Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

 

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

1:30 pm

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois, Sinn Fein)
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The Bill arises from EU measures known as the Prüm decisions and the State's obligation under them. Essentially, these decisions address the need for member states to share certain data in order to overcome, combat and investigate serious crime.

In 2014, the Oireachtas legislated for the sharing of DNA and fingerprint data. The legislation before us today is designed to allow for the sharing of vehicle registration data. Iceland and Norway will also be party to this data-sharing arrangement.

The Bill calls for national and State police and justice systems across the EU to improve co-operation. It also allows State authorities to search the national and State databases of vehicle registration in other states. The Prüm decisions came into being in 2008. Ten years on, this legislation is before the House. Ten years is an extraordinary delay. However, I understand that the main reason for the delay was the decision that the vehicle registration element of the Prüm decisions would be legislated for after the DNA and fingerprinting measures became law and that this legislation proved to be complex. In his Second Stage speech in the Seanad, the Minister said that legal difficulties led to further delay and this is why it took several years from the passing of the 2014 legislation for this Bill to come before the House. I am not sure why these issues could not have been resolved in anticipation of the legislation eventually coming before the House. I assume that the legislation is only before us now because the EU has begun an action against the State. However, as the Bill has passed through the Seanad, hopefully, this process will soon be concluded. It is our wish that this will happen.

It is important that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, understands his responsibilities under his brief. I read media reports last weekend to the effect that he has said that the Judicial Appointments Bill is his priority. I suggest to the Minister that he should prioritise legislation in his own brief. It not good enough that the EU must initiate legal action for him to pay attention to pressing matters in his own Department. Given the already extraordinary delay in regard to this Bill, will the Minister outline the projected timeline for the taking of the next Stages of it and the timeline for the sharing of vehicle registration data? I understand that there have been significant technical delays with the sharing of DNA and fingerprint data. It is also my understanding that the mechanisms and databases required for the sharing of vehicle registrations are, in the main, in place. I hope that further delays are not expected.

This Bill is designed to protect European citizens from criminals evading arrest in European jurisdictions and to protect us from international terrorism. In recent years, several European countries have been subjected to brutal attacks, of which we have seen too many examples. It is, therefore, important that we do all we can to co-operate with our European neighbours in an effort to pursue these criminal elements. One obvious issue raised by this legislation is the privacy and personal data of individuals and the protection of that data. The Prüm decisions emphasise the importance of respecting privacy and protecting personal data. Can the Minister confirm exactly what data will be shared under this legislation? For example, will only data already on the national vehicle and driver file be shared?

Under this Bill, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is the State's point of contact for sending and responding to requests for vehicle registrations and data. It provides that the Minister may choose to share data with An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, and other "appropriate" persons”. I will come back to this point later. Data protection commissioners have the power to supervise the lawfulness of the treatment of the personal data under the proposed Act. The Data Protection Act 1988 is applied to the requests for access to personal information.

Can the Minister explain why the 1988 legislation will continue to govern the Prüm legislation, rather than updated laws expected this year? Data searches under this legislation will be limited to individual cases and records are to be deleted after two years. On this basis, Sinn Féin welcomes any sensible and considered measures designed to protect people from criminality. With a Bill of this nature we will always have concerns that people may not be given adequate protection as private citizens when dealing with data protection. Obviously the issue that must be reconciled is protecting people's personal data while getting the balance right in terms of protecting citizens from criminality and so forth. We have seen data breaches across the institutions of the State on numerous occasions, despite being reassured frequently about the protection of our personal data. Some of these breaches involved human error and others were of a malicious nature. We approach this Bill with the intention of supporting it while raising some of our concerns as the Bill progresses. We welcome and support the intent of the Bill but we will probably table amendments on further Stages.

In section 4(5), there is a reference to "other persons" with whom the State considers it "appropriate" to share the requested data. In his Second Stage speech in the Seanad the Minister indicated that these people are gardaí and civil servants. However, that is not explicitly defined in the legislation. That is what we seek. If the Garda and branches of the Civil Service are the agencies concerned in respect of that information, that must be tied down by including them by name in the Bill. Another issue on which I seek clarity is the data protection law that is expected to be replaced with new legislation this year. The EU has excluded Prüm from the new framework and the 1988 legislation will continue to apply to legislation arising from Prüm. Can the Minister explain this further? What is the rationale for the Prüm decisions remaining under the 1988 law?

We will support the Bill on Second Stage and we will consider amendments on Committee Stage to address the issues I have raised. I welcome this debate.

1:40 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)
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I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018. This legislation, which was initiated in the Seanad, gives effect to Council decisions 2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA of 23 June 2008 relating to co-operation between European Union states, Iceland and Norway for sharing vehicle registration data to assist in combatting cross-border crime and, in particular, terrorism. The co-operation is very welcome. The decisions are commonly referred to as the Prüm decisions and despite the upcoming general data protection regulation, GDPR, due to come into effect on 25 May next the Data Protection Act 1988 will apply in this case. That exclusion is interesting, given that Deputies are trying to make themselves familiar with the general data protection regulation as it affects us.

Section 2 of the Bill provides for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to be the national contact point in Ireland as the Department is the owner of the vehicle registration data in the State. Section 3 outlines the provisions for the automated searching of this data in the national vehicle and driver file, NVDF, and subsection (1) states that a national contact point of another country will be granted access to the NVDF "with power to conduct automated searches in an individual case". Subsection (2) provides for the type of information which may be used for these searches, which are the full vehicle registration number or the vehicle identification number, VIN.

Section 4 provides for the automated searching of data held by designated states where our national contact point, the Minister, would request the relevant state’s contact point for access to data through automated searches. Subsection (4) states that the data processed may only be used for the purposes for which the data have been supplied unless authorisation is given for "other purposes". Authorisation would, therefore, be needed to provide information to the Courts Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions, An Garda Síochána etc.

Section 7 outlines the functions of the Data Protection Commissioner in the context of the Bill, as Deputy Stanley referred to, which include carrying out the random checks as described in subsection (3), permission to exchange relevant data with their counterpart in a designated state as laid out in subsection (6), and the right to request that their counterpart carry out checks on the lawfulness of processes in their state as laid out in subsection (7). The explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill mentions the general data protection regulation and the policing directive and indicates that the policing directive “explicitly states that it does not apply to Prüm, and that the data protection measures prior to the Policing Directive and the GDPR will continue to apply to the Prüm Decisions”. For Ireland, this means under the Data Protection Act 1988.

Sections 9 and 10 set out the provisions for the duties of data controllers and authorised officers. Section 9(3) and (4) provide for the recouping of damages because of inaccuracy of data received or sent. This part of the Bill worries me. We have a situation currently in Ireland where the Garda cannot effectively access information on a driver’s licence to ascertain whether the driver has a full licence or a learner permit. Concerned constituents, including Ms Susan Gray of PARC road safety group, have been in touch with me recently. They have been informed that if a member of An Garda Síochána wants to know the details and status of a driver's licence, such as whether the driver is a learner driver, the PULSE system does not hold this information. The investigating garda must write to his or her chief superintendent saying why the garda need access to the information - for example, to determine the licence status of a driver involved in a fatal crash - and the chief superintendent must then write to the Road Safety Authority's, RSA, and the national driver licence service requesting the information from their files and, again, giving the reason.I put it to the Minister that this is a very cumbersome process that is clearly not functional. It is a very long drawn out process, which the RSA changed a number of years ago due to data protection procedures. It can take months to get the necessary information and, in some cases the information is, allegedly, never sent or received. Previously, gardaí were able to just make a phone call to the RSA to access the information.

The RSA recently provided information to "Prime Time" regarding the number of learner drivers involved in fatal crashes - for example, 12 in 2017 - and the number of unaccompanied learner drivers, which was nine in that year and, significantly, six, nine, ten and ten over the previous four years. When one looks at all the RSA statistics, it is very striking that they differ from the Department of Justice and Equality's figures and from the Garda Síochána figures. The RSA has said that in 2014 there were six fatal collisions involving an unaccompanied learner driver but the Department of Justice and Equality stated that there were eight fatal collisions involving an unaccompanied learner driver. This information was provided in a reply to a parliamentary question. The RSA has said that, in 2017, there were ten fatal collisions involving an unaccompanied learner driver, but on 8 November 2017 the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, stated in the Dáil that 11 unaccompanied learner drivers had died on our roads up to that point that year. That figure only covered the drivers and did not include other innocent victims who may have died in those fatal crashes in 2017.

On 28 March, we learned that between 2003 and 2016, some 196 deaths had been misclassified in Garda records and were actually caused by dangerous driving and road traffic collisions. The Irish Times reported that the "biggest underestimation by the Garda occurred in the dangerous driving causing death category. The Garda had initially recorded 504 such cases but the revised figure is 700; a difference of 196 cases." How does the Minister expect us to be able to share information with other countries when we cannot even record it and share it accurately among ourselves? In some instances, I have been waiting for more than a year for replies to parliamentary questions about road safety, especially from the Department of Justice and Equality. I have a long list of outstanding replies to parliamentary questions that I continually follow up on, only to be told that the Minister "will be in touch once the Garda report is to hand".

I have previously raised inconsistencies in the endorsement of licences with penalty points, the inadequate surrendering of disqualified licences, the inability of the gardaí to identify disqualified drivers and other litanies of inadequacies in our data collection, collation and dissemination. How the Minister thinks that we will be able to partake in an EU-wide data sharing project beggars belief given the inconsistencies and the lacunae we have found in recent years. While I will be supporting the Bill, as I agree with its general thrust, the issues relating to data protection and the collation and accuracy of our information are very disturbing. The two key Ministers involved are the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Justice and Equality. I urge the Minister to prioritise fixing the absolute shambles of the NVDF, NDLS and PULSE without delay.

1:55 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am happy to speak on this Bill. As the Explanatory Memorandum makes clear its purpose is to give effect to certain measures of the European Council, decisions generally referred to as the Prüm decisions, after the town in Germany where the basis for the decisions was originally agreed, and to provide for related matters. I have never been in Germany never mind in Prüm. Maybe the Minister has been there or might go there on his travels or travails. The decisions are binding on all EU member states which choose to opt into them. Ireland chose to opt in by votes in both Houses of the Oireachtas. According to the memorandum the Prüm decisions are aimed at stepping up cross-border co-operation, particularly in combatting terrorism, cross-border crime and providing in particular for the automated exchange of DNA, fingerprint and vehicular registration data, VRD. Anything that combats terrorism or serious crime must be supported and I have to be fully supportive of that.

We have worries about the re-emergence of a Border between the 26 counties and Northern Ireland because of Brexit. That is very serious but the Government has literally made a shambles of it and does not know whether it is coming or going. The cast iron bullet-proof guarantee from the Taoiseach last Christmas seems to have evaporated like the snow that fell on the mountains on Paddy's Day. He does not know whether he is coming or going. We need to get our ducks in a row as regards our borders and the determination of our sovereignty.

When I was doing some research on this Bill - the Minister might not believe I did any research but I normally do research – I contacted the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, for its assessment of its likely impact. That organisation is vital to our economy and will be even more so after Brexit. That is why I am very disappointed that the Taoiseach and his colleagues have decided to do the motorway from Limerick to Cork, whenever it will happen, because there is no sign of the motorway from Limerick to Port Láirge and on to Rosslare because connectivity with Rosslare Europort will be vital for us to continue our exports. If we do not have proper connectivity we will be in huge trouble.

I salute the Irish road hauliers. They work in all weathers and conditions. Their vehicles and equipment are very expensive. They provide significant employment too. The Minister was only a wet day in office when he signed the statutory instruments, which several previous Ministers had refused to sign, to restrict the number of axles on these lorries. That was a foolish decision. Twelve Ministers had not signed them. I spoke to the Minister at the time because the hauliers are under pressure with payloads and return loads and need to be able to carry the best load they can, safely. We all understand that they are registered vehicles tested by the Road Safety Authority and everybody else to the highest standards and the drivers are of top quality too. They are struggling.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Ms Verona Murphy of the IRHA that it is happy to endorse the Bill. That is good. Tá aithne agam ar Verona.

The Minister knows who she is and has met her in different places. The Minister is shaking his head but he does know Verona. If he does not know the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association it is a poor lookout. From the Irish road haulage point of view, the provisions the Bill contains are needed in all areas of traffic management and enforcement, and this is a positive. It would mean there would no longer be a necessity to display commercial vehicle roadworthiness test, CVRT, discs on trailers or insurance discs. According to the Irish Road Haulage Association, it is positive legislation that is urgently required.

I acknowledge this legislation has been supported by the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I very much welcome this, given how much we have disagreed on lately on other issues of road safety, which I will address in a minute with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle. In his contribution on the Bill on 20 February, regarding what will be the effect in practical terms, the Minister stated it will mean if an Irish registered vehicle is used in a serious crime in another EU country, the authorities there, with Interpol, will be able to search Irish data to find the registered owner and this is a vital piece of traceability and accountability of all our fleet. Whether it involves an owner-driver, a self-employed person or part of a larger fleet, it is vital to have this accountability and traceability. Likewise the authorities here would be able to use the system to find out quickly the owner of a vehicle registered elsewhere in the EU if it has been used in a serious crime here, and this is hugely important because we can see the impact in terms of attacks where vehicles are commandeered to be used. At least if we know who owns them we will be able to identify the driver with a tachograph and so it is vital. It is certainly a pragmatic and sensible proposal and one we can all support.

The Minister, Deputy Ross, went on to say how, in summary, the Bill will allow searches of Irish vehicle registration data by the appropriate authority in other EU member states. Icelandic and Norway allow us to search vehicle registration data in those countries. The Bill specifies who may conduct these searches and makes provision for data protection, which is obviously always very important, including monitoring the data shared. It also makes provision for the procedures for handling complaints and corrections where errors are made. All of this complies with the EU requirements. We have to be very mindful about data. By all means I am all for searching and traceability, but we have to ensure that if no crime has been committed, the data are not passed on or used or misused. The Minister is a member of a Government that is obsessed with WikiLeaks, data, spin and the spin machine. I hope some road hauliers will get the job of carting that particular piece of equipment to some dump somewhere and make sure it is shredded and that it is crushed up by metal before it ever gets to see the light of day again or members of the Government will all be spinning out of control and they will not know whether they are coming or going with the data. We have to be very serious about who does the checks and the investigations to make sure people's personal data or even their business data are not compromised in any shape, make or form.

I note with some concern that Ireland is facing possible infringement proceedings for delays in the implementation of the Prüm decision. Yesterday evening, when I went over to the Minister at the end of a debate, he told me this was eight or six months behind time. I hope he has not changed his mind today. If that is indeed the case, it is only right that we work with common purpose to see the Bill is passed and that scenario is avoided. The Minister might clarify in his response what the situation is with regard to what he told me privately and what he has said on the record of the House.

If I have serious concerns, they revolve around the issue of data protection, as I have said. I am aware that section 5 of the Bill deals with the correction of inaccurate data and the deletion of incorrectly supplied data. This is to be welcomed as a vital and necessary safeguard. I have dealt with this. Section 5 is vital with regard to who has the data, who stores it and who could get possible access to it, because there are very sensitive contractual agreements with regard to many of the vehicles we are speaking about and there is the privacy of business and trade.

The memorandum for the Bill also makes it clear that this section provides for the correction of inaccurate data and for circumstances where data are received when they should not have been. It is very important that this is here. I hope to see the penalties as well. Section 5(1) places an obligation on the national contact point in the State, in cases where it comes to its attention that data sent by it to the national contact point of another state are incorrect or should not have been supplied, that the other national contact point should be asked to amend or delete data, as appropriate. That is very sloppy and messy. It is case of dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi. If the data are supplied inaccurately or erroneously there must be immediate safeguards to ensure that they are withdrawn. Dealing in the context of member states, it must be imperative that vehicle data, and indeed the data of the drivers and owners as well, are safeguarded.

Under section 5(2), when the national contact points receives data not requested from the national contact point of another state it shall immediately check whether the data are necessary for the purposes for which they were supplied. There is room there for infringement and for personal data leakage.

The question of the deletion of erroneous data received by the national contact point in the State is addressed by section 5(3).

I fully agree with the assessments of the Irish Road Haulage Association and the Minister, Deputy Ross. The Minister will be surprised I am agreeing with him. He said that it was an important tool for fighting serious crime across Europe, and as such would benefit us and our fellow Europeans. That is important, and it is the reason I am alarmed to learn that we are so far behind in completing this legislation. There has been no explanation for the inordinate delays. I was told by the Minister last night that we are several months behind. We are supposed to be shoulder to shoulder with our European colleagues.

I have more time to speak, I believe.

2:10 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy insists.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am not insisting but I want to address some of the other issues with which the Minister has become obsessed in recent times. Deputy Broughan referred to it.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Provided the matters relate to the Bill, I have no problem.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The cyclist situation must be addressed in terms of the passing distance of 1.3 m.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter is not covered by the Bill.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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It is not covered by the Bill but is covered by the Minister. The demonisation of families in our country in terms of learner drivers also arises. We do not all have a Luas, a DART, buses or the smart technology to get where we like. We have to have respect for the road and to encourage young people. The driver licensing system is a shambles. A person has to do 12 lessons, which cost around €50 each. Most of the instructors are very professional. They do the theory test, which should be done in school, and then they go for their tests. If they fail the test for the most minute reason after those 12 lessons they have to wait for another month before reapplying for the test. The waiting list in County Tipperary is already six months. They have to go back, get more lessons, and then face another backlog before they can do the test again. This has to be streamlined.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is all very well but it is not relevant to this Bill.

Photo of Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Broughan brought it up.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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It is all relevant. Deputy Broughan was given the liberty to speak about it so I am sure the Ceann Comhairle will give me the liberty too. I am trying to drive home to the Minister the folly of some of the things he is doing. Some of the data he is using are criminal. Deputy Broughan today referred to the inaccuracy and the falsehoods in the reporting of serious accidents and serious crimes. The Road Safety Authority should stand condemned. It should get the records from An Garda Síochána and other agencies correct first. It is appalling to have so many miscalculations of homicides and road accidents.

We are talking about sharing data and we cannot even control our own data or get it right. I know the Minister will respond to me and talk about the tragic circumstances. I know that in Deputy O'Keeffe's constituency a young learner driver caused enormous hurt and pain to a family. That was very traumatic, and we totally sympathise and empathise. However, we cannot make laws for one, two, three or four small cases. In many cases, it was never proven who caused the accident. If there is an accident and someone is killed, it could be the driver or it could be responsibility of another person, such as a pedestrian or a cyclist. There are huge issues there.

As such, we cannot go to Europe with any shred of respect for the legislation to which are committing today, when our basic facts and data are wrong. They are wrong, and they are misleading. I am not blaming any person present. This is the fault of someone at the head of the national driver licence service, LDLS, or the Road Safety Authority, RSA. We have so many quangos. A person cannot get information from them. Lodge a parliamentary question and a Deputy is left waiting six or eight months, as Deputy Broughan said. They are unaccountable. The Minister needs to rein them in. The Minister, Deputy Ross, wrote a lot about quangos when he was in Opposition and when he was writing for the paper every Sunday. We all read it. I read it. I respected his writings and believed that he understood the issue, but now the quangos are mushrooming. Today, we are appointing more people to An Bord Pleanála and to other agencies. They are not accountable to anyone. We are accountable to the people, and rightly so.

We must have factual evidence if we want to make legislation. We are criminalising families and telling the parents of learner drivers that their cars will be taken. They will be fined and imprisoned. I wish to correct the record. At one point I said the legislation applied to tractors. That is not in the legislation, thankfully, but it probably the next thing in the Minister's head. If it is not in his head, it is in the heads of the geniuses in the RSA. They just want to discriminate against people from rural Ireland. It is total and utter discrimination. In Dublin, there is not enough room for the public transport. The Government cannot get the new Luas across O'Connell bridge. The Minister made it too big or too long. I do not know what he did with it. Dublin has buses, taxis, the DART and now underground plans. I saw a hurling club protesting outside today. The Government is going to undermine its pitch with tracks. There is not enough room for these facilities.

However, when we try to educate our children and train them in the values of proper driving, road safety and the rules of the road, we are threatened, as though we are wild west people who drive around carelessly and recklessly. We do not. We buy a car for our youngsters. It costs €3,000 or €4,000 and we pay €4,000 or €5,000 for insurance. The car has to get the national car test, NCT, and that is another big burden. When people drives down country roads, their cars are destroyed after coming out of the NCT. The ball bearings, wheels, tyres and everything else have burst. The Government is going to criminalise rural people. They are a soft target. Rural Ireland is a nuisance to the Government. It does not want to do anything outside the Pale. The Pale is the Pale and as for everything outside, to hell or to Connacht with them. It is the same thing.

The Minister sat at Government talks for a long time two years ago, as I did. There was one thing we drove home. The Minister did not push for this, but his colleagues did. We asked that any legislation coming down the road should be rural-proofed. Instead of that, the legislation I see attacks rural Ireland. These harebrained ideas are discriminatory legislation. We are all supposed to be equal under the Constitution, but rural people are viewed as a nuisance. They do not get taxis, and they do not deserve buses. Give them no more train lines and take away all their services. To enable their children to finish their education, they will need a car, to go to a FÁS course, do their exams, go to college or get an apprenticeship. How can a mother or father be in the car with them to drive to work, and then be there to take them home again?

I am in favour of restrictions on those drivers. I am in favour of changing and radically overhauling the tests and teaching the theory and the driver tests in some schools. There is a school in Tipperary town that does it every year with transition year students. They have a track and they do driving courses. It is a fabulous concept. There is a businessman in Cahir who is trying to build a new motor track. He is also going to provide simulator courses for young drivers. It is fabulous. He can think of that while the Government makes all the rules with the gods in the RSA. They are like gods. The Minister knows that I made an appointment with his office for a young man in Cahir with an insurance issue. The Minister met him and I appreciate that. His office dealt very fairly with him. However, when the young man went to meet the god - I should not invoke God on Holy Thursday, I will say the person who thinks they are God - in the RSA, she never turned up to meet him. He had travelled to Sligo. The Minister knows about this. It was an insult. An appointment had been made, and the man stood waiting for a long time. They are above us. They are above the Minister as well. They come up with these poppycock ideas and demonise people to hell, while Dublin has buses and planes.

Mar fhocal scoir, it has come to my attention that all of the RSA test centres to which we bring our cars are operating illegally because they have no up-to-date fire regulations observed. The fire safety of the centres and their staff all over the country has not been tested. The head of the RSA knows this. She has been written to about the matter and is doing nothing about it. We fail our tests if we have a torn seat belt or a bad seat in the car, or something frivolous. Do not get me wrong, I am all for NCTs on brakes, tyres and chassis but I am not for tests of these silly things. Every one of the buildings - I do not know how many there are - is in breach of the Government's regulations on fire safety and other matters. Fire safety checks, checks for gas inhalation and other checks are not being carried out. That is very serious.

I ask the Minister to ask the head of the RSA whether she is aware of the situation that this lunatic raised today in the Dáil. This is coming to me on good faith. I have the business card of the man who came to me. I met him by accident. The situation is a shambles. The law is aimed at the little people, na daoine óga agus na daoine aosta faoin tuath, or outside the Pale. Inside the Pale, they do what they like. They can just draft law and then penalise and demonise ordinary, decent families and working people who want to pay their taxes, educate their children, get their children jobs, and live their lives.

2:25 pm

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate on this Bill and for their support for it in general. I would like to address just one or two items, the ones that were relevant.

As I stated at the outset, this Bill does not make for light reading. I believe, however, that the principles in it are clear. Through votes of the Oireachtas, Ireland is already committed to implementing the EU Prüm decisions. This Bill is necessary in order to fulfil that obligation. Member states are required to share vehicle registration data, VRD, in order to prevent and investigate crimes. We will not be compliant with our EU requirements until we begin sharing those data, and we will not be able to share them until we pass this legislation.

I thank those Members of the House who contributed and who showed fair recognition and realisation regarding the urgency of the legislation and the fact that it is important to Ireland's interests that the proceedings that have been started in the EU are not carried to a more precarious or threatening situation. I do not believe this will happen. It is now quite clear that we are not only taking this Bill very seriously but also that it is going to be passed very shortly.

Deputy Stanley asked a very serious question about why the 1988 Bill applies. I have a fairly good answer. Those familiar with EU data protection law will be aware that the current EU legislation on data protection reflected in Irish law in the Data Protection Act 1988 is due to be replaced in May of this year by a new legal framework. This new framework consists of the general data protection regulation and the policing directive. As Prüm is a law-enforcement measure, the policing directive is the part of the new legislative framework that would naturally apply to Prüm. However, the EU, in preparing new legislation, decided specifically to exclude Prüm from a new framework and required the continued application of existing data protection law. The policing directive explicitly states that it does not apply to Prüm and that existing legislation will continue to apply. The practical effect is that the Bill must and does state that the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1988 apply to data sharing under Prüm. That is not all. The decisions themselves impose specific obligations on the data protection authorities of member states. These relate to monitoring of data sharing under the decisions and the processing of complaints from individuals who may believe their data should not have been shared or that data shared might have been inaccurate. Additional measures include the requirement for the national contact point to maintain records of data sharing under the decisions for two years and then delete such records, to carry out random checks on those records and to produce the records of such checks on the request of the Data Protection Commissioner.

The other relevant point was raised by Deputy Broughan.

His point was perhaps somewhat tangential to the Bill but it is something we should bear in mind. He says that because of our history, some of the information may not be particularly accurate. That is being remedied and I am sure the situation will be addressed by the time the Bill is enacted.

Deputy Mattie McGrath was the final speaker. I would address those issues which are relevant, but I cannot find any that are.

Question put and agreed to.