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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 7

Regulation of Providers of Building Works Bill 2022: Report and Final Stages

In respect of amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, a recommittal is necessary as they relate to the instruction to committee motion. These amendments are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 14, to delete “and” and substitute “to amend the Building Control Act 2007; and”.

I appreciate, as far too often in his recent ministerial career, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, has been thrown in the deep end to handle legislation that he might not have been dealing with previously.

These are important amendments. If the Minister of State has a note, reading it into the record would be good. These are consequent to amendments that both I and Deputy Cian O'Callaghan had around building control-related matters where the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, undertook to bring forward his own amendments. Therefore, it would be remiss for the Minister of State not to make any comment before we approve them. They are not contentious but it is important to have it recorded in the Dáil record.

I apologise to Deputy Ó Broin. I am trying to find my bearings here.

In relation to the first grouping, Government amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, these amendments are to change the Long Title of the Bill and to add a definition to section 2 to reflect a number of amendments to the Building Control Act 2007, which provides for the statutory register for architects, building surveyors and quantity surveyors.

One of the great weaknesses of the earlier draft of the Bill was there was no mention of the Building Control Acts at all. It was genuinely surprising that in such important legislation, the origins of which arose from the non-existence of building control legislation in the 1970s and early 1980s and breaches of subsequent building control legislation, that there was no mention of those Acts. It is a small technical point but it is welcome that this is in the Bill. It could be materially relevant to certain categories of complaint that may be taken against certain categories of construction industry professionals at a later stage. I welcome the fact that the Government has introduced these amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, line 20, after "Works" to insert "and Building Control (Amendment)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

" "Act of 2007" means the Building Control Act 2007;".

Amendment agreed to.

Pursuant to Standing Order 187(3), it is reported to the Dáil that the Long Title has been amended.

Bill reported with amendments.

Amendment No. 4 is ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, to delete lines 12 to 26 and substitute the following:

"(4) The Minister shall appoint the National Building Control Office as the registration body under subsection (2).".

This is probably one of the more important amendments that a number of us are tabling today. I know the Minister of State will not accept it but I will take the opportunity to at least explain to him why he should accept it so that it also is a matter that is on the Dáil record.

As the Minister of State will be aware, the purpose of this register is to have a statutory register of competence for construction industry professionals. The history of such a register is long. It was first proposed by the Law Reform Commission in 1977, a time when there was a significant concern among many people at poor quality building works. Unfortunately, the Government, not only of that day but for many decades afterwards, chose not to advance the idea of a statutory register. It was the death of Fiachra Daly, one of the owners of a property in Priory Hall, that provoked the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, to take seriously the need to reform our building control system, and one of the measures was to revive the Law Reform Commission's proposal of 1977 to have a statutory register. The Law Reform Commission, in its wisdom, argued that register should be fully independent, importantly, of industry.

The relevant section of the Bill that my amendment relates to creates a situation where one, and only one, organisation can be the home of this register, that is, the Construction Industry Federation, CIF. It is not named in the Bill, which is particularly unusual, but all of the eligibility criteria, abstract and arbitrary as they are, point to that organisation and that organisation only. Of course, we know, because CIF currently manages the non-statutory register, that it will be the home.

This is in direct contravention of the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission. It is also in direct contravention of common sense. Given the fact that a small, but significant, number of construction industry professionals, as individuals and in companies, over a long period of time flagrantly breached building control regulations causing significant hardship, heartache, financial loss and, in the case of Ms Stephanie Meehan and her children, the loss of her partner and their father, Fiachra Daly, it is incredible that the Government would allow this register to be located in the Construction Industry Federation.

I have no problem with CIF. I engage with it all the time. It is an organisation that has an important role to play in the construction industry but it is a lobby organisation. Its job is to lobby for industry. Its job is to try to influence Government policy in the best interests of its members. It provides other functions but lobbying is its primary one. The idea that we will place a statutory register of competence of construction industry professionals in the same building with the same central telephone number and the same individuals, that the register is a place where individuals who may have complaints to make against the competence of those construction industry professionals make complaints and the staff who, as for other sections of the Bill, will investigate those complaints are all people from the Construction Industry Federation, and the board itself has a disproportionate number of members of the Construction Industry Federation beggars believe.

This amendment would place the responsibility for this register with the National Building Control Office, NBCO. That office was established also by the then Minister, Mr. Hogan, following the Priory Hall building control reforms, although only introduced much more recently. It is fully independent. It is made up of some of the country's leading building control professionals and experts. Ms Mairéad Phelan is the head of that body, and formerly was the head of building control in Fingal County Council. It has been tasked with the important job of helping cleaning up our building control system and I can think of no better organisation to place it into.

The Minister of State, Deputy Noonan's counterpart, the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, could not provide a single compelling reason this register should be in the hands of the Construction Industry Federation. There are some Chinese walls set up in the legislation in terms of the board. The legislation states the board must be independent etc., but if we are not only to clean up the building industry but to make it clear to the public that has happened, for public perception alone one would not locate this important statutory register within the Construction Industry Federation.

As I stated on Committee Stage, I suspect the only reason the Construction Industry Federation abandoned its long-standing opposition to this register - the CIF opposed it in the 1970s, in the 1980s and in the 1990s - and the only reason, I believe, it no longer opposes the register is because it is getting to hold and to manage it, and as we will see when we get to some other subsequent amendments of some importance, certainly, to some of us in opposition, the purpose, function and scope of the register, particularly in terms of dealing with building defects or suspected building defects is incredibly weak.

This is an amendment, as the Minister of State can probably hear from the tone of my voice, I feel strongly about. Like other Members who will speak, I have many years of experience of working directly with families - homeowners, private renters and social renters - who are today living in defective buildings and who, had a proper fully-independent statutory register been in place back then, would not be. That is why I want this legislation, which my party is supporting, to be the strongest, most robust and most effective protection against rogue builders and building contractors as possible and locating this register in the Construction Industry Federation is not the right thing to do. Therefore, I certainly will be pressing the amendment to ensure it is located in a fully independent body. I believe the National Building Control Office is the right place for it to be located.

I cannot understand why the Government would oppose us on this amendment and why the Government would not want the strongest, most robust and most independent regulator in terms of building works. That is what this amendment seeks to do. By opposing this amendment, it means not only will the public not have confidence in the building register but we will not get a strong, robust and independent regulator, which is badly needed. Having to explain why that is badly needed, it seems patently obvious that everyone here would understand that.

I refer to the public cost to the taxpayer. The cost of pyrite remediation is at €150 million. The cost of fire safety defects and building defects in schools is at €160 million. The cost of fixing faulty wastewater systems will reach €300 million. The cost of fire safety defects, mainly from Celtic tiger-era apartments, could run to over €1 billion.

An estimated 90,000 apartments are affected. We know the cost of the mica remediation scheme will be in excess of €2 billion. That is just the financial cost to taxpayers, which is significant, but the human cost has been even greater. As Deputy Ó Broin said, we have seen the loss of life in terms of the death of Fiachra Daly and the significant impact that had on his loved ones - his family, partner, children, wider family and community. Building defects are a major stress for each individual and family who deal with them.

For most regular people, a home is the largest financial investment they will make in their life, but it is also where people invest so much emotionally. A home provides people with safety and security and meets their basic needs, but it is also where they spend key moments in their life. It is where their children are brought back to when they are born. It is where they celebrate their birthdays. It is often where people die and everything around that happens. It is a huge emotional investment for individuals and families. When the home people have invested so much in begins to fall apart and crumble or they learn it is not safe due to fire safety defects or whatever else, it causes major shock and stress and people deal with it in lots of different ways. Because it is so stressful, the first thing some people do is go into denial. They do not know what to do. It is not something they ever expected or anticipated.

For these reasons, it is important that we get this right by having an independent, robust regulator of building works and building providers. However, the Bill is constructed in such a way that we will not have that. The regulator will be run by the industry and the lobby group for the industry. That is unforgivable. It is no comment on the lobby group, which is an effective one, but its members are not the right people to run this body, as it means it cannot be fully independent. What is more, we have the right body to do this in the National Building Control Office. We need a national building control authority like the Food Safety Authority. It needs to be strong and to be placed on a statutory footing. That is the least we must do. The NBCO is the right place to locate this office. I cannot for the life of me understand why that approach is not being taken. If this country did not have the recent history I outlined, it still would not be justified, but given everything that has happened, how on earth can the Government attempt to justify this?

I will speak to amendment No. 6 in due course, but I will first speak to amendment No. 5 briefly because it directly relates to the general issue that is informing this debate. As Deputies Cian O'Callaghan and Ó Broin articulated, it should be obvious to everyone - it is obvious to everyone except the Department and the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke - that the pre-eminent lobby group for the construction industry should not be where the registration body and responsibility for registration is housed. That should evidently be the case but, bizarrely, the Government has decided to house this extremely important registration body that will essentially regulate the standards and performance of the building industry in the very same organisation that lobbies quite effectively, as Deputy Cian O'Callaghan said, for that industry. It simply does not make sense. It is the equivalent of the banks regulating themselves. We know where poor regulation has got this country, and the impact of poor regulation on the many thousands of people who live in defective apartments that are awaiting the outcome of a process. We know the impact on people in Donegal who have been living in homes affected by mica and the distress that is causing. It is extraordinary, and it is unpalatable to me and to most right-thinking members of the public, that the Construction Industry Federation would be the body responsible for registration in this regard. It simply does not make sense.

I wish to speak to amendment No. 6. While Deputy Ó Broin is correct that the CIF is not explicitly referenced in the legislation, which is unusual in itself, all of the indicators point to the fact that it will operate the register. The reason I drafted the amendment in the way I have is that it directly references and relates to the Construction Industry Federation, because under the provisions of the Trade Union Acts 1871 to 1990, it is considered to be a trade union of employers and it has a negotiating licence. By accept the amendment, the Minister would be effectively excluding the Construction Industry Federation from the responsibility that this legislation will bestow on it.

Before I refer to the note, I will address some of the points raised by the Deputies. It is the case that the Government wants a robust regulator. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan has pointed out some of the failings of the past, which there is no doubt have been substantial and have caused considerable hurt to people as well as financial cost to the Exchequer. It is for that reason that the legislation is being introduced. We want to have a well regulated industry in Ireland that is functional and able to meet the requirements under Housing for All, but also to ensure that we have a system in place that supports the industry as well. We all want the same thing here.

We also want a body that has expertise in construction and to set the precise standards that a builder should possess to be able to carry out work efficiently and to the very high standards that are now required both in construction and in terms of energy. There have been significant changes since some of the incidents the Deputy referenced.

I give assurances that the statutory body to be appointed will be independent. That is something that has perhaps sparked the two Opposition amendments. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan made a point about cleaning up the building industry. We all want to achieve what has been said about the robustness and independence of the body. The role of the NBCO is compliance with building regulations and not the competence of builders. That is something that needs to be pointed out as well.

I will specifically address amendment No. 5, tabled by Deputies Cian O'Callaghan, Ó Broin and Gould, and amendment No. 6, tabled by Deputies Ó Ríordáin and Nash. Section 8 provides that the Government may make an order appointing a body to perform the functions of the registration body. It sets out that the body can be a public body or otherwise, and it provides that the body must be capable of performing the functions conferred.

Amendment No. 5 seeks to provide that the National Building Control Office will be appointed as the registration body. Amendment No. 6 seeks to disqualify a trade union from being appointed as the registration body, as outlined by Deputy Nash. I must oppose both of these amendments.

The Attorney General's office has advised that the Bill should not name the body which is to be appointed as the registration body in the Bill. Where a body appointed is not performing the functions required, another entity may be appointed "to perform the functions of the registration body" under the Bill without any amendment being required to the primary legislation. It is envisaged that the Construction Industry Federation will be appointed as the registration body. The CIF is registered as a trade union. It is preferable that a body with experience and expertise in the construction industry performs this function, similar to how the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI, and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI, operate statutory registers for architects and surveyors.

There are a number of safeguards in place to ensure and maintain the independence of the registration body. The registration body will have delegated responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance of the register within the confines of the specific and limited parameters set out in the Bill. The board of the registration body will be completely independent of the body.

The independence of the registration body will be maintained through the following measures. All powers of the registration body will be prescribed in legislation. All competency requirements for registration will be recommended by the board and prescribed by the Minister. The board will make decisions in relation to all sanctions including removal from the register. Removal from the register must be confirmed by the High Court. All prosecutions under the Act will be taken by the board or the Director of Public Prosecutions. All members of the appeals committee will be independent from the board and the registration body. The Bill allows the functions of the registration body to be transferred if the body is not performing its functions satisfactorily. In that regard, there is a robust mechanism there to ensure the independence of the body and the effective implementation of the legislation.

In that regard, I will oppose amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. Part of the difficulty is that regulations have not improved that much since the incidents many of us talked about. In fact, in many instances the problem was not the regulations but their lack of enforcement. What has changed is in respect of building processes? There is a new system of certification, which is an improvement on the system that was there before, although it is not to the satisfaction of many of us on this side of the House, but in respect of construction materials there has been no change to the enforcement regime whatsoever. While it would be more difficult for a Priory Hall, a Beacon South Quarter, a Belmayne or a Brú Na Sionna to happen today, it would not be impossible. I will explain why in a moment. For example, there is nothing in any aspect of building control regulation enforcement that would today prevent more defective blocks from emerging, such as we have in counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Tipperary and Clare.

The central problem, however, is the bad reputation of a small but significant section of the construction industry, which we all know about, and the fact there are contemporary examples of that which have been discussed at some length in the committee on housing, such as Larkfield House in my constituency in Clondalkin, a building of 48 apartments recently built and tenanted with no compliance with planning or building control. There has not been a single certificate of commencement, of completion, of fire safety, of disability, all of which are criminal offences under the Building Control Acts. Despite the fact that building is fully tenanted, the State is paying two thirds of the rent through the housing assistance payment, HAP, and enforcement proceedings against the development in that instance are operating at a snail's pace. We have a big problem to clean up and locating a register such as this in the primary lobby organisation for that industry makes no sense.

I will conclude by saying again that nothing the Minister of State said has justified why this register should be in the Construction Industry Federation. If the only part of his comment was that the registration authority should be competent at building, there are many other organisations, such as the National Building Control Office that should be. I have yet to hear an argument why. That is why I will press the amendment.

I have to agree with that. There is nothing in the Minister of State's response that is in any way convincing on this. The one rationale given was that there is advice that we cannot name the entity in the legislation. Therefore, the Minister of State could accept amendment No. 6, which would prohibit the CIF and does not actually name the entity. He has told the Dáil and, frankly, I find this absolutely absurd, that the entity will be independent and it will be the Construction Industry Federation. Could you imagine a situation where there was a major problem in this country in respect of ethics around political parties, donations and fundraising to which the solution would be that political parties would regulate themselves on this, but there would be some legislation outlining how they would have an independent board and there would be parameters around that and so forth? That would not be acceptable to anyone.

This is utterly absurd after what we have gone through as a country on this. The proposal is that the people who will be in charge of regulating the industry will be in the industry itself. This is not any industry that just happens to have a few problems. The problems here have run incredibly deep. Yes, it is not everybody in the industry. Some of the biggest critics of the lack of regulation are themselves builders who are very annoyed at the shoddy standards that have been tolerated over the years. Councillor Deirdre Ní Fhloinn has pointed out there has never even been a conviction under the Building Control Acts, despite everything that has happened so far. We know that so far very few actions have been taken in terms of the voluntary register. We need a strong, robust, independent regulator. The notion that the industry lobby group would be independent and is the best place to do that is utterly absurd.

It would be helpful to read into the record the kinds of bodies that are excluded from becoming the registration body under this Bill. It is stated on page 11, In this section— “excluded body” means any of the following: ... a political party, or a body that promotes a political party or candidate; ... a body that promotes a political cause; ... [or] a chamber of commerce." It could be argued that the Construction Industry Federation is a political body. It registers with the Standards in Public Office Commission to lobby and it makes returns to that registration body on lobbying.ie regarding the lobbying it does. It does that very effectively and within the framework of the law, as it should. The Construction Industry Federation is, by any standards, a very effective representative body. I have worked very closely with it over the years during my spell in government when I was responsible for health and safety, for example. I have worked with the CIF on those issues, in partnership with trade union organisations, and I have worked with it to advance, for example, sectoral employment orders to make sure there is a basic flow of decency for construction workers in this country in respect of pay, terms and conditions, pensions and so on. In layperson's terms, it is an organisation that, partly at the very least, advances political causes. It might be described as a chamber of commerce of some kind.

The Minister of State stated, and he is right, that there are a range of checks and balances in the legislation regarding the independence - I use that term advisedly - of any registration body but, in layperson's terms, the CIF is to all intents and purposes primarily a representative body that lobbies in the best interests of the organisations it represents. If the conflicts of interest are not apparent this evening and are not apparent to Ministers in the Department, then I am concerned.

I have given assurances regarding the Attorney General's advice around not naming the body appointed. The mechanism exists, where the body appointed is not performing its functions, for another entity to be appointed. That is part of the checks and balances that exist in addition to the seven points I raised relating to the independence of the registration body. I again give those assurances to Members. I know that is probably not acceptable but I again point it out.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 62; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Cian O'Callaghan; Níl, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 11, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

“(e) a trade union, whether of employers or of workers and whether registered or unregistered, within the meaning of the Trade Union Acts 1871 to 1990;”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 62; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Ged Nash and Duncan Smith; Níl, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 12, line 2, after “person” to insert “through the Public Appointments Service”.

This is one of a number of amendments dealing with matters in respect of which the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, indicated on Committee Stage that he may table amendments of his own - not on Report Stage, but in the Seanad. It relates to a proposal whereby, in the appointment of the chairperson of the board or members of the board under a later amendment or members of the appeals committee under a further amendment, there would be an explicit mention of the use of the Public Appointments Service, PAS. I am happy to withdraw my amendment at this stage if the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, is in a position to indicate whether the Department is still considering the possibility of tabling amendments in the Seanad.

Not in respect of this particular amendment, but we will give consideration in the Seanad to amendments relating to appointments to the board and the appeals committee.

But not to this amendment specifically which, from memory, has to do with the chairperson.

Not to this one.

I will not push this to a full vote, but I wish to make a point. The PAS exists for a reason. My understanding is that the Government is meant to be operating a protocol whereby the service is always used, but we know that it has not been used in a number of high-profile cases recently. If someone was being appointed as the chair of the board of this important body, I would have thought that he or she would want the protection of being appointed through the PAS process, as that would satisfy the requirement for independence that the Minister of State mentioned.

It is disappointing that the Government is not considering this amendment, although I welcome the comments about the later amendments. I will not prolong debate on this matter, so I will press the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 17, line 18, after “may” to insert “, following consultation with the Minister and the Oireachtas,”.

I will withdraw this amendment now but we may return to it in the Seanad.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 18, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(10) The registration body shall seek the views of the relevant Oireachtas Committee on its annual report in person or in writing as requested by that Committee.”.

I will withdraw this amendment now but we may return to it in the Seanad.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 10 to 12, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 18, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“(f) establishment of a statutory skills register;”.

Similar to when we discussed amendments Nos. 9 and 11 at some length on Committee Stage, while the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, was not in a position to accept them, he indicated that he would provide members of the committee with a briefing note on the Department's ongoing work and its interaction with other Departments in terms of skill registers and the use of and access to the National Training Fund for upskilling and training construction industry professionals. There was a great deal of unanimity on this issue on the Opposition side and, while this Bill might not have been the right legislative location for the amendments, it gave us the opportunity to raise the matter. Is the briefing note being prepared and can it be provided to the committee? On the basis of the Minister of State's answer, I might be happy to withdraw two of the amendments.

I am interested in hearing the Minister of State's response to amendment No. 11 separately. While these amendments are grouped together, they are slightly different. I may revert depending on his response.

The amendments are being discussed together.

They are, but I will get two minutes to respond.

The Deputy will actually get two two-minute slots.

One two-minute slot will be plenty on this one.

Regarding the commitment given by my ministerial colleague, the note has been prepared and we can have it furnished to the committee.

Amendment No. 11 suggests including "adherence to the requirements of the Building Regulations". The code of practice is for the purpose of the continued improvement in the professional conduct of providers of building works.

The three amendments suggested by the Deputies are not appropriate to this section of the Bill. The Bill provides for a register of providers of building works. The competence criteria for registration in each division of the register is determined by the board, approved by the Minister and will be published on the website. Section 29 of the Bill provides that the Minister shall prescribe the required qualifications, experience, or a combination of both, that shall be required to be registered in a division and these shall be set out in secondary legislation for each division of registration.

The Minister of State was not privy to the lengthy discussion on related amendments on Committee Stage. From my reading of it, there is nothing currently in the legislation that would ensure that somebody who had been found to be in breach of building regulations could for that reason be struck off the register. That is one of the fundamental weaknesses of it. In addition to the criteria outlined by the Minister of State, insisting that to be on the register somebody would have to have a track record of adhering to the requirements of building regulations, would strengthen the Bill. I appreciate the Minister is not going to accept amendment No. 10, but I will press it nonetheless.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 18, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(f) adherence to the requirements of the Building Regulations;".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 18, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(f) accessing the National Training Fund for upskilling construction sector workforce;".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 19, line 31, to delete "such members of its staff as it thinks fit to be" and substitute "independent".

Again, we discussed this amendment at length on Committee Stage. I do not want to repeat that debate, but for the benefit of the record the Minister of State might read his response. I may respond depending on his comments.

I must oppose this amendment to section 21. To operate the statutory register, the registration body will be required to carry out inspections and will require the facility to employ inspectors who may be members of its staff. The inspectors shall carry out their duties and inspections subject to such terms as the board, which is independent, may determine. However, I am considering an amendment to this section of the Bill to provide that inspectors shall be independent in the performance of their functions.

The concern in terms of this amendment relates to the original discussion we had about the independence of the body. If I understand this section of the Bill, it means that the people who carry out the inspections will be people who were previously employed by the Construction Industry Federation. Therefore, they will be seconded to the register for the purposes of doing this work. How then can we ensure their independence, even if there is a statutory legal requirement? Would it not be better if those staff were independent completely, as in employed for that purpose by the registration authority rather than, if I understand the section properly, shifted as staff members of CIF to being staff members of the registration board?

I may have misunderstood this section, but that is my reading of it.

I have given an assurance that I will consider an amendment to the Bill that would ensure that the inspectors are independent in their performance of their duties. I hope that gives assurance to the Deputy in that regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 14 to 19, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 20, to delete lines 18 to 23 and substitute the following:

"(3) The chairperson of the Board shall be appointed through the Public Appointments Service and shall have knowledge and experience of construction, building control, building standards, planning and related legislation; and other areas that the Minister may specify by way of regulations.".

Again, I do not want to repeat a debate we had on Committee Stage. While the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, did not accept earlier amendments, he did indicate that there may be some reconsideration from the Government's point of view of the configuration of the board or membership of the board. Can the Minister of State give us an update on whether that work has progressed, if there still is work ongoing within the Department in that regard and if the Government is likely to bring forth an amendment on this general area during the passage of the Bill through the Seanad, albeit not on the specific issues we mentioned here? The real concern for many of us, which goes back to the issue of independence, is that the independence is somewhat undermined in my view, first, by the Minister not requiring the involvement of the Public Appointments Service and, second, by the very heavy dependence on staff from Government Departments and the Construction Industry Federation. Why not, as set out in amendment No. 17, have a process combined of the Public Appointments Service nominations with nominations from a variety of bodies to ensure the full range of knowledge, skills and experience is obtained from, for example, the range of agencies such as the Irish Planning Institute, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland and Construction Defences Alliance representing householders who are impacted by negligent or shoddy building work, etc?

I know the Minister of State does not propose to accept this group of amendments, but he might update us on whether work is under way on reconfiguring what is currently in the Bill.

I will speak directly to amendment No. 18. One element of the amendment relates to the requirement as I see it and as, I think, do other Opposition spokespersons and parties as well, that representation from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions should be explicitly provided for in the legislation. That is not unusual. One would imagine, if the prevalent primary employer body that represents the construction industry is to be housing and accommodating the registration body, that in the interests of balance there should be, at the very least, some kind of explicit reference and requirement to have representation from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the body. I would have thought that this requirement is obvious for a number of different reasons, including that ICTU is the largest civil society organisation on the island of Ireland and it represents a very considerable number of construction workers who have considerable expertise in this area and could bring their own skill-sets, expertise and professionalism to bear on this. They are also homeowners and active citizens who are concerned about housing standards, housing more generally, planning and our built environment and the environment more generally.

I ask the Minister of State to consider that and to respond to the points made by Deputy Ó Broin because we were given some indication during our brief contributions on Committee Stage that the Minister and the Department would look at some adjustments to the various provisions relating to this section. I would appreciate an update on that.

I will speak specifically to amendment No. 19, but I am supportive of the other amendments in this group. My amendment seeks representation on the board from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, but also from other specific groups such as the Construction Defects Alliance. That we would not have representation from homeowners and people who have been at the coalface of dealing with building defects and have suffered in that regard is indefensible. They should be represented on this board.

There is another point I want to make. Earlier in this discussion we were given assurances by the Minister of State that we should not worry that the independent regulator is to be housed in and run by the Construction Industry Federation because there are mechanisms in place to ensure the independence of the regulator and that includes the independence of the board. My amendment No. 19 seeks the deletion of lines 31 to 35 on page 20. Line 31, page 20, states: "5 persons who are nominated for such appointment by the registration body— " The registration body, as the Minister of State has told us, is to be the Construction Industry Federation. In regard to the great assurance that we have been given that this board will be independent, ensuring that the regulator is independent, when one reads the legislation one finds that half of the board will be appointed by the Construction Industry Federation. Not only will the Construction Industry Federation be running the board that is meant to be regulating builders, it will appoint half the members of that board who are meant to guarantee the independence. You could not make this up. It is utterly absurd after everything that has happened in the country.

I am calling on the Minister of State to accept our amendments in order to address this absurdity whereby the industry would be regulating itself.

I will specifically refer to these amendments, which I will oppose. On Committee Stage, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, indicated that he would bring forward amendments to the Seanad to provide that the chair and certain other members of the board would be recruited through the Public Appointments Service, and that the following would also nominate members: the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Ministers for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and the registration body. In light of this, we will review section 22 and table amendments, as we have outlined, when the Bill is before Seanad Éireann.

In his discussions with officials I ask that the Minister of State to go two steps further. The first is that in addition to some of the new nominating bodies he has mentioned, we seek to also have the following included: National Building Control Office - it makes no sense for that office not to be on the board; the Construction Defects Alliance; the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland; and the Irish Planning Institute. If these nominees were there instead of those from the registration body, which is the CIF, two things would be achieved. The issue of independence that Deputy O'Callaghan has quite rightly recognised would be dealt with and there would also be a better range of skills. I am not in any way opposed to somebody from the CIF having a place on the board. That would be reasonable and the federation has a contribution to make. That is provided for in my amendment. Allowing the CIF to have five members on the board and not having anybody from the other organisations that we have mentioned makes no sense. The Government has gone halfway towards what is required here, and I urge the Minister of State to have that discussion with the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, the Minister and their officials to see if we could go the full way so the board is fully independent, is seen to be independent, and has the requisite requirement of skills and organisations, which the combination of our amendments seeks to achieve.

I support this group of amendments. I am not on that committee so I was not part of that discussion, but fair points have been made. It really is quite extraordinary that the CIF would be the body to house the register of building providers. This is an attempt or effort at regulation of an industry that has failed so badly in many respects, including the health and safety of workers, bogus self-employment, desperate defects such as fire safety, mica, pyrite and you name it, all of which has cost the State an absolute fortune. It has cost the lives of building workers, it has caused misery for homeowners and it has resulted in buildings that are fire hazards for those who live in them. One could just go through the list. It is extraordinary that the body in control of that industry, that allowed this sort of stuff to happen, and that represents builders and developers, is going to house the register. It seems to me absolutely amazing that they would have the right to appoint five members to the board. I take the Minister of State's point that consideration is being given to amending this when the Bill is before the Seanad to give greater representation to others, but I am not sure why this cannot be done here in response to the amendments that have been tabled by Deputies Ó Broin, Nash, and O'Callaghan.

It is completely unacceptable but it also appears to run afoul of another provision of the Bill that states the body chosen by the Minister to house the register - or whatever phrase is used in the Bill - cannot be "a body that promotes a political cause". The CIF promotes political causes. It is constantly promoting political causes. It is lobbying for the industry all of the time. It lobbied against Covid restrictions, for example, at particular points in time. It is constantly lobbying in the interests of its members in what is self-evidently a political form of lobbying. Deputy Barry quips behind me that it is the "industrial wing of Fianna Fáil". Whether that is true or not, it is certainly a credible point.

In all seriousness, if we are to exclude bodies that campaign for political causes then that would exclude the Construction Industry Federation, to my mind. It absolutely excludes them. There is a contradiction in the legislation from that point of view. Any serious definition of bodies that promote particular political causes would absolutely include the CIF, which is one of the most active bodies in campaigning and lobbying for its particular members to affect politics and affect public policy. I just wanted to add this point, if had not already been made. The Government must seriously rethink this. Those who control the industry should not be the ones charged with regulating it.

To come back to the points raised by the Deputies Nash and O'Callaghan, again, it is intended that the Department of Housing. Local Government and Heritage nominee may be on the political control side of things. Similarly with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, there would be a consumer representative. I give the commitment that when the Bill is before the Seanad we will give further consideration to those in reviewing section 22. That may be the best place to try to further tease out those representative groups.

Separately, I wish to address the points raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett. The points had been raised earlier in the context of other amendments. It is not specific that the body is named in the Bill. The mechanism is there. I outlined earlier to Members the independence of the body and the robustness of that to ensure that it is an independent structure. I have given those assurances to the Members in that regard.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am not clear however. Is the intention that five members, which is half the board, would still be nominated by the registration body, which in this case, based on his comments, will be the CIF? Is he looking at reviewing that?

As I have said, we will give consideration to review it at that stage.

Okay. So the Minister of State is looking at that element of it.

I will give a general consideration on the review. The Minister of State, Deputy Burke, has also given that commitment.

It is extremely important. The board cannot be independent if at the same time half of its members are from the Construction Industry Federation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 20, line 24, to delete “ordinary” and substitute “ten”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 20, line 24, to delete “by the Minister” and substitute “through the Public Appointments Service,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 20, lines 24 to 35, to delete all words from and including “as follows” in line 24 down to and including line 35, and in page 21, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following: “with one member selected from the nominations of each the following bodies:

(a) the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage;

(b) the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

(c) the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment;

(d) the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications;

(e) the National Building Control Office;

(f) the Construction Industry Federation;

(g) the Irish Congress of Trade Unions;

(h) the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland;

(i) the Construction Defects Alliance;

(j) the Irish Planning Institute.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 20, to delete lines 25 to 30 and substitute the following:

“(a)1 person, being neither a registered person nor an employee of a registered person, who is nominated for such appointment by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

(b) 4 persons who are nominated for such appointment by the Minister following consultation by him or her with the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment -

(i) who are not registered persons, and

(ii) who are not employees of registered persons;”.

This amendment relates to trade union representation on the appeals committee. In the interests of trying to advance as many amendments as we can this evening I will limit my comments to that. The Minister of State understands what I am trying to achieve here.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 20, to delete lines 31 to 35, and in page 21, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:

“(b) 5 persons who are nominated for such appointment by the following bodies:

(i) the Irish Congress of Trade Unions;

(ii) the National Building Control Office;

(iii) the Construction Defects Alliance;

(iv) the Construction Industry Federation;

(v) the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,

all of whom, in the view of the nominating body, have the experience, skill and knowledge necessary for the proper, effective and efficient performance of the functions of the Board.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 62; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Cian O'Callaghan and Ged Nash; Níl, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 20 to 22, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 22, to delete lines 6 to 12 and substitute the following:

“(3) The chairperson of the appeals committee shall be appointed through the Public Appointments Service and shall have knowledge and experience of construction, building control, building standards, planning and related legislation; and other areas that the Minister may specify by way of regulations.”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 22, to delete line 23 and substitute the following:

“(7) The ordinary members of the appeals committee shall be appointed through the Public Appointments Service.”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 22, to delete lines 24 to 26 and substitute the following:

“(8) (a) Two of the ordinary members appointed by the Minister under subsection (7) shall be registered construction professionals who are nominated for such appointment by the registration body.

(b) One of the ordinary members appointed by the Minister under subsection (7) shall be nominated for such appointment by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 23, to delete lines 24 to 28 and substitute the following:

“(12) All appeals shall be considered in public.”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 36, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(a) evidence that the applicant is eligible for latent defects insurance, and”.

This amendment is on registration and it seeks to require that any builder would have to provide evidence that he or she is eligible for latent defects insurance. At the committee it was correctly pointed out that latent defects insurance is required for each job and that in order to register, a builder would not necessarily be in possession of such insurance, which is a fair point. That is why this amendment seeks to enforce a requirement for eligibility for latent defects insurance. If someone is a rogue builder, he or she will have defects and deficiencies in a number of different projects and will not be eligible for latent defects insurance, in which case he or she should not be able to register to be a builder. I am interested to hear the response to this as the amendment has taken on board the comments that were made by the Minister of State on Committee Stage.

We will be opposing this amendment. The amendment seeks to require an applicant for registration to provide evidence that he or she is eligible for latent defects insurance. Latent defects insurance is taken out on a project-by-project basis and is it is not practical that the registration should be conditioned on the possession of or eligibility for such insurance. While a builder of residential or non-residential buildings should possess such insurance, other categories or providers of building works such as bricklayers and plasterers do not require it. It is worth noting that while latent defects insurance is not a mandatory requirement, lending institutions and consumers are likely to demand it. I recognise that this is an important consumer product, particularly in the residential market, and I will review how this product is further promoted and encouraged so that consumers are aware of it. This would have the effect of encouraging the take-up of latent defects insurance.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 36, line 19, to delete “10 years” and substitute “25 years”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 36, line 29, to delete “10 years” and substitute “25 years”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 37, line 27, to delete “90 days” and substitute “20 days”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 40, line 38, to delete “90 days” and substitute “20 days”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 42, line 36, after “Board” to insert “, in partnership with SOLAS and the National Training Fund,”.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 45, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

“(i) failure to comply with building control regulations.”.

This is among the most important set of amendments that my colleagues and I have tabled.

We are creating a register, which is a good thing. That register is a register of competence. There will be a set of criteria against which somebody can become a member of that register. If at some stage a complaint is made against a person for failure to comply with the terms of the register, one of the sanctions is that he or she can be struck off. That is all very good. These amendments seek to ensure that, in addition to non-compliance with the competency requirements of the register, if a contractor, company or individual is proven to have failed to comply with building control regulations or planning permission, a third party could make a complaint. If that complaint is found against the contractor, he or she could be, among other things, struck off.

When we had a lengthy discussion about this on Committee Stage, we were told that this amendment was not necessary and that the building control regulations and the building control authorities were responsible and, therefore, that is where this matter should be dealt with. The difficulty is that, first, there has never been a successful prosecution for breach of building control regulations and, second, even if there were a successful prosecution, it would not prevent the party who had breached building control regulations from remaining on the register and continuing to practise. For example, under this regime, the developer who built Priory Hall would still be able to register, as long as he complied with the other conditions set out in the Bill, and would be able to practise. Even if that individual were to be found to be in breach of building control regulations by a building control authority in the future - these are very serious breaches, such as building work that is not fire safety compliant or not structurally sound, which could cost enormous sums of money for homeowners to remediate, and that is even before we talk about the emotional and psychological stress - these people would be able to continue to trade. It is incredible that we are going to give up the opportunity, in setting up of a register such as this, to send a clear signal to industry that if individuals have a history of breaching building control regulations, they should be struck off the register and never allowed to practise again.

When I interviewed Stephanie Meehan, one of the homeowners in Priory Hall whose partner, Fiachra Daly, took his own life because of the pressure of Priory Hall, one of the things she said about the developer who built that development was that he should never be allowed on a building site again. She is correct, but there is nothing in the law that would allow us to achieve that. These amendments, or a version that could be crafted by the Department's officials and brought forward on Committee Stage in the Seanad, would ensure that, in addition to the other elements of this Bill, somebody negatively affected by breaches of building control regulations could take a complaint to the register and, if successful, could have a rogue builder or contractor struck off. That seems eminently sensible to me. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government would give up this opportunity.

I know the Minister of State will not accept these amendments, unless he has had a wonderful change of heart, which I would celebrate enormously, but I am still urging the Department to reconsider this crucial matter between now and Committee Stage in the Seanad because if we do not do it here, it will not get done. In ten, 20 or 30 years' time, there will be another group of people in this Chamber asking why in God's name did their predecessors not take this chance and why did they allow the possibility of rogue builders, who have a proven track record of breaching building control regulations, remaining on a register and continuing to practice. For these reasons, I urge the Minister of State to consider the substance of the amendment, if not the text itself.

Section 44 outlines the grounds for complaint under the Act regarding a registered member to the registration body. We must oppose amendments Nos. 30 and 31 to section 44, which seek to provide that failure to comply with building regulations and planning permission would be grounds for complaint. They are outside the scope of the Bill. This register is a register of competence of providers of building works. Therefore, non-compliance with building regulations is not grounds for a complaint.

Failure to comply with building regulations is a matter for the building control authorities and this falls under the Building Control Act 1990. Failure to comply with planning permission is a matter for planning authorities and this falls under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Complaints with regard to these are matters for the relevant authorities, as we have outlined previously. While these cannot be grounds for a complaint under the Bill, a conviction could be used as evidence for a complaint along with further evidence. I hope that clarifies the matter. I take on board the points made about the appalling previous practices but, again, these amendments are outside the scope of the Bill.

The developer of Priory Hall has never been convicted, but we all know that he was responsible for one of the worst examples of building control breaches, so much so that the gross cost to the State is €70 million and the net cost to the State for that one development alone is €20 million. However, on the basis of what the Minister of State said, that individual can return to the State - he is currently practising in the building trade in Belfast - and register and if he can provide proof that he adheres to the other criteria, we will allow him to build again. This is one of those rare moments where the Government actually has a chance to accept an argument of the Opposition and make a significant change. I accept that I am seeking to significantly widen the scope of the register, but if we do not do it, there will be no mechanism to prevent rogue builders from being registered and continuing to practise in the future. It is one of those moments where the Minister of State and his colleagues will look back and think they did the wrong thing.

I am not going to continue the debate because we had a very detailed debate on Committee Stage. We will return to this on Committee Stage in the Seanad. If we do not pass this amendment, or a similar amendment, we are saying it will be perpetually permissible in this State for builders, such as the builder who built Priory Hall, and there are many more like him, to continue to trade and build because there is nothing in the law to prevent them from being struck off. That is incredible. In the context of other registers, for example, if I were an architect who trades as an architect but is not properly qualified, I could be struck off the register and never practise again. That is a relatively minor infringement in comparison with the types of building contractors we are talking about.

I urge the Minister of State to reflect on the issue, talk to his colleagues and consider something like this between now and Committee Stage in the Seanad. Otherwise, it will be a moment we live to regret for a very long time.

Again, I reiterate that these amendments are outside the scope of the Bill. When the Bill comes before the Seanad, there will be further discussion on this matter. The Building Control Act and the Planning and Development Act provide the mechanisms around compliance in relation to planning permission and building regulations. I make those particular points, but there will also be further discussion on this matter in the Seanad shortly.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 61; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn; Níl, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin.
Amendment declared lost.

As the time permitted for this debate has expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of 22 March 2022: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and not disposed of, including those in respect of which recommittal would, in the normal course, be required are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put and agreed to.
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