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Construction Contracts Bill 2010 – Speech Thursday 10th May 2012

Other Members have spoken eloquently in their contributions and have made good points. I welcome Senator Quinn who is observing the proceedings as he initiated this Bill in the other House. As previous speakers have remarked, it is a pity that this Bill was not in place three to five years ago when the construction boom was at its height because many small companies and subcontractors have suffered as a result of the crash.

I will speak about the construction of the Bill, if I may be excused the pun. I have remarked on previous occasions in the House about how language is used in the drafting of legislation. I remember reading a sentence in a Bill which consisted of 272 words and by the time I had read half the sentence, I was almost asleep. I commend Senator Quinn on the clarity of the language used in this Bill. This is the first time I have not needed to read the explanatory memorandum, which I call the Ladybird version of a Bill. Senator Quinn and the Bills Office are to be congratulated on a Bill which is clear in its language. People will be able to understand the provisions and the Bill is short, succinct and to the point. This is important because the people who will read this Bill are not necessarily qualified barristers or solicitors; they are people who may have left school early in order to work in the construction industry. They will be able to read this Bill and understand what it provides with regard to their rights and obligations.

I am concerned at the practice whereby Bills are amended significantly on Committee Stage. I do not understand why a Minister cannot include any required amendments at the initiation of the Bill so that these can be discussed by the House on Second Stage. Many Members are not involved in committees and will not have an opportunity to speak on amendments to a Bill. When a Bill returns to the House, as a Government backbencher I will not have an opportunity to speak on those amendments. I ask Ministers to bring forward Bills which are as complete as possible so that the House can discuss the full Bill in detail. I contend that if the Minister is required to introduce amendments to a Bill it shows a flaw within the Department, that the Bill has not been examined in detail.

I note that in cases of legislative changes put before the House, such legislative provisions may already have been enacted in other jurisdictions – I refer in particular to UK legislation which will also apply in Northern Ireland. I ask why such legislation cannot be adapted for use in this jurisdiction if it is suitable. There in no point in re-inventing the wheel. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, stated that the UK situation was referred to when considering the regulatory impact assessment. As my colleague from Sinn Féin noted, UK legislation is implemented in the North of Ireland. Therefore, what is good enough for the North of Ireland should, in certain circumstances, be good enough for here. As my colleague from Sinn Féin also stated, we should consider such legislation in an all-Ireland context. For instance, some construction companies operate on both sides of the Border and the legislation enacted in the UK a number of years ago should have been implemented here as well.

I refer to the provisions in the Bill with regard to payments and staged payments. I cite the example of a tender for a school building in my village of Kill. A contract was awarded to a company but the dogs in the street knew that the company was going to the wall. I could not understand why the contract was not subsequently awarded to the next best company on the tendering list. Instead, the work was re-tendered and another year passed before the school was built and the children had to work in damp prefabs and old school buildings. I urge the Minister when he reviews this Bill to present the amendments for debate in the House if possible. My key point is that when Bills are brought before the Dáil I ask that they be as complete as possible so that we can discuss them fully and have as few amendments as possible.

ENDS