Local Government (Household Charge) Bill 2011: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 4
Debate resumed on amendment No. 10.
In page 7, after line 43, to insert the following subsections:
"(3) Residents of a building vested in a Minister of the Government, a housing authority (within the meaning of the Act of 1992) or the Health Service Executive shall not be liable for the household charge.
(4) Recipients of Unemployment Benefit, Unemployment Allowance, and Single Parent Allowance, shall not be liable for the household charge.".
— (Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh).

Is the amendment being pressed?

On behalf of the Sinn Féin Party, I would like to withdraw the amendment. We want to support amendment No. 12 tabled by the Fianna Fáil Party. It is a more substantive amendment.

We are dealing with amendments individually.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 8, subsection (4)(b), line 15, to delete “the year 2012 and the year 2013” and substitute “the years from 2012 to 2015”.

I will not speak too long on the amendment because it is simple and practical. I welcome the inclusion in the list of those exempt from the charge of people who live in unfinished housing estates. I assume the logic is that all services may not have been provided. It is also unfair that people living in such estates would have to pay a property charge or tax. The timeframe should be extended to 2015. Most of the unfinished housing estates will not have services provided in the timeframe prescribed, namely, 2012 to 2013. We accept and support what the Minister of State and the Government are attempting to do, which is to support people living in unfinished housing estates.

I support the amendment and agree with Senator Cullinane.

I ask that the definition of "unfinished" be spelled out in the regulations. There could be a case taken if an estate was not taken in charge that it would be deemed unfinished, even though there would be only small pieces of work to be carried out and perhaps the money was in a bond or such like. It would be important to define "unfinished".

I thank the Senator for tabling the amendment. The Minister recognises that introducing this waiver could have the unintended effect of households in less problematic unfinished estates seeking to have their estate classified as category 3 or 4. This would potentially impact on the Government's priority target of reducing the number of such estates. In addition, there may also be pressure to extend such a waiver to estates which have not yet been taken in charge by local authorities. The Government's priority is to address the needs of these estates as quickly as possible.

In addition, the household charge is an interim measure while the legislation is in preparation and the assessment being made in the context of the property tax which will be introduced. It will be replaced in the short term by a full property tax. This is expected to take place in advance of the 2015 date proposed by the Senator.

In these circumstances I cannot accept the amendment but I thank the Senator for it. I agree with Senator Keane on the point that the definition she is seeking would be clear to everyone.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 9.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 8, subsection (4)(b), line 17, after “estate” to insert the following:

", or

(c) the year in which the liability falls if, on that date, he or she is the holder of a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive, or

(d) the year in which the liability falls if, on that date, he or she is in receipt of any of the following payments from the Department of Social Protection:

(i) jobseekers allowance, or

(ii) jobseekers benefit, or

(iii) supplementary welfare allowance, or

(iv) family income supplement, or

(v) farm assist, or

(vi) old age non-contributory pension, provided the recipient is not also in receipt of an occupational pension, or

(vi) disability allowance, or

(vii) disablement benefit, or

(viii) blind pension,

or

(e) the year 2012 and the year 2013 if, on that date, he or she is able to satisfy the relevant local authority that the residential property in which he or she resides is a mortgaged property in respect of which he or she has not been able to pay more than 75 per cent of his or her mortgage repayments in the preceding year, or

(f) the year 2012 and the year 2013 if, on that date, he or she is able to satisfy the relevant local authority that the residential property in which he or she resides is a mortgaged property that is currently valued at less than 75 per cent of the price at which the owner purchased the property.

(5) A person shall only be entitled to seek the waiver provided for insubsection (4)(e) if—

(a) the owner provides the relevant local authority with a certificate from the financial institution that provided the mortgage to the effect that the owner has failed to pay more than 75 per cent of his or her mortgage repayments in the preceding year, and

(b) the financial institution certifies to the local authority that the owner has not fundamentally breached the terms and conditions of the mortgage agreement other than in respect of the non-payment of mortgage arrears.

(6) A person shall only be entitled to seek the waiver provided for insubsection (4)(f) if—

(a) the owner provides the relevant local authority with a valuation from a registered member of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers to the effect that the residential property in which he or she resides is a mortgaged property that is currently valued at less than 75 per cent of the price at which the owner purchased the property, and

(b) the owner provides the local authority with a copy of the deed of conveyance or contract of purchase of the residential property identifying the price and date of purchase of the residential property”.

Amendment No. 12 was discussed with amendment No. 10. Is amendment No. 12 being pressed?

The amendment has not been discussed.

Yes, it has.

It was grouped with Sinn Féin's amendment No. 10. However, that amendment was withdrawn in favour of this one.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 12 were discussed together. Is the amendment being pressed?

I have no choice but to do so.

I propose that we withdraw the amendment in order that we may resubmit it on Report Stage.

Yes, we will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 13, 22 and 26a are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 13:
In page 8, subsection (5)(f), line 34, to delete “it pertains” and substitute “they pertain”.

Amendments Nos. 13, 22 and 26a are required to effect technical and drafting modifications in the Bill. They do not in any way impact on the policy or intent of the legislation. Their objective is to enhance the clarity of the text for the reader.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The section deals with exemptions and waivers from the obligation to pay the household charge. However, it does not go far enough. A whole swathe of people have been told that basic social welfare rates are being protected, but at the same time, charges such as this are being imposed on them. Our amendment No. 12 proposed that persons in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, jobseeker's benefit, supplementary welfare allowance, family income supplement, farm assist — for which the means test has been changed — old age non-contributory pension, disability allowance, disablement benefit, blind pension and so on should not be obliged to pay the charge. These people are not eligible for a waiver under the section as it stands. It is a serious deficiency in the Bill that we are applying a tax which will impose the same obligation on millionaires as on social welfare recipients. The waivers and exemptions simply do not go far enough.

I am fundamentally opposed to the section, as it stands. I appeal to the Minister of State to look with reason at the amendments we have withdrawn and which we propose to resubmit on Report Stage. The household tax will be imposed on every house in the country. As we discussed yesterday, this is not a fair means of taxation. A charge of €100 is being imposed on a large high-value house as well as on a smaller house with a lower value, the home of an elderly person or a person in receipt of social welfare or a medical card. We want exemptions for all medical cardholders. Approximately 400,000 people are in receipt of medical cards and this probably equates to approximately 150,000 households. The jobseeker's benefit was affected in the budget because the six day-period of payment has been reduced to five days. This will have a knock-on effect. Even Sunday working is now brought into the mix as part of the earnings and this will affect the social welfare entitlement of a person on jobseeker's benefit.

I refer to a person in receipt of jobseeker's benefit for three days a week who contacted me by phone. He is working three days a week, he has a large family and he is struggling to cope. He will lose substantially as a result of the changes from six days to five days. He also has a part-time Sunday job.

The supplementary welfare allowance is paid when an individual is awaiting the outcome of a social welfare appeal. Such people should be exempted from payment of the household charge. Approximately 35,000 individuals are appealing the refusal of a social welfare benefit and in some instances such individuals are not entitled to supplementary welfare allowance. These individuals should be exempt from payment of the household charge. The farm assist scheme was also reduced in the budget. This scheme is very important to small farmers. The assessment of means for self-employment, including farming, is being raised from 70% to 85%. The deductions from income for children are being halved to €127 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €190 per year for each subsequent child. Poor farmers will find it more difficult to access the €188 per week of farm assist payment. The farm family income supplement supports families and recipients should be exempted from payment of the household charge.

Recipients of non-contributory pension, in particular, elderly people who do not have an occupational pension, have been affected negatively in the budget because they have lost approximately €120 from the fuel allowance scheme. If such people also have to pay the household charge, the net loss to those families will be €220 per year. It would be a step too far to include such pensioners. I welcome the fact that the budget did not impose cuts on weekly payments but on investigation it is clear that cuts will affect everyone in receipt of social welfare payments. There is no need to speak about the disability allowance because we all know what has happened. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, outlined on Second Stage of the Social Welfare Bill in the Dáil that she will remove the provisions in the Bill to reduce the disability allowance for those aged between 16 and 24 years. This was the right action to take but she should have had the social conscience to know the effect of such a provision. I refer to the front page of theIrish Examiner this morning which reports on a disabled individual whose payment would have been reduced from €188 to €100 and this person was born without limbs.

We are not dealing with the Social Welfare Bill and I ask the Senator to confine his remarks to the Bill under consideration.

It is connected to the question of who should be exempted from payment of the household charge such as those in receipt of disability benefit, blind person's allowance and lone parent's allowance. Mortgage-holders in difficulty who are unable to meet mortgage repayments should also be exempted, as should people in negative equity and those who bought property during the boom from 2004 to 2011 or thereabouts. Those people paid substantial stamp duties. The budget announced a reduction in stamp duty to provide an incentive for property purchase. The budget provided significant tax incentives which have received scant coverage and these incentives will support all NAMA and commercial properties. These incentives include the writing-off of capital gains for commercial properties if purchased before the end of 2013 and if the property is retained for seven years. This will benefit investors and owners of commercial property and also NAMA.

The Senator is straying again.

He has met himself coming back at this stage.

The Senator will soon end up in Gweedore if he keeps going that way.

My comments are about the effects of the budget. If I go to Gweedore I could meet myself in Kerry, given the fact that the budget is impacting on everyone across the country, from Gweedore to Kerry, in many negative ways.

It was the route chosen by certain parliamentarians to visit Leinster House from different sections of the country.

Senator Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

The reason for our opposition to section 4 of the Bill is the question of exemptions. The Minister has stated he is willing to take into consideration individuals in receipt of mortgage interest supplement and this is to be welcomed as there are 18,000 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement payments. However, this gesture is not sufficient. Already, 70,000 people are in mortgage arrears and they should be included in the exemption as the mortgage interest supplement does not take into account most of those people who find themselves in very difficult and significant financial difficulties.

I hope when our amendment is dealt with on Report Stage there may be some good news from the Minister when he has studied some of the proposals which we believe are valid.

The Department of Finance is budgeting for the household charge to produce a revenue of €160 million in 2012. However, the internal documentation supplied by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to the Department of Finance prior to the budget calculated that the net income to the State will only yield a net income next year of €100 million.

Why is there a discrepancy? The reason is that the Department has calculated its €100 million figure on the basis that many people will not be able to pay the charge, whereas inability to pay has not been taken into account in the budgetary figures presented by the Minister for Finance. A difference of €60 million has emerged between the calculation provided by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which is sponsoring the legislation, and the Department of Finance, which presented the figures in the budget. I am not sure where the anomaly arises but I ask the Minister to cast some light on the matter.

I will not rehearse the arguments made on previous sections as I appreciate we have many amendments to discuss. I accept much of what the Minister of State said yesterday when he outlined many of the exemptions that are in place, for example, for tenants of local authority housing and people who are in receipt of mortgage interest supplement and rent supplement. While a number of categories of people will be exempt from paying the household charge, there is a long list of people who are in receipt of social welfare benefits, which include jobseeker's allowance, jobseeker's benefit, supplementary welfare allowance, family income supplement, farm assist, old age pension, disability allowance, disability benefit, blind pension, invalidity pension and carer's allowance. It is important to ensure anyone who is in receipt of any form of welfare payment is exempt from the €100 household charge.

As I pointed out, Sinn Féin's position is one of outright opposition to the household charge. Notwithstanding that, the Government must ensure, when it is considering exemptions and waivers, that all those in receipt of welfare payments are exempt from the charge. The reason people are in receipt of welfare payments, including those who receive the family income supplement, is that they are in low income households and could be at risk of poverty. I echo the request of previous speakers that the Government take on board the thrust of the amendments which have been withdrawn for resubmission on Report Stage. I hope the Minister of State will reflect on the categories of people who may fall through the cracks in respect of the protections set out in the Bill. Anyone in receipt of a social welfare payment should be exempt from the household charge.

It is worth repeating that not one Member of the Oireachtas considers the household charge to be an ideal way of introducing a property tax. Equally, however, not one of the Members opposite has produced an alternative methodology.

The manifestos of both Government parties included alternatives.

That was before the election.

Please allow Senator Keane to continue without interruption.

When county councils are drawing up their budgets councillors who recommend the removal of one item must——

With respect, that is not how legislation is drafted or amendments accepted.

While I will listen to reasonable argument, I wish to make a point.

I will drop a copy of our pre-budget submission into the Senator's pigeon hole.

I would listen carefully to any suggestion on how to balance the budget. We are where we are and we all know why. We also know who is responsible and all of us need to act responsibly.

The Progressive Democrats, of which the Senator was a member, was also responsible.

We all know who is responsible. If a member of the Opposition produces a suggestion on where he or she will get the money, I will accept the need for further waivers. However, Senators are asking for every old age pensioner to be given a waiver. We would all love to give everyone a waiver but there are——

On a point of order, we are calling for a waiver for all old age pensioners who are in receipt of a non-contributory pension.

As I indicated, if one does not tax property but taxes other goods and services, one can distort expenditure and investment decisions. This approach takes such decisions out of people's hands in that it encourages expenditure on and investment in property at the expense of spending on other goods and services. In other words, the absence of a household charge has meant that other taxed goods and services have been adversely affected. For this reason, it is good to broaden the tax base. While the proposed charge is not the ideal way to do this, as the Minister of State pointed out yesterday, it is an interim measure.

On the figure of €160 million versus a figure of €100 million, one would need a glass ball. There is no differentiation between the facts and figures supplied by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the statement made by the Minister for Finance. Both the Department and Minister provided figures of €160 million. The difference of €60 million referred to by Senator Ó Domhnaill reflects the fact that allowances may have been made for the non-collection of €60 million. While none of us would advocate non-payment, this may explain the difference in the figures. In the current climate we should all encourage people to pay the charge for the good of the country. People would then have more money in their pockets at their own discretion to decide to spend on goods, shops and services, thereby increasing retail sales and employment. We must get the money from somewhere and while the proposed charge is not ideal, it is an interim measure.

In general I support the amendment because it deals with the weakest people in society. A certain point has been made about the disability allowance and so forth. A challenge was made by my distinguished colleague, Senator Keane, who stated we all know who is responsible. That is rather simplistic. I agree there was a clear implication that various Governments played a significant role in it but let us not forget that the collapse of the world economy started in the United States of America with the involvement of Enron and the ratings agencies. We should not take all the blame.

Yes, but we are to blame for the property collapse.

When we say we all know who is responsible there is no question or doubt that there is clear responsibility on the part of certain Governments. However, the problem is wider than that as the catastrophe we are facing did not originate in this country. It was facilitated by foolish Governments but responsibility rests with the entire rotten system which is on the point of collapse.

A certain amount of free will was involved as well.

Senator Keane made a reasonable point that the Government may be more inclined to address this issue if alternative sources of funding could be found. I have a proposal in this regard. I suggest an end to the automatic entitlements to an increment in the public service. As people have not yet been given their increment, withdrawing it would not take money out of their pockets and would not breach the Croke Park agreement. I am not attacking the public service but when challenged to produce an alternative source of revenue, my proposal would at least match the proposal before us. I have given one answer that this side can legitimately provide.

I should have said this first: we all appreciate very much the courtesy the Minister of State has shown in accepting that the Bill should proceed this evening and taking time out of what is, I have no doubt, an extremely busy schedule to make himself available for this debate. All sides appreciate what he has done.

While I do not wish to delay proceedings, I will raise an important issue. This section appears to have been dropped into a template Bill that was provided by the legislation on the non-principal private residency charge. With all due respect to those responsible, this is not a particularly well drafted section. Why are certain people not liable to pay the charge while others are entitled to a waiver? Is it intended to make a distinction or difference in respect of waivers? As the Minister of State will recall from his old days when he served with my father on Drogheda Borough Council, a waiver for bin charges was always a reduction and never a full exemption. I do not know what is the exact definition of the term.

It is a kind of grace and favour.

That is the point because some people are entitled to the waiver whereas others are not liable to the charge. Will the Minister of State explain the difference being made between the two groups in the legislation? Is it intended? From a drafting point of view the section is difficult to read. Subsection (5) states: "The Minister shall not prescribe a list for the purposes of this section". The list is for the purposes of subsection (4)(b) which refers to unfinished housing estates. Therefore, the list the Minister would prescribe under subsection (5) is not for the section and the section does not oblige the Minister to prescribe a list. The section also features a number of definitions, including the term “unfinished housing estate”. The wording appears to be all over the place. In the interests of plain English and to enable everyone, including Members, to comprehend the section, the definitions in the section should be inserted in the definitions section at the start of the Bill. The list that the Minister will complete is not a list for the purposes of the section but for the purposes of a definition.

My other point of concern is the extent to which political influence will be involved in the drafting of the list. Can one lobby the Minister to say, "This is a really bad estate that should be put on the list"? The local Fine Gael or Labour Party Deputy would get great kudos because 20 residents do not have to pay the €100. I do not know if that is how it will work, I hope not. Taxation should not work like that, whatever about other matters of Government expenditure such as grants for sports, schools, etc.

This is a good debate. We would be happy to respond to the resubmitted amendments on Report Stage. Notwithstanding the points made by the Senator, many of the issues are technical. I appreciate the short notice given of the Bill. I could address these issues if I can——

Perhaps the officials could look at it.

We will be looking at this tomorrow. As I understand it, the document regarding the €100 million was submitted by the Department long before the legislation was published. The recently published Estimates Volume shows that the household charge is estimated to yield €160 million to the local government fund in 2012. That has been the clear intention of the Government and is clearly outlined in the Estimates. It is our intention to raise that money under this legislation.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 9.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Ned O’Sullivan and Brian Ó Domhnaill.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 5

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 9, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following subsection:

"5.—(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Local Government Management Agency in the first instance to inform the relevant person of his or her liability for this charge.".

This amendment addresses the question of informing the public of their responsibilities in the matter. It seems to be a situation where fines can be imposed and a quasi-criminal penalty exacted upon the citizen. The least the central authorities can do is to alert them to the requirement that they should pay this charge.

It has been said that newspaper advertisements will be taken out, but not everybody reads newspapers. I know quite a number of people who have cancelled newspaper subscriptions recently. A number of people now find it an additional expense to buy newspapers and they do not always read those sections that contain Government notices, which are not the most fascinating items in the newspapers. The same is true of radio or television broadcasts. It is therefore quite possible for people innocently to miss this information, unless they are given proper notice.

If the Local Government Management Agency is capable of issuing receipts, I do not see any reason it should not also be capable of issuing notices. It would be quite appropriate for that agency to be required to let people know that they should pay this fee and are obliged to do so. I imagine there should be centralised records of all premises that fall under this particular regulation. I do not think it is too much to expect of the Local Government Management Agency, if it is to live up to its title, that it should inform citizens of this charge, at least in the first instance.

There is a growing indolence within the bureaucracy which increasingly places responsibility on the citizen, but I think this is wrong. The same applies to the national car test, for which one used to get prior notice. One also used to get a reminder to renew a driving licence, but one is unlikely to remember the renewal date for a ten-year licence. I honestly do not think it is too much to expect that citizens should, at least in the first instance, be given notice of the fact that they are required to pay this charge, particularly when there is a penalty for failing to do so, and the possibility of a conviction.

I ask the Minister of State to accept the amendment, which states that "It shall be the responsibility of the Local Government Management Agency in the first instance to inform the relevant person of his or her liability for this charge". It seems to be a simple question of efficiency and I hope the Minister of State will be disposed to accept it.

I agree with my colleague, Senator Norris, and it is a very sensible proposal. I remember when the holiday home charge was introduced I heard from a lady who lives in Scotland but who had an inherited home in west Donegal. She approached me after some two years of the charge being existence. Not only was she liable for the €200 in the first and second year but she was also liable for the €20 increments each month, and she did not know she had to pay the charge. At the time the non-principal private residence, NPPR, charge was advertised by local authorities in the national media and in the local and regional press. That exposure did not go far enough and Senator Norris is hitting the nail on the head as those liable for the charge should be written to by the local authority or local authority organisations in order that at least they would know about their liability. I am not sure if it is the intention of the Department to advertise in a similar fashion to the NPPR publicity. I heard many local concerns about how that advertisement campaign was handled. It meant well but it may be more efficient to contact every individual by letter to outline how the charge is applicable from 1 January and it must be paid by a particular date. Those who are exempt should also be listed. I agree with Senator Norris and his sensible approach.

There is much merit in what has been said by the last two speakers. I ask that the Minister examine the amount of money intended to be spent on a publicity campaign. If that amount is similar to the cost of the suggestions made to contact each house with a specific letter, the latter approach might be more effective. There would be direct contact with each household and nobody could say there was no information on the charge. As politicians know, despite all the best efforts of the media to get a message across it does not always work; it may work for some but not for all of us.

Perhaps we could use a card.

It is a good suggestion worthy of consideration. I ask the Minister to examine it and support it if possible.

It still would not get around the difficulty raised by Senator Ó Domhnaill. A letter may go to the home in Donegal but the person mentioned by the Senator lived in Scotland. It may be difficult to get a register of every house but perhaps An Post could put a leaflet in every house in every county. An Post has a good rate for delivering such notices. Perhaps it might be considered. The local media, including radio and newspapers, will catch the majority of people but it would be better if physical media went to each house. It would be a big administrative job to write to every house in the country; therefore a leaflet delivered by An Post would be another suggestion.

I thank my colleagues from various sides of the House who suggested there is merit in the idea, although my amendment may not be perfect. I am not suggesting it is but I hope the Minister of State will consider it. We will never be able to deal with cases like the lady living in Scotland and it is unrealistic to expect the Government to contact people living abroad. On the other hand, there are a number of people of foreign extraction who take up residence in the city centre in particular. I know a number in my area, for example, who would not read the Irish newspapers and I doubt they listen to RTE or other radio stations. They occupy apartments, bedsits and other types of flats and are quite likely to be unaware of this charge. They might be caught. The suggestions made by my colleagues of a leaflet drop or mass mailing would be appropriate. I would be very happy if the Minister of State would consider it. If the Minister of State gives an undertaking that he will consider the amendment and revert tomorrow, he might do so in my absence. As I have accepted an invitation from an elevated personage to attend him in the Phoenix Park, I will not be here.

We will send the Senator a leaflet.

Watch this vice president.

I thank Senator Norris for his amendment and the other speakers for their contribution. It is envisaged that under section 13 some functions of the local authority will be delegated to the local authority management agency. The agency will provide services related to the household charge on a shared services basis on behalf of all local authorities, including the operation of on-line payment systems etc. There is at present no comprehensive database of residential property ownership within the State on which to assess our base liability for the household charge. Therefore, a database that could be used to issue invoices to homeowners who may have a liability for the household charge is not in place. For that reason the Government has decided that the household charge will operate on a self-assessment basis, and it will be a matter for owners of properties to assess if they are liable. In these circumstances, we cannot impose a requirement on the local authority or the local government management agency to issue bills.

The Senator will be heartened to know that the Bill provides in section 6 for the making and provision of statements by persons liable for the household charge, to contain such information relating to residential property for the purpose of enabling the Minister to prepare and maintain a database of residential properties. This database will in due course contain a listing of residential properties which will be of use for the purpose of determining liability for the full property tax to be introduced in due course.

In addition, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and local authorities will undertake a national information campaign to advise people of the household charge and their responsibilities in that regard. In the context of the charge on non-principal private residences, nationwide advertising has taken place in each year since its introduction to ensure general awareness of the charge and liability dates. Significant efforts have been made to ensure property owners are aware of the charge and liability dates. Similar to the household charge, the non-principal private residence charge is based on self-assessment principles and it is a matter for persons with a liability to pay the charge by the due date.

Residential property owners in the State will be made aware of the household charge through this campaign and general media coverage. Through the media persons will have ample notification of the household charge and I am fully confident they will be fully aware of the liability. I have listened to the points from all sides of the House and I understand discussions between the Minister and An Post or other relevant agencies in position to deliver a leaflet to each home in the State are under serious and active consideration. We expect that to happen.

There is another point. We work from databases when letters are sent to people; at least 10% of the people in the database would not be at the address listed. It can be very difficult to keep track of people. In addition, people who live in homes do not necessarily own them. The issue is complex but the Senator's point is wholly understood and will be acted on. There will be a leaflet going to every home in the State to advise people of the charge.

I thank the Minister of State. That covers the point. The leaflet could say that a person might be liable for that charge and that conditions apply.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 9, subsection (3)(a), to delete lines 27 and 28 and substitute the following:

"(a) (i) a single payment made on or before 6 months after the liability date,”.

The point we are trying to make is that the date where the liability falls due is 1 January in any year. Individuals have to the end of March to pay, with a €10, €20 or €30 charge thereafter. We are asking that the three-month window be extended to the end of June in each year to give people more opportunity to gather the money and pay, if they wish, in one instalment or in four instalments of €25 as outlined in the Bill.

We believe that people should have the opportunity to pay monthly. That may not happen but at least they should be given six months to pay instead of three months. I accept it is three months for the non-principal private residence, NPPR, charge. Perhaps that payment should be treated differently to this one given that it deals with every house in the State. They are the reasons we proposed the amendment. If the Minister is agreeable and wants to redraft the proposal we would be happy to accept that.

The advice I have been given is that we will proceed as proposed in the legislation but we could address the issue again tomorrow. Senator Byrne made the point that household bills can normally be paid on a monthly basis but the cost of collection in that context might be prohibitive. As we intend to proceed in the manner outlined in the Bill, I cannot accept the amendment.

On the basis of what the Minister of State has said; that he is willing to consider the matter again on Report Stage——

I cannot give any commitment.

Is the amendment being pressed?

We can resubmit the amendment on Report Stage, if necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 16 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."

It seems to be entirely retrograde that we are again introducing criminal sanctions into ordinary legislation. Senator Norris is listening to me. He can tell the President he will have a very unhappy Christmas because there is an earlier signature motion next Friday for the Water Services (Amendment) Bill. For what it is worth, my view is that the creation of a criminal offence in that Bill of adversely affecting the countryside may be unconstitutional. Perhaps the Senator might like to bring that up during the dinner tablechat.

Senator Byrne should confine himself to discussion of the section.

It is entirely retrograde that we are creating criminal offences, yet again, for the small person. Is it not possible to have an administrative sanction? Senator Ó Domhnaill will speak further about possible ways of incentivising people to pay and I will not steal his thunder. There are ways of incentivising people to pay but yet again, it is the ordinary person who will be criminalised and hauled into court. I accept it is a class C fine and a person will not be sent to prison unless he or she fails to pay it but the reality is that we are criminalising people who do not pay. A person who does not pay €100 is one who cannot afford to pay. It will not be a criminal whom society requires to be fined or charged with a criminal offence. The consequence of such a charge is quite serious. It is not a criminal offence for one not to pay one's ESB bill or telephone bill. One can be sued in the civil courts for it and a judgment can be obtained against one.

One could be cut off.

Yes, one could get cut off but the Government introduced measures to try to prevent that. It is a civil matter and the companies concerned could take one to court, sue one and seek a judgment. One could introduce a civil procedure in this case, even if it is speeded up or is a less costly system rather than to have a criminal summary conviction. It might be a class C fine and a summary conviction but that still involves the District Court and a criminal offence. That is wrong and we should not do it at a time when the public anger is so inflamed against bankers and others who got away with terrible wrongs in the past year. Many crimes may have been committed already. We do not have to create crimes, yet we are creating a crime for the ordinary person. There are other ways of dealing with the matter.

I agree with Senator Byrne. The septic tank charge was a fundamental element we discussed when the Water Services (Amendment) Bill was before the House. In that case the fines were class A while class C fines are proposed in the Bill. Nonetheless, fines are fines and they will lead to offences and, in effect, the criminalisation of people. In the event that a person does not pay the charge or the fine, he or she will be convicted in court and if he or she cannot pay the fine he or she could potentially face the prospect of going to prison. Without sensationalising it, we should consider introducing an incentive for people to pay the charge rather than creating offences or criminalising them if they do not.

I propose a carrot and stick approach. In Donegal County Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the council had great difficulty in collecting domestic water charges, people were incentivised to pay them in the sense that when an individual paid the water charge on time the person was entered into a super draw. Some of the prizes were cars, tickets to football matches and many other prizes. I have some experience of the incentive that was involved as my late father, who paid on time, won a car in 1992.

Is Senator Ó Domhnaill still driving the car?

He never drove it. He gave it away for half the price to an old lady up the road. It was a small car but I am sure it is still going. That was almost 20 years ago. The point is that the initiative was incentive-led rather than an offence-led one. The incentive meant that the individual was paying the required charge but was also being entered into a draw. The council was getting more money and there was an incentive for the individual to pay the money and to get an added bonus of getting the water service in that instance, while in this case a person is not getting a service other than the services provided by the local authority. At least something additional was being provided. The introduction of such a scheme should be examined and the offences should be removed.

I can guarantee the Minister that according to anecdotal evidence people would be more interested in paying for an incentive-led household charge rather than one involving offences. If the class C fines in the Bill and the class A fines in the Water Services (Amendment) Bill were removed then people might be quicker to comply. We should consider such an approach in all schemes where one expects the taxpayer to pay for a service he or she cannot see.

It is regrettable that the local government fund no longer exists and that we now depend on the revenue from the household charge to fund local government. If the money is not collected then councils will be affected in that they will not have money to fix roads, streets, lights and potholes. It was wrong to do away with the local government fund without knowing what would be the return on the household charge. People would pay faster if there was an added bonus.

Senator Ó Domhnaill should put the little car back on the straight and narrow.

There is an incentive to pay in order to avoid further charges. If one does not pay for two years it is clear in the Bill that with the late fee and the penalty, instead of paying €200, one would be liable for a bill of €280. I accept what Senator Ó Domhnaill said but that is the way matters must proceed. Therefore, we oppose the amendment.

The issues are exactly the same as apply in the case of the non-principal private residence charge. The follow-through is the same in terms of non-payment.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 10.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Ned O’Sullivan and Brian Ó Domhnaill.
Question declared carried.

I wish to inform the House that, arising from an omission to vote by Senators Barrett and Norris, who were present in the Chamber, the result of the division as shown on the display board has been amended, with the agreement of the Tellers on both sides. The amended result will appear in the journal of proceedings.

Section 6 agreed to.
SECTION 7

Amendment No. 17 is alternate to amendments Nos. 18 and 19. Amendments Nos. 20 and 26 are also related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 17 to 20, inclusive, and amendment No. 26 may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 11, lines 6 to 35, to delete subsections (3) to (7) and substitute the following:

"(3) At the date of death of any person who is the sole owner of a residential property any household charge, late payment fee, late payment interest or any part of such charge, fee or interest shall cease to exist.".

Where there are household charges, late payment fees and charges on a property and in the event that the registered owner of the property dies and the property is inherited, particularly by a close family member, we feel that the household charge, fees and penalties should not follow the property and should not be passed on to the new owner.

It is unlikely that a charge would remain unpaid. It would most likely have been paid by the deceased person. The situation would most likely apply where an old and modest house, owned by an elderly person, is inherited. Given the changes announced in the budget, a person inheriting such a house would have to pay additional capital gains tax in any event. The State will derive enough revenue without also collecting the household charge, late fees and penalties.

The amendment attempts to have this section amended to exclude family members who might inherit a property.

Luaigh Seanadóirí Shinn Féin an pointe seo cheana agus táimid ag tacú leis an leasu seo. Bheadh sé ciallmhar agus macánta le déanamh mar rud, nár cheart go mbeadh píonós den chineál seo ag leanúint, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs an cháis go bhfuil duine tar éis bháis, díreach ó thaobh measa ar an duine agus meas ar na daoine a thagann ina dhiaidh.

The amendment, as set out, is too open. I have a certain sympathy for what Senator Ó Dómhnaill said, but if one were to take his argument to the extreme, a millionaire who for a couple of years before he died — not knowing he was going to die — decided not to pay the charge could leave his full estate to a son or daughter who would be exempt from the charge. That would not stand up. It is not right to have this exemption so open. It could be narrowed down.

Senator Ó Domhnaill made reference to the fact that capital gains tax has increased, but I understand it will not be increased on modest homes. If the Senator were to return to this matter on Report Stage and fine-tune the amendment he might get some sympathy for it. It is too open as it stands whereby anyone who dies does not have to pay. We are all going to die, and someone will have to pay. I suggest that the Senator fine-tune the amendment and bring it back, with a more concise wording, on Report Stage. It could be looked at more favourably then.

I know Senator Landy is trying to be constructive. He makes a point about a property valued at €1 million compared with one valued at €200,000. The capital gains tax thresholds were reduced from €330,000 to €250,000. A person who inherits a property valued at €1 million, depending on the closeness of his family relationship to the deceased person, will pay a massive capital gains tax in any event. There would be a massive capital gains liability on such an individual who would have to pay capital gains tax before he or she could take full ownership of the property. It often happens that a small modest residence is left to a grandson, niece or nephew and is in need of major refurbishment. Such a person might not be liable for capital gains tax if the property is value under €250,000 or if he or she qualifies for the allowances.

I would feel more comfortable leaving the amendment in the general context, although I appreciate what Senator Landy is saying. Let us wait and see what the Minister of State has to say on the point. I am open to suggestions.

I had hoped Senator Ó Domhnaill would come some way to meet what I was suggesting. There is some scope for his amendment. On the basis of what he says, however, I could not support it.

I thank Senator Ó Domhnaill for his amendment.

Section 7(3) provides that where a person who is the sole owner of a residential property dies and at the time of his or her death household charges, late payment fees and interest are due, no further household charges and related fees or interest shall be payable during the period from the death of the person to the issue of the grant of representation of the estate of the deceased.

Section 7(4) further provides that the personal representative of a deceased person shall be liable to pay the household charges and related late payment fees or interest due in respect of that property up to the date of death of the deceased and after the date of the issue of the grant of representation of the estate of the deceased.

Section 7(5) provides that if the amount owing under subsection (4) is paid in full within three months of the date of issue of a grant of representation of the estate of the deceased, no further liability will arise.

Section 7(6) provides that if the amount owing under subsection (4) is not paid in full within three months of the date of issue of a grant of representation of the estate of the deceased, late payment fees and interest will continue to apply to the personal representative of the deceased from the date of issue of the grant of representation of the estate of the deceased.

The provisions of these subsections are important in that they seek to clarify that it will fall to the estate of a deceased person to discharge any unpaid liability for a household charge, late payment fee or late payment interest up to the death of the person concerned. It would be unfair to others who discharge their liability for the household charge to provide for a situation where a person who did not fulfil their obligations while alive had those obligations waived, as proposed in the amendment, upon death. The provisions of the section provide for a reasonable solution to the matter, in that the penalties and interest which had been accruing up to the point of death cease and no further penalties are applied, provided that the personal representative of the deceased discharges the full amount of the household charge, late payment fees and interest up to the date of death within three months of the date of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased. Where the payment is not made within three months, late payment fees and interest will be applied from the date of the grant of representation. To accede to the amendment proposed could potentially create an unintended incentive for persons to avoid or attempt to evade payment of the household charge, as the liability for the charge would cease upon the residential property owner's death.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are also part of this group. The amendments we are initiating are required to effect technical and drafting modifications to the Bill and do not in any way impact upon the policy or intent of the legislation, but assist in the clarity of the text. I thank Fianna Fáil Senators for their amendment. I believe I have addressed this matter as best we can in the context of what I have said. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Is the amendment being pressed?

Unfortunately, yes.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment No. 18:
In page 11, subsection (4), line 19, after "interest" to insert the following:
", which said full amount is, in this section, referred to as the "full amount"".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 19:
In page 11, subsection (6), lines 31 and 32, to delete "charge, fee or interest" and substitute "full amount".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 8

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 11, subsection (1), line 39, after "relates" to insert "unless the property has been sold or inherited".

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 22.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O’Sullivan and Brian Ó Domhnaill; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 8 agreed to.
SECTION 9

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 12, subsection (4), lines 27 to 31, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:

"(b) if it is not so satisfied, refuse the application, give the applicant a statement in writing of the reason for the refusal and inform the applicant in writing of his or her entitlement to appeal the refusal to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in 30 days in accordance with this section.”.

This is relates to subsection (4). If an individual is dissatisfied that the local authority has not classified him or her under the exemptions or the waivers, the only recourse available to him or her under the legislation is to appeal to the District Court. That is crazy. Potentially, the person would have to employ the services of a legal practitioner and appeal to a District Court. It creates unnecessary red tape for the legal profession and unnecessary income for the legal profession.

We are willing to work with the Minister of State on Report Stage if there an independent appeals mechanism or an appeals mechanism whereby if the individual is not satisfied with the response of the local authority or the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, he or she could appeal to a different section of the Department or to some other independent appeals process in writing rather than force him or her into the courts.

What will happen is that people will appeal for the sake of it, although people will also make genuine appeals. There will be hundreds of thousands of appeals clogging up the District Courts. It does not make sense because, effectively, one is left with the same appeals mechanism for people who are dissatisfied with the inspection reports carried on septic tanks. It is the same principle. I appreciate the Department is following the same principle but it is not correct because it will jam up the courts, although I am sure the legal profession would be glad of the additional work.

I do not think it is fair to ask people who feel they should be exempt and who may find it financially difficult to appeal to the District Court to do so. It is a reasonable amendment which I hope the Minister of State will accept.

I sympathise with Senator Ó Domhnaill but I wonder how many people will appeal because if they seek legal advice, it is likely to more expensive than paying the charge. Perhaps I have a peculiar mind but that is what strikes me.

I thank the Fianna Fáil Senators for tabling this amendment. An owner of a residential property is required under section 10 to provide such certificates for a purchaser as evidence that such owner was not liable to a household charge relating to the period for which the certificates were given by the relevant local authority.

Subsection (1) establishes the existence of certificate of exemption for the purpose of the household charge. It provides that an owner of a property may apply to a local authority for a certificate of exemption which will state the reasons no household charge is payable in respect of it for a particular year or years.

Subsection (2) establishes the existence of a certificate of waiver. It provides that an owner of a property may apply to a local authority for a certificate of waiver which will state in respect of the property that it received a declaration from the owner that he or she was entitled to a waiver or that the owner was so entitled to a waiver.

Subsection (3) provides that an applicant for a certificate of exemption or a certificate of waiver must provide the relevant local authority with all such information that it requires for the purpose of making the decision.

Subsection (4) provides that where a relevant local authority is satisfied that the issuance of a certificate of exemption or a certificate of waiver is appropriate, it shall do so to the applicant concerned within 14 days. Where it is not satisfied to issue a certificate, it shall refuse same within 14 days setting out the grounds for the refusal and informing the applicant of his or her right to appeal to the court. Section 9(5) provides that where a person is dissatisfied with a local authority's decision, the applicant may appeal the decision to the courts. Section 9(6) provides that a District Court on hearing an appeal, may allow the appeal and direct the local authority to issue a certificate of exemption, a waiver or affirm the refusal. Section 9(7) provides that an appeal is to be made to a judge of the District Court in the district in which the residential property concerned is located.

Certificates of exemption and waiver are important documents. Section 10 provides that the certificates shall discharge the property from any liability for the charge, late payment fees or late payment interest for a particular year or years, subject to the property having been purchased for its full agreed price and without any notice being given to the purchaser of any charge still due on the property.

It had become apparent in dealing with operating the charge on non-principal private residences that some owners were seeking to transfer unpaid prior-year liabilities for the charge to subsequent purchasers through clauses containing contracts for sale. The provisions surrounding sections 9 and 10 seek to ensure this practice is curtailed and the persons liable for the charge pay it prior to sale or transfer.

The appeal under section 9 deals with a local authority believing it is appropriate to issue the certificate. Before a local authority may issue such a certificate, it must be satisfied it has received all information necessary to issue the certificate for the liability date due. If it is not satisfied, it must give a reason to the applicant. As such this is an appeal against a decision of a local authority not to issue a certificate rather than an appeal concerning liability for the charge itself.

Under the Bill's provisions, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government or his Department does not have a role in the day-to-day operation of the household charge. It would be inappropriate to assign a quasi-judicial role to the Minister. My Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, considered this matter when drafting the legislation. On balance, the approach set out in the Bill was considered to be the most appropriate and consistent. It is also consistent with the separation of powers between the Executive and the Judiciary under the Constitution. In the context of a full property tax to replace the interim household charge, the issue of an appeals mechanism would fall to the expert interdepartmental group to consider and report back to the Minister. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, "That section 9 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Sections 10 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 14
Government amendment No. 22:
In page 16, subsection (1)(c), line 36, to delete “said”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 15 to 18, inclusive agreed to.
SECTION 19
Government amendment No. 23:
In page 22, subsection (1)(c), to delete lines 32 and 33 and substitute the following:
"(c) in section 3—
(i) by substituting the following subsections for subsections (5) and (6):".
Amendment agreed to.
>Government amendment No. 24:
In page 23, line 6, to delete "undersubsection (3)” and substitute “under subsection (5)”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 25:
In page 23, to delete lines 13 to 15 and substitute the following:
"expressed as a percentage of the first-mentioned number.",
and
(ii) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (7):
"(8) In this section ‘prescribe' means prescribe by order.",".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 26:
In page 25, line 35, to delete "late payment fee." and substitute the following:
"late payment fee, which said full amount is, in this section, referred to as the ‘full amount'.".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 26a:
In page 32, line 13, to delete "said".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 27:
In page 32, to delete line 26 and substitute the following:
"(2) The Minister shall not prescribe a person for the purposes of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) unless he or she is satisfied that the provision by a local authority of information obtained by the local authority pursuant to this Act to such person will assist the person in discharging a function conferred on, or delegated to, him or her by or under any enactment.
(3) In this section—".

This is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 28:
In page 33, subsection (1), lines 20 and 21, to delete paragraph (m) and substitute the following:
"(m) in section 12—
(i) in subsection (3), by substituting "the relevant local authority forms the opinion that there exists sufficient evidence to justify the institution of proceedings for the offence concerned," for "evidence sufficient to justify the institution of proceedings for the offence concerned comes to the knowledge of the relevant local authority for the residential property to which the offence relates,",
(ii) in subsection (4), by deleting "or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of", and
(iii) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (6):
"(7) Where a person is convicted of an offence under either subsection (5) or subsection (7) (in so far as either subsection relates to paragraph (c) of subsection (2)) of section 5, the court may, in determining the amount of the fine to impose on the person in respect of that offence, take account of any late payment fee or late payment interest, or both, paid by the person in connection with the failure to pay the household charge to which the offence relates.”,”.

This is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 29 not moved.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
Section 20 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Friday, 9 December 2011.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.