I move amendment No. 75.
In page 16, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following new section:
28.—(1) It shall be the duty of a member of a planning authority to give to the authority a declaration in the prescribed form, signed by him and containing particulars of every interest of his which is an interest to which this section applies and for so long as he continues to be a member of the authority 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 authority a fresh such declaration.
(2) This section applies to the following interests, namely:
(a) any estate or interest which a member of a planning authority has in land situated in the area of the authority,
(b) any business of dealing in or developing land in which such a member is engaged or employed and any such business carried on by a company or other body of which he, or any nominee of his, is a member,
(c) any profession, business or occupation in which such a member is engaged, whether on his own behalf or otherwise, and which relates to dealing in or developing land.
(3) A person who is a member of a planning authority 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 authority a declaration mentioned in that subsection within the period of twenty-eight days beginning—
(a) in case the person is such a member on the commencement of this section, on such commencement,
(b) in case the person becomes such a member after the commencement of this section, on the day on which he becomes such a member,
(c) in case there is a change regarding an interest particulars of which are contained in a declaration already given by the person or where the person acquires any other interest to which this section applies, on the day on which the change occurs or the other such interest is acquired.
(4) For the purposes of this section a member of a planning authority 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) A planning authority shall for the purposes of this section keep a register (which register is in this section referred to as the register of member's interests) and shall enter therein the particulars contained in declarations given to the authority pursuant to this section. The register of members' interests shall be kept at the offices of the planning authority and shall be available for public inspection during office hours.
(6) Where a person ceases to be a member of a planning authority, any particulars entered in the register of members' interests as a result of a declaration being given by the person to the authority pursuant to this section shall be removed, as soon as may be after the expiration of the period of five years beginning on the day on which the person ceases to be such member, from the said register by the authority.
(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 guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.
(8) In any proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be a defence for the defendant to prove that at the relevant time he believed, in good faith and upon reasonable grounds, either that there was no matter as regards which he was then required to make a declaration under subsection (1) of this section or that the matter in relation to which the offence is alleged was not one as regards which he was so required to make such declaration.
(9) In this and in the next following section "company" means a company within the meaning of section 2 of the Companies Act, 1963, or a company incorporated outside the State.
This amendment proposes to insert in the Bill a new section under which members of planning authorities will be obliged to make declarations of certain interests and to keep these declarations up to date for as long as they are members. The new section is not designed to provide for a general register of interests. This would not be appropriate in planning legislation and is being considered separately. Instead, the section provides for a register of those interests which would be relevant to the functions exercised by councillors under the Planning Act or otherwise in relation to land deals.
Under subsection (1), it will be the duty of each member of a planning authority, that is, a county council, county borough or borough corporation or urban district council but not town commissioners, to give to the authority a written declaration, in a form to be prescribed, of certain interests which could affect the performance of his duties as such member. A member will be required to keep his declaration up to date by submitting a fresh declaration when circumstances change, that is, when he acquires a new interest or when there is a change regarding an interest already registered. The form of the declaration will be prescribed by regulations under section 10 of the 1963 Act. The form will be a simple one, basically a list of headings under which the member can fill in any registrable interests which he has.
Subsection (2) lists the interests to which the section applies. They are, first, interests in land in the area of the authority, secondly, any business of dealing in or developing land in which a member is engaged or employed and any such business carried on by a company or other body of which he, or his nominee, is a member, and, thirdly, any profession, business or occupation in which a member is engaged and which relates to dealing in or developing land.
The interests have been defined in such a way as to cover a considerable number of situations. For example, while a member would not ordinarily be required to make a declaration regarding employment as, say, an accountant, he would be required to declare this if he is employed as an accountant by a builder or developer, that is, subsection (2) (b). Again, a member who is employed, or is in private practice, as an architect or auctioneer would be required to declare this under subsection (2) (c). The member who owns land or has an option or any other enforceable interest in land is covered by subsection (2) (a).
Subsection (3) provides that in the case of existing members, a first declaration must be made within 28 days of the coming into operation of the new section; new members—either coopted to existing councils or elected to new councils—will have a similar period beginning on the day they come into office to lodge any necessary declarations. The same period will be allowed for the submission of a fresh declaration where there is a change of circumstances.
Subsection (4) makes it clear that a member of a planning authority will be regarded as having an interest in land if he, or a nominee of his, is a member of a company or other body which has an interest in the land. Some provision of this kind is essential if members are to be prevented from evading the requirement to register their interests in land by transferring their holdings to companies managed, perhaps, by nominees of theirs. It may be, however, that the subsection, as drafted, goes too far since a councillor could be a member, that is, a shareholder of a very large company with numerous land holdings throughout the country. For this reason, consideration might be given to limiting its application to cases where the member has a substantial shareholding in a company and should, therefore, be expected to be familiar with its property holdings. In relation to the existing draft, it could, of course, be pointed out that subsection (8) provides a good defence where the member shows that he believed in good faith that the matter in relation to which an offence, for example, a land holding, is alleged was not one which he was required to declare.
Subsection (5) provides for the keeping by each planning authority of a register of members' interests. This register will contain the particulars given in declaration under subsection (1). It will be available for public inspection at the offices of the planning authority during office hours.
Subsection (6) provides for the removal from the register of entries relating to a member five years after he ceases to be a member. It is considered necessary to retain entries for this period because planning and development is a long-term business and questions could be raised about planning decisions years after they are made. The retention of entries will be a safeguard for the public and, indeed, for a councillor, too, since it will enable him to allay suspicion by pointing to the fact that he had made a proper declaration at the relevant time.
Subsection (7) makes it an offence to fail to make the required declaration or to give particulars in a declaration which are, to members' knowledge, false or misleading. The penalty, or summary conviction, will be a fine of up to £100, or imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
The purpose of subsection (8) is to provide a good defence for a person who can show that he believed in good faith and upon reasonable grounds either, one, that there was no matter as regards which he was required to make a declaration or, two, that the matter in question was not one as regards which he was required to make a declaration.
Subsection (9) defines "company" for the purposes of the new section 28 and the new section 29 as a company within the meaning of section 2 of the Companies Act, 1963, or a company incorporated outside the State. Section 2 of the Companies Act, 1963, defines "company" as "a company formed and registered under this Act, or an existing company". "Existing company" means a company formed and registered in the State under the earlier Companies Acts.