Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 5 February 2015
Committee on Transport and Communications: Select Sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Roads Bill 2014: Committee Stage
The meeting has been convened to consider the Roads Bill 2014. The purpose of the Bill is: to provide for the dissolution of the Railway Procurement Agency and the transfer of its functions and staff to the National Roads Authority; to amend the Roads Act 1993 and the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001; to provide for additional functions to be assigned to the National Roads Authority; and to provide for related matters. I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and his officials to the meeting. There are several proposed amendments and grouping arises.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, line 6, to delete “Sport.” and substitute “Sport;”.
This is a technical amendment to change a full stop to a comma after the word "Sport". It is necessary to put in place the renewed definition of "railway order".
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:“ “railway order” has the meaning assigned to it by section 2 of the Act of 2001.”.
The purpose of this group of amendments is to provide an additional layer of protection for railway orders granted to the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and to ensure all rights and powers granted under such orders will be available to the new body following the dissolution of the RPA. The purpose of section 6(2) is to provide that all references to the RPA in any enactment or any instrument made under an enactment shall be construed as references to the authority or the National Roads Authority, NRA, or both, when the RPA is dissolved. Deputies will be aware of the role of railway orders and the legal power and certainty they provide. The purpose of this group of amendments is to make specific provision in the Bill for their implementation.
The point I made was about the group of amendments. Amendment No. 1 is technical. Amendment No. 2 which refers to the phrase "railway order" is also technical. The more substantive amendments are amendments Nos. 4 and 5. Amendment No. 4 provides that all references to the dissolved body in any enactment or any instrument under an enactment, in so far as they relate to a function transferred to the NRA, or a person who has been granted the railway order, in any enactment or any instrument made under an enactment, in the case of a railway order granted to the dissolved body before the dissolution day, shall be construed on and after the dissolution day as references to the authority. For the avoidance of doubt, amendment No. 5 provides an additional protection measure under section 10 where it is clearly provided that nothing in the Bill shall affect the operation of any railway order granted to the RPA, or any such order shall be read on and after the dissolution day as if granted to the NRA.
In summary, the role of the amendments is to provide belt and braces legal protection to ensure the continuation of railway orders granted to the RPA following the dissolution of the agency and their transfer to the NRA.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:“Repeal of Part 2 of Act of 2001
5. Part 2 (other than sections 11, 12, 13 and 25) of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001 is repealed on the dissolution day.”.
This is a technical amendment to provide for a new repeal provision in the Bill. The purpose of the new section is to repeal Part 2 of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001, the Act that established the Railway Procurement Agency. Following legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General, I propose to exclude a number of sections of Part 2 of the 2001 Act from this general repeal provision. The sections are section 11 which specifies the functions of the Railway Procurement Agency; section 12, to allow the body to carry out functions through subsidiaries; section 13, to provide power to levy charges for services; and section 25 which relates to the RPA pensions scheme. The new section replaces the existing section 15 of the Bill. It is proposed, therefore, to delete section 15 as a consequence in the light of the new provision.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, to delete lines 31 to 34 and substitute the following:“(2) References—(a) to the dissolved body, in any enactment (other than this Act or an enactment mentioned in the Schedule) or any instrument made under an enactment, in so far as they relate to a function transferred by subsection (1), orshall be construed, on and after the dissolution day, as references to the Authority.”.
(b) to a person that has been granted a railway order, in any enactment or in any instrument made under an enactment, in the case of a railway order granted to the dissolved body before the dissolution day,
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:“(6) Nothing in this Act shall affect the operation of any railway order granted to the dissolved body before the dissolution day, and any such railway order shall be read, on and after the dissolution day, as if granted to the Authority.”.
No. There is a process taking place through the Labour Relations Commission which is looking at the merger of the two organisations. Whether there is a loss of staff is a matter that is being discussed and will be resolved through that process, but I do not anticipate that there will be a significant change in numbers.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, after line 40, to insert the following:“(4) The Authority shall, not later than 6 months after the dissolution day, prepare and submit to the Minister the final annual report of the dissolved body, and the Minister shall, as soon as practicable thereafter, cause a copy of the final annual report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.”.
Section 11 provides that final accounts shall be prepared and presented to the Minister. The amendment is to provide that, in addition to final accounts, a final annual report shall also be prepared no later than six months after the dissolution of the Railway Procurement Agency. This is in keeping with current policy and practice when dissolving State bodies.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 9, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:“12. The Minister may, following consultation with the Authority, by order specify a name, other than the National Roads Authority, by which the Authority may describe itself for operational purposes.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to allow the Minister to specify by order any name, other than the National Roads Authority, for use for operational or branding purposes for the new body to better reflect its new remit.
While I agree that it cannot be called the National Roads Authority, if it is going to have a function in respect of rail we should be careful in the context of branding and ensure that there is not some sort of elaborate scheme launched in order to come up with a name and a logo.
Sure. The name proposed in the Bill, as originally published, was the transport infrastructure service. That name did not meet with complete approval from everybody. Following discussions with the different bodies and people involved, it was decided that the new name to be adopted for operational purposes will be transport infrastructure Ireland. Amendment No. 7 allows me to specify the name by order. I certainly will not be proposing an ornate and highly expensive process to facilitate that.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 9, to delete lines 9 to 14 and substitute the following:“(2) Save in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated with a recognised trade union or staff association and approved by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, a person referred to in subsection (1) shall be subject to such terms and conditions of service, including terms and conditions relating to remuneration, as are not less favourable than the terms and conditions of service, including terms and conditions relating to remuneration, to which the person was subject immediately before the coming into operation of this section.”.
The purpose of the change contained in this amendment is to bring the provision relating to the transfer of staff directly into line with current policy and practice. This may be relevant to the question Deputy Ellis posed earlier. The amendment will ensure that staff will be subject to terms and conditions of service, including remuneration, as are not less favourable to those to which they will be subject immediately prior to the transfer. The provision will apply with the exception of any collective agreement negotiated between unions and management and approved by the Minister. The text of the amendment mirrors that used for this purpose in other recent enactments involving the transfer of staff under the Government's agency rationalisation plan. This approach reflects the recent protocol agreement between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in respect of the transfer of public servants across public bodies. The intention of this agreement is to ensure consistency of approach in the implementation of all mergers under the Government's wider agency rationalisation programme.
Amendment No. 9 is technical in nature and is designed to update the list of enactments under which the previous service of transferred staff shall be deemed reckonable. The aim is to ensure that there will be consistency with current policy and practice in other Departments and across other agencies.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 9, to delete lines 18 to 23 and substitute the following:“(a) the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2014;
(b) the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001;
(c) the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003;
(d) the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997;
(e) the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 to 2012;
(f) the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005;
(g) the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007;
(h) the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004;
(i) the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006;
(j) the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005;
(k) the Carer’s Leave Act 2001.”.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 10, line 32, to delete “to” and substitute “relating to the functions transferred to the Authority under section 6 to”.
The purpose of section 18 is to allow the new body to provide advice and services to the Minister or other person on such terms and conditions as may be agreed. Amendment No. 10 is a technical drafting amendment designed to ensure that the section will only apply to the RPA functions being transferred to the NRA. This is necessary because a similar provision already applies to NRA functions and it is not appropriate to make provisions in legislation where such provisions already exist. Amendment No. 11 is also a technical amendment and is consequential on amendment No. 10.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 12, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:“Insertion of sections 15B and 15C into Act of 1993
21.The Act of 1993 is amended by inserting after section 15A the following:“Power of Minister to specify national standards
15B.(1) The Minister may specify national standards in respect of the design, construction or maintenance of public roads.
(2) Any person, road authority or public authority carrying out works involving the design, construction or maintenance of public roads shall comply with the national standards (if any) specified by the Minister under subsection (1).
(3) The Minister may request the Authority to amend any standards specified by it under section 19(1)(e) and the Authority shall comply with any such request.
Power of Minister to request information from road authority
15C.The Minister may request a road authority to furnish him or her with such information as he or she may require i connection with any of the authority’s functions in relation to regional and local roads, under this Act, and the authority shall comply with any such request.”.”.
This amendment proposes the insertion of new sections 15B and 15C in the Roads Act 1993 in order to provide new general powers to the Minister. The new section 15B will confer on the Minister the new power to specify national standards for the design, construction or maintenance of public roads which must be complied with by anyone carrying out such works. It will also empower the Minister to require the NRA to amend any standards specified by it. It is considered desirable to have this provision on a legal basis. The purpose of the new section 15B is to give the Minister power to ensure proper co-ordination with standards and specifications for the design, construction and maintenance of all public roads. The NRA is the body that specifies standards in respect of construction or maintenance work on national roads in accordance with its statutory powers under the Roads Act 1993. Standards in respect of non-national roads are issued by my Department, which has oversight of the regional and local roads programme. The new section 15B will also allow the Minister to have a step-in power, if necessary, in order to ensure consistency in standards across all public roads. This is important in the context of the fact that a number of road authorities are outside the Department's grant allocation system.
The new section 15C states that the Minister may require road authorities to give him or her any information in respect of any of their functions regarding regional or local roads. It is considered desirable to have this provision on a legal basis.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 12, to delete lines 32 and 33 and substitute the following:“ “(e) subject to section 15B(3)*, specify standards in relation to design, construction or maintenance works to be complied with by a person, road authority or public authority carrying out such works;”.”.
It is proposed to delete section 22 as it is proposed the provision covered by the section will be included under the roads (No. 2) Bill to be introduced later this year. This arises from the recent decision to separate the road Bills into two distinct Bills. The purpose of the proposed section 22 provision is to enable the NRA to maintain as it sees fit national roads in respect of which it has taken over responsibility from the relevant roads authority. To this end, it is proposed to confer a new power of making by-laws upon the NRA. The proposed provision relates to the proposal for the transfer of responsibility for certain national roads from roads authorities to the NRA. However, arising from the aforementioned recent decision, the proposal for the transfer of responsibility for certain national roads from roads authorities to the NRA will be dealt with under separate legislation. Accordingly, it is proposed to delete this section from the current Bill.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 14, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 28 of Act of 1993 (chairman and members of the Authority)
24.Section 28(1) of the Act of 1993 is amended in paragraph (d) by inserting “railway infrastructure,” after “in relation to roads,”.”.
The purpose of this provision is to enable the Minister to make grants to the NRA in regard to expenditure on regional and local roads. This is to cover, first, the regional and local road grants, which the NRA would be required to administer. It is a proposed amendment to section 28 of the Roads Act 1993, which relates to the appointment of members of the authority. The purpose of this amendment is to expand the areas of experience and competence members of the expanded NRA shall have or that members of the board of the expanded NRA shall have. The list will now include railway infrastructure to reflect the wider remit of the new body. The relevant subsection of the Roads Act 1993 would therefore read as follows: "Each member of the Authority shall be a person who in the opinion of the Minister has wide experience and competence in relation to roads, railway infrastructure, transport, industrial, commercial, financial or environmental matters, local government, the organisation of workers or administration".
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 14, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:“Insertion of section 51A into Act of 199325.The Act of 1993 is amended by inserting after section 51 the following:“Consultations with An Bord Pleanála before making of application under section 51(10) In this section, ‘consultations’ means the consultations referred
51A.(1) Where a road authority or the Authority, as the case may be,proposes to make an application for approval to An Bord Pleanála pursuant to section 51(2) in relation to a proposed road development, it may, before making the application, make a request to An Bord Pleanála to enter into consultations in relation to the proposed road development.(2) An Bord Pleanála shall—(3) In any consultations, An Bord Pleanála may give advice to the(a) accede to a request under subsection (1) as soon as possible, and
(b) ensure that consultations held are completed as expeditiously as is consistent with proper planning and sustainable development and, for that purpose, take all such steps as are open to it to ensure that, in so far as is practicable, there are no avoidable delays at any stage in the holding of those consultations.road authority concerned or the Authority regarding the proposed application for approval under section 51(2) and, in particular, regarding—(4) A road authority or the Authority, as the case may be, shall, for(a) the procedures involved in making such an application and in considering such an application, and
(b) what considerations, relating to—(i) the effects of the proposed road development on the environment, or an area, site or land, referred to in section 50(1) (d), or
(ii) proper planning and sustainable development, that may, in the opinion of An Bord Pleanála, have a bearing on its decision in relation to the application.the purposes of consultations, supply to An Bord Pleanála sufficient information in relation to the proposed road development so as to enable An Bord Pleanála to assess that development.(5) An Bord Pleanála may consult with any person who may, in theopinion of an Bord Pleanála, have information which is relevant for the purposes of consultations in relation to the proposed road development.(6) The holding of the consultations shall not prejudice theperformance by An Bord Pleanála of any other of its functions under this Act or regulations under this Act and shall not be relied upon in an application for approval under section 51(2) or in legal proceedings.(7) An Bord Pleanála shall keep a record in writing of anyconsultations, including the names of those who participated in the consultations, and a copy of any such record shall be placed and kept with the documents to which any application for approval under section 51(2) in respect of the proposed road development relates.(8) An Bord Pleanála shall provide a copy of any record kept inaccordance with subsection (7) to the road authority concerned or the Authority.(9) Following the completion of any consultations between An BordPleanála and the road authority concerned or the Authority, as the case may be, the road authority or the Authority may apply to An Bord Pleanála for the approval referred to in section 51(2) in relation to a proposed road development.
to in subsection (1).”.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to insert a new section, 51A, into the Roads Act 1993 to provide that roads authorities and the NRA may engage in pre-planning application consultations with An Bord Pleanála on proposed road developments which require an environmental impact statement. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads schemes are matters for the NRA under the Roads Acts of 1993 to 2007, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities. At present there is no provision, in either the Roads Act or the planning Acts for the NRA or roads authorities to enter into pre-planning application consultations with An Bord Pleanála in regard to proposed road developments. The amendment to the Roads Act 1993 is being introduced as it is considered desirable to amend the existing legislation to allow for advance consultation on relevant projects and also for any new applications being considered or developed for rejected schemes, such as the Adare or Slane bypasses.
During the Second Stage debate on the Bill, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan indicated that he intended to raise this matter on Committee Stage. My predecessor, the former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, indicated that he would consider the issue. Since then, Deputy O'Donovan has raised the matter with me and, upon consideration of his point, I have decided to amend the Bill to take on board the observation he made.
The insertion of this new section sets out the procedure to be adopted by the NRA or road authority and An Bord Pleanála to facilitate pre-planning application consultations. In summary, where the National Roads Authority wishes to make an application for approval to An Bord Pleanála in regard to a road development, it may, before making the application, make a request to An Bord Pleanála to enter consultations on the proposed road development. An Bord Pleanála shall accede to the request and ensure consultations are completed expeditiously. An Bord Pleanála may give advice to the NRA or road authority concerned regarding the application procedures and what planning considerations may have a bearing on its decision on the application. The National Roads Authority, or the road authority, shall, for the purposes of consultation, supply An Bord Pleanála with sufficient information to allow it to assess the development. An Bord Pleanála may consult third parties where relevant. The holding of the consultation shall not prejudice the performance by An Bord Pleanála of any of its functions under the Roads Act 1993. An Bord Pleanála shall keep a record in writing of any consultations and shall provide a copy of any record kept to the NRA or to the road authority concerned. Following completion of any consultation between An Bord Pleanála and the road authority, the road authority or the NRA may apply to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval for the development concerned.
This amendment in no way seeks to affect or change the absolute independence of An Bord Pleanála, or any of its functions recognised under the Roads Act 1993. Its objective is simply to facilitate consultation and the sharing of information between the road authority concerned and An Bord Pleanála.
I thank Deputy O'Donovan for raising this matter. His input into this Bill and the amendments he proposed will strengthen the operation of the Bill and the new body. I hope it will lead to the decision-making process on roads and infrastructure above a certain size being more efficient in the future.
I thank the Minister for putting forward the amendment. I had a similar amendment drafted, but I appreciate the fact that it was not as detailed as what the Minister has come up with. This came out of the bizarre situation whereby the National Roads Authority would embark on the design and construction of a new road without knowing whether it was going to get planning permission for it. The Chairman would not build an extension on a house without consulting Mayo County Council first of all to see whether he was likely to get planning permission. As the Bill's provisions are not yet in effect, we still have the ludicrous situation of it being a shot in the dark whether major infrastructural projects will get planning permission. We have seen this in counties Kerry and Meath and in my own constituency in County Limerick.
Now that the Bill has been amended, I would like to see proper consultation and dialogue taking place rather than situations like the one we had in Adare, where there was a point-blank refusal with no reason or rationale given as to why the route was rejected. That creates a situation where we do not know whether we should apply again, move it or change it. The associated costs are in the tens of millions when the whole country is taken into account. The situation where the Railway Procurement Agency could engage with An Bord Pleanála while the other major transport infrastructure agency, the NRA, could not, was just bizarre.
I welcome the amendment, and now that it has been made I would encourage the Minister's Department to use whatever influence it has on the National Roads Authority to re-establish the planning process in Adare, once the Bill has been enacted. Adare is probably the worst remaining bottleneck in the country in terms of the national road infrastructure. More traffic goes through it than any other town in the country that is currently down to be bypassed, yet Adare is not on any list. This is another element of the bizarre nature of how the NRA selects its projects. Now that this is sorted, I hope the Minister will use whatever influence he can bring to bear to encourage the NRA to restart the planning process with Limerick city and county councils, and to put Adare and the N21 back on that list. I thank the Minister for amending the Bill and think it will be very positive.
While I understand what the Minister is saying, what protections has a third party who may be affected? An Bord Pleanála is going to engage with the NRA on whatever project it is. The Minister is saying that An Bord Pleanála will have to record all this and note it carefully. There is a danger that An Bord Pleanála would be accused of interference. We need to be very careful, because by addressing one problem, we might create a further problem. People will see that as interference and collusion between An Bord Pleanála and the NRA. Could the Minister tell us a bit more about the guarantees that are in place?
I welcome the amendment arising from Deputy O'Donovan's suggestions. It is very relevant to the situation regarding impediments to road developments. However, the Minister is aware of the fact that there is an impasse and a long, drawn-out saga concerning the further development of the Tralee to Dingle road. An Taisce is the body putting in the objections. Would this amendment resolve situations like that one so that in future, we will never be faced with a blockage to a major development? It is an unnecessary hold up and will cost a lot of money. It will be the taxpayer paying for it as An Taisce is a statutory body. Is it too late for this Bill to have an impact there?
I thank the Deputies for raising those points. To begin with Deputy O'Donovan's points, when the Bill completes all Stages in the Dáil I will need to take it to the Seanad, as the Deputy is aware, and I hope to see it passed promptly enough. It will then be a matter for the body as to how it uses its powers. The reason I am making this change is to try to enable a planning process that makes better use of everybody's time and resources. I am aware of the difficulties to which the Deputy has alluded, which are causing frustration. I am aware of the difficulties the residents of Adare and the surrounding area face because I have experienced it myself as a commuter on a number of occasions. I see very well the challenge that is created there.
A balance needs to be struck between the right of consultation and recognition of the independent power of An Bord Pleanála. This is the point Deputy Ellis put to me. I am very much aware of this. Subsection (6) of the amendment, which deals explicitly with this point, states:
(6) The holding of the consultations shall not prejudice the performance by An Bord Pleanála of any other of its functions under this Act or regulations under this Act and shall not be relied upon in an application for approval under section 51(2) or in legal proceedings.
I am aware through my own constituency of the role of An Bord Pleanála and the importance that its impartiality and independence be recognised by everybody. Otherwise, difficult decisions can get even more fractious. I am being explicit in this Bill in saying that nothing here would undermine the role of An Bord Pleanála. I am confident that will happen, because of the subsection I quoted, and also because the power that is here is, in many cases, open to local authorities for smaller planning applications. They still discharge their powers well and independently. I am confident the same will happen here.
On Deputy Fleming's point, I am aware of the road to which he is referring. He and Deputy Griffin have raised the issue previously. As that road is currently under consideration and has been subject to a potential judicial review, it will not fall subject to this Bill. This Bill will pertain to new planning applications in the future. I am, however, aware of the matter the Deputy raised.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 14, to delete lines 27 to 34 and substitute the following:
"(b) request the Authority to, and if requested the Authority shall—
(i) make grants to road authorities in respect of any or all of their functions under this Act or otherwise in relation to regional and local roads, or
(ii) make payments to any person in relation to regional and local roads,
(c) make payments, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, to any person in relation to public roads.".
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 amend section 25 of the Bill, which provides for the amendment of section 82 of the Roads Act 1993. Amendment No. 16, which is of a technical nature, simply clarifies the previous wording of section 25 of the Bill. It divides paragraph (b) of the proposed new section 82 of the Act into two separate subparagraphs (i) and (ii) for the purpose of greater clarity. It also amends paragraph (c) of section 82 to broaden the scope of the provision to reflect current requirements. Amendment No. 17, which is also technical in nature, is consequential on the amendment to section 25 as inserted by amendment No. 16. The reference in section 25(b) should now read 25(b)(i).