Derelict Sites Bill, 1989: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
In page 6, line 8, after "area", to insert "(and specifically includes sites assembled for the purposes of property development)".
—(Senator Norris).

I have no wish to prolong unduly the debate or to be in any way obstructive but I would say to the Members on the Fianna Fáil benches that there is no point in our rushing on to other sections if we omit to remedy a fundamental defect in the Bill. If we are going to allow private speculators to continue to create dereliction, if we are leaving a loophole for the local authorities not to take action and if, in addition, we are going to allow local authorities to put together sites for major roads, then we may as well give up now and spend our time more profitably doing something else because this Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on. I urge the Members on the other side not to assume we are taking up time here over some trivial item.

If the Minister is saying that the amendment we are discussing would be more suitably considered under section 25 I would be prepared, provided Senator Norris was quite happy that that was the right place for it, to defer the discussion until then but that does not seem to be the case. I did not fully hear what Senator Howard said but he mentioned something about problems in Dublin. I would like to place on the record that Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It is not some isolated town or city; it is the capital of this country and, as such, it plays an extremely important rôle. I do not think we should be provincial, and I do not think it was the intention of any Senator here to be provincial, in our approach. Dublin is where the seat of Government is located; it is a very fine capital city and any amendment which can be introduced here which benefits the capital city, even if it does not benefit any other town or city in Ireland — which is not the case — should be introduced.

The reality of the situation, of course, is that it is not specific to Dublin. Senator Ross, Senator Norris and myself referred to Dublin because we obviously refer to places about which we have personal experience, I do not start talking about places in Ennis because I would not have the experience and I bow to the knowledge of a Senator from Ennis. However, I am absolutely satisfied that I know enough about cities like Galway, Limerick, Cork, and even Ennis, to realise that the problems about which we are speaking from personal experience in Dublin also exist in other places. For that reason we must look at this Bill in great depth.

I would like to mention 29, Clare Street. Senator Norris put a question to the Minister which is quite simple to answer. The reality is that 29, Clare Street would get out of the loophole here; it would get out of the net. I urge anybody who has not seen it to go down and have a look at it and to ask ourselves if that is what we want? Do we want 29, Clare Street lying in dereliction? Senator Norris with his poetic flair described it better than I could describe it. Do we want to leave loopholes in this Bill which will allow somebody simply to say: "I am putting together this site for development" and, therefore, they cannot be touched?

The Minister keeps saying he is happy with the Bill. I ask him to tell us how or why he can be happy with the Bill if his intentions are as he states, when the Minister for the Environment said that it will be possible for the local authorities to use their discretion to create these loopholes? I would like to put on record that there is no Senator, no public representative in this country, who is more committed to local democracy than I am. I am all for giving local authorities far more powers and I am not going to have it thrown at me by any other Senator that I supported an amendment which would in any way curtail local democracy. I do not know whether the Minister of State is or ever was a member of a local authority but I am and have been for 16 years. I know the utter frustration which I have had to deal with, and I am sure that other Senators who are members of local authorities, will have experienced this too. I know what will happen. As sure as we are here today, what will happen, if this legislation goes through as it is, when I or some other member of Dublin City Council urge, beg, entreat, ballyrag the city manager and his officials to take action against some derelict site or derelict building—let us say 29, Clare Street — the answer will be, "We cannot do that. We would like to do it but we cannot do it because that owner is putting together a site for development". If pressed a bit harder, they will produce this Bill and say that under section 14 local authorities must allow bona fide site assembly and therefore they cannot do anything, and we will be right back where we are. We will not be one step better off than prior to this legislation.

I apologise if I am getting a bit worked up about this but I have had to sit for 16 years listening to officials — not the democratically elected members — but the officials, I am sorry to say I do not blame some of them. They are as frustreated as everybody else about the whole thing and they take the easy way out. Perhaps it costs money. They are looking for an escape route and here they have it, a perfect escape route. They say to themselves; "We cannot do anything. We will not do anything. It is wasting our time and public moneys to take action here because the developer will simply answer back to us that the Minister said local authorities must allow bona fide assembly." A man could own 20 houses in a derelict condition and he could simply say, "I am putting these together". It is bona fide site assembly and he is off the hook and there is nothing more than can be done.

I would like the Minister to tell me how he can be happy with the Bill. He may have been happy with the Bill until the Minister, Deputy Flynn, came in here and said that. He cannot take it back. Perhaps in the light of what has now come to his notice the Minister would reconsider this amendment. If he can tell me one bit of harm this amendment could produce I will certainly reconsider my support for the amendment and, if not, I would ask him to reconsider his support.

I want to explain a few things and I want to allow for the fact that Senator Hederman has not been long in the House and she may not understand Bills too well. I am sorry I have to say that. For over 20 years I have been a member of a local authority and I know all about it. Senator Howard hit the nail on the head when he said that under this Bill local authorities are now to get a say but do the Members only want the nice things? We cannot have our loaf and eat it. We are talking about the definition of urban land. This applies to all derelict sites in urban areas subject to certain stated exemptions. Site assembly for property redevelopment is not one of these exemptions. Therefore, the definition clearly extends to sites under assembly. There is no need, from a legal point of view, to make any further provision in this section to cover site assembly.

I do not care where the site assembly is, let it be Clare Street or Mountjoy Square or on the quays or in Roscommon town, with all due respect to Senator Naughten, I do not mind, or in Ennis for Senator Howard, or in Limerick for Senator Jackman, or in Cork. It does not matter. The local authority will have powers under this Bill. I do not think the Senator really understands what I am saying. I, or anyone else in my position, can make a Second Reading speech, giving a broad outline of a Bill, but it is the Bill as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas that becomes law. We must remember that. It is not the speech of the Minister of the day or my speech or anyone else's speech that counts. I hope the Senator understands what I am saying. I am finding it hard to get through to Senators on this issue. I want to enlighten them because I have been a long time on a local authority. I would not like to be partisan or anything like that. I would like to treat all the country equally. I have a great knowledge of the Dublin area since my early days, going to Croke Park and playing there. We are attempting, not alone in the Bill before us today but in a Bill we will be bringing in, to ensure that the local authority will have the teeth to do it. But how many times, in the Dublin area and in other areas, will you receive representations from somebody who is carrying out undesirable development saying: "Go easy on me"? We have seen it many times. As far as I am concerned, this Bill is here to clean up the Dublin area and all the country as well. Senator Howard put his finger on it and I compliment him for it. He said that the local authorities were getting powers for which they were crying out.

I have been a member of a local authority for a long time and I have seen a lot of comers and goers and I intend to see a lot more comers and goers. I have seen them in both Houses of the Oireachtas too. I am satisfied, I have a good knowledge of legislation and a good knowledge of the interpretation of this Bill. You can switch words any way you like but it is the Bill passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann that will be law, not the Minister's speech or my speech. Far be it from me to dictate to the Chair and I want to be as helpful as possible but this discussion would be more relevant under section 25 of the Bill. I want to make it very clear that I am not accepting the amendment. The situation is clear as far as I am concerned. In my view, in the view of the parliamentary draftsman and in the view of the Attorney General's office it will be good. In my opinion it is going to be excellent.

The Minister has trenchantly expressed his views on this and that is to be welcomed. He made the point that what will come out of the Oireachtas is not anybody's opinion but the actual words that are written down in the Bill. That is really what we are at here. This is an area which in the past has been exploited to an appalling degree to the detriment particularly of the capital city. Loopholes in previous legislation allowed property speculation. Property development would be the nice marketable umbrella it would go under but it is, in fact, property speculation. This has happened on a very widespread basis particularly in this capital city and I think Senator Hederman is correct in saying we have a particular responsibility to Dublin because it is the national capital. As Senator Howard said, it is not the only part of the country and we have a lot of other cities and towns throughout the country where there is also a very considerable degree of dereliction. We must take that on board. The Minister must remember that what we are trying to do here is to close off what we perceive to have been loopholes in the past.

The Minister refers to redevelopment and property that is under assembly at the present time. I am not sure what he means. Is he talking about property that is under assembly at the moment or property that will be under assembly in the future and what do we mean by redevelopment as distinct from development? The Bill only refers to development of property.

I am delighted the section gives power to the local authority. That is extremely important but what we need to know is what is bona fide property development. This can go on for a period of five years. All somebody has to do is to pay the basic levy of 3 per cent starting off and then they have the period of five years for accumulation of a derelict site. If sites are derelict for that period of time, how do you satisfy the local authority that it is a bona fide property development? Will that be spelled out? Is it the case here, as Senator Hederman said, that you are letting the local authorities off the hook? I would not quite put it like that but I feel that the local authority would be put under undue pressure. Certainly the remarks made by the Minister, Deputy Flynn, would suggest that the property developers are being given the nod that this Bill is not all it appears on the surface. That is where the big concern is — what is being said by the Minister and what our experience in the past has been in relation to property development. There have been very fine bona fide statements from the people concerned but they are not into property development for the good of this capital city, as we have seen from a lot of the development that has taken place. Property developers are in the business for profit. That is the type of loophole the Senators on this side are attempting to close off.

May I also refer to a previous point I made and I do not think the Minister answered it in his comprehensive reply. He said the amendment should properly be made to section 25 but section 25 does not put any obligation on the local authority which is also an accumulator of property for redevelopment and for development purposes. Are we to understand that the Minister would be willing to accept an amendment to section 25 to the effect that the derelict sites levy would apply to the local authority as well when it was in the business of accumulating property for the purpose of development whether it is road development, a construction of one description or another, and that the maximum period of five years would be imposed?

There is no obligation on that other great body that causes derelict sites, namely the local authority in this city. We have experience of this and we know that it has been happening. If the Minister would look again at the section where that amendment was to be inserted, he will notice the exemption it seems to give to the local authority. It provides that urban land means a derelict site in an urban area which has been entered on the register but does not include any occupied dwelling or land owned by a State authority or by a local authority within its own functional area. That seems to me to be a clear exemption in relation to what we would regard as proper statutory obligations on the local authority. The local authority will have to be satisfied in relation to any individual property developer but there is no obligation on the local authority itself to account for its conduct. Is the Minister now saying he would regard section 25 as an appropriate place, where the tenor of the amendment by Senators Norris and Ross, and ably supported by Senator Hederman, could be introduced? If the Minister was prepared to give a commitment in relation to that we could, no doubt, have a reasonably conciliatory conclusion to this section.

We have been arguing this point for some considerable time. I know that people hold their views very sincerely but we have come to a stage where we could continue ad nauseam. My respectful suggestion to you, Sir, would be that we take this particular amendment now, have a vote on it and move on. I hope you will accede to this because the Minister has explained the purpose of the section. We on this side of the House are quite happy with that explanation and we are not happy to take the amendment on board.

Acting Chairman

This is a debate between the House and the Minister. When Senator Norris makes his contribution the Minister can decide whether he wants to reply. If he does not reply, I will put the amendment.

I understand that my colleague Senator Hederman also wishes to speak and I would regret if the debate were to be closed off at this point because I want to refer to a couple of points, and in particular one raised by Senator Howard which seems to have fairly general acclaim. I refer to the question of the powers and responsibility of local authorities. I certainly believe in democracy and the powers that are appropriate to a local authority. I have the greatest respect for elected members of local authorities, be they in Dublin or throughout the provinces, but I would remind Senator Howard, for whose opinion I have the highest estimation, of a judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Webb and another v. the Attorney General and the State of Ireland where, for example, the finding of the Derrynaflan hoard was determined to be of such national importance that the rights of the people to their heritage superseded all other rights, including the right of the ownership of property. If the Supreme Court can hold the view that there are certain views accruing to the heritage of all the people I do not think anybody could suggest it was an insult to local authorities to say that if there are buildings that are on list No. 1, that they are regarded as part of our national heritage, that national interests should supersede the motorway schemes of a local council or corporation.

I am very glad to have this opportunity to place that on the record. I have no doubt that Senator Howard, when he reflects upon it in the light of this judgment, and surely we must in this House pay some deference to decisions of the Supreme Court, may very well find he is able to come around and agree with this point. I am also very reluctant to criticise local authorities but there are occasions when I must. The Minister, as he has told the House, has had a great deal of experience of local authorities and of people coming and going and coming and going in both Houses. I hope he would not wish me to go but——

I will never be on your ticket.

Fair enough. I know the Minister could not possible aspire to independence. The Minister, in the light of his very wide knowledge of local authorities, must have some experience, for example of section 4 planning permissions, a subject on which I have had occasion to address the General Council of County Councils in Ballybunion some time ago. It is a directly analogous thing because it illustrates how particular interests are capable of abusing the procedures in the interests of certain specific developments and upsetting the function. There is no guarantee against such behaviour in this Bill.

I would like to say, too, that I echo what Senator Costello said that if the Minister were prepared to contemplate the insertion of this amendment in section 25, since he says it is more appropriate, I will certainly then be happy to agree in order to allow him time to consider the arguments, because he is a fair and reasonable man. If I can have an undertaking, since we probably will not finish this Bill today, we may not get to section 25 or if I could be given some guidance that we may table this amendment for section 25, I will give an undertaking that there will not be a filibuster at that point and then I will withdraw it at this time.

I would like, finally, to support what Senator Costello said about some material that occurs in very close conjunction to this disputed area and that is the following sentence in the Bill:

"Urban land" means a derelict site in an urban area which has been entered on the register but does not include any occupied dwelling or land owned by a State authority or by the local authority in whose functional area the land is situate or land in relation to which — (a) a compulsory purchase order (other than a vesting order under this Act) has become operative, or (b) a development objective exists for the purpose of reserving the land for roads or parking places or for any of the purposes of reserving or preserving land indicated in Part IV of the Third Schedule to the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963.

I hope to have the opportunity to move an amendment to delete all that because it specifically provides for the kind of local authority development that is inimical to the heritage of this country and again I place on the record the judgment in the case of Webb where the Supreme Court held that there were certain objects of such national value that their preservation took precedence over the right of property.

Acting Chairman

I do not like interfering in the debate but I think one amendment has been ruled out of order and it cannot be taken. I think it is amendment No. 3. You have been notified it is out of order and therefore cannot be discussed. At the moment you are speaking to that.

I am rather confused as to which one it is. I am extremely grateful to you. In that case, this represents my only opportunity to draw the Minister's attention to it and ask for a ruling on it. This amendment has been ruled out of order and I have not received notice of this so I am, technically, not in breach. I have not received notice of this because it puts an additional potential charge on the revenue. I cannot understand how the deletion of a phrase from a Bill can add anything. How can subtraction equal addition?

Acting Chairman

I do not like doing this but I have to tell you that it does not matter whether you heard it or not, if the House is told that is the situation and the House, as far as I know, has been told.

That is No. 3. We are on No. 2.

Acting Chairman

That is right. The point is that the Senator is actually discussing amendment No. 3 which I am explaining has been ruled out of order because it would be an extra cost on the Exchequer.

That, of course, is an incorrect ruling. I am not actually referring to it and I do very much take your point. What I am referring to is the context within which the amendment we are talking about takes place. I accept your ruling and I will refrain from it.

Acting Chairman

There is no harm in a passing reference so long as it does not take too long to pass.

In that case I will just, if I may, sum up my objections because I indicated that I thought the Bill was defective. That is the context within which I place these objections, that apparently we have got exemptions about one of which we are apparently not entitled to do anything under the wonderful rules of democracy and the Minister will not accept our arguments on the other, and it is not tendentious, we really do not wish to be difficult and, may I say the Minister, although he is a most genial and good natured person, really is almost suggesting we are rather stupid over here. If he is, I wonder if he realises that the implication of that is that the Minister, Deputy Flynn, is also stupid because he appears to have contemplated——

Senator Norris, withdraw that remark about Minister Flynn.

He did not say that.

I did not say that.

I will deal with Senator Norris, through the Chair. He said Minister Flynn was stupid.

Acting Chairman

The record will speak for itself. I do not think he actually said the Minister was stupid. He was making a comparison about two situations as I understand it. The record will speak for itself when it comes out.

Thank you very much indeed, Sir. You understand me perfectly. I will not refer to the intelligence of any other Members of the House, I will leave the record to demonstrate precisely what that intelligence is.

Acting Chairman

And it would be nice if you could make me a further promise that you will speak to the amendment.

I certainly will. I do not want to be tedious. I understand Senator Hederman has points in answer to matters that were raised. My final point is that it was clear that the Minister in making this reference had a situation in mind which bears very directly on the amendment that I have placed on the Order Paper. I am not at all impugning the intelligence or motivation of the Minister; in fact, I am greateful to him. But, in the light of all that has been said and in the light of the very strong feelings of every single person who has spoken and who has experience of the Dublin situation, would the Minister not really just do the decent thing and accept the amendment? It does not damage his intention in the Bill. It is not going to have any perceivable negative effect and even accepting that I may not have understood the sophistication of his argument, it will appease me. It would really hearten those people who have fought over decades to preserve the inner cities — our heritage. It would be a legislative support for the judgment of the Supreme Court. All the Minister is saying is that it is not necessary. He may be right that it is not necessary legally, but it is obviously necessary to quell, calm and dispel the fears of this side of the House. Could he not find it in his heart simply to give us that little bit of leeway?

I hope the House accepts that both Senator Norris and I and all the other speakers on this side of the House are genuinely and sincerely concerned about the great heritage of this country, of the capital city, of other cities, of places like Ennis or of any town or village. I am not indulging in this exercise for any other reason than in the hope that the Minister, his advisers and Members on the other side of the House will concede the point and, as Senator Norris says so eloquently, will realise that perhaps this could add some little advantage to the Bill and that we do have serious concerns and reservations.

I believe we are making progress and I believe the Minister is probably coming round to accept this because, I do not want to misrepresent the Minister but I think he said that perhaps this would be more suitable under section 25. This would lead me to believe that basically we are probably right but that we have it in the wrong place. I would like the Minister to indicate if that is the position, that he basically agrees with us but he wants it done under section 25.

I just want to——

Acting Chairman

Is the Minister now replying?

No, I am not finished.

I just want to put the Senator's mind at ease. What I said was that section 25 was more relevant and, being a helpful individual, I agreed to allow elaboration in section 25. What the Senators are talking about now can be dealt with under that. I did not give any undertaking. What I said was that we could debate that more appropriately under section 25. I want to put it clearly. There is no humming and hawing about me. You know where you stand with me. With due respect, I am satisfied with the wording in the Bill and I see no need to insert Senator Norris's new wording. We have spent an hour and a quarter debating this point, and it is only right that we should debate it in detail. It is more practical that we should discuss it under section 25 but I am not giving any undertakings.

I would like to say to the Minister that I appreciate the attention he has given. Indeed, if all Ministers gave as much attention to the contributions of the Senators this would be a very happy place.

I appeal to the Members on the Fianna Fáil benches who have been here and who have listened to the debate so far. I am a newcomer to this House and I am not so experienced with regard to legislation, drafting and so on. I am extremely indebted to my colleague, Senator Norris, because he put down these amendments which I might not have been able to do. I know what the Minister said is true, but it is what is in the Bill when it is signed by the President that is important. The loophole was drawn to my attention by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, when he came into this House.

There is probably no Bill that will come before this House for a long time which will be of such personal interest to me as this Bill. I combed through it and I did not advert to this loophole. However, when the Minister, Deputy Flynn, came in and eloquently spoke of the special arrangements that would be operated at the discretion of the local authority for bona fide site assembly, that was the moment I realised we were in trouble and that members of the local authorities were going to be in trouble. It is because I believe in local democracy and because I am committed to the members of local authorities — many Senators, Senator Honan, myself and others, are members of local authorities — that I want the local authorities to have the power, if they want it, to take effective action against derelict sites. It is not because I want to take the power from a local authority or to circumscribe their area of manoeuvrability.

I am convinced now by the explanation given by the Minister, Deputy Flynn, in his opening remarks that if this amendment does not go in the members of a local authority who want to take solid, strong action about dereliction in their area will find that their powers will be lessened by this. I am not going to have any Senator trying to intimidate me by suggesting that I want to curtail the powers of local authorities. Far be it, but I will speak about that on another day. As a member of a local authority I know the problems. I have 16 years' experience and I do not want to have another 16 years' experience — if God is good to me and my voters re-elect me — and find that when this Bill is enacted into legislation and when members of my local authority or any other members of a local authority want to get their officials to take action about derelict sites in their areas — something like 29, Clare Street or others that have been mentioned — we are hamstrung unwittingly by this Bill. I accept the Minister's bona fides. He is quite happy but through an oversight this section was not tightened up and was allowed to slip through.

I would like to make one reference to something the Minister said earlier. He paid fulsome compliments and praiseworthy tributes to Dublin Corporation for what they were doing in regard to the assembly of sites in the designated areas. He complimented them and patted them on the back for the very good work they were doing in assembling these sites. I would like to thank the Minister for those words of praise, none of which referred to me personally but referred to our officials. But I want to ask; who created the dereliction in the first place? Why is there all this dereliction? Why did the Government have to bring in extremely attractive tax incentives to deal with the designated areas in Dublin, Limerick and other cities? Precisely because dereliction was allowed to develop in these places.

I have heard Minister Flynn speak about this in other places. The Minister is on the record castigating local authorities for their lack of commitment to cleaning up the derelict sites in their areas. I am saying to the Minister, Deputy Flynn, and to Minister Connolly, who has just left, that if they want local authorities to be effective and to take action with regard to dereliction — and I want that as well — they must give us pretty well watertight powers and they must not allow these loopholes.

Acting Chairman

Could I draw the attention of the Senator to the amendment? It seems obvious to me that the Senator has strayed from the point.

Sorry, I did not intend to stray. I was really replying to comments made by the Minister. So to that extent I may have strayed off it inadvertently and I will therefore come back specifically to the amendment. The Minister said to us that he was happy with the Bill. He kept repeating that he was happy with this Bill as it stood and that there was no need for the amendment. He referred to the Attorney General and the parliamentary draftsman and others whose wisdom in this was much greater than ours. I do not intend to be intimidated by any references to Attorneys General, parliamentary draftsmen or anybody else. They may not have the experience that Members of this House have of trying to take effective action on foot of legislation which brilliant parliamentary draftsmen draw up. I am sure they spend months and years brooding over it, but the reality of the situation is that we are the footsoldiers. In the final analysis, we are the people — members of local authorities — who have to try to put effective measures into operation.

That is why I would appeal, beg and beseech them to give us the powers we want and I appeal to the Members on the Fianna Fáil benches. I do not know how many are members of local authorities. I know that Senator Honan has been a very illustrous member down in Ennis. I am also concerned about Ennis. There was a very fine mill wheel in Ennis. I used to go out of my way to pass through Ennis to see this beautiful mill wheel. One day I arrived in Ennis and, lo and behold, it was gone. It had vanished without trace. I had enough interest in Ennis — I am not exclusively concerned about Dublin —to find out what had happened. I discovered that the local authority in Ennis had given permission for its demolition. I looked up the papers to see which members of the local authority had voted for it and who had voted against it. I am not going to mention here who voted either way.

The Senator should not be talking about it at all.

Acting Chairman

I would remind the Senator that she is straying quite a lot. I urge her to stay on the amendment.

I will finish up now. It does seem to me that the Minister has left a little chink of light, a little area of hope. We need not go out in total despair because what the Minister seems to have said to us — and I am not going to misinterpret him; I know it is on the record quite clearly — is that perhaps this amendment would be more pertinent, suitable and relevant to section 25. I understand that he has given no commitment. He has given no undertakings, no indication that he intends to or will reconsider it. But at least he has left open, as I see it, the opportunity for everybody here to go away, because I do not imagine we will reach section 25 tonight, and that calmly, out of this Chamber, they can consider the points made here that they may, when we reach section 25, be prepared to come back and allow some amendment similar to this one which would be suitable under section 25 and which would have the same objective as Senator Norris had when he put down this amendment.

I very much appreciate the Members of the Fianna Fáil Party who have stuck it out this afternoon since we started this. I would like to say to them and to the new Minister who has arrived, Deputy Gallagher, that I have contributed to this debate, not out of any anxiety to cause any argy-bargy but quite simply because, like other speakers here, I care and I care desperately about the heritage of this country. I see it being eroded, unfortunately, sometimes by unscrupulous, developers who have no interest whatsoever and who, as my colleague, Senator Costello, said a moment ago, are simply motivated by pure profit and do not care about our heritage. I would say to the Minister that we should remember the debate here on tourism not very long ago and be aware of the contribution which these fine buildings, built and worked on by Irish craftsmen down through the years, can make. We should give local authorities every possible help in carrying out the obvious intention of the Department, of the Minister and of the Government in introducing this. That is the only reason why I am here this afternoon. I do appreciate the attention of the Senators.

Acting Chairman

Could I say, before we go any further, that there has been a tremendous amount of time allowed on this for Senators to put forward their arguments? If one has regard to the amount of time spent on it, it is obvious that a discussion is developing on the Bill generally rather than on the amendment. I do not want to stifle any debate but it is at that point now. There was an appeal earlier by one Member and I have allowed the debate run on half an hour beyond that.

But are we getting anywhere? Are we making any progress?

Acting Chairman

I am not here to decide whether we are making progress or not. I am here to see if I can get the business done in a fair and just way. The Minister to reply, please.

Looking at this Bill, as a member of a local authority I am as interested in the heritage of the city and country as anyone else, lest there be an impression that some people are more interested than others. Section 2 is the definition and interpretation section. If Senator Norris and Ross withdraw this amendment, it will in no way prejudice the situation. I will just repeat what the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly said. He is not suggesting that he would accept the amendment on section 25, but what I am suggesting is that it will in no way prejudice section 25 if they allow the amendment to be withdrawn. I regret that we cannot accept the amendment.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Senators

No.

I have a number of aspects that I want to draw your attention to and a couple of them certainly are new, if you do not mind.

Acting Chairman

I certainly do mind, but I find it difficult to say no to you because another person indicated that they wanted to speak as well. I asked for your co-operation, but I did not get it. Go ahead and speak.

All of the remarks I have made have been, I hope, pertinent; they were intended as such. I do not think there has been any intention on this side of the House to be obstructive. The two Independent Senators, Senators Norris and Hederman, have a long track record of concern and experience in dealing with this matter and in dealing with the whole area of dereliction in the city of Dublin. There are not two more experienced people in the city of Dublin in relation to this matter. So, instead of curtailing a discussion on an extremely important matter, it is important that we tease out the full implications. We should be very thankful that we have people who have not just talked about these thngs but who have actually worked on the ground in relation to improving the heritage of the city and in relation to improving the whole area of dereliction.

The longer we go on and the more I hear the arguments to and fro — I acknowledge the Minister has come in here with the best of intentions — the more important this amendment becomes. It is an amendment that goes to the heart of what we are trying to do. It states that the definition would specifically include sites assembled for the purpose of property development. That is at the core of what has been happening to this capital city of Ireland and that is why it is so important. If we can be satisfied that it is covered in some other way, that an amendment or a further amendment of the spirit of this amendment would be allowed to be inserted, we would be quite satisfied with that. We have not been given that commitment so far. Perhaps the Minister will tighten up the remarks that he made there, firm them up, so that we could make some progress here.

When I look at this amendment and at section 25, and I look again at the rest of section 2 with the sections that are being deleted in relation to amendment No. 3 —I am merely referring to this; I am not going into a debate on it — I see that this amendment is all the more important because it specifically exempts the entire area of State authority and of the local authority in whose functional area the land is situated. Where land is acquired by compulsory purchase order, where the development objective is for the purpose of reserving the land for roads or parking places — parking places, mind you — or any other purposes, the entire local authority and State authority is exempt from the definition of derelict sites. Therefore, you have a situation where a local authority or State authority can accumulate derelict sites without any penalty being imposed. We have been told that is going to be deleted. In my opinion, we have not been given a satisfactory reason other than that it would be an extra cost.

The entire Bill is intended to deal with a situation where not just the beauty of our city has been blighted but millions of pounds worth of fine architectural heritage has been blighted. I am not satisfied with a simple blanket statement of cost. What it means in practice is that there is a whole area exempt from being treated with the definition of dereliction and that all the more emphasises the need for a specific amendment in the terms that are included here, an amendment which will incorporate both the responsibilities of the public authorities and of the private developer. That really underlines the importance of this amendment. As we go on, it seems to be more and more important, and the arguments that have been adduced here by my distinguished colleagues from the Independent benches are arguments that are adduced from experience, not from theory. I think that is all the more reason we would be very anxious for the Minister to take them on board.

The Minister said he felt that to some degree the amendment would be more appropriate to section 25. When one looks at the entirety of section 2 it is difficult to see that it is. If amendment No. 3 is going to be deleted in toto, it takes a lot from the intention of amendments Nos. 2 and 3, which is to tighten up the loopholes so that nobody, either a corporate body or a private individual, through property development, is able to cause dereliction in this city. As I said at the outset, this is at the core of this Bill; this is at the heart of the matter. We must be able to get legislation that effectively covers the areas that are at present causing dereliction in this city; and there is no greater area of dereliction being caused other than through the accumulation of property for development purposes as it is put or, as I would say in many cases, the accumulation of property for speculative purposes, with a view to profit rather than to improving the heritage of the city and, indeed, of the country.

The Minister did not address it in his remarks the last time round, but I referred specifically to a local authority or a statutory body. We saw where a local authority is covered to a degree in section 25, where the local authority deals with an owner of urban land who is seeking to carry out a scheme of property development and where the local authority must be satisfied. I am not satisfied there are sufficient criteria to determine whether that is adequate because it will allow property to be accumulated over a period of five years with fairly small penalties being imposed. However, could the Minister address the point as to whether, not just the local authority is to be satisfied on the matter, but what is going to happen about the local authority itself. Who is going to be satisfied in relation to the local authority?

It has been said here again and again that the local authority has in many instances been one of the worst accumulators of property and has allowed that property to fall into dereliction. Are we going to have the same terms applied to the local authority? Is the local authority going to be allowed to hoard land for whatever purpose for a period of five years and to hoard it in a derelict condition for that period? Is the local authority going to be subjected to any penalties for the duration of that time? Who is going to be satisfied that the local authority has done so for a valid reason? We have seen the local authority in this city and elsewhere come up with a multitude of plans and proposals. For example, if I may be allowed to exemplify the point, we have a major plan for an eastern by-pass to cover the city from Swords through to——

Acting Chairman

The Senator is making a very good Second Stage speech. Will he please keep to the amendment.

This is the amendment. I am pointing out to the Minister an area which is covered by this amendment but does not seem to be covered under section 25 and which section 25 does not seem to deal with. Can the Minister tell us how we are going to be satisfied that it is a bona fide scheme that the local authority is going to put together, because we know from experience, local authorities have put together schemes that they have subsequently jettisoned? The eastern by-pass has been with us for the past 20 years and nothing has taken place in terms of its actual fulfilment. Is property going to be compulsorily purchased under this new scheme? That is what I want the Minister to address himself to, so that we will at least know that section 25 will be allowed to be subject to amendments to extend the coverage of somebody looking for a scheme of property development to the local authorities and the State authorities as well as the private developers.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Senators Norris and Hederman mentioned the Supreme Court judgment in relation to the Derrynaflan Chalice and the heritage was vested and resided in the people of this country. Could the Minister make some reference to the application of that judgment in this case?

I have a last question to put to the Minister. I am delighted he is back with us. In relation to the third amendment about deleting everything after "register", apparently we have been told that that is not being allowed. Are we being allowed to discuss that or will we be coming to it?

Acting Chairman

It is only the definition section.

Will we be coming to that or is this letter about the same thing?

Acting Chairman

I am sure we will be coming to it later.

I am sure the Chair would wish to assist a newcomer. Could the Chair explain to me where I should go to seek the information? I am reasonably well up in the Planning Act — I am not well up in Acts generally — but I cannot see anything where the the deletion of that section could possibly put a charge on the Exchequer. I am not asking for an explanation here. I am asking could the Chair tell me as a newcomer to this Chamber where I can go, to whom I can go? Do I go to see the Minister or do I go and see his officials? Who can tell me why the deletion of that section could possibly put a charge on the revenue? I just wonder is there some misunderstanding or mistake because the Chair knows that this letter which was sent out to Senator Ross——

Acting Chairman

The Senator may discuss that on the section.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 19.

  • Costello, Joe.
  • Harte, John.
  • Hederman, Carmencita.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Upton, Pat.

Níl

  • Bennett, Olga.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Fallon, Seán.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Honan, Tras.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Michael.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McGowan, Paddy.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Norris and Hederman; Níl, Senators McGowan and Wright.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.

The Acting Chairman very graciously said he would assist me as a newcomer and direct me where I could go and who I could go to, to understand why the third amendment which deletes lines 9 to 18 would put a charge on the public revenue. I am not asking anybody here to do it. I am simply asking to whom I could go and how I could find out how such a deletion could possibly put a charge on revenue. There has been a mistake and I urge the Cathaoirleach to look at it again.

I am satisfied that if the Senator contacts the Clerk of the Seanad he will be in a position to explain it to her.

The Cathaoirleach may rule me out of order. My understanding was that we had dealt with the amendment and that we were on section 2.

We are on section 2.

Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I have two queries on section 2. On page 5, line 10 it states: "the Minister means the Minister for the Environment". It then states: "occupier in relation to land, includes any person in or entitled to immediate use and enjoyment of the land, any person entitled to occupy the land and any other person having, for the time being, control of the land". It is quite possible that all three people could be separate individuals in contention for the same piece of land at the same time. There is a presumption on reading the section that we are talking about one person right through but we are not. There could be three separate individuals filling the three different descriptions that are there, each of whom would be in contention. How do you distinguish who the occupier is?

As the Senator knows, we deal with all land equally. There is always an owner. There will be no problem, for instance, in serving notice on an owner and it will be served on one person. All land is included and all interest.

Later on in the Bill — I am simply referring in general terms — exceptional care has been taken to deal with a situation where it will not be possible to identify ownership, where confiscation becomes a reality. I am trying to define here the three categories of people referred to. There is a presumption that the Minister is dealing with one individual there while in reality it could equally fit the description of three separate individuals in contention for the same piece of ground.

Would the Minister be so kind as to clarify a matter of parlance towards the end of section 2? I am extremely concerned about something which I fully accept it is not, apparently, possible to amend, that is the question of the definition of "urban land". The section reads:

"urban land" means a derelict site in an urban area which, has been entered on the register but does not include any occupied dwelling or land owned by a State authority or by the local authority in whose functional area the land is situated or land in relation to which—

(a) a compulsive purchase order (other than a vesting order under this Act) has become operative or

(b) a development objective exists for the purpose of reserving the land for roads or parking places or for any of the purposes of reserving or preserving land indicated in Part IV of the Third Schedule to the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963.

I would like an explanation of this because I accept that as the current procedures are this, apparently, cannot be deleted. Deletion would appear to be a fairly simple method of dealing with it but apparently it is not possible.

In the light of the fact it is not possible could the Minister kindly explain to me the intention behind it, because urban land in common parlance quite clearly includes all these things. The reason why a very specific legal import is given is in order to alter the meaning of plain English. I would like to know why there is the necessity to exempt local authorities, State authorities and so on, from the operation of this Bill. It seems to be a most extraordinary procedure, I would like to have the opportunity to come back on this and tease out the reason for this particular definition. I am addressing the whole section very directly. This is a cardinal point of the section. The section means nonsense if we do not understand this definition.

In regard to Senator Howard's point about "occupier" there are a number of different elements in the definition of "occupier". First, it includes any person in or entitled to immediate use and enjoyment of the land. This concept is based on rating law and the occupier in this instance would be broadly equivalent to the rates occupier for rating and valuation purposes. Secondly, the concept of "occupier" includes any person entitled to occupy the land, depending on the circumstances. This could refer to a lawful owner, a lessee or any other tenant lawfully entitled to occupation.

Thirdly, "occupier" includes any person for the time being having control of a premises. In addition to the types of occupation already mentioned, this concept could extend even to non-lawful instances of occupation, for instance by trespassers or their invitees. The second and third elements of the definition of "occupier" drawn from corresponding definitions from the Litter Act, 1982 and the Air Pollution Act, 1987.

Section 32, which we will discuss later, provides a procedure whereby a person served with a notice may apply to the District Court to resolve any problems caused where a person refuses him consent to carry out measures required of him under the Act. He may also, under that section, recover any cost to which he is entitled. This is my knowledge of it in many places throughout the country, especially in my own constituency. Some of these lands or property are unoccupied maybe for years but remember if an individual goes in there, I can assure him he will not be in a hot hour. I know all about it. I will use a slang expression, they will come out of the woodwork very quickly then. The matter I have referred to will deal adequately with that. I know Senator Howard's concern in regard to this matter but the local authorities will have power to deal with that.

I want to refer to Senator Norris. Urban land is land to which the derelict sites levy will apply. It means a derelict site in an urban area which has been entered on the register subject to a number of exceptions. The first exclusion is for occupied dwellings. I appreciate that there can be arguments against this exclusion. My view — it was the Minister's view on this and it was not challenged in the Dáil — is that the imposition of the levy in these instances could have problematic housing consequences. For instance, for tenants to whom landlords might pass on the levy.

The second exclusion from the levy is State property and property owned by the levying local authority. The reason for this exclusion is the practical one of preventing pointless circular transfers of public finances. The levy would, of course, apply to semi-State property or to a property of a local authority other than the levying authority. Finally, the definition of urban land excludes land affected by a CPO or a planning reservation. Landowners in these instances will be under the same obligation as everybody else to keep their property from becoming derelict. However, it would seem unjust to subject them to the levy when their rights to re-develop their properties have been openly curtailed by the local authority in pursuit of some intended public purpose. I hope I have given Senators a detailed explanation. If I went on a bit Senators will please bear with me because I wanted to be helpful to both Senators in these matters.

The Minister has, indeed, been extremely helpful and I am grateful to him. I do not want to be tedious; I would like to be helpful in return and explain my difficulties with this entire section of the Bill. The Minister's definition with regard to the question of occupied buildings is very loose. Precisely what constitutes occupation? Is it occupation for residential purposes or is it occupation for the purposes of conducting a business, for example? Does it have to be legitimate? I will give an example and I would like the Minister and his advisers to consider it.

Not very far from where I live there is a listed building which is occupied. It is occupied on one floor by a legitimate business that does not have a legal tenancy and on another floor it is occupied by a brothel. I wonder if the Minister is securing the rights of brothel owners in this very loose and vague definition? Could the Minister not tell me that as somebody living in this vicinity I have a right to have my property rights vindicated at the expense of the proprietor of a brothel? That is my first question: what kind of occupation, because the definition is very, very vague. I do not see why the rights of somebody in the line of business I have indicated should be upheld at the expense of the historic value of a house that is going derelict because of this kind of occupation.

My second point was about this business of housing. It seems to me the Minister is talking about very problematic housing indeed. Surely he will accept that there is a responsibility on the State, which has been traditionally understood, that people should be in reasonable housing. If I understand him correctly — and perhaps I do not understand him correctly — he is reluctant to move against people who are occupying houses that are totally unfit for human habitation because this might displace them onto the local authorities. What does that say about the conscience of our Government? Should they not be displaced? I believe they should and I think the local authorities, about whose wonderful virtues we have heard consistently throughout the afternoon, should accept this responsibility. Are the members of local authorities present in this Chamber this afternoon pleased or flattered to be told, as I understand it, but perhaps again I am wrong, that we cannot disturb these people from dreadful conditions because it would create a charge on the local authority? That may be what is involved.

The Minister was very direct and most helpful when he explained why this section had to stand without alteration because he said it might put a charge on the levy, and he then said "circular funds". As I understand it — and I am a most simple man — circular funds are those that go round and round and round, and I do not see in that notion any diminution. Where precisely in a circular fund, a revolving fund, is the diminution? It may be rather tedious for a local authority to have every so often to pay a fine to itself, but it is not going to cost them anything and should they not pay a fine? Suppose local authorities are in gross dereliction of their duty; should they not be publicly exposed by being fined, especially when this does not cost anything? The Minister has used the word "circular". Fine, I accept that. He also spoke of "circular transfers". When the Minister speaks of expense, is he thinking of the expense of the material upon which these fines are written and may I ask whether he is talking about the central Exchequer or local authorities?

My final two points concern the question of the development objective of councils, reserving space for development, such as motorways and so on and that this should be an exempt function. Why? May I point out, the Minister invoked the question once more of property rights. The Minister may be aware of what the situation actually is with regard to motorways and how these things operate but perhaps he is not and may I place on the record exactly how this operates in areas like, for example, Clanbrassil Street, where precisely this kind of thing has been in operation, which is why I am so absolutely determined against this section.

What happens is that a local authority will slap a CPO on a building in a strategic position and, quite deliberately, will allow it to go derelict. That then has a multiplier effect upon all the surrounding property. The local authority goes in five or ten years later and acquires the rest of the property at about 25 per cent of the market value because by their action they have destroyed the financial base of the property values of the people involved. That is why I am against this section.

The Fianna Fáil Party were traditionally the party of the plain people of Ireland. I use that phrase with no sense of irony; I respect them for it, I believe at one stage they were and I think they safeguarded the rights of ordinary, decent little people and their small houses and their small shops. I see some distinguished Members of the front bench nodding. I hope that perhaps I have exposed an area where there is a contradiction that must be painful to the decent core of Fianna Fáil. I would like the Minister, perhaps with the advice of his professional advisers, to direct his mind to the property rights of those who frequently have been affected, in the cities of Dublin, Waterford and Kilkenny. I do not know so much about the other cities. In Dublin the Minister has only got to go to Clanbrassil Street and I am sure many other Members in a non-partisan way will have to agree with the truth of what I say.

Perhaps the Minister will consider that series of points. I will list them again: There is the question of occupied buildings. What does this mean? What kind of occupation is being protected here and why? There is the question of problematic housing. Is it appropriate that we should be afraid to dispossess people, to place them as a responsibility of the local authorities to provide decent houses for them? There is the question of circular funding and how this can create a charge on the Exchequer. Then there is the question of the property rights of those along the line of a motorway.

This legislation, as it exists now, makes a total, complete and utter mockery of the attempts of local authorities themselves to list buildings. You will find that one section of a local authority will go to the trouble of creating lists and those lists have no statutory effect in law. They have some repercussions because the Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, was gracious enough to accept in a budget a few years ago three pages of my amendments giving specific rights in tax terms to a very limited number of people who restored part of our heritage in the inner cities and so on, and these could be triggered by being list one buildings and so on. It has that impact but it has no statutory enforceable rights, so that you could have a situation where the local authority decide to put a CPO on a whole string of buildings with two, three or four listed buildings right in the middle and decide to drive a motorway through them.

May I give a hypothetical case? Dublin Corporation decide there is an increasing volume of traffic between St. Stephen's Green and Grafton Street. Right in the way stands a building associated with the Ascendancy, called Leinster House. They CPO it and decide to demolish. I have received sotto voce advice, that my example may be bad; Senator Hederman has whispered to me that she does not think it is possible to CPO a Government building. That may be true. In that case, let me say that my example was perhaps a little bit extreme but there could be the situation if you use something like Trinity College. Here, again, I come to the Webb judgment in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of this land — this is my final point — has decided that there are certain artefacts which are so important and valuable as part of our heritage that the necessity of retaining and cherishing them in the interests of the entire people is so powerful that it overrides all kinds of property rights. That does not seem to be addressed in this Bill. Those are five or six points that I would be most grateful if the Minister could address.

If a structure is occupied for a purpose other than that of a dwelling, then it will be subject to the levy. If a structure, whether a dwelling or not, is unoccupied, then it will also be subject to the levy. That is very fair. I do not want to get into the terminology of occupation. The usual procedures apply to a building that is occupied.

Senator Norris felt that local authorities should have to pay the derelict sites levy so that their failure to comply would be exposed. What would local authorities be doing in that case only transferring the money out of one fund into another? The Senator may be underestimating the intelligence of local authority members. In this Bill, as Senator Howard pointed out, very good powers are being given to local authority members. I would not dare to instruct the members of local authorities. There are very competent persons here who have been a long time on local authorities and who understand the position extremely well.

Are they concerned?

Of course we are concerned. That is why we are introducing the Bill. Senator Norris said that Fianna Fáil were the party to protect the weak and the underprivileged. He is correct. I am part of all that. I want to confirm that we are. I want to leave no doubt about that. I am pleased that it was brought up because I want to put it on the record. That is why we enjoy such popular support. The Senator's judgment is good.

I congratulate the Minister of State's use of a very small compliment to praise himself and his party.

It is because the Senator reminded me of something.

Acting Chairman

Could we confine ourselves to the Bill?

Sorry, Acting Chairman, for that good humoured interruption. There is a statutory definition in the Bill of "listed building". A listed building cannot be demolished unless with the permission of the authority and notice must be served. Also, in respect of a listed building, if you want to carry out improvements you must comply with the Planning Act. The Planning Bill at present going through the Dáil deals with that and there is a tightening up process in it. That is to be welcomed also.

Senator Norris, if I am correct in my interpretation of his remarks, seems to be in favour of putting levies on all occupied buildings. Even in the Dáil there was nobody in favour of that. I do not think that is a runner. The Senator may not mean it that way.

I would be, even if it meant the Government living on immoral earnings.

I am not going to get into the question of occupiers. We use our own interpretation of that. In my part of the country, being modest people, we comply accordingly.

I hope I have explained what the position is. The Dublin members of the corporation are very articulate and would be quick to bring any dereliction to the notice of the authorities.

This Bill contains all the powers. Senator Howard hit the nail on the head when he said "We are now getting some control to decide what we want to do". That was a good point. I always admire a man or woman who puts up a good point. As I see the situation, I do not see any need to include local authorities in this section. I think Senator Costello understands what I am saying. Senator Norris said in case of infringement they should be exposed. There is an articulate public out there who will be able to show that up. It is for all local authorities and individuals to get their house in order. I am confident that all local authorities will respond when this Bill becomes law.

I agree entirely with the remarks Senator Norris made. He mentioned many aspects that I had intended to bring up. I will refer — and I will not labour them because of that — to one or two points. Senator Howard referred to the definition of "occupier". He made some interesting points on that and the Minister of State explained how this definition operated, how it was intended to extend to trespassers and other unlawful occupiers and so on, which was quite illuminating. The point I want to make in relation to that was that in that section the wording is: " `occupier' in relation to land, includes any person in or entitled..." and so on. While it is a fairly comprehensive definition it does not pretend to be all encompassing. I do not know why the Minister will not consider the very reasonable amendment put forward by Seantor Naughten that "structure" should be dealt with in the same encompassing definition, namely, instead of "means any building" et cetera, "structure should include". In that way you ensure that anything not covered by the specific definition in the Bill will be covered by that type of catchall phrase.

In relation to the second amendment and, indeed, the third one which was unfortunately not allowed, the points have been made fairly substantially and comprehensively. Despite the Minister's assertion, I am not convinced by his arguments that a local authority or any State authority should be simply and absolutely exempt from the terms of this legislation and that is what the section is doing. I realise that the local authority is the registering authority and that it is being given powers here and I welcome that.

I agree with Senator Howard and with the Minister but, I too, like Senator Norris, do not see the problem of the circular transfer of finance if the local authority or any State authority was obliged to be subject to a penalty for abuse of powers in relation to derelict sites. We on this side of the House have given numerous examples where dereliction has been caused directly as a result of the activities of local authorities. It is suggested that we should know better, that we should not be impugning the good name of persons elected to local authorities. That is not what we are doing. We are talking about decisions that have been made, planning decisions, decisions that have been carried out over a period of time, that have led to dereliction, for whatever reason. We are not impugning the good name of anybody but what we are saying is that there are specific exemptions of local authorities in this section that we know through experience should not be exempted. It is as simple as that. Whatever about the circular transfer of funds and where they go to, it is important that the public have the opportunity to see that there is nobody and no body in the sense of corporate body, entitled to be responsible for dereliction.

I still think that the amendments that were proposed to section 2 were admirable and I am disappointed they have been rejected. The rejection of amendment No. 3 is a shame because it would have dealt with that whole area to which we and a number of people have referred where dereliction has taken place. Consider, for example, the question of parking places where Dublin Corporation controls many derelict sites that are now turned into parking lots and they have been left like that for decades. What pressure is there on the corporation, for example, to develop those sites? That is hardly a way to have parking places throughout the city, areas where land has been taken over or where buildings have been demolished and they have been turned into temporary sites that remain that way for a long period of time.

We have already referred to the roads and the number of plans that have been brought forward in relation to city road building, plans which have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another, compulsory purchase orders that have been imposed, land that has been acquired, buildings that are lying derelict and those plans have not been fulfilled. It is important that we include those areas as well. While the Minister was at great pains to explain what he meant by "occupied dwelling", I must still say I am not at all clear that that statement does not remove the obligation on the statutory body and the local authority to ensure that all occupied dwellings are in a fit condition. That seems to be the effect of it.

I am still very dissatisfied with section 2. We contend that amendments could have been accepted that would have considerably improved this section and closed off the loophole in the present planning legislation in relation to dereliction in this city. I am disappointed the Minister has not been prepared to take on board the real concerns that have been expressed from this side of the House.

The dereliction created by developers who are putting sites together for development and the dereliction caused by the local authority putting together sites for land accounts for the bulk of dereliction in this city. What is left after that is only peanuts and it is not worth while bringing in a Bill to deal with it. The main source of dereliction in this city and in every other city in Ireland are those two categories. Yet, the Minister intends in this magnificant Bill, which he says he and his Department are happy with to exclude those two areas. I know the Minister and the Fianna Fáil Party and the Department are honourable people. I ask the Minister, why should you tax a poor person with a small derelict site and slap penalties on him while excluding the big developer who is putting together a site and who may have very powerful influential friends? In all honesty how can you say Fianna Fáil are the party of the small man? I believe they were the party of the small man but this Bill proves they intend to penalise the small man. They are going to slap penal taxes on him but the local authority can do what they like. They can make massive road reservations in every development plan and you intend to let them and the big developer off scot-free.

The local authority is subject to the law the same as everyone else.

The local authorities are putting these together for roads programmes. I ask the Minister how can he accept that the local authority can penalise the owner of a derelict site on the one hand while they themselves are the creators of the greatest dereliction this country has ever seen. This city is like a bombed site. When they want to do a film about Berlin they can come to Dublin to do it. I want to be given the powers as a member of a local authority.

I am sure your local authority is doing something about it. There is a dereliction of duty there.

I ask the Minister to give the local authorities the powers so that they can implement what he says is the purpose of this Bill. The Bill is excluding the main perpetrators.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.