As always I have more questions than the Vice Chairman would like but I will make them very brief. If the witnesses would like to give written responses rather than go through them all, I have no problem with that.
The issue from our point of view is not rogue builders; it is ensuring there is a proper regulatory framework that is good for the industry, the employees in the industry and the people who buy the product. If we get this regulatory system right, everybody will benefit from it. Unfortunately, until now the extent of defects suggests the problem is not just the odd untrained rogue builder but the absence of a proper regulatory regime. That meant that even non-rogue builders or people who in other circumstances would have been reputable did things or allowed things to be done under their watch that have left families with huge financial and emotional consequences. I want to put that in context.
I have not heard a convincing response on the issue of independence yet. If I am not wrong, CIRI will have a register with a very large number of people and companies on it. Some of those people and companies will also be members of the Construction Industry Federation on whose behalf CIRI will advocate, but others will not. If I am wrong in that, the witnesses should correct me.
Does that in itself create some kind of dynamics because on the one hand, the CIF is advocating on behalf of its members but on the other, it is playing a regulatory role for both members and employees of some of those members? I have some questions around that.
I would also like to hear the CIF's direct response to the suggestion that a better model would not be the professional association model, as is the case with architects, but the type of model that exists with electricians and gas workers both in terms of the independent inspections that follow a consumer complaint but also the independent statutory oversight of a regulator because they are two very different models. I was quite taken by the previous speaker's proposal.
The issue of conflicts of interest is not that we think anybody in the room is currently engaged in a conflict of interest. However, if we ensure that the system is designed in such a way that this is not possible, everybody is protected. To go back to the comments of Ms Hegarty and Ms Ní Fhloinn about the issue of Chinese walls, even from a public perception point of view, if I am the person making the complaint then I am making the telephone call to the same number and the same building. That does not suggest that there is an institutional separation. How do the witnesses think the Bill could be strengthened to deliver that?
I am a bit concerned about board composition because it is possible under the current heads of Bill for a majority of the board members to be industry. They do not all have to be registered but they could be within the broad construction development industry. There are five industry nominees, five Government nominees and a chair, with a list of people such as a former judge of the Circuit, High or Supreme Courts or a registered construction professional, so there could be a six or seven-person industry majority on the board. I take the point that this does not necessarily mean it is a case of "them" or "us" but it means people are bringing specific backgrounds to the board. Do the witnesses not think that for public confidence, it would be much better if there was no possibility of an industry majority and, crucially, that the chair is not from the industry to have that independent function?
I am interested in finding out what difference the witnesses think the operation of the voluntary register has made to date in practical terms. Crucially, could they share with the committee either now or as soon as they can in writing the number of consumer complaints that have been submitted to CIRI, the number of sanctions that have been issued and the number of exclusions from the register because it is quite important for us to assess whether or not the register has made any difference? The witnesses may not be able to or may not wish to answer this now but a question was asked at a previous meeting. There are people trading in the industry who were directly responsible for Priory Hall, Longboat Quay and a host of other ones. At the back of our minds is the question of whether they are on this register. Was any attempt made to ask whether some of those people should not have been allowed on to the register to give it that credibility?
Will CIRI be the competent authority in terms of EU-regulated professions for construction workers in Ireland? When construction workers from outside this jurisdiction are coming into Ireland, will CIRI be the body under EU law that is required to register those construction workers? How will it deal with the issue of whether those construction workers or employers have been non-compliant in their jurisdictions, whether they have convictions, sanctions or whatever else?
Where does the developer sit in all this because I am clear about the construction workers and the employers. If I am a developer rather than a builder, do I register? Do I have a role in this role? Is that not then a gap in terms of the regulatory function because, again, if we go back to some of the examples we have used like Longboat Quay or Priory Hall, while there was a lot of responsibility, the developer had a big responsibility?
My final question is one that Ms Ní Fhloinn made clearest. What consumers want to know is who is going to pay. When they discover life-changing defects in their property that have a huge financial cost, who will foot the bill? I put this question to the Department and I said that it is a very long and complicated legal process where someone goes around the houses regarding whether it involved the developer, builder, architect or the sub-contracted untrained guy who put in the fire stopping. The Department could not answer the question so could the witnesses explain how this will change so that we will find out who is responsible for paying if something is found to be remiss and who foots the bill if that person is no longer solvent?