Not very much can be added to what was said last night. If we had had a few more minutes we would probably have cleared the section. Deputy Haughey had a point last night and it is possible that what I am about to announce will meet it. I intend to put down a Report Stage amendment to section 9 on the following lines: "or in relation to any matter with respect to which a company or other body of which he is a member has a material, financial or other beneficial interest".
Private Members' Business. - Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1974: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I am grateful to the Minister for meeting the point of view expressed on this side of the House. Section 9, as worded, with the proposed amendment, still leaves in general terms an obligation on members of the board not to vote when matters come before the board in which they have beneficial interests. I should like to highlight the general terms of the section giving this direction to members of the board and compare them with the amendments which have recently been put down by the Minister laying down the specific procedures which must be gone through by members of local authorities in declaring any interest they may have in dealings in land or development of land which may come before the council.
There seems to be a serious distinction being made between members of local authorities and members of the board. In fact, they are both performing similar duties except that the board, being the final decider of planning applications, must be deemed to be in a more important decision-making position than members of local authorities whose decisions can be appealed against to the board by persons who so desire. Would the Minister elaborate on this so that we may understand his thinking? Why is he satisfied with the general directions to members of the board when he has laid down specific procedures and prescribed the form on which members of local authorities must make declarations? He has also decided that registers must be kept of the interests of any member of the local authority. Generally, there is elaborate machinery to ascertain the interests of local authority members but this is not required of members of the board or employees of the board. One must agree that these groups are all involved in the same process of decision-making in relation to planning matters.
It is possible that Deputy Molloy has missed the point. Local authority members are elected for the purpose of carrying out a number of functions one of which is to draw up a plan for an area. Members of the board are appointed for the specific purpose of doing a job. If they have an interest they must give the chairman, in writing, notice of that interest. As far as the employees are concerned they will not be in a position to influence the decision of the board. Employees of local authorities may obtain information about numerous applications which come before them. There is a big difference, and I am sure the Deputy appreciates that difference. One group are elected to do a number of jobs, one of which is to draw up a county plan but not to give a planning decision, and the other group are appointed specifically to deal with planning appeals. The latter must give notice to the chairman if they have an interest in any of the matters coming before them. It then follows that they will not vote or take part if they have an interest.
In the case of members of local authorities the Minister requires that a register be kept and this register is available for public inspection but this will not be done in the case of members of the board.
Members of local authorities are elected and the public when voting for them to carry out certain functions do not take into account what associations they have or what property they have. They are not selected specifically to do the job but the members of the board are appointed. Matters to be considered when the appointments are being made are who they are and what they are. When they are on a case in which they have an interest members of the board must give notice of that interest to the chairman. The question of a register does not arise in their case because they are appointed to do the job specifically and are not elected haphazardly—if the House will excuse the expression—as members of a local authority may be by a vote. There is no comparison between the two. There is a difference in the functions of both and a good reason why members of the board, having been selected for this job, have to notify the chairman if they have an interest.
The explanation still leaves a lot of question marks. I do not accept fully the explanation given by the Minister. There seems to be a certain amount of discrimination against one sectionvis-à-vis another. The group being discriminated against most are those who are elected. The Minister expressed the view last night that his preference always was for the view of those elected but in this case he is requiring elected members to adhere to a rigid procedure of disclosure and he is not requiring members of the board to adhere to similar strictures. That raises some doubts in my mind. I fail to understand why this distinction must be made and why the members of the board should not also be required, if it is thought fit and proper that members of local authorities should write their interests on a register to be kept available for public inspection, to do the same as councillors.
If the purpose in keeping such a register is to allow the community to satisfy themselves that decisions of these bodies, the board and the local authorities, are arrived at in an open and fair manner and that persons are not taking advantage of the position they hold in matters which come before them for decision, why such rigid procedures should be adopted in the case of elected members and not applied to members of the boards is something I do not fully understand.
The Deputy must agree that the whole point is that people are selected to do this job because of special qualifications.
If it is a question of human weakness surely members of the board can have these human weaknesses just as members of local authorities can, if the Minister is suspicious of these people.
Except for the fact that even the members of the board who are appointed specifically to do a job must give notice in writing to the chairman if there is any question of a connection. The members of the board will be appointed by the Minister and when making the appointment the Minister shall fix such members' term of office which shall not exceed three years and, subject to articles 10 and 12 of the Schedule, such members shall hold office on such terms and conditions as the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for the Public Service, determines.
In fact, if a member of the board is found not to be carrying out his duties, or to be in any way infringing, it is possible to deal with him. Deputy Molloy is missing the cardinal point although I repeated it three or four times. One group of people are elected to do a number of things, not specifically to deal with planning, while, in the other section, the board are appointed because of their qualifications to deal with planning. This is the kernel of the matter.
Not specifically to deal with planning?
With the planning appeals.
Oh. The Bill provides——
They are both dealing with planning decisions at different levels.
No, they are not.
——that members of local authorities will declare their interest in writing and have a register kept of those interests. The Minister had said: "not specifically as far as planning appeals are concerned". I think planning appeals form a very important aspect of the planning legislation under the 1963 Act and under this Bill also. Indeed I think it was the debate in this House on planning appeals which more or less expedited this legislation and caused the proposed formation of a board as envisaged in this Bill. Members of local authorities have very little to do with planning appeals. Their influence would come into play in certain cases. In other words, after a Minister for Local Government decided a planning appeal, that decision could be upset or set aside by members of a local planning authority by way of motion, but that very rarely happens.
The point I am trying to make is this. The influence of members of local authorities in planning appeals is minimal compared with that which the board will have. In other words, 90 per cent of the planning appeals which will be decided will be decided purely and solely by the members of the board. It is in a very few cases only that a situation would arise where the influence of members of local authorities would come into play in planning appeals. Yet they are expected to declare their interest, all of their personal interest. Indeed if their wives or families had any interest they would have to be entered in the register as well. Therefore, if this be so, in 90 per cent of the planning appeals decided the board will be 100 per cent involved. In those circumstances it is only right and equitable, if you are going to have elected members of local authorities declare their interest and keep a register of such interest available for inspection, that there should be more required of members of the board than the Minister is proposing in this Bill. I think this is reasonable. I think no member of the board would object if the Minister decided to have him operative under the same criteria as he requires of elected members of local authorities.
Either Deputy Cunningham is very naïve or else, as usual——
The Minister should put on a long-playing record and press the button instead of getting up.
He is talking——
Through his hat!
——off the top of his head because it appears that he does not understand even what happens at local authority level. I am terribly sorry, because we could have a good debate on this Bill and get some work done. But, as yesterday evening, Deputy Cunningham comes in and starts talking about things that do not affect the Bill. He has been talking for five or six minutes about local authority members having to do certain things. I will be interested to hear his objections to local authority members declaring their interest when we come to that section.
Could I explain to Deputy Cunningham because, when I have finished, I should like him to know what is the situation? When we talk about members of local authorities and decide that they must do certain things—and really I should be explaining this at a later stage in the Bill, but I hate somebody to go asleep not knowing something they could know tonight—they have the right to make changes in the use-zoning of land which can increase its value. Local authority members can do that; members of this board cannot. Changes in use-zoning can enhance the site value by facilitating development or redevelopment which is more profitable. Local authority members can do that. The planning board cannot do that. The planning board will be dealing with individual appeals and they cannot vote if they have an interest. Deputy Cunningham spoke as if there was only one thing that local authority members could do, that is, that if a planning appeal was carried when it came back to the local authority, they could reverse the decision.
Yes, that is what I said.
They can do that but the reason they are asked to make the declarations which they will be asked to make when this is finished is because of the allegations which are being made fairly widely, rightly or wrongly, that members of local authorities can and have rezoned areas so that the land within those areas would be of greater value and that they or their friends were able to enrich themselves as a result. This has been published in newspapers and fairly generally talked about. Nobody in this House has more respect for local authority members than have I, but if there are people who do that kind of thing, in order to ensure that they cannot get away with it we are making provision in the Bill to prevent its continuance. But that is an entirely different matter to dealing with people who are appointed specifically to deal with individual appeals which come before them in which, if they have any interest, they must declare it in writing to the chairman. I think that is reasonable and fair. To try to fuse the two issues as one is, to say the least of it, mischievous. I will go a little further if Deputy Cunningham feels that stronger words might be used.
Before Deputy Cunningham proceeds, may I ask, as a matter of clarification, if amendment No. 17 in the name of Deputy Haughey is in fact being withdrawn.
No, that has been accepted by the Minister.
The Minister has proposed an alternative form of words.
Yes, and it was accepted by Deputy Haughey.
Is the amendment withdrawn then?
Yes, it is withdrawn. The Minister has proposed an alternative form of words.
The Minister'sforte is to say that Opposition speakers are stupid.
No, only Deputy Cunningham. The rest of them are making reasonable comments.
The Minister in his last statement purposely drew a red herring across what I have been saying. He said, gratuitously, what he was seeking to do in the Bill was to have members of local authorities declare their interest so far as rezoning was concerned.
As far as everything was concerned.
The Minister made a song and dance about his action which was to prevent members rezoning and thereby benefiting themselves and their friends. Let the Minister not try to wriggle out of what he said. He insinuated that members of local authorities had nothing to do with planning appeals and that as far as planning appeals were concerned it was not necessary for them to have their interests declared and registered. I will not say the Minister is stupid and does not know what he is talking about. I want to try to impress on him that elected members of local authorities have a say in planning appeals legislation. It is only right they should have a say in dealing in certain cases with planning appeals which have gone to the Minister, and which under this legislation will go to the board. Neither the board nor the Minister are God Almighty and it is a good thing to have a further safety valve in the legislation.
It is being continued in this legislation the same as it was embodied in the previous planning legislation of 1963, that members of local authorities, having been informed officially of the Minister's decision and any individual appeal, have the right to table a motion at the local authority meeting, setting aside the decision of the Minister and in this case setting aside the decision of the board. The Minister is protecting the principle, with which we agree, that the action of members of the local authority should not be motivated by personal gain or interest by putting down a motion, the effect of which may be to benefit one or more of their members or their friends.
You may have a planning appeal in respect of any development. As far as that is concerned a member or members of a local authority could be personally and beneficially involved. The Minister is ensuring in this Bill that if they are so involved they must declare their interest in writing and have it registered. This is in the case of members of local authorities who will deal with planning appeals. The Minister will not in this section make the same provision for the declaration of interest by the other parties involved in the planning appeal, who are the board. It is logical that we should require the same treatment for all from one end of the process to the other. If certain provisions are required at one end and more stringent provisions are required at the other, then the Minister will have to do a lot more to justify the differentiation.
I am sorry we do not appear to be making much progress but this is a natural thing when we are dealing with a long Bill of this kind with a large number of amendments and we have not taken the trouble to check on all the material before we start the debate. Deputy Cunningham made a number of categoric statements. For his information I refer him to section 30 (e) which states:
the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (2) of section 30:
"(2A) A planning authority shall neither revoke nor modify a permission under this section unless there has been a change in circumstances relating to the proper planning and development of the area concerned and such change in circumstances has occurred,
(a) in case a notice relating to the permission is served under this section and is annulled since the annulment of the notice,
(b) in case no notice is so served, since the granting of the permission.
(2B) In case a planning authority pursuant to this section revoke or modify a permission, they shall specify in their decision the change in circumstances which warranted the revocation or modification.";
What does that prove?
Deputy Cunningham spoke about permission under the existing law to revoke planning permission and he said that it was continued in this Bill. I am saying it is not continued unless there has been a change in circumstances from the time the appeal was made and decided. That being so, Deputy Cunningham's whole argument appears to be exploded.
Appears to be?
It appears to me. I do not know what Deputy Cunningham thinks of it. He may have peculiar ideas in his own mind which I would not dare to try to follow. He spoke about declaring an interest. This board will be dealing with appeals. Say an appeal comes up from any place; say somebody applies for planning permission for a site in County Galway in Deputy Molloy's constituency. How would somebody, after the board have been appointed, declare an interest in that site? They do not know what is to come before the board.
Where local authority members are concerned, they are able to declare an interest because the general issue will be there; but the board will be dealing with specific cases, and only with appeals in specific cases. I do not want to continue with this argument which we have been carrying on because we are adequately covered. Members of the board will be appointed because they are people of integrity who will have the ability to deal with planning appeals. They will be people who, if by any chance something comes before them in which they have a beneficial interest, will declare that interest in writing to the presiding chairman. The time we have been wasting on this matter could be very well used dealing with the other sections of the Bill.
I have not had time to go through the finer points of the section that the Minister has spoken about. It is long and complicated.
We should know what we are debating. We are going through the Bill section by section.
Is the Minister saying that the previous provision whereby local authority members can and did put down motions setting aside some appeal decisions is no longer there? The Minister said that my case fails because that is out. I understood from the Minister's interpretation that there is still provision in certain cases for local authority members to do this.
I suggest that we would wait until we reach section 30, which is the relevant section.
Section 9 will have gone by then.
We are dealing with section 9, but Deputies have been adverting to section 30.
Will the Minister clarify it for me?
The statement by the Minister does not alter the argument being made by Deputy Cunningham and the points I have been making. He said that local authority members are involved in certain circumstances in deciding planning applications which go on appeal—that they had power in certain circumstances to revoke the Minister's decision on appeal. Section 30 of the 1963 Act, to which the Minister referred—by coincidence the section in this Bill is also 30—does not preclude members of local authorities from revoking decision on appeal providing certain circumstances obtain, but there is no total removal of the right to revoke. The amendment the Minister is suggesting merely tightens up the circumstances in which local authority members can revoke. Section 30 (1) of the 1963 Act states:
Subject to the provisions of this section, if the planning authority decide that it is expedient that any permission to develop land granted under this Part of the Act should be revoked or modified, they may, by notice served on the owner and on the occupier of the land affected and on any other person who in their opinion will be affected by the revocation or modification, revoke or modify the permission.
(2) In deciding, pursuant to this section, whether it is expedient to serve a notice under this section, the planning authority shall be restricted to considering the proper planning and development of the area of the authority (including the preservation and improvement of the amenities thereof), regard being had to the provisions of the development plan and the provisions of any special amenity area order relating to the said area.
Amendment No. 89, which we will be moving on to and which the Minister has referred to, states that the insertion of a subsection after subsection (2) of section 30 will read:
In page 19, between lines 24 and 25, before paragraph (f) to insert the following paragraphs:
"(f) the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (1) of section 38:
‘(1A) A planning authority in entering into an agreement under this section may join with any body which is a prescribed authority for the purposes of section 21 of this Act.';
(g) the substitution in section 38 (2) of ‘the planning authority or any body joined with them for ‘the planning authority' where that expression firstly occurs and of ‘the planning authority or such body, as may be appropriate,' for ‘the planning authority' where the expression secondly occurs; and".
Does the Minister agree with that or is he saying to Deputy Cunningham that local authority members do not have power to revoke decisions in any circumstances? I do not think that is what he was saying.
That is what he tried to say.
If Deputy Cunningham cannot understand plain English, that is not my fault.
I am stupid.
We should clear that up. It is necessary to show that local authority members are involved in decisions which affect decisions made previously. They are also involved, as the Minister has stated, in the adoption of development plans and in zoning which will apply within development plans. The Minister tried to make a distinction between the functions and responsibilities of the board and those of local authority members. I do not accept the validity of the Minister's argument that a difference applies in as much as he is of the opinion, because the board will be dealing with specific cases of permission, it is not necessary to expect that members of the board should make declarations similar to what, later on in the Bill, he requires local authorities to make.
His argument therefore falls because local authority members are also involved in decision making in specific cases. We also know that they have the facility of section 4 of the 1955 City and County Management Act through which they can direct managers to grant permission in certain cases. That takes away whatever validity the Minister thought he had in his argument. His facts were not correct. The main point I want to get to is that if the Minister is satisfied that laying down such rigid and strict regulations to be complied with by local authority members—he has put down an amendment which we will be discussing later and we must accept that he is in favour of his own amendment —our argument is that the Minister must also apply similar stringent rules to members of this board who will be involved on a day to day basis in important planning decisions. The opportunities granted to local authority members in the normal course of a year's work to make decisions affecting a planning area are very rare.
It is not the practice that councils have a series of section 4 decisions before them at every meeting; it is not the practice that they rezone land at every meeting; it is not the practice to have several motions of revocation before monthly council meetings. It does not happen very often in the course of a year. However, the board will be in the position where they are making vital planning decisions every day——
Three thousand planning cases per year.
This board is a new one. We must ensure that we do not leave any loopholes, so that the public will be satisfied that the board is independent, above suspicion and reproach, and that members will not find themselves in a position where they can make decisions from which they might obtain benefit. If the principle which the Minister is introducing in a very elaborate wayvis-à-vis members of local authorities is to be accepted as a good principle, it must be applied equally to members of the board who will be involved to a greater extent than members of a local authority. The sheer logic of that argument must influence the Minister in accepting the points we are making. If it is to be laid down that members of local authorities are to write into a register, to be kept by officers of county councils, every interest they have in land or in its development, every interest their wives or nominees may have, or any shares they hold in excess of £500 in a company that develops land, why do we not ensure that the members of the board make similar declarations? That is the point we are making.
The arguments the Minister has given so far against it fall because they were not factual. The Minister incorrectly stated in the course of his short contribution that members of local authorities could rezone land which might benefit some friends of theirs. He seemed to imply that the provisions in the Bill dealing with local authority members in some way would prevent that type of situation arising. Of course, the Minister's amendment cannot prevent such a situation arising if a member decides that is his motivation. I do not know whether it would happen but certainly the Minister's amendment will not stop it. His amendment only precludes a person from voting as a member of a local authority where the matter for decision is one in which he has some beneficial interest. There is no obligation on him to abstain from voting if, in the Minister's words, "his friends"—I put that in inverted commas—want something done and he is prepared to vote for it.
The Minister has not given us a satisfactory explanation although I had assumed he had a reasonable one. If he is open-minded with regard to the points we have been making he must accept that there is logic and sense in what we have said. If he can show us there is not we will accept that. If in his heart he agrees with what we are saying we would expect that he would give some indication of making similar provisions here if he considers they should apply later.
The Deputy referred to "his friends" and mentioned that he would put those words in inverted commas. I would put them very much in inverted commas because the allegations that got so much publicity was that friends——
The Minister's amendment will not stop that.
It means that people were so friendly they would give compensation to their friends for doing this for them. This is what I am trying to stop and I am sure the Deputy will agree that if it is happening it should be stopped. The whole question of information which councillors may have with regard to water supplies, sewerage schemes and other types of development may be debated under section 30. The arguments being made now are about section 30, not about this section.
Deputy Cunningham was interested in whether the proposal included in this Bill would prevent the revoking of decisions of the board by the local authority. Unless there is a change in circumstances the answer is "yes"; if there is a change in circumstances the answer is "no". It will prevent the blanket right which they now have, namely that on any matter which comes before the Minister in which he makes a decision with which the local authority disagree if they can get a section 4 applied they have the right to reverse it. That will no longer exist. All that will exist will be the right to revoke it if circumstances change. It is right that permission be given.
With regard to what the board should declare, I do not know where extra security can be put in to ensure that they are honest men. Deputy Haughey introduced an amendment on this and eventually I suggested a form of words I proposed to put in on Report Stage. The Deputy said it covered the two points he wanted to make. I say to Deputy Molloy I do not know in what way this can be safeguarded. I do not believe the declaration being asked of local authority members is what is required here. Would the Deputy like to say what he thinks should be put in here?
Public representatives must declare their interests and a register must be kept, and if the board have an interest they must tell the chairman. Will the Minister state if this is correct?
What is the situation with regard to the chairman? To whom does he declare?
To the Minister who appoints him.
If I were appointed to that position and if I had an interest in land at Kilconnell, to whom would I have to declare my interest? What account would be kept of that? As a local representative, quite rightly I must declare my interest which is recorded in a register, but I should like to know what is the situation with regard to the chairman.
Deputy Callanan is a very decent man and I have great respect for him but apparently he is being used here to voice an opinion——
That is typical of the Minister.
I am far from the front bench——
I do not blame the Deputy.
This point occurred to me, it was not a question of anyone prompting me. I would not take that from anyone, even my own leader.
The Minister should have the decency to withdraw that statement.
On a point of order, is it correct for the Minister to say that a Deputy is being used?
It is one of those political charges made across the floor from time to time.
No respect for public representatives.
Would the Deputy go back to school?
If the Minister wishes to talk of school, I shall take him on any time.
A man among boys and a boy among men.
I must ask for order. It seems to the Chair that Deputies have been adverting for some time to another section of the Bill and have been referring to the responsibilities of members of local authorities as distinct from what is contained in section 9, the section before the House which deals with the responsibilities of members of the board. No extraneous matter should be introduced. Apparently this section has been debated sufficiently and having regard to the fact that an amendment was withdrawn, should Members not be in a position now to indicate whether the section is agreed?
On a point of order, is the Chair creating a new Standing Order in considering that a matter in a Bill has been discussed sufficiently?
The Chair has certain power but has not seen fit to exercise it. I am indicating to the House that we must avoid repetition and must not discuss extraneous matters.
The Chair is changing his feet.
Yesterday evening I appealed to the House not to indulge in Chair-baiting, a practice that this House seems to be developing.
The Minister does not suffer as a result of the Chair's rulings. The Chair is a member of the Minister's party.
The Deputy must not reflect on the Chair, whoever he may be.
The trouble is that the people opposite do not respect the House. One of their members was in the Chair for many years and we respected him.
We are fed up with the Chair.
The Chair is doing nothing more than seeking to uphold the dignity and decorum of this House and to act in a most impartial fashion towards the Deputies.
There should not be this tendency to attack the Chair.
The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has insulted the Chair in the past.
Can we get back to section 9, please?
The Chair was always respected in this House until certain people joined the Fianna Fáil front bench. Deputy Callanan is a very decent Deputy but he was using words which I considered——
Let the Minister either settle for what he said or withdraw it.
Let the Deputy keep his tongue quiet for a few minutes. That is a phrase that he often uses to the Chair. Let me rephrase what I said to Deputy Callanan. I said that he was expressing the views which some people on the Fianna Fáil front bench seem to agree with but do not say so. What they were implying was that one could not trust even a judge. A judge is appointed in a certain way and is respected in that way. When he is trying a case he has no need to make any kind of declaration. We accept the law that he determines. It is suggested now by Fianna Fáil that to take him from a court of law and put him in charge of a planning board may result in his becoming a different person. I have asked Deputy Molloy to put into words what he suggests that both the judge and the eminent members of the board should declare before being allowed to hear appeals as to whether somebody should build a house, a factory or whatever is involved. We should know what the Deputy is thinking of because on several occasions he has talked of the necessity for a declaration. It is sufficient to lay down that members of the board cannot vote if they have an interest and that if they have an interest they must declare that in writing to the chairman. I am happy with that provision and shall continue with it until such time as evidence can be produced which can be accepted as something which these people can subscribe to and which the House would consider to be the proper sort of declaration to be made.
Evidence of what?
Until there is some statement, such as I have asked Deputy Molloy to produce, as to what these people should subscribe to before being allowed sit on planning appeals. If the Deputy has any such statement to make and if it is reasonable I shall be prepared to accept it.
I should hope that this debate would not develop into a dual effort. There are other people here who have the right to express themselves also. I am concerned about the image of public representatives. The Minister has said, and rightly so, that it is desirable that the image of public representatives should be no less than that of any other section of the community and I include here judge, jury or anybody else. I am a public representative. In other areas of my life I have objected to suggestions that people should come and watch what I do.
I have as much integrity as has any judge.
I have been elected by the people in a democratic way but if they should discover that I am not the person they elected they would have the right to sack me. I object to a suggestion that there should be anybody present at times on committees to observe what I do because the inference would be that while being observed I might do something that I would not do otherwise. I am anxious to uphold what must be the integrity and the honour of public representatives. The Minister, rightly, in this legislation is making it mandatory that public representatives should indicate their interest in areas, the value of which could prove beneficial to them.
I would suggest that anybody else operating in that field might reasonably be expected to indicate the same interest, if such exists. We all know that a judge, whether present or past, is a human being like anybody else and on occasion might be seen to move from a straight and narrow path. It is wrong to talk about members of this board, regardless of which professional field they might come from, as being eminent people who would not do wrong. Simultaneously there is an implication there that public representatives are not so eminent or have not as much integrity. Generally speaking, human beings can be accused of being lacking in both these respects but where a Bill involves those different sections, it is normal and reasonable to expect members of the board to yield to the same register of interest as would be the case in respect of public representatives.
The Minister said that there would be no point in asking him, for instance, to indicate his interest because he might be called on to adjudicate on a case in respect of an area in Galway but if he had indicated already where his interest, if any, lay, it should be obvious to all concerned as to whether he should serve on a board that was adjudicating on a case in respect of Galway. This section should not generate any unnecessary heat. It would be a worthwhile exercise for the Minister to think about the point I am making, that is, that members of the board are asked for the same declaration that is required of local authorities because so far as I am concerned one is not greater than the other in terms of integrity or honour.
Has the Minister any comment?
I agree with most of what the Deputy has said.
The main principle here is that the Minister seems to be very suspicious of members of local authorities. That seems to be the overriding consideration with the Minister. He is terribly suspicious of planning authorities.
It was not I who decided to do away with them.
Name one that was proposed to be abolished.
Forty-two of them.
Kells, Navan, Trim— does the Deputy want any more?
Let us have and orderly debate please.
In the discussion we are having on section 9 we feel that the obligation of members of the board to disclose their interest should be similar to the obligation that the Minister intends to place on members of local authorities. He should not make any distinction because both are performing similar functions in planning matters. I was asked to give some indication of the type of amendment I had in mind. It would be quite a simple matter if the Minister accepted it to change the wording of amendment No. 75 and where the words "planning authority" appear to put in "boards" and where the words "authority to whom the declaration is being made" appears to put in either "the Minister for Local Government" or "the Secretary of the Department of Local Government." It might be better that the Department should keep the register. The amendment would then read something like this:
.—() It shall be the duty of a member of the Board to give to the Secretary of the Department of Local Government a declaration in the prescribed form, signed by him and containing particulars of every interest of his which is an interest to which this section applies and for so long as he continues to be a member of the Board it shall be his duty, where there is a change regarding an interest particulars of which are contained in the declaration or where he acquires any other interest to which this section applies, to give to the Secretary of the Department of Local Government a fresh such declaration.
The amendment would continue to say:
() This section applies to the following interests, namely:
(a) any estate or interest which a member of the Board has in land situated in the jurisdiction of the State, the Twenty-Six Counties,
(b) any business of dealing in or developing land in which such a member is engaged or employed and any such business carried on by a company or other body of which he, or any nominee of his, is a member,
(c) any profession, business or occupation in which such a member is engaged, whether on his own behalf or otherwise, and which relates to dealing in or developing land.
() A person who is a member of the Board and who has an interest to which this section applies shall be regarded as complying with the requirements of the subsection of this section if, and only if, he gives to the Secretary of the Department of Local Government a declaration mentioned in that subsection within the period of twenty-eight days beginning—
(a) in case the person is such a member on the commencement of this section, on such commencement,
(b) in case the person becomes such a member after the commencement of this section, on the day on which he becomes such a member,
(c) in case there is a change regarding an interest particulars of which are contained in a declaration already given by the person or where the person acquires any other interest to which this section applies, on the day on which the change occurs or the other such interest is acquired.
() For the purposes of this section a member of the Board shall be regarded as having an estate or interest in land if he, or any nominee of his, is a member of a company or other body which has an estate or interest in the land.
The Secretary of the Department of Local Government shall for the purposes of this section keep a register (which register is in this section referred to as the register of members' interests) and shall enter therein the particulars contained in declarations given to the Board pursuant to this section. The register of members' interests shall be kept at the offices of the Secretary of the Department of Local Government and shall be available for public inspection during office hours.
I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. Quotations are in order but very long quotations could hardly be deemed to be in order.
The Minister asked me if I could give him some idea of the type of amendment which would meet the arguments we were making. He seemed to think it would not be possible or else he wanted us to elaborate on the type of amendment we had in mind. I am giving the House the type of amendment I have in mind which is very similar to the type of amendment which the Minister later on will wish to apply to members of local authorities. We are reasonable in asking that this should apply to members of the board. If the Chair allows me to complete it, it will make sense.
() Where a person ceases to be a member of the Board, any particulars entered in the register of members' interests as a result of a declaration being given by the person to the Department of Local Government pursuant to this section shall be removed, as soon as may be after the expiration of the period of five years beginning on the day on which the person ceases to be such member, from the said register by the authority.
The numbering of these subsections will need adjustment.
() Subject to subsection (8) of this section, a person who fails to comply with subsection (1) of this section or who, when purporting to comply with the requirements of the said subsection (1), gives particulars which are to his knowledge false or misleading in a material respect, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.
() In any proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be a defence for the defendant to prove that at the relevant time he believed, in good faith and upon reasonable grounds, either that there was no matter as regards which he was then required to make a declaration under subsection (1) of this section or that the matter in relation to which the offence is alleged was not one as regards which he was so required to make such declaration.
() In this and in the next following section ‘company' means a company within the meaning of section 2 of the Companies Act, 1963, or a company incorporated outside the State."
That is a long section and I am sorry it had to be read out. That is the type of amendment we propose. There is another long amendment with which I shall not bore the House but which goes into great detail on how these matters shall be operated. Our complaint is that the Minister set out in very great detail new regulations which he wishes to apply only to members of local authorities and not to members of the board.
Discrimination against elected representatives.
Surely they should be applied where the greatest volume of decisions is being made, if anywhere, and that is in the board.
The Minister should come clean and remove any element of discrimination. He has cast very serious aspersions on the integrity of members of local authorities. There are roughly 1,500 members of local authorities throughout the country many of whom have given long, faithful and loyal service to the communities in which they live over a great number of years. They are held in high esteem and the fact that a Minister should by making this distinction in a Bill, discriminate against them in this way and so cast a serious aspersion on their integrity, is unworthy of a Minister and certainly unworthy of the Oireachtas and we, in the Opposition, should not be asked to accept such an amendment.
That is the point we are making. We are discussing section 9 and we say that if this type of provision is to be introduced it should be introduced fairly. There are three classes involved in decision-making, the county managers in making decisions at local authority level, the board, under this Bill when it becomes law, who will make decisions on appeal and the members of the local authority who are charged with responsibility for adopting development plans and who have other responsibilities and authority under the Planning Act such as revoking permissions and directing that permissions be granted under section 4 of the City and County Managers Act, 1955. The Minister has chosen the local authority members for stringent regulations on declaration of interest. He has not sought such stringent regulations to be applied to members of the board and he has sought nowhere to apply any obligation to declare interest to the county managers. I hope our contributions so far have brought home to the Minister the problem he is creating for himself.
I have not, nor ever would, cast aspersions on the elected members of local authorities. Aspersions which were cast were cast in the public press and it is to prevent people like those who cast the aspersions from ever getting the opportunity of doing it again that we are introducing this, to prove that people who are members of local authorities will not be caught in the net in which apparently people were caught because I did not see any court cases, as I was hoping I would see, against the newspapers which cast those aspersions. They cast them publicly. They put it down in black and white and every one of us in public life has suffered as a result of the fact that those things were published and were not challenged.
It is all right for Deputy Molloy and people like him to get up and make long-winded statements about what is and what is not being done. We want to protect the integrity of the public representative and this Bill will ensure that it is done. Deputy Molloy read out an amendment to a section of the Bill which applies to public representatives. Am I to assume that if such an amendment is put down to deal with the members of the board the Fianna Fáil Party will accept it?
Can I take it that Deputy Molloy is speaking for the party? Is it he or Deputy Haughey? Deputy Haughey last night, when I asked him a question, said: "Ask my shadow Minister for Local Government." Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue but I noted it with interest. Is Deputy Haughey's shadow Minister for Local Government speaking for the party now when he says that if I put down a similar type amendment to deal with the members of the board it will be accepted by the Fianna Fáil Party? He says: "Yes, it will." On that basis I will have a look at the situation before Report Stage.
We want to ensure that whatever provisions——
Has the Minister concluded?
I will give way to Deputy Molloy.
——are being proposed by the Minister in relation to the declaration of interest will apply in the three areas of decision-making in matters related to planning, that there is no discrimination between any one area and another, that the manager must also be obliged to make a similar declaration, that the members of the board must be obliged to make such a declaration if the local authority members are being asked to make this declaration.
There is a code of conduct which deals with county managers.
No, we are dealing with planning. There must be no distinctions.
Deputy Molloy said that if I put down a similar amendment his party are prepared to accept it. I have got the assurance that that will be done. As regards what happens the other people, I am glad to assure Deputy Molloy and the House that comprehensive legislation dealing with all public representatives and officials who in any way could be affected by this, will be before this House early in the new year.
We are talking about this.
I am glad to be able to say that because that is the sort of thing which is, according to Deputy Molloy, required, one that will cover everybody. I am glad to be able to assure him that this will be done.
With regard to section 9, I was under the impression and I am still under the impression that what is in it is adequate but I said at the beginning that I was prepared to accept reasonable amendments from the other side of the House. The amendment which has been put down now appears to be one which could be accepted. I will have to have a look at it and I assure the Deputies that I will produce an amendment to cover it on Report Stage.
There are two points I want to make quite clear. I said quite clearly that we do not want discrimination as between one group who are involved in decision-making and another. I spelled out the three groups —the boards, the county managers and the members of local authorities. What the Fianna Fáil Party are asking for is that whatever declaration of interest must be made by any one of those groups must also be made by the other two. Did the Minister say he is coming forward in the new year——
I am dealing with section 9 and I have got an assurance from Deputy Molloy which I propose to hold him to on section 9.
That is not the question Deputy Molloy is asking.
I am telling him what he has agreed to and he will not slither out of it now.
The Minister will not slither out of it either.
I do not know what the Minister is talking about. Did the Minister say he is bringing in some kind of legislation?
I have said legislation will be introduced to deal with this whole question in the New Year but we are dealing with section 9 of this Bill now.
What whole question?
The whole question of public interest, public representatives —Dáil, Seanad——
TDs? Senators? Secretaries of Departments?
The President and all.
Have you any reason to doubt your Presidents up to now?
The Minister has made a very important statement.
This is very important. This is an entirely new factor that has entered into the situation.
Deputy Molloy got his £86,000 handy.
You have your chance. Speak away now, Deputy.
Put that ignorant fellow out, please.
The Minister has made a very important announcement here now and that is that there is comprehensive legislation on the way dealing with this whole area. This is something we welcome and we are very pleased to hear it. We have dealt with section 9 within the strict ambit and confines of this Bill and the board and we are reasonably happy with the proposal the Minister made to us across the floor of the House. Is it not the sensible thing then to leave the provisions governing public representatives and put the whole lot into the comprehensive legislation?
No, Sir. I have some amendments here which are going in. Deputy Molloy read one at length and he suggested that it should apply to the members of the board. I asked him whether, if it were introduced as an amendment, he would be prepared to accept it on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and he said yes.
Yes, I did, provided the county managers——
We are only dealing with section 9 and managers are not mentioned in section 9. He can come to that afterwards. As far as I am concerned, Deputy Molloy has agreed that the Fianna Fáil will accept this amendment if it is introduced on Report Stage. If that is so that deals with this particular matter.
Provided the county managers are included.
The Deputy can deal with that when he comes to the section dealing with it. I have an assurance from Deputy Molloy that he will accept that amendment on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party.
Provided there is an amendment dealing with the managers. The three areas.
No, no, no. That does not arise. We will deal with the managers on the relevant section. This section deals with the planning board and he has given an assurance which I will have pleasure in holding him to in this House.
Provided you cover the three groups.
Do not try to wangle out of it. You are hoist on your own petard. You were trying to be too clever. You will stay right on top of it.