I fully support Senator Ryan's remarks about the metro. We had a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport this morning which was addressed by Professor Melis, the man responsible for constructing the undergound in Madrid. It is important that we look at it again because it was this House, on foot of an amendment of mine, that initiated the whole question of the metro. We have in the Leader somebody who has very considerable experience in this area. Professor Melis also said there were five times too many people involved in the project. He has got it down even further. We were told €4.8 billion; it is down now to €1.05 billion, in other words one quarter what we were told and it can be put in, with his advice, by Christmas 2006 – forget 2016.
There are certain things we need to do and this is what I want to propose, because I believe it is extremely important. Professor Melis said they cleared the way and they could not have done it without the co-operation of their parliamentary colleagues, the legislators, because they had to make certain provisions in Madrid with regard, for example, to the ownership of the ground. Here, as in Paris, the ownership goes right down to the centre of the earth. It is one of these legal fictions. We need to amend that so that everything below 25 metres, for the purpose of public infrastructure, belongs to the State. They were able to do that in Madrid. I suggested to the joint committee that we should establish a group to look at all the legislative proposals that need to be put together for them to clear the decks completely in a compendium-type Bill. I suggest that with the expertise of the Leader, a former distinguished Minister for Transport, the Seanad could be the House to introduce the legislation to clear the way. It needs to be done immediately, if we are going to start in spring, as Professor Melis suggested.
A concerned constituent has written to me because of an apparent decision by An Post to cease the sale of international reply coupons. These are used for returning a manuscript to a foreign country, for example. It is a disadvantage to certain elements of our society if An Post has decided to stop them.
I ask that the Parliamentary Bulletin, which will do damage to the Oireachtas, be withdrawn. It contains a couple of paragraphs about the election, pictures which take up half a page and a chapter on the parliamentary committees, in which Members, with the exception of university Senators, are listed by order of election. This means that I come last, but never mind. There is then another picture which takes up half a page, followed by the number of days on which the Houses sat. The latter shows that the Dáil sat only once between 1 July 2002 and 30 September 2002. It sat for a total of five days during the entire period, while the Seanad only sat for two days.