This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 103, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matters, therefore, which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil. For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. Senators may speak only once on the grouping, on Report Stage.
Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.
I call on the Minister to speak on the subject matter of amendments Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, in group 1. These are technical amendments to legislative citations, and to correct drafting.
All the amendments we are bringing back are technical, minor, drafting style amendments so I will address most of them together. The amendments to sections 3 and 21 on the long title arose out of proposals originally put forward by the Seanad. This Bill was the subject of an intensive and lengthy debate in this House on Second and Committee Stages. Arising out of those debates several amendments tabled here were either accepted here or the Government agreed to introduce them in the Dáil. I appreciate the impressive contribution of the Seanad to the development of this Bill.
In total eight amendments were agreed to during the Bill's passage through the Dáil, four of which were the result of a commitment given in this House to introduce such amendments on foot of suggestions by the Labour Party. These amendments to sections 3, 21 and the long title update the legislative citations used for the Harbours Act and the planning and development Acts. I brought forward another four amendments on foot of the advice of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel which corrected a drafting imperfection in section 7 and altered the wording used in section 9 to further protect the section against any future challenge should a ministerial order be made under it. These changes do not alter the substance or intent of the sections as originally debated in the House.
The amendments are relatively minor, technical drafting amendments and meet the requirements of the House as discussed when the Bill was here previously.
I welcome the Minister back to the House. I am sure the discussion today will be by some way the shortest stage the Bill has enjoyed in the House so far.
I will limit my comments to amendments Nos. 1 and 2. One improvement the House made in the original legislation was acceding to the request that any changes in the boundaries of the harbour or any changes that might take place as a result of this legislation be congruent and consistent with the planning laws and background of the area within which the harbour is located. The Chamber added great value to the Bill by focussing on this area. The amendments under discussion ensure that the legislation to which the Bill will refer will extend to the present moment, in contrast to the previous draft in which the references extended to 2006. All the amendments I have considered appear to be technical and hopefully will make the operation of the Bill more effective.
I welcome the Minister and his officials to the House. The Bill was debated at length here. This is an exercise in democracy and highlights the importance of the Seanad as one of the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are here to amend legislation, to agree and disagree. We have no difficulty with the amendments as the Minister explains them. They are quite technical and we will not oppose them.
I too thank the Minister for coming back to the House with these technical amendments. The protracted debate on this Bill has probably led to many who are not here, the general public, especially in west Cork, having a say in the Bill, which is important. The Minister appreciated the effort made when the Bill was thrashed out on Second Stage. The communities that felt they would be swamped and controlled by greater powers will see the benefit of the work done here.
I thank the Minister on behalf of my colleague, Senator O'Donovan, who is not present. He and Senator McCarthy had a grievance about one part of the country. The Minister saw the wisdom of their intentions and was more than supportive when he saw the necessary amendments being made. I compliment him and thank him and his officials for the way they dealt with this Bill.
The Senators have finished the debate on this legislation in the same constructive manner with which they approached it throughout. It is the better for its passage through this and the other House. We all recognise the importance of our commercial ports in facilitating economic growth and development. I am confident that the changes introduced in this Bill will ensure that our ports are well-placed to assist the State, not only to recover from the current economic difficulties but also to take advantage of future economic opportunities.
I thank the Members and staff of this House for their assistance, co-operation and support in facilitating the passage of this Bill. I also thank my officials for their work on it. I am sure Members would have found the officials co-operative and of assistance in regard to matters they raised with them.
When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?