When I reported progress, a suggestion was that a duty should be imposed on the Minister to protect the environment. Apart from the fact that the amendment, as drafted, is unduly restrictive, leaving no discretion to the Land Commission for a wide range of desirable needs in the sense of development, the amendment is not accepted in principle. We have debated this very fully. I do not think there is any point in prolonging the discussion
Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Committee Stage (Resumed).
As it is some time since we debated this, I want to make some points in favour of it. It deals with a matter of fundamental importance, that is, the protection of our environment. The need to protect and preserve our natural environment is urgent and it is a matter that we in this generation will neglect at our peril. Our natural environment is under steady and constant attack and it is not a static situation. It is growing steadily worse. Every day sees some further deterioration in our natural environment. The greatest and the most tragic mistake we can make is to regard this subject of the protection of the environment, conservation, as something which can be left to cranks or eccentrics. It is a matter of vital, practical, urgent importance. The public interest is vitally involved in it. The health, happiness and wellbeing not only of this generation but of future generations are vitally bound up in what we do now, and in what we do with this amendment.
We have had enough lip service to this whole question of protecting the environment and the need for conservation. We have had enough seminars, pamphlets and discussions. We have inherited a favourable situation so far as our environment is concerned. Our common resources of air, water and land are priceless capital assets and they come to us in very good shape. They come to us in abundance. I fear we shall be like a profligate who inherits some vast fortune. The very fact that the fortune he inherits seems limitless, is in itself a temptation for him to squander it.
It is very difficult for any of us as we drive through Kerry or Connemara or Donegal to visualise that this environment which has been entrusted to us can be seriously damaged; it seems impossible when you look at the vast, almost limitless, beauty which has been handed down to us. Those of us who make a study of these matters realise that it is very much on the surface and that we are at a critical point at this time. If we want to ensure that this generation and future generations will be able to live in a pleasant, peaceful environment, the question of the protection of the environment must become a matter of practical everyday politics. It will not preserve itself.
Modern economic development, which is based on technology, dictates a need for us to have a positive, active approach to this. We must have an environmental policy. That policy must be somebody's responsibility. Nobody can argue that we have satisfactory administrative arrangements where environmental affairs are concerned. We have a haphazard, unco-ordinated situation. There is a variety of bodies, institutions and agencies involved in this field, bodies and agencies which either have functions in regard to the environment or whose activities impinge on the environment. There is an urgent, compelling need to establish some central authority, or at least to have areas of authority defined. I cannot understand the reluctance of the Minister to undertake this responsibility, which I am seeking to impose on him by statute in this amendment.
I will just give one simple illustration of the illogicality of the present situation. The Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities recently had occasion to examine an EEC directive dealing with the situation in regard to the quality of the water in which people bathe. We on the committee carried out a thorough and exhausive examination of this directive and its implications for this country. We had an authoritative statement from experts in the Minister's Department on the situation. They gave us a full outline of the situation in this regard in this country, and on the basis of that and other information which was available to us, we issued our report.
No sooner had we our report issued than some officials of Dublin Corporation, for some reason best known to themselves, rushed into print to say we in the committee had been misinformed about the situation in regard to Dublin Bay. That is the sort of haphazard and unco-ordinated situation which prevails in this matter of the protection of our environment. We have an authoritative statement from the Minister's Department about the situation as they saw it, and then we have the local authority, which is ostensibly responsible for a particular aspect of the environment, contradicting the report we issued on the basis of the authoritative statement from the Department of Local Government. I do not want to make an issue of that. I just mention it as an instance of the sort of muddled situation which prevails in regard to this matter.
I do not think the arguments the Minister put forward the last time we discussed this stand up to critical examination. He seemed to be saying that there were a number of other Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries involved in this and that I was seeking to give him power over these other Ministers and their Departments, that he could not accept that situation as it would be absurd. That is not the position. Our parliamentary committee which is responsible for local government and environmental matters have investigated this matter and their examination has revealed to them that there are at least 13 Government Departments or sections of Departments which are involved in this area of the environment. The very fact that there are so many Government agencies with functions in this area surely dictates that there should be some one central person who has responsibility. My amendment does not seek to give the Minister any power. It merely seeks to place on him a statutory responsibility for protection of the environment.
The Minister is misconceiving my purpose and the purpose of the amendment when he thinks I am seeking to give him powers over these other sections of Departments. The other Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries would naturally continue to carry out their own functions and exercise the powers delegated to them by the Oireachtas. The Minister would have an overall responsibility to see that in carrying out these duties and obligations they had regard to the protection of the environment. I am not asking the Minister for Local Government to assume Ministerial powers which rightly belong to other Ministers. I am asking him to assume responsibility as a central authority to ensure that in the discharge of their duties they consider what impact what they are doing will have on the environment.
There is nothing unique about this in our Administration. What I am proposing already exists in several areas. Any Minister who comes forward with a proposal must, under the existing rules, consult all other Government Departments who might have an interest in what he is doing or proposes to do or whose areas of responsibility might impinge on what he is proposing to do.
The system of Government we practise at the moment is that a Minister who wishes to make some new proposal circulates that proposal to all the other Government Departments who might conceivably be interested. They express their views on what this Minister is proposing from the point of view of their particular responsibility. It works very well. If the Minister for Local Government decides to do something which would impinge on the activities of the Department of Justice, he must circulate his proposal to the Department of Justice in accordance with the normal Cabinet rules and procedures, and the Department of Justice will give a view on what he proposes in the light of their particular responsibility. I want to create a situation where the Minister for Local Government will have a particular responsibility for environmental matters and any Department or Government agency which is proposing to do or doing anything that affects the environment will have to have regard to his responsibility. There is nothing new or revolutionary in that proposal.
I just cannot see why the Minister will not accept this responsibility. He should accept it. It is necessary that he accepts it. The situation demands that somebody accepts it and the Minister for Local Government is the most appropriate person to do so. Most of our European neighbours already have a Minister responsible for the environment. It is the situation in Britain, France, Belgium and most other countries. It would be ironic if our traditional role in relation to Great Britain was reversed in this generation. The traditional picture was of a Britain which had been polluted by the industrial revolution and an Ireland which was still beautiful, calm and serene, that if we did not have the advantages of the industrial revolution, we had the compensation of an environment which was intact and preserved. But, as matters are developing those roles will be reversed. In Britain, the Ministry of the Environment is doing wonderful work in this field. We are doing nothing. If you take two of the principal rivers, the Thames has been completely restored; the fish life and wild bird life is now re-established there, while our unfortunate Liffey becomes more and more polluted every day. It would be the irony of this generation that our environment steadily deteriorated while Great Britain's steadily improved in this regard. That is the sort of situation to which I want to direct the Minister's attention. I am asking him to take responsibility for it.
I just want to mention another aspect of it, namely, that it will become even more urgent than it has been up to now because offshore oil exploration and mining are going to become increasingly important in our economic development. We hope they are going to make an increasingly significant contribution to our material prosperity.
It is also possible that they will make a contribution to the pollution of our environment unless we do something about it, and I want to see one Minister of the Government given central responsibility. I want to see an overall national environmental policy with one Minister responsible for formulating that policy and executing it. The most appropriate Minister in this regard should be the Minister for Local Government.
That does not mean he will supplant the Minister for Lands. The Minister for Lands, as we all know, has a responsibility for wildlife and he has a very good piece of legislation coming before this House shortly in that area. That is not at all inconsistent with what I am proposing. The Minister for Local Government would have overall governmental responsibility for the environment and in that particular sector of the environment he would delegate that responsibility to the Minister for Lands. In another area it would be recognised that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance would have the responsibility. The overall central responsibility would be in the Minister for Local Government's hands.
With all the emphasis at my command I want to convey to the Minister the sense of urgency I feel about this matter. I think it is something of major importance. It is probably important to some people that a new office block in Dublin city has a neoGeorgian phoney facade, but I think planning should be concerned with the things that are more fundamental and lasting, with our natural environment, with our fields and streams, lakes, rivers, mountains and beaches. I think that is what real planning should concern itself with and the preservation of these things for this generation and future generations. I am asking the Minister to take this responsibility into his own hands because somebody must take it, and somebody must take it soon.
I would give credit to Deputy Haughey that I am quite sure he is sincere in what he is saying and he believes that what he is saying is needed. I would point out to him that it is not needed. He has made a number of comments that would give the impression to anyone who did not know the facts that we have abandoned any attempt to protect the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the very opposite is the case. The Deputy quoted the Thames and I would like to quote the Ennel in Mullingar. He said nobody seemed to be taking any interest, that this was something that was completely left to work out its own salvation. He spoke about rivers and lakes.
I am also rather amused at the attitudes and arguments of some people who talk about environment as if it just referred to the little points which they are interested in and it did not cover the very, very wide field which it does cover. One of the biggest troubles in this country was that there was far too little money made available for the disposal of sewage effluent from towns. The result was that many rivers and lakes were spoiled. The Brosna in Mullingar is one example of this. Because the necessary money was made available to provide a good sewerage system there I understand it is recovering and probably should be back to normal within the next 12 months.
In many other towns we have done similar work and provided the necessary money but the biggest trouble is that some people tend to try to use specific arguments which do not really apply in a case like this. Deputy Haughey referred to the fact that other countries have set up Departments of the Environment and that is quite true. It has been done in the United Kingdom and more recently in Norway. Here is where the rub comes in. Their functions are entirely different. The British department have a massive range covering housing, construction, local government and development, transport industries including ports. The Norwegian department have responsibility for regional planning, pollution problems, nature conservation, recreation and appropriate information services and nothing more.
In this country the Department of Local Government are responsible for planning and environment at the present time. As Deputy Haughey so rightly pointed out, if something is being done which is likely to affect another Department the matter must be discussed between the Ministers concerned at Cabinet level. Therefore, what he is asking for here is already there—the overall right to recommend. He said, and it rather contradicts the first part of his amendment, that he did not suggest I should have responsibility to override the Minister for Lands or any other Minister on these matters. His amendment said:
It shall be the duty of the Minister to protect and preserve the natural environment of Ireland.
If that is so what he is saying is that even if other Minister do not want to do things it should be the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government to insist that they are done.
That is not how it works in the Cabinet.
I am replying to the arguments made by Deputy Haughey. We have set up the group looking after the water pollution and they are at present doing excellent work. There has been set up an inter-Departmental committee with particular responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of other Departments where necessary. This committee are also assisting in the development and evolution of policy in this area and they are responsible to me.
This is something which possibly could have been done long years ago. It was not done but this Government have done it. Therefore, I think it is unfair of Deputy Haughey—maybe he does not mean it that way—to say that nothing is being done. He said too much lip-service was being paid to it. As far as I am concerned the only lip-service I am paying to it is that when I say something should be done I take the necessary steps to have that done. There are three different fields. One is the water pollution, the second is air pollution and third I believe concerns noise. In those three fields we are attempting to ensure that the position will improve.
If I thought it would be of help in doing what we want to do then I would willingly accept the amendment. I have accepted numerous amendments already, but this I believe would simply make a big Bill bigger and would not have the desired effect. I want to assure Deputy Haughey that as long as I am here, and I am quite sure that whoever follows me will do the same, I appreciate the necessity to protect our environment and will ensure that that environment is protected. It is not necessary to accept that amendment for the purpose of carrying out that protection.
The Minister refuses the responsibility.
I have enough responsibility and I will carry the responsibility I have.
There is a great need for a co-ordinator in relation to environmental matters, and the ideal person to co-ordinate all these activities is the Minister for Local Government. We should remember that there are 13 agencies at present here dealing with the environment and many of them are State Departments. There is the Department of Local Government dealing with aspects relating to the environment. There are the local authorities, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Transport and Power, the Department of Health, the Department of Finance, the Department of Lands, the Office of Public Works, An Foras Forbartha, An Foras Talúntais, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards and finally the Industrial Development Authority. I know that it would be impossible to put all those together into one section in the Department of Local Government but certainly something could be done to co-ordinate the activities of these organisations in relation to the protection and preservation of the environment.
There is a lack of a single national co-ordinating authority charged with overall responsibility. There is no special machinery at national level for effective co-ordination between the various Departments and other agencies involved. The problem is that possibly the major polluters are the local authorities and, therefore, it is difficult to enforce the law against private offenders. This is a fairly serious statement but I believe it is true. Local authority areas do not coincide with river basins and, therefore, they have no effective arrangement to overcome difficulties. For example, I understand that there are approximately 26 authorities involved as far as the River Barrow is concerned. We must bear in mind the fact that the River Liffey flows through three counties and through urban district areas as well. Therefore, there is a definite need for a co-ordinator. I agree 100 per cent with this amendment. I think that the Minister should accept it.
We have a lot more that we could say but we are under certain constraints as regards time on this side. The Minister must not think that our case has been fully put to him.
Far be it from me to prevent the Deputy from saying anything. If Deputy Haughey has other things to say I would be glad if he would say them. Deputy John O'Leary listed a number of boards which he said were affected in various ways. With the exception of the IDA, they and many more which he has not mentioned, are in operation. Most of them are under the aegis of the Department of Local Government. This co-ordinates the bodies which I have referred to earlier in reply to Deputy Haughey and it represents all those which are at present trying to work out something to deal with it. Again I repeat that we are now doing something about sewerage. I quite agree that the local authorities were perhaps the biggest offenders and we are now attempting to remedy that. With regard to the question of the number of local authorities in the areas into which rivers flow, we have got a committee set up—the Water Advisory Council——
We want to make the Minister statutorily responsible.
I know that Deputy Haughey thinks I can do a lot and I do but I would not be able to do everything myself. Somebody must be responsible for bringing them to my notice and co-ordinating them. I have got the necessary personnel working on that. There is no point in trying to cover it up. The effects are there to be seen. I give credit to Deputy Haughey that he is anxious to help in this case and, therefore, I will not make any further comment.
Would the Minister not agree with me that no matter how many committees he has set up, no matter how many organisations he has and no matter how he tries to co-ordinate them, if one single person is not responsible for the work nobody is responsible?
I agree with the Deputy entirely. They are all responsible to me.
Does the Minister accept someone must be responsible to the electorate?
I am responsible. Does that not meet the problem?
There is no statutory responsibility. We want to make the Minister statutorily responsible to this House.
I am statutorily responsible to this House as Deputy Haughey knows.
- Allen, Lorcan.
- Andrews, David.
- Barrett, Sylvester.
- Brady, Philip A.
- Brennan, Joseph.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, Seán.
- Brugha, Ruairí.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Callanan, John.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Carter, Frank.
- Colley, George.
- Collins, Gerard.
- Connolly, Gerard.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Cronin, Jerry.
- Cunningham, Liam.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Davern, Noel.
- de Valera, Vivion.
- Dowling, Joe.
- Fahey, Jackie.
- Farrell, Joseph.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Fitzgerald, Gene.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
- Flanagan, Seán.
- 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.
- Meaney, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Moore, Seán.
- Murphy, Ciarán.
- Nolan, Thomas.
- Noonan, Michael.
- O'Connor, Timothy.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- Power, Patrick.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Timmons, Eugene.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Wilson, John P.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Barry, Peter.
- 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.
- Corish, Brendan.
- Costello, Declan.
- Coughlan, Stephen.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keating, Justin.
- Kelly, John.
- Kenny, Henry.
- Kyne, Thomas A.
- L'Estrange, Gerald.
- Lynch, Gerald.
- McDonald, Charles B.
- McLaughlin, Joseph.
- McMahon, Larry.
- Malone, Patrick.
- Murphy, Michael P.
- O'Brien, Fergus.
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Donnell, Tom.
- O'Leary, Michael.
- O'Sullivan, John L.
- Pattison, Seamus.
- Reynolds, Patrick J.
- Ryan, John J.
- Spring, Dan.
- Staunton, Myles.
- Taylor, Frank.
- Thornley, David.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Toal, Brendan.
- Tully, James.
- White, James.
I move amendment No. 91:
In page 19, between lines 53 and 54, to insert the following:
"(b) the insertion of the following new section before section 43:
‘42A (1) If it appears to a planning authority, after consultation with the prescribed authorities, that it is expedient to make provision for the prevention of the pollution of any coastal waters, estuary, river, lake or inland waterway they may make an order prohibiting (subject to any exemptions for which provision may be made by the order) the pollution of such coastal waters, estuary, river, lake or inland waterway.
(2) Every order made by a planning authority under this section may make provision as respects all, or as respects any one or more, causes of pollution in any specified area.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing a planning authority shall, in particular, have responsibility for—
(a) the control of discharge to and abstractions from coastal waters, estuaries, rivers, lakes and inland waterways in or adjoining their areas;
(b) the monitoring of such discharges and abstractions; and
(c) the regular and systematic sampling of the water in all such coastal waters, estuaries, rivers lakes and inland waterways.
(4) Any person who—
(a) fails to comply with the provisions of an order under subsection (I), or
(b) knowingly assists or permits another person in the non-com-pliance of such an order,
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
(5) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section and there is a continuation by him of the offence after conviction he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than £100 for each day on which the offence is so continued or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.'"
This amendment seeks to give certain powers to planning authorities in connection with water. It seeks to bring about the situation in so far as our coastal waters, estuaries, rivers, lakes and inland waterways are concerned that there will be some control exercised over them by planning authorities. I do not think anybody would regard the present situation as satisfactory.
I suppose we have been fortunate in this country in so far as our waterways in general are concerned. They have been, by reason of historic circumstances, comparatively free of pollution. It can be generally admitted that in a decade or so that situation has changed rapidly. As I mentioned in connection with the previous amendment, economic development in itself brings very real dangers in its train. It is urgently necessary that we act now to ensure that the comparatively fortunate situation which has prevailed up to now is maintained in the future.
Since I put down this amendment the situation has changed. The Minister has indicated that he has in the course of preparation a comprehensive piece of legislation to govern this whole area. If that is so it is very welcome news indeed Pending the introduction of that legislation I want to seek to persuade the Minister to confer these powers, and indeed this obligation, on planning authorities. It would be widely admitted that the record of the Government in regard to legislation is not a particularly happy or satisfactory one. While the Minister may indicate to us that he is anxious to get on with the piece of legislation governing the whole area of water I do not think that those of us who are interested in this subject can accept that situation with any degree of equanimity. In the erratic way in which this Government are behaving in regard to legislation in general, I do not think we can have any certainty or any assurance that this very necessary piece of legislation will see the light of day within the foreseeable future.
At least, we have this Planning Bill now getting towards its final Stages in so far as this House is concerned. The Minister would be wise to give planning authorities these powers if only on anad interim basis.
The Minister would agree that the situation is a real one and that it is an urgent one, that action is urgently necessary and that the planning authorities at present have not the necessary power. Indeed, many of them may not have the necessary inclination to come to grips with the situation in regard to the waterways in their various areas.
The amendment is self-explanatory. It does not purport to be in any way comprehensive but my intention and my object in putting it down was to endeavour to cope with the situationpro tem.
I would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the legislation which is in the course of preparation. I hope he will be able to tell us that we will see it very soon. Also, he should give us some indication as to when he hopes to have it before the House and have it enacted. As I said in regard to amendment 19 when talking about the situation in general, the situation in regard to water is urgent. I read recently that a recent survey in the United States has demonstrated that it is increasingly difficult for urban dwellers in the United States to drink non-polluted water. The survey showed that even bottled water contains traces of human sewage as well as unacceptably high levels of heavy metals. That is a very frightening situation. It is a situation which obtains in the United States at this moment. That is the situation disclosed by a factual survey. We are a long way from that sort of situation in this country but it is something about which we cannot be complacent. We have a fair amount of polluted water in the country and unfortunately the amount is increasing. The situation is deteriorating. It is not getting any better. There is need for action. Again we would be negligent if we did not take steps now to protect the reasonably favourable situation which we have and to ensure that it is not allowed deteriorate, and more important than that, in so far as there is any degree of pollution that the situation is restored as rapidly as possible.
I am putting forward this amendment as a very preliminary step. I know the Minister will say that my amendment is not necessary because he has this legislation on the way but I suggest to him that it would be advisable while waiting on the major legislation to take this preliminary step and give the planning authorities the powers that I have set out in the amendment.
I would like to support Deputy Haughey in the amendment he has put down. It is fair to say that we are all, on both sides of the House, very concerned about water pollution. In more highly industrialised countries the situation has almost gone out of control. As Deputy Haughey has mentioned, the position in America at present is particularly bad. The problems they face will be difficult to overcome. It is true to say that we are fortunate in this country that we have not yet experienced the very severe problems which relate to water pollution. Tests which were carried out here show that the overall level is becoming worse. It is not all that significant at the moment but as Deputy Haughey has said it is becoming worse. It is not sufficient to look at the overall position and talk about the percentage pollution in all of our waters. We must concern ourselves with the very serious problems which arise in relation to certain stretches of our rivers particularly those which pass through cities and towns. We all know that these problems are becoming worse and that unless we actively concern ourselves with the situation we will face a position which will be very difficult to overcome.
As I said earlier, we are lucky that we have not yet reached the situation obtaining in many other countries. As Deputy Haughey mentioned when speaking on amendment No. 90, now that we are on the verge of considerable expansion in mining our problems will increase. Again, the Minister may possibly say that legislation is prepared and is ready to come before the Dáil. I would like him to give us some idea of when it is likely to come before the House.
The Minister, when speaking on the previous amendment, gave one to understand that nothing was done on the whole question of the environment and pollution until he took office. This is not in accordance with the facts. A very considerable amount was done by the previous Government and he is continuing their work. But even all the work that has been done by everybody concerned is not yet sufficient by any means to deal with this very difficult problem. I suggest that the Minister adopt the proposal put forward by Deputy Haughey even on an interim basis.
I support this amendment. We are fortunate because we can learn from the mistakes made by other countries. We have a few water pollution problems which must be tackled. It is very serious where untreated effluent is allowed enter the sea, particularly near piers and harbours, and, even more serious, in places where people go swimming. This matter should get special attention in any proposed legislation.
Indiscriminate dumping into tidal waters is also an extremely serious matter. We know that EEC and other international regulations are becoming so strict in relation to the provision of water anti-pollution measures that it is now a serious offence to allow even sheep dip into tidal waters or into the sea. Penalties are not severe enough as far as polluters are concerned, and in any proposed legislation they should be substantially increased.
So far as indiscriminate dumping and throwing of litter is concerned, the gardaí should be empowered to take action. It should not be left to local authorities and planning authorities alone to take action. Most of the officials of these authorities work a five-day week, but garda patrol cars could move around at any time. If they should be empowered to take action against people who are guilty of indiscriminate dumping and of scattering litter all around, and if the penalties were severe enough, that would go a good way towards preventing these things happening. If this amendment were accepted it would be an indication of the interest which the Government have in water pollution.
I also support this amendment. Even since this Bill was first published things have changed very much. It is no reflection on anybody that we have not been doing the things we should have been doing. We cannot disturb the seabed, which has been there for millions of years, without nature hitting back in some way. Local authorities would need additional powers to cope with the new situation. There has been extensive development in land exploration in the Minister's own constituency and to some degree the rivers have been affected. There are bound to be side effects, and local authorities should have additional powers to deal with the situation.
Because we are an island adds to our problems. Perhaps the Minister could see his way to reiuvenating or improving the coast watching service. In its early days this service had the duty of watching for invaders. Now they should be employed to make people aware of the necessity to keep our waters clean. We should recruit, even on a voluntary basis, people from the maritime areas who would help in this. There is a need to involve all the people in being so watchful that we will ensure that our waterways and the sea be as clear as they can be.
Some years ago some Members of the House and myself visited the Baltic Sea which was severely polluted. The Danes blamed the cities further north for pouring untreated sewage into the Baltic Sea. But we can take hope from the fact that for many years past plans have been prepared for the great Dodder Valley drainage scheme, the canal scheme and a new sewage treatment plant at the Pigeon House. These will ensure that there is an improvement in the Liffey and its tributaries in the future.
Deputy Haughey mentioned what the Port of London Authority had done for the Thames. By a great miracle they have restored marine life to this river, but at enormous cost. We can save ourselves considerable costs by adopting this amendment, which will save millions of pounds on remedial measures. It would be much cheaper to prevent the situation developing. I hope the Minister will decide to accept the principle of this amendment. We expect that mineral exploration will improve our economy. We welcome this, but we do not want to create the situation where we may become materially rich but aesthetically poor by allowing despoliation of the natural scene.
It is interesting to hear some of the things that were said here this evening. I thought we were going to have a nice, little, smooth easy run with the Bill and that only matters under discussion would be dealt with. But Deputy Haughey wants to talk about the programme of the Government with regard to legislation. The Government's programme is by far superior to anything the previous Government or any other Government ever brought in. The only reason we are having difficulty with the Bill is because of the tactics used, not by Deputy Haughey, but by some of his colleagues, and he knows this. It is a pity that Deputy Haughey should have introduced that note. If he wants to put something on the record let us have it on the record.
Deputy Faulkner and Deputy John O'Leary talked about the local authorities being responsible for effluent going into the sea and all the rest of it. Of course, that is so and the reason it is so, is not alone because of decades but generations of neglect and particularly neglect in the last 20 to 30 years. I blame all Governments who are responsible because very little effort has been made until now to try to do anything about providing the necessary sewerage services to towns and cities.
The amount which is being given this year is three times what it was when I took over. The Deputies can talk about the effect of inflation and all the rest of it. I am not satisfied. We would require a massive injection of money to deal with this problem. It is wrong that reasonable, sensible Deputies should get up in this House and try to suggest that matters are getting worse here, because they are not. The facts are that we are gaining slowly, I admit very slowly, but we are gaining ground. It is only fair that we should say this.
I was interested when Deputy Seán Moore got up. I thought he was going to make a comment on the comments which Deputy Haughey made on the previous amendment in regard to whether or not Dublin Corporation were right or Deputy Haughey's committee were right about the state of the waters for bathing around Dublin. Deputies should not forget this. The situation is that the waters are safe for bathing. What Deputy Haughey's committee found was that they were not up to the top standard but what Dublin Corporation said was that it is safe for bathers and there is no health hazard involved. In fairness to Dublin Corporation and to Deputy Moore who is a member of the corporation, I think——
We based our report on the Minister's Department.
The Deputy's committee did, of course, but I want to make it very clear that my Department did not tell Deputy Haughey's committee that there was a danger in bathing in the sea off Dublin.
Our committee did not say that. Our committee reported factually.
Deputy Haughey's suggestion here this evening could be interpreted as meaning that that was so. When he reads his comment in the Official Report he will understand why I want to copperfasten this. I am glad that he has interjected to make that point because there are too many people at the present time knocking this country and knocking——
Dublin Corporation rushed into print to rebut an accusation which we did not make.
Dublin Corporation stated facts. Deputy Haughey says that what his committee said were facts too. The facts are that, while my Department informed Deputy Haughey's committee that the standards were not up to the top standards, Dublin Corporation——
Top EEC standards.
Top EEC standards. There is a difference. That is something I want to nail here and now because this can have a very big effect on our tourist industry. If it goes out of here that our waters are not up to standard and that there is a danger, it can have an effect on tourism. I am sure Deputy Haughey does not mean that. I want to have it down in black and white that there is absolutely no health hazard in bathing off the coast of Dublin.
The Minister is making categorical statements. I just want to say that, as far as I am concerned and my committee are concerned, we have no evidence to suppose that there is no health hazard in Dublin Bay. We do not know that but my committee do know and were assured by the Minister's Department that Dublin Bay does not in two ways comply with the EEC standards.
The Minister should be allowed to make his comments.
I want to make the position very clear because of the very damaging statement that Deputy Haughey has just made. It is a very damaging statement to make here in this House. I would like if this matter was fully considered by Deputy Haughey because I am quite sure he does not intend to do the damage which the statement he has just made can have. There is no health hazard in swimming and bathing in the waters off Dublin Bay.
I do not know that.
I am telling Deputy Haughey that. I am sure he will accept that when I say something is the truth it is the truth. The next thing we come to is the question of the control of water pollution. It is a very complex problem. A detailed study was carried out by the interdepartmental working group, who published a report on a very important day, the 13th March, 1973. Where it had been before that I do not know, but it suddenly appeared on the 13th March, 1973. Observations were asked for and were furnished by various interested bodies on the working group's recommendation and comprehensive legislation to provide for better control of water pollution is at present being drafted. I was asked the question when will it be ready. It is almost completely drafted and I am hopeful that within the first few weeks of the next session we will have this legislation before the House.
With regard to what the powers of planning authorities are, they have very wide powers. One thing that really riles me is the fact that I hear people talking, particularly representatives of planning authorities, as if they had not got those powers. They have got very wide powers to control discharges from all new developments requiring planning permission and arrangements are being made in the Bill before the House to ensure more effective use of this power.
What about the existing position where effluent is coming in? The position is that under the 1963 Act, section 37 gives power to require the discontinuance of use where pollution is being caused. That power is there and in section 32, paragraph (f), of the present Bill before the House we are putting in extra powers by an amendment which will strengthen the powers of planning authorities to combat pollution by relieving them generally of liability for compensation where they impose conditions for the purpose of securing avoidance or reduction of serious air or water pollution.
I know that the Opposition are as anxious as we are to ensure that the position is improved but we must do it in an orderly way. With regard to the question of drinking water, we have absolutely no difficulty in meeting EEC requirements. Deputy Haughey will forgive me if I comment on the fact that it was rather interesting that the example which he got was in New York. He did not quote any example here because there is no example of pollution in drinking water in this country, thank God, and there will not be. As far as we are concerned we are improving the situation. If there is anything to be said I think it should be said here during this debate. I want to state that we have no difficulty meeting the EEC regulations in regard to the standard of drinking water.
How many local authorities issue warnings to boil water before drinking?
That is a very different matter to what we are talking about. If there is a break in the main, if there is some temporary reason why——
We are not talking about that.
The Minister said he had a problem.
We have no problem, but surely to God nobody would say a person should go out and drink the water out of the street. If there is a break in the main and there is some type of water coming into it, which is polluted temporarily, surely nobody can say that that is the standard in this country. We are all too anxious to knock what we have. What we have is good.
We are not anxious at all. We are trying to be helpful.
On old pumps down the country occasionally one may see a notice: "Boil water before drinking." That is when a pump has gone right down to the very bottom, there is a very low depth of water in it and it is actually sucking mud. The notice refers to cases like that but that is not the generality. We have no difficulty in regard to the normal public water supply.
Since we will be introducing the new legislation in the next session I would ask Deputy Haughey to withdraw this amendment.
The local authorities and planning authorities have the powers if they would only use them. But many of them seem to be taking it very easy. They talk about powers but will not use them. If they are not prepared to use them there is no point giving them extra powers. I ask Deputy Haughey to withdraw the amendment.
I want to assure the House this amendment was put down in the most helpful fashion.
I accept that.
I must say, to have the Minister make accusations about knocking this country in so far as I and most of my colleagues on this side of the House are concerned is straining credulity a bit because our whole contribution to public life has been in the opposite direction. However, in the thrust and parry of debate we say things that, perhaps, on reflection we might not say.
I do not think that any objective observer could suggest that, in putting down this amendment, I am in any way making any contribution to knocking this country. I am seeking to give new powers to planning authorities which the Minister himself admits he will give them later on by way of legislation. The Minister went to some lengths to indicate that my amendment was not necessary. If it is not necessary, why is he bringing in this comprehensive piece of legislation, if all is well with regard to water?
It is quite absurd to suggest we have no problem with regard to water. We have many problems with regard to water and the Minister is foolish in endeavouring to suggest that all is well. I have personal experience of a small stream in County Dublin which is polluted and about which I was completely unable to get any action taken by any authority to cure the pollution. There is no point deluding ourselves about these matters. We are not knocking the country in directing attention to the reality of the situation. The situation in regard to water is still reasonably satisfactory but my argument is that it will not remain satisfactory. It is deteriorating. If the Minister does not recognise it, at least his Department recognises that there is need for action. The Minister says he will legislate, and I am suggesting that, pending the major legislation which is on its way and which is needed, we make this temporary proviso.
I wish to return to the subject of Dublin Bay. To some extent it is an irrelevancy in this context, but I want to place on the record of the House, and Deputies opposite know that what I am saying is truthful and accurate, that the Joint Committee on EEC legislation behaved and acted in a most responsible fashion in dealing with the EEC Directive it had before it for consideration. We sought the best possible advice we could get from the Minister's Department. We got a straightforward, factual outline of the situation in regard to the EEC Directive from the Department. That explanation was that, on the whole, this Directive would cause us no problem. There were two areas in Dublin Bay which would cause us problems. We, as a committee, did nothing more or less than report accurately on the basis of that expert opinion submitted to us by the Minister's Department. The fact that Dublin Corporation were naive enough to react in an ill-judged manner to our report should not take from the value of that report. Dublin Corporation in some outbreak of sensitivity proceeded to rebut an accusation that we, as a committee, had not made. We directed attention to the two areas in Dublin Bay where the waters used for bathing did not come up to the standard prescribed by the EEC. We did that on the basis of responsible expert evidence submitted to us by the Department, and Dublin Corporation did themselves no good by this hasty reaction on their part.
We were not concerned whether Dublin Bay was or was not a health hazard from the point of view of swimming. I have my own view about that. I have no expert opinion to tell me that it is or is not a health hazard from the point of view of people swimming in Dublin Bay. People who know Dublin Bay have their own opinion as to whether or not it is a suitable place to swim. Members of our committee had their own individual opinions about the situation. We did not advert to that. We stated factually what we were aware of on the basis of expert opinion given to us. The Minister has sought to accuse me of doing some harm to the tourist trade because of some implication in regard to the health hazards in Dublin Bay. I made no accusations about the health situation in regard to Dublin Bay swimming because I do not know whether it is or is not safe and, if the Minister gives me some expert opinion on it, I will accept it. There are Deputies opposite who know that the Joint Committee acted fully and responsibly in that matter and I think Dublin Corporation were quite silly in rushing into print the way they did. Every Deputy in the House knows that in different parts of the country we have problems in regard to water, be it drinking water or some other sort of water. As I said, I personally know of a stream that was polluted and, under the existing administrative structures, there was no way in which I could get that pollution attended to or dealt with.
Was it because the Deputy could not find the source?
No. I identified three sources.
Then there was no reason why the Deputy did not take the necessary action. The legislation is there.
The point is that there were three separate identifiable sources of pollution and I, as a citizen, could not get any action taken. That stream is still polluted. The Minister's Department know about it because I have given them the facts. I could be giving the facts to Dublin County Council and to the Department until the cows come home and the stream would still remain polluted. That is the situation. The Minister does not do himself or the House any good by entering into an unrealistic argument about the situation. The reality of the situation is there. There are pollution problems. We hope the Minister will deal with them in this legislation and when it is introduced we will do our best to make it effective and worth while. The sooner it comes the better. In the meantime the Minister should not be reacting in the way he is to this simple proposal of mine. This is a well-meant proposal. It simply seeks interim action to deal with a situation and the amendment was put down a long time ago before there was any talk of the Minister's legislation.
That is the reason why I am suggesting to the Deputy that he withdraw it. I am not quarrelling with the Deputy because he put down the amendment. I give him credit for it because he put it down in good faith. I wish to make it clear that on more than one occasion I put it on record that it is a recognised fact that approximately 7 per cent of our water is polluted. Our drinking water is not polluted. It is up to the highest EEC standard. There is no evidence that there is unsafe bathing. The fact that there is effluent in Dublin Bay and elsewhere does not mean they are unsafe to bathe in.
I will accept that Deputy Haughey and his committee had no intention of knocking the country or the tourist industry when they made a statement which they considered to be a statement of fact. Perhaps it was unfortunate that this was made in such a way that it got the sort of publicity which could do harm. Dublin Corporation he said, reacted in the wrong way: they felt harm was being done and they immediately jumped into the breach and said: "We are satisfied that there is no danger in bathing in Dublin Bay". I think we should leave it at that.
What I am saying with regard to the amendment is that first of all we have got the Bill almost ready. Early in the next session we will be putting it before the House. Secondly, there are safeguards there. I am surprised at Deputy Haughey saying that he was not able to take any action against somebody who was polluting a stream. I am sure he could have taken legal action if he wanted to. The failure of Dublin County Council to take the necessary action is the sort of thing for which I am putting the additional strength in section 32 (f) of the Bill. I am doing that because I am aware that in many cases where action could have been taken that action has not been taken by local authorities. It is as simple as that. We have the arrangements made and in a relatively short time we should have the legislation here, and I am sure it will go through the House quickly. I ask the Deputy again to withdraw the amendment.
If the Minister had made the statement he made at the end of his speech at the beginning it might have been more helpful.
The Minister just now said he accepts that the statement issued by Deputy Haughey's committee was done in good faith.
I did not. I accepted that Deputy Haughey would not knock the country.
I do not think there is any need for any heat to be generated in relation to this. In the course of my speech I said that we were all concerned about the environment, that we had an exceptionally good situation here and that we should try to ensure that it would not deteriorate to the condition in which it is in more highly industrialised countries. The danger was there. There is no question of any of us on this side of the House endeavouring to knock the country in any way. I hope the Minister will accept that.
If the Deputy will listen, I said I appreciated the fact that Deputy Haughey would not attempt to knock the country, and I was surprised then that there was a suggestion that Dublin Bay at two points was not fit to swim in, because this will do a lot of harm to our tourist industry. Deputy Haughey will agree that that is the statement I made.
I move amendment No. 92:
In page 20, line 3, to delete "in the interests of amenity" and to delete all words from and including "to" in line 5 down to and including "interest" in line 8.
This is a non-controversial amendment. I put down this amendment for a number of reasons, but principally because I am a bit confused about what the Minister is at in the change he is purporting to make by section 31 in which he proposes to amend the principal Act by substituting new subsections for the existing subsection (1) of section 42. The first thing that strikes me about the new subsection (1) which the Minister is going to insert is that in paragraph (a) he now brings in the extra word "outstanding" to "natural beauty."
Has Deputy Haughey got the right amendment?
I have. It was leading up to what I wished to say. I am not quite sure what the Minister is at in the amendments to the Principal Act which he is proposing in section 31. My amendment relates to section 31 of the Bill. There are so many things involved here that it is difficult to keep them all in mind. We are dealing with the Principal Act, the Bill and now with amendments to the Bill which is amending the Principal Act. It is all very confusing.
In the Act, section 42 (1) (a) deals with areas of special amenity and the making of special amenity area orders. Paragraph (a) prescribes that the planning authority, "if it appears to them that an area is an area of special amenity by reason of its natural beauty" and so forth, may do certain things. In section 31 in this subsection which the Minister is purporting to insert, he changes that and brings in the qualification "outstanding natural beauty". Does the Minister agree with that?
If Deputy Haughey has another look I would imagine he is on the wrong amendment.
Section 31 states:
(1) When it appears to the planning authority that by reason of—
(a) its outstanding natural beauty, The new proviso will be "its outstanding natural beauty".
We are at cross-purposes.
I am dealing with amendment No. 92, but in order to lead up to that I said that my reason for putting down this amendment is because I am not quite clear what the Minister is at. He is making changes in the legislation in regard to special amenity area orders. The first change he makes in section 31 is to bring in the word "outstanding" whereas the Act merely mentioned "natural beauty". He is changing the circumstances in which a planning authority can bring in a special amenity area order.
I merely want the Minister, when he comes to deal with my amendment, to explain to the House why he is introducing the new qualification of "outstanding natural beauty". He is restricting planning authorities in the making of special amenity area orders to areas which have outstanding natural beauty whereas before the situation was that they could make them because of their natural beauty.
I began by saying I do not understand what the Minister is at in the changes he is making. To come more specifically to my amendment, the Minister in paragraph (b) is substituting a new subsection for the existing subsection (1) of section 46. Section 46, subsection (1) of the Principal Act reads:
If it appears to the planning authority, after consultation with the prescribed authorities, that it is expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the protection of any rare species of flora or fauna of any area or to preserve from extinction any species of flora or fauna of any area, they may for that purpose make an order with respect to such flora or fauna; and, in particular, provision may be made by way of such order.
Then it goes on to outline what the order may specify.
In the new subsection (1) which the Minister proposes to insert he, first of all, restricts the making of these areas to an area which is either a whole area or part of an area to which a special amenity area order relates. In other words, these conservation orders at the moment can be made for any area where the planning authority wish to provide for the protection of rare species of flora or fauna. But in the new subsection, the making of these conservation orders will be restricted to special amenity area orders or portion of special amenity area orders. I want the Minister to explain why he is making that restriction.
On some occasion earlier on when he was discussing this Bill, the Minister pointed out that no special amenity area orders had ever been made. If no special amenity area order has ever been made, and he is now going to bring about a situation where conservation orders can only be made for areas about which special amenity area orders have already been made, then he is very largely nullifying any possible effect of section 46. My amendment is designed to prevent that happening and to revert to the situation which obtains under the Principal Act at present, namely, that the conservation order can be made for any area where there are special flora or fauna in need of preservation or protection. Perhaps the Minister would say what precisely he has in mind in the changes he is proposing under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this new section 31.
Paragraph (a) provides for the amendment of section 42 of the 1963 Act, as Deputy Haughey says, which enables an order setting out special control measures to be made for an area which was an area of special amenity by reason of (a) its natural beauty and (b) its scenic or other amenities, including recreational utility. But here is the catch.
No special amenity order has yet come into operation. One was made by Dublin Corporation on 23rd June last. The reason none came into operation is that the scope was too wide. In 12 years nobody was prepared to bring in a special amenity order because if it was brought in for one place somebody else would say: "Is not ours just as good?" You could have all sorts of problems. The local authorities and planning authorities got out of it by bringing in no special amenity orders good, bad or indifferent.
It was obvious to me that there was no point in leaving the phraseology as it was because, if I did, it would be useless. By putting in the words "its outstanding natural beauty", it is possible to pick out even small areas of outstanding natural beauty. I believe most areas of the country are beautiful but there are areas of outstanding natural beauty. We know where they are and the local authorities know where they are. They can pick them out and put an order on them. This is what is going to happen.
While the Minister for Lands has the responsibility to preserve wildlife and flora and fauna there may be areas under the control of local authorities where they might like to do this, although the Department of Lands might not feel it was necessary. The authority to do it in specific cases should be provided. That is the answer to the two questions.
I followed what the Minister was saying but I am not saying I agreed with his argument. I followed why he is now putting in "outstanding". I did not follow why he is restricting conservation orders to areas of special amenity.
At present the Department of Lands deal with the preservation of flora and fauna. We want to give the local authorities some right to do something about that too, if they have an area they want to preserve.
I would like to ask the Minister who will define "outstanding natural beauty" because he has already said that probably the reason why no amenity order was made was that too many places would look for an order in relation to their own areas.
Could I ask Deputy Faulkner a question? Would he agree that there are places of outstanding natural beauty in County Louth?
It is a county of outstanding natural beauty.
Would Deputy Faulkner not say that there are areas of outstanding natural beauty that both he and I could point to and so can the councillors?
I know one gentleman in the House at the moment who would say that Cooley was an area of particular natural beauty.
He is almost in the House.
I could mention many other areas. Does the Minister think that the word "outstanding" will make any difference?
Yes, I do.
Does he not feel that if an amenity order is made in relation to one particular area because it is regarded as being of outstanding beauty, if there is something to be gained from it other areas will also want their areas declared as areas of outstanding beauty? Who will decide on this?
The local authorities. Their good sense will decide that Cooley is beautiful in County Louth.
This reminds me of the definition of an Irish farmer as a man who is outstanding in his own field.
They do not stand out so much now. They do not have to.
I do not see that the Minister is making any contribution to the situation by incorporating this new word "outstanding".
That is why the Deputy is over there and I am here.
That is by the way; I am more concerned with the conservation order and my amendment is directed to the conservation order situation. Up to now the situation was fairly straightforward. A planning authority could, in the interest of amenity, make provisions for the protection of any rare species of flora and fauna in any area and preserve those species from extinction. Now the Minister is purporting to restrict the making of these conservation orders to areas of special amenity.
Would Deputy Haughey like me to explain this, because he has got the wrong end of the stick?
I doubt it, but I will listen.
Paragraph (b) provides for amendment to section 46 of the 1963 Act which enables conservation orders to be made for protection of rare flora or fauna. The section is seldom used because it is difficult to draft a statutory order, difficult to enforce it and the power is defective in that no provision is made for habitat protection. The Wild Life Bill, at present before the Seanad, deals with these problems, but there may still be areas where planning authorities wish to have a power to conserve flora or fauna for amenity reasons. The proposal is to simplify the existing provisions considerably and to confine the power to make orders to areas which are subject to special amenity orders under section 42.
Precisely. That is exactly what I have been saying. The Minister has confirmed my point of view. I have been saying that the existing section 46 of the Principal Act leaves it open to a planning authority to make one of these conservation orders for any area. The change the Minister now proposes is to restrict the making of these conservation orders to special amenity area orders. On his own admission, there has only been one special amenity area order made. If that situation is to continue, that special amenity area orders are going to be very rarely and seldom made, then there will be no conservation orders made.
No. The Wild Life Bill is dealing with the generality of flora and fauna protection. There may be at local level some area that the local authority might want to protect and they will invoke this section.
If this amendment which the Minister is proposing is made they can only make a conservation order in future for an area for which a special amenity area order exists.
Yes, but the Department of Lands can do it under a different heading altogether.
Leave the Department of Lands aside.
They are still in this Government.
We know there is a Wild Life Bill going through and the Department of Lands will discharge their own responsibility and duties in their own way. We are concerned here with planning authorities. Up to now a planning authority could look at a situation in which there was a special species of flora or fauna in need of protection or preservation. They could make a conservation order for that species for any area under their jurisdiction. The change the Minister is making is that in future they can only make those conservation orders if a special amenity order is already made. That is ridiculous, because the Minister has confessed that because of the machinery involved special amenity area orders have not been made and we have no guarantee they will be made.
Only two orders have been made and one is under appeal to the High Court. The argument does not hold water at all.
We are dealing with a future situation.
We cannot forget the past.
Exactly, and that is why I cannot understand why the Minister is doing this. He stated that special amenity area orders are rare things. Only one has been made. He is hoping, by the change he is making, they will be made much more freely in future. We do not know about that. Why is he restricting conservation orders in this way? It is possible that there will be a species of flora or fauna in the area of a planning authority for which no special amenity area order has been made. If no special amenity area order has been made in future the planning authority will not be able to make a conservation order. That is an absurd situation. I wish the Minister could refute what I am saying.
I am refuting it but Deputy Haughey will not accept what I am saying. The Department of Lands will be responsible for all orders with regard to flora and fauna. If they do not make an order for a special amenity area that a local authority think it is necessary to have such an order made for, I am giving them the authority to do it.
When we began discussing this Bill there was no Wild Life Bill in existence.
We knew it was coming.
We, on this side of the House, did not know it was coming. I submit that we are not concerned here with the Department of Lands discharging their responsibilities and carrying out their duties. They, we presume and hope, will do that in their own way. We are concerned with a planning authority having a special regard for particular situations. Those situations are where it is brought to their attention that somewhere within their planning authority area there is need to make a conservation order for a particular species of flora or fauna. The Minister cannot deny that such a situation is likely to arise. We, on this side of the House, believe that the planning authorities should be free to make that conservation order in respect of that particular species of flora or fauna anywhere within their planning authority area. It is unnecessarily restrictive and it would make the whole thing inoperative if the Minister restricts the making of these conservation orders to areas in which special amenity area orders exist. I do not think the Minister can refute that.
I feel that 1 (a) is not binding enough. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. We could have a clash on whether or not a place had outstanding natural beauty. A conservation order would serve the needs better. The Minister stated that only one special amenity area order had been made and I always felt they were not very effective anyway.
How would anybody know when they were not made?
Take the Dublin Bay one for instance, the Minister could decide tomorrow morning, despite the order having been made by a local authority, to include say, an obnoxious industry in the area.
That is the kind of talk which certain people who are not as responsible as Deputy Moore are supposed to have been making in the city. The Deputy should lay off that; it is a lot of nonsense. At present there is no oral hearing being held; it has been deferred at the request of both people about the oil refinery. We have people with no responsibility in this city kicking up a row about something which is not an issue. Deputy Moore helped to make the amenity order. Did he believe it would protect or did he not? If he did not I do not know what it was made for.
Is an oil refinery flora or fauna?
Ask Deputy Moore; I did not bring it into this.
I am not expert on oil refineries, but does the Minister feel that 1 (a) will be effective? I do not think it can be.
If I did not I would not put it in.
The Minister and I might disagree on what is outstanding natural beauty.
I would decide for myself but Deputy Moore might think something different. Deputy Faulkner and myself agree that Cooley is a beautiful place. He knows what is outstanding natural beauty. He immediately picked Cooley. He had no difficulty in picking that. It shows that it works.
There was an obvious reason, was there not?
The Dublin Bay area has natural beauty, too.
Good for you.
While Cooley may be beautiful there may be other parts of the country in respect of which there would not be the same unanimity.
I do not think the Opposition want this Bill to go through the House. It looks as if for some reason they are trying to stall it.
Could the Minister state why he is placing this restriction, why he did not leave the section as it was?
As I have explained twice already—the Deputy must not have heard me——
That is not very complimentary. The Minister is in bad humour.
I am never in bad humour. I could not afford to be in this House. As the legislation stood, it did not operate. Nobody wanted to apply it. Recently Dublin Corporation brought in the first one in 12 years. I decided I would like to leave it so that people would recognise what was referred to and I put "outstanding" into this Bill. Every place in the country is not a place of outstanding natural beauty. There are areas which are of great beauty but are not outstanding. Therefore, if we put in "of outstanding natural beauty" this will be recognised and will be used by very many local planning authorities. It is as simple as that.
I wish the Minister would stop making these tendentious remarks because we are teasing out this Bill section by section, line by line, endeavouring to improve it and putting down what I think are reasonably constructive amendments. I wish he would desist from this nefarious practice of attributing some motives to us which do not exist.
I do not attribute motives to anybody over there.
The point is that at this stage Deputy Faulkner is concerned with the making of special amenity area orders. I only mention thaten passant. I am concerned with the making of conservation orders and I am asking the Minister again to drop this new provision which he is bringing in. He is now restricting the making of conservation orders to areas of special amenity, to areas in which special amenity area orders have already been made. I cannot understand this.