We will now discuss the preferred time slot for future meetings. There are only four committee meeting rooms and it is difficult to get the best time slot. May I have suggestions from members on their preferred day and time? Every committee will put forward its preferred day and time and the secretariat of all the committees will meet. If there is a clash, the committee Chairmen ultimately will meet to agree a time slot. We should put forward our preference.
Business of Joint Committee.
I propose Tuesday afternoon.
A later time than 2.30 p.m on Tuesday would facilitate those travelling long distances.
Have we a second suggestion? How about Wednesday afternoon?
The time slot for the committee in the previous Dáil clashed with the Order of Business in the Seanad. We should work around that as there was much criticism of the time.
Would 4 p.m. be too late?
The Order of Business in the Dáil is taken at 4.30 p.m.
Would members consider, as a second choice, Wednesday morning before the Dáil sits?
Would members consider sitting at 12 noon on Tuesdays?
That would be very difficult for members who have to travel. What do members think of meeting on a Wednesday afternoon, as we will all be here and it does not clash with any particular business in the Dáil. As our first preference I will put Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon as the second preference, but that does not necessarily mean it will work out that way. The committee tends to meet once a fortnight, but when we have extra work on the schedule we can meet more often. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I will remind members of what is involved. In laymen's terms, a select committee, which comprises Deputies only, deals with Committee Stage of legislation and Estimates, whereas the joint committee comprising Deputies and Senators deals with everything else. In the past, a sub-committee of this committee would have scrutinised EU business on behalf of the Oireachtas. In this new Oireachtas, however, the role of EU scrutiny falls to a separate committee and I understand it will do most of that work.
I ask members who have an interest in particular topics under the aegis of this committee to forward their suggestions to the clerk in advance so that we can begin to discuss the work programme at our first meeting.
An issue which I would like discussed at our first meeting is the shambles of the electoral register. We were all exercised about this last May and I do not want it to be forgotten. It should be the first task with which we deal. We will not spend all year discussing the issue but the electoral register is in a shambles and we need to examine how it should be compiled. I propose, in the first instance, that we invite the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to outline to the committee his current views in this regard. The situation in my constituency is unsatisfactory. It is a hit and miss situation. It would be wrong of us to walk away from dealing with this issue now. I would like if the matter could be discussed by the committee at its next meeting.
Members may make suggestions today in respect of topics to be considered for inclusion in the work programme and they will be noted by the clerk. We will formally agree a work programme at the earliest opportunity. Members may make suggestions now or forward them to the clerk between now and our next meeting.
I propose we invite representatives from the Heritage Council to appear before the committee in respect of its views and aspirations on heritage issues. Many topical issues need to be addressed. Perhaps we could invite the council to attend at an early stage.
Perhaps the committee could discuss at an early stage the position in regard to hunting in general and the Minister's position in that regard.
The matter will be added to the list.
I would like the committee to address the issue of legacy landfills, an issue which affects every constituency and local authority. The problem in regard to the remediation of legacy landfills, many of which may be closed and forgotten about, is not being acknowledged. This will lead to serious problems for local authorities in the years ahead. Ireland is required, under EU regulations, to deal with this problem. I would appreciate if discussion of this issue could be included in the work programme.
I congratulate the Chairman on his appointment and look forward to working with him for the duration of his post. I note the extensive brief and the placement on the portfolio of agencies such as the Private Residential Tenancies Board. I do so with particular reference to a number of questions to the Minister in respect of the operation of that board and the Minister's response in the Dáil Chamber to the effect that the matter does not come within his brief but is a matter for the board itself. While there is a discrepancy between what is happening in the Dáil Chamber and what comes within the remit of this committee, I nonetheless welcome the placement of these agencies on the portfolio. Perhaps it would be possible to get clarification on whether matters which come within the remit of this committee also come within the Minister's remit.
We will seek clarification on that matter. It is often the case that a Minister does not have direct responsibility for operational matters in respect of agencies which come within his or her remit. The committee can raise the matter with the relevant agencies.
I congratulate the Chairman and Vice Chairman on their appointments. The remit of this committee covers a plethora of issues with which the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government deals. Seminal to the work of the Department must be the provision of social and affordable housing. Given the complexity of housing choices during the past few years and the lengthening of housing lists, it might be helpful if the committee were to conduct an overview of the social and affordable housing sector by way of a presentation from departmental officials and other agencies. We should ensure the issue of social and affordable housing remains at the centre of our agenda during the next few years.
I concur with the Deputy. We could also include shared ownership schemes in such a discussion. Those who apply for loans for affordable houses can only receive a variable rate loan and are victims of increases in interest rates. They are not allowed fixed rate loans at any time. We must examine the numbers involved and the repayments people make.
I raised in the Seanad today the activities that take place around Hallowe'en. These include fireworks and bonfires that cause major problems. The Wines Direct warehouse in Mullingar was lost as a result of a firework. I do not know how old people put up with it. They are trembling behind their doors. Animals, especially dogs, are also affected. I do not wish to be a killjoy but something must be done to regulate fireworks and bonfires. I was interested to hear that one local authority removed mounds of material that had been collected. If these things happen, they must happen in a regulated, secure environment.
As someone who was involved for a long time with a local authority I ask that we pay special attention to troublesome tenants. Those affected are advised to move out when they complain to the Garda Síochána. Instead it is the troublesome tenants who should be made move out. I call for an early debate on this major issue to be included in the programme. While there has been much talk, nothing has been done and people are suffering.
I congratulate the Chairman on his appointment. This is my first time to attend a committee as a Member of the Oireachtas. As a member of the public I believed the committee system was one of the most, if not the most, effective wings of government. I hope that will be the case at this committee.
Planning and one-off rural houses have been examined in depth in recent years but they should be examined again. Significant steps have been taken with the publication of design guidelines and guidelines for one-off rural houses. However, a recent decision of the European Union goes against the grain of the majority of local authorities. In County Galway, if an area is under development pressure, development is restricted to locals but a recent EU ruling suggests this runs contrary to the concept of freedom of movement. As a nation, we must seek to address this debacle. We have two choices - comply with the EU ruling and the removal of the mechanism for control of rural housing from county development plans and allow a free for all which none of us wants, or remove planning controls in rural areas completely. How will Ireland deal with this judgment?
Ireland should also examine the way in which An Bord Pleanála is constituted and how it deals with planning appeals. There is an opinion that the board is not representative of rural Ireland and that it should be made more representative.
Having heard the views of members, there will be a long programme and many days of work. We should focus on the structures at local level, how local authorities are funded and operated. I have concerns about the provision of wastewater facilities in rural areas and rural water schemes which should be promoted more.
With regard to the issue of social housing that Deputy Cuffe raised, do local authorities use all the funding provided by the Government? I believe a percentage of them do not. Will the committee discuss this matter or should I find out through other means? We should examine this issue and ensure local authorities are requested to use the funding in the proper way.
We have had a quick run around the issues.
Sellafield was raised on several previous occasions. I understand decommissioning is taking place there at present. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland should be invited before the committee to update us on what is happening.
We have had several preliminary ideas. If people have other suggestions they should please forward them to the clerk. We will have more detailed discussions on prioritising the work programme at a future meeting.
My style of chairmanship is to conduct the full duration of every committee meeting in public session. I was the only committee Chairman to do so previously. We are elected to the Dáil and the Seanad to do our business in public session in the Chambers and the same principle should apply in committee rooms. It is tradition for most committees to deal with correspondence or trips abroad in private session. I do not adhere to this principle and these will be discussed in public session. I would like to see other committees follow suit in due course. They probably will eventually but I do not know when this will be. We shall proceed regardless.
I apologise for being late. It was suggested that nominations would be made from various committees, such as those responsible for the environment and transport, to the committee on climate change.
I do not know yet what will happen. This new committee is mentioned in our terms of reference but it has not yet been established and we will have to see its terms of reference.