Apologies have been received from Deputies Lynch and Tuffy. I ask members to ensure their mobile phones are turned off completely and not left in silent mode; otherwise the vibrations when telephone calls are received will affect the broadcasting transmission adversely. That is news to me, but I will lead by example.
The minutes of the meetings of 8 and 23 April have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed.
The next item on our agenda is correspondence received by the joint committee and circulated since the last meeting. It is a while since we had a joint committee meeting and there is a considerable amount of correspondence. We will try to go through it promptly.
No. 104 is a follow-up letter from the Minister, following his attendance at the committee, regarding the Bray action group which attended the committee some time ago. Is it agreed to note the letter? Agreed.
No. 105 is a listing from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny. Is it agreed to note the list? Agreed. No. 106 is a request from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny that this committee comment on proposals for legislation to revise and merge directives on industrial emissions. I suggest we write to the Department requesting an update on the matter. When we have received the update, we will consider the proposals. Is that agreed? Agreed.
No. 107 is SI 854 of 2007, Building (Amendment) Regulations 2007. I suggest we note this correspondence. No. 108 is SI 670 of 2007, Housing (Adaptation Grants for Older People and for People with a Disability) Regulations 2007. Members are familiar with this statutory instrument through local authorities. We will note the correspondence.
No. 109 is a policy update —GLOBE Europe, the European climate policy newsletter. We will note the correspondence. No. 110 is a press release from the Department on the Sugarloaf Mountain special amenity order. We will note the correspondence.
No. 111 is a press release from the Department on resourcing the planning system. I suggest we note the correspondence and include the issue of resourcing the planning system in our work programme. It is linked to our local government remit because it involves the funding of certain local government activities and functions, including the planning service. We will include the issue in our consideration of local government reform.
No. 112 is the spring 2008 newsletter of the European Water Partnership. We will note the correspondence. The newsletter is available to Members of the Oireachtas.
No. 113 is an invitation to attend a one day conference, "In Search of Global Green Policies", in Brussels on 4 June. Deputy Bannon has indicated an interest in attending. It is within the terms of reference of the committee to study environmental matters. Is it agreed that the committee be represented at the conference? Agreed. If a member from the Government side wishes to attend, I ask him or her to contact the Government convener.
No. 114 is correspondence from the Oireachtas representative in Brussels regarding COM (2007) 51 on protecting the environment through criminal law. No. 115 also is correspondence from the Oireachtas representative in Brussels regarding COM (2005) 667 on waste. We will note the correspondence.
No. 116 is a press release from the Department on a survey of car owners on the new VRT-motor tax system. We will note the correspondence. No. 117 is the Green Paper on local government reform. Discussion of the Green Paper can be included in the select committee's discussion of local government reform at its meeting next week. The committee may then make a formal submission on the subject and meet the Minister in due course. Some time ago the Minister proposed the election of mayors in certain local authorities. The committee needs to discuss the Green Paper before we examine it in further detail with the Minister. I believe each member has received a copy of the Green Paper.
No. 118 is a housing policy report from Focus Ireland. We note the correspondence. No. 119 is a press release from the Department on affordable housing. We will note the correspondence. No. 120 is a newsletter from the trade commissioner for Canada dealing with environmental issues. We will note the correspondence.
The Oireachtas representative in Brussels has informed the joint committee of a conference on transport and sustainable development in Paris on 10 July 2008. I will refer it to the convenors and if members are interested in attending, they should contact the convenors who will let the clerk know and we will consider it at a subsequent meeting.
No. 122 is a press release from the Department on allocations for national housing programmes, which we have all seen at local level. No. 123 is a press release from the Department on the Viking age national monument at Woodstown, which we have noted. No. 124 is a reply from the private secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the letter sent from the joint committee on 10 April 2008 concerning an issue raised by Deputy Fitzpatrick.
We should look at this correspondence in detail. Deputy Fitzpatrick wrote to the joint committee about a case involving a major contract in Kildare, where on the completion of the works the matter went to conciliation. The council did not accept the outcome of conciliation and the issue has gone to arbitration. In the meantime the contractor has not been paid and this has compromised the financial viability of the company. He had to let staff go and he has not been in a position to take on further contracts while this matter is in dispute.
In our letter to the Minister we asked how many local authority contracts go to conciliation, how many having gone to conciliation ultimately go to arbitration, and how many outcomes from arbitration are not accepted by the local authority and then proceed to legal proceedings. On a related issue, the outcome of a major case between the local authority and a contractor on a drainage contract in Limerick city which went through the process of conciliation and arbitration, which the council rejected, and finally to legal proceedings was before the Committee of Public Accounts. The cost ultimately to the taxpayer was a staggering multiple of the original estimate. Deputy Fitzpatrick's correspondence is on a related issue. Does the Deputy wish to comment?