Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 118, it is deemed to have passed the First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad.

For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of these amendments and I have circulated the proposed grouping. The Minister will deal with the subject matter of the amendments in each group. Senators may speak only once on Report Stage. I remind Senators that the only matters which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and call him to speak on the subject matter of the amendments in group one.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 5 in group one are technical drafting amendments. Amendment No. 1 updates the collective citation in section 1 of the Bill while amendment No. 5, is the result of improvements made by the Parliamentary Counsel to the wording of section 30 concerning fixed payment notices.

I call the Minister to speak on the subject matter of the amendments in group two.

Amendment No. 2 inserts a standard expenses section in the Bill as a new section 6. This new section provides, subject to sanction by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, for the expenses of the National Transport Authority in carrying out the functions conferred on it by the Bill. It is not anticipated that any new funding will be required by my Department in connection with the administration of this Bill when enacted. The expenses of the NTA are expected to be relatively modest and will be found from within my Department's Vote. However, the Parliamentary Counsel considers it prudent to include an expenses section in the Bill.

I now call the Minister to speak on the amendments in group three.

In the Second Stage debate on this Bill in the Dáil, a number of Deputies raised the issue of trying to get answers from clamping companies when someone has a query or complaint. I agreed with that point. People often find that their complaints or queries can go unanswered for a long time or even indefinitely and I introduced this amendment to section 17 to cater for those situations. Section 17 deals with the complaints procedure that the NTA may set up for members of the public. Amendment No. 4 adds a further category to the list of issues in subsection (1) about which complaints may be made, namely, complaints in relation to the time it takes for parking controllers and clamping operators to respond to complaints or to other communications from the public. This is an important addition to the Bill. It was also referred to by Members of this House when the Bill was here. It allows the National Transport Authority to regulate in this area. Amendment No. 3 is purely consequential. It simply facilitates this new provision being added to the list of categories in subsection (1). Specifically, the word "and" must be moved from the end of paragraph (b) to the end of new paragraph (c).

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I am delighted to be here today because I actually initiated this Bill in 2011 and, as far as I recall, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, brought forward a Private Members' Bill. It was certainly an area that needed to be regulated. I had parked in a small cul-de-sac in Galway with very bad signage and when I came back, I was quite amazed to see these guys clamping the vehicle. It was opposite a pub in Prospect Hill, Councillor Crowe's premises. It was during a Seanad election and it was not a good start.

Did Senator Leyden get the vote?

They felt sympathetic towards Senator Leyden.

They were very sympathetic. The Seanad was sitting but the Dáil had not yet come back. I was fairly annoyed, to say the least. I pointed out this anomaly in that the company a had a small sign on the wall. I could not believe I was clamped and I paid €140 at the time. By the way, I got the money back. It exposed the ridiculous situation. On that particular day, a young settled Traveller ran out of petrol and pushed his car into that cul-de-sac and he was clamped as well. It really was out of line in Galway. I do not know what it is like there now. I welcome the Bill and thank the Minister. It is one of these issues nobody was doing anything about. It was an anomaly. There was no control or no regulation whatsoever governing it. Now the regulations are there and I welcome them.

Senator Leyden did not bring a clamp around with him on the Seanad campaign.

The Senator did not bring a clamp around with him to get sympathy.

I thank all Senators for the way they have contributed to the debate on this Bill and I thank all my officials and those in my Department who have worked on it. They have put a lot of work into looking at how this Bill could be put together and at the right way to regulate something which up to this point had been an area that, by and large, did not have the regulation it needed. With all the understandable focus and criticism that politics has received in recent years, something that is not given the focus it deserves is the amount of time Members in both Houses put into introducing legislation and looking to have it improved. This Bill is an excellent example of how that process can work. It followed a consultation process that took place with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, in which many Members participated. It then led to a Bill which was brought before the Dáil and Seanad. However, the Bill was changed at different points in the process in response to points Senators or Deputies made. This is a different Bill in some ways to the one that began its passage through the Oireachtas due to suggestions made in this House and in the Dáil. In terms of not being able to accept amendments put forward, in all cases, we were able to come up with other ways to change the Bill as a result of points Deputies and Senators made. I wish that kind of interaction got the focus and attention it deserved as opposed to the other kind of interaction in the Dáil and Seanad which, for other reasons, tends to dominate the airwaves. The dialogue and discussion in both Houses is, dare I say it, an example of how our legislative process can work well. I am happy that we were able to play a part in it. This Bill will have a practical effect quickly. Clamping is something most of us appreciate has a role to play but that role could have been better regulated. The passage of this Bill will have a tangible effect on an area of concern for many people.

Again, I thank my officials for all their work and the Seanad and its Members for the deliberation they have afforded the Bill and for the opportunity to conclude it here today.

I thank the Minister for guiding this Bill, which I welcome, through both Houses of the Oireachtas and his officials for bringing it forward. As stated in the contributions in this House, it is the regulation which is the most important part of this in that there is now a set standard in the way the law is enforced. We all get frustrated. I suppose one of the most frustrating experiences is to be clamped, but it has its place in society. One cannot merely park where one feels like it. Hopefully, this regulation will set a standard and motorists, who may be frustrated, will know that the law must be upheld in the right way.

I thank the Minister. As always, he is keen to take on board views across the floor, both in the Seanad and in the Dáil. He is always available to engage with Members of both Houses on issues, and even this morning, I was at another briefing with him. This is important, as Senator O'Neill stated, because there seemed to be a "whatever you are having yourself" type of an attitude towards clamping in different parts of the country, as was most articulately outlined by Senator Leyden in preparation for his next Seanad campaign. Now that the rules are set out, there is no excuse for motorists in the future. I welcome the Bill and its passage of it through the House.

Question put and agreed to.