Business of Joint Committee.

Apologies have been received from Deputy Phil Hogan.

The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the last meeting. Are they agreed? Agreed.

The next item is correspondence received and circulated since the last meeting. No. 1, the October newsletter on homelessness has been e-mailed and we note this.

No. 33 is the EPA Proposed Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012. We note this but during the year we will bring in the EPA, so we can discuss it then.

No. 34 is the EPA annual report and accounts. We note that report, which we will discuss when the EPA comes in.

No. 35 is an invitation. During Slovenia's Presidency of the Council of the European Union its national assembly will hold a meeting of chairmen of parliamentary committees in member states, candidate countries, national parliaments and the European Parliament. The invitation also extends to the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security and details have been circulated. The next item raises another event in Vancouver, so I suggest we refer it to the climate change committee. Because it relates to climate change, members of that committee may wish to attend. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 36 is details of the GLOBE 2008 environment conference in Vancouver next March, which have been posted and e-mailed to members. Discounts are available if registration is completed this week. Bearing in mind that our annual travel budget is €30,000, initial estimates for the travel include: a cost of €3,300 per delegate, travelling economy class; a cost of €5,200 per delegate travelling premium economy class; and €7,700 per delegate travelling business class. We need to ensure we do not commit too much of the annual budget allowance too early in the year. However, I have some expressions of interest. Deputy Bannon and Senator Glynn have indicated they would be available to attend on behalf of the committee. Are any other members interested?

I do not recall any e-mail correspondence on that.

We shall give the Deputy a copy. It probably arrived some time ago.

I should like to make a point, through the Chair, if I may.

Yes, absolutely.

It is about a recent experience I had when travelling across the water with two friends. We got a return fare for four cheaper than we could have, by booking at short notice, for two people.

How much was the return fare?

We got a return fare for four €26 cheaper than we could have paid for two, because we booked in advance. The short-term booking was €26 more expensive for two, so that tells a story. Perhaps we could empower the clerk to the committee to make an early booking, which would save money.

With a proviso for contingency arrangements if something happens. So at the moment, three members have indicated their availability to attend the conference in Vancouver in March, Deputies Lynch and Bannon, and Senator Glynn.

Will there be a problem if four go?

I do not believe there will be a problem, and that would be an adequate number. I cannot go, unfortunately, but if a Government member of the committee wants to go in my stead, that is fine. Is Deputy O'Sullivan interested?

I shall ask the clerk to liaise with the four members concerned, to double-check and apprise them of dates and details and make the relevant booking. What package shall we avail of? Is economy class reasonable?

I would remind the committee it is a pretty long journey.

I do not know how long it is.

We might leave it to the clerk, in his wisdom, to choose the package in the circumstances. I do not believe he will let us down, but it is a long journey.

The only issue as regards four attending at almost €8,000 per head is that it will cost around €30,000 just for this one item, equivalent to our full budget for the year.

I can assure the Chairman there will be substantial savings on that quotation.

Will we try for the economy class or economy premium class, as has been quoted? The business class will cost almost €8,000 per delegate, and with four attending that is considerable.

That is my honest opinion. We shall ask the clerk to try for the economy class or the economy premium class, again with the proviso that if something turns up, the Oireachtas will not be at a loss if a flight has to be cancelled at short notice. That can always happen in our line of business, as we all know. I shall ask the clerk to liaise with the four members directly concerned,

No. 37, is a letter from the Lithuanian parliamentary committee on the environment, seeking a meeting with the joint committee. Members may recall a request from the Lithuanian Assembly being discussed at our last meeting. A copy of the reply has been circulated to members. Is the committee keen to invite this group to Ireland to discuss our work or should we try and advance some of the issues on the work programme? I do not see any problem meeting with the committee. I am sure if its members are travelling to Ireland they will have a number of other engagements.

We all have something to teach each other, so I should welcome the visit.

We will welcome them and assist them in whatever way we can. They shall be making the normal arrangements as well.

No. 38 involves a letter, dated 10 December, from the Joint Committee on European Affairs, advising of a meeting to be held during the Slovenian Presidency. We shall just note that. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next item is on scrutiny of EU proposals. A letter dated 26 November 2007 from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny refers three proposals for EU legislation to us. The first is COM (2007) 364 governing the regulation of political parties and it deals with the financing of parties in the European Parliament. We will return to this. The other two, No. 108, financial regulation of the Euratom Supply Agency, and No. 119, establishing statutes of the European Euratom Supply Agency, were sent to this committee for information purposes. We have not been requested to consider them. Is it agreed that we note Nos. 108 and 119? Agreed.

The Joint Committee on European Scrutiny requested written observation from this committee on the proposal governing the regulation of political parties. I arranged additional briefing material to be circulated to members from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with the remainder of the agenda last week. There is no point in discussing this unless members have considered this documentation.

The European Parliament proposes to change the financing of political parties at European level as a result of experience gained. I always take the view that a national parliament will have views on such matters. Perhaps we will have different perspectives on this issue. Will we discuss this at our next meeting to give members an opportunity to consider it?

I propose to discuss it at the next meeting.

I second that proposal.

We will be asked to come to a conclusion on it quickly and either support the view taken by the Government in negotiations at European level or establish that the committee has a different opinion to that of the Department. We are obliged to furnish the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny with a short report.

I am informed our next scheduled meeting is next Tuesday. However, I am told it may clash with Question Time for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I still wish to hold a meeting next week. I will ask the clerk whether time is available during the afternoon.

I assume this is on the basis that the Dáil session will be on Tuesday afternoon. The Dáil will sit for only two days next week.

I assume it will follow the normal pattern that Question Time with the Minister will be at 2.30 p.m.

Perhaps we could hold our meeting afterwards. I would not like our scheduled meeting for next week to fall off the agenda.

We seem to have a heavy agenda in the final week prior to Christmas. Could we not have a light agenda?

We are hardworking committee and we were late off the starting blocks.

We do not mind being a hardworking committee but a great deal is happening next week.

I will not bring members for Christmas dinner as they have not earned it yet. We have only had a few meetings. I might do so next year.

We will be happy with foreign trips.

The Chairman's bonus might not come through, so he should be careful.

Did I hear the words "no" and "dinner"?

We will try to reschedule the meeting for later in the afternoon. People have been invited to appear before the committee but I take the point.

At approximately what time will the meeting be on Tuesday?

If Question Time for the Minister is at 2.30 p.m. I presume our meeting will be at approximately 4 p.m. We will deal with a vote on the Order of Business if it arises.

We had to cancel the trip to Belfast last week because of the vote of no confidence discussed in the Dáil. I felt it was prudent for members to be available to vote. We should reschedule it for January. The Dáil will not be in session at this time. I suggest Wednesday, 16 January. Half of the committee members indicated they would travel to meet the electoral commission in the North.

It is important that as many members as possible should travel as the committee was invited. Given the importance of the register of electors, as many members as possible should travel. Any step that would improve the current position must be welcomed because the register is a calculated disaster at the moment.

The programme for Government includes a commitment to consider establishing an electoral commission. The joint committee is pushing an open door in proposing changes in this area.

As the House is in recess on the date of the proposed visit to Belfast, it might be more convenient for members from other parts of the country to fly directly to Belfast, rather than travel to Dublin and then on to Belfast on the same day.

We will ask the clerk to the committee to liaise on the matter. I suspect Cork is the only location from which members will be able to take flights to Belfast.

On what date will the meeting take place?

I suggest 16 January. The previous arrangement was to take the Enterprise from Connolly Station. We will have the times of departure checked but we may travel a little later than we otherwise would if the Dáil was sitting.

It will be more convenient for members from the midlands to drive to Belfast.

Yes, most of us will take the train from Dublin. There is only one flight from Cork Airport, which departs at around 7.30 a.m.

On Deputy Bannon's comment, would it be acceptable for those of us who find it more convenient to drive to do so?

Does the Senator mean to drive directly to Belfast?

Yes, I might prefer to travel by car.

The normal travel reimbursement arrangements apply regardless of the mode of transport. We will agree on a date of 16 January and the clerk will check for the most convenient times.

Sitting suspended at 3.52 p.m. and resumed at 3.53 p.m.