Thursday, 30 July 2020
Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Richard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
I will speak to our amendments, Nos. 10 and 33. The argument we are making in both amendments, very simply, is that we are still in a public health emergency. The ban was brought in to protect people against being evicted and made homeless in the context of an emergency that threatens people's health. Unless something has changed that we have missed, we are still in that public health emergency, and it is widely expected that it will continue and that there will be further waves and spikes until we get a vaccine. What has changed that now justifies people being made homeless? It seems absolutely nothing has.
It would be unconscionable to put people into homelessness and to allow them to be evicted where they have underlying health conditions or where they are over the age of 65 and in that high-risk group of older people who have been devastated. People with underlying conditions and older people make up the cohort that has been devastated to the greatest extent, in comparison with other groups, by the impact of Covid-19. The vast majority of the 1,700 people who have died as a result of Covid-19 are in those categories. The whole effort to protect people against Covid-19 is, to a very large extent, about protecting these groups of people from further infection, severe illness and death.
How on earth could the Minister open the door to putting these people out on the street? That is what the Bill will do.
Whatever about amendment No. 33, where we seek to go further and continue the entire eviction ban and prevent all evictions until the health emergency is over completely for everybody, I do not see how the Minister can possibly argue against amendment No. 10. People whose health, life and welfare are particularly vulnerable must be protected as a matter of priority and it would be unthinkable to make them homeless, and, of course, there are many tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs and income and are already devastated economically by the impact of Covid-19. Again, it is unconscionable that these people would have the added hardship and despair of being made homeless and being evicted. I ask the Minister to tell me if I am missing something because it appears from the legislation that the Minister seems to think it is now okay and justifiable for these groups of people to be evicted. This is utterly unacceptable.
Beyond that, our other amendment states the overall justification for this legislation remains and nothing has changed. If the Minister has an argument against this he should get up and make it. The general Government position is that we are still in a pandemic and we need restrictions, including travel restrictions. There is the potential of a second wave and that is why Members are in this building. Covid-19 is still a threat to our entire society. Nothing has changed from the context that led to this eviction ban coming in. If this is the case, I do not see how the Attorney General can claim somehow there is a legal problem with continuing a ban on infections and rent increases, which was justified in March. Why is it not legally justified now as the pandemic continues?