Bord Pleanála for a number of years.

The Minister has not clearly stated why he has no confidence in the personnel of [1583] An Bord Pleanála. This will result in massive claims against the Minister's Department by the present membership of An Bord Pleanála. This money will have to be paid by the taxpayers. One newspaper said last Sunday that the claims could reach £1¼ million. Look at the number of jobs which could be created with that type of money? My council could do a great lot with £1¼ million in providing better roads, building more houses and providing better services for the hardpressed people of my constituency. This Bill is the most irresponsible and wasteful Bill which has ever been brought before the House. It is disgusting to think that it is two Labour Ministers who are regarded as socialists who are responsible for this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I keep saying that this would be more appropriate on section 10.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I was interrupted last week also and the House was adjourned for eight minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair does not interrupt people.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This section refers to the number of members on the new board, the chairman and five other members.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Section 10 is a section which removes people from office.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Any matter which relates to the responsibilities of the chairman and the five members must be in order.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Last week when I considered I was in order I was rudely interrupted by the Chief Whip of the Fine Gael Party. I was saying exactly what I am saying now. We have two so-called socialist Ministers who do not now represent any remnant of the Socialist Labour Party which existed years ago.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy should worry about his own party.

[1584]Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  The Minister's party have no representative in the constituency of Roscommon. They did not put up a candidate the last time because they had not the courage of their convictions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  This is very far removed from the Bill.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  The Minister interrupted me and tried to annoy me about his general standards of socialism——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I will do my best to see that the Deputy is not annoyed.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  It could cost £1¼ million to compensate the responsible members of An Bord Pleanála. What do the 200,000 unemployed people think of that? What do the people throughout the country think of spending £1¼ million to compensate the members of a board who are carrying out their work in a responsible manner? In the next six months the Minister expects the chairman and the members of An Bord Pleanála to carry out the work of planning throughout the country although he says he has no respect for them. He had not even the courtesy to meet them. He did not think it worth his while bringing them into his office and discussing the matter with him. He did not even ask his Minister of State to undertake this for him.

The Minister for the Environment is dismissing the chairman and the members of An Bord Pleanála in a most high-handed way. This is unprecedented action by a Minister and a Minister of State at this stage of an economic crisis when people are crying out for leadership. This represents the Government's whole attitude to planning throughout the country. There will not in fact be a board for the next six months. If I was chairman or one of the members of An Bord Pleanála what interest would I have in carrying out planning if the Minister for the Environment and his Minister of State publicly announced they had no regard for the members of that board? The Minister should appeal to the members of An Bord Pleanála and he should [1585] apologise to them for bringing forward a Bill and bringing their reputations down. He should then ask them to carry on their work for the next six months until this Bill comes into operation. This Bill should be rejected by the House. I hope the right-thinking people in Fine Gael and Labour will reject it.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I have one direct question to put to the Minister for the Environment. During the Second Stage and again today we have been talking about numbers. If the Minister admits that he does not question the industry, competence, ability or the wholetime dedication of the present members of An Bord Pleanála to their work how does he hope to have discharged with greater ability by five the work that it takes nine to do at the moment? If they satisfy all his other requirements then he has the key to the success of the nation, if he can get five to do more efficiently under the exact same conditions, albeit their association with Fianna Fáil what nine other members can do.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The original board consisted of five members and, as opposed to what Deputy Leyden suggested, increasing the cost to the taxpayer, we will save something in the region of £80,000 per annum, by reducing the number from nine to five.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am not talking about saving. I am talking about the output of work.

A Deputy:  If the Deputy had been in the House earlier in relation to the output of work——

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy was not here earlier.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am here more often than the Minister.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy is a nasty man.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Minister is not here too often. He is noted for his absence.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I beg the Deputy's pardon.

[1586]Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Minister should not attribute anything like that to me.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  As the Deputy will have heard on the monitor, I pointed out that when the board consisted of five members, with the same number in the inspectorate as there was when the board consisted of nine members, the volume of work done was more satisfactory by the five people than by the nine people. That makes the case for having a board consisting of five people.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  When does logic and truth come into it? It is quite clear that the number of members serving in An Bord Pleanála has very little to do with the time that it takes the board to make a decision. We are not arguing against having a chairman and five members. If I recall correctly, when the original Bill was published in 1973 the Minister proposed a chairman and three members. We argued that three might not be enough in view of illness or absence when the board could find itself without a quorum and the then Minister, Mr. Tully, subsequently increased the number to a maximum of ten. We are not arguing that there is need for nine members; in fact, there are only seven members on the board at the moment and in respect of three members their term of office will expire in June 1984. We argue it would be preferable for the Minister to allow the members to complete their legitimate appointments and if he considers there is no need for that number it could be reduced by three after next June. It is false for the Minister to argue that by reducing the number he will increase the output. There was no relationship whatever between the number of members on the board in previous years and the output. I stated clearly that the output was largely dependent on the work of the planning inspectors, that when the number of planning inspectors was not increased the output was not increased. We even had the former chairman of the board, Mr. Justice Pringle, going public [1587] to deny the statements the Minister was making, but the Minister chose to disregard the denial of the former chairman. The Minister has continued here to use false information in support of his argument because he knows he is on weak ground.

In reply to a Deputy on this side of the House — I think it was Deputy Leyden — I heard the Minister say he was never asked by board members to meet with them. When he was appointed to his office the Minister assumed responsibility for the Office of Minister for the Environment. That included his responsibilities under the Planning Acts. Under section 6 of the 1976 Act the Minister has a clear responsibility. Section 6 (1) states:

The Minister shall from time to time give to the board such general directives as to policy in relation to planning and development as he considers necessary.

If the Minister was concerned about delays in dealing with planning appeals, surely he had a responsibility to contact the board and to give a directive to them as to policy in this matter? From my information he made no such contact. Section 9 of the same Act states:

The board shall supply the Minister with such information relating to the performance of its functions as he shall, from time to time, request.

Did the Minister ever request information from the board in regard to delays in dealing with planning appeals?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Yes.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Would the Minister care to elaborate on what discussions took place about the concern he was expressing publicly that the board were not performing their duties?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  At various times all Deputies have expressed their concern about the backlog in An Bord Pleanála. As working politicians we have been approached by people who have had documents lodged with the board and who [1588] were awaiting decisions. It would be remiss of any Deputy not to speak out or try to effect a change in procedure to speed up the process. Since I took up office in the Department of the Environment I have engaged in correspondence with the chairman and members of An Bord Pleanála with a view to assisting them in the difficulties that existed in the board at the time that I took up office. Contrary to what Deputy Molloy said earlier about the staff being on a go-slow, I have found that with regard to reducing the bottleneck that existed and getting quicker decisions made, I received the utmost co-operation from the staff who were deployed to the board.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I am not saying there was a go-slow in the term of office of the Minister.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  For the record, from the point of view of staff working overtime——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Was there a work-to-rule?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  My information is that there was never a go-slow or a work-to-rule.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister does not appear to be well informed.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I wish to put it on the record of this House that I have got the utmost co-operation from the staff working with the appeals board in terms of working overtime and being available to do the work that was necessary. There has been very selective use of the statement of Mr. Justice Pringle. With regard to a reduction in the number of board members, it is worth remembering that he said a reduction was a very good thing.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We are not arguing with that.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am glad there seems to be general agreement about the reduction of the number to five. However, I am at a loss to understand why in the past this wisdom from the Fianna Fáil benches [1589] was not imparted to the then Minister who, instead of seeking to remedy the problem, increased the numbers of the board. From what has been agreed in this House, obviously that was not going to make any impression on the backlog accumulating for the board. It is regrettable that my predecessor did not direct himself to increase an inspectorate which was one of the first things I did on taking office. Obviously these matters take a certain amount of time.

We cannot get away from the fact that the responsibility is ultimately with the board for the conduct of the business of the appeals process. It is their responsibility, from the chairman to each board member, to take what steps are necessary and to make any changes necessary for an efficient appeals procedure. Only time will tell with regard to the effective working of the new board but I am confident that they will deal with the backlog in a reasonable length of time. I have to reject Deputy Leyden's suggestion that it will be six months. I see no reason why the new appeals board will not be in office within three months of this legislation being passed by this House. I think Deputy Leyden was quoting from a misprint in some paper of Saturday, 2 July, because the article does not bear any relationship to the heading. With the changes envisaged in this legislation and with a new start to the board, I am confident that there will be significant progress on the backlog within a short period.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Minister has spoken about his unease when he came to office. Did he initiate a meeting with the chairman or the board members to express his concern to them, as he expressed it to the newspapers? Would it not have been a simple and courteous exercise to have asked the chairman and the board members about the matter?

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Will the Minister confirm that the former Minister, before he left office, sanctioned an increase in the number of inspectors?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  No, there was no such sanction. One of my first actions was to [1590] sanction the appointment of two inspectors in January and some months later I sanctioned two further inspectors. With regard to Deputy O'Rourke's question, one of the first things I did in the Department was to communicate with the board in relation to my concern about the backlog of delays. There was correspondence between the board and myself in relation to more effective procedures.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Was it by letter?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Yes, by correspondence.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Would it not have been better to meet these people?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That is a matter of opinion.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister said he is unaware of any go slow by the staff of An Bord Pleanála. He qualified that by saying that “during his time he had full co-operation from the staff” etc. Is the Minister not aware of some work practices which have been established within the technical and administrative staff of An Bord Pleanála, particularly in regard to the planning inspectors? These are not trade union agreements. They are practices which have built up and which are tantamount to a go slow, whereby the output per planning inspector is accepted to be at a certain level and inspectors are discouraged by their colleagues to be over dúthrachtach in their responsibilities. The number of planning appeal files which inspectors are expected to prepare on a weekly basis has become fairly well established. They discourage each other from exceeding this number which acts as a brake on the number of files coming to the board.

This practice has developed over the years and the go slow to which I am referring is not of recent origin. However I took it that the Minister in examining the operations of the board would have acquainted himself with the procedures and happenings in previous times, because his allegation concerns the output of the board last year. He started his criticism of them shortly after he took up [1591] office, so he must be referring to the work of the board prior to his coming into Government. If the Minister says he is not aware that these work practices exist and not aware that there was ever a go slow he should make himself so aware, because it is well known among people who have served on the board in the past that this difficulty existed and affected the number of appeals coming to them and, therefore, restricted the number of appeals they could decide.

Ignorance is easily claimed, but responsibility lies with the Minister to make himself acquainted with the facts. There may be a reluctance on the part of civil servants to disclose this type of information to the Minister; and the only point of view which I can express, from my position as Opposition spokesman, is that of people who acted on the board in the past whom I have had to approach to obtain information. I never held office during the lifetime of An Bord Pleanála and I do not have information as to their workings. I attributed the information I have to a former member and the Minister knows that. It is based on the evidence of somebody who has practical experience and who has suffered the frustrations of acting on this board and who has seen how the civil service operate. These are people who have been appointed from the private sector, and that is a mixture which is to be encouraged. All parties favour participation at Government level on boards by people who are not directly employed in the public service. There is a very long record of valuable service to the nation by people who have made themselves available to act in the interests of the State at different levels. I want to make it clear that I am not making any false allegations: I am conveying the practical experience of people who have served on this board in the past and who have suffered under the difficulties which have been put in their way.

It is essential that all the staff serving on An Bord Pleanála should be immediately appointed as full-time staff members of the board. That was the wish of this House when it passed the 1976 Act. [1592] In order to assist in the transition period, staff were seconded from the planning appeals section in the Department of the Environment. It was never the intention that they would continue to serve permanently in secondment. The section which we have just re-enacted and which I queried says that the board shall continue to be a body corporate with perpetual succession. A body corporate means a separate, independent autonomous body empowered by this and other Acts to employ its own staff. They have never been allowed to do that, which has been the cause of many of the frustrations which the public experience in dealing with this board. The wishes of this House that we would have an independent, autonomous body dealing with planning appeals and acting expeditiously were never implemented. We have had a board appointed whose members were appointed by the Minister and the Government, but the administration to serve them has continued under the wing of the civil service in the Department of the Environment. All sorts of complications and obstacles arise because of the continuation of that arrangement and it should not be allowed to continue any longer.

The Minister should give an assurance to this House that An Bord Pleanála will be fully established in their own right, with their own staff separately from the Department, and that the umbilical cord will be cut once and for all, because that has been the cause of all the difficulties, innuendo and blame which has been very cleverly and skilfully placed on the shoulders of the members and the chairman. It has been put there by people who are responsible for what is happening. Successive Ministers for the Environment carry a responsibility for this and I do not absolve any member from this side of the House who held that office. If there is massive public concern, successive Ministers and administrative heads in the civil service carry responsibility in this matter. It is not just or good for the public service to blame people who are not responsible. If this debate establishes that clearly, it will have done some good and shown that there is justice on some side of the House. [1593] There is no justice in continuing to place the blame where it does not lie. The transitional arrangements should not have been allowed to continue, but they were and have been the cause of this dissatisfaction and ineffectiveness of the chairman and members.

There is no more frustrating position than to be chairman or a member of a board when you have no control over the people who are supposed to be your employees. They maintained their boss was in the Custom House and it was not possible for the chairman or the members to initiate any moves which would have increased the staff by way of planning inspectors or administrative staff. They did not have the power to employ them. The Minister should make that clear to the House. Blame has been put in the wrong place. Shame on this House and shame on a Government who would seek to do so. If the Minister is not aware of the practices which have developed and of the delays which were taking place at a level other than board level, then he himself is guilty of being negligent in the carrying out of his duties and responsibilities because he should have made it his business to establish these matters which are fairly well known.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  The Minister surprises me with his confidence that this new board will be able to expedite appeals. I wonder if he is being misled by some vested interests within the administration side of the board and only when the new board are constituted will this vested interest surface and we will all know. A terrible injustice is being done to the board and to the operations and work of the board. I may be wrong, but I believe that there is some vested interest and that the Minister is being misled into believing that in giving this guarantee to reduce the numbers on the board we will make sure that we will be able to expedite planning appeals. I hope I am wrong.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I will confine my comments on the section to getting the background to the legislation as far as I can. Accordingly I am putting questions and I hope that the Minister will not take it, [1594] if the question appears to be a one-marker, two-marker, three-marker or four-marker, that I have any motive other than ascertaining my entitlements here. There is now an enlightened approach to the worker and employer and the same conditions apply all round. The members of this board are all workers. In respect of the enlightened approach we have to these contracts, expressed, assumed or implied, the Minister has told us that in connection with the members he proposes to dismiss he corresponded with them, not directly connected with their duties but expressing his concern for the delays in planning appeals. I ask him whether, in respect of his proposals to dismiss and sack them, he has given to them the normal basic requirements that are given, required and expected and have been provided for by our Governments in respect of what to do or what is required of the master before he presumes to dismiss the employee.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The first point relates to Deputy Molloy's contribution and his questioning as to the work, whether there was a work-to-rule or any possible go slow by the inspectorate. While it might be quite acceptable and normal that over a period of time there would be an obvious, regular, steady volume of work coming out from the inspectorate, I am satisfied from my inquiries that the inspectorate are producing the maximum possible amount of reports. That view was substantiated by Mr. Justice Pringle when he said that the inspectors could not do any more than they were doing and that he was quite satisfied that they were doing everything they possibly could in terms of their output.

I find myself in 100 per cent agreement with Deputy Molloy as to what is desirable when he said that An Bord Pleanála should be an autonomous, independent board. The 1976 Act empowers the board to employ their own staff who would not be civil servants. I certainly do not have to take the blame — and I am sure Deputy Molloy in fairness would not attribute it in my direction — for the fact that the arrangement which was originally [1595] meant to be an interim arrangement, the assignment of staff from the Department of the Environment, has taken far longer than is satisfactory or desirable. With that in mind it is desirable to establish an autonomous and independent board. It is important, vital, that this board more than any other board in the country be an autonomous, independent body beyond suspicion and beyond reproof. I started out in that direction when I authorised the board to appoint the board to appoint the four extra members of the inspectorate. I could have sought to employ extra inspectors within the Department and assign them to An Bord Pleanála. I did not want to do that because I wanted the board to employ their own members and their own inspectorate. I gave the guarantee and commitment to Deputy Molloy that I would take all steps necessary to achieve as soon as possible with the minimum of delay, if delays are necessary, that the board should become, as it was originally sought to establish them, the independent autonomous body to which the Deputy refers.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  In three months?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Certainly without delay. I envisage as part of the establishment of the new board and the staffing of that board that I will not do anything to interfere with it being achieved as expeditiously as possible. I can give that guarantee.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Would the Minister like to have it done by 1 October?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I will give the directions to the board and give them every assistance they may require so that it will be done as quickly as possible.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Then the Minister is in no hurry and would not like to do it by October.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am fully committed to having this board as an autonomous, independent body free from the Department [1596] of the Environment, civil servants or otherwise.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  By 1 October?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That is expecting a great deal, but it will be as quickly as possible. I cannot for the life of me understand Deputy Wyse's suggestion about vested interests being responsible for this legislation being before the House. The Deputy hopes that he is wrong and I am sure that time will bear out the fact that his suggestion is unfounded and incorrect.

In relation to Deputy Tunney's suggestion as to my actions in terms of the dismissal of members of the board, I point out that it is not a question of master and employer or any Government or body dismissing the members. We are here by statute providing for the cesser of the constitution of the board as they were and their reconstitution. There have been a fair number of suggestions from the Opposition that my actions are either unconstitutional or not legally valid but I am satisfied that this Bill is within my entitlements as Minister for the Environment within the provisions of the Constitution and I stand over what is intended.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  On the other hand, the legislation is before the House but it was the Minister who brought it before the House. My simple question was: in so far as it proposes to sack a certain number of people, does the Minister feel obliged personally to tell those people formally of his proposals?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The people involved were informed on the morning of the publication of this legislation.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  The Minister seems to think that there is no difficulty in bringing this Bill before the House. It will be passed by the House due to the voting strength which he has, but it must go to the Seanad and be passed by the Seanad. It may have to come back to the Dáil in the autumn if the Seanad agree to an amendment. The Minister cannot anticipate the situation or the outcome, even [1597] though he is a barrister. If the Minister were a practising barrister he would have a good knowledge of the possibility of a constitutional case being taken by the chairman and members of the board. It is a possibility the Minister should have considered carefully before he decided to drop the guillotine and chop off their heads.

In relation to the operations of the board, I should like you to tell the House if you delegated the powers of the board, or their authority, to either of your Ministers of State, particularly Deputy Quinn. Normally a Minister would delegate certain responsibilities to his Ministers of State.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The answer is no.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  On a point of order, can we have a conversation across the House between the Deputy and the Minister?

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  A Member of the House who has no respect for elected representatives should not have a right to speak at all.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Prendergast): Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  The Deputy was speaking to a point of order.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  Is it in order for a Member of the House to carry on a conversation across the House without referring to the Chair?

Acting Chairman:  It is not in order.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  Is it in order for a Deputy to castigate me without referring to the Chair?

Acting Chairman:  The position is that Deputies must address questions to the Chair and they should not address the Minister or other Deputies without speaking through the Chair.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I thank Deputy Skelly for his comments but I would point out that he is not qualified to speak here because of his attack last week on elected representatives.

[1598]Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I was elected like the Deputy. Does he accept that? He has said I am not qualified to speak.

Acting Chairman:  Will Deputy Leyden continue without interruption?

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I should like to get the Minister of State, for whom I have every sympathy, to clarify something for the House. He was a partner in Burke, Kennedy, Doyle and Partners——

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy is being frivolous.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  What I am saying is correct. He was a partner in that firm and I presume he has resigned that position. Up to the time I was elected I was concerned with planning but I resigned the position. Due to delays in dealing with planning appeals, would the Minister indicate if he informed An Bord Pleanála that he had resigned his position in the firm? This is relevant because it has a bearing on the old position. Did the Minister inform An Bord Pleanála that in relation to appeals going through the board from his firm, that he had resigned from that firm? Did he indicate he was no longer a partner in that firm?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am not sure what Deputy Leyden is trying to ask in relation to the board, but because he is perhaps trying to infer something untoward in my behaviour since my appointment as Minister of State——

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Not at all.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The line of questioning or the way in which this has been put raises the question of the propriety of any administration. For the record — it is already on record — the day after I was appointed as Minister of State I wrote to both the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach informing them of my decision to resign forthwith as a director of the firm of which I was a member and that as soon as it was practicably possible and legal I would divest myself of all pecuniary interests [1599] involved. I have done that. Perhaps because of the experience that Deputy Leyden had when he was working as an architect he will know that that would not have any bearing on any appeal being processed by the board. I took the action that was appropriate for me as Minister of State in this administration.

Question: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand” put and agreed to.

Amendment declared lost.

Section 3 agreed to.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I move amendment No. 6.

In page 4, subsection (1) (a), line 11, after “be” to insert “and not later than four months from the date on which the said appeals, references or other matters were lodged with the Board”.

The primary stated aims of the Bill are to change the system of appointment of the chairman and the board and to speed up planning appeals. However, section 4 leaves it wide open for the board to take as long as may be to deal with any application. There is nothing in the section to indicate that the board will be able to or be required to deal more expeditiously with applications. For that reason I am proposing that the words “not later than four months” etc. be inserted in the Bill. Our aim in putting the amendment down is to tighten things up and to ensure that the stated purpose will be complied with.

Mrs. Glenn: Information on Alice Glenn  Zoom on Alice Glenn  This is the section of the Bill in which I am most interested as a city councillor. Like most of my colleagues in Dublin Corporation I am aware of the frustration being caused to the construction industry because of the inordinate delays in planning appeals and the disastrous effects they have in Dublin city. For instance, a building may be half demolished and on either side properties may be deteriorating while the planning appeal is going on.

When introducing the Bill the Minister expressed awareness of the cause of delays in planning appeals and that this [1600] required immediate attention. I compliment him on the prompt manner in which he has set about correcting the situation. It is not my wish to impugn the members of the board. I would be less than honest, however, if I did not say I shared the public concern and contempt at the manner in which at least four members of the present board were appointed by the Minister of the day. In order that this Bill would be seen to correct an unsatisfactory situation I would suggest that the Minister should consider incorporating in the Bill a time limit within which appeals must be determined. It should be possible to determine an appeal within three months where no oral hearing is required and within six months where an oral hearing is agreed and ordered.

I would also ask the Minister to embody in the Bill a requirement that applicants receive a copy of the inspector's report and that an explanation of the board's grounds for their decision where an appeal is not granted would be automatically supplied. This is essential to restore the confidence of the people in the workings of the board. This is contingent on the board employing adequate qualified staff. Such staff must be made available in order to expedite appeals. It is my wish that once and for all the suspicion which has always surrounded planning applications be removed. If the Minister can succeed in doing that he will be doing all of us a service, the Members of this House, the members of Dublin Corporation planning department and, most important of all, the electorate. It is essential that the growing young population have respect for this House and the institutions of the State and that respect must be restored. I am pleased to note that the board will be autonomous and free from interference from whomsoever may take over Government at any time in the future. Like Caeser's wife, it is essential that the board be above suspicion. In that way we will regain the confidence of the people in relation to planning and An Bord Pleanala.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I sympathise with the amendment in that it seeks to do something [1601] about the interminable delays. Four months is not an unreasonable period. I would, however, be worried about the dangers that might ensue as a result of an amendment such as this because it could lead to bad decisions and bad planning. If the pressure experienced by the board in the past were to continue in the future and the board were not able to reach decisions, those decisions would have to go through by default. At the primary stage of planning it is acceptable enough to have a time limit although, fairly often, because of the fact that there is a big backlog there is an inclination to rush through decisions. In fact, this was done recently because of possible changes in legislation. Applications were rushed through without due consideration. At the appeal stage the real decision is made and that is it. There will be no right of appeal so we shall have to rely on another method to speed things up. I think that is what the Minister is trying to do in that he will be able to interfere to the extent of having the workings of the board examined. The Bill does not specify how exactly he will do that and, though I sympathise with the possible effect that might have in certain cases of delays, it would result in bad planning and bad decisions not being made. I would, therefore, be in disagreement with the amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We agree with the general wish but not the specifics in this amendment that there should be some obligation on An Bord Pleanála to make decisions within a specified time. Amendment No. 64 seeks to place some kind of obligation on the board to deal with appeals expeditiously within a stated period. It might not always be possible to deal with an appeal within four months. Local authorities are obliged to make decisions within two months but there are ways in which they can extend the period by requesting further information and so on. That seems to operate fairly satisfactorily. Many people because they are ignorant of how An Bord Pleanála works and the reasons for the delays have been critical of the board and they have suggested a time limit. That may not be [1602] practicable. The only way in which appeals can be dealt with more speedily is by providing adequate staff. The Minister has sanctioned the appointment of four extra inspectors. That will not bring about any substantial improvement. The number of inspectors should be doubled. The number at the moment, 15 or 16, is completely inadequate. Appeals could be decided in half the time if the number of inspectors were doubled. I stand over that statement and I think the Minister will find it very hard to challenge it. That is the real problem and it is a problem that has not been dealt with up to now.

There should be some obligation on the board to act expeditiously but they cannot do that unless they have an adequate staff. Passing an amendment that they must decide in four months will not solve the problem. We support the thrust of the amendment and the principle but it is useless unless there is a firm commitment from the Minister to allow the chairman to employ more staff in whatever numbers are required. If the Minister for Finance or the Minister for the Public Service places an embargo on employment and the staff of the board are regarded as part of the public service no increase in staff will be allowed and therefore no improvement in the number of decisions. Judging by the report the cost of the board is not excessive considering its importance in regard to development and employment. The board plays a very important role in determining the amount of work available on construction sites.

With all the fuss the Minister is making and the rush to disband this board one might get the impression that all planning decisions are made by An Bord Pleanála. In fact only about 20 per cent of planning decisions are appealed and are decided by the board. The other 80 per cent of decisions are made at local authority level. I am not sure whether I have the exact figure. Perhaps the Minister would tell us. Many important decisions are made at local authority level and there is no concern being expressed here as to the quality of those decisions.

Whenever anybody has to make a decision it involves a person expressing [1603] some of his own opinion in the matter. With experience one's judgment improves, one's knowledge of one's subject improves and the quality of one's decision making improves. At all times it has to be a subjective thing and each individual who contributes to the decision has his input. One planning inspector may recommend refusal where another would recommend granting permission. I have seen that time and again. No two people will arrive at exactly the same decision in regard to every application. Somebody must find the consensus of the common will for the common good and someone has to make a final decision.

Perhaps we are seeking perfection but does anybody in this House think we will achieve a situation where decisions will meet everybody's point of view. That is not humanly possible. We need good quality planning decisions based on knowledge, experience and commitment. The delays that have been taking place have had a serious effect on the construction industry. I expressed concern about that shortly after coming into this new Dáil before I was appointed spokesman in this area. I have been critical of delays that have taken place but I have never sought to put the blame in the wrong place as the Minister is doing. The roundabout way in which he is seeking to do something about it is a shame and a disgrace.

I agree with the general wish of this amendment but we will not be supporting it because it is too restrictive.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  Delays cause quite a lot of frustration but I would be very cautious about rushing appeals through because sometimes when appeals are delayed it is to ensure justice, to ensure that everybody who is involved is consulted. The Minister should try to find a way of expediting the finalisation of appeals. It would be far better if we had some kind of statement from the Minister as to how appeals could be expedited instead of talking about the abolition of the board. Section 4 (b) reads:

[1604] The board shall conduct, at such intervals as it thinks fit or the Minister directs, reviews of its organisation and of the systems and procedures used by it in relation to appeals, references and other matters with which it is concerned.

Who are in the best position to review the practices and procedures of planning appeals? Surely it is the existing board, the people with experience, who know exactly why appeals are held up and how things could be changed to expedite matters. Unfortunately I do not think the board were consulted at any time as to how they would formulate new plans and practices so as to expedite planning decisions.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  The Minister could aspire to a target of, say, four months and aim to have all appeals finalised within that period. One method of doing that would be to measure the performance of the Department, and I agree with Deputy Molloy that the appeals board should have its own staff and they should be removed from the Department of the Environment. By examining the workload and the efficiency of the appeals board staff he could aim for a target of four months. It would help the public if it was declared that the board were going to try to get appeals through in four months. The number of appeals that went over that period should be announced in public. When they do go over that period extra staff should be brought in to clear the backlog. I know that at primary level the fact that there is a period of two months specified has a tremendous effect. A company might have a lot of money borrowed from the bank depending on the appeal and if it goes on for nine months it can be very costly. If they knew it would be approximately three or four months it would be a great help to the banks and everybody else.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Since we are speaking about a time span I would refer to a matter which could more appropriately be referred to under section 16, although by the time we reach that section we will [1605] not have time to discuss it. I wish the Minister to put a time limit on the vexatious type of appeal. I refer to an appeal made against planning permission for, say, a bathroom or a kitchenette just because of a neighbourly unhappiness between persons. On several occasions I have come across mischievous appeals lodged only because of a falling out with a neighbour.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I understand Deputy O'Rourke's point. Section 16 adequately covers that type of situation where it allows the board to dismiss an appeal in certain situations.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  There is no time limit on it.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  In relation to the overall question of time there is consensus, in that we would all like to see decisions being dealt with expeditiously. However we must take into account the existing backlog of 3,500 cases. It would be impractical in view of that backlog to put in a time limit now. When we have reduced the backlog to an acceptable working level — say in about 15 to 18 months — I could again look at the question of a time limit. There are difficult types of cases and constraints in relation to the amount of information which must be taken in. The suggestion of four months sounds reasonable in the context of the two months being allotted to the local authority. When the backlog is reduced there is authority in this section for me to consult with the board as to what they would see as being a reasonable amount of time. We want to be in a situation where the public will be able to estimate the amount of time a planning decision will take. It is clear that at the moment that there is total uncertainty as to the amount of time a planning decision can take. This places the building industry and the private individual in great difficulties.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  My purpose in putting down the amendment was so that we could have a debate on this aspect. While I can see the practical difficulty in providing [1606] for a fixed time, I had hoped that the Minister would come up with some alternative. The Minister has indicated that he is well disposed towards having a time limit. What will the Minister do in 15 or 18 months' time? What powers does the Minister have under this Bill to fix a time limit on appeals from that date on? I am not aware of any power in this Bill to enable the Minister to require An Bord Pleanála to complete their work within a specified time. There have been arguments and counter-arguments about the reasons for the delays. On the one hand people say that the board deals with appeals within a week and other people claim that it takes longer. But if there is a fixed time within which the board must complete their work that would be an incentive to get all the other elements working well.

We have further amendments down on this Bill which would make it obligatory on the appellant to submit the correct information so that there would be no delays from that end. If our amendments are accepted the board can dismiss an appeal in which insufficient information is provided by the appellant. Apart from the board there are other agencies involved. If one agency falls down it can cause delays, but there must be some time limit within which the board must give their decision. I accept that there are difficulties and a backlog of cases but the Minister should give us something more substantial than just that he will look at it again in 15 months time. The construction industry is depending on an efficient planning system. If it is possible for local planning authorities to deal with planning applications within two months, then it is not unreasonable to expect the board to deal with planning applications within four months.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I take the Deputy's point. In the appeals regulations I am empowered under the 1976 Act to make regulations in relation to the conduct of appeals or under section 4 of this Bill I can issue a directive. It is justifiable to say that because of the backlog it is impractical to make a final decision during the course of this discussion.

[1607] When the backlog has been reduced in about 15 or 18 months I will be in a position to review the question of a time limit.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, subsection (1) (c), line 22, to delete “section” and substitute “subsection”.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The substitution of the word “subsection” for the word “section” might be necessary if there was reference elsewhere in the section to a direction from the Minister. But there is no such reference and therefore a reference to a direction under the section and a reference to a direction under subsection (1) can only have the same meaning. I feel the amendment is unnecessary and see no reason to depart from the style which has been used by the parliamentary draftsman. I will be opposing the amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Would the Minister not agree that confining the power of direction to the subsection would obviate the need for the saver of subsection (4) which he has had to insert himself?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  No, I would not agree.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Why?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Subsection (4) refers to the regulations. We must also clarify that we refer to the Acts themselves.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I do not think that a very reasonable explanation. However, I shall not delay the House on it.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Prendergast): Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  No, it is withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[1608]Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, between lines 28 and 29, to insert a new subsection as follows:—

“(2) Where the Minister gives a directive under subsection (1), the following provisions shall apply—

(a) as soon as may be the Minister shall cause a copy of the directive to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas,

(b) the directive shall be published in the Irish Oifigiúil, and

(c) the Minister shall cause a copy of the directive to be sent to each planning authority and to the Board.”.

This is a new subsection being proposed. It is standard that such directive be given and it is based on the provisions of section 7 of the 1982 Act. I maintain that a similar provision should be contained in this Bill.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The object of the amendment would seem to be to require directives under section 4 (1) (c) to be published in the same way as general policy directives are required to be published under the provisions of the 1982 Act. I would point out that there is a major difference in that general policy directives are matters to which regard must be had in dealing with particular applications and appeals and it is right that the public should have full knowledge of them. What are involved in this section are merely systems, procedures and organisational matters. If, as a result of a review under that section a need was identified for major changes which would be of public concern the proper way to give effect to these would be by way of amendment of the appeals regulations made under section 20 of the 1976 Act. It is clear from subsection (4) that directives are not meant to override or supersede such regulations. I might add also that directives under section 4 (1) would relate normally only to matters which, while they may be important from the point of view of efficiency would not of themselves be of real public concern.

[1609] For that reason I do not accept that such directives should be published in the manner proposed. Obviously they would be referred to by the board in their annual report and that way the public would be informed of them. Therefore there is no effort being made to keep the knowledge or information from the public. Also, if any directive were to relate to a matter of real public concern it would have to be made and published as a statutory instrument under the provisions of the Statutory Instruments Act 1947, as was done in the case of the shopping directive, with which we are all familiar under the 1982 Act.

Those procedures which are available should satisfy the proposer of the amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Subsection (4) (a) states:

The provisions of subsection (1) of this section are without prejudice to the provisions specified in paragraph (b) of this subsection.

The late Mr. Justice Walsh who was chairman of An Bord Pleanála at the time of his death wrote some very learned papers on the operation of the Planning Acts in this country. In one such “Planning and Development Law” he made reference to this type of provision in the Planning Acts where he said:

A Planning Authority may grant permission or approval subject to conditions. Sub-section (2) of Section 26 of the Planning Act 1963 sets out a list of conditions which may be imposed but this list is expressly stated to be without prejudice to the generality of the preceding sub-section which confers a general right to impose conditions. There is, however, a clear ambiguity and the precise interpretation of Section 26 (1) and (2) has yet to be determined.

He poses the question:

Can only section 26 (2) conditions be imposed, or can other undefined in the Act be formulated under section 26 (1)?

He states further:

[1610] The question is confused rather than clarified by the insertion of the words “without prejudice to the generality of that subsection” which appear in sub-section (2) and relate to the earlier subsection.

Mr. Justice Walsh was an eminent scholar of planning law in this country. He saw fit to make that criticism of this ambiguous type of provision in the Planning Acts. We are now re-enacting similar wording in this section.

I should like to have the Minister's opinion on Mr. Justice Walsh's opinion.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I would have the greatest respect for anything written by the late Mr. Justice Walsh in relation to planning law in this country. He was recognised as one of the foremost members of his profession in relation to planning matters. In fairness to Deputy Molloy I should say he is just slightly off the mark in that I accept the criticism made by Mr. Justice Walsh as to the inclusion of the expression “without prejudice to the generality”. That form of draftsmanship may need to be clarified and I think the Justice was making that point.

But, in relation to section 4 which we are now discussing, a statement in the section purports that I would not be in a position to make any directive which would override any part of the Bill or any regulation which would be made thereunder. I can only concur with the Deputy and with the late Justice Walsh that, in the wider context, that expression “without prejudice to the generality” should be avoided because of any confusion it might create. But I do not think he would draw the same conclusions in relation to its inclusion in this section.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister does not consider then that the inclusion of those words would be ambiguous?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  We do not have a generality in this section.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  No, but there is included “without prejudice to the provisions” which is what the judge was critical of.

[1611]Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That is the very distinction I am trying to draw between what the Justice was pointing out. He was criticising the inclusion of the expression “with-our prejudice to the generality” which may have been over-used whereas, in this section — by virtue of the fact that we are not employing that terminology — I, or any future Minister for the Environment, would be confined to the situation in which no directive can be given under this section which would purport to override any other section or any regulations made thereunder.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I accept what the Minister says about that. But may I ask him why he includes subsection (4) (b) (ii) which reads:

the provisions of any other enactment, order, regulation or other instrument thereunder which so relates.

I should like to ask the Minister why it was considered necessary to have a separate subparagraph when one compares this to the provision in subsection (3) (b) which states, “or by any other enactment...”. It seems superfluous to include it again.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  They are basically different subsections. The main concern in regard to subsection (4) (b) (ii) was to relate to an appeals procedure in regard to the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977. The purpose behind the inclusion there was to ensure that specific provisions in that Act, or the Housing Act, 1969, are not overridden in the interest of expeditious processing.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Amendment No. 9, in the name of Deputy Molloy, relates to this section. Do I take it that the Deputy wishes that amendment be taken on its own? It has been suggested to me — I am not pushing this — that amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11 are related [1612] and might be taken together but voted on separately.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I agree to take amendments Nos. 9 and 10 together. I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, lines 6 and 7, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:—

“(c) the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils,”.

We are opposed to the whole principle of the Bill in regard to changing the personnel of An Bord Pleanála in this fashion. The section is important because under it a chairman will be appointed. That appointment is to be carried out through the process described in the section: a selection committee will be established by the Minister consisting of certain people and it will examine applicants for the post of chairman and make recommendations to the Government. The selection committee will recommend three names. The Government will consider them and are entitled to appoint any of the three. If the Government do not like any of the three they can instruct the selection committee to re-advertise the positions and interview new people before recommending a further three names. If the Government are not satisfied with the second set of names they are not obliged to appoint any of them and can require the committee to go through the procedure again. That process can continue indefinitely. It is farcical to think that such a device is being used to convey the impression that the Government are not going to make the appointment of chairman. The fact is that the chairman under existing legislation is appointed by the Government and when the Bill becomes law the chairman will also be appointed by the Government.

Deputies opposite spoke about changes in the system of appointment and the Minister told the House that the Bill provided for a change in the method of appointment of the chairman of the board. That is not true. The Bill does not provide for any change in the system, which is the same as existed in the past. [1613] The Government of the day will decide on the chairman of the board. That point has not been put across by the Minister or any Member of the Government side. They have fluffed over this. Last week I was on a radio programme with a Government backbencher and after I had congratulated him on his appointment as Lord Mayor of Dublin he told me that the Government would appoint a committee to select the chairman and members of the board. Government Deputies are not au fait with the provisions of the Bill and that Deputy was incorrect. He was under the impression that the committee the Minister is establishing will appoint the members of the board, but that is not so.

I will repeat what will happen so that it sinks home. The Minister is finding a device to give the impression that a new system of appointment is being introduced, but that is not so. It seems farcical to involve so many people in this charade of interviewing people and making recommendations when there is not any obligation on the Government to accept any of the recommendations. The existing position will obtain in the future also. We have to argue from two points of view. We are vehemently opposed to this procedure. Our opposition to the principle in the Bill of firing a board without due cause is a fundamental one and, in the course of the debate, we gave notice that any person who accepts an appointment under section 5, if the Government make an appointment under it, will find that the section will be rescinded if an when we are returned to Government. That is a firm commitment by our party.

Having stated our opposition to the process of establishing a selection committee and the making of an appointment to the chairmanship of the board, we accept that because of the Government's voting strength our decision to oppose this is not likely to succeed. We do not have sufficient votes in the House to block the Government's moves. Therefore, we must argue on the basis of trying to improve what the Government are proposing as the law of the land. If we are to have this ridiculous committee we must look at the personnel to be [1614] appointed to it. The Government propose to appoint the President of the High Court, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, the chief engineering adviser of the Department of the Environment, the chairman of the Council of An Taisce — the National Trust for Ireland — the President of the Construction Industry Federation and the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The people who hold those offices are worthy persons and we do not seek to denigrate their characters or ability in any way. We may question their motivation in certain instances later, but we must query why the Department of the Environment have two representatives on the selection committee. We cannot see any great need for the Minister to have two officials on that committee. Surely it would be adequate to have the Secretary representing the administrative side of the Department. We cannot see any justification for including the chief engineering adviser of the Department. That official may have special qualifications in the area of planning and in that case the Secretary should stand aside. We object to two representatives of the Department on the selection committee.

We also object to having the chairman of the Council of An Taisce on the selection committee. There is provision in section 7 to establish groups to make recommendations to the Minister on who should be appointed to the board and there is room for an organisation such as An Taisce there. We do not believe An Taisce should have a place equal to the other people listed in the section. We have no objection to the President of the Construction Industry Federation and the President of the Executive Council of ICTU because it will mean that both sides of industry will be represented. That is suitable and proper if we are to have a selection committee. However, there is a glaring omission from the list. It indicates to this side of the House the attitude of the Minister to elected representatives. We have already debated The Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill whereby the role of elected county councillors was downgraded in a [1615] very fundamental way and a new role given to the county manager to impose taxation at local authority level without having to obtain the sanction of the elected members of the council, the representatives of the people. We decried that move by the Minister to downgrade the elected local authority members, the county council members and corporation members.

We question why the Minister has not thought fit to give representation on this selection committee to elected representatives who have a statutory role to play in planning. In the 1963 Act the making of a development plan is a reserved function of elected county councillors and corporation members. All the planning process and all the decisions arrived at have to take into account the objectives laid out in each county development plan. These are adopted by the elected local councillors. We feel the omission of elected councillors from this selection committee is a slight on the important statutory role which public representatives at local authority level play in the planning process. We propose in our amendment that the double representation of the Department be changed and that the Secretary should be allowed to represent the Minister and the Department, that the chief engineer and adviser should be removed and replaced by the chairman of the General Council of County Councils. We propose that the chairman of the board of An Taisce should be deleted and replaced by the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland.

I am amazed that the Minister made this serious omission and failed to give due recognition to local elected councillors in the important role they play in the whole planning process. It seems to indicate the objective of the Government to remove the county councillors completely from the planning process. They have no role to play in the selection committee and we have been told that the role of elected representatives is to be removed altogether from this whole planning process. That is the trend of the decision-making by the Government.

[1616] We see great danger in that and we see it leading on to greater chaos and unrest. Planning was, possibly, one of the greatest restrictions placed on the people in relation to any Bill brought before the House. The 1963 Act affected every development that took place in the country since then and has had an effect in some way on every man, woman and child in the country. The ready acceptance of this new discipline in the years since then has been largely due to the fact that these development plans are adopted at local level by local elected representatives, people who are known to the community affected, people who are available to the community affected and people who will listen to the difficulties when they arise. They have performed a very important function in getting general acceptance of the planning process throughout the country. That has been one of the major achievements of local councillors in the years since the Planning Act was adopted.

That is our attitude in relation to these two amendments. We feel the Minister has made a serious omission. We have put down an amendment to allow him to correct the situation. We appeal to him to give recognition in his selection committee to the role of the elected councillor. In doing so we will accept whoever the general council appoint as their chairman and whoever the municipal authorities appoint as their chairman.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I would like to say a few words on this section. I will try to be as constructive as I can and not be political. There have been comments for and against the section which I would like to put on record.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  On amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I understand that.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  On a point of order, if the Chair and the other speakers here accept it, I think it is quite in order to take amendment No. 11 along with amendments Nos. 9 and 10 as they seem to be related.

[1617]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I left it to Deputy Molloy and he said he was agreeable to take amendments Nos. 9 and 10 together.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I regret the background to this legislation. Unfortunately, it is because of outrageous behaviour by a member of the previous Administration that this Bill has come before us. Nobody can justify what happened then. That is the reason this section dealing with the appointment of members and the appointment of the chairman has been put into the Bill. Even the most balanced, impartial observer would say that the appointment of political aides or members of political parties purely on that basis to a planning board is an outrageous act. That is what happened, and there is no point in putting a tooth in it. That is the reason this Bill is necessary. In doing this, politicians are their own worst enemies because we are removing from ourselves time and time again all the input we can make to responsible local government planning by appearing to abuse powers. We have, first of all, questions hanging over ministerial decisions, then we appoint An Bord Pleanála and questions hang over that. The background to this section is outrageous.

I have very strong reservations about the role the Minister is taking here and I want to express them. I know the Minister and the Minister of State are doing a very good job in the Department of the Environment and that they have great enthusiasm for their jobs. As a matter of principle, I oppose this approach by the Government generally. If it was any other Minister and any other Department I would be expressing this view as well. I believe very strongly in a strong Parliament and in a strong Government. I do not believe that a Government elected by a Parliament should in turn elect or appoint another body or a committee and that they should, in turn, appoint somebody else. The buck has to stop somewhere, and this whole approach of making the elected representatives give up powers to civil servants and outside nominees in my view is something we have to [1618] guard against. I have very strong reservations about this.

There is a suspicion that there has been political abuse in the past or impropriety in relation to appointments. The way to deal with that is to set up machinery so that Parliament can satisfy itself as to the propriety of the people exercising the powers we are giving them by an Act of Parliament. I do not believe the way to do it is to go along looking at a committee. I have very strong objections to the way powers are being taken away from local government representatives and county councillors. I also object very strongly to the way powers are constantly being taken away from elected people. I believe we should be doing the reverse of what this section in principle does. This section is giving more power and more influence to the permanent head of the civil service in that Department, to other people in the civil service and to nominees of people who are not elected by anybody. That is a serious error which is not just made in the Department of the Environment but is being made in every section of Government day in and day out and this Parliament has put up with it. It is not good enough to say that it happened under this Government: it also happened when Fianna Fáil were in Government. However, backbenchers have not got the gumption to say we are having no more of this nonsense, that parliament has a function in the matter and that we will not tolerate it happening any more. Last year when Mrs. Thatcher appointed someone whom she chose as head of a financial agency in Britain——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I do not think we should discuss matters of that kind.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I will relate it to what is happening here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy may so relate it but we have no control over the matter and I do not think it proper to discuss it.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  It is probably just as well that we have no control over it [1619] because we would probably send it to some committee——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  That may be, but the Chair would prefer if the Deputy did not either praise or criticise what is going on in another sovereign parliament.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I am trying to say that in other areas prime ministers take decisions and they decide what should happen but in this country the Government and Parliament are not doing the job they were given. I recent sections like this being put into Bills, presumably by civil servants. I resent sections being put into Bills making it an offence for people in statutory bodies to communicate information to outsiders, including Deputies or the Minister, if they consider there is an impropriety going on in a board. This happened in another board where an official supplied information to the Minister without the consent of the chief executive of the board and was suspended for so doing.

I am sorry to have to say this. I was not consulted about this Bill and I did not expect to be consulted because of the way these Bills must necessarily be brought in. However, I feel obliged to put my views on the record of the House, as I have done from time to time since I became a Member of this House. I ask the Minister to take cognisance of what I have said. Why should permanent civil servants or people who are not elected and who have no mandate be given powers of this nature? I resent the idea that everyone is trustworthy except members of parliament. I do not think this section will do anything for the institution of parliament.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  It is a source of great pleasure to me — although I hope it will not be a source of embarrassment to Deputy Mitchell — to say that I agree entirely with what he has said. It is entirely in line with what I said on Second Stage. Our amendment does no more than recognise that there are those who, in accordance with the democracy we practice, are elected by the people. I am [1620] surprised that any Minister or Minister of State, presuming to represent the traditions of the Labour Party, would put before this House legislation that excludes the rightful place of those elected by the people, who are answerable to and who may be dismissed by the people. Our amendment seeks to recover that position.

What is proposed in the Bill is as much on the road to the subversion of this House as anything that might happen outside in a more tyrannical or violent fashion and I am sure that on reflection the Minister will appreciate that. Why should he delegate his power, his rights and his responsibility to anyone else? He is careful to establish that ultimately he may do this and he is giving the whole matter a veneer of being non-political. We should be proud of the political aspect. I am proud of being a Member of this House and I am proud of my colleagues. I might disagree with the approach of earlier speakers in attributing misdemeanours to Members opposite. I served with Deputy Quinn in the Dublin Corporation. We were aware that professionally he was entitled to have an interest, which he declared, but his presence or absence at committee meetings did not influence one way or another any member of the planning committee. Yet, here we are signalling to the nation that politicians are not fit to carry on that good work. It is an acknowledgement by this House that the people who voted for urban councillors, county councillors and Members of Dáil Éireann are not to have their rights. We are saying to them we are not capable of discharging our responsibilities.

Personally I do not want to see any selection committee. In respect of planning matters, to whom is the President of the High Court responsible? In a speech the Minister stated that this procedure applies more or less to the appointment of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Where is the analogy between that and matters of politics, of planning and issues relating to the environment, where we have elected people dealing with such matters every day? The Minister has available to him in his own party and [1621] elsewhere people with expertise in planning and development that, in my opinion, is far greater than can be supplied by the President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. I do not know the man but I am sure he is an expert in industrial relations matter. However, I do not know if he has any qualification with regard to planning, development or the environment. I would say the same of the President of the Construction Industry Federation. What does he know of planning? The chairman of the General Council of County Councils—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I would remind the Deputy we are dealing with the amendment which proposes to replace the chief engineering adviser and the chairman of An Taisce.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  My colleague, Deputy Molloy, said that as far as he was concerned because of their interest in industry they were acceptable to him but that does not mean they are acceptable to me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy may not follow what the Chair is saying. The Chair is merely directing his attention to the fact that in the amendments we are dealing with two specific appointments under the Bill as it stands, section 5 (2) (c) and (d). When we come to the section the Deputy will have opportunity of dealing with all matters.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not want to take issue with the Chair but in deference to my establishing that the chairman of the General Council of County Councils because he represents elected people is more entitled to representation here than some non-elected people, with the indulgence of the Chair I was referring to others who are nominated, to strengthen my argument that the amendment should be accepted. If I have strayed too far I will take the advice of the Chair and restrain myself. An Taisce are a great organisation — I have friends in it — but they do not enjoy any mandate from the people. I do not see why we should reject a proposition that comes before this House specifically now contrasting the [1622] rights of the chairman of An Taisce with those of the chairman of the General Council of County Councils.

Deputy De Rossa and Deputy Skelly have yet to enjoy the great office of county councillor but I hope they will accept that the issue at stake here is fundamental to the whole situation. Do they, as elected Members, reject the right of this House to nominate the chairman of the General Council of County Councils on a selection board as against the chairman of An Taisce? If they want to be at ease with themselves there is only one answer, whatever embarrassment they might feel regarding the Minister. Deputy Gay Mitchell and other Deputies have spoken here of the unease they feel and of their position being somewhat eroded. This is an opportunity for them to assert the rights and responsibilities of elected people. The chairman of An Taisce — perhaps it is a chairwoman — has expertise and knowledge but is that knowledge superior to that of the local representatives in every constituency who themselves are the planning authorities? That is the question that Deputies, especially those who are members of local authorities, must put to themselves before they vote.

I am expressing a consistency that has not been manifested by the Minister or his Minister of State. In the latest proposal to amend the Constitution I heard Deputy Quinn assert here for nearly an hour his rejection of the right of anybody even to suggest that we should bring in legislation of that nature. He talked about SPUC and other pro-life groups and, to the point of being insulting, he challenged their right to presume to do anything here to push, direct or to take from elected representatives their right and responsibility. He said that legislation was unwanted and unnecessary. Now in respect of legislation which we all agree is vital he says that public representatives should not appoint people who have no mandate from the public. If that is what the parties on the other side of the House want let them have it but it will haunt them later on.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I understand from this section [1623] that the committee referred to will select the chairman and the Government will then appoint him. A number of contentious issues are raised in the selection of bodies put before us and there may even be a flaw in it because I can see where there will be a conflict of interests. I know we are discussing sections 9 and 10 but in broad reference to the Construction Industry Federation and perhaps An Taisce, the former represent builders only. They do not represent planners or other people with expertise as Deputy Tunney said. There is a problem in relation to the people who are going to select the chairman. We need an experienced person to act as chairman of this board. However, I am puzzled at the omission from this committee of anybody associated with architecture. I thought they would have had the president of the RIAI or somebody like that because it is the only profession which, as well as being involved with design and planning, also takes the social aspects of their designs into consideration. Many of the good things we see around us have had a large input by that august body. As far as I remember, from my university days, it is one of the most learned faculties and demands discipline. By right this body should be represented in the selection of a chairman.

I do not agree with the composition of this committee. I do not know how much thought has gone into it but if someone were selecting a chairman in a high technology company or in the oil industry the person interviewing and selecting would have to know what was needed. Deputy Tunney spoke respectfully about different associations represented on this committee but I do not see where the expertise will come in selecting such a vital person as the chairman of An Bord Pleanála. I know the ordinary members will be selected from different professions and maybe it is intended to bring in an architect at that level but I cannot see how we can omit a member of that profession from representation when selecting the chairman because he would have an eye to future planning all around [1624] the country. In this century I do not think architects will be remembered kindly for many things that have been done.

Deputy De Rossa has invited us to discuss amendment No. 11 but I must refer to the section. The Construction Industry Federation does not come under amendments Nos. 9 or 10 but it should be mentioned. There was a point of view expressed that members of An Taisce would try to block planning applications whereas the Construction Industry Federation might be trying to push decisions. If that were the case they would neutralise each other. Then you would be left with the president of the ICTU.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair has ruled that anything more than a passing reference to these other matters is not in order.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  It is a passing reference because I will not say two sentences on it, but if it is the president of the ICTU people will expect that anything associated with work or providing work in the construction industry should be pushed. That would immediately cause an imbalance, and the people left who would really have influence in selecting the chairman would be the chief engineering adviser for the Department of the Environment — who Deputy Molloy suggested should be replaced by the chairman of the General Council of County Councils — the Secretary of the Department and the President of the High Court. I cannot see that these are the proper people to choose a chairman of the Planning Board, a vital appointment. I ask the Minister to reconsider this section and at least to include a member of the architectural profession who would have a better right and be better qualified to interview and assess the type of person who should be chairman of this board.

Deputy Molloy mentioned An Taisce and he seemed to be worried about them. I do not think that they would necessarily set out to block applications but they would be interested at all times in good planning, and that would be no bad thing for this city or for the country. Someone capable, having eyes to see what should [1625] be done in the area of planning, would be a great help in this regard.

This section of the Bill is very important and it should not be left as it is. I do not know whether I am permitted to mention the other replacement that Deputy Molloy was talking about. I do not think that the chairman of the General Council of County Councils, with all due respect to him, would be suitable for the same reasons that the gentlemen I have mentioned are not suitable. The position is close to being a political appointment in that the appointee will be very strongly representative of one of the major parties, and that would render him ineligible, given that the objective here is to separate the planning appeal board and make them independent. I ask the Minister to bear in mind that this committee will select a chairman and we need someone on this committee who will be imaginative and sympathetic in regard to planning, who will be knowledgeable in the area of planning and engineering and who will know the needs and requirements over all.

In passing I must say that An Taisce recently produced a document which took three years to compile. It concerns future planning and preservation of the city of Dublin and it is an excellent document. I cannot see that that organisation can do anything other than help us in improving our surroundings.

Again I ask the Minister to reconsider this section and to allow a member of the architectural profession in at this stage and possibly exclude some of the other people. I do not think it necessary for either the CII or the ICTU to be represented. It is wrong to depend entirely on the President of the High Court. I do not see his function here apart from the fact that he is a person of upright character and of high standing in the community. We are left then with the Secretary of the Department who is, with all due respect to him, a civil servant, making these appointments. The whole section falls down in that area.

Mr. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I will address myself to section 5 and our amendments Nos. 9 and 10 which deal with the substitution [1626] of the chairperson of the General Council of County Councils and the chairman of the Association of the Municipal Authorities of Ireland for the chief engineering adviser of the Department of the Environment and the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce.

The general idea of a committee reminds me of a giant sieve through which people may or may not slip at the will of somebody who will oversee the slipping of people through it. That is the most down-to-earth explanation I can put upon it. The will of the person who will let people through the sieve is behind all this. It is really political pressure dressed up in an attractive frock or coat or whatever one likes to call it.

Regarding the amendments, I was very privileged to be present in Mullingar recently when the Minister went there to address the General Council of County Councils. The chairman of that body is a very esteemed member of his own party. I do not wish to name him here. It is very obnoxious that the Minister would not think that the chairperson of the General Council of County Councils, a person appointed by the people at county council level and later a Member of the Seanad, infinitely better qualified——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I thought I heard a few strange expressions.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I am addressing myself to you, a Cheann Comhairle, not like other speakers. Encouragement is always good. Great stress has been laid in this House on democracy, and throughout the land there is a general reappraisal of political people and representatives. I speak as one who has come up through the system from an urban council to a county council to the Seanad and to the Dáil. Despite allegations that I am here because of the name I bore, I have reached this stage because I put myself before the electorate each time and was elected. There is a general perception of elected people to which we are not contributing here today when we are denigrating the role of representatives. [1627] By not agreeing to our amendment and by passing the section that the Minister has put in front of us with his provision for a very classy election board, we are running down the role of the elected person, the person who has sat at county council meetings, be it the person who is at present the incumbent of that office or otherwise. The office rotates from year to year so that there is no need to worry that it will always be in the hands of one person or one party. There are always changes at local and national level.

The chairperson of the General Council of County Councils or the chairperson of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland will have sat at urban council tables and county council tables perhaps for years on end. He or she will have contributed to county or town development plans, will have served on county councils or corporations, will have experience of environmental matters and will know what he or she is talking about. What right has any lobby — I must here pay tribute to the esteemed people of An Taisce — to replace such people with such undenied experience? Such lobbies have never stood on doorsteps or put themselves before the people, and they never will do it. However, they are now to be the people who will select members of this board.

I have noticed that many people on the other side, if not by voice by their facial expressions, have shown that they agree with what we are saying in this matter. I do not want to denigrate the chief engineering adviser or the chairman of An Taisce, but they are not people who are accountable to the electorate. They do not have to go before the people. We have to do that every five years; we have to account to the people for what we have done in the previous five years and what we intend to do in the next five years. I must tell the Minister what he will be doing when he rejects our amendment.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  What about the chairman of the General Council of County Councils?

[1628]Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  He is a very honourable person and so is the Chairman of the Municipal Authorities Association of Ireland. The people who will be doing the selecting here will be in the highest echelon of the planning process.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  I said earlier I had some reservations in regard to the proposed change these amendments would bring about. I have tremendous respect for the Minister for the Environment. I have the utmost trust in him and the greatest respect possible for the way he is carrying out his duties and the way in which he will make appointments. I would have the same respect for future Ministers for the Environment. I have learned from experience during the years I have been here to respect the powers and functions to be performed by Ministers. Now, however, we are to have a committee and an authority set up and I view this with very serious reservations and if this continues to arise I will be making stronger gestures.

Where possible it is necessary that power should be retained by those elected by the people, who are shrewd and smart in their own way and who very rarely make wrong decisions. Of course there is a strong possibility that the people who will be on this selection committee will possess honesty and integrity, but there is also the possibility that those whom they select to the board will bring to the board the organisations' viewpoint. That may be good for planning but I doubt it and I am worried about it.

I respect all the people who will be doing this work. The President of the High Court is one of the finest judges Ireland has known and the Secretary of the Department is a fine person, but this may not be the best way to do things. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle would be the best person to appoint a chairman. In Britain, with all its failings, they have the planning decisions in the hands of the Secretary of State whose decisions shall be final.

Here we are changing all that. We are to have a board not directly appointed by the Government. My view at this late stage is that because this is to be a [1629] quasi-judicial body it will have to be above reproach. We are meddling with the present situation. I strongly suggest politicians should have some say in this. I have always respected the viewpoints of the electorate. If we are going to change and if we are to have a chairman appointed by somebody from outside the Government I would prefer to see the matter left completely in the hands of the Judiciary. The situation in regard to the backlog has been very bad over the last 18 months or so.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  So fire them. That is the new solution.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Order.

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  If there is to be any change made I would prefer the powers to be placed in the hands of the Judiciary. It could work very efficiently after the manner in which the courts themselves work. It would improve the system because it would streamline it. There may be some people who would object to the Judiciary but I certainly would take it completely out of the hands of public representatives and give it into the hands of the Judiciary. That would improve the system. Some might object to removing powers out of the hands of elected representatives. I have spoken on this before, long before this Bill was introduced. I am on record in regard to taking powers from the people. This is a tremendously important matter and I am glad to have my views recorded.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  These are amendments to the section which sets up the committee to appoint the chairman, the replacement for the eminent member of the Judiciary whom the Tánaiste has decided to fire. It is not possible in a limited debate like this to deal as adequately as one would like with these amendments. Our non-acceptance of the Bill has been stressed repeatedly but not until to-night have the backbenches on that side of the House realised how right our arguments have been. I have listened to many speakers. I have just heard Deputy Enright, an experienced Member [1630] express grave reservations about what the Tánaiste is doing. I appeal to the Tánaiste to accept these amendments. I appeal to him as leader of a party which has paid lipservice to democracy for so long. The choice is very clear. You accept as chairman of the General Council of County Councils, himself an elected person, or do you appoint some technocrat or bureaucrat, admirable though he may be. We are conceding rights here to the Chairman of the General Council and the Chairman of the municipal authorities, elected by the people in the first instance and, secondly, municipal authority nominees or county council nominees.

The Tánaiste is doing this House a great disservice. I claim more experience than Deputy Skelly has on the political side of the fence and I believe no group has given such committed and dedicated service and devoted so much time to local affairs as have members of local authorities. We should never forget that. If a small number do not measure up to the vast majority, that applies to any group. The two amendments go in some small way towards improving what is a very bad situation, a situation which is unacceptable to Deputy Enright, a very experienced Member of this House. The Tánaiste should withdraw the section or accept the amendments.

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  There are Fianna Fáil backbenchers who do not agree with this Bill, and maybe that is a good thing, because it is quite clear if you are a member of Dublin Corporation there is a difference between the Labour Party view and the view of the conservatives. People have only to look at the revoting on land zoning in Dublin Corporation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy McLoughlin——

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  I am stating a fact, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy McLoughlin, please. We are now in committee on section 5 and we are dealing with amendments Nos. 9 and 10 and I [1631] will not have a Second Stage speech. I want to make that clear.

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  I want to make this quite clear because allegations were made that certain backbenchers did not support the Tánaiste. What he is doing in this section is correct and proper and backbenchers support him fully. I said originally planning should be outside of parliament. When it was in the control of politicians it was grossly abused. There is a difference between the Labour Party's point of view on planning and the view of the other two conservative parties.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  These amendments seek to amend the committee which would select nominees to elect a chairperson for An Bord Pleanála who would subsequently be appointed by the Government. I am not entirely satisfied with this procedure. I would prefer to see a body similar to the Civil Service Commission having responsibility for the appointment to this particular office. However, having gone for a select committee based on interested groups, I have no objection at all to the addition of the chairperson of the General Council of County Councils or municipal authorities but I cannot see the value in deleting the chief engineering advisers of the Department or the chairman of the council.

I consider that amendment No. 11 should also be discussed in relation to numbers 9 and 10. We feel that if you go for interest groups you should go for as wide a representation as possible. For that reason I would not be willing to support the amendment as put down by Fianna Fáil. I have no objection to the inclusion of the two persons they mention in the amendment but I do not see the value of deleting (c) and (d). In discussing this section of the Bill we must bear in mind that this Bill is attempting to eliminate any suggestion of party political considerations in the appointment of a chairman and providing that a chairman should not be appointed by the Minister or by the Government on the basis of that person's political allegiance. It is also important that such an independent body [1632] would ensure that a person would not be denied appointment to a position because of his or her allegiance. Most people who are in the professions have fairly strong political views and it would be improper for them to be either appointed because of their political allegiance or denied appointment because of it. That is why I support the movement towards establishing an independent body to select a chairperson and to select An Bord Pleanála.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  It is not an easy matter to devise an ideal system of an appeal procedure on planning matters. What the section attempts to do is to provide an appeals board of people who would determine these matters so far as is possible divorced from the political arena. It is right and proper that an attempt should be made to achieve that objective. There is no reason that I can think of why the planning process, which should be objective, should be bound up in any way with political pressures to which we as politicans are subject at all times. We are under pressure from developers, from would-be developers, from conservation groups, from resident groups, tenant groups and so on. All those pressure groups have points to make. Nonetheless the question of planning and development is subject to objective tests and should be within the arena of people who have an expertise in town and country planning.

I do not agree with Deputy Enright when he suggests that perhaps the Judiciary would be an appropriate body of people to determine planning appeals. I do not think they would wish that themselves. I do not think they would see themselves as having a sufficient degree of expertise to enable them to make value judgments on planning matters. The people who are appointed to the planning appeals board and on whom very important and crucial responsibilities will rest should in all cases be people who are well qualified for the task imposed upon them. The people who find themselves on other appeals boards are supposed to have that expertise. The appeals commissioners of income tax for example are people who are skilled in tax laws. The people who [1633] are on the employment appeals tribunal have an expertise in matters of employment both from the employers' side and from the employees' side. By the same token I would regard it as important that the people on this board should be there by reason of their expertise in planning matters.

The attempt of this section is to try to achieve that. The attempt of the proposed amendment is to try to introduce some degree of political influence into the appointments, albeit a slight one and albeit at one remove. That would appear to be the object of the exercise in putting down this series of amendments. I do not know why the Fianna Fáil Party are determined to hinder the matter to quite this extent, why they are reluctant to let even the vestiges of control of the planning process slip away from political hands. There is no reason whatever in logic or in commonsense, why the public representatives, either local or national, should have a major input into the determination of those people. It would be desirable that they should be completely divorced from politics having regard to the fact that the function they exercise is a judicial function and they have to make a determination in their decisions between conflicting interests. Quite obviously it would be essential that acting as judges they should be completely independent of pressure from people who would have put them into the position they now occupy.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputy cannot be serious?

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  I am quite serious. The fact is highlighted by what the Fianna Fáil Party did. It was the blatant way they did it that brought about the view of planning that the public now have. The planning appeals procedure is at a very low ebb and that has been brought about as a result of the activities of the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  By false allegations made by your Minister and people on your side of the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Order.

[1634](Interruptions.)

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy is on the wrong section.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  I am talking about the composition of the committee and the composition of the board.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  A Cheann Comhairle, we have had a rather worthwhile debate because we have all confined ourselves to what has been discussed. We are talking about the committee that will elect a chairman. Deputy Taylor has spoken for the last ten minutes about the board, which we are not talking about at all.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Interruptions are inclined to distract people. I would remind Deputy Taylor that we are on section 5, amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  He is well aware of that if he was allowed to speak and was not interrupted.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  The force of the argument I am making applies to the position of the chairman as it would to an ordinary member of the board because he, by reason of his position, is the most influential member of the board and is the directing and guiding force in the activity of the board. It is essential that he be not tainted by being a political appointee.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Who appoints the judges?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy Taylor should be allowed speak without interruption.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy Taylor, without interruption from either side.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Talking about political patronage, you have been the subject of the grossest political patronage ever practised in this country. A special Bill was passed here to allow you to enter public life.

[1635](Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy Mervyn Taylor without interruption.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  I got the votes too.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Secretary of the Department will be sitting over there next.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  I could be a Minister before you.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy Taylor without interruption, please.

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  Charlie will drop you again too.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  We should not have any personalities. Deputy Mervyn Taylor without interruption.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  The section sets out a list of people who can form a committee to nominate a short list of people to go before the Government for appointment. The selected list is based on people with non-political involvement. One could suggest other influences that might have a part to play in that and no doubt others will be considered from time to time. It might have been considered appropriate that a representative of the County Managers' Association might be considered for inclusion in that nominated committee or perhaps a representative—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Will the Deputy try to bring himself to amendments Nos. 9 and 10 because time is marching on?

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  The point I am making is that the formation of this committee is [1636] from a selection of people nominated in the Bill to make up the committee. I suggest that perhaps other non-political people could have been included who might have a contribution to make.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  In view of the remarks that have been made and the concern expressed I would like with the agreement of the House, to amend page 5 line 5 by inserting “the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils” and by deleting paragraph (b). That is the terminology used in the Act. Is Deputy Molloy in agreement with that?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The present chairman of the general council is a member of the Labour Party but, despite that, we are happy that the Minister is prepared to accept our amendment.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I assume his chairmanship will expire in a matter of weeks and I have no idea who will replace him.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Why cannot the Minister go the whole way now and put in the other body?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy should not look a gift horse in the mouth. We seem to have forgotten what was intended in the 1976 Act. Deputy Molloy and others will recall the debates we had in the preparation of that Act. There was serious concern that what we were setting out to do was to remove planning from the political arena. Deputies Molloy, Burke, Haughey and Timmins of the Fianna Fáil Party were at pains to point out that they had serious reservations that the 1976 Act was not going far enough. In the course of this Bill I have tried to explain that we have gone much further than the 1976 Act, despite the reservations of Deputy Tunney and others about politicians divesting themselves of powers they might have in the area of planning. In the course of Deputy Burke's contribution at columns 64 and 65 of the Official Report on 13 March 1974 he said:

Deputy Molloy has suggested that under the present Bill the members [1637] could be chosen from the supporters of any party who happened to be in Government at the particular time. This is wrong situation. The Minister should have set down specific qualifications necessary for appointment to the board and the appointments should be made by the Civil Service Commissioners. The idea of the board is to remove any suspicions from the minds of the public and therefore great care should be taken in the appointment of members.

Deputy Timmins in the course of the same debate at column 207 said:

When making appointments to the board I hope the Minister will go outside the sphere of political influence and patronage and seek the highest qualified people. Perhaps he would consult some of the foremost legal and planning experts to ensure that those appointed are fully qualified for their task.

These sentiments and others which I quoted from the debates of 1974 highlight the effort I am now making to remove the area of planning from the sphere of political influence and patronage. If I chose I could at this point add three additional members to the board but that is not in the interests of the independence of the planning board. While certain Deputies have reservations about various heads of bodies who have been selected, we could have a much longer list; but we must draw the line somewhere. Deputy Skelly was surprised that the Institute of Architects was not included. If we included the architects we would have to include planners and engineers, all of whom have separate institutions representing their interests. What we have set out to do in looking for an independent advisory board, despite Deputy O'Rourke's belief that this is a sieve of some description, is to form an independent board. The people nominated will form a very wide body who will not be influenced by political directions irrespective of which Minister might be in office. This is the idea. The Fianna Fáil Party should accept that what they [1638] believed the Minister for Local Government was doing during the 1976 Act is what I am doing. It is reasonable to accept that any legislation passed through this House can after a period be reviewed and improved upon. Time will bear me out in that the legislation now before the House, in regard to the independence of the board, the role of the planners and of the final appellant body, will be strengthened by the terms of this Act.

I would hope that the Fianna Fáil Party could accept the principle involved. Certainly I as a politician want to be removed from the actual planning process. I have not at any time during this debate made any disparaging remarks about the role of urban councillors, county councillors or the role they have played over the years in the planning process. The principle is in everybody's interest. Every working politician must acknowledge the various pressures, as outlined by Deputy Taylor in his contribution, that will be put on elected representatives. Particularly in the case of appeals, the decision and the basis for the decision should be an objective one. It should not be made in the context of what political party one belongs to or what influence one may have with political parties. To advance the argument that a politician should retain control over the planning process can be made only in the context of one having access to those who control the political process. There are many people in this country who do not approach or never have wanted to approach politicians. They and their rights should be protected under any legislation seeking to set up an independent, autonomous body to control the final decision-making process in the field of planning.

I think I can say with confidence that time will bear out that the Bill we are now enacting and the method of selecting the chairman of the planning board will show that it is removed from the political sphere, and that should be welcomed. It is of value to note that councillors in the past have made and will continue to make their development plans for their respective areas. I do not think any remarks of mine will ever be seen to want to take that from them. They have played a role [1639] in their local areas in a very constructive manner. Indeed, as has been maintained from the Opposition benches, they have the local knowledge and know best what to seek to have included in their development plans.

I would ask the Opposition if they would accept my proposal to accept their amendment and I would reject the others.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Time can never justify the Government's decision to dismiss members of a board who held an appointment under an Act of the Oireachtas and against whom no valid criticism has been levelled. Time can never justify that decision. No matter what the Minister seeks to say about removing politics from planning and ensuring that elected representatives do not control the planning board, in making those kinds of statements he is seeking to convey that it is the wish of this party that we should control the decisions taken by the planning board. That is not so. We fully support the establishment of an independent, autonomous planning appeals board. We have done so from the start. That is not what is at issue here. We are not seeking, as a political party, to have elected representatives controlling decisions of the planning appeals board. The Minister should not seek to convey a falsehood of that kind. We support the establishment of an independent, autonomous appeals board and have done so from the moment the Bill was proposed.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  Appointed by themselves.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  If the history of the appeals board was properly set before the House one would see that the idea of having an independent board emanated originally from Kevin Boland when he was Minister for Local Government. In the time during which I was Minister for Local Government I did quite an amount of preparatory work on a Bill to establish an independent planning appeals board; I had the heads of the Bill before the then Government. Several long discussions [1640] had taken place at Government and ministerial level. It was not something that was happening way down in the Department which would take years to surface.

Therefore the Minister need not seek to convey that he is introducing a whole new principle here, that in future planning appeals will be dealt with by an independent board, as if that was not the wish of all of his predecessors. Indeed, in the contribution my party made to the debate on the 1976 Act we made it quite clear that was the wish of our party. That remains the wish of our party. The board was eventually established under an Act passed by this House after long discussion, with some of our amendments having been accepted and some others not. But once that Bill was enacted we claim it is very wrong and defies the principle of all the established traditions in this House and of public life in this country that a board that had acted legitimately and conscientiously should be fired from their positions. Under the Act which established that board there was provision made under which they could be fired. But the Minister is not moving against them under those provisions. He is moving in a completely different direction which does not oblige him to give any reasons for their removal. There is nothing of which this board can be accused except false allegations and innuendo levelled against them to which the Minister himself has subscribed time and again.

We cannot see any reason for the Minister having two people on the board. We are pleased that he has accepted that contention and has now removed one of them, the Secretary of the Department. We cannot see any reason for having the chairman of the council of An Taisce. We propose that he be replaced by the chairman of the General Council of County Councils and the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities. The Minister has indicated that he is prepared to accept amendment No. 9, but is not prepared to accept No. 10, which seems to me to be very strange. I would suggest that he accept both amendments because the principle enshrined in No. 9 applies equally in the case of No. 10, that the [1641] people represented by the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities, the elected representatives, have a statutory role to play in planning. They have a reserved function to prepare and adopt development plans, an equal role to that of the chairman of the General Council of County Councils. Therefore the Minister cannot blame us commenting on the coincidence that the present chairman of the General Council of County Councils is a member of the Labour Party, Mr. Tim McAuliffe. The Minister has agreed that he should become a member of the selection committee but he will not agree now to the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities. We cannot see any logic in that. Rather we contend that the Minister is displaying his kind of thinking. I should say that when I put down the amendment I was not aware who was the chairman of either of those two bodies. I still do not know who is the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities. But I have discovered anyway that Mr. McAuliffe, a Labour Party member is chairman of the General Council of County Councils. Therefore the Minister is accepting my amendment in regard to the position he holds but is not accepting it in regard to the position of the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  He is also a Labour councillor.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I do not know who they are. But I cannot understand why the Minister accepts one and not the other. I have been a vice-president of the Association of Municipal Authorities. I have never been on the General Council of County Councils. Both of them represent what I consider to be very important organisations. They both have an equal statutory role in preparing development plans and in the other powers which they hold as elected representatives under the Planning Acts in regard to planning. Would the Minister tell us why he is refusing the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities? What is the special role of the chairman of the council [1642] of An Taisce? What particular importance does that individual have? Is that person being proposed here because he would not have any political affiliations? Is that what the Minister is saying, that that name was put down there for that reason? It is well known that the position is otherwise.

It is difficult to understand the Minister's logic in suggesting that the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland should not be a member of the selection committee while accepting the amendment in regard to the General Council of County Councils. I ask the Minister to accept amendment No. 10.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Amendment No. 9 is being amended and we should dispose of that. As I understand it the proposal is to amend amendment No. 9 to read as follows:

9. In page 5, line 5, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:—

“(b) the Chairman of the County Councils General Council,”.

Amendment No. 9, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move amendment No. 10:

In page 5, lines 8 and 9, to delete paragraph (d), and substitute the following:—

“(d) the Chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland,”,

Will the Minister give the House his reasons why the chairman of the Council of An Taisce should be included on the selection committee? Is that person above politics, a non-political person?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Quite honestly I do not know who that person is but I assume it is somebody who is not directly involved in politics. In accepting the amendment in relation to the chairperson of the General Council of County Councils I have gone [1643] a long way towards having the balance which the Opposition seem to think such a person would have on the selection committee. I am not prepared to go any further than that. The chairperson of the Council of An Taisce is a fit person for the post if one looks at the record of that body in terms of conservation and work done down the years on a voluntary basis. While some people may not always agree with their suggestions and the remarks they make in terms of conservation, I believe the chairperson of that body is a responsible individual who would be in a position to ensure that the person or persons recommended are suitable for the post of chairman of the board.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Is fearr rith maith na droch sheasamh. I welcome the manner is which the Minister accepted our case for the inclusion of a democrat on the committee of selection, the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils. What is at issue now is whether the chairperson of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland would be better qualified than the chairperson of An Taisce. I do not know who that person is and I do not care but the principle I am concerned with is the downgrading of the politician. If the Minister was to accept the chairperson of the Association of Municipal Authorities as a politician, it would still be three to two. The unfortunate politicians with all their dangers and sins would still be in a minority.

I take slight issue with Deputy Taylor in regard to this. I do not know that the legal profession, or any other profession, is devoid of human frailties. There is no perfect person fit to adjudicate on anything. Even the great legalists and jurists at times bring their personal imperfections into their decisions. It is wrong to have this castigation of politicians who often are open to greater temptations that anybody else. To have an acceptance by a politician that they are unfit persons to carry out this responsible work is downgrading and that is the point I take issue with. I have respect for Members of all parties. At times we will send the occasional cannon across but I have [1644] respect for democracy, and the people who elect us. I am glad the Minister of State corrected any misinterpretation that might be put on Deputy Taylor's contribution, because the development of what he said was that he would do away with all planning authorities. He said they were not fit to deal with anything connected with this great legal business of planning. That is not so. This is not a legal matter. Planning refers to the lay person who will be affected by what happens in the environment.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  In fairness I do not think Deputy Taylor said that.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  He went near it and it was because of a fear of the interpretation I am putting on it that the Minister of State, who is more alert and prudent than he, made a correction.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  That would be a misinterpretation.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  We are entitled to misinterpret but I am sure the Deputy will accept that we do it in all good faith. The Minister says he is including this provision to satisfy public opinion and their fears of politicians but I do not accept that. If the Minister accepts our amendment the selection committee will have only two politicians against three others. Nobody can contend that the politicians, however bad they are supposed to be, if they are in a majority will be in a position to do any harm. That is what they are being accused of.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Will the Minister tell the House why the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce should be appointed to the selection committee in preference to the chairperson of the Association of Municipal Authorities, who is an elected representative? We are pleased the Minister has accepted the principle we argued in regard to county councils and we will continue that argument in favour of the other half of local authority representatives, municipal authorities. I do not accept that the Chairperson of An Taisce — a Mrs. [1645] O'Connor, I understand — has a greater entitlement to be a member of the selection committee than the chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities. The latter is elected by representatives of every borough council, urban council and town commissioners. We have outlined the role of local authorities in having planning accepted, a new discipline introduced in the sixties which involved many restraints. A lot of the success of planning was due to the involvement of local authorities. I cannot understand why the Minister believes that the chairperson of An Taisce is better qualified to represent the views of our people than a person who represents hundreds of local representatives.

Coming from Galway I find it more difficult to accept the claim the Minister is making for the Chairperson of An Taisce, a person who has been involved in controversy with the Galway planning authority.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  On a point of information, for fear the Deputy dwells unduly on the person he named as being the present incumbent of the chairmanship of An Taisce, I should like to point out to him that Professor Nolan, a historian, is Chairman.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Since when?

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Three weeks ago.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The person I mentioned was Chairperson up to three weeks ago and if the Bill had been passed a few weeks earlier that person would be appointed for five years. It is possible that at the annual meeting next year if that person had enough influence she could be put back in that position next year.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am trying to be helpful.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I am grateful to the Minister for the information. I am aware that there is a little in-fighting going on in An Taisce.

[1646]Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Like every Irish society they must have a say.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  If one reads the newspapers one will see that there is a lot of An Taisce politics going on. Deputy Quinn would know a lot more about that than the Minister because he moves in that circle. An Taisce is representative of a upper middle class and upper class section of the community. I am not aware of any great participation by the ordinary people of the country in the Taisce committees throughout the land. The approach which they seem to take in a general way towards planning applications is very much concerned with the preservation of Ireland as she is today. I see a lot of their involvement in planning decisions in local authorities and in making appeals as anti-development and having an adverse effect on a lot of the poorer families who have been seeking to have themselves housed. There is evidence of that in the type of cases they have been interested in. They have not shown any great interest in dealing with the real social problems caused by planning nor have they shown any great concern for the people who are mostly affected.

We have a person here who up to recently was chairman of An Taisce who was involved in a controversy over an unauthorised development which he carried out in my constituency. That was the subject of a debate at a meeting of Galway County Council on 28 April 1980. The person who was formerly the chairperson of An Taisce actually proceeded with a change of use of a structure without the permission of the local authority and was involved in controversy at that time because of it. There did not seem to be any great respect shown to the county development plan or to the provisions of the Planning Act whereby if a development was claimed as being exempt the proper procedures should have been followed and the local authority approached before the change took place.

A lot of the people in An Taisce have very close associations with the Fine Gael Party and a lot of the blue rinse brigade are involved. It is a nice way to involve yourself and there are a lot of social [1647] occasions. In a lot of cases it is deemed to be far removed from the hard reality which a lot of the people have to contend with in struggling to make a living. You do not see many of them attending the meetings of An Taisce. Some of the well-established Fine Gael Deputies have very close links with some of the people I am referring to.

We cannot for the life of us see why the Minister should expect the House to agree that this particular vested interest group should have a special part to play as distinct from allowing the Chairman of the Municipal Authorities. It is the Minister's decision. He has not been very generous in accepting amendments from us up to now. There has only been a very small acceptance and we ask him to accept the other part of the principle which is enshrined in amendment No. 9, the same principle enshrined in amendment No. 10. I ask the Minister to accept this and we can move on.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I would like, on behalf of the Minister, to explain the Government thinking in relation to the selection of a panel of people who will advise and recommend a short list of three people for ultimate selection by the Minister. We are talking about a panel of people.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I thank the Minister of State for explaining this because a lot of Deputies were confused.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Deputies on all sides.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We made it clear. We know who is making the appointments. This is only wasting time.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If that is what we are talking about I am amazed that somebody with Deputy Molloy's experience in the Custom House should have made such an unwarranted attack on a voluntary organisation comprising 7,000 members.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Will the Minister of State come down to Mayo and Galway?

[1648](Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Will Deputies please allow the Minister of State to continue.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The House will be interested to learn that if this is a representative group of the Fianna Fáil Party it is official Fianna Fáil policy to be opposed to the activities and the role of An Taisce.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  We are not happy with the way they operate in Mayo.

Acting Chairman:  Will Deputies please allow the Minister of State to continue. Deputy Gallagher can come in next.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  I thought the Minister of State was inviting me to make a comment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  They are on a campaign now to downgrade every local authority member in the country.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am interested to hear that the Deputies appear, with divers tongues, to inspire into their instant policy against an organisation which Deputy Haughey, Deputy Molloy and Deputy Burke were so keen to praise and to recognise back in 1976, when this legislation was introduced.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That debate was in 1974.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I would like to say, if the House will allow, in relation to the nomination of a body, which is the primary voluntary organisation concerned with the environment and all aspects of it, that it is right and proper that that voluntary organisation with members throughout the country, which is open to everybody, which has been sponsored by various groups and organisations in relation to activities they have undertaken and which has engaged in educational programmes with schools at all levels of [1649] education, An Taisce, which is already referred to as one of the listed bodies in the 1963 Act and in the 1976 Act, should be one of the bodies that would be asked along with the construction industry, the CIF, the Congress of Trade Unions, the chief engineering adviser of the Department, who is brought in now, as Deputy Calleary will understand. If you were to bring in my institute, the Institute of Architects in Ireland, in order to balance that you would have to bring in the Institute of Engineers, the planners and various other diverse groups, who have a technical training, for representation in that area. Instead of having a large body we are using the representative of a technical profession in the person of the chief engineering adviser. The Minister has accepted the spirit of what the Fianna Fáil Party were proposing in relation to the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils.

Deputy Molloy, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, asked for clarification why An Taisce should be there and in the course of his speech he made an attack on them, which every member of An Taisce will be interested to read in the newspapers. I do not wish to delay the House unduly at this stage. I am attempting to give the thinking behind why this body should be represented and why, as a consequence, in order to keep the representative groups comparatively compact and small — it is an advisory group — that we are not prepared to accept the other part of the recommendation, which is amendment No. 10.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  What has the Government against the municipal authorities?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We have nothing against the municipal authorities. The logic would be that if you put in the municipal authorities and the General Council of County Councils you would have to put in the four or five organisations representing technical people, the CIF and many others.

(Interruptions.)

[1650]Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am sure the Deputy is aware that most development plans at urban level are subservient to the general county plan and are linked in to it as a part of it. They are subsidiary plans.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  As I said most development plans for local urban areas are subsidiary plans to the main county development plan. The framework within which they work and within which they have to operate is substantially dominated by the county road plan, the county water services, sanitary services and the rest. 30 per cent of the population of every urban authority throughout the country physically attached to the urban town area are now located, on average, in the county council area outside the functions of the urban areas themselves. The sense of what is being proposed by Fianna Fáil in amendment No. 9 has been fully and adequately taken on board. To attempt to substitute An Taisce for the municipal authorities is to take away from An Taisce their important contribution to the advisory process as a major voluntary environmental organisation. In addition, it is simply duplicating what we will get in the person of the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This section deals with the replacement of the chairman of An Bord Pleanála and it sets up this elaborate machinery just to make selections. The selections — three names, not in any order of preference or priority — will be sent to the Minister and he will make his selection. If he likes one of the three names he may appoint that person as chairman but if he does not like any of the names he sends them back to the selection committee, tells them to readvertise, to interview people and make a further recommendation. For the second time the Government will consider the three names and if they do not like those people they will tell the Minister to inform the selection committee to go through the whole procedure again. In due course another three names will be put before the Government. Where will [1651] the process end? What is the need for this elaborate machinery of selection? There is no need for it. The whole purpose is to create the impression that a major change is involved here which should be accepted on that basis and that the former board have done dreadful things and must be fired as quickly as possible.

On this occasion we are firing the chairman. Will the Minister tell us what misdemeanour Mr. Justice Murnaghan has committed? Are the Government alleging that this eminent Judge of the High Court has not performed his duties since his appointment as chairman in a proper and correct way and in compliance with the terms of his appointment? Has Mr. Justice Murnaghan misconducted himself in his role as chairman? Has he been dilatory in dealing with planning appeals? Has he committed any sin? Deputy Taylor and Deputy Enright, both of whom are in the legal profession, have extolled the virtues of judges. If Deputy Enright had his way the selection committee would be comprised of Judges — a beautiful sight. These people would make selections to the Government but the Government might reject them. At any rate, Deputy Enright had great faith in the judges, as has the entire community. We recognise their special position in the Constitution.

The debates to which the Minister referred took place in 1974 and 1975: it was not in 1976 because the then Minister, Mr. Tully, delayed as long as he could before he brought the Bill into operation and continued to decide planning appeals himself. At that time the extent of the operations of An Taisce was minimal. They have extended their role and their participation into many other areas and any comments I have made have been based on my experience of their work since then. I regret to see the trend of the recommendations An Taisce have been making and the type of cases in which they are interested. It involves a special, select area of planning and they only show concern in that area. There is no indication they are concerned about the broad general planning process as it affects every citizen. Many of their personnel [1652] live in very exclusive areas where high density would not be allowed. Their approach to many matters is “we hold what we have” and their attitude is to attempt to keep the countryside as it is. Their approach seems to be anti-growth and anti-development which is necessary if people are to find employment. It is to strike a happy medium and a proper balance and to reconcile all the conflicting attitudes, approaches and needs that the planning processes were designed. No one will come forward with the perfect decision. It has to be a combination of points of view, expertise, knowledge and experience and what will be accepted by the majority as good planning. We seek best quality planning in all areas.

Why then is Mr. Justice Murnaghan being fired from his post? I have never met the man. I do not know if I have ever seen him: perhaps I am glad that I did not have to see him in court. To me he has acted with the highest integrity and with great expertise. He has been very careful about the way he has approached the task given to him when he was appointed chairman of the board and no valid reason has been given as to why he is to be fired from his post. If the Minister and the Government are casting some aspersions on him, surely they have a duty to state their case, to prove the guilt and to justify their actions?

All of this fuss is a smokescreen to enable the Government to fire people solely and simply because it happens, as a coincidence, that they were appointed when Fianna Fáil were in government. For three of them their term of office will expire in 12 months time. I said today that if the Minister wants to reduce the number that will happen at that time. If he wants to appoint new people to the board he has the opportunity now if he wishes to enlarge the membership. Certainly he will have an opportunity next June when there will be three further vacancies. However, that is too long for the Minister to wait. He has been sharpening his knife because of the personnel and the timing of their appointments. We have gone into all of that today. We have shown that that practice has been operated by all outgoing Governments. That [1653] cannot be the crime in this case because previous Governments committed the same crime and there has not been any move to fire other distinguished people who hold public office on boards and who got their appointments after a Government were defeated in a general election and before they went out of office. That cannot be the reason.

Since this debate started the Government have come forward with the Bill dealing with rent tribunals. In that Bill the Minister is given full authority to appoint each member of the tribunal. There is no limitation on the number of appointments he may make or the type of people he may appoint. Therefore, this principle will not be applied to all future legislation. The first piece of legislation which appeared after the Bill before the House has the Government reverting to the system where the Minister makes the appointments without seeking the advice of selection committees. The Minister will make an arbitrary decision as to the people he wishes to have on the tribunal. We do not object to that. It is the position that has obtained up to now and one we think should be continued. During the course of the debate in 1974 and 1975 we said that the Minister in making appointments should seek to have certain professional expertise represented on the board but none of our amendments was accepted.

There is nothing behind this present proposal other than the political vindictiveness of the Government. I ask the Minister of State to inform the House of the misdemeanour of which Mr. Justice Murnaghan is guilty that he now has to suffer the indignity which the Government are inflicting on him. He must be the first member of the Judiciary who has been fired from a State board since the foundation of the State.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  It is tempting to fall into the trap of saying that the members of this nominating committee were themselves to be members of An Bord Pleanála and that they were to make decisions on planning matters. As we know, such is not the case and they are no more than a nominating body. The [1654] question was asked why An Taisce should have an interest in the nominating body. The reason for that obviously is that the matter which is their special concern — preservation of the environment — is a factor in the planning process and who would deny that that is very important? It is not by any means the only factor in the planning process. As I said earlier, that involves a pull and a balance between development and construction on the one hand and preservation of the environment on the other. The development and construction end is taken care of on this committee. The President of the Construction Industry Federation is to be a member of this committee and no doubt that person, whoever it may be, will apply his or her mind very carefully to ensure that the development end of the planning process is taken care of. What would the input of a representative of An Taisce be on that committee? When intending candidates for the position of chairman come forward to be interviewed there would be somebody there who would ask the applicant his or her views on the role of preservation of the environment in the planning process to ensure that that factor would be brought to the attention of the committee in making their nomination and to direct the committee's attention to that important factor. There has to be a balance between the two pulls that are always in planning.

If construction has to be represented so too must the preservation element. I was interested to note that one of the criticisms which Deputy Molloy raised about An Taisce as a preservation body was the fact that they were pervaded or highly influenced by the Fine Gael Party. I would have thought from many earlier comments that that would have been a plus factor having regard to his party's interest in having a political involvement in the nominating committee. Why then does he raise their political involvement if it is meant as a criticism?

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I should like to establish that in respect of this legislation there should not be an open insult to politicians. I do not care who the chairman of [1655] An Taisce is. I admit they do good work——

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  That is a grudging compliment.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  ——but the kernel of my objection is that they are not elected representatives as members of the municipal authorities are. That is the case we argued in regard to members of the county council. In my evaluation of professions I give a superior rating to those who are selected by the people. Right through this section we see this effort to downgrade politicians. Deputy Taylor has been talking about horses for courses and that people who know their business should be selected. Who knows more about planning than politicians, whether to their advantage or disadvantage? In this section it is embodied that the only person who cannot be a chairman is a politician. If a politician decided tomorrow to opt out of this House and indicated he would be prepared to swap his job he could not do so as the Minister specifies that he could not be a member of a local authority or of this assembly. This is a continuation of cheap downgrading of politicians and yielding to a minority lobby outside who are trying to smear us. The section even goes so far as to say, in its effort to disassociate itself from politicians, that if a person elected as chairman of this board with a salary equal to that of a High Court judge — Deputy Taylor might be able to give an indication of what that salary is but I imagine it in the region of £30,000 per annum — offered himself or was nominated for Membership of the Seanad or of Dáil Éireann, he would automatically have to relinquish his position as chairman. Who could think that anyone enjoying that position earning £30,000 per annum would want to change with a Member of this House? If he had any sense he would not. It is another example of being ashamed of ourselves. That is why we brought in these two nauseating provisions to this section.

Deputy Taylor and other Deputies would argue that in respect of a committee [1656] consisting of five people the municipal authorities, who are already involved, committed to and familiar with this legislation, are not entitled to be on a committee that would nominate the chairman.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Deputy Tunney's last contribution enables me to clarify the points in relation to what is perhaps a misconception of the proper and essential relationship that politicians have to the planning process and which they will continue to have when this legislation goes through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The making of a development plan is a decision about the allocation of scarce environmental resources. Any such decision in a democratic society should ultimately be controlled by politicians deciding what areas are developed, what is retained for amenities and what is preserved or redeveloped. The development plan is a reserved function of the planning process. There is elaborate machinery for consultation, for public exhibition and for input from interest groups of all kinds. But at the end of the day it is the councillors at local level, whether in urban or county council areas who make the development plan. That is properly a political process. It will remain so and will be consolidated as far as this Administration are concerned. Once that plan is made, individual applications for development or change of use are submitted to the local authority within the framework of the ground rules established by that development plan. Everybody in this House knows, because we are essentially a peasant people — two or three generations from small farmers in the main — that it is the political and cultural tradition that wealth was made either by buying or selling land, by marrying it——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I want to move my amendment.

Acting Chairman:  Deputy Molloy, you cannot move the amendment. The Ceann Comhairle is not here and we must allow the Minister to conclude.

[1657]Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I was rather surprised that Deputy Molloy, having gone through the entire Bill, section by section, is now concerned with time.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister is going to put a guillotine motion on this debate at 10.30 p.m. and there will be no further debate.

Acting Chairman:  The Minister to conclude, please.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Is the Minister going to accept the amendment?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I wish to refute some of the points that were made and to answer some of the questions that Deputy Molloy implored me to answer.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I asked about Mr. Justice Murnaghan and the Minister has not mentioned his name once.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If the Deputy did not keep interrupting me he might get answers. The Minister, in introducing this legislation, very clearly said that there was public unease about the entire operation of An Bord Pleanála and that it was essential to have it reformed and restructured.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  There were inaccurate remarks in the press.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  An essential part of that restructuring is the establishment of a new streamlined board. I repeat what the Minister has said in this House and elsewhere that no allegation is being made about any member of the present board. Since the Deputy raised the question of a named person, in particular there is no allegation against Mr. Justice Murnaghan.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  There is no consistency in that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The board needs to be restructured and streamlined. Many other provisions in the legislation, including an amendment moved by Deputy De Rossa [1658] about having a fixed time limit in which planning decisions will come from An Bord Pleanála, which it is hoped will be in about 15 months, will enable the board to be fully operational.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister must think we are naive.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I draw the point to the Deputy's attention because he raised the question of High Court judges. One of the structural changes embodied in this legislation is that it will be no longer necessary that the chairman of An Bord Pleanála must be a High Court judge. When this proposal was originally put in in 1974 — I was properly corrected by Deputy Molloy in relation to the time of that debate—Deputy Haughey suggested, and I quote from the Official Report of 26 November 1974, column 78, volume 276, regarding the requirement that a High Court judge should be chairman of the board:

If I remember correctly the age limit for judges is pretty high; I think it is 72 years for a Supreme Court judge and 70 years for a High Court judge. I do not wish to cast any aspersions on their competence after they retire but I should not like to think that as a matter of practice we would appoint a retired judge.

At column 134, in relation to the quality of the work, he said:

The only word I can use in this connection is that it is an executive type of job. All the extra-curricular work judges have been asked to do was more or less an extension of their own judicial work. They presided over some commission, or some board of inquiry, or something of that nature. Here they will be dealing with commercial considerations. It is an executive type job. It will be the same executive type of job as the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister was doing before. It is totally different from the ordinary judicial functions which a judge carries out.

To conclude the point, Deputy Molloy [1659] himself prophesied in 1974 that there would be difficulty in getting from the panel of judges available retired people who were suitable for the job in question. Indeed, the very experience of the Fianna Fáil Administration has borne out the prophetic words of Deputy Molloy when he was last in Opposition in 1974. For that reason, among others, we are proposing to restructure the board in the manner set out and are therefore not prepared to accept the amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I propose that the remaining amendments down in my name on section 5 be put. I realise that there are other amendments put down by other Deputies but I would like the others in section 5 in my name to be taken together with this.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Prendergast): Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  Deputy Mac Giolla has an amendment. Is Deputy Molloy pressing amendment No. 10?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I am grouping all my amendments together.

Acting Chairman:  You cannot do that. We are discussing amendment No. 10.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Then put amendment No. 10.

Question: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand” put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  I move amendment No. 11:

In page 5, subsection (2), between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following paragraphs:—

“(g) the Chairperson of the Association of Combined Residents Associations,

(h) the President of the National [1660] Association of Tenants Organisations.”.

It is unfortunate that this amendment was not taken with amendments Nos. 9 and 10. It is on the same section and I do not suppose the debate on it will be very long. There is not much time left in any case. I agree with a great deal of what Deputy Molloy said in regard to this section, that while it appeared to be doing what the Minister suggested — taking the matter out of the hands of the Minister and the politicians — the whole section is putting it back again into the hands of the Minister. With regard to the various people suggested as representative of the type of people involved in planning, we feel that there are two areas of people who are constantly, every day, involved in planning and objections and so on in regard to their areas. I refer to the Association of Combined Residents Associations and the National Association of Tenants Organisations. One Fianna Fáil Deputy — I think it was Deputy Tunney — said that politicians were being downgraded and that every effort is being made to achieve that.

An Bord Pleanála themselves have already downgraded politicians. I will quote from a letter dated 24 June 1983 which I received from An Bord Pleanála. As a representative of Dublin Corporation I had written to them about an application that was before them from my area. They told me that under Article 22 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) (Fees and Amendment) Regulations, 1983, there is provision for the payment of a fee of £10 in cases where submissions or observations on a planning appeal are being considered by the board. The letter states: “It is considered that the contents of your letter come within the scope of Article 22 and are, therefore, liable for the payment of a £10 fee”. That is downgrading politicians and also councillors of local authorities who are talking about what is happening in their local authority and the decisions their local authority have made. They are being downgraded to the same level as An Taisce, ACRA, NATO or any other group involved in the planning [1661] area. The letter stated also: “As the fee is not submitted with your letter your observations on the appeal cannot be taken into consideration by the board and your letter is returned herewith”.

I simply wrote a letter asking An Bord Pleanála to uphold a decision of Dublin Corporation and gave the reasons why Dublin Corporation felt it should be upheld and I am told that I must pay a fee the same as everybody else. Every councillor, every member of a municipal authority — who according to Deputy Tunney is supposed to have tremendous planning powers and interest in planning — and every Deputy is downgraded to the same level as any other citizen. I do not know whether that is good or bad but certainly it is not encouraging Deputies or councillors to do what they feel should be their job in regard to the planning of their area and getting An Bord Pleanála to make the type of decisions which they think should be made in that area.

We agree entirely with the Minister that there is a need for a restructuring of the board and, therefore, we support the Bill because it is restructuring the board into a better form. Under this section, with other sections which we will not be able to take later in regard to the ordinary members of the board to whom the same provisions apply, the Minister still retains the control of who will eventually be appointed chairperson, great control as to who will be appointed ordinary members also and ensuring under this section that the various bodies will have to put forward somebody whom he is prepared to appoint, as has been pointed out already by Deputies, otherwise he will keep them putting forward people until he gets somebody he likes. Later in the same section he is saying in fact that after all our work here today and all our decision on who can appoint the chairperson of the board, after all the Deputies debating it and the Minister agreeing or not agreeing, accepting some amendments and not accepting others, the Minister may amend or revoke subsection (2) which we are discussing now. He can change it all. I do not see the point in a long debate.

[1662]Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We are not being allowed to debate.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  After all the discussion as to who should be on the committee, the Minister can strike them off. Far from restructuring the board to give it greater credibility, the Bill is not doing what it purports to do, and particularly this section is not doing it. The selection committee would submit names to the Minister and he should accept their decision. Unlike Franco, who used to send three names of prospective cardinals to the Pope and the Pope had to select one of them, here the Minister is assuming more power than the Pope had over General Franco. This makes nonsense of the selection procedure.

We are simply asking that the chairperson of the Association of Combined Residents Associations and the president of the National Association of Tenants Organisations should be on the selection committee which would put forward names to the Minister, which later he could either accept or reject.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I support the amendment because I firmly believe that the National Tenants Organisation should be represented on the committee. The two associations would be a very important counter balance to those already accepted. It is clear that these organisations should be brought in because there is a great need to balance the influence which An Taisce would have on the selection committee because with these two bodies the consumer, the householder, would be represented. They are the people who have to live with planning decisions and they should have some influence on the selection of a chairperson.

I would not go as far as Deputy Molloy in relation to An Taisce but they adopt some strange positions sometimes in relation to development. I would have a broader view of development and therefore I think the tenants representatives should be on this committee to ensure that the consumer would have some say.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  I must assume that the Minister [1663] is not prepared to yield on this, that he has already consulted An Taisce about their nominations to the committee and that he has committed himself.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  We have passed that section.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  The Minister has committed himself.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I made it clear that I am not prepared to go back on that.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  Under section 5, should anybody become ill and decide not to continue as a member, the Minister will have a right to replace him or her.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  In reply to Deputies De Rossa and Mac Giolla, obviously many groups could make a case for selection on the committee. The Workers' Party would like to have the selection committee make the nominations, and Fianna Fáil would prefer to see the Minister retain the right. I have come down the middle of the road. I have accepted four amendments, one of which provides representation for the chairman of the General Council of County Councils, a representative body who provide a cross-section, who will come up with a nomination for the position of chairman which we can stand over. The committee will be broadly based and reasonably representative.

Part of the discussion this evening suggested that because one or other group were not represented the nominations would obviously not reflect some section of society; but it is fair to say, looking at the list of the nominating bodies, that they will come up with candidates acceptable across a broad spectrum. There have been suggestions that we could produce candidates for selection who would be more representative of the nominating bodies. I will look at that, but we must draw the line somewhere and I still think, despite the reservations expressed in my presence and absence, despite comments on the merits or the demerits of An Taisce, they have a role to play, and [1664] though politicians might not always agree with them, they should be on the nominating body. I am not prepared to accept the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I move amendment No. 12:

In page 5, lines 35 to 52, to delete subsection (6).

We have tabled this amendment because we believe the section gives to the Minister the power to change the whole face of the committee upon which we have just spent the last hour or more deciding. There is not really much point in spending time here trying to improve the proposed committee and the organisations which should be represented, and then giving the Minister the power to change the committee completely without having to bring in any amendment. There is provision for him to bring an order before the House and have it discussed here but it should not be necessary for us to discuss this section and then hand over the power to the Minister to change the section by order. That is why we have tabled this amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This Bill is really extraordinary and these two amendments highlight the fact that the Minister, having stated he was going to select people to make recommendations regarding the appointment of a chairman and, having debated that for an hour, we move on to the next part of section 5 and under subsection (6) we find that all the provisions we have been debating and all the amendments can all be changed by a stroke of the Minister's pen. We are writing this into legislation. We are debating the people who should be represented on this committee and we have been fulfilling our duty in examining all this as closely as possible. But if the Minister does not like the way these people are performing he can by order amend the whole of subsection (2). That is the subsection under which the committee is established. It is quite extraordinary the Minister should ask the House for this kind [1665] of legislation because my interpretation is that the Minister can repeal under subsection (6) (a) all of subsection (2) and, if that is so, it is contrary to the Interpretation Act, 1937. Will the Minister inform the House if it is in fact contrary to the Interpretation Act, 1937?

The same argument applies to my amendment to delete paragraph (d) because the whole intent of paragraph (a) is to give the Minister power by order to change all of the persons mentioned in subsection (2) who have the right to act on this select committee. If that is the position then the Minister is making a farce of this debate and a farce of Parliament. This again is hasty and unnecessary legislation. It is a further indication that the Minister is hell bent on political action. It is vindictiveness on his part. He has no concern really for the improvement of the planning process. He has denied the Opposition and Dáil Éireann the opportunity to debate in depth on Committee Stage all the proposals in the Bill. The Minister has confined the debate by way of a guillotine motion, a very exceptional step to be taken by any Government. I have been here quite a few years and the guillotine has been applied on only a very few occasions. The Minister's party must take a great deal of the responsibility for the majority of the guillotine motions I have seen introduced. This is one and there was a previous one also. There is no justification for a guillotine motion on this Bill. In the discussion I had with the Tánaiste prior to the Taoiseach's decision to proceed by way of guillotine, there was no intention on the Tánaiste's part to have a guillotine motion. That was clearly indicated to me.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That is not true.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Tánaiste had a discussion here and he inquired what our attitude would be to this Bill and I said we would have to take a stand against the Bill because of a new principle the Tánaiste was seeking to establish here. That discussion took place at the close of the Local Government (Miscellaneous) Bill. I pointed out there were many provisions [1666] which would require lengthy debate and we should not be expected at the end of the Dáil term to have a debate on an important measure like this. We were entitled to have time to go through the Bill, make our position clear and make our contribution to improving the Planning Acts. It is not often the House gets an opportunity to debate planning and, when it does, it should not be denied the opportunity of reviewing all the existing legislation on planning. We have been denied the opportunity of extending this discussion into areas of this Bill, some of which have merit. Apart from the vindictive provisions, there are reasonable proposals with some of which we agree and some of which we would propose to improve by way of amendment. There are proposed improvements in the amendments tabled in my name.

How can an Opposition party be expected to debate an important Bill like this in such a short time? On the last occasion we had a planning Bill the Committee Stage lasted 11 days. I do not say we would require 11 days on this but there is no excuse for the Government coming at the end of the term after the House had agreed to rise on 8 July, no excuse for the Government and the Tánaiste to introduce a Bill which the latter knew would be controversial, a Bill containing proposals which would have to be opposed by any Opposition Party worth its salt. The Government decided to introduce the guillotine and this party had no option other than to express whatever opposition it could in the strongest way possible. That is what has introduced heat into this debate. Had the Tánaiste proceeded with the agreement he made with me after that debate——

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  There was no agreement.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Next October, when the Dáil came back——

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  May I correct the Deputy? There was no agreement.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  ——we would have had an opportunity of discussing the Bill in greater detail. There was no written [1667] agreement but surely two people can decide when they have arrived at a mutual conclusion. The Minister did not seek to convey to me that he was proceeding with the Bill irrespective. He knew there was opposition and he forced us into the position we are in now. He persisted with the guillotine motion and here we have a subsection which, in fact, nullifies all the provisions we have been debating here.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It is obvious the Deputy has not read the Bill.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is clear now subsection (6) is unnecessary because the Minister is giving himself power to amend by way of order.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy has not read either the amendments or the Bill.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister recognises [1668] subsection (2) is unnecessary because he very conveniently gives himself power in subsection (6) to negative completely everything in subsection (2). He can amend all of it by simply making an order repealing everything provided here. He can decide by a stroke of the pen irrespective of what this Dáil does tonight.

It is most unsatisfactory the way in which the whole thing has been forced through here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I am sorry, Deputy, I have to put the question. It is now 10.30 p.m. In accordance with the Order of the House of 30 June I must put the following question: “That amendment No. 29 is hereby made to the Bill, that the Bill, as amended, is hereby agreed to and, as amended, is reported to the House; that the Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.”

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Bermingham, Joe.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Collins, Edward.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Coveney, Hugh.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
[1669]O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Keating, Michael.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Keeffe, Jim. [1670]Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Treacy, Seán.
Yates, Ivan.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Collins, Gerard.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Cathal Seán.
Daly, Brendan.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McEllistrim, Tom.
MacSharry, Ray.
Molloy, Robert.
Moynihan, Donal.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.


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