Wildlife Bill, 1975: Report Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 3b:
In page 8, lines 45 and 46, to delete "at the same time as is so laid the report for that year of his proceedings under the Act of 1946" and to insert "within twelve months from the termination of the year to which the report refers".
—(Deputy Tunney.)

I was indicating to the House the importance which we attached to the report which this legislation envisaged would be made available in respect of wildlife conservation. Nobody would make little of the importance which is attached to annual reports but it is true that, where the report does nothing more than give a presentation of statistics and refers to facts which have occurred and which are no longer relevant, the value of that report is relatively insignificant and useless. In this legislation we would like to see a report making a useful contribution. The report should indicate to the community where there were inhibitions on the Department, inhibitions in respect of the spirit of the legislation, and these indications should be acted upon. We cannot see the report being acted upon if it arrives two or three years late. It can happen as provided for in this legislation that the report might not arrive for two or three years.

Supposing that matters connected with conservation which are in need of remedy are referred to in the report, the relevance will have disappeared if the report is not to appear for some years. The report should appear within weeks or months of the year to which it refers. We appreciate that there would be difficulties and that no Minister would like to have his hands tied to weeks or months but we certainly do not think it in any way reasonable that a Minister should shy away from it being mandatory on him that the report would appear within 12 months. If there is a fear of that, one would be inclined to the view that, perhaps, the purpose of the report would be to conceal rather than reveal the facts, that it would be to satisfy only the need which legislation required that it should appear, but that in the matter of the contribution which ideally it should make it would be useless. It certainly would not be in accord with the importance I attach to a report of this nature.

I support this amendment. We went into detail on all these sections on Committee Stage. We dealt for some time with and attached some importance to the procedure in section 7 in relation to the report. The Minister may say that there is no precedent and that there is no obligation placed by law on any statutory body, or in any legislation, in relation to the Minister's duties as to the time in which the report was introduced. There has been a good deal of criticism in this House from time to time about our having to examine reports a year or two after the period which they cover when their relevance is not of great importance. There are other reasons why we should take a step in regard to this legislation. This is non-controversial legislation so far as political or party views are concerned. We sought to help the Minister to improve it. Perhaps at times the Minister felt that we were impeding the progress of the Bill but we tried to do as good a job as possible on Committee Stage.

This is a bulky piece of legislation which covers quite a lot of things which directly affect the lives and property of people. With good reason, it gives exceptional powers to the Minister in relation to property, behaviour and sport, particularly gun sport. For that reason we hope that the report—which the Minister is obliged to make—would appear as soon as possible. One would like to get the report one month after the year expired but that would probably be asking for too much. Taking into consideration what has happened in the past, we believe that it would be reasonable to expect the report within a year. It is not just to make it awkward for whatever Minister happens to be responsible for producing the report down through the years. It is to ensure that the vast amount of work and the activities which are involved in relation to the provisions of this Bill will be made known while they are still fresh in the minds of the people and while people have a better chance of identifying with the happenings that have taken place throughout the country in relation to this Bill.

This is quite a reasonable request. The Minister said on Committee Stage that he would like to ensure that the report would be ready as early as possible but that he should not be confined to a particular period to be set out in the Bill. To leave it open-ended the report could fall into the practice which has characterised such reports in the past, of becoming a belated report, which we get in the post and which we will hardly look at because questions have been asked in the House long before the report came out about matters now contained in these reports. We get these reports almost every day and when we look at the date we are often amazed to note that they are dated two years back.

For that reason we can forget about the precedent established in other legislation in which there is not prescribed a fixed period in which to report. Our aim should be always to improve on past legislation and what we are proposing here would constitute a real improvement. We would hope that the council which is to be responsible for preparing a report for the Minister would have that report ready at the end of the year. We should not be concerned about the quality of the publication in terms of it having a glossy cover, for instance. The aim should be to get the report, even in draft form, before the House as quickly as possible so that Deputies could discuss the workings of the council. Our request is reasonable. I am prepared to listen to the Minister's case but I wonder whether he has changed his mind since Committee Stage when, as far as I recall, he gave an undertaking to consider this matter before Report Stage. In many ways this Bill is an innovation in terms of legislation generally. Every effort should be made to have the report ready within a shorter time than a year if possible, but certainly in a period not longer than that and that provision be made to have its contents debated here while they are still fresh in the minds of Deputies.

(Dublin Central): Before Question Time we had a lecture from Deputy Tunney on the manner in which this Bill is being put through the House. The Deputy seemed to be under the impression that the Bill was being steamrolled through.

Perhaps we could have a House so that Dejuties opposite might hear the Minister's lecture.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

We would have been slated in Opposition for calling for a House on a Thursday evening.

We do not follow in the Deputy's footsteps.

(Cavan): Deputy Tunney was critical of what he considered to be a lack of input on the part of the Government in regard to this legislation. He seemed to suggest that the Bill was being steamrolled through the House without adequate discussion and without adequate amendments.

In view of those charges I should like to put the situation on record. On the 22nd January and on the 4th February last the Bill had a Second Stage Reading in the Dáil. It was referred then to a Special Committee and that Committee met to debate the Bill at length on 17 different dates. As the House knows, on Committee Stage a Bill is teased out line by line and amendments are tabled. Members may speak several times on each amendment if they so wish and, if necessary, further amendments can be tabled for Report Stage. In the case of this Bill we find that, although following representations which I invited from the various voluntary bodies interested in this measure, there were 52 Government amendments for Committee Stage while there were merely two amendments from the Opposition, neither of which was tabled by Deputy Tunney but one of which was tabled in the earlier stages by Deputy Kitt and the other by that hard-working and energetic Member, Deputy Haughey. I do not know where Fianna Fáil would be without Deputy Haughey. He seems to find time to deal with all Departments and to answer all questions.

The question is where would Deputy Haughey be without Fianna Fáil.

(Cavan): The Deputy is the regular hooha of Fianna Fáil. He has many hats which he is anxious and willing to wear. However, the spokesman for the Opposition on the subject before us, the man charged with piloting the Bill through the House on behalf of Fianna Fáil did not find the time or the energy to table as much as one amendment for Committee Stage.

I was not criticising the Government in regard to amendments but in regard to contributions. I have seven amendments down for today.

(Cavan): We shall deal with those in a moment. The Bill, having been put through Committee was reported to the House and came before us on the 11th of this month. The date for the Report Stage was ordered on Tuesday last in order to give Deputy Tunney time to table his amendments. But we find that although the Bill was ordered for last Tuesday there was a request from Deputy Tunney—he was not ready and he asked if I would have any objection to the Bill being put back to yesterday. I said I had not and it was tentatively ordered first for yesterday. I was asked if I had any objection to it being postponed to being the last item on yesterday's Order Paper. I agreed to that. But even then Deputy Tunney had neither the time nor the energy to prepare amendments or to process them. The seven amendments which he now boasts about having been put down, although the Bill was introduced in March, 1975, were stuffed, in manuscript form, under my office door late last night or in the early hours of this morning.

By arrangement with the Minister.

(Cavan): I am not thin skinned and I do not want to introduce controversy but I am not prepared to listen to sanctimonious lectures from Deputy Tunney on how I discharge my duties and how the Members of the House discharge their duties, when that is his record in regard to this legislation. It is necessary to put the record straight in that regard lest innocent people might be misled into thinking that Deputy Tunney was rearing to go, eager for work, had all his work processed and was in some way being held up by me. Nothing could be further from the facts. The amendments with which we are now dealing are proposals to amend section 7. Section 7, as it stands, reads:

The Minister shall, as regards each financial year, prepare a report of his proceedings under this Act during that year and he shall cause the report to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas at the same time as is so laid the report for that year of his proceedings under the Act of 1946.

The amendment proposes to delete the words "elat the same time as is so laid the report for the year of his proceedings under the Act of 1946", and to insert "within 12 months from the termination of the year to which the report refers".

I share wholeheartedly the views of the Opposition when they say that when reports are held up indefinitely or unduly they cease to be as valuable as they would be if they were promptly presented after the period with which they deal. I am doing, and will continue to do all I can to ensure that reports are promptly prepared and presented before the Houses of the Oireachtas but I do not believe that a statutory obligation to get a report into this House within a specified time will necessarily get the fullest, most comprehensive and most informative report before the House. In some circumstances it might well result in a statutory report by which, in that context, I mean a report that would simply be brought in to comply with the statute.

One of the basic objectives of the Bill as explained in the explanatory memorandum and as I have explained on a number of occasions is to bring about a unification of the services provided by the Forestry and Wildlife Service of my Department, two subsections of one section, to put it more correctly. This is apparent in many areas of the Bill and section 7 is one good example of it because it provides for the simultaneous presentation to the Oireachtas of the annual reports relating to wildlife on one hand and the forestry activities of my Department on the other. Because of the unified nature of the Forestry and Wildlife Service as now constituted I would envisage that in practice a single report combining the activities of both sides of the service—wildlife and forestry—would be produced in future.

The first part of the proposed amendment would cut across that procedure because the section as drafted provides that the report of the forestry section and the report of the wildlife section would be brought in on the same date but the amendment proposes to divorce them and would make it obligatory to introduce the wildlife report within a certain time while leaving the forestry report to be brought in in accordance with subsection (6) of section 9 of the Forestry Act. That subsection, which imposes on the Minister an obligation to bring in a report in respect of forestry activities, states:

The Minister shall, as soon as may be after the expiration of every financial year, cause to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas a report of its proceedings under the Act during that year.

That is my first objection. As regards the second part of the amendment— I appreciate the spirit in which the amendment has been tabled—for the reasons I have given I do not think it would be desirable or in the interest of the presentation of a proper report to write that specified time into the Bill. This is partly due to what I have said about uniform procedure and to the reason that in certain circumstances it might have the effect of resulting in a report presented merely to comply with the statute. I share fully the sentiments that an out-of-date report is less valuable than an up-to-date one and might very well be valueless but the Oireachtas has available to it machinery to chastise a defaulting Minister, and to expose the delays in bringing in a report. Of course, the first and most effective opportunity is the Estimate debate, in which the Minister can be called to task for not bringing in the report within the proper time. If it is considered that the Estimate debate is a dilatory or delayed method of dealing with this problem—indeed sometimes, due to pressure of business, the Estimate might not be dealt with —there is always the remedy of the parliamentary question which is available to any Member of the Oireachtas on three or four days' notice. He can ask when the report is being brought in and if he is not satisfied with the answer he can bring the Minister back on the adjournment and have it teased out. If that is not considered long enough, Private Members' Time is available now all the year round, since the procedure was amended, and there can be a three hours' debate if any Minister is so neglectful as not to bring in a report.

I have given this matter thought and I have put down many amendments to this measure—57 before the Special Committee in response to requests and points made to me and 25 for discussion here on this Stage. If I thought that this amendment on time limit was in the best interest of not alone getting a report but of getting a useful, informative report, then I would accept the amendment. However, I do not think so and for that reason I do not propose to accept it.

I believe that this amendment should be accepted. It is reasonable, and the case put forward by Deputy Tunney was very well put and very well argued. I do not at all agree with the reasons given by the Minister for refusing to accept the amendment.

After all, a period of 12 months is a fairly considerable period of time for the preparation of an annual report for the previous year, particularly by a Minister of State who has the back-up service of his whole Department behind him. When we consider the form that this report should take and when we take into account the fact that we are dealing here with a limited field—the field of conservation and protection of wild-life—it should not take more than a few months to prepare a very comprehensive report of the activities for the previous 12 months. It is not at all unreasonable to insert this amendment in the Bill and to have it stated in law that the annual report should be submitted within a period of 12 months from the end of the previous year.

We are presented here with a golden opportunity of setting a headline for other Departments and other organisations as far as the production of annual reports is concerned. Too often we see and read of reports by various State Departments and semi-State organisations referring not alone to the previous year but to years going back. I have seen reports coming out of various State Departments which are so much out of date in comparison with the present-day workings of those Departments that they are not even worth reading. The printing of these reports is a complete waste of time and of public money. The longer the publication of an annual report is left the greater the loss to the people interested in that Department or work, particularly when the delay goes over one year from the previous year.

We have the census of population that is taken every five years. We know that five years is a long period and that it is important that a census should be taken at least every five years. We know also now that, despite the fact that only a very short period has elapsed since the time that that census should have been carried out, serious damage has been done to the whole country in many ways as a result of that census not being carried out, and not intended to be carried out, at the proper time. I mention this as an example of the value of these reports if and when they are published at the appropriate time.

Fresh reports are of vital importance for numerous reasons, apart altogether from comment on the activities of the Department, section or service concerned. They are also of importance in order to rectify any errors. As we all know, the longer these remain uncorrected, the harder it is to rectify them. These reports could and should be used as well in reverse: to give praise to the good work being done when it is being done, and to consider ways and means of improving the good work being carried out by a Department or a section of a Department.

The Minister has stated that there are numerous ways open to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas should there be a continuing delay in the publication of these annual reports, but we all know what happens when such steps and measures are taken. We know well that, if a question is asked why the annual report of any Department has not been published to date despite the fact that it is a few years overdue, we are told that it is with the printers and will be published shortly, and that is the end of it for the moment. Again, by raising it on the Estimate for the Department we know well that the consideration it will get will not be anything like what would happen if this amendment were accepted. Therefore, it should be built into this Bill that the report be published within a period of 12 months from the end of the preceding year.

This reasonable amendment should be accepted. I cannot see why the Minister and his Department cannot give a solemn undertaking to this House that there will not be more than 12 months' delay before the publication of the annual report. This is one of the most reasonable amendments ever put down in this House. I implore the Minister to accept it and to be reasonable in this case. If a report dealing with the operation of this Bill cannot be published within 12 months from the end of the year, we might as well forget about the workings of this Bill altogether.

I will be very brief. I support my colleagues in their appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment to place upon himself and his Department a statutory obligation to produce a report within a relevant period of time. The Minister knows we discussed this at length in the Special Committee and, following on the views expressed there, we put down this amendment.

I would like to think that with this legislation a new era will be ushered into the whole world of wildlife and conservation in this country. I am certain that is what the Minister and his dedicated officials have in mind. In the organisations outside the Department which are interested in conservation and wildlife that is what is hoped for. We want to see the protection and preservation of our wildlife take on a new meaning in the life of our community, take on a new dimension, and become something of more importance and of greater significance. How better can that be achieved than by the Department producing a comprehensive report on their activities every year?

I would not be content with a comprehensive factual report. I would like to see—and my colleagues share this view—an attractive, interesting stimulating document brought out each year showing where we are going and what progress has been made. Many organisations are very successful in bringing out that sort of document, organisations whose purposes are not anything like as important as the functions of the Minister will be under this legislation.

I hope I am not being unduly sanguine or optimistic in looking forward to a document being brought out each year in colour which would be available to our schools and which would be included in the school curriculum and would be mandatory for all our primary schools to study and be familiar with. That document should stimulate throughout the community a new revival of interest in country life, wildlife and conservation in all these areas. I foresee a great and significant part being played by this document in the future. That is the idea. If we are not going to have something like that let us not bother about it. Let us forget about it. Let us not have any report. The Comptroller and Auditor General in the Committee of Public Accounts will make sure that routine administrative matters are examined and looked into.

We on this side of the House want to see something meaningful emerge from this legislation. We hope and visualise a document of importance and significance which would be looked forward to every year by interested people, by different organisations, societies, naturalists, conservationists and everybody interested in this field. We hope that this document by its very existence and by its annual appearance would stimulate many other people who might not be interested in this area at the moment to become interested. That is what we are looking forward to. That is why we put down this amendment. We want to see that interesting, colourful, attractive, informative document made available to the public within a reasonable space of time.

I think that would be good for the Department. The Minister is very fortunate in having many dedicated people in his Department who labour in this wildlife service above and beyond the call of ordinary civil service requirements. It would be in their interests if they knew that their work —what they were doing, what they were achieving and the progress they were making—was to be recorded and displayed to the general public at an appropriate and relevant time every year.

What good is it to them if three or four years later some dull and uninteresting routine report is brought out and read by no one? That is not the sort of atmosphere we want to generate. We see this document as a climax of the year's work of the wildlife service. We want it brought out as quickly as possible. The only reason I would tolerate any delay in bringing it out would be because they want to make it better, more attractive, fuller and more interesting. If the Minister looks on this annual report of his Department in that light, he will not hesitate to accept our amendment.

The Minister knows as well as I do the way the public service operates. If he looks at any aspect of the public service he will see that, when there is a statutory obligation, a statutory mandate, the thing is done. If there is not, it is postponed, put on the long finger, produced whenever time permits and nothing more pressing intervenes. Under EEC legislation, for instance, there is a statutory stipulation that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Government must bring out every six months a report on developments. It is one of the few reports that appears promptly and regularly because there is a statutory obligation on the Minister and the Department to produce it.

There are other areas in which, if there is no statutory obligation, things are postponed and come out in God's own good time. Deputies have experience of finding in their post a report of some Department or other and saying to themselves "I did not realise that Department brought out reports," simply because in a period of three or four years they had not seen such a report. When the Department have no obligation by statute to produce a report in a certain time they will not do it until such time as they have nothing better to do, and then it is too late to be of any significance or importance.

What is wrong with the Minister accepting the statutory obligation to do this? The Minister for Finance has all sorts of constraints placed on him to do certain things every year and he does that. If he is prepared to undertake these annual statutory obligations, surely the Minister for Lands should equally be prepared to do so. It is no answer for him to say the matter can be brought up on the annual Estimate. We are not discussing such a situation because as we all know very few Departments any more have their Estimates brought in here for lengthy discussion. In recent years we have been rushing through a whole bookfull of Estimates at the end of the year, shoving them through in a matter of hours.

The Minister knows there is no answer. The only satisfactory way to approach this is that the legislation would place on the Minister and the Department a statutory obligation to produce a worth-while report so that everybody interested would see it while it was still relevant. I am sure the schools, apart from others interested in an adult professional way, would like to see such an occurrence so that teachers could bring it into the classroom to have it discussed and examined. That would do an enormous amount of good in so many cases that I could not possibly begin to talk about them here.

I join with my colleagues in asking the Minister to accept this reasonable proposal. It is no good for the Minister to say this is not done in any other Department. We are changing our procedures all the time. We are doing things now that were unheard of and unknown when I first came here. Let us set a headline in this new area. We have never had a comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with wildlife. Let us do the thing properly and bring out a fullscale, adequate report on time every year.

I support the amendment and appeal to the Minister to accept it. Year after year in the past ten years we have had more business coming on to the Table of the House and the result has been the crushing out of opportunities to discuss all the Estimates on an annual basis, and this goes for the Department of Lands. All of us agree with the aims the Minister has set out in the Bill, the objectives and the conditions laid down. We should like to see a better scheme for the preservation and conservation of wildlife because we all know that every age carries its own advantages and disadvantages and that although standards of living have been rising, standards in other directions, for the animal and wildlife in general, have been lowered. That is apparent not only here but in many other countries and consequently wildlife in some parts of the world has become extinct. It would be too bad that that would happen here and to that extent we all support the Minister's aim.

At the same time, we have suggested to him that, concomitant with that, when a report is published its contents should be fresh in the minds of those concerned so that we could discuss them and make suggestions for the betterment of the running of the Department concerned. In this case it would enable a debate to take place on the wildlife activities of the Department. For that reason all of us here are in total agreement that it should be mandatory on the Minister to lay this report before us within the time suggested in the amendment.

There is nothing extraordinary about this. It does not take from but adds to the legislation. It would be a help in discussing the general activities of the Department.

Mr. Kitt

In support of this amendment I should like to add my voice to the pleas made by the other Deputies. It should not be necessary for me to give the reasons why this report should be produced speedily. I am sure the Minister realises what would happen if the report was not issued reasonably early. For instance, if there were recommendations in the field of conservation and the report was not issued for some time those recommendations might be irrelevant. I hope the report will be a factual publication and not just a lot of statistics. I hope it will be attractive, interesting and stimulating.

Such a report would be of interest to many people, not just Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It would be of interest to school-going children, their parents and teachers. When I mentioned this on Second Stage the Minister pointed out that this was a matter for the Minister for Education. However, I am sure the Minister for Lands is aware that in most schools, particularly primary schools, there is a great interest in rural science and nature study. One of the big problems in this regard is that there is a lack of text books and information for children undertaking projects. In addition, such a report would bring home to young people the need for conservation. Schoolchildren and their teachers would be interested in obtaining a copy of such a report.

(Cavan): I agree entirely with the Deputy and I hope we will not have to wait even one year for the report.

Mr. Kitt

We rarely get an opportunity of discussing matters in connection with this Department in the House. We rarely get an opportunity of discussing the Estimate for the Department and we are limited in the number of questions we can ask at Question Time. The publication of an annual report as suggested would give us an opportunity of keeping in touch with the various activities in the wildlife section.

The Minister has made a good case for the publication of this report in good time. The Forestry and Wildlife Section of the Department issued, from time to time, good and informative documents and they are used extensively in the classrooms. One of the reasons the Minister gave for not accepting our amendment was that the publication of the report might be held up at the printers but in my view he could get over such a situation by introducing a minor amendment himself. The Minister has accepted our principle. The IFA issued a report recently and I would like to see the report we are concerned with here being on similar lines. The IFA report was very informative.

I am assuming I will be afforded an opportunity of commenting on what the Minister said about my attitude towards my responsibilities in this matter. Earlier I commented on the fact that I thought it rather strange that the Minister had not with him today even one Member on the backbenches. I also mentioned that during Committee Stage debate there was a noticeable lack of contributions by Government Deputies. I was endeavouring to demonstrate what I thought would be the shortcoming of this legislation because it would not have that vital element of contributions made by Members. Having allowed the Minister move into an area where he gave the history of the amendments which appeared in my name today, I am assuming the Chair will not deny to me an opportunity of defending myself.

I am sure the Deputy will agree the Chair did allow the Deputy to deal with the matter at the start of his contribution.

I am replying to the comments made by the Minister and, with the indulgence of the Chair, I propose to refer to the conversation I had with him last night out of which arose what now appears to be his complaint that I should have gone to the bother, first of all, of staying back here late last night, without the assistance of any civil servants or anybody else, to write out for him a copy——

(Cavan): The Deputy had a fortnight to write it out.

——of the amendments I proposed to bring before the House today.

(Cavan): Had the Deputy complied with Standing Orders I would have had them in print two days ago.

The comments and criticisms earlier on did not refer to the amendments as such but to the lack of discussion and, in proof of that, I refer the Minister to Report No. 2 of the Committee Stage which deals with sections 1 to 7. It is fairly significant that in regard to teasing out, in the words of the Minister, this legislation with a view to improving it, there is not in the report, apart from interventions by the chairman and one intervention by Deputy Hogan O'Higgins on the last page, one comment by any Member of the Government side of the committee. I comment on that because it grieves me that the legislation which will ultimately leave this House will not have in it anything of substance from the Government side of the House.

The Deputy has already dealt with that.

Because of that I think the legislation will be all the poorer.

The Deputy is going back on the proceedings in Committee. What the Deputy should be doing is replying to the arguments in regard to the amendment.

I understand that in a debate on Report Stage one is confined to what happened on Committee Stage and one is not at liberty to introduce anything which would be new matter.

The position is that the Deputy has an amendment and this is what the Deputy should be summing up on at this stage.

With the permission of the Chair, I am using this as a basis for the justification of my amendment. This is the importance I attach to it. I would ask the Chair to be tolerant with me as he was with the Minister when the Minister was making his contribution. The Minister did not refer to the fact that I was present and contributed at every meeting on Committee Stage.

(Cavan): And the Deputy was lost when Deputy Haughey was not there. He was like a sheep without a shepherd.

I will not be so uncharitable as to say I was never as lost as the Minister seemed to be without his civil servants. The Minister was not aware that An Bord Pleanála had not yet been established until he checked with his civil servants. He is a member of the Government but he did not know that as yet we do not have An Bord Pleanála. I gave the Minister the charity of my silence at the time because it is not my nature to embarrass anybody, even a Minister. The Minister cannot apply to this legislation any of his own intelligence or any of his own imagination. He seems shut in a tight group of civil servants and this legislation, as I see it, does not represent one single view of the Minister's. He is here to place before this House something given to him by his civil servants and he is adopting the stance of not an inch will he depart from it.

(Cavan): Seventy-five amendments as against none from the Deputy in Committee.

All prepared by civil servants. We do not have the benefit of such a service. We have to prepare our own.

(Cavan): The Deputy is lost in Opposition. Let him not now be making apologies for himself.

We exercise democracy, something that is absent on the Government side of the House. That is why last week we did not submit any amendments. On Friday when I was informed this business would be taken on Tuesday I was mindful of the fact that Deputies would not be in Dublin on Tuesday and I could not consult with them.

(Cavan): The Deputy was informed on the 11th of this month.

I could not consult with my colleagues and what is in this does not represent just my view. It is the totality and the aggregate of our view. That is what legislation should be all about. It should not be about the presentation here of something by a Minister and his total unpreparedness to alter it in the light of recommendations from Dáil Éireann. What is our purpose here if the Minister adopts an attitude of not an inch?

The merits of the amendment have been referred to and the justification for the amendment has been demonstrated by speakers on this side of the House. The Minister made absolutely no case against the amendment. He asked us to rely on his never-ending optimism and to take it from him that what we wanted to make mandatory would happen without its being recorded in legislation. We cannot yield on that because we want a period before any Estimate debate takes place here and we would be hoping that, if there were questions to be asked, they could be asked during that debate. We would be hoping that the material in the report would form the basis for discussion. Therein lies the relevance and the importance of our amendment.

In Committee Stage meetings many references were made to the importance of education and to the fascination wildlife has for children and how, in the interests of conservation, we should cater for and capitalise on that, even indeed exploit it. Deputy Haughey referred to this. Deputy Kitt referred to it on practically every occasion on which he spoke. It would appear that in the matter of satisfying that hunger and in the matter of what the report might do in that regard the Minister is quite happy that he need do no more than furnish the report under the same cover as the report he will furnish on forestry. Everyone accepts that there is an affinity between forestry and wildlife.

I am sure the Minister will accept that the urgency of the legislation is because of the many new provisions in it, because it is a great step forward and because we have not had any legislation on this matter since 1930. He regards it as a vibrant, scintillating, fascinating piece of legislation and he will leave the scene as the Minister who piloted the legislation through the House. However, at the same time, he is asking us to accept that a belated, dull, mundane, prosaic statistical report, issued some years after it is relevant, is in accordance with the legislation we are discussing. I am afraid we cannot accept that equation. It only tends to convince us that he is concerned for the expeditious passage of the Bill rather than for its perfection. He wants to show a clean pair of heels to the House rather than leaving behind legislation that will stand well and that will serve its purpose.

What is unreasonable or impossible about asking the Minister to have the report published? It should be borne in mind that it need not necessarily be published within his Department. Under this legislation they are entitled to engage expertise in this regard. What is difficult for any Minister who has any interest in what he is doing——

(Cavan): The Deputy misses the point. It will be published within 12 months; indeed, I expect it will be done within six months.

In 1973 the Minister expected that the 14-point programme would materialise but that has not happened. The Minister's expectations cannot be accepted by me as a basis for good legislation.

(Cavan): The Deputy expected that the Government would last three or six months. The facts are that we have two more Deputies and Fianna Fáil have three fewer Deputies. What happened in Donegal was very significant——

We did not see many of them during the discussions on this Bill. We understand that was because it was indicated to them that their silence rather than their speeches would be acceptable to the Minister. We cannot accept that good legislation is based on the Minister's expectations. If the Minister is so certain, why is he not prepared to accept from us that the report in question should appear within 12 months of the year to which it refers?

(Cavan): I expect that it will be published long before that time.

Here we are dealing with a hypothetical matter. Would the Minister have accepted a period of six months? Is he making the point that he is rejecting our amendment because the period was too long? If that is so, I can assure the Minister that we are prepared to do business with him. I hope he will understand if I indicate that from now on my business with him will be entirely on paper and not by word——

(Cavan):—— and in accordance with Standing Orders.

I take it the Minister is not prepared to accept that there should be any change, apart from the fact that Standing Orders do not allow us to further amend the amendment at this stage. Is he indicating that if the period was less than 12 months the amendment would be more acceptable to him?

(Cavan): I am indicating my aim to have the report out well within the 12 months.

Legislation is not about aims, objectives, hopes or optimism. The Minister is a legal man and I hope he will not take offence if I tell him that legislation is about what is written, not about what is hoped for or what is not written. The Minister is giving greater offence to the spirit of this legislation and legislation generally if he tries to imply that what is required need not be expressed in legislation.

I am as familiar with the civil service as the Minister. I know civil servants are very efficient and diligent but above all else they respect what is written in the legislation.

(Cavan):“As soon as may be” is written in the legislation.

Deputy Daly reminded me that we should be mindful of the character and usefulness of the reports which we have been receiving from the Minister's Department. In passing, may I say they would be all the more welcome to me if they were available somewhat earlier. What is relevant to lands and forestry is not necessarily relevant to wildlife conservation, and the Minister knows that. I am disappointed to learn from him that he considers this report must be spancelled to another report. This matter warrants a separate report of its own. I do not know if the Minister is going to yield on this or on the other amendments which he will have the pleasure of seeing next week.

Debate adjourned.