Monday, 29 March 2021
Residential Tenancies Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages
The Minister of State is welcome to the House. I must agree with my colleagues, Senators Higgins and Warfield. What we do not want now are short, stop-start measures. We want some degree of certainty. Everybody accepts that this country and the world as a whole will not be back to normal trading and living conditions in 2021. As vaccines are rolled out, we will see slow progress back to normal.
It strikes me that it is a waste of parliamentary time to have provided for an extension to July in the legislation. If we extend the time limit to December and things turn out better than expected, say, by October, as suggested by Senator Higgins, or early December, we could repeal the Bill. That would be great as everybody would be a winner. Right now, however, we are wasting parliamentary time by bringing back Bills with a short lifespan attached to their provisions. Everybody wants a sunset clause whereby provisions of a Bill that have implications like this for landlords will cease to have effect.
I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State because she is not the person who made the decision about how this House would treat this Bill. We are a constitutional House and our job is to query and interrogate legislation and try to improve it. All too often, since Covid-19 hit the country, all Stages of legislation are debated in the House in an hour and a half. With other Bills, we have had three hours to get them through the House. That shows zero respect for us. If an amendment is accepted today, the legislation will have to go back to the Dáil. We know the Minister of State is not going to do that, and the Minister of State and everybody else in the House knows it. We have a job to do in proposing what we believe to be worthy amendments in order that they are at least on the record.
I said earlier that I believe the Government is almost paralysed by Covid-19. I do not blame it because we find ourselves in a catastrophic situation. When the Government starts to dispense with normal parliamentary activities, it is not good for legislation or the people. Senator Higgins noted that we will deal later with the amendment to section 2. She is dead right about it being likely that the 5 km limit will be lifted tomorrow, a week from tomorrow or in the next few days. Eminent lawyers in this room and representatives from Threshold and the Simon Community have told us that when that 5 km restriction is lifted, the protections in the legislation will also be lifted. I find it deeply regrettable and a gross waste of the constitutional function of this House to have legislation rammed through here week after week. It simply is not good enough. I am sorry to be raising this with the Minister of State, who is just here to do a job. However, we also have a job to do and this House is worthy of greater respect. I ask the Minister of State to take that message back to the Minister and get it onto the Cabinet table. I am getting very tired of this, as is the public. I thank the Minister of State for his time.