Thursday, 22 September 2022
Tailte Éireann Bill 2022: Second Stage
Malcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
On behalf of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, I am happy to have the opportunity to outline before the Dáil the Tailte Éireann Bill 2022. The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the merger of the Valuation Office, the Property Registration Authority, PRA, and Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, through the establishment of a new body, to be called Tailte Éireann. Tailte Éireann will be a body corporate with perpetual succession and an official seal. It will be independent in the performance of its functions, and those functions will include all those currently undertaken by the Commissioner of Valuation, the Boundary Surveyor, OSI and the PRA.
The Valuation Office is an independent Government office under the aegis of Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. It is staffed by civil servants and headed by the Commissioner of Valuation. The core business of the organisation is to provide ratepayers and local authorities with accurate, up-to-date valuations of commercial and industrial properties. These valuations are integral to the commercial rating system in Ireland, and form the basis for a very significant element of local government revenue each year. It also provides a valuation service to Government Departments and offices, State agencies and other public bodies, and carries out open market capital and rental valuations including valuations for rent reviews for these customers. It is the custodian of an archive of unique records which provide information and insights into the social history of Ireland, covering the period from the mid-1850s to early 1990s. These records provide an invaluable resource for genealogical and historical research.
OSI's main public service function is to create and maintain the definitive mapping records of the State. The work of OSI is essential to the infrastructural development of Ireland. There is a growing recognition among decision-makers that knowledge and understanding of location is a vital component in effective decision-making. OSI has developed an industry-leading mapping framework. It enables consistent referencing and integration of data from other sources to a specific location. Knowing where things are and how they relate to each other allows for better analysis, drives efficiencies and encourages the optimum use of resources.
The PRA is the State body with responsibility for the land registry and registry of deeds. Its mission is to safeguard property rights and transactions in Ireland. As custodians of the digital national land register, its function is to provide a system of registration of title to land which is accurate, reliable and readily accessible.
The main functions of the PRA are to manage and control the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds and to promote and extend the registration of ownership of land. It also operates the ground rents purchase scheme under the Landlord and Tenant Acts. These three organisations will merge to form Tailte Éireann.
Tailte Éireann will provide a comprehensive and secure property title registration system, an independent rateable valuation system and authoritative location information and geospatial infrastructure. These are central to the effective management of the property, planning, agriculture, local government, environmental and construction sectors of the economy. Tailte Éireann’s central source of authoritative and definitive land and property information will support the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in developing a national land information model, underpinning an electronic marketplace for spatial planning, property transactions and services. Tailte Éireann will provide streamlined access to the delivery of enhanced land and geospatial services to Government and other stakeholders and citizens. This will result in more co-ordinated strategic and business planning, evidence-based decision-making and innovative service delivery in line with Government policy. As one organisation, Tailte Éireann will facilitate integration of data internally across its core functions and externally in partnership with other State organisations. Tailte Éireann will represent an entity more capable of contributing to and influencing policy formulation that supports social and economic development.
I will now provide an overview of the Bill. The Valuation Office, PRA and OSI together manage a comprehensive set of property and spatial data. Combining all three in Tailte Éireann will optimise the benefits of land information for the continuing economic and social development of Ireland; provide citizens, businesses and policymakers with ease of access to and use of location information, including property and title information, commercial and industrial property, valuation data, maps and aerial imagery; and lead, develop and maintain national spatial information infrastructures, and support better land administration.
I will elaborate on the provisions of the Bill. This is a relatively short Bill, comprising four Parts, 41 sections and two Schedules. Part 1, covering sections 1 to 5, inclusive, addresses preliminary and general matters. These include the Title, arrangements for bringing the Bill into operation and standard provisions. Part 2, which takes in sections 6 to 26, inclusive, will provide for the establishment of Tailte Éireann. This is the most substantive Part and sets out the functions and organisational structure of the organisation, the appointment of a chief executive, the board, staff, and preparation of a statement of strategy, annual reporting and other related matters
. Sections 6 and 7 provide for the establishment day of Tailte Éireann, that it shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and an official seal authenticated by the chief executive and the board to have power to acquire, hold and dispose of land, and shall have power to sue, or be sued, in its corporate name.
Section 8sets out the general functions of Tailte Éireann as detailed under this Act, including all functions undertaken by the Commissioner of Valuation, the Boundary Surveyor or a dissolved body and any such additional functions as conferred by the Minister.
Sections 9 and 10set out the provisions for the functions of the Board of Tailte Éireann, which will be strategic in nature.
Sections 11 to 19, inclusive, set out the provisions for the functions and appointment of a chief executive of Tailte Éireann, and provide for the appointment by the chief executive of such number of persons to be the staff of Tailte Éireann, subject to the approval of the Minister and the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Section 20provides that Tailte Éireann may engage consultants or advisers to assist in the performance of its functions and pay their fees. Section 20(2) provides that Tailte Éireann shall comply with any directions concerning the appointment of consultants and advisers which may, from time to time, be given to it by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Section 21provides for the disclosure of any beneficial interest by a board member, or a committee connected to the Board, to disclose that interest and its nature to the board for its consideration, and to determine the appropriate action to be taken in relation to the matter.
Section 22provides for Tailte Éireann to prepare its first strategy statement in accordance with section 4(1)(b) of the Public Service Management Act 1997. Subparagraph (i) of that paragraph shall be construed as if it referred to a period of within six months after the establishment day of Tailte Éireann.
Section 23provides for the submission of an annual report, not later than 30 June in each year, to the Minister on the performance of the functions and principal activities of Tailte Éireann. The Minister shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Sections 23(5) and 23(6) provide for the submission of further reports that Tailte Éireann or the Minister may consider appropriate in relation to any particular matter relating to the functions of Tailte Éireann.
Section 24provides that a member of the board or a committee of the board, an empowered person or any adviser or consultant or their staff shall not, unless under exceptional circumstances, disclose confidential information obtained by him or her while performing his or her functions.
Section 25provides that the Minister, having consulted the chief executive and with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, may specify by order the fees payable to Tailte Éireann in respect of the performance of its functions.
Section 26provides that the expenses incurred by Tailte Éireann in the performance of its functions shall be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
Part 3 contains three Chapters and takes in sections 27 to 38, inclusive. It provides for the dissolution of bodies and the transfer of functions, legislative references, land, property, rights, liabilities, staff, records, and other related matters to Tailte Éireann. Chapter 1, section 27 provides for the dissolution of the PRA and OSI on the establishment day of Tailte Éireann
. Sections 28 and 29 provide that all functions that were vested in the dissolved bodies, the Commissioner of Valuation and the Boundary Surveyor, are transferred to Tailte Éireann on the establishment day, and direct that on and after the establishment day, references in any enactment other than this Act, or any instrument made under such an enactment to either a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor, will be construed as references to Tailte Éireann.
Section 30 sets out that on establishment day lands and other property that were vested in the dissolved bodies, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor and all rights, powers and privileges relating to or connected with such lands shall, without any conveyance or assignment, shall stand vested in Tailte Éireann.
Sections 31 and 32 provide for the transfer to Tailte Éireann of rights and liabilities, and continuation of leases, licences and permissions granted by a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor, and that all liability for loss occurring before establishment day, and any legal proceedings pending immediately before the establishment day by a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor, shall lie against Tailte Éireann.
Sections 33 and 34 provide various provisions consequent upon conferral of functions on or transfer of assets and liabilities to Tailte Éireann, and that where an application made to a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor, before the establishment day, shall, where the application was not determined before the establishment day, be treated as an application made to Tailte Éireann.
Chapter 2, sections 35 and 36, provide for the transfer of staff and their terms and conditions of employment to Tailte Éireann, and provides that the pension payments and other superannuation liabilities of a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor, shall, on establishment day of Tailte Éireann, become the liabilities of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Chapter 3, sections 37 and 38, provide that each record, held by a dissolved body, the Commissioner of Valuation or the Boundary Surveyor shall, on and after establishment day, stand transferred to and be property of Tailte Éireann and be regarded as being held by Tailte Éireann. The final accounts and final annual report of the dissolved bodies, Commissioner of Valuation, and Boundary Surveyor, shall be prepared by Tailte Éireann.
Part 4, sections 39 to 41, provide for consequential amendments to other enactments in relation to the establishment of Tailte Éireann and certain valuation-related matters. Schedule 1provides for the constitution and composition of a board structure for Tailte Éireann and other matters, and Schedule 2 provides for references to the provisions of repealed enactments.
In conclusion, this is largely technical legislation that is primarily designed to establish the merged Tailte Éireann organisation in the most efficient way. Accordingly, there are no significant new policy initiatives contained in this legislation. Rather, in line with similar legislation, the general scheme is focused on the statutory provisions necessary to bring about the merger of the three existing organisations into the new organisation, the governance of Tailte Éireann when it is established, and the carrying out of its functions into the future.
I am thankful to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage for the detailed pre-legislative scrutiny that was afforded to the general scheme of the Bill. I look forward to Deputies' contributions as we progress the Bill through the parliamentary process.