I thank the Opposition spokespersons for their co-operation on this important emergency Bill. I assure them that I will take on board their proposals on the review of the legislation that is provided for in the existing Act, and I hope we can get that agreement into our Housing (Miscellaneous) Bill during this session.
Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages.
In reference to the Minister's remarks, it is almost a common occurrence that every week emergency legislation goes through the House in one fashion or another, whether a residency or banking Bill. The difficulty with crisis-driven legislation is that it may lead to further crises. For the Minister's benefit I will note some issues he and his departmental staff may make note of. Earlier in the debate I said the Bill does not refer to section 159(3). Has this been neutered? It is a very critical part of the Bill. This section says, "A member of the board shall not be eligible for appointment as a member of the dispute resolution committee unless the unexpired period of his or her term of office as a member of the board is three or more years at the date of his or her appointment as a member of the committee." That must be sorted, otherwise we will be back here next week with the same difficulty because we are repeating the mistake.
The Bill says retrospectively that appointments shall be deemed to have been validly made. Does this mean an appointment runs from 7 December 2007, and for what period have they been appointed? This must be cleared up and I would like the Minister to furnish us with information on this so we are all sure what has happened here today. For what period have they been appointed? Their board membership terminates at the end of 2009. Will they be automatically re-appointed to the board if the three-year requirement period is gone? That must be sorted out. It is critical that the Minister explain; we have questions to the Minister next week and that could be a possibility. I would appreciate if the Minister would explain how this issue came on to his radar. That is critically important to the operation of this House. The Minister acknowledged the co-operation he has received from this side of the House regarding the notification that came in yesterday. I ask the Minister to reciprocate that co-operation by explaining how this came to his attention.
Are members of these boards given copies of the Act? When I was appointed to the Regional Health Forum I received a copy of the Act and the terms of reference which gave the scope of my legal appointment to the board. One of three things happened here: the members of the board did not receive the Act; they received the Act but did not read it; or the Department officials did not read the Act. I am reminded of this because it happened with the two councillors' situation being brought up in this House. The Act was not misinterpreted. The Act was clear that what we are rectifying today should not have happened. I am reminded of former US President George W. Bush who babbled about an old saying in Tennessee, or maybe in Texas, that says, "fool me once, shame on you, and you can't fool me again". The Minister, Deputy Gormley, and his staff seem to be in that position. He was trying to say: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." What we have witnessed here is that the Minister either has not read or does not understand the content of the Residential Tenancies Act.
It is critical that the members of the board receive copies of the Act and read it. It is critical that the audit the Minister says has been carried out in December is bullet-proof so we do not have to return here and that the point I made about section 159 is examined. Rather than use the Minister's question time next week I would appreciate if the Minister would provide the information. Given that the PRTB is not covered by the Ombudsman or the Freedom of Information Act, the Minister, being present in the Chamber this evening, and his Department should explain why and how this issue came before him.