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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Jan 1975

Vol. 277 No. 1

Death of Members. - Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."

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.

Our thanks are due to the Minister for meeting the point we were making the last day, but the issue I was putting forward was that, whatever restrictions or obligations are to be laid on members of local authorities as regards declaration of their interests, the same type of restrictions and regulations should apply in the other two areas, the members of the board and the county manager. The Minister seems to be meeting our point of view and suggesting that he will put down an amendment on Report Stage to cover this. But we still have, on Committee Stage, the Minister's amendment No. 75 which deals with the members of local authorities. Would it not be better to withdraw that amendment and debate it in full on Report Stage with the other two amendments the Minister is suggesting he will bring forward?

I think it would be better to discuss it now when we reach it on Committee Stage. Then we will know better what we are all thinking of and it will afford us an opportunity of deciding what will be inserted. As we are all aware, discussion on Report Stage is restricted. It would be much better if we could insert it on Committee Stage so that we can discuss it across the House and find out if there are the weaknesses which Deputy Molloy suggests.

Could we have an assurance from the Minister that whatever we decide will apply to members of local authorities, that the amendments which the Minister will bring forward on Report Stage will apply the same type of restrictions and obligations on the county manager and on the members of the board and employees of local authorities?

The principle is exactly the same. I made clear at the outset, and I want to make clear again, that this not the be-all and end-all. This Bill deals with planning. I see no reason why this type of principle should not apply all round if the House so feels. At the outset I said I was prepared to accept reasonable amendments. I still believe we can have a very good Bill if we follow that line.

Could we have the Minister's assurance——

——that similar types of obligations or responsibilities in regard to declaring their interest will fall on these other areas in the Minister's Report Stage amendments; that we will not be passing something in Committee which will apply to members of local authorities and then, on Report Stage, apply a somewhat less restrictive form of declaration of interest?

Would Deputy Molloy accept the same principle?

So long as we have the Minister's assurance that he will try to introduce something that will cover them all equally. Leaving all that aside, there is the other point that if the Minister is coming forward with a Bill, which is obviously going to be a very important one laying down provisions obliging persons in public life and public employees to make declarations of interest, in a general sense, in areas other than planning, would the Minister not again consider it foolish going ahead with this piecemeal amendment which deals only with the whole planning field? Would it not be better to discuss this whole thing globally?

No. I think it would be foolish to go ahead with a Planning Bill leaving out certain things which we all feel should be included and then at a later stage introduce a Bill which would cover them. If we were not contemplating the other Bill at all everybody would agree to put them in planning. The other is coming along but that does not alter the fact that we need this in planning and therefore we should put it in. Deputy Molloy accepted the last day that it was necessary that this be included and he suggested that it should be included for officers as well as elected representatives. I have now accepted that that is a line which should be followed. I propose to proceed with this Bill, including whoever is likely to be affected, so that when it is passed it will be legislation which can stand on its own. What we do afterwards is a different matter.

The point I was making the last day was that if the Minister was determined to introduce his amendment No. 75 and all that that implies for members of local authorities our concern was that there would be seen to be equal application of these types of restrictions and rules on persons involved in planning other than merely public representatives. It was on that basis that we agreed to this. But we do feel it would be wiser to have a general debate under the Bill the Minister proposes bringing forward because there are very important principles involved and this House is giving them very little thought.

It is a major change in the traditional obligations and responsibilities that have fallen on members of the Dáil, Seanad and local authorities down through the years. The Minister now wants to write into legislation things that were accepted as a code of honour. I wonder if the insertion of an amendment in the middle of a Committee Stage debate is the wisest way to do this. Would not it have been better to wait and discuss this whole question in very great detail on the general Bill which the Minister proposes introducing later on? That would seem to us to be the sensible, proper and best way to do it. It would afford the House an opportunity of understanding exactly what the Government are doing in this respect. But if the Minister is not prepared to withdraw his amendment and withholds debate on this whole question until such time as the general Bill is brought forward then we must stand over our position in seeking equal application of those types of restrictions.

I will accept that but I do not propose to withdraw the amendment.

I want to reinforce what Deputy Molloy has said in this regard because I took the same attitude the last day we discussed this here. It seems to me that this is a comprehensive and complex piece of legislation in so far as it concerns planning as such and that it is difficult enough to deal with in that way. What we are now introducing, on the side as it were, is almost an equally major subject. That is, the whole question of disclosure of interests and the responsibility to be placed on elected representatives and public servants of one sort or another. The Minister and the Government are taking the right approach when they say they will bring in one comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with everybody and everything. I think that is right and the way it should be done because, as Deputy Molloy has said, it is a new departure; it introduces an entirely new principle into our public life. Therefore, it is correct and fitting that it be dealt with in one comprehensive piece of legislation which will cover everybody and all aspects of public life; that we get away from the notion that has become prevalent in recent times that planning is something corrupt, dangerous and suspect and that attention must be directed specifically to planning matters.

Therefore I would very strongly urge the Minister to withdraw the whole thing; to withdraw the provisions in regard to public representatives, in regard to local government officials and in regard to the members and staff of this new board and cover everybody in the new comprehensive legislation. I want to express appreciation with Deputy Molloy, of the way in which the Minister is meeting us in this regard. But if the Minister is going to proceed in the way he suggests and introduces fairly major changes in the public service into this Planning Bill, and then has subsequent comprehensive legislation dealing with Deputies, Senators and public servants of all sorts, we will be left with a sort of legislative mess. We will have half the law governing these matters in this Planning Bill, where they do not really belong, and the remainder in a comprehensive piece of legislation. The whole thing would be, to say the least, untidy.

In addition, there is the important principle to which Deputy Molloy has adverted, that these changes which the Government and the Minister now contemplate are fundamentally important. Therefore, it is important that they should be discussed by the House and be recognised as being the important change they represent. While agreeing with Deputy Molloy and welcoming the way the Minister is meeting us in this restricted sense, I would very strongly urge—as I did the last day— that the whole matter be left over to the comprehensive legislation the Minister tells us the Government have in mind.

Having said that I would like the Minister to clear up one further matter. This concerns section 9. As I understand it, we are to have what I shall call the register provisions which are incorporated in amendment No. 75. These provisions are related to the elected representatives of local authorities but the Minister intends now to bring in provisions of a similar type in regard to public authority planning staffs and to the members and staff of the board. All this is to be incorporated in this Bill. In addition, is section 9 to remain and will it be changed along the lines which the Minister indicated on the last day or will the section be subsumed into these new amendments which he proposes to introduce on Report Stage?

On the last occasion we had fairly general agreement between us as to the way in which we could recast section 9 but that was in a situation where the Minister's amendment No. 75 was to be applicable only to elected representatives of local government. Will these new proposals in regard to the board and their staff eliminate the need for section 9 or will the section remain in the way in which we agreed it should be amended?

As the Deputy knows, we reached agreement on the last occasion on a certain form of words which he suggested. The principle of the section will remain the same. We will have to include the suggestion put forward subsequently by Deputy Molloy.

This Bill replaces the previous one. The big change here is the setting up of a board to replace the Minister in dealing with planning appeals. The Bill has been on the way for a long time. Prior to its publication a good deal of Press publicity was given to the question of rezoning. In regard to rezoning neither the board nor the Minister will have any say in so far as appeals are concerned but in respect of a planning appeal the Minister can contravene the development plan or the zoned areas which are determined by the planning authority.

While it is good that this whole question of the interest of elected people, whether they be members of the Dáil or of local authorities, be tidied up in a future Bill, I think it was the Press publicity to which I have referred which prompted the Minister on this question of determining planning appeals to introduce the provision for the declaration of interest. So far as the board and the appeals are concerned the question of zoning does not arise. Elected members of local authorities do not have very much say either in this regard. Therefore, I agree with the other two speakers who have advocated that the Minister should not deal with this matter in piecemeal fashion.

While there is agreement on both sides of the House on the question of declaration of interest on the part of members of local authorities and of all those dealing with planning and, indeed, all those dealing with other spheres of activity, we must assume that it is being included here in a rushed manner as a result of the Press publicity given to rezoning in Turnapin Lane and in other areas. I am not against Press publicity. It is only right that matters such as this be aired publicly but in this instance I suspect that the Minister was influenced by the publicity. Therefore, we can take it that in the absence of any such publicity the Bill would have been introduced without this section especially since there is promised a Bill dealing with the interests of those involved in public matters, whether at local or at Dáil level.

I would prefer that this item be removed from the Bill and that it be included with the other matters which are to be dealt with in a comprehensive piece of legislation so that Members of this House who are interested not only in local government but in all spheres of activity concerning elected Members would have a say in regard to all these matters and that they would be able to study the proposals in that Bill. It may well be that when the comprehensive Bill is being debated we may wish to change whatever we do in this connection now. Therefore, it would be wise to withdraw section 9 from this Bill.

There is not much point in reiterating what was said the last day. There seems to be a difference of opinion in that so far as Fianna Fáil are concerned I should not include in this Bill the section dealing with declaration of interest and that we should wait for the subsequent Bill which will be coming before the House, first, when it is ready and, secondly, when it can be taken in the House. On the other hand the Government want the provision of a declaration of interest included in this Bill. For a number of reasons we believe that it is essential to include that provision here.

Listening to the Deputies opposite one would get the impression that never before was there passed legislation which was followed quickly with further legislation. We know that time and again sections of one Bill are covered by sections of a subsequent Bill or that they are nullified by subsequent legislation.

Deputy Cunningham referred to the newspaper publicity given to the question of rezoning. That is fair comment. I suppose that that publicity had some bearing on the measure proposed here in so far as I decided to take certain action in view of certain matters that had come to light. I do not like the type of newspaper publicity where apparently it is all right for named or unnamed scribes to say terrible things about a politician or a member of a local authority. It is well known that politicians do not come out too well out of courthouses. After a lot of annoyance they may win and even get a small amount in damages. For that reason some statements published in the newspapers are not challenged.

All this can be avoided so far as planning is concerned. We should lay down regulations in this Bill making it an offence to do this. I believe that elected representatives, no matter to what organisations they belong, are honourable men and women. I also believe it is wrong that people throughout the country should try to claim that they alone are pure and everybody else belongs to a gang of crooks, especially those engaged in politics. The only way we can ensure that this is stopped is to put down the score in black and white. Then, if somebody wants to have a go it will be easy to deal with him because this legislation covers the rules of the game so far as planning is concerned. I am sure my colleagues across the floor agree that we should lay down these rules. Having done so, all this nonsense which has been carried on for some time will be stopped. Therefore we must include in this Bill the section I have put in. The other Bill will be introduced later. I told Deputy Haughey that I was an anxious as he to have this Bill passed quickly. I think we agreed on the end of June, if possible.

When does the Minister expect the other Bill to be introduced?

There is not much point introducing a Bill of that kind, even if it were ready now, when this Bill is making such slow progress. I should like to see it introduced before the summer recess.

Who will bring in the other Bill?

A very wide group of people will be covered by the other Bill. It will be a matter for the Attorney General to decide the type of legislation. I think the Attorney General will be introducing it.

Will the Attorney General be introducing the Bill here?

That is right.

That reinforces our argument that everything should go into the other Bill.

I am not prepared to agree. I got agreement from Deputy Haughey the last night and Deputy Molloy agreed on the principle, provided it was applied to other people. We are prepared to apply it to other people. Therefore I want this section as it is.

We are not being abrasive.

If the Minister tells us that he will stick to amendment No. 75, and we assume he has the vote to put it through, we feel this question would be better dealt with under the general Bill, which will cover every aspect and not single out and make a separate case for planning. If the Minister goes ahead with the amendment and will not accept our advice to withdraw and discuss this new principle under the general Bill, we must insist that our amendments be incorporated in some way in his suggested amendments on the Report Stage.

There is not much point in delaying for very much longer on section 9, if the Minister is adamant and will not accept our wise advice. It would be better for Parliament if this were not discussed in a sleight-of-hand way. It came in after the Bill was published and was put in as an amendment which we have shown to be lopsided. This area could be greatly improved by an examination by way of debate in the House. As I said, if the Minister is adamant in going ahead with the amendment we will accept his assurance to bring in his amendments on the Report Stage which will apply the same principle to members and staff of the board, to the county and city managers and planning staffs in the local authorities. If I have that assurance from the Minister, I will agree.

I have already given that assurance.

In our opinion it was wise to highlight the fact that it would be better to discuss this under the general Bill.

I have one further point arising out of what the Minister said about the comprehensive Bill. Perhaps he would mention to his colleague who will have charge of that Bill the concept of making the members of the Press, who write about these matters, disclose their interest too.

The Press have their own ways of getting information and forming opinions. I would hate to be responsible for having it said we were muzzling the Press in any way.

Disclose their interests.

I agree with Deputy Haughey that, if somebody prints or causes to be published very damaging and untrue statements about people in public life, they should be prepared to disclose their source of information. Then the person giving the information could be dealt with. Unfortunately the experience of politicians who have taken cases to court for slander has not been happy. They have won their cases but——

I am not concerned that they should disclose the source of their information. There is a very important principle involved here. Journalists should be able to keep their sources of information confidential. I am concerned about another aspect. If politicians and public servants must disclose all their interests, it might not be any harm to have a similar compulsion that members of the Press who write about planning should disclose their interests, not their sources of information.

They are neither elected public representatives nor members of local authorities. Therefore we must depend on their own code.

Will the comprehensive Bill as now visualised apply only to elected representatives and public officials?

I would hate to try to discuss the terms of that Bill now. My own view is that it should apply to as wide a field as possible in the public life.

Do I understand from this section that the chairman of the board and everybody connected with it must disclose their interests? Is that correct?

I have agreed to put in amendments to cover that.

Does that apply to everybody?

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In subsection (1), page 4, line 44, to delete "such and".

At the moment the section reads:

The Board shall appoint such and so many persons to be employees of the Board as the Board, subject to the approval of the Minister, from time to time thinks proper.

I am concerned here with the question of the approval of the Minister. As the section stands, the Minister would have to approve of the person appointed by the board. The effect of including the words "such and" in line 44 would be that the Minister would have to approve of the particular person the board wish to appoint. I do not want that and I am sure the Minister does not want it either. It is intended that the Minister should approve the number of persons the board should appoint. That is desirable. The Minister responsible for a board should have control over the number of persons employed by that board. I think we would all agree with that principle but the inclusion of the words "appoint such and so many persons" in the section would infer that the Minister could say "I do not approve of Mr. X" and that is what I do not want.

I am afraid Deputy Haughey has misinterpreted the whole thing. I can partly understand that but he should know that this is a common form which has been followed in section 14 of the Higher Education Act, 1971 and section 26 of the Industrial Development Act, 1969. The phraseology is the same and it has a definite meaning.

I was not responsible for either of those.

The Deputy was around and I think his feet went in a certain direction. The appointments are subject to the approval of the Minister and this means that he will require to be satisfied as to the method of selection and the type of posts being filled and this is how it is interpreted in previous legislation where it has been put in. There is no question of the Minister having any right to say whether the individual person is right or wrong. That does not come into it. This is established practice.

I can only look at the words as I see them and it seems to me that a simple, straightforward reading of the section would result in the following interpretation. The section reads:

The Board shall appoint such and so many persons to be employees of the Board as the Board, subject to the approval of the Minister, from time to time thinks proper.

It seems to me that that clearly and definitely implies that the Minister must approve of the particular individual appointed. I doubt whether the Minister, by sheer force of logic, can dissuade me from that point of view. If he leaves out the words "such and" we will be left with the perfectly valid situation where the Minister will be able to say to the Board: "You can appoint ten planners and six clerical officers" but not to approve of the appointment of a particular individual. As the section now stands that is the situation.

I see Deputy Haughey's point but I still do not agree with him. It is necessary that the persons who are appointed to the board shall be selected in a certain way and this is the only thing that comes in because there might be, if this is left out, the question of some entirely irregular method of appointing people to the board and the Minister, who would be the only person in authority, would not have any right to say: "That is an irregular appointment."

The section is not concerned at all with methods of appointment.

It is concerned with the type and the numbers of persons to be appointed. I want to ask the Minister is he in this section only concerned with controlling the board as to the number of persons they shall appoint to any particular grade or rank or section or division of their activities and does he not wish to appropriate to himself the right to approve of a particular person or to disapprove of a particular person? If he says that to me and I accept it then he must leave out the words "such and".

I am perfectly satisfied with the interpretation which I consider should be given to it. I am also satisfied that common practice has been followed but I will agree to have the matter reconsidered and if there is a possibility of changing it—I am not promising that I am going to change it because I am not satisfied——

If the Minister reexamines it I will be perfectly happy.

During the course of the Second Stage debate I referred to the fact that there could be a situation in which part-time or consultant services are availed of and I said I thought that at all times this should be accompanied by a statutory declaration that the person or persons involved are acting impartially in the interests of and on the instructions of the board and that no vested or other interest, past or present, shall prevent such impartiality. I asked the Minister to consider writing such a guarantee into the Bill. Since then the Minister has introduced amendment No. 23 which does empower the board to engage such consultants or advisers as they may consider necessary for the discharge of their functions. Could he give us an assurance that the Report Stage amendment which we have been speaking about in relation to the declaration of interests will apply also to these consultants?

Section 10 (2) says:

The Board may employ a person in a part-time capacity ...

I think that answers the Deputy's question. If they are employed they are included as employees and they would be covered. They would have to be covered.

If they are on contract will they be covered?

They are still employed by the board. If they are doing work for the board they are employed by the board whether or not it is on contract. Anyone who is taking a decision or making a recommendation would have to be covered.

There could be a play on words here. They may be acting as an agent for the board and supplying specialist advice and they may not consider themselves employees of the board. All we want at this stage is a simple guarantee that such consultants will be included in the general principle to be applied in the amendment the Minister is bringing forward on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 24 deals with this and while I am not quite clear what the Deputy is getting at I will have a look at it but he can be assured that I want to make very certain that everybody is included.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.

Amendment No. 20 is consequential on No. 19 and they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 19.

In subsection (1), page 5, lines 48 and 49, to delete "or for election to either House of the Oireachtas" and in line 49 after "member" to insert "of either House of the Oireachtas or".

It will be quite clear to the House what I am getting after in this amendment. We are concerned in section 12 with the situation where an employee of the board, for one reason or another, becomes a member of either House of the Oireachtas or indeed a member of a local authority. I am concerned with the position of persons who are employees of the board who become members of either House of the Oireachtas. As section 12 stands at the moment there is an inherent contradiction in its terms and it is wrong in principle. Where members of the Seanad are concerned it deals with the situation where a person is nominated as a Member of Seanad Éireann. When a person is nominated as a Member of Seanad Éireann he is immediately a Member of Seanad Éireann. But when we come to Members of Dáil Éireann the section visualises that an employee of the board should cease to be in such employment when he becomes nominated for election to Dáil Éireann. That is wrong. An employee of the board should not be asked to give up his employment simply because he is nominated for election to the Dáil. I am perfectly prepared to accept that he should give up his employment when he is elected to the Dáil but it is entirely wrong and against recent trends in these matters that an employee who is lucky enough, or unlucky enough, to be selected by a convention and nominated for election should have to give up his employment. He may not be elected but he would have to give up employment. We should be quite clear on the principle involved here. The principle should apply both to Members of the Seanad and Members of the Dáil, that it is necessary to give up employment with the board only when one is actually elected to either House.

I am afraid I would not be prepared to accept the amendment. This is dealing with people who will be handling files relating to appeals from all parts of the country. They will be interviewing people, they will be taking part in oral hearings and will be advising on procedures. Does Deputy Haughey suggest that, while they are doing this, they should be allowed at the same time to campaign for membership of either House of the Oireachtas?

It is only a question of a few weeks.

That means that their secondment for a few weeks if they fail is a small matter. If the Deputy considers the matter I am sure he will agree with me that everyone should be guaranteed there will be no conflict of interest. In fact, a system was decided on in the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1973, that a member of the Public Service Advisory Council would cease to be a member on being nominated as a candidate for either House of the Oireachtas. There seems to be a clear precedent for avoiding any possibility of a conflict of interest.

I had nothing to do with that Act.

The House passed that legislation and the Deputy cannot ignore that fact, whether he supported the legislation or otherwise. All of us must take responsibility for it. When I consider some of these matters I spoke against in this House that eventually were passed it causes me some worry, but there is nothing much I can do about it. I must take my share of responsibility, as must all Members. I think the Deputy will agree that we must ensure there will not be a conflict of interest. The proposal included here is a sensible one. As the Deputy has pointed out, it is only a matter of a few weeks.

I am concerned with the employee of the board who is nominated for election. The trend, both by this Government and our party when in office, was towards making the Houses of the Oireachtas more accessible to everyone who has a genuine interest in coming into them. This is a principle to which all of us subscribe. Employees of the board should be facilitated in every way in becoming Members of either House of the Oireachtas if they are so inclined and if they have the ability and capacity to do so.

The way the section stands at the moment it could act as a deterrent, so that a likely and suitable person might not go forward for election, and I want to avoid that. If such a person is nominated for election but fails to be elected he would be deprived of two or three weeks' salary and allowances, which could be important. I do not think that impediment should be placed on any person.

I am speaking from recollection but I think the whole trend in this regard in recent times is that Members of either House should not be members of State company boards and similar boards. That is a perfectly valid and desirable principle and one that should be adhered to. However in other pieces of legislation—apart from the instance quoted by the Minister, of which I am not aware—we have stipulated that the disqualification of membership of boards applies from election only. Perhaps we could leave this matter over and check on it but, speaking from recollection, I am sure we have been adhering to the principle that it is only when a person is elected to either House or nominated to the Seanad that he is no longer eligible to be a member of a board. That should apply to members of this board also.

I do not think either the Minister or myself would be especially concerned with the employee who is nominated for election and is subsequently elected. That person is not in the same position but I am much more concerned with the person who is nominated for election but who, in the event of his failure to be elected, stands to lose salary and allowances for the two or three weeks of the campaign.

Can the Minister tell me if members of the board would be in the same position as senior civil servants and if they would be debarred from political activity?

The argument of the Minister with regard to Deputy Haughey's amendment is difficult to understand in view of the strong case he made with regard to the election of clerical officers to local authorities. We argued they should not seek to be elected and become members of the local authority. The Minister is now saying that a member of a board who is dealing with planning appeals should not be allowed to be a candidate for election to either House of the Oireachtas.

The Deputy misunderstands me. That is not so. I have no objection to a person being a candidate but while he is a candidate he should not be allowed to work on appeals that have gone before the board. That is a different matter.

I put it the other way round. When he is working on appeals he should not be a candidate —that is what the Minister is saying. During the debate with regard to election to local authorities we tried to convince him that clerical officers were not suitable to be elected members of local authorities but the Minister pushed legislation through which permits a clerical officer working in the planning section and dealing with applications on a much wider scale than this board—the latter will be dealing only with planning appeals— to become an elected member of the local authority.

Deputy Haughey's amendment seeks to allow a member of the board to be a candidate for either House of the Oireachtas. If he succeeds he resigns as a member of the board. At the very least the Minister should allow a person to have a run at it.

I would hate to start going back over all the arguments we have had in this House but Deputy Cunningham is repeating an argument he made during the Second Stage on this Bill. He again seems to have missed the point. He was talking about clerical officers. They do not make decisions on planning. I am talking about the members of an appeal board who not alone make decisions but make decisions on a planning appeal.

This section is concerned with employees.

Employees of the board. They would be people doing work which would specifically deal with recommendations for decisions. Clerical officers do not make those. They are planning officers and engineers. They do not make the recommendations on which the decisions are taken finally. It is like putting a battery into something. If you push the battery in the wrong way round it does not work. Deputy Cunningham's suggestion that I was stopping people from standing for election if they were employees of the board is wrong. Of course they can stand for election. I am saying that when they are standing they cannot take part in the appeals procedure. I do not think any of us would like to go into an inquiry over a planning appeal and find that the man who was taking the evidence, taking the decision and making the recommendation, was our opposite number for election to Dáil Éireann in our constituency, let it be Donegal, Dublin, Galway or Meath.

It does not matter if he is a councillor.

The councillor does not take planning decisions. The clerical officer does not make recommendations on planning decisions. I thought we cleared that up before. The people we are talking about are officers of the appeal board who will in fact be processing.

They could be messengers or typists. The Minister is covering everybody here.

I hope that is correct because that is what we agreed to earlier on.

Deputy Molloy does not agree with Deputy Haughey. I can hit a unified argument but if the Deputies are going to argue on both sides it will be a little difficult.

I ask the Minister to look up cases in recent legislation between now and the Report Stage and I think he will find, apart from the one he has mentioned, that where we have brought in disqualifications we have confined them to situations where people were actually elected. We have not brought them in to be operative at the time people were nominated. If the Minister will undertake to look up what has been the practice in recent legislation in this regard between now and the Report Stage I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

I am prepared to see if certain categories could be taken out. There are certain categories which I would not like to see excluded. There are certain categories, which I quite agree, might be excluded.

Perhaps a clerical officer.

Perhaps the Deputy is right.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 20 not moved.

Perhaps we could discuss amendments Nos. 21 and 22 together.

All right.

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 21:

In subsection (1), page 6, lines 6 and 7, to delete "acceptance of the".

This is a drafting amendment which is designed to bring the wording of section 12 (1) (b) more closely in line with the relevant provision of the Electoral Acts. They do not provide for acceptance by a candidate of nomination for election to the Dáil or Seanad. The amendment, therefore, proposes to delete the reference to acceptance and official amendment No. 113 to Article 12 of the Schedule arises from the same point. Amendment No. 22 is also a drafting amendment. As section 12 stands the phrase "so entitled" is not the most appropriate one and this amendment is to substitute it by "holding office as such member". This will make the position clear.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In subsection (3), page 6, line 19, to delete "so entitled" and to substitute "holding office as such member".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle

Amendments Nos. 22a and 22b and amendments 75, 76, 76a and 77 are related.

I move amendment No. 22a:

Before section 13 to insert the following new subsection:

"(1) It shall be the duty of an employee 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 an employee 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.

(2) This section applies to the following interests, namely:

(a) any estate or interest which an employee of the Board has in land situated in the State,

(b) any business of dealing in or developing land in which such an employee 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 an employee is engaged, whether on his own behalf or otherwise, and which relates to dealing in or developing land.

(3) A person who is an employee of the Board and who has an interest to which this section applies shall be regarded as complying with the requirements of subsection (1) 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 an employee on the commencement of this section, on such commencement,

(b) in case the person becomes such an employee after the commencement of this section, on the day on which he becomes such an employee,

(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.

(4) For the purposes of this section an employee 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.

(5) 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 employees' interests) and shall enter therein the particulars contained in declarations given to him pursuant to this section. The register of employees' interests shall be kept at the office of the Secretary of the Department of Local Government and shall be available for public inspection during office hours.

(6) Where a person ceases to be an employee of the Board, any particulars entered in the register of employees' interests as a result of a declaration being given by the person to the Secretary of 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 an employee, from the said register by the said Secretary.

(7) 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 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.

(8) In any proceeding 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.

(9) In this section ‘company' means a company within the meaning of section 2 of the Companies Act, 1963, or a company incorporated outside the State."

The principle incorporated in my amendment will be incorporated in an amendment to be brought forward by the Minister on Report Stage. We have been given that assurance and I wish to withdraw my amendment and any consequential amendments. Is the Minister satisfied his assurance covers the point we were seeking?

I think so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 22b not moved.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 6, between lines 20 and 21, before section 13 to insert the following new section:

"13. The Board may from time to time engage such consultants or advisers as it may consider necessary for the discharge of its functions and any fees due to a consultant or adviser engaged pursuant to this section shall be paid by the Board out of moneys at its disposal."

I suppose with modern technology and public concern with environmental matters we will have, to an increasing degree, appeals involving complex technical issues. My amendment is to make provision for the eventuality that the board might be unable, within their own staff resources, to obtain the specialist advice necessary and might have to engage specially qualified people in order to deal with particular appeals. There is a similar provision in section 21 of the Industrial Development Act, 1969.

Why is it necessary? I would have thought it would have been a normal function.

We might get contrary and say since it was not provided for we were not entitled to do so. It is as well to copperfasten it.

We again have the Minister's assurance that his Report Stage amendments dealing with declaration of interest will cover any persons employed under this amendment to section 13. Is that so?

Yes, that is so. There is one slight snag in it and I suppose we might as well discuss it while the matter is here. Suppose a particular appeal comes along for which a very special specialist is used only once. While some of these gentlemen may be very good in their jobs they can be very touchy about their private affairs. If they were asked, for one particular job on which they would be giving advice, to declare all their interests, it might cause difficulty. However I have given a guarantee and the matter will be coming before the House again. I am quite sure the Members opposite will appreciate that something like this could occur. It might never arise but it could, and we shall have to meet it if it does come.

At this stage the Minister is not too sure how such persons would be covered in his own amendment.

I am not too sure. I have given the assurance that I shall do what is requested of me. I shall put the amendments in and we shall discuss them when they arise, and if it is necessary to have them further changed, I have no objection at all.

At the moment it is the Minister's purpose to include them in the declaration?

That is right.

There is a problem——

It is only fair that I should mention the problem to the House.

Is the Deputy withdrawing the amendment?

We have not come to it yet. My amendment is to the Minister's amendment No. 23. Which should be taken first? That is another question.

We can take the Deputy's amendment.

I move the following amendment to amendment No. 23:

To add the following subsection:—

"(2) The Board shall keep a list of all consultants accepted as a result of periodic open competitions and shall publish all remuneration paid to each consultant in its annual statements."

If the Minister accepts the amendment there is no need for me to go any further.

I am not prepared to accept it. Does Deputy Molloy want to proceed?

If he has valid and cogent reasons, we might not argue it too long.

Deputy Molloy's proposal is to add a new subsection providing that the board would keep a list of all consultants, and he assumes they are to be accepted as a result of periodic open competition.

No. I am requiring that they be appointed by open competition.

There is no such requirement in the Bill or by way of amendment.

No, but as the Minister knows, Opposition Deputies do not have parliamentary draftsmen available to them. What I am trying to convey in this amendment is that the board shall appoint these people only after open competition and that it shall keep a list of all these consultants so appointed and shall publish the remuneration paid to such persons in its annual statement.

I do not think it is feasible. It is easy enough in regard to people appointed to the board who would be "regulars", but it would not be so easy when you come to the out of the way ones. As changes in technology occur more complicated appeals will be coming before the board, and I do not think there should be an open competition for a person who might be required only once. It would be reasonable and necessary to give the board discretion and flexibility. For instance, in regard to the atomic energy plants, it might be necessary to attract a consultant with special knowledge in a particular field. The requirement that the board should publish all remuneration of each consultant would put them in a very disadvantageous position relative to competitors, including the public and local services, where such a requirement does not apply. By virtue of section 8 (2) of the Bill the Minister can require the board to supply him with information as to payments to consultants and, in addition, the accounts prepared under section 7 will include the remuneration paid to consultants, and the Minister could indeed require that they be prepared in such a form as to show separately the total payments to consultants. That should be sufficient. We are out to set up a board which will work and work well. If we hamper it too much it can completely destroy the whole object of the board, and I would ask Deputy Molloy to withdraw his amendment, as it would not help.

This board is a wholly new creature arriving on the scene. It will have very elaborate powers, and it does not have to answer to Parliament in the manner in which the Minister has to answer. At present the Minister is the person charged with carrying out the function of deciding planning appeals. When this board is established we, on behalf of the people, will have very little facility to, if you like, get at this board to be satisfied that it is operating in an open and fair manner, bearing in mind the importance of the work it will be undertaking and the effect its decisions can have on development in this country and the influential position it will hold.

If the board when appointed is to be allowed, as the Minister suggests, to appoint consultants to advise it on certain matters which it considers necessary for the discharge of its functions, we shall be allowing a State board which is not answerable here directly to hand out very well paid jobs to certain professional people in this country and possibly even at times from abroad. I do not see that it is any great encumbrance on this board that it should be obliged to place an advertisement in the newspapers inviting the persons who would have the type of expertise and knowledge it is seeking to apply for the position, to consider their credentials and consider which one they should appoint. Also I do not see why such persons should not have their names retained on a list to be published in the annual report, and whatever moneys are paid to them by this board should be made public.

I think the amendment is a very reasonable one. We are attempting to close as many loopholes as we can. In creating a new board of this nature we are hoping that all that is contained in the Bill will work efficiently and satisfactorily. The Bill is based on practical experience and a certain amount of reasonable hope as to how this thing will work; in fact, we do not know how it will work. The personalities appointed to the board will very much set the trend for the future work of this board. I would be anxious to see that they are tied down as much as possible, especially in matters where they would not be answerable directly to the House. I do not think the requirement of the amendment I have put down is a very great encumbrance on the board or would in any way interfere with the availability of expertise and advice to the board in its operation.

It is rather amusing. Deputy Haughey made a comment a few minutes ago that surely it was not necessary to spell this thing out and I said it was not but we felt it was well to copperfasten it. But it just goes to show that if you try to be too perfect you run into all sorts of trouble. If the amendment was not in the power would be there to do this, and in fact successive Ministers have been using specialists dealing with appeals since the 1963 Act came into operation without this requirement, and there is provision under other legislation for the appointment of these people.

By Ministers. Answerable to Ministers.

We have no planning board yet.

But there is other legislation under which boards have the authority to employ specialists. The argument was in favour of getting the board away from the Minister for Local Government and his staff and putting it on a different plane. Having put them there and having hedged them round with many restrictions, I am not sure whether Deputy Molloy is happy about the situation now because he has referred to the fact that the board will not be answerable as the Minister is. That would seem to me to be going perhaps too far in our efforts at trying to copperfasten this. Deputy Molloy's amendment is simply not reasonable because if we do what he suggests then something will have to be done that is not being done already and there will have to be a special reason for it. As I said, there will be provision under which certain information can be available. I believe this is entirely different from the special consultants. They are different from the part-time staff engaged to decide planning appeals, retired local authority engineers, and so on, and they are dealt with under section 10. These are a different breed altogether. I do not think this amendment should be accepted. Special consultants have been engaged in the past by successive Ministers. Deputy Molloy himself had that experience.

We are now changing from the Minister to a board.

The reason we are changing is that we feel—I am under the impression that this is also the feeling of Fianna Fáil—this should be taken away from the Minister and given to an independent board.

Now we are saying that if a specialist is appointed we must have, as they say in the country, his seed, breed and generation, otherwise he cannot be employed. I do not think the reason given for the amendment is a good one and therefore I cannot accept the amendment.

I have no time for consultants and I do not agree at all with the transfer, but I am asking the Minister to accept this amendment. I wonder how many completely independent people there are. The Minister is handing this responsibility over to people who will not be responsible to the public, as the Minister is; if the Minister does something wrong he has to go before the people. Here he is handing over this responsibility to a board, an allegedly independent board. I do not know anybody in this country who is completely independent. The Minister will give these people authority to appoint experts. This is a word that annoys me.

Not experts, consultants. They are different.

These people will not have any responsibility to state how much they pay these so-called experts. This is going too far. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.

"The Board shall keep a list of all consultants accepted as a result of periodic open competition": is it suggested that some of these people brought in from far-flung fields to give advice should take part in a local competition before we allow them to advise the board on matters on which they may be the only specialists in the world? I do not think that would be reasonable.

There is only one way to find out—put in an advertisement and leave it open.

I have come to the conclusion now that Deputy Molloy does not think this board is such a good thing after all.

We are trying to build in safeguards and the Minister puts another slant on what we are trying to do.

I would not be as concerned about this question of open competition as Deputy Molloy is, but I see his point. I would be more concerned with keeping a list of consultants and publishing the remuneration paid to them in the annual statement of the board. This is a very important matter. I am sure the Minister is as well aware as I am of a story in current circulation; it has a certain background which I shall not recount to the House for reasons of delicacy and good taste. The point of the story is that, when one can no longer do it oneself, one becomes a consultant.

To some extent in recent times, in the public service and elsewhere, we have all become victims of this consultancy mania. Nowadays when a problem crops up, instead of getting to grips with the problem ourselves and accepting our own responsibilities and bringing our own common sense, experience and intelligence to bear on it, we rush to bring in consultants. Very often in many different aspects of trade, industry, commerce and the public service, we find people masquerading as consultants who, on closer investigation, turn out to be people who have failed miserably in their own particular trade or profession prior to establishing themselves as consultants.

I say this because I am concerned that the board should employ only proper, worthwhile, useful firms of consultants and the only way in which we and the general public can be satisfied in this is if the consultants engaged by the board are known, their names published and also the fees paid to them.

And their cost.

And their cost. In this House from time to time Deputies, usually on this side of the House, put down questions to the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice about the counsel employed by the State over a particular period and the fees paid to them. That information is disclosed to the House and to the public. In other areas too the fees paid to professional firms, experts and consultants are fully disclosed to the House and to the public. In certain other areas they are not. The Minister and Deputy Molloy have been seeking for a generality to apply and to have any restrictions, limitations or compulsions imposed apply to everybody. There is a great deal to be said in favour of having published in the annual report of this board the names and qualifications of the consultants and certainly the fees paid to the consultants. I would press that aspect of Deputy Molloy's amendment very strongly. It would, perhaps, be even more important that these consultants should only be employed through a process of open competition.

Once we knew who the consultants were, what their standing was, what their reputation was and what fees were paid to them, we would be in a much safer position to ensure that these very important matters were decided on the basis of really expert specialist advice and not on the basis of advice or opinion submitted by—and they do exist—serious firms of consultants.

I would ask the Minister again to deal with the matter of Dáil Questions. In regard to the activities of the board, would Deputies be entitled to put down a question to the Minister about the employment of consultants by the board? Would he or his successor in office be prepared to give information about this aspect of the board's activities? If he says "No", we should press very strongly to have this sort of information included in the board's annual reports.

It is important that we should not confine ourselves to open competition for consultants or advisers. We may come across problems. Take a smelter for example. We may have many advisers on a panel who may not be equipped to deal with such a complex problem and we may have to go outside the country. We should always keep our options open on the the type of advice we get, depending on the type of development going on. The same would apply to oil refineries and we might not have the expert opinion or the environmental expertise to deal with them. Perhaps if we had consulted people, we would not have the farce we have in Bantry Bay today as a result of wrong decisions.

I believe we should be open-minded. We should not have a panel. I would not be terribly concerned about whether the money paid should be made public. I am concerned that we should appoint people with the proper expertise and that we should get value for our money. We cannot pay a good man enough but we can pay a bad man too much. I would not have any regard for what I would see about fees in the paper. I am concerned that the consultant should give us the right advice. We should not confine ourselves to panels. We should select experts for the job we want done. I am easy about fees so long as a good job is done.

We were debating this at a very reasonable level. Quite honestly I believe we are moving away from that now. I would not like to say that Deputy Haughey seems to feel consultants are an abomination, but he did not seem to think a heck of a lot of them. McKinsey and Buchanan come to mind. This Government did not employ those consultants. I am not even talking about consultants of that kind now. Supposing it is decided that an atomic energy plant is to be erected. We have to get experts. We have to get somebody who really knows how it operates and what its effects will be. Is it seriously suggested by the Opposition that we should have an open competition before we employ someone to give us that advice? Let us be reasonable about this.

Of course the names can be listed in the annual reports. I would be a bit doubtful about whether the fees should be made public. It might be possible to get somebody to give advice for a fee but, if he thought a rival of his would be given information about how much he charged and this could be used against him at a later stage, he might not be too happy about giving his advice. We are not talking about the generality; we are talking about really expert people who are top class in their field.

I do not think there is very much in the amendment suggested by Deputy Molloy. There is no reason why we should not give the names. I am doubtful about the wisdom of including fees for publicity purposes. I would most certainly oppose the idea that we should have an open competition. Having an open competition for somebody like this is completely ruling out the use by the planning board of certain types of specialists who would not come to this country for a job if they had to sit for an open competition before they were employed. This is not reasonable. It is bordering on the ludicrous to suggest that they should be asked to do that.

When Deputy Molloy was putting down his amendment, maybe he did not advert to this sort of thing. Maybe he wondered whether we should insist on getting the best inside the country. I would be with him there but, after that, we should depend on the planning board. The planning board should have the full confidence of the House and therefore the confidence of the country. I cannot understand why we should be asked to hedge them around with so many restrictions that it would be exceedingly difficult for them to work.

I believe the amendment is not wise. I ask Deputy Molloy to withdraw it. There is no reason why we should not give a list of the people employed. I will have a look at the question of the fees. I think open competition is completely out. It would cause too many complications.

Arising from what the Minister has been saying, in rejecting the full amendment—he now seems to be accepting part of it—he laid great emphasis on the word "specialist". He even pulled up Deputy Callannan for using the word "expert" and said, "not expert, specialist".

Deputy Callanan is both an expert and a specialist.

We had enough specialists in Galway. We had an overdose of them.

What were they advising on?

I do not see the word "specialist" in the Minister's amendment which authorises the board to engage consultants or advisers. It does not mention the word "expert" or the word "specialist".

Being a wise board they will only consult specialists.

We could debate whether we can have good legislation by assumption or by writing into the legislation exactly what we mean. I would be in favour of ensuring that the Bill was as detailed as possible and with as many built-in safeguards as possible against the type of suspicions which the Minister and others have cast on those who were involved in making planning decisions. If this board are to carry out that onerous task, we should ensure that they know exactly what their job is.

To reject the amendment on the grounds that it is confined to specialists, which it is not, and to build a case around some large oil depot, or refinery, or some such dirty industry of a large nature, is tending to use emotionalism to justify the rejection of the amendment. The powers of the board are quite simple. They are not confined to engaging specialists when they are considering a major dirty industry such as a smelter or a refinery. They can appoint consultants or anybody they consider can advise them at any time.

I can foresee a position in which the board may feel that the pressure of work on them is unbearable, that they have inadequate full-time staff to deal with the number of cases coming before them, and decide to engage outside persons as consultants or advisers to enable them to clear a backlog of planning appeals. They are quite free to do that under the terms of the Minister's amendment which empowers them to do it. In such cases we are creating another type of sinecure, something equivalent to the powers of the Attorney General handing out briefs to senior counsel.

And junior counsel.

The Deputies are judging people by their own standards and this is an unfortunate thing to do.

This board will have power to hand out briefs to consultants or to persons whom they consider are in a position to advise them. This could be done on a large scale and could be quite remunerative for those so appointed. All I want is this safeguard written in, if they are to be the distributors of much largesse to certain persons, professional or otherwise. They should be obliged to publish the list of the names of persons so appointed. It would be much fairer and more acceptable in the public eye if in seeking persons to help them carry out their function they inserted advertisements stating that they were open to receive applications and that these would be considered.

If that is not written in the members of the board will be allowed to operate a form of closed shop which is not a very good principle to be writing into a new planning Bill. I am opposed to such a move. In order to keep this in the open so that everyone can see what the board are doing it would be a simple obligation to require them to state it in the advertisement and to publish a list of those appointed. They should tell the taxpayer also how much they have paid such persons.

If the Attorney General issues a lot of briefs to friends of his own at least the names of those persons and the amounts paid to them are published if the information is sought by way of parliamentary question. However, as I understand it, we will not have the power to obtain this information from the board by way of parliamentary question. We will be told by the Minister of the day that under the Planning Act of 1974——

It may be 1976.

We will have to change the date of this Bill because the Minister is so slow in bringing it forward. This amendment to the 1963 Act does not give the Minister responsibility in the matter. We can be told if we ask such a question that it is a matter for the board and we will get no information. However, if the board are obliged to publish it in their annual statement, the Members of this House, and the taxpayers, will be happy.

The Minister thought this suggestion was unreasonable, but I cannot see how he deems it so. It is one of the most reasonable suggestions I have made during the course of the debate on this Bill. I ask the Minister to reconsider his stand on this matter. I accept that, in hinting he may be prepared to publish a list and that he may be prepared to publish in a very vague form the amount paid, the Minister has gone a bit of the way. The Minister has stated that he is not happy about the open competition, but surely he can see that the board will have the power to issue briefs to certain persons without any obligation to consider others who may be much greater specialists in the particular field. Because of this the board may decide to appoint people who are second best.

If those interested in doing the work had the opportunity of offering themselves and the board was then obliged to make a decision between those who offered it would meet our case.

This becomes funnier and funnier. Deputy Molloy has been talking for the last ten minutes as if this was something entirely new.

The board is new.

I listened patiently to what the Deputy has to say and he should listen to me. The Deputy knows as well as I do that during his time as Minister for Local Government there was a system by which specialists were appointed.

But there was no board.

There was a Minister for Local Government who carried the responsibility. It never struck Deputy Molloy then that there should be an open competition because there might be hooking somewhere along the line.

The Minister is missing the whole point.

Deputy Molloy has the idea that, he having left Local Government, there is bound to be hooking somewhere. We are setting up this board for the purpose of ensuring that there will be a fair way of dealing with it and nobody can say that there is political pull here or there.

The Minister, or Deputy Molloy, are answerable to this House but this board will not be.

They are faceless men.

That is the point the Minister is missing.

I am not missing the point at all. This is what the Opposition wanted. They wanted this taken away from the Minister for Local Government and the appointment of people who would be completely clear and would not be answerable to this House. As soon as we are ready to do that it is all wrong.

Are we wrong if we put in safeguards?

The Opposition should make up their minds. They are hopping from one foot to the other and it is impossible to find out what they want. Deputy Molloy said he was surprised that I found his form of amendment unacceptable. Not alone was it unacceptable to me but it was unacceptable to Deputy Haughey who said so tonight.

We can make this unworkable if we want or we can be serious about appointing a board which will do a good job. When I started tonight I was under the impression that new year resolutions had been made by the Fianna Fáil Party to co-operate and make this a good board. Deputy Haughey has stuck to that but I get the impression that Deputy Molloy has broken his resolution and has gone back to the old story of obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

The Minister should cop himself on.

I have no objection whatever to producing a list. I said I have grave reservations about whether it would be a good idea to publish the individual fees paid to these people and that I am opposed completely to the open competition. Deputy Molloy is talking as if we were talking about an open competition for all people.

That can be so.

It can. If Deputy Molloy checked he would find that under the present Minister a lot of people who were employed under him when he was Minister, and his predecessor, are still in that employment. The idea is to get the best possible advice. It appears that Deputy Molloy has satisfied himself that the people who are to be appointed to the board will either be terribly crooked or a lot of nincompoops who will not be able to do anything right. That is terribly unfair. We should realise that this House has agreed that a board should be appointed and, having agreed to that, there is no use attempting to put into the Bill regulations which would prevent that board from working properly. I am not prepared to accept that there should be open competition for consultants.

On the question of whether or not briefs are handed out to people, senior or junior counsel or anybody else, I do not know the way such things are done. I have heard stories down through the years about how various Governments do these things. A lot of it is sheer imagination. Apparently if one is getting something from a Government it is all right, but if somebody else is getting it then it is all wrong. In this case we are attempting to set up a board which will be independent no matter what Government are in office and which will attempt to deal with planning as we believe it should be dealt with. But there is still an insistence that some ridiculous regulation be inserted which would prevent them effectively from looking outside for an expert if they needed one because I am sure that even Deputy Molloy would admit that one would not get here an expert on, for instance, atomic power. While Deputy Molloy has said that I am referring only to the dirty industries and so on, there are plenty of people here to advise on ordinary things. It is ludicrous to suggest that some of those people who are real experts on such subjects, living in countries where they operate already, should first come over here and sit an open competition before being appointed.

Therefore I am not prepared to accept that section of the amendment. I am prepared to agree that the list should go into the annual report and I am prepared to consider whether or not the question of remuneration could be included—perhaps not individually—but in such a way that we will at least know what is being paid to them. That is as far as I am prepared to go.

I would not lay stress on the point the Minister brought out in his last few words about experts coming over here and sitting an open competition. If that is what the Minister thinks I have in mind perhaps we could have a meeting of minds on this issue by further discussion. Could the Minister give me an assurance, in some form, that the board would be obliged, in appointing persons to advise it, consultants or otherwise, to make it known in some way so that those who wanted to offer their services could do so and that a choice could be made from that group? I do not want to tie people down to an open competition. That is not really what I had in mind at all. But I want to get away from the closed shop idea such as we have seen operating in regard to the Attorney General's relationship with senior counsel. That is what we are setting up here—that this board can hand out briefs to consultants, engineers, planning experts, all types of people. It should be made open in some way. It should be made known, through some trade magazines or Government publication, that anybody interested in offering their services for this work should do so now, or establish a panel on to which people would be allowed write their names, such as happens with a combined purchasing arrangement. In that case, I think manufacturers offer their names to the combined purchasing section of the Department of Local Government and tender their various prices. It is done on an offer basis and decisions are then taken, perhaps on a price basis or others, such as quality and ability to deliver the goods.

I want to get away from the idea that the board can hand out briefs to this wide range of persons without being obliged to do so in an open fashion. They can have their pals. The Minister chose to talk about atomic stations, smelters, oil refineries. The Minister seemed to deny that what I was saying would in fact happen, but I think it can unless the Minister can show me to the contrary. Under the amendment the Minister proposes here, which we have accepted already, the board can appoint the type of persons to whom I have been referring—doctors, engineers, persons with planning qualifications, scientists, any kind of skilled person who can be of assistance at some point in a planning appeal. Those people could be resident in Ireland. One could have one firm of planning consultants set up here getting all the business from the new State planning board. I would not agree with that at all. We would be wrong to allow a Bill to pass here without referring to such a happening and without trying to close that loophole. That is all I want to do. From my experience and knowledge of the Minister's work and of his thinking I feel that deep down the Minister would agree with the argument I am making. I am surprised that the Minister has not seen my point of view in this respect. Perhaps we could get away from this idea of a form of competition if there was a panel established.

As far as the question of appointment is concerned, what happens—and has been happening for years—is that somebody is required to give advice and such people are not so easy to come by; they are not queueing up for a planning appeal to occur so that somebody would ask them to advise.

That may be the exception.

There is no reason at all why there should not be an advertisement placed in the national newspapers every year saying that anybody who wants to have his name included in the list should apply before X date and delete them from the list as required. I am sorry to revert again to the question of the smelter and the atomic energy plant, but they are the exceptions where we would be trying the planning board if we were not careful. If I remember correctly, in the smelter case, there were two experts only available in England. One of them was taken up on one side and the Department of Local Government engaged the other.

The Minister will find a formula of words to meet that special situation.

Were there one expert available only, and that expert appeared on one side, would not it be rather ridiculous that, because of a form of words which we inserted here—"open competition"—we should prevent the board going outside to get somebody to counteract him? I do not want to tie their hands. I would be prepared to consider the question of having some kind of an advertisement inviting applications by those who might be interested. But unless we are going to have political interference—and by that I mean interference by the Minister and the Department of Local Government —the planning board will have to make the decision themselves as to who they should appoint. There would have to be room for an exception, when required, to go outside for experts required to do the job. I would go that far with Deputy Molloy if we could agree on some form of words to meet it. But "open competition" is not the form of words that would be acceptable at all because it would tie things up too much.

"Open competition" for a specialised job. For instance, the Minister speaks about oil refineries and smelters. We managed to get only one expert here. I regret the use of the word "experts" because I do not believe there are any experts. I mean somebody who would know a little more about the subject than would the Minister himself. But, if we are looking for that type of man we will have to go outside for him. There might be two or three countries abroad experiencing the same type of problem. A competition could be held among them. But I am talking about the general type of consultant we have in this country— for instance on the subject of what is and what is not an amenity. They are a crowd of cranks who, if employed by the board, would not allow anybody to build anything anywhere. They would go along and say: "You cannot put a house here." Then you would get another consultant who would say: "A house there would improve the amenity." That is the type of consultant which has this country ruined. Such people were consulted in regard to many buildings here and, to my mind, they destroyed the countryside. Any man with common sense would have made a better job of it. I would recommend a competition of that type within the country.

I hope the Minister will not turn down the question of publishing payment. The country is entitled to know how much this new board will cost the Exchequer. That is why I feel it very important that this House be supplied with that information. I have strong views on that subject.

Deputy Callanan is partially on my side because he agrees that there are specific cases in which experts——

I am leaving experts out of it.

——are not available in this country and when it is necessary to go outside. Surely it is not suggested that such people be asked to take part in periodic open competitions before being considered, because that is what the amendment says? I would agree that in so far as possible within the country, everybody who wished to apply would be given the opportunity of so doing. But in regard to the question of people from outside, we would have to find some way whereby the board would be allowed to seek people from outside if the necessary extra expertise was not available here.

That is going a long way with the argument I have been making. If the Minister is prepared to do that I would be satisfied and take it that he will introduce an amendment which will ensure that persons will have the opportunity of making available their services to the board but that the position will not be left as it is now, whereby the board can decide to appoint for every job and that no one else can as much as offer his services.

I do not wish to be accused later of not carrying out a promise. I am not saying that I will introduce an amendment. I am prepared to consider the introduction of an amendment which will safeguard the rights of people in this country who wish to be employed by the board in that they will be given the opportunity of applying, but I would be prepared to do that only on condition that there will also be a proviso which will allow the engaging of expertise from outside where necessary.

That is all right.

May we take it that the Minister is considering also the other two points?

The question of remuneration is one to which I shall have to give a lot of consideration because it represents a double-edged sword.

Anybody who wishes to be employed by this public body should be prepared to disclose his fees.

It is not so much a question of somebody wishing to be employed by the board. It could happen that we would be seeking someone from, say, America but that that person might not wish to come here.

But in respect of those resident in Ireland, the remuneration should be disclosed.

I will consider that between now and Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 23 agreed to.

Amendment No. 24 would appear to be related to amendment No. 25. Therefore I suggest that we take the two amendments together and, if necessary, there can be separate decisions in respect of them.


I move amendment No. 24:

In page 7, between lines 39 and 40, before subsection (8) to insert the following subsection:

"(8) The Board may in determining an appeal under section 26 or 27 of the Principal Act decide to grant a permission or approval even if the proposed development contravenes materially the development plan or any special amenity area order relating to the area of the planning authority to whose decision the appeal relates."

Section 26 (3) (a) of the 1963 Act provides that:

A planning authority shall not, in a case in which the development concerned would contravene materially the development plan or any special amenity area order relating to their area, decide to grant a permission under this section save with the consent of the Minister.

The purpose of the amendment is to put beyond doubt that the board will have full discretion and would not be similarly limited. The problem will not arise in the case of appeals to the Minister because he has the power to consent to a development plan. He has power also under section 22 (3) of the 1963 Act to direct a planning authority to amend their plan. These powers are not being transferred to the board. If the amendment were not adopted it could be argued that the board had no more discretion than the planning authority have under section 26, subsection (5) (b) of the 1963 Act, as amended by section 13 of the Bill. The board are required to determine an application as if it had been made to them in the first instance. They are required also to have regard to the same criteria as is the case in respect of the planning authority and as set out in sections 1 and 2 of the 1963 Act. What we are doing is giving to the board a right which the Minister has. I think this meets the question raised by Deputy Molloy on Second Reading.

I am grateful to the Minister for meeting that point and for clarifying the powers of the board in relation to decisions which contravene development plans. We welcome the amendment.

Amendment No. 24 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

Before subsection (8), to insert the following subsection:

"Where, on appeal to the Board, the decision of the Board in granting a permission would materially contravene the development plan or any special amenity order relating to the area, the Board shall call upon the planning authority to show cause why the Board should not so decide and after consideration of such submissions as the local authority may make, the Board shall then make its decision."

My own amendment is an important one. It proposes to insert before subsection (8) that where, on appeal to the board, the decision of the board in granting a permission would materially contravene the development plan or any special amenity order relating to the area, the board shall call upon the planning authority to shown cause why the board should not so decide and after consideration of such submissions as the local authority may make, the board shall then make their decision. What is intended here is clear. If the Minister intends accepting the amendment, there is not much point in my making a case in favour of it.

I am not prepared to accept the amendment. I do not know whether the Deputy realises that what he wants to do here is to give a second bite of the cherry to the planning authority. This would be unfair. When submitting documentation to the board in connection with any appeal the planning authority will make their case with due regard to the provisions of any development plan or special amenity area order relating to the proposal on appeal. If the planning authority were to be given a second opportunity of making their case, the situation would be inequitable and it could be argued in such circumstances that the appellant should be given an opportunity to comment further. The acceptance of Deputy Molloy's amendment would result in a further delaying factor in the appeal system and would put the planning authority in an advantageous position vis-à-vis the appellant. I think that on consideration the Deputy will agree that this matter is dealt with adequately.

This amendment would apply only in the case where the planning board were indicating their intention to contravene the development plan. Much emphasis has always been placed on the role of the local authority member in the making of a county development plan. Under the 1963 Act he is the authority that adopts that plan. The involvement of the community in planning is carried out through the elected local representative, much more so than at ministerial or at board level. To a very great extent this has contributed to the ready acceptance of planning since the coming into operation of the 1963 Act. That was an Act which introduced a whole restrictive area in development. Public reaction to it could have been very strong. Many people would agree that the ready acceptance of that Act resulted from the close involvement in planning of the elected local representative. If the importance of the elected representative thus highlighted was legitimate, the decisions have a very great importance within the whole sphere of planning. If the board intend contravening the development plan adopted by the locally elected members of the community, then a major decision is being made here. If the Minister makes the decision, there is Question Time in this House and other ways of putting questions to him. Generally, he is answerable in one way or another through the media and elsewhere because of his public position.

This is a board of faceless men which, on balance, we all agree is a better idea than having one single political figure making the decisions. We are anxious to ensure that as many safeguards as possible exist for the smooth efficient operation of this board. They will also contribute to public acceptability of this board, which will be a very great factor. If the board in their deliberations intend making a decision which is completely contrary to that adopted by the local councillors in the local development plan, which applies to all citizens and to those interested in carrying out developments in their county, borough or city area, then such a decision should be highlighted. Advance warning should be given to the local planning authority that such a decision was to be made. That advance warning should enable them to consider fully the reasons offered by the board for their decisions and, in turn, they can offer their own valid reasons why they should or should not do what they intended in relation to contravention. These extra safeguards are required because of the board. The most important and significant decision to be made by the Minister at any stage is where he contravenes the local development plan in a serious breach of what the local elected representatives intended. The board should be required to do what is laid down in the amendment.

I always understood, under the old planning legislation that, when the Minister made the decision, the local council was the planning authority. Unfortunately, under the Act it was interpreted at local level as the county manager. This is wrong. The interpretation of what contravenes the plan is important. In my county I have seen on numerous occasions where our interpretation and the official interpretation differed. I always understood, when we got in touch with the Minister that his decision was that it did or did not contravene the plan. I do not think he ever said: "I know it contravenes, but I am granting it." I thought it was a question of the Minister having a different interpretation from the county manager. Obviously, I did not understand the Bill. Now all this is being handed over to a board.

When the local representatives draw up a plan they have certain ideas in their minds. In my opinion they should be the final interpreters of what contravenes that plan, and not the county manager, because they drew it up. If we appeal to the board they have the power, as I understand it, to decide against our plan. This board will consist of faceless men. Everybody in this House, with the exception of myself, agrees with this. As a party man I must go along with my colleagues, but if I were boss I would not agree. I am speaking now as an individual. We can spend hours on a plan and submit it to them. On appeal they can then ignore us and not even send a notification. In my view that will be the end of democracy here. It will be a waste of time electing people.

Section 4 (1) reads:

The Board shall, so far as may be necessary for the performance of its functions, keep itself informed of the policies and objectives for the time being of the Minister, planning authorities ...

I presume we will appoint a responsible board. They will be instructed under the Act to take into consideration the activities of the Minister and the local authorities. There is not much sense appointing an independent board if we distrust their every activity.

I support Deputy Molloy's amendment. In doing so, I direct attention to the special amenity order aspect. It is important, if this board, as successor to the Minister in these matters overrules a development plan, that the planning authority should have the right to argue the case for their plan before the board take a decision to upset that plan. Deputy Molloy's amendment seeks to give the planning authority the right to be heard before the decision is taken. It does not seek anything more than that for the planning authority which made the development plan. It merely asks that the planning authority should be entitled to show cause why the board should not upset this plan. In my view that is a reasonable proposal.

I readily visualise—and I agree with Deputy Callanan—situations when the development plan would have to be upset by a decision of the board. As a general rule that need not worry us a great deal. Many development plans are couched in fairly loose terms. In the County Dublin development plan, the one I know best, there are large areas "zoned for the future development of agriculture". Everybody looking at the plan knows that the planners could not care less about the proper development of agriculture in County Dublin.

Deputy Cunningham is listening very carefully.

But it is a handy, omnibus phrase which they use to describe all the areas they do not want at present to plan in detail. They write them off as "zoned for the future development of agriculture". It is perfectly legitimate that from time to time plans are drawn in that general way. We all know that because of the constraints on planning authorities they must leave large areas of their planning areas in a loose situation. Therefore it is legitimate that the board in considering a particular matter would vary the objectives and zonings laid down by the local planning authority. It is equally fair and legitimate that in such a situation the planning authority should have a final opportunity of endeavouring to persuade the board not to upset their plans because they have perfectly good and valid reasons why the plan as originally propounded should be adhered to.

I say that with regard to the development plan in general but in the case of special amenity area orders it is much stronger indeed. If it were my own personal decision I would have argued strongly against the board having the right to upset a special amenity order at all. In the case of a special amenity area order there is no question of the planning authority having used some omnibus phrase to describe a particular part of their area for which they had not got any particular detailed plans or specifications. Here the planning authority have obviously carefully considered some particular aspect of their area of responsibility and have come to a specific decision that a special amenity area order should be made in relation to a particular place or thing and in those cases the right of the board to upset such a special amenity area order should certainly be very seriously looked at before we give them the right ex parte to over-rule such an order. I want to argue very strongly in the case of a special amenity area order that the planning authority should certainly have the right to be heard before such an order would be upset by a decision of the board.

I will be talking later in this debate on the Minister's new proposals in section 31 about this aspect of planning and I shall be giving voice to some very serious doubts and apprehensions about what the Minister is proposing. Mark you, I am not a great believer in the value of planning at all. I have very serious doubts about whether in totality planning is a good thing or a bad thing. That is something that could be very validly argued. However, we have planning and all we can do when we have a planning apparatus is to try to make sure it is as good and as effective as we can make it. Although some of us may have fundamental doubts about the value of the thing at all if we are to have it let us have it as perfect as we can make it.

If there is any aspect of modern planning that appeals to me it is the right of a planning authority to make a special amenity order. That, I think, is a useful and valuable protection of our natural heritage. There are a great many things done in the name of planning that I do not agree with and which I do not think are for the benefit of the community ultimately, but here is one area where I believe valuable and important work of preservation and conservation can be achieved by planning authorities. It would be wrong and dangerous if this new board could, without advancing any reasons to anybody, upset a special amenity area order. What Deputy Molloy proposes is of great value in this regard apart from the generality of the situation. Definitely before the board would be entitled to give a decision to upset one of those orders the planning authority who made the order, and who would clearly have made it for very good reasons, should be entitled to come forward and say: "Gentlemen, please do not upset our special amenity order for this area. We made it for these perfectly valid reasons and you will do very serious damage to our whole conservation programme if you upset this order." I would urge very strongly on the Minister to accept Deputy Molloy's concept in its entirety but particularly it is important that he should accept it in relation to these amenity orders.

To follow what Deputy Haughey has been saying I would like to give some examples. An Foras Forbartha carried out a coastal survey. It was an excellent job and they should be congratulated on it. They supplied the result of that survey to everyone concerned, to the Department of Local Government and through that Department to the various planning authorities. This is something which had the backing of the Department of Local Government and I know that some of the local authorities, those which were in the process of revising their local authority development plans, incorporated the detailed and scientific information which was made available from this source and which planning authorities could not on their own have done as well, in their plans. Here we are with a scientific survey of the whole coastline, the information made available and with local authorities having based their development plans, so far as they affect coastal areas, on this and on whatever information they have from their elected representatives and from the officials of local authorities. In this Bill the Minister is continuing a provision of a very much older Bill and allowing the board to contravene the development plans of local authorities based on the best information that a subsidiary of the Department of Local Government can give. This is wrong. It is running a coach and four through something which the Minister's own Department have decided to do. I hope that later a national survey will be made in respect of mountain and other scenic areas, that the global information will be made available to the local authorities concerned and that the expert advice given will be incorporated in their development plans. To give a board the authority not alone of contravening the development plan but of contravening the best advice available to the Department of Local Government is wrong. The emphasis seems to be, in all debates on planning, on preserving our amenities and so on. The most important asset this country has at this moment and in the forseeable future is the agricultural land and I hope we will soon have a survey of the agricultural land which should not be mutilated by development of any kind. I must compliment the Dublin County Council who have done a fairly good job in this respect.

It could be an example to other development authorities because they have designated areas that are suitable and should be preserved for horticultural and general agricultural purposes. I was very disappointed recently to hear the Minister had contravened part of the county development plan in this regard and had granted planning permission for development on land the Dublin County Council had zoned as agricultural land. I should like more information on this matter, including details of the number of acres involved. The Minister was wrong to take the action he took. Equally it is wrong that he continues the provision in the old legislation. The measure now before the House should not contain that provision. The proviso that elected members of local authorities could set aside the Minister's decision was a safeguard. I understand this clause is not contained in the Bill before us and I should like the Minister's advice on the matter.

This has been a most interesting debate because of the various viewpoints put forward. During the discussions when Deputy Haughey was speaking I said Deputy Cunningham was listening very attentively but I was wrong. The Deputy was not listening at all because what Deputy Haughey said about planning in County Dublin was the direct opposite to what Deputy Cunningham said.

It is a free country.

I am glad to hear there is a little bit of freedom on the opposite benches. Deputy Haughey said he was not sure if planning was a good thing and, if I took him up correctly, he thought the designation of land to be retained for agriculture was rather foolish, particularly around Dublin where land is badly needed for housing and other projects. Deputy Cunningham complimented Dublin County Council for not allowing any building in the county area and for retaining all the land for agriculture.

I did not say that.

The Deputy went as near as could be to saying that.

They had zoned certain areas for agriculture.

Deputy Haughey agrees they were not exactly wise in many of the decisions they took. In fact, they were areas that had been built on and it was only right they should build on them. I am one of the old-fashioned people who believe that the most important thing is to ensure that people have somewhere to live. I get a little annoyed when I hear people in the country talking about the necessity to preserve first, the mountains, then the seaside areas and, finally, the agricultural land. Are these people suggesting everyone who wants houses should move into the cities and the towns? I do not agree with that. While I agree with Deputy Haughey that it is necessary to preserve amenities, I do not agree that a mountain or some seaside areas are harmed in any way by the erection of very beautiful houses in which families can live.

Has the Minister read the coastline survey?

I have read that survey. I am the kind of person who does not believe everything I read. As Deputy Callanan has said, experts are found everywhere. God save us from some of them. Some of the people who compile the reports live very well themselves in good houses. They do not want houses and factories because, as far as they are concerned, they are doing very nicely.

That is a sweeping statement.

I am prepared to agree that, so far as possible, where members of a local authority draw up a proper plan there should be very grave reasons before that plan is interfered with. As a member of a local authority for many years I was responsible for sitting in on the drawing up of a plan. I am aware that many members thought it was a bit of a yawn and a bore to sit in on planning matters because the officials had drawn up that plan. They did not seem to realise that the plan that was being adopted would be administered by officials who would interpret it as they thought it should be interpreted——

The Minister is speaking for one local authority only.

The local authority of which I was a member made an excellent job of their plan—

The Minister was speaking of only one——

The Deputy was not a member of a local authority and, therefore,——

I was a member. The Minister is chancing his arm.

The Deputy is in no position——

I was chairman of a local authority for six years.

The Deputy was not a member of a local authority. He said a few minutes ago that the plan of An Foras Forbartha, the coastline survey, was used by the local authority for drawing up their plans——

I did not say that. The Minister should be accurate.

The Deputy said that when the plans were drawn up——

I did not say that.

What did the Deputy say?

When the revision of their——

"Revision" was not used by the Deputy.

Of course it was. The Minister is only chancing his arm as he always does. It does not matter so long as the Minister gets away with telling lies.

I do not tell lies.

The Minister accuses others of telling lies. Will the Minister accept that I referred to the revision of their development plans?

If the Deputy says he said it I will accept that but I did not hear it.

If I say I said it, then I said it.

These interruptions are disorderly. When Deputies get into an argument certain language may be used——

I did not start this row.

The Chair is appealing to Deputies to be careful and is reminding Deputies that interruptions are not in order.

I accept the apology of the Minister.

The Deputy suggested that the plan of An Foras Forbartha was, he now says, under revision but that plan was not used by many local authorities.

It was used by the progressive ones, such as the Donegal local authority.

I am dealing with planning appeals from Donegal and I know how progressive they were when Deputy Cunningham was in office and how progressive they are in my time. We will leave it at that. As far as the drawing up of the plan is concerned, the local authority members are responsible for that and the interpretation of what they drew up is done by the officials. One of the weaknesses in Deputy Molloy's amendment is that while he says he feels it should be referred back to the elected representatives the wording of his amendment says:

Before subsection (8) to insert the following subsection:

"Where, on appeal to the Board, the decision of the Board in granting a permission would materially contravene the development plan or any special amenity order relating to the area, the Board shall call upon the planning authority to show cause why the Board should not so decide and after consideration of such submissions as the local authority may make, the Board shall then make its decision."

I think he will agree with me that it is the planning authority officials who will make the recommendation and make the comment.

Not necessarily.

The local representatives will not come into it.

There was provision in the old Bill.

All interruptions should cease. They are contentious.

The planning authority make their case. They are entitled to make a full case and they are entitled, as they are now, to revoke a decision if they are not satisfied with it. The planning board will have the right to reverse it again and we can have this ping-pong backwards and forwards. The provision is there and will be in this Bill so it is not such a terrible thing. We must avoid long delays in this whole question of planning. We could have a situation where a local authority were asked for their comments when in fact the planning board had made up their minds that a certain decision should then be given, and they then asked the local authority. There is no provision made in Deputy Molloy's amendment for how long the comments could be made. This could last for six months.

It is a small point.

It is a very big point if you are waiting to build a house and the planning authority wait for six to eight months before they give their considered comments. I do not see how this suggestion will improve the Bill. The situation is that, as at present, the planning authority get the right to make a submission. It goes to the Minister at present and the decision is made. If they are dissatisfied they can reverse it. The person who is dissatisfied with the reversal can come back to the Minister again. This situation can continue under this Bill. It is a very good safeguard which is being retained.

Deputy Haughey says he is not sure if planning is a good thing. The 1963 Act was an experiment in this country because until then, as Deputy Molloy said, there was no control and when planning was first introduced it was an entirely new concept. I would not agree with him that it is because the local authority members had the right to do or say certain things that it worked so smoothly.

It is a factor.

I do not know. I think the local authority did not draw up a plan except in certain counties where there was difficulty with the manager and section 4's were as common as the days of the week. In most cases officials dealt with planning. Until the review came along there was no interference or question of discussion by the local authority representatives. Deputy Molloy is as aware of what is happening as I am. I do not believe it is necessary to introduce this because I do not think such a safeguard is necessary. As it stands it simply means that the officials who have already given their opinion will be asked to give it again. If that is so, should the planning board give the right of appeal to the person who has appealed, and give the information they have got from the local authority, as they must do at present, and pass this backward and forward so that the merry-go-round goes on and on? I do not think that is right. The provision in the Bill is the right one. I cannot see any merit in this amendment.

May I give the Minister an example? If Dublin Corporation make a special amenity order for part of the land surrounding Dublin Bay and an application is made to their planning authority for the erection of an ore smelter within the area of the special amenity area order Dublin Corporation, having made the special amenity order in relation to this area, would naturally refuse such an application. Those who read the application could exercise their right under the Act to appeal to the board when this Bill is passed. The board may decide they wish to contravene such amenity area order in relation to Dublin Bay and could say they intended granting planning permission for the smelter. In such circumstances my amendment would require the board to notify the planning authority of their intended decision. The planning authority would then have the opportunity of discussing it and the public would be made aware, through public discussion, of the board's intention. They could make their final submission to the board before such a decision was arrived at by the board.

I would not see the necessity for this requirement if it was a political figure making the decision because the Minister, in making the decision, would have to satisfy himself that he could defend his decision publicly. This board will not have to defend any of their decisions publicly because they will be independent and faceless persons who will not be expected to answer to the public for their decisions. If the people saw such a decision being made and they understood this amendment it would be considered a reasonable requirement to be included in the amendment to the 1963 Act when the board is established. It is not an unusual procedure and there are precedents for it at local authority level.

In my local authority the facility is offered to members of the planning authority, where they require advance information as to the intended decision by the manager in relation to any particular planning application, that the manager provides the information generally one or two weeks before the date the decision must finally be made, which is normally at the end of a two-month period. The member in my planning authority receives this information. If he disagrees with the intended decision he may then seek support from his colleagues in placing a section 4 under the 1955 City and County Managers' Act requiring the manager to give a decision contrary to the one he intended to give. If that section 4 is passed by the majority of the members of the planning authority the decision is binding on the manager and he must comply.

Is the Deputy now on amendment No. 70a? He has an amendment down dealing with that at a later stage.

I am giving examples.

It seems as though the Deputy is dealing with a later amendment, No. 70a.

I am sure somebody whispered that number to the Minister because I did not see him looking it up. I do not know exactly where it is.

It is in the additional list of amendments.

Perhaps I will be allowed to make a complaint here in relation to the form in which these amendments have been circulated. The list I have does not contain amendment No. 70a. I would like to ask the Minister if he has any influence with the Bills Office to have all the amendments put down on the one sheet of paper because it would help a lot of us.

Would the Deputy have a look at the supplementary list?

I have the list now.


The Minister himself has down amendments as recently as I have. I do not think he is in a position to complain.

I am not complaining.

I am well aware of amendment No. 70a and I shall have quite a lot to say on that when we arrive at it. What I am asking the Minister now is to accept this amendment. I have given him an example of the case where an amenity area order might be contravened, and I would refer to Deputy Fergus O'Brien in saying this, because he is the Deputy on the Minister's side of the House who before he was elected here was a very vocal advocate of the making of a special amenity area order for Dublin Bay. Could I ask the Deputy to let the House know whether he would be greatly disturbed if, having had such an order made, a board such as this decided to flout the wishes of the elected members of Dublin, the views of the citizens of Dublin and the planning authority, and allow a smelter to be erected there despite the wishes of the people?

Our amendment will not stop them making the decision, but at least it will warn the public as to the pending decision. It will give adequate notice of their intention and will ensure that full public debate takes place on the issue. There is no need to suggest that this should happen in all cases. We only require that to be done where the development plan or the amenity area orders have been contravened. I have quoted a precedent. The local authorities are already giving advance information of intended decisions, and I do not see why this board should not be required to give advance information of their intended decisions where they propose contravening development plans and amenity area orders.

I would go along with Deputy Haughey with regard to the amenity area. What I would like to see here is that, if we make an order preserving an area, it would be made for a period of time and that it could not be contravened. Obviously these special orders would not be made for every area but only for special areas. Deputy Molloy mentioned Dublin Bay. However, I am a little at a loss to understand why Deputy Molloy is pursuing this, because if a local authority turns down a decision and there is an appeal which goes, if it did go, to the Custom House, if it was something serious there would be an oral hearing. I attended two hearings not so long ago, one in which the corporation refused permission and the other in which they granted permission. Both sides were represented by counsel. Their senior planners were there and they stated quite cogently the reasons why they made the decision in both cases.

I believe there is no conflict here. The planning authority will have representation and will make their plans. However I would not agree that just before a decision has been made they will say they are going to make this or that type of decision. The case should be made at the hearing, and if there are people there who can make the proper case there is nothing to worry about. If the case is as serious as Deputy Molloy would make out, I would have no doubt that a responsible board would react and turn it down. Deputy Molloy's amendment is asking that the planning authority would be able to lay their cases before the board. There is no problem there. They can do that. I would like to ask Deputy Molloy why he is pursuing something that is there already.

It is not there.

It is there.

It is not. As has been stated by other speakers here, the general run of things is that the decisions are made by the officials, and if the officials refuse permission and it moves on to the planning board, the elected members of the council have not been involved at any stage in the making of that decision. It would be unreasonable to expect members to attend every oral hearing in case some serious decision is made contrary to their development plan or amenity order. I wish to quote from the explanation section of the 1963 Act, subsection (2) of which states quite clearly:

In this Act "planning authority" means—

(a) in the case of a county exclusive of any borough or urban district therein, the council of the county,

(b) in the case of a county or other borough, the corporation of the borough, and

(c) in the case of an urban district, the council of the district.

These people are not consulted in the making of the decision by the local authority. The manager makes that decision. What I am suggesting here is that the board send notification back to the local authority that that notice be brought to the attention of the elected members at their next meeting or at a special meeting, and that it there be debated and that the views of the elected representatives be made known to the board before they make their final decision.

As a member of a planning committee in the corporation I can say that any major planning decision to be made comes before the committee of which I am a member and is fully discussed. Admittedly it is a managerial function, but the manager listens to the debate and will take into consideration our viewpoints. It is his decision, but when it comes to a serious situation the local representatives have a say and when it goes to appeal the people who know what they are talking about and who can put a cogent case to the board make it. The planners instruct counsel to make a case for them, I am quite happy with that, and when it comes to a major decision by the Dublin authority——

Who decides which applications should be considered?

The principal officer of the planning department, but all major ones——

He decides whether they are major or not.

We are aware of the major ones. The Deputy is talking about interference with an amenity area by the building of a smelter, or by the Central Bank.

They would be more serious.

These are the cases the Deputy is making. I am quite happy that when the case goes to the board the local authority, through the planning authority, have their people there to make the case why they refused it. I believe that is enough and we cannot be toing and froing. The manager makes a decision. It can be appealed, and I believe the procedure involved meets the Deputy's amendment.

We are getting a little bit wide of the mark. First of all, I would like to make it clear that as far as I am aware there is no application for a smelter in Dublin Bay or no appeal for such a smelter, lest somebody should take it up that Deputy Molloy has inside information about somebody building a smelter there.

Nobody said it. It was just an example.

We are not having an oil refinery either.

Good luck to the Deputy. Nobody will ever build in Dublin Bay as it is at present.

There is no building going on.

There were 25,650 houses built in the 12 months ended 31st December.

What about the contractors who have gone bankrupt?

As far as planning is concerned, the plan is drawn up by the local authority elected representatives and, under the 1963 Act, the decisions are made by the management. If the information were to be passed back to the planning authority then it would be passed back to the manager.

Through the manager.

To the manager. There is no reference whatever to the elected representatives. It is to the manager the information would go and it would then go to the officials, as it does at the moment, and they comment. The elected representatives do not come into the picture and the amendment does not give the elected representatives any right to be told anything.

In Dublin there is an arrangement whereby the planning committee are given certain information, are allowed to discuss matters and make a recommendation. Whether or not that is accepted by the officials is something they decide. There is no question of the elected representatives being able to make a planning decision. It is, of course, very important that the elected representatives should do everything they can to ensure that the plan they want is the plan adopted and not a plan to which they did not give enough attention and subsequently, if the plan fails to turn out the way they think it should, blame the officials. The same right will be there in future as is there at the moment. The local authority, when they find out what the decision is, will be able to reverse it, if they so desire.

Deputy Molloy referred twice to something on which I should like some clarification from him; he said this was for the purpose of ensuring that the people would know. I do not know exactly what he means. Is he suggesting that we are in this Parliament in some way setting up a planning board and that, when the planning board makes a decision, information should be given about that decision before the decision is actually finalised? What use would that be? I want this planning board to work. I want them to have a certain standing. I do not want to have them sabotaged at this stage by putting in something which would or could result in having pressure being brought to bear on the board when they are making a decision. I believe people should make decisions without pressure being put on them. I am satisfied the present regulations allow the local authority to reverse a decision and that situation will continue under this legislation. I do not, therefore, see merit in the amendment. Secondly, it is not really important. Quite frankly, it will do no harm and neither will it do any good. Even if it were accepted the local authority representatives would still not know what is going to happen in order that they could add their voices. The manager, if he is doing his job, will already have made the strongest possible case with all the information available to the planning board. I cannot see why the amendment is necessary and nothing said so far has convinced me that there is some merit in incorporating this amendment in the Bill.

I have listened carefully to the Minister and I should like to suggest to him that there is something very important in what Deputy Molloy is endeavouring to get at in his amendment. Briefly, I shall refer back now to what I said about planning in general. I am still not convinced that planning is on the whole worthwhile and beneficial to the community, judging by the way in which it has worked out. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and I have had some discussions about cost/benefit analyses as used by his office in a different context. Some day I should like to see a cost/benefit analysis in an economic and social sense applied to planning as it is operated here and, indeed, in other western European countries. I would be very interested in finding out whether the ultimate result is a plus or a minus when all the relevant factors are taken into consideration. That is something that is involved here, though not perhaps primarily, but nevertheless involved in Deputy Molloy's amendment.

The Minister, Deputy Molloy and I have had experience of administrative decision taking, of the sort of situation involved in a planning appeal coming before us in which we have had to take difficult decisions. I have and, I am sure, Deputy Molloy and the Minister have been in the same situation and possibly the Minister will agree with me that there is frequent resort to a particular kind of mechanism. Where one is taking a decision against an individual or an organisation and one has more or less made up one's mind that this is the decision but one also knows that the decision will cause loss, hardship or concern to a person, before one finally puts one's pen to paper one calls in the person and tells him that the decision will be such and such, that it will be adverse to him and, before finally implementing it, one would like to know if there is any official argument the individual can advance before the decision is finalised. In justice, one feels this opportunity should be given. It is a very good safety valve. I have used it and I am sure so have other Ministers and administrators. This is more or less what is involved in this amendment. I see a difference in what Deputy Molloy is trying to get at here and what Deputy O'Brien suggested he is trying to get at. We all know the mechanical procedure. The planning authority take a decision. Those affected by the decision appeal to the Minister. In future they will appeal to the board. The board will send a notice to the planning authority saying they have this appeal against the decision and asking the planning authority what they have to say about it. It is a routine mechanical sort of operation.

But they will already have the opportunity of doing that.

I am coming to that. The board will refer it back to the planning authority and the planning authority will send in the stock reply: "We are turning down this application because it contravenes our plan".

There will be an oral hearing.

Not necessarily.

The Deputy is talking about major contraventions. That is what Deputy Molloy is talking about.

When we come to section 14 we will decide to do away with oral hearing altogether.

I would not do away with them at all.

I am talking at the moment about the situation where there need not necessarily be an oral hearing. The board notify the planning authority that the appeal has come in and briefly ask the planning authority what they have to say about the appeal. That is a pretty routine mechanical operation. In the normal course of events, the planning authority give a stock reply to the effect that it was turned down because it contravened their development plan or some other pretty general observation of that sort, not really, I suggest, getting to grips with the specific merits of the particular application. That is the normal way these things operate.

If the Deputy was at the Central Bank hearing he would not have got that impression.

I have seen countless such documents and applications.

Minor applications.

We are talking about minor applications. "Material" is the word involved in Deputy Molloy's amendment not "major".

Is Deputy Haughey talking about planning appeals?

Yes, where the local authority, having had an appeal referred to them, just gave a stock reply.

The Deputy saw them?

Yes, of course I did. All over my constituency people apply for the simplest little additions to their houses or garages. At the moment I have on hands a case where the local boy scouts have applied for permission to erect a scout den and the planning authority, in their wisdom, have turned them down, if you do not mind. I do not want to talk too much about that, because it will be coming before the Minister eventually. That is the sort of situation we are dealing with.

As I say, up to that point it is a pretty routine, mechanical sort of operation by the planning authority. What Deputy Molloy is concerned with here is where the decision of the board would materially affect the development plan. I am not so much concerned with the development plan in general as I am with the special amenity order. In those sorts of cases there is a different situation now obtaining. The board have now decided that they will upset either the development plan or the amenity order. It has come to a positive decision-making situation. At that point it is no longer a routine matter.

The board will take a decision which upsets the pre-ordained preconceived plan of the planning authority either as a general plan or a special amenity order. Then it is perfectly legitimate that we should enjoin upon that board the necessity, before they finally take that crucial decision to upset the planning authority's concept, to call in the planning authority for one last word and say: "We are going to upset you on this. We are going to rule against you. Have you anything to say before we come to our final decision in defence of your particular plan or your particular amenity order?" That is a very sound administrative principle. That is what is really enshrined here in Deputy Molloy's amendment.

Deputy Haughey has made quite a good case but I do not see many stock answers coming into the Custom House. When the local authority make the case they usually go into quite a lot of detail and they usually give very good reasons. There may be local authorities who do not do that but normally they do. It is their job to do it. The county manager who is making the case—or it is made in his name anyway——

Will the Minister look at the reasons they have given for turning down the scouts den in Shantalla Road, Whitehall?

That would be the notification sent to the applicant.

To the Minister.

When they send the notice to me I am quite sure they will go into great detail about the effect it would have on the neighbouring houses and that sort of thing. They will build up a case. They usually make a pretty strong case. Deputy Molloy and Deputy Cunningham are aware of this. I cannot see where the merit comes in. We have discussed this fairly fully. Obviously the Opposition are very adamant that there is merit in it. So far I can see no merit in it. I believe it is already adequately covered.

Deputy Molloy made a case for going back to local authority elected representatives. This is not specifically stated even in the amendment. I will have a look at it—I will not promise anything—and see if there is something which could be done which would strengthen it. Every protection should be given but, if something is being done, we would want to ensure, number one, that it is the elected representatives, for whom I have the greatest respect, number two, that there is a time limit.

As I say, as of now I can see no merit in it. When I have had a look at it, and when the officials have checked over it, we may find some thing which I have missed. So far I have not heard any case which would convince me that I should amend this. I am prepared to have a good look at it, and if it is considered necessary. I will put down an amendment on Report Stage.

If we have succeeded in directing the Minister's mind, and the minds of his experts, with due respect to Deputy Callanan, we may have succeeded in making some progress. Why does the Minister feel that the amendment, as worded, would not allow for the matter to be brought before the elected members of the council? How does he suggest I should have worded the amendment in order to provide that the proposed decision would be brought to the notice of the elected members? The Minister will appreciate that, in putting down amendments, the Opposition will always try to convey what they want changed in the Bill, and we can elaborate on it in the course of debate. If there is some fault in the construction of the amendment on technical grounds, that is not a great obstacle. I think the Minister understands the point we are getting at. The elected members having being charged under the Principal Act to adopt development plans, in courtesy and for good social and community reasons, should be informed where a decision is being made. Whether it is considered big or small in relation to development it is still a major decision when a board decide to contravene the development plan or to contravene the special amenity order.

The Principal Act states that a reference to contravention of a provision in the Act includes, where appropriate, a reference to refusal or failure to comply with that provision. If there is a refusal to comply or a failure to comply with the general planning principles incorporated in the development plan adopted by the local representatives, it is proper and correct to request that they be so informed in advance, bearing in mind that they are not the people who dealt with the original application. All local authorities do not have the facility of a planning committee such as Deputy O'Brien's local authority have. Even if they did, there is still the weakness that some official, a principal officer or otherwise, has to make a decision as to what cases will be brought before the planning authority.

In fact, I did not say it prevents it from being brought forward, but it does not provide that it should be. It says that the board shall call upon the planning authority. As far as the county manager is concerned, they are the people who made the decision.

Not necessarily so.

It does not spell out that it should be the elected representatives.

What about the reserved functions?

The planning authority make the decision and it would go back to the planning authority.

How would the Minister suggest that it should be worded?

I will have a look at it. Who decides what is material contravention?

Not Deputy O'Brien.

I do not want to build up a whole pile of technical things which will hold up the planning board. They might have to spend days deciding on material contraventions instead of doing other work.

The Minister is raising a hare himself which could delay it.

I am raising it because I feel this is the place to talk about it.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 15th January, 1975.