Business of Joint Committee

The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the meeting of 2 November. The draft minutes have been circulated. Are the minutes agreed? Agreed.

The next item on the agenda is correspondence. Since the last meeting we have received theIn Business magazine and correspondence on corporate and social responsibility from Chambers Ireland. Correspondence on decisions taken by the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny has been forwarded to us for information. We have received correspondence from the National Roads Authority, NRA, on its role with regard to regional and local roads. This is a response from the NRA to a letter from the committee seeking to establish whether the authority’s remit has been expanded to include the maintenance of local roads. Essentially, the NRA maintains it is responsible for national roads but the maintenance and many of the improvements are managed by the local authorities. Overall, the NRA is responsible in that case. However, in the case of regional and local roads, the NRA provides administrative services to the Minister but the Minister is responsible.

The severe weather last winter had a severe effect on roads, particularly in the midlands and south and we invited the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government here to discuss it. He has refused on three or four occasions. Has he accepted an invitation from the committee yet? The damage to local roads and the allocation for local improvement schemes must be discussed. The poorer counties that have a lower rate base have not seen these roads attended to. The Minister treats this committee with contempt when he refuses to come before it. I request that he comes before the committee as soon as possible. He has disregarded a report presented to him in July by failing to appear here. As the leader of the Green Party and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, he has dismayed rural Ireland in this and many other areas. There is a duty on him to come before the committee and I ask for unanimous support to call on him to appear before us as soon as possible.

Is that agreed? Agreed. We have done it before and received a holding reply so we will do it again.

The tenth point of our work programme is for the NRA to come before the committee. The last time the NRA appeared, it presented the shortest document I can recall. There are also matters the NRA must address before the committee regarding Deputy Bannon's comments. It is noted in today's agenda with regard to setting the work schedule but today's correspondence from the NRA is in no way sufficient instead of making a presentation before the committee.

We will reissue the invitation to the Minister to attend the committee.

The next item of correspondence is 1006, suggested amendments to the Planning and Development Bill, a response to the letter sent to the Minister on behalf of Richard Walsh of ART Generation Limited on the Bill and it is from the office of the Minister.

The next item is an invitation to dinner in the European Parliament on 7 December in Brussels. It is an e-mail inviting members to attend. That is the day of the budget so no one should be absent on that day.

Circular MEM 02-10 relates to responses to the severe weather emergency, issued by the national director for fire and emergency management at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am curious about this. Would members like time to consider that? We will hold it over.

Yes. On that matter, at last week's meeting clarification was sought where the Minister indicated he would publish his own review on 1 November. Has that report been published and laid before the Houses?

There is a circular letter issued on 28 October 2010 in our correspondence.

We had that the last day.

So for clarification, the Minister did not meet his own deadline of 1 November and in his correspondence in response to an invitation to discuss the committee's report, he said he would come to meet us when he published his own report to discuss both. On the basis that he has failed to publish his own report, do we continue to wait for him to publish that report, for which there appears to be no specific deadline, or will we reissue our request for him to appear before the committee?

We have just done that, we have reissued the request for the Minister to come before the committee.

Also, there is a copy of SI 513, Building Regulations 2010, for our information. If people wish to consider that, it is possible. These regulations apply to existing buildings or parts of buildings that undergo a material change of use to a day centre, hotel, hostel, guest building, institutional building, place of assembly, shop or shopping centre. I suggest members have a look at it and if they want to raise anything in connection with it at the next meeting, they are free to do so.

Did we have the circular dated 28 October on the response to the severe weather emergencies? It is dated 28 October but I am not sure of the date. This is the letter from Mr. Seán Horgan.

Is it dated 27 October?

I have 28 October. Did the committee have that at the last meeting?

It says in the second paragraph that the Minister regrets he was unable to attend the committee on 1 September and asked his secretary to inform the committee of the current position on reviews of the severe weather events of November 2009. The fourth paragraph states that, as suggested in the committee's report, the Minister has asked the Department to complete its own review of the severe weather events before 1 November 2010.

Is this a new document? Yes. Are members familiar with the document I am referring to?

Has it been circulated?

It is circular MEM 02-10, dated 28 October, with the heading "Response to Severe Weather Conditions". It is a circular from Mr. Seán Horgan, national director of fire and emergency management in the Department to each county manager. It is not a response to this committee; it is a circular from the Department recently, a copy of which has just come to us. I suggest we hold it over until the next meeting.

Could the Chairman circulate it to members?

Yes, we will recirculate that separately. There is so much documentation circulated, it is hard to spot every individual item.

We are now onto the work programme. Do members wish to deal with that today or deal with the presentation by An Bord Pleanála immediately?

It would be nice if we could agree on three or four topics between now and Christmas so we could pencil them in. I understand the first item, the pyrite issue, is before the courts and that agreement was reached. It may not be as urgent.

There was a request at a meeting that the working group dealing with the disposal of the e-voting machines would appear before the committee and make a progress report. I do not see that on the work programme.

I am happy to include that.

I would concur with that, I requested it at an early stage. We should at least put it to bed or find out what progress is being made with the issue.

Item 12 is an important item.

It concerns the tyre industry.

There have been a number of requests made to them and it is a matter that is exercising the minds of many people, especially public representatives. It is high time they came in to make a presentation to the committee so members can ask pertinent questions of them on tyre disposal and recycling. I would put that on the agenda.

We will mark three or four.

I had a question last week, when I was not here, on the SuperValu in Clonakilty that is doing something positive to create employment by dealing with local people and promoting local produce. I requested that it be given an opportunity to appear before the committee to explain what it is doing. If this was replicated all over the country it might have a positive effect on employment. I would appreciate if it could be facilitated at the earliest opportunity. Given that the retail Bill is coming before the House shortly it might be an appropriate time to have it discussed.

Is that agreed? Agreed. We will set a date. I do not see the EPA but it should be on our standard list. An Bord Pleanála will be before the committee today. A couple of issues have been mentioned: disposal of e-voting machines, the presentation mentioned by Deputy O'Sullivan, the Irish Tyre Industry Association is to make a presentation and obviously the Minister.

Do not forget the Dublin Docklands Development Authority annual report.

That is No. 8. We have about five topics listed. I will ask the clerk to line them up in sequence.

May I suggest another item, No. 1 on the list.

I agree with that.

It is the HomeBond Insurance scheme. In light of the report published last week, a number of estates are concerned as to how the HomeBond Insurance scheme will be sustained given the number of ghost estates throughout the country.

Deputy Hogan mentioned something about that court case.

I agree that HomeBond Insurance Services should be asked to appear before the committee but there is a court case on the issue mentioned in item No. 1.

The pyrite issue is separate.

That is a separate issue.

Does the Deputy Hogan wish to deal with HomeBond Insurance Services in general?

The pyrite issue can be parked.

The following items have been mentioned for the earlier part of the work: HomeBond Insurance Services, Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Dublin City Council to discuss proposals for the incinerator, the Minister, the Irish Tyre Industry Association Limited, the presentation mentioned by Deputy Christy O'Sullivan and disposal of e-voting machines. I will ask the clerk to ascertain who is available to try to schedule the dates to suit our meetings. Those are the topics we have identified for the next couple of meetings at least. Is that agreed? Agreed.

That concludes our discussion on the work programme.

Sitting suspended at 4.32 p.m. and resumed at 4.35 p.m.