asked the Minister for Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) concerning planning applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Planning Applications.
I refer the Deputy to the statement of 25th June, 1974 issued on the matter on my behalf by the Government Information Services. A copy of the statement will, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, be circulated with the Official Report.
In view of the fact that there is public disquiet over this, can the Minister introduce or persuade his colleagues to have introduced the necessary legislation to have a compulsory register for the declaration of county councillors' interests?
In view of the fact that part of the matter has been raised by way of newspaper articles and the fact that I have referred the matter to the Attorney General, I would prefer not to deal any further with it at the present time until I find out what recommendation comes from the Attorney General.
Would the Minister not agree that that is only a specific case and that there is public disquiet about the fact that members involved in planning applications and other matters may have a conflict of interests, and in view of the fact that members will not reveal their financial interests, should it not be Government policy to have this?
I did mention in the report and in the House a few days ago that I am considering an amendment to the Planning Bill as a first step towards dealing with this matter. Naturally, it will require further consideration. We cannot have legislation by newspaper scare headlines. While it is a fact that many people have been expressing disquiet not alone now but over a period about this, the newspaper article brought it to a head. Until the matter is considered by the appropriate authority, the Attorney General, I think it would be as well if we left if there.
The Minister will agree that it became necessary as a result of newspaper articles to have this compulsory register.
Yes, and as the Deputy is aware, the party to which he and I belong have made it a condition of membership of a local council that we are prepared to declare whether or not we have a financial interest in these matters. However, as I say, I do not want here to prejudge what appeared in the newspaper and what people are talking about. I think there is a more appropriate way of dealing with it and it would be unfair to the people concerned as well as to the people of this House to do otherwise. There is just one thing to which I would like to draw attention. I notice that Deputy Cunningham and Deputy Molloy have been challenging me about a certain planning decision, and they talked about reversing the decision in the Turnapin Little area. I would like to point out that of course they made no decision. The appeal went in in 1971 and it was before them early in 1973.
No decision was made at all and it was when I went in that I asked to have it and all other long-standing appeals dealt with as a matter of urgency. It was because it was agreed that the course of a road could be suitably changed and that it would thereby save a factory from being affected that I agreed that permission should be given. The other permission was incidental to it because it happened to be on the other side of the road. I hate people trying to make out somebody is tarred with the stick. If there is a stick of tar going around it is not pointing in my direction.
Did it save the factory?
It is still there.
The Minister referred to two Members of the House who are not present to defend themselves.
I am not to blame for their not being present. If they want to say something this is the place to say it.
That is correct but——
The Minister has come badly out of that decision.
I have not come badly out of a decision——
In the eyes of the public.
In the eyes of Deputy Tom Meaney, Deputy Liam Cunningham and Deputy Bobby Molloy I may have come out badly, but I can stand over everything I do. My advice——
The advice was contrary to the decision the Minister made. The Minister listened to a trade union member in coming to his decision. The former Minister did not listen to him but the present Minister did.
The Minister must be allowed to answer.
Deputy Meaney is not telling the truth. I cannot call him a liar, but he is not telling the truth.
The previous Minister refused to listen to that trade union official but the Minister listened to him.
The previous Minister did nothing. He left it on the shelf for months and did nothing and I took a decision.
Charges like this should not be made.
I took a decision on advice.
Is the matter sub judice?
This one is not.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would not consider holding an inquiry into the land deals in the county over the past number of years.
I propose to take the advice of the Attorney General when it comes up.