Without going back over what I have said already, I had been making the case very strongly that we should indicate in this Bill particular consideration for the Gaeltacht areas as is the case in many other facets of government. We should indicate that we have in mind specifically these areas of the country and the people who live in them. We are determined in so far as possible to insert a section that will assist the Gaeltacht.
Financial Resolutions. - Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I am doubtful yet as to what the Opposition mean by their amendment. I take it the amendment purports to enable planning control to be operated with due regard to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. That is what it says but it does not spell out what are those interests nor does it give any indication as to how they would operate. I hope these matters will be clarified during the debate.
Deputy Faulkner listed his accomplishments, as Minister for the Gaeltacht at the time, and said that these things had been done. They were done under the 1963 Act which does not contain the words now proposed to be inserted by the Opposition. That did not prevent Deputy Faulkner, his successor Deputy O'Donnell or anybody else from doing the things that needed to be done. For the life of me I cannot see what exactly the Opposition want done. When we refer to the Gaeltacht we usually refer to the old Gaeltacht in the west. There are two Gaeltacht areas in my constituency.
Very good ones.
Yes. One in particular, Rathcairn, is a very good one. They have factories there and they will have one in Gibbstown very shortly. The Planning Act does not in any way interfere with them. What I do not want to see happen—and I want to make this very clear—is something being inserted which would give the impression that there is some special provision being made, because what is suggested in the amendment would not mean a damn thing in so far as the administration of the Planning Act is concerned.
I know that the people who have spoken about this are genuine in their interest in the Gaeltacht areas. At the same time I dislike intensely this question of lip service—and without being offensive I suggest that the insertion of the words would simply be paying lip service to the Gaeltacht, saying: all right, this is what we are doing for you. God knows there has been so much promised them under various headings. What is needed in the Gaeltacht is something to keep the people there. It appeared from some things said here before lunch that there was an impression that the Gaeltacht, in some way, could be cut away—at least that is what I took out of it—from the rest of the country; that they were places where only people who were Irish speakers should be allowed.
Not at all.
That is the impression I got and I am entitled to express my opinion. I said that I felt this was a wrong approach and that it would not be a way in which we would be able to maintain the Gaeltacht areas.
It has been claimed that certain developments proposed in Gaeltacht areas are delayed or experiencing difficulties because there is no provision in the law of the kind now proposed. I cannot see why this should be so. Development in any area may be refused planning permission for valid reasons, because it might create a serious traffic hazard, pollution or something like that. That applies equally to Gaeltacht areas, but special efforts to overcome the difficulties should be made in such areas.
One instance of planning permission being held up was referred to this morning. The Parliamentary Secretary informs me that, on appeal, he granted permission for a building refused at local level. As long as there exists the right of appeal, as of now, to the Minister, or to the new planning board, there can be no question of somebody at local level preventing development in the Gaeltacht because the words proposed to be inserted by way of amendment are not in the section. Quite honestly I cannot see the merit of their insertion at all.
If the amendment means anything it means that development should be allowed irrespective of other planning considerations. I am quite sure that is not what is intended. But, if it is not what is intended, would somebody please spell out for me what exactly is intended? "Regard may be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language": what exactly is meant by those words What will be achieved by their insertion? In what way will the treatment of a planning application be affected? Remember we are dealing here only with planning applications and appeals. In what way would a planning application in the Gaeltacht be dealt with differently were this inserted as compared with the law as it stands? It has not prevented the present Minister or his predecessor from doing what they felt necessary in the Gaeltacht areas. Possibly one result of its insertion would be that planning authorities would interpret the proposed provision in a different way, that they would see it as an extra criterion intended to be operated restrictively. That is one way of looking at it. But I should be glad if the Opposition would confine themselves to this issue: what benefit to the Gaeltacht will accrue from the insertion of those words?
During his rather lengthy explanation the Minister said we were seeking to make the Gaeltacht something special, to isolate it from the rest of the country and confine it to Irish speakers. This is very wide of the mark. The first point is valid: we want to make it something special.
It is special.
Not in this Bill.
Whether the Bill is there or not.
It is not. Let us take the whole ambit of planning. First of all, there are county development plans. We want to ensure that the plans created and which may be revised now—will place emphasis on Gaeltacht area development in a particular local authority area; that that development will include——
Perhaps I may help Deputy Cunningham. The sections quoted in the amendment do not relate to the development plan. I mention that merely to short-circuit the discussion.
What we seek to do in this section is ensure that planners whether at local level or at central Government will bear in mind proper development of the Gaeltacht. It is wrong of the Minister to argue that we should not give special planning considerations to the Gaeltacht because we do so in other Departments. In practically every other Department there are special facilities and considerations given to the operation of a particular Department in the Gaeltacht areas. For instance, there are the county development plans. A local authority should be able to make exceptions for any reasons, be they economic, cultural or otherwise, in a Gaeltacht area. For instance Bord Fáilte grant special concessions to certain areas, grants will not be available for the erection of hotels in certain areas but there will be in others. In a planning sense it may be necessary to have less stringent considerations applicable in the Gaeltacht areas than in others. If we must contravene a county development plan in respect of the Gaeltacht we should indicate that that was the intention of this House, when drawing up this measure, that it is a guideline to planners and the people who will operate the provisions of the Bill.
I went so far as to suggest earlier that the planning appeal board, which will be set up by the Minister, should have somebody from the new Udarás na Gaeltachta and in county development plans provision should be made for the Gaeltacht areas to have names of factories, hotels and other signs in Irish. Maybe it is possible to do a lot of these things without the amendment, but by inserting it we give a hallmark to it, which is discernible to planners and those operating planning legislation in Gaeltacht areas.
The Fianna Fáil Party take a very strong view about the matter under discussion. They have very strong feelings that the amendment should be accepted. We are quite satisfied that the amendment, as worded, meets the situation we are anxious to see achieved in this Bill. Our satisfaction in that matter is confirmed by the knowledge that the wording of that amendment, as included in the list of amendments in my name, has been carried out by parliamentary draftsmen and officers of the Department of Local Government.
There is no way in which the Minister can come back and say that what we are anxious to achieve might be worth while but it cannot be achieved under the amendment as worded, that if we withdraw it he will have another look at and possibly come back with an amendment on Report Stage. We have had that approach from the Minister time and time again and on a number of occasions we have accepted the Minister's good intentions and have withdrawn our amendments on the ground that he will come forward with something on the next Stage. We are fully satisfied that the way the amendment is worded is the best possible way it can be. The wording is nearly identical to what was put forward in 1968. Some words have been omitted but they are not important. I deemed they were not that important and in the Bill, which was being prepared before we left office, I intended leaving them out. I left them out in this amendment but as it stands the amendment is properly constructed.
Before one debates an amendment such as this one must establish if it is Government policy to encourage the growth of the Gaeltacht areas and if it is Government policy to encourage and develop the Irish language, in its use and in every other form. If the Government are opposed to either of those aims then I can see why they would oppose our amendment. The Minister may be opposed to one of those aims but indications have been given by the Government that they support the development of the Gaeltacht areas. In order that special consideration be given to Gaeltacht areas to help foster those parts of the country where the Irish language is spoken by the people and in order to foster its continued use, the Fianna Fáil Party set about introducing special aids to encourage people to live there, to try to make life easy for people living there and create employment opportunities so that the young people need not go on the emigrant ship or seek migratory jobs in other parts of the country. These policies were actively and successfully promoted by Fianna Fáil when in Government. In order to achieve the success we did in the Gaeltacht it involved higher rates of grants in nearly every area of development. These included special house grants, road grants, fishery grants and grants on every aspect of economic life in the Gaeltacht. We had a policy to give extra assistance and provide greater incentive there than in any other part of the country.
In the 1963 Planning Act it was not felt that the Government's policy in relation to the development of the Gaeltacht and the fostering of the Irish language might in any way be hindered through the operation of that Act. It would have been difficult to foresee that at that stage. During the years that Act has been in operation several instances have come to light where the Government's policy was not given recognition by local authorities when dealing with planning matters for the Gaeltacht areas. The planning authorities rightly claimed that nowhere in the Planning Act did it state that, in deciding planning applications or even in drawing up development plans, there was any obligation on them to make special provision for the Government's policy in relation to the development of the Gaeltacht or the Irish language.
That omission came to light and caused some difficulty over the years. Mr. Boland, who was Minister for Local Government prior to my appointment, first became aware of this and took steps to have a section included in a Bill. That Bill had not gone through the House by the time I became Minister. My contribution to that Bill was certain major changes. I proposed the major change, which the Minister has continued, of establishing a planning board. Mr. Boland was not going that far and the previous Government decision was not going that far but I felt strongly about the establishment of a planning board and won support for that idea from my colleagues in Government.
The Minister knows that the preparation of that Bill was well under way. One of the sections which I indicated quite clearly was to be included in the Bill was the one Mr. Boland had prepared, although in slightly amended form, that is the one in relation to special consideration for the Gaeltacht areas. Most of the proposals in relation to the Planning Bill, which were discussed in my time, have been included in some form or other in this Bill. Others have been added by the Minister and he has made certain changes on the proposals floating around at that time. He has agreed to most of the principles I had got agreement for from my colleagues. We have the establishment of the planning board in this Bill but when it was published I was surprised to see he omitted the provisions in relation to the Gaeltacht. This indicated to me a certain lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Government in pursuing any policy in relation to the Gaeltacht or the Irish language.
Most of the policies they have followed in this field since they came into office have done more damage than good. There has been a lot of publicity seeking on the part of the Minister appointed in charge of the Gaeltacht but outside that there is very little result to be seen for those efforts in the Gaeltacht.
We are here debating this amendment which is introduced to place the obligation on planning authorities when deciding planning applications that arise in Gaeltacht areas that they must keep in mind the special policy the Government have in relation to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. If the Minister wants to leave that out I can only come to the conclusion that the Government do not want to have any special consideration given to the Gaeltacht and do not want to pursue a policy of special encouragement for the growth of the Gaeltacht areas in comparison with other areas.
The Minister does not want to see barriers but they are already there. There is the language difference, which makes the area special. If the Government are sincere about the language, as the Fianna Fáil Party are, then he cannot but support the amendment. So far he has been opposing it. Something which highlights the necessity for an amendment of this kind is the fact that our Gaeltacht areas, with the exception of the Gaeltacht in County Meath, are in high amenity areas which have their own special planning difficulties. The main topographical features in these areas are mountains, lakes, rivers, moors and seascapes. With all the attempts in development plans throughout the coastal counties to try to preserve the scenic beauty of these areas for future generations one can see that it will increase planning strictures. The difficult counties as far as planning are concerned are these coastal areas and, in many cases, they are Gaeltacht areas.
Where a development is considered necessary or advantageous to the Gaeltacht but is deemed to be obstructive in a certain location the primary overall Government policy in relation to the development of the Gaeltacht must be taken into consideration. In such a case permission must be granted and the reason given for granting that permission can state that, taking into consideration the new section we are proposing which seeks to bear in mind the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language, the decision was made to grant permission. A statement to that effect must be adequate to justify allowing a building which was obtrusive and, in normal circumstances, would possibly have been refused. Gaeltacht areas should be given special consideration and in that sense the planning laws should not be applied as rigidly as they are intended to be applied elsewhere.
Another aspect to this has been highlighted in Spiddal in County Galway. An application was put forward for a housing development in that area on behalf of Luxury Homes, Limited.
It is not fair to mention a company.
Look, sonny, all the things done by you have not been fair to the community. The Parliamentary Secretary is the last one who should try that.
It is the Deputy who has sinned. The Deputy should tell us about Barna.
The Parliamentary Secretary should tell us about the trip to him about the Circular Road application in Galway.
The community in Spiddal are very conscious of the fact that they are a Gaeltacht area. They are proud of the Irish language heritage which is theirs and are anxious to foster it. Active groups are working in the area to achieve those aims. This housing scheme was approved by Galway County Council. The feeling in the Spiddal area is that the houses which could be very expensive are not being built for local people. That intention is obvious to one who knows the average income of the people living within five or six miles of that area. Those people feel that those houses will be only within the reach of persons who are employed in Galway city who may not have any interest in the language or knowledge of it. The fear is that they will buy the houses because they like the location. A very difficult situation is arising.
The people fear that if the application is allowed—it is the subject of an appeal at present—and the houses are sold to 20 families who have no knowledge or interest in the Irish language their children will be sent to school in Galway city where they can learn through English—the local school teaches through the medium of Irish. Those children will be reared outside the environment of Spiddal and they will lose the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the language They will be a strong communityvis-á-vis the total population in that area. Approval of this application could mean that a strong English-speaking influence would be introduced into the heart of a solid Gaeltacht village. If the company concerned applied for 100 houses and if they complied with the Planning Act, if the provisions for effluent were suitable, the supply of water was adequate and the site was suitable, the council would find themselves in a position of having to grant permission. If 100 families settled in Spiddal in houses out of the reach of local people they would be introduced in one concentration into the heart of a Gaeltacht village. The effect of that must be obvious to anyone who is concerned about preserving and encouraging the development of the Gaeltachta and to get more people outside these areas to speak Irish.
That can happen as the law stands at present. Galway County Council cannot take into consideration any of these factors. The council ignores completely the fact that the Government have a policy in relation to the Irish language. In my view that must come first if there is to be sincerity in trying to implement that policy. Luxury Homes Limited propose to build 20 homes in Spiddal——
It is customary not to mention the names of companies.
The company has been discussed in newspapers, on radio and television so many times that there is no question of nobody not knowing the name of the company involved. If 20 English-speaking families move in there will be a real problem. The local community council have lodged their objections to this application. They are upset about the matter. Down the years there has been criticism of county councils who have Gaeltachts in their area. The size of the Gaeltacht in comparison to the size of the county would be a small percentage—in Galway it is less than a quarter of the county's size. There would not be a quarter of the population of the county living in those areas. For this reason they will not get special consideration from the county council and they have complained that the opposite is happening. We must provide in this legislation protection against discrimination agianst them and we should see to it that they are given special consideration, which is what the Government want them to get. The Government should either forget about the Gaeltacht and the Irish language policy and tell the people they are not interested or, if they are, they must support the amendment.
The sections of the Principal Act referred to in the amendment are sections 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 37. If I quote some of those the House will see the necessity for my amendment. Section 26 (1) reads:
...the planning authority shall be restricted to considering the proper planning and development of the area of the authority (including the preservation and improvement of the amenities thereof), regard being had to the provisions of the development plan, the provisions of any special amenity order relating to the said area...
There is no reference to the Government's policy in relation to the Gaeltacht or to the overall national Government policy in relation to the Irish language. Section 26 restricts them merely to the proper planning and development of the area. Section 27 (1) (b) says the same thing:
...the planning authority shall be restricted to considering the proper planning and development of the area of the authority...
and so on. Section 30 also provides this. This line will be found in all of these sections. That is the gospel of the planning authority—proper planning and development. That is a physical thing. There is no allowance whatsoever for consideration of anything outside of that.
We say that when the application is in a Gaeltacht area the council must be allowed to take note of it being a Gaeltacht area and must take note of the Government's policy in relation to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. Our amendment must be written into the Bill to protect the Gaeltacht community who are very special but who are ignored as if they did not exist in all of their planning legislation. If decisions similar to the one made by Galway County Council in Spiddal were to continue to be made without any regard being had to the Gaeltacht then I can see the Gaeltacht area being destroyed. Even though the economy of this country has been allowed to be run down by the Government to a state where we are in a deep recession, I have hopes that the Government will not last that long and that with a change of government we will be able to get this country moving again economically and be able to create employment opportunities and opportunities for development and that we will see some improvement in investment in the country. It is obvious that a change of government would be necessary, having regard to the disaster we have had up to now and the weak attempt at remedial measures we had today. If that does come about, if a climate of confidence and investment can be generated——
This is hardly relevant.
Of course it is. If you would wait——
I have waited a long time now.
If that situation can be brought about and the position is arrived at where people are investing money in the construction of houses I can see planning applications being submitted to the authorities in Gaeltacht areas which are, in the main, as I said, scenic, high amenity areas, pleasant places in which to live, very attractive places if you are comfortably off, very tough indeed for people living there who sometimes are not very well off; but the position has been improving.
Thanks to the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Deputy O'Donnell.
That is just a joke in the Gaeltacht now. There is no point in following that one up. If there are a series of these applications such as that in Spiddal I can see the Gaeltacht being destroyed. Where will these people go? They will go right into the heart of the existing villages where the councils and the Government have been providing services over the last ten years where piped water and sewerage facilities have been laid on. They will build schemes of 50, 60 and 100 houses at high prices for English-speaking people, second holiday homes for some and community homes for others who will be working in the industrial areas in the city. At the moment there is no way in which the local authority can stop such developments and very little the Minister can do unless he gives himself power in the legislation. They will be going into Inverin, Lochán Beag, Carraroe, Carna, Lettermore and Lettermullen—wherever they find facilities provided, and you can say goodbye to the Gaeltacht. It will be the Planning Act that will destroy the Gaeltacht possibly in ten years but definitely in 25 years. This development has already started in some areas, any part of the Gaeltacht that is close to an area that has been expanded. Galway city experienced growth for a period of 15 years. It has been hit like every other place at present. There is not much growth there now. The building industry has stopped, factories are closing, no new jobs being provided, people on the dole.
However, we are not pessimistic enough to believe the Coalition will stay in power forever and that there will not be a change and confidence brought back. When it does, people have to be housed, and even in that period of 15 years people have been acquiring property all around the roads, wherever they can get permission. In many cases these people have no interest in the Gaeltacht and have become a foreign influence there. There is great danger in this, and if the Minister cannot see it I do not know what words I can use to get the message across to him. However, that is what we are anxious to provide for, and I would appeal to him to accept the amendment.
At long last we really have got the thought behind this amendment. Deputy Molloy at great length told us that only a certain type of person should live in the Gaeltacht. It is regrettable and it is a reflection on any Irishman that he should suggest where any person, whether he speaks Irish or English, should spend his life, whether it is in the Gaeltacht, in the Breac-Ghaeltacht or here in Dublin. That is completely irrelevant. This amendment is put down for one reason, that is, to give Deputy Molloy a chance to make a speech about what Fianna Fáil have done for the Gaeltacht. The people of the Gaeltacht are sick and tired of listening to what Fianna Fáil have done for them, and the proof of that is in the bye-election in West Galway, when the combined votes of Labour and Fine Gael outflanked Fianna Fáil. This is a dying effort to retrieve the ground that was lost. Deputy Molloy need not worry. The people of the Gaeltacht are safe with the National Coalition, and the proof of our concern for them is that there was another £1,500,000 given for the Gaeltacht in today's budget. That is positive proof of where the heart of this Government lies in regard to the Gaeltacht.
In the Kerry Gaeltacht we have a special county development plan drawn up for the Gaeltacht, tailored to meet the needs of the Gaeltacht. In that plan we shall probably be more lenient than we would normally be in so far as proposals for giving employment in the Gaeltacht are concerned. If an industrialist came into the Kerry Gaeltacht and put his eye on a certain spot, if it was regarded as a special amenity area, in the green belt, or the blue belt or whatever you wish to call it, the industrialist will decide where he wants to go and, if we can provide the necessary water and sewerage and any other facilities that may be required, he will build his factory, having got planning permission to do so.
It is very wrong that a member of this House should take the opportunity of castigating an industrialist prepared to go into the Gaeltacht, establish an industry there and build a certain number of houses for his employees, especially when the matter is under appeal. Raising it here in this House could create a hostile attitude or engender an unwelcome hysteria. I do not know who the man is. I do not know the first thing about him. What I do know is that he should not be castigated here in the fashion he was. He is prepared to provide employment and I am quite sure he did not specify that the houses he is building were for any particular nationality. Hisbona fides should have been accepted. If the wrong type of person was going into these houses, as Deputy Molloy suggested, there might be reason for complaint. To baldly state that 20 families were going to come into Spiddal and bastardise the area is to me quite shocking. Our own emigrants in England and in the United States of America could easily decide to spend the end of their days in the area in which they were born. Would Deputy Molloy deprive them of doing that? What has the Fianna Fáil Party come to?
Deputy Faulkner was not here to experience Deputy Molloy's outburst. The western counties have borne the brunt of emigration and these emigrants are quite entitled to come back to their different Gaeltachta and pass on to the young people there the knowhow they have learned in other countries. It is regrettable that any Fianna Fáil Deputy would try to deprive these people of the right to come back, but that is the kind of amendment Deputy Molloy wants made in this Bill. It should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
Anyone should be free to build a house in any part of Ireland provided he complies with planning regulations. This debate is being used as a propaganda ploy by Fianna Fáil. The argument is that the people in the Gaeltacht are getting grants. They would not be getting grants unless they were entitled to them.
Did anyone say they were not?
The suggestion was that Fianna Fáil gave them these grants and they would lose the grants if Fianna Fáil did not get back into power. How many times did we hear that argument? The people in the Gaeltacht today are quite sophisticated and quite mature. They are not easily taken in. They are prepared to welcome back the emigrant, the national from another county or the foreigner who is prepared to live in the locality and create employment for the people there. Nationals in other counties have as much Irish now as the people who have lived all their lives in the Gaeltacht.
This amendment is a ploy. Fianna Fáil want to give special status to the Gaeltacht. Deputy Molloy would have planning restrictions on houses if Gaeltacht people were not going to live in them, people who know and use the Irish language and are prepared to use Irish on all occasions. I was born in the Gaeltacht and all belonging to me were born in the Gaeltacht. As far as I am concerned, anyone who wants to come and live in the Gaeltacht and provide employment there is welcome. "Special" is not defined in this amendment. Any industrialist will have to bring in technicians, be they Dutch, French, German or anything else, in order to develop his industry. These technicians must be housed. According to Deputy Molloy, they should not be housed because they will adversely affect the area. Deputy Molloy is making a desperate effort to retrieve lost ground. His argument here could close the door to every industrialist anxious to establish industry and create jobs in the Gaeltacht.
The face of our Minister for the Gaeltacht, Deputy Tom O'Donnell, is as well known all over the Gaeltacht as that of Arthur Guinness. The people have confidence in him. He has achieved a great deal for the people. Deputy Molloy is not with it any more. I would advise him now to give credit to the Minister who has renewed hope in the people of the Gaeltacht, the man who has brought industry to the Gaeltacht, the man who got £1½ million for the people of the Gaeltacht today.
What section are we on?
Let the Deputy take some of his own medicine for a change. This is a two-way traffic. The people in the Gaeltacht have confidence in this Government. Deputy Molloy would have it that the Gaeltacht is finished if this amendment is not accepted. The people will not be threatened any more. They are, as I say, more sophisticated and more mature now and they know what is good for them. If Fianna Fáil were honest and stated openly that "special" meant planning restrictions as far as the Gaeltacht is concerned they should say so. I do not know what "special" consideration means in planning terms for the people living in Gaeltacht areas. Deputy Molloy has one interpretation. He says that the special consideration should mean that any group of people or any contractor, whatever his name, if he wants to build a group of houses in the Gaeltacht should be denied that right unless he could tell the local planning authority that only Gaeltacht people, native speakers, would live in those houses. What have we come to? Are we going to build a wall around the people of the Gaeltacht? Are we going to make Indian reservations of the Gaeltacht areas?
If industrialists, immigrants or well wishers—and there are many well wishers—want to build a holiday home in the Gaeltacht, or commute, that is their business. While they are building their houses they are giving employment locally. They come to the Gaeltacht for their summer holidays and allow their children to play with the Gaeltacht children, or even to go to Gaeltacht schools, to improve their Irish. It is not for Deputy Molloy to decide where these people will build their houses.
The more I look at this amendment the more convinced I am it should be rejected. It is farcical. I hope Deputy Molloy will see the light and withdraw the amendment. From 1961 to 1971, over 10,000 people left the Gaeltacht We had a steadying-off from 1972 to 1975. The people are staying there now because they have confidence in the present Minister and know he is interested in them.
Which Minister is the Parliamentary Secretary speaking about. He is sitting in on behalf of the Minister for Local Government.
I am speaking of the Minister for the Gaeltacht. I am speaking in a joint capacity. I am a Gaeltacht man myself and proud of it.
The Minister has a Gaeltacht area in his constituency.
And he has two industries for the Gaeltacht.
And he still does not accept the amendment.
Deputy Molloy spelt out what he means by special consideration, which is, that if a group of houses are being built in the Gaeltacht only a special type of person would be entitled to live in them. If they could not speak Irish or give an undertaking to do everything through Irish, they should not be allowed live there. I do not know if that is Deputy Faulkner's interpretation. He was Minister for the Gaeltacht and should know that if a Gaeltacht is to survive——
And though I say it myself I did a good job.
Let us examine the planning permissions given by Deputy Molloy to the Gaeltacht areas and apply that criterion. You will be running from here to Galway——
The Deputy came in five minutes ago and does not know what he is talking about.
I can tell all about Barna.
Let the Deputy examine the permission he gave for hotels in his own area.
I will say it outside the House, too.
The Parliamentary Secretary, without interruption, please.
This amendment has not made the points Deputy Molloy wanted. The only point he made was that a special type of person should live in the Gaeltacht. For that reason alone the amendment should be rejected. Every county development team should have a special plan for the Gaeltacht, as we have in Kerry. I do not know the score in Galway or Donegal. I cannot say if they have a special development plan for the Gaeltacht in County Meath. Unless it is clearly spelt out what "special" means this amendment means nothing.
The Parliamentary Secretary did his job. When the Minister left he was told to keep talking, if necessary, until the Minister got back. I congratulate him on a very good parish pump speech.
Let us take the case he mentioned of an industrialist wanting to build a factory in the Gaeltacht. This amendment wants to ensure that he will get planning permission without strict reference to the provisions of this Bill. In other words, when planning permission is granted, reference is had to only planning considerations, as spelt out in the Bill. At no time was this section more necessary than now. In the past we had Ministers who were favourably disposed towards the Gaeltacht areas. I am sure the Minister for Local Government is also favourably disposed towards the policy of this, and past, Governments to the fostering and development of the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas.
When a planning appeal came before past Ministers—I am sure the same applies to the present Minister and Parliamentary Secretary—he was in a position to say that that factory was for the Gaeltacht. The planning authority may have recommended that it should not be granted or, if it is, there may be an appeal by a third party to the Minister. The Minister, in carrying out Government policy towards the Gaeltacht areas, can grant planning permission despite the facts of planning considerations. This has been done as the Minister knows. Advance factories were built in Gweedore. The local authority could have refused planning permission. We were lucky that we had a local authority who were favourably disposed to building these factories.
We are writing into this Bill by way of this amendment, a statement which says that special consideration must be given, as far as planning is concerned, to Gaeltacht areas. The situation is very different under this Bill. Under this Bill the Minister will be setting up an appeals board——
The House will.
——and on that board will be technical planners. One will be a high court judge or whatever the decision is. Another may be an expert planner. I am suggesting that somebody from Údarás na Gaeltachta should be selected as a member of that board. Unless special consideration is given to Gaeltacht affairs, the board will decide planning appeals purely and simply on planning considerations and nothing else. No regard will be had to whether a refusal of a planning appeal deprives a Gaeltacht area of a factory, or a hotel development, or an industry or a fish-processing industry. Naturally a fish-processing industry must be located close to the sea.
Which was planned by Fianna Fáil.
But never carried out.
The fish factory at Rossaveal was opened by Deputy Colley. The Deputy does not know what he is talking about.
You could have a pure planner who would feel he was bound by this Planning Bill and who would not take into account anything other than purely planning considerations. This amendment is necessary because it will be a technical planning appeals board who will eventually decide on planning appeals. Under the previous Act a Minister could use his discretion and Ministers, including the present Minister, have done this. A board might not be as likely to lean in favour of a planning appeal from a Gaeltacht area. Therefore it is necessary to write the amendment into the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary made some points which were so silly that I do not want to follow them.
The Deputy has no answer to them.
He purported to quote statements from previous speakers which were not made. He misquoted. I want to spell out clearly Fianna Fáil policy.
The Deputy wants to put them all around the Gaeltacht.
We want to build factories and hotels.
There will have to be houses for the people.
We want to build houses and more houses. We want to develop the fishing industry and the ancillary industries. We want to make this amendment so that that can be done more expeditiously than heretofore.
I have been asking for some reason why this amendment should be made. Deputy Cunningham has now given me a reason. He is saying he wants preferential treatment for the Gaeltacht.
He wants preferential treatment.
The word in the amendment is "special".
He wants a situation in which the normal planning laws will not apply to the Gaeltacht. Why does he not say so? I understand that earlier Deputy Molloy made the point Deputy Faulkner made last night about luxury houses. Can we get this clear? The reason this amendment is introduced is that Fianna Fáil do not want luxury houses built in the Gaeltacht by people who are not Irish speakers.
The Minister is doing nicely now.
The Minister is not correct.
I understand Deputy Faulkner said this last night. I was not here.
Deputy Molloy repeated it.
The suggestion is that a scheme of luxury houses should not be built if people are not Irish speakers. Deputy Cunningham now says he wants the amendment written in so that the planning board can give special consideration to the Gaeltacht areas. In other words, the planning board he does not trust to give a fair decision must be given the option of giving that decision and the normal planning laws will not apply to applications from the Gaeltacht.
I did not say that.
Let me interpret it and Deputy Cunningham can tell me where I misinterpreted him. Is not that fair?
It is not fair that the Minister should misquote me.
It is so difficult to follow Deputy Cunningham sometimes that I am sure I can be excused if I misquote him. The Opposition spokesman on Local Government, Deputy Faulkner, told us today about the things he did in that field when he was Minister for the Gaeltacht—about factories and so on—which he found no difficulty in doing under the existing law.
I pointed out that there were difficulties. At the moment there is a difficulty.
The matters the Deputy had difficulty about were subject to appeal. I cannot follow Deputy Cunningham's argument. He seems to be saying the planning laws should be there but, if somebody wants to build a factory in the Gaeltacht even if there are good planning reasons why it should not be built there, it should be built there because it would give employment.
That is what the Parliamentary Secretary just said while the Minister was not here.
He went further.
He is not denying it.
I said we had a county development plan.
Deputy Cunningham said it should be allowed if it would give employment. He said that, while any Minister might allow it, the planning board might not allow it because it might not be good planning. He wants this written in because in some peculiar way it would ensure that the planning board would do that. If that factory were proposed to be built somewhere else where there was a lot of unemployment, and where it would not be good planning to allow it, would Deputy Cunningham say that because there was a lot of unemployment that area should be deprived of a factory?
Why does he make a special case that it would be done in one area and not in another? We are right back to where we started. It has been suggested that when Fianna Fáil were in office they were able to do wonderful things for the Gaeltacht although they were operating under the 1963 Planning Act. We now have an improved Bill which allows the same things to be done. The Minister for the Gaeltacht has been doing these things, as is evident to everybody, and he will continue to do them.
Deputy Faulkner, Deputy Cunningham and Deputy Molloy want a section put into the Bill. The wording is rather interesting: "...regard may be had to the special interests of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language." This is to be put into a Planning Bill. I still do not know what on earth they are talking about. I believe the same planning laws must apply all over the country. The local authority will make their decision and the planning board will make their decision on the evidence before them. The same regulations should apply inside and outside the Gaeltacht. Whether the Gaeltacht is in Galway, Kerry, Donegal or Meath I believe the regulations should apply in the same way.
We have made our case. Quite obviously we are not on the same wavelength as the Minister and we have no alternative but to press the amendment.
- Allen, Lorcan.
- Andrews, David.
- Barrett, Sylvester.
- Brady, Philip A.
- Brennan, Joseph.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Brosnan, Seán.
- Browne, Seán.
- Brugha, Ruairí.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Callanan, John.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Carter, Frank.
- Colley, George.
- Collins, Gerard.
- Connolloy, Gerard.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Crowley, Flor.
- Cunningham, Liam.
- Daly, Brendan.
- de Valera, Vivion.
- Dowling, Joe.
- Farrell, Joseph.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Fitzgerald, Gene.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
- French, Seán.
- Gallagher, Denis.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Gibbons, Hugh.
- Gibbons, James.
- Gogan, Richard P.
- Haughey, Charles.
- Herbert, Michael.
- Hussey, Thomas.
- Kenneally, William.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Lalor, Patrick J.
- Leonard, James.
- Loughnane, William.
- Lynch, Celia.
- Lynch, Jack.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacSharry, Ray.
- Meaney, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Moore, Seán.
- Murphy, Ciarán.
- Nolan, Thomas.
- Noonan, Michael.
- O'Connor, Timothy.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- Power, Patrick.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Timmons, Eugene.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Wilson, John P.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Barry, Richard.
- Begley, Michael.
- Belton, Luke.
- Belton, Paddy.
- Bermingham, Joseph.
- Bruton, John.
- Burke, Dick.
- Burke, Joan T.
- Burke, Liam.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Clinton, Mark A.
- Cluskey, Frank.
- Collins, Edward.
- Conlan, John F.
- Coogan, Fintan.
- Cooney, Patrick M.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Costello, Declan.
- Coughlan, Stephen.
- Creed, Donal.
- Crotty, Kieran.
- Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
- Desmond, Barry.
- Desmond, Eileen.
- Dockrell, Henry P.
- Dockrell, Maurice.
- Donegan, Patrick S.
- Donnellan, John.
- Dunne, Thomas.
- Enright, Thomas.
- Esmonde, John G.
- Finn, Martin.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
- Flanagan, Oliver J.
- Gilhawley, Eugene.
- Governey, Desmond.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Harte, Patrick D.
- Hegarty, Patrick.
- Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
- Jones, Denis F.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kelly, John.
- Kenny, Henry.
- Kyne, Thomas A.
- L'Estrange, Gerald.
- Lynch, Gerard.
- McDonald, Charles B.
- McLaughlin, Joseph.
- McMahon, Larry.
- Malone, Patrick.
- Murphy, Michael P.
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Donnell, Tom.
- O'Leary, Michael.
- O'Sullivan, John L.
- Pattison, Seamus.
- Reynolds, Patrick J.
- Ryan, John J.
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- White, James.
I move amendment No. 87:
In page 18, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following paragraph before paragraph (a):
"(a) the insertion in section 25 (2) of the following paragraph after paragraph (c):
‘(cc) in cases in which the development to which the application relates will, in the opinion of the relevant planning authority, cost more than an amount specified in the regulations, the furnishing to that authority of a written study of what, if any, effect the proposed development, if carried out, would have on the environment relative to the place where that development is to take place,"'.
It has been represented by a number of bodies that the Bill should provide for the submission of "environmental impact studies" with all applications for permission for projects likely to cost £5 million or more. The purpose of this amendment is to give effect to the proposal by enabling the Minister to incorporate suitable provisions in the permission regulations made under section 25 of the 1963 Act.
The section leaves it to the Minister to decide when making regulations what development will be affected. An Taisce has suggested that those costing over £5 million should have to submit a study with the application for permission and the Minister might decide on a lower figure but still high enough to catch only major applications. The proposal is to some extent experimental and the cost level can be altered in the light of experience, if necessary. I think it is important that it should be included.
Is it the Minister's intention to have the figure £5 million included in the regulations?
It would not be wise to put a figure of £5 million in the regulations because it would mean changing the regulations if it was necessary to change the figure. The figure of £5 million is suggested. It might be too high in some cases; it might be too low.
The amendment says "the amount specified in the regulation".
That is right.
What does the Minister propose to put in the regulations?
The proposal is to put in £5 million.
What does the Minister propose?
Five million pounds. It may be too high or too low. It is an experimental figure. We may have to alter it.
We start off with £5 million?
I move amendment No. 88:
In page 18, line 49, after "the decision" to add "and any conditions".
Section 30 (c) amends section 26 (8) of the 1963 Act which required reasons to be given for decisions only where permission was refused or was granted subject to conditions. The Bill substitutes a new subsection (8) in which paragraph (a) retains the same requirement for decisions by planning authorities on applications and paragraph (b) requires reasons to be given for every decision made on appeal.
The Deputy proposes an addition to paragraph (b) presumably to make it clear that reasons must be given for conditions attached to a permission granted on appeal. In fact, there is no question but that reason must be given. This is clear from the text which goes on to refer to the special case of conditions of a particular type. The amendment relates to a matter of drafting and is unnecessary. I would ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister feels that the words I have proposed are not necessary and that as worded, the section requires an explanation to be given for the conditions?
Yes; it even goes further than that.
I move amendment No. 89:
In page 19, between lines 24 and 25, before paragraph (f) to insert the following paragraphs:
"(f) the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (1) of section 38:
‘(1A) A planning authority in entering into an agreement under this section may join with anybody which is a prescribed authority for the purposes of section 21 of this Act.';
(g) the substitution in section 38 (2) of ‘the planning authority or any body joined with them' for ‘the planning authority' where that expression firstly occurs and of ‘the planning authority or such body, as may be appropriate,' for ‘the planning authority' where the expression secondly occurs; and".
Section 38 of the 1963 Act enables a planning authority to make an agreement with a landowner to restrict or regulate the development or use of land and they are empowered to enforce the agreement against his successors in title. An Taisce have entered into agreements of a similar kind, for example, for preservation of open land on Howth Head, and have requested that certain prescribed authorities be given the same powers as planning authorities to enforce such agreements so that they will not lapse when the owner dies or sells the land.
However, since it is the function of the planning authority to control the development and use of land, the amendment proposed is a compromise. A prescribed authority may negotiate an agreement with a landowner as at present or, if they want it to be enforceable under section 38, they may negotiate the agreement on the basis that the planning authority will become a party to it. Alternatively, they may approach the planning authority first and secure joint negotiations with the landowner. The effect of the new paragraph (g) will be that if the planning authority join with a prescribed authority in any agreement under the section, it may be enforced by either authority against persons deriving title under the landowner with whom it was concluded.
Is that restriction not in the Principal Act?
I move amendment No. 90:
In page 19, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:
"(a) the insertion of the following new section before section 42:
‘41A (1) It shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland.
(2) To enable him to discharge his duty under this section the Minister shall have power to issue from time to time to a planning authority such directives as he considers necessary for this purpose and the planning authority shall comply with such directives."'
What I am seeking to do in this amendment should be clear from its wording. I am concerned, and I know many other Deputies, members of the public and organisations are concerned, with the need to preserve our natural environment. There will be fairly general agreement that in Ireland we are still lucky to have a comparatively unspoiled environment. Relative to other European countries we are fortunate to a considerable degree, but I do not think we can be complacent about the situation.
It is clear that there are continual inroads being made on the natural beauty and fine environment which have been handed down to us as our heritage. I suppose this is inevitable with the demands of economic development, industrialisation and the development of intensive methods of agriculture, and we cannot expect, unless we do something about it, that this will remain for any length of time.
There is widespread recognition of the need for vigilance in this respect. I am more concerned with the natural environment in the sense of the beauty of the countryside and the conservation of that beauty and the many scenic areas we have, the many recreational areas we have and the amenities in rural Ireland, because in so far as our architectural and archaeological heritage is concerned something is being done. Certainly, the planning laws are there to ensure that in so far as urban areas and construction developments are concerned, there is control. I am more concerned with the natural countryside and I believe that in our administrative set-up the situation is not as clear and concise as it should be.
By now, there is a vague recognition that the Minister for Local Government is the appropriate Minister to protect our environment and to have responsibility for its protection. I am not sure that this is at this stage anything more than an informal Government agreement. From time to time there have been controversies between different Departments and, perhaps, different Ministers, as to who has particular responsibility for different matters in the field of conservation and preservation of the natural environment, and I want to make it clear that one Minister will have special responsibility for the very important task of preserving our natural beauty to the greatest extent possible.
I want to place central responsibility on the Minister for Local Government. I want it spelled out in statute that the Minister for Local Government is the Minister responsible, that he has this duty that it is not something he undertakes on the side, as it were—that in addition to his other responsibilities he has casual regard to the need for conservation and preservation. I want it spelled out in statute, and this seems to be the most appropriate statute for doing so, that the Minister for Local Government has a special statutory duty or obligation placed on him by the Oireachtas to undertake this work.
I feel there is a need to do this. By now a situation has evolved, but it is no more than that, whereby the Minister for Local Government is generally regarded by the public, and perhaps by his colleagues, as being the Minister responsible, but this position should be defined by statute. I purport to do that in subsection (1) of my proposed amendment which states:
It shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland.
That is a straightforward expression of what his duty is. In my proposed subsection (2) I go on to confer powers on him in discharge of that duty placed on him by subsection (1). I propose to give him the power from time to time to issue to a planning authority such directives as he considers necessary for this purpose. That is a necessary power to give to the Minister if he is to be enabled to discharge the responsibility subsection (1) places on him.
Without purporting to have any unjustifiable pride of authorship, this is a commendable amendment because what it suggests is something which ought to be done. The Minister should be charged specifically with this responsibility. He should have this power in the interest of the protection of the environment, in addition to any other planning powers he has. To some extent he is to be removed now from planning matters because of the handing over of planning appeal work to the new board. There is some anxiety for me in this because I like to think that whatever aberrations local authorities might engage in from time to time, there is a central figure, someone who would always have regard in planning matters to the need to preserve and conserve our environment.
Because of the pressures on them, it is understandable that local authorities might not always have due regard to environmental considerations. Up to now at least the Minister was there as a person with overall responsibility who could to some extent be relied on to ensure that conservation matters were not overlooked entirely in the administration of planning laws. Because he is being removed from this capacity it is all the more necessary that the Minister should have this specific power to direct planning authorities on environmental matters as he deems necessary.
I am aware that in various indirect ways in the planning laws the Minister has some powers which would enable him in certain circumstances to take action in regard to the environment, but he could act only in that way in so far as these matters would arise on planning matters. I wish him to have separate and distinct authority as the environment Minister to ensure that anything that needs to be done to preserve our natural environment in any part of the country will be done, and this specific power to give a directive, a directive which would have no justification other than being given in pursuance of his responsibility and his duty to preserve our natural environment.
I see a great need for this amendment and I trust that the Minister will be prepared to consider it favourably.
I support this amendment. As Deputy Haughey said, there has been always a considerable amount of controversy as to who was responsible for the protection of the environment. Some years ago there was anad hoc type of agreement in relation to this question. During my term of office as Minister for Lands I remember that Department being the centre of the question. There were always arguments as to who was responsible for an area above or below a certain line on a mountain. This is a matter of great importance and it would be of considerable help in the protection of the environment if a Minister were responsible. As Deputy Haughey has said, while we may have suffered in this country to some extent as a result of our industrial development, our environment is in a very much better state of preservation than is the case in the more highly developed industrialised countries.
We are in a position to take the necessary steps to preserve our natural amenities. We can learn much from the industrialised countries in relation to the various problems they had to cope with. In some instances they were too late in attending to these problems to overcome them. We can learn from them in that respect, too.
The Minister is in the best possible position to acquire the necessary information and advice and to apply it where necessary. This ought to be highlighted in the Bill so that not only will the Minister be the responsible authority in this respect but that he will have the power to put into effect the authority and responsibility he would have if this amendment were adopted. I, too, ask the Minister to consider the amendment favourably.
This is a planning Bill and I am grateful to Deputy Faulkner for highlighting something to which I wished to refer. The Bill is for the purpose of amending the law in relation to physical planning which is an important means of protecting the natural environment, but the Minister for Local Government has no monopoly of responsibility in this regard. Deputy Faulkner brought out this point forcibly by indicating that other Ministers concerned included the Minister for Lands. Section 11 of the Wildlife Bill now in the Seanad says that it shall be a function of the Minister—meaning the Minister for Lands—to secure the conservation of wildlife.
Here is an opportunity for the Minister to cut across the responsibility of the Minister for Lands.
Deputies Haughey and Faulkner, as ex-Cabinet Members, will be aware that a major decision of this kind would have to be a Cabinet decision.
Surely the Minister has already brought this amendment before the Cabinet.
It would have been difficult to do that without having heard Deputy Haughey's explanation of it because it did not read in the way he has explained it.
It speaks for itself.
Apart from the Minister for Lands the Minister for Finance would be involved also in these matters in so far as the Office of Public Works are responsible for national monuments, parks and waterways while the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has a responsibility in relation to the preservation of our fishery resources. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, for instance, is responsible for development programmes which call for various environmental constraints. The question of wetlands is affected by arterial drainage and, consequently, would come within the ambit of the Office of Public Works. It can hardly be suggested that the Minister for Local Government should decide on such matters as arterial drainage. If the Department were to deal with all these other matters we would need Liberty Hall as well as the Custom House to cater for the staff numbers that would be required. It would not be appropriate to impose overall responsibility on the Minister for Local Government without having regard to the implications involved, and it is not right that an attempt should be made to do this in a planning Bill. I can understand Deputy Haughey's point of view. As a country man, I can see the necessity for dealing with these matters. But the Ministers who have this responsibility must carry it out. I do not think it would be practicable to have a particular Minister covering all of these things because it would impinge on various functions of other Departments and other Ministers. I would not be prepared to agree that this amendment should be included in the Bill unless Deputy Haughey has further words of wisdom to offer.
I am disappointed at the Minister's reaction. First of all, my amendment was down long before that Wildlife Bill saw the light of day. Indeed it was the delay in coming forward with that Wildlife Bill that was responsible, to some extent for my putting down this amendment because the Minister for Lands——
The Deputy is satisfied now that it is down.
No, I am not because the Wildlife Bill is very restrictive in its terms and refers merely to wildlife. In this business of the environment we are concerned with very much more.
The Minister for Lands will confirm that on a number of occasions I approached him informally to ask him when that Wildlife Bill would surface. From that point of view the fact that that particular section which the Minister quoted to me is in the Wildlife Bill does not in any way invalidate my arguments in favour of this amendment. Certainly from my time in Government I would have been justified in thinking that by now the Minister for Local Government was regarded throughout the Departments as the Minister with primary responsibility for environmental preservation.
As Deputy Faulkner has mentioned already, in our time there was a considerable amount of inter-Departmental dispute about these matters. I am not sure what degree of formality the decision had but I think there was a fairly positive type of decision then that the Minister for Local Government had overall and particular responsibility for the environment.
I think it was very informal, Deputy.
I agree it was very informal but, at the time, there was a clearcut dispute on some issue between the Departments of Local Government and Lands. As far as we as a Government were concerned the matter was resolved, in that responsibility was placed on the Minister for Local Government for these matters, which was in Deputy Blaney's time as Minister for Local Government.
Surely the things on which the Minister has elaborated support the case for my amendment? The Minister has elaborated on all the different Departments and sections of Departments involved in this matter. The fact that so many people are involved would indicate that what is everybody's business is nobody's business. I do not think we can expect anything in the nature of an overall approach and I believe that such is badly needed. We have not any hope of getting anything like a composite overall approach when various Departments and sections of Departments have responsibilities in this matter which they may or may not take seriously. I am quite certain most of them do not take them seriously. In pursuance of their primary objectives they have very slight regard for environmental considerations. For instance, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in its activities, would certainly impinge on environmental matters. It is only natural, in the order of things, that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries be concerned primarily with increasing agricultural output and farmers' incomes. If it is particularly enlightened it may from time to time have regard on the side to environmental considerations, but they will not occupy a central part in the thoughts or activities of that Department, and the same would apply to other Departments. In fact the only Department of which I am aware with any great motivation in environmental matters is the Department of Lands. The Forestry and Wildlife Section of the Department of Lands is excellent and in it I found wonderful enthusiasm for and great dedication to the cause of the environment. But, apart from that section of the Department of Lands—and, of course, excluding the Department of Local Government from what I am saying—there is not any great dedication or motivation in any of the other Departments, with perhaps the exception of elements in the Office of Public Works.
The fact that the Minister enumerated so many people, organisations and Government units as having a function or being involved in this matter is a clear indication of the need for a central responsibility. In fact what I am seeking is that the Minister for Local Government would become, in effect, our Minister for the Environment, because I feel that central responsibility and authority is needed. If responsibility is diffused throughout different sections of different Departments who are allowed to proceed in their own way, without any regard to a central programme, then I would be very pessimistic about the future outlook.
I would have thought that by putting down this amendment I was merely spelling out in a statute thede facto situation. I thought it was generally understood that the Minister has this responsibility. I merely wanted to put it beyond doubt: place on him the statutory responsibility, just as he has statutory responsibility in regard to housing; we do not leave the social need for housing at large, to be provided by any Department that feels it can make a contribution, because it is a serious social matter.
That is a very wise decision.
We place specific responsibility in that area on one Minister. We say it is his job; the statutes say it is his job to have responsibility for housing, to produce housing, and we will give him all the authority and finance necessary to do so. The environment is not perhaps fundamentally as important as housing but will become increasingly a very important area of public administration. There is a national need for it. It is not too late in the day yet. But time is not on our side and developments are taking place daily which threaten the wonderful, beautiful, natural environment handed down to us. Perhaps our generation has a more acute responsibility in this regard than any other—to act now, to make sure that any inroads that have or are being made are stopped and that henceforth we have a rational, sensible and enlightened approach to the whole problem of the environment. We can do that only if we place the solemn, statutory obligation on one, central Minister and I believe the apropriate Minister to be the Minister for Local Government because of the way things have evolved. Had things evolved differently it might have been the Minister for Lands but, at this stage, the rational, sensible thing to do is to make the Minister for Local Government the Minister for the Environment; give him the responsibility; place on him the duty; grant him the authority and power I have set out in subsection (2) to compel planning authorities throughout the country to comply with his overall central programme on environmental preservation.
The Minister for Local Government has primary responsibility for certain environmental matters. There was an inter-departmental committee set up late last year on the environment on which practically all Departments are represented. They do co-ordinate environmental matters as far as possible. Environment policy is and must continue to be an overall policy, and no one Minister can ever be solely responsible for it. If by legislation you made one Minister solely responsible for it, it would probably mean that every other Minister would disclaim responsibility. Let Deputy Haughey think for a minute what would happen. How would the Minister for Local Government be able to enter into the various things which would arise under other Departments? Take wildlife, for instance.
He would have to be consulted by any Department which were doing anything which had environmental implications.
That is at present done through the inter-departmental committee.
We all know about them.
They are not the way they used to be long ago. There are good ones now. The last state could be worse than the first and you could finish up, as the Deputy said, with everybody's business but nobody's business. The Minister for Local Government would be responsible for other Departments where he could not possibly, except in the way he is now doing, be able to find out what would happen. Ministers would rightly say that they do not have to have officials looking after that particular thing because that is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. The result is that the Minister for Local Government could find himself worrying about the Minister for Lands' Wildlife Bill, as one example.
That could be arranged departmentally.
It is very easy to wave these things away as if they could be dealt with like that.
The Minister is waving them away.
I am not. I want to leave responsibility where it lies. It is a very big item. If this was a matter which could be dealt with like that I am quite sure it would have been dealt with long ago but it is a very big issue. We are dealing with a Planning Bill and Deputy Haughey suggests in the middle of it a very major Government decision affecting a big number of Government Departments, even the Department of Foreign Affairs, because the EEC comes into this. They would have to be involved and all their responsibilities would be handed over to the Minister for Local Government who, in addition to everything else he has to do, would be responsible for that. I do not think it is a reasonable suggestion and I do not think the amendment is reasonable. I do not think it is workable. If it was I would, as Deputy Haughey knows, be glad to consider it. I have looked at it and have had it examined. I do not see in what way it could improve the position and I do not want to have something which will do more harm than good included in this Bill.
I am surprised at the attitude of the Minister in relation to this amendment. He should know that unless some particular person is responsible for the protection and preservation of the natural environment nobody will be responsible for it. If you delegate responsibility to a number of Departments it is very difficult to pinpoint who is really responsible for failure in any one particular aspect of the protection of the environment.
We have an opportunity in this Bill to provide that responsibility should lie with the Minister for Local Government. The Minister will recall that during the last few weeks I addressed a number of questions to him on many matters relating to the environment, particularly in relation to sanitary services, refuse collections and the environment in general. In all cases the Minister told me these were the responsibility of local authorities and that his Department had no responsibility in those matters.
The Minister will appreciate that various local authorities could take different views and accept different attitudes in relation to these matters. Unless there are some guidelines set down and some principles arrived at I believe we will not have uniformity. We will also have local authorities who will not live up to their responsibilities. We should bear in mind that local authorities have not finance at their disposal and they have not got technical staff with time available to learn the expertise and to get ahead with work of protection and preservation of the environment.
There are different problems affecting local authorities and planning authorities. If there are not guidelines laid down by some responsible person and some responsible Department, who have fully researched the matter, it will be virtually impossible to enforce uniformity among local authorities and planning authorities in relation to the prevention of pollution and other matters affecting the environment. Now is the time to designate responsibility to some particular person in some particular Department. The Minister for Local Government and his Department should accept responsibility for the implementation of an overall policy and for research guidelines. We have a golden opportunity now to provide for this in this Bill.
Deputy O'Leary is a little offbeat because he is talking about local government. He is complaining about the fact that I have stated, in reply to questions by him, that the responsibility for certain things was left to the local authorities. They are under Local Government at the present time and they would not be affected in any way by Deputy Haughey's amendment, because local authorities are not responsible to any other Minister. They are responsible to the Minister for Local Government. This has very little to do with the section but what I said in reply, and what I am repeating now, is that matters which are carried out by local authorities are their responsibility. I would not be thanked by Deputy O'Leary or anybody else if I started giving directions to every local authority as to what they should do.
The Minister might be thanked by future generations.
There are people in this country who believe that a dictator would be a great person and that he could give any directions he wanted. I am pledged to give more authority to local authorities and I am doing that. I certainly will not take back from them the authority they already have and the control they have over refuse collection and things like this, which Deputy O'Leary spoke about. He did not think I would be spreading out to other Departments that this was the way it should be done. There is no question of that.
The other Departments already have this responsibility. I am saying that I do not propose in this Bill to take responsibility for environmental matters which are covered by other Ministers. I would be very foolish to attempt to do it because I do not think it could be done effectively. It certainly could not be done effectively in the Planning Bill. In relation to planning matters, no matter what Department are covered, they are my responsibility. It is already laid down in the Bill that I have that responsibility. Deputy Haughey wants to go further and to put a general clause in that the Minister for Local Government should be responsible for all environmental matters, and it does not matter what way they are affected. I have instanced the Wildlife Bill. He suggests I should be responsible for the way in which wildlife is protected. I do not think, if he reflects on it, that he will accept I should, because it would be a most unreasonable suggestion. He believes the Minister for Local Government should be responsible for arterial drainage, which is carried out by the Office of Public Works, in so far as it affects wet lands and things like that. One will find that in fact the Minister for Local Government would be expected to be able to go into the area covered by all Departments, with the exception of the Departments of Justice and Defence, and carry out functions which are at present the functions of other Ministers. I do not see how I or any other Minister for Local Government could do it. It would be foolish of me to accept responsibility for something which I believe cannot be done.
We have an inter-departmental committee co-ordinating as far as possible matters which come under the general cover of the Department of Local Government but which impinge on other Departments. I am sorry Deputy Haughey is under the impression—I know he is interested in having this tied up properly—that the position is otherwise. I do not think a Planning Bill is the place to attempt this. I do not think that what he suggests can be done anywhere or that a Minister for Local Government should be held responsible for all other Departmental environmental effects.
In reply to Deputy O'Leary, this is already a matter for Local Government, and when I say to him in this House that it is not my responsibility if Kerry County Council or Tralee Urban Council do not carry out their refuse collection correctly or, if they have a dump which is improperly handled, I mean it and I do not propose to tell them how they should do these things. In the first instance that is a matter for the elected representatives there and in the second instance for the officials who are paid by that local authority to do the job properly. That all comes under the umbrella of the Department of Local Government who must have overall control over it. A few weeks ago I sent out circulars to local authorities advising them on the expert advice I have as to how they should ensure that these matters are looked after. I do not propose to go to an individual local authority and tell them that a dump is not being run properly or that they should do it in a different way. No one could reasonably expect me to do that. Deputy O'Leary is completely off the beam when he refers to that in the context of this amendment.
Deputy Haughey feels that the question of environment should be the responsibility of one Minister, the Minister for Local Government, but I do not agree. Therefore I would not be prepared to accept the amendment.
There is a fundamental mistake in what the Minister is saying. On a number of occasions he told me that different sections of different Government Departments have responsibility in this matter. That is the fundamental mistake. There are different Departments of State and different sections of different Departments whose activities impinge on the environment, whose activities and operations have an effect on our environment. However those Departments have no responsibility for the environment. Nobody is telling those Departments that in pursuance of their arterial drainage or some other activity which is a routine activity as far as they are concerned they must have regard to environmental considerations. That is the flaw in the Minister's argument. He is endeavouring to paint a picture where all sections in different Departments have responsibility for the environment and are all pursuing and discharging that responsibility. That is not the position and it is for that reason that I tabled this amendment.
Other Departments do things and have functions which affect the environment but as far as I know none of them has any responsibility for protecting the environment. I want to place on the Minister for Local Government that central responsibility. I want him to have a central observation responsibility over the activities of every Government Department and every private citizen whose activities affect the environment. In so far as a Government Department are carrying out drainage work or anything else involving environmental implications the Minister for Local Government should be consulted about them. There is nothing new in that and there is no innovation involved in Government Departments consulting another Government Department about responsibility in regard to work they are carrying out. It happens daily; it is a regular process of Government. If a Department decides to do something they study it to see if another Department is involved and then consult that Department before they go ahead. That is the sort of situation I want to create in regard to the environment.
I cannot understand the Minister's approach, because every other country in Europe has a Minister for the Environment. Surely that Minister has overall responsibility of the sort I am trying to give to our Minister for Local Government. In Great Britain the Minister who was responsible for Local Government matters is now the Minister for the Environment. Housing is now under the Minister for the Environment in Great Britain. That is the sort of situation I want to bring about here. I want one Minister to have responsibility for the environment and have the power to do something about it. In so far as any other Department, organisation, or individual is doing anything with environmental implications the Minister for Local Government should have an overall supervisory function in regard to that. That can be spelt out later.
I cannot understand the Minister's rejection of assuming this duty because I believe he has it already by implication. People look to him and expect him to be discharging this responsibility in pollution matters which is an important element of environmental policy. It is the Minister for Local Government who is regarded as the Minister in charge. Why do people look to the Minister for Local Government about pollution? Why do they not go to the Minister for Lands or to the Office of Public Works? They do not because the Minister for Local Government is the natural person to have central responsibility for pollution matters and all the things which are now beginning to evolve into a new significance and importance. People look to the Minister for Local Government to have a function and a responsibility in regard to all these matters. I want that spelt out in a clear cut fashion in a Statute and have the matter attended to in that way.
I should like to support Deputy Haughey's amendment. This question of pollution of the environment is not one of amenity. It is a vitally important economic and social matter. The question of preserving the environment and preserving the living capacity of our island to support life has already been spelt out. It goes beyond amenity. Unfortunately, many of the advocates of conservation fall into the trap of thinking of it as an amenity or as an aesthetic beauty. We must drive it home that this is a vital matter from the point of view of economics and of the social life of the community. The price will be paid in the future.
We have not yet controlled and we have not yet been required to pay the colossal cost of salvage and repair when the damage has been done. This could be expanded on at length, but already our lakes, our rivers, even the sea around us, is polluted. It is only this week I heard of the state of pollution in Dublin Bay.
I want to support Deputy Haughey's amendment here with all the vehemence I can and with the greatest sincerity. I think I can claim to have some little knowledge of one aspect of this, the conservation of energy, and certainly the physical aspects of this problem, and I would just make one comment which might put the matter into perspective. It often arises that there is a conflict between an industrial activity or a developmental activity and the preservation of the environment. These two things are not necessarily contradictory, but what is required is somebody who will co-ordinate and see that the maximum advantage for one is not achieved at the complete cost of the other and that by attention to both factors the maximum benefit for the community can be obtained. I will not deal with the modern cases which aresub judice or already decided, but I would instance the case where we established a chemical factory down the country, and I elicited by questions in another place the information that the activities of the nitrogen factory were a factor in the agricultural people leaving Shelton Abbey. That was unnecessary. I am chemist enough to know that with a little care and some little expense—it would have meant expense—the damage done by that chemical factory to the trees and to the area that was done at that time need not have been done. I pointed that out on another occasion.
What is the relevance of that point in Deputy Haughey's amendment? The relevance is co-ordination. Somebody, as Deputy Haughey has pointed out, must have the overall authority to co-ordinate, to decide and to prescribe. For these reasons I have pleasure in supporting Deputy Haughey very strongly in everything he has said on this amendment.
Might I ask the Minister whether the power the Minister has under the 1963 Act to examine and, if necessary, veto all proposed amendments to county development plans, is included in the legislation now proposed?
The position is exactly as it was in 1963, but the Minister will not have any power to veto.
If he has power of amendment he has power of veto.
He has not the power of veto; power of co-ordination—that is the word that is used.
Maybe that is the word that is used but——
I think we should try to get back to what we have been discussing. It would appear that we have been straying from it.
If I could get an answer to that I would like to speak on the amendment.
Like some of the other Deputies, Deputy Blaney has, I am sure, gone to the trouble of finding out what the section and the amendment are about. Some of the contributions here appear to show that those who were speaking, while they were very sincere, were not aware of what we were discussing last night.
That is why I am asking the question as to whether the Minister also is aware——
What is the question?
I shall read Part V——
What is the power of the Minister as it was and as it will remain in so far as county development plans submitted by a planning authority are concerned?
Section 22 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 reads:
(2) The Minister may require the development plans of two or more planning authorities to be co-ordinated in respect of matters and in a manner specified by him and thereupon—
(a) the authorities shall comply with the requisition, and
(b) any dispute between them arising out of any matters inserted or to be inserted in a development plan shall be determined by the Minister.
(3) The Minister may require a planning authority to vary the development plan in respect of matters and in a manner specified by him and there upon it shall be the duty of the authority to comply with the requisition.
(4) Subsection (3) of this section shall have effect subject to the proviso that where the planning authority, as a result of considering pursuant to paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 21 of this Act any objection or representation, decide, with the consent of the Minister, that the proposed variations should be altered in any respect, they may make the variations subject to that alteration.
Deputy Blaney will agree with me that the whole thing depends on the development plans of two or more planning authorities.
I do not. I disagree there.
That is not altered by this Bill.
What I am saying is that I do not agree that that is the only power in the 1963 Act that has to do with the power of the Minister for Local Government to alter or amend as he may think fit the development plans submitted by the local planning authority to his Department, as they are supposed to do.
As far as I am aware, it is, but I will come back to that later when the matter has been looked at. What we are discussing here is Deputy Haughey's amendment to section 31.
It is nothing to do with section 31. That is only the drafting situation. It is to put in a new section before section 31.
Yes. Let me get around to it in another way. What Deputy Haughey is suggesting is:
In page 19, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:
"(a) the insertion of the following new section before section 42:
‘41A (1) It shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland.
(2) To enable him to discharge his duty under this section the Minister shall have power to issue from time to time to a planning authority such directives as he considers necessary for this purpose and the planning authority shall comply with such directives.'"
Section 42 (1) says:
Where it appears to the planning authority that by reason of its outstanding natural beauty, its special recreational value or a need for nature conservation...
This is the same thing. In fact, the local authorities and the Minister have that responsibility already.
The Minister's whole argument is that he should not have the responsibility up to now.
It is not indeed. What I am arguing is that, having had the responsibility—and Deputy Haughey is perfectly correct, the Minister for Local Government has responsibility for environmental matters—it is not reasonable to say that he should take over, in addition to the powers he has, all the powers which other Ministers have in relation to the environment. It simply is not right.
I am not saying that, and the amendment does not say it.
Of course it does.
My amendment gives him the duty of making them exercise any environmental functions they have.
Deputy Haughey believes there should be one Minister with total responsibility for the environment, including the responsibility at present held by other Departments.
Read my amendment: "It shall be the duty of the Minister...."
Deputy Haughey can read the record and, when he does, he will agree that this is what he has been saying all night. If it were not, this could have been settled an hour ago. The overall responsibility already in the Bill lies with the Minister for Local Government.
That is what I have been saying.
Then what is the necessity for Deputy Haughey to table an amendment which he explained as meaning that other Ministers should not have any responsibility for the environment? All responsibility, according to Deputy Haughey, should rest in the Minister for Local Government. That just will not work. I have already instanced the Wildlife Bill giving the Minister for Lands very wide powers. I just do not see how Deputy Haughey's amendment could be incorporated in the Bill.
It seems to me the Minister and Deputy Haughey are both trying to have it both ways and right now I am not quite sure which is the right way. The Minister says that what Deputy Haughey is proposing to give him is already in the hands of the Minister and he, the Minister for Local Government, does not think he should have and does not think he should exercise——
I am sorry. I did not catch that.
I do not think it was relevant really. I will start again. To my mind, the amendment proposed is absolutely an essential part of any new legislation in regard to planning. When planning legislation was introduced here 13 or 14 years ago there was considerable controversy about it. By a strange twist of fate, there was no division right through the whole Bill.
A reasonable Opposition.
That may well have been because of the ignorance of all of us about what was needed——
I say it was because of a reasonable Opposition.
——and I include myself in that ignorance because the whole thing was quite new to us. Ever since I have become increasingly convinced that what is now being sought by this amendment is vitally essential because, in the last analysis, it puts the onus on the Minister for Local Government, not because he is Minister for Local Government but because the onus should be on someone to ensure that other Departments' interests from an environmental point of view may be, as it were, fringe interests in relation to their other interests in any particular type of operation—I am thinking of the Board of Works and arterial drainage, of semi-State bodies like the ESB and Bord na Móna—and the danger is that those fringe interests may be submerged or ignored altogether. A great deal of light has come since my time in Local Government as far as planning is concerned.
In the different Departments with a fringe interest the vested interests are jealously guarded and they will not allow these vested interests to be, as it were, infringed by the Minister for Local Government in order the better to protect and preserve our environment. That is No. 1. Secondly, and this is equally important, they have their own little pushcarts to push around and they like to get involved in this matter of preserving the environment with their own little pushcarts in their own little way without any regard at all to the overall background of physical planning or, as I think of it, the infrastructure around and upon which everything else must be built.
This is a concept for which I fought in my day and I have no doubt Deputy Haughey will have many recollections of the battle waged and the battle was being won. But now the victory is being thrown away by the Minister for Local Government, who does not see how necessary this is and who is not really pushing his little cart far enough and not putting his feet down flat enough to ensure physical planning is carried out properly, that we have the infrastructure on which all other development must take place. If this is not done we are wasting not necessarily all our time but certainly a great deal of our effort.
All we have to do is look around us, back over the years since 1963, to see the wasteful expenditure on unnecessary development and the total lack of expenditure on that which was socially desirable. For some reason the infrastructure that should be there is not there, whether because of lack of money or lack of drive on the part of local authorities I do not really know. Socially desirable development has had to be passed over because the proper infrastructure industrially, socially and otherwise has been passed by, possibly because the money is not there to do all at the one time.
The Minister is being too modest in his approach to this matter. I do not say that in any carping fashion but out of my own belief, conviction and experience. The Minister said he does not want to be a dictator but there has got to be somebody somewhere finally who can say to any Department: "You may not do it that way, good though it may seem from your point of view, because it will spoil something that is irreplaceable. This is how it should be done". Unless that power and authority and responsibility are enshrined in this planning legislation tonight then this planning legislation will be no great improvement on what is already there. And there are many gaps in what is there.
The jealousies of Departments may not be known or appreciated and neither may the manner in which they can mobilise the brains within these Departments to advance what would appear to be unanswerable cases as to why the kinds of things we are talking about here should be done. There is within the Minister's Department sufficient expertise and knowhow to combat and refute all arguments advanced by these little tin gods in other Departments trying to insist things will be done in their way. It should be the job of the Minister for Local Government and his Department to decide. Had the progression been as I think it should have been, then it is not only the Minister for the Environment we would be talking about here. We would also be thinking in the much wider context of the concept of a Minister for Planning and Construction. If that were the position, he would be not only in at the beginning and the end of all the planning of the infrastructure but he would be in as the building agent for all of the other Departments, many of which are meddling and peddling in building, and not to the best advantage, economically, financially or, indeed, aesthetically.
I would strongly advocate to the Minister despite his apparent conviction, and after due consideration, to have a very serious look at the concept suggested by the amendment but not necessarily in the words proposed. I abhor the fact that the Minister has opted out as the final arbiter on appeals from local authorities and that he is setting up a faceless body with an autonomy nobody will be able to challenge. That is the greatest disaster that has happened. The reason I decided to intervene in this debate is because this amendment is the only saving grace in the Bill.
The Minister said he disliked dictating to local authorities. Might I suggest that he needs to retain the right and authority he has at present to dictate to local authorities, not only to tell them what to do, but to tell them how to do it and, as is enshrined in the 1966 Housing Act, if they are not doing it to do it for them and charge them. This is what a Minister for Local Government should be doing, not that he should have to do it often.
I am on record as saying that I have the greatest possible respect for our elected bodies whose opinion or calculated guess goes on the order refusing, granting, or giving, subject to conditions, planning permission through a local authority but by the manager. Yet the Minister has decided that he, at the top of the tree, will discard his responsibility and give that job to this faceless body. They will do a job all right, and if they do a bad job they will not have to face the people or this House. They are answerable to nobody. The responsibility for that lies on the people of this House who pass this.
The Deputy is straying from the amendment.
I apologise. I may well have strayed, but if I did it was because I believe that it is relevant to the argument that this amendment should be looked at again with the greatest possible care by the Minister because, in my mind, it is the last vestige, the last hope, we have that the Minister will retain the powers he already has, that is, having the last word on planning development and preservation of our environment. Now he is opting out of the appeals system.
If the Minister had kept his power I would not be very concerned whether this amendment was considered or not. But he has opted out and unless this amendment is further considered he may be out of the picture altogether. The Minister for Lands may be responsible for wild life. The Office of Public Works, in conjunction with, say, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will be responsible for arterial drainage. Those two departments may be at loggerheads because if one specific area is drained too well to meet agricultural needs the wild life will probably disappear. Who will determine the balance? What role does the Minister for Local Government play in this? Who in the Government will arbitrate? Why can we not revert to the system which was working, that is, if there was an objection to an exempted development by any department, there had to be consultation with the Minister for Local Government?
Has that gone out the window or is there any provision in this Bill to reenact it and give it legal standing, to give it teeth and to give the Minister for Local Government a proper say? Are we dealing with a Minister for Local Government—and I do not say this in a derogatory fashion—who does not feel this way about this part of his job? Does he feel that planning is a nuisance—and it is from the point of view of work—and the further he can push it away the better? If that is his outlook it is regrettable, and may be responsible for the type of Bill we have here and the replacement of himself as the final arbiter by a board. It is also understandable why he considers this amendment should not be considered. But I do not accept that. If that is not his outlook I sincerely ask him to look at the intentions behind the amendment, rather than necessarily the wording of it, and to take into account that this is the one way in which there can be a figure within the Government who will carry on behalf of the Government the final responsibility of determining what is good and what is bad for the environment. This is worth doing and the Minister has nothing to lose by looking into not just the sections surrounding it, but the implications of the Minister's role on behalf of the Irish people of today and tomorrow for the conservation and preservation of the best in our environment.
People have said that we are fortunate because we have a lot which is still unspoilt. I said that in 1963 but a great deal has been spoiled since then. Much of this has been because there was not the thoroughness at the top that is required to tell local authorities where they are falling down on their job and how to do it properly. That is not being done. The Minister prides himself on not dictating. I do not believe in dictation but I do believe in being dictatorial when that is the only way to get the job done. The Minister must do that. Otherwise we may throw our hat at the whole concept of planning and the years in between will have been wasted. It will have been a waste of time, effort and money if we are to blow it all now.
On a number of occasions I have complimented Deputy Blaney on the 1963 Act.
He got a medal for it.
The international planning institute gave me a medal for it.
I complimented Deputy Blaney on the Act because I felt he had to go into uncharted seas. While we are amending it, and while we found a good many things to complain about in it, the good sense of Deputy Blaney who was then Minister for Local Government and all the Members of the House resulted in the production of an excellent Act of its kind. Deputy Blaney said Deputy Haughey could verify that battles took place and were won by Deputy Blaney.
On this very issue.
If Deputy Blaney won the battle on this issue in 1963 and 1970, why did he not introduce a Bill which would provide what he is talking about tonight?
What the Minister has introduced and what I abhor about this was attempted several times after I left the Department of Local Government but, because I was still in the Government, it was thrown out and if I were in the Minister's Government it would be thrown out as well. It is a bloody disaster.
That is the Deputy's opinion and he is entitled to his opinion. The battles he won must not have had anything to do with planning because, if they had to do with planning, some constructive effort would have been made to do something about it and nothing was done.
One of the points on which this Government were elected was a proposal to introduce a system of planning appeals by means of a board. That is what we are now doing. With the exception of Deputy Callanan and Deputy Blaney, all Members of the House consider that a planning board is the right idea. There is no point in saying this is something I thought up. Whether or not it is my idea does not really matter. It is a Government proposal and it is supported by about 99 per cent of the Members on all sides of the House. No matter who the Minister for Local Government is, he will always be blamed for making a decision. It depends on which side of the fence you are on whether you agree with the decision or disagree with it. A scapegoat has to be found and the scapegoat is blamed. The person who makes up his mind whether the decision was right or wrong usually sees about four lines in a newspaper saying planning permission was given or refused. He makes a decision and writes reams of correspondence on whether or not the decision was right without knowing a damn thing about it. An Bord Pleanála will now make the decision and nobody can accuse them of being biased.
Not half they cannot.
I would prefer any Member of any party in this House, back bencher or front bencher, to be the final arbiter on any or all appeals. I do not give a damn what his politics are. I would prefer him to the faceless men who will make the decision now. Do not tell me they will not do the wrong thing. If the Minister does the wrong thing he will answer for it.
I do not think Deputy Blaney will ever make peace with Fianna Fáil again if that is his point of view because, with the exception of Deputy Callanan, everybody in Fianna Fáil has expressed the view that that is not so.
I am a reluctant convert to the board.
But the Deputy is a convert. You go to Heaven if you are converted whether reluctantly or otherwise.
I support my party.
The Deputy's political soul is saved because he agrees with his party and votes with them.
I accept my party's decision.
There is no such thing as a half vote. It is a full vote. You are either for or against. Deputy Blaney's contribution was very interesting. He may not have been in order all the time, but he was very interesting. He was not here for the full discussion on the Bill. Much as I would like to reply to individual points raised by the Deputy, I could not do that without going back over various sections which have already been accepted by the House.
We must decide whether there is to be a board responsible for decisions on planning appeals or whether there is not. From the way the discussion has gone so far, I assume we are accepting such a board.
I am totally opposed to it. It is a disaster.
Deputy Haughey's amendment suggests that it shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland. Does Deputy Haughey suggest that the Minister should be able to decide whether a planning decision on a matter does or does not affect the natural environment of Ireland? Does he believe any Minister for Local Government should be in a position to say to the board that a decision they made adversely affects the environment? If he does, does this mean they must reverse their decision?
Deputy Haughey was sitting beside his colleagues when they were making the case that under no circumstances should any Minister for Local Government have the right to direct the board on individual matters. I do not think Deputy Haughey made that argument but it was made by the Opposition spokesman. I had to give a guarantee that, under no circumstances, would the Minister interfere with any decision of an Bord Pleanála.
The Minister could give a general directive.
Deputy Haughey says in his amendment that it shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland. Suppose an Bord Pleanála decided to allow an oil refinery to be built in Dublin Bay, does Deputy Haughey suggest the Minister should have the right to say: "You cannot have an oil refinery there."
There will be no refinery in Dublin Bay. Do not dare to permit an oil refinery in Dublin Bay.
I picked on an example which apparently, is very close to Deputy Haughey's heart.