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Eoin Ó Broin TD calls for Dáil record to be corrected after misleading statements by Taoiseach and Minister for Housing

20 February, 2018 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD


Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has written to the Ceann Comhairle calling on him to ensure that the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing correct the record of the Dáil. The government pair misled the House when answering questions on the National Planning Framework (NPF) last week.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle yesterday to draw attention to the comments made by both the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing last week on the NPF which I believe were designed to deliberately mislead the House.

“The Taoiseach and Minister for Housing both claimed at different stages that (a) no vote was required on the NPF and (b) the vote of October 3 2017 satisfied the ‘approval’ requirement of the relevant legislation.

“The legislation referred to is currently going through the house and Part 3, Section 8, 20(c)(8) of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 (No 1 of 2016) clearly states that:

The Government shall submit the draft of the revised or new National Planning Framework, together with the Environmental Report and Appropriate Assessment Report for the approval of each House of the Oireachtas before it is published.

“The 'vote' that the Taoiseach and Minister Murphy keep referring to as having satisfied this requirement was a vote on motion requesting the Joint Committee on Housing Planning and Local Government to make a submission on behalf of both Houses as part of the public consultation.

“They are both incorrect when they assert that Oireachtas approval was sought and acquired.

“I believe on two consecutive days last week both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Housing deliberately misled the Dáil when they were questioned on the legal status of the NPF  in order to justify avoiding an Oireachtas vote which is a clear requirement of the legislation."

ENDS//

Note: Please see text of email sent to Ceann Comhairle 

Sean a chara,

I am mailing to draw your attention to comments made by both the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing last week which I believe were designed to deliberately mislead the House.

On Wednesday 14 February during Leaders Questions from Pearse Doherty and Brendan Howlin on the issue of the statutory basis for the National Planning Framework Leo Varadkar said:

The TaoiseachThe way legislation works is that it has to pass through both Houses of the Oireachtas and then be signed by the President before it becomes law. Legislation in the Seanad is not the law. There is no requirement that either the national planning framework or the ten-year infrastructure investment plan be subject to a vote of either House.

The TaoiseachWe got held up with other issues. The legislation the Deputy refers to does not say the final plan has to be approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas. What it says is that Government shall submit the draft of the revised or new national planning framework together with the environmental report and appropriate assessment report for the approval of each House of the Oireachtas before it is published.

The TaoiseachIrrespective of the legislation, which has not yet passed through these Houses, becoming law or being signed by the President, the national planning framework will automatically go onto a statutory footing as a consequence of the fact that the draft motion was adopted in November.

The TaoiseachThe planning framework will be on a statutory footing and that is one of the ways it will be different from the national spatial strategy. It was brought to this House and there was a vote on the draft in November.

On  Thursday 15 February during Promised Legislation Deputy Pearse Doherty and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy had the following exchange on the same issue:

Minister for HousingPlanning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): The Taoiseach yesterday made the process involved clear. The legislation which has not yet been enacted and the spirit of which we have followed provides for consultation with the Oireachtas on the draft of the document.

Deputy Pearse DohertyApproval.

Deputy Eoghan MurphyThat happened in November last year. The legislation also allows for consideration by the Government of the outcome of the consultation process before presenting the final document. The legislation is not yet in place, but we have followed the spirit of it. The draft legislation does not envisage the Oireachtas having a final say on the document.

Deputy Pearse DohertyThe Minister has misled the House. As he knows, the legislation does not talk about consultation but about approval by both Houses. It is disappointing that he has decided to do what the Taoiseach did in response to our questions.

The TánaisteIt was a draft.

Deputy Pearse DohertyThe Minister should acknowledge that he has misled the House.

The mechanism for providing a statutory underpinning for the National Planning Framework is set out in Part 3, Section 8, 20(c)(8) of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 (No 1 of 2016). 

This section states: 

The Government shall submit the draft of the revised or new National Planning Framework, together with the Environmental Report and Appropriate Assessment Report for the approval of each House of the Oireachtas before it is published.

A draft of the National Planning Framework was laid before the Oireachtas for debate in October and a motion was adopted by both houses on October 3rd. The motion did not approve the draft of the NPF as required by the legislation. Rather as detailed below it requested the Joint Committee on Housing Planning and Local Government to make a submission on behalf of both Houses as part of the public consultation.

requests the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government to collate and submit any observations or recommendations during this final consultation by the Government, with the approval of the Committee on behalf of both Houses of the Oireachtas for the proposed strategy of the National Planning Framework.

The Taosieach’s claim that there is no requirement for a vote on the National Planning Framework is contradicted by the requirement of Section 20(c)(8) of the Planning and Development Bill 2016 for Oireachtas approval of the Draft prior to publication.

The Taoiseach’s claim that this requirement was satisfied by the October 3 2017 resolution is contradicted by the text of the motion which does not constitute ‘approval’ of the draft framework by’approval’ of a submission by the Committee on behalf of both Houses.

The Minister for Housing’s claim that the November vote, which I presume refers to the October 3 vote, satisfied the ‘approval’ requirement of Section 20(c)(8) of the Bill is likewise contradicted by the text of the motion passed by both Houses.

On this basis I believe that both the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing knowingly and deliberately misled the House last week by claiming that (a) that not vote was required on the NPF and (b) that the vote of October 3 2017 satisfied the ‘approval’ requirement of the relevant legislation.

I am of the view that the clear intention of the legislation, drafted at a time when the Government had an overall majority, was for the final draft to be put for a vote to both of the Houses of the Oireachtas for approval prior to publication. 

However the changed political circumstances of the Oireachtas since the last general election has led the Government to avoid an Oireachtas vote on the matter contrary to the requirement of the legislation.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of this decision it does not provide any justification for the Taoiseach or Minister for Housing to deliberately mislead the House on the matter and on those grounds I am asking that you use your position as Ceann Comhairle to have the Taoiseach and Minister correct the record of the House.

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