Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Order for Report Stage
On a point of order, my amendment No. 34 has been ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle but this amendment was debated on Committee Stage. Why was it ruled out of order when we were able to discuss it on Committee Stage? A vote was also taken on it on that Stage.
On the same point of order, I tabled three amendments and the same answer has been given. In a short letter from the Ceann Comhairle the reasons given are that they have the potential to impose a charge on the Exchequer and are against the principle of the Bill. Clearly our amendments are against the principle of the Bill. We do not agree with the Bill as it relates to Galway. This type of language - that it is against the principle of the Bill - beggars belief. We are absolutely against the spirit and words of the Bill in respect of Galway city and county.
Amendment No. 34 seeks to delete section 50, which proposes a single chief executive officer with dual responsibility for Galway city and Galway county. The retention of the two posts rather than the single post may impose a charge on the Revenue and the deletion of one of the aims of the Bill is in conflict with the Bill as read a Second time. In short, the amendment imposes a charge on the Exchequer and it has been ruled out of order for that reason in accordance with Standing Order 179(3). It is in conflict with the Bill as read a Second Time and it was ruled out of order for that reason in accordance with Standing Order 154.
I do not believe that. The Minister of State made it clear that money would be given to the local authorities. The amendment should not have been ruled out of order. We should be allowed to debate it given that we debated it on Committee Stage.
It was discussed yesterday at the budgetary meeting in Galway County Council with regard to the funding that is coming forward. That funding is ring-fenced for what is happening with the single executive.
I do not understand the reasoning behind the explanation. None of this was said on Committee Stage even though it was discussed on that Stage. The Minister of State was present. If there were bona fides about local democracy, this would have been pointed out on Committee Stage. In fact, it will cost money to do this so none of it makes sense. What else were we to table? We are opposed to the spirit and detail of the Bill with regard to Galway city and county and, therefore, we asked for the provision to be removed.
Clarification is required. We all attended the Committee Stage debate. How is it the amendment could be accepted for debate on Committee Stage and was not ruled out of order? Can anybody clearly state what rules are different on Committee Stage when it can be ruled out of order on this Stage? We are discussing the same Bill and the same amendments.
I seek further clarification. The letter states that it is a cost to the Exchequer but it is not because two chief executives arein situ in Galway who are paid for by the Exchequer. The Bill, if passed, proposes that there will be one chief executive officer. The two chief executive officers are in situ. We seek a proper debate in the House but we are being treated unfairly on this.
With regard to the potential to impose a charge on the Exchequer, it has serious potential to saves charges on the Exchequer. We could easily argue from the other direction. This has come from nowhere. It leads me to seriously question the bona fides of the Government in this regard.
I support my colleagues on this point on the basis that the amendment opposing the section was discussed on Committee Stage. With regard to the ruling, I have advised the Minister of State of our position on this. It should be allowed to be debated. Unless the Minister of State comes forward with an alternative to allow the views of colleagues to be debated, we will have to look at the Bill in its entirety.
The Deputy knows from experience that amendments ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle cannot be debated. It is a ruling of the Ceann Comhairle regarding amendment No. 34, not a ruling of the Minister of State or the Government.
It might not be a question the Leas-Cheann Comhairle can answer, but could I get the staff's advice regarding amendments in the Seanad? Will the same ruling apply when the Bill goes to the Seanad if the section were to be opposed in an amendment?
My concern is that the amendment tabled in this House has been ruled out of order, apparently because of a potential charge on the Exchequer. However, this section would have to be examined and debated in the Seanad-----
It is not acceptable to leave the Dáil without clarity on this matter. We thought it was clear in the committee. Neither I nor my colleagues are members of that committee but we took the time to attend Committee Stage. We did our homework before we went there and we debated the issue. At no stage was this highlighted. This decision is open to serious question. The ruling says it is against the principle of the Bill. What kind of reason is that? Clearly our amendment is in conflict with the principle of the Bill.
Second, with regard to the potential charge, there are two CEOs at present. That is the current position. This is unacceptable at this point in the process, and we are getting what is almost waffle with regard to what is possible in the Seanad.
I wish to raise a separate matter, the ruling out of order of amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 16 in my name. The Ceann Comhairle says they have the potential to impose a charge on the Exchequer. The people of the four local authorities in Dublin are crying out for an elected mayor or leader who will be held accountable and responsible for grotesque failures in housing policy, traffic management, planning and in a plethora of other areas. Dublin city, Fingal, south Dublin and Dún Laoghaire - my native county - desperately need an elected person to lead the county and this great capital city. As the Fianna Fáil Government did previously, this Fine Gael Government has refused to countenance the idea of consulting the people of Dublin about having their own elected administration. We desperately need one. We are sick of bureaucrats not delivering. That is what these amendments propose. I cannot see how a simple consultation has the potential to impose a charge. I apologise to my Galway colleagues as I realise their issue is critical but I also wish to record that as a Dublin Deputy, I am most unhappy that the Government has repeatedly refused to do this.
There will be an opportunity when discussing the various amendments.
Perhaps I am out of order in allowing a debate on the issue before we come to amendment No. 34. My advice is that the Ceann Comhairle has ruled that it would impose a charge on the Exchequer and that it was the section that was voted on on Committee Stage, not the amendment.
I am sure that by the time we get to amendment No. 34 all Members with connections in the Seanad will be able to clarify if it can be dealt with in that House. I am not the Cathaoirleach or the Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad, and I cannot deal with that.
It took a lot of us by surprise that the section was opposed on Committee Stage. Normally if something happens on Committee Stage, one can return to it on Report Stage. If that is the ruling of the House, we must accept it but if that is the way it is going to be - it was not taken out on Committee Stage so it could not be taken out on Report Stage - then that is a pity. We have to look at the way standing orders work to make sure Members are warned on Committee Stage that if something falls on Committee Stage, it cannot come back on Report Stage. If we had known this, the result on Committee Stage might have been different.