The House has already debated section 9, and Deputy Haughey's amendments thereto, at some length. Before the adjournment of the debate, I undertook to put down Report Stage amendments so as to extend the range of interests covered by the section and so as to provide for a declaration in writing by a board member when a matter in which he had an interest came up for consideration.
Deputy Molloy, who had not put down any amendments to section 9, then raised the question of applying to board members a provision on the lines of the new section which it is proposed by amendment No. 75 to apply to local councillors.
It is necessary to stress, as I did the last day, that the proposed provisions in relation to local councillors are of an interim nature. For that reason, and because the matter is being dealt with in the context of the Planning Bill, it was proposed to provide only for a register of those interests of councillors which would be relevant to the functions exercised by them under the Planning Acts or in relation to the acquisition or disposal of land by a local authority. While it is true that councillors may, through the use of section 4 of the 1955 Act, occasionally intervene in planning control matters, the interim provisions are related primarily to their functions of plan making and variation, land-use zoning and reservation, land acquisition and disposal. These functions are not on all-fours with the functions of the board.
Despite what I have just said, I undertook in the light of the points made in the debate—and I repeat that undertaking now—to put down a Report Stage amendment to apply a provision on the lines of the new section 28 (Amendment No. 75) to board members.
This raises the question as to whether we should go further and include similar provisions in relation to the staff of the board and the officers of planning authorities. The attitude which I expressed at the time was that it would be preferable to wait for the general legislation which is in preparation when all aspects of the matter could be dealt with. I felt that the position of these people would be better considered in the general context.
I have since given the matter very careful consideration. We may be dealing with the matter in a somewhat piecemeal fashion but, other than that, there is no great objection to the application to board and planning authority staffs of provisions similar to those in section 9 and in amendment No. 75.
Accordingly, I should like to make it clear that I have no objection in principle to such provisions. It will be appreciated, of course, that some adaptation of the provisions will be necessary and that there may be complexities in existing local government law which will need to be examined. Deputy Molloy has already put down amendments which are generally in line with the sort of thing which I have in mind but I am aware that he did not have much time in which to prepare these amendments. I hope that he will not take it as a reflection on his drafting if I suggest that we should have the matter examined with the Parliamentary Draftsman.
In any event, it is now too late to put down for discussion on Committee Stage the amendment to section 9 which I promised to introduce on Report Stage. I would suggest that the more sensible course is that, on Report Stage, we should consider together amendments to deal with the proposal for a register of interests for board members, and for a register of interests and for restrictions in respect of employees of the board and of planning authorities. We shall by then have had the advantage of our discussion on Committee Stage on amendment No. 75. Taking it that the amendment will be accepted, I shall put down the further amendments for Report Stage and I envisage that we should then have no difficulty in reaching agreement.