Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Tailte Éireann Bill 2022: Second Stage


2:35 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, to the House.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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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.

2:55 pm

Photo of Thomas GouldThomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. On paper, it provides for a sensible merger of three data-heavy organisations that regularly work together. I understand there is some reduction in cost, which is welcome, but I caution that we need to ensure no reduction in staffing levels across all the organisations. I am sure that many of the Deputies here have in recent months dealt with cases involving the PRA, in particular, which has large backlogs. People are left waiting for months on end for answers to queries and requests. I understand that staff are doing their best post Covid but there does not seem to be the required number of staff available to deal with the amount of work. It is not an issue I encountered before the pandemic. The Department indicated that the Bill would save money. I ask the Minister of State to consider utilising those funds to properly resource the PRA. People who are looking to purchase homes are struggling. Many of them are paying expensive rents. Delays such as this cost those people large sums that they simply cannot afford.

I ask the Minister of State to further consider the role of Tailte Éireann when identifying, managing and considering land banks, particularly public land banks. Given the organisation will oversee valuations, mapping and registration, I am concerned that a failure to include land banks management, or at the very least the management of the data on land banks, as a responsibility of the new group is an oversight. I ask him to clarify the reasoning behind this. We need to know exactly how much public land we have and where it is. When local authorities and approved housing bodies, AHBs, are looking to build housing, a database they can use to see where land is and who owns it would be a significant asset. When Deputies and councillors are reviewing local authority plans, such a resource would be of great benefit. I acknowledge it exists in some form but it is not accurate and will not come under the remit of this organisation.

I refer to the issue of dereliction and vacancy. The Minister of State is well aware that I have a particular interest in vacant properties and derelict properties and sites. The Derelict Act 1990 and the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 set out clear guidelines for the completion of a local authority registry of derelict and vacant sites. It is assumed that something similar will be introduced with the zoned land tax and, hopefully, with the vacant homes levy. These registries are great sources of information. Unfortunately, they often do not reflect the reality on the ground regarding the number of sites and the value of the sites on the register. There are currently only 95 sites on Cork city's derelict sites register and only 13 on the vacant sites register. That is not a true reflection of the dereliction and vacancy in Cork. It is a problem we are facing throughout the State. Given the roles of the three organisations involved, some support could be given to local authorities to ensure accurate registration and to assist them to keep the registers up to date.

At the end of the day, we need everyone working to solve dereliction and vacancy. While the Minister might have no intention of incorporating the valuation office into Tailte Éireann, given the data-heavy nature of the three organisations, they may have a role to play in ensuring the registers are kept up to date. We are all sick to the back teeth of hearing there are no solutions to dereliction. I believe there are. The dogs on the street know that. The reality is that we need to do more. Through the Bill, we can help to keep registries up to date, local authorities can collect levies, and the Government can provide funding and compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, for local authorities. In those ways, we could make a difference. After more than two years in government, the Minister still refuses to walk around Cork so I can show him the dereliction and vacancy that run throughout the city and county.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister of State. This is probably the least controversial Bill he will bring before the House in his time in office. Given the unseemly row we had the last time he was bringing forward legislation, it is probably better for both of us this close to the weekend. However, the fact it is not a controversial Bill does not mean it is not hugely important. It does say something about the slow-moving wheels of government that it has taken ten years from the initiation of the review of the potential merger of these three important organisations to finally get the legislation. That is not the fault of the Minister of State or that of the young officials in attendance, who were probably not in the Department when the review was initiated. However, it does say something about government overall, which should not pass without comment.

"Surprised" is probably too strong a word for my reaction but I would have expected the Minister of State to comment at some point during his opening or closing remarks on the issues of staffing and savings. In the regulatory impact analysis of the legislation, which, as the Minister of State knows, was a part of the committee's considerations during pre-legislative scrutiny, there was some brief mention of potential savings. To be honest, I do not think the savings are going to be very significant. There will be some at the back end in software, staff, etc. There were also modest suggestions that there may be some changes in staffing, particularly in respect of recruitment, etc. It would be helpful if the Minister of State could give us an update on those two matters in advance of Committee Stage.

I echo Deputy Gould's point that if there are any savings, and I am not convinced there will be any, I ask that they are retained within the organisation. I ask the Minister of State to ensure they go to improving the situation and dealing with some of the issues. The issue raised most frequently is that of the Land Registry service and the long delays in the registration process and, therefore, the inaccuracy of some of the information that is there. It can take up to 12 months for a new registration to go live on the site. That can often cause difficulties in various ways.

I suspect there will not be any changes in staff numbers, which have been pretty constant for the past two years, according to the regulatory analysis. I would welcome any information the Minister of State could give in that regard.

I am always pleased when he thanks us for the hard work we do in committee with pre-legislative scrutiny. I just wish that thanks was accompanied by incorporating the recommendations we make in those reports in legislation. We made two simple recommendations. I know one of those is not within the gift of the Minister of State, but I do want to speak to it. If it is a matter he can come back to us on, I would appreciate it. This would have been an opportune time for the Department of Justice to relinquish control of the Property Services Regulatory Authority, PSRA, and to locate it in Tailte Éireann. That would have made eminent sense. I know the members of the relevant Oireachtas committee have very little interest in the PSRA. I would be surprised if all the members of the Joint Committee on Justice knew the Department has that responsibility. The difficulty is that the PSRAis a toothless tiger. It does not have strong legislative underpinning, nor does it have strong enforcement powers. Given that we are moving to a period when there is an increase in property transactions and home purchases, albeit that increase is still far too slow, now is the time for us to have proper reform of that key function of our housing market. I do not believe that will ever happen as long as that agency remains under the auspices of the Department of Justice. I mean no criticism of that Department but it has many other and more pressing things to deal with. I believe that if the PSRA was a function of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, located in this new State agency, there would be more of an impetus, given the role of the Ministers of State, the Minister, the officials and us in the Oireachtas committee, to grab the urgent need for reform. We have an incredibly opaque system for the purchasing of homes. It is incredibly frustrating, as I am sure the Minister of State knows from his constituents, that the market is so poorly regulated. The PSRA has no teeth whatsoever. It has a voluntary code of conduct that is meaningless. It can write an angrily worded letter if an estate agent, auctioneer or property services agency breaches the code but beyond that, there is nothing there. The Minister of State could not have controlled that but I would be interested to know, on foot of the recommendation from our committee, if any attempt was made by the Minister, the Ministers of State or officials to engage with the Department of Justice. Has there been a conversation? Is that something to which we could return? I believe it would be of enormous value not just in terms of the technicalities of this Bill, but also in terms of the improvements of land-related issues and property service-related issues, which are ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

The Minister of State said nothing about this, and I have not seen it in the Bill, but we made a second recommendation during pre-legislative scrutiny for a land transactions register. We have such a register for house transactions, which provides us with such valuable information on real-time property prices. As the Minister of State knows, that data is published by the CSO. Land is probably the most opaque market in the State, bar bitcoin, for those who have a weird interest in that particular phenomenon. It is virtually impossible to know the price of land at any given time in the marketplace. All we have are newspaper reports placed there by people either buying or selling land. It is usually information placed for their own vested interests in individual transactions. Given the centrality of land values, particularly those for residential development, in the ultimate cost to the purchaser or renter, it would be eminently sensible, logical and desirable for the Government to have a real-time land transaction register. Maybe that is the intention of the Government; maybe it is a function that will be a consequence of the outworking of this Bill but I suspect not. If we can have a live register in real time for residential property transactions, we can have one for land. There is simply no reason in law we could not. It is one of the small reforms any sensible, active land management policy and strategy by the Government should have. Again, if the Minister, in advance of Committee Stage or when we deal with these issues - we will table amendments with respect to this on Committee Stage - could return to this matter, that would be very helpful.

The last issue I will raise is not necessarily pertinent to the Bill, but the merger of the three organisations under the Bill is the right time to address it. The Minister of State will know that there are very often disputes involving adjoining sites and adjoining title. In many cases, far too often, the information that is on the Land Registry is not accurate or does not lend itself to resolving disputes over boundary title conflicts. If I understand the reason correctly, it is that when there was a process of digitisation from the old hard copy OSI mapping of land ownership to the digitised nature of that on the land register, the process did not necessarily happen as accurately as indicated in the Land Registry mission statement outlined by the Minister of State. I think he used the words, "accurate", "reliable" and "readily available". The vast majority of times that is the case. I use the Land Registry and its services a lot. It is an excellent service with very good staff but there is an issue we need to review and resolve. One of the useful things the Minister of State could consider, either by way of a friendly amendment by the Opposition on Report Stage or an amendment from the Government, is to build into the legislation an early review by Tailte Éireann into what went well and what did not go so well in that digitisation process. If two people have a dispute over title at a boundary, and if when they both go to the Land Registry the boundary is not clear or there is conflicting information, it is very difficult to resolve. The more we can keep these types of disputes out of the courts and have some independent mechanism to resolve them in a non-judicial manner, the better for everybody. This is the time to do it. I urge the Minister of State to consider that matter and tease it out with us on Committee Stage because it is one that would be mutually beneficial to all Deputies, all property owners and, ultimately, to our system of land management.

As we said during pre-legislative scrutiny, we support the Bill. There are merits to it. If the Minister of State could come back to us - I know he does not have an opportunity to do so at the end of this discussion - even through a short briefing note to the members of the joint committee on the issues I raised, that would be beneficial not just to me but other Members.

3:05 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Bill. It is a good idea to bring various offices together that deal with property. I also welcome the name of new body, Tailte Éireann, outlined in the Bill. It is appropriate. It is very much in line with the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 that we name our bodies in Irish. I have noticed over the years, when bodies are named in Irish, especially when they are simple, effective names, that people use them. Nobody has any difficulty with "Bus Éireann", for example, or other bodies with Irish language names. I have never found that new Irish people who come to our country have any particular difficulty with them either.

I am surprised that the residue of the Land Commission has not been incorporated into the provisions of the Bill because many Land Registry documents originated in the dealings of the commission. As recently as today, I received a query where issues involving the PRA were raised that referred back to commission dealings. The inquirer now has to contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which can be quite a challenge, to try to get these old Land Commission records. Residual functions of the commission are land functions. It divided a lot of land in its time and many people have reason to have recourse to its database. I am also sure that, for historical purposes, which I raised previously, it would be interesting if those records could be digitised and made publicly available because there is a wealth of social history involved in the enormous work that was carried out by the Land Commission. It was totally revolutionary in respect of land ownership in this country. There are still current issues that arise again and again, when looking at land documents that go back to the commission. It would be much handier if all of these documents relating to ownership and division of land, etc., resided in the one place.

My experience of the PRA, and the Land Registry before it, has been good. Its staff are generally helpful. Sometimes, people are frustrated, especially in issues of possessory claims and so on, by the delays involved, but many of these are caused by the fact that people are being given a valuable asset. PRA staff have to make sure that, as far as they can, it cannot be successfully contested in a court and that it is robust and so on. This often means going back, when people die intestate and so on, quite a period. One issue, however, is that we are great at setting up the bodies and creating the work, but, in many circumstances, we do not fully staff these bodies to continue to provide the expanded services they are being asked to provide and queues build up as a result. Bad public services are inexcusable.

We must provide Tailte Éireann staff with cutting edge technology and, as that technology evolves, they must be able to keep to the best standards of technology. They must also organise themselves in such a way that they use the best work processes available. Too often, there is a big, good idea, but there is bad execution of it. We then get the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform being unwilling to provide the necessary staff to cut the queues. If that Department thinks the current staffing level is sufficient to do a job, it should then do something about perceived inefficiency because bad public services are inexcusable and should not be allowed. On the other hand, if staff make their case and are doing their jobs efficiently, but cannot keep up with the new demands being created by the Government all the time, and by new circumstances, staff should be provided to do the job. The other point is that when you start falling behind, and all of us experience this challenge, the queues and delays in dealing with issues create more work. Ever more resources have to be devoted to deal with the queue rather than the work so it becomes a vortex of inefficiency. It is important, and we would all support the Government in this, to make sure that this is an efficient service, properly staffed, with well-motivated staff who believe they can do their jobs.

There is one thing I would like to see that should be in every Bill. I do not know if the Minister of State would consider putting in explicit provision for the right of public representatives to make inquiries. The Land Registry, and the PRA subsequently, have traditionally been good about dealing with public representatives regarding queries raised that relate to dealings or other Land Registry issues. Its staff respond very fast.

That is a good tradition because we are not doing it for ourselves but on behalf of members of the public who are encountering difficulties or delays in getting information. It is very important that public representatives be entitled, not on a personal level but on a public service level, to get information on behalf of constituents or, as often happens, members of the legal profession who are seeking our assistance to expedite urgent matters. Where a case is made and when there is a genuine reason for urgency, those matters should be expedited.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Creidim gur céim chun tosaigh é ach tá súil agam go mbeidh an cur chuige éifeachtach agus go bhfeicfimid seirbhísí feabhsaithe seachas an rud a chonaic muid i gcásanna eile, is é sin, seirbhísí feabhsaithe a théann ar gcúl.

3:15 pm

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I commiserate with the family of Calvin Curley Gray from Dundalk who had an unfortunate accident, as sometimes happens to kids, on 4 September. On Monday morning, we discovered that this 11-year-old, who had a really great smile and who was full of life, had lost his long fight. It has obviously been an incredibly difficult period for the family. If people have been online, they will have seen the salutations and all that has been said by the likes of Clan na Gael and Shamrocks Football Club, with which young Calvin played. Not only are my thoughts with the family but I would also like to commend them. In what was an incredibly difficult time, they took the very brave decision to donate organs. Other families are now looking at a very bright future as a result of the bravery of this family. My thoughts are with them. They are going through a really difficult time. Calvin's funeral will be tomorrow and I assume a great number of people will be out in Dundalk in support of his family.

Deputy Ó Broin put this very well when he stated that this was not going to be the most contentious of Bills. There will be no sparks such as those we have seen at certain other times, even over the last week. We will not find a great number of people who have major difficulties with the Valuation Office, the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey Ireland being brought together to manage a comprehensive set of property and spatial data by combining all three into Tailte Éireann. We all understand the absolute necessity with regard to information and data and ensuring that we have the correct amount of data and appropriate databases and systems to deal with some of the issues we face. Deputies Ó Broin and Gould dealt with issues related to dealing with boundary disputes. We have all dealt with issues of this kind that have subsequently ended up in the courts. It would definitely be far more beneficial for all involved if we had some sort of system to remedy this in a much simpler manner. There are nearly no Deputies in this Dáil who have not spoken about the issue of vacant properties and dereliction. If, in dealing with this, there is an opportunity to remedy the problems we have regarding information in that sphere, we should take that opportunity.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I have two specific points to make about this legislation. We support and welcome this Bill although it is alarming to see how long it has taken to get through the process. That certainly is an eye-opener. It has taken the best part of ten years. There was an expectation in 2015 that it would progress at that point. That shows the length of time involved. I thank the Minister of State for thanking the joint committee for its work on pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. It is great to get that feedback from him. We would love to see him taking on our recommendations, especially when we are careful to make only a few recommendations. On the Bill, we made only two recommendations. That was all. I would even have been happy if the Minister of State had decided to support any sort of majority of those recommendations.

The transfer of the Property Services Regulatory Authority from the Department of Justice is needed. When I brought forward my Bill on the land price register, which aims to solve a lot of problems in the housing area, the Department of Justice dealt with it and you could see from the Minister and her officials - and this is not the fault of any of them - that solving the housing situation was not their primary responsibility. The intent of the legislation I brought forward, solving the housing situation, is not the primary interest of the Department of Justice. In advancing these matters, it is important that they fall under the right Department's remit. The Property Services Regulatory Authority has a particular remit with regard to the housing situation but the Department of Justice, which holds it, does not have the same incentive or motivation to advance things on that front.

The second register related to a land price register. There is some explanation from the Department as to the thinking behind not doing this in the Bill digest prepared by the Library and Research Service. The Department communicated that a national zoned housing land register was being established and that this was the reason a land price register would not be created. However, while a national zoned housing land register is welcome, it is a very different thing from a land price register. We need a land price register. It would give us some very specific detailed information that we need to ensure transparency around land prices. In terms of the housing crisis, it is highly regrettable that the Government voted down my Property Services (Land Price Register) Bill 2021 earlier this year. I would have been very happy to work with the Government to improve the Bill through amendments to deal with any deficiencies it saw in it.

We need a land price register to create transparency around land prices and developers' margins. We do not actually know what is going on in terms of housing affordability and construction costs. The Government has been lobbied continuously to make changes in the areas of housing and planning over recent years and it has brought in a number of changes to policy in these areas. However, it is reasonable to say that the promises the lobbyists made with regard to housing affordability and extra housing supply on foot of those changes have not come to fruition. In many ways, the opposite has happened. A key part of the justification lobbyists for those changes have used has been arguments relating to viability. They say that housing or specific types of construction are not viable and that the Government needs to make certain changes to make it so. I mention this in the context of the land price register because we cannot independently scrutinise and analyse arguments on construction costs and viability if we do not know the price of land. That is a key element. We cannot properly and independently scrutinise and analyse the various proposals put forward by lobbyists and developers for changes to housing and planning policy - many of which have been adopted - and their arguments around viability if we do not know what is going on with land. We need that clear data. We have such data on labour costs, building materials and professional fees but, without knowing what developers are paying for land, we cannot independently assess those proposals and arguments. This is very important with regard to tackling the cost of delivering the development of land for housing. The cost of development land is one of the key factors in the construction of housing. A land price register would fill this gap.

It would also provide us with important data to allow us to design effective policies to tackle land hoarding and speculation. According to the Government, we have 8,000 ha of zoned land sitting unused. That is enough land to build 250,000 homes. Not having proper data on what is going on with land transactions is inhibiting our ability to develop effective policies in that area.

Yes, it would be useful to get a better explanation as to why a land price register is not included in the provisions of the Bill but I urge the Government to change its mind on this and make provision for such a register. I will be bringing forward a number of amendments in that regard. It is legitimate to ask, given how important land is in terms of housing construction and affordability, why the Government seems to be okay with not knowing what is going on with land prices and transactions. It is quite incredible in the context of the disaster we are facing. We have the highest ever house prices and rents in the country and the largest ever number of people living in homelessness. I have people, especially young people and those in their early 30s, telling me that the only way they feel they will ever be able to afford to live and to move out of their parents' home is if they leave the country. That is the situation we are facing. People with lots of the skills we need in our education and healthcare systems, disability services and every other section of the economy and society are leaving. Indeed, we are losing people with the skills in housing construction that we desperately need. I urge the Government to take a change of approach on this matter.

The second issue I want to raise regarding Tailte Éireann and the merging of the three offices and their functions relates specifically to the role of the Valuation Office. I will give an example to illustrate my point. The office needs to be closed and I will be looking to bring forward an amendment to that end. The example of the issue I am raising is from my constituency but it applies to lots of other parts of Dublin and elsewhere around the country. There is an area in my constituency called Clongriffin, much of which was built ten to 15 years ago. It includes a lot of empty commercial space and vacant commercial units. In fact, more than 50% of the ground-floor units in this large new townland have never been occupied. They have been left as shell units, which gives the area a vacant, unfinished feel and means the community has not been able fully to solidify. There is a revenue loss arising from the lack of commercial rates being brought in, a social cost for the community, a cost to the local businesses as a consequence of reduced footfall and an opportunity cost arising from having buildings empty that should be used for commercial or community purposes. Leaving those buildings vacant in the middle of a housing crisis is absolutely scandalous.

What does this have to do with the Valuation Office? It has everything to do with it because these commercial units that have been empty, some for 15 years, have never been valued for commercial rates by that office. Dublin City Council does not apply 100% commercial rates exemptions for empty units. If a commercial unit is empty, the council, like other local authorities, charges a certain percentage of rates, which has gone up in recent years. Again, this is also the case in local authorities elsewhere. The purpose of this is to discourage commercial vacancy but those partial rates are not being applied to any of the units to which I referred because they have never been valued by the Valuation Office.

Other Deputies have talked about delays in some of the other functions being merged into Tailte Éireann but there is a huge cost to having commercial units that have never been rated, after ten or 15 years, by the Valuation Office. I want to see this deep flaw being rectified in the setting up of the new amalgamated body. There should be some provision such that within a year or two of a unit being substantially completed, it will be valued for commercial rates. We cannot have a situation where because a unit is not fully fitted out, it is somehow therefore exempt for a decade, 15 years or indefinitely. That could well be a loophole that may be used with the argument that a unit is not fully completed. Ten or 15 years on, that is not acceptable. At what point does a community have a right to expect that the commercial buildings in the locality will be occupied? To put it in human terms, many of the people who moved into Clongriffin 15 years ago were couples who had no children at the time but went on to start families. Those children are now 12, 13, 14 and 15 years of age. Will we have to wait another ten or 15 years, until they are adults and able to move out, before the community begins to settle? As I said, this is an example from my constituency but it applies to newer developments in many other areas. I will be bringing forward amendments on this but I urge the Minister of State to consider the issue and to look favourably at those amendments.

This Bill is welcome and it is good that it has cross-party support. However, we must consider whether we can strengthen it to ensure Tailte Éireann is able to fulfil the maximum role it can in helping to combat vacancy and to alleviate the housing crisis by way of the provision of land price data and transparency around that.

3:25 pm

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I am sharing time with Deputy Ó Snodaigh. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I do not have an objection to what the Minister of State is doing but there are a few issues on which we need clarification. Regarding the PRA, everything used to be based in Dublin but it now has a branch in Roscommon. In fairness, the work it does in Roscommon is mighty for people in the west of Ireland. That is the first thing to say.

I want to get my head around how the merger is to be done. Will the three bodies work from the same place and will there be more expertise? It has happened many a time over the years, especially at the time of the building boom, that a boundary line was put in the wrong spot. If one has to go to the PRA and try to have co-ordination between all the bodies involved to get the issue resolved, it can be a massive problem. Letters go over and back and up and down. It would be great to have a type of one-stop shop in which someone could grab the bull by the horns and say that section over there will work with this section here to make sure issues are resolved. I am trying to get my head around a scenario where there may be different offices in different places. I presume and hope there is no plan to close any offices in the west of Ireland. It is invaluable to have a PRA office in Roscommon, compared with the situation at one time where people had to go to the Phoenix Park, if I recall it right, to do some of their business.

In the case of the Land Commission, there are two offices, one of which is in Cavan and the other in Portlaoise. It depends on the era one is inquiring about as to which location one needs to go to get the particular materials that are needed. There is another part of the Land Commission located in Dublin, which I understand is under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. That body is pretty good, in fairness to it, but there is the question of knowing where to go. I would be all for a one-stop shop to which people could go if there is a problem. In Roscommon, people can go into the PRA office and someone will sit down with them and go through their problem. If we had that type of co-ordination between the three bodies, it would be a great system for resolving issues that crop up. If there is a lot of building going on, mistakes will happen and there is no point saying they will not, but it is about being able to rectify those mistakes.

The previous speaker referred to buildings lying idle and said we should be pulling rates out of them. Some people might not remember but in 2008 or 2009, we had a bit of a crash and for ten or 11 years afterwards, there were a lot of buildings around the country for which there was no pick-up. That is the reality. Thankfully, we now have things like town and village renewal schemes, more rural regeneration, digital hubs and people working from home.

That gives some of them the opportunity to get back into action. In fairness, most people who have a building, especially in rural areas - I cannot talk about Dublin because I am not qualified to do that - if they can get someone to rent it or make use of it they will be damn glad to do it. Thankfully, a lot of them are getting up and running again, which is good. It brings in more rates.

Valuations are fairly contentious. A valuation might be done in places that may not be as affluent as other areas and people will say it is a high valuation.

The Minister of State or his Department might pick up on this for areas around the country that might be in difficulty. Some councils have brought this in but it was not uniform. That is the problem. If someone set up a new business, and this was a massive idea in Roscommon County Council, and there was no one doing the same thing within 10 km, they would get the rates off the first year and 80% off the next year. That would go on over a five-year period and was an incentive to get that person up and running in business. That is a good thing. If more councils around the country did that, it would encourage entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, the more businesses in an area, the more people will be working locally and it will put less pressure on the likes of Dublin.

The document and the summary document use the word "decentralisation". That word was thrown around the place years ago. In fairness, there is nothing wrong with the idea of decentralisation. How it was done was the problem. The services have to be brought closer to the people. Years ago, people in the west would have to try to get to Dublin if there was a problem with the property registration and at that time it was a long road through all the small towns. Now there is a great service in Roscommon and great staff in there to help people.

I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for giving me the opportunity to speak ahead of him. I do not oppose the Bill but I ask the Minister of State to set out the vision for how things will be. Will there be a one-stop shop? There are many places that are invaluable, especially in the west of Ireland for people with property on the other side of the River Shannon. I ask the Minister to expand on that and give us an idea of it.

3:35 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Cosúil leis na Teachtaí eile atá tar éis labhairt, fáiltím roimh an mBille seo. Tá sé go maith go bhfuil, sa deireadh thiar thall, one-stop shop ag tarlú. Sin ceann de na rudaí a bhí an Teachta romham ag lorg - go mbeadh na seirbhísí ar fad atá á gceangal le chéile ar fáil in ionad amháin. B’fhéidir gur suíomh Idirlín a bheidh ann. Tá loighic leis an gcumasc seo ó thaobh Suirbhéireacht Ordanáis Éireann, an Coimisinéir Luachála agus an tÚdarás Clárúcháin Maoine ag teacht le chéile. An Bord Snip - Colm McCarthy agus iadsan - a tháinig suas leis an tuairim seo ar dtús ach ní gá gur droch-smaoineamh é toisc gur tháinig siad suas leis. Sa chás seo, b’fhéidir gurb é ceann de na t-aon smaointe a bhí aige a sheas an fód agus a bhí go maith.

Bhí coimisiún eile a bhí gafa suas sa Bhord Snip agus is trua nach bhfuil sé ann níos mó mar bheadh sé loighciúil é a tharraingt isteach sa chomhrá seo, sé sin, Coimisiún na Logainmneacha. Tá coiste ann go fóill agus b’fhiú féachaint ar conas gur féidir leis an gcoimisiún nua seo, Tailte Éireann, ceangal níos fearr a bheith aige leis an gcoiste sin. B’fhéidir amach anseo go ndéanfaidh rialtas éigin coimisiún a hathbhunú do na logainmneacha, mar tá ceangal an-lárnach idir logainmneacha na hÉireann agus an tsuirbhéireacht ordanáis atá á dhéanamh agus a bhí á dhéanamh thar na blianta. Tá tuiscint i bhfad Éireann níos fearr ann nuair atá tú ag féachaint ar thailte anois agus ag tabhairt ainmneacha d’eastáit nó bóithre nua, áit a raibh na hainmneacha sin ann cheana féin. Uaireanta táimid tar éis dearmad a dhéanamh orthu agus ní gá dúinn ach féachaint siar. Tóg mar shampla Manorhamilton, nó Cluainín Uí Ruairc. Níl ceangal ar bith idir an dá logainm ach ba le clann Uí Ruairc an ceantar sular tháinig Sir Frederick Hamilton isteach agus thosaigh sé ag crochadh gach duine sa cheantar agus ag tógáil a chaisleán. Tá sé ait fós go bhfuil an baile ainmnithe ina dhiaidh toisc an méid a rinne sé sa cheantar sin agus nach bhfuil gnáthphobal na hÉireann tar éis casadh ar an mbunainm a bhí ann. Sin scéal eile.

Tá go leor daoine tar éis féachaint ar an dráma cáiliúil sin Translationsle Brian Friel. Bhí tuiscint ansin ar an tsuirbhé a bhí á dhéanamh ag na Sasanaigh ag an am. Tháinig suirbhé eile ina dhiaidh agus an luacháil a rinne Richard Griffith ina dhiaidh sin in 1848. Lean sé ar aghaidh ar feadh 20 bliain nó mar sin, áit a raibh luacháil á dhéanamh ar na tailte. Ní dhéanann sé mórán de dhifríocht sa chathair nó i mBaile Átha Cliath mar tá rudaí eile a tharla ó shin ach thíos faoin tír is minic go bhfuil tú ag dul ar ais ag an mbundoiciméad. Amanna ba iad siúd na bundoiciméid nó na taifid ina raibh sé leagtha síos cé leis cén talamh agus bhí siad cruinn ag an am. Tá obair déanta ag an PRA agus iadsan thar na blianta ag déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil gach rud in áit amháin agus go bhfuil digitiú á dhéanamh air. Níl sé iomlán ach tá sé ag tarlú. Uaireanta nuair a dhéanann tú comparáid idir dhá dhoiciméad stairiúil, agus fiú roinnt de na cinn nua, feictear roinnt de na botúin agus áiteanna atá coimhlint. Don chuid is mó, nílimid ag dul ar ais go dtí "The Field" le troideanna idir dhá úinéir talaimh ach bíonn sé ann anois agus arís. Bíonn coimhlintí ann maidir le cé leis an talamh. Uaireanta níl na dintiúir cruinn ó thaobh an talaimh de agus an teorainn idir dhá phíosa talaimh.

Caithfimid déanamh cinnte de, agus muid ag dul isteach sa nua-aois, go bhfuil go leor airgid agus infheistiú curtha isteach sa dream nua seo, Tailte Éireann. Ní hamháin go bhfuilimid ag tarraingt trí dhream le chéile ach caithfimid cinntiú go bhfuil maoiniú agus infheistíocht acu chun gur féidir leo déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil an obair atá á dhéanamh den scoth agus in oiriúint don aois atá againn anois. Ní féidir le daoine glacadh le moill nuair atá siad ag díol nó ag ceannach tithe nó nuair atá siad á gcur amach ar cíos. Caithfidh gach rud a bheith i gceart. Má tá aon mhoill ann, go háirithe i dtréimhse cosúil leis an gceann atá againn faoi láthair agus praghsanna ag dul suas agus suas, d’fhéadfadh difríocht ollmhór a bheith idir an bunphraghas a bhí á phlé agus an praghas nuair atá an ceannach nó an díol sin críochnaithe. D’fhéadfadh moill de chúpla mí nó sé mhí a bheith ann. Uaireanta tarlaíonn fadhbanna dá thairbhe, go háirithe má tá daoine ag brath ar mhorgáiste agus níl acu ach sé mhí chun an morgáiste sin a tharraingt síos sular gá dóibh dul ar ais ag an mbanc. Tá ceangal san obair seo agus caithfimid a chinntiú go bhfuil an t-eolas, na háiseanna agus an fhoireann ag Tailte Éireann chun an obair sin a dhéanamh.

Agus mé ag caint ar fhoirne, tá sé luaite in Ailt 35 go 37, go huile, maidir leis na fostaithe a bheidh ag Tailte Éireann. Tá fostaithe trí eagras ag teacht isteach le chéile. Tá sé go maith go bhfuil sé liostáilte go soiléir ansin nach mbeidh aon athrú coinníollacha ann agus go bhfuil cosaint acu dá réir. Bíonn sé sin tábhachtach i gcónaí nach mbeadh aon dabht ar aon duine nó nach mbeadh aon athrú ag tarlú d’aon duine atá ar pinsean. Tá na coinníollacha ceannann céanna ann. Glacaim leis, dar ndóigh, go mbeidh na coinníollacha is fearr ag aon duine atá ag teacht isteach amach anseo seachas na coinníollacha is measa maidir leis na foirne atá ann agus go mbeidh sé comhionann le haon choinníoll atá in aon chuid eile den státseirbhís. Ní fheicim go mbeidh na ceardchumainn tar éis glacadh le haon rud eile. Tá sé go maith go bhfuil sé sin soiléir anseo.

Tá a lán eolais ag na trí dhream atá luaite anseo, is iad sin an Coimisiún Luachála, an tÚdarás Clárúcháin Maoine agus Suirbhéireacht Ordanáis Éireann. Tá gá go mbeidh an t-eolas sin ar fad le fáil ar líne go poiblí nó go gcuirfimid a oiread eolais agus is féidir ar fáil. Tá obair mhór déanta ag an tSuirbhéireacht Ordanáis Éireann, fiú ó thaobh na pictiúir atá á nglacadh aici ón aer agus an stuif a dhéanann sí. Feictear seanchuid dár stair nó iarsma seandálaíochta. Cuireann an obair sin lenár n-oidhreacht ach cuireann sé chomh maith, go minic, le teorainneacha. Feictear áit a raibh ina seanbhaile nó seanchlaí nach bhfuil ann a thuilleadh. B’fhéidir nach bhfuil sé sin curtha síos i gceart ar na léarscáileanna atá ag gabháil le dintiúir thí. Tá sé soiléir ón aer áfach gurb é sin an treo a bhfuil an teorainn nó páirt nó dhó den teorainn.

Is minic go mbíonn sé mar an gcéanna nuair atáthar ag féachaint ar áit a bhfuil athrú tar éis teacht ar theach thar na blianta. B’fhéidir go bhfuil athrú tagtha ar bhalla idir dhá theach nó áit atá breis curtha leis an teach agus táthar tar éis dul isteach ar thaobh theach eile.

Tá a fhios agam anseo i mBaile Átha Cliath go mbíonn Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath, nuair a théann sé ar Google Maps, in ann a aithint cén uair a rinneadh athrú nó pictiúr a chur i gcomparáid le ceann eile agus a rá le daoine go bhfuil botún déanta ó thaobh pleanála de nó go bhfuil siad ag cloí leis an tomhais, gan fiú dul amach ar an suíomh. Uaireanta bíonn sé deacair an rud a fheiceáil ar an suíomh féin. Uaireanta eile bíonn sé níos fearr dul ar an suíomh. Tá an dá rud ann. Tá sé seo go maith.

Tá súil agam go n-éireofar leis seo. Níl aon argóint mhór agam ina aghaidh, ach amháin go mbeidh mé ag féachaint an mbeadh ról lárnach ag an gcoiste logainmneacha. B’fhéidir go gcuirfidh mé leasú isteach chun go mbeidh ról nó ceangal lárnach ag an gcoiste logainmneacha mar atá sé faoi láthair agus, má bhunaím agus má bhunaíonn páirtithe an Rialtais coimisiún na logainmneacha arís, seachas coiste deonach, go mbeidh sé sin ceangailte leis seo nó ina fhochoiste ag Tailte Éireann.

3:45 pm

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I thank the Deputies for their contributions and their support for the Bill. I will go through some of the contributions and respond to them before I make some concluding remarks.

Deputy Gould raised the issue of staffing levels. I will not go into any details on that but I believe the staffing levels will be maintained. On increasing staffing, resources and the money-saving element, the Bill is not intended to do that. It is intended rather to achieve efficiency and a more streamlined approach. I believe all Members are agreed on this.

Deputy Gould also spoke of public land banks, managing data, and the role of Tailte Éireann with other agencies such as the Land Development Agency, LDA. The Deputy specifically and consistently speaks about dereliction, vacancy, and the registry of derelict sites, particularly as it pertains to Cork. Obviously, while the Bill is a technical Bill in the context of the establishment of Tailte Éireann and does not specifically deal with dereliction, Deputy Gould makes consistent points with regard to Cork and the dereliction that has been highlighted by Jude Sherry and others over recent years.

Deputy Ó Broin referred to staffing, savings and the regulatory impact analysis that was carried out. I will give a commitment on a number of the points raised by Deputy Ó Broin. I note that Deputies Ó Broin and Cian O'Callaghan raised the issues and the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I take those on board. Deputy O'Callaghan has signalled intent to bring forward amendments. I welcome the debates that will ensue on those amendments. I take on board absolutely the point on a briefing note. There was a question on the process of digitisation and a review of that. That is a worthwhile exercise. I certainly believe we can give a commitment to that. We can provide any additional briefing note the Deputy requires.

Deputy Ó Cuív welcomed the naming of the Tailte Éireann. The Deputy brought up interesting points around the Land Commission, the incorporation of records, the digitisation of those records and making them publicly available. That is a very valid point. These do have a huge social and cultural value and it is something we could consider. There is also the right of public representatives to direct access when representing the public. When public representatives have any interactions with State agencies, it is important we, collectively, have that access. It is vitally important.

Deputy O'Callaghan raised the issue around the Property Services Regulatory Authority, PSRA, and the land price register. The Deputy has made some very valid points in that regard. Deputy O'Callaghan has offered to work with the Government to improve his Bill. There is an opportunity to do that if those conversations should be had.

The Deputy also spoke about the role of the Valuation Office and gave the example of Clongriffin and the empty retail units. These issues in urban areas must be addressed. I believe it was a common practice in developments around 15 or 20 years ago to have retail units at the base and apartments for people living above. This never matched the demand that was there for retail and they could never be filled. It happened not just in Dublin but also in large urban centres throughout the State. It needs to be addressed.

I welcome the comments from Deputy Fitzmaurice on the Property Registration Authority in Roscommon and the idea of the one-stop shop. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Ó Snodaigh as na pointí maidir leis na seirbhísí a cheangal le chéile.

I thank all Deputies for their valuable contributions to the debate on the Bill today. The constructive debate we had today follows on from the detailed pre-legislative scrutiny given by the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage to the general scheme of the Bill a year ago. I fully appreciate the support that has been expressed for the Bill. I will now address some of the points raised.

On the pre-legislative scrutiny recommendations, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage recommended that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage engage with the Department of Justice to consider integrating the Property Services Regulatory Authority with Tailte Éireann. The primary role of the PSRA is to regulate property services providers, namely, auctioneers and estate agents, letting agents and property management agents.

Following consultation with the Department of Justice, it is considered that the functions of the PSRA are not sufficiently closely aligned with the functions of the bodies already identified for Tailte Éireann, being the registration of deeds and title, site surveying and the valuation of rateable property.

The joint committee further recommended that Tailte Éireann be given, as one of its statutory functions, responsibility for maintaining a publicly accessible, searchable, electronic register of land transactions that would include the price, location, size, zoning, date of sale and ownership details. This new register would operate on a similar basis to the existing residential property price register.

The supply of housing is inextricably linked to the supply of land and its capacity for development. Under action 28.2 of Housing for All, the Department is currently working with Ordnance Survey Ireland to develop a national zoned housing land register based on local authority development plans, including the potential housing yield or capacity, which can also form the basis for the associated calculation of land use values required for the land value sharing measures that are currently being developed. This is considered to be a more appropriate mechanism for dealing with the issues that the proposal seeks to address. I know Deputy Cian O'Callaghan will bring forward amendments so there will be further opportunity to debate these issues.

On the appointment process for the chief executive and the board, the chief executive will be appointed by the Minister following open competition through the Public Appointments Service and in accordance with the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. The Bill provides that where a competition to appoint a chief executive is held before the establishment day, the successful candidate shall be appointed by the Minister to be the first chief executive of Tailte Éireann on establishment day. Recruitment for the position of chief executive will be managed by the top level appointments committee, TLAC.

In relation to the board of Tailte Éireann it is intended that Board membership will consist of a chairperson and six ordinary members who will be appointed by the Minister following open competition through the Public Appointments Service and in line with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies.

The Bill provides that the Minister may, where he or she considers it necessary having regard to the volume of business coming before Tailte Éireann and the need to ensure the effective and efficient discharge by Tailte Éireann of its functions, by order, increase the number of members of the board to not more than 12 for such period as the Minister shall specify, up to a maximum period of two years. There is no provision in the Bill for certain nominees to the board.

I now turn to the benefits of Tailte Éireann. There is a broad understanding now that Tailte Éireann, as a single entity focused on the production and maintenance of core-reference data focused on land ownership and land value, will deliver benefits to the State. The provision of high quality, reliable, trusted and maintained geospatial information is essential for a wide range of critical State functions from environmental planning and management, to the effective administration of property and land use. Streamlining services into one entity with its own Vote of expenditure and headed by a single chief executive and board will allow Tailte Éireann to efficiently take advantage of the national geospatial data hub GeoHive that has been developed by Ordnance Survey Ireland, and will be able it to combine and integrate the wealth of authoritative land information held by the Property Registration Authority, the Valuation Office, the OSI and other public bodies, to provide citizens, business and policy makers with new land Information products and services. It will provide a single point of access for land and property information and related services such as property and title information, property valuation data, maps and aerial imagery. When established, Tailte Éireann will be staffed by more than 900 civil servants with a wide variety of quality management skills, technical skills and experience. Development is under way by the Commissioners of Public Works on a building, the Distillers Building in Smithfield, which will act as a Civil Service and Government accommodation hub, including providing office accommodation for the Dublin-based staff of Tailte Éireann.

The establishment of Tailte Éireann will bring savings in the short- to medium-term from the consolidation of common back-office functions such as HR, conventional ICT systems, financial management and from a potential reduction in costs such as software licensing. The establishment of Tailte Éireann will also provide for a less crowded administrative landscape by reducing the number of state bodies in line with Government policy. A project board has been put in place under the chairmanship of my Department to oversee the successful establishment of Tailte Éireann. Staff of the three agencies are being kept informed of developments.

At the beginning, I outlined the provisions of this Bill which is focused on the merging of the three bodies and the establishment of Tailte Éireann. As highlighted previously, this is largely technical legislation which 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 Bill is focused on the statutory provisions necessary to bring about the merger of the three existing organisations into the new Tailte Éireann organisation, the governance of the new organisation when it is established and the carrying out of its functions into the future. I hope that when we vote on this Bill it will continue to receive the support of the House. I thank all Deputies for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to.