Private Members' Business. - Building Control Bill, 1984: Committee Stage (Resumed).

We resume on amendment No. 12.


In page 8, before section 6, to insert the following new section:

6.—(1) The Minister may make regulations (in this Act referred to as building control regulations) providing for matters of procedure, administration and control for the purposes of securing the implementation of, and compliance with, the requirements of building regulations and building control regulations may make such incidental, consequential or supplementary provisions as may appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), building control regulations may make provision for all or any of the following matters—

(a) requiring the submission to building control authorities of certificates of compliance with requirements of building regulations (hereinafter referred to as ‘certificates of compliance') (subject to any dispensation or relaxation already granted under section 4, section 5 or section 7) prior to the commencement of, during, and after the completion of, the construction of any buildings, classes of buildings, works or classes of works, to which such building regulations apply;

(b) requiring, in respect of a building, or buildings, of a prescribed class or classes, the submission to a building control authority of an application for a certificate (hereinafter referred to as a ‘fire safety certificate') that a building, if constructed in accordance with the plans, documents and information, submitted, would, in the opinion of the building control authority, comply (subject to any dispensation or relaxation already granted under section 4, section 5 or section 7) with such provisions of building regulations as may be prescribed;

(c) requiring, in respect of the design or construction of any buildings or classes of buildings or of the carrying out of any works or classes of works to which building regulations apply the submission of an application to a building control authority for a certificate (hereinafter referred to as a ‘certificate of approval') of the building control authority that the buildings or works in the opinion of the building control authority, comply with the requirements of building regulations (subject to any dispensation or relaxation already granted under section 4, section 5 or section 7);

(d) prescribing the form and content of certificates of compliance, applications for fire safety certificates, fire safety certificates, applications for certificates of approval and certificates of approval;

(e) prescribing—

(i) the plans, documents and information to be submitted with certificates of compliance, applications for fire safety certificates and certificates of approval; and

(ii) the time within which such certificates and applications are to be submitted;

(f) the designation of the persons or the classes of persons by whom certificates of compliance may be given, and the classes of buildings or works in respect of which such certificates may be given;

(g) the granting by a building control authority of fire safety certificates and certificates of approval with or without conditions, or the refusal of such certificates, and the time within which such certificates shall be granted or refused, as the case may be;

(h) requiring a building control authority, whenever it refuses a fire safety certificate or a certificate of approval, to notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for such refusal;

(i) the registration of certificates of compliance, and of such information as may be prescribed in relation to applications for fire safety certificates, fire safety certificates, applications for certificates of approval and certificates of approval and the making available of such information to such persons as may be prescribed;

(j) prescribing the records to be kept, and the information to be provided to the Minister, by a building control authority;

(k) the charging of fees for—

(i) the registration of certificates of compliance,

(ii) the submission of applications for fire safety certificates or certificates of approval,

(iii) the provision of copies of certificates or other documents or extracts therefrom,

(iv) the carrying out of inspections and tests and the testing of samples taken pursuant to section 10 and

(v) for any other matter that the Minister considers appropriate;

(l) the combining in one document of any two or more of the following, namely, any application, notice, certificate or other document provided for in this Act, or in any regulations made thereunder, and any application, notice or other document provided for in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 to 1983, or in any regulations made under those Acts;

(m) the excluding from all, or any of, the provisions regarding the submission of certificates of compliance or applications for fire safety certificates or applications for certificates of approval, of such persons, bodies or buildings as may be specified in the regulations;

(n) requiring the giving of notice to building control authorities of the erection of such buildings, or classes of buildings, or the carrying out of such works, or classes of works, as may be specified in the regulations.

(3) Building control regulations may make different provisions in relation to different buildings, or classes of buildings, in relation to buildings or classes of buildings situated in different areas, or in relation to different provisions of building regulations.

(4) Where a certificate of compliance or notice is submitted to a building control authority, the building control authority shall not be under a duty to any person to—

(a) ensure that the building or works to which the certificate or notice relates will, either during the course of the work or when completed, comply with the requirements of building regulations or be free from any defect,

(b) ensure that the certificate complies with the requirements of this Act or of regulations or orders made under this Act, or

(c) verify that the facts stated in the certificate are true and accurate.

(5) Where, within the period specified in building control regulations, a building control authority does not notify the applicant of the decision on an application for a fire safety certificate or a certificate of approval, a decision by the building control authority to grant the fire safety certificate or the certificate of approval, as the case may be, shall be regarded as having been made on the last day of the period so specified.

(6) Where an application for a dispensation from or relaxation of any requirement of building regulations is made pursuant to section 4, or where an appeal under section 7 has been made against a decision on such application, the building control authority may defer the making of a decision in relation to the granting or, as the case may be, the refusal of a fire safety certificate or certificate of approval, in respect of the building concerned until the decision on the application or, as the case may be, the appeal, has been made.".

—(Minister for the Environment.)

Debate resumed on amendment No. a1 to amendment No. 12:
In subsection (2), to delete paragraph (a).
—(Deputy De Rossa.)

Before the commencement of Private Members' Business I reported progress on the amendment in the name of The Workers' Party Deputies which seeks to delete section 6 (2) (a). My purpose in proposing the deletion of this paragraph is that I feel what is intended here is the privatisation of the regulation of building control and the compliance with building control regulations. As I said earlier, this is the core of the Bill; it is what the Bill is all about. It is proposed under this section that the Minister will have the power to make regulations which will enable the designers or builders of buildings to certify that the buildings are in compliance with regulations. There is no obligation on the building authority or the control authority, which is in effect the local authority, to inspect a building to ensure that it is in compliance with the regulations. There is an obligation on the local authority to provide a certificate of approval for the buildings. Despite the fact that there is no obligation on them to inspect buildings they will have the option to do so if they choose. I would ask the Minister what building authority, control authority or local authority would in their sane minds inspect a building and then perhaps have to carry the liability thereafter if something is wrong with it?

It has to be said also that the building industry is not one that has demonstrated its capacity to comply with regulations or indeed to build buildings which are entirely sound. In my constituency in Finglas south in the region of 1,800 houses were built in 1972-73 under what was known as the low cost building scheme. In the early 'seventies there was quite a furore about the fact that the roofs on many of these buildings were shifting. The tenants of the buildings found it extremely difficult to pin down who precisely was responsible for this. The matter was never satisfactorily resolved although the local authority did step in to restore the roofs in some way. In some cases they had to take the roofs off completely and replace them with new roofs and in other cases they had to insert steel girders to keep the roofs from falling off completely. Similar schemes were operated in other parts of the country, in Mayfield and Togher in Cork and in other local authority areas. Houses were built under a low cost scheme for the local authority. From that example alone it is clear that it is not possible to depend entirely on the self-certification system to ensure that the design of buildings is in compliance with the regulations. For that reason I am not happy that section 6 (2) (a) should remain in place.

Obviously the Bill enables the Minister to choose between self-certification and certification by local authorities. It has to be said that there was a clear indication by Government in 1982 that self-certification was the direction in which they were going. There has been no indication by anybody on the Government benches, either this Government or the previous one, that they have changed their minds in that regard. There are no good grounds for believing that self-certification is in the interests of the people, whether they be ordinary householders or people who may eventually buy the variety of buildings that will be built under this system.

It is quite interesting that there appears to be some moves afoot to exempt two-storey buildings entirely from certification. That again would be a serious matter given that the vast majority of faults with buildings in the State, even under the present system of by-law approval, occur with household buildings, buildings which people either buy or rent, usually two-storey buildings. That is a clear indication that we cannot trust self-certification. Basically, that is my argument.

I would turn again to the fact that the Stardust Tribunal made it clear that they did not think it possible to trust the industry to involve themselves in self-certification as regards fire regulations. The Minister has taken that on board because he clearly gives the building authorities the right to inspect buildings and to issue certificates stating that they are in order. The Minister appears to be going along with the idea of self-certification for all other matters. I would argue that it is as important to ensure that structures are sound as it is to ensure that the fire safety of buildings is sound.

Before I hear another speaker may I have the understanding and co-operation of the Members, in dealing with section 6 and amendment No. 12 in the name of the Minister, that we discuss all the other amendments to the Minister's amendment, that is to say, amendment a1 in the name of Deputy De Rossa and others, amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Michael Keating and others, amendment 1a in the name of Deputy De Rossa and others, amendment No. 2 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 3 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 4 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 5 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 6 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 7 in the names of Deputies Keating and Quinn, amendment No. 8 in the names of Deputies De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Sherlock and McCartan and amendment No. 9 in the names of Deputies De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Sherlock and McCartan? I suggest therefore that we discuss these amendments to the Minister's amendment and we can of course have separate decisions as required thereon. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

The House would agree that section 6 is the core of this Bill. All of us, no matter what our private professional expertise, are aware of the complexity of the legislation and of the fact that the substantial and indeed improved amendment which the Minister has tabled and which replaces section 6 has to a certain extent added to the complexity. While I share some of the concerns expressed by Deputy De Rossa — I can understand the concerns of people working within the local authority system, as a former employee of a local authority — it should be very clear what this Bill proposes to do at this point and what subsection (2) (a) proposes to do. This is essentially enabling legislation. Since the building regulations were first published in 1979-80 there have been about seven or eight Ministers for the Environment and, therefore, this is not a Flynn Bill.

There are other such Bills that can have that designation and I can attack them with due ferocity.

They are good ones, the Deputy will agree.

Some, like the curate's egg. What we are deciding here is if this House should give to the Minister for the Environment of the day the range of options in terms of legislative powers to provide for the regulation of construction in this country by means of self certification, by means of a certificate of approval and by means of a fire certificate or any combination of all three. Should the Minister be so given that flexibility and make regulations accordingly to put that power into effect and those regulations being required to be annulled or subject to some kind of scrutiny — albeit not a very good one — in this House?

The arguments marshalled against this flexibility — I am speaking against Deputy De Rossa on this — and the principle of self certification is a long way away from some of the proposed methods of operation. There is a big difference. I have no difficulty with the principle of self certification. Our State has no difficulty with the principle of self certification. The Revenue Commissioners, I would argue, accept the principle of self certification by professionals, i.e., properly recognised chartered public accountants and chartered accountants submit accounts which the Revenue Commissioners can scrutinise. They basically accept the word of a bona fide certifier, in this instance, a chartered accountant. The Revenue Commissioners have an informal list of accountants whose signatures would attract scrutiny rather than allow a set of accounts to go through. No doubt in time that could be the case in local authorities. As we get down to dealing with this section, perhaps we should talk about how that kind of early warning system could be arrived at.

Deputy De Rossa quoted the findings of the Stardust Tribunal in relation to that terrible tragedy, the eighth anniversary of which occurred yesterday. Some people would argue that only a local authority should be responsible for-certifying and approving the construction of a building and that if that scrutiny is removed there could be tragedies such as the Stardust. I do not want to trade on the deaths that resulted from the Stardust tragedy but that is the thrust of Deputy De Rossa's argument — if I understood him — and certainly the thrust of the briefing document I received from some officials and members of the transport union. The reality is that the Stardust night club had by-law and fire officer approval. I do not want to be accused of special pleading because I am here as a Labour Party Deputy who also happens to be an architect. The real tragedy is that that building was not designed and executed by a properly qualified professional. I will deal with that point when we come to deal with the revised section 6 (2) (f) which reads: "the designation of the persons or the classes of persons by whom certificates of compliance may be given,..." The problem at present — subject to correction — is that even in the seven or eight local authorities throughout the country which have local by-law ordinances and requirements anybody can apply. In the remaining part of the country there are no by-laws whatsoever. The regulatory control is very uneven.

Deputy De Rossa argued that the Stardust Tribunal found that somehow or other a system of individual control by the designer aggravated the fire problem. If that building was not designed in that particular way it would not have burned in the extraordinary fast manner in which it did. We know about the rest of the findings. The point I want to make — and I say this with all due respects to Deputy De Rossa — is that that building went through the kind of local authority approval system that he seeks to preserve exclusively. Therefore, to argue that self certification would open the door to more Stardust type tragedies is not logical.

It has taken us about ten years to get to where we are now. The building regulations alone took an enormous length of time to draft and we are still stalled in terms of how we would administer those building regulations notwithstanding the publication of the codes of practice the Minister talked about yesterday. They are simply that as he rightly admitted on television. I made this point at a construction conference which the Irish Congress of Trade Unions held over the weekend. If any other sector of industry, for example the food industry, had remained in limbo for a period of eight years with regard to regulations governing the costs, the operation, the specification and standards for their industry there would be outrage and uproar. That is what is happening in regard to building products.

We should give to the Minister of the day the flexibility to decide what is most appropriate to the industry, to the community and to the local authorities throughout the country and at the outset of this legislation to propose — as Deputy De Rossa does — to remove a major area of option. I and my party have many reservations about the way in which self certification would work. We have thoughts on that matter and we will elaborate on them. To argue at the outset that irrespective of what other system of approval we may have, we will not have any form of self certification seems to be wrong. Given the history of this legislation and the various attempts at getting it onto the floor of this House, we still have a long way to go before the system will be operational and in place. Therefore, I conclude it will be a long time before we get back to Leinster House to do the next Building Control Bill. It would be a mistake — and I say this in all sincerity to Deputy De Rossa — to remove from any Minister for the Environment the option we have been referring to.

I have spoken to a number of the officials who have been involved in briefing us effectively. I have expressed to them the reservations I am now putting on the record of the House. The principle of self certification which is embodied in section 6 (2) (a) is one which should not be thrown out. The standards by which it is administered and the safeguards which are built into it are matters for very extensive legitimate debate. For that reason I cannot accept the thrust of The Workers' Party amendment in that regard.

I would like to add a comment in relation to the discussion that is taking place. I share the view of Deputy Quinn. It seems to be unreasonable to seek to fetter the Minister in such a way that he would not be able to introduce the proposal contained in (2) (a) of section 6 of the Bill. I do not believe the right way to go about matters is to seek to remove an enabling possibility from a Bill such as this where it is quite probable that the implications would be to place such an onus on local authorities. They simply would not be able to cope and the whole of the desired system of checks, which one wants to put in place, would fall apart completely.

We should ensure that self certification works. I do not blame people for having certain reservations about self certification as it has operated in a variety of areas over many years. That is not an argument against the principle of self certification, it is simply an argument against the slipshod way in which it has operated in some areas. Without dealing with it in great detail, because Deputy Quinn has made the points extremely well, so far as I am concerned, this is a facility and an option the Minister should have. It is practicable and reasonable and it is also in accordance with the philosophy my party would be putting forward. There is room for honest professional people in this business. There will always be a number of people who are unscrupulous in these matters. It is up to all of us here to devise a way to ensure that those who would abuse such an opportunity would find that it does not pay because apparently up to now it did pay. We will simply be burying our heads in the sand if we insist that local authorities certify every stage of the development and the various standards that should be in place. It will not work as local authorities simply could not cope with that workload and it is totally unrealistic to suggest that they would.

We must adopt the principle of self certification and ensure that it will operate properly and that there will be proper sanctions in force. It is a reasonable subsection to have in the Bill as something that could be introduced or may be made available in the context of the building control regulations and the Minister will have the power to provide that arrangement if he sees fit.

I support the last two speakers on the matter of self certification. This complex legislation is extremely important. We should not tie the Minister's hands at the beginning of the process to improve the legislation thus avoiding what happened in the past and ensuring it will never happen in the future.

Deputy De Rossa made a point on the problem connected with the certification of houses, especially low cost housing. Certainly, we had similar problems in our local authority area to the extent that second grants have been paid after ten or 11 years to improve the non-standard houses provided originally. The certification process in itself is a step forward and will ensure that somebody is responsible for the decision made.

All members of the House would like to see the recommendations of the Stardust Tribunal implemented. I do not know whether all the recommendations can be implemented in full. To date most of the recommendations have not been implemented.

I would query if the right people in the local authorities have the final say on fire regulations. County engineers have the final say and as far as I am aware the fire officers have to answer to the county engineers. We are introducing rules and regulations that procedures must be followed but are we satisfied that the local authorities will ensure to the best of their ability that the right people are dealing with the matter?

I do not wish to prolong the debate any further on this aspect of the section. In fact, Deputy Quinn summed up quite nicely what is involved in the section. I am seeking only enabling powers — the regulations will come later — which will allow me to do the right thing, whatever that may seem to be, not just for me but for Ministers of the Environment who may make arrangements later on. I have to tell Deputy De Rossa that I am not asking the House to leave matters totally in the hands of the Minister but I must point out that the Building Regulations Advisory Body is an important element of the legislation. I have not decided precisely who will be represented on the board but, obviously, architects, engineers, the construction industry, the local authorities and others will be represented. I have not a closed mind on the composition of the board.

It is important that people who are directly concerned with the construction industry and how it might progress to the end of the century should be in a position to advise me as to the type of certification that would apply in various circumstances and not just where the by-laws apply. Consequently, it would be appropriate that the Minister should have a free hand at this stage and have the enabling powers to devise the procedures that would best serve the situation over the years. I cannot force anybody to accept that point of view. All I can say is that the situation is not pre-determined and that the options are all laid out. If the House gives me the enabling power the regulations can be made and the advice will be there for all to see. It might very well transpire as time goes on that there may have to be alterations in the legislation. I do not want to have to come back to the House, because I do not think we will be discussing building control legislation for a number of years. Why tie ourselves with a rigidity that will cause problems down the road? For that reason if I cannot convince Deputy De Rossa that this is the wise thing to do I ask him to press his point.

I am not convinced by what I heard from the Minister or the spokespersons from Labour, the Progressive Democrats or the Fine Gael parties. To be honest, I find the attitudes of the other Opposition parties odd. Earlier, when we were debating the Video Recordings Bill, the Labour Party and the Progressive Democrats Party spokespersons were quite unhappy about giving the Minister for Justice a wide brief. In fact, similar terminology was used in the Video Recordings Bill as is used in this Bill. I am not going to debate the Video Recordings Bill, a Cheann Comhairle, but I am making the point that there seems to be a difference in emphasis between the two Bills.

I would argue that it is far more important that we have specific regulations and that we give specific powers to the Minister to do what this House wants him to do rather than giving him the freedom to choose any number of different options on the advice of an advisory body which he appoints or sacks at will. I do not accept that this is adequate, or an appropriate way to deal with the very important issue of building control, when the Bill does not include any proviso that the certifiers carry insurance. At the end of the day, who will pay if there is a fault in the building? The certifier, who may be a person of the utmost competence, if he has any business sense will set up a limited company which can fold at the first whiff of being sued for damages. Will the local authority be held responsible because they have issued an approval certificate arising from the certification? There is a whole range of issues that have been only touched upon or in fact ignored by the Opposition parties. I find it quite odd that I am the only one who is raising these issues.

We are giving the Minister very wide powers as to how buildings in towns and cities will be provided for generations to come. I have had appeals not only from the Minister but from the spokesperson for the Labour Party, the Progressive Democrats Party and the Fine Gael Party urging that we give the Minister an enabling framework so that he can choose the options in any given set of circumstances. I do not accept that that is adequate. With regard to the Stardust, Deputy Quinn claimed that I had made the point that the construction of the Stardust was to blame for the tragedy and because that structure had been approved by the local authority, that undermined my case. My point was that despite the fact that the structure and the fire regulations were approved by the local authority, the tragedy still occurred.

Deputy Quinn with his professional expertise may be able to claim that the design of the building was partly to blame, but my reading of the situation was that the tragedy occurred because of the materials used for covering the ceiling and the furniture and because the exits were locked. That had nothing to do with the design of the building. Perhaps if the building did not have a roof or had a whole range of other devices the tragedy would not have been so vast, but I do not accept that as an argument in favour of self-certification. We are, unfortunately likely to see a multiplication of that kind of tragedy if we go down the road of self-certification.

The building construction industry is a cutthroat business. No matter how honest or competent a certifier may be he will come under extreme pressure. The local authority will not have the power to watch the watchdog. They may have the choice to do so, but they will not have the power or the resources. Part of the argument of the Minister in relation to this Bill is that local authorities do not have the resources and therefore we have to go for self-certification. We are giving the local authority the power to inspect but there is no obligation on them to inspect, and if they do not inspect they cannot be held responsible for not inspecting. Who is to look after the interests of the householder or factory owner who has had a building built on his behalf? All these points have to be teased out honestly. I am astounded at the attitude of the Opposition parties to this section.

With regard to the question of insurance, why is there no provision for insurance in the Bill? We have proposed an amendment to section 6:

After subsection (6), to insert the following subsection: "(7) Persons or classes of persons submitting certificates of compliance shall submit to the building control authority evidence that they hold professional indemnity insurance appropriate to the building being certified."

If something like that is not provided for in this Bill what right of redress has anybody in the case of a defective building? Who can he claim against? Perhaps we will get some answers to those questions.

Deputy De Rossa has made a constructive intervention. I certainly support the amendment in the name of Deputy De Rossa and The Workers' Party in relation to insurance. If we are deciding in principle to legislate to provide a framework within which the building control regulations can be best administered we should have provision for self-certification. The standards and safeguards can be discussed down the line on the section. I have confined my remarks primarily to subsection (2) (a). I put it to the Minister that in the UK, whose system has a lot in common with our building industry in that a lot of the structures industry and standards are similar to ours, it is argued by some people that the possibility of self-certification was considered and rejected by the British authorities because it was considered to be illegal nonsense.

It is argued by people opposed to the principle of self-certification in any form that the Bill proposes to make a breach of building regulations a criminal offence and, therefore it is argued, that any designer who signs a drawing would have to sign the certificate of compliance and that failure to sign would be self-incriminating. I do not know if the Minister and his advisers are familiar with that argument or with the position in the UK, but it is that argument that is informing a lot of the opposition against self-certification in principle. That is one of the concerns that has been expressed and I would like to have the Minister's position in relation to the UK experience in this area.

I would be disappointed if Deputy De Rossa persisted in equating the possibility of self-certification with a multiplicity of tragedies that might take place. That is not in the best interests of reasoned debate. There is no substance in the argument. The Deputy cannot give any concrete evidence that self-certification would result in anything like the kind of tragedies he suggests. The Deputy obviously has decided that he does not wish to see any element of self-certification in so far as an option available to the Minister is concerned. It is a basic principle of the legislation that that option must be maintained by the Minister.

Of course, the building regulations advisory body can be disposed of and new people can be added to it. Another Minister might have people whom he would like to see represented but I have given an assurance this evening that the people who will be represented will be people with a direct interest in the building and construction industry and not just people on one side of the argument. It is legitimate to believe that such people would have a reasoned position to make to a Minister by way of advice, but it is not mandatory on the Minister to accept that advice. To seek to change the whole thrust of the legislation is unacceptable. If I was to concede what the Deputy is asking I might as well recast the whole Bill.

It is a reasonable request.

I regard it as being terribly unreasonable. The Deputy just wishes to maintain a tight certification in one set of hands, that of the local authority.

A responsible set of hands.

Of course, but the Deputy is not suggesting by implication that the others would be irresponsible?

An independent set of hands.

Wait a moment. Let us come to the position that those who are duly qualified in any professional discipline can be accepted as being responsible until proved otherwise. The Deputy's suggestion that there is something inferior in a form of certification by self-certification, as distinct from that which is already in position, seems to be an attempt to maintain the status quo for a reason he let out in his initial submission — that he was pressing a particular union's point of view. I do not mind the Deputy pressing a union's point of view, but the enabling legislation we are promoting here is a set of options available to any Minister irrespective of party. If the self-certification system was chosen as the control system, that does not mean that the local authority would have no controlling function at all.

Section 7 gives the local authority power to serve enforcement notices if a building does not comply with the regulations, so they are not being squeezed out. I get the very strong impression from the Deputy that there is some kind of veiled threat to do away with the existing system in favour of the privatisation of the whole certification process. One cannot substantiate that argument because all the options are listed in the various paragraphs of section 6 (2). I am not asking the House to do away with a system or to adopt an alternative system in isolation to others. What I am saying is that the approval system can be operated by the local authorities and they are responsible in the way in which they do their business. Other options are self-certification by a designer or builder or the fire services arrangement. I am asking the House at this stage, as a principle, to accept that the options set out in this section are reasonable ones for a Minister to ask for in enabling legislation.

Section 10 gives the local authorities power to inspect a building at any stage during construction or even following the completion of a building. So, it is not true to imply that because self-certification might be applied as a method, the local authority will have no function beyond that. Of course they will have a function and they will have a controlling function in the whole business. There are circumstances where self-certification might suit better and for that reason I am asking the House to give me the enabling power to consider all the options and to seek advice from the industry and the professionals attached to the industry so that, having received that advice I can make the best possible decision. I cannot concede the point the Deputy has made because otherwise it would change the whole thrust of the principles enunciated in the Bill.

It is unfortunate that the Minister is not prepared to do that. I want to take up the point in relation to the trade union view. I have had the trade union point of view represented to me and I am sure other Deputies have also had that point of view represented to them. I have also had the architects' point of view, although to a lesser extent for some reason or other, represented to me in relation to this Bill but my primary interest and concern has nothing to do with whether it is a trade union view or otherwise. My primary concern is that there would be an independent body who would be responsible for certifying the construction and design of buildings and the safety of buildings in relation to fires.

Self-certification effectively means that the person who designs or constructs a building certifies that it is okay and that is complies with the regulations. The local authority can, if they so wish, send inspectors out at any time during the course of the construction of a building to check if A, B or C is being done in accordance with the designs or plans. The question I asked, and the Minister has not addressed this yet, is what liability the local authority will take on board by sending out an inspector in those circumstances. If a local authority send out an inspector at, say, the foundation stage and he does not make any recommendation in relation to the foundations but issues a statement to the effect that he has inspected the foundation but subsequently the foundations are found to be faulty, will the local authority be liable for the foundations in those circumstances or will the certifier who issued a certificate when the building was completed that the building complied with the regulations be liable? I am asking what liability the local authority will take on board by sending out an inspector during the course of the construction. Are the local authorities taking on liability and if they are not, what is the point in carrying out an inspection?

The quick response to that question is that if the local authority decide at any time to have a look at what is being done, whether or not approval is granted under self certification, they can inspect the building at any stage. If they find that the building does not comply with the regulations they can serve the enforcement notice and if that notice is not complied with they will have recourse to the courts. They will have the full power of the legislation to demand that the building complies with the standards and the regulations as set down. I do not see any difficulty in that.

There is a running fine of £150 per day for every day one is deliberately in breach of the regulations.

While the breach continues, substantial fines are set out in the penalties included in the bill. The local authority can at any time use the enforcement procedure and have a case decided by the court and the court will then have the opportunity of determining the level of the penalty to be applied. I do not think there is any difficulty there. It is not a residual power attached to the local authorities; it is a fundamental element of the powers attached to them under sections 7 and 10 of the Bill.

Questions of liability will arise later which are of legitimate concern.

That is a different matter. It is a related matter but it deals with insurance and we will come to that in due course. It is related but so far as I am concerned it is importantly different. What we are talking about is whether the local authority are the agency who should grant the approval or whether self certification should be put in place. Whether or which does not matter in so far as getting the job done properly is concerned. The local authority have always had the power to see to it that the regulations are being complied with.

The point I raised did not relate to the situation where the local authority, through an inspection, finds a building to be faulty, makes an enforcement order and the builder or whoever challenges that in court and there is a legal decision one way or the other. My point is that if an inspector goes out and inspects some stage of a building and is satisfied that it is okay and subsequently a certifier certifies that the building complies with the regulations and a certificate of approval is issued but in one, five or ten years time a fault is found in that building will the local authority share the liability arising from that inspection? That is my point.

For the benefit of the House I want to offer some professional experience in relation to this matter, fortunately not from the bar of the court. The reinforced concrete panels used in a number of buildings which passed the building regulations were defective but defects did not appear until after the buildings failed. I am talking about buildings in the vicinity of St. Stephen's Green. The panels were not constructed strictly in accordance with the minimum standards and specifications set out in the regulations even though the local authority had granted by-law approval for them. In those cases the aggrieved or institutional owner of the building sued everyone and anyone bar the local authority in the civil courts. The people sued included the building design team, from the architect to the engineer and anybody else, the main building contractor and the sub-contractor. In terms of whether — I think this is the thrust of Deputy De Rossa's point and I support the thrust even though I think it is misplaced — the local authority grant or withhold building by-law approval, or in this case building regulation approval once the Bill comes into effect, is no guarantee, as I read the Bill, and — perhaps the Minister can clarify this for me — in the event of a defect emerging in a building sometime in the future a private owner so aggrieved will be able to make a claim for negligence against a local authority in respect of that building, if, for example, under the present system under section 6 subsection (2) (c) a certificate of approval was in operation rather than a self certificate. If the method of administration of the building regulations was to be under subsection (2) (c), if a certificate of approval was issued by a local authority to the effect that building ABC was designed in accordance with the building regulations and five years down the road that building failed, the cause of the failure being clearly substandard construction, clearly in breach of the regulations, if there was some area of negligence within the local authority, my understanding — and I am subject to correction on this — is that the aggrieved private citizen's target of action would not be the local authority. Whatever redress the private citizen would have would be against the design team and the contracting team that put the building in place.

If the Minister is saying that a certificate of approval system administered by a local authority, which is another option that we propose to give to the Minister in this section, does not place any liability on the local authority, then we are not being even-handed in the way in which we are proposing in principle to deal with the system of administration.

Perhaps the Minister may want to consider that point, or take advice on it. Deputy De Rossa is right to raise it. Whoever signs a self-certificate of compliance will be legally liable whether he is professionally qualified or has professional indemnity insurance. A person of no substance may be involved. So the civil case may result in no satisfaction to the individual involved. In legal terms that person will be liable. If he has professional indemnity insurance, that would be some cover. The liability, which is the net issue, would be clearly attached to the person who signs the certificate that the building was built in accordance with the building regulations which, in turn, require minimum standards of safety. It is fair to ask — and this is the substance of one of the points that Deputy De Rossa is making — if that implicit and explicit liability attaches to a private individual who signs a certificate of compliance, does not exactly the same degree of liability attach to a local authority who operate an approval certificate system under subsection (2) (c)? Does the same degree of liability apply to Meath County Council for example, if they decide that they want to use that system of approval? That is something which should be clarified, if not now, certainly during the course of the debate.

I see the point. One would have to say that the whole question of liability would be a matter for the courts, anyway. I am not so sure that it would be proper even to give any lead in so far as where that liability might lie at this stage but I cannot envisage any liability attaching to a building control authority simply because they inspected a building. It might very well be that if the authority, in carrying out the inspection, negligently overlook something and it is subsequently discovered that that negligence led to some other difficulty, then there might be a percentage of liability attached to the authority that carried out the inspection but it would be a very grey area. It would certainly not be an area that we should discuss in any great depth here.

As Deputy Quinn has rightly said, when these things happen the writs fly everywhere. What would be hoped to be achieved would be that one would stick somewhere. Invariably, the history has been that it usually has stuck with the designer and the contractor, or both together. Often they might be in one and the same situation. There would certainly be some kind of collaboration or co-operation between the designer and the developer. We know the case to which the Deputy refers and that is where the liability fell there. The fabric had to be restored and the panels replaced. It was not at the cost of the local authority that had given the approval originally for the building to be there.

That is an interesting point based on what Deputy De Rossa said.

It would not be proper to discuss either insurance or the liability attached to court actions taken because of mistakes made, from whatever source, in this Chamber, even on this section of the Bill. We are not talking about the question of liability, which will obviously have to be determined by the courts.

Surely that is the whole problem with this Bill. We are seeking to give the Minister an enabling framework to choose between a range of options about which we know virtually nothing in terms of the consequences.

The question of liability is a serious matter for a person investing his life's savings or work in buying a house. If after two or three years of living in that house he discover that the roof has shifted two inches, who is liable? The question must be asked because it seems, from documentation that I have read, that the Minister's Department are proposing to exempt private housing completely from control. Who is going to be responsible? We are talking about a serious situation. Where does the buck stop? The whole matter is entirely unsatisfactory. I am not a professional person, an architect, a lawyer, a quantity surveyor, but I am seriously concerned about the direction in which this Bill is taking us. We are giving, not just this Minister — because he could be replaced tomorrow and the Government could be replaced next week or year; we do not know who will be in the Minister's place in six weeks' or six months' time or 16 years' time——

At least that.

It does not make any difference effectively but we do not know who will be making the decisions. We are talking about giving the Minister the right to decide between various options the consequences of which we do not know. I am not satisfied that this is being dealt with as up front as it should be. The question as to liability is an important one.

The local authority, or the building control authority as they will be called, will be required to issue approval certificates and the person providing the building will be required to issue compliance certificates while at the same time the local authority will not be obliged to check whether or not the compliance certificate is factual, whether the certificate claiming that the conditions are correct, with regard to the walls, the roof, the various fittings, the insulation and a whole range of items, is accurate. The local authority under section 6 (2) have no obligation to check any of these matters. They have no obligation to check that the building complies with the regulations or to ensure that the certificate complies with the regulations. They have no obligation to check that the facts stated are true or accurate.

What are we doing here tonight? We are agreeing to give the Minister power to introduce self-certification if he is advised by an advisory body appointed by him and liable to change by him, the result and the outcome of which we do not know. We do not know who will be liable, or who will certify, or what qualifications a person will require in order to be a self-certifier. My experience with the building industry leads me to insist that an independent building control authority should remain in place and have the absolute right to approve the buildings from the foundations up. I am not arguing that the authority should be absolutely under the control of the local authority. They must be independent of the people who are designing and putting up the buildings.

The entire essence of this Bill is control. Control must involve some form of independent supervisory agency. The reason this Bill is before us is that the building industry has been characterised by tragedy and mistakes, leading on occasion to great loss of life. We are trying to put in place a scheme which will last for a long time to make the construction of buildings safer for all.

The Workers' Party are opposed in principle to the concept of self-certification, simply because it does not involve elements of control. The suggestion is that because the certification will be carried out by professional people there will be a response which will ensure security, control and safety. That is not necessarily so. Of course 99 per cent of professional people are people of integrity but being human, they are capable of making mistakes. There is a need for an agency whose only concern is to see that standards are complied with. We must legislate for the lowest denominator which can be identified. We must bring everyone into the net because of the rogue operator. There are within the ranks of all professions, including my own, people who are exposed as often at they are detected. The building industry has a history of some discoloration. It has perpetrated errors, intentional or otherwise, by means of using cheap materials, taking short cuts and producing generally shoddy work. There are some buildings which should never have been erected. We must ensure that every eventuality is covered.

There is no doubt that professional people who are involved in on-site supervision will be subject to incredible pressures. The Minister would not be responsible if he did not recognise that the builder/developer has to meet a deadline and maintain profit margins and in many cases the only possibility of achieving his targets is by cutting corners.

Because it is not likely that this issue will come before the House again for quite some time, it is suggested that this enabling provision should be included. I have no doubt that if this section is passed the building industry will knock on the Minister's door telling him that the Act allowed him to proceed with self certification. The professional bodies representing architects, engineers and quantity surveyors would do exactly the same. They would say it is a far more expeditious manner in which to deal with the matter. It is to some extent understandable that they would hold that view because the delays in obtaining by-law approval from local authorities are inordinate and in some instances indefensible. We are told this is a problem of resources.

When the Minister talks about taking another way because of lack of resources, then I am particularly worried. Local authorities would welcome self-certfication because they would be able to cut back on their regulatory departments. They are losing employees at a colossal rate. Dublin Corporation have shed almost 1,500 employees during the past two years, involving major reorganisation of staff. If they could be relieved of the onus of maintaining the building by-law regulatory section they would be very happy. They could divert finance and staff to other areas. The local authorities, not being under any positive obligation to inspect every building operation, would close shop in this respect and there would be virtually no investigation, regulation or on-site inspection. Self-certification would be the only system in operation, without fear of interference by the local authority.

I urge the Minister to think again about the introduction of this provision. It is absolutely certain that the Minister would be subject to the most incredible pressure as a result of this enabling provision and there is no doubt that a self-certification system would be in place within a short time. The Minister has indicated that this is his intention since he considers this to be the cornerstone of the legislation. In principle we oppose it because it will not provide for the lowest common denominator in the equation. We must be in a position to deal effectively with that and this legislation would not allow for it.

Listening to the last two speakers one would think that everyone involved in this work over the last number of years is determined not to comply with the regulations. It has been stated that self-certification may be open to abuse. However, I do not believe that any institution which provides finances for building, from the smallest house to the largest office block, would do so without having their own people certifying the overall work to their satisfaction. That brings me to the next point in so far as the liability of local authorities is concerned. When problems arise, the first person to blame is the individual who signed the certificate in the first place. Indeed, a writ may be served on a local authority if they approved and certified a particular building. However, this legislation seems to indicate that they would be the last to be blamed.

I know from dealing with people in this business that if there is a probem with certification the liability rests with the person who approved and certified the building. Most builders are responsible and try to ensure that the job is done properly and they do not take short cuts.

Many of us have a certain degree of sympathy with the spirit of what the movers of the amendment are trying to achieve, a foolproof system which will legislate for good. However, the reality is different and the last thing the country needs is more legislation which will be ignored or not enforced.

If the amendment is put in place, the onus would then rest on local authorities to do all certification. That is the system that operates at present and we know how woefully inadequate and unsatisfactory that system is. It is not enforced and, therefore, if we now ask local authorities to take on the additional implicit burden outlined in the variety of subsections in the amendment, it is clear it will not be implemented. There is no point burying our heads in the sand in that respect. It will cause an extraordinary bureaucratic logjam in local authorities or disparate and uneven enforcement in various parts of the country, which is the case at present in any event. It is not a practical system as the local authorities cannot carry out many of their present functions which they are statutorily bound to do.

The amendment is well intentioned but misguided. It goes back to a very basic point. I do not believe that the hallmark of legislation should be pinned to — as Deputy McCartan called it — the lowest common denominator. People can be protected from the excesses of the abusers. We should not so contrive legislation that we assume that everybody is at the abyss in terms of the work they do. Self-regulation is a principle which essentially means that people are asked to certify that their work is right and true. That will not work unless there are adequate controls and sanctions. If these sanctions are severe and enforced people will be honourable in regard to self-certification. Sanctions are very important and if we go down the route of self-certification, which I believe is the collective way bearing in mind the realities in terms of local authorities, we must ensure that there will be proper enforcement.

I have a suggestion to make which the Minister might consider between now and the next time we discuss the Bill; it might remove some of the more extreme elements of self-certification and have the same ultimate goal that the removal from hard pressed local authorities of the bureaucratic, legislative and regulatory stranglehold which this proposal would have. There should be a system of certification by qualified people, not necessarily members of local authorities, who would be asked to certify buildings or constructions in which they are not involved. In other words, an architect, engineer or suitably qualified person might be asked to certify the work of some other profession. There may be a suggestion that it is all one big club but it is not, no more than in any other area of economic activity. In fairness, we must have some degree of trust in the people who operate in this professional field.

One of the previous speakers referred to the building industry's record. On balance, in cases like this, the extreme example catches the imagination of the public and makes headlines, especially when a building is deficient. However, the vast majority of construction is sound and is of a higher standard than in most other European countries. Certainly in the case of local authorities, because of the by-laws, that is the case.

Except where they built cheap houses.

Those cheap houses were built because of the economic constraints under which local authorities had to operate.

We were better off with them than without.

The Deputy is being very unfair to Deputy Molloy.

And the Deputies are being very unfair to me. I do not want to dwell too long on this point. Perhaps the movers of the amendment might clarify its aims. Are they saying that under this amendment local authorities will have to regulate "At varying levels of the actual construction" the controls that are in place? If so, anyone working in a local authority would say tell them that is just not on, because at present they cannot cope with their present obligations. Therefore, we must have some confidence in the professional training and integrity of the qualified person who should not be under the suspicion of being congenitally likely to certify work which is not up to standard. I know many professional people who refuse point blank to certify anything not up to standard, despite the fact that there may be some individual down the road who may very well be willing to certify such work.

Sick certs.

The problem is the exception not the majority of people. This problem can be dealt with by looking at the sanctions and the question of enforcement and not by branding everyone with the same tag. This amendment is not acceptable, and the movers must know that in their hearts and souls. If by some chance this amendment were to be accepted, I have no doubt that county and city managers all over the county would hold their heads in their hands and groan because they would know, as the movers must know, that it cannot work.

We must involve the professional and qualified person in some way. The suggestion that professionals would certify the work of other professionals might suffice and maybe the Minister may take a look at this suggestion between now and Report Stage.

With all due respect to my colleagues in The Workers' Party, they are being unnecessarily doctrinaire, perhaps misleadingly so, in respect of this matter. Deputy De Rossa, Leader of The Workers Party, used the word "privatisation". That brings out a certain Thatcherite, Pavolvian reaction from me and I think from most Members of this House.

It was intended to.

I have already made the point in this debate that the professionals in the private sector who would have to sign these certificates would prefer if there was no system of self-certification. One of the reasons we have no system of building control regulations eight years down the road is the failure and a reluctance on the part of many people in private practice to take on the onerous responsibilities involved in self-certification. If this is privatisation for the benefit of private individuals I do not know who these professionals are.

One of the benefits of a Committee Stage debate has emerged this evening in a manner I have not witnessed recently in this House. The Workers' Party argue that, in the interests of the individual citizen, it would be preferable to have this system of regulation and control or supervision — the word used by Deputy McCartan — carried out by a responsible body, such as a local authority or some other body. They were flexible on that. If that body in the exercise of their activities, employing professionals make a mistake — 99 per cent of whom are scrupulously honest according to Deputy McCartan but who nevertheless are human and therefore make mistakes — and if a fault emerges, on the basis of what the Minister has said, the private citizen would have no redress in law in terms of liability against that body. As I understand it, in the seven or eight local authority areas where building by-laws are administered if a fault emerges in a building that is clearly in breach of the building by-laws, and yet that building was certified as having being approved by the local authority, a person would have no recourse to law in terms of liability against the local authority.

I have many reservations about self-certification, but the concern which motivates The Workers' Party amendment, as expressed by Deputy De Rossa and elaborated on by Deputy McCartan, is that self-certification somehow would remove protection from the individual because unscrupulous individuals will be able to certify. Unlike the members of the medical profession the mistakes of architects are above the ground and become self-evident, but if a mistake manifests itself in a building which has been certified by a professional, the individual citizen can have recourse in law to file for liability on the grounds of professional incompetency or negligence against that individual. If one were to start from a position which is not doctrinaire but rather was motivated by a genuine concern to protect the rights of the individual citizen, in the event of something going wrong, paradoxically there would be greater redress from the individual against the certifier who has self-certified that a building complies with the building regulations, but which subsequently turns out not to be the case. If the local authority had issued the certificate of building approval provided for in subsection (2) (c), on the basis of what the Minister has said there could be less protection for the individual citizen than at present. I recognise that the Minister responded in an impromptu way, but we should get some considered views on this matter, if not this evening then later in the debate because I was not aware of this point until this amendment brought it to light.

References were made to the problems associated with low cost housing back in the early seventies. I know many professionals working with local authorities, particularly in Dublin Corporation, who had grave reservations about signing such certificates of adequacy and certificates for payment for certain contractors in respect of low cost dwellings because they were unhappy with the standard of construction. They were directed by administrators in the local authorities to sign the necessary certificates. I am talking about buildings in Deputy De Rossa's constituency which have become notorious because of the problems associated with them.

In my own constituency also.

Indeed. It is possible that professionals who have the necessary technical competence could find themselves under duress from administrators to sign certificates. My position remains the same — we should strive for self-certification as one means of administration but during this debate prompted by the proposal made by The Workers' Party to delete any provision for self-certification, a number of interesting points have been made. Quite frankly, I do not expect the Minister to have all of the answers. I wanted to make the point that we do not want to fall into some kind of doctrinaire trap but rather to recognise what is being proposed and what the safeguards are. In the course of this debate I would like the Minister to address the question of accountability and liability either, on this section or on the relevant subsection. I want to remind the Minister that I referred earlier to experience in the UK, and I wonder if he is in a position to give any response.

The position has changed quite considerably since we started to discuss this amendment. There is no doubt that the position of The Workers' Party has changed dramatically from what was expressed by Deputy de Rossa at the start of his contribution. It has been brought a good bit further by his colleague, Deputy McCartan.

Deputy De Rossa was pressing as a point of principle that all certification would rest in the hands of the local authority. Deputy Keating pointed out that that had not operated to the total satisfaction of everybody over the years anyway, but Deputy De Rossa, having pressed that point, seemed to throw it aside and it is now obvious that The Workers' Party are seeking some form of independent agency to be superimposed on everything, above and beyond the local authorities, self certification or any other mixture one might consider as an option. That is an entirely different matter. We are moving into an ideology now that was hinted at between Deputy Quinn and Deputy McCartan and I am not going to get into that.

Deputy McCartan at least came clean on the fact that it is a fundamental principle of The Workers' Party that they are opposed to certification full stop, and no argument is going to convince them otherwise. That is a narrow view and we are not here as a body in this democracy to talk in that narrow, tight, ideological framework, so he has lost the argument. The disappointing part about Deputy McCartan's contribution was it showed a strong anti-construction industry bias. I was taken aback by it. He is anti the construction industry to quite a degree. One could take the implication from some of the things he said that the construction industry are looking for avenues for corner cutting all the time and that was virtually the order of the day. I do not accept that.

My experience has been that the vast majority of construction undertaken in this country is of a high standard and quality. I am not saying mistakes have not been made. We see evidence of that occasionally and it is always high news when it happens, but I cannot go along with the idea that the construction industry are seeking in some way to enhance their profit margins by cost cutting exercises at every opportunity that presents itself. I say to Deputy McCartan that I respect the professional competence and integrity of the people who might, if occasion arises, be given the opportunity of self certification. I respect that professionalism if they are suitably qualified. Therefore, self certification is not antagonistic to my principles. If self certification becomes the option chosen or preferred by a Minister it is not giving an open door to shoddiness in any shape or form.

When certification takes place whether by a local authority, self certification or any mixture of both or third party, which is also an option that could be considered under section 6 (2), unforeseen circumstances sometimes arise following a certificate given in a duly professional way. Negligence, incompetence, faulty materials and workmanship can be involved, and no certifier could have foreseen some of those elements. A local authority might not be able to foresee all those elements either. If you are to go down Deputy McCartan's road for a fully independent agency to be set up and to superimpose itself on the total scene of the building industry you will bring construction to a halt.

I never mentioned it.

Listening to The Workers' Party contribution one would need virtually an army of engineers, site engineers, foremen and clerks of works on every building construction site. In effect you are casting a slur on the construction industry and those attached to it in a professional capacity. I cannot accept that as being given in good faith.

The Minister has ducked the argument.

I seem to be needling Deputy De Rossa for some reason.

Abuse always needles me.

The Bill stands apart from the liability issue. I will argue that any time the Deputy likes but this Bill stands apart from that at this stage and the Deputies representing The Workers' Party here have made a great deal of play about the local authority administered approval system or something super after that. They are saying that without that kind of local authority approval system building defects will not be detected. I cannot reconcile that with their amendment 1a to amendment 12. I am taken aback by the level of inconsistency in what they are now promoting and what has been suggested by their amendment. I have waited for the end of this to bring this to their attention to see how far they would go. In their subsequent amendment they are only talking about certifying in accordance with design, full stop. How do they reconcile that with what they have been promoting here for the past hour when talking about the construction process out on the ground and so on? They want me and this House to accept they would be quite happy to have a desk certification done in accordance with the design sent in. That is the thrust of their amendment 1a.


You are bluffing.

I cannot see they have made the argument; in fact they have acted contrary to the thrust of their subsequent amendment and their argument falls on that account so I am not accepting it.

Of course the Minister is not accepting it. He said at the beginning he was not accepting the amendment and I have tried in the last hour and a half to convince at least the Deputies in Opposition that they should take on board the case I was making in relation to self-certification.

They think the Deputy is wrong.

I tried to convince them. I thought at least the Deputy, Deputy Quinn and Deputy Farrelly might see the sense of the case we were trying to make, as the Minister had made up his mind from the very beginning he was not going to see any sense in it or to accept it. However, he must be aware, as I am; that the majority of Deputies sit on this side of the House and not on the Minister's side of the House. It was important to try to convince at least the Deputies on this side of the House. It is a pity the Minister took the line of heaping abuse on The Workers' Party for the case we have been trying to make. The Minister can check the record. I did not state that the only alternative system to self-certification was retaining certification in the hands of local authorities. I did use the term "privatisation" in relation to the proposal to self-certify because that is precisely what it is; it is putting certification into the hands of private individuals. If the Minister can find any other definition of "privatisation" I would like to hear it.

Unfortunately, Deputy Quinn started the ball rolling for the Minister in relation to using the term "doctrinaire" and the Minister added "ideological" to that. I have attempted to argue the case against self-certification on the grounds that the building industry as an industry have not proved themselves trustworthy in relation to self-certification. The Minister knows that. The evidence of defective buildings and whole estates which are defective is there for all to see when they got any leeway at all in relation to regulations. Hardly a month passes in this city that regulations in relation to the planning laws are not breached and thrown to the winds by so-called entrepreneurs knocking down buildings. Would the Minister deny that? We have to have regulations; we have to have an independent system of regulation and a system of approval. The most effective one in existence at present is that provided by local authorities. If the Minister wants to go down the road of establishing another independent body to do the job of local authorities we are prepared to consider that but we have not proposed it.

I ask the Minister to drop the bluff about this matter and I ask Opposition Deputies to reconsider their attitude in relation to self-certification. The question has to be asked, why is it that the Minister proposes to ensure that the power to make people comply with the fire regulations is retained by local authorities when that in relation to buildings is not? Why is it that he does not trust the building and construction industry in relation to the fire regulations?

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.