As we emerge from the plethora of COVID-19 legislation, the focus of the Government Legislation Programme (the Programme) has returned to tackling the challenges facing society and communities generally. The Programme contains 46 priority pieces of legislation (Bills). The Government Chief Whip, Jack Chambers TD, in unveiling the legislative programme described it as “an exciting and ambitious agenda of work”. However, experience tells us that there is no guarantee that all the promised Bills will be published.
You can access the full programme here.
Unsurprisingly, housing looms large in the Programme. Four key pieces of housing legislation are promised to provide for the construction of large scale housing developments and to strengthen tenants’ rights to remain in their home.
The Housing and Residential Tenancies Bill will provide tenancies of “indefinite duration” and outline a statutory definition of a “deposit". There are two bills which plan to amend the current planning legislation.
The first is the Planning and Development (Amendment) (LSRD) Bill. Its aim is the introduction of new arrangements for “large-scale residential developments” (LSRD). This will allow for up to 30% of the gross floor space of the proposed development to be for commercial use.
The second is the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, which is designed to accelerate the planning application process and for appeal decisions of An Bord Pleanála, to be made within a period of 12 weeks.
Finally, the Construction Industry Regulation Bill will provide for a mandatory statutory register of builders, contractors and specialist sub-contractors. Currently, the register of builders is operated by the Construction Industry Federation as a voluntary register.
Several bills propose to provide for better policing and to enhance court administration. The European Arrest Warrant (Amendment) Bill will speed up the process of authenticating European arrest warrants. This will allow for these warrants to be emailed to the Chief State Solicitor and printed as an original document. The Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill will place statutory obligations on government departments and public service bodies to cooperate with each other and the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill will allow for the use of ‘body cams’ by Gardaí. It will provide a legal basis for the use of other recording devices like mobile phones, hand-held cameras and drones on an ad hoc basis. The long awaited judicial appointments commission for the independent recommendation and appointment of judges will be provided for in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
Of interest to road users, is the Road Traffic Bill, which will cater to the much sought after regulation of e-scooters and electric bicycles.
Five bills relating to health include the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill to provide a legal framework in this area. Another bill is concerned with providing an enhanced legal framework for organ donation and transplantation.
The Birth Information and Tracing Bill will enable adopted persons to access birth and early life information. The Child Care (Amendment - Guardian Ad Litem) Bill will amend the existing Guardian ad litem provisions by providing for a national process for the appointment and assignment of these guardians to childcare cases. The Sick Leave Bill aims to introduce a statutory sick pay scheme of 10 sick days per year for workers by 2025. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill envisages large scale changes to the media landscape by the establishment of a multi-person Media Commission, to include an Online Safety Commissioner and a regulatory framework for online safety to address harmful online content.
The legislative programme for Autumn 2021 is ambitious and comprehensive in scope. The housing and health provisions are likely to be the most pressing, given the public pressure for change and progress in these areas.
For more information on the Government Legislation Programme, contact a member of our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.