Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 25 May 2000

Vol. 519 No. 7

Other Questions. - Housing Forum.

Proinsias De Rossa


10 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government when the housing forum promised in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness will be established; the terms of reference of the proposed forum; the proposed membership; when it is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14676/00]

The housing forum, agreed with the social partners and set out in Frameworks 2 and 3 of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, is currently being established. The social partners and Departments who will participate in the forum have been invited to nominate representatives to it. Following nomination of the various representatives, arrangements will be made to hold the first meeting of the forum.

The forum will be chaired by a senior official of my Department and will comprise a further 16 members. Each of the four pillars, trade union, employer, community and voluntary and farming, has been invited to nominate two representatives. The Departments of the Taoiseach, Finance, Social, Community and Family Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform as well as my Department will each have a representative on the forum.

The local authority sector, which will have primary responsibility for implementation of the majority of housing commitments in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, will have two representatives on the forum. The Irish Council for Social Housing, as the representative body of the voluntary housing sector, has also been invited to nominate a representative.

The terms of reference of the forum will be as agreed with the social partners and as set out in the programme. Accordingly, the forum will monitor developments in relation to the supply and affordability of housing, monitor the implementation of the housing objectives and actions set out in Frameworks 2 and 3 of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness in the context of the targets set in the national development plan, provide the social partners with an opportunity to contribute to the further development by my Department of policy responses in respect of the housing issues identified in the programme and involve the social partners with Government in tackling constraints on the achievement of the housing supply targets set out in the programme and the national development plan.

The housing forum will meet quarterly for the lifetime of the programme and, accordingly, the timing and nature of its reports will be decided in the context of its ongoing work programme.

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness was concluded with the social partners at the beginning of the year. What has delayed the establishment of the housing forum? When were the social partners, the different pillars involved in the programme, invited to submit their nominees for membership of the forum? Will the Minister of State indicate when the housing forum will hold its first meeting? Will he further indicate when he expects to receive the first report of the forum?

As the Deputy is aware, the programme had to be approved by the various bodies which participated in the discussions. This involved the need for meetings, etc.

That was a while ago.

It was much later than the date the Deputy mentioned. The Department wrote to the social partners and the various Departments on 11 May. As yet, the name of only one representative has been notified to my Department. I appreciate that the necessary co-ordination within each of the social partnership pillars must take place to allow agreed representatives to be notified to my Department. Accordingly, time must be allowed for the necessary consultation to take place.

On receipt of all the nominations to the forum, my Department will organise the first meeting. I anticipate that the first meeting of the forum should take place shortly after receipt of the nominations. My intention and hope is that this meeting will be held in June.

Has the Minister of State put a deadline on the date for receipt of nominations? The establishment of the housing forum was one of the central issues in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness under which the social partners will have a role in housing policy. However, we have been told that the first meeting of the housing forum will not take place until six months after the programme was negotiated. The Department has direct responsibility for the establishment of the housing forum. There appears to be great delay and tardiness on this matter which is critical to social policy.

The Deputy is making a statement. He should ask a question.

Why is there such delay and tardiness on the part of the Minister of State in getting the housing forum up and running? He cannot even tell the House when the first meeting will take place.

I cannot make any arrangements for the first meeting until I get the nominations.

The Department only asked for them last week.

They have to make whatever arrangements are necessary to enable them to select the people they wish to nominate. There is no need for me to issue a diktat to them. It is ridiculous to suggest that if they do not reply by a certain date, the forum will not go ahead. These people are interested in having a forum and they are making arrangements in their organisations. I expect we will hear from them in regard to their nominations within a short time. Arrangements can be made shortly after that for the first meeting.

He does not want to do it at all. That is the problem.

If, when the forum is set up, the members suggested to the Minister of State that he should immediately declare a housing emergency, and they may do so because they are representative of organisations who have their fingers on the pulse in terms of what is going on in society in a way that the Minister of State does not, would he give them the same type of rambling answers that he has given to the House while the housing situation deteriorates?

Will the Ceann Comhairle's office communicate with the division in the Department of the Environment and Local Government that provides answers for the Minister of State and remind it of the time limits on ministerial replies? I am getting tired of listening to the Minister of State filibustering on housing issues in the House. He is fiddling while Rome burns and nothing is done about the housing emergency. If the housing forum suggests to him that he should declare an emergency and act accordingly, will he do so?

There is no time for the Minister to reply. We must proceed to the next question.

This is the type of off-side rule that is being exploited regularly by the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy. He will go down in history as the greatest gas bag in Government.

The Chair continually reminds Members of the time limits.

The Deputies ask questions but they do not want answers. That is their problem.

The Minister of State wraps his answers in so much cotton wool.