Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 6 are cognate and amendment No. 4 is related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, and amendment No. 6 will be discussed together by agreement.
Local Government (Roads Functions) Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages.
I move amendmentNo. 1:
In page 3, line 25, to delete "inserted" and substitute "as substituted".
This is a relatively straightforward technical amendment. Prior to the 1994 Act there was a section 60(2) but the word "insertion" into legislation implies that there was nothing there previously. Inserting means adding something new to the Bill. The word "substitute" would be more accurate in this situation because of the pre-existing section. It makes sense to change the word "inserted" in each of the places where it appears, to "as substituted".
I thank Senator Alex White for his observations, and his colleagues, Senators Hannigan, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly for their amendments. I know the Senator's colleague, Richard Humphreys, who does a good job on amendments and respect him.
We all work on them.
I do not wish to take away from the Senator's work. These are technical amendments to a drafting style. My officials contacted the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel which informed them that this is standard language. The term "as substituted" is not used in this context. I am satisfied that we are using the correct language in this case and I cannot accept these amendments.
I did not refer to amendment No. 4, which is in this group. It is also a technical amendment proposing that the relevant section of the amending Act be referred to in order to maintain consistency between sections 1 and 2. The difference between inserting and substituting is clear. I understand the Minister's point in respect of the Parliamentary Counsel's advice but for people reading this legislation in the future that difference is significant.
I move amendmentNo. 5:
In page 6, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) Regulations made in whole or in part under section 12 of the Roads Act 1920 which relate to matters other than those referred to insubsection (3) and are in force immediately before or upon the coming into operation of the Local Government (Roads Functions) Act 2007, continue in force and may be amended or revoked in respect of those matters by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.”.
We are concerned that section 2(3) could create an anomaly because it preserves certain regulations made under the Roads Act 1920, without specifying what happens to all the other regulations although the Bill amends section 12. It maintains certain regulations under the remit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government but is silent on the other regulations. We suggest that to avoid this anomaly or ambiguity the Bill should specify that all regulations under section 12 continue in force. I understand there may be an objection to putting something in legislation that the sponsoring Minister feels may be superfluous or not required but where there is a possibility of ambiguity I feel it is best practice for us, as legislators, to put the matter beyond doubt. That would be the effect of this amendment were it accepted.
I thank Senator Alex White and his colleagues Senators Hannigan, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly for this amendment. The Senator is correct that the amendment is perceived as superfluous and this is often a problem. Under section 12(1) of the Roads Act 1920, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has the power to make regulations relating to a number of areas. These areas include changes to vehicle ownership, the issue, inspection and surrender of vehicle registration certificates, applications for motor tax discs, the issue of motor tax discs, the issue of replacement motor tax discs, the defacement etc. of motor tax discs, the change of use of vehicles and the alteration of vehicles. The Minister for Transport is assuming responsibility for the national vehicle and driver file so functions relating to changes in vehicle ownership and the issue, inspection and surrender of vehicle registration certificates are transferring to that Minister.
The purpose of section 2 is to provide a statutory basis for the Minister for Transport to make regulations in respect of these functions. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will retain the power to make regulations under the 1920 Act, which I took the trouble to dig out, in respect of his remaining functions. These functions relate to applications for motor tax discs, issue of motor tax discs, issue of replacement motor tax discs, defacement etc. of motor tax discs, change of use of vehicle and alteration of vehicle. If I understand the Senator's concern, he seeks to ensure that under section 12(1) of the 1920 Act the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government can continue to make regulations in respect of the functions being retained by him. I am assured the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will continue to have power under the 1920 Act to make regulations in respect of his retained functions. The amendment, as proposed, would simply repeat the power already in the 1920 Act for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make regulations and, in the circumstances, the word the Senator used — "superfluous" — is appropriate. I regret I cannot accept the amendment.
I was not describing the amendment as superfluous, as I think the Minister suspects. I was anticipating that the Minister would describe the amendment thus but I was not embracing the term. Section 2(3) of the Bill states: "Regulations made in whole or in part under section 12 of the Roads Act 1920 which [a and b] continue in force and may be amended or revoked in respect of those matters by the Minister for Transport." We are saying that the particular regulations we are singling out continue in force.
At the very least there is a necessity in this instance for a provision to be made for the avoidance of doubt, a phrase familiar to legislators, drafters, lawyers and so on. We are taking some provisions and moving them but others remain in force so, for the avoidance of doubt, we should add a provision to see they continue in force.
We in Fine Gael support the amendment and feel that, where there is a possibility of doubt relating to legislation, we should look to the default position. This will assure there can be no doubt relating to the subsection.
We feel that local government is looking after vehicle registration, motor tax and so on and the wording of the Bill, as drafted, does not assure us the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will retain this role. The Minister has tried to assure us in the House that this is the case but we support the amendment.
Regarding the Bill's wording, in the unlikely event of legal action regarding registration, tax affairs or the like, will the Minister clarify whether, following the passing of this Bill, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or the Minister for Transport would have responsibility?
I appreciate the Senator's concern but the Minister has adequately explained the situation. The amendment is surplus to requirements and I am satisfied by the Minister's explanation that what concerns the Senators is already addressed in existing legislation. I am satisfied by the Minister's position.
I wish to answer Senator Coffey's question. It is clear there is now a delineation of powers and that the Minister for Transport has certain powers. I have outlined this evening the powers I am retaining and that I will be able to make regulations under the 1920 Act on applications for motor tax discs, the issue of motor tax discs, the issue of replacement motor tax discs and so on, all of which come under my remit. Motor taxation is my bailiwick and I must retain this responsibility because it goes to the local government fund, which is essential if we are to have proper local government in this country.
I thank the Minister for his answer.
I move amendmentNo. 7:
In page 6, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) The Roads Act 1920, the Roads Acts 1993 to 2001 and section 2(3) may be cited together as the Roads Acts 1920 to 2007.".
I am moving this amendment because I am interested in hearing the Minister's response. I referred to section 2(3) a moment ago regarding another amendment and it is a substantive section, not an insertion in a previous Act, so it warrants inclusion in a collective citation.
This is a drafting issue that my Department has taken up with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The Roads Act 1920 and subsequent amendments to it, not all of which were contained in Roads Acts as some were in Finance Acts, were not cited together in the Roads Act 2007 which, if it were to have been done, would have been the appropriate place to have done it. The placement of a citation, as proposed, is not something that would normally be done in a Bill of a technical nature such as this. It would normally be done in a substantive Bill. I therefore regret that I cannot accept this amendment.
It is intriguing that the Minister suggests that if this were to have been done, it should have been done in the Roads Act 2007. It appears the Minister is saying that because it was not done then it cannot be done now, but it can be done now. I am interested in the notion that this cannot be done in a Bill of a technical nature. I am not aware of any restriction on the Minister in respect of a collective citation being included in the Bill. Perhaps it is not normally included in a Bill of a technical nature, but that may be because it does not usually arise. Section 2(3) is a substantive provision and warrants inclusion in a collective citation. It is odd that the Minister should say it was not done in the Roads Act 2007 and so there is little point in doing it in this Bill. It is either desirable or it is not. I contend that it is desirable and can see no legal reason that it cannot be done in a technical Bill such as this, as it is not merely an amending Bill.
This is a technical Bill. Although there are some, particularly in the Lower House, who do not accept that, I assure Senators it is the case. I understand from where Senator Alex White is coming but I cannot accept the amendment.
I thank the Minister for coming to the House. I also thank Members opposite for their interest in this debate. Although the amendments they put forward were not accepted, their interest in drafting those amendments is appreciated.
I thank the Minister for attending this debate and the staff who drafted the Bill. We in Fine Gael hope it will be of a technical nature. We will monitor it at all levels from local government up to both Houses of the Oireachtas to ensure that is the case.
I join my colleagues in thanking the Minister and his officials for coming to the House. We do not change our minds easily but the business must be done.
The Senator was swayed by our good arguments.
I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate on this Bill. As I emphasised on Second Stage, the Bill is technical in nature. Its primary purpose is to provide the legislative framework necessary to facilitate the transfer of non-national roads and the national vehicle driver file functions from my Department to the Department of Transport. This transfer will be effected by a transfer order to be made by the Government shortly. Drafting of the necessary transfer of functions order is well advanced and will be made to coincide with the commencement of the Bill.
I assure Senators that I will continue to have responsibility for the management of the local government fund following the transfer of functions. I also confirm that the full proceeds of motor tax and driver licence fees will continue to be paid into the fund. The local government fund will continue to provide substantial funding to local authorities for both general purpose grants and non-national roads grants.
I thank Senators for their co-operation in facilitating early consideration of the Bill so that the legal transfer of functions can be effected.
When is it proposed to sit again?
At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.