It is important, out of respect to Senators, that I explain why that is the case. Senators, including Senator Higgins, have gone to the trouble of preparing and tabling these amendments and I will not delay much further.
An issue that has arisen a number of times is the sale of property being used as a reason to terminate a tenancy. There are about 200 ongoing investigations into that at the moment. There is a fine of up to €30,000 and prosecutions may be made.
The provisions are intended to be fair. I recognise that there is a need to complement the restriction on movement provided in health regulations but also to be fair to property owners in limiting the infringement on their property rights. We cannot just dispense with them, as some would have us believe. Individual property rights are not superior to anyone else's rights but they are rights within the Constitution. That is where it is so I cannot pick and choose. I cannot adopt an à la carte approach to Bunreacht na hÉireann as some would want us to do, and as arose in the Dáil last night which was striking. I cannot place a five or six- month blanket ban on tenancy terminations without proper justification. If there is a proper justification to achieve a social common good then we will not be found wanting, as we have not been found wanting in terms of bringing in protections at this stage. We need the rental sector and public housing sector to grow to meet housing demand.
Again, to those who opposed the recent budget, we have 58,500 people and tenancies supported through the housing assistance payment and made provision to provide for another 15,000. The Bill is underpinned by prevailing public health advice, and the collective will of Government, behind Section 31A of the health regulations.
I cannot pre-empt a future decision of the Government or, indeed, of the Minister for Health. I know such decisions will be based on public health advice prevailing at the time. I know the Government's decisions, because I am part of them, are taken in the best interests of us all. I will listen carefully to public health advice with regard to the safeguarding of tenants.
If it were safe for tenants to move within a radius wider than 5 km, I would genuinely have difficulty in justifying a further infringement of a property right. The measure is not set in stone, however. I am indicating to the House that I can legislate only on the basis of the prevailing public health advice. At present, the temporary prohibition on tenancy termination is based on public health advice that recommends the restriction of movement outside a radius of 5 km from one's home. I informed the Dáil, and the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, informed this House, that if I needed to make further changes to tenancy law in a bid to suppress the spread of Covid-19, I would not delay in doing so. I have not delayed. I am here now, I am following up and I am acting on the prevailing public health advice. I hope this six-week restriction is the last restriction we need to face but, if not, and if this Bill is enacted, these protections will come back into play. This Bill protects tenancies now and is in line with prevailing public health advices. These advices may change in due course, and I am more than willing to come back to the Houses of the Oireachtas to make any necessary amendments.
With regard to amendment No. 9, it would not be appropriate for me to have the proposed regulatory power to change the radius of 5 km to 20 km. This is a matter for section 31A of the Health Act, under which regulations are made on the advice of public health officials in conjunction with the Minister for Health and with the collective support of the Government.