Private Members' Business. - Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 70a:
Before section 26 to insert the following new section:
"The planning authority, by exercising their powers under section 4 of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act, 1955, may 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."
—(Deputy Molloy.)

The terms of the amendment aim to achieve a situation where the opinion of the manager would not prevail in a case where the elected members felt an application did not contravene the development plan. As the situation stands, and even with the suggested amendment which the Minister has offered to introduce on Report Stage, on which we would like to get further elaboration, it will not meet exactly the situation I am highlighting here. All the members may be of the one opinion that the application does not materially contravene the development plan they drew up but if the manager says that in his opinion it does he informs the meeting that he cannot act, following the passing of section 4, and must submit the matter to the Minister.

My amendment is seeking to give the right to elected members—the planning authority—to make a decision, using section 4 of the 1955 Act, to grant that permission whether or not it contravenes. I am not anxious to go too far on the grounds of giving them the right where it does contravene but the cases that have come to my notice have been ones where in the opinion of the elected members the application did not contravene the development plan at all. But the manager said that, in his opinion, it did. I believe this was a device being used by managers to circumvent the right of councillors to exercise their powers under section 4 of the Management Act.

I feel very strongly on this point. This is a question of interpretation. The county council are the planning authority and they draw up a plan but apparently, the law is that those who have the right to interpret it are the county manager and the officials. Nine times out of ten the interpretation is different from the interpretation which the members put on the plan.

What I want, and Deputy Molloy is trying to get this, is that where there is a difference of opinion on the interpretation of whether or not an application contravenes the plan, as prepared by the council the final say should be with the council as it is the council's plan. The council should have the right to say whether or not it is against the plan drawn up.

This is what our county manager does at the moment. If we put down a section 4 application, even if it passes he says it must go to the Minister. I do not know how the Minister comes into it at this stage. If it goes on appeal to the Minister, that is all right but I cannot understand how the Minister could be in a position to know which of us is right. The engineers, inspectors and officials of the locality are the people who should know. I have opposed all plans in Galway for the simple reason that every day we are arguing over interpretation. Interpretation is of vital importance to the plan. It is whatever way the officials interpret it that matters and not what the people who drew it up say. The local authority are the people responsible if a person is refused planning permission. I wholeheartedly support Deputy Molloy's motion that the final decision, if there is a difference of opinion, should be taken by the people who drew up the plan and put it on paper.

The only thing about it is that, having listened to Deputy Molloy and Deputy Callanan, I know what they are trying to get at but, in fact, the amendment as proposed by Deputy Molloy would not do that. It would leave the position little better than it is at the present time. Strangely enough, I would be prepared to go even further than Deputy Callanan is prepared to go with an amendment. In fact, I agree that there should be more control by the elected representatives. I believe there should be more control by public representatives. I am aware that it is common understanding by people who are not familiar with planning matters that the planning authority are the elected representatives. One finds again and again letters to the newspapers and statements by so-called experts who try to show that the local elected representatives have a point of view. There is a special arrangement being made to draw up a plan. Having been on a local authority for 15 years, I agree that very many elected representatives do not know what the plan means and do not take an interest in it even if they do.

Personally, I am under the impression that, if the elected representatives wish to contravene even their own plans or wish to contravene what the manager claims is the interpretation of their own plans, they should be entitled to do so. I believe that there should be the right to object to that the same as there is if it goes by way of appeal. What I propose to do before Report Stage is to consider amendments which would do exactly that, (a) give the right to elected representatives, and (b) give the right to those who feel that they are entitled to object to it.

How would it be done?

The Deputy will get an opportunity of seeing it on Report Stage.

The Minister mentioned very briefly the mechanics of it before the 6 o'clock debate. Could he repeat it for us in full?

What I said was that I am not opposed to the intent of the amendment. I propose to consider before Report Stage whether it would be possible to substitute a new procedure for section 26 (3) which would enable elected representatives to authorise material contraventions subject to the consideration of any objections by members of the public or of prescribed bodies. A number of sections of the 1963 Act will have to be looked at. I believe that if the drafting difficulties can be overcome —and I believe they can—it might be possible to bring in an amendment on Report Stage. This is the best way to deal with it and I am as anxious as they are to give the elected representatives this right.

Contravention in specific applications or contraventions of the plan itself?

I think it would have to be specific.

It is a question of interpretation as to whether the plan has been contravened or not. The Minister says that he is going to give power to elected representatives to make their own plans. I was not talking about that. What I did say was that if you think that it does not do it and the officials do, at least the public representatives should have the final decision. The Minister is proposing to have an appeal from that now. What I do not like about it is that the Minister is going to allow an appeal to the board——

No, the local authority will decide it but the right to——

The local authority.

Appeal to whom?

"Appeal" perhaps is not the correct word. The local authority will have the right to alter what it considers to be a contravention by the manager, of the plan, but it will also give the right to people who want to object before such a decision is given.

But it is to the local authority that they will object. The local authority have the final say.

The local authority must have the final say.

To get this clearly on the record, what the Minister is proposing is a very cumbersome mechanism to achieve possibly something similar to what my amendment aims to achieve. I fail to understand why the Minister now suggests that we should introduce into planning a further appeals system. The Minister does not like the word "appeal" because it may be confused with appeals to the higher authority, to the board. What the Minister is suggesting is that in regard to a specific application which the manager indicates in advance he intends refusing, the members can decide to grant that permission even though it contravenes the development plan, but the public have a right to appeal against the stated intention of the elected members. It sounds very confused and burdensome to me and adds more machinery to the planning system which I think would be better kept as simple as possible. If the amendment as suggested by me is accepted, it will merely mean that if members sitting as the elected members of the council make a decision to direct such a permission to be granted, the manager shall see that that permission issues even if it contravenes the development plan. That is what I am seeking in this amendment.

If any member of the public is not happy with the elected council's direction and the decision and the permission that issues subsequently from the manager's office, he has a right to appeal to the board. Why does the Minister want to introduce this appeal at local authority level? It seems unnecessary and something which, from the explanations we have had, would not at all satisfy me. What we have here is very simple. It states quite clearly the extent of the powers of section 4 that members have in relation to planning. My amendment would be simpler, clearer and more easily understood, and it does not interfere with the appeals system in the old Act.

The trouble with Deputy Molloy—and I cannot blame him for it—is that he is thinking of a specific case and he is relating the case he is thinking of to what he wants to do here.

I was not thinking of any case.

If every case was exactly the same as the one he is thinking of, it might be a simple matter. Could I point out to the Deputy that if his amendment is accepted it will make no difference whatever to section 26 (3) (a) of the 1963 Act which states:

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

In fact, it does not matter what he writes in in a positive way here unless that is appealed to start off with, it cannot be done. I am trying to be helpful because I want to go pretty far, and I am much nearer to Deputy Callanan's point than to Deputy Molloy's. A local authority elected representative draws up, with the assistance of the officials, a plan and they cannot contravene that plan. Deputy Callanan says there may be cases where it is not necessary to contravene it but the officials say that it is. Then do we set up some kind of mechanism to decide who is right? That is undesirable. The obvious way to do it is to give the right, even if the officials say the plan is being contravened, let the elected representatives have the right to decide. So far we are all agreed. In addition, I believe there would be certain people who feel protected by the plan but in the event of its being changed would feel they are entitled to object to that change. I suggest that we give the elected representatives the right to change it but we also give the individuals the right to object to the local authority to such changes being made. The elected representatives will be the people who make the decision. There is nothing complicated about it. If we are really interested in doing this then that is the way to do it.

Where does the board come in?

The board will come in at a later stage if there is an appeal from anybody. It is the local authority's decision they will be appealing against.

To whom would they object?

They would send the objections to the local authority where the case lay.

If they send the objection to the local authority and the local authority have already made their own decision, are the local authority likely to change that decision simply because an objection came in? The local authority will be the judge and jury then.

They would have made their decision by then. The elected representatives claim that they want to do something different. The manager says "you cannot do that because it is a contravention of the plan". Then there should be a mechanism whereby people could object to such a change being made and the local authority elected representatives would have the right to consider if the objections were valid and having heard that then make their own decision.

Could I ask the Minister about the question of the mechanics proposed?

The objections have to be considered by me before I make the decision.

The mechanics of what the Minister is proposing would mean that what the Minister is suggesting could not be effective until the manager signs an order and if there was not prior consultation with the officials and the elected representatives. When the manager signs the order that, in effect, is a final decision on the planning application except there is an appeal to the Minister or the board. Therefore it means either a resubmission on behalf of the applicant before the Minister's suggestions can be put into effect with the elected representatives.

Section 4 does not apply at all if he has signed the order. It would be on an appeal then to the Minister.

I am talking about what the Minister has suggested as an outline of what he intends to introduce.

It was Deputy Molloy's suggestion that it should be done under section 4.

I am trying to be helpful.

If the manager signed an order and the decision is made, the appeal would be to the new board. I would like to see the local representatives a lot more interested in local planning. If local representatives have a particular interest in a plan, before it is signed by the manager they should have the right to say: "We want to do that." At this stage the manager says "This is a contravention of the plan. It cannot be done". At that stage the local representatives should then be able to say "We want to change it". There would have to be the right of people to object to the change and the matter would then be considered by the elected representatives. Whatever decision was made would be subject to appeal to the Minister or the planning board in the normal way.

It may sound cumbersome but I have not heard of an easier way of doing it. I could easily say to Deputy Molloy "We will accept what you put down here", but it would not achieve what I know now he wants and it would not achieve what Deputy Callanan wants and would not achieve what I want.

Is there any real point in going through all the various stages that the Minister has in mind? The case made by Deputy Molloy was where all of the elected representatives wanted to make a change and where the manager was opposed to it or rather where the manager's interpretation was different from theirs. In those circumstances having an objection made to the local authority would be fruitless. It would only amount to prolonging the agony. If all the members of the local authority are in agreement in relation to change then obviously the change will come. The aggrieved person can appeal to the Minister at the moment and to the board after the Act is passed. Would the Minister not agree that it would be simpler to allow the appeal direct to the board? The alternative would be a waste of time. I could not see a local authority whose members were all in agreement that a change ought to be made making any change because of an objection.

I see great merit in what the Minister proposed to do. I can also see some difficulties. The Minister's idea is to give greater say to the elected representatives who are the planning authority. They make the plan and its implementation is handed over to the officials. It is a question of the interpretation of that plan. In Cork we have a planning working committee of ten members out of the 46 that go into the grey areas with the manager and the officials involved. All the applications are not just black and white. There are the grey areas, the borderline cases. It is to these cases that the Minister is referring, where the interpretation of the plan is at issue.

For example, if an application is made and it is referred to the local authority there is the question of the statutory time of 60 days. Although I am saying this, I agree wholeheartedly with what the Minister is suggesting. It is a good thing. If I have a case with which I am not satisfied and about which I have already made representations to the planning officer and to the officials concerned and I am afraid that I will meet with a refusal, before I can get an opportunity of bringing this to the attention of the authority concerned, which is the Cork County Council, the period of 60 days will have expired. The decision must be made. I can see that as a great difficulty.

There are anomalies in the Planning Act. There are many frivolous objections made. This increases the cost. There should be some way of eliminating frivolous objections. We have had cases in Cork of people resident in Dublin who have holiday homes in West Cork objecting to a house being built across the road from them.

Am I to take it from what the Minister proposes with reference to what Deputy MacSharry said, that from now on the manager will not have the right to make the order? If he intends to refuse he must bring that before the planning authority? This is the important point. At present the manager examines the application and he may refuse. I would like to see in the Bill a provision that before the manager refuses an application he must lay that application before the elected representatives and that they would make the final decision. I do not care about the appeal afterwards so long as it has been put before the elected representatives first. My point is that the manager should not have power to refuse an application until he has first laid the application before the elected representative. After all, the local representatives are the planning authority. My question is whether that is what the Minister has in mind. If that means changing the present system in which the manager either refuses or grants an application, that would satisfy me.

The trouble is that different local authorities have different ways of dealing with planning, even with notification of applications or decisions. For instance, one local authority I know sends out a weekly bulletin or circular giving the list of applications for planning while others do not. They are presented at a monthly meeting after the decision has been given. A number of them do this. Most public representatives particularly those in this House are good at sending out circulars when the occasion arises. It is not quite correct to say that the county manager will have to notify everybody concerned that he is going to make a decision because under the section 4 system he does not have to do this. Councillors know about these things: otherwise how would they operate section 4? As regards the two months being up, the usual thing is that somebody sends a letter from the local authority and that extends the period again, something which is not a very desirable practice but it is being done.

All that comes from the officials who are going to refuse or grant something. If you are then seeking to give the elected representatives this authority, why not give it to the officials who are dealing with the whole show?

I would hope that as a result of this Bill the balance would be changed considerably. It is enshrined in the planning laws that people have a right to object if the plan is being changed. At present they have the right to object to me if I am being asked to change the plan or to grant something in contravention of the plan. In view of the discussion here tonight I would consider the question of simply making it a matter if the local authority elected representatives introducing a section 4 and being able to carry it. In other words, giving them the right to contravene their own plan. Deputy Molloy's amendment does not do that. It does suggest it but without certain other things it will not be possible. While I know what is required and the matter will have to be discussed here on Report Stage, at the same time I want to ensure that it is something that will do what we all want. I suggest that it is left with me until Report Stage and I will see what I can do.

I am glad to see that reason is prevailing. I think the Minister is coming around to our point of view. I do not agree with the Minister when he says that the amendment, as worded, is inoperable. If it is it does not require very much change to make it operable. I would suggest that section 26 (3) (a) of the 1963 Act to which the Minister referred could be written into or added to this amendment so that that section would not apply in cases where this amendment was operated.

That sort of thing would have to be included.

That is all that is required; otherwise you are accepting the amendment as suggested. The Minister is leaving it under the section 4? We understand now from what the Minister said that this is right, that he is dropping that other second level of appeal that he was talking about earlier on?

There are a number of other sections which have to be looked at. In the main what the Deputy wants to do is similar to what I want to do. If he leaves it with me I will attempt to get something which will meet the case.

That is fair enough. The Minister prefaced his original suggestion with that remark also. Bureaucracy has its own way of interpreting what we are getting at. If it is a cumbersome thing I think we will find it very hard to agree with it. We do not want to have to come back and debate it on Report Stage. I suggest the Minister might leave it under section 4 which I think most local authorities do not wish to use too often and would only use it in exceptional cases. It involves a lot of bother for the representatives anyway to get the necessary signatures, to be notified in time to have the meeting held before the statutory period expires. It puts considerable onus on the representative before he can in fact operate under section 4. That little bit of difficulty is a good thing. It means that section 4 will not be used every week or in every planning application.

In view of the remarks that were made by Deputy MacSharry it might be no harm to suggest at this stage that a section be put into this Bill putting an onus on local authorities to circulate to the elected members a list of all planning applications. The Miniser mentioned that in one county they issued them weekly. In my own county they issue them monthly. Each member gets a list of the planning applications for the month.

We do not get them at all in Sligo.

And we have an arrangement with the officials that any member may write to the secretary or the manager of the local authority, having got this list, and ask him to indicate to that member in advance his proposed decision. If I see a planning application is made and it is No. 1, 2 or 3, I can write to the manager or the secretary and say: "Please let me know in advance the proposed decision on planning application No.1, 2 or 3." He must let me have that information before the statutory period expires so that I may exercise my right under section 4 if I so wish.

There have been occasions when the manager, because of circumstances, was not able to fulfil that requirement in every case but the members were amenable to that and did not kick up too much of a fuss. In the main that principle did obtain, you were told possibly seven or ten days before the decision issued that the application was going to be refused. It gave you enough time to get in with section 4 with the signatures and have a meeting held. Provided your motion was in in time that was all right. This difficulty of the two-months' period would operate against the original suggestion that the Minister made here which I do not feel would work. It would be very cumbersome. If he leaves it under section 4 and agrees in principle with what is in our amendment and makes whatever other necessary changes are required, I think it will meet the situation. I think the Minister is accepting that.

Yes. The trouble about this sort of thing is that as it goes along one gets other ideas. Everyone who speaks has an input which may change the whole thinking on it. For instance, a very simple way would be to put the onus on the manager in the event of him deciding or wishing to decide that it was a contravention of the plan that he could not do so without the permission of the elected representatives.

I would not agree with all that. I think you have gone too far now. My amendment was intended to overcome this difficulty that county managers were giving it as their opinion that a planning application contravened the development plan and irrespective of the motion under section 4 being passed they would not issue a permission in that case. They were passing it off to the Minister and using it as a device. I want to circumvent that. The Minister is going further and saying that any time the manager is making any decision which contravenes the development plan he should inform the members in advance.

Is that not exactly what the Deputy wants done?

No, it is not. I am trying to close a loophole that managers have been using. The Minister is going further. If he wants to do that we will not object but I should not like to make it too complicated.

He could not refuse permission without the elected representatives. There are a relatively small number of those in the year. About 30 on average have come to the Minister.

Members do not like to use this power too often. We do not like to see the Minister involved too often.

Perhaps the ideal position would be to look for justice for people who felt they were aggrieved. Public representatives, I am sure, are concerned about justice. The simple way would be, as I said, that in the event of the manager using this as a contravention of the county plan or whatever, he should get the permission of the elected representatives. If he does that he is completely tied and he cannot go any faster. This is what Deputy Molloy——

How does it work? His interpretation of the plan is that he is not contravening the plan, and then he is contravening it. In other words, he cannot make up his mind.

If he is not contravening it he cannot use it as an excuse. There is the allegation that the manager can make up the excuse that a certain thing is a contravention of the plan because he cannot think of another excuse. If he does not plead that, it is plain sailing. But, if he does plead it, the elected representatives are the only people who will say whether it is or not, as they see it, a contravention of the plan. If that is written into the Act it copperfastens the whole thing and it is very simple.

We would agree to this extra proposal which the Minister is making provided he also brings forward on Report Stage the original proposal he made as an implementation of the amendment—whatever changes he thought were necessary to meet the amendment's points. He is now discussing a completely broader field altogether.

I am prepared to bring in amendments to meet this but what is given as a suggestion now is——

There are two suggestions.

All I want is one.

The second suggestion would not meet the point at all. The Minister is suggesting that where a planning application is to be refused because it contravenes the development plan the manager should inform the members in advance. That is not worth a damn to the members of the county council because they will say: "OK, we will exercise section 4." He will say: "Are you passing this motion?""Yes, it is passed." He will say, "I am sorry, I am not going to issue planning permission because it contravenes the plan", as stated by the Minister. That is what I want to stop.

I am sorry the Deputy does not understand what I am saying. What I am saying is that he cannot do that in future. If he notifies the council that he proposes to refuse because of this, the council are entitled to say whether he can or not. That is the end of it. If they say it does not contravene the plan he must give the permission. I do not see where the difficulty is at all. It does exactly what is wanted.

There is something missing here. The Minister is not spelling out what his proposal is in enough detail.

Shall we leave it?

We cannot talk like this on Report Stage. There is something vital missing. The Minister is saying that, where a planning application is to be refused by the manager on the grounds that it contravenes the development plan, he will inform the members before he makes the decision that he intends to refuse and that his reasons are that it contravenes the development plan.

That is not what I said at all. He may not without their consent refuse because he considers it a contravention.

Is the Minister to propose an amendment to the effect that he informs them of this but he cannot make that refusal without their permission?

Come on with the rest—what is the procedure for finding out the council's mind on this.

The council will then decide.

There is only a two-month statutory period in the Bill.

I just cannot follow Deputy Molloy's argument at all. What in effect I am saying is this. Somebody applies for planning permission and the county manager says "This is a contravention of the county plan". He must then get the permission of the elected representatives before he can disallow the application for planning permission on that ground. Where is the loophole or the difficulty in this?

There is only a two-month statutory period. The engineers in the sanitary section, road section and every other section in the council have to look at this application before the manager knows it is in the office at all. It is only when the various opinions and information are put together that an opinion is eventually given as to whether the thing is within or without the plan or not. It is handed up to the manager with a recommendation from the county engineer that it be refused or granted because it is contravening the plan. It is at the latter end of the two-month period that it comes to the manager. He will have little time between that stage and the end of the statutory period to exercise this right of involving all the members in the decision. Will he call a special meeting of the county council to make this decision?

Can he not decide it at the next meeting? This is what I meant when I said we would have to look at the mechanics of it because time would come into it.

Is the Minister suggesting an extension of the statutory period to provide for this?

Yes, if necessary. As I said earlier, I cannot work out in the House an amendment which would be acceptable but I will give the bones of what I think will do the job. When we look at it we will be able to put the necessary information into it.

In fairness to our side, we did not rush the Minister. This amendment has been down for about eight or nine months.

If the Deputy wants to talk about it until 10.30 p.m. I am quite happy.

We are not asking the Minister to suddenly think it out. He had months to deal with it.

I am trying to be reasonable but it is not being reciprocated.

Is it the Minister's intention that henceforth, despite the decisions being made in respect of any planning applications where the county manager anticipates that he must refuse it because in his opinion it contravenes the plan, it will be obligatory on him under the Act to notify the council of his intentions and give them time to reverse his decision if they want to?

He must get their permission before he can refuse. This is obligatory under the Bill. The statutory 60 days already existing may be altered to accommodate that. Arrangements with regard to time will have to be made to see in what way it can be extended. The Deputy has got it right except that it is obligatory on the manager to get the permission of the elected representatives before he can disqualify for contravention.

This is simple enough but I would not extend it by two months, because it would be too long.

I agree, but I would not like anyone to get the impression that somebody could just apply for permission and get enough councillors to uphold it. I should not like that to happen. I am anxious to have it done as quickly as possible. As Deputy MacSharry said, there might be a note from the manager to the applicant telling him that whatever he wanted might not be granted. I should not like to have the thing tied up for too long.

In case the Minister thinks we were unreasonable, I should like to express our appreciation to the Minister for his efforts to meet our points of view as originally expressed in the amendment which, in view of what the Minister has said, I will withdraw.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 71:

In page 16, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following new section:

"26. —(1) Notwithstanding section 10 (4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, summary proceedings against any person liable to be proceeded against pursuant to section 22, 28 or 29 of this Act or in respect of a contravention of section 24 (2) of the Principal Act may be commenced——

(a) at any time within six months from the date on which the offence was committed, or

(b) at any time within three months from the date on which evidence sufficient, in the opinion of the person instituting the proceedings, to justify proceedings comes to his knowledge,

whichever is the later.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a certificate signed by or on behalf of the person instituting the proceedings as to the date on which evidence described in subsection (1) of this section came to the knowledge of such person shall beprima facie evidence thereof and in any legal proceedings a document purporting to be a certificate issued for the purposes of this section and to be so signed shall be admitted be so signed and shall be admitted as evidence without proof of the signature of the person purporting to sign the certificate unless the contrary is shown.”

This amendment proposes, in effect, to substitute a new section for section 26 of the Bill as introduced. If the amendment is accepted, the existing section 26 will be deleted.

Section 26, as it stands, was inserted in the Bill at the request of a number of planning authorities. Section 10 (4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, requires that a prosecution be taken within a period of six months from the date on which an offence is committed. It appears that there have been cases which would warrant the institution of proceedings but which did not come to notice or where there was not adequate evidence in time to prosecute an offence.

The new draft of section 26, proposed by amendment No. 71, differs from the existing draft in two ways—

(i) it relates to offences under the new sections 28 and 29 (register of interests and declaration of interest at meetings); and (ii) the certificate provided for in subsection (2) is madeprima facie evidence rather than conclusive evidence.

Subsection (1) provides in relation to section 24 (2) of the 1963 Act and sections 22, 28 and 29 to be inserted by amendments Nos. 75 and 76 of the Bill, that proceedings may be taken (a) at any time within six months of the offence, or (b) at any time within three months of the date on which sufficient evidence comes to the knowledge of the prosecutor, whichever is the later.

Subsection (2) is necessary in order that the section will be workable in practice. It provides that a certificate signed by or on behalf of the prosecutor as to the date on which evidence sufficient to justify a prosecution came to his knowledge shall beprima facie evidence thereof and, further, that a document purporting to be such certificate shall, until the countrary is shown, be accepted without proof of the signature.

It is obviously necessary that section 26 should cover the offences under the new sections 28 and 29. Planning and development is a long-term business and it is not difficult to envisage a situation in which a councillor's interest in land, which he failed to disclose at the relevant time, would not come to notice until, perhaps, years after a council decision affecting the land had been made.

The use ofprima facie in subsection (2) is in line with the decision in the Supreme Court in the case of John P. Maher v. the Attorney General and Francis T. Murphy, in which judgment was given on 16th July, 1973 by FitzGerald C. J. The court held the Constitution reserves to the courts the determination of all the essential ingredients of any offence charged against an accused person and it was held accordingly that in so far as a statutory provision purported to remove such determination from the court— by using the term “conclusive evidence”—it was an invalid infringement of the judicial power and was unconstitutional.

The Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, does not in any way restrict the powers of planning authorities to serve enforcement notices—section 31 of the 1963 Act—within the five-year period allowed.

Perhaps we could discuss amendments Nos. 71 and 72—together.

I have an amendment down, No. 72 but I want to confirm that my proposal to delete subsection (2) from the original section 26 will apply equally to subsection (2) of this new inserted section.

Outstanding issues can, of course, be raised by way of amendment on Report Stage. This may help the Deputy.

The Minister had an original section, No. 26 in his Bill and there was a subsection (2) of that section 26. I judiciously placed an amendment on the Order Paper to delete subsection (2) of the original section 26. The Minister is now purporting in this amendment of his to substitute a new section 26 for the original section 26. I wish to know if my amendment to delete subsection (2) of section 26 will apply to the new section 26, as put in by the Minister.

If the Deputy wishes to move an amendment to the Minister's amendment to delete the subsection he refers to, the Chair would permit him to do so.

In the Bill before us there is a section 26 with a subsection (2) in it. I put down an amendment to delete that subsection (2). The Minister now comes along and puts down an amendment to abolish the original section and substitute a new section 26. The new section 26 still has a subsection (2) in it. I want to know if my amendment to delete subsection (2) still applies to the new section 26 as inserted now by the Minister's amendment?

It is by accident that the section numbers are the same. If it was a different one, say (1) or (3), surely Deputy Haughey would agree, that it would not be reasonable to say that subsection (2) should be accepted as being an amendment to my new section.

On a point of information, would the Chair accept Deputy Haughey's amendment now as an amendment to the Minister's amendment No. 71?

I have already indicated to the Deputy that I would facilitate him in that regard.

I have no objection to that. It is clear enough; but the other way would not be in order. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle would rule that it would not be in order.

If the Ceann Comhairle did not graciously grant me permission, would that mean that my amendment No. 72 would be noneffective?

Yes, the Deputy's amendment would fall.

The Chair is graciously allowing me to transfer it to the new section as inserted by the Minister's amendment. I am very grateful, a Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputy might move it now.

I move the following amendment to the Minister's amendment:

7. To delete subsection (2).

In the new section 26 put forward by the Minister he speaks about any person liable to be proceeded against pursuant to sections 22, 28 or 29 of this Act or in respect of a contravention of section 24 subsection (2) of the Principal Act. It is clear that the reference there to sections 28 and 29 is a reference to the new sections, 28 and 29, which amendments Nos. 75 and 76 are to insert in this Bill. Is not that correct?

That is right.

But section 22 is causing me some problem because I think that the original section 22 has been changed by the insertion earlier of another section by the Minister. I can understand this section, which relates to proceedings applying to the original section 22 but the Minister's amendment, No. 48, inserted a new section, 22. Is that right?

It might help Deputy Haughey if I tell him that the sections have appropriately been changed in the office in order to retain the right reference.

But in this new section 26 which the Minister wishes now to insert he has already made the necessary changes by inserting the new 28 and 29 to cope with amendments Nos. 75 and 76. Why then has he not made a similar change to cope with amendment No. 48 which inserted a new section 22?

Because they are not introduced and I had to identify them as those in fact in the Bill.

They are all to the Bill, as introduced, rather than to the Bill as amended in Committee.

No they are not. I respectfully suggest 28 and 29 are not in the Bill as introduced. They are new sections which are going to be put in by amendments 75 and 76.

Going to be put in. But section 22 was in and therefore must——

But there is a new section 22 in.

But the Clerk of the Dáil will, I assume, as always put the proper number on them. It does not matter what it is called. I want to identify it.

It does matter.

I want to identify it and the only way I could do that was as section 22. If it has to be renumbered at a later stage, it will be re-numbered and the relevant reference made to it.

The original section 22 in the Bill as put before us was undoubtedly a section which would be the cause of proceedings being instituted. The new section 22 which was inserted by the Minister in an amendment earlier on in this debate is not such a section.

But that does not matter. How does it matter?

It means that in this new section 26 we are going to lay down procedures for the taking of proceedings under a section which does not give rise to any offence.

It is the old section in the Bill as printed. It had to be because the Bill was printed and the amendments at that time. We have not changed the whole lot as we went along; otherwise we would be changit every day. I am sure Deputy Haughey will agree that the Bill having been printed, amendments having been prepared, we went along on that basis. At the end of the Committee Stage whatever changes have got to be made will be made at that stage. But we could not be changing them every hour.

You have changed 28 and 29.

The numbers are in italics and are changed, as appropriate. This is a common practice in respect of Bills.

The new section will read correctly in so far as sections 28 and 29 are concerned, because they are going to be the new sections inserted by amendment Nos. 75 and 76.

But they are not in yet. That is the reason, but the other has been in right from the start.

Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle, the Minister or somebody could give me an assurance that this section 26 will not apply to the new section 22 as inserted by the Minister in an earlier amendment?

I could not because, as Deputy Haughey so rightly said, there are no offences.

Well then, it should not be so numbered.

The Deputy can be assured the references will be changed appropriately to keep them right.

Therefore the Chair is allowing me to take amendment No. 22 in conjunction with the Minister's amendment. That is very logical because the Minister proposes to insert a new section 26 which comprises a subsection (2) which I want to delete.

The attention of the House should be drawn to the fact that there is a very considerable change being made by the Minister in this new section 26. The original section 26 was a fairly straightforward one to which, with the exception of subsection (2) I would not have taken any exception. The new section 26 makes a very important change. The original subsection (1) paragraph (b) provided that:

at any time within three months from the date on which evidence sufficient, in the opinion of the planning authority within whose area the contravention took place, to justify a prosecution by the authority for the contravention comes to the knowledge of that authority.

Section 26 subsection (1) in so far as the second leg of subsection (1) is concerned, in paragraph (b), relates to evidence coming to the notice of the planning authority and the planning authority coming to a decision, on the basis of that evidence, that a prosecution or the institution of proceedings is justified.

The new section 26 which the Minister now puts forward changes that very considerably. It seems to me to broaden it very widely. In subsection (1) paragraph (b) of the new section 26 we find the following words:

at any time within three months from the date on which evidence sufficient, in the opinion of the person instituting the proceedings, to justify proceedings comes to his knowledge.

Therefore it is no longer confined to the planning authority. It is, apparently, any person. I would like the Minister to elaborate for us what is the reason for that significant change, and what category of people can now be included in the category of persons indicated in the new paragraph (b).

Quite simply, as the Deputy is aware, two new sections are being brought in with regard to interests of people. The planning authority solely were involved originally. Now, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Gardaí can be involved. It would be ridiculous to bring in the two sections dealing with interests and then say that the planning authority were the only people who could take action, which would possibly nullify the whole idea. Therefore it was necessary to alter the phraseology simply to make it work.

I can readily appreciate that the change is brought about because of the additions made by amendments Nos. 75 and 76. But I am not altogether happy about this proposed change. As paragraph (b) of subsection (1) reads at present, it seems to me that anybody, whether a member of the planning authority, whether the Director of Public Prosecutions, whether a member of the Garda, or a member of the general public is now admitted as being capable of taking proceedings. It says: in the opinion of the person instituting proceedings.

But only on the condition that "within three months from the date on which evidence sufficient, in the opinion of the planning authority... to justify proceedings."

We will come to that later. I want at this stage to clear up the point. Are the terms of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act of 1851 such that the taking of proceedings in this case will be confined to an official of the Director of Public Prosecutions office or the Garda Síochána or the planning authority, or will it extend to a member of the general public? This is a very important matter.

To me it would appear to include the general public. However, if Deputy Haughey feels it is too loose I do not mind having a look at it.

I shall be happy if the Minister ensures me he will have a look at it. I just want to mention, before leaving it, that we are now bringing in very important, far-reaching and fundamental provisions such as the disclosure of interests by members of a local authority. It would be a very serious matter if we were to throw it open to members of the general public to institute proceedings under these new sections. If the Minister is prepared to look into the matter I accept that.

The Minister is giving that assurance. Then I will go on to my proposal to delete subsection (2). I am very glad to note that my distinguished colleague, who is a member of the Bar, Deputy Michael O'Kennedy, has come into the House. Perhaps he might participate in this discussion because I think it is a matter of some significance and importance.

I hope Deputy Haughey is not assuming from that that only members of the Bar are competent to judge on the comments which are being made on this particular section.

No, but we are coming to a legal matter.

All this is very legal.

It is very legal. It is a matter dealing with evidence. I am certain I am quite competent to deal with it efficiently myself and I am sure the Minister is too, but I merely acknowledge the presence of this distinguished legal luminary, Deputy O'Kennedy, beside me.

If the people on the other side pay some attention to it they may learn something about it as well.

I doubt the necessity for subsection (2) at all. I doubted its necessity in the original section 26 and I maintain that doubt as to its necessity in the revised section 26. It seems to me to go very far. Perhaps the best thing I could do would be to read the wording of subsection (2) so that we know exactly what we are talking about. Subsection (2) reads:

For the purposes of this section, a certificate signed by or on behalf of the person instituting the proceedings as to the date on which evidence described in subsection (1) of this section came to the knowledge of such person shall beprima facie evidence thereof and in any legal proceedings a document purporting to be a certificate issued for the purposes of this section and to be so signed shall be deemed to be so signed and shall be admitted as evidence without proof of the signature of the person purporting to sign the certificate unless the contrary is shown.

I would like the Minister to elaborate on the thinking which makes that necessary because here we are dealing with summary proceedings and he has explained the reason why he is usingprima facie evidence and, in accordance with the Supreme Court decision, to which he adverted, he is allowing this certificate as the basis on which proceedings are instituted. He is allowing this certificate to be put in as prima facie evidence. Perhaps we need not quarrel with that but I wonder if it is not going much too far to say, as the subsection says: that in any legal proceedings a document purporting to be a certificate issued for the purposes of this section and to be so signed shall be deemed to be so signed and shall be admitted as evidence without proof of signature. We are dealing with something very important here. This is a case in the normal course of events and in the sort of situation envisaged by the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851 proceedings would have to be taken within six months. That is a reasonable proposal because people in this sort of situation are entitled, if proceedings are to be taken against them, to have the action against them initiated with reasonable speed.

In the situation envisaged under paragraph (e) we are dealing with something that could arise years after the event, as the Minister said in his opening remarks when proposing section 26 to us. These proceedings could be taken many years after the alleged offence had taken place. These proceedings would only be instituted on the basis of somebody coming to the conclusion, perhaps years after the offence is alleged to have taken place that there is now sufficient evidence to justify proceedings. Everything will hinge on this certificate of the person involved, whether he is an officer in the local authority, the Garda Síochána, a director of public prosecutions or, although we hope this will be omitted, a member of the general public, proceedings will be taken on the basis of this person's opinion that there now is sufficient evidence that an offence took place. Surely in that sort of situation, where it could take place many years after the event proceedings can only happen if the person is of opinion that there now is sufficient evidence to justify proceedings on the basis of a certificate submitted by that person. At least the certificate should be signed by the person who has taken the responsibility for instituting proceedings and that signature should be proved in court. That is my objection to the subsection.

Deputy Haughey has a very good point and I tend to agree with him. First of all, in regard to the proof, I think he will agree that it is normal, unless it is proved otherwise, that the signature is accepted. There is nothing wrong with that part of it but I believe he has a point when he talks about it being over a period of years. I think there should be a limit. I propose to put a limit.

The Minister promised to look at the other aspect. Would he not also have a look at whether or not, in view of the importance of this certificate, in view of the fact that this certificate will be the basis of the whole proceedings—I am prepared to go along with the Minister in regard to theprima facie provisions because he has the moral authority of the Supreme Court behind him in that—and in regard to the signature on the certificate would it not be desirable that the certificate should be put in the normal way and the prosecution have to prove the signature by producing the person involved?

Since there are only three—I will have a look at that particular end of it. I agree with the Deputy. This appears to be reasonable, whether it should be confined to those three sections. It would be unreasonable to leave it open ended. There should be a limit but I do not think it is reasonable that somebody would be at the other end of the country and that he should be brought along for the purpose of proving the signature. The signature is not being challenged.

As the Minister has given a firm undertaking that he is prepared to consider that it should be confined to a limited group of people and put a time limit on it I accept that.

Amendment to Amendment No. 71, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 71 agreed to.
Section 26 deleted.

I move amendment No. 73:

In subsection (2), page 16, lines 45 and 46, to delete "Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 and 1974" and substitute "Principal Act and this Act".

I suspect the Minister will accept this amendment which is only a drafting amendment. I cannot understand why in the Bill before us the words "Local Government Planning and Development Acts, 1963 and 1974" are inserted because the definition section clearly defines Local Government Planning and Development Act, 1963, as the Principal Act. It seems to me that good drafting should dictate the substitution of the words I propose: "the Principal Act and this Act".

This is only a drafting amendment. I think the amendment makes no material difference. I do not agree with Deputy Haughey that it is important. If it is accepted it would require alteration in the terms of amendment No. 47 to section 21 for the sake of consistency. The text, as it stands, has the merit. It is a citation of the short title as provided in section 36 (1). If Deputy Haughey looks at it he will see that it is not an important thing. It is merely drafting and the section as it stands does exactly what we want it to do. I am not inclined to accept the amendment.

I do not want to be taking up the time of the House with trivialities but, after all, Committee Stage is the stage at which we look at the wording and the drafting.

I am not objecting to the Deputy looking at it at all.

It seems to me that in section 1 we laid down that in future throughout the Bill, Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, will be represented by the words, "the Principal Act". The Minister went to the trouble of putting in that definition in section 1. Having done that why then does he use the words "Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963" in subsection (2), lines 45 and 46?

It means the same thing. As Deputy Haughey understands this is as the draftsman put it in. While I can see no special reason for putting it in this way it is, in fact, exactly the same as what is meant by the principal Act but it would mean changing at least another section if the change is made here.

I want to insist on this because it is important in drafting. If there is a definition section and in that definition section——

If the Deputy starts insisting we could be here for a good while. The Deputy has been very reasonable up to now and he should not spoil it.

I want to insist on the logic of my argument. The Minister has a definition section to use a short form of words for the words, "Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963", by saying in the definition section that in future throughout the Bill "the principal Act" will be substituted for the words for the sake of brevity, presumably. In spite of that the Minister uses the long phrase again. It is sloppy drafting.

Should it not just be under the principal Act and this Act? It may seem a niggling point but Deputy Haughey is right. I know the Minister did not insert it but I wonder why whoever inserted it put it in in that form. I am sure the draftsman, if it was brought to his attention, would have no objection to excluding it. If there is a definition section one relates to that from there on.

It is not terribly important. I will see if I can do something about it. It is purely drafting and I do not know if there was any particular significance for putting it in. I do not think there was.

I am prepared to accept the Minister's assurance that he will take it up with the draftsman between now and Report Stage. I want to assure the Minister that I am concerned that he should not leave on the record of this House a piece of sloppy draftsmanship. It is the Minister's name that will appear on the records.

Could I ask the Minister's view on the provisions of sections 4, 5 and 8 generally, in view of those provisions which allow the Minister to consult and to issue, which obliges the board to keep itself informed of certain policies, allows the Minister to give the board general directives as to its policy and also requires the board, in section 8, to make an annual report to the Minister of proceedings during the previous year——

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but I am anxious to dispose of the amendment in the first instance.

In view of those sections could I ask the Minister what is the purpose of section 27 (2). Why should that be there when it is already, in my opinion, covered in the earlier sections? What is the point putting in an extra section saying the Minister may consult with the board in relation to the performance of its functions under the Local Government Acts? It seems to have sufficient power already. What is the nature of the consultation, and what limits are put on it?

Subsection (1), section 27, enables the board to make submissions to the Minister in relation to any matters pertaining to its functions, as for example, to elucidate or clarify policy in the event of there being inconsistency between development plans for adjoining areas or between local and regional plans. Section 5 enables the Minister to give general directives to the board as to policy in relation to development. Section 2 enables the Minister to consult the board in relation to any of its planning functions. He could, for example, ask them to advise him in relation to an application to him under section 26 (3) of the 1963 Act for his consent to the granting by a planning authority of permission for development which would materially contravene a development plan. He would also hope to draw on the expertise and experience built up by the board where their advice might be valuable, such as in relation to problems of co-ordination of development plans.

I would have thought that a lot of that would be covered by section 4, for instance, which states that the board shall keep itself informed of the policies and objectives for the time being of the Minister, planning authorities and any other body. Under section 5 the Minister may give to the board general directives as to policy in relation to development. Is the Minister talking about a specific proposal or is he talking about overall proposals?

No. Section 4 means that the board keeps itself informed. This is a different thing altogether. This is a question of the Minister being able to consult it in relation to any of its planning functions. There is no question of a specific individual case. This is one thing which runs right through the Bill.

There is no question of this being so because this would nullify.

It is related purely to the Minister's functions?

And no more?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 74 not moved.

Deputy O'Brien is not here.

He was here for a considerable time before Deputy Haughey came in.

Section agreed to.

Amendment No. 75 in the name of the Minister and an amendment to the amendment by Deputy Molloy are related. I am suggesting we take Nos. 75, 76, 76 (a) and 77 together because they are related.

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.

I must now call on Deputy Molloy to move his amendment to the Minister's amendment.

I move: Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 75:

To add the following subsection:

"(10) For the purposes of this section ‘member of a planning authority' shall include a City or County Manager or an employee of a planning authority".

While we were discussing these matters, at an earlier date, 14th January, we explained our position in relation to that declaration of interest. This principle, if it was to be introduced, should be done in a general Bill and should cover every aspect of activity in this country. It should be made to apply to all persons in public office, if that was the Government's intention and should cover the various Departments. We objected to the amendments as drafted by the Minister because they are aimed solely at one section of the community, a section who have given their service free to the community as members of local authorities. The section as worded by the Minister is derogatory and disrespectful to them and casts a suspicion on any person who is a member of a local authority dealing with planning matters. We object to the Minister's attempt to single out, for this special restriction, only those members of our community who serve as elected members on our local authorities. These people have had a great slight cast upon their character, their integrity and their honesty, by the Minister in the terms of his amendment.

We asked on that occasion, and we again appeal now to the Minister, and through him to the Government, that, if they want to deal with this matter, persons in public office and in positions of public importance, and if they feel that some persons may be in a position to make decisions which may be of benefit to themselves or to others and if it is deemed necessary that such persons should make a declaration of interest in some public form, then the whole principle of that should be incorporated in a separate piece of legislation and this House would then discuss this whole idea in a comprehensive way. We object very strongly to the reflection in the Bill on local authority members. We object to the fact that only they are being singled out. We object to the off-hand way in which this is being done.

This Bill was published and circulated by the Minister many months ago and there was no reference to it. A general discussion took place in this House on Committee Stage and the public read that debate. There was much public interest in the terms of the Bill as it was originally published. Now, at a later stage, the Minister inserts in the Bill three major new sections dealing with a completely new principle for dubious reasons and for reasons which the Minister has not yet validated. Again, we appeal to the Minister to withdraw these three sections and I shall withdraw my amendment if he does so and have the matter brought before the House for a full general debate in a comprehensive Bill, if that is the Minister's intention.

I understood the Minister, speaking here last January, to state his intention of introducing such a Bill. He said in column 106, Volume 277, of the Official Report of 16th January, 1975, that this other Bill I have been speaking about would be introduced later. I told Deputy Haughey that I was as anxious as he to have this Bill passed quickly and we agreed on the end of June if possible. I have not seen the Bill since.

I quote:

Mr. Tully: There is not much point in 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.

The summer recess, as the Minister knows, is coming up sometime in the next month or two. I do not know how long we are going to be here but it is running to the end of the term and we have not heard one word from the Minister in the House about the other Bill since.

If he gets a few of those copies and reads back, the Deputy will see the reason. It is because he and his colleagues have been arguing over little things in the Bill for months.

I am sorry but I have most copies of the debates here.

The Deputy can read them tonight when he is not doing anything else.

Each one of these Dáil Reports represents one day's debate during which for the part of the day discussion took place on the Planning Bill. We have been discussing this Bill for about eight or nine days, not months. That is the only opportunity we got to discuss it.

Much longer than that.

Would the Minister state on how many days this Bill has been brought before the Dáil?

I cannot state now but I will.

The Minister did not bring it into the House until we in Fianna Fáil asked through the Whips to have the Bill reintroduced in the House.

You held it up for all the time it was here before.

Back to the amendment.

You thought you would knock the holidays out of it.

Deputy Haughey asked, "Who will bring in the other Bill?" The Minister replied:

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.

This was the Bill we were to have before the summer recess. Where is that Bill?

So what? You have not this one because you were filibustering.

We have not seen the Bill in the House for months. We have not been filibustering. We had to ask you to bring the Bill before us to allow us to continue the debate.

You have it now and you are not making any effort to continue the debate.

Let us have an orderly debate.

After this there will not be any hold-up.

That is in contempt of the House. If that is so, what we should all do when legislation comes in is to move out of the House. The Minister is implying that our very presence here is purely obstruction, and that is not what we were elected for.

We take it, then, you told them to scram.

I want to put it on the record of the House that I have spent many hours pouring over this Bill before the Committee Stage was taken, preparing amendments after that which are on the Order Paper and in following this debate and in trying to ensure, with the other Deputies, that this important legislation is adequately debated. If the Minister had his way it would be put through the House, he says now, in five minutes, even though we were denied the opportunity to debate it for many months. During the course of the discussions that have taken place we have made contributions which the Minister has accepted as being valid and he has promised that he will bring in amendments on Report Stage to implement the points we mentioned. As late as tonight the Minister has agreed to introduce a major change in planning legislation, one of the most significant changes that is proposed in this second Planning Bill. That would not have been brought about were it not for the contributions from this side of the House. That is our position. The amendment is only there as a safety provision for us if the Minister, as he indicated on the last occasion, is not prepared to accept the appeal we are making to him to withdraw these sections altogether and come back to the House with his general Bill.

This thing is now before the House. Not one other member of the National Coalition group is in the House other than the Minister. These three sections are of very great importance, introducing a new principle of major importance into planning, introducing a principle which will affect each and every elected representative on a planning authority. Yet there is no person here from the Minister's side to discuss or to hear what is going on or to indicate a view on this important matter. We would appeal to the Minister to let us know whether he will withdraw it, and if he indicates that he will not then we must seek the acceptance of an amendment to amendment 75. That seeks to extend this matter to all persons who are involved in any way in the planning process, be it the application section or the appeals section, be it the Minister or the board when it changes to the board.

I want to state our basic position, and if that is not accepted then we must seek acceptance of our amendment. We are proposing the amendment to the Minister's amendment on the basis that elected members are only one group of persons who are involved in the planning process, and they are involved in a very minor way under the existing Act inasmuch as their primary responsibility is the adoption of the development plan. As I indicated earlier, up to now the powers under section 4 in making directions in relation to decisions on applications have been very weak and have been circumvented up to now by county managers. The only other involvement is where they have the power to change zoning. As the Minister well knows, the number of changes that have been made by members of local authorities in the zoning of developing plans has been very minor. The number of local authorities who have made any basic change on a development plan that went before the public over the past four to five years is very slight. I would ask the Minister when replying if he would indicate if any local authority has, in fact, carried out a full statutory review of their development plan; if any local authority has made a major change in the original development plan that was adopted requiring three months' viewing by the public as provided by the statute. I would like if the Minister could let us know how many, if any, have gone through that process. If none have, or if very few have, then it lessens the involvements to date of elected members of planning authorities in the planning process. Their primary function was in the adoption and in deciding the wording and the scope of the original development plan. After that their involvement is very slight.

On that basis we say that it is wrong to single them out. The principal people with the main and the most powerful decision are the engineers in local authorities, the managers in local authorities, the other members of the staff who contribute to the final decisions made by the officials of local authorities. That covers persons operating in every single department in a local authority, the road section, the water and sewerage section and the health section. The medical officers also play an important part in it, and others working for the local authority. Also the Minister himself and the staff in the Minister's office play a very important part, the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary or any other person who is empowered to exercise the Minister's powers under this Act. There are a lot of other people who are in a real decision-making position who are not being covered at all. Why cast this cloak of suspicion over elected members whose involvement is so slight, when we know from our own practical experience that the real abuses of the Planning Act have been carried out in the Minister's own office since he assumed office. I will admit that most of the extraordinary decisions have emanated from the office of his side-kick, the Parliamentary Secretary.

I would like to protest against this wild charge being made by Deputy Molloy. He wants to villify somebody. If he wants to do this, let us have facts and figures and let him do it outside the House. Let him not come in with the protection of the House to villify either an elected Member or an official.

The Minister is very touchy.

I am not. I have a character to defend and I am going to defend it and so has my Parliamentary Secretary.

It is a political charge.

It is not.

It is and always has been and, by God, you people used it. I named names before in this House and the Minister did not answer the charge.

I named names on various occasions.

That is not so. I challenged Deputy Molly to make any charge he wanted outside this House and he did not do it. He is doing the usual thing—looking for a bit of free publicity by making charges. He is getting out of his mind something he has there about an unfortunate county manager in county Galway with whom he does not agree.

I am friendly with the county manager. What we are dealing with is the employment of these people. I challenged the Minister previously on a case involving a Mr. Farrelly and there was no answer from the Minister.

There is no such person as Mr. Farrelly.

Farrell or Farrelly. The Minister, on a planning appeal decided——

Sorry, the Deputy has made an allegation. I am telling him now that I am not involved nor was I involved with any case with a Mr. Farrell or Mr. Farrelly and Deputy Molloy must know that. He should not judge people by his own standards.

Is the Minister saying that the person of that name, be it one or the other, who was a contractor was not involved?

Names should not be named in the House.

I was challenged. I was told I was talking in vague terms. I am being specific now.

There are thousands of Farrellys in the country and there are at least 50 Farrellys and Farrells who are contractors. Deputy Molloy is just trying as usual to belittle people outside this House. The place to make his charge is outside where it can be answered, not in here.

I am referring to the Farrelly you send the cheque to regularly. I am referring to the Farrelly to whom you granted planning permission——

I want to know what Deputy Molloy means by saying I send a cheque to somebody regularly. Why should I send a cheque regularly to anybody? What is he talking about?

That is what we are asking you.

I have no involvement with a gentleman named Farrelly. I have not sent a cheque to anybody. Deputy Molloy is making outrageous charges and I would be glad if he would make them outside the House so I could deal with them.


Could I ask the Minister further why is it then that since the last time I mentioned and raised the matter in the House the Minister has changed the bank account from which this cheque was issued?

I want to make it very definite here that Deputy Molloy's charges are untrue. I propose to bring the matter to the notice of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges because this is a charge which is untrue and he is making a charge against my character and I will not take it from Deputy Molloy or anybody else. There is not one iota of truth in it.

The Chair has said repeatedly that the names of people who cannot defend themselves here should not be used in the House. They have no opportunity of defending themselves. The Chair appeals to Deputies not to indulge in this.

I appreciate that to a certain extent but, before I leave that subject, may I say this, that to use a phrase——

I want to make a point of order. I have had occasion in this House when I was villified— not by the Minister but by one of his colleagues—to the extent that I had to put down a question to the Minister to know if he had ever had any representations in his Department involving me in planning applications.

That does not change the fact that an untrue charge is being made by Deputy Molloy and the introduction of any red herring will not get away from that.

I had my share of villification also.

I am not introducing a red herring.


May I use a phrase which the Minister, himself, is very fond of using—if the cap fits, wear it.

The cap does not fit and Deputy Molloy is making outrageous statements that he cannot stand over.

Did the Minister change the bank account?

I did not change a bank account. That is untrue. I ask that these Deputies be asked to withdraw a scandalous statement which they have made. I did not change a bank account. It is scandalous. I did not do anything dirty since I went into the Department of Local Government.

The normal procedure of this House has always been that if a Member disclaims responsibility, that disclaimer is accepted.

I accept that the Minister disclaims it. I accept that.

With all respect, it has not been the practice. The Minister and his party spent years in the last Dáil trying to pin responsibility for crimes on people who they knew perfectly well were innocent. The Minister was one of the experts at it.

That is untrue, and Deputy Gibbons should not raise that issue here because I did not do such a thing.


Why is the Minister so touchy about it, then?

Because I have a character and I want to keep my good name in this House. That is the reason why I am so touchy.

Would the Deputy speak to his amendment?

Yes. I would just like to say that I accept that the Minister disclaims these charges.

I am glad that is so.

I also recently brought to the Minister's notice last week a case where a planning appeal decision was made which, in the Circular Road area in Galway, changed very substantially, the value of the land in question. A number of planning applications had been made to the local authority, certainly more than one in my memory, at least one of which—if I remember correctly— had in fact, been appealed. These had all been refused. On the change of Government, and within a short time afterwards an application was made again; it was refused by the local planning authority in Galway and was sent——

There is a procedure whereby if somebody is dissatisfied with the planning decision he may take the matter to the High Court. I have been there today and there the matter can be decided, not on an entirely irrelevant matter before this House.

The Minister is getting touchy again.

No. I have the answer here but I would not be within the rules of order in giving the reply to you.

I have an obligation and responsibility to state facts as I know them and it is here, as an elected Member of this House, that I should rightly state them and the Minister has his opportunity to explain if there are explanations.

He has not because it has nothing to do with the matter before the House.

It has. The permission was granted shortly after the change of Government and the association between the planning application being made after 14th March and it being refused—but its association, in particular, with the granting by the Minister's office of the permission—is no coincidence, to my knowledge.

It is like the rest of the statements you have made here tonight; it is entirely untrue. The Deputy is just making them because he is getting rid of something which is annoying him. He is just throwing it out here in the House.

It was zoned in the Galway city development plan to be retained without development as an amenity area and as an open space to be retained for agricultural purposes. No development was to be allowed on it, yet that development plan was contravened in the Minister's office though it had been refused on a number of occasions prior to that. I am pointing out that these three sections are pointing an accusing finger at the elected members of local authorities but the finger is pointing in the wrong direction. If there is any finger to point it must be pointed in the general direction in which I am looking at this present time, even though as I said, in fairness to the Minister, he might be bad enough, but he is not the worst culprit—the other person who, unfortunately, has been given responsibility——

I am responsible for any decisions I have taken in my office, as the Deputy should know.

Does the Minister state that he is aware and has personal knowledge of every single decision made by the Parliamentary Secretary——

I am responsible——

I accept that noble responsibility which is now claimed by the Minister which on other occasions in this House has been conveniently dropped by Ministers.

Not by me.

We have seen the Minister for Justice disclaim all responsibility——

We are getting away from the section and from the amendment.

——and putting us in an invidious position of accusing somebody else when he was the person with whom the buck stopped. I want to indicate to the House that there is a serious bias in the terms of these three amendments, that they are pointing the finger of suspicion at elected members of local authorities who, in their complete innocence, and in fairness to them, have very little say in the deciding of planning appeals. It is in the decision-making process that the power lies. That is where the responsibility should lie and that is where we look for integrity. When he comes back with a general Bill dealing with this whole area, we must insist that this type of principle be applied to all personnel involved in the planning process. For the purposes of this section, we therefore ask that "a member of a planning authority" should include the city and county manager or an employee of a planning authority. We will have a further amendment later on but that is the purpose of our amendment and we would ask the Minister for clarification if he intends pursuing seeking the approval of the House for these sections.

I am sorry the Deputy strayed so far away from the amendment he was supposed to be talking about. I want to make it very clear that I am not, nor have I been, involved in any shady deals. I have no double bank account. I have sent no cheques to a builder named Farrell or Farrelly. I have not been involved in any way with builders named Farrell or Farrelly. In fact I would be ashamed of them. It is outrageous that somebody like Deputy Molloy should come into this House and attempt to make statements like this which he is afraid to make outside the House.

Deputy Molloy accepted the statement of the Minister.

He accepted I said I was not involved and it is clear to his colleague beside him, Deputy Cunningham, who was also apparently involved in the antics of character assassination which appears to be stock in trade of Deputy Molloy. I am not, nor have I ever been——

What about the character assassination of elected members in county councils and corporations?

The reason I introduced this amendment at the time it was introduced is because in the national newspapers and magazines allegations were made against elected representatives. I defended the elected representatives in this House but no action was taken by anybody against the newspapers involved. Allegations were made week after week about land deals. I, in this House and outside, defended the elected representatives and said I was not prepared to accept that, but they were published and republished. There is only one way to stop that kind of thing and that is by putting it into the Bill so that everybody will know that there is no involvement.

On 14th January, 1975, when we were discussing this Bill, the question came up about whether more than elected representatives should be included in this question of declaring interest. He made a statement, and I told him at the time that he would be hoisted on his own petard and so he is, because he cannot get away from it. He said:

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?

I asked would Deputy Molloy accept the same principle and Deputy Molloy said: "So long as we have the Minister's assurance that he will try to introduce something that will cover them all equally." In fact, he accepted that and he is now attempting to reintroduce something to prevent anybody being included. If the elected representatives are left out I do not know what the justification for including anybody else will be.

He spoke about the Bill that is to be introduced. I am hoping to see it introduced very soon. It is not my fault it has not come before the House. Deputy Molloy is well aware that while the Planning Bill was being discussed, with a few honourable exceptions on the Fianna Fáil benches, we got nothing but obstruction. When the other Bills before the House at present came here, day after day people came in and repeated the same clichés in an effort to try to hold up the business of the House. That is why we have had not more time to deal with this matter or indeed to deal with the matter of the general declaration of interest. I want to see it introduced but not in the way in which it is introduced here because Deputy Molloy attempts to bring out, as was suggested that time, that I should take this out altogether and introduce a Bill covering everybody. We will introduce a Bill covering everybody but this Planning Bill will have something which will ensure that everybody connected with planning will not be accused, either by newspapers or by anybody else, in the wrong of being involved in any kind of deals.

God knows I have more respect for elected representatives than Deputy Molloy has and I have proved it. He intended to do away with 42 local councils and I have ensured that they will stay where they are. As far as I am concerned I give nothing but the highest praise to the elected representatives who are, in the main, working for the public for nothing. I am not going to let Deputy Molloy slide off the particular hook he is on by introducing an amendment here which he wants to pretend he is trying to push through. He then suggests that we forget all about it and introduce another Bill which will cover everybody, that this is not the appropriate measure. This is the appropriate measure for planning as far as I am concerned. When this goes through the House there will be a Planning Bill which can, in fact, be carried out properly.

As far as I am concerned, with regard to the question of planning itself, I have been for my time in the Department of Local Government responsible for quite a number of decisions and so has my Parliamentary Secretary. By law I am the responsible person for decisions taken and I take that decision whether or not I looked at the file. Whether he signed the order or not, it is on my table the responsibility lies and I carry that respossibility. I do it for my officials as well. If somebody disagrees with a planning decision I take it they have the right, by law, to take the matter to the High Court. As I said, there was a High Court case today in which I was involved and was vindicated. As far as I am concerned that is the way to deal with it. To say that somebody can come into this House and make completely outrageous charges against an elected Member of the House, whether a Minister or anybody else, I never heard anything like it in my life and I hope I do not hear it again.

Did you not——

I will not say anything to Deputy Gibbons. Please keep out of this.


If the Minister has anything to say, let him say it.

If I had anything to say about anybody in this House I would say it where I would be subject to the normal law. I want to finish by saying to Deputy Molloy that what he has said here tonight is entirely untrue, vindictive and I do not know from where he dug it out.

Dug out what?

I am challenging Deputy Molloy to make the statement outside the House which he made here and I shall deal with him then.

I made no accusation.

The Deputy made an accusation that I had given money to some builder. I do not know why I should do anything of the sort.

I do not know why the Minister should do it.

Not to mention planning permission.

Any planning permission I have given I am prepared to stand over either here or in the High Court. As far as I am concerned I have no regrets. The Press would be only too delighted, no doubt, to take particulars of any accusation Deputy Molloy may wish to make. The statement which Deputy Molloy made in this House is something which I would not expect from a former Minister.

May I ask the Minister a question? If the information was given to me had I not got a responsibility to bring it forward here?

Yes but would the Deputy be prepared to give the name of the informant who supplied him with this totally false information?

I made a statement and the Minister denied it.

Is the Deputy accepting that denial?

I accept that the Minister denies it but I cannot know whether he is telling the truth. He has files on it in his Department.

I told Deputy Molloy last night that he is mistaking two things. This was not attached to a housing scheme. It was an open ground attached to a housing scheme. It is usual for him to get a half truth and then try to make a story of it. If he looks at this again he will be sure of the position. However, I have heard enough from him for this night.

Put down a question about it and we will discuss it here in the House.

To keep me out.

It is not a branch meeting of the Labour Party that the Minister is addressing.

Let us keep to the Planning Bill.

The Labour Party are people who can give and take.

The Minister is treating the House with contempt.

There is no question of contempt on my part. Any question of contempt has come from the far side of the House. It started with Deputy Molloy at Question Time and has continued right up until now because apparently somebody stole the cream off his bun. He is now in bad form as a result.

Little chaps like him should go back where he came from. I gave an assurance to the House on the 14th January of this year that I proposed to introduce amendments which would include the people referred to and include the new planning board. I gave that assurance and it was accepted. Deputy Molloy has since introduced these amendments but I am not prepared to accept them.

There was one point I wanted to state about South Circular Road but we can leave it for now.

Is this in the Planning Bill?

The Minister may have got the impression that I was speaking about an open space attached to a housing estate which formed part of a planning application. I was referring to land that was zoned in the development plan and not land that was stated to be open space in application for housing development. I was talking about a zoning which was changed.

Let us deal with the amendment.

I could go through the files and bring some material over if Deputy Molloy would like to see it and then perhaps he may not be too happy about it.

Bring in the file.

I can do that.

Bring the lot in. If the Minister were worth his supper he would do this.

The Minister has to keep an eye on his Parliamentary Secretary. What is going on in the country at present is scandalous.

I would support strongly the case made by Deputy Molloy, that rather than introduce these new sections they would be introduced in the general Bill. I am not saying this for the first time. I made the same case when I was piloting a Bill through the House while I was Minister for Education when the Opposition at the time wanted to make certain changes which I considered were piecemeal type of changes. For that reason I thought it much better to bring in a comprehensive Bill.

If the Minister should decide not to withdraw these new sections then we would have no alternative but to press the amendment put forward here by Deputy Molloy to include the city and county manager as employees of the planning authority. My view is that if it is found necessary to make regulations relating to members of a planning authority who are elected representatives then it is equally necessary to do likewise in relation to any others who are involved in planning decisions. It is only right to point out at this stage that public representatives in this country have as high a standard of morality and as good a record as any other section of the community. The record of Irish politicians is of exceptional quality. Politician-bashing is a favourite pastime of certain sections of the community, and this is a hazard which we must accept but when this is overdone it tends to downgrade public life generally and to undermine to a considerable extent our democratic institutions.

It might be a useful exercise for those who are anxious to downgrade the politician to take the Members of this House individually and to compare himself objectively with each one and see whether he is better or worse than they are. I have no doubt he would find that the code of conduct in this House and among politicians generally is of exceptionally high character. I am simply referring to this in relation to this section so as to ensure that we do not add to what I might term a rather warped view expressed by some that politicians are bad and corrupt by singling out politicians in this Bill and by making regulations to control their activities while at the same time seeming to accept that there are other people very often much more intimately concerned in planning decisions who are exempt as if they belonged to a different species, is not right.

I make this case to the Minister in all sincerity. By singling out public representatives we are to a considerable extent downgrading ourselves. I would much prefer if the matter were dealt with in a comprehensive fashion in a Bill which was promised. I feel also that if we leave the sections as they are, without concerning ourselves with other people who are very often more intimately concerned in planning than we are ourselves, we will tend to lower the status of politicians. If we continue on this line, then we can hardly blame others who tend to downgrade us.

I appeal to the Minister to think again with regard to the amendment put down by Deputy Molloy. The amendment was put down for a specific purpose. By accepting this amendment the Minister will be accepting that people in public life here are decent people and can be compared with any section of the community.

I want, as strongly as I can, to support the general appeal made to the Minister in regard to the amendments he proposes. At an earlier stage of the debate on this legislation I made my view clear. I support very strongly the objection to legislating separately and solely for elected members of local authorities, as is being done in these amendments. Indeed I would nearly go so far as to say that the last section of the community on whom these constraints and obligations should be placed are the elected members of local authorities.

I feel perfectly free to speak frankly and openly on this question because I am not a member of a local authority and, hopefully, never will be. Therefore, I feel I can speak on this question without having any vested interest of any sort whatsoever. I wish to underline the importance of the fact that we expect elected members of local authorities to give their services voluntarily and gratuitously to the community. Also, in this regard we should be concerned with procuring the highest possible calibre and quality of elected representatives on local authorities. We should be very reluctant indeed to enact anything by way of legislation which would inhibit anybody from going forward for election to these local authorities. I have a very strong doubt about the wisdom of these proposalsab initio. I have a particularly strong objection to the Minister bringing in these amendments to deal with one section of the community in this way, in this very restricted area.

I have made it clear that, in my view the right way to deal with this—if it is to be dealt with; and when that day arrives I would have a lot to say on whether any action at all is called for in this area—is by one composite piece of legislation which affects everybody whether they be elected members of local authorities, Members of this House, members of the Judiciary, public officials, or whoever. The Bill should be comprehensive and should cover everybody and every aspect of public administration. That is the only fair and just way of dealing with the matter if it is to be dealt with at all. I agree with the Minister's suggestion that, if it is to be dealt with, it would be dealt with preferably by either the Attorney General or the Minister for Justice, because it is in their areas that these sorts of questions arise. I cannot see the force in the Minister's argument that because this Bill has taken a long period of time to get through this House—for reasons I shall not go into—and because he was preoccupied with this legislation the Attorney General could not go ahead with preparing the other piece of legislation.

I did not say that at all. What I said was there was not a hope of getting it into the House in the near future.

If that is now the Minister's argument—that it has not much hope of getting into this House in the foreseeable future—I should like to know if, at least, the Attorney General is proceeding with the preparations for such a Bill. I would like to know if that is the case.

I want to make the argument as strongly as possible to the Minister, to the House and indeed to the general public that the right way to deal with this question is by a composite piece of legislation in which everybody is covered, in which we can see the whole picture and the rights and obligations of everybody concerned set out for everybody to comprehend.

The Minister said, in his reply to Deputy Molloy, this was the legislation into which to put these proposals. I fundamentally disagree with that. I cannot be moved from the belief that the Minister brought in these amendments precipitately to deal with a particular situation which had arisen. I always distrustad hoc legislation, legislation which is brought in hurriedly in response to some particular situation which has arisen, which is agitating the public mind. If the Minister were to consider the matter calmly and objectively he would admit that that is what happened in regard to these amendments. He said that this is a Planning Bill and, therefore, is the place to insert these provisions. I submit that that is false reasoning on his part.

This is a Planning Bill and should deal with planning matters. These amendments are concerned with the constitution of local authorities. Were they to belong anywhere they would belong more properly to legislation which dealt with the composition of local authorities, election to local authorities and the rules of procedure governing local authorities. It is coincidental only that this Bill happened to be before the Dáil and the Minister availed of that opportunity to insert these particular proposals concerning local authorities. They are the last people in this country who should be singled out in this way, suspicion cast upon them, because no matter what protestations of goodwill towards local authority members the Minister makes, there is no doubt that these proposals do point the finger of suspicion at members of local authorities.

I support fully what Deputy Faulkner has said, that it is rather encouraging how standards have been preserved down the years throughout all the local authorities with the divisive people who are members of them in the different areas. It is quite possible, if these amendments are adopted and these proposals become law, they will have the effect of prohibiting, or inhibiting, certain very worth-while people from becoming members of local authorities. It is not difficult to visualise the type of individual who would have an interest in public affairs, who would wish to offer himself for election but who, because of his business interests, could not consider, not for any secret or illegitimate reasons but for genuine business reasons, disclosing in a public register all his business and property interests not because he would wish to do anything furtive or secret in the confines of the local authority to promote his own self-interests but simply because it would disclose information to business rivals which competitors and he could not face up to. I put that one aspect of these proposals to the Minister for serious consideration. Is it worthwhile, for the objectives which the Minister seeks in these proposals, to inhibit and prevent, perhaps, a fairly widespread number of people who could make a useful contribution to the councils and the local authorities from going forward for election?

I would like to hear the views of some political scientist on this. Is it not better to leave this matter to public opinion expressed through the ballot box? I do not know if there is any situation in this country which has developed to a stage where we should depart from the old, wellestablished procedures that if you are a member of a local authority or indeed anybody, a member of a private organisation, a member of the board of directors of a company, where the old principle applies, if something affects your own interests you must disclose that before you participate in the discussion or vote on a proposal. If you are not honourable enough to do that I think that the normal democratic processes of public opinion, ultimately expressed through the ballot box, will take care of this situation.

I believe that it will take care of it much more effectively than any legislation the Minister puts on the statute book. After all if there is somebody who is devious and who seeks to manipulate the local authority in his own self-interest—I think that it is a very difficult thing to do because of the way local authorities are constituted and with the balance that is maintained between the managerial system and elected representatives—then I think he will succeed in doing this, no matter what legislation the Minister passes.

All the Minister will do, by passing this legislation, is to embarrass perfectly straightforward, honest, decent people and perhaps, in many cases, inhibit them from going forward for election to local authorities. As I say, I hope that we could discuss this matter much more fully on one piece of legislation which would cover the whole field. I feel that the Minister is mistaken in endeavouring to insert these provisions relating to one narrow section of the community in this Bill. These provisions are concerned with the constitution of local authorities, with the sort of people who should be members of local authorities, with the sort of people should behave, and with the standards they should uphold. If those provisions have to be enacted they would be much more appropriate for a piece of legislation which governed the set-up, the election to and the procedures of local authorities as a whole, as distinct from putting them in on this very narrow aspect of the planning functions of the local authorities.

I do not want to advert to the matters which were raised earlier. I feel perfectly free and at liberty to speak very openly and very frankly about these proposals because I am not a member of a local authority and, therefore, not in any way involved in anything that may be affected by the register that will be established as a result of these provisions. I had occasion in this House to direct a question to the Minister for Local Government—I want to give him credit for the fact that he answered very frankly—because of the allegations that were made inside and outside this House by a colleague of his in the Government, about myself and my colleague in my constituency. I felt it necessary to put down a question to the Minister asking him if anywhere in the files of his Department there was any record of any improper representations ever made by myself or Deputy Timmons in relation to planning matters. I give the Minister credit for answering that parliamentary question put down by both of us in a manner which was satisfactory to us.

It shows that allegations of this type are made and these can be very hurtful to people in public office. It is in the atmosphere of those allegations that I am opposed to these sections. I am opposed to anything being done in isolation in regard to members of local authorities but I am not sure that when the time comes I will not be totally opposed, in principle, to this sort of departure. I know it has become a popular concept in certain Labour circles in Britain and perhaps that is why it is being promulgated here, but I am not so sure that when the time comes to debate the full comprehensive legislation that I will not be equally opposed to that. I am certainly opposed to this unilateral departure here in relation to members of local authorities.

Both Deputy Faulkner and Deputy Haughey have, in a reasonable way, argued against the proposals. Deputy Faulkner, of course, made his usual reasonable comments. I do not agree with the points he made but he made them in a reasonable way. Deputy Haughey did also. Unlike Deputy Faulkner and Deputy Haughey I was a member of a local authority for 15 years. Since this proposal has been made and the discussion of the amendment which would produce the declaration of interest by local authority members before the other question arose, I discussed the matter with numerous local authority representatives, members of various parties and also with representative groups of local authorities. In no case did I get an objection to it. All of them, like myself, are heartily sick of unfounded charges made—Deputy Haughey is perfectly correct when he says that he put down a question from himself and Deputy Timmons—either in such a way that they cannot be followed up or they are made under the protection of this House, which are hurtful, not alone to the people concerned, but to their families particularly when they are so untrue. Some of them, however, have been made outside the House. This is the really dangerous part of it.

They have been made in public, on television, radio and in the newspapers. I can recall the stories of some of the newspapers and at least one magazine which had long stories about these matters. This is entirely wrong, and since the people who are affected by it —it is impossible to say that a politician should take a case against a newspaper because even if he wins he loses in the long run. Whether it is right or wrong this has been publicised. Of course, if enough mud is thrown some of it seems to stick. This is obviously what the people who throw the mud are depending on. There is one way to stop it and that is to have a declaration which will ensure that everybody is aware of what the situation is. Deputy Haughey says it should not be included in a Planning Bill, that we should keep it for a Local Government Bill or for something else other than this. The facts are that this is now before the House and the charges in the main were made with reference to land deals. There were very hurtful charges made against decent people. Decent public representatives had their character taken away because statements were published saying that they were involved in land deals, as members of local authorities.

If they cannot protect themselves in any other way the onus is on this House to ensure that they are protected. That is the second reason why we should ensure that putting it down here means that in future, as far as planning and zoning are concerned, everyone will know what interest, if any, an elected representative has in that and nobody can write a scandal sheet in a newspaper or magazine accusing him of something which is entirely incorrect.

I am surprised at one thing. Dealing with Deputy Haughey on this Bill we discussed matters and if he puts up a reasonable case I accept it and if I put up a reasonable argument against it he is prepared to accept it although he may disagree with me. But he is aware that on 14th January, 1975, Deputy Molloy said he would be prepared to accept it with regard to elected representatives if it was applied to others, and he was talking about local authority officials. Eventually he stretched it out to include officials of the planning board. I asked Deputy Haughey if he was talking for his party or was Deputy Molloy talking for the party. The reply which he gave to me when he put out his hand was: "The spokesman for the party is making the official statement". The official statement was made by Deputy Molloy that he was prepared to accept this. That was in last January on another amendment. Now we have both Deputy Molloy and Deputy Haughey arguing against what was accepted by them on 14th January, 1975. That is just not good enough.

I did not accept it.

The Deputy said that Deputy Molloy was talking for the party. If Deputy Molloy was talking for the party and he had accepted it Deputy Haughey will admit that the official spokesman had, in fact, spoken. I know Deputy Haughey has a genuine objection to the proposal and I have no quarrel with him over that. He is perfectly entitled, as is any Deputy in this House, to have his own views on any matter, but the facts of the case are that it has been agreed that the elected representatives of a local authority be included in the Bill. I have given a guarantee to the House, which was accepted.

In addition, the officials, both of the local authority and the planning board would be included in the declaration of interest. Having gone that far, it is a bit unreasonable now to reverse engines and attempt to go back to square one again and say, "all that is gone now, we are now going to have a new ball game and we are now going to attempt to argue the whole thing over again." When we talk of the speed or otherwise with which this Bill is going through the House that is very relevant. There is no point in having a long discussion on one section, reaching a conclusion, and a guarantee which I had given being accepted by the Opposition, and then on a subsesquent section going back to the same objection. That is unreasonable. Nobody can quarrel with my argument. As far as I am concerned, it is necessary in this Bill to have included the declaration of interest for elected representatives and to follow that up with the declaration of interest for the officials, of both the local authority and the planning authority.

Would the Minister take these amendments back and bring the whole lot forward at Report Stage?

This would be delaying it. There is no reason why we should not pass what we have. I am sure Deputy Haughey could not think of an argument which would be reasonable against that.

Because the Minister let it through at Committee Stage he is not passing it at that point. Even on the Minister's own argument, what Deputy Haughey suggests is reasonable. Bring the whole lot together, the Minister is not passing it now.

Deputy O'Kennedy is also a reasonable man but he must admit that what he is saying is: "Let us take them back to Report Stage", but then we must argue the whole lot over again.

We can only talk once on Report Stage.

I know if there are enough Members how long it will take to talk once over the whole lot.

Is the Attorney General getting on with the general Bill?

We hope that the Attorney General will have a Bill which will cover everybody else, a general Bill to cover the whole lot.

As a member of the Government can the Minister say if this is under way?

I cannot honestly say at what stage it is.

Has there been a Government decision to go ahead with such a Bill?

My recollection is that there is; but again, I would not be prepared to spell it out.

Why not put the whole lot in together?

This Bill is before the House and we have reached this Stage. We cannot get away from the fact that it was accepted on behalf of Fianna Fáil that if the officials were to be included we would have the whole acceptable. That has been done.

The Minister is pushing that too far. We are only having a Committee Stage debate on these proposals.

There is a principle involved in this and the principle was accepted by the Deputy's party. The Deputy cannot have it both ways.

Committee Stage is not the end of any piece of legislation. If a principle is right then it is written into the Bill together and if what the Minister says is his position now, why not bring the lot in together?

Because it is the proper thing to do. It is lopsided here.

It is not lopsided. I am prepared, and have proven this through this Bill, that if something is raised by the Opposition which I think is reasonable, to accept it. Numerous reasonable matters have been raised.

May I intervene for one moment? I believe that if the Minister wishes to come forward, as he is promising, with amendments to include official employees of local authorities and employees of the new planning board, he will have to amend these amendments anyway. It will not be possible for him to draft amendments which would cover all these people and bring them within the ambit of these sections without amending these sections and other sections in some way. The sensible drafting thing to do, apart from anything else, would be to take these amendments away and Deputy Molloy's amendment also and put the whole lot into one composite amendment and bring it here on Report Stage.

I do not think so because we have already got two amendments which are acceptable.

And the Minister will have to amend them on Report Stage.

I am not prepared to agree that we will have to amend them on Report Stage but at least we have gone a certain distance with the Bill. As it is we have the principle accepted, despite what Deputy O'Kennedy says, that those people are to be included under those amendments and the others will be included at Report Stage. That is what was agreed on 14th January.

The Minister is making a treaty out of this. We had a very informal arrangement across the House.

Either what is said is acceptable or it is not; otherwise the giving of a guarantee in the House that something is acceptable would go by the board. If what Deputy Haughey now says is correct it means that there is no point in my saying that I will consider a matter again because, according to him, I am only saying it across the House and it does not matter.

We are only arguing about procedure now. We suggest that from the Minister's point of view in drafting the Bill it would be more convenient to take these amendments away, make composite amendments and bring them in on Report Stage.

Can the Minister not see, for instance, that if these amendments had been introduced together, the sensitive questions of the public representatives at local authority level being singled out would not have arisen——

This is a ridiculous argument. He is arguing about local authority representatives being singled out.

When the Minister has mentioned that, that is the reason I find very unconvincing. He may genuinely hold that view. If in fact he feels obliged to introduce legislation requiring all public representatives at local authority level to state their interests, simply because of reports in newspapers so that, as he says, such charges cannot be made again, if you follow that to its conclusion, it means that in respect of any such group you wait until charges of that nature are made in newspapers and then you introduce some provision in this legislation.

We are not——

Other Ministers could wait and say: "We will not do it until such time as charges are made in newspapers and then because these charges are made we will bring a section into a Bill". That does not seem to me to make very good sense. Either the thing is right in its own right or it is wrong. It is not because of charges made in newspapers. That is where I see the weakness of the Minister's position in this. If the principle is right it applies to all and not by way of response to charges made in newspapers——

I have in fact made it very clear here that——

On a point of information, does the Minister's guarantee include members of the new planning board or only the staff?


Members and staff——

Yes, in fact I have made it very clear that the proposals that have been put in have been strengthened because of unfair attacks made on public representatives. I consider it scandalous that public representatives should be attacked in the way they were and no proof of it except that somebody published it in a newspaper. For one reason, a very good reason, court cases did not follow and the general public, who do not know the facts, said: "There must be something in it or it would not have been said." So there is one way of ensuring that it will not be repeated and that is to——

It will not. The allegations will still be made.

If the allegations are made, then there is a way of dealing with this kind of thing. Allegations made outside the House, in my opinion, should be followed up even though politicians say it is foolish to go to court with the Press——

Does the Minister not think, just taking up his own argument, that the fact that this register is there open for public inspection, will invite vindictive and malicious people to go and look at the register and proceed to make all sorts of allegations on the basis of what they read in the register——

But they cannot because, if somebody declares in the register that he has an interest, nobody can accuse him of deliberately cloaking what the position is and taking advantage of the fact that it was not known that he had that interest. It is a castiron protection for people who are or are likely to be vilified. Public representatives, particularly local authority representatives, who are unpaid, should be protected in every possible way. At that time I only included that, but because of the argument made here I included the local authority staff and the members and staff of the planning board. This is to be included in the Bill on Report Stage. I thought we would have no further discussion, that that was as clear as crystal when we discussed it before. I am very disappointed that it should be debated again.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 26th June, 1975.