Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Report Stage.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 10, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

""competent authority" means the Minister for Transport;".

Doubts arose on Second and Committee Stages with regard to who would have the final say in respect of planning matters, bus routes and many aspects of the operation of this significant new regional authority. The Dublin transport authority, DTA, represents a major step forward because it represents the first element of a serious regional system of government in Ireland.

I tabled amendment No. 1 in order to indicate that the Minister, and, therefore, the House, will have responsibility in this area. It states in the Bill that the authority means the DTA. My amendment suggests that, under EU Regulation 1370/2007, the Minister for Transport shall be the "competent authority". There was some correspondence among the Department and several of the stakeholders in respect of this matter and it was stated that the Minister and the DTA would both constitute the competent authority. I do not understand how that could work because in respect of any of the controversies that might arise, the authority that must be ultimately responsible to the House is the Minister for Transport. I cannot see how the Minister and the DTA could both act as the competent authority. The Department further indicated that CIE will be precluded in this regard because it will be operating within the DTA's area. As owner of that company on behalf of the people, the Minister would, therefore, find himself in a difficult situation.

It would add to the Bill and the list of definitions contained therein if we included a reference to the Minister for Transport being the competent authority. EU Regulation 1370/2007, on which the Bill is based, contains provisions on public service and direct award contracts. It would improve the legislation if a clear line of authority involving the Minister was established, particularly in view of the fact that he has ultimate responsibility in this area. Direct provision should be made in the Bill in this regard.

The term "competent authority" does not appear in the Bill or in any of the Deputy's amendments, so there is no need to define it in section 2. For that reason I ask the Deputy to withdraw amendment No. 1. I assure him that the Minister is the competent authority and that responsibility in this area is not shared with the DTA. The latter will act on behalf of the Minister.

On the basis of the assurance provided by the Minister, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 10, line 41, after "to" to insert "park and ride facilities and".

The purpose of this amendment is to insert the phrase "park and ride facilities" into the definition of "interchange facilities". Deputy O'Dowd raised this matter on Committee Stage and suggested that a specific reference to park and ride facilities would strengthen the DTA's position in ensuring that such facilities will be provided. This means that the DTA's functions in respect of public transport infrastructure, as specified in section 44, will be clearly and specifically outlined.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has taken on board the point I made on Committee Stage. The location of park and ride facilities is a critical aspect of public transport in and out of the city of Dublin. The DTA will now have a specific role to play in the provision of such facilities. One of the difficulties is that the DTA will have responsibility for transport in Dublin and will not be a national transport authority. Therefore, the number of areas in which park and ride facilities could be established will be limited by the boundaries of the DTA's area of influence.

What will happen if it is deemed that there is a need for a park and ride facility outside the DTA's area? In that context, provision is not made, for example, in respect of County Louth. If the DTA is of the view that a need for park and ride facilities exists and if the local authorities responsible for the areas adjacent to its area of influence agree, how will such facilities be provided?

The Deputy's comments in respect of the boundary issue — as it currently stands — are correct. In the circumstances he outlined, I envisage that there would be direct contact among the DTA and the relevant local authorities. It is intended, at some point in the future, to consider establishing a national transport authority and an issue such as that to which the Deputy refers would be relevant to the debate thereon. Initially, matters of this nature will be resolved with through agreement rather than by the introduction of legislation.

If a local authority wishes to work with the DTA in respect of the provision of park and ride facilities outside the latter's area, will the DTA be able to invest in such a project?

There is nothing to preclude the DTA from making such an investment in circumstances where it is seeking the putting in place of such a facility outside its area of influence. As the Deputy is aware, the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, is to be absorbed into the DTA. Those who work for the DTO tend to take a broad view in respect of matters of this nature, on which they will be advising the DTA in the future.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3, 56 and 59 are related and will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 12, line 23, to delete "section 24 and sections” and substitute “sections 24, 32 and”.

This is a technical amendment designed to catch all references to the word "subsidiary" in the amended Bill. It arises because of the inclusion of a reference to "any subsidiary" in amendment No. 59. The latter arose on foot of an amendment tabled by Deputy O'Dowd on Committee Stage, the intent of which I agreed with, and it provides that the authority's annual report will be used to report on the continuing justification for its subsidiaries, if there are any. The annual report forms part of the existing formal reporting structure to the Minister and it is also a public document. All organisations should, in any event, review their operations on a regular basis, including in the context of the continued need for any subsidiaries. The amendment will ensure that the authority will do just that.

I thank the Minister for taking on board the views I expressed in respect of this matter on Committee Stage. However, questions arise in respect of subsidiaries and the level of accountability that applies in respect of them. The fact that their activities will be commented upon in the annual report is something. However, people will be concerned that any such subsidiaries might be established. Deputy Varadkar recently highlighted the number of quangos and subsidiaries of State and semi-State bodies which remain in place for long periods and an appalling vista has opened up with regard to the financing of FÁS.

The Minister stated that subsidiaries will be accounted for through the authority's annual report. There is a view on this side of the House that a sunset clause ought to come into operation after a number of years in respect of any or all subsidiaries. There is also the suggestion that these subsidiaries should be obliged to report to the Oireachtas every two years in order that we might evaluate whether they are working, the nature of the work they are doing, whether they are accountable and transparent and whether control is exercised over them. Issues relating to accountability and control are important.

Under the Oireachtas committee system, representatives of the new DTA, Bus Éireann, etc., can be requested to appear and report on the work in which they are involved. The difficulty is that the windows of opportunity which exist in this regard are small, particularly in light of the extremely busy committee schedule. Are there any other means by which the Minister can ensure that there will be total accountability on the part of any quangos or subsidiaries that may be established as a result of the passage of this legislation?

Deputy O'Dowd made the original suggestion in respect of this matter. As drafted, the Bill merely indicated that subsidiaries might be established. The Deputy made a strong case in respect of ensuring that subsidiaries could not remain in operation for an indefinite period without a review of their activities being carried out. These amendment represent an honest attempt to try to meet his concerns.

The one thing every organisation must do is produce an annual report, which is then used for the purposes of invigilating in respect of various matters, etc. Annual reports are used by companies in the financial sector and also by the Oireachtas.

The Deputy will recall our discussion on whether to do it every three or five years. Arising from those discussions, the annual report is a mechanism whereby a committee of this House can at any stage draw attention to the subsidiary if it is not sufficiently reported or if it should not be there. It is also useful from a departmental point of view because it is a means by which we can judge the efficiency or effectiveness of a subsidiary. It is a beginning and I think it will be effective. The Department and the Oireachtas will both have opportunities to conduct reviews.

I welcome the Minister's comments in regard to the establishment of these subsidiaries and acknowledge the points he made in regard to the annual report. If a difference of opinion arises regarding how money is being spent, will the DTA retain control over the finances and will it then become accountable for all expenditure?

It will be directly responsible for the management of the company or the subsidiary and will be answerable to the Minister and the Oireachtas through committee. Before any of these subsidiaries can be established, democratic accountability will be ensured through the requirement in section 24 for approval by the Ministers for Transport and Finance. Accountability will, therefore, be established from the outset and on an ongoing basis.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments No. 4 and 5 are logical alternatives and can be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 12, line 40, after "Kildare," to insert "Drogheda and South Louth,"

The section of the Bill which deals with the definition of the DTA refers to the city of Dublin, the administrative counties of south Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath and such other areas as may be declared by order of the Minister. It is clear the development of counties Louth and Meath is integrated. The constituency review commission, the legislation for which will be published this week, recommends that part of east Meath should join County Louth for the purposes of political administration and Dáil constituencies. The Minister will be aware that east Meath is experiencing a phenomenal population growth but south Louth and Drogheda have equally high growth rates. A new development proposed for the outskirts of Drogheda, Sienna Valley, could attract up to 20,000 new residents over the next 15 years. The development of east Meath is, therefore, a mirror image of south Louth.

The difference is, however, that the Bill provides for a land use strategy within the DTA area. The DTA will have responsibility for ensuring the primacy of transport in planning considerations in this area. The authority's writ runs to the River Boyne but does not cross it, even though south Louth is experiencing the same problems as east Meath. Every day, thousands of commuters in the area leave estates which lack proper road networks. More traffic passes through Julianstown than travelled along the old N1. This is a serious issue. Including Drogheda and south Louth into the DTA area would allow for proper planning and development. An Bord Pleanála recently granted planning permission for more than 800 houses in east Meath even though Meath County Council had pointed out that the application made no provision for infrastructure to deal with the impact of the development. This Bill will prevent that from happening in the future in County Meath, but it will not prevent it in County Louth.

I also spoke to transport operators in County Louth, including Matthews Coach Hire. The DTA can offer incentives to transport operators in its area in regard to integrated ticketing, so those who are outside the area may have to bear additional costs.

If we are to introduce a dynamic and integrated planning regime and a proper land use strategy, communities on the edge of the proposed DTA area will have to be included because otherwise they will be left with developer and An Bord Pleanála led infrastructure. I referred earlier to An Bord Pleanála's decision in east Meath. People cannot understand how permission was granted in that instance but that will be repeated if transport planning does not become a primary consideration in land use strategies for south Louth and Drogheda. The thousands of people who live in the area will be faced with more of the same, which is unacceptable. It is critical that the Bill gets it right.

I acknowledge that the Minister may declare other areas from time to time. On Committee Stage he suggested that if elected members or local authorities write to the Minister, due consideration would be given to including them in the DTA area. However, he has not accepted the fundamental point that the same conditions apply both north and south of the River Boyne. If the boundary of the DTA runs only as far as the Boyne, the north of that border will not have the benefit of proper planning because it will be relatively easy for developers to get permission, they will be able to take advantage of loopholes and there will be less emphasis on sustainable and integrated development, including proper transport planning.

Other issues arise in regard to transport. The DTA will play an important role in deciding the location of new railway stations. It may require a local authority to construct a new railway station, which will have to be funded from planning charges, before allowing a development to proceed. Proposals have already been made for new commuter railway stations in Drogheda north and Dunleer, and commuters in mid-Louth are calling for a station to be built in order to cope with the increasing pressures commuters from the area are experiencing. If this area is not included, it is possible these railway stations will never be built.

It will not be a requirement at the planning permission stage. It will not be a requirement that such practicalities and sensible, reasonable and essential transport planning be considered. I do not believe the Minister will deny there is a need for these areas to be included. His colleagues in Louth do not deny it. In fact, the construction of the railway stations is a priority for all parties and for Louth County Council.

I put it to the Minister that he needs to re-examine this provision and to include Drogheda and south Louth in the DTA area thereby avoiding future problems. If they are included then planning in south Louth in terms of development and transport must go hand in hand. If they are not included, this will not happen. If under subsection (c) the Minister decides at a later date to add new areas what new arguments that have not been already put forward will have to be made in this regard? In my view, there are no further arguments that can be made in this regard.

If the Minister were to decide to include them, when might this happen? For what length of time must the legislation be in force before he could agree to include Drogheda and south Louth in the DTA area? I assume the timeframe in this regard would be at a minimum one year. It is not good enough to neglect or leave out these areas. I believe I have made a reasonably strong argument for their inclusion. I put it to the Minister that south Louth cannot afford to wait for this to happen or to wait for developer-led development with no proper public transport strategy. It cannot afford to wait for badly needed railway stations, which are being campaigned for locally, that are not part of the planning process. The Dublin Transport Authority will ensure developers, as part of the planning process, provide a proper transport strategy.

I congratulate Dublin Bus on its transport planning in the south Louth area generally. I have met with private contractors wishing to provide an orbital bus route around Drogheda, throughout County Louth and on into east Meath. The two areas are linked. There are other transport providers in the area. Matthews Coach Hire carries approximately 10,000 to 15,000 passengers per week on that corridor. It would mean a lot to its business if it could expand. The company is planning for the advent of the DTA and is also making plans in respect of the south Louth area. The inclusion in the DTA of Drogheda and south Louth would make a significant difference to this company and to everybody in that region. Bus Éireann is also doing great work in this region.

The inclusion of Dunleer and Drogheda north in the DTA would add to the capacity of Iarnród Éireann to agree to proper and decent transport planning. The Minister might argue, as he did on Committee Stage, that Drogheda is the same as Mullingar or any other city or town. It is not the same because it comes within the greater Dublin area.

The national spatial strategy examined issues such as growth centres throughout the country. It states that Drogheda is an important base, as is Navan which is also mentioned. The economies of these areas, as part of the greater Dublin area, are tied up in this. There are many sustainable and important arguments in favour of what I am saying. There are no indicators to the contrary. No other areas so close to Dublin are experiencing the type of problems in regard to transport, planning and proposed developments, domestic and commercial, as are Drogheda and south Louth.

I put it to the Minister that the national spatial strategy has identified a need in this regard. However, the problem is that the political representatives on the national spatial strategy who come from areas such as Kildare, south Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Wicklow and Meath are all included in the planning process while elected representatives and officials in County Louth are not, as far as I am aware, included. I urge the Minister to take on board the arguments I have made.

While amendment No. 5 is in my name it is grouped with amendment No. 4 and, as such, I will be speaking to both amendments.

I support the arguments made by my colleague, Deputy O'Dowd. The Labour Party amendment seeks the inclusion of "Louth" after "Wicklow" as part of the DTA area. I am a former member of the Dublin Regional Authority which had a great deal of interaction with the Mid-east Regional Authority in its attempts to bring forward serious regional planning. One of our key ambitions was the establishment of a regional transport authority which I am glad to say is finally being established.

We discovered during our discussion relating to Navan, Kells and, in particular, Dublin, that many of the issues raised, such as transport and land use planning, also affected south Louth and Drogheda, as clearly outlined by Deputy O'Dowd. There is no doubt that Drogheda is economically and, in many respects, socially and infrastructurally part of the greater Dublin area. As Deputy O'Dowd stated developments, in particular those north of the Boyne, will be profoundly affected by what happens in the rest of that region. From this point of view, it is only fair that the Louth region come within the remit of the Dublin Transport Authority.

We are seeking the inclusion of the whole of County Louth in the DTA area. The Minister on Committee Stage referred to bringing Mullingar and most of Leinster within the remit of the DTA. Obviously, power is provided in the Bill for the DTA remit to be extended, possibly into a national transport authority. Also, all services beginning and ending in the DTA area will come under the remit of the transport authority. Nonetheless, it is important that Louth be directly involved in the functioning of the DTA from the start. In the past, crazy land use planning did not include major transport infrastructural developments. Only recently, we heard a presentation on the massive metro north corridor which will run through Fingal and north of Swords. This will have a profound impact on the economic and transport structure of Fingal, east Meath and, Louth as outlined so eloquently by Deputy O'Dowd. It is critical that the people of Drogheda and Louth have an input into this through representation on the board of DTA, above all at the planning stage.

We have had great debates on decentralisation. I had many great debates with the Acting Chairman, Deputy Noel O'Flynn, about decentralisation and, in particular, the importance of developing, in economic terms, Cork city as a major counterpoint to Dublin city. I know this is a cause dear to the Acting Chairman's heart. A recent study states that despite the Government's botched programme of decentralisation we will still have massive ongoing growth in the eastern region.

A study was recently carried out by the Dublin Institute of Technology, which clearly shows that no matter what we do there will be significant growth in the Dublin-south Louth corridor. The public transport function must be properly integrated and it is, therefore, important that amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are approved by the House.

I agree with my colleague that if it is intended to extend the DTA into south Louth, we should get some indication this evening, before we have finished with these amendments, of when and how this will happen. The overall point is that on proper planning grounds and all conceivable socio-economic grounds, south Louth in particular should be part of the Dublin Transportation Authority area. That is why I will be moving amendment No. 5 on behalf of the Labour Party. This is something that is close to the hearts of my colleagues in the Louth constituency, particularly Councillor Gerald Nash of Drogheda——

——who is also deeply involved with the planning of future public transport links and facilities for the region. It is important for local representatives such as Councillor Nash, who, it is to be hoped, will be with us some day in the House, that Louth is properly and democratically represented in the DTA area. I warmly support amendment No. 4 and intend to move amendment No. 5 when I can.

There is a logic to Deputy O'Dowd's amendment, given the substantial growth that has taken place in the area of south Louth in particular. I do not think the people of south Louth would be too concerned about coming under the umbrella of Dublin, but if need be we could change the title to the Greater Dublin Transport Authority Bill. Given the major growth in that area, of which the Minister is aware, and the growth in commuter traffic, particularly from Drogheda but also from places such as Dundalk, the amendment is logical. Why wait until such time as the Minister is required to designate areas, as he is entitled to do when this Bill is passed? Why not do it now? At the very least we should be looking at south Louth, but there are other major commuter areas. Any decision that changes transport arrangements in Dublin will affect a number of neighbouring counties, or parts of them. We should make sure these counties are not an afterthought. If we go along with this, Louth will become an afterthought for the Dublin transport authority. In fact, the infrastructure in Louth serves Dublin in many ways. We are not talking about small boreens and the like but about main thoroughfares. This is about infrastructure and planning of transport for the future.

We have waited a long time for this Bill and there is agreement that it is needed. However, it is interesting that there seems to be cross-party support for widening its remit slightly, perhaps to reflect what used to be the Pale. We still seem to have the Pale surrounding Dublin, albeit in a different context. If we draw a semicircle on the map extending 50 miles from the centre of Dublin, with Dundalk at the top, this represents the commuter belt, which has been identified by various Government strategies over the years as containing the major commuter hubs of Dublin. They are the areas that should be included in the remit of a transport authority that is trying to address the transport needs of a growing city.

I support Deputy Broughan's amendment as it covers the whole of Louth and not just as far as Drogheda, given that the M1 now serves areas from Dundalk southwards. We may in future consider extending the remit of the transport authority as far as Portlaoise or Carlow, but those arguments have not been made. The argument is being made that one of the biggest commuter belts, which extends from north Dublin as far as north Louth, be included in the area covered by the DTA. I hope the Minister will give consideration to accepting the amendment at this late stage.

It may surprise people to know that I do not disagree with points made about the closeness of Drogheda and south Louth to the greater Dublin area and the population growth and development that have taken place. That is why we have included specifically in the Bill the power to extend the greater Dublin area. Section 54 states that the Minister may designate bus and rail services originating or ending outside the GDA as being part of the GDA transport system. This is designed to cover some of the points made by Deputy O'Dowd about firms such as Matthews Coach Hire and, indeed, Bus Éireann services that originate outside the GDA. Thus, the Bill confers the power to designate transport services as GDA transport services. Section 63 provides that the Minister may extend the functions of the DTA with regard to integrated ticketing, fares and public transport information to public transport service areas outside the GDA. These provisions are as far as we can go.

I do not want to be political about this, but what the Deputies are asking me to do would be profoundly undemocratic, although I know they do not mean it that way. As I said, I am not making a political point. As I was at the Cabinet table at the time, I know that representatives from County Louth fought very hard to ensure Louth would be included in the BMW region. Many people were surprised it ended up in this region, including some of my constituents. Thus, Louth is not just a different county but part of a different region. A planning system was established in the Planning and Development Act 2000 which includes regional planning guidelines. This is integrated regional planning — we have the national spatial strategy and, on the next level down, the regional planning guidelines.

I do not disagree with the sentiment that it would probably be a good idea to include Louth, but we cannot divide a county because this would result in a whole raft of difficulties with regard to county development plans, with one set of criteria applying at one end and another set at the other end. We just cannot divide it. Thus, we can only consider Deputy Broughan's proposal that the entire county of Louth be included in the GDA. I have no major problem with that, but the decision should not be made by three Members of this House. I genuinely do not think it is a decision for us to make. As Minister, I do not feel I can make that decision because the local government system and the regional authorities are under the aegis of another Minister. It is right and proper, particularly in the context of local government reforms being discussed, to ask the local authorities concerned to move from the BMW region to the mid-east region. We could then slide them into the DTA. That is the process needed.

Deputy O'Dowd makes a convincing case and I am not arguing against the integrated planning needed. This Bill relates to what should be standard practice for any local authority in drawing up a development plan. I appreciate that the Deputies opposite have acknowledged this. Transport services should be integral to county development plans, let alone this Bill. Deputies have argued their case strongly and while I do not disagree in principle, the amendment is not the way to do it. It would not be right and democratic to do so in this manner. If Louth County Council wishes to take this route and become part of the Dublin transport authority, I would have no objection. It would make much sense, but not in the way proposed.

The weakness in the Bill is that it does not relate to a national transport authority. All of the problems we encounter stem from the geographical area to be covered by the authority. The problem is of the Minister's making because the cities of Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway all have problems with transport, yet there is no joined-up thinking. I suggest the Minister needs a national transport authority. He would not then need to ask Louth County Council to move from region A to region B. A national transport authority would mean the county council could ensure proper planning and development in the county, something that will not happen under the Bill. The same goes for Cork, Limerick and Galway. Limiting the Bill in this way is a major weakness.

I welcome that section 54 allows for transport services from outside the DTA region to be designated as DTA transport services. It is important that the DTA has the power to fix the price of travel, particularly rail travel, as there are serious inequalities in this sector. When one leaves Balbriggan by rail, one enters an area with an entirely different fare structure. Under the Bill, lower fares will apply in respect of services to Balbriggan, Laytown and Gormanstown but not to places to the north. If the Minister designated transport services that originate in Dublin to County Louth, it would make a big difference to commuters who want a decent, proper equitable fare structure. There is no reason people should pay twice as much to get to Dublin from Drogheda and Laytown as they do from Balbriggan. It does not make sense.

The Minister has repeated the argument made about the problem with the structure of the regional authorities. Will this continue into the future with regard to the BMW region? After the Lisbon treaty referendum, perhaps there will be a new battle covering the entire country in the next round of Structural Fund grants at European level.

The Drogheda area is expanding at a colossal rate and many are dependent on public transport to get to Dublin. Some Members may make this connection this evening, as they did this morning. Trains passing through Balbriggan tend to be packed. It seems wrong-headed to exclude the important growing city of Drogheda and the south County Louth region from the essential redevelopment that will take place in the Dublin region. Perhaps the entire county should be included. My colleague from Sinn Féin mentioned the commuter belt. If one looks at the map, one will see that the Minister's county has a small coastline. County Louth almost touches the Dublin county boundary, yet it is the only such county not to be included. It is not as though County Meath has a coastline of 50 miles — the reality is that County Louth is in the same position as Couinty Wicklow and west and south Kildare. We should reconsider this aspect of the Bill.

The Minister mentioned sections 63 and 54 which grant him important powers. At what stage will he be able to initiate a process to allow borough councils or local authorities in the County Louth region, if they express an interest, to come within the remit of the DTA? How can this be facilitated? When I represented the Dublin mid-east regional authority, we had close connections with County Louth, although it was not a member of our organisation.

I have touched on many points and noted what the Deputies said. The procedure is that local authorities in an area must first decide if they want to take a particular route and make this known to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, and me. A decision would then be made. A consequence of authorities being included in the GDA might be that they would have to leave the BMW region to ensure coherence in the regional planning guidelines. Nothing more formal than a decision by the local authority and an application would be required.

I wish to return to the analysis of population growth in the region. I refer the Minister to the report compiled by the HSE on the location of the regional hospital. The maps are included on pages 12 and 18 of the report. I could not bring them with me today because when one prints them over a certain size, one cannot see them. The report examines population figures in 2006, 2015 and 2025. The area around Drogheda is colour coded red, meaning a population density in excess of 239. The rest of County Meath and south Louth, particularly the area around Drogheda, is colour coded yellow, meaning that it is the next most intensive region of population growth.

I do not seek to bring the entire county of Louth under the auspices of the DTA because views in Dundalk are different from those in Drogheda. There are also different expectations of population growth. The key to the Dublin Transport Authority is development. It is clear that there will be massive growth by 2025 in the areas north and south of the Boyne. We ask that the area north of the Boyne come under the auspices of the DTA. If councillors and local authorities are asked to leave one region and join another, other issues will arise. I do not know what the position on the CLÁR programme is in the Cooley Peninsula but rural areas in north County Louth would be concerned that joining the DTA would result in the loss of benefits under other programmes.

The reality is that we cannot use the fact that a county is within the boundary of the BMW region as a bargaining chip when deciding whether a certain part of that country deserves to have proper transport planning. We support proper transport planning, which is the important principle that is at the core of this Bill. It has nothing to do with counties — we are talking about growth centres. The population statistics are self-evident. There is no difference between the parts of south Louth north and south of the River Boyne. I refer to electoral areas like Drogheda east and Drogheda west, which will encounter problems if this change is not made.

A great deal of planning was done in advance of this Bill. Issues such as population growth, the needs of certain areas and various transport matters were examined. This legislation should put them strongly at the heart of commuter life in growing towns like Drogheda. However, the Minister is setting such matters aside. I do not think his argument, which is that part of County Louth will have to leave the BMW area if this amendment is accepted, stands up. I do not think people want the county to leave the BMW region. However, they want their houses to be served by public transport. They want to walk, cycle and use public transport. They will not get such services if we do not amend this Bill.

I wish to repeat my criticism of the Minister's approach. If we had a national transport authority Bill, it is obvious that the major cities would opt to be included in it. Areas like County Louth would be part of the national transport authority. None of the issues relating to the BMW region would arise. We would have decent public transport options. We would definitely not have developer-led planning. The Minister is putting down a marker. I am not being personal when I say that I utterly reject what he is saying. He is not giving adequate weight to the strong, well-researched, clear and independently assessed arguments which are being made. South Louth will be a nightmare for transport planning as a result of this legislation.

I am sure the Minister is aware that it was suggested some time ago, as part of the strategy for the port of Drogheda, that a northern cross route be developed in the town. The entire area north of Drogheda needs a proper road network. Such a network is not being developed by the NRA because there is no national road in the area. We need to invest in road infrastructure if Drogheda is to grow. We now have a mechanism for that, more or less. It is critical that the future transport needs of the area be considered if it is to develop. Is it right and proper that the local authority has to go cap in hand to all the land owners? That is what happened. A properly planned road network was needed, but those involved could not get a VAT refund. The local authority asked developers to pay for the north Drogheda development plan. It said it would pick the consultants if the developers paid them. That is what happened. I am not saying there was anything wrong with it, but it did happen.

At present, local authorities have to go cap in hand to developers when they are deciding what is going to happen — where roads will be developed and who will make the contributions, etc. There is a voluntary relationship between the local authority and the developers. Under this legislation, however, the Dublin transport authority will tell the developers what they must do and how they must do it. The developers will have to go ahead and do it. I am talking about the transport needs of the south Louth area, such as the roads which will have to be linked to the national network in the future. There will be total and absolute chaos if south Louth is not in the Dublin transport authority area.

I would like to conclude by speaking about some of the other issues in the east Meath and south Louth area. People in the east of the town are unable to get to the other side of the Rover Boyne without going through the town centre. The new bridge that is needed has been planned since 1962. If Meath County Council feels that a bridge is needed for economic reasons, is viable in terms of the local transport network and will facilitate A, B or C, it may state that it wants such a bridge to be developed. The authorities on the other side of the river will not have the funds to provide any money towards the bridge, however, if they are not in the Dublin transport authority area. If the Dublin transport authority decides that a major piece of infrastructure such as a new bridge in Drogheda is needed, its writ will extend throughout Meath County Council's administrative area — to the edge of the River Boyne at Mornington — but it will not cross the river to Baltray or adjacent areas in County Louth. How does the Minister propose to deal with this anomaly? He is losing a golden opportunity here.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 53; Níl, 73.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 12, line 40, after "Wicklow" to insert ", Louth".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 6, 11, 57, 58, 62 and 81 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 13, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(3) The Minister shall be fully and directly accountable to Dáil Éireann through all standard Dáil procedures for any such regulations.".

Amendment No. 6 seeks that the Minister shall be fully and directly accountable to Dáil Éireann through all standard Dáil procedures in respect of regulations. The key problem with State agencies is the lack of accountability to this House. The Labour Party and all colleagues are very anxious that the Dublin transport authority will not become a HSE on wheels. This is everybody's great fear. The authority must not end up as a quango that is totally unaccountable to the House, going about its business without reference to elected Members.

This is the most important goal.

Amendment No. 11 seeks, in page 15, between lines 13 and 14, to secure the provision of full strategic policy and operational information for the Minister, the Members of the Oireachtas and the Joint Committee on Transport.

Amendment No. 57 seeks to extend this provision by ensuring that guidelines the Minister might lay down for the Dublin transport authority will be laid before and approved by each House of the Oireachtas. Amendment No. 58 is similar in that it seeks that documents laid before the Oireachtas should be approved by both the Dáil and Seanad.

Amendment No. 62 is the most important of the grouped amendments. It seeks to insert the following in page 36, between lines 15 and 16: "The Minister is fully and directly accountable to Dáil Éireann through standard Dáil procedures including oral and written questions and all forms of debate for all policy, strategic decisions and financial accounts of the DTA." This is the core amendment of the series. We want to ensure the authority will be accountable to this House through the Minister.

To date, all Deputies, including Government backbenchers, have had a very bad experience regarding accountability. We have experienced tortuous circumstances regarding the responsibility of the Minister for Health and Children to the House in respect of the HSE. We have tried to raise vital health issues morning after morning over the past four years but have been prevented from doing so and rebuffed by the Ceann Comhairle and his predecessor. We have been prevented from having the Minister for Health and Children answer our questions in the House.

This has happened in respect of many other agencies, particularly the National Roads Authority, NRA. We have frequently been refused permission to ask the Minister for Transport urgent questions on transport and road infrastructure in the House in so far as those questions concerned policy pertaining to the NRA. The main problem I have had in this regard, with which the Acting Chairman, Deputy Ardagh, will be familiar, concerns the Dublin Port tunnel. I have endlessly tried to raise the issue of safety in the tunnel, which issue has been highlighted by RTE, particularly "Prime Time", and newspapers such as theEvening Herald and the Irish Independent. I have tried to raise the issue of the accountability of the NRA, Dublin City Council and Transroute International to the House but, time and again, my oral and written questions have been refused on the grounds that they concerned strategic policy and operational matters of the NRA.

This must not be allowed to continue in respect of State agencies. I ask the Minister, through my proposed amendments, to break with the past and make all agencies responsible to this House. The Taoiseach has already outlined that he wants a rationalisation of agencies. He does not want a number of agencies performing virtually the same task and, in a sense, invigilating the same area of the economy. Their doing so does not seem to make sense and, in the current economic circumstances, seems insane. Along with the required efficiencies, we need full responsibility to Dáil Éireann. The Dublin transport authority must be fully responsible thereto and we must not allow for the circumstances that pertain in respect of the NRA, HSE and so many other agencies.

In other democracies, in Europe and further afield, there is no question but that all state agencies are generally accountable to their parliaments. Famously in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, the counterpart of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, answers on all aspects of transport policy. She provides road safety figures directly to the UK Parliament and does not direct Members to the UK equivalent of the Road Safety Authority. She answers directly to the UK Parliament on key issues because it is clear that the death rate in the transport sector is a fundamental issue that affects the people and their public representatives.

My amendments seek to establish a definitive break with the bad and undemocratic behaviour that has obtained in the past. They require the Minister to accept full responsibility for reporting to this House. The Minister referred to operational matters but nobody wants the minutiae of operational issues to be debated in the Housead infinitum. This sometimes happens in respect of the health service because we cannot have discussions on major policy decisions on health.

On the question of transport, we do not want direct operational issues to be raised but we do not want to be fobbed off in respect of policy, major developments, crucial safety issues and key infrastructure, such as the Dublin Port tunnel. We want the Minister to be able to answer in the House for all agencies, including the Dublin transport authority, the NRA and Road Safety Authority. If we do not achieve this tonight in regard to the Dublin transport authority, we will have to do so in the future. Some future Government, which I hope will include my party, will try to do so and secure full accountability.

The Minister should break with the undemocratic regime that developed over recent years and allowed agencies to feel they are laws unto themselves and can do whatever they want. There was criticism of a State agency other than the Dublin transport authority today with regard to financial problems. We want agencies to be accountable to Members, the people's representatives. I ask, therefore, that the grouped amendments be accepted. Amendment No. 62, in particular, codifies very briefly what should be the way forward.

The Minister may refer to the role of the Ceann Comhairle and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I am a member of that committee and am aware, as a Whip of the Labour Party, that there are ongoing discussions on reforming the structure of this House. However, the subject to which I refer does not really concern the reform of the structure of the House but the Dublin transport authority and the Minister's reporting thereon to the House. We have the power to introduce the amendments to ensure the Minister will discuss in the House directives, guidelines and major policy decisions pertaining to agencies.

I accept the Minister has come before the House a number of times such as, for example, when he came before the House to discuss the recent wildcat rail strike, after the Ceann Comhairle had kindly given Members time to debate the issue. While I welcome such debates, the fundamental issue is that the agency must be responsible, through the Minister, to the House at all times in all debates and in respect of all questions without any equivocation or dodging. My colleague, Deputy Durkan, is to be commended on his raising of this issue on the Order of Business many times. When he and I were communications spokespersons for our respective parties, we used to come into the House with sheaves of disallowed questions regarding agencies under the remit of the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, who then was Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. We simply were unable to get answers to questions which did not pertain to detailed daily operational matters but to major policy issues. The Minister was not prepared to talk to us and, to some extent, the Ceann Comhairle protected him and the aforementioned Department. It was neither acceptable nor democratic. Such practices should be changed through the acceptance of these amendments.

These amendments are highly important and go to the heart of the Bill. While the heart of the Bill should be accountability, transparency and openness, there is no evidence that will happen in this case. As Deputy Broughan noted, most people are worried about the possible creation of another HSE. The Dublin transport authority, DTA, will have unbelievable powers, all of which I consider it to be entitled to because it will make decisions on the future of the greater Dublin area, including the counties contained within its remit. Many problems will arise in those areas and highly controversial decisions will be taken in respect of issues, including planning, the insistence on transport options, land use strategy planning, rows between local authorities and the DTA and the role of An Bord Pleanála which could be extremely important in this regard. The Minister has stated An Bord Pleanála will be obliged to dovetail its decisions with whatever DTA transport strategy is extant.

Moreover, there is another side to the argument. I refer to the scandal of the problem regarding integrated ticketing which has continued for approximately ten years and has cost between €20 million and €30 million. There has been no accountability and no one knows what is going on, except for those involved. Moreover, the taxpayer is funding this appalling mess and waste of money. Another point that has arisen concerns the question of turf wars between service providers. For example, the Railway Procurement Agency and Iarnród Éireann could fight over a plot of land in my constituency and a row broke out at Broadstone in which the Minister intervened to provide a solution.

Even more fundamental issues concern the board. One problem I envisage is that two senior executives of the DTA, together with the chief executive, will be members of the board. Consequently, three board members will be employed by, or executives of, the DTA. What would happen in the event of a major transport strike issue or a major problem regarding industrial relations or human resources and one of the aforementioned directors was on the board? While I will not use the term, "vested interest", I simply make the point that there will be interests on the board at times when significant conflicts could arise within the DTA in respect of the opinions of the board's executives and what might be a greater public good. Such a conflict could arise and conflicts will take place. How can one ensure accountability and transparency about what is going on?

As for the rail strike in Cork, the truth is that it was the Ceann Comhairle who gave permission for the debate in the House. While I do not suggest the Minister would not have come before it, given the manner in which the system in the House operates, the Ceann Comhairle makes such decisions. The difficultly I perceive is that this organisation is not sufficiently transparent. In respect of all aspects of transport, there should be no diminution or change in the Minister's accountability to the House regarding issues such as rail strikes. What will be the position on the tabling of parliamentary questions? They should not be referred, as are questions directed towards the HSE, into never-never land, from which one may receive a reply in one, two or three weeks and, in some cases, never.

They are sent to the parliamentary affairs division, PAD.

The questions are well padded.

Accountability in respect of parliamentary questions will be highly important. The same principle should apply as operates with regard to parliamentary questions, whereby the Minister makes his response within a set number of days. While Adjournment debates are held at the discretion of the Ceann Comhairle, there should be no change to the procedure for Adjournment debates in respect of transport matters. In other words, I envisage that the Ceann Comhairle would not and could not state such issues were not matters for the House. In addition, requests to adjourn the Dáil Standing Order 32 which generally are not allowed and private notice questions concern highly important issues on which Members must receive assurances.

In fairness, the Minister indicated on Committee Stage his consent in respect of many of these matters. However, for this Bill, Members must step forward together, learn from the mistakes of the HSE and provide for the accountability and transparency that are badly needed, particularly with regard to transport. As Deputies or Ministers, the last comment one wishes to make is that one has no role or power regarding these issues. Major controversies could arise in respect of park and ride facilities and the location of railway stations. The DTA must be accountable to the Dáil for general policy issues and,in extremis, when issues arise such as strikes. While no one wishes to interfere with its internal affairs, when serious and significant policy issues arise, they ought to be raised in the House.

The Minister may reply to the effect that while he does not disagree with Members, they can raise such issues at meetings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport. However, I do not believe that to be adequate or sufficient. Many of the major players appear before the joint committee. For example, the Dublin Airport Authority appears before it for a few hours, as does Bus Éireann. A calendar of events has developed in which one has an hour or two to query the executives on issues of importance. However, the primacy of the House, particularly in respect of transport planning and conflicts that arise therein, should rest and remain here. I hope this will be the case.

The series of amendments under discussion is not necessary in the context in which I operate. Once the Bill has been enacted, the Minister for Transport will be accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas in respect of the DTA in accordance with the normal arrangements made under Dáil and Seanad Standing Orders. Under the aforementioned Standing Orders, the Minister is answerable to the Dáil regarding the public affairs connected with the Department of Transport and the bodies under its aegis, as well as matters of administration for which I am officially responsible to the Government in respect of Government policy.

I will go through the amendments in this group. On amendment No. 6, the Deputy should note that section 7 provides that any regulation made by a Minister for Transport under the DTA Bill must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and that either House may, by a resolution passed within 21 sitting days after the date of the regulation, annul the regulation. Consequently, were I to make regulations, they would have to be brought before the Houses which would have the right to discuss them, annul them or confirm them, if they so wished.

In respect of amendment No. 11, I am fully satisfied it would be inappropriate to insert a requirement for the DTA to provide operational information for the Minister or the Oireachtas. The DTA should be allowed to get on with its job, while remaining accountable for the decisions it makes. There should not be someone looking over his or her shoulder every step of the way. I am satisfied that such an approach would not achieve results. In fact, it would probably inhibit good decision making and organisational leadership. Operational matters should be just that. That is not to say that a Deputy, who feels that a certain part of the greater Dublin area is not being adequately served due to the policies of the DTA, has no right to raise that issue by using any of the various means to which we referred earlier. Deputies have a right to bring the DTA before the joint committee, question the Minister on the issue, put special notice questions down and so on. All these mechanisms are available to Members, but I do not think it is a productive use of this House to discuss the timetables of bus companies.

When enacted, the Bill will provide for the publication by the DTA of its draft transport strategy. It is the basis for everything it will do and is effectively its policy document. As Minister, I will outline the broad strategy and the policy I want implemented and the DTA will deal with the implementation process. That draft policy will effectively be the strategic policy over a period of 12 to 20 years. The DTA will have to prepare an integrated implementation plan to follow on from that strategy. That is subject to approval by the Minister and I will be accountable to the House for it. I am not too sure what advantage would accrue from requiring the DTA to provide full strategic policy information to the Minister or the Oireachtas. The DTA should be allowed to get on with its business in that area.

With regard to amendments Nos. 57, 58 and 81, it is important that the Minister be able to issue guidelines and give directions as and when he or she sees fit. He or she should have regard to Government policy and to any other relevant policy considerations, including a report from an Oireachtas committee. However, sometimes a Minister may have to make quick decisions because of something an authority might contemplate doing. The authority could have made decisions and spent money before the Minister got through an unwieldy process, so I believe the amendments would have the opposite effect to that claimed by the Deputy.

In the case of amendment No. 62, the Minister is accountable for the DTA in accordance with the normal arrangement under Dáil and Seanad Standing Orders. However, section 32 of the Bill provides that the DTA's account must be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, while section 41 provides that the DTA's chief executive must give evidence to the Committee of Public Accounts concerning those accounts and the general economy and efficiency of the authority in the use of its resources.

While I accept the intent and the principle of Deputy's Broughan's amendments, they are adequately catered for in the Bill. There are many sections in the Bill where the Minister has a direct role and is accountable to this House for how he or she discharges that role. Section 12 deals with the transport strategy. Section 13 deals with the integrated implementation plan. The board and the authority are in section 14, while section 17 deals with the advisory council and section 19 deals with the appointment of the CEO. DTA staff and superannuation schemes are in sections 20 and 21. Subsidiaries, resources, policy direction, policy guidelines, advice services, Exchequer funding and borrowing requirements are in sections 24 to 30, respectively. The annual report is in section 32 and disclosure of interests is in section 35, in which a Minister may remove a member of the authority.

Sections 44, 45, 49, 52, 54, 62, 63, 64, 68, 73, 74, 81, 102, 112 and 113 all contain direct intervention powers by the Minister to prevent the DTA from going in the direction suggested by Deputy Broughan. It is a fundamentally different Bill from that which created the HSE. For that reason, I am satisfied the Bill is sufficient to make sure that everybody is accountable to this House and its committees, including the DTA and the Minister.

We have to judge people by their deeds and not by what they say. Judging this Minister in this Department and in the previous Department, the record shows that he has refused to answer to the House for strategic policy matters regarding agencies. I have copies of dozens of questions for which the Ceann Comhairle, probably on the instruction of the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Department of Transport, refused to allow an answer. Agencies are unaccountable to this House. It is very frustrating and is the reason we have so much hassle on the Order of Business. We just cannot get answers to questions.

In his response to these amendments on Committee Stage, the Minister referred to the danger of trying to micro-manage an agency outside this House. However, none of us wants to micro-manage an agency. Just like any company, the board of directors allows the executive get on with its job. In a sense, we are like the board of directors for this country and we have the right to detailed reports about strategic policy making by agencies. The Minister states that this Bill is very different from that which created the HSE, but the reality is that there are striking similarities. Before the advent of the HSE, there were decentralised bodies in which there was a large elected component. There were faults in the delivery of services by these health boards, but at least there was a democratic element. Many Members were on those boards, although I never was, and they were able to see at first hand how their particular health board operated. The reality since then——

Is the Deputy making a concluding contribution?

Yes. The reality since then is that the agency has not acted responsibly. I have often asked questions about agencies covering a wide range of issues, especially the NRA. I gave the example of the port tunnel as it is so critical for constituents that I represent. Its cost and safety features should be discussed in this House, given their critical importance. I have not got any answers. Sometimes there has been a point blank refusal to answer, rather than the usual anodyne non-answer that we often receive when we put down written parliamentary questions.

Accountability to the House is critical. On the first of these amendments, amendment No. 6, it is important to insert in the section that the Minister shall be "fully and directly accountable to Dáil Éireann . . . . for the regulations" for the simple reason that such a reference is not included. Amendment No. 11 is similar. The Minister mentioned the implementation plan. Obviously, there will be an input at that stage but it is not mentioned in the Bill. Amendment No. 11 merits consideration at least.

Of the other amendments included in the group, in respect of amendments Nos. 57 and No. 58, I do not see why the guidelines should not have to be approved by the Oireachtas. The critical amendment is amendment No. 62 which states that the Minister should be fully responsible to Dáil Éireann for the DTA. I ask him to break with the past and provide for a new regime for agencies under the auspices of the Oireachtas and responsible to the people. We should do it differently this time. This time next year let us not come into House to ask the Ceann Comhairle why questions about the DTA had not been approved. Amendment No. 81 which is also included in the group and which I forgot to mention initially is important in terms of accountability to the House as regards direct award contracts.

The Minister is not alone with regard to his track record. Other Ministers behave in the same way. I contend that the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has the worst record in the House for answering questions about basic issues within the remit of the health service. I wonder why we have a Department of Health and Children. I have stated to Professor Drumm that my fundamental problem with his office is that he never stood for election. Effectively, he is the Minister. The Acting Chairman, Deputy Ardagh, might sympathise with that view in private because most Members do.

I ask the Minister to break with the past and make the DTA different by making it responsible to the House. I ask him to accept the first of the amendments, amendment No. 6.

Fine Gael voted against the Bill and will do so again because it believes there is a fundamental lack of accountability and democracy. I ask the Minister to explain how the parliamentary question system will work — perhaps he has done so but the answer was not clear to me — compared to that operated by the HSE.

Generally, I do not involve myself in the parliamentary question system. There is a system in place. The Department decides whether parliamentary questions are for the Minister when submitted. I do not know what happens after this. It is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas——

Perhaps I can make it clear. Parliamentary questions are referred to the HSE rather than the Minister for Health and Children. If a parliamentary question is for the HSE, as we are all aware, sometimes it goes away to never, never land.

Will the DTA be directly accountable through the Minister? If we ask him a parliamentary question about a new railway station proposed by the DTA, for instance, who will answer it? Will it be the DTA or will it be the DTA through the Minister? In the case of the HSE, it responds separately to parliamentary questions.

A specific question relating to a decision on infrastructure, etc., for which the DTA would have responsibility would have to be answered by it.

That is the problem.

It is just like the HSE.

If, for instance, I were to issue a policy decision or guideline that, for a variety of reasons, we should have increased bus services in the greater Dublin area because there was not enough capacity on train services, it would be a matter for me to answer questions on the matter in the House.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 53; Níl, 74.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 14, line 21, after "users" to insert the following:

"including the upholding of the highest safety and professional standards by all operators involved in the provision of public transport services".

Amendment No. 7 in section 10 relates to the objectives of the authority. Is it correct that amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 67 will be taken together?

In general terms this group of amendments seeks to put important protections for transport workers directly into the Bill. Given that transport workers are among the most important of safety-critical workers in our economy, responsible day in and day out for the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens, these amendments seek to make the role and position of workers stronger. They also look to make the Minister more accountable for their protection.

Amendment No. 7 asks on page 14, line 21, after "the provision of a well-functioning, attractive, integrated and safe public transport system for all users", to insert as a general objective of the Dublin transport authority the phrase "including the upholding of the highest safety and professional standards by all operators involved in the provision of public transport services". When we discussed this section on Committee Stage, there was reflection on a number of occasions in the past when some of those standards were allowed to slip. Clearly, it was most appalling at the horrendous crash at Kentstown in County Meath and the dreadful incident on Wellington Quay a number of years ago.

This amendment seeks to, once and for all, lay down a very basic structure for the protection of safety-critical workers and ensure the highest safety and professional standards by all operators involved in the provision of public transport services. It relates also to the case I know the Minister found when he entered the Department, whereby operators in the public transport area were responsible for safety standards themselves. The system we have become used to for our private cars and other vehicles is not replicated in the commercial area of public transport services.

In particular, people were effectively invigilating safety standards on their own, although I know the RSA has sought to address the matter. The Minister has addressed it partially in his amendments to the Bill, which coincide with one of my own amendments relating to the granting of full powers to transport officers to operate on the roadside. This would prevent cases we have had in the past whereby some HGVs and public service vehicles were not kept to the highest possible safety standards.

As the Minister knows, we have learned this from systems operated by road safety authorities in the UK, which found a couple of years ago that half the Irish vehicles stopped were deficient or had safety problems. We have seen recent efforts by our own RSA and the Northern Ireland safety authority that also revealed major problems. The amendment seeks to add an important phrase to the general objectives of the authority.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 67 are fundamental from the perspective of my party and the labour movement. Amendment No. 8 seeks to add to the principal functions of the authority, which include important issues such as strategic planning of transport, integrated accessible public transport and fares and the range of invigilation of services which will be the DTA's responsibility. I seek to address some of the key issues which have arisen with this Bill and European legislation.

I have in front of me some of the past legislation in this area, with the most important piece of legislation underpinning the DTA Bill. This is Regulation (EC) No. 1370/2007 of the European Council and Parliament, from 23 October 2007. In the preamble to the regulation, the key elements of a public transport system in any of the 27 member countries of the European Union are laid down. There are a number of elements which provide for competition in public transport systems and services.

One of these elements stipulates that in the provision of public transport services, it is not a key concern of the European Union, first and foremost, whether those services are carried out by public or private operators. In other words, the European Union is effectively neutral on the issue.

There are a number of other elements in the preamble of this European legislation, which has highly stressed competition. That is reflected to some extent in the public service contract in the Bill. At the same time, the legislation includes a number of references to the rights of transport workers, whether in the public transport service or private sectors. As a result, I seek to include this directly in the Bill through this amendment.

The amendment inserts a new paragraph (g), which would state:

establish social and qualitative criteria to maintain and raise quality standards for public service obligations with regard to minimal working conditions, passenger rights, the needs of persons with reduced mobility, environmental protection, the security of passengers and employees as well as collective agreement obligations, and other rules and agreements concerning workplaces and social protection at the place where service is provided; In order to ensure transparent and comparable terms of competition between operators and to avert the risk of social dumping, the DTA should be free to impose specific social and service quality standards with due regard to recital 17 of Regulation (EC) No. 1370/2007 of 23 October 2007,

I have sought to insert that important section, recital 17 of the preamble of this European regulation on the protection of workers' rights, into the legislation. To have the full spirit of the European legislation, it is important to have, along with references to competition and greater competitive mobility in European, the other side of the legislation, which is recital 17, and I would like that inserted.

In addition, I wish to insert a new paragraph (h), which adds to the principal functions of the authority. It states:

maintain the highest standard of working conditions, including fair and reasonable salaries for all transport workers including those established by collective agreement obligations. The Minister shall request every two years that the Labour Court undertakes a review of conditions of employment in the public transport sector and sets out its recommendations for the appropriate minimum conditions of employment for the sector which will be accepted by the Minister and laid as an order before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Following 21 days this order will take affect and the DTA will make arrangements to adjust the terms of their contracts with public transport operators to give effect to the order.

In this case I am seeking to ensure that in any contracts awarded under this legislation, the spirit of paragraph (g) would also be directly reflected in the legislation and the Labour Court would have a special role in the protection of the rights and conditions of transport workers. It would be a fundamental requirement of the Bill that the Labour Court would have this role, every two years, to invigilate those salaries and conditions.

Debate adjourned.