Local Government (Dublin) Bill, 1993: Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 34, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 35.
Question proposed: "That section 35 stand part of the Bill."

I propose that this section be deleted.

That is not down as an amendment to the Bill. I absolutely and utterly reject that proposal, which is hardly surprising given the content of my speech. I hoped Senator Doyle would have seen reason. It is morally wrong for anyone to propose the deletion of this section. It cannot be for the betterment of the entire county of Dublin that Dublin Corporation wants to extend and continue its involvement in the county. The Minister has explained that if local government is to have any sense at all it must be local. There is no sense in City Hall holding and owning houses and land in Jobstown or Mulhuddart. I would reject any proposal to delete this section and, in fact, I want to strengthen it. I would like your advice, Acting Chairman, as to whether I should deal with it under this section or discuss it on the Third Schedule.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 36 to 40, inclusive, agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
THIRD SCHEDULE.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 40, paragraph 2(d), lines 9 and 10 to delete "or such longer period as the Minister may allow".

I have no desire to cause any particular problems with this Schedule but the Minister has proposed the preparation of a scheme in order to achieve what I set out in my contribution on Second Stage. This is to have the transfer of these assets done as speedily as possible. We started the process in 1985, in 1990 it was reinforced by various reports and the Minister is about to see these new councils become a reality in 1994, but I do not want to head into the next local elections with all these issues still unresolved.

In Part 1 (2) (d) of the Third Schedule the Minister is proposing, in regard to the local authorities and specifically Dublin Corporation, that:

The preparation of schemes required by this Part shall be commenced as soon as may be after the enactment of this Act so as to ensure that the schemes can be made as soon as possible thereafter and, in any event, not later than twelve months after the establishment day or such longer period as the Minister may allow.

I have no doubt the Minister will not allow the corporation to drag its heels but I would be happier if that subsection of Part 1 was deleted. I think the onus must be placed squarely on Dublin Corporation and, presumably, the managers of the three new local authorities to specify what is required. There must be an onus to have this done within the 12 month period. If the Minister had written to the county managers of Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Dublin South county councils seeking their scheme of reorganisation within 12 months we would not be here today. We would still be dilly-dallying. Presumably they were collecting their salaries and there was no great rush. A deadline must be set and adhered to.

I know the Minister will come under the most appalling pressure from both the manager and members of Dublin Corporation to ensure that this is not done. I have no doubt the Minister will be seriously and severely lobbied in an attempt to try to stop the transfer of these assets. In the first instance, therefore, I would ask that the scheme must be prepared within 12 months. I would also like to strengthen parts of this Bill where it states that once a scheme is prepared the councils must indicate the length of time within which they will transfer these assets. I am not happy with that at all. I want to see the scheme prepared and the assets transferred within 12 months. It is late in the day to try to do that but the Minister must put down a marker and insist the scheme be there in 12 months. I am happy that this would ensure that the assets would be transferred within a six month period. I want, therefore, to see the scheme made within 12 months and not, as is stated in the Bill: "or such longer period as the Minister may allow."

It is clear from the amendment that Senator McGennis is anxious that there should be no delay in these transfer arrangements. There will certainly be no delay on my part and I intend to direct the four managers to proceed as quickly as possible in developing schemes. However, when this type of amendment is examined more closely it is seen to be over-restrictive on two counts. First, when the scheme is developed, and bearing in mind the points the Senator made about the corporation, it would be logical for me to consider that the Senator thinks the corporation might make a proposal which may not be altogether acceptable in a transfer arrangement. I would deduce that from what she is saying. In such circumstances, I would like that proposal to go back to the table because there are elements in it which I do not accept and even in the context of a ministerial review extra time may be needed.

Secondly, if a small overrun of a week or a month were required there would not be the facility to do it, so, to that extent, it is over-restrictive. To allay Senator McGennis' fears, let me say that section 6 gives me the power to direct. Very often, both in the Dáil and the Seanad, Members ask me why I should have this additional power to direct. We cannot foresee future developments and this is an overriding power to be used in circumstances which can be applied to any of the functions we have referred to. It takes away the need for a more restrictive amendment such as that of Senator McGennis which she may feel justified in moving in terms of her attitude to the corporation. The relevant section of the Bill is designed to provide greater flexibility as well as the power to direct if, ultimately, that is deemed necessary.

I accept what the Minister is saying to a certain degree and I know there is a need for flexibility. Nothing sharpens the mind like the prospect of a hanging, or an election, or the Minister breathing down your neck for a report. I still feel strongly that what I propose should be done. I mentioned the disposal of land and the Minister said that is good management. I do not dispute it is good management that Dublin Corporation, faced with the prospect of losing valuable resources, should sell them off to the advantage of their local authority. While that situation continues, however, we have absolutely no say in what goes on those lands and that is wrong from the point of view of this famous word "subsidiarity". We have no input and can make no representations to the corporation. Since 1985 we have asked the corporation to meet with us but they have steadfastly refused to meet us on this issue.

Every chairman, lord mayor and manager refused to discuss this, even to the point that the present Lord Mayor of Dublin has lobbied his colleagues in the Dáil to oppose absolutely the transfer of these assets etc. As a TD he represented for many years people living in Blanchardstown and Clondalkin. City Hall is not supporting the Minister on this issue. This applies to both the elected representatives and the management. I am willing to withdraw the amendment, but I ask the Minister to be very vigilant because there may be no assets to transfer.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 41, paragraph 4 (d), line 16 to delete all words after "consideration" down to and including "Minister" in line 20 and substitute the following:

"shall be determined by arbitration under and in accordance with the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, as amended, extended or adapted by any other legislation,"

I think the Minister and Members will understand there is, rightly, anxiety among the elected members of Dublin Corporation. If a Bill proposes to take one's land or houses, one has a right to have some anxiety about this. I wish to clarify a point for Senator McGennis. Some of the lands which the corporation. acquired by compulsory purchase order and from which Dublin County Council has benefited include the Tallaght Town Centre. This land was bought by Dublin Corporation by loans which were not obtained from the Department of the Environment but by two loans, each consisting of £3 million, raised by the corporation itself, the repayments of which are charged against the Dublin rate payer. The Third Schedule states that disagreements — and I can see the disagreement which will arise after hearing Senator McGennis' contribution — will be resolved by a person appointed by the Minister. To remove the anxiety to which this matter gives rise, instead of a person appointed by the Minister we should use the arbitration system we have always used since the foundation of the State. Disputes should be resolved under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, as amended. This would be a fair way of resolving such disputes. The Minister should accept the amendment and resolve the anxiety of Dublin Corporation.

I oppose the amendment. I do not think Senator Doyle is surprised that I do so. A case can be made to support any argument. One could put the assets of Dublin Corporation on a balance sheet, say they are very valuable and that they include houses at a market price of £40,000 to £50,000 per house as well as land zoned for residential use, which is worth a certain amount per acre. However, the land was bought at agricultural prices. While I accept the point made by Senator Doyle about Tallaght Town Centre——

Killinarden industrial estate.

Is it developed? What has happened in both cases is that land was bought by the corporation at agricultural prices and the county council helpfully rezoned it.

Dublin County Council was always good at rezoning.

The corporation has no complaints when rezoning enhances the value of its land. It is not a simple question of having a parcel of assets valued. The historical context has to be considered. I oppose the amendment and am willing to trust the Minister to ensure disputes are resolved fairly. He has heard both sides of the argument very loudly and clearly. If I am proved wrong, I will raise the issue again.

The effect of this amendment is to apply the rules set out in the 1919 Act when determining the amount of any consideration to be given arising from the transfer of housing and land. It proposes to apply the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, to transfers. This is not acceptable. This Act sets out the rules to be applied in assessing compensation in cases where property is compulsorily acquired from a private person by a public body, or, in other words, the expropriation of private property for the public good. This is designed to ensure persons are adequately and fairly compensated. The key principle is the market value, which is central to the whole compensation code.

The concerns of the corporation can be catered for in the land transfer scheme. It is not intended that the corporation should be forced to carry financial burdens for the new authorities, but neither should it seek windfall gains at the expense of these authorities. The same would be true of the new authorities in their dealings with the corporation. The agreement scheme between public authorities, whose overriding guide is at all times the public good, is the proper approach. Local authorities are required to prepare transfer schemes, and financial adjustment must be considered in that context. The schemes will set out the circumstances in which a consideration is to be given and the basis on which it is to be calculated. The schemes, and not the 1919 Act, will determine how the giving of consideration is to be handled. The schemes are subject to the approval of the Minister. If in applying the provisions of a scheme in a particular case there is a disagreement between local authorities as to the consideration, the Minister may appoint a person to determine the nature, amount and method of payment of the consideration. It will not be determined by reference to the scheme or the 1919 Act.

I ask Senator Doyle to consider the implications of the amendment. The application of the 1919 Act is not appropriate to a transfer of land and houses. It centres on market value, which is not the appropriate criterion for assets acquired with public moneys and which are continuing in public ownership. At present the corporation owns 7,500 houses on lands in the county. If we put an average value of between £30,000 and £40,000 on those houses, we are talking in terms of £42 million.

One must subtract the rents received by the corporation.

As Senator Doyle will understand, if his proposal were logical, he would say to me next year that the corporation does not require any further money from the Department of the Environment for house building purposes, that it will build its own houses and will then be able to make any decisions it likes when it sells them. However, all local authority houses are built, in the main, with a capital grant provided by central Government. It would not be logical for such houses to become an asset of a local authority and used to bankrupt an adjoining local authority. I think Senator Doyle would appreciate this. What he is trying to do is to make sure the corporation benefits in some way from this transfer arrangement but not in the exaggerated way provided in the amendment.

I am trusted by Senator McGennis. That was an extraordinary statement for her to make, bearing in mind other things she has said about me at different times. However, I am very tolerant and understanding. I hope Senator Doyle will withdraw his amendment on the basis that these schemes must be worked out locally by both the management and elected members of the individual councils concerned. I trust they will make sensible, overriding good decisions for Dublin city and county and for the country as a whole.

Senator Doyle is a very trusting Senator.

May I ask the Minister what qualification he has in mind for the person appointed to resolve disputes?

I hope the resort to the appointment of individuals, with whatever expertise, will only arise in a very small number of cases and that sensible solutions will be arranged between the authorities which will not go too far down that road. In the event of an appointment of that nature being necessary, only those who have suitable qualifications will be considered.

Question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question proposed: "That the Third Schedule be the Third Schedule to the Bill."

Part II of the Third Schedule states that there are certain exemptions for land which is being transferred in cases where the contracts to sell and so on had been drawn up. This is understandable in the case of lands which the corporation is using or which are likely to be required for such purposes. However, an exemption for land which is the subject of a contract entered into before the establishment day reinforces my view that the Minister is under extreme pressure from Dublin Corporation to allow them to go right up to the day of the transfer and beyond.

That seems to be the purpose of Part II of the Third Schedule. The Minister is effectively saying to the corporation, as he did in his speech, that it is managing well and increasing the value of its assets and that it can dispose of assets until the day of the transfer of the assets, and beyond, if it manages to get contracts signed. I have serious reservations about this.

In relation to the handing over of the houses, the Explanatory Memorandum states that:

The scheme may also provide that houses which are transferred should remain available for a specified period for letting to persons designated by the authority from whom they were transferred.

I understand that but I would like to know what the specified period is or when we will know that. There is a suggestion that this means we may own the houses but Dublin Corporation would, in fact, be letting them to the tenants for quite a long time.

I have tried to be a referee.

The referee is never right.

As the Chair knows I am the only member of the Smith family —and by far the cleanest player of them all—ever marched to the line. He knows the referee concerned.

However, in this case I have tried to be as fair a referee as possible. The corporation has particular types of problems and the county will now inherit part of its land and housing. It is not a question of the county automatically getting everything which it wants or the corporation being able to hold onto everything it wants. In circumstances where the corporation has a considerable number of people on its housing list, it is logical that for some time arrangements will be worked out between the two authorities.

It is not a question of its being a matter between the two authorities but of the national interest, which overrides individual county interests. I want to facilitate that process and I do not know how long that arrangement should stay in place. It would be wrong of me to stipulate an exact time. I want to listen to both sides and be as fair as I can.

The second part of Senator McGennis's question relates to the disposal of assets by the corporation up to the time the new arrangements are put in place. I have indicated that I will look into that whole question, bearing in mind the right of the corporation as a sensible owner of land to take advantage of a market situation if that land is not required by the corporation or does not have a future use for the county.

These are matters which must be teased out. I am sure that the corporation will be sensible about this. Should it be the case that the corporation wants an immediate windfall without taking account of the overall national interest, as distinct from the county interest, I would have no hesitation in looking more seriously at that. However, I do not want to go beyond that now because the corporation has been selling land over the years and this may form part of that total programme.

A couple of years ago we said to all authorities and State agencies that if they had assets — and as a former Minister for Forestry I sponsored such schemes — which they were in a position to sell and convert the resources to a better utility, they should do so. It is a national policy to dispose of assets which are no longer of use and have a market value and subsequently dedicate the resources to a better purpose. Overall, we have the best kind of layout here, and Senator McGennis's trust in me would be enhanced if the same trust could be applied towards her colleague, Senator Doyle, in his——

I trust Senator Doyle.

——desire to see the best arrangements made for both the county and city. If he wants to confine himself to the city and Senator McGennis wants to confine herself to the county the scheme will not work. We must get the balance——

I have a dual mandate as I was born in the city.

——just as we have tried to get the balance in a far deeper and greater question this week. Let us hope that we can handle this in a responsible manner.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Chair and the Senators for facilitating me in the fairly quick passage of this important legislation, which gives us the opportunity to start on 1 January. I wish the Chair, all of the Senators and the staff of the House a happy Christmas. They deserve some relaxation after all the hard work they have done over the last months, particularly in facilitating me as Ministers for the Environment and my Ministers of State in the legislation which we have passed during this session. It was quite a historic time in terms of the number of Bills which come to the House. They were efficient and helpful in this matter.

I thank the Minister for being here today and on many occasions over the last number of weeks. I wish him and his family a happy Christmas.

I wish to concur with those views. The Minister's last statement before the final Stages of Bill were taken was very reassuring. I am certain that he will act as a fair and impartial referee between the interests of the city and the county in this Bill. I wish him a happy Christmas.

Question put and agreed to.