Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Select Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
Business of Select Committee
The meeting has been convened for the purpose of consideration of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 which was referred to the select committee by order of the Dáil on 8 December. Before we begin consideration of the Bill, I propose that we deal with some small housekeeping matters. To ensure the smooth running of the meeting, any Member acting in substitution for a member of the committee should formally notify the clerk now if he or she has not already done so. It is proposed that Deputy Pat Casey act as a temporary Chairman for the purpose of the committee's consideration of the Bill in the event that I require a short break or wish to speak to an amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.
There are a number of amendments to the Bill. It is intended that we will conclude Committee Stage today. However, depending on the progress made, if the select committee does not conclude its consideration of the Bill today, it is proposed that we meet again tomorrow from noon until 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. All going well, we intend, with the co-operation of members, to conclude Committee Stage today. Is that agreed?
I would like to be given an idea of how long we will spend discussing the Bill today. There are approximately 180 amendments which are wide ranging, with many relating to planning and many others to the protection of tenants. The Minister is keen to rush the Bill through the House before Christmas. I do not feel the same sense of urgency as the legislation does not include anything of an emergency nature.
To enable people to make family and child care arrangements, will the Chairman indicate whether the select committee will sit until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. to try to rush the Bill through or will we agree a time at which we will conclude business this evening, before returning to Committee Stage tomorrow, if necessary? I am concerned to ensure we will not fly through the amendments simply because members have been sitting for six or seven hours on the trot. This is an important Bill which proposes to roll back key planning measures.
It has been stated the measures included in the private rental strategy may be included in the Bill, perhaps on Report Stage. A story to that effect has been published online, although I have not yet read it, having only heard the media reports. The select committee should be informed if these measures will be tagged on to the Bill at a later stage. Given that the private rental strategy is more important than some of the provisions included in the Bill, I would like members to have an input on this matter.
I understand the Minister will elaborate on the relevant amendments as soon as he arrives. Everybody present has family and other commitments. We had intended to sit until 10 p.m. If at that point we are nearing the end of our deliberations, I hope to continue the discussion with a view to concluding by midnight. If that is not likely, we will adjourn and sit again tomorrow.
We have until 3.30 p.m. and will have the committee room again from 5.30 p.m. until 10 p.m. We could have it until midnight, but I do not know how the debate will go this evening. No one wants to rush anything, but as we go through the Bill, we will have an idea of how long it will take us to complete it tonight. If need be, we can meet tomorrow. I propose that we wait until the second part of the meeting this evening before we rush into making a decision.
On a point of order, I have no problem in meeting, but continuing until midnight is unreasonable, particularly for the staff. There may be additionality arising from documents to be published this morning which will be critically important. We should have time to reflect on them before we discuss them. In my experience rushing legislation is always bad.
There are 15 amendments that will reflect the Cabinet's decisions today. Many of the issues were flagged by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, and me during the lengthy debate on Report Stage in the Seanad. We might disagree on percentages and amounts, but most people share a desire to deal with the issues and bring forward measures. The committee sets the times for meetings and the Minister and I will facilitate it in the next couple of days. It would be desirable to finish Committee and Report Stages because if members agree with the measures included in the rental strategy, it would be wise to implement them immediately lest the market react, which no one here wants. It is important to complete the Bill before the Christmas break. It is up to the committee to decide how it should do that, but I am sure members will agree once they have read through the proposals made.
The only fear is that members might be rushing to different places. I have some amendments to be dealt with in the latter stages, but I cannot be here until midnight and would need to find a substitute. Having a ten-hour meeting of a committee is ludicrous and an insult having reached this Stage of the Bill. We should decide now that we will stay until 8 p.m. and meet again in the morning.
We are scheduled to meet until 10 p.m. It will not be a ten-hour meeting. We all want to prioritise the issue of housing and the Bill to reach a conclusion. I propose that, with the committee's agreement, we look at the position again this evening. No one can say at this stage how quickly or slowly we will go through the process.