We will commence pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the marine planning and development management Bill. From the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage we are joined in person by Mr. Conor McCabe and Mr. Bernard Nolan, with Mr. Tom Woolley joining remotely off campus. From the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications we are joined on campus via video link by Ms Martina Hennessy and Ms Anne-Marie Clancy. The opening statements have been circulated to members as well as slides from last week's briefing, along with the briefing material received from the Library and Research Service.
I welcome and thank the witnesses for their attendance. I will ask the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to make its opening statement and will then ask the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to make its contribution. Members will then be invited to ask their questions. If we can keep it to five minutes for the first round of questioning, we will get around the room, once or twice.
Witnesses attending in the committee room are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentations they make to the committee. This means that they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Chairman to ensure this privilege is not abused. Therefore, if witnesses' statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that witnesses comply with any such direction.
For witnesses and members attending remotely, there are some limitations on parliamentary privilege and as such they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of the proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons, or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
The opening statements submitted to the committee will be published on the Oireachtas website after this meeting. I invite Mr. McCabe to make an opening statement on behalf of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.