As previously indicated to the House on Second Stage, I reaffirm the Government is not opposed in principle to this Private Members' Bill. However, as has been said previously, the provisions of the Bill require most detailed scrutiny to ensure consistency with the property rights and safeguards in the Constitution, with particular reference to Article 40.3 and Article 43. I am sure Senators will appreciate the importance of ensuring coherence with other statutory provisions governing the purchase of ground rents.
Senators will appreciate this is a complex area of law. As indicated previously, it is already clear that amendments to the Bill will be required to minimise the risk of further challenges on constitutional grounds. In these circumstances, I have agreed with the Attorney General to establish a small expert group comprising senior officials from the Department and representatives from the Office of the Attorney General together with a number of outside experts in the area of land law. It is important that they consider the issues at hand and report on the amendments necessitated by the Supreme Court ruling in the Shirley case. While it is not possible to set a deadline for the group to complete its task at this early stage, it is my hope and intention that a substantial amount of the group's work will have been completed by the end of the first quarter of 2018. I expect, therefore, that the group's conclusions and recommendations will provide a sound basis for future amendments to ground rents legislation.
Members will be aware the issue of ground rents has been something of a complex conveyancing matter going right back to the foundation of the State. Many of the pieces of legislation since - I refer specifically to the 1978 Acts - are complex and detailed and need to be looked at in the context of the Constitution. I ask Senators to bear with the committee to ensure we do what Senators Gallagher, Ardagh and Swanick, who are promoting the Bill, wish to do. I support their endeavours in that regard.
There is agreement in the House that we need to address this issue. What we have not finally established with certainty is the means by which this issue can be addressed. I acknowledge the importance of this legislation. The group will be happy to engage with the promoters of the Bill and I hope that by spring next year we will be in a position to advance matters in a way that can deal with the issue as intended by the promoters of the legislation.