Public Transport Regulation Bill 2009: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 12 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:
""road passenger transport operator's licence" means a national or international road passenger transport operator's licence within the meaning of section 2 of the Road Traffic and Transport Act 2006;".

It is a requirement in law that a bus operator hold a valid road passenger transport operator's licence. It was brought to the Minister's attention in the discussions in the Chamber on Second Stage and elsewhere that it is currently not the case that an individual who has his road passenger transport operator's licence revoked automatically has his bus licence revoked. The point was made very strongly in the Chamber and elsewhere that an applicant who must demonstrate he is of sound financial standing, good repute and holds a certificate of professional competence but who, for whatever reason, has his licence revoked, ought also to have his other licence revoked. The provisions in amendment No. 1, which pertains to section 2, and amendment No. 12, which pertains to section 19, give effect to this desirable objective.

I am not sure I understand exactly the point the Minister of State is making but it seems the limited reform effected by this Bill will not apply to the vast majority of the public transport services. The amendment states a road passenger transport operator's licence means a national or international road passenger transport operator's licence within the meaning of section 2 of the Road Traffic and Transport Act 2006. Is the Government currently negotiating contracts for public service obligations with CIE companies? Are they to be completed before this Bill is adopted? If so, this will keep the services provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann outside the remit of the new transport authority. Is it correct that this will be for ten years? By preventing competition in the procurement of the services, is the Government not depriving the public of the opportunity to have public transport services provided in an efficient way? I am not sure this is the point of the legislation. I do not understand the reason for it, bearing in mind the possibility of the negotiations being delayed. The Government needs to refrain from entering into the ten-year contracts with the CIE companies in advance of the implementation of this legislation to allow some sort of competition.

I support the amendment which seems obvious and logical. If an operator is deemed unfit, he should be deemed unfit right across the board, in which case it would be inappropriate for him to operate with another licence. I have no difficulty in supporting the amendment which seems to be logical and which should be dealt with quickly.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 6.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, subsection (1), line 25, to delete "licence" and substitute "contract".

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Tony Killeen. I am delighted, as I am sure all my colleagues are, to see him operating at full capacity again and I wish him very well in future.

This is the first substantial legislation in 77 years to deal with public transport. It is vital to get it right because the opportunity may not arise again for a considerable period. This is a real opportunity to introduce healthy and open competition into the public transport system and finally end the predatory practices of both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in trying to force transparent and healthy competitors off the public transport market.

The amendment changes the word "licence" to "contract" and although this may seem a little pedantic on first glance, the difference between those two words, in my opinion, can dictate in what direction we want to move in order to reform our public transport system. My party and I believe that retaining the word "licence" in this instance implies we will more or less continue with the status quo. It also implies that the newly constituted national transport authority will simply take over the licensing of bus routes from the Department of Transport nationally, as distinct from what happens within the greater Dublin area.

Use of the word "contract" would imply a far different approach nationally and reflect the approach taken by the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, in bringing forward the legislation last year for the Dublin Transport Authority. It would ensure that every aspect of servicing a new or existing bus route would be part of a new tendering process, including, for example, whether a new operator might choose to avail of PSO subsidies.

The word "contract", as used in the DTA Act of 2008, implies that following a comprehensive assessment of a particular transport need, a real competitive tendering process to fulfil that need would take place, and similar to all public tenders, such a tender would be openly advertised. The licensing system implies that a cloak and dagger aspect would remain in how these public transport needs are serviced. An open and transparent tendering process, with a contract awarded at the end, would address that fear.

The explanatory memorandum for the Bill states this legislation will provide for the introduction of new contractual arrangements for the procurement of public land transport services. This would lead one to believe that the Bill would use the word "contract" rather than "licence" but the word "licence" is used liberally throughout the legislation. The difference may be subtle but it dictates exactly where the Minister wishes to go with the Bill. He does not want to go the route of transparent and open competition but rather a less attractive route of retaining some of the more protectionist aspects of the current system.

Senator Cannon has put the point eminently and I second the amendment.

I support the amendment. I had not quite understood the difference between the two words but I understand why the amendment, to delete "licence" and substitute "contract", has been proposed. This Bill does not apply to services which are the subject of a public transport service contract entered into under section 48 of the 2008 Act. The Minister of State might correct me on that.

These service contracts are for any public transport where there is an element of public service obligation, and these include all the activities of Dublin Bus, the vast majority of activities of Bus Éireann and under the 2008 Act, the Dublin Transport Authority, soon to be renamed the national transport authority, will enter into a long-term public service contract of ten or more years for the provision of these services. The CIE group will continue to provide these services when the 2008 Act is commenced.

Will the Minister of State assure me of the implications of this? The effort of this amendment, which was explained well by Senator Cannon, is aimed at doing this precisely.

I have a small point. This is a refining of the import of the Bill because as I see it, a licence is a permission to operate. A contract suggests both the permission to operate and a slightly greater emphasis on the duties, obligations and responsibilities of the operator, both morally and legally. For that reason it is perhaps the better word.

The difference between "contract" and "licence" in this Bill is that in the case of a contract, there is a public service obligation; in other words it is a loss-making service. A licence applies to commercial services, which is an important distinction in the 2008 Bill and continues in this one. I understand the point being made by Senator Cannon, which is slightly different and perhaps more pertinent to different legislation.

In response to the original point made by Senator Quinn, I should have made it clear that this is one of a number of pieces of legislation which will be brought forward by the Minister for Transport. In some cases, elements mentioned by the Senator are more appropriate to the other legislation.

It is important to point out that the road transport operator licence applies to all operators, both public and private, and that is an important element of the Bill. Contracts of five years are being negotiated and issues regarding contracts are somewhat different. This relates to some extent to amendments Nos. 1 and 12. With regard to this amendment, the contract regime applies to the public service obligation and the licensing regime applies to the licence for a service which is commercial.

The primary focus of this Bill is to establish a modern system for the licensing of commercial and public bus passenger services. The sections in Part 2 of the Bill set out the parameters to support the new framework. Section 6 provides that national bus passenger services other than those provided subject to public transport services contracts or an international service may only be provided under a licence granted under this particular Bill. A person who provides such a service without the required licence would be committing an offence.

The Bill provides for the introduction of new contractual arrangements for the procurement of public land transport services on a national basis, and it is modelled on the approach established in the DTA Act from 2008 in respect of the greater Dublin area. That is facilitated by the amendment of the DTA Act in Part 3 of the Bill. The provisions of section 6 relate to the bus licensing regime and in that context the use of the term "contract" to describe the bus licence involved would be inappropriate. It would also lead to confusion, with the separate contracting regime relating to the procurement of public transport services as provided in the DTA Act of 2008.

As this would undermine elements of the Bill, the term "contract" would relate to public service obligations or loss-making services, and "licence" would relate to commercial services.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

In the absence of one of the tellers, this vote must be retaken. I apologise to the Members present. As there also was some confusion regarding the change in seating arrangements, this may be rectified for the next vote.

On a point of order, in such circumstances should Members not have a manual vote? The place where my colleague should vote does not appear to be clear.

I do not have any problem with that.

Did Senator Mullen seek a manual vote?

I will allow it.

I have no objection.

Question again put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Alex.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Denis O’Donovan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Ciaran Cannon and Paul Coghlan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 6 agreed to.
Sections 7 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 10.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(a) shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that operators of public bus services are not treated less favourably than operators of private bus services,”.

This amendment proposes to insert text into the general provisions for the consideration of applications for grant of licences section. The amendment seeks a level playing field so public operators are not discriminated against. I referred to this aspect, which is important to the Labour Party, on Second Stage. The Minister indicated he intended to provide a level playing field. There is now an emphasis on new contractors and new people coming in. The statement should be made that this is particularly important. Public service operators should not be treated less favourably than operators of private bus services.

I support this amendment. This is an important section because it decides the principle under which large elements of the legislation will operate. It is important that we support our public transport system as strongly as possible. I was never an advocate of privatisation. I regard the privatisation of Aer Lingus and Eircom as disasters. Without any suggestion of a party affiliation, which I do not have, one could suggest that I am an old-fashioned Lemass-style supporter of public investment in public utilities. It is a good thing that we ensure we have a strong public transport sector.

The amendment states that, among the principles to be regarded under this section, it will have regard to the desirability of ensuring that operators of public bus services are not treated less favourably than operators of private bus services but they are quite often. One example is that the State bus company is required to provide off-street parking for vehicles but there appears to be no such requirement on private bus companies. The latter park all over the joint. I can give an example from my local area, which I raised at the central area policing committee on Monday. Mountjoy Square is lined from end to end with buses, mostly private buses, despite the fact there are no less than four crèches on the square. Small children, infants and toddlers are emerging from between the buses yet there is no requirement, as there is on Bus Éireann, to provide off-street parking. We should have a level playing field. That is one area the Minister of State would be well advised to examine.

I wish to comment on the general context in which this takes place. I welcome much of what is included in the section and the language used, particularly in section 10(1)(b)(i) which reads, “the need to provide a well-functioning, attractive, competitive, integrated and safe public transport system of services and networks for all users”. I commend the Minister of State, his advisers and the drafters for including the word “attractive”. If the public is given a scuttery, old, diseased looking service with awful buses, it will treat it with the contempt that the bus service treats passengers.

I very much hope the metro project will go ahead. If it does, it will be in a period of financial stringency. Nevertheless, it should be an attractive service. We should not have ugly, functional, concrete metro stations because they would be a waste of time and money and would be treated with contempt and vandalised. When I was a member of the Joint Committee on Transport, I expressed ideas about how it should be done. While I am positive towards many elements of the Bill, I strongly agree with the Labour Party's amendment on supporting public transport.

I forgot to welcome the Minister of State earlier. The amendment proposes to include the wording, "shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that operators of public bus services are not treated less favourably than operators of private bus services". I am happy to support this on condition that it would also ensure a provision that private bus operators would not be discriminated against in favour of public bus operators. I am a huge believer in competition which I believe is worthwhile and worthy of support. I am delighted to see Senator O'Malley present because I know she has the same view. Senator Norris and I agree on many things but I do not agree with him on Mr. Lemass who was a great supporter of public utilities until they were able to hold their own. He then believed in putting them in private hands.

Recently, I came through the airport and was impressed by the bus services which operate from there compared to five or six years ago when there was only one bus service to Busáras. Now, there is a wealth of services to various destinations. This has improved the service to the public no end. We are also familiar with competition between airlines. I am sure all of us remember that it used to cost £290 to get to London because only two state companies operated on the route. Since competition was introduced the difference has been huge.

I fully believe in ensuring we do not discriminate against private bus services but I also support the public bus services and it must be ensured they can provide services also. We should not discriminate. I support what Senator Ryan stated on condition that we would add another amendment on private bus operators not being discriminated against in favour of public bus operators. However, it would be far better to have no amendment rather than two which contradict each other.

I agree with what Senator Quinn stated; one cannot include an amendment which gives preferential treatment to one group over another. One should expect that all will be treated equally and that is what we expect to happen under the Bill. It would be incorrect to include a provision to express that one group of operators would be given preference over others; we should leave out this type of provision. We need to have a level playing field as soon as possible.

I am glad Senator Quinn recognises competition has been very good for the public bus service. The travelling public needs to remember this. Time and again Members decry what competition has done and state it is outrageous and dreadful and that anybody who wants to provide a service in competition to a public service is some type of fly by night profiteer. I lament this. It is most unfortunate to suggest private operators operate to different safety standards. Of course, everybody operates to the same high standards, which is as it should be. The Bill will introduce an expectation that everybody will be treated equally. That is why we cannot countenance an amendment which would offer preference to a particular group. References such as this need to be left out. We need to keep matters as clear and easy as possible for everybody who wants to provide a service for the travelling public.

I support the stance adopted by Senators Quinn and O'Malley on this issue. I have grave concerns about affording preference to one sector over another. I do not agree with Senator Norris on what he terms retaining a public transport system. The transport system he described as public has only one function, which is to serve the public need. Whether that service is provided by the public or private sector is irrelevant as long as it is provided to the proper standard and complies with whatever regulations are in place on safety.

The country's experience in the past 20 years has been that when the private sector is offered the opportunity to provide a service for the public, it does so with great aplomb. In the case of public transport, it ends up not alone with a saving for those availing of the service but also with a saving for the taxpayer. In the mid-1980s my brother lived in London, where he secured his first job after he left college. He rang home to Galway at weekends because he was able to do so for free. This was at a time when we had only Eircom which charged us punitive rates. I found it extraordinary that he could ring his home in the west free of charge from London at weekends. That happened because the British Government had introduced competition into the arena. We have seen what happened with Ryanair and mobile phone companies.

The public service transport system is in place to serve the public and provide the best possible value for the taxpayer. It is not in place to serve those who want to engage in outmoded work practices harking back to the 19th century when it was dictated that buses must pass along O'Connell Street with other such nonsense. I do not subscribe to an amendment that seeks to provide favoured treatment for one sector over another.

I am not shattered by surprise that Senator Cannon agrees with his former colleague, Senator O'Malley. They would not be ideologically poles apart.

With regard to the transport service, I am reading a very interesting history of north Dublin city and county, illustrated by antique photographs. One of the stories is about the collapse of certain sections of the private transport service in that area in the early and middle part of the 20th century; therefore, it does not always work. The people were left stranded.

I will make one delicate comment; I admire immensely my colleague, Senator Quinn, and like to believe we share a friendship but, of course, we do not agree on everything. He stated he had seen the buses at Dublin Airport and rather admired them. He did not state he had taken one. I rest my case.

I wish to point out to Senators Cannon and O'Malley that the amendment does not seek more favourable treatment for the operators of public bus services. It would require that they not be treated less favourably; in other words, that they be treated equally. In the push for the privatisation of Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, there is a danger that we will throw the baby out with the bath water. The public operators which have done a good job during the years and can compete may be forgotten. The amendment is not seeking preferable treatment for the operators of public bus services.

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has made it clear he wants a level playing field between the public and private sector. However, Senator Ryan and his party colleagues have concerns in this regard. The Minister is satisfied the provisions of the Bill, as drafted, make it clear that they apply to all licence applicants, both privately and publicly owned services, and offer no distinction between bus licence applications submitted by either private or public sector operators.

The need for the inclusion of the amendment is not well founded. It has been suggested the inclusion of such a provision might give rise to some doubt as to whether the substantive provisions of the Bill were based on the level playing field concept that the Minister has referred to as a starting point. If the amendment were accepted, it would set off the concerns raised by Senators Quinn, O'Malley and Cannon about unbalancing the legislation's provisions. Accepting the amendment would not contribute to good legislation.

The Bill's primary purpose is to establish a modern system for the licensing of commercial public bus passenger services and to promote regulated competition in the provision of licensed public bus passenger services on a national basis in the public interest. Some believe regulated competition is an inherently self-contradictory concept. There are, however, many successful such provisions at European level. Many of us will have seen such success in other European cities and aspire to having the same standard of public transport here. Part 2 was prepared on this basis. It establishes a new regulatory licensing regime that will apply to all commercial public bus services, including those provided by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. It also features a modern set of criteria against which applications for licences will be considered. In this regard, section 10 sets down the factors to be taken into account by the authority when considering applications. These criteria have to be considered equally, regardless of whether it is a private or public sector applicant. Such considerations must be pursued, having regard to the general objectives of the authority provided for in section 10 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. This will be updated through a proposed amendment to section 28 of the Bill. These objectives also highlight the development of an integrated transport system and achieving regulated competition in the provision of licensed public bus passenger services in the public interest.

Bus stops and bus parking, issues raised by Senator Norris, are regulated by local authorities and the regulations enforced by the Garda and local authority traffic wardens. The issue is not pertinent to this legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, subsection (1)(b), line 37, to delete “any or all of” and substitute the following:

"subparagraph (iii) of, and such other subparagraphs as are appropriate of,".

The problem with section 10(1)(b) is that the phrase “any or all of” leaves it too open for the authority when considering the 11 factors in granting a licence. Section 10(1)(b)(iii) refers to “the impact a proposed public bus passenger service would have on public passenger transport services”. The Labour Party believes the section, as drafted, could allow the national transport authority to ignore this factor. The impact on public services must be considered in every case.

Section 10 establishes a set of general provisions which will inform the consideration of applications for bus licences by the authority. Section 10(1)(b) sets out 11 matters which the authority may consider. It is important to remember that not all of these may be pertinent to particular applications. In the case of certain categories, the consideration of all, or any of these matters, may not be warranted. This is particularly the case in section 10(1)(b)(iii) which relates to the potential impact of a proposed service on public bus passenger services being provided under the terms of a public transport services contract.

A definite policy decision was made in the preparation of the legislation that the consideration of the impact on contract services would not be mandatory in respect of all applications and instead would be a matter for determination by the authority. It was recognised that to require the consideration of this matter in all cases was unnecessary, given the range of bus services that present themselves for licensing, many of which would have no impact on public service obligation services. It will be left to the discretion of the authority to decide, for example, whether once-off services would need to be considered in the context of the 11 provisions listed in the section. For example, it would not be required of the authority to consider all 11 provisions for a one-off service to a concert, a ploughing championship or sports event.

Amendment No. 5 relates to section 10(1)(b) and the development of an integrated transport system which contributes to environmental sustainability and social cohesion, promotes economic progress and the provision of a well functioning, attractive, integrated and safe public transport system. I note Senator Norris welcomed the term “attractive”. It should be noted that the consideration to be addressed by the authority in section 10 relating to bus licence applications must also have regard to the general objectives of the authority. Section 10(1)(b)(i) also states, “the need to provide a well-functioning, attractive, competitive, integrated and safe public transport system of services and networks for all users”. The Minister is satisfied these provisions are sufficient to provide adequate protection for the integrity of national, urban and local bus networks.

Amendment No. 6 also relates to section 10 of the 2008 Act, as substituted by the amendment in section 28(1)(c). These include the objective of seeking to achieve regulated competition in the provision of licensed public transport bus passenger services. This is further developed by the provisions of the following section which recognises the need to provide a well functioning service. The Minister believes these considerations would not be enhanced by the wording proposed in the three amendments.

The object of amendment No. 5 is to prevent the cherry-picking of profitable routes while leaving loss-making and more troublesome routes to State companies. It would also ensure a free-for-all would not be allowed in the bus sector with competition strictly regulated. These are important amendments which would improve the legislation and are worthy of acceptance by the Minister.

Many aspects of the legislation are enabling. For example, section 23 requires the authority to consider and prepare guidelines against many of the considerations which are of concern to Senator Ryan. It is difficult in primary legislation of this nature to provide all of the detail which the authority would need to consider. The 11 considerations set out in the Bill are, in the Minister's view and mine, sufficiently inclusive and comprehensive to take account of the concerns of Senator Ryan and others and to give the authority the flexibility it needs to enable it to do its job efficiently and effectively.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 6.

  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fiona O’Malley and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Dominic Hannigan and Brendan Ryan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 9, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following subsections:

"(3) The Authority shall invite and consider submissions from any local authority whose functional area includes a place to which the application relates.

(4) The making of a submission under subsection (3) shall be a reserved function.”.

Amendment No. 7 speaks for itself. It ensures that applications for bus routes are considered by local authorities and, therefore, by local representatives. This should form part of the Bill and would improve it by involving local authorities and councillors.

The existing provisions of section 10(2) of the Bill allow the authority to consider submissions from or on behalf of a licensed applicant, to invite submissions or information from the applicant or any other party and to examine any other matter it deems relevant to the public interest. These provisions are such to facilitate the invitation and consideration of submissions from any local authority that may have an interest in individual applications, particularly where the proposed bus routes would operate within the functional area of the local authority concerned. However, section 10(2) (b) gives discretion to seek the views of interested parties where appropriate, including local authorities.

The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, is satisfied the existing wording of subsection (2) allows the local authority participation in the application process. Amendment No. 7 seeks to introduce the requirement for the authority to invite and consider local authority submissions in the case of all bus licence applications. The amendment also stipulates that the making of a submission by the local authority will be a reserved function of the local authority which would require input from the elected members and a resolution to be passed at a meeting of the authority.

The Minister is not convinced of the need for such a provision and has some concerns that it would result in unnecessary delays in the consideration of some bus licence applications by the authority. It is clear that not all bus licence applications would warrant a specific input from the individual local authorities, for example, in the case of occasional licences for one-off events. In addition, the introduction of a reserve function in respect of the making of submissions and applications would delay unduly the processing of applications and does not assist in improving the processing of bus licence applications in the interests of the need of the public and of consumers in general. The Minister's view is that the authority needs flexibility to decide these matters.

I accept the comments of the Minister of State and do not intend to press this amendment today. There may be some merit in his words. As we see it, the difference, or strengthening, the amendment would bring about is that the authority would invite and consider submissions from any local authority whose functional area is affected. The amendment would strengthen the Bill and we feel it is appropriate. I will not press it but reserve the possibility of doing so on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 9, subsection (3), between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(a) he or she complies strictly with the best labour, health and safety standards,”.

Amendment No. 8 is self-explanatory and I have nothing further to say. Senator Bacik wishes to speak on it.

I support this amendment because I believe it is essential to the principle of the licensing scheme envisaged in the Bill, namely, that standards would be applied to the provision of such services. Given the current economic context, it is very important that we stipulate that certain standards should be maintained in respect of labour conditions and health and safety matters. The Minister may respond by saying this is unnecessary because there is legislation in place already to protect health and safety matters and labour conditions. It is important, nonetheless, to insert a specific provision on this where we are providing the conditions for the grant of a licence and the criteria by which such grant of licence may be carried out. It is worth inserting these specific obligations even if, as I anticipate, the Minister of State will say it is unnecessary. It sends out important signals.

Senator Bacik is partially correct, at least with regard to my likely reply. Section 10(3) provides that it is a prerequisite for the consideration of an application that the applicant must establish that he or she has the capacity to provide the proposed bus service to which the application refers, that he or she has complied with relevant national and international legislation and that he or she holds a tax clearance certificate.

Senators will remember from amendment No. 1 that a provision was introduced whereby if a person loses one licence for any reason he or she will automatically lose the licence provided for under this legislation. This was not previously the case. It is considered that issues raised in the proposed amendment are more relevant to the existing regulatory code relating to access to the profession of bus operator, and a separate road passenger operator licensing is the subject of separate amendments proposed to section 2 and 19 of the Bill, rather than bus market access which is dealt with in this section. In that regard, they seem more appropriate to other legislative codes in the area of labour law and health and safety legislation as well as road passenger licensing legislation. As it transpires, further legislation in the area of road passenger licensing is planned to address recent EU regulations on the matter and the issues will be considered in the preparation of that legislation.

I thank the Minister of State for his response, which lived up, or rather down, to my expectation of it. I am glad to hear that similar provisions may be made in other legislation. However, there is a tendency on the part of the Government to put off making provisions, particularly those guaranteeing minimum standards, and suggest that they be put into other legislation. I am thinking of other Bills where we were assured that certain measures would be incorporated into other legislation. Is there not a case for having legislation which covers all areas of licensing of bus services rather than putting minimum conditions into other legislation? It seems to me it would be more sensible to have it all in the one place.

Consolidated legislation of the kind referred to by the Senator is often desirable and fairly difficult to achieve in many instances. I was honoured to bring the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 through the Oireachtas. The provisions of that legislation have stood up very well and the inspectorate does its job well. We are well served in that regard. The road passenger licensing legislation, which will have to take account of European directives, is a more appropriate place for this element of what is proposed in the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

I have difficulty with paragraph 10(1)(a). I could agree to the passage of the section only if we deleted that paragraph. It requires the authority to consider the likely level of demand when licensing a new commercial transport service. I see no reason for a regulator of commercial services to consider whether or not there is sufficient demand for a service.

This goes against the whole ethos of commercial competition and of what happens when people or commercial bodies take a risk. For example, when I started in my business there were no self-service shops. It is as though the State were saying the old counter service shops should stay because starting a self-service shop is too big a risk. What would have happened if civil servants had to take account of the risk shopkeepers were taking before they were allowed to get into a new area? The same would have applied to Ryanair. What if someone had to take into account the risk Ryanair was taking before it was given permission to go into competition with other airlines?

I disagree with the principle of this measure. If we are to have competition it is up to those who are in business to take risks. The essence of competition is to encourage risk takers to say they are going to attempt to make this succeed. I do not think it is up to the authority to decide not to allow a person to compete. It should not have to take that into account. Risk takers and business people will take a chance if they believe there will be success. They will not take a risk if they do not believe there will be success. I do not believe this provision should be included in the Bill. I am opposed to paragraph 10(1)(a). Otherwise, I am happy with the section. I urge the Minister of State to give serious consideration to that.

I have some sympathy with what Senator Quinn is saying. Being too prescriptive in legislation is a bad idea. My instincts are the same as Senator Quinn's. Legislation should not deny people the opportunity to take a risk. I ask the Minister of State to think about the inclusion of this paragraph.

Legislation dates very quickly in some instances. The Bill might be improved by the removal of this measure. It is not for the authority to decide commercial risk values. I ask the Minister of State to consider this a little further.

I support the views of Senators Quinn and O'Malley. Senator Quinn mentioned that he was at Dublin Airport a number of weeks ago and remarked on the efficient bus service which operates from that facility. The bus service was initially provided by Aircoach. That company identified this niche and, with no assistance from the State, did market research and decided to take a risk. That is what business people do. The service has now been aped by Dublin Bus and it is attempting to compete with Aircoach on the same routes. If this legislation had been in place at the time, Aircoach might not have had that opportunity. I also ask the Minister of State to reconsider this paragraph.

The intent of this section does not relate to competition matters, which are of concern to Senators Quinn, O'Malley and Cannon. It relates to a case where, for example, there is an existing service at 9 a.m. and an application for one or more services at exactly the same time on exactly the same route. The authority, on foot of this provision, has the capacity to take account of the potential demand that exists for bus passenger services. In such a case the effect of competition might be, not the provision of several services but the diminution of the service which is already in place. The Bill does not set out to regulate the competitive elements which might exist. In the example I give it might be sensible to operate a second service at 9.05 a.m. or 9.10 a.m or perhaps on a slightly different route. Requiring the authority to "take account of the demand or potential demand that exists for the public bus passenger services to which the application refers having regard to the needs of consumers and any existing public bus passenger services on or in the vicinity of the route to be served by the proposed public bus passenger service" is probably very sensible. It certainly complies with the requirements of regulated competition, which is what the legislation is about, in terms of providing the best range of services for people while not undermining existing services in an unacceptable manner.

I have listened to what the Minister of State said but I do not accept that anyone who is providing a bus service is determined to diminish the level of service being provided by someone else. Someone who proposes to provide a service or go into competition with another provider is making a commercial decision. Such a person will not invest in something which will not work.

I am reminded of what is happening since the collapse of the viaduct in Malahide. There was a sudden need for a bus service, and I understand Dublin Bus and others stepped admirably into the breach. A very good bus service is being provided. Would this legislation have prevented that happening? Would the authority have been required to carry out an assessment of need?

I believe this provision is too restrictive. The Minister of State's aim is laudable but he must have faith in people who are running businesses and are prepared to take risks. They are doing so because they feel there is a commercial need for their product. The State should involve itself as little as possible when private operators are prepared to take risks and provide services which give much better value to the taxpayer. We should provide the taxpayer with as few opportunities for waste of money as possible. This measure will restrict competition. Notwithstanding what the Minister of State has said, I worry that it will stand in the way of the development of competition.

Section 10(1)(a) sets out to do two things, the first of which it does not have the capacity to do, namely, decide what demand or potential demand for a service might exist. The authority would not have the expertise or business acumen to do this. The subsection also seeks to protect current public bus passenger services. However, subsection (1)(b)(iii) goes a long way towards doing so and, with a slight beefing up, could dispense with the need for subsection (1)(a). In certain cases, the protection of those services might be laudable, but the first element of the subsection, which could stop a service from being provided because, in someone’s opinion, there was no demand, would stifle competition and the creation of new business.

I will not repeat the remarks of Senators Cannon and O'Malley, but the spirit of the sections is not the correct thinking. It almost looks like we are trying to protect bus operators from one another. The essence of competition is to encourage new people into the market. While I understand the Minister of State's point, the wording of the section is over the top. I urge him to reconsider it, if not in the coming minutes, before Report Stage, and to introduce an amendment to take our concerns into account and delete subsection (1)(a).

I do not normally rise to defend a Minister of State but I see the merit of the subsection and it is not unduly restrictive. It is a question of the licensing of bus services for the consumer, so the interests of the consumer must be foremost in the legislation. The subsection will not restrict an operator who wishes to enter the market, as it asks him or her to put forward a good business plan for the intended service in his or her application. Anyone who identifies a gap in the market will be able to do so within the terms of the subsection. It does not pose the problem identified by Senator O'Malley on the Government side or by my colleagues on this side.

If I am interpreting the subsection correctly, it would also apply to public operators applying for a route in the hands of a private operator. As there seems to be equality, I do not have a problem with the section.

I will convey to the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, the concerns expressed by Senators on both sides of the House regarding the overall impact of the section and how one element balances against another. It is important we remember Senator Norris's points on the types of services and difficulties we had in the less regulated market of the 1930s. It is also important to remember that the Bill provides 77 different ways in which the authority will be answerable to the Minister and an Oireachtas committee regarding its decisions. This will ensure the decisions made will not step over the mark in any particular direction.

The alternative transport arrangements put in place by Iarnród Éireann in respect of the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service operate from Drogheda with connecting express bus services to and from Dublin via the Dublin Port tunnel. Commuter rail services between Drogheda and Donabate have been replaced by Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath services and the DART is operating as normal to and from Malahide. To be fair to the people concerned, they have quickly made provision to accommodate those who have been discommoded by the unfortunate collapse of the bridge.

I will not pursue the matter at this stage, but I would like to be able to report back on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 11 and 12 agreed to.
SECTION 13.

Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, subsection (2), between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"(j) the fare system to be used.”.

This seeks to ensure a consistency of approach between this Bill and the Dublin Transport Authority Act which includes a provision for the assessment of a fare system to be used during the licensing process. It is strange that in this Bill, every aspect of the operation of a route, from scheduling to routing to the quality of the buses and so on, is included in the licensing process but the details of the fare system to be used are omitted. As there may be a valid reason, I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

Section 13 provides that the authority may apply conditions to the grant of either an original, amended or renewed bus licence. Notwithstanding the generality of subsection (1), subsection (2) sets out a series of specific areas relating to the licence holder's provision of a service, ticketing, number of vehicles, accessibility and emissions standards in respect of which conditions may be imposed. Subsection (3) allows the authority to require licence holders to provide and publish a timetable for the licensed service and subsection (4) provides that the authority may require that the details of the licence be displayed on the vehicle providing the service.

The provisions of the section were prepared having regard to a range of practical considerations relating to the licensing of commercial bus route operations. To revert to our previous discussion, it must be remembered that the decision to apply for a licence to provide a specific bus passenger service is a commercial one taken by the applicant independently of the authority.

While a primary objective of the licensing regime in Part 2 is to promote regulated competition in the provision of licensed public bus passenger services in the public interest, the provisions of the Bill have been framed with due regard to the fact that certain aspects of the proposed bus operations are not intended to be regulated by the authority, given that decisions in those areas must be taken by the licence applicant having regard to commercial considerations.

Under the licensing regime of the Road Transport Act 1932, the Department does not interfere in the fare levels or structures of particular licensed bus services. The view is that decisions on the fare system to be applied to a commercial public bus passenger service are matters for determination by the service operator having regard to market conditions and the operator's particular circumstances. No merit is seen in revising this practice at this time, given the experience heretofore.

Section 13(3) allows the authority to require a licence holder to provide and publish a timetable for the licensed service. Subsection (4) provides that the authority may require that the details of the licence be displayed. These provisions give the authority discretion having regard to the fact that, in some bus licence applications, for example, a licence for a one-off event such as a concert or football match, these requirements would not arise. It is considered that "may" is more appropriate than the alternatives in amendments Nos. 10 and 11.

The Minister of State is saying that, once all the other conditions have been satisfied, it is for the operator to decide what fare structure will be imposed. I would have no problem with that.

It is a commercial decision.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

May I discuss amendments Nos. 10 and 11 together?

They were discussed together with amendment No. 9.

May I elaborate briefly?

Briefly, as we must move through the three amendments together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, subsection (3), line 12, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

This may be semantics on our part, but the word "may" offers the national transport authority too much latitude. "Shall" would leave less room for manoeuvre. The Minister of State has agreed that it would be a prerequisite for any licensed contractor to display a timetable of services and details of its licence or contracts.

This discretion is allowed to the authority, given that in some instances such as the ploughing championships of two weeks ago or a concert, a service might be provided for two or three days. "May" allows the authority discretion to separate one-off or somewhat temporary events from permanent services.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.
Section 13 agreed to.
Sections 14 to 18, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 19.
Government amendment No. 12:
In page 14, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) Where a road passenger transport operator's licence is revoked or withdrawn under an act of an institution of the European Communities in relation to road passenger transport, under an Act of the Oireachtas in relation to road passenger transport, or under any regulation made under section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 giving effect to an act of an institution of the European Communities in relation to road passenger transport, a licence granted under this Part to the person who held the road passenger transport operator's licence concerned stands revoked.".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 20 to 23, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 24.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 17, subsection (3), lines 4 and 5, to delete "or by a member of the Garda Síochána".

This is a drafting amendment to correct a provision that seems to misunderstand the authorisation for summary prosecution. It has never been the practice to authorise gardaí to prosecute summary offences because they have that authority at common law. The authority needs that power because it is a statutory body having no common law powers but to authorise the gardaí to prosecute a summary offence would be contrary to all known drafting precedents and is legally inappropriate.

I was not entirely clear prior to the Senator's contribution about the rationale for the amendment. Section 24 provides that offences under the bus licensing regime can be prosecuted by the authority or by a member of the Garda Síochána. This recognised the general enforcement role of the Garda Síochána in regard to breaches of legislation in the State and is highly appropriate, particularly given the interaction of bus services and the general public. The Minister is not disposed to accepting the amendment on the basis that the proposed involvement of gardaí in the enforcement regime is both desirable and consistent with other legislative regimes, and gardaí always had an enforcement role in this area. However, having heard the point made by Senator Ryan and the element in regard to drafting, I will raise it with the Minister with a view to his considering it in advance of Report Stage. If an issue arises I will ask him to address it.

On the basis that the Minister of State will discuss it with the senior Minister and will consider the possibility of having that section deleted, I am prepared to give him that space but I ask him to ask the Minister if there are any previous examples of such powers being given to gardaí in other legislation. I believe they will be difficult to find.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 24 agreed to.
Sections 25 and 26 agreed to.
NEW SECTION.
Government amendment No. 14:
In page 18, before section 27, to insert the following new section:
27.—(1) Notwithstanding the repeal of the Act of 1932 undersection 27(a), where a person has made an application for a licence under that Act before its repeal, the application shall be considered under that Act by the Authority and any reference in that Act to the Minister in respect of the application shall be read as a reference to the Authority.
(2) Where an application for a licence under the Act of 1932 is dealt with undersubsection (1) and the licence is granted, the licence is deemed to be a licence granted under this Part and to be in force to a date to be determined by the Authority, which shall not be more than 2 years after the day of the next anniversary of the date of the grant of the licence under the Act of 1932 and may be renewed under section 16.”.

While the provisions of section 20 set out arrangements through which existing commercial services being operated by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and private operators can be brought within the new licensing regime, it came to the attention of the Department in the course of recent discussions that a further provision was desirable to cater for bus licence applications that may be submitted to the Department in the period between the establishment of the authority and the repeal of the Road Transport Act 1932 and the commencement of provisions to facilitate the introduction of the new bus licensing regime.

The purpose of the new section 27 is to provide a transitional arrangement to facilitate the consideration of applications for a public bus passenger licence made to the Minister under section 8 of the 1932 Act that have not been decided on the date of the repeal of the 1932 Act and the introduction of the new bus licensing regime under Part 2 of the Bill, which will be administered by the authority. Given that such applicants will have applied under the 1932 regime, there will be an expectation that they should be considered under that regime and the proposed section provides for this.

Is the process so long and complicated that it would stop a decision being made before the enactment of this Bill? Would it not be preferable to have everybody starting from the same position, that is, in modernised, updated legislation? Would it be possible to stop applications by people under the 1932 Act being taken in the light of this new Bill being drafted? Is it open to abuse in that it may be favourable for people to seek a licence, for whatever reasons, under more outmoded terms and legislation? Would it not be wise to have a close-off date? Is that possible so all licences will be considered under the new legislation?

The expectation would be that the period would be very short and in this instance there may well be slightly more advantage for people to apply under the new regime. Regarding ceasing taking all new applications, applications for urgent services unfortunately do arise and would surely arise in the interim period. The Department has much experience in these matters and would see spurious applications for what they are if there were to be a flood of applications, which is probably what the Senator is concerned about. Although in this instance there might be an intervening period that needs to be catered for, one possibility would have been to decide not to accept new applications during that period but the provision of the new section 27, which if I recall provides for a limit of two years, is probably a fairer way to deal with anything that might arise. Nothing may arise in any event.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 27.
Government amendment No. 15:
In page 18, paragraph (b), line 16, to delete “69” and substitute “73”.

The number of sections of the 1932 Act to be disposed of has increased from 69 to 73. The purpose of the amendment is to repeal a number of additional sections of the Road Transport Act 1933 which are no longer needed arising from the new legislative regime for public bus passenger services in Part 2 of the Public Transport Regulation Bill 2009. I will list them for the House.

Section 66 of the 1933 Act provides for the amendment of the meaning of the expression "passenger road service" in the 1932 Act. Section 67 provides for an extension of the duration of the passenger licences in force on 31 October 1933 to cover the period until the 1933 Act came into force. Regarding sections 68 to 71, inclusive, section 71 provides for the revocation of passenger licences by the Minister in the event of fraud or misrepresentation. Section 72 provides that passenger licences transferred to another person under the 1932 Act are deemed to have been transferred to such a person on the date of transfer of ownership. Section 73 provides for the acceptance of a certificate signed by an officer of the Minister as evidence.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 27, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 28.
Government amendment No. 16:
In page 19, subsection (1)(d), line 29, to delete “11” and substitute “11(1)”.

The purpose of this amendment is to address a technical error in the section reference in the text of the Bill which should refer to section 11(1) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 rather than section 11, which is what is in the text.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 in the names of Senators Cannon and Donohoe is not in order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.
Government amendment No. 18:
In page 20, line 2, after "contract" to insert the following:
", other than a direct award contract to which section 52(3) refers,".

This proposed amendment seeks to clarify the provision of section 28(1)(f) of the Bill. This section provides for the amendment of section 48 of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 which relates to the making of public transport services contracts so as to introduce a new subsection (12). This provides that the authority must advise any local authority in whose functional area the proposed transport service will operate that there is such a proposal and invite the local authority to submit written views on the proposal.

In view of the fact that the initial direct-award contracts with Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann will be made by the authority as soon as the Bill is enacted — probably before 3 December — and the relevant provisions, both in this Bill and the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, are commenced, it will not be possible to comply with the new subsection (12) in respect of these contracts. The amendment seeks to confirm this by excluding the initial contracts with the CIE companies from the requirements of the section. As the deadline for signing the contracts is 2 December, at the latest, there would not be time to consult local authorities. However, the provisions will apply to all future contracts.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 20, subsection (1), lines 10 to 13, to delete paragraph (g) and substitute the following:

"(g) by the repeal of section 52.”.

I have no doubt as to the intended thrust of this legislation. Senators Quinn, O'Malley and I are very much on the same wavelength in regard to what exactly we would like to see achieved. I have one major concern, namely, that the element of the Bill that seeks to provide real, effective, open and transparent competition in public transport service provision will not be achieved. As I stated, I have no issue with a public body providing a public transport service provided it provides the best possible value for the taxpayer who ultimately funds it and for the consumer who avails of it. I do not particularly care whether the service from Dublin to Galway is provided by Bus Éireann or another entity as long as it is a proper service at the best possible price.

Section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 goes against everything the Bill sets out to achieve. It allows the Minister to arrange, before the Bill is enacted, to draw up new public service contracts with Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann. These contracts will be binding, possibly for the next ten to 15 years. While the object of the proposed new regime is very admirable, section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act will serve to neuter the legislation for many years. It does not allow other operators to tender to operate on the routes in question for the next ten to 15 years. This is one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bill and I do not know the logic behind it. Perhaps the Minister of State will outline it. I look forward to hearing his response.

I share some of the concerns of Senator Cannon. I fear the legislation is in danger of being damaged by the continuation of section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act. We should be trying to prepare legislation that is adaptable and flexible and which allows people to compete on an even keel. When the Minister spoke in the House two weeks ago, he assured us he was trying to achieve this. However, I have some reservations. While competition is always desirable, I accept there should be some regulation because things can go wrong if there is a free for all. I am worried there is capacity to leave the competition elements of this legislation hamstrung. That is not desirable.

I am interested in hearing the Minister of State's rationale for retaining section 52. It is time we acknowledged that it is important that any operator seeking to provide a public bus service has access to all routes. The less differentiation between public and private providers, the better. As Senator Cannon implied, one does not mind who one's bus service provider is as long as one has a bus service. The legislation must ensure standards will be the same and that everybody will be subject to the same rules and regulations.

I worry that a provision that allows licences to be given away in advance of enactment of the Bill is not desirable. I await the Minister of State's comments on the rationale behind the reference to section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008.

As Senator Cannon will be aware, Dublin-Galway services are commercial. Direct-award contracts are for a period of five years only and are already provided for in the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. All new services are to be put out to tender. One tends to forget there is a review clause applying to the operation of existing contracts.

The purpose of section 28(1)(g) is to provide for the amendment of section 52 of the 2008 Act which relates to direct-award contracts between the authority and the three State transport companies. It is a matter of expanding the remit of the section from the greater Dublin area to the full geographical area of the State. This is fundamental to the provisions of the Bill. In other words, the authority will be responsible for public service contracts on a national basis.

Section 52 is a pivotal section of the 2008 Act, as it establishes the basis for the continued provision of the existing public bus and rail passenger services provided by Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail in the greater Dublin area and for which State funding is made available. This empowers the authority to enter into direct-award contracts — contracts that do not involve open tendering — with the three CIE companies in respect of the provision of existing funded public bus and rail services in the greater Dublin area. To facilitate the making of the contracts in respect of the public bus services, the section establishes that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have exclusive rights to continue to operate their current funded services, subject to the granting of bus licences under the Road Transport Act 1932 and future legislative changes. These arrangements will support the continued operation of the services in question in the general public interest.

The section also provides that the contracts can be reviewed and that subsequent contracts may be made. A review of a direct-award contract is mandated on the authority where it establishes that the maintenance of the contract is no longer necessary in respect of certain services. In these circumstances and where it is proposed to make subsequent direct-award contracts, the authority must invite submissions from interested parties before renewing or replacing the contract. All compensation paid by the authority under the direct-award contracts must be calculated and paid in accordance with the annex to Regulation (EC) No. 1370/2007 of 23 October 2007 on public transport services by rail and road. The section also empowers the Minister to issue directions on the provision of public passenger transport services to achieve the Government's transport objectives or to comply with EU law.

The contractual structure established in the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, particularly in section 52, is in compliance with Regulation (EC) No. 1370/2007 on public service obligations which comes into force on 3 December this year and provides for a new contractual framework regulating how member states award exclusive rights and pay compensation for services deemed to meet public service obligations. Having regard to these considerations, retention of section 52 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act is of some considerable importance, as are the amendments to this section.

The provision goes against the spirit of what the legislation sets out to achieve. The Minister of State mentioned Galway-Dublin bus services, a number of which are provided by private operators. Healthy competition has allowed the public to benefit from a very efficient and well operated service from Galway to Dublin for a fraction of the price the public service operator was charging 20 or 30 years ago. What is the timescale applying to the exclusion of private sector operators from the routes in question? Will these routes be protected for the next ten or 15 years? If so, it goes against the very heart of what this legislation sets out to achieve.

On routes currently subsidised by the taxpayer, we will not find out for a considerable period whether a private operator could come in to service one of those routes as effectively as a public service operator and perhaps avail of only a portion or none of the available public service subsidy. We will not be allowed to know that until such a time as these contracts are terminated in ten or 15 years.

I welcome the legislation in general but the retention of this element, which harks back to what was wrong in the past, drags it down. It is an undesirable part of the Bill.

To nobody's surprise, my instincts are the same as those of Senator Cannon in this area. Listening to the Minister of State's response, it screams of protectionism, which is not really what we want. I am worried about that. I have listened to the Minister of State's laudable aims and provisions within the legislation but he is asking us to forget the experience we have had. Nobody, and private bus operators in particular, can forget how Dublin Bus and other public companies have operated.

Senator Cannon touched on the issue of us not being allowed to see the figures and as an example we have had the traumatic experience of trying to make integrated ticketing a reality. Many Ministers responsible for transport have dealt with this, including the late Séamus Brennan, Deputy Martin Cullen and the current Minister, and yet we still do not have integrated ticketing because Dublin Bus will not provide figures or play ball. As the company has been allowed to dominate, the Ministers have been able to do very little.

This is worrying. I accept the reasoning behind the Minister of State's actions but the experience is different. Senator Cannon has raised a good point about figures. As there will be a level of protectionism and commercial operators will not be allowed on certain services if this element remains in the Bill, we will never really know the real commercial levels. That sort of protectionism must be left behind, and as I previously indicated, the Bill would be improved by deleting this provision.

We cannot lose sight of the public we are here to serve as we seek the best possible public transport service. All our experience has shown that the private and public sectors working as a competitive force provide the best service. We were promised a level playing field and we must keep that field as even as possible. This element flies in the face of that effort so I ask the Minister of State to consider it further.

The duration of the contract is five years rather than ten, which has been a concern for a number of Senators. It can be reviewed or altered by the authority at any stage, which is important. The CIE companies are obliged to pass an efficient operator test and it is very important for existing services to continue where their operation is urgently needed.

The other important consideration is that the EU regulations are such that a degree of openness and transparency which has not always been the experience heretofore, as mentioned by Senator O'Malley, is a requirement. If people came slowly to the table in that respect, we could expect to see more movement in the near future.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 11.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Alex.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Regan, Eugene.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Denis O’Donovan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Jerry Buttimer and Ciaran Cannon.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.