When progress was reported I had explained to the House the reasons why I think it is appropriate and, indeed, necessary to proceed with amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 77——
Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Committee Stage (Resumed).
We have not finalised the amendment to amendment No. 75 yet. Is that what the Minister is dealing with?
We were discussing these for one-and-a-half hours last night and surely we are not changing the procedure now.
I just want it to be clear.
When progress was reported, I was explaining to the House why I think it is appropriate and, indeed, necessary to proceed with amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 77 to be taken with the amendment to amendment No. 75 on the understanding that amendments which would be similar in their principle would be introduced by me on Report Stage to deal with the staffs of planning authorities and the members and staff of the appeal board. I do not propose to go over the ground again but I would ask Deputies opposite to adhere to the agreement reached early on Committee Stage and allow the House to proceed to consider the actual amendment I have proposed in relation to local councillors.
These amendments may not be perfect in every detail. For example, in my opening remarks on amendment No. 75 I mentioned that subsection (4) of the proposed new section 28, as drafted, may go too far and that consideration might be given to limiting its application to certain kinds of cases. I am genuinely anxious, therefore, to have the views of Deputies on the amendment. I can assure the House that I shall be fully prepared to accept any reasonable changes suggested and put down any necessary Report Stage amendments. I may also point out that any changes in approach decided on for reconsideration by the House on amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 77 can be built into Report Stage amendments relating to board members and their staff when these are being drafted.
I do not think anybody can deny that my approach to the Bill has been a reasonable one or that I have failed to listen to and accept wherever possible suggestions for changes made by Deputies. I find it difficult to understand why Deputies opposite have been attempting to deny the House the opportunity of having a Committee Stage debate on the amendments I have put down. Accordingly, I would ask them to reconsider their position in this matter and adhere to the agreement reached here as long ago as 14th January, 1975 that we go ahead with consideration of the present amendment on the basis of a definite undertaking by me to put down appropriate Report Stage amendments to deal with board members, staff of the board and local representatives. So far the discussions have related only to these implications. We cannot ignore the fact, as I said last night, that as a result of newspaper publicity—God knows I am not in favour of legislation by newspaper reports—Members of this House who are members of local authorities and members of local authorities were abused and held up to ridicule. The only way I can see to prevent that sort of thing happening is by having a declaration of interest by everybody so that anybody who wishes may go to see it and cannot then make veiled insinuations which apparently cannot be followed up in a court case.
I suggest that we get these amendments through. I have given a guarantee that I will bring in the amendments that have been suggested by the Opposition on Report Stage.
Going back to the earlier discussion on this, I think the Minister is mixing up two things; first, we have a local government package deal on declaration of interest and the Minister was quite right last night. We agree with him; we would prefer to see the whole matter of declaration of interest dealt with as a unit, not to tie up other Departments by what we may do here. It would be better to have a streamlined declaration of interest process or system for all Departments.
That is our basic argument. It is a logical one with which I feel sure the Minister will agree. If he wants a declaration of interest packet of legislation I do not think he should split it up in so far as it refers to his own Department in the Planning Bill before us. It should all be done together. The Minister promised to introduce a comprehensive Bill before the recess but he has not done so. That is fair enough: we will not lacerate him for not doing so. The Government have their problems.
So have you.
If the Minister is doing this in this Bill in respect of local government, then he should at least not subdivide again. He is differentiating in this Bill between elected representatives and other persons who have very important work to do in regard to planning decisions and appeals. He is getting out of the planning decision process himself: that is the whole purpose of the Bill and of the parallel legislation drafted by Fianna Fáil. Therefore, at Departmental level, at elected representative level in this House, we are taking the Minister for Local Government out of planning and his interest accordingly does not arise. But the interests of the board which he will appoint do arise and the Minister gave a promise that the members of that board also would be covered by a provision to declare their interests.
We are accusing the Minister of providing for only elected members to declare their interests and not providing that members of the new appeals board, a very important body who will replace the Minister, should declare their interests. We propose that they too, as well as local authority officials, should be covered by this provision. We want to see covered all officials engaged in planning decisions. That covers a fairly wide range.
We say the Minister is wrong when in one sphere of government, local government, he differentiates between elected representatives and others. No matter what appears in the Bill covering his Department, the Minister should set the pattern he has in mind for the forthcoming comprehensive Bill. The pattern I have in mind for any comprehensive Bill dealing with this matter is that elected representatives are not the only persons who should be asked to make declarations of interest. If the Minister is to narrow it down to local government in this Bill, then he should include all persons involved in the process of planning.
When the Minister was replying last night I got the impression that he misunderstood the line I had taken. The case I was making is that first of all I would have preferred to have seen all the matters raised on these subsections included in a comprehensive Bill, but in the event of the Minister not agreeing, I wanted to provide that all involved in the planning process, as well as elected representatives, would be included. Perhaps the Minister would briefly outline the various other categories involved in these provisions.
I thought I had made it perfectly clear. Originally, it was proposed only to be applied to elected representatives, but following Opposition representations, particularly Deputy Molloy's, that has been changed. At first, Deputy Molloy mentioned county managers. I asked him if he were speaking only of county managers and he said "other officials in planning". I asked him if he would accept the principle that those not already proposed would be included and he answered that he would. He asked about the people on the Planning Board and I resisted this for a while not because I thought they were a special type of people, like Caesar's wife, but that they were a people above suspicion—an ex-High Court judge would be chairman. Eventually I came round to the idea that we would include those and my firm understanding on 14th January last was that at the Committee Stage we would cover elected representatives and that the amendments I would put in would be accepted. I have given a guarantee that I will include at Report Stage the other categories, those involved in planning at local level as well as at appeal level.
Is this in the general Bill? The Minister has mentioned two things: he mentioned a Bill which would cover all Departments——
Let us put the other Bill to one side.
Are we to take it that at Report Stage the Minister will be doing what we have been advocating this morning?
Yes, and before this morning—on 14th January. That is on record in the Official Report of the House for 14th January.
In case there would be any misunderstanding—we are not being suspicious of the board or anybody else—let me make it clear that all we wanted was to have included all those involved in planning.
On reflection, I think it is fairer to the people involved. There have been too many suggestions going around, ulterior motives and so on.
There could be a situation where the Chairman of the appeals board could hold that position this year and be, say, an elected member of Donegal County Council next year. It would have been unfair to have him declaring his interest as an elected representative but not doing so as chairman of the board.
I do not think there are many High Court judges offering as candidates for Donegal County Council.
I was the strongest on this question of the appeals board.
Yes. The appeals board was definitely the Deputy's idea.
I am satisfied that anybody who has any connection with planning will be included and will have to make a declaration. I do not see why the chairman of the board or anybody else should be excluded while a public representative should have to make the declaration.
May I take it that Deputy Molloy's amendment to the Minister's amendment No. 75 is withdrawn?
Is the Minister's amendment, No. 75, agreed?
Agreed, but as I pointed out we would have preferred that that matter should have been dealt with in an individual Bill.
I move amendment No. 76:
In page 16, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following new section:
"29.—(1) Where, at a meeting of a planning authority or of any committee of a planning authority, a resolution, motion, question or other matter is proposed or otherwise arises either pursuant to, or as regards the performance by the authority of a function under, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 and 1974, or in relation to the acquisition or disposal of land under or for the purposes of those Acts or any other enactment by the authority, a member of the authority or committee present at the meeting shall, if he has a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in, or which is material to, the matter—
(a) at the meeting, and before discussion or consideration of the matter commences, disclose the nature of his interest,
(b) withdraw from the meeting for so long as the matter is being discussed or considered,
and accordingly, he shall take no part in the discussion or consideration of the matter and shall refrain from voting in relation to it.
(2) A member of a planning authority or of any committee of a planning authority who has a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in, or which is material to, a matter arising either pursuant to, or as regards the performance by the authority of a function under, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 and 1974, or in relation to the acquisition or disposal of land under or for the purposes of those Acts or any other enactment by the authority shall neither influence nor seek to influence a decision of the authority as regards the matter.
(3) For the purposes of this section but without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) or (2) hereof, a member of a planning authority or of a committee of a planning authority shall be regarded as having a beneficial interest if—
(a) he or his spouse, or any nominee of his or of his spouse, is a member of a company or any other body which has a beneficial interest in, or which is material to, a resolution, motion, question, or other matter mentioned in subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section,
(b) he or his spouse is in partnership with or is in the employment of a person who has a beneficial interest in, or which is material to, such a resolution, motion, question, or other matter.
(c) he or his spouse is a party to any arrangement or agreement (whether or not enforceable) concerning land to which such a resolution, motion, question or other matter relates,
(d) his spouse has a beneficial interest in, or which is material to, such a resolution, motion, question or other matter.
(4) For the purposes of this section, a person shall not be regarded as having a beneficial interest in, or which is material to, any resolution, motion, question or other matter by reason only of an interest of his or of any company or of any other body or person mentioned in subsection (3) of this section which is so remote or insignificant that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence a member of a planning authority or a commitee of a planning authority in the consideration of discussion of, or in voting on, any question with respect to that matter.
(5) Where a member of a planning authority or a committee of a planning authority has a beneficial interest mentioned in subsection (1) or (2) of this section by reason only of the beneficial ownership of shares in a company or other body by him or by his spouse and the total nominal value of those shares does not exceed the lesser of—
(a) five hundred pounds, or
(b) one-hundredth part of the total nominal value of either the issued share capital of the company or body or, where that capital is issued in shares of more than one class, of the issued share capital of the class or classes of shares in which he has an interest,
neither of those subsections shall have effect in relation to that beneficial interest.
(6) Where at a meeting described in subsection (1) of this section a disclosure is made under that subsection, particulars of the disclosure and of any subsequent withdrawal from the meeting pursuant to the said subsection shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
(7) Subject to subsection (8) of this section, a person who contravenes or fails to comply with the requirements of subsection (1) or (2) of this section 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 time of the alleged offence he did not know and had no reason to believe that a resolution, motion, question or other matter in, or in relation to, which he had a beneficial interest was being considered at the relevant meeting, or that the beneficial interest to which the alleged offence relates was one in relation to which a requirement of subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section applied.
(9) In this section ‘shares' includes stock and ‘share capital' shall be construed accordingly."
This is where the member at an actual meeting must declare his pecuniary or beneficial interest?
Does this apply to farmer members?
Farmers are ordinary people.
If a person has money in the bank he does not have to declare that but will an ordinary farmer who is not dealing in the business of buying and selling and property transactions, have to declare his interest?
I think Deputy Cunningham is misunderstanding the position. The question of somebody having money in the bank will not be likely to have an influence on a decision at a meeting. If a discussion comes up at a meeting which affects a farm or property owned by somebody, certainly he would have to declare his interest. That is the whole point. It is right that it should be so. The amendment proposes to insert a new section which is designed to prevent members of planning authorities or committees thereof from voting on or otherwise influencing a decision on a planning or land acquisition matter where they have a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in or which is material to the matter. That is the most straightforward case of the whole lot.
The existing subsection (6) proposes that where a person ceases to be a member of a planning authority any particulars entered on the register of the member's interest as a result of the declaration given by the person to the authority under the section shall be removed as soon as may be after the expiration of a period of five years.
Is that amendment No. 76 or No. 75 that Deputy Haughey is reading?
I am sorry. It is No. 75.
We passed that.
Perhaps I might ask whether the Minister would consider that five years is too long in that context. A member's private business would still be on the register for a period of five years after he ceases to be a member of the authority.
Would Deputy Haughey suggest a period which he would consider reasonable or have any of the other Deputies a view on this? Sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, this is an entirely new procedure to allow.
We are going back. I want Members to resolve problems but we are going back on an amendment already dealt with.
We will deal with it on the section.
This is a new section.
It is a new section. I am sorry about that.
Consider three years.
Does the Minister consider that a declaration on certain votes would debar a member from voting?
Yes. The wording I have here is "pecuniary or other beneficial interest in". This would be to prevent members of planning authorities and committees thereof from voting on or otherwise influencing a decision on—and this is the kernel—a planning or land acquisition matter. That is the only thing involved and I think it is very important.
On behalf of Deputy Molloy, I move amendment No. 76a:
Before section 28 to insert the following new section:
"A City or County Manager or an employee of a planning authority shall not perform any functions in relation to a matter in which he has a pecuniary or other beneficial interest."
This amendment was discussed with amendments Nos. 75 and 76.
It was but I would be interested to have the Minister's comments on it.
It should be withdrawn. It is the same as the amendment to amendment No. 75, surely?
It is not the same.
One is disclosure of interest on the register.
The other is performing a function.
The principle is the same.
Of course the principle is the same but does the Minister propose to insert an amendment which will cover this?
I have undertaken to look at it.
There is a difference here because the new section which the Minister has inserted lays down standards of behaviour in regard to voting on matters in which a member of a local authority has an interest. Deputy Molloy's amendment, No. 76a, is obviously concerned with extending the same sort of provision to the employee. If a member of a local authority is prevented from voting on a matter in which he has an interest, surely there is a much better case for preventing an official from performing a function in relation to a matter in which he has an interest?
I cannot see where this comes in.
Take the manager as one of the officials concerned. Suppose a proposal is made at a county council meeting in regard to a matter in which the manager may have an interest and in respect of which he must make an order or sign a planning permission document. What arrangement does the Minister propose to make so that somebody else will do that? There could be an awkward situation which may necessitate an amendment of another Local Government Act. The manager might have an interest in a planning decision and he may be the person who will make an order in respect of that decision. It may be a decision of some other official; it may be a decision of the local authority. It may be an order designating an area a high amenity area or redesignating a high amenity area for some other purpose. You could have an awkward situation that the only person who would make the order or sign the order or do the official mechanical act would be the manager who had a financial or other interest in the decision.
There is a certain amount of merit in Deputy Cunningham's argument. The way I had been looking at it was that he would have to declare an interest anyway before this, so everybody would know. He is in a different position from the elected representative because he is an employee of the council that is making the decision and therefore his job is on the line if he wishes to do something hookey but there is the possibility that he could nominate somebody else to do the job although that might not be satisfactory.
Suppose somebody invokes section 4 and compels him to do the job, who then would do it?
It would not matter because in that case it would be only a question of a rubber stamp.
What about managerial orders of the council?
We discussed this last night under another section but Deputy Cunningham is attempting to have it discussed under this section although it is not relevant to it. In the event of section 4 being invoked a manager would not be entitled to take certain action without the permission of the council. We are talking about a straightforward matter. The Deputy has a point but I suggest that it be left aside for the moment and, perhaps, dealt with at Report Stage by way of amendment.
This question of an official of a local authority disclosing an interest may well be covered under general local government law.
It is covered. The House impressed on me earlier that that does not matter, that despite that, he must do other things.
This is clearly concerned with an official performing an official function in respect of a matter in which he might have an interest.
It is covered in local government law but the desire to have the matter copper-fastened has been expressed strongly in the House and accepted by me. Therefore, it will be covered at Report Stage. Deputy Cunningham has made a good point on this question and I should like to have a further look at it.
I move amendment No. 77:
In page 16, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following new section:
"30.—(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 28* or 29* of this Act, the following provisions shall have effect:
(a) in case the person is a member of a planning authority or a member of any committee of a planning authority, he shall on such conviction cease to be a member of the authority or the committee, as may be appropriate,
(b) in case the person is a member of both a planning authority and any one or more such committees, he shall so cease to be a member of both the authority and every such committee, and
(c) the person shall be disqualified for being a member of the relevant planning authority or committee during the period which, but for the cessation of his membership under this section, would be the remainder of his term.
(2) In case a person contravenes or fails to comply with the requirements of section 28* or 29* of this Act, or acts as a member of a planning authority or committee of a planning authority while disqualified for membership by virtue of this section, the fact of such contravention or failure or of his so acting, as the case may be, shall not invalidate any resolution or proceeding of the authority or committee.
(3) Where a company within the meaning of section 155 of the Companies Act, 1963, is deemed under that section to be a subsidiary of another or to be another such company's holding company, a person who is a member of the first-mentioned such company shall, for the purposes of sections 28* and 29* of this Act, be deemed also to be a member of the other company."
*These are the sections proposed to be inserted by Amendments Nos. 75 and 76.
This is consequential and it is hardly necessary to spend time discussing it.
I notice that it refers only to "authority" and "committee". If a person were a member of a county council and, consequently, of a planning authority and if he commits an offence, as well as losing his place on the authority does he lose it on the council? In other words, does "committee" here mean "council"?
What happens to non-elected members who commit offences?
One cannot take from them a seat which they do not have. The Deputy reminds me of a man who, charged with a driving offence a few weeks ago, said to me that his driving licence could not be taken from him since he did not have one.
Would there be no penalty in the case of a nonelected member?
He would simply lose his seat on the committee.
Because he is not an elected member, he need not declare his interest and neither must he suffer any penalty in the event of his committing an offence.
He would have to declare his interest.
There is a subsection in the Bill which says that elected members must declare their interest.
It does not say elected members.
The Minister has agreed to introduce an amendment at Report Stage to include officials, but there are those involved in the decision making process who are neither officials nor elected representatives.
Not in relation to planning. The Deputy is thinking of library committees and so on but there is no such provision in respect of planning authorities. They would all have been elected representatives.
In relation to subsection (2) I note that where a person contravenes the requirements, such contravention shall not invalidate any resolution or proceedings of the authority or committee. Supposing, that the vote of the person concerned was the one which carried a particular resolution, what would happen?
It would have to be dealt with in the normal way but under no circumstances could there be inserted a stipulation that because somebody was disqualified subsequently the action of the committee during the term of that person's membership could be invalidated. I am sure Mrs. Gandhi would agree with me. The position is that to do that would be to create a lot of problems.
I am not suggesting otherwise.
A proposal to reverse the decision could be put at a subsequent meeting.
On a point of clarification the proposed new section indicates that where a person is a member of a planning authority and is convicted under sections 28 and 29, he shall cease to be a member of the authority——
May I intervene to inform the House that, in accordance with agreement just reached between the Whips, the House will adjourn for an interval of an hour from 1.30 p.m. until Question Time at 2.30 p.m.
——and shall be disqualified from membership. In other words if such a member loses his seat because of conviction the local authority would go through the usual procedure of co-opting somebody else to fill that seat. However, the section specifies that the convicted person cannot be co-opted and that disqualification applies for the period which his original election covered. He would be eligible to go forward at the next election if he wished.
That is correct.
When members of county councils die they are replaced by the process of co-option. May we take it that a co-opted member would be subject to the provision of declaration? I note that the reference in this regard is to elected representatives.
The reference is to members but for convenience in the House and in order to clarify something Deputy Cunningham was saying, we have been using the word "elected".
Amendments Nos. 78, 79, 80 and 81 are related and I suggest that they be debated together.
I move amendment No. 78:
In page 16, subsection (1), lines 48 to 53 and in page 17, lines 1 to 5, to substitute the following paragraph for paragraph (a):
"(a) providing for,
(i) the payment to planning authorities of prescribed fees by applicants for a waiver notice under section 25 of this Act,
(ii) the publication by planning authorities of specified notices with respect to applications for permission under the Principal Act to develop land or for such a waiver notice,".
This amendment is to delete the whole of paragraph (a) and substitute a new paragraph therefor. That would enable the Minister to make regulations for (1) fees for waiver notices under section 25, as provided by amendment No. 65 and, (2) publication by planning authorities of notices relating to planning applications and applications for waiver notices. It is not now proposed to have fees either for planning applications or for appeals, Lodgment of £10 for appeals is, however, provided for in a new section, under amendment No. 26.
Amendment No. 79 has been put down by Deputy Molloy. A Cheann Comhairle, what way should we proceed? It has not been moved. How do I deal with it?
We can discuss them all together. They need not necessarily be moved until the end of the debate.
Amendment No. 79 is not acceptable but should be withdrawn in view of amendment No. 78 since that amendment will remove the provision for fees in respect of both——
That is correct; we accept that.
The Minister will accept that it was very wise of Deputy Molloy to put down that amendment.
As I told Deputies on the other side of the House, I am prepared to accept reasoned amendments and arguments on anything in the Bill. I have done so and I think Deputy Faulkner should acknowledge that fact.
We have acknowledged it on many occasions.
Provided the Minister keeps that Parliamentary Secretary out of the House.
Amendment No. 80 is in the name of Deputy O'Brien. I do not want to accept it either. It would go by the board for the same reason.
Amendment No. 81 would probably be withdrawn by Deputy Molloy also, again in view of amendment No. 78—the subparagraph in question enables regulations to be made to provide for the payment of prescribed fees to the Board for lodgment of deposits with the Board when an appeal is made. Therefore, if amendment No. 78 is acceptable, the others go.
If amendment No. 78 is accepted all the others cannot be moved.
Just to clarify it— except for fees for waiver notices, the only other charge that can be made is purely for the publication of the specified notice?
There is no charge for that.
Subparagraph (i) of amendment 78 says:
the payment to planning authorities of prescribed fees by applicants for a waiver notice...
Then (ii) says:
the publication by planning authorities of specified notices with respect to applications for permission...
There are no fees for that?
No, the fees are for the waiver notices only.
It has an important bearing on third party appeals, has it not?
No, it should not have any bearing at all on appeals because they will be dealt with in the normal way. It is only ones which arise after the setting up of the Board.
No, I am talking about third party appeals. The original section gave the Minister authority to prescribe fees—the payment or lodgment with the Board of prescribed fees or deposits by appellants; it covered all appellants.
Actually, it will help the third party appeals.
There was some public agitation about this. Some bodies concerned with conservation and preservation were disturbed that the Minister might make regulations prescribing fees which would be necessary in case they wished to make third party appeals against particular proposals. The Minister is now abandoning that power and is giving himself very limited power. He will now prescribe fees only in two very limited cases.
May I take it that amendment No. 78 in the name of the Minister is agreed?
Amendment No. 82 in the name of Deputy Molloy.
That is gone anyway.
I beg the Chair's pardon. It is paragraph (a) that is gone. Paragraphs (b) and (c) stand. I move amendment No. 82.
To delete subsection (1) (c), page 17, lines 10 to 13.
Deputy Molloy's amendment is to delete, from subsection (1), paragraph (c) lines 10 to 13. Paragraph (c) provides that the Minister may make regulations:
making such incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision as may appear to him to be necessary or proper for any purpose of this Act or in consequence of, or to give full effect to, any of its provisions.
Deputy Molloy seeks here to restrict the Minister's powers under the regulations. It seems to me that paragraph (c) is very wide. It would enable the Minister to prescribe any sort of fees he wished. That is obviously what concerned Deputy Molloy.
I think the Deputy was right first—that this amendment should fall in view of the decision in the other case.
Paragraph (c) gives the Minister power to——
It is subsection (1) (c) Deputy Molloy seeks to have deleted.
It would appear to me that what Deputy Haughey has said was true in relation to this subsection. It appears to give the Minister very wide powers. In fact, it is open to him to do whatever he wishes. The purpose of the Bill is to pass the power held by the Minister to the board and the responsibility presently held by the Minister in relation to planning appeals. If the Minister continues to have this power it would nullify to a considerable extent the powers of the board. I can appreciate that the Minister would need to control general policy. For that reason he must have the right to make regulations. But to have the broad power to make regulations, what is termed here as incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision as may appear to him to be necessary goes a bit far. He could receive advice on which, if he acted, would result in a major change in the Bill itself.
The point Deputy Faulkner seems to miss is that the ruling part is the last bit—"to give full effect to any of its provisions." Therefore, the suggestion that it can widen the scope of the Bill by having things done not included in it is not justified.
My impression is that the amendment was introduced by Deputy Molloy to deal with the question of fees in the event of their being continued. When the fees are abolished, there is no reason why this should be interfered with. Actually the powers given in section 28, subsection (1) (c) are carefully restricted by the terminology of the draftsman. In a Bill of this kind it is necessary to provide for the possibility that difficulties would be created by some details which had been overlooked in the complexities arising from the transfer of functions to the Board. Regulations may make incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision but only in so far as is necessary or proper for any purpose of the Act, or in consequence of—and here comes the crunch—"to give full effect to, any of its provisions". It is not possible to give effect to something which is not already a provision of the Bill. Therefore, the question of fees could not arise.
The Minister in that very reasonably sounding explanation which he has given left out some very important words which appear in the subsection: "as may appear to him to be necessary". When he gave his explanation he said: "things that are necessary". If he left out those words we would be a lot happier about it.
Even if those words were not in what provision would be made except that which he considered to be necessary?
If those words are left in anything can appear to be necessary to the Minister. If he is prepared to consider altering the wording to read: "making such incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provisions as are necessary or proper for any purpose of this Act" then we would be satisfied.
The responsibility for deciding what is necessary must be placed on somebody's shoulder. It is necessary that this should be there. It is perfectly reasonable.
If the section spells out that these provisions must be necessary to give full effect to any of the provisions of the Act that is an objective standard, but if the section provides that the provisions are such as may appear to be necessary to the Minister that is a subjective standard.
Deputy Haughey is perfectly correct except that somebody has got to take the decision. If the Minister for the time being, no matter who he may be, decides it is necessary then this is what is done. If the Minister does not have that responsibility there is no point in having it at all. There must be somebody and that must be the Minister. It mainly deals with the period between the change over from one to the other. If that is not done we are in fact damaging this Bill. This is very exact terminology introduced by the draftsman. They were very careful about this because they knew exactly what would be required.
Does it relate to more than policy?
It does not relate to policy at all. The Minister is precluded in other sections from dealing with policy. Policy is not a matter which can be dealt with by the Minister.
We do not like it, but as the Minister is being reasonable in other matters we will let it go.
I move amendment No. 83:
In page 17, between lines 13 and 14, before section 29, to insert the following new section:
29.—In any proceedings for an offence under this Act or under the Principal Act, it shall not be necessary to negative by evidence the existence of any permission granted under Part IV of the Principal Act and the onus of providing such permission shall be on the person seeking to avail himself thereof.
There have been complaints from local authorities' solicitors that in connection with prosecutions for unauthorised developments they are required to produce the register and provide evidence that there is no relevant permission. This appears to be unnecessarily onerous and the new section now proposed will simplify the procedure. There is a similar provision in section 38 (2) (b) of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, which puts the onus on the defendant to show that the holds a driving licence.
It seems reasonable, as the Minister has put it, but I would like to be sure there is nothing more involved. I understand that in order to take any proceedings under these Acts the local authority would have to produce evidence to the effect that nowhere did permission exist for something. Is that the position?
That is the present position.
Would the local authority have to produce their books to show that nothing existed, and the Minister is just transferring the onus of proof to the other person and making him prove, if he can, that permission existed?
That is it.
I suppose it is all right although I do not know what the implications are.
This section deals with procedure whereby finality can be reached. Can we be assured that when an amendment is made in the draft plan the public will have reasonable information in relation to it?
The best thing I can do is explain this section. I did not think there would be an objection to it.
It is not a question of objection.
The purpose of the section is to amend the procedure for the making or variation of a development plan so that the full procedure and objections need not be repeated every time a draft is published which the planning authority consider warrant an alteration in the plan.
I appreciate that, but if they decide to make this change will the public be aware of it so that they can object to it if they wish?
Again, we have this case of one newspaper circulating in the area.
The purpose of the section is to shorten the further procedure and give finality.
It is valuable in that regard, but Deputy Faulkner's concern is that the original plan would get the full glare of publicity and be on public display and he wants to ensure that the change will reasonably be brought to view and that it will be in the local newspaper.
It will be published for a month instead of three months. This is the important thing. Deputy Faulkner asked if the public would know it and the answer is they will.
Is there no case for making it the national papers?
The local papers are sufficient.
I argued this question of the local versus the national papers on the Motorways Bill.
I move amendment No. 85:
Before section 30 to insert a new section as follows:
"Paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (1) of section 4 of the Principal Act are hereby repealed."
I put in this amendment to give me the opportunity of highlighting the fact that certain developments are exempted under the Planning Acts. Particularly in the field of agriculture a lot of development is exempted, such as section 4 (1) (a) of the Principal Act which states:
A development consisting of the use of any land for the purposes of agriculture or forestry (including afforestation) and development consisting of the use for any of those purposes of any building occupied together, with land so used.
That is deemed exempted development. As the Minister is aware there has been a lot of criticism of certain types of agricultural developments which have caused heavy pollution in lakes in particular and in rivers to a lesser extent. I am referring to intensive farming involving piggeries, slurry pits, and the location of silage pits. The heavy concentrated effluent which comes out of these has been known to contribute substantially to a loss of fish and other marine life.
I am not sure my amendment is properly worded. When I decided to put down the amendment it was to use it as a vehicle to highlight this problem and to ask the Minister why he had not made any provision to cover those buildings. If the Minister has provision elsewhere I will withdraw my amendment. I am reasonably satisfied that my amendment, as it stands, is probably inoperable but it is there to give me a vehicle to make the point that agricultural buildings have come in for severe criticism. Surely there should be some control over their location. The proper authority to control that would be the planning authority. I know that arrangements have been made between officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the officials of local authorities whereby before the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries sanctioned the payment of a grant for agricultural buildings they communicate with the local authority officials. Whether that is a satisfactory way to deal with this problem which can be serious, as we have known to our regret in parts of the midlands and the north east where there is a lot of intensive pig and chicken rearing in progress, I do not know.
As worded my amendment may not achieve my objective because it would mean the deletion of all these exemptions and the bringing in of everything under the Planning Act. I would be obliged if the Minister would give his opinion on the amount of control that exists at present and tell us if he is satisfied that under another part of the Bill he will be able to exercise greater control over this type of development or whether he disagrees with the points I have made.
I am very interested in this matter because I had experience of the difficulties to which the existing law can give rise. A piggery can be exempt from any constraints and the situation to which Deputy Molloy has adverted is of no avail, the situation where the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in theory, will not give grants unless they are satisfied that the proposed building does not constitute a menance from the point of view of pollution. That is of no significance whatever in this context. I do not think the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries take it very seriously, and in the case I am aware of the people concerned were not interested in the grant from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. If the grant from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries was going to cause them any problems in this regard they were prepared to dispense with it because it was not of any importance to them from the economic point of view.
The case of which I had personal experience concerned the construction of a piggery a distance from the public road. Because of this it was exempt, but the piggery happened to be situated beside a stream and that stream proceeded to meander off into the countryside. While the piggery, situated where it was, might not be greatly objectionable to anybody the fact that it would pollute the stream which went into many other areas could be, and was, responsible for serious problems. I should like to hear the Minister expound on that aspect. There is no doubt that many methods of intensive modern farming bring in their train real dangers from the point of view of conservation and preservation of the countryside. We would all like to encourage the best possible methods of modern farming, and farmers are entitled to ensure that their methods of production are as efficient and as modern as possible. At the same time there is a real danger, and this has surfaced in many places, that these modern intensive farming methods can be serious causes of pollution. I would be interested to know how the Minister sees the situation; whether he is satisfied that the existing provisions in this Bill and in other legislation are adequate to deal with the situation. From my experience I am not satisfied that they are.
I should like to point out that as far as the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are concerned there is rigid control in relation to silage pits, piggeries or other modern developments of farming. For a silage pit it is necessary to have a slurry and a liquid tank so that no pollution can escape. It is also necessary to keep away from lakes or rivers. A nephew of mine who was erecting a silage pit had to spend a lot of money in siting the structure away from rivers. He had to remove a hay-shed to comply with Department regulations. I agree with those regulations. I made the statement in case the impression is created that farmers can erect silage pits or piggeries anywhere they like. Deputy Haughey was referring to those who were not interested in a grant, and I would like to see control put on such individuals.
There should be some control where a person who is not concerned about the grant erect piggeries or silage pits. Deputy Haughey's point is valid although very few farmers could afford to by-pass the Department's grant.
Deputy Haughey knows a good number who would not be interested in the Department's grants.
There may be people who would not build them up to the proper standard and they should be controlled. The Department's standards are very high and costly. The covering for the liquid tank costs £90, with a bit of concrete on top of it. That gives an idea of the size of tank required for the liquid. These are very costly. You could get the odd person who would say: "If I can put up a makeshift construction that will not be near my house, it will do the job for me. I am not interested in the grant and I will not have to comply with the stringent regulations of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries." On the other hand, the ordinary person has to change haysheds and so on to comply with the regulations. Farmers should not be allowed to pollute the countryside any more than anybody else. A person could destroy the whole place if he could bypass the regulations by not availing of the grant. I should like to see such a person brought within some type of regulation.
Could I just explain the amendment? It has two purposes and I should like each to be discussed separately and that the agricultural aspect would be dealt with first. The second aspect is a requirement on local authorities to go through the procedures of informing the public about developments that they themselves propose to carry out, because at present all development undertaken by any local authority is exempted development and often the first the public hear of these things is when the workmen arrive on the site to begin construction. This is far too lax and I should like to suggest some improvements. Subsection (1) (a) of section 4 deals with the agricultural aspect and the others deal with the local authority aspect of it.
I wish to support Deputy Molloy in the last statement he has made. I feel it is a source of grave discontent among groups and individuals who are seeking planning permission when various local authorities such as county councils, corporations or urban councils can proceed with developments without seeking permission when they themselves find very often that even for the most trivial type of development they have to seek permission and have the whole matter processed by the planning authority and even in some cases by the Minister on appeal.
What appears to be discrimination was highlighted on a number of occasions when permission was refused to a private developer or to an individual and later on the same area was developed by the council itself. Provision whereby the planning authority must give its reasons for refusing to permit development will go some of the way towards overcoming that problem. Equally, on some occasions the local council went ahead with developments which, to the ordinary citizen, did not appear to conform with the standards which were laid down by the planning authority. Therefore, I would agree with Deputy Molloy that we should insist that the local authority would seek permission in line with the democratic principle that they should be subject to the same constraints in this field as is the ordinary citizen.
The amendment is unacceptable because the Deputy proposes to repeal parts of section 4 (1) to the 1963 Act, paragraph (a) of which exempts from planning control the use of land for agriculture or forestry, and paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of which exempt planning authorities from having to apply to themselves for permission to carry out developments in their own districts. In relation to agriculture, what the Deputy has in mind is probably the larger farm buildings used for intensive farming, for example, pig and poultry breeding. These not only can be a source of public health nuisance but may also, in certain cases, cause water pollution.
Here I may say that the Water Pollution Bill, which is almost completed, will be introduced hopefully, in the Autumn and that is the proper vehicle for dealing with this question. Legislation is not required to bring the erection of these buildings under planning control. The matter will be dealt with in the revision of the regulations which will follow the enactment of this Bill. The effect of the amendment would be to require permission for a change of use to farming and this, I am sure Deputy Callanan and many other people like him who know a great deal about farming, would resent very much. The authority is already there in the 1963 Act and the regulations can be framed to have done what is suggested here.
It could be argued that even if it is a bit farcical for planning authorities to admit to their own controlled procedure, it would at least ensure public notice and a right of appeal. Deputy Faulkner refers to the question of a private individual being refused permission by the local authority who then proceed to acquire the property to build on it themselves. That is not such a bad thing because the public interest comes in there. If somebody wants to build a house or two in a field, and the local authority want to house 50 or 60 people in the same field, I think the right of the public should be paramount there and I would not see it in the same light as Deputy Faulkner.
I would not object in the event of the local authority having in mind at that specific time that they were going to develop the land themselves but sometimes it happens that, maybe two or three years after having refused permission to individuals, they make a decision to use it themselves.
This is the sort of change of mind in regard to planning throughout the country that I have commented on. In many cases they have changed their minds; they have said one person can do it and another person cannot do it and so on. I think this is wrong but if we stick to the question of the local authority acquiring land to build on if they require it, that is a legitimate procedure.
There is no question of anybody objecting to that.
Against that it can be said that local authority proposals generally are well publicised and many are subject to statutory procedures which provide for objections and public inquiries. Furthermore, section 39 of the 1963 Act imposes a statutory obligation on each planning authority not to effect any development in their area which contravenes materially the development plan. This is more stringent than the provisions in relation to private developers and other bodies who can with the consent of the Minister be given permission for development at variance with the plan. Deputy Callanan and Deputy Haughey had, I would think, two slightly opposite views on the question of farming.
Deputy Callanan came around to my point of view.
What Deputy Haughey said was that there were people who were not interested in the grant and who would not have to submit to the stringent conditions laid down by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries before grants are paid. Deputy Callanan said he did not think there were many of those but he made a very strong point—and this is one for which we have to be very careful about making regulations— about people who, instead of applying for the Department's grants, would do a substandard job. I would say there are far more of those people who throw up just any old thing at all, know it will not pass the Department's regulations but are still under the umbrella of being exempt. However, this matter can be dealt with by means of regulations. The Minister is empowered to lay down regulations under which agricultural development is carried out.
The Minister for Local Government?
Under what section?
Under the 1963 Act. I shall get the reference to it in a minute. I think the matter can be dealt with in this way. Let me say immediately that I am as appalled as some of the Deputies opposite are at some of the so-called developments and some of the actions by people who, in the main, are not really farmers, people who go into agriculture and out of it as quickly; they are there for a quick kill. They are the people who do not care about planning laws or for the interests of their neighbours. The appalling thing is that it is very often visible: somebody with a lot of money buys a sizeable farm and proceeds to use it in a way that is a source of annoyance to everybody in the district. He may contaminate a stream or lake or the whole countryside. This is all too common. I propose, in the regulations, to deal with that sort of person very strictly, but if we accept the principle that the farmer must apply in the case of everything he wants to do for planning permission just like everybody else, we are taking a very big step from what was written into the 1963 Act.
As regards the local authority, I should not like to put any more obstacles in their way than are already there. They are behaving reasonably. There is plenty of advertising of what they propose to do; everybody knows it for months in advance. If necessary there can be various types of appeals, public inquiries and so on. I do not think the second part of this is a matter for consideration at all but the first part is definitely something that will have to be examined very carefully.
The exempted development regulations made in 1967 in part 3 on page 47 give a description of a development which can be exempted. They give many details which I need scarcely read out of developments that can be carried out without permission. I can change this by regulation.
The point is—are you going to? The situation exists at present. The danger to which we have adverted exists. I am not talking theoretically because I have practical experience of what is involved in the question of farm buildings. A number of farmers are not interested in the grant for one of two reasons: they are people who go in for a very specialised, very intensive type of operation and the scale of the operation is such that the Department's grants are irrelevant. The other type of case which I have come across frequently—I came across it when I was Minister for Agriculture—is where the Department of Agriculture lay down conditions as to the sort of building which has to be constructed and very often the farmer does not wish to comply with these regulations either because he does not believe in them or because he wants to do it his own way. I know a case where the Department were laying down certain regulations regarding piggeries and a particular co-operative society had their own ideas of how the piggery should be constructed and because they were not prepared to build it as the Department wanted they said: "We will build it in the way we think is most efficient and the Department need not give a grant."
Another type of farmer is not prepared to make the elaborate arrangements that the Department of Agriculture sometimes insist on. Quite a variety of people are involved and the concept of trying to control this situation through Department of Agriculture grants is wrong. At best, it is an indirect form of control and the job of the Department is to encourage and assist farmers and it is wrong in theory that they should be an enforcing authority in this sphere. It is the job of the Minister for Local Government to look after conservation and so on. The Minister has brought up the matter of these regulations and I suggest to him that it is no use to us to say that he could deal with this situation under the regulations. We want to know if he will do so. Will he change the regulations to cope with this problem which is real? Practically everybody in the House has some experience of it? The Minister himself says he has plenty of experience of it.
To revert to the other aspect, the Minister in reply to Deputy Faulkner quoted a case of housing. I suggest that is special pleading because I know of cases where the local authority refused an applicant permission for industrial development, then proceeded to acquire the property and themselves permitted industrial development subsequently, which is a different case, perhaps, from housing. We all agree with the Minister in regard to housing, but when a local authority is guilty of semi-sharp practice in regard to industrial and other types of development, then I think Deputy Faulkner and Deputy Molloy have valid points.
I do not know if this applies generally but in County Galway you must apply for the exemption. If you want to put up a dipping bath for sheep, which could cause pollution, you must apply for exemption. The engineer looks at it and if he thinks it is all right he will give exemption and you do not have to apply formally for planning permission.
That is a Department of Agriculture regulation.
No, you must apply to Galway County Council for an exemption.
Only if you apply for a grant from the Department of Agriculture. That is what Deputy Haughey was referring to.
I had to get this done where no grant was involved. Our planning regulations may be more strict, but whatever type of development you do, you must apply for the exemption. Is that the law?
I shall give the Deputy the position. It is set out in a regulation made—and I am quoting Statutory Instrument No. 176 of 1967, page 47, which states under "Description of Development".
The construction, excavation, extension, alteration or replacement of any store, barn, byre, shed, glass-house, pen, sty, poultry house, silo or other structure on land not less than 30 feet from any public road the metalled part of which is more than 12 feet in width or from the site of any road improvement work or new road and carrying out or construction of which is an objective of any development plan or, during the period prior to the making of a development plan, is declared by resolution of a planning authority to be an objective which they propose to include in a development plan.
This is an exempted development.
There is no need to apply to anyone.
No. I think what Deputy Callanan is talking about is that the Department of Agriculture, in order to ensure that regulations which they want observed are carried out say: you must get this sanctioned by the local authority for grant purposes. This has nothing to do with the Planning Act regulations. There are some conditions in the regulations which provide that no such structure shall be used for any purpose other than the purpose of agriculture or forestry; no such structure for the housing of pigs or poultry or for the making of silage shall be situated within 100 feet of any dwellinghouse save with the consent of the owner and occupier thereof and no such structure within 100 yards of any public road shall exceed 21 feet in height above ground level. Those regulations were made in 1967 and can be changed at any time. But for the fact that this Bill is before the House I would have changed them before now because I am as dissatisfied as other people are with the way in which certain people have abused regulations and appear to be getting away with it. But because we were introducing this Bill and could deal with the whole matter together I had hoped that we would be able to deal conveniently with these regulations. However, if it takes as long to get through the remainder, I may have to change the regulations under the 1963 Act.
One thing the Minister could do with these regulations very quickly is, where regulations speak of buildings contiguous to a roadway to add "to a waterway".
One hundred feet from a waterway would be of very little use.
If provision is not made now under the Planning Act the evasions that we have seen will continue. The whole purpose of planning is to ensure orderly development and to preserve scenic and amenity areas for the public good. If there is an area of development which is exempted from the strictures of planning, there are people who will use the exemption for their own benefit. For instance haybarns that are back the few feet that the Minister mentioned under the regulations can be erected without permission and have been erected in areas of high scenic beauty.
Amenity is a matter of interpretation. People have very strong complaints that some officials see amenity in everything in order to turn down proposals. If one can imagine a place of real beauty where there would be no argument as to its quality and beauty, the elected members of a planning authority would unanimously support opposition to development. They would support the officials. Yet an individual could erect an ugly haybarn in the middle of it under the Planning Act as the Minister is prepared to leave it. That should not be the case. This type of development and anything over a certain square footage should be included in planning and should be required to go through the process so that the spirit of planning and orderly development would be maintained. If we allow loopholes whereby people can circumvent the spirit of planning and erect buildings which are completely out of line with the intention of the Bill we are only fooling the public and pretending that we are serious about the matter.
It would seem to be the Minister's intention that buildings for intensive rearing of animals, piggeries and places where chickens are reared in large numbers, where there is very heavy concentrated effluent every day that is very dangerous unless properly treated before discharge into waters, are to be exempted provided they are so many feet from the road and so many feet from a house. There is no reference to waterways, no reference to strict conditions being applied, no reference to having to go through the process of planning so that the plans will be properly examined before the building takes place. I am surprised that the Minister sees fit to continue the existing position in view of all the criticism of it that there has been. I will be surprised if the Minister does not see reason in the amendment. I would ask him to reconsider it for Report Stage.
On the effect of repealing paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (1) of section 4 of the Act, as suggested in the rest of the amendment, local authorities should be obliged, just as every member of the community is obliged, to publish in newspapers their intention of constructing a building or carrying out major development. There have been cases in every county where the local authority has begun to construct a building without the people in the area having any prior knowledge of it. Great resentment has been expressed at the fact that although the planning authority enforce the strict terms of the Planning Act in regard to individuals in the community to ensure orderly and proper development, they do not apply the same strict rules to their own activities and have been known to erect buildings which have been very much out of line and out of character with the area where they have been built.
I have known a case where a local authority erected a building which broke the building line in a housing estate in a city. Persons applying for planning permission to the authority were always required to comply with the building line. When the local authority broke the building line nobody had the right to object. A fine panoramic view of a beautiful modern building was cut off. There was great resentment. Short of knocking down the building there was nothing that could be done about it. The local authority thumbed their noses at the people. There have been many such cases. The only way to deal with them is to bring them to court.
There were other cases where the planning authority were brought to court to prevent their going ahead with buildings. If the proposal had been published and if there were some obligation on the authority to make known in advance their intentions and to provide some system of appeal to the public it would satisfy the needs of the community in this matter.
It is easy for the Minister to argue against it, to say that it is ludicrous to ask the planning authority to apply their own rules to themselves. I am anxious to obtain some system whereby the public will be informed in advance of development and will have some way of making known their views in regard to it and of lodging objection to it if they so wish.
The board or the Minister should be the final arbiter in a case where a person seriously objected to a development proposed by the planning authority. They are not all angels in local authorities. They have taken chances. They have erected buildings which are very ugly and which do not comply with their own strictures.
It may be difficult to meet the point I am making but I am expressing a point of view which is shared by many people in the community. If the amendment does not meet the case, and I suspect that it would not meet it fully, I would ask the Minister to direct the mind of the draftsman to the idea, to see if the procedure could be provided in the Bill which would impose the obligation on planning authorities to inform in advance and to give the right of appeal and of objection to the public.
I have to come in on what Deputy Molloy has said, some of which I would agree with now because of the provision in the Bill that the local authority will be the final arbitrator and interpreter in regard to all objections. We are annoyed because of the extent to which officials interpret what is and what is not an amenity.
It annoys me when I hear people talking about amenities. Any ordinary person is as good at judging amenity values as is an engineer. An engineer may plan and build a better house but he does not know any more about adding to the beauty of the countryside than an ordinary individual.
A nice house can improve the countryside.
Exactly, if it is situated in certain high amenity areas. I should not like to be travelling through Connemara without a house in sight. We have heard about houses being out of character, and it annoys me when planning permission is refused because the house would be out of character. I like to see variety in houses, whether the houses be out of character or not. The person who is building the house is going to live in it and he should be allowed to plan that house. If we had more variety in housing the country would be more beautiful to live in. Unfortunately there are certain standard plans and people must conform to them.
It has been said that in the matter of building sheds and so on, the local authorities will be reasonable. It is obvious that you could put up a hay-shed where you would not be permitted to build a bungalow. This reminds me of the suggestion that local authorities themselves should have to give notice of their intention to develop sites and to build on them. It is only fair to their neighbours that they should. The neighbours should have some say about the type of development, the type of buildings, local authorities put up. There should be the same safeguards for individuals against local authority developments as there are in regard to private development.
It has been said that it might appear senseless if local authorities had to apply to themselves for permission. I do not like the board that are being set up under this Bill. It cannot be said that I am against the members of that board, because they have not yet been appointed, but I do not like the prospect that people who are mere names will have the final decision. The Minister or any other Member of the House has to face the country but the new board will not have to face anybody. However, if the board are to be established I suggest it is to them that the local authorities should apply for permission when they are planning buildings or other development.
I endorse the case made by Deputy Molloy, especially in regard to farm buildings, and the Minister has indicated that he is equally unhappy about this. On every road one travels out of Dublin, main and secondary, mile after mile one can see old haybarns. They invariably reflect the farmers' bad husbandry. They have been allowed to fall into disrepair with sheets of galvanised iron falling from them. And, of course, there is the nearby byre which in some cases represent a health hazard.
Deputy Molloy made the case for high amenity areas. I accept that, but when we are talking about areas of great scenic value we should not blind ourselves to the fact that there is a greater obligation on us to ensure that places which are already ugly do not become uglier. Of course we should not allow areas of high scenic value to deteriorate but it is even more important that we retain whatever scenic attractions there are in other areas. Therefore, I would not emphasise exclusively high amenity value.
The Minister has indicated his intention to introduce regulations, and I think it is important this should be done as soon as possible to remove from the scene such things as the galvanised sheds and byres to which I have referred. Adjoining the byres are old dungheaps which are flowing not only into adjoining streams but on to main roads. If the Minister indicates this can be rectified through the provisions of the Bill he would be setting the minds of many people at ease, and I know that is his constant wish.
There has been mention of two types of people, one, those who deliberately erect sub-standard buildings, and two, those who cannot afford to build. There is another type of person who could be described as being a bit lazy. In some areas, old flax stands are sometimes used as places where effluent is kept. They are quite good for a certain length of time but when there are sudden flash floods, as happened in my area last year, the water supply can become contaminated. This could be avoided if the person is obliged to get in touch with the county council especially in the matter of effluent disposal. The council would be able to give him advice as to what should be done. This method of effluent disposal is very prevalent in Mayo and damage is done not deliberately but through accident.
I should like to refer briefly to the suggestion that local authorities should look for planning permission from themselves. It is only right that they should have to do so. The Minister had at least two deputations last year in relation to a building in Ballina. If the UDC had had to publish a notice at that time saying they were about to start erecting the building, to some extent the controversy could have been lessened and the feelings which ran very high could have been sorted out or soothed before the matter got to the stage it did.
I ask the Minister either to accept Deputy Molloy's amendment or some form of it or to indicate that he will bring in regulations to make it obligatory for farmers to write to the local authority and get an exemption in writing from them. That would take care of the few people who might violate deliberately the planning laws. It would be no harm if the exemption had to be given by the local authority. In most cases this could be done without delay. This happens at present in some instances where, for instance, reconstruction grants are being paid. At least, in Mayo if a building is demolished and a new one erected, the county council take into consideration the building that was demolished although a new one may be slightly more than 120 square feet in area.
We have made the point first that in relation to agricultural buildings there should be much stricter control, and the proper place to provide for this control is in the Planning Act; secondly, that where a local authority propose to carry out developments there should be some procedure whereby the public are informed in advance and have a right to lodge an objection to the development if they so wish. We wish to know whether the Minister is prepared to consider those points later or whether he is rejecting them.
I am afraid that I failed to point out at the beginning that the amendments proposed by the Deputy would not do what he wishes to have done.
I said that.
The reason for my not pointing this out earlier was that I wished to hear the views of the House on this subject. The Deputy's amendments are to section 4 of the 1963 Act and are to repeal paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (1) of that section. In respect of (a) which relates to developments consisting of the use of any land for the purposes of agriculture or forestry, the Deputy is suggesting that a farmer should not be allowed use the land in any way he wishes. The other paragraphs refer to development by county councils, corporations and councils in urban districts.
The Minister is answering questions we did not raise.
I am dealing with the amendment before the House. I am saying that regardless of how anxious I might be to help, I could not do it under this amendment.
Will the Minister do it otherwise?
Regarding the question of local authorities, section 78 of the 1963 Act states that:
Regulations made in relation to any specified cases or classes of cases of development proposed to be carried out by local authorities who are planning authorities may—
(a) require the authority to give public notice in any specified manner of development which they propose to carry out,
(b) require the inclusion in any such notice of an invitation for the making by interested persons of objections to the proposed development,
(c) in cases where any such objection is made and is not withdrawn, require the authority to have the consent of the Minister before carrying out the proposed development.
This is the way in which it could be done but in which it has not been done. It is rather odd to find such pressure now when obviously it was evident to people for a long time that certain things were being done by the agricultural community which should not have been done. No changes in the regulations were made before my time and I did not change them because of the fact that this Bill was being prepared.
At present I am having the regulations vetted. The House will appreciate that the views of all other interested parties must be taken into account. I expect that, for instance, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries would hold views that are different from mine. Therefore, the matter must be discussed and we must reach agreement with all concerned. I am convinced of the necessity for more stringent regulations so as to prevent some of the abuses which have been referred to here today. If this Bill is not passed within a reasonable time, I shall bring in regulations to govern the 1963 Act.
Regarding the question of local authority housing, section 78 would entitle me and would have entitled my predecessors to have this requirement carried out but is it not the case that very often when a local authority scheme is being developed people already living in the area and who should know better do their best to prevent the development of the scheme?
Sometimes these are people who have only moved into the area.
Yes and it is common for them to write to public representatives complaining of the development of local authority housing in any location near them. If section 78 of the 1963 Act were operated and if I made a regulation stipulating that these provisions must be complied with, I am afraid that the effect would be to hold up local authority housing.
I made no reference to housing.
What had the Deputy in mind?
I did not refer specifically to housing.
It is with housing that local authorities are concerned mainly. It is only rarely that they would erect a library or a court house, for instance.
I would exclude housing development. What I had in mind were public toilets or clinics. I know of one case of a clinic having been erected which was totally out of line with the other buildings in the area.
Perhaps the Deputy will get a mention on the Frank Hall show for this. I am trying to persuade the Deputies opposite that they have introduced an amendment which is not of any use. If they read the 1963 Act, they would realise that the power being sought is there already.
Perhaps the Minister will do better.
Regarding agricultural buildings, is the Minister saying that he is examining the regulations in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and that he will introduce regulations either under this Bill or in another way, should the Bill be delayed unduly?
Deputy Haughey is correct so far as agricultural buildings are concerned.
In moving the amendment I stated that, as worded, it would not meet fully the position I was seeking to achieve but that it was giving me a platform to highlight two problems. However, we are satisfied, having heard the Minister, that he will deal with those as soon as possible. In those circumstances, I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 86:
Before section 30 to insert a new section as follows:
"Notwithstanding sections 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 37 of the Principal Act, regard may be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language—
(a) by the planning authority when considering an application mentioned in subsection (1) of the said section 27, in deciding whether it is expedient to serve a notice under the said section 30, 31, 32, 33 or 35 and in deciding pursuant to the said section 36 or 37 whether a structure should be removed or altered or a use of land should be discontinued or any conditions should be imposed on the continuance thereof,
(b) by the Board when considering an appeal on an application mentioned in subsection (1) of the said section 26 or subsection (1) of the said section 27 and in deciding to confirm, modify or annual a notice served under the said section 30, 33, 36 or 37.
(c) by the Minister in deciding whether to direct a planning authority to serve a notice under the said section 31, 33 or 35, in any case where the relevant permission, development or condition relates to land situate in the Gaeltacht or where the relevant structure is so situate."
May I read the following portion of my amendment:
Notwithstanding sections 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 37 of the Principal Act, regard may be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language—
(a) by the planning authority when ...
(b) by the Board ...
(c) by the Minister ...
in deciding appeals.
I shall not read all of the wording of the amendment but that is its purpose. It seeks to ensure that regard can be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language in the operation of planning control powers generally.
Section 26 of the Principal Act lays down that:
the authority may decide to grant the permission or approval subject to or without conditions or to refuse it; and in dealing with any such application the planning authority shall be restricted to considering the proper planning and development of the area of the authority (including the preservation and improvement of the amenities thereof), regard being had to the provisions of the development plan, the provisions of any special amenity area order relating to the said area and the matters referred to in subsection (2) of this section.
But it does not allow a planning authority to take into consideration the special position and interests of the Gaeltacht and of the Irish language. This matter was highlighted at the time Mr. Kevin Boland was Minister for Local Government. Difficulties arose in obtaining planning permission in certain Gaeltacht areas for developments closely associated with promotion of the Irish language and of industrial development in the Gaeltachts. In view of the special Government policy at that time it was felt incongruous that the Planning Act should operate in this way against the interest of the Gaeltacht and the successful implementation of that Government's policy.
The Minister at that time suggested an amendment of the Planning Bill which he circulated in 1969—the introduction of special provisions to take heed of the interests of the Irish language and of the Gaeltacht. This matter was being considered by me also when I was considering the changed amendments to the Planning Act while I was Minister.
When the present Minister published the amendments to the original Act, for some reason, he excluded those proposals which had been the intention of both his predecessors. I have heard the Minister state that local authorities, in their development plans, can provide for the special interests of the Gaeltacht and of the Irish language. It was not the considered opinion of the planning section in his Department, while Mr. Kevin Boland was Minister, nor while I was Minister, that such was the position. The strictures of section 26 lay down quite clearly that the proper planning and development of the area are the primary principles that must be adhered to. There is no allowance for a local authority taking into consideration the special interests of the Gaeltacht or of the Irish language.
At that time the advice given to Mr. Boland, subsequently to me, and accepted by both of us because we were anxious to have this provision included in the planning laws of the country, was that this section was necessary. My amendment is more or less of similar wording to that proposed at that time. I was greatly surprised, when this Bill was published, to find that the Minister had dropped this section. It indicated to me that the change of Government had brought about a serious change in attitude to the Gaeltacht and to the Irish language, or that the interests of the Gaeltacht and of the language were matters not considered by the new Government to be of very great importance and for that reason dropped. I hope that is not so. I accepted the advice I was given at that time—that these sections were necessary to enable planning authorities to make decisions in the best interests of the Gaeltacht development and the Irish language policy.
If I may quote an example: the present Minister for the Gaeltacht announced that the Department of the Gaeltacht would be transferred to Furbo. There is a certain anomaly involved here because, on another occasion it was announced that the Department of the Gaeltacht was to be abolished and that Údarás na Gaeltachta was to replace it. Leaving aside that argument, the statement was made that the Department of the Gaeltacht was to be transferred to Furbo, County Galway. No progress has been made on the construction of the building at Furbo because there is a conflict between the local planning authority, Gaeltarra Éireann and Roinn na Gaeltachta, the latter two working together in this matter of siting and building the offices, as to where these offices should be located.
Gaeltarra Éireann and Roinn na Gaeltachta say there is adequate land on the site at Furbo, that it is suitable to accommodate the new buildings but the planning authority say otherwise. The Government Department, being an exempted grouping under the Act, could push ahead if they wished, without permission, but may be reluctant to do things in that fashion and are seeking the co-operation of the planning authority. I am informed that the planning authority has been quite adamant that the location proposed by Roinn na Gaeltachta is not suitable from a planning point of view. I do not agree with the planning authority in Galway in this matter. If a provision, such as I propose here, were included in the Bill, the planning authority would be unable to take the stand they are taking. Strange as it may seem, the difficulty the present Minister is experiencing with the planning authority in Galway over the location of Roinn na Gaeltachta at Furbo is very similar to that experienced by the then Minister for the Gaeltacht and Gaeltarra Éireann, and the Minister for Local Government, Mr. Boland, with the same planning authority who objected to the location of the Gaeltarra Éireann Offices at Furbo in 1968, 1969, or whatever year it was. The planning authority in that area interpreted the planning laws very strictly and informed the Department that all the sites they proposed were not suitable for planning. Arising out of that case the Minister of the time felt that, in order to implement Irish language policy and Gaeltacht policy, a special provision must be written into the Planning Act to ensure that no planning authority could stymie Government policy in relation to the Irish language.
That is the whole intention of my amendment. Deputy Faulkner, our spokesman on Local Government matters, may have some knowledge of the shenanigans that went on around the time that he was Parliamentary Secretary. The intention behind my amendment is quite clear. We have had cases, a few of which I have quoted, where the planning authorities have been operating to the detriment of Government policy in relation to the language and the development of the Gaeltacht, have not accepted that the Gaeltacht can be made an exception in any planning matter; have made no provision and are not entitled so to do in their development plans, unless they get the authority from the Principal Act and its amendments. I suggest that that change should now take place to allow them to do that.
I support Deputy Molloy in what he has said and I also support his amendment. There is a need to take particular note of the planning problems in the Gaeltacht areas. All of us accept the importance of the Irish language. The number who speak it as a vernacular at the present time is relatively small but, nevertheless, it is vitally important for the preservation and the development of the language generally. We ought to do everything we can do to ensure that the language will not only be retained in the Gaeltacht areas but further developed.
The Gaeltacht has a special interest and for that reason we might look on it from two points of view. The first is that there should be permission to develop particular areas in the Gaeltacht if it is to be to the advantage of the people in the Gaeltacht, where normally this type of development might not be permitted in other circumstances. Equally we should be in a position to refuse permission for certain types of development which we feel would not be to the advantage of the language and would not materially add to the development of the Gaeltacht or assist in any way the people in the Gaeltacht.
Deputy Molloy mentioned the problems that are related to the siting of the headquarters of Gaeltarra Éireann in Na Forbacha. That happened during my time. It was objected to by the local planning authority. I might develop the point I have already made in relation to matters such as this. The planning authority objected because they said it would interfere with the environment generally. The headquarters of Gaeltarra Éireann in Na Forbacha, is on the opposite side of the road from the sea. There was an old building between the road and the sea and because that old building was there the planning authority, because of the Act as it stood, had to grant permission for development. There was quite a big development on the side of the road which would be regarded as most important in relation to the preservation of the environment. That had to be permitted, evidently, according to the planning laws. If you were passing along at the moment, you would not be able to see the headquarters of Gaeltarra Éireann from the road. It is on the other side of the road from the sea. It was not permitted because it was suggested that the area was not suitable.
It would be helpful if we could manage to legislate for that type of situation. Where a particular development will materially assist the people of the Gaeltacht we should be able to overlook the particular type of problems which I would not suggest ought to be overlooked in any other area. There is also the question of industrial development. In planning, every possible assistance ought to be given by the planning authority in relation to industrial development in the Gaeltacht. When I was in the Department of the Gaeltacht there used to be an argument that by bringing industry into the Gaeltacht you were damaging the language. It was a Hobson's choice because if you did not bring industry in you had nobody there to speak the language.
I am. As I said there are two aspects in this.
Deputy Faulkner is not following Deputy Molloy's line now.
The line the Deputy is following suggests that if we follow Deputy Molloy's point we should not bring people into the area.
That is not Deputy Molloy's point. While I did a very considerable amount in relation to the development of industry in the Gaeltacht I emphasised the need to have people using the Irish language in managerial positions because I felt that unless we developed along that particular line the language would be lost. We have got to do two things here. On the one hand, we have got to develop industrially but, on the other hand, we have to do everything in our power to ensure that the language is preserved. There are other types of development which we should be in a position to do something about—for example, development of luxury houses in an area which contribute nothing to the Gaeltacht except that the houses are built there.
Does Deputy Faulkner believe that there are parts of this country in which Irishmen should not be entitled to live?
I am not suggesting anything of the sort. I am saying in circumstances where certain types of luxury houses are being built there are other places where those Irishmen could live if they are not Irish speaking.
But they should not be allowed to live there?
That is not the question. We can very easily ensure that the language is preserved in the Gaeltacht, that everything we do in relation to planning should have as its objective the material improvement of the position of the people living in the Gaeltacht. After that you can have it as you wish. I have had very considerable experience of the need to develop industry, particularly tourism, and in the Gaeltacht areas. We should try to ensure that, where possible, we do not infringe—this is what Deputy Molloy wants—on the development of the language.
I should like to support this amendment because it is necessary to make it clear that in legislation it is desirable to give special attention to developments in the Gaeltacht areas, which will go to fostering and helping not alone the Irish language but Irish culture and traditions. The policy of our party in regard to the Gaeltacht is that we must have more development. We must have more industrial development, development of fishery resources and the development of tourism. This Bill should spell out the desirability of giving a slant to the operation of planning in the Gaeltacht areas. It is very difficult to quantify what we have in mind in regard to this amendment. What we have in mind must help towards our aims. I suggest that the proposed Údarás na Gaeltachta, in respect of which the Minister for the Gaeltacht has promised to introduce a Bill—we would like to have seen it introduced before now but it has been promised for after the Recess—be represented on the planning appeals board. Údarás na Gaeltachta will be representative of all the Gaeltacht areas stretching from Waterford to Donegal.
We want to ensure that special regard will be given to Gaeltacht areas in this Bill, that in the counties which have Gaeltacht areas—some of them small areas—the emphasis on the promotion of the development of these areas will not be overlooked in the general planning and development of the country. It is not necessary that this should be included in this Bill but the Minister should set a headline by appointing members of Údarás na Gaeltachta to the planning appeal board.
Industrial development is desirable and I should like to congratulate our spokesman on Local Government, Deputy Faulkner, who when he was Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Gaeltacht established advance factories in Gaeltacht areas. I should like to congratulate Gaeltarra Éireann on their work also. In erecting buildings they used Irish materials and made use of Irish names. A planning authority can do a lot in this regard. At present there is agitation in the Gaeltacht areas about road signs. The planning authorities responsible for Gaeltacht areas should ensure that signs are in keeping with the areas. It is incongruous to permit the erection of huge signs by multi-national oil companies in the Gaeltacht areas. From a planning point of view some of them should not have been erected but, certainly, they should not have been allowed in the Gaeltacht.
The Deputy should remember that local authorities must give permission for the erection of those signs.
Some of them were erected before planning permission was necessary.
There is a cultural aspect involved in this, something we cannot put down by way of amendment. The Minister should have no difficulty in accepting this amendment.
I find this remarkable. Deputy Molloy referred to the question of the "Boland Bill" and his amendment is almost a lift from that. However, he left out one subsection which referred to the: "social and economic needs of the area of the planning authority". It is possible that there is a significance in that. That Bill was prepared but it never saw the light of day. It fell to me to prepare a planning Bill later. I have not heard from those who have spoken on this amendment what they mean by: "regard may be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language".
I am one of those people who believes that we are an island of 32 counties, a 32-county all Ireland. We have our own troubles with six of them but is it suggested here that there are special reasons why certain people should not be allowed to live in the Gaeltacht? Is there any reason why Irishmen who wanted to build a house cannot build a house in the Gaeltacht because they are not Irish speakers? Deputy Faulkner was talking about people who were not Irish speakers. Is it suggested that there should be a portion of the country——
He did not say that. The Minister is not setting up a cockshot he manufactured himself. The Minister manufactured the target and now he is aiming at it.
I wish to ask some questions of the Opposition and I hope they will give me the benefit of their views when I have finished. Is this what is intended?
When I have finished Deputy Cunningham can give us the benefit of his vast knowledge. Is it suggested that people—Deputy Haughey comes to mind immediately and he is, I understand, a welcome guest on a Blasket Island which he owns——
Tá Gaeilge aige.
Is it suggested that Deputy Haughey can only bring Irish speakers onto that island? Is it suggested that if he dares to bring people other than Irish speakers on the island we should have something in the planning Act to deal with them?
That is codology.
Of course it is codology.
Nobody ever suggested that. The Minister has set up a target and he is now shooting at it.
If it is not what was intended by the speakers, I want them to spell out what they meant when they talked about the special interest of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. Is it suggested that a farmer in the Gaeltacht who has a suitable site and wants to sell it for housing should not be allowed to sell it because the person anxious to buy it does not live in the Gaeltacht or has not a knowledge of Irish? What is meant by "special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language"? Should factories not be established because people who do not have a knowledge of Irish would move in?
No, that is not what is meant.
I put more factories in Gaeltacht areas than anything this Government have put in.
The Deputy is joking.
I am not joking.
The population dropped by 10,000.
The Parliamentary Secretary should have a look at the list of factories. The factories I established were real factories and not shadow factories.
I do not think the question of what was done or was not done is relevant.
Why raise the matter of factories when the Minister knows that Fianna Fáil put many factories in Gaeltacht areas?
I am entitled to raise matters. I am not sure what the Deputies opposite mean. Do they want to build a barbed wire fence around the Gaeltacht and permit nobody except those who are fluent Irish speakers in or out? If that is so they should say so, but if it is not they should spell out what they mean. That is my interpretation. It says here that regard should be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. I have not heard from anybody on the opposite benches what exactly those special interests were. What are they talking about? Surely they should not hide their light under a bushel. If there is something which they know is being affected by the existing planning legislation, the 1963 Act which was passed through this House, or if there is something in that legislation which is detrimental to the Gaeltacht, would they not tell us so that I can consider whether this Bill before the House should be amended to ensure that that will not be continued? I cannot see why it should be necessary to have special consideration for an area because, like ourselves, those who live in that area are Irish people and it is our duty to give similar treatment to them wherever they are.
It has been stated here that the idea is not to keep the non-Irish speaker out of the Gaeltacht. Deputy Faulkner referred specifically to the man who would build an expensive house. What is wrong with an expensive house if somebody can afford it, and in what way will that interfere with the interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language? Those are reasonable questions to which I think I am entitled to an answer from the Opposition. I am prepared to consider the whole matter when I get the full facts. So far I have not got them. Let me go back again to the question of the people in the Gaeltacht.
Is the Minister filibustering?
No, I want the Bill. Let me go back again to ask specifically why the Opposition want this done. Can they envisage regulations which would ensure that those who are administering the Act would make restrictions? It could not be done as Deputy Molloy suggested. That would not do. We would want to know what the special considerations were. I would want to know so that they could be put into the Bill and the House would have to accept them. Should we write into the Bill: "Nobody shall be allowed to erect a house in that area unless he has a knowledge of the Irish language", or go further and say that no tourist who has not a knowledge of the Irish language should be allowed to go there because he might do some harm? This would appear to be the sort of woolly thinking that is behind this amendment. I myself have a leaving certificate honours Irish, but my Irish is not good enough to debate matters in this House in Irish. I am not alone in that. Two very respected statesmen of this country, the late Seán Lemass and the late Erskine Childers, had no Irish at all. Nobody could fault them for that, because they were Irish. I am suggesting that if this provision were put in the Bill, people like that could be debarred from going to live in the Gaeltacht if they wished to go there. Deputy Faulkner is tut-tutting, but he is the person who referred to the big house being built in the Gaeltacht, who said that that might not be the proper place for it and that there might be a better place to build it. Let us decide in the Bill that big houses are not to be built in any part of the country, but do not let us try to cover up a very loose interpretation here in this way, that big houses should not be built in the Gaeltacht because in some peculiar way, it would be against the interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language.
I did not suggest that.
The Deputy suggested it is one of the reasons why such a section should be put in the Bill.
I did not talk about a person building a big house.
An expensive house.
No, I talked about a scheme of luxury houses being built in the Gaeltacht.
Then let us take a scheme of luxury houses in a village. Are we prepared to write down that one, fifteen or twenty houses are not to be built—do not mind the Gaeltacht—in any part of the country because we have written into the Bill that nobody is to be allowed to live there except people with a knowledge of the language? Is that what we are saying?
Nobody said that at all.
I am sorry if I have misinterpreted what has been said, but I would be very happy if someone could explain what is meant; if they did I would be glad to consider an amendment. I was waiting for Deputy Haughey to make a case on this because he has been so good on this legislation so far. I was very anxious to know what reason he would have for keeping his friends who did not speak Irish off the Blasket Islands.
The Minister is making an idiot of himself.
The Deputy does not have to make an idiot of himself.
As spokesman for the Gaeltacht I would like to make it clear, as I thought I did in my previous contribution, that the aims of Fianna Fáil were to develop the Gaeltacht by building factories, and Deputy Faulkner whom the Minister is accusing is the person who sanctioned factories for the Gaeltacht, and Deputy Molloy sanctioned houses of all kinds for the Gaeltacht and gave planning permission. Our policy is to develop the Gaeltacht, and we are not narrow-minded in this. Normally I would make a contribution in the Irish language on this amendment but because I realise that the Minister's Irish, while reasonably good is not good enough, as he said himself, for debate on this, I am speaking in English.
I am very pleased at that.
I want to make our policy clear. We have fostered tourism. We want to develop tourism further, and tourism means the erection of buildings, and very large expensive buildings. We want to foster industrial development and this means the erection of very large factory buildings. The same applies across the whole spectrum of development in the Gaeltacht. We are not against people coming into the Gaeltacht; we want to attract people there. Indeed AnCO centres have been set up in order to train workers in the Gaeltacht. All this is development, but for development you need planning. By this amendment we want to ensure that the planning authorities in Gaeltacht areas will realise that planning and development are necessary. There are areas outside the Gaeltacht which need to be preserved for some purpose. There are areas in the Gaeltacht where, if they were outside the Gaeltacht, factories would not be allowed to be built. There are areas outside the Gaeltacht where more hotels will not be allowed to be built. However in the Gaeltacht we must lean over to ensure that nothing in the planning laws will prohibit development in the Gaeltacht areas.
We must ensure that the planning authority will be able to say, after the passing of this Bill, to the planning board by way of appeal that what they have done in granting planning permission was done, first of all, because they felt the planning was right, or as near right as possible, and, secondly, it was something which would help the Gaeltacht and, if there is any query by the board or by appellants about any matter, we want the position to be that the local authority giving planning permission will be able to say they did whatever it was because the Act says they must pay attention to development in the Gaeltacht which will foster the Irish language.
In what way?
I give up.
I detect in the Minister's remarks a certain sensitivity to his own inability, admitted by himself, to speak eloquently in the Irish language.
What I was saying was that the debate would, perhaps, be better conducted in Irish.
Whether a person has or has not Irish is not relevant to the particular amendment before the House.
I could not agree more.
Possibly that sensitivity on the part of the Minister is inclined to distort the position. I make that point first. The Minister has no fluency in Irish for the same reason that I have no fluency in French. I do not get an opportunity of speaking French. I get an occasional opportunity of speaking Irish and, because of that, I have a relative fluency in it. Nobody on this side of the House has ever tried in any way to be offensive to any degree to anybody who does not speak the Irish language.
Last week, Deputy Bruton, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, was castigated by the Leader of the Opposition and by a number of others for that very same reason and he was asked was he an Irishman at all, and yesterday Deputy Molloy——
Deputy Tunney, without interruption.
On a point of explanation, the Minister is quite wrong and, if he studies the record, he will see no such implication was contained in any words of mine. A friend of the Minister who writes on the front page ofThe Irish Times tried to give that impression.
Deputy Tunney, on the amendment now.
The Parliamentary Secretary was told that in so far as he was departing from the normal tradition here, that tradition being that questions submitted in the Irish language are normally replied to in that language, that was a regrettable departure. That was all.
He was told he was not an Irishman. That is on the record.
Order. Deputy Tunney, on the amendment.
The Minister has admitted to a lack of understanding of the position in the Gaeltacht. Every Government has recognised the special position of the Gaeltacht.
No, not lip service at all. Where housing is concerned you get bigger and better grants if you live in the Gaeltacht. Where agriculture is concerned you get bigger and better grants if you live in the Gaeltacht. In respect of children attending school, you get grants if you are living in the Gaeltacht. In respect of hotels you get special grants if the hotels are in the Gaeltacht. The Minister is suggesting that by this amendment we are trying to put the Gaeltacht into (1) a position of prominence and (2) an isolation it has not hitherto enjoyed. There is no basis for that.
Not for (1), but for (2), yes.
I will ask the Minister to bear with me when I give my final example. Some years ago it was decided that the students in a school in a particular part of the Gaeltacht should be moved two miles down the road to another part of the Gaeltacht. It was our Government decided that should be done and the Government of which the Minister is a member tried to establish that, because there was movement from one part of the Gaeltacht to another, it would be injurious to Gaelic culture and to the Irish language. The Minister's Parliamentary Secretary, now sitting beside him, lauded the responsible Minister at the time. Here we have the Minister for Local Government now trying to establish that there should be no difference at all between the Gaeltacht and the Galltacht. That is my answer to the Minister.
Deputy Faulkner made it crystal clear that he was concerned there was an effort by the local planning authority to reject the building of the Gaeltarra headquarters in Na Forbacha. That was the example he gave.
It did not end there.
He gave an example of a situation where there was a proposal to bring in an industry and the local planning authority was rejecting it.
But the planning board could reverse that decision.
Deputy Faulkner was the Parliamentary Secretary who actually introduced industry into the Gaeltacht. It was he built these advance factories in the Gaeltacht. How it could be argued that he was trying to prohibit the introduction of industry to the Gaeltacht I do not know. I can only conclude that the Minister did not hear properly the case being made and, not having heard properly, he is trying to distort it.
Deputy Tunney has more or less made the case I proposed to make. If I might refer briefly to the fluency of the Minister in the Irish language, all I want to say is that I never at any time made any efforts to denigrate any Member of this House because of lack of fluency in Irish.
That is true.
I was rather pleased recently to find the Minister replying to a question addressed to him in Irish in Irish. However, to get back to the Gaeltacht, the Minister tried to make the point that there was no difference between the Gaeltacht areas and the rest of the country. Every Government has recognised the special position of the Gaeltacht and made special grants available to Gaeltacht areas. Not alone that, but a person living in the Gaeltacht whose vernacular is not Irish cannot get certain kinds of grants. A very positive distinction is made between Irish speakers and others. The only benefits that accrue to people residing in the Gaeltacht are general in character, such as grants towards the repair of small roads and so on.
The benefits, generally speaking from the Gaeltacht Department are specifically directed towards the people living there who speak Irish. There are special grants for housing, building factories and for the children who speak Irish in their homes. These special grants are directed especially towards the Gaeltacht areas, because those areas were recognised by all Governments as being special.
The Minister referred to the fact that some people might not want factories in the Gaeltacht. By that I assumed he meant us. As I said previously, we have been responsible for a considerable number of factories in the Gaeltacht, particularly in Gweedore. We were also responsible for the small industries grants which have helped considerably towards making more employment available. We never said that these factories could not be introduced because they came from outside the area or the country. We were more concerned about ensuring that employment would be available. We were also ensuring—and I want to stress this—that those who worked in the factories, at whatever level, would be competent to speak the Irish language. All the workers on the floor could speak the language. I was very perturbed about the middle- and upper-management, particularly the section of management dealing with the workers. I wanted to ensure that they, too, would be competent in speaking the Irish language. For that reason we set up training courses. Here, too, we made special grants available. We also made grants available for tourism and for those who erected hotels in Gaeltacht areas. We did not insist that the people who owned the hotels should be native speakers. We were concerned that the Gaeltacht would be developed in accordance with its culture and traditions.
In my view, this Government are not as serious about the Irish language and the development of the language as they might be. I assumed that the Minister would have been particularly keen to bring in a section, if Deputy Molloy's amendment was not suitable, to try to help not only to preserve the Irish language but to develop the language in the Gaeltacht and, through the planning laws, the material welfare of the people, rather than putting forward as many obstacles as he could to the amendment and trying to denigrate the motives behind it.
I have never denigrated anybody's attitude to the Irish language nor do I propose to do it now because that is a personal matter. It is up to each person to decide whether he wishes to speak it or not. My attitude, while Minister, was that every child was entitled to learn the language. What he did afterwards was his own business although I hoped he would continue to speak it. I would have been much happier if the Minister had stopped questioning the motives of those who put down the amendment and those who spoke in favour of it.
I do not question the motives but I wanted to know the reasons for the amendment.
I have given them. We want to try to operate the planning laws in the Gaeltacht so that they will not inhibit development.
Is it not true that what the Deputy said he has done was done under the existing planning laws?
Yes, but as I said a while ago, we experienced problems in relation to planning and development.
The Minister for the Gaeltacht is experiencing them today.
In those circumstances, I suggest the Minister look into this matter. I accept that this amendment, as it is put down here today, might not be operable. I am not certain it is, not because——
The amendment was worded in the Department.
At least it could be looked at. I am particularly concerned about this matter.
I want to make it very clear that the amendment worded in the Department was left out of a Bill which was prepared by my predecessor——
And was worded in the Department.
The advice I got was that it was not necessary.
It is very necessary.
If the intention behind Deputy Molloy's amendment could be brought to fruition in some other way, I still feel it is worthwhile emphasising our dedication towards the development of the Gaeltacht and our concern that the language should not only be perserved but developed.
As Deputy Tully said, there has been and, until such time as the Irish language becomes more widely spoken, there should always be special emphasis on Gaeltacht areas which relate to culture and so on. We accept that the people in the Gaeltacht have more problems than people in other areas. The land is not as good for agricultural purposes as it is in other areas. The basic problem is that the people there, whom I know very well not only because I was in the Department of the Gaeltacht but because I spent a considerable part of my life in a Gaeltacht, have done a very worthwhile job for the nation by preserving the language against tremendous odds.
To suggest we are saying that people who do not speak the language should not be allowed into the Gaeltacht as tourists and so on is contradicted by our actions when in Government. We did everything possible to get as many people as we could to go to the Gaeltacht and the Gaeltacht colleges. We gave special grants to hotels to ensure that as many people as possible would go to the Gaeltacht and that would benefit the material well-being of the people there. For that reason I would ask the Minister to reconsider the situation. I am not trying to be awkward.
I accept that.
I sincerely believe what I am saying. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to think it over and see what he can do to meet us.