Building Control Bill, 1984: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a new statutory basis for the making and administration of building regulations. At present the power to make building regulations is contained in section 86 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. The purposes for which regulations may be made under that Act are those set out in the Public Health Acts, 1878 and 1890, and relate only to matters of public health and safety. However, since the enactment of the 1963 Act a number of factors, such as the need to provide for energy conservation and for a more flexible system of building control as well as developments in the EEC, have rendered the power available under the Act inadequate to deal with the range of purposes for which building regulations are now considered necessary.

Section 3 (2) of the Bill, therefore, expands the purposes for which regulations may be made to include not just public health and safety but also the welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings. The regulations may also provide for the special needs of the disabled, for energy conservation, for the efficient use of resources and for the encouragement of good building practice. Section 6 contains the provisions relating to the procedures for the administration of building regulations and for a more flexible system of control. I will deal with these matters in greater detail later on. However, before going into detail on the different provisions of the Bill I would like to talk briefly about the background to building regulations and the delay in bringing this legislation before the House.

The suggestion was made by the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Stardust disaster that there had been a 20-year delay in making building regulations because the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 authorising the Minister to make such regulations was passed almost 20 years ago. It is no part of my purpose here to defend what did happen — or did not happen — over the years but I feel that I should point out that the power conferred on the Minister in the 1963 Act was an enabling one and that it did not impose an obligation on the Minister to make building regulations by any particular date, or indeed at all. Deputies will be familiar with many similar enabling powers scattered throughout different legislative codes.

These provisions do not confer obligations on Ministers but are intended by the Oireachtas to be a means by which a Minister can decide at his discretion whether and when he should make use of the powers conferred on him. The implication that a period of time which elapses between the enactment of an enabling provision and the subsequent making of the relevant regulations constitutes "delay" on the part of the Minister seems to me to run counter to this intention and, if accepted, would undermine the basic thinking underlying the enactment in the first place of enabling as distinct from mandatory provisions. In such circumstances, Ministers might reasonably be slow to seek enabling powers of the kind referred to and might understandably tend to make provision in the legislation itself for matters that could more conveniently be included in regulations or, alternatively, postpone the seeking of the necessary statutory authority until the details of the regulations had been finalised. In either event, the outcome would be increased delays, inflexibility and loss of efficiency.

In the particular case of building regulations, it is necessary to look at the background to the enactment of section 86 of the 1963 Act. The thinking behind the enactment of this section was that it would be convenient and more efficient to replace the old building by-laws, which were made under the Public Health Acts and which were considered to be too rigid and not conducive to change in building methods and technology. It was decided to provide for a new regulatory code under the legislation dealing with planning, the administration of which could thus be merged with the administration of planning control. There was no public pressure at the time — or indeed subsequently — for the early introduction of building regulations and little or no perception, either publicly or among the many interests concerned with the building industry, that the replacement of the old by-laws was a matter of urgency, whether for reasons of public safety or otherwise. It is also relevant to bear in mind that during the years following the 1963 Act the main impetus in securing the effective implementation of that Act had to be directed towards the comprehensive new system of planning control and development. This involved serious problems of organisation and administration for local authorities and it would have been unreasonable — and probably pointless — to have expected them to take on board at the same time a radically new system of building control.

During the sixties and well into the seventies different views were expressed as to the need for, and merits of, introducing a new building code. One of the main arguments made in favour of such a code related to the desirability of facilitating innovation in building by way of new methods and materials. Another argument related to the question of laying down standards centrally for the sake of uniformity rather than having different standards in local by-laws made by individual authorities. The main argument against the introduction of a new building code related to the extra costs likely to arise from operating it. This situation continued for a number of years and it is only in the last few years that anything approaching strong general support for the making of building regulations has emerged.

The Department, with the assistance of An Foras Forbartha, actually completed the drafting of the regulations in 1976. It was decided, however, not to proceed with the formal making of the regulations at that stage because it was felt that prior consultation with interested bodies in the building industry was essential to secure their general acceptance. For what reason the draft regulations were issued for comments to the various bodies in the industry representing builders and other professions, with a suggestion that the draft should afford a valuable guide to those engaged in the design and construction of buildings. There is little doubt that if regulations had been made at that stage they would have posed serious difficulties not only for the industry but also for local authorities.

Over 500 different comments were received on the 1976 draft and these were considered and, where appropriate, accepted. In addition to the technical comments a more fundamental issue was raised by the building industry. They expressed concern that the proposed system of control as provided for in the 1963 Act would create inhibitory and costly delays in getting construction projects under way and seriously affect efficiency and employment in the industry. The system provided for under the 1963 Act is effectively the same as that applying in areas where building by-laws operate at present and involves the submission of plans for approval to the local authority. It was also clear that the system proposed would involve the recruitment and training of a substantial number of suitably qualified staff in each local authority area, particularly those without existing building by-law controls; that is, all except seven local authorities.

This would have imposed a substantial financial burden on local authorities at a time when, in common with other elements of the public service, they were having to face unavoidable limits on resources. Also, the availability of adequately qualified staff in the numbers required was doubtful. Again, in looking back now at arguments and discussions that were current at the time, it is interesting to note that the primary considerations were matters of efficiency, innovation and costs and that there was little or no perception that considerations of public safety were such as to require the early introduction of the building regulations.

Late in 1980 the evaluation of the technical comments on the draft regulations was completed and an alternative system of control, based on certification by the industry itself, was being developed in consultation with the industry. An amended draft of the regulations was published in March 1981 taking account of the comments received. At about the same time, a draft of a control system based on certification by the industry was circulated to all interested parties for comment. Comments were received and following discussions with interested bodies further drafts of the proposed control system were circulated, the latest being in April 1982. The publication of the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry on the Stardust fire in July 1982 necessitated a further review of the content of the draft regulations and indeed another look at the proposed certification system.

The tribunal's recommendation that some form of approval by local or central authority would be required in relation to the fire parts of the regulations was particularly relevant in this regard. The tribunal considered that it would be undesirable to rely solely on a certification system where fire safety is concerned. The provision in section 6 of the Bill for the issue of fire certificates by local authorities takes account of the tribunal's recommendation in this respect. The building regulations themselves have also been revised to take account of other recommendations made by the tribunal.

The Bill repeals the relevant sections of the Planning Acts dealing with building regulations and sets out in one piece of legislation the statutory provisions which will apply to the control of the construction of buildings. Section 2 of the Bill designates as building control authorities those local authorities which are fire authorities under the Fire Services Act, 1981. This arrangement recognises the importance of the regulations in relation to fire safety generally and should facilitate close co-ordination and co-operation at local level in dealing with matters relating to the regulations on the one hand and fire safety on the other.

Section 3 contains the power to make building regulations and specifies the buildings to which they will apply and the purposes for which they can be made. Subject to the provisions of section 20 (2), under which existing building by-laws will continue to apply as a transitional provision to certain plans and works, the regulations will apply to all new buildings, including State buildings other than prisons and places of detention, provided the construction work begins on or after the date on which they come into operation.

Provision is made, however, in subsection (10) for the exemption of certain buildings from the provisions of the regulations. It is envisaged that under this subsection, certain specialised buildings such as power stations, temporary buildings, detached domestic garages, small outhouses and like buildings will be exempted from the regulations. The regulations will only apply to existing buildings where they are affected by structural alterations or extensions, by the provision of new services, fittings or equipment or where a material change in the use of a building occurs.

The primary purpose of the regulations will continue to be, as in the case of existing by-laws, to secure the health and safety of persons. However, section 3 extends the purposes for which regulations may be made to provide for the welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings, the needs of the disabled, energy conservation, the efficient use of resources and the encouragement of good building practice. The matters for which the regulations may prescribe standards are set out in the First Schedule to the Bill and different standards and provisions of the regulations may be prescribed in relation to different classes of buildings or buildings in different areas.

Section 4 provides the power for building control authorities to dispense with or relax particular provisions of building regulations in individual cases. It is difficult to say at this stage whether many cases of this type will arise but it is desirable in any event that there should be a means for permitting a relaxation or dispensation from the mandatory requirements of the regulations where compliance with such requirements could be considered unreasonable in a particular case having regard to the use to which the building might be put. A building control authority will have two months in which to deal with an application for dispensation or relaxation and if they make no decision within that time the application will be taken as being granted.

Certain provisions of the regulations will not be capable of being dispensed with or relaxed and these provisions will be specified in building regulations. It is intended at this stage that the provisions to be so specified will cover only Part A of the regulations which deals with such matters as interpretation, rules, exemptions, application of the regulations and the designation of purpose groups. The section also provides for a reference to independent arbitration where a building control authority refused to grant a relaxation or dispensation or imposes conditions unacceptable to the applicant.

Power is also taken in section 5 for the Minister to dispense with or relax generally any requirement of building regulations where he considers that compliance with the requirement would be unreasonable in relation to any particular class of building operation, works or material. This power is necessary to cater for the development of new methods of construction and materials which do not strictly comply with the regulations but are otherwise acceptable. Its use will probably be required only in isolated cases. Similarly, if a situation arises where it becomes apparent that certain materials or methods of construction are not up to the required standard or constitute a danger to public health and safety, section 12 confers power on the Minister to prohibit the use of that material or method of construction whether generally or in relation to particular buildings or works. This power is considered necessary to ensure that the use of substandard materials or methods can be prohibited where their use is brought to the notice of the Minister.

I would like now to talk about section 6 of the Bill which provides for the making of building control regulations which will deal with the control arrangements necessary to ensure compliance with building regulations. The section provides a flexible power which will enable different systems of control to be applied to different kinds of buildings or to buildings in different areas, or in relation to different provisions of building regulations.

The present system of control which obtains in those areas where building by-laws are in operation is a full approval system involving the submission of plans and specifications to the local authority and their approval by the local authority before work can commence. This system has been criticised by the industry; it is considered to be too cumbersome in that it causes delays and increases cost. From a local authority point of view it is a costly system — and also a system that could not be introduced and operated without significant additions to the staff of many of the local authorities concerned. Section 86 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 provided for an approval-type system only. The need to provide for a more flexible system is one of the major reasons for the Bill before the House today. Much time, work and consultation with the industry has already gone into devising a new system which will, on the one hand, give the necessary degree of assurance that the requirements of the regulations will be complied with and, on the other, will eliminate as far as possible the kinds of delays that impose costs on the whole community. Such delays can also have a disincentive effect on builders and developers and tend to slow down the whole pace of much-needed investment and development. As I see matters at this stage, if we want a comprehensive system of building control, the only way in which we can achieve it, without embarking on the establishment of an elaborate, costly and time-consuming apparatus of administrative and technical control, is to go for a system of certification by appropriate people.

Accordingly, I am strongly of the opinion that the most expeditious system of administering building regulations is by way of a certification system of control. Under such a system designers and builders of individual projects will, on their own responsibility, provide certificates of compliance with the requirements of the regulations. Apart from reducing delays and costs and allowing simpler administration, such a system can obviously be more easily introduced into areas of the country where systems of building control have not been operated up to now.

Briefly a certification system would work generally along the following lines—

At a specified time before construction work commences, a certificate that the work has been designed in accordance with the regulations will be lodged with the building control authority. The authority will register the certificate and keep it available for reference and inspection by interested persons. Any subsequent variation in the original design will be the subject of a separate certificate which will also be lodged with the building control authority. On completion of the work, a certificate that the work has been completed in accordance with building regulations will be lodged with the authority.

What I have said obviously amounts only to a generalised description of the proposed system which I have given for illustrative purposes only. It is important to realise that the essence of the system is that it will not involve building control authorities in a scrutiny of, or in giving approval for, individual projects. The authorities will have the power to carry out random checks and inspections of buildings but the Bill provides, in section 6 (4), that they will not be under a duty to ensure that buildings erected comply with the requirements of the regulations and that the facts stated in certificates are true and accurate. These responsibilities will instead fall on persons giving the certificates.

The certification system has been the subject of discussion documents which have been circulated to the professions and the industry for comment. Reaction to the general concept of certification has been generally favourable but there are still some important and difficult issues that up to now have not been finally resolved; these relate particularly to questions such as the way in which certificates should be worded and who should be allowed or required to give the certificates. Concern has also been expressed by the professions and the industry generally about the general issue of liability. It is my intention to discuss these matters with the industry and for that purpose I see the Building Regulations Advisory Body as providing a forum through which the consensus views of the industry as a whole on these and other matters can be articulated.

While I regard the certification system of control as the most appropriate system of enforcement, I accept that some further safeguard is needed for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the fire provisions of the regulations, particularly in the case of buildings presenting a high life risk in the case of fire. In this regard the Stardust Tribunal indicated that, while the merits of a certification system as a method of building control in areas other than fire was clear, its adoption in the area of fire safety was undesirable. At the same time the tribunal recognised that sufficient persons with the experience necessary for the operation of an approval-type system were not available, and further, that existing third-level courses were not geared to produce such persons. It also accepted that owners, architects and engineers involved with new buildings should not be relieved of their duty to take care of the safety of other persons.

I fully accept the tribunal's view in these matters. I have therefore provided in section 6 (2) (c) for a procedure whereby the control regulations will incorporate a provision requiring applications to be made to building control authorities for "fire safety certificates" in respect of particular types of buildings. The fire safety certificate will certify in each case that the building concerned will, in the authority's opinion, comply with specified fire parts of the regulations if constructed in accordance with the plans submitted. It is intended on grounds of life safety and practicality to apply this procedure to high-risk premises. Further consideration needs to be given to the range of buildings which will be covered by this procedure but it is likely to apply for example to certain places of public assembly. The range of buildings will be kept under close and continuing review.

It follows from what I have said about the proposed arrangements for certification by designers and builders that while building control authorities will not be required to carry out inspections to ensure compliance with the regulations, they may do so if they consider it necessary in any particular case. It will, therefore, be a matter for the designers and builders to ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with the regulations and, where fire safety certificates are involved, in accordance with the plans which were the basis for the issue of such certificates. Once work is completed, inspections may also be carried out by the local authority, as fire authority, under the Fire Services Act, 1981.

As I have already pointed out, the requirements of building regulations will apply to buildings belonging to or in the occupation of the State other than prisons and places of detention. However, at present it is not considered necessary or appropriate that State, semi-State and local authority buildings generally should be subject to the control system. This exemption will be subject to review in the light of experience of its operation.

It was also proposed in the discussion document circulated by the Department in April 1982 that low-rise housing and small extensions and alterations should be excluded from the scope of the control system for an initial period. The reasoning behind the proposed exclusion in this instance was that it was important to minimise disruption and dislocation of existing practices and procedures in areas where building by-laws had not operated before and that there was already a range of inspections and requirements applicable to housing developments.

The exclusion of low-rise housing and other small works from the control system will significantly reduce the amount of work which will have to be dealt with initially by the building control authorities. However, I would again emphasise that exclusions from the control procedures will not affect the designer's or builder's obligation to comply with the technical requirements of building regulations in relation to the works concerned. In any event, consideration will be given to widening the scope of the control regulations as soon as circumstances seem to make such an expansion practicable.

While I am satisfied that such exclusions are appropriate at present I am also aware that there is a need for up to date statistical information on construction work about to start and in progress and that the exclusions from the control system will leave a gap in the flow of such information that otherwise could be expected from a comprehensive control system. It is important to realise that it is not simply a bureaucratic desire for more and more statistics that is involved in this problem — the reality is that a better and more timely flow of information on construction activity would contribute significantly to the better planning of output and employment trends in the building industry. It may be that a simple form of notification of building starts and completions can be devised that will be sufficient to meet our information needs in the short term. This is something that I will be considering in connection with the organisation of the control arrangements.

As I have indicated, there are still some detailed matters to be worked out in relation to the control arrangements. I am satisfied that it would not be right to proceed with decisions on these matters without first consulting the interests involved and this is something I propose to arrange as soon as practicable through the medium of the proposed Building Regulations Advisory Body.

The provisions of sections 7, 8 and 9 enable building control authorities to serve a notice requiring action to be taken to ensure compliance with building regulations. The provisions of those sections are necessary if building control authorities are to be in a position to deal with breaches of the regulations that come to their notice. The powers taken are similar to those contained in the Planning and Fire Services Acts.

Section 10 provides for inspections of buildings by a person authorised for the purpose by a building control authority. The section does not specifically impose any obligations on building control authorities but, nonetheless, it will be incumbent on them to consider objectively, in what way and to what extent they should ensure the exercise of the powers conferred by the section, taking account of their financial and other resources and of any other relevant factors.

The power in section 11 for a building control authority to seek an order from the High Court is additional to that contained in the sections dealing with the enforcement notice. This power is necessary to deal with an emergency situation where a building control authority may consider that, because of the risk to health or safety arising from construction work, it would not be prudent to go through the procedures necessary for the service of an enforcement notice under section 7. The High Court order may require that a building be made safe and prohibit its use until this is done. A similar provision is contained in the Fire Services Act, 1981.

The Building Regulations Advisory Body, which is provided for in section 13, will be a body broadly representative of the building industry. Proposed amendments to the regulations may be referred to the advisory body for its comments and it will also be open to it to initiate amendments. Deputies will note that the section is drafted in fairly broad terms; this is deliberate as there is a wide range of issues on which the advisory body might be asked to advise. Secretarial services for the advisory body will be provided by the Department.

Penalties for offences under the Act are generally similar to those under the Fire Services Act, 1981 and will depend on whether an offence is of a summary or indictable nature which in turn will depend on the different circumstances of each particular case. Offences such as non-compliance with building regulations or with the terms of an enforcement notice under section 7 or particular offences which may be specified accordingly in building control regulations may be indictable offences and will carry severe penalties — a maximum fine of £10,000 and or two years imprisonment.

The types of offences which may be specified in building control regulations as being liable to conviction on indictment would be of a serious nature such as submitting a certificate of compliance with building regulations to a building control authority knowing it to be false. Summary offences will be liable to a maximum fine of £800 and/or six months imprisonment and in the case of a continuing offence, to a fine of not more than £150 for each day on which the offence is continued after conviction. There is also provision that summary proceedings may not be instituted more than five years after the building is completed. This provision is in response to the industry's concern that they would otherwise be open to prosecution for an unlimited period in respect of even small breaches of the regulations.

In addition to any penalties which may be imposed by the courts, the Bill also provides that any person found guilty of an offence under the Act will not be entitled to sign certificates of compliance with building regulations nor have such certificates accepted by building control authorities for a period of two years where the offence is summarily tried and for ten years where it is an indictable offence.

Because of the existence of building by-laws in some areas, it is necessary as a transitional measure to provide in certain circumstances for the continued operation of building by-laws after the date on which building regulations come into operation. The particular cases involved are those set out in subsection (2) of section 20. Section 20 is the general transition section but there is one provision, subsection (7), to which I should like to refer. Deputies are probably aware that, in areas where building by-laws are operated, small building works, particularly house extensions, have often been carried out in the past without by-law approval. The fact that by-law approval has not been obtained and cannot be obtained in retrospect under existing law has caused problems in house sales as evidence of compliance with by-laws may have to be shown to intending purchasers. Delays in the completion of house sales have occurred, very often through no fault of the vendor who may have bought the house when evidence of by-law approval was not required and this has caused hardship in a number of cases. I consider that it is reasonable, therefore, to use this opportunity to provide that, where work carried out prior to 9 February 1984 did not comply with by-laws or any relevant statutory requirement, no proceedings shall be taken in respect of such non-compliance unless a building control authority consider the work to be a danger to public health or safety and serve a notice to this effect on the owners within six months of the date the building regulations come ito operation. Deputies will note that this "amnesty" operates only in respect of work carried out prior to the date of circulation of the Bill, 9 February 1984.

Before my final remarks there are just two other points I should mention. First, some sections of the industry felt that the legal terminology used in the proposed building regulations, which is necessary to ensure their enforceability in law, made them difficult to interpret. To assist the industry in this matter, An Foras Forbartha were asked to provide a guidance manual that would explain the different requirements, by way of diagrams, sketches, etc., in a way that would be familiar to the industry. I understand that the manual is nearing completion. As soon as it is available, I propose to publish the final draft of the proposed regulations so that the industry will have both documents available to them for study.

Secondly, I want to refer to the educational programme, the purpose of which is to familiarise the building industry with the technical provisions of building regulations. This programme has been on-going for some time now and is being co-ordinated by An Foras Forbartha through the regional technical colleges and through other agencies. I understand that the reaction to courses dealing with the regulations has been favourable and that many of the anxieties formerly expressed by the industry have been largely dispelled. When the guidance manual and the proposed building regulations are available, the educational programme will be further expanded.

I am satisfied that this Bill provides a suitable framework for the introduction of a comprehensive and flexible system of building regulations and building control.

I look forward to hearing the views of the House and I commend the Bill to it.

We in Fianna Fáil recognise the need for a set of national building regulations which would include fire regulations, and we also recognise the need for regulations to ensure adequate enforcement of whatever regulations are adopted. That does not lead me on to automatic approval of all that the Minister is doing in this Bill. I am very concerned at the obvious lack of consultation between the Minister's Department and representatives of the construction industry prior to the introduction of this Bill here in Dáil Éireann. It is inappropriate that we proceed to enact this legislation until such time as the Minister completes full and adequate negotiations with every sector of the construction industry and in particular the professions involved in that industry and those who will be charged with the implementation of these regulations which will introduce a rigid statutory regime which will have to be complied with by people in the construction industry and which it is obvious will place a very heavy responsibility on them individually to ensure that buildings which they certify comply with the statutory building regulations.

Having said that, I want to make it clear at the very outset that we recognise fully the need for a uniform set of building regulations which will apply equally throughout the country, which will introduce uniformity which is not there at present, and which when fully operational will be a guarantee to the public that from the health, fire and construction or building points of view the buildings will be safe for them to use. The present position is very unsatisfactory. I understand that Dublin and Cork are the only cities that have building by-laws and these are based on the Public Health Acts of 1878 and 1890 and the Dublin Corporation Act, 1890. In the rest of the country different counties have their own by-laws or, more correctly, in many cases they have their own practices and the operation of these depends on the attitudes, approaches and experiences of local government officials in different local authority areas. We are all aware that over the past hundred years views have changed and a practice of using say, timber-framed buildings might be acceptable in Limerick city but it may not be acceptable in the Limerick county area. Therefore, the present situation contains anomalies which would be removed through the introduction of a uniform set of building regulations applying throughout each of the 26 counties.

The work that has gone into the preparation of these building regulations has been played down by the Minister in his introductory speech, as I understand they have been under consideration for the past 15 odd years. Certainly every Minister for the Environment over the past 11 or 12 years has been urging his officials to proceed with the preparation of national building regulations, but from what the Minister has indicated in his speech, very little was done until the tragic Stardust fire, and the Minister seems to indicate that, following the tribunal which was set up to investigate that awful happening, only since then have the Department been really active in coming forward with the regulations.

Draft regulations were published and then a revised version of the draft regulations was published. These have caused great concern to people in the industry and, as has been indicated by the Minister in his speech, over 500 opinions on those regulations were expressed by interested bodies, principally those involved in the construction industry. I am not aware to what extent the Minister has responded to the 500 odd representations which he received. Though it is clear now that a new set of draft regulations has been prepared and printed, it seems that the Minister wishes to proceed with the introduction of legislation here making the regulations statutory without making them public. I find that very strange. I do not have to repeat continuously that we all recognise the need for regulations of this kind. We should also be careful to ensure that in our haste we do not impose something on the construction industry which is unworkable. Some of the criticisms that have been made of the building regulations seem to indicate that serious difficulties will be created for the building industry if the regulations as we have known them were to become statutory regulations and to be rigidly enforced.

The Minister gave a clear indication and justification of the fears of the industry when he said in his introductory speech that he had asked An Foras Forbartha to draw up a guidance manual to the regulations to be accompanied by drawings and maps and a layman's language interpretation of the regulations themselves, as anybody who glances through the building regulations will see that they are couched in very complex legalistic language and are not open to easy interpretation and will present a massive problem for the industry in the period of implementation which, I suggest, will have to be gradual. Extensive educational programmes will have to be established to enable everybody involved in this industry whose livelihood depends on it to become fully aware of the meaning of the regulations as laid down in the booklet.

However, it is very difficult to pass any comment on that when the regulations which the Minister is now talking about have not been printed. We find it very hard to understand why the Minister sought to proceed with the Bill prior to the publication of the proposed building regulations which, I understand, are even printed in his Department. It seems that he is holding them back. Therefore, he is asking the House to give him legislation to give statutory effect to proposed building regulations which he is not prepared to make public until the legislation is passed. In view of the effect that that will have immediately on the construction industry I suggest that the Minister should postpone proceeding to Committee Stage of this Bill until such time as he publishes the proposed building regulations.

They are being printed.

I am very pleased to hear that, I do not think that that was mentioned in the Minister's 22-page speech, and that I consider the most important information he has given the House. It will relieve some of our anxiety if that is the Minister's intention. I want to get that clearly on the record now: the Minister will not proceed to Committee Stage until he publishes the proposed draft regulations and the control regulations — both sets of regulations.

And the explanatory memorandum. That is important.

That is the text An Foras Forbartha have put together. That would relieve a great many of our anxieties. I am pleased to hear the Minister say that, but I would have thought it would have been appropriate for him to have said it in his introductory speech. What matters is that we take the correct steps and I think that is the correct step. It would be very foolish to ask this House to adopt a Bill introducing these very rigid statutory regulations affecting the construction industry in a very traumatic way without taking all the necessary steps initially so that everyone knows what is intended, knows what is proposed and knows how these proposals will be enforced. The Minister has taken a good deal of ground out of the argument I intended to develop. The complexity of the proposals are not suited to detailed debate on Second Stage. They are more appropriate for teasing out on Committee Stage when we deal with the Bill section by section.

The Minister gives recognition to the need for further consultation and he says that he is satisfied it would not be right to proceed with the decisions on these matters without first consulting the interests involved and that is something he proposes to arrange as soon as practicable through the medium of the proposed Building Regulations Advisory Body. Obviously the Minister has now changed his mind since reading his speech. We were urging consultations with the respective representative bodies, the Construction Industry Federation and the professional bodies. They have expressed very serious concern about the proposals to proceed with the implementation of the regulations without further changes and it would seem the Department in their haste to bring forward building regulations had adopted the old ploy of adopting a great many of the British building regulations and sought to co-opt them into the Irish situation. I am sure the Minister is aware that the British regulations are causing a great deal of controversy. They are the subject of a royal inquiry and it would be foolish for us to adopt the British standards on the assumption that they were suitable when the British themselves are seriously concerned about their implementation. They are actually being reviewed at present.

The Royal Institute of Architects called for urgent intensive collaboration to secure an equitable and effective system. It is important the Minister should consult with all interested representative bodies. There are two methods of actually controlling the work according to the Bill. One is the suggestion that inspectors from local authorities would be the certifying bodies. An individual would be appointed in each local authority who would inspect each building at different stages and certify it. That is the current British practice which, I understand, is under discussion and is likely to be changed to the certification system which the Minister himself says is the one he adopted. I think we would all agree that of the two options the less cumbersome and the one most likely to succeed without giving rise to the growth of a whole new bureaucracy and extra expense would be the certification system. It, of course, presents many problems for those charged with its implementation, those who will actually have to sign a certificate.

In that area there certainly has not been adequate discussion about the implications and a whole new area of offence is being created for individuals who have been working in the industry and doing their best from the point of view of their professional expertise. Some feel that they are unavoidably being placed in a semi-criminal position, having to prove their innocence in signing these documents certifying everything they do. If anything goes wrong it will be they who will bear full responsibility. The Minister has taken every precaution to avoid any responsibility falling on any public body. The local authorities, as the controlling body, will be excluded from any liability under the present provisions of the Bill but some responsibility should fall on them.

Public buildings also appear to be excluded from the building control regulations, which is a retrograde step. We have experienced this in the Planning Acts, where construction work undertaken on public buildings by various Government Departments is exempt from planning permission. This has caused difficulties time and time again. The public are unaware of the intentions of the local authorities and State Departments with regard to these buildings and have no way of being notified in advance. Amendments put forward by this side of the House with regard to the Planning Acts have been rejected by the Coalition Government on two occasions that I can recall. I again urge the Minister to reconsider Government policy in that area. There should be an obligation on Government Departments and local authorities to publicise their intentions with regard to the construction of new buildings, so that the ordinary member of the public can be made aware in advance of what is proposed.

This exemption has caused difficulty in the past and resulted on a number of occasions in very ugly buildings being erected in areas where private development requiring planning permission had already been refused. The State are seen to contravene county development plans adopted by local councillors in various counties. Generally, this brings the entire planning law into disrepute. It questions, in the eyes of the public, the intent of Government Departments and local authorities in seeking to apply a certain set of standards to the public and failing to comply with them themselves in certain cases. The Minister should ensure that some provision is made which would give local authorities, who are the controlling body, the right to supervise any building being erected by a Government Department. Perhaps the exemption is reasonable in the case of prisons, but I do not think other buildings should be exempt.

The biggest difficulty confronting our construction industry, as far as the adoption of statutory building regulations is concerned, will be in the whole question of certification. Who exactly will certify the work? The position of many people working in the industry, such as architects, engineers and builders will have to be clearly defined. Some architects are members of their institute but others, many of whom are the best, are not. No formal registration of architects is required here. I understand that anybody can call himself or herself an architect. If the Minister's control regulations lay down that an architect may certify a building, to whom is he referring? The whole area of architects, engineers and builders is so vague that the range of problems which will be presented will be vast indeed.

The building industry are looking at this Bill with great apprehension. It will have serious and far-reaching implications for that industry and I shall try to give some of my reasons for saying that. I understand that it has been widely accepted by the professions that the building regulations as presently drafted are riddled with anomalies, legalistic and complicated language and are in part virtually impossible to interpret, either technically or legally. I am putting this much more strongly than did the Minister in his introductory speech. However, he hinted that the regulations are couched in complex, legalistic language. A well-known expert on contract law is supposed to have described the type of drafting in the building regulations as a hangover from the excesses of the Johnsonian literary style which believed that statements gain authority by being expressed in portentous language.

If it is proposed to operate the control of the administration of the building regulations through this system of self-certification by architects, engineers and builders, it should be noted that the certificates of compliance would be required to be submitted prior to commencement, during building and after completion of the construction — in other words, the certifier, whether an architect, engineer or builder, who certifies a building as being designed and constructed in accordance with the building regulations would be liable in law to a subsequent purchaser who suffers loss because it is not. By its nature, the potential liability in a document such as the certification document is much wider than liability for defective goods. The documents may continue in existence for a long time and copies may be passed from hand to hand. There is in the courts a continuing extension of the application of the law of negligence.

It is significant that in section 16 (4) of this Bill the responsibility in the case of an offence under the Act by a corporate body can be extended to individual members such as directors, managers or secretaries who would be subjected to fines of up to £10,000 and two years imprisonment. We have already had criticism from the construction industry on the basis that massive fines are provided for in the Bill without their knowing exactly what the crime is to be. The building regulations have not yet been published, nor have the control regulations. If this House is to gauge whether £10,000 is an appropriate figure for a particular offence, it is imperative that we know what the offence is. This is the situation into which we have been led in being asked to discuss this Bill without seeing the actual regulations. The question arises as to who in a building company will accept the responsibility of certifying that a building is both designed and constructed in accordance with the building regulations. This question is being asked in many large construction companies at present throughout the country. If the individual — director, manager or secretary — is going to carry the responsibility — and the faults may not appear in the building for 20 years — he will carry that responsibility over a very long period. This is a very serious proposal which cannot just be adopted without being fully debated and negotiated between the Minister's Department and all those involved in implementing it prior to its adoption.

The Bill would have the effect of increasing building costs considerably — that is fairly obvious, but the Minister did not refer at length to it. At present the industry is in the depths of severe recession, with about 50,000 unemployed building workers and hundreds of companies already bankrupt due to the state of the construction industry and the general economy. If we are to impose statutory building regulations with the requirement of certification and the liabilities attached thereto, a major burden is being added to an industry already on its knees.

The Minister may not have control over the timing of the introduction of the Bill but it is unfortunate it should have been brought forward at this stage when the industry is so poorly prepared to accept further responsibilities and costs. It is obvious that costs will be increased as a result of the application of higher standards. There will be an indirect increase in costs as a result of the introduction of an educational programme in regard to the new regulations which will have to be undertaken at all levels in the industry, not just involving the engineers, architects and surveyors but the tradesmen and unskilled operatives, all of whom will have to be educated in the new requirements. That will involve costs to cover administration expenses. Probably the biggest expense of all will be from increased insurance charges.

The question arises as to whether it will be possible for construction companies and individuals in charge of certifying buildings to obtain satisfactory insurance to cover these new liabilities. This legislation, therefore, could result in a situation in which badly drafted and vague building regulations could be interpreted only by the courts, and I am sure the Minister will agree that such a system would be unworkable leading to legislative and administrative impossibility.

I cannot comment further on the building regulations, whether they are well drafted or vague. I can only comment on the regulations already published, to be superseded by the proposed regulations which the Minister has ready for issue. The new set have not been available for public inspection and I have had no expert opinion on them. I have no knowledge of whether the Minister took into consideration any of the 500-odd representations which he received on the previous regulations which were deemed to be full of anomalies and legal loopholes, with impossible sentences which presented great difficulty in regard to interpretation. Unless the new regulations are capable of easy interpretation, unless they can be understood easily by the industry and its operatives, we could be imposing an unworkable system on a vital industry when it is in great difficulty.

I do not think the Bill in its present form should be enacted. I suggest it should be postponed until the method of control has been decided by the Minister and until the new regulations have been published and the manual made available for inspection. If certification is to be used — the Minister today said that he proposes to do so — agreement of professional bodies and the building federation will be necessary because any refusal to operate the system would cause an immediate clash with the industry which is under pressure due to the economic recession. The regulations should be introduced on a phased basis to allow the industry and the local authorities to agree on interpretation without causing a complete log jam in the system.

I am pleased that the Minister has made an exception of what he called low rise housing. That would apply to nearly 99 per cent of the houses constructed here. That move will reduce the extent of the difficulties which might arise in applying the provisions of the Bill because it will eliminate a very substantial percentage of construction work from the effects of the control regulations.

The Minister might have said that the National Housing Guarantee Scheme, which covers a high percentage of the houses built, involves a certification system similar to that to be recommended for other buildings. Certifiers and the managements of construction companies should be protected from inadvertently placing themselves in disastrous personal financial situations. It is essential that certifiers should have professional indemnity and that construction management should be insured against claims. That would operate as an effective control administered by the insurance companies and would be in line with the French system which one section of the Bill proposes to emulate, without having the primitive effect of section 16. The structure of the industry here is similar to that in Britain but unlike that in France — likewise, our constitutional law and regulations.

This Bill would be completely alien to normal practice in Ireland. For instance, the onus will be on contractors to check construction details by designers and to refuse to conform to these when the details are in error or impossible to interpret. In such cases it would be preferable for the contractor to prepare details, as occurs in France. That is open for discussion between the industry, the professions and the Minister. Some people feel that the Bill is drafted in such a manner as to suggest that anyone involved in the industry is a member of the criminal class and that therefore draconian measures were required to control and regulate the industry. I do not think any of us view members of the building industry in that light. Therefore, it is wrong to appear to imply that they have not been giving a good service and that they have not been seeking to apply the best standards until now. We are introducing a uniform set of regulations and we must remember there have been different regulations in operation for many years in each local planning authority area.

I believe the constitutionality of some of the provisions in the Bill may be questionable, especially that in which directors, managers and secretaries of companies can be held personally liable for defects. This is by-passing the protection for limited liability companies. The defects referred to in the Bill will, I understand, fall into two categories. For minor defects there will be up to five years liability and for major defects there will be unlimited liability. If that is so the dangers for individuals certifying can be very extensive and continue over a long period. In England in a recent court decision it was held that liability extended even up to 22 years from completion of a building where there was some deviation from the original plans.

It is implied in the Bill that major defects will relate generally to public health and safety matters and I hope the Minister will clear that up. If the legislation is passed in its present form it will be left open to all purchasers to sue for deviations and breaches of the regulations many of which are considered absurd and could not be complied with. I do not know what is in the new building regulations but that is the opinion of some well informed people on the draft regulations published previously.

It seems that the regulations which are before us are largely a copy of the English regulations. I should like to point out to the Minister that the Royal Commission over there are studying the adverse effects of their regulations. I warn the Minister to tread warily in that area. Another example of this extended liability is where proprietors of a company who may have long retired from business can be sued and, indeed, held liable under the proposed legislation.

Generally, while we consider it necessary to have a set of standard national building and fire regulations the proposals as published have been deemed unsatisfactory. It seemed to us that the Minister was proceeding to introduce them without adequate and constructive consultation with the construction industry. In the talks which the Minister has indicated he is prepared to have. I hope representatives of the construction industry, the Royal Institute of Architects, the Quantity Surveyors Institute and any other professional body that has a legitimate role to play in the construction industry will be concluded.

In view of what the Minister has said we will not oppose the Bill on Second Stage but we would like to inform the Minister that we await with great interest the outcome of the discussions he has agreed to hold. We hope the Minister will find just cause to change some aspects of the Bill as presented and to relieve some of the anxieties of those involved in the industry because of the manner in which he has proceeded to date. When the Bill comes back for discussion on Committee Stage we hope the Minister will have had the benefit of the experience and wisdom of those who have spent their lifetime working in the industry and studying developments in it. The existing by-laws have proved very restrictive in many cases to the introduction of new building materials and techniques. The anomalies they have created are things we should not continue to tolerate for much longer.

There is an urgency about the introduction of uniform regulations but there is a need to proceed with caution so that we do not impose something on the industry that will cause it major problems. The overriding consideration in our discussions must at all times be the well-being of the members of the community who will use buildings to be constructed in the future. It is our responsibility to ensure as best we can through the application of the highest standards that those buildings are safe for people to use. The previous method of controlling the use of materials was more akin to the naming of individual products and approving them as such rather than approving the performance of the product and laying down standards of performance. For the standards to be specified would require scientific and legal language and then there would be no inhibition on the introduction of the most up-to-date materials into buildings here. We would not have different authorities applying different standards and laws.

I accept it was necessary for the Minister in his introductory speech to go into some detail to explain that the reason for the delay in bringing forward these regulations was not any dilatoriness on the part of any of his predecessors or himself. I was pleased that he explained to the House that the planning Acts did not place a mandatory obligation on him to introduce building regulations but merely provided him with the opportunity to do so if and when it was considered they were necessary. Any difficulties that may have arisen in the intervening period cannot be blamed on the non-production of building regulations at an earlier date. At the same time one would hope that when the new standards are being applied that some of the difficulties — that is putting it mildly — that have arisen in the past will not arise in the future. That will be possible provided the correct decisions are made on the standards to be adopted and on their application.

In the event of the regulations recommending bad construction methods and in view of the fact that the Bill provides for certification of compliance with the building regulations and exempts the building control authority from any liability, who will be liable? In the event of the building regulations containing bad construction methods which result in faults developing in the future who will be responsible? Surely the person who has certified that the building complied with the requirements of the building regulations cannot be held responsible if it is shown subsequently that his certification was correct but that the fault lay with the person responsible for including in the building regulations faulty construction methods. There is not any reference in the Bill to what will happen in those circumstances. I hope the Minister will give some indication of what will happen if that occurs.

There is always a great eagerness on the part of Departments to place responsibility on other individuals and exempt themselves. I do not subscribe to that principle. If we consider that a regulation is necessary and that people should comply with it then everybody should comply with it, particularly those who draw up the regulations and lay down the law for everybody to follow. The convenient exemptions written into the Bill, brought before the House and readily accepted have resulted in this principle being applied right across legislation in different areas. I do not subscribe to that. Government Departments undertaking construction work should face up to their responsibilities in the same way that private individuals will be asked to face up to their responsibilities when these regulations are finally adopted in a revised form, I hope.

I am grateful to the Minister for indicating that he is putting on the brakes and that he is not proceeding full speed ahead with enforcing this. I am pleased he has agreed to go back to the industry to have the necessary talks, to sort out the anomolies, and to obtain the definitions of difficult passages in the regulations as published which have baffled the best legal minds. When the regulations are fully understood and capable of implementation, then he will let us proceed to make them the law of the land.

The building industry is the second largest industry in this country and plays a vital role in the economy. It makes a significant contribution to the overall economic activity both in terms of output and employment. Output in the industry accounts for 11 per cent of gross domestic product and employment accounts for 30 per cent of the total labour force. This industry has suffered from lack of investment in recent years, not a lack of public investment, I am glad to say, because public capital investment in the industry has been maintained at a very high level. However, private investment, which depends so much on confidence, has fallen dramatically in recent years to such an extent that it would be impossible for the Public Capital Programme to make up the leeway. Indeed, it would have been unrealistic, particularly in present recessionary times, to expect this to happen.

There are many problems confronting the industry at present, the major one being to get private investment going again with a view to taking its share of total investment as it had some years ago. At present public investment comprises 70 per cent of total investment. For that reason I welcome the Government's policy with regard to the economy generally but in particular as it will affect this vital industry. Politics are geared to restore confidence and boost investment generally, particularly from the private sector, with a view to stabilising employment as far as possible. The building industry has always been an avenue for investment of private moneys and I have no doubt it will benefit greatly from the Government's economic policies. I understand there is a cautious optimism in the industry given the favourable economic trends which have been emerging recently. I am hopeful that 1984 will be the beginning of the end of the recession in this industry.

This brings me to the subject of this Bill. The long-term development of such a major industry is of extreme importance both to those employed in the industry and to the economy. We will require a building industry in the future which will be efficient, up-to-date and adaptable. For that reason I am happy to endorse fully the proposals in the Bill as outlined by the Minister of State. In particular I am glad to see that building regulations will not be confined to considerations of public health and safety and the needs of the handicapped as heretofore, but will be able to promote energy conservation, efficient use of resources in building and good practices.

I do not think anyone will disagree that there is a need for modern regulations. The existing by-laws, operating in only seven local authorities, are too rigid and inflexible to cater for modern developments in building materials and method of construction. I did not understand Deputy Molloy when he spoke about the Minister's proposals being rigid because we could not have anything more rigid than the present by-laws. As I understand them, the by-laws set out precise methods of construction which must be adhered to.

Section 6 deals with certification. This is very important. There are two views held on this by architects' associations. Some feel concern about the legal liability that certification would impose. Anyone who has a statutory duty and does not fulfil it may be sued for compensation as well as for criminal liability. Anyone injured may sue for breach of statutory duty, even if there was not negligence. If you place a duty on the builder or architect to design in accordance with statutory regulations and certify that he has done so, then it becomes extremely important to make it clear that any liability for failing to do so is absolute. If it is, an injured party has the right to compensation without proving negligence. He merely has to prove that the regulations have been breached.

Another problem which self-certification gives rise to is the length of liability. A builder can build in accordance with the regulations and the house passed to somebody else, but the first purchaser may find the house defective and sue the builder. Suppose the defect does not appear for ten years and the house has changed hands several times. The original builder cannot be sued under the terms of the original contract because the ultimate purchaser was not a party to that contract. The ultimate purchaser will then look for somebody else to sue outside the contract. He may find the purchaser but he has a difficulty because the builder's certificate may go from hand to hand with the solicitor changing with each sale of the house. The ultimate purchaser may try to sue the original builder but often a builder only forms a company for a particular job and as soon as it is completed the firm ceases to exist. If the architect's name is on the certificate the purchaser could have a case against the architect. The Minister should consider some kind of limit to the extension of liability.

There is also the question of the interpretation of the regulations. They are very hard to understand. A Mr. Abrahamson, a building expert, addressing a conference of architects said that from walking around Dublin he had come to the conclusion that a proportion of architects could be certified. In this Bill we are dealing with certification by architects, not certification of architects or other professional bodies.

I would like to deal with communication because good communication is very necessary. Addressing the IIRS conference on new building regulations Mr. Abrahamson said:

The type of drafting which permeates the draft regulations is nothing better than a hangover from the excesses of the Johnsonian literary style, which believed that statements gain authority by being expressed in portentous language. There is nothing in legal science that makes it clever to continue to employ the excesses of 18th century style without having the ability also to include its virtues, without realising that language that then was merely high sounding is now also archaic, and steadfastly ignoring the long history in which that style of drafting has time and again produced failures of communication and with the help of incompetent or hostile judges has frustrated important social legislation.

Good communication is essential and it really does not help communications intended to lead to safe building, without complicating and obstructing the building, process to use sentences of 187 words as at present in the regulations. There is no reason why building regulations should not appear in the language and form which will serve the purposes for which they are intended. The crucial question is how best information can be communicated to those who wish to build in the form they are likely to understand, absorb and act upon. The best method of communication is by the use of diagrams, charts, and sensible everyday language. There should be a comprehensive and thorough educational programme with the object of making the content of the regulations available to all sections of industry. The requirements should not only apply at the level of building contractors, architects, engineers, surveyors, estate agents and foremen but at the level of all tradesmen and semi-skilled and unskilled operatives. I welcome the Minister's initiative in asking An Foras Forbartha to provide a guidance manual to facilitate the understanding of the regulations.

To return to the matter of certification, one set of architects feel there is a question concerning liability about which they are unhappy but another section feel there are benefits in the Bill. Mr. John O'Reilly, addressing the IIRS conference on 2 March 1982, stated:

(1) The idea of the Architect having authority to certify that a building was designed in accordance with Building Regulations and that such certificate would be accepted as adequate proof that the building was so designed has a very strong appeal. It also has benefits both for the Architect and his client in terms of time-saving, and in terms of "certainty". All doubt as to whether the Local Authority inspector will grant an approval or will disapprove in respect of submitted drawings is removed. This element of "certainty" is worth buying even at a high price, but it is not worth having at all if there is still to be imposed a control by the Local Authority whereby it would be empowered to reject certificates or disqualify certifiers at its own discretion. This implication can therefore not be fully assessed until the terms of the proposed legislation are known.

(2) The concept of a new responsibility is not attractive to a profession which already carries a burden incalculable in terms of cost and time. Nevertheless this additional burden would appear not to be an unreasonable price for the kind of absolute "certainty" to which I have alluded.

(3) Manifestly any certificate must be limited to those matters about which the certifier can be certain. In this context the Architect:

(a) Can certify that his own work...

(b) cannot certify with regard to the work of others...

(c) can only certify in respect of regulations about which he can be reasonably certain.

It would appear that a large number of people in the building industry would find it time-saving and profitable to have this kind of self-certification introduced. I am pleased to note the Minister's statement that the building industry has accepted in principle the idea of a self-certification system of control, subject to certain points of detail which I am confident can be resolved in the course of consultation with the industry.

The building industry has served this country well and achieved high standards. They have given a good service. I welcome the suggestion of an amnesty on small building works and house extensions carried out prior to the circulation of this Bill. This would be of great assistance to many people who have had difficulty in selling property where by-law permission has not been granted. This Bill will contribute significantly to better building design and construction and I welcome it.

I also welcome this Bill in that it is an effort to give to the country an overall common set of regulations for the control of building. I notice that the Minister reserves to himself and retains the power to grant exemptions in certain areas and to certain buildings. There has been an understandable concern in the public mind at the lack of consistency of standards, not only from county to county but even from site to site.

It is of some interest that such matters as energy conservation are placed side by side with the encouragement of good building practice. However, discussion on the Bill without the regulations is somewhat akin to a production ofHamlet without the prince. I am glad to hear the Minister say that before Committee Stage he will publish the latest set of regulations so that they can be studied by the industry, by trade unions and by other concerned bodies while the Bill is going through the Dáil.

I hope that these regulations will be in layman's language as far as possible so that they can be easily understood, not only by those involved in the industry, architects, engineers, contractors and tradesmen but also by the clients for whom the buildings are being constructed. The public are entitled to understand the regulations. I welcome the Minister's statement that he intends to have a manual published by An Foras Forbartha which will give the ABC of the regulations.

It is generally acknowledged, not least by the construction industry, that there is an urgent need for these regulations but care must be taken to ensure that there is not over-kill. The building industry does not need another set of complicated regulations which would not be capable of implementation and which would only exacerbate the haemorrhage affecting this industry. I would have to disagree with the view expressed by Deputy Doyle because the building industry in County Mayo, particularly in Ballina, has been decimated.

It would appear from section 2 that the local authorities are to have the power to appoint an authorised person under section 10 of the Bill to monitor and check that the building regulations are being implemented. The task of this person or persons will be very arduous. His or her say-so will make or break this legislation. There is an urgent need to clarify the role of this individual.

Does the Minister feel the IIRS will have a major role to play in the implementation of the Bill? Does he envisage the Institute changing the existing general specifications in line with the new building regulations? It appears to me that if each item had a standard equivalent to or greater than the standard required in the building regulations, at least in regard to the question of the materials involved, the compiling of specifications would be greatly simplified. This would also help to simplify the certification system at least in so far as building materials are concerned.

I would like to see a composite application form available so that when a builder applied for planning permission the form would cover the application he would need to submit later on to the local authority as the controlling authority. A certificate of fire compliance could also be issued with the planning permission. This would have to be backed up by inspections as the building progressed. It would cut down on some of the delays which appear to be inevitable when these regulations come into force.

The Minister was not consistent. Buildings being constructed as State, semi-State and local authority buildings should be subject to the control system. Deputy Molloy voiced this concern of people who see projects going ahead in local authority areas for which normally planning permission would not be given. It is incumbent on the Minister, and all of us, to make certain that the regulations which apply to any private person who is building also apply to State and semi-State bodies, and apply more particularly to State and semi-State bodies particularly in the matter of control. They should also apply to the Garda and the Defence Forces. While one can see the reason why an authorised person on a local authority might not be given access to the prisons, he should be given access to any place where people are billeted to make certain that their conditions comply with the regulations.

I welcome the decision to exclude low rise buildings from the control system. In relation to an application for a local authority housing scheme, the Minister should see to it that these schemes are designed and built according to the specifications. There should be some control in relation to local authority housing schemes. Whatever can be said for having low rise housing on an individual basis excluded from the control, schemes of houses which are being built should not be excluded from control. I know this will cause some trouble for the local authorities but, if regulations are there, and particularly where a large number of houses are being built, they should be subject to the control envisaged in this Bill.

A problem of certification was referred to by the Minister. Quite obviously he has had discussions and he realises the problems that are there, and which were mentioned by Deputy Molloy and Deputy Doyle. As one who has had to certify and who, if the political winds turn, may have to certify again, may I say that I have grave reservations? Who will certify? Is it the managing director of a firm, the site management or the architect who designed the building? What will happen in a case where, inadvertently or without the certifier's knowledge, material A has been substituted for material B and does not come up to the proper standards and does not conform with the regulations? What is the position of a surveyor for a building society who has to certify whether planning permission conditions were complied with? In future under these regulations he will probably have to certify that the building complies with the regulations.

Deputy Molloy referred to a case in England recently which caused considerable concern to the professional bodies there, and is causing much concern here also. I welcome the Minister's decision not to go ahead until we tease out all these problems between now and Committee Stage. This will give all of us a chance to see and examine the regulations and compare them with the manual which An Foras Forbartha are to produce.

I should like to comment on the Building Regulations Advisory Body. Obviously this will be a very important body. It will be related to this Bill in the same way that the planning appeals body is related to the Planning Acts. I cannot but comment on the difference of emphasis between this body and the planning appeals body. While it would appear that the Minister is holding to himself the right to appoint whoever he likes, he should follow the example set by the planning appeals board and take into account the interests of the building industry and the professional bodies, engineers and architects, and also of the trade unions. If necessary he should go to the same lengths as his predecessor went when reappointing the planning appeals board. In relation to a building for which planning permission has been obtained subject to certain conditions, and which has not been started and will not start until such time as these regulations come into force, will the developer have to re-apply for planning permission? I take it he will not have to — I see the Minister shaking his head — but I presume that he must then submit a certificate to the local authority. If that certificate means there are changes being made will he not then have to resubmit the whole lot to the local authority? Perhaps the Minister would clarify that at a later stage.

The authorised person acting on behalf of the building authority to inspect buildings will be in somewhat of a limbo in that it would appear the Minister is not asking him to accept any responsibility. That person must accept responsibility in that he or she will be saying to the developer, "I feel that your building is not up to standard". Or does the person merely go out to inspect for the sake of inspecting? In this respect I cannot understand the Minister's comments when he said:

The section does not specifically impose any obligations on building control authorities...

What exactly does that mean? Does that mean that a person can carry out an inspection and then do nothing? Probably the Minister will have allayed some of the fears of the industry in relation to the type of offence that may be specified as being liable to conviction when he gave an example of submitting a certificate of compliance to a building authority knowing it to be false. Nobody could quibble about that. But there will be situations in which, in all honesty, a person may sign a certificate on site, when the materials originally specified may have been changed for one reason or another.

In general I welcome the Bill. I welcome particularly the Minister's willingness to have consultations which can only have good results. In consultation with the industry and the various other professional bodies the Minister should be able to reach agreement in relation to the whole problem of certification. This is one matter about which I am very worried as one who might possibly in the future be in a position of having to certify. Until this had been clarified to my satisfaction probably, like a lot of architects and engineers, I would refuse to sign without knowing what lay ahead. It is all right to sign for the immediate future but, when one is signing for something that could last a lifetime and indeed beyond, which could have repercussions not alone on oneself but on one's family, then there is need for urgent clarification. Therefore the whole question of responsibility of certification must be teased out. The Minister has gone a long way today, in what he told the House, in allaying a number of the fears we had. I look forward to seeing the regulations published along with the manual so that consultations can take place with the various interested parties within the industry — an industry normally regarded as the barometer of our economy — so that it may be allowed prosper. Such consultations can only lead to a more efficient Bill and I have no doubt that that is what will happen.

I want first of all to refer to the Minister's comments dealing with the delay in bringing in building regulations and pointing out that there has been a 20 year delay notwithstanding the powers taken in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. The Minister then continued to point out that there are many examples scattered throughout the Statute Book where there were powers taken by Ministers to bring in rules and regulations which were left lying there, unavailed of for very long periods of time. It seems to me that the thrust of the Minister's speech there is an apologia for that. I do not accept that. It is entirely wrong that the Oireachtas should be asked to give substantial powers to Ministers to bring in rules and regulations who then leave them unavailed of and unused for perhaps five, ten, 15 or 20 years. As the Minister correctly pointed out, there are many examples of that situation having occurred.

Quite frankly it is an abuse of the power of the Executive to seek powers from this House, accumulate them, take them away from this House, vest them in the Executive, that is to say, a Minister of one kind or another, who then becomes the repository of the power. He then decides, in consultation with the Executive — the senior civil servants of his Department — if and when they will be implemented. That is entirely wrong, it constitutes an abuse and is not something that should be tolerated or accepted. As time goes on it builds up an increase in powers in Ministers and in the Executive, having taken away those powers from the Oireachtas where they should rightly reside. It could well be that, with the passage of time, circumstances would change and powers bestowed on a Minister to bring in rules and regulations at one period of time, might, having regard to changing circumstances, no longer apply. Ministers, in consultation with their civil servants, should ensure that they do not come into this House and seek substantive powers from this House unless they intend to and are in a position to implement them within a reasonable time. What is a reasonable time would vary from case to case. But to take these powers in the off-chance that at some stage they might get around to using them, that they might become appropriate at some stage — and I will put it as strongly as this — constitutes an abuse of the intended constitutional position of the administration of this country.

I might turn now to the Bill itself which, in some respects, I find a disappointment. The intent and purpose that ought be behind a building control Bill and a building regulations system is to devise a procedure to secure that a member of the public who buys a house, or a businessman who acquires or has built for him a factory, is thereby guaranteed that he gets what he paid for, that is to say, a properly built house on the one hand or, in the case of business premises, a factory that is usable and suitable for its purpose.

This whole building, regulations, by-laws process is being made by the Executive branch of Government as complex as can be. It is now beginning to rival the complexities of the tax code, the VAT code and of the social welfare code. There is now developing the kind of situation in which a developer or a person who wants to build a house, shop or factory must conform, obtain consents and permissions — to mention just a few I noted. There may be others — outline planning permission, final planning permission, by-law approval, certificates of compliance, as there will now be, dispensation applications, fire safety certificate, certificates of reasonable value and National Housebuilding Guarantee certificates. It seems to me that that kind of complexity is unwarranted. It ought be possible to devise simpler, cleaner, more speedy and efficient procedures for getting permissions, for ensuring that buildings will be constructed in a proper manner, that will provide a reasonable and proper degree of protection for the man in the street, the person who ends up in the house, shop or factory as the case may be. Will these regulations improve the position? I suppose they will to some extent but by no means satisfactorily.

The whole thrust of the Bill and the intent behind it is not directed towards increasing any rights, powers or remedies to a person who buys a new house or factory and finds that it is defective in some way. What it does is provide that a builder who does not comply with the regulations may be liable to a penalty. He can be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned. However, our experience has shown that prosecutions for breaches of planning regulations and by-law approvals in the past have not resulted in imprisonment or in substantial fines being imposed, although there have been some pretty appalling things done as regards bad planning, development and breaches of by-laws and regulations. The sole remedy provided is that a prosecution can be brought for a breach of the regulations. A builder or developer can be brought to court with the expertise of the legal and architectural professions behind him. He will be fined £100 or £50 and that will be the end of a lengthy and complicated procedure.

I had an example of this recently in my own area in one of the estates in Dublin South-West. A developer committed an offence under the regulations and was brought before the District Court. This happened in the last few weeks. After the county council struggle in bringing him to court he was fined £5 and that was that.

The Bill ought to go further than having it an offence not to comply. It ought to provide, if it is to have any teeth or be directed towards achieving its objective, that the failure of anyone involved in the enforcement of the building regulations or failure to comply with them not alone is amenable to prosecution in court, which is what the Bill provides, but amenable to compensate any person who suffers as a result of a breach of the regulations and is landed with a house, factory, shop or whatever which is defective. If that had been done it would have been a good day's work. However, it was not. I do not see any provision that a breach of the regulations to be brought in means that a person who suffers financial loss as a result of finding their house to be damp or defective may claim damages.

I also wish to lodge a strong protest about the fact that the building control authorities are excluded from liability for failure to enforce the regulations in a proper manner. That is an outrageous proposal to bring in. The general proposition which ought to apply is that when a public or local authority of any kind takes on itself, by way of legislation passed in the Oireachtas, the power to do certain things, such as in this case the power to acquire certificates and send inspectors on to anybody's land and lay down standards to say something has been done and carry out inspections, it must take on responsibility. That is the other side of the coin of power. If they take upon themselves the power to do those things then they should have the responsibility to compensate any person who suffers damages as a result of their failure to exercise properly the power they have taken. Why should an architect who signs a certificate saying that all is well with a house not be liable if it turns out to be damp? The man in the street would have relied on his report. Why should the Minister ask us to allow an evasion of responsibility on the part of the authorities for not exercising properly the powers they have been given? That kind of thing should have gone out with the last century. It is something the courts have been trying to get away from. The trend of legal decisions have tried to impose, where possible, responsibility as part and parcel of powers which are given.

In their report on defective premises, Law Reform Commission — Report No. 3 of 1982 — examined this and made recommendations. They appended a suggested draft Bill to their report dealing with the question of the building of premises. The title of section 3 of their draft Bill gives an indication of what they propose: "duty to build premises properly". It would provide, if enacted, that a person who undertakes or executes any work in connection with the provision of premises owes a duty to the person who commissioned the work and to every person who acquires an estate or interest in the premises. In other words, the person who undertakes the work is responsible for damages if he fails to do the work properly. They are responsible not only to the person they built it for but to any unfortunate person who is unlucky enough to acquire or buy it if the defect does not show up for many years. Very often defects do not arise for many years. Any person connected in a professional manner with the building or with supplying materials for it should be liable to be prosecuted and fined what usually turns out to be a relatively small amount of money. That person should also be fully responsible to compensate the unfortunate citizen because that is who suffers at the end of the day.

How will the people view this Bill? Take a young married couple going out to a new housing estate and trying to raise a mortgage with difficulty, what will they see? They will see inspectors coming out and certificates of compliance, fire certificates and so on and will think it is being done for their protection. That is a reasonable assumption. When they get a loan through a building society and the building society's architect inspects the premises they will think it is all right because he came out and looked at it but we know that the building society architect is coming out for a different purpose and that is to vet the premises for the loan being given by the society. A young couple buying a house will see all this procedure being gone through, all these inspections being carried out, and they will figure, reasonably enough, that their interests are being taken care of by the building control authority and the architects or others who will sign these certificates and certify that all is well, and they will feel that all that procedure and documentation set up at great complexity will give them protection when they buy.

As the Bill stands, it seems that they will be sorely disappointed if, after going into their new house and putting the rope of a long-term mortgage or Housing Finance Agency loan around their necks, they find they are confined to the very minimum that the builder or developer selling the house can give them. The builder or developer selling the house insists in his contract on keeping his responsibilities down to a minimum, and all building contracts provide that the builder's responsibility is kept down to the absolute minimum that the law insists on. That is why the law should insist on more than it insists on at present. It is true that the National Housebuilding Guarantee Scheme is insisted on, but that is very limited in its field of operation. It covers major structural defects, but the overwhelming bulk of cases are not major structural defects that involve the house falling down, walls being dangerous or whatever. They are things such as dampness percolation, a host and myriad of what may be to a builder minor defects but to the person coming into the house and not knowing the score they are an incessant nuisance. They may be teething troubles and a nuisance, but the builder who takes the money ought to be responsible for putting them right.

The unfortunate house buyer who is unlucky enough to find himself in that situation will turn then to see if he is getting his protection from the Building Control Bill. No doubt he will kick up a row about that and approach his local representatives, and if he gets anything out of the Bill, all he will get will be perhaps a prosecution brought against the builder or developer which, as in the case I referred to, might end up with a fine of £5, £10 or £20, something irrelevant to the trouble being caused to him as a house purchaser. He should be able to say that he relied on the fact that this building control authority laid down a whole range of standards and provided for a whole range of inspectors to go out and check. He will be surprised when he turns to the appropriate section of the Bill to find that, notwithstanding all those provisions and powers of inspecting insulation standards and so on, he comes to seek compensation from the building control authority — who did not control it properly — or from the architects or whoever signed the certificate that all was well, he cannot bring any claim for damages against them and that all he can do is seek a prosecution against the builder or developer who by then may very well have gone into liquidation. In that respect the Bill is unsatisfactory.

I would like the Minister to consider two major alterations in the main thrust of this Bill. The first is that it be not only an offence not to comply with the building regulations when they are made but that any person who suffers as a result of the failure may bring an action for damages to compensate him for getting his house put right. Secondly, having regard to the extensive powers being vested here in the building control authority, if they fail to fulfil their obligations in a proper manner and it turns out that, notwithstanding their inspections and controls, the thing still is not right, then they, the building control authority, and all signatories of the certificates, should be liable for damages to compensate a member of the public who has bought a house in good faith based on their permissions, inspections and so on. Then, and only then, will a major day's work have been done to improve the lot of the man in the street who goes out to buy a new house or the person who has a shop, factory or whatever built.

Like many others, I welcome the Bill. However, we must ask ourselves how far the Bill goes or if in the end it will go too far. I was pleased to hear the Minister announcing that he does not intend to proceed with Committee Stage of the Bill until he publishes the draft regulations and also meets with all the people concerned. I hope that when these draft regulations are produced and published they will be in a simplified form so that the building worker, operative or apprentice, carpenter, all tradesmen and all people involved will understand them properly. I understand that the building regulations at present are very technical and very detailed and are beyond the understanding of many of the people engaged in the building industry. It is well known that architects and the construction industry have had to publish a very simplified document relating to these regulations to enable many builders and operatives concerned to understand them, and for that reason I make this appeal to the Minister. I know that on Committee Stage we will be able to discuss these matters. I hope when the regulations appear they will be, as I said, in a very simplified form. The Bill is designed to control and I am sure we all welcome that but the question inevitably arises has it gone far enough? On the other hand, the question arises has it gone too far? I welcome many of the provisions but there are some with which I am disappointed.

The building industry is in a very depressed state and this Bill may have a good effect on the industry, but there is no doubt it will add to the costs of the industry. The professional people, the architects, the engineers and so on, will look for increased fees and that will add to the costs. There is no doubt about that. Some sections reduce the responsibilities of local authorities. No doubt when an improvement comes, building will advance again at a very rapid rate and I am, therefore, a little concerned about the reduction in the responsibilities of local authorities.

The Minister said that building, such as small extensions, etc., which had not been granted by-law approval and the work was carried out before 9 February 1984 will now be exempt. I welcome this but there are a few questions that arise. Up to this occupiers of houses who carried out small extensions without approval experienced difficulty when it came to selling their houses. When the Minister comes to reply I would ask him to clarify the position a little further. These extensions will in future be exempt. Up to this an intending purchaser of such a property experienced considerable difficulty when applying to the relevant local authority or building society for a loan. An unauthorised extension meant that the local authority or the building society would not grant a loan until the matter was put right. The relevant certificate had to be obtained. Under this Bill that will no longer be the situation since these small extensions will be exempt. Does that mean that in future there will be no difficulty and no delay? I hope the Minister will clarify the point when he comes to reply.

The Minister also said that the exclusion of low-rise housing and other small works from the control system will significantly reduce the amount of work to be dealt with initially by the building control authorities. Last week when speaking on the Estimate for the Environment I referred to the problems which exist in Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council at the moment. We operate the by-law system. There are difficulties in getting planning permission for a single house, particularly in the hills because of the very strict regulations laid down. I shall deal with this in greater detail on Committee Stage. I shall have many questions to ask. The regulations are very strict and, as I said last week, I am not asking for a reduction in standards but merely a simplification of the system and the regulations. The exclusion of low-rise housing and other small works from the control system gives rise to questions. Will this mean that a person will have no difficulty in so far as a septic tank may be involved. This is a very important matter and I will ask for clarification on this. I want to place on the record the difficulties experienced by people trying to get planning permission for a single house where a septic tank is involved.

This Bill is to me a replacement of the existing control system which operates in Dublin and Cork. Every planning authority, of course, has some guidelines laid down but the control system applies only to Dublin and Cork. This Bill extends some control throughout the country generally and I welcome that. As I said, it is very difficult to have a planning permission granted for a single house in particular areas. I referred to the increase in costs from the point of view of the architect and engineer. I believe the fees will inevitably increase considerably.

I have not fully studied the Minister's memorandum but I was somewhat surprised, perhaps disappointed, at hearing nothing from the Minister about the taking in charge of unfinished estates. The Minister may say that is strictly a planning matter but it is one of the biggest problems we have. Deputy Taylor referred to lost court cases and so on. A number of court cases had to be taken in relation to some developers in an effort to have these estates taken in charge. I agree with Deputy Taylor that, when we are speaking of a Bill to control building, there are bound to be people who will come to the conclusion that their problems are now being catered for and they will have no further worries. But that is not the position and perhaps during Committee Stage the Minister may widen the scope or enlighten us further on some of the matters that have been raised.

These are matters which concern the house builder and are the real problems facing those who have purchased new houses in the past number of years, particularly in the Dublin city and Dublin County Council areas. No matter what residents' association meeting one is invited to, or where one goes, one hears about these problems. We are debating the introduction of a new building control Bill and this is the time to discuss these matters, before the Bill is passed. On Committee Stage I hope for greater clarification on the points made.

Any legislation which will help to improve the building industry must be welcomed. That industry is going through a great depression at the moment, particularly in Dublin. I have no doubt that the Bill will add some costs on the professional side, but nevertheless, I welcome the Bill which will have my full support.

I would like to say a few words in support of the Bill. Everyone is now only too painfully aware of the need to ensure that the highest possible fire and general safety standards are incorporated in the building of all types of structures, whether public housing in the form of local authority houses, or public buildings where large numbers of the public congregate. The "Stardust" disaster made all of us recognise that in future we must take extreme care that the materials used in the construction of such buildings conform to the required standard. I am thinking, for example, of concrete which will stand up to the required acute tests, timbers which will be properly seasoned to stand up to the weight of roofs, etc., and materials used in internal construction which will be sufficiently fire-resistant to ensure the safety of the lives of those who frequent such buildings.

I wish to comment also, as a number of other speakers have, on the recession period through which the building industry is going. There is no doubt that that is true about this sector, as about many other sectors of industry. It would be wrong, on the one hand, if there is a recession in a particular area, to accept second rate standards, or ones which are less than those required to protect the public interest. On the other hand, one must accept that the introduction of this Bill will bring extra administrative costs and create some problems. However, these will be created mostly for maverick builders rather than conscientious builders who have conformed in the past and are conforming to regulations. The Bill will probably protect such conscientious builders who have, down through the years, gone about their work in a businesslike and forthright fashion, providing structures which will stand the test of time from the point of view of general safety precautions, and avoiding any structural defects. They can proudly say that the buildings which they have constructed are a testimony to their industry.

I would emphasise that many builders go to great trouble and take a particular pride in providing a first class product. Unfortunately, the maverick builders bring the industry into disrepute, causing great problems, by way of competition in the pricing market and difficulties for the unfortunate purchasers and those who use the buildings, in the case of public buildings.

My next point is important in relation to many other Bills, but particularly so to the construction industry. No matter what legislation or what regulations are introduced, unless these are enforced they are totally and absolutely useless. Many times in the past regulations and conditions encompassed in the legislation were not rigidly enforced, with the result that the public in general are the sufferers. I can think of numerous cases — even given the house guarantee scheme and other schemes to protect the interests of the purchasers — where local authority houses have had serious defects which were not obvious for the first couple of years. The State has thus been forced to spend large sums of money in ensuring that tenants' or tenant purchasers' rights are protected. That is very sad. I know that major structural defects can be remedied under the guarantee scheme. However, many other defects have no guarantee. One example mentioned by Deputy Taylor was dampness. There are many others, such as woodwork which sags because it was not of sufficiently high quality and should not have been used in the structure; foundation subsidence, flue liners which appear to become damaged at a very early stage so that one can practically remove the whole flue lining in some houses by removing the bottom one. We as public representatives have come up against this difficulty time and again, with particular reference to local authority houses.

In fairness to the private building sector, in very many cases the standards applied by them in private housing schemes are very often far higher than those applied in relation to the construction of local authority houses. That is a criticism of the system which we ourselves created. It should be the reverse. Builders will say quite openly that if they tender for, say, a local authority housing scheme, they could not comply with all the conditions and continue to stay in business. They could not produce a house at the price requested of them. It appears in those cases that somebody takes on a contract and decides to remain in business, with the result that the unfortunate house tenant or purchaser pays in the long run, getting a substandard product.

These are not isolated instances. There are numerous cases where considerable amounts of public finance have to be spent by local authorities to carry out work which should have been done in the first place had there been proper inspection. This brings me to the question of the issue of certificates in relation to this Bill. That is all very well, provided that at some stage somebody can say that the development was carried out in accordance, firstly, with planning and by-law approval and in compliance with this Bill, but also that it has been completed satisfactorily under that heading. The logical progression of the argument would be that if not, as Deputy Taylor suggested, it would be open to the purchaser or householder to seek compensation. We would have a welter of cases in the courts with people seeking compensation in regard to faults, many of which would be genuine but many others purely imaginary.

I hope the Bill will discourage those who cut corners, particularly in regard to buildings frequented by the public such as hotels, discos, guesthouses, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. When this Bill has been passed legislators will have a great responsibility to see that the regulations to be drawn up will be adhered to strictly in such cases.

As a local authority member I have experience of the disincentives to individuals wishing to extend their premises because of bureaucracy and red tape, even before they get to the development stage. It would be a good idea to incorporate a by-law by which approval would be given for grants and other requirements when planning approval is being granted. An inspection could be carried out at the end of the development to see if the work was in accordance with the plan, and this would avoid repeated applications to planning authorities. Everything possible should be done to streamline administration. Individuals looking for planning permission have their interests militated againstvis-à-vis large scale developers. An individual applying for planning permission for a single house or an extension plus, perhaps, a loan from the local authority, would need two brief cases to carry all the documentation. Gradually this is getting worse because every week we pass legislation imposing extra responsibilities and giving extra powers to local authorities who are becoming more and more the agents of the Department of the Environment. It is sad that there is so little recognition of the extra burdens being put on local authorities. Therefore the system is breaking down, but extra finance is not being made available to local authorities commensurate with their responsibilities.

Earlier I failed to refer to the building of hospitals and various health board institutionsvis-à-vis these regulations. It is most important that they be applied very stringently in regard to the construction of hospitals, geriatric institutions or any premises in which large numbers of people are housed or incarcerated. We have been fortunate here, with one or two exceptions, because we have not had disasters in that area but we should take note of what has happened elsewhere and of how these tragedies might have been averted if regulations such as those proposed in the Bill had been applied rigidly.

People living outside towns wishing to apply for small extensions, simple developments, will be faced with these regulations as well as those incorporated in the Planning Acts and various other laws. Such people are being discriminated against because they do not have available to them the professional expertise, the consultants and the high-powered advice available to general developers. Therefore it often happens that such individual applications are not processed as quickly as those of big developers. Such people are inclined to throw their hands up in horror and forget the whole thing. That is the way legislation of this kind affects ordinary people. When we are passing such legislation I often wonder do we realise how such laws will be interpreted by individuals and local authorities. We should take careful cognisance of that in relation to this Bill which may put individuals at a disadvantage.

I repeat that we should ensure that any work being carried out by builders, whether extensions or improvements to dwelling houses, particularly affecting elderly or socially deprived persons, will be carried out with care and in accordance with regulations so that such people may be protected. I can think of cases where people might employ builders who are inclined to cut corners, and who might propose to incorporate in the building either substandard timber or concrete. The unfortunate individual in that case is the victim of sharp practices. As matters stand I see very little we can do to protect individuals and ensure that such fly-by-night developers are kept, as far as possible, out of operations. I am not certain if anything further will follow in the wake of the Bill.

The Minister is to be congratulated for bringing the legislation before the House. I hope it will not clog up the system with extra red tape and will not involve local authorities or other agencies in a monitoring system which will place an extra financial burden on them at a time when they are finding it difficult to get along. I hope the legislation will have the effect of improving the general standard of construction, whether it is private or local authority house construction. I hope it will mean that the interests of the individual who buys or rents such houses will be kept to the fore.

This debate brings to mind a local authority housing development that took place in a certain county some years ago. The scheme was carried out by a private developer and it was discovered later that in a terrace of houses it was possible for a person to walk from one end of the block to the other through attics. There was no fire break or other protection. That happened in the seventies and I am sure it occurred in the sixties also. I hope that in the eighties this legislation will deter such cost and corner cutting by developers.

In my contribution I have been anxious to emphasise the importance of the legislation from the point of view of local authority development because I receive more complaints from tenants of local authority houses in regard to problems that have arisen in their homes than from other constituents. Those problems arose because there was no proper supervisory body when the houses were being built. I may be criticised for making that statement but the fact is that while the structure exists to provide supervisory personnel, supervision does not take place. Private developers always say that when they have to carry out work for a local authority or a central Government agency they have to comply with extraordinary conditions and must go to great lengths to comply with the regulations that are laid down. It is amazing that there are many discrepancies in the operation of the inspection system for houses erected by builders who have a history of working for local authorities.

If we do not come to grips with the fact that previous legislation was not being rigidly enforced and that provisions in the Bill under discussion could die a similar death unless a tougher attitude is adopted by those supervising on behalf of the planning authority, we will not solve the problem. I hope the Bill achieves its objective, to protect the interests of the general public and seek to eliminate from the arena the maverick type builder who has given the industry a bad name and, at the same time, enhance and protect builders who go about their task in a conscientious fashion. Such builders have always endeavoured to meet the requirements laid down.

I am entering the debate with two minutes to go before its adjournment and I faced a similar predicament when I rose to speak on the budget. I am glad the Bill has been introduced because we have been hearing about the need for building regulations for many years. With the advent of modern building equipment, the use of plastic and reinforced materials and the need to examine the cost efficiency of projects, there has been a need for such regulations. I am glad the Bill contains enabling regulations to deal with the needs of disabled people. The additional regulatory controls being introduced into building should be viewed from a cost point of view. Building construction here can be broken down into three main categories, commercial and institutional construction, civil engineering and water supply schemes and houses provided for sale by private companies and built on contract for local authorities. It is important from a private house building point of view to get accurate statistics and to look at the effect of any additional controls being brought in. Figures from the Department of the Environment show that 26,000 houses were constructed in the last 12 months.

Debate adjourned.