Public Transport Regulation Bill 2009 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 696 No. 1

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Amendment No. 7 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, as well a number of other amendments in the name of Deputy O’Dowd, cannot be moved because they are consequential on amendment No. 3, which was negatived.

Amendments 8 and 9 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 10:

We held a lengthy discussion on this issue on Committee Stage. It is critical that competitions are fully advertised so that all interests can be consulted. The Bill does not make sufficient mention of the numerous commuter and passenger organisations that have been established in Ireland. We are contacted on a regular basis by Rail Users Ireland, to cite one example.

Communities all over Ireland are interested in their parts of the national network. Historically, public demand for improved or new routes has been expressed through Members of this House. It is alleged, for example, that one of the routes discontinued when the Minister for Transport slashed the budget of Dublin Bus was originally provided after representations by the former Taoiseach on behalf of his constituents in Dublin Central. Communities have legitimate concerns when they learn of routes being threatened. Recently, the collapse of the Broadmeadow viaduct on the Dublin-Belfast rail line caused concern among commuters in Drogheda, Balbriggan, south County Louth and east County Meath. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure better consultation is a key aspect of the process of issuing licences.

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  As the Deputy will recall, we discussed this issue at great length on Committee Stage when I set out in detail the reasons I could not accept the proposed approach. The major reason remains the issue of commercial confidentiality for proposals to provide commercial bus services. A great deal of commercial detail must be presented to the authority when it is considering bus licences. It is generally accepted that when one is trying to operate on a commercial basis it is not in anyone’s interest that commercial information be made publicly available.

[62]One of the themes to emerge in both Houses on more than one occasion during the passage of the Bill has been the need to ensure licensing decisions are taken quickly. Representatives of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland emphasised to me at a recent meeting that the Bill must provide for speedy decisions. When a company applies for a licence it should expect the decision to be taken quickly. Acceptance of the proposal would make the licensing process slow and tedious.

As I noted previously, a third problem would arise if the amendment were accepted. To take the planning process as an example, if a developer with an interest in a town becomes aware that an application has been made for permission to construct a shopping centre in another part of the town, he will lodge an objection to prevent the project from proceeding, even though he may not intend to proceed with his own development for many years. This course of action delays the process. I have no doubt, having observed such cases under the current regime, that existing operators, should they become aware that another operator has applied for a licence, would alert members of the public and put forward their own case. It is for this reason that I do not favour adopting the approach proposed by Deputy Broughan.

I accept the Deputy’s point on the need to ensure customers have a say and role. Section 10(2) provides that the authority can seek any information from any source it wishes to assist in its consideration of applications. This provision, allied to the current practice whereby an existing operator on a proposed route is given prior notice of the consideration of an application, provides an adequate basis for the authority to have views that are relevant to particular applications.

Deputy Broughan’s comments related primarily to discussions on a company’s decisions to withdraw from a route rather than applications for a licence. On the basis that consultation is provided for, I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Many of those in the transport industry believe the issue of consultation is skated over in the Bill. In their view, a specific provision on consultation should be introduced. The Minister argues that commercial information needs to be protected. This was the subject of a recent debate we had on how one could achieve freedom of information in commercial companies while maintaining adequate invigilation. From my experience, this is impossible if one is running a commercial operation. Despite this, there is scope for consultation. However, as there are one or two references to consultation later in the Bill, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 11 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 12:

The amendment would add to the general provisions of the core licensing section the words, “shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that operators of public bus services are treated on an equitable basis with operators of private bus services”. Its origins lie in concerns that arose from an examination of the badly regulated English market where public monopolies [63]have been replaced by private monopolies. The four large operators in England engage in a form of dance with each other but refuse to compete in a serious or significant manner.

The core issue relates to the companies which will operate a public service obligation. Some of the vulnerable communities served by these companies only have access to a bus service. For this reason, an amendment is needed to ensure a level playing pitch between the public service operators and private bus services.

Notwithstanding the Minister’s comment that other parts of the Bill would render redundant this amendment, it would be preferable to spell out this matter at the start of this critical section.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  One cannot have a level playing pitch if one side is subsidised by the taxpayer. How does the Minister propose to discount to private operators the advantage public operators will secure through having the taxpayers foot the cost of putting a bus on the road? This is an important issue.

The Freedom of Information Act expressly provides that individuals are not entitled to obtain sensitive commercial information. For instance, in tendering processes people are not entitled to receive full details of the various bids, although in many cases they are entitled to receive details of the successful tender. As someone who consistently argues for transparency, openness and accountability, I believe we cannot have enough freedom of information.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Bill reflects the Government’s commitment to reform bus licensing to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all of the market. Deputy Broughan’s amendment, while it seeks to treat all parties equally, would result in public transport companies being treated more equally than the private sector. Representatives of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland made proposals which would have precisely the opposite effect. The CTTC would like wording inserted in the legislation to protect its members.

The purpose of the Dublin Transport Authority Act and this legislation, specifically sections 28 and 52, is to create a level playing field in which private and public bus service providers will be licensed to operate under the same legislative regime. I am satisfied that the provisions of the Bill create that level playing field and we can make no distinction between bus licence applications in the future, whether they are submitted by public or private operators. For that reason, I cannot accept amendment No. 12.

  4 o’clock

We have a public bus company. It was previously decided that it would be a good idea to have a public transport company. It has operated and served us well. As it is a public transport company, it gets subsidies to run particular routes that would not be profitable. This Bill helps to create a situation whereby private sector companies can compete for such PSO contracts if they so wish, and the playing field will be levelled for an open tendering process. It is not possible to expose the commercial secrets of a semi-State company and expect it to compete on a level playing field if the private sector receives commercial confidentiality. Both will be treated equally in that event as well. The Bill outlines very clearly from where we are coming and for that reason I believe the Deputy should withdraw his amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The amendment is related to a number of other amendments tabled by the Labour Party. We have serious concerns about the kinds of work standards and conditions which will pertain in the industry upon passage of the Bill. In those areas where competition is taking place, the public sector company will not be disadvantaged. I was seeking [64]to make that point in a global amendment. I understand the difficulty of doing this in general terms, although I have specified the issue in other amendments. A core issue for our party is how workers and the passengers of transport companies will be looked after in the future. We do not want to see one law for one group and one law for the other.

I am amused to hear Deputy O’Dowd to talk about freedom of information requests. We could extend the FOI legislation to all companies, such as Independent News and Media, The Irish Times Limited and so on, so that we might know the salary range of the ladies and gentlemen who sit in the Press Gallery and compare it to the salary range in this House, an issue about which they write quite often.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I think we should avoid the tangents.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  The Deputy is always on a tangent.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  If the company is a State agency, then fair enough. However, if the company’s remit is to compete in a commercial business, then surely it must have the same rights as other commercial companies. That is the point of the amendment. There should be a level playing pitch. Deputy O’Dowd’s point is that we should know everything about everything, but if that is not the case, there should be one law for one company and one law for the other. In this case, we would be fearful that on critical issues such as fleet and infrastructure standards, the treatment of workforces, working conditions and salaries, a company might drive a coach and four through this Bill, which has been framed with the best of intentions. I will revert to this issue in later amendments, but I will withdraw this one now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 13:

These amendments deal with the general provisions for the consideration of an application for the grant of licences. Section 10(1)(a) states that the regulator:

The core issue with this is the problem with measuring demand. People in the transport business would say that it is up to the promoters of a route to come forward with proposals that are then assessed and in that context it would be better not to have this section at all. The Minister considers that a reference to the needs of consumers is important but there are some people who consider that it is up to the companies themselves, and that it is not the regulator’s business to assess the demand for the service. It is up to promoters, entrepreneurs and existing companies to come forward with ideas. That is the rationale behind amendment No. 13.

Amendment No. 14 provides an alternative to section 10(1)(a) and I will press it, having listened to what the Minister said on Committee Stage last Friday. I wish to add the phrase “the sustainability of the demand or the potential sustainable demand”. The idea of sustainability is a key element of demand measurement. In other words, promoters need to show that the [65]demand for a service will exist. In my own constituency, a private company known as AerDart was launched by local businessmen and provided a service between Kilbarrack station, Howth Junction station and Dublin Airport. It had infrastructure, including its own bus stops and so on. The company was sold to a UK operator and suddenly disappeared. There was some demand on the route, but from observing the buses as they went back and forth, there was not a sustainable demand for it.

We have been referring to new suburbs in west and north Dublin. Generally, I found Dublin Bus to be very good at responding to the needs of the new communities and new residents in the North Fringe, where a new town is being built. We got a fine new cross-city service, the No. 128, which is very sustainable because new residents and existing families are using it.

Sustainability is one of the words of our time. When we come out of the current crisis, we should have a sustainable economic programme for our country so that we do not get into difficulties over the next few years due to unsustainable and unregulated development. We are trying to regulate a new bus market and in this regard the word “sustainable” would be a valuable addition to the Bill. The Minister knows what I mean and I can give him two examples where there was no sustainable demand and an example where there was sustainable demand. We know what it is when we see it, and it should be in the Bill.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I know what the Deputy is trying to achieve in either one or both of the amendments. I have had a good look at this during the course of the passage of the Bill and discussed it with officials and others. What the Deputy’s amendments would do is almost the exact opposite of what he wants to do. I acknowledge what the Deputy has said about amendment No. 14 in particular. However, if either of these amendments was accepted, particularly amendment No. 13, we would essentially end up with deregulation.

As the Deputy said several times, and I agree with him, it is important that the needs of consumers are not just considered but placed at the centre of the consideration process for licences. The demand test is established as having specific regard to those particular needs of consumers. I accept there might be a fear that this will work to the disadvantage of existing companies but that is not what is intended. On amendment No. 13 specifically, the removal of the demand test could have the potential to facilitate effective deregulation. If it was not there, one would have that difficulty and would end up with deregulation. The retention of the requirement for consideration of consumers in regard to the consideration of all applications for licences will ensure that the interest of consumers takes precedence over the interest of the providers themselves. The provisions of section 10 are such that they afford sufficient flexibility and discretion to the authority in the consideration of licence applications but they also reinforce the central aims of the Bill itself, which is consumer focused. That point relates specifically to amendment No. 13.

Amendment No. 14 would mean that the paragraph in question would require the authority to consider applications in the context of both demand and potential demand, or the sustainability of the demand or the potential sustainable demand, in the case of applications for all licences. This would be to add an unwarranted complexity to the consideration of applications, which would not be helped by the fact that the concept of sustainability of demand would be very difficult to define — almost impossible, I would suggest. The concepts of demand or potential demand which are contained in the paragraph are clear and can be fairly readily explained. I referred to this point on Committee Stage.

Given the context of this section, which is a pivotal element of the overall Part of the Bill, the application of the concept is linked directly at all times to the needs of consumers and focused on those needs. Meeting consumer demand for the provision of any public bus service would be the primary reason any operator would contemplate the introduction of such a service [66]in the first place. It is also the reason the concepts of demand or potential demand form the test against which all applications for licences have to be considered. In any event, in developing the structure for the consideration of the licence application, the authority is mandated under section 1 to have regard to the general objectives established for it under section 10 of the DTA Act of 2008. These include the consideration of issues relating to environmental sustainability, social cohesion and promoting economic progress. In that context, it is considered that the theme this amendment promotes is already reflected in the overall mandate being given to the authority.

Having considered this — the Deputy has made some eloquent pleas in this regard at various stages in the House and on Committee Stage — I believe what he is trying to achieve is actually achieved by this section as it stands. For that reason, I ask him to withdraw the amendments.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I will withdraw amendment No. 13 but I do not accept the Minister’s argument in regard to amendment No. 14, namely, that the sustainability of demand cannot be considered. If one considers any business plan, one would have the parameters of the impact of a proposed new service on existing operators, on the attraction of new consumers and on modal shifts. Part of the whole place of this Bill in our national legislation is that we continue to develop a modal shift away from cars and into buses, trains and trams. That is measurable and much work has been done here and internationally in this regard.

It is striking that the recommendations of the UK Office of Fair Trading report and the conclusions it reaches are based on lengthy transport research that has been done over decades in big markets like that of the UK, where it can be said the price of fares is elastic and that there is a tendency for commuters to take the next service, whatever service appears, and so on. Like other areas of transport, it is a market that has its own particular characteristics.

Going on past experience, does the Minister believe the proposal from Citylink to have 750 buses a week travelling between Dublin Airport and Galway city is sustainable? Obviously, it would be a wonderful service for the population concerned but, as soon as Citylink mother company, ComfortDelGro, has driven its private sector competitor and Bus Éireann off the route, does the Minister realistically believe Citylink would maintain that service at such frequencies and with such a good fleet and so on? Most people simply do not believe it. As we know, the company is engaged in exclusive behaviour, which is something I asked the Minister to ban in the competitive sector under this Bill. Therefore, I will press amendment No. 14.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 14:

Question put and declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 15:

[67]Section 10(1)(b) states “save where the application is in respect of a category of licence where the Authority deems it not to be appropriate, shall take account of any or all of the following:” I ask that this sentence be deleted up to the word “appropriate” so it simply reads “shall take account of any or all of the following:”. The section is ambiguous at present and could be interpreted to allow the national transport authority to grant a licence to operate a network or route which would compete on the road with existing services, including services on PSO routes. That would directly affect the financial stability of a company offering the public service transport, which in turn could lead to an increase in the State subvention or difficulty for a State company in maintaining a service.

There are good points in the provisions. For example, consultation must take place and all the qualities that a good licensing system must have — such as being attractive, integrated and well-functioning — could be negatived if the Bill is left as it stands. That is why we should remove that portion.

Amendment No. 16 deals with the authority taking account of “any or all” of certain provisions. The term seems vague, although it seems to have the basic meaning that the national transport authority — which is currently the Dublin Transport Authority — could ignore the parameters for the granting of a bus licence. The good qualities that the Bill has regarding the introduction of a modern bus licensing system would be wiped out.

We had a discussion last Thursday and Friday about the term “any or all”. It is the type of phrase that the Attorney General or Parliamentary Counsel should have eliminated from the Bill. We have resources in our own offices to put forward amendments and it is difficult to get everything correct in a legal sense. Unless it was intended, the Department should have a watertight formula in this regard. This is in preference to saying that the authority should have regard for these important provisions or it should not.

I do not see any necessity for the term “any or all” and I do not see how the authority could deem it inappropriate in the first place to take these provisions into consideration. If that is the case, why have the Bill at all? Why not just continue with the ramshackle and chaotic system from the 1932 Bill?

I ask the Minister to consider the rationale of the two amendments. We discussed the appeals system on our last day of discussions. It is conceivable that some of these issues will end up in the Circuit Court down the line. One aviation operator, Mr. O’Leary, loves to go to court when he gets the wrong decision from the regulator and there could be a modus operandi to go to court or a European forum. Would it not be better for the Bill to be watertight? Is there not merit in both of these amendments?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Deputy asked me to have a look at this issue, which I did, to see if there was an alternative to the phrase “any or all” or if it should be tightened up. I have considered it very carefully and came to the conclusion that the phrasing as it stands is probably the most effective. I will explain briefly the reasoning behind this.

It would not be in the interest of the national transport authority to hand out licences for services in direct competition to subvented services, unless as I outlined earlier in the discussion the service can be provided at a lower cost to the taxpayer. We may come from different angles but we are all here primarily to protect the interests of the consumers and taxpayers in this country, and not one company, whether it is public or private.

There is no ideology involved in this and we need a good public transport system. This has been well provided by the public sector much of the time, as the Deputy noted earlier. The decision on whether the service will continue to be provided by the public sector or a combi[68]nation of public and private will be made not by us, but by how effectively and efficiently the companies in this market will operate.

The result of the acceptance of either of these amendments would be that every application for a licence, irrespective of its nature, would have to be considered against its potential impact on a PSO transport service. Amendment No. 15 goes a little further in envisaging that the other ten provisions set out in the paragraph would be applied to the consideration of all applications. In many respects, that would be a recipe for disaster.

We made a very definite policy decision in preparing the Bill that the consideration of the impact on contracted public transport services generally, including contracted bus services which attract State subvention — the PSO routes — would not be mandatory in respect of all applications and would instead be a matter for determination by the authority. If the authority is required to consider the matters in all cases with the full range of bus licences, it would do much irrelevant work. I have given the example before of a once-off event, the response that we had to make to the Malahide viaduct collapse. That was a special circumstance and if we had to measure the provision of services in that case against these criteria, the viaduct — thanks to the efficiency of the job done — would have been open again before the commuters could get an alternative service.

The Deputy made his argument on Committee Stage and I considered the matter to see if there was another way of phrasing the section. I have not been able to come up with one and the phrasing we have, as it is from a layman’s and legal perspective, is as watertight as possible. The authority is allowed that little bit of discretion that it should have with licences of a specific type. It is not phrased in such a way that the national transport authority will be able to decide that it would like to see an operator working a route even if there is a PSO route beside it, which, I think, is the Deputy’s fear. It is not designed in that way.

It is meant to allow the authority consider a licence application under relevant criteria; if it sees all the criteria as relevant, it has the freedom to proceed in that way but if it is a once-off event or a response to a specific emergency, for example, it does not have to consider all of them. I undertook to consider the matter but I could not come up with a better wording.

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

Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 16 not moved.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendments Nos. 17 to 21, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 17:

These five amendments divide naturally into two groups and amendments Nos. 17 and 21 go together. Amendment No. 17 seeks to include, between lines 41 and 42 in the general provision for considering licences, a new clause (i) to include the words “the protection of the integrity of the national urban and local bus network”. Amendment No. 21 seeks to add a new clause (ii), between lines 44 and 45, to include the words “the need for the provision, maintenance and investment in public transport infrastructure and modern bus fleets across all networks and for all users,”.

[69]It goes without saying that over the past decades Bus Éireann has put together a good, effective, national bus network. This network was constructed to serve the widest possible group of passengers and consumers. It was constructed to include as many towns and villages as possible on the various routes so as to provide comprehensive access in rural Ireland. Earlier we spoke about the rural transport network, which we hope will escape the axe in the budget. I proposed and hoped that this network would become part of the national bus network constructed over the decades by Bus Éireann.

The great fear of people around the country is that the enactment of this Bill will allow some operators to cherry pick point to point routes, such as the example I cited earlier. There is scope for that route, but if we end up in a situation where we only have a non-stop service between Dublin and Galway, people along the route in east Galway, the midlands and west Leinster could be left without a service. Therefore, it is important to include a provision in the Bill to ensure we maintain a national bus network. I spoke about the rural transport network earlier. I hope the Minister has campaigned at Cabinet level to retain that service and that it will be saved and we can build on it in the years ahead. The Labour Party wants it because it has seen the worth of the service throughout Ireland.

The national network is the spine of the overall bus transport network and it is very important it is not allowed deteriorate. Whenever we have met representatives from Bus Éireann and people in the private sector who are subcontracted to parts of the Bus Éireann network, we have found that they recognise the network exists, is a fact of life and makes life better for people. Therefore, we should not allow a situation develop whereby the Bill could be badly interpreted by the new transport authority, the incoming chief executive and his board and allow them operate in such a way as to allow the network deteriorate. The network is critical and this should be recognised in the Bill.

With regard to all the infrastructure that pertains to running an efficient and effective bus company, it is important that any provider who comes forward to compete for a route will be able to demonstrate that his or her company will be able to afford such expenditure, most importantly, on up-to-date, modern buses. It is important that significant numbers of people do not end up travelling on clapped out bangers or have to rely on that type of service rather than on the best available up-to-date service. Specifying the provision of a modern bus fleet is important. Bus depots and all the other infrastructure are also critical. Traditionally, our State companies have been involved in the provision of the infrastructure and have sometimes used the Government subvention for that. The maintenance of this infrastructure along the various routes is critical.

We hope that in 2010 we will finally have real time auto vehicle location, AVL, information available at bus stops so that we will know where each vehicle is, as happens in other areas of the transport industry, and people will have full information about the service available. It is important that all companies offering the services will provide and have access to this kind of infrastructure. They should have good buses, efficient fleets and buses must be accessible. The complaint is often made that accessibility requirements are far higher for public sector transport than private sector where buses are much older and less accessible. The regulations applying to Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann with regard to access for citizens with disability are not followed in the private sector; they are ignored.

Amendments Nos. 18 to 20, inclusive, deal with the issue of sustainability. The key issue here is the need to provide a well functioning, attractive, competitive, integrated and safe public transport system of services and networks for all users. Some of my amendments offer alternatives, but I will press one of them. I want to add the key words “regulated, sustainable, efficient” so as to ensure we finish with a well regulated system. I want it to be a requirement of the new [70]transport authority to run its business in a proper way, unlike the way the Financial Regulator did its business over the past six years. I want to ensure the transport regulator can be relied upon, under its new chief executive and chairman, to develop and carry out in a highly efficient and strictly controlled way the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, I believe we should use the word “regulated”.

A similar issue arose with regard to sanctions and fines for operators who, like Citylink, operate services without a licence. Citylink showed a cavalier disregard for the Department of Transport and its officials who refused a licence and went ahead and did what it wanted. It is critical the new regulator has teeth and is seen, even in its broad principle, to be a serious, strict regulator that will ensure we get a level playing pitch and proper conditions for the industry. Therefore, I believe we should include the words “regulated” and “sustainable”.

However, the Minister does not seem to know what “sustainable” means. It is hard to describe. In some industries we have seen things that are unsustainable. I put it to the Minister that in the debate in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport last Wednesday we saw an example of somebody trying to provide a service that was unsustainable. We know it was unsustainable, but it was done to drive fair competition off the roads. We can work out what we mean by sustainability. We mean a service is initiated and a contract is fulfilled to the letter over the years by the contractor, whoever that is, and with regard to older contracts, by an existing State company and any new competitors that come along. Sustainability is an issue that should be addressed in the Bill.

I have also mentioned the word “efficient” in my amendments. Again, there is concern in the transport industry that part of the problem with regard to the old regulator — the Department of Transport — was that it was buried for a long time. The Department disappeared for years in that there was no dedicated Department of Transport, even though most other countries always have a department of state for transport. However, we let the Department disappear during several Governments. It was lumped in with various other areas. For example, Deputy O’Rourke was the Minister for a huge Department that included the current Minister’s recent Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the current Department of Transport. That is not the way to operate, particularly when we have some areas which only require a small input from the Civil Service, yet have a full Department of State. It is important, therefore, that we have what I have termed “efficient” regulation. It is quite important. It would mean that people would not be forced to write to me and perhaps to Deputy O’Dowd complaining that they had made an application three years ago. The attitude of the Department, for whatever reason, was that it wished to get rid of the old regulatory system which was not working and that it had been asking for this Bill for the past five to eight years. However, it is important that this Bill provides efficient regulation. In respect of the addition of the words proposed in amendment No. 20, competitive could be better expressed as “regulated and sustainably competitive”. Those amendments would be an improvement over the key provision of this Bill as expressed in this section.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  I would be surprised if the regulations with regard to disability are not applied universally; otherwise, it is discrimination against disabled persons using either public or private transport.

Many bus operators are small-time entrepreneurs on a small budget. They do their best to keep their buses on the road. Prior to this legislation, most of them were confined to small runs such as the bingo bus but they are the hearts and souls of their communities. In many cases, their vehicles are small minibuses or a smaller type of public service vehicle. I laud them [71]for their enterprise and for their commitment to their community. They do their very best and they comply with all the road safety regulations.

On the question of competition, many of the larger private sector companies have first-class buses, as good as any used by Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus. What is needed is a level playing field. If the Bill were to achieve this, then it would find favour with Fine Gael, whose policy is that any operator could compete for a bundle of routes. These routes would be based and planned to make them attractive to the smaller operators with three or four buses. Ireland is built on enterprise and the majority of these operators are based in rural areas where they are held in the highest esteem in their local areas. I would like to see them being allowed compete to provide an even better service. We want the legislation to allow them to do so.

I am not sure about Deputy Broughan’s views but the Minister and I are in agreement on this point. I refer to a person operating without a licence — under the current legislation this would incur a fine of €50 and €6 per day thereafter. If the new legislation requires the applicants to be of good character and to meet certain requirements, then a conviction no matter how small for operating an unlicensed bus service could mean that such an applicant will not be considered for any further or other licences by the national transport authority. I know the system operates very well in London. Fine Gael would not support a system to allow a State monopoly to be replaced by a private monopoly.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  That was what the Deputy’s party did in the aviation sector.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  We want competition and choice. Notwithstanding my serious criticisms of the Bill, I ask the Minister to clarify that point.

As regards the aviation sector, one of the largest European aviation companies, Ryanair, was founded by an Irishman. It is a fantastic company. If Deputy Broughan ever wishes to go to places far afield, such as east or west Germany or Russia, I am sure that company would provide him with a suitable seat near the engine so that the noise of one would be drowned out by the other and there would be equilibrium in transport in that case also.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Deputy Broughan proposed the amendments and has divided them into two groups so I will follow his template. The purpose of section 10 is to establish an overall framework for the consideration of applications for bus route licences by the authority. Such consideration must be pursued, having regard to the general objectives of the authority provided for in section 10 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 which is updated by means of section 29 of the Bill. It is helpful to read the two sections together. The link between section 10 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and section 23 of this Bill is of particular importance when considering these amendments.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 21 propose the introduction of a new paragraph in subsection 10(1)(b) to establish a requirement to protect the integrity of the national urban and local bus networks. This is catered for and specifically addressed through the existing subparagraph (iii) of that subsection. It allows the authority to consider the impact of a proposed commercial bus service on public transport services which are the subject of public transport service contracts where the authority considers that such consideration is warranted. The concerns expressed by the Deputy are acknowledged and are included in this section of the Bill.

The provisions of section 10 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as substituted by the amendment insection 29(1)(c) of the Bill, set out clearly the objectives the authority must seek to achieve in exercising its functions. These include, in section 10(1)(a), the development of an integrated transport system which contributes to environmental sustainability and social cohesion and promotes economic progress and, in section 10(1)(b), the provision of a well [72]functioning, attractive, integrated and safe public transport system of services and network for all users. Those elements of the objectives established for the authority address the majority of the issues raised in amendments Nos. 18 to 20, inclusive, especially when these are viewed in association with section 10(b)(i) as presented in the Bill at present.

The valid points raised by Deputy Broughan are addressed specifically in the Bill. Amendment No. 19 also envisages the removal of the reference to competition from subparagraph (b)(i), while amendment No. 20 would see the concept restated as “regulated and sustainably competitive”. I am unable to support this proposal to remove the reference to competitive because competition in the market for commercial bus services can have a very positive impact for consumers where such competition is regulated. The promotion of regulated competition will be a further objective of the authority following the passage of this Bill. It must be recalled that the incorporation of a reference to competition will counter any potential claims that incumbent operators on routes could make to the effect that they have some form of exclusive rights to the provision of commercial bus services on those routes. In overall terms, I do not think there is any need or gain in the removal of the phrase or its refocusing as proposed in amendment No. 20. Deputy O’Dowd queried the effect that operating outside the law might have on a licence application. The questions of good reputation, licensing infringements and so on are covered in section 10.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Therefore, they would not secure the licence. It could be a significant factor in determining the application.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It could. There is also provision in the legislation for the revocation of a licence where people breach the terms.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  That is clear then.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  With regard to the Disability Act 2005, operators will have to run services in accordance with the law. The Act sets out a timetable for the provision of services and accessibility and so on and that will apply across the board. The fleet of our main public transport provider is 82% accessible by people with disabilities. Deputy O’Dowd raised a query about level playing fields earlier but this gives the provider an enormous advantage because as we move towards the complete enactment of the Disability Act 2005, it will be ahead of many private operators.

I agree with the Deputy that many private operators have been entrepreneurial and innovative. They have carved out niches for themselves in various transport sectors. Some have become large and they provide employment, which is positive. Deputy Broughan referred to a level playing field regarding terms and conditions but I gave him a commitment that when we bring forward the new RTOL legislation, such issues will be addressed. In the meantime, everybody will have to comply with the current law regarding health and safety conditions, wages, the minimum wage, etc. I will deal further with the issue raised by him in that legislation.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Amendments Nos. 18 to 20, inclusive, refer to a strictly well regulated market and industry where sustainability is taken into account before licences are granted. Those are core attributes of what we hope will be an effective market in order that we do not end up with the worst result similar to what we have witnessed in a so-called regulated market in the UK where a public provider was replaced with a private monopolist, which could do what it liked. The Office of Fair Trading has accepted that and responsibility has transferred to the Competition Authority. Transport is cited as an uncompetitive industry and [73]it will be hard for administrators to untangle that for most of the UK. I want us to avoid that fate and that is why I will press a number of the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 18:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 19:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 20 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 21:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 22:

This relates again to the issue of networks. Concerns have been raised by people in the transport industry who believe the network is the key element we have to consider when we make plans for the development of public transport. The network does not comprise a collection of unintegrated services and the authority, therefore, would need the powers to reject licences for services that would compete adversely with the core network and not just for services parallel to specific routes. The issue again is the protection and maintenance of the network.

  5 o’clock

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  As I said on Committee Stage, the effect of the amendment would be the opposite of what the Deputy desires. The legislation contains protections for the network and I agree with the Deputy that it is extremely important that the concept of the network be protected as much as possible and it is not seen as a collection of individual routes. One of the effects of the amendment would be that consideration of applications would have to account of the impact of the proposed public bus services on all transport services subject to a PSO contract. I am sure the Deputy does not desire that every PSO contract would have to be considered across Dublin city for licence applications. That would make it impossible to make decisions. Every PSO would have to be considered whether the bus service would have an impact. If there is unmet demand in an area to which such a contract relates, it would be impossible to refuse applications for a licence. This could potentially undermine subvented services. That is why accepting the amendment could have the undesired effect from the Deputy’s point of view of undermining the subvented services in an area. I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment for that reason.

[74]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Michael Kennedy): Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 23:

This amendment seeks the deletion of paragraph (iv), which makes an exception from the provision that account shall be taken of “the contribution the proposed public bus passenger service would have in achieving an increase in the availability of public transport services for the public”.

This is very vague. A very effective service run by a company, whether in receipt of a subvention or not, could be damaged by a competitor who claims that an increase in availability is called for on the route. The amendment is related to amendment No. 22, which focused on demand and the difficulty of measuring it. This provision could be used as a device to grant licences where there is no additional demand or where demand is already catered for, either by a public service operator with a PSO or another operator. The provision could be counter-productive. I would like to hear the Minister’s views on my proposal. This view has been expressed to me from the transport industry.

Amendment No. 24 is related. It would insert a paragraph making a further exception, having regard to “the vehicular capacity of the routes of the proposed services”. People involved in traffic management suggested this amendment to me. There is already congestion some on bus routes, such as the quality bus network in Dublin and the green routes in Cork city, caused by buses, taxis, bicycles and so on. If the new national transport authority were to procure a bus route on a particular high quality route it would require the ability to reject licence applications which would affect the reliability of services on that route. By adding a service, one should not damage an existing very good service. Competition should not be the primary aim. Routes which have sustainable services with good frequency should not be clogged up by the addition of competitive services, as happened when deregulation was introduced in cities such as Glasgow 20 years ago.

The example of Leeds was cited to me. In that city, when a high quality bus rapid transit route is being procured the ability of private operators to apply for licences to run buses on that route is restricted in order to maintain the reliability of the core service. We have not seen such difficulties yet. However, this could become a major problem in the future when the Bill is enacted. I ask the Minister to look at this matter one last time.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Amendment No. 23 focuses on sub-paragraph 10(1)(b)(iv). The paragraph is based on the reasonable assumption that the public would benefit from a proposed public bus service. The removal of this provision could give rise to claims from the existing operator on a route, whether public or private, that he or she has an exclusive right to the route, given the absence of any account being taken of the prospect of increasing the availability of transport services. Having regard to that, I propose to retain the paragraph and do not accept amendment No. 23.

The purpose of amendment No. 24 is to allow the authority to refuse licence applications where there might be an issue related to the vehicular capacity of the proposed route or where, for example, the proposed commercial service might impact on the reliability of an existing PSO service that has been procured by the authority. I do not doubt that this might arise. That is why I have addressed this in the combined provisions of sub-paragraphs 10(1)(b)(i) and [75]10(1)(b)(iii), which address issues such as the need for well-functioning and safe public transport systems and the need for the preservation of good order and safety on the public roads, generally.

The wording of the Deputy’s amendments is more prescriptive and rigid. I assure him that the scenarios he outlines are covered in the Bill. I appreciate that the Deputy is raising objections and fears which people have brought to his attention. Many of those fears are based on the assumption that the national transport authority will set out to damage public transport companies and will do everything it can to make life difficult for them. That is not the intention of the legislation. The two people who have been appointed as chair and chief executive of the authority are known to Deputy Broughan. They are two very fair-minded individuals who will set the tone for the authority, as will the Bill. The wish of the House, as expressed in the Bill, is that the authority will ensure a level playing field and an efficient and effective public transport system which will meet the needs of consumers without being a huge burden on the taxpayers. The taxpayers must pay. There will always be a taxpayers’ subvention for a public transport system. There are very few places in the world where the public transport system does not require the support of taxpayers. I have no difficulty with that. However, we must ensure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted. I would like to secure more taxpayers’ money for the public transport system. At some time in the future we may do that but we cannot do so currently. It is important that Members of this House, and particularly the Minister with responsibility for transport, can say that the taxpayers’ subvention for public transport is well spent. The Bill will ensure that.

The Deputy’s concerns, while not stated as explicitly as he might like, are contained in the Bill. The provisions can be applied. The fears about the Bill which have been raised are groundless.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 24 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Amendments No. 25, 26 and 28 to 30, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 25:

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are critical. The Labour Party’s view of the Bill is predicated on these two amendments being adopted. When the Bill is enacted there must be a level playing pitch in the bus market and the highest possible standards for workers in the industry must apply.

Transport is a safety critical industry. I think of the recent incident involving a Luas tram and a Dublin bus in O’Connell Street, Dublin. A few years ago there was a horrendous incident in the Minister’s constituency involving a school bus. It is very important the highest possible work standards are maintained for the protection and safety of passengers — the consumers — and for the provision of a high quality service.

Amendment No. 25 states:

[76]

Health and safety goes without saying. Recently we saw how the Health and Safety Authority rightly tried to get involved in investigations of horrendous collisions and crashes in the context of the state of national primary and secondary roads. The Acting Chairman, Deputy Michael Kennedy, might remember we discussed that at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport. The highest possible health and safety standards in the industry are critical. I heard Deputy O’Dowd’s comments on the accessibility legislation. A key requirement should be that the national transport authority takes responsibility for this.

I refer to existing labour legislation and regulations. We spoke about phrases in legislation in other countries and different precedents. The words “fair and reasonable” seemed useful in regard to salaries. I hope that will preclude the kind of behaviour we saw in other parts of the transport industry in recent years. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport had a major discussion with Aer Lingus workers and management last Thursday afternoon. There were many references to companies operating in this country with offshore workers and offshore contracting and subcontracting. The hours and conditions of work and wages are very bad.

I hope the Minister will get the chance in the next week or two to discuss the developing situation in Aer Lingus. We believe Aer Lingus is being pulled in a race to the bottom, in particular by Ryanair and its standards and operations. One need only look at the new amazing salary being offered to cabin crew, or offshore workers. The Acting Chairman rightly expressed amazement and anger when he heard of the wages —€16,000 to €18,000 — being proffered to cabin crew being hired abroad, as we all did.

We have had warnings about what can happen in a transport market if one is not vigilant. We need to include this as a condition for the provision of licences in order that we will not have some operators doing what they like and treating their workers in a despicable way with the regulator not having the power to take action.

I will refer later to the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Court, the industrial relations structures and so on. The regulator, Mr. Gerry Murphy, must require people to adhere to fundamentally decent labour standards. Everybody who wants to go into public transport provision, whether local, national, urban or rural, should have to adhere to these standards. That is a reasonable request to make of a public service operator. Will the Minister include that as a basic condition of licences? I hope he supports that in order that we can support the Final Stages of the Bill.

Amendment No. 26 adds to that. It states:

That is a fundamental principle for us. It is a huge bone of contention that I have had with Ryanair for the past decade or so. The chief executive and the board of that company are not prepared to allow professional representation for their workers even though they get the best professional representation in regard to their own salaries and work conditions, as we have seen with Mr. O’Leary, who is not prepared to give the same facility to his own workforce.

[77]We saw cases of victimisation of workers who tried to get professional representation from a trade union. Ten or 11 years ago when I was enterprise, trade and employment spokesperson for my party, I introduced the trade union recognition Bill in the House. As the Minister knows, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, did not take on board the full Bill, as presented, which would have made it essential for companies such as Ryanair to give full recognition. I make no apologies for this. Despite what certain people in the media and elsewhere believe, people have the right to professional representation and it is a critical component of how one operates. Most of us have been used to it throughout our lives as workers and professionals. It should be a basic requirement.

I differ with Fine Gael in that it should not be the case that some companies adhere to decent, reasonable and sustainable standards in all these matters while other companies do what they like, turn out whatever kind of fleet they like and treat their workers whatever way they like. We are determined to prevent a race to the bottom in the transport industry and in the provision of bus services. While we recognise the need for reasonable competitive services, we are not prepared to allow the bus transport industry to go down that route because it will be detrimental to our citizens and our country.

Amendment No. 28 states:

Amendment No. 29 states:

A tax clearance certificate is required. I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts and I refer to the recent interesting study by the Comptroller and Auditor General on fiduciary taxes and the problems collecting them given company governance in this country. The Committee of Public Accounts is making suggestions to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Revenue Commissioners. If somebody has not discharged his or her fiduciary obligations to this nation in regard to his or her workers, he or she should not be able to get another licence.

Amendment No. 30 states:

That should be a requirement for somebody who wants to obtain a public bus licence.

These amendments are critical to the Bill. I agree with the principle of meeting the deadline of 3 December and of ensuring the very good work of our public service companies is protected and that in the future we have a modern licensing system. There must be a level playing pitch for all companies. There must not be one set of high and good standards for one group of companies and a lack of standards for others. Will the Minister accept these amendments?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I thank the Deputy for his contribution but a fundamental point that must be reiterated is that anybody who operates a business, whether it be a transport business or some other business, must do so in accordance with the laws of the land. If operators do [78]not do so, agencies of the State generally or active trade unionists are quick to highlight that, and that is as it should be. I commend anybody who has been involved in highlighting that.

I indicated to the Deputy that the proposals in many of these amendments relate to issues that would be more properly addressed in the road transport operator licensing legislation. While I accept the Deputy’s bona fides in this respect, some people will argue that the same safety standards and conditions must be maintained for no reason other than to ensure the same inefficient practices and high costs apply to competitors as apply to themselves. They will argue that rather than do what is currently being done in Dublin Bus and has happened, to a large extent, in Iarnród Éireann and Bus Éireann, where practices have been changed and flexibilities have been increased to ensure the organisations become much more efficient. For that reason I do not believe the Deputy’s amendments are necessary in this legislation, as health and safety legislation, tax law and minimum wage legislation apply and will apply to anybody who will apply for a licence and enter this sector. Under the transport operators licensing legislation that is to be introduced, I will make sure that is further reiterated.

I agree with the Deputy’s fundamental point and principle that we should not have a situation where a private operator or any other gains a competitive advantage by exploiting its workers. I do not agree with that, nor I am sure does any Member of this House. Anywhere it happens it should be stamped out. I have no difficulty with that. The amendments before us are unnecessary because what they seek to achieve is already covered in labour law, tax law and other legislation.

I come from the constituency in which the unfortunate bus accident to which the Deputy referred took place. The bus in question was a public transport school bus operated to the highest standards. The other accident to which the Deputy referred involved a bus serving a route that is subvented. Neither of those buses involved private sector operators, but I do not want to go down that route. We have by and large a good record on public transport companies. Private transport companies have a good record on road safety and employment.

I dealt at great length with the amendments and told the Deputy of the strong advice that we received in respect of amendment No. 29 regarding fiduciary taxes. That position has not changed. The provision we have in this respect is a standard one that applies to all Government contracts.

All the other issues raised by the Deputy were discussed at length on Committee Stage. I appreciate the Deputy’s support for the general thrust of the legislation. I acknowledge that and his efforts to improve the legislation, but I cannot deal with the amendments he has outlined in this legislation. I have given him a commitment in regard to road transport operator licensing legislation to be introduced in the coming year.

Amendment No. 31 is probably more relevant to section 13, which facilitates the imposition of——

Acting Chairman: Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  We have not reached amendment No. 31. Amendments Nos. 26, 28, 29 and 30 are being taken with amendment No. 25.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I have covered the points dealt with in those amendments.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The principles proposed in these amendments should be inserted in this Bill. I know the Minister can refer to other legislation under which labour law will be implemented or not as the case may be. The regulator by its nature should be required to meet these conditions. The men and women who would run and work in companies that would receive licences under this legislation would hope that living standards would be central [79]at the start of this development. We are failing them, if we do not insist on that. I want to press amendment No. 25.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 71.

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Níl
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Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward.
Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary. Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.

Amendment declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 26:

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 70.

Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
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Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
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Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
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Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles. Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda. Zoom on George Lee  Lee, George.
Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic. Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.  


Níl
Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris.
Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall.
Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy.
Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin.
Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward. Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary.
Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.

Amendment declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 27:

[82]Acting Chairman: Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Has Deputy Broughan already spoken on this amendment?

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  No, amendment No. 27 was not in the group. Amendments Nos. 28 to 30, inclusive, were in the group. It is a different amendment and one in which the Acting Chairman, Deputy Kennedy, might be interested. The amendment seeks to provide local authorities with a role in the licensing process and place it in legislation. It is almost certain that local authorities will have a view on this and the Acting Chairman expressed strong views on the maintenance of some services in north Fingal. It is very important to our constituents that councillors have an opportunity to make known their views on a licence application. Under section 10(2) a local authority may but is not required to, as the Minister mentioned on Committee Stage, seek the views of any person. The amendment would make it mandatory for local authorities to do so.

During the debate in the Seanad, the Minister stated he might include a reference to local authorities but he did not want it to be a reserved function because it would cause delay. My colleagues in the Seanad argued that was not democratic. Surely it is a basic attribute of local authorities to have an interest in transport routes. They are responsible for traffic management and constantly receive submissions on all aspects of local traffic and transport provision. It would seem reasonable that local authorities would be involved at the licensing stage and that members would have a view.

Often, the level of demand for a service was brought to the attention of the national bus company, Dublin Bus and other operators by Members of this House and councillors. There has been a movement to try to take power away from councillors. I believe strongly in the power of local government and I look back with great fondness at the 12 years I spent on Dublin City Council because of the work done by my local government colleagues and the officials in trying to run the city. Transport is part of that and the Minister might give a direct role in licensing provisions to local authority members.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  This proposal seeks to introduce a requirement for the authority to invite and consider local authority submissions in the case of all bus licence applications. It also stipulates that making a submission would be a reserved function of the local authority unless a period of 35 days elapses after which it would be an executive function. As the Deputy pointed out, this was discussed at length in the other House and on Committee Stage. I proposed an alternative amendment which clarifies that the authority may seek the views of any local authority in whose functional area the proposed public bus passenger services will operate. That amendment now forms part of section 10(2)(b) in the text as amended by the select committee. As this provision addresses the point made by the Deputy in his proposal in a manner that is consistent with the generic as opposed to specific approach adopted in this part, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I thank the Minister for coming some of the way with us on this. The wording in amendment No. 27 is probably better formulated and is placed better in the Bill but given that the Minister has come forward in this regard, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 28:

[83]Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 29 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 30:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 31:

  6 o’clock

This deals with the provisions on the authority’s requirements for a licensee. We had a lengthy discussion on it this afternoon. I want the requirements for the grant of a licence to include that all of the operator’s fleet be fully accessible. The Minister will reply that this is covered in other legislation but accessibility should be a requirement of the transport legislation. We have had a very long struggle to obtain lower entrances to buses and changes in the DART and train networks to try to bring about accessibility. The Minister stated that one company has an 80% accessibility rate. To have a level playing pitch we should require that all fleets be accessible and it should be part of the requirement to get a licence for a bus operation.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Deputy proposed his amendment and set out my response to it. He is correct that we have discussed this on several occasions. The existing provision is adequate in that the condition can only be applied in respect of certain categories of licence until such time as all buses in the market are accessible. We would not create a level playing field by including the proposed amendment. The Disability Act 2005 will address the issue over a period of time and that is the fairest way to proceed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 32 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Amendments No. 33 and 52 may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 33:

This amendment deals with key issues in respect of the provision of licences. I previously mentioned the AerDart service which operated in my constituency for approximately 15 months before arbitrarily disappearing. This is a protective measure for the State and the regulator which ensures that the withdrawal of a service would not greatly inconvenience commuters where an operator refuses to adhere to the conditions of a licence.

[84]Amendment No. 52 provides for the revocation of a licence where the authority believes conditions have not been met or the agreed service has not been provided. Again, this amendment seeks to protect the regulator and the State. We held a long discussion on Committee Stage about minimum notice periods for the discontinuation of services and while the Minister gave us assurances regarding the revocation of licences, questions remain about the protection offered to the regulator and the State in the event of non-fulfilment of the conditions of a licence under this section.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We held a long discussion on the amendments proposed by Deputy Broughan on Committee Stage but my view has not changed. It is unrealistic to expect that applicants for licences to provide public bus services on a commercial basis would be required to enter bonds or give guarantees in respect of the operation of those services if there is no cost or risk to the State. I reiterate my response on Committee State to the effect that in considering applications for licences, the authority is empowered under section 10(3) to seek assurances that the applicant has the capacity to obtain the necessary financial and other resources to provide the service. Linking of the requirement that an operator enters into a bond that would protect the State in the case of bankruptcy should be viewed against the absence of evidence that operators have abandoned or sought to revoke licences because of bankruptcy. For these reasons, I ask the Deputy to withdraw his amendments.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I have offered an example of a service which was withdrawn. I am not sure of the licence conditions in that instance but I understand the licence remained outstanding for the service long after it had ceased. Commuters would be gravely concerned if an operator ceased to provide a service arbitrarily because it was taken over by a foreign operator or wanted to wait upon more favourable political or economic conditions. The Minister might like to reflect on these issues further.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 34 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 35:

This amendment requires the authority to publish information on the ways it finances its operations. We have in recent times discussed the difficulty of ensuring quangos and public agencies have sufficient resources to fulfil their responsibilities. A number of quangos are self-financing. A spectacular example of self-financing in the transport area is the taxi regulator, which was able to raise a significant level of funds to develop its programmes and create a surplus. This amendment seeks to strengthen regulation by requiring the authority to promulgate the ways in which it raises revenue. The intention of the Bill is to provide good regulation rather than the light touch approach taken in financial services, which let the country down badly by allowing people to engage in detrimental practices. The Minister rightly called those who misbehaved in the banking sector economic traitors. They almost bankrupted the country. The Financial Regulator is a spectacular example of a failed regulatory system and we now have to establish a new way of regulating financial services. We should not have departed from the single regulator model and allowed the Central Bank basically to have a regulatory function [85]under itself. With the birth of a new transport regulator — the Dublin Transport Authority is operating only in shadow form — it is important to ensure the new body has power to generate the finances it needs to do a good job. Regulation requires resources and costs money. For this reason, the Bill should state in black and white that the national transport authority has the power to impose whatever levies it requires to regulate the sector in an efficient and effective manner.

Transport economics is a complex area for which high quality research is required. It is important that the new chairperson of the national transport authority, Mr. John Fitzgerald, with whom Deputies have worked in the past, and Mr. Murphy have access to the best and widest possible research, including on best practice in other jurisdictions and so forth. The amendment seeks to strengthen the role of the regulator by giving it a strong mandate and sufficient resources.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Some form of economic charge needs to be imposed. I presume the levy will be imposed on everyone who applies for a licence. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter. Under Deputy Broughan’s amendment, the levy would only apply to private operators. If it is applied to all applicants for a licence, it should be set at a level that is not prohibitive. It must be fair and equitable because many private bus companies are small operations with fewer than five buses. They must operate in a competitive environment and one must consider that a levy a CIE company would regard as small may be substantial for a small, private operator. I urge the Minister to ensure any levies are reasonable.

While I am not certain how one would define the word “reasonable”, in setting the level of a levy consideration should be given to the economic circumstances of the applicant and the type of route for which the application is being made. I presume the approach taken to public service obligations will differ from the approach to profitable routes. If a company is being considered for a profit-making route, different economics should apply. The levy applied to applicants seeking a licence for loss-making routes should not prohibit competition. I oppose the amendment for this reason.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The amendment provides for the potential to establish a levy on applications for licences. As stated, section 12 gives the authority to determine the fees to be charged for bus licence applications under the Bill. The fees are not refundable and will be used to defray the expenses of the authority. They will also apply to everyone who applies for a licence.

Section 12(4) proposes that the fees imposed for licences “shall be applied for the purpose of meeting the expenses properly incurred by the Authority in the discharge of its functions.” The Bill adequately covers the point made by the Deputy. The introduction, as proposed, of a levy to meet the cost of processing licences in addition to a fee structure could be open to challenge on the basis that it may be construed as a tax. It is not permitted to impose such a tax in legislation of this nature. As I outlined, I cannot accept the amendment for this reason. However, it is expected that the authority will apply appropriate fees which will maintain a balance. As it will discharge a number of different functions, the authority will obviously need to meet its costs.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  May the national transport authority use resources raised by the Commission for Taxi Regulation for any purpose? This issue arose recently with regard to student registration fees when it was alleged a college was using these fees for purposes other than the welfare of students, the purpose for which the fees were collected. A number of Deputies raised this matter in recent weeks.

[86]Representatives of the company which owns Citylink appeared before the Joint Committee on Transport recently. The company, one of the wealthiest public limited companies on the planet, has massive resources at its disposal. Contrary to what Deputy O’Dowd naively imagines, the operators seeking licences will not be small companies with one or two buses but in many cases will be major companies which have come here to take over large chunks of the market. It may be that these companies will decide among themselves which of them will have the market in Scotland, which will have the market in the Republic of Ireland and so forth. This is how some of the individuals in question think.

As Deputy O’Dowd and the Minister’s officials will confirm, the discussion the joint committee had with the chief executive of Citylink was one of the most astonishing hearings we have had. The company appears to be prepared to ride roughshod over whatever regulation we implement. It is important, therefore, that the regulator will have the resources needed to invigilate companies of this kind.

While I accept the Minister’s point on the levy, taxi drivers, some of whom are in the Visitors’ Gallery, will argue that they were required to pay fees which were used as the income for the Commission for Taxi Regulation. This is an important point. I have received an e-mail in which the correspondent complains that the reason it is not intended that the national transport authority will have many resources is that the authority will not engage in regulation and we will have instead a free-for-all. This fear will become more widespread if the regulator is not properly resourced.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Ardagh): Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Does Deputy O’Dowd wish to respond to the accusation that he is naive?

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  No, I have listened for a——

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Deputy does not know much about business.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Commission for Taxi Regulation will be merged in the new national transport authority and its staff will transfer to the new body and continue to enjoy the same rights. The commission’s income will become part of the resources available to the new authority. The Commission for Taxi Regulation generated significant revenue because the number of taxi licences issued increased significantly. This source of revenue is diminishing rapidly as fewer taxi licences are approved.

I share Deputy Broughan’s objective to introduce regulated competition. That is the thrust of the Bill. We do not want anyone engaging in predatory behaviour, whether a native company or otherwise. It will be an important function of the regulator to prevent such behaviour. The powers available in the legislation, including the power to revoke licences and take good repute into consideration, will be enormously helpful to the regulator in ensuring we have a good and well regulated market for consumers.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Does the Minister see it as being a strong, financially independent organisation? I assume he sees it as an outfit that will not have to come to him cap in hand looking for funding. Is it his understanding that it will be self-maintaining?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Given that assurance — I hope I do not regret it in future — I will withdraw the amendment.

[87]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Amendment No. 36 cannot be moved. Amendments Nos. 37 to 43, inclusive, 45 and 46 are related and may be discussed together.

Amendment No. 36 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 37:

This amendment adds “geographical area covered” to the route to be taken in the section dealing with the attachment of conditions for licences. I thought of this in respect of the local transport network. We should think about networks as well as routes. I hope we get good news in the transport section of the budget on 9 December and that the axe will not be struck on the rural transport network. Many people around the country are counting on the Minister to make sure this does not happen in Cabinet and to ensure that the network survives. The amendment tries to enable the development of flexible and demand responsive services.

Amendment No. 38 deals with the standards for licences. Section 13(i) refers to the “minimum” accessibility standards, and I wondered why the Minister did not include the highest of standards, given the battle we have had over the years for accessibility for citizens with disability. I urge the Minister to reconsider this one last time, as we had a long discussion about it on Committee Stage.

In amendment No. 39, I wanted to add the following to the section 13:

We have had two votes on this, which the Minister has not been able to support. This is the last chance he has to put into the section dealing with conditions for licences a key condition related to health and safety, labour and employment legislation, regulations and standards, including those on salary and work conditions. He has stated that he will bring another Bill before us dealing with commercial transport operators. I have been waiting for the two and a half years of the lifetime of this Dáil for this Bill, even though it was on the first clár when the Government was formed. We are still waiting. My predecessor as spokesperson for transport, Deputy Shortall, waited four or five years for the legislation to be brought before the House. The Minister’s statement is aspirational rather than reality politics. I would like the Minister to reconsider this one last time.

I would like to be able to support the basic principle of the development of our transport network under EU Regulation 1320 of 2007. However, on these critical issues which relate to worker conditions and salaries, I am precluded from doing so as the Minister is not prepared to come the extra mile with us. In two votes this evening, slim margins of four and three in the House decided that we would not have references to worker protections in this Bill. There are clearly people in the Minister’s party who have grave problems with not accepting this amendment and the earlier amendments.

In amendment No. 40, I want to add “the inclusion of Automatic Vehicle Location or similar technology to support Real Time Passenger Information and the general management of the public transport network” to section 13. In the 1989 general election, when I first stood for my party, people spoke at the time about integrated transport and real time information, so that one could stand at the bus stop on the quays and see the time of the arrival of the next bus. It has taken us 20 years to get closer to that reality. We are asking that AVL, real time infor[88]mation and all the other important modern transport infrastructure would be included as a condition for granting the licence.

Amendment No. 41 calls for minimum notice periods for services to be revoked. The public would not be left in the lurch and all operators — public or private — would have to adhere to such notice periods on every route. That is a fair requirement. Amendment No. 42 calls for minimum notice periods for amendments to services and requirements for public consultation. The Minister has set himself against widespread consultation before any service is changed. If any route is being changed, the commuter should be consulted and there should be a minimum notice period for this, so that people would not just find out at the last minute that the bus serving the road on which they live has disappeared.

Amendment No. 43 calls for the provision and maintenance of essential bus infrastructure for all users and modern bus fleets, as indicated in regulation by the national transport authority. This means that the authority would insist on certain basic standards. When he was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government many years ago, I used to question him about the safety features on vehicles, which was within his Department’s remit at that time. I used to raise issues like the lighting system, the fact that vehicles are legally imported into the country without a rear windscreen wiper. One might meet vehicles on a rainy night that had peculiar, dazzling lights. The transport regulator would have a view on that in respect of buses. It should require the highest standards before granting a licence.

There are two basic points in these amendments. They are similar to the amendments I tabled to the section on provisions and they require the best possible standards and wages for workers, and the best possible fleets and safety features for commuters.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Amendment No. 37 refers to geographical areas. I addressed this issue on Committee Stage and in response to amendments Nos. 2, 6 and 7, so the Deputy will understand if I do not go back to it again. Amendment No. 38 refers to accessibility standards. We have had a fair amount of discussion on this. The important issue on such standards is that the authority may apply conditions to licences that are consistent with the national requirements as they evolve. That is exactly what section 13(2) achieves. It gives the flexibility to the authority to apply the standards as they evolve nationally, as the targets are set by Government and as final timescales come into play.

Amendment No. 39 was discussed at length with amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 28 to 30, inclusive. I have assured the Deputy in regard to the legislation on the road passenger operators’ licences, and we will have that discussion at a later stage. I also made it clear that I agree with the concept the Deputy is pursuing. It is not a matter of a difference in opinion or principle. We are both of a mind in this regard but this is not the appropriate legislation for it.

Amendments Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, provide for the insertion of a series of provisions to subsection (2), including to provide for automatic vehicle location, AVL. Many companies, whether public or private, will want this system at various stages and, given the development of intelligent transport systems, it will become more of a feature. However, imposing it as a requirement may be unnecessary in respect of many bus services and, for that reason, it would not be fair to impose it on every company for every service. For example, why would services that have no intermediate stopping points and which simply travel from one location to another need AVL? Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to apply a requirement for AVL in respect of all types of commercial bus services. However, there is nothing to prevent the authority imposing a condition in respect of AVL in circumstances where it deems it to be appropriate. Again, the Bill gives the authority power and discretion that it can use. It must also be [89]recalled that the AVL system has not yet been rolled out in respect of the subvented bus services provided by Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath, although it is being rolled out.

Amendment No. 43 would potentially require bus operators applying for licences to establish support infrastructure for the use of the proposed service. It is obviously in the interest of operators to have the necessary structures to support their operators but, again, it is not appropriate for the State or the authority to determine the requirements for such structures. The market will decide that in many respects. If a bus operator operates in particular areas which are not very comfortable for passengers, by the very nature of the competition that is involved, the operator will either provide the structures or will probably go out of business.

Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 deal with the minimum notice period for services to be revoked. This has to be seen against the fact that there has been virtually no history of operators revoking licences. Again, it is open to the authority to consider the need for such a provision if it considers that it might be of some practical use. It can do this if it decides it needs to have such a provision. It is not necessary to have it in legislation.

Where service is amended, the licence must also be amended in accordance with section 14, so it is obviously in the interest of the operator to give notice. In any event, it is expected that all details of licences will be available for the information of the public on the authority website. In light of that, it is not necessary to pursue amendment No. 42.

Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 seem to be based on the presumption that the authority does not have to approve amendments to the licence. That is not the case. All amendments to a licence will have to be approved by the authority under section 14. Where an operator has not complied with amendments which would not be in his or her interest because he or she would have proposed them in the first place, the operator is committing an offence. Section 14(4)(a) also clearly establishes that where the holder of a licence alters the public bus service to which the licence applies without obtaining an amended licence under this section, the licence holder is committing an offence.

With regard to amendment No. 46, section 14(3) makes it clear that the provisions of sections 10 to 13 will apply to applications under this section. As is the case with the proposed amendment No. 5 to section 10, this amendment appears to envisage that the authority would advertise applications for the amendment of bus licences and seek submissions from the public. Again, the same arguments that are used about commercial confidentiality and so on apply in this regard.

The series of amendments the Deputy proposes are catered for currently within the Bill and are not necessary. I ask the Deputy to withdraw them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 38 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 39:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 40 to 53, inclusive, not moved.

[90]Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 54:

This amendment deals with the operation of the licences. I want to insert a subsection (4) to deal with the licensing of certain existing passenger bus services. The amendment arose from discussions within the transport industry with reference to subsection (3), which allows for the expiration of all existing licences granted under the 1932 Act after two years. The Minister needs to provide guidance through regulation as to how existing providers of urban bus services will have a chance to tender for services awarded under Part 3, Chapter 2 of the DTA Act of 2008. I put that to the Minister, who offered an explanation for it on Committee Stage. I would like to hear his explanation again.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  To clarify, section 20 already provides for the continued operation of all existing commercial bus services, whether they are provided under licences granted under the 1932 Act or are being operated by Bus Éireann or Bus Átha Cliath. It covers the point made by the Deputy.

The continued operation of funded bus services by the State companies has already been addressed through section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and both Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath will be free to submit tenders for new subvented services in respect of their dedicated areas of operation where the authority seeks such submissions under section 48 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. That clarifies the story on public bus services.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  This does not have to be included in guidelines.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No, it is in the legislation.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Amendments No. 55 and 56 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 57:

These amendments relate to appeals to the decision to grant a licence. Within the transport industry there is a feeling that the decision of a deciding officer alone may be unfair and that there should be some other level of appeal besides going directly to the Circuit Court. We are very familiar with the planning process, where there is a decision by a local authority and people go to An Bord Pleanála if they are unhappy with the decision or we want to put a case for our constituents. The national transport authority, acting as a board, might make a decision on this if somebody felt hard done by at the licensing stage. This would be relevant if people had a genuine case, as putting it to the board would mean a deciding officer would not have the last word on the matter.

[91]We have had many discussions about this over the years with regard to planning and social welfare. When I was the Labour spokesman on social and family affairs, I remember advocating an independent statutory appeals system. I had drafted heads of a Bill in that regard that would keep the systems separate. The Department might argue that this is the case under existing legislation but we felt it should have been ring-fenced because of concerns that constituents would have sometimes.

In this regard we should have another level of appeal in this sector without the need to go to the court system. We met an operator some weeks ago at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport who did not seem worried about going into court and going through costly legal procedures. He seemed to feel that while this would happen, he would run the opposition — including Bus Éireann — off the road. We would effectively be left with GoBus, which is a massive multinational operator, as our operator on the Galway to Dublin route.

This is an attempt to have another level of adjudication on a licence, which may be particularly valuable to smaller operators. I speak for such operators, who if this amendment were accepted might not have to go straight to the court system if they were turned down for a licence.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The appeals system established in section 22 provides that officers specifically appointed for that purpose by the chief executive officer of the authority will determine the appeals, and those appeals officers will act independently in the performance or functions set out in the section. It is not unusual and the Deputy referred to the social welfare appeals process, where medical card appeals are operated on the same principle. People have recourse afterwards to go to the Circuit Court.

The main reason for this type of appeal system is that it will be a faster and more efficient way of making an appeal. I have discussed with the Deputy the possibility of the board of the authority performing this appeal function but I would not favour it. The board has a specific corporate governance role to play and the executive and management have another role to play; the two should not overlap.

This section outlines our proposed process, which will bring about an efficient, effective and inexpensive procedure. I ask the Deputy to accept it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Different deciding officers will make these decisions. The person making a decision could be the same rank as somebody who has already made a decision. The view may be independent but it may not get people very much further if they feel that they have been turned down on a proposal that is genuine, sustainable and an addition to public transport services. I hope it will not be something we live to regret because many of these cases end up in court. I will withdraw the amendment.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Hallelujah.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Is the Deputy going to move amendment No. 58?

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is the same idea. I was trying to amend the Bill to involve the board.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 not moved.

[92]Acting Chairman: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Amendments Nos. 60 to 66, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 60:

This relates to the guidelines. The amendment looks to insert what I felt would be basic good requirements for licensing law. The group of amendments resemble amendments I have addressed already so I will be brief.

The amendment inserts a critical provision which the Minister does not refer to in the Bill. He might feel that he has accepted a necessity for longer-term contracts under European legislation for the two State bus companies. The issue is that a network exists, and any time we have met Mr. Tim Hayes, the chief executive of Bus Éireann, he has made the basic point to the Oireachtas committee that he runs a network, which can be seen on a map of the country and which has a critical role in keeping connectivity and giving alternatives to the 20% of rural dwellers who do not have their own car or access to private transport. The grave concern is that we will allow the network to be gradually eroded. I made the point earlier in discussing the Bill.

The simplest way to proceed is to indicate that Bus Éireann will maintain the network. We are used to having semi-State and commercial State bodies with a designated operator of the network. Effectively, part of the ESB is designated as the network manager. In the previous Dáil the Minister had responsibility for this area and I was the Labour spokesperson on it. We have effectively given the ESB a mandate which emerged through our discussions in the last Dáil to be the sustainable network manager for the country. Bus Éireann is a different business but it is analogous. It would be useful for the Minister to accept amendment No. 60.

This is a series of amendments which seek to add to the guidelines. Amendment No. 61 would insert “all operators, fleets and bus infrastructure [would] comply with the highest health, safety and accessibility legislation, regulations and standards,”. Amendment No. 62 would insert a new paragraph (e), which would read “maintain the highest standard of working conditions with fair and reasonable salaries for all transport workers including those established by collective agreement obligations,”. I made this point earlier and we voted on it. This is the last opportunity for the Minister to come on board the bus of fairness to ensure this is in the legislation. Unfortunately, if the legislation is unclear or is without guidelines, people will take advantage of it. Therefore, I urge the Minister to accept amendment No. 62.

Amendment No. 63 provides a new subsection which would ensure the legislation would ”(f) have due regard for the development of a fully integrated national bus transport network including the provision of local rural transport services,”. This is my last chance to make a plea that the rural transport service be allowed survive budget cuts next Wednesday week. We hope that the desolation we will have to cope with at the next general election will not include the rural transport network which is doing a great job.

In amendment No. 64 I provide for paragraph (g) “shall include requirements for public consultation,”. I continue to call for the need for public consultation and if I was amending the Bill in the future, I would go with this. However, I understand the Minister’s point with regard to commercial sensitivities. Amendment No. 65 provides the section “shall include minimum notice periods to revoke or amend licenses,”. This is a point I raised already.

[93]Amendment No. 66 deals with an issue we have not had a chance to deal with, although the Minister said he might take another look at it. This amendment is based on my reading of the Office of Fair Trading report on the British market. The amendment suggests including in the guidelines a clause that would specify anti-competitive practices and abuses. The key issue in this regard is exclusivity. This basically means the practice where an operator runs a bus just ahead of, and possibly behind, another bus making it difficult for a company to draw up a development plan in the face of this messing and anti-competitive behaviour. We know from transport literature that the public tends to take the first bus because fares are usually similar. Other practices I have mentioned are salami-slicing and gaming of routes, which were spectacularly identified by the Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom. We must try to avoid this happening here by ensuring we provide in the legislation to prevent it. The Minister’s guidelines have not specified any well-known anti-competitive practices in either regulated or deregulated transport markets. I urge him to consider covering this issue by including a provision on the lines of amendment No. 66.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Amendment No. 60 is not appropriate to the Bill as it has no direct relevance to the licensing of public bus passenger services. Under Part 2, exclusive rights have been afforded to Bus Éireann with regard to the continued provision of the public bus services currently being provided by the company, as outlined in section 52(1)(b) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. That right is mandated by the need to ensure the continued operation of services. Bus Éireann will, obviously, retain the role of planning the services it provides within the exclusive rights referenced in section 52, subject to the provisions of that section. However, given that the role of deciding on the needs that exist for new networks has been given to the national transport authority under section 48 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act, it would not be appropriate to grant that type of exclusivity to Bus Éireann, as envisaged in the amendment. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment. Outside of the area mentioned, planning for new networks will be the job of the NTA from now on.

Amendments Nos. 61 and 62 were discussed at some length on Committee Stage and again here. My position remains the same with regard to those amendments. Amendment No. 63 is also linked to amendments already discussed under section 10. I reiterate that the protection and integrity of the national, urban and local bus networks is already specifically in place. Amendment No. 64 raises the issue of public consultation, an issue we have dealt with on several occasions. We have gone as far as we can in that regard. Including this would not be appropriate for once-off events and the like. Section 10(2) already provides that the authority can seek information from any source, which covers the issue.

The requirement for a minimum notice period for services to be revoked is proposed in amendment No. 65. This is linked to amendments proposed on sections 13 and 14. This issue has already been discussed. It is a matter for the authority to consider the need for such a provision and if it considers this might be of some practical use, it can do it. I do not consider this a matter for primary legislation. With regard to amending licences, I mentioned that such amendments must be noted in accordance with section 14.

Amendment No. 66 is already facilitated, in the context of its consideration of applications, under the provision of section 10 of the Bill. A further reference in section 23 is neither appropriate nor necessary. The guidelines must be published in draft form as a result of amendment No. 67, which will be considered shortly. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport will be presented with a draft of the guidelines and have the opportunity to present its comments. As I mentioned on Committee Stage, the Deputy’s amendment is based on the premise that there will be deregulation of the bus market, which is not what the Bill proposes. It provides [94]there will be regulated competition in the market for commercial services, a fact that is clearly established in the expanded section 10 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act as provided for in section 29 of the Bill. On those grounds, I ask Deputy Broughan to withdraw the amendments.

  7 o’clock

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  These amendments go to the heart of the difference between the different parties with regard to the Bill. Some of the amendments are restrictive and would restrict fair and open competition between the public and private sector, particularly the Labour Party proposal that Bus Éireann would have exclusive right to ownership and responsibility for planning and operating the provincial and urban bus network outside of the greater Dublin area. If that was passed, it would negate the principle of the Bill, which is to open up the area and make the national transport authority the sponsoring authority for all proposed networks and changes to them. Notwithstanding the excellent work of Bus Éireann and the connection and positive interaction it has with the private sector on routes throughout the country, if the Minister accepted the amendment, it would mean Bus Éireann would become the dominant and sole influence in what would happen and where and why it would happen.

There are more than 6,000 people working in the private bus sector, providing transport throughout the country. The majority of these are small operators, not the big multinational operators one finds in the United Kingdom. The majority of the operators here function in the community and provide local services, bingo and school buses and provide for the needs of local clubs and so on. It is only right that when such companies reach a stage when they could tender for other routes, they should be able to compete with Bus Éireann and other companies for routes that would suit their needs and size. It is a key point of Fine Gael policy that such companies are able to compete, whether a PSO route or not is involved. We cannot sustain a system ——

Acting Chairman: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  As it is now 7 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: “That the amendments set down by the Minister for Transport and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.” Is that agreed?

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  It is not agreed.

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 66.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
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Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
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Níl
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Zoom on George Lee  Lee, George. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan.
Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom. Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.


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