Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Bill 2003: Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 15, to delete "carrying out" and substitute "fulfilment".
My amendment proposes the deletion of the words "carrying out" and the insertion of the word "fulfilment". It is more about linguistics than anything else as I cannot see how it is possible to actually carry out a duty. It is more likely that one would carry out a function. A duty is something to be fulfilled, discharged or performed. Therefore, I propose the use of the word "fulfilment".
Ar an gcéad dul síos, is foráil chaighdeánach í an oráid léiritheach seo. Leagtar amach in alt 1 na sainmhínithe atá in úsáid sa reachtaíocht. Mar shampla, ciallaíonn "oileán" "oileán áitrithe de chuid an Stáit". Baineann an leasú atá molta anseo leis an sainmhíniú atá déanta ar "feidhm". Ba mhaith liom a threisiú gurb é an gnáth-mhíniú ar "feidhm" atá sa reachtaíocht, mar atá in alt 1 den Acht Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán (Cumhacht agus Feidhmeanna) 1998. Tá an sainmhíniú atá tugtha anseo so-thuigthe agus níl aon ghá leis an leasú atá molta.
Níl i gceist agam glacadh leis seo. Mar a dúirt an Teachta, is ag imirt le focail atáimid anseo. Tá mise sásta, de réir an chomhairle a tugadh dom, go bhfuil an t-alt ceart.
Ní himirt le focail ach cruinneas focal atá i gceist. Aontaím go bhfuil dhá thuairim ann. It is not a game.
Ní shin atá á rá agam. Tá an Teachta ag rá gur chóir "fulfilment" a chur isteach. Tá mise sásta, de réir an chomhairle atá agam, gurb seo é an bealach caighdeánach lena dhéanamh. It is a question of "doctors differ and patients die". I am not a legal expert. Seo a deirtear sa mBille: "follaíonn 'feidhm' cumhacht agus dualgas, agus folaíonn tagairt do chomhlíonadh feidhme tagairt d'fheidhmiú cumhachta agus do chomhall dualgais".
We are discussing the use of the words "carrying out" versus the word "fulfilment". In practice, the amendment would not change the Bill one way or the other. The counter argument - the argument we had on other Bills - is that "fulfilment" means the finishing of something whereas "carrying out" means it is continuous.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 17, after "State" to insert, "and includes all such islands which become inhabited on a future date".
The definition of "island" could be interpreted to refer only to islands inhabited at the date of the passing of the Bill. My amendment seeks to ensure that if islands uninhabited at present become inhabited in the future, they would be embraced by the definition. I believe the Minister would share the intention behind the amendment.
I am advised that there is no ambiguity and that what is contained in the Bill can be taken to mean any inhabited island, whether on the day the Bill comes into force or in the future. The legal advice of the Parliamentary Counsel is that the text includes covers the future as well as the present. In other words, if an island becomes inhabited in the future, it will be covered by the Bill. That is the legal advice I have been given.
I accept that explanation.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 20, after "water" to insert "and any estate, right or interest in or over land".
The purpose of the amendment is to make sure the definition of "land" would be widened to include an interest in land. Its acceptance would ensure the Bill would be consistent with the meaning of "land" as contained in the recently enacted Interpretation Bill 2003.
Ní dhéantar sainmhíniú ar talamh sa reachtaíocht seo mar tá sin déanta san Acht Léiriúcháin 1937. Clúdaíonn sin na nithe breise atá luaite ag an Teachta. The Interpretation Act 1937 covers this definition. Is é atá ráite san mBille go bhfuil talamh faoi uisce san áireamh in aon tagairt do thalamh sa reachtaíocht seo. The Deputy mentioned the Interpretation Act 2003, which, with his agreement, I will double check and come back to him on Report Stage on the matter.
I am happy with that response.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are alternatives while amendment No. 6 is related. They may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 33, to delete "at his or her discretion and".
It is widely accepted that discretion is an inherent feature of the exercise of any ministerial function. However, I cannot see the need to expressly provide for ministerial discretion in this instance. Following the logic of the legislation, if I pick up other legislation which confers a power on a Minister and the word "discretion" is not expressly used, am I to assume that there is no provision for ministerial discretion? The words which provide for such discretion are superfluous and unnecessary. I propose, therefore, that they be deleted.
Section 2(1) reads, "the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may at his or her discretion. . . ". My advice is that the words "at his or her discretion" are redundant. "May" means that whatever function is involved, it is performed at the person's discretion. I am advised that if this wording stands, almost every Act passed since 1922 should be amended and the words "at his or her discretion" added after the word "may".
Tá miniú simplí ag an gceann seo. Maidir leis na leasaithe seo, baineadh úsáid as an bhfoclaíocht a úsáideadh in alt 4 dAcht an Aire Ealaíon, Gaeltachta agus Oileán (Cumhacht and Feidhmeanna) 1998. Tá an tAcht sin á aisghairm agus an chumhacht sin á comhtháthú sa reachtaíocht atá idir lámha. Tá an fhoclaíocht shonrach atá faoi chaibidil i leasaithe uimh. 4 agus a 5 tógtha ó reachtaíocht 1998.
Maidir leis an bhfoclaíocht atá faoi chaibidil i leasú uimh. 6, tá sin ag teastáil le haghaidh an pointe a threisiú maidir leis an ngá atá ann cead an Aire Airgeadais a fháil, i ndáil leis na seirbhísí iompair go dtí na hoileáin. Tá mé sásta godtugann an fhoclaíocht mar atá sé dréachtaithean léargas is soiléire den bhrí atá i gceist sanfhoráil.
There are two issues involved which, with the permission of the Deputies, I will discuss together. The first is the question of "dá rogha féin". I have a certain sympathy with the points being made because if a Minister is to make a decision, it has to be at his or her discretion. In this case a directive has been lifted from the 1998 Act and transposed into the Bill. Nothing has been added to or subtracted from it. I will examine this point again on Report Stage.
The other point is the usual one about the Minister for Finance in the case of Bills and whether he is expected to know. The reality is that whether it is included in the Bill the Minister for Finance ultimately controls all expenditure. The notion that seems to be pervasive in the public mind that in some way when it comes to spending money Ministers will be able to do things without the permission of the Minister for Finance is rather innocent. Sometimes there is a notion in the public ether that is expressed as, "Would you not be able to do it without telling the Minister for Finance?" Since he provides all of the money for Departments, that is how government works and always will. Therefore, I have no difficulty with the provision regarding the Minister for Finance. Whether it is stated specifically in the Bill, he will be in control. I will, therefore, dig in my heels on the part referring to him. It only adds to the myth that in some way the Department of Finance has been taken out of the loop, which is a nonsense because of the way the State apparatus is constructed.
I do not have a problem. I will withdraw the amendment. On amendment No. 6, in the matter of Deauville Communications Worldwide Limited and Anor. the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Keane, referred to the principle of statutory interpretation where it was assumed that the drafter did not use words entirely superfluous. In the context of what the Minister said, how does he interpret what the Chief Justice had to say?
On a point of clarification, I am not a legal expert and must be advised by the office of the parliamentary counsel and the Office of the Attorney General. Because the provision was taken word for word from a previous Act I will ask my officials to review it in the context of 2003 to ensure it should be included. If the advice is that it should remain, I will inform the Deputies on Report Stage. I will ask them again just to be doubly sure.
Tá mé le leasú uimh. 5 a tharraingt siar freisin. Tá mé sásta leis an méid a duirt an tAire.
Cad mar gheall ar leasú uimh. 6?
Tiocfaidh an tAire ar ais ar an leasú sin.
I am not coming back on the matter. The words "le toiliú an Aire Airgeadais" are staying in the Bill. I fear that if I was to take them out, I would still require the permission of the Minister for Finance. That would not change one iota. People seem to think one could run the country without the Department of Finance controlling the money. That will never happen and I do not want to give that impression. Therefore, I am not withdrawing the words in question and will not be returning to the matter on Report Stage.
There is very little between us. The words are superfluous.
While I will return to that point on Report Stage, I will not return to the other matter as the agreement of the Minister for Finance is required. It might give the wrong impression if I were to take out the words in question. One way or another the permission of the Minister for Finance is required. He is very nice to the islands.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 8, subsection (2), lines 11 and 12, to delete "to the payment and to the terms and conditions thereof".
This is a simple amendment. I propose the deletion of the words in question as they are wholly unnecessary. The meaning and effect of the subsection are abundantly clear, to which the words proposed to be deleted add nothing substantial.
Leagtar amach in alt 2(2) nach féidir fóirdheontas a íoc le seirbhís paisinéirí bus mar chuid de chonradh farantóireachta nó aeir gan chead an Aire Iompair dá leithéid agus dos na téarmaí agus na coinníolacha a bhaineann leis. Cuirtear i gcuimhne don Teachta go dtiteann an príomh-fhreagracht maidir le cúrsaí iompair bus ar mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Iompair. Mar sin, ar mhaithe le comh-sheasmhacht agus dea-chleachtadh tá sé ceart agus cóir go mbeadh ionchur aige sna téarmaí agus ins na coinníolacha a bhaineann leis na seirbhísí bus atá mar chuid de chonartha farantóireachta agus aeir.
Tá mé ar aon intinn leis an Aire Iompair faoin ngá atá le seirbhísí an Stáit a riaradh ar anmbealach is éifeachtaí agus de réir polasaithe atá comhordaithe gan aon chodarsnacht i gceist. Dá bharr sin, níl i gceist agam glacadh leis an leasú seo.
Having listened to the Minister, I will withdraw the amendment.
If one looks at some of the bus services provided, there is piggy-backing on regular services. I need to get agreement with the Minister for Transport. This will lead to joined-up government.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
As amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are cognate and amendment No. 9 is an alternate to amendment No. 8, it is proposed to discuss amendments 8 to 10, inclusive, together.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 8, subsection (3), line 13, to delete "shall be" and substitute "is".
This amendment is proposed to make use of the active voice, the use of which in legislation was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its report on legislative drafting. It is important that the style of our legislation represents best practice and that legislation is made more readable for the public.
Maidir leis an gcomhairle a fuair mé i dtaobh leasú uimh. 9, I want to delete the words "be and" in line 13. If they are left in, we will replicate section 2(1)(a)(ii) which states that the payment of subsidies for connecting bus passenger services shall be a function of the Minister. Clearly, it is inappropriate to say this twice.
No. It is somewhat different. The form of words used is: "It shall be and be deemed always to have been". I am only now getting this function and having got it, I need to have retrospective as well as forward power. We have had these bus services which were found to be ultra vires. We are now trying to retrospectively regularise the position. Nobody disagrees with the idea of having a bus service connecting to a boat service. Members may remember that this issue came up at the Committee of Public Accounts. As, technically, we did not legally have the power, we want to regularise the position retrospectively as well as in the future.
It will continue to read, "It shall be and be deemed always to have been a function". However, it is superfluous to have stated in the Bill that the Minister will have the power to pay subsidies.
There are two issues on going forward and back which we have separated. The Deputy wants to put them together. While we may be arguing about the number of angels on a pinhead, we simply want to make it clear that, retrospectively, this is acceptable and that in future we will have this power. The use of the words "It shall be and be deemed always to have been" makes it clear that it refers to the past and the future.
Is it only because of the retrospective nature of the legislation that the active voice is not used consistently?
Yes. That is what we want to do. We want to make it absolutely clear. That is how we were advised to draft the Bill.
The Bill is repeating the future function because the Minister believes it strengthens the retrospective provision.
Section 2(3) can be broken down into two separate sentences. The sentence, "It shall be a function of the Minister to pay subsidies for the operation of an island connecting bus passenger service", covers the future. The sentence, "It shall be and be deemed always to have been a function of the Minister to pay subsidies for the operation of an island connecting bus passenger service", covers the past. Deputy O'Shea is proposing that the subsection should read: "It shall be deemed always to have been a function of the Minister to pay subsidies for the operation of an island connecting bus passenger service." This does not provide for the future as specifically as the form of words used. We are arguing a minor point. The objective is to address the past and the future.
I am trying to reduce the text, where possible. The Minister's advice is that drafting the section in this way adds to the legislation.
We want it to be unambiguously clear that we are doing two things. We are giving a forward power and retrospectively validating what was done in the past. The future is covered by the words "shall be" while the words "be deemed always to have been" address the past. I ask the Deputy to accept that in this case the form of words used represents better drafting. Tá sé an-soiléir sa nGaeilge.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Section 2 agreed to.
Amendment No. 10 not moved.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 27, to delete "functions" and substitute "a function".
This is another technical amendment. The drafting of the section is inelegant. Section 3(1) reads, "It shall be and be deemed always to have been functions of the Minister". I suggest that the word "functions" be deleted and replaced by the term "a function". The use of the plural is not grammatically necessary, even though a number of functions are specified. The subsection does not read very well.
Cé nach bhfuil difríocht an-mhór, ó thaobh brí de, idir an rud atá sa mBille agus an rud atá molta ag an Teachta tá mé sásta glacadh leis an leasú.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 8, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) In subsection (1), reference to the Minister for Transport shall, as respects matters occurring before the passing of this Act, include reference to a Minister of the Government exercising functions regarding air transport.”
Is é atá i gceist agam anseo ná fo-alt nua a chur isteach. There is a defect in section 3(1)(a) in so far as it refers to past matters. While future changes of ministerial titles are dealt with by the Interpretation Act and the Ministers and Secretaries Acts, this is not dealt with in the context of retrospective legislation. Some provision to deal with past matters is, therefore, required. By way of precedent, there is a special provision of this kind in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to deal with certain retrospective references to the Minister.
The air transport function has rested with a number of Departments. I recall it having been with the Department of Public Enterprise, the Department of Communications, and the Department of Transport and Power. I am sure there have been others that I do not recall during the lifetime of the State. My advice is that this is not covered under the Interpretations Act or the Ministers and Secretaries Acts.
Is í an chomhairle a cuireadh orm go bhfuil sé clúdaithe. Ag éisteacht leis an Teachta sílim go bhfuil pointe aige ar cheart a scrúdú arís. Níl mé ag dul glacadh leis an leasú anois ach lorgóidh mé tuilleadh comhairle agus tiocfaidh mé ar ais go dtí an leasú ar Chéim na Tuarascála. I will come back to this matter on Report Stage. The Deputy is saying we are all agreed about the future provision but that there is a doubt about the past. I am not a legal person. There is some force to the argument that I cannot answer. I will look for further advice and we can discuss the matter again on Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No.13 not moved.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 12, subsection (3)(d)(i), line 4, after “thereof” to insert “having regard to the interest for the time being payable on judgment debts”.
Séard atá i gceist anseo ná fiaca agus an ráta úis a bheadh ag gabháil dóibh san. The Bill currently reads as follows: ". . . on the date of the order, of the estate, right, easement, title of interest together with interest at such rates as the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may determine from time to time, on the amount from that date to the date of payment thereof". Essentially, I am seeking more certainty as to the rate of interest which will apply. My amendment proposes that, rather than give the Minister free rein to fix any interest rate he or she might wish - for instance, he could set a nil rate of interest - the normal rate of interest on debts in court proceedings would apply.
Baineann alt (3)(d)(i) le cúrsaí cúitimh sa gcás gur ceannaíodh talamh go h-éigeantach. Féadfaidh aon duine a bhfuil leas aige sa talamh roimh an t-órdú an dhéanamh iarratas ar chúiteamh a dhéanamh leis an Aire uair i ndiaidh an órdaithe a dhéanamh agus íocfaidh an t-Aire luach an leasa sin faoi réir an Land Clauses (Consolidation) Act 1845, móide ráta úis cuí le toiliú an Aire Airgeadais. Ach seo é an rud tábhachtach: mura n-aontaítear faoin gcúitimh, agus an t-ús san áirimh, déanfar é a cinntiú tré eadráin faoi réim agus de réir an Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919. Ins na coinnsí uilig, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an leasú seo imchuí.
Essentially, the position is that after one has made one's claim for compensation and it has been agreed, with interest to be agreed by the Minister for Finance, if one is still not happy, the matter goes forward, under a totally different provision, that is, the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919, to independent arbitration which will determine all aspects. In other words, if the Minister does not give fair compensation and interest, one has a back door in terms of arbitration. Accordingly, I do not consider the amendment necessary.
By way of clarification, in the event of arbitration being availed of, would there be a cost to the person who sought it? In financial terms, could he or she be worse off as a result of taking that route? What provision is in place with regard to costs?
I am not sure but the situation would be similar to that in the case of compulsory acquisition for roads and other local authority schemes and so on. I have not yet heard any complaints in that regard. I presume, therefore, that the situation is adequately provided for. However, I am not sufficiently sure of the position to give the Deputy a definite answer at this stage. The provision in the Bill is no different from what applies elsewhere. I do not propose, therefore, to deviate from the standard practice involved in compulsory purchase.
On foot of what the Minister has said, I will withdraw the amendment and consider the matter further prior to Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 12, subsection (3)(f)(ii), line 39, after “oaths” to insert “or affirmations”.
Tá sé seo roinnt casta, ar shlí. The issue in this regard relates to hearings which could take place. Section 3(3)(f)(ii) states: “The following provisions shall have effect in relation to any public inquiry held under this section . . . such person is hereby authorised to administer oaths . . . ”. Obviously, this refers to the person who will be in charge of an inquiry. However, there is a legal point which has been brought to my notice.
While the Interpretation Act 1937 states "oath" includes "affirmation", it adds a rider that this is only for persons entitled for the time being to affirm. There must, therefore, be a pre-existing entitlement in relation to affirmation. The major such entitlement is the Oaths Act 1888 which allows affirmation in proceedings in certain cases. This, presumably, refers to legal proceedings. There is ambiguity as to whether it covers a public inquiry. Hence, the amendment is appropriate to allow affirmation at a public inquiry. I would like to hear the Minister's views in that regard.
Táim buíoch don dTeachta as ucht an phointe a thógáil. Sa bprionsabal, aontaím leis go gcaithfidh sé "dealbhú" a chuimsiú. It has to include an affirmation - there is no argument about the principle. The Deputy mentioned two Acts.
I referred to the Oaths Act 1888 and the Interpretation Act 1937.
Déantar sain-mhíniú ar an dtéarma "mionn" san Acht Léiriúcháin 1937 agus leagtar amach ansin an bhfuil "dearbhú" san áireamh sa téarma "mionn". We will double check the matter again but our advice is that "affirmation" is included. I am not arguing about the principle. If there is any doubt in that regard, I will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage. The Deputy may also table his amendment again at that stage. We are in agreement as to what we wish to do. While I am advised that it is already provided for, the Deputy has been advised that it has not been done properly, to the extent of covering all aspects. My Department will recheck the position while the Deputy may table his amendment again for Report Stage. In the meantime I will consider further advice on the matter.
Tá mé sásta glacadh leis sin agus tá mé ag tarraingt siar an leasuithe.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 12, subsection (4)(a), line 46, to delete “2001” and substitute “2003”.
In a sense this matter is quite technical. I am seeking to amend the Bill in order that section 3(4)(a) would read as follows, “In this section, “statutory body” means (a) a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Acts 1925 to 2003. . . ”. This would also take into account the two local government Acts of 2003 by deleting “2001” and substituting “2003”.
Tá mé ag glacadh leis an leasú seo.
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Ba mhaith liom teacht ar ais ar an alt. Bhí leasú thíos agam narbh fhéidir a mholadh ós rud é go bhfuil ceist airgid ina dtaobh. Tamaillín ó shin, dúirt t-Aire go deastaíonn uaidh dul ar aghaidh fé mar atá cursaí anois maidir le compulsory purchase orders i gcás na núdarás áitiúl. Fé mar atá an Bille anois, maidir le public inquiry a chur ar siúl, it states: ". . . shall, if he or she considers it expedient to do so. . . ". My amendment sought to delete the words "considers it expedient to do so" and substitute "is requested to do so by a person likely to be affected by the order". On the basis that this is available in the context of compulsory purchase orders for roads, housing and so on, why should there be a different provision in this Bill? Although I am precluded from moving the amendment, I would like to hear the Minister's response. If he believes there is a point of principle involved, would he be prepared to bring forward his own amendment on Report Stage?
Leagtar amach in alt 3(3) na nósanna imeachta a bheidh le leanúint sa chás gur gá ceannach éigeantach, lena n-áirítear forálacha caighdeánacha maidir le fógra roimh ré, pleananna a thaispeáint, fógra chuig daoine leasmhara, fiosrúchán poiblí, cúiteamh, eadráin, etc. Baineann an leasú áirithe seo le fiosrúchán poiblí a d'fhéadfaí a chuir ar bun má cheapann an tAire go bhfuil sé fóirsteanach. Níl an leasú seo inghlactha ar dhá bhonn. Sa gcéad dul síos, tá na cúiseanna i ndáil le fiosrúchán poiblí á chur ar bun á gcúngú go dtí dream amháin. Mar atá an fhoráil faoi láthair, tá sé oscailte don Aire a leithéid de chinneadh a thógáil bunaithe ar a bhreithiúnas féin nó ar chomhairle ó eagrais nó ó saineolaithe eile. An dara cúis ná nach bhfuil aon solúbthacht tugtha sa leasú maidir le hiarratas a mheas agus a dhiúltiú muna bhfuil lár chúis ann. In other words, the Deputy's amendment would narrow it, meaning that only one person could seek a fiosrúchán poiblí. One would not be able to refuse a fiosrúchán poiblí under the Deputy's amendment. In this day and age it is absolutely vital that we can refuse a fiosrúchán poiblí because táimid ag bánadh na tíre le fiosrúcháin poiblí.
Whereas a motorway might split one's farm and one might not gain huge direct benefit from it, everything we are doing in respect of airstrips on islands or ferry services will have very direct benefit for the people living on the island in question. I have made this point very clear to people in my constituency. My Department has announced that it intends to construct an airstrip on the island of Inishbofin. The construction of an airstrip cannot be compared to the construction of a motorway. Who will benefit when the airstrip is completed? The direct beneficiaries will be the people living on the island. We must bear in mind this element of the argument.
Clearly, there are certain people who will benefit tremendously from these projects. While we must provide for the right to object, I am beginning to think the greater good or common good principles should be maintained in society.
Glacaim leis an argóint ar shlí, ach tagann an rud a tharla ar an mBlascaod isteach im aigne. Bhí an cás sin os comhair na cúirte agus níor éirigh leis an Stát san obair i ndeireadh na dála. I was requested to table the amendment in question by a person likely to be affected. I accept that we do not want a mischievous request to lead to a public inquiry. It is obvious that the Minister will have discretion to decide whether he or she will adhere to a request. It seems the principle in respect of local authorities should not be denied in the context of islands. While I accept we are talking about a more restricted population, should there not be equality of rights across a number of areas where compulsory acquisition is involved?
The Deputy's amendment proposed the inclusion of the words "is requested to do so by a person likely to be affected by the order". It would include any other person. My understanding of the Deputy's proposal is that it would mean that if one asked for an inquiry, the Minister would not have any discretion. I ask the Deputy to think about what we are discussing - constructing an airstrip on an island. No sane Minister would proceed with such a project if the vast majority of the people living of the island did not want it. It cannot be compared to a motorway going through one's land which happens to be in the way. A small piece of land is required for an airstrip. Given that money will always be scarce, why would a Minister force an airstrip on an island that did not want it? One must presume that the logic behind the construction of such a facility is that it would not be pursued if there was no public demand for it among the people of the locality.
I am wary about another issue. I want to guard against certain matters in respect of an island where one wants to build an airstrip and there is overwhelming interest. There may be some commonage on such an island. We should also bear in mind that not everybody will have taken out title from generation to generation. A person who never lived on the island may be entitled to a small share of commonage, having inherited it from an intestate relative. If he or she objects to the airstrip, we may have to ignore his or her objections if those who live on the island are in favour of it. It may be necessary in such circumstances to proceed with compulsory purchase in the common interest.
I am always interested in the opinions of lawyers in this regard. The section of the Constitution that deals with private property states that while one cannot abolish the right to private property, that right is subject to "the exigencies of the common good". It is clear that a person will not proceed with a project on an island if it is not in the interests of the common good of the islanders, or if it is not perceived by the vast majority to be in the interests of the common good. Such projects cannot be considered in the same light as those on the mainland. While I will reflect on the matter, I do not promise to return with an amendment as I do not think there is a case for it.
Another issue could arise. I know this sort of thing can be overdone in certain circumstances but let us take as an example the possibility of having a rare bird colony on the island. A substantial group of people might feel the presence of the airstrip and aircraft moving in and out would have a detrimental effect on the important colony. I use a bird colony as an example from the top of my head. Is it not possible that there might be a legitimate case to be presented in a public forum? I take the point about the exigencies of the common good, as opposed to other considerations, but it is not necessarily the case that one would be talking about a limited number. I have pulled that example from the top of my head but similar problems might arise. There is an issue if a person inherited the land through intestacy, as the Minister suggested, and may not have bothered with it. I would not have much sympathy with those who have not done anything with their land. It is possible that people may not know that they own the land in question. However, I am not really talking about such people.
We should not exclude certain people who may wish to pursue legitimate issues. I agree with the Minister's comment that if scarce resources are available for an important development such as an aerodrome or airstrip, the system in place should not provide for lengthy delays. I am not sure that it is a good idea not to provide for a forum in which legitimate concerns can be stated.
I hate to interrupt when we are talking about bird watching but the basis of the disallowing of the amendment in the first instance was that it had financial implications. We are talking about the wider issues.
I will speak about the section.
We are expected to debate it.
I would like to comment on two issues. Section 3(3)(c)(iii) states the Minister “shall, if he or she considers it expedient so to do, cause a public inquiry to be held in regard to the making of the order”. I am not willing to accept that someone should be allowed to force the Minister to hold such a public inquiry, even if he or she has a technical interest in the matter.
On environmental matters, it is about time we accepted one has to go through certain processes if one wishes to pursue a project. The processes in question are adequate to look after many of the concerns raised. We should accept that we do not need endless and repeated processes to do the same thing. The one to which I refer in this regard is the planning process. One could not build an airstrip without first obtaining planning permission, which requires an environmental impact statement and so forth. Flora and fauna are well protected under planning and development legislation but if someone has a concern, he or she should raise it through the planning process. This is purely about purchase and ownership and has nothing to do with the use of the land. The question of whether a development would harm nature is one for the planning rather than the compulsory purchase process.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."
Luaigh mé pointe ar an Dara Chéim den mBille. Deir meamrán mínitheacht agus airgeadais an Bhille that there were no staffing implications arising from this legislation, whereas section 5 stated the expenses incurred by the Minister or the Minister for Transport in the administration of this Bill would, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. I sought and did not receive clarification on this issue on Second Stage. How is it possible that there will be no staffing implications when expenses will be incurred in the administration of the Bill? There must be staffing implications, even of a part-time nature.
Once the legislation is enacted, it will not compel me to take actions which have staffing ramifications unless I do something in the future to draw costs on myself. While it leaves one open to take action which could require staff or the expenditure of money in the future, one does not have to take such action. Other Bills will be introduced. If I was to introduce legislation which stated I would pay every islander €300 per month, it would, on enactment, impose an immediate cost on the Exchequer. Alternatively, if the terms of the Bill stated I would appoint ten island officers, I would be compelled to appoint them the minute the Bill entered into force. In this case, however, no absolute requirements to do anything with staff or financial implications will arise on the day the Bill is enacted. One can, however, take such action, provided one can obtain the money and staff to do so if one so wishes.
Tá míniú faighte agam. Níl aon leasú á mholadh agam ar an gceist seo mar ní phointe mhór í. Dealraíonn sé nach bhfuil an dá rud ag dul le chéile agus cuireann sin isteach orm ach smaoineoidh mé ar argointí an Aire idir seo agus Céim na Tuarascála.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 14, after line 18, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Powers and Functions) Act 1998, and this Act may be cited together as the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Acts 1998 and 2003, and shall be construed together as one.".
The purpose of the amendment is to require the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Powers and Functions) Act 1998 and this legislation to be cited together as the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Acts 1998 to 2003 and construed together as one. Given that the Bill is inherently connected with previous legislation, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Powers and Functions) Act 1998, it would be appropriate and helpful to insert a collective citation and construction provision in the Bill.
Ní mar a chéile an Bille seo agus an Acht eile agus ní mar a chéile an dá Roinn. Bhí cumhacht i bhfad níos leithne i gceist in Acht 1998. Tá an ceann seo i bhfad níos teoranta mar tá feidhmeanna na Roinne i ndáil le rudaí mar seo i bhfad níos teoranta. Ar an mbunús sin tá comhairle curtha orm nach ceart dom glacadh leis an leasú.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil do gach duine.
Gabhaim buíochas le gach éinne a ghlac pairt sa díospóireacht agus a rinne an oiread oibre ar an mBille. Tá sé níos fearr dá bharr.