: I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".
The purposes of this Bill are:
First, to provide powers to control dumping at sea——
Vol. 323 No. 8
: I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".
The purposes of this Bill are:
First, to provide powers to control dumping at sea——
: Dump Síle de Valera at sea.
: —— from ships, aircraft or marine structures and thus enable effective steps to be taken to prevent the pollution of the sea by substances and materials that are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea, and secondly, to enable Ireland to ratify two international conventions, namely,
—the 1972 Oslo Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft, and
—the London Convention of the same year on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.
In recent years international concern has been growing in regard to the risk of pollution of the sea through the deliberate dumping of noxious substances from ships, where the ship's voyage is undertaken for the specific purpose of getting rid of some hazardous substance. The first incident of this kind to attract widespread international attention occurred in 1970, when an attempt was made to dump a cargo of poisonous chemical waste in the Atlantic. Representations by a number of West European countries, including Ireland, led to the cancellation of the attempted dumping, but the incident served to focus attention on the growing practice of disposing of harmful substances by dumping them at sea and on the need for concerted action to prevent and combat marine pollution.
International action was taken by way of the two conventions I have already mentioned. The Oslo Convention, which came into force in April 1974 and has been ratified by 12 countries, applies, broadly speaking, to the sea areas northwards of Gibraltar and eastwards of Greenland, including the North Sea, but excluding the Mediterranean and the Baltic, to which separate regional dumping conventions apply.
The Oslo Convention provides principally that contracting States shall ensure that, within the sea areas covered by the convention.
(a) the dumping of certain specified highly toxic substances shall be prohibited as well as other substances listed in Annex I to the convention;
(b) the dumping in significant quantities of other less toxic substances or other substances and materials which may present a serious obstacle to fishing or navigation or seriously reduce amenities shall require for each occasion of dumping a specific permit from the national authority concerned; these substances and materials are listed in Annex II of the convention;
(c) the dumping of any other substance or material shall require the approval of the national authority concerned; and
(d) each national authority shall, in issuing permits or approvals for dumping at sea, take into account certain specified factors listed in Annex III to the convention for example, characteristics of waste, dumping site, method of deposit and do on.
For the purpose of the Oslo Convention, dumping is defined as the deliberate disposal of substances and materials into the sea from ships, including fixed or floating platforms, or aircraft, other than any discharge incidental to the normal operation of a ship or aircraft or the placing of substances or materials for a purpose other than the mere disposal thereof, provided that this is not contrary to the aim of the convention. The latter exception would, for example, cover the use of dispersants at sea to deal with an oil spillage.
Each state ratifying the Oslo Convention undertakes to ensure compliance by its own ships and aircraft, by ships and aircraft of any country loading in its territory substances and materials with a view to dumping, and by ships and aircraft of any country dumping within its territorial seas, and to take appropriate measures to prevent and punish conduct in contravention of the convention. Vessels entitled to sovereign immunity under international law such as naval vessels are exempted from the terms of the convention, although states are expected to ensure that in practice they comply as far as possible. Contracting states also agree to assist one another as appropriate in dealing with dumping incidents and to exchange information on methods of dealing with such incidents.
The London Convention, which came into force in August 1975, and has been ratified by 44 countries, is in substance and form generally similar in most respects to the Oslo Convention. Its scope is much wider, however, in that it applies to all the seas and oceans of the world. It has a number of other differences and variations of emphasis. For example, it specifically prohibits the dumping of high level radio-active waste declared by the International Atomic Energy Agency as unsuitable for dumping at sea and also the dumping of mineral oils taken on board for the purpose of dumping. Incineration at sea as a means of waste disposal is also controlled by the convention.
The prohibitions on dumping at sea imposed by the Oslo and London Conventions are specially expressed in the conventions not to apply in case of force majeure due to stress of weather or any other cause, when safety of human life or of a ship, aircraft or marine structure is threatened, if dumping appears to be the only way of averting the threat, but full details of the occurrence are required to be reported to the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO), which administers the London Convention, and, as appropriate, to the Oslo Commission. If, in an emergency, a state considers that a prohibited substance cannot be disposed of on land without unacceptable danger or damage, it is obliged under the conventions to consult with IMCO and, where appropriate, the Oslo Commission, which shall recommend the most satisfactory methods of storage, destruction or disposal in the circumstances.
As an island nation we have a particular interest in preventing pollution of the sea and in the general protection of the marine environment, in the interests of human health, marine life and amenities. Ireland's geographical position, in conjunction with the pattern of prevailing winds and currents, renders it particularly vulnerable to the effects of dumping of harmful substances in the North Atlantic. The danger of our situation is accentuated by the natural tendency of vessels engaged in dumping, on economic grounds, to choose a dumping site no further west into the Atlantic than is absolutely necessary. By joining with other nations in taking measures for the strict control of dumping at sea of toxic, noxious and other objectionable materials, we will be protecting our own interests and, at the same time, contributing to international efforts to improve protection of the marine environment generally for the benefit of all humanity.
As an indication of support for the international objectives in this area, Ireland is already a signatory to both the Oslo and London Conventions. However, it is only by ratification of the conventions and enforcement of their provisions that we can demonstrate our full commitment to them. I can tell you that it is the Government's intention to ratify both conventions as soon as possible after the Dumping at Sea Bill is enacted.
Basically, the Bill is a very simple one. In accordance with the provisions of the conventions, it prohibits dumping at sea or loading at a place within the state or in its territorial seas for dumping at sea, from any vessel, aircraft or marine structure, of any substance or material, unless such dumping or loading takes place under and in accordance with a permit granted under section 3 of the Bill or under an authorisation granted by another state that is party to either convention. This prohibition on dumping will apply, firstly, to all sea areas under our jurisdiction, including tidal waters, and secondly, anywhere at sea where the vessel, aircraft or marine structure concerned in the dumping is Irish.
As in the conventions, provision is made in the Bill whereby the restrictions on dumping will not apply in certain emergency situations, but the Bill also provides that any such dumping must be reported to the Minister not later than seven days after it takes place. For the purposes of the Bill, dumping means deliberate disposal at sea, including disposal by incineration, of any substance or material from a vessel, aircraft or marine structure. It includes disposal of material from dredgers or other such vessels specially constructed for the disposal of materials at sea but excludes disposal incidental to the normal operation of the vessel, aircraft or marine structure. Disposal of materials directly into the sea from a land based source is not comprehended by the Bill—this is controlled by the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, which also controls dumping into rivers and lakes.
In so far as oil pollution is concerned, the Bill applies to deliberate dumping of oil but does not apply to the accidental discharge of oil from ships such as spills arising from a maritime casualty. The Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts, 1956 to 1977, cover such incidents and provide for heavy penalties for pollution damage, even where spills are accidental.
Dispersants used for combating oil pollution are likewise excluded from the scope of the Bill. A strict licensing requirement on the lines envisaged in the Bill would not be appropriate for such substances which have to be used at short notice. The use of these substances is already subject to control by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959.
Section 3 of the Bill provides for the grant or refusal of permits for dumping or for loading for the purpose of dumping. Before taking a decision on any application for permits, the Minister will have to consult with the Ministers for the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry, Industry, Commerce and Tourism and Energy and he will also have to take into consideration the provisions of Annex III of both the Oslo and London Conventions, which are set out in the table to section 3 of the Bill. Provision is being made for charging a fee in respect of an application for a permit and for an additional fee related to the cost of any monitoring, surveys and examinations necessary in any case in which it is proposed to grant a permit.
To provide for the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill, it is proposed under section 4 that authorised officers may be appointed by the Minister and, specifically in respect of the harbours under their control, by the various harbour authorities, the Commissioners of Public Works and Córas Iompair Éireann. It is intended that an authorised officer will have wide powers enabling him, inter alia, to enter any vehicle, place or premises, to board any vessel, aircraft or marine structure and to carry out any inspection and examination which he considers reasonably necessary. He will be empowered to detain a vessel, aircraft or marine structure if he suspects that a contravention of the Act is taking place or has already taken place.
The Bill provides for the prosecution of offences and specifies the penalties for such offences. In particular, it provides for substantial penalties, including imprisonment in certain cases, for contraventions of the restrictions on dumping imposed by section 2. It is the Minister's hope that the possibility of substantial penalties on conviction will be an effective deterrent to would-be offenders.
Up to the present, dumping at sea originating from Irish ports has not constituted a problem. Some treated sewage sludge is dumped in Dublin Bay by Dublin Corporation and material dredged by harbour authorities in connection with harbour maintenance or improvement works is dumped at various places around the Irish coast. I am advised that these materials do not contain any harmful substance and I do not anticipate that any problem will arise in regard to authorising continued dumping of such material under the terms of the Bill. Some industrial wastes are dumped off the south coast in accordance with licences issued by the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry under the Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959. Dumping of this nature will also be comprehended by the provisions of the Bill.
The spirit of the Oslo and London Conventions is that harmful dumping at sea should be prevented as far as possible and it is the Minister's intention that the Bill will be administered in the same spirit. Applicants for permits will have to satisfy him that there is no suitable alternative means of disposal of the substance for which they seek a permit and, where necessary, before any permit is granted special tests and investigations will be carried out to assess the possible effects of the proposed dumping.
I should mention that I will be circulating a number of amendments for discussion on Committee Stage, most of which are of a drafting nature. One of the amendments will provide that, in the case of radioactive substances and materials, the powers under this Bill will be vested in the Minister for Energy and the Nuclear Energy Board rather than in the Minister for Transport. This will avoid a duality of responsibility in relation to those substances and materials.
I strongly recommend the Bill to the House.
: I welcome the Bill but in doing so I wish to express some reservations because I do not see how it is to be implemented. Even if it were implemented within the narrow confines set out today it would be relatively ineffective. The pollution which worries us does not primarily emanate from this country and we feel there should be some international agency set up to monitor and examine all types of dumping at sea, not just within a three-mile limit as provided for in the Bill. As I understand it, our territorial waters to which reference is made in the Bill extend merely three miles from our coastline and the serious dumping at sea is taking place further out.
The Oslo Convention was introduced in 1974 and the London Convention in 1975, but I have yet to see one case where a firm or an individual has been prosecuted for contravening either of these conventions. We must seriously question the usefulness of these conventions in view of the fact that action has not been taken to implement them.
We listened during the Minister's statement to a lot of rhetoric and I believe we will not see any follow-up. I would ask the Minister to spell out how many officers from his Department will be involved in operating the provisions of the Bill before us. It is obvious from replies to previous questions that the Department are seriously understaffed in this regard, incapable of monitoring the dumping which is taking place and taking preventive action.
The type of dumping which is dangerous is primarily of the nuclear waste variety and great concern has been expressed about our lack of knowledge of exactly what substances are being dumped and where dumping is taking place. We are told that the dumping of nuclear waste material is going on somewhere off the south-west coast and we should like the Minister to be somewhat more specific. Can he assure us that the waste is relatively harmless and, if so, will it be harmless for ever? Is it just an educated guess that the waste will be harmless in the immediate future? We should like the Minister to state categorically exactly what is happening because the public constantly express concern about this matter. It is quite possible that containers of nuclear waste will erode over the years and waste matter could be released. We wish to know whether the depth of water is sufficient to ensure that such erosion will not take place and whether the dumping is monitored by officials from the Department. There is a tendency for people to dump waste anywhere once they are out of sight and we see problems caused by dumping of domestic refuse. I would ask for a reassurance from the Minister that he will find out exactly what substance is being dumped and that he will ensure it is being dumped in the stated area. He should also state whether senior officials of his Department are actually on the spot to see that everything is being done properly.
Another cause of concern is the emission of nuclear waste from the Windscale nuclear reactor in Britain which is obviously causing a certain amount of nuclear pollution in the Irish Sea. There have been allegations that this emission is creating a danger to fish life and consequently to human life. Again I would ask for an assurance that this emission is being monitored by officials from the Department or by the IIRS who are the experts in this field. How many people are employed in this type of investigation and what are their findings? It is very disturbing that such dumping is occurring both off the south-west coast and into the Irish Sea and the possible effects, if any, have not been spelled out. Public concern has been expressed and a reassurance is needed because we all suspect that the Minister's Department are not sufficiently staffed to deal with such matters. We should also like to know what equipment is at the disposal of the Department. Have we research boats and ships capable of monitoring such dumping which are at the disposal of the Department? Alternatively, is it a hocus-pocus affair whereby we rely on reports from countries which are carrying on dumping or from industrial concerns engaged in dumping? Have we any first-hand information on the type of industrial or nuclear waste which is being dumped and where it is being dumped? Are we accepting what we are being told without seeing at first hand what is being done?
One of the greatest problems is that the Bill is confined to the three-mile limit. I know it refers to Irish ships no matter how far they travel as long as the waste is loaded in this country. However, that is not of much benefit to us. We now have a fisheries zone extending up to 200 miles and, as a result of the Law of the Sea Conference at present taking place, it is more than likely that we will get an economic zone extending much further, possibly as far as 500 or 600 miles. It seems rather silly that our influence over dumping at sea should not extend out to the limits of our economic zone or at least as far as the limit of our fisheries zone.
To put a limit of three miles seems particularly lacking in foresight. Who is actually doing the monitoring beyond the three miles? What can we do to prevent some foreign industrialist from dumping waste three-and-a-half or four miles off our coast? This Bill does not do anything to prevent it. We are depending on other countries who may be negligent in this regard and our experience in the past has been that some countries are extremely negligent. There are only 12 signatories to the Oslo Convention, and to the London Convention which is worldwide there are only 44 signatories. Surely there are over 200 countries in the world and hardly more than 30 or 40 of those are landlocked. Therefore there are obviously 100 or more maritime countries which are not signatories of either of these two conventions. There can be haphazard and irresponsible dumping off our coast over which we have no control and over which there is no control because it is not taken into account and is not covered by the Oslo Convention or by the London Convention.
While the Bill is as good as it can be in the circumstances the whole situation is still highly unsatisfactory. The Minister owes it to the House to circulate each Member with a list of the countries involved so that we can see for ourselves what countries produce nuclear waste and which of those countries have not signed either or both of those conventions. That is very important. What we are doing at the moment is depending on a Bill of bits and pieces which depends on people's word and on people's honour and if people take shortcuts for financial reasons or for expediency we could well be the victims.
As the Minister states in the latter part of his statement we are a maritime nation. We are probably one of the countries most open to abuse by this type of irresponsible dumping. The likelihood of abuse is there; otherwise the conventions would not be there and we would not be asked to ratify the conventions and this Bill would not be before us today. If disposal firms here can dump toxic waste in the streams, rivers and lakes, as has been done in recent months on a large scale, what are the international disposers of waste doing? We are told by the IDA that some of their waste has to be disposed of abroad. I am convinced, and it is only commonsense to assume, that there are large quantities of toxic waste being dumped at sea and, likely, being dumped quite close to our shores, That is merely commonsense because it is good economics for the various disposal firms to do it.
The Minister will have seen press reports as late as two months ago about a ship with highly toxic waste that sailed from Holland and was going to dump somewhere off the Irish coast and were it not for the fact that an international newsagency got hold of this information it is quite likely that that dumping would have taken place without being monitored. This is why I am asking the Minister is he sure that his Department have the precise details of what is being done and where it is being done. If something happens there will be a national outcry. If there is a case of people being affected by toxic waste which has drifted ashore, or nuclear waste, or people eating contaminated fish and dying or becoming seriously ill then an outcry will occur. That day is approaching. We must see that every step is taken to prevent any such disaster taking place.
The natural way to do it and the proper way to monitor what is happening around our coast is to provide a coast guard service. I have brought this matter up in the House previously. We are very deficient in regard to protecting our coastline. We have a naval protection service which is an outstanding service and is primarily protecting our fishery limits. But other than that we have no ships or boats whatever available to monitor or examine or observe what is happening. The observation which is going on is taking place on the shoreline. There is nothing in the Minister's Department. I would vouch that there not one craft in the Minister's Department which is doing such surveillance or observation. So how can we implement the Bill when we are not in a position to enforce the law? It looks lovely. The Minister's speech was very fine but in fact it is hardly worth the paper it is written on. It cannot be effective unless we have some seagoing service which can apprehend the offenders and bring them to justice.
It is obvious that toxic waste is being dumped indiscriminately around our coast. If people can do it on land without being observed what are they doing outside? They must be dumping on a vast scale. I would ask the Minister to let us know what finance he has available, what craft he has available and what trained personnel if any he has available in his Department. I hope he has personnel available in his Department who can examine this waste as it is being loaded on the quayside. But I would like to hear the specific details because in answer to a question that I put down here three or four months ago the Ceann Comhairle, who was then the Minister for Defence, told me that under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 not one prosecution had been brought in something like 86 years for not observing regulations aboard ship and the obvious reason is because the personnel are not available in the Department and we have no means of training such personnel.
This whole aspect of dumping at sea is exteremly important. It is a matter of grave concern to the public. We have no means of preventing it because we have not got the personnel or the means or the craft to examine it. Therefore, how can we apprehend people who are dumping or prevent them from dumping? Perhaps the Minister would answer some of those questions. As a matter of information he might tell us whether or not anybody has been prosecuted to date for dumping at sea and whether the existing laws — which are obviously inadequate — have been such that they have not enabled his Department to do anything about dumping whether it be half a mile or three-and-a-half miles out.
This Bill can be regarded only as a stop gap approach. I do not blame the Minister. Obviously he has not got the money to provide the necessary personnel. If an emergency occurs I do not know what will happen; it will be chaotic. When the Bantry Bay disaster occurred last year the cleaning up of the oil which had leaked from the hull of the Betelgeuse took months and months. If a major dumping took place, whether deliberate or accidental, what would we do? In the case of the Whiddy Bay disaster I was told there was more damage done by the dispersants used to clear up the oil than by the oil itself and that fish life in the greater Bantry Bay area was almost wiped out. We are not sufficiently experienced in this field. We have not put enough thought or finance into it. We have not the trained personnel. It is bad enough for people to engage in indiscriminate dumping — whether deliberate or accidental — but at least we should be prepared to mop it up before it does any serious damage. Obviously there would be a certain amount of damage done. I do not feel we are equipped to deal with any such emergency.
In replying the Minister should tell us what contingency measures his Department have, together with the Defence Forces, local authorities and other bodies for dealing with such emergencies. For instance in his speech he referred to authorised officers. Who are these officers, how many of them are there, what training have they got? Perhaps the Minister can reassure us that there are such people available, that he will get the necessary finance for vessels, dumping monitors, when we would all be quite happy. The Minister is not such a bad fellow at all. He is willing but being willing is not sufficient if one has not got the means and we are afraid that the means are not available.
: That is the kindest thing that has been said to me over the campaign.
: Does that mean that our chances are good?
: I doubt it.
: Would we be a good bet at five to one?
: I hope we are not going to debate the Donegal by-election or we will all be dumped at sea.
: I should like the Minister to spell out those matters for us. I sincerely hope that there is a solution to be found because at present I do not believe there is one. If we have not I should like the Minister present to put pressure on the Minister for Transport to get the means with which this type of dumping can be prohibited.
There is widespread concern at present that there is indiscriminate dumping of nuclear waste. We do not seem to know what is happening. I should like the Minister to spell it out clearly here today. If we are not in a position to know, for God's sake say so, be honest, let us be prepared and, if the Minister does know, then let him reassure us.
: I join Deputy Deasy in welcoming the Bill but with some reservations. We cannot regard this Bill as an absolute cure for dumping but rather as an effort and the Government have shown that they are sincere in tackling this problem.
I wonder how effective the provisions of this Bill will be. We are all well aware of the pollution of our seas and, may I say, our beaches as well. While we are legislating as a follow-up to the signing of the two conventions it should be said that we need the agreement and co-operation of many other countries. The Minister has said that there were 44 signatories to the London Convention and 12 in the case of the Oslo Convention. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to inform the House whether or not all the countries signatories to the conventions have introduced legislation in their own parliaments. It is all right to sign conventions but this must be followed up by legislation. Perhaps the Minister would let us know also the names of the various signatories. He mentioned a broad area from north of Gibraltar to Greenland in respect of one of the conventions but the House should be told exactly what countries have been signatories, secondly, whether or not legislation is needed in those countries and, if so, whether they have introduced such in their own parliaments.
We are all painfully aware of the effects of the dumping of toxic waste and particularly the spillage of oil over a long period. The Minister has said that we are subject to this type of illegal dumping because we are an island country. The inland counties do not have the experience we in the maritime counties have had particularly insofar as our beaches are concerned where the greatest polluter is oil. Of course there are very many forms of pollution. Deputy Deasy spent some time talking about toxic waste. The Minister said there would be an amendment introduced on Committee Stage giving the Minister for Energy responsibility for that type of pollution. Why that responsibility should be taken from the Minister for Transport I do not know. Perhaps there is a good reason but I should be glad to hear it when he is replying or, alternatively, when we come to the amendment he mentioned.
I mentioned oil spillage because we in the maritime counties have had particularly bad experiences in this respect. We have seen fish life damaged, the awful spectacle of very many sea birds lying dead on our beaches or being unable to fly away because they have been enveloped by oil from the sea. We have seen also the effect of oil spillage on our beaches to the detriment of the tourist industry. For some reason or another it has not been as bad in the south east in recent years, but there still remains an element of it which tends to turn people away from such beaches. Also there is the effect of oil spillage on seaweed and on fish and bird life. If this Bill does something to prevent that sort of pollution of our beaches it will have been worth while. The Government would not have the facilities or the scope to put an end to it entirely. This can be done only by effective co-operation between all countries and not necessarily just those signatories to the London and Oslo conventions.
What about the dumping of nuclear waste? In response to what Deputy Deasy said the Minister must tell us the extent, if any, of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Irish Sea. This is a very emotive question not alone here but all over the world. In regard to the granting of permits, what will be the attitude of the Minister for Energy? Will permits be given for the dumping of waste, not alone in the Irish Sea but in the Atlantic, North Sea and so forth? We do not oppose the Bill.
As far as section 1, the definition section, is concerned, could the Minister define "prohibited substances"? He has told us that a list of these is contained in annex I to the Oslo Convention. We have no details of these prohibited substances, the main ones being oil spillage and toxic waste. There are, however, other causes of pollution of our coastline. Certainly on the south-east coast there are many forms of pollution, particularly refuse from ships. I do not suggest that we can cure this by legislation but our beaches are despoiled by plastic bags and plastic papers dumped from ships and making our seasides very ugly. This is, indeed, another form of pollution. Is the definition "prohibited substances" confined to certain substances or does it relate to every substance dumped by, in the main, ships at sea?
In section 2 (a), concerning restriction on dumping at sea, the Minister must tell us something about our territorial seas. These can be within three miles, six miles and 50 miles of the coast, according to which Government are in and who wants to outdo the other. Deputy Deasy has suggested three miles as the territorial area so far as Ireland is concerned. How about other signatories to the convention? Have they the same limit to their territorial waters?
Section 2 (1) (b), which deals with dumping outside territorial seas, states that if such dumping has been committed outside the territorial seas by an Irish ship or other type of conveyor, the Irish authorities can apprehend and prosecute. Deputy Deasy went into this point in great detail so I shall not pursue the subject to any great length, but what happens where dumping is committed outside territorial waters? I do not suggest that we could police the mid-Atlantic, Pacific of other great oceans of the world, but I support Deputy Deasy's allegation that the greatest amount of dumping occurs beyond the territorial seas of this and many other countries. How are the people illegally dumping to be identified and apprehended? This would be impossible by way of our present protection for our fisheries. There is no policing of the open seas, which would be a fairly impossible task.
Even as regards illegal dumping in our territorial waters, how can we police that area? Many Deputies have complained about this and the Minister now present remembers discussions and questions in this House as to the effectiveness or otherwise of the Irish Navy in protecting our fisheries. The plain fact is that we cannot protect them to the extent which we would like, by reason of financial limitations and limitations on the provision of boats. We will find it fairly impossible to guard against illegal dumping in our territorial waters, not being able to do half the job, let alone the complete job. I am quite sure the Government have no intention at present of increasing the strength of our Navy but very many more protection vessels would be needed.
Section 2 (2) defines defences for persons charged with dumping. In paragraph (a) it would be a defence if the dumping were done on the instructions of employers. I would presume in that case that the employer would be prosecuted. However, it did not appear from my reading of the Bill that the employer who had given the instruction would be prosecuted where it was alleged that there was dumping of prohibited substances. In paragraph (b), reasonably enough, a defence would be if the dumping were done through error or accident. Who is to prove that fact, I do not know; probably it would be the courts at which the offender might be charged. Another defence given is if the captain of a ship had a permit to dump. A very small point on paragraph (d) in regard to the defence where a prohibited substance is dumped for the safety of a vessel or life. There is an addendum that such dumping must be reported to the Minister within seven days. It may not be possible, for example, for a stranded boat to report within seven days. The Minister might put down an amendment changing "within seven days" to "as soon as may be".
The fairly important section 3 concerns the issue of permits and I have no objections to the proposals in section 3. It is quite logical and sensible that the Minister, before he issue a permit, should consult with other Ministers concerned; the Ministers for Industry, Commerce and Tourism, for Fisheries, for Energy, for the Environment, particularly the latter. All these Ministers should be consulted before a permit is issued. It appears from the Bill that permits will not be given lightly. Many conditions and qualifications must be met before a permit may be given by the Minister for Transport. The applicant must specify the type of vessel, aircraft or marine structure involved, the type of substance involved, the quantity, the specified place and the specified time. These are good safeguards against the granting of a permit to someone engaged in illegal dumping contrary to the London and Oslo conventions. The Bill says that, as far as permits are concerned, consideration must be given to the annexes in these two conventions, which are set out in the Bill itself. I am satisfied that these permits will not be granted without full consideration of all the conditions involved. It is reasonable that the applicant should pay a fee for the permit, and also for any test or investigation.
I return to the subject of nuclear waste and ask the Minister to ensure that no permits will be granted to those who wish to dump toxic waste particularly into the Irish Sea, but also into our seas on the west or south coasts.
Section 4 provides for the appointment of authorised officers. These can be officers appointed by the Minister for Transport, a harbour master, somebody nominated by the Office of Public Works or somebody nominated by CIE. Will the Minister go into more detail as to the functions of these officers? I feel they will be restricted and that they can only operate from the land. What is the position if information is received that somebody is dumping oil or toxic waste even within three miles of the State? The officers have certain powers with which I agree in relation to searching a boat on landing and so on, but there in no provision to arrest anybody outside or within the three-mile limit. As far as I can see they can interview those who are accused of dumping only when the vessel comes back to port. They cannot investigate on the high seas because they have no way of getting out. If there is dumping it would take a while to notify the navy and arrange transport even to within three miles of our coast. Their functions are confined to the land and what they can do, being land bound, I cannot imagine.
Section 5 and 6 deal with proceedings against offenders, the collection of fines and so on. There is nothing objectionable in that. Section 8 deals with penalties. The penalty of a maximum of £500 is too small when one considers the damage that could be done to a single beach, to bird life, to fish life and to seaweed. The provision for a five-year term of imprisonment is a little more reasonable but there is no relationship between £500 and five years in gaol. The fine should be about £50,000.
Section 9 suggests that the Bill should not apply to a State ship or aircraft. I presume that is the navy or the airforce. Why does it not apply to them? I have the greatest respect for these institutions but the people in charge of boats and so on are not angels and why they should be exempted I cannot imagine. I trust the Minister will find himself in a position to answer some of my queries when replying.
: I support my colleagues, Deputy Deasy and Deputy Corish. This Bill is timely but I am disappointed at its obvious limitation which will probably make it ineffectual. I am principally concerned about the dumping of nuclear waste but many types of toxic waste are presently being dumped. These seem to be increasing in quantity and degenerating in quality and this Bill will be ineffective in coping with them.
In relation to the dumping of nuclear waste a serious situation exists in the Irish sea where it has been proved that there is a high element of radioactivity in the fish life because of the Windscale Plant on the coast of Cumbria. There is a constant leakage of radioactivity into the Irish sea and this saucer-shaped sea is unable to disgorge this dangerous effluent throughout the oceans of the world. This means that inevitably there is a concentration of radioactivity in the fish life particularly off the East coast. That should not be tolerated by the Government. I am further alarmed by the recently announced programme of proliferation of nuclear energy plants by the British Government—up to 30 in all. The reprocessing of the waste from these plants will take place at Windscale. At the Windscale plant there is a leak which cannot be contained and it has been leaking consistently for the last two-and-a-half years. That does not augur well for the ability of an independent small country like ourselves to manage our ecological and environmental sovereignty. This Bill will have no impact on that type of thing because it is clearly designed for individual ship managers or owners who might take the occasional run on dumping wastes in the sea. In reply to a parliamentary question the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Kennedy, in the Official Report of 17 July 1979, at column 2623, said:
Contamination of fish results from the discharge of liquid low radioactive effluents from the Windscale Works and is most noticeable in the vicinity of Windscale. It has been estimated that a small number of people eating the fish caught in the area of Windscale might receive a radiation exposure of about 30 per cent of the dose limit established by the International Commission for Radiological Protection for members of the public and adopted in the EEC Directive on the health protection of members of the public and workers against ionizing radiation and in corresponding UK regulations.
The Minister then added some details about the whole question of the method of disposal of solidified low level waste in the deep sea and so on. I do not consider that an acceptable practice but for the purposes of discussion I will allow it as acceptable to dump these wastes in the seas. I put it to the Minister that this country has been deliberately chosen by the Governments of the continent as the dumping grounds of Europe. I refer particularly to an area off the south-west coast of Ireland where there is a disposal site some 370 miles south-west of Ireland, about 280 miles outside the continental shelf and where the depth of water is allegedly 2.8 miles. Of course we have the usual bland assurances from the Nuclear Energy Board, about which I have deep reservations, that that is not a matter for concern. Anybody who knows even a little about the tidal currents off our coasts will realise that there are dangers from continued dumping of nuclear waste even if they are contained in concrete vaults. I do not see any reason why we should accept the nuclear wastes from other countries. I know of the problems being experienced by the nuclear energy industry in countries like France where there appears to be a cavalier approach to nuclear generation and where serious problems have occurred in some of the plants and in countries like Germany in trying to store the wastes and where the massive output of dangerous and toxic wastes is simply not being dealt with. Many people feel that if this whole area is to be safe it is not economic and if it is economic it is not safe. This Bill allows us an opportunity to do something concrete about this and to try to stop the utilisation of our coasts and off-shore waters-a fundamentally important natural resource for a country like ours which needs it badly—in this way. I do not accept that that should be tolerated and I hope the Government adopt a similar attitude. That has not been evident so far. A former Minister for Tourism and Transport accepted with, metaphorically speaking, a gun to his head, a dictate from the British Government that a cargo vessel which was foundering should be dumped off the south-east coast. On that occasion inevitably there was spillage as we all expected.
It appears that we are too ready to accept that kind of treatment and it is time we stood up to it. We deserve better and we should not tolerate it any longer. We need the kind of spirit which motivated the Icelandic fishermen in defence of their natural resources. That type of spirit should permeate the Government backbenches. Unfortunately, all the evidence—particularly the instantaneous sell out of the 50-mile limit—is to the contrary. It is not too late to appeal to the Government to adopt all possible measures here and at European level to ensure that we are no longer seen as a safe dumping ground for the trash of industry and commerce of Europe.
I would be heartened in my view that the Bill was meant to be effective if section 2(2) was either removed or amended. That subsection states that it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under the section to prove that the act constituting the offence was carried out by him in pursuance of instructions given to him by his employer. That evocative phrase has been utilised by many over the years for getting out of the most heinous crimes. I do not accept that anybody has the responsibility to pass off to somebody else the moral or statutory responsibility for conforming with the law. It is a very unsound principle. More alarmingly, the subsection states that it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence to prove that the commission of the offence was due to a mistake or to the act or default of another person or to an accident or some other cause beyond his control and that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence by himself or any person under his control. That catch-all clause allows an easy way out. I do not know how anybody can be convicted assuming, as has been pointed out, that they can be apprehended. I wonder how offenders will be apprehended. Will the growing use by Government of helicopters be expanded? Assuming that the Government can devise a proper system of detection and apprehension the section is too anaemic and bows the knee too much to obvious pressures on the Government to ease off in this way.
There should not be any opportunity for people to get out of their responsibility by pleading a mistake, by pleading a directive from an employer or that some other person was responsible. Those aspects of law could, in the normal course of events, be taken into account in assessing the degree of guilt. There should not be a basis for eluding completely the impact and intended scope of the Bill. The inclusion of those aspects in my view makes the Bill somewhat redundant. I wish the Bill every success. Is the Minister open to receiving the amendments mentioned during the course of the debate? There is a natural desire and concern that the waters off our coast—some sort of co-operation with the authorities in Northern Ireland would be needed in this regard—should be protected effectively. There is a serious and unique difficulty in view of tidal and current patterns which in some cases would mean that if dumping takes place even some hundreds of miles off our coast our people would suffer. I do not know to what extent we can ensure that dumping is limited to the minimum degree but the craven and cowardly approach we have adopted up to now in accepting whatever flows in with the tide is an indication of an attitude that is most unhelpful to the implementation of the provisions of the Bill. The Minister should put backbone into this Bill to make it meaningful. He should provide the staff to monitor it and give them the resources they need. He should ensure that our seas do not become like others have, dead seas.
: I should like to thank Deputies Deasy, Corish and Keating for their contributions. It is heartening to know that they welcomed the provisions of the Bill as a serious step by the Government to deal with a matter which has been a cause of considerable concern. The Deputies may rest assured that it is the view of the Government that there is a need to deal with this matter now. It is hoped that the Bill will prove a worthwhile vehicle and give a good return as far as control is concerned. No Bill has been passed that does not have weaknesses, inherent or supposed, but this legislation is a conscious effort by the Department to cover all known possibilities as far as dumping is concerned. I join with Opposition Deputies in announcing to all and sundry that it is the desire of the Government to do something worthwhile to control dumping. At present there is not a significant danger as far as we are concerned but it is because dumping is increasing that we have introduced this legislation. We are prepared before any real damage is done to the environment.
It is heartening to know that those who contributed are concerned about the environment, our fish stock and pollution. Deputy Deasy had some reservations about the ability of the Government to implement the provisions of the Bill. One may be inclined to think that there are weaknesses but I shall endeavour to indicate to the Deputy that all the matters he is concerned about are covered. I will make available to the Deputy copies of the conventions which may help to dispel any fears he has. The Deputy was concerned about the source of toxic waste, pointing out that it came from foreign countries. We have not got a great deal of toxic waste. The tonnage from our industries is reasonably limited and most of the toxic waste dumped outside our territorial waters is the result of operations in other countries. It is increasing here because of new technologies and new industries. Fundamentally that is why this Bill is introduced at this time.
There were 12 signatory countries to the Oslo Convention and 44 to the London Convention. The 12 cover all the EEC countries except Ireland, and Ireland will be included when this Bill is enacted. The other outstanding ones are Finland, Iceland and Spain who will be included in the 12. I have a list of the 44 countries and they include all the major industrialised countries of the world and all the maritime nations. I accept that every nation in the world is not included. I intend to ask the Department to provide Deputies with a list of the 44 countries to give them an idea of the global cover the 44 signatories give to that convention. As Deputies know, the London Convention covers all the seas of the world, whereas the Oslo Convention has the limiting factor of excluding the Mediterranean. By and large, it covers all the other seas from Gibraltar to Greenland and all the EEC countries are involved in and are actively promoting the convention.
: Is the USSR included?
: Yes, and the USA and quite a number of the middle eastern countries. Germany and all the other countries of the EEC are involved.
: Is South Africa?
: Yes. A question was asked about dumping far out at sea and whether we had any way of controlling that. A question was also asked about the officers and their technical competence and whether they would be available to deal with this type of situation. Apart from the officers of the Department of Transport we have the assistance of the technical experts in the Department of Fisheries and Forestry. We will have experts available to us from all the Departments I have listed and they will have to be consulted before any licences will be granted, including the Nuclear Energy Board. They will provide excellent monitoring cover.
The major matter raised by the three speakers was the nuclear energy situation. Many questions dealing with nuclear waste disposal included in this Bill will be the subject of major amendments on Committee Stage. I feel I should take this opportunity to refer to it briefly because Deputies referred to nuclear waste. This is a matter of considerable concern to us as a maritime nation and a close neighbour of a nuclear power state. Deputy Keating is quite right in saying that the major dumping site is about 370 miles off Mizen Head. It is important to understand that all nuclear waste disposal is very tightly controlled internationally. That site is in an area of about 2.8 miles of water depth. It is interesting to note that that site is equidistant from Ireland, France, Spain and Britain and in a very suitable location according to the international experts.
The top layer of water to a depth of about 360 feet has a mixing situation applied to it. There is no mix below that. It is in an area below a considerable shelf which drops from a much higher level to the 2.8 miles. A considerable amount of time and expertise was devoted to picking that site. I am not saying it should continue to be the site for all time for the disposal of nuclear waste. At present for solidified nuclear waste disposal — and that is the only kind that can be dumped there under very stringent regulations — technically it is the best available.
There is regular monitoring of the site. I can understand the suggestion that it is cheaper to dump nearer than that particular site. I presume every mile out into the ocean makes it more expensive to dump because dumping at sea is the most expensive way of dumping any kind of waste. Every single dumping ship at that site has on board a regulating officer from the regulating body. The characteristics of the canisters used are put through the most rigid tests before they are utilised, and there is regular monitoring of the floor of the ocean at that level to see if there has been any shift or movement of the existing waste in the area. To date the answer has been no. As I say, that site is used only for solidified nuclear waste disposal.
: Is any member of the Irish Government associated with that monitoring?
: Yes. One of our officers has been on the ships on a rota basis. All dumpings of that kind of waste in that site are notified to the Department well in advance. The dumping to which Deputy Deasy referred was known to the Department six weeks before it appeared in the press. The co-operation is so close on the question of nuclear waste disposal that the Department were aware of it long before it appeared in the press. It is important to remember that low-level radioactive waste can be dumped there but high level radioactive waste may not be dumped there and, in fact, may not be dumped at sea at all, and is not.
: Is the Minister sure of that?
: That is the only kind allowed under the international regulations.
: The Minister said "is not". Is he talking about what should or should not be done?
: I am talking about the law as it exists and as it is applied internationally. High level radioactive waste is not dumped at sea, and low level solidified waste is. Somebody mentioned the Irish Sea as a location for this kind of dumping. No radioactive waste can be dumped in water less than 4,000 metres deep. The Irish Sea has not got a water level of anything like that and consequently it is not acceptable as a location for dumping low level radioactive waste in any circumstances.
A question was raised about Windscale and what happens there. The discharge from Windscale does not come under this Bill.
: That is the point we are making.
: Disposals at sea from land based sources are covered by a different set of regulations under a different convention. The Nuclear Energy Board in conjunction with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry monitor disposal conditions in the Irish Sea. I can assure Deputies that discharges into the Irish Sea do not represent a hazard according to the best technical advice, and it is important that our people understand that.
: Is there more radioactive discharge in that area than off the Minister's county?
: I understand that a study has been carried out in all these areas and the level of radioactive pollution does not reach anything above the acceptable standards. The best advice states that there is not a health hazard because of discharges. It is important to remember that the most stringent regulations are applied by the IAEA. The dumping of solidified low level radioactive waste in the Atlantic is under the multilateral consultation and surveillance mechanism which was established by the IAEA to look after these things. There are 18 signatories to the convention and Ireland is involved in the mechanism which controls the release of certain ships for that kind of dumping. The whole thing is monitored very closely.
Getting away altogether from the nuclear thing, how can we monitor the dumping of other kinds of waste? We have power to put appliances on ships used for such disposal to enable us to track them. They are trackable no matter where they go. However, we should remember that this method of disposal of such waste is very expensive and it is not being used except where necessary because of its sophistication and its cost. It is not done in a haphazard way. The licences are carefully scrutinised and all the regulations under the international convention are applied to the issuing of permits.
: How do you track those ships?
: I will come to that in a moment and I will then deal with any other questions Deputies may put. We are trying to cover every aspect of dumping. The issuing of these permits can be co-ordinated. Deputy Corish mentioned the three miles. We have power only in regard to the seas in our jurisdiction, our territorial waters, and this Bill covers all aircraft, ships, platforms carrying the Irish flag whether inside our territorial waters or on the high seas outside. Offences committed outside or inside our jurisdiction can be subject to prosecution. The Bill gives wide ranging powers within the Constitution. Our jurisdiction includes tidal waters and estuaries. These provisions apply in other countries. The best way to have effective control is to have as many countries as possible ratifying the convention. We are in constant consultation with countries involved in this and consequently signatories to the convention are aware of every ship dumping in the locations referred to. I am satisfied there is excellent international co-operation as far as notification of dumping or proposed dumping is concerned.
Deputy Corish mentioned one or two cases of licences issued in this country. It is right that people should be made aware that any dumping at present being undertaken here is done under licence issued by the Departments of Fisheries, and Forestry, Transport and so forth. Therefore, the issuing of such licences is controlled stringently.
It has been said that there is some dumping in the Shannon Estuary, off Roche's Point in Cork, off County Wexford. Certain types of caustic waste dumping were mentioned in connection with the Irish Mining Company, about 35 miles out. There has been sewage sludge disposal by Dublin Corporation. Apart from dredging and sewage disposal there are no other dumping authorisations in this country. Even though there is not a great amount of this type of waste disposal emanating from this country, I thought it might be on the increase because of increased industrialisation and so forth. Because we had not ratified the convention, it occurred to me that other countries might take the opportunity, as Deputies Keating and Corish suggested, to use Ireland for dumping matter which they would not like to dump off their own shores. That is why the Bill is necessary, and I was glad to see the general welcome for it.
This is our first step to control the situation so that we will not have Ireland used as suggested by Deputy Keating. I refute Deputy Keating's suggestion that there has been wholesale dumping off the Irish coast. The dumping now being done is under strict licence issued under the Local Government (Confirmation of Order) Act, under other Local Government Acts and under section 71 of the Fisheries Conservation Act. They are the two instruments used to license dumping off our shores. However, in case there should be trans-shipment, changing of loads at sea from one ship to another to evade the provisions of existing regulations, this Bill became necessary. If there are methods which might be used to evade these regulations Deputies are free to make suggestions to me so that we can get unanimity in putting on the Statute Book a provision that will be of benefit to the nation.
Concern was expressed about dispersants and their use and I have some sympathy with that point of view. It is the lesser of two evils to my mind: there must be some environmental damage if dispersants are widely used to control accidental spills but until technology has been developed to allow some other mopping-up method to be used after serious spills, we cannot completely eliminate environmental damage by dispersants. With the availability of new forms of pollution control, hopefully we will reach a situation where we will have less damage done to the environment, fish life and tourist potential because of spillages.
It is heartening to hear Deputy Corish's remark that there has been a slackening off of this. I take it that it is because of stricter provisions and international concern at the fact that oil pollution has seriously damaged major tourist resorts, beaches, bird life sanctuaries and so on. Thankfully it has not reached any kind of crisis point as far as we are concerned. Any time it has occurred here it has been quickly and efficiently dealt with by agencies under our control.
I understand the Deputy's concern about our ability to oversee, control and monitor operations that might take place off our coast. It is interesting to note that the National Board for Science and Technology have a vessel called Lough Beltra which they use for monitoring Irish dumping sites. In instances where wastes are loaded, moved through our waters or from our shores or in our ports that vessel is used by the Department of Fisheries for monitoring this. It is available to do that whether it is within the three-mile limit or outside of it. A new vessel is being built by the Department of Fisheries and it will extend the range of the Department's operations. The Department have a major involvement in this question.
As far as the nuclear element is concerned the Department of Energy and the Department of the Environment are involved. It was in recognition of this fact that under the Bill, licences can only be issued after consultation with these people, so that we will have a global outlook on it and have the advice of all the experts before a permit is granted. By having that close examination and monitoring we will be in a position to categorically state what was dumped, where it came from and what the extent of the monitoring was, so that we will have a better situation as the Bill becomes effective.
I am concerned that we should divorce our minds from the matter of radioactivity because that is, by and large, the responsibility of the Nuclear Energy Board and the Minister for Energy. It is the subject of very strict controls in legislation under the Minister for Energy and consequently it is not necessary to have duplication here. Apart from that the Department of Fisheries have staff at the fisheries research centre and they monitor all the licences granted, to which Deputy Corish and I referred earlier. They also pay considerable attention to sewage disposal licences and the authorisation granted to Dublin Corporation for disposal locally. There are five senior technical experts in the Department and they provide the cover as far as the Department are concerned. The Department of Transport have experts concerned with marine work and so on. The Department of Energy have their experts apart from the specialists attached to the Department of the Environment. There is a fair complement of specialised trained technical staff available. Subsequent to the passage of the Bill if there is an increase in the amount of waste being loaded or disposed of inside or outside our territorial waters and if there is need for further staff to be recruited or trained to deal with permits and applications for licences, the Department will not be found wanting. I give that assurance to the House.
Anxiety was expressed concerning notification of dumping licences applied for at international level. All dumping operations under the Oslo Convention have to be notified to all countries. All member states are briefed, irrespective of where the dumping is carried out. We are fully aware of this at all times. I agree with Deputy Deasy that this is an area where there must be international co-operation. The most sophisticated methods of tracking and monitoring are necessary. We must provide other countries with that kind of information, just as they must reciprocate as far as we are concerned. It is like that at present. We fully endorse all the measures of the convention and attend commissions set up to improve regulatory situations. I would welcome the support of the House as far as that is concerned.
Is there a grey area here? Perhaps there is. The ocean is a vast place, but at present every effort is being made by specialists and by consultation between member states. One cannot dump unless one has an authorised docket from a member state on board for each individual dumping. Very strict regulations have to be complied with, involving weather conditions, characteristics of the containers and so on. It involves a considerable amount of documentation in the Department. The dumping of dangerous wastes requires notification to the commission under the Oslo Convention. It is interesting to note — and this is fundamental to the proper working of the whole system — that the commission controlling these operations notifies the member states and has to have the approval of them all. If someone decides to dump toxic wastes in some part of the ocean they cannot do so and disregard the wishes of the other member states. There is co-operation at a high international level as far as this type of dumping is concerned.
Deputy Corish wanted a clear indication of the extent of the Oslo Convention so far as it applied to particular seas under its control. Subsequent to the Oslo Convention the London Convention decided to make it worldwide, and if that had not been done there would have been an obvious loophole. The various signatories can control all the plant and life in their seas. All the north-east Atlantic countries have signed the Oslo Convention and ratified it except for the eastern European countries of the Baltic. Even though they are not signatories they have a separate convention of their own. All the European countries have signed the London Convention and that covers all the oceans, aircraft, platforms, shipping and any other instrument or situation that might arise under the Bill.
: Are there any basic differences between the Oslo Convention and the London Convention?
: Yes, there are. Because Deputy Deasy raised the question a number of times during his speech I am going to take the liberty of providing him with a copy of the reports of both the Oslo and London Conventions and any information that he might require to satisfy himself about the extensions and limitations of the Bill. These will be given most graciously by the Department to him.
Generally speaking the two conventions are the same but there are some small differences in regard to limitations and type of waste. As far as we are concerned these differences would not be significant in the application of either except that the London one gives the greater cover. At any rate we are signatories to both.
I was impressed by Deputy Corish's sincerity and I hope that the Bill will put aside any misgivings he might have as to the effectiveness it might have in dealing with all kinds of dumping. He referred to the question of taking some power away from the Department of Transport and hiving it off to the Department of Energy. That is not so. Our powers under this Bill are total except that under existing legislation there is a certain amount of overlap in so far as the Department of Energy are concerned. Rather than have a duality of responsibility we decided that the best thing to do would be to transfer responsibility for certain types of waste, such as nuclear waste, to the Department of Energy who would be the proper body to deal with them. That is the subject of the major amendment put down.
The Deputy referred to Annex I and I will take the opportunity of giving him a copy of the documentation referred to in the Bill.
: It is logical to give responsibility to the Minister for Energy for nuclear waste, but would it not be as logical to give the same responsibility to the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism in respect of oil?
: There is legislation which gives these powers as far as pollution is concerned to Ministers other than the Minister for Transport. The Deputy will notice that oil is not of major significance in this Bill because it is covered by other legislation attached to other Departments. However, there was an area dealing with waste other than oil and nuclear waste which could in effect provide a loophole allowing this kind of dumping to go on. The reason for this Bill, to use the phraseology and terminology used by the Deputy, is to plug the holes as we see them. Annex I referred to by the Deputy is the black list under the convention and that black list includes a number of different substances which cannot be dumped in the sea at all under any circumstances except in the gravest situation, and I cannot imagine offhand the type of situation that might demand that people would be released from that except under the gravest circumstances where life might be threatened. Annex II is the grey list which refers to the special licence and low-level radioactive nuclear waste in a solidified state. Annex III deals generally with the characteristics of the waste, containers and mobilisation of efforts to dispose of the waste.
Reservations were expressed on the question of the seven days. I appreciate that it is a short period. Nevertheless, because all dumping of a significant nature has to be done under permit and because all the member states must be aware of those conditions, a ship, not just plying for trade but one which would be under the surveillance of a number of international bodies and of particular concern, an isolated ship doing a certain job with an authorised officer on board and under surveillance by special technological systems used to track it, if it were lost or foundered there would be reason to expect that it would be reported in not just seven days but in seven hours or maybe seven minutes. The Deputy might reconsider his suggestion in that the seven days is more than adequate in that regard, If certain matters have to be attended to or if they have to dispose of certain waste because of adverse circumstances where there was a danger of loss of life and so on, seven days would be adequate time to allow the master to fulfil his obligations under the Bill. We have not had any experience of that yet and I think that a period of seven days is adequate.
The first licences were granted about 1975 and over the five-year period the system has worked very satisfactorily. We have not had any major difficulty. That is not to presuppose that in the future difficulties will not arise, but the experience to date has been very satisfactory and dumping has not been operated or attempted nearer to what the licence demanded. Whether such a situation arises or not, the Bill is strong enough to support the view that we can deal effectively with anybody who might try to short-change us in that regard. With regard to penalties, by international standards or present-day monetary values the suggestion might be authentic.
: Would he pay in punts or £s?
: I do not know what the exchange rate might be for a man on the high seas. The Deputy might consider that the authorised officer would have authority to impound the vessel.
: There is nothing about that in the Bill.
: He can retain it, hold it. When you talk about putting restraint like that on ship owners, considering the vast capital resources involved and the huge expenditure it is a good lien. I do not suppose that £500 or £5,000 is necessarily the way to deal effectively with this. The officer has the right to go in, inspect, retain, hold up, to do what he likes, if he suspects that an evil might be perpetrated, apart altogether from the fact that it has happened. It has been the experience in other situations where the Navy were concerned in bringing people to heel that the question of the ship, the gear and so on has been the major deterrent. Generally speaking the prosecution, procedures and penalties as laid down in the Bill are effective. We have to take a figure and I suggest——
: The only point I was making was that there is no relationship between the maximum of five years and the maximum of £5,000.
: Five years imprisonment.
: Sorry, £500.
: The penalties are there and we might discuss them on Committee Stage. The provisions under the Bill are strong enough to keep the matter under control in so far as the authorised officer has powers beyond the £500.
Deputy Keating spoke about fish life in the Irish Sea and that is a matter of continuing concern to everybody in that it is one of the major fishing grounds. However, I am advised reliably that nothing that has emanated up to now from the land-based sources is not comprehended by this Bill. I must emphasise that. It is the subject of regulation under another authority. It has not affected fish life nor brought about a health hazard situation which might be of concern to us at this time.
I agree that this very important subject must be a matter for continuous monitoring by the Department. That is why the new vessel is being procured. It will provide full cover to determine what effects the disposal of this and other kinds of waste will have on our fish stocks and we will be in a position to carry out proper surveys and advise all concerned of the dangers, should they become apparent. At this time that danger does not exist and, hopefully, a situation will never arise where we must move against any installation.
Deputy Keating referred to easing off in section 2. If charged, the person will have to prove his innocence. Because of the enormous expense attached to disposal at sea, it would not be in the best interests of the people being granted the licence to act in a haphazard way. They will not get a licence for a lifetime. That is very important. We should not be seen to give broad licence cover to carry on ad infinitum in a particular area because, whether it is nuclear waste, toxic waste or any other noxious substance being disposed of, it would be in the best interest of all concerned that the sites be monitored and visited.
At present a study is being carried out on suitable sites that might be available. Not every site is suitable because of wind direction, tidal movements and so on. All those aspects have to be examined by the technical experts before deciding what might be a good site for a particular kind of waste disposal. It is only after the most exhaustive examination has taken place that these matters are attended to.
: It is an old Irish tradition to do things without a licence.
: I think I have dealt with all points raised by the Deputies.
: I asked how we track ships from other countries which are dumping toxic waste.
: This is a technical matter. I was aware that these sophisticated mechanisms are available. The Deputy will agree that these are effective means of keeping an eye on operators who do not have an authorised officer on board. There are certain types of operation where an authorised officer from a member state must be on board. He must take the necessary soundings and tests before dumping can take place. Only on his signature can this take place and a full report is submitted to all concerned so that we are fully aware of all aspects of the dumping.
Not all tracking cases which are authorised are permitted by the Irish authorities. A special Decca track plotter is placed on board a ship. It keeps a continuous log in a graphic form of the movements of the ship by reference to the Decca navigation system. This is a radio beacon navigational aid and is used by most of the Irish concerned because it has been found to be the most successful.
It is very important to realise that when a permit is granted for a licence to dump, irrespective of the type of waste involved, certain conditions have to be fulfilled. If testing is necessary, or if a base line study in the area before the dumping takes place is necessary, that will have to be done and paid for by the person seeking the permit. We can include as part of a schedule for the granting of a licence that this equipment, or some similar sophisticated technological aid, must be on board before the permit is granted and it will have to be shown to the authorising officer before the permit is finally released. It is intended, and I hope, that in all cases some type of equipment will have to be installed before the permit is signed by the Department.
That cover, coupled with consultations and the international co-operation that has been evident as far as these conventions are concerned, will, in the final analysis, provide us with what I regard as the first comprehensive Bill to deal with a problem which may not be of major proportions at this time but which in an age of advancing technology will be a cause for concern to the Department. The Opposition might be generous in congratulating us on bringing in legislation before the horse leaves the stable. By having this on the Statute Book in advance of any problem that might arise we will be able to deal effectively with it if it arises and, hopefully, there will be no need for public concern at any stage.
: When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?
: A number of amendments dealing with points raised by Deputy Deasy and Deputy Corish will be circulated. Would next Tuesday be suitable?