Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill".

I might explain to the House that, under the existing section 53(5), the ESB are authorised to place lines across lands or to attatch a fixture to a building where the owner or occupier of the land or building fails to give his consent within seven days after service of notice of the Board's intention to place lines or attatch a fixture. This provision was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court decision of 21 March 1985, details of which I outlined to the House yesterday.

The objective of section 1 is to ensure that the board's wayleave powers are made constitutional by providing for the entitlement of landowners to compensation in respect of the powers conferred under section 53 of the 1927 Act, such compensation to be assessed, in default of agreement between the ESB and the landowner, under the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act of 1919. This Act lays down procedures for assessment of compensation to a landowner including provision for independent arbitration.

Basically the amendment is to facilitate a provision for compensation which did not exist hitherto and which was held to be unconstitutional last week.

I welcome the amendment in so far as it places a statutory obligation for compensation to landowners to allow the ESB to place cables above or below land. Placing such cables above the land has detrimental effects on the natural beauty of the environment. The placing of cables below the land does not seem to be practised sufficiently by the ESB and in this respect the ESB could make a greater contribution towards the preservation of the natural beauty of our environment.

On reading the provisions the stark reality is the serving of sseven days' notice to a landowner by the ESB befoer carrying out their operations. We are all well aware of the statutory power needed by the ESB. Were it not for the original Act it is only fair to conclude that the rural elecrtification scheme would not have been so successful. For the first time, apparently, the Supreme Court disallowed part of the section of the original Act which now makes it obligatory and statutorily binding on the ESB to provide for the right to compensation to be assessed in thenormal way by an independent arbitrator or tribunal. It is the notice aspect taht seems stark on reading. With regard to how it works in practice, I am aware that the ESB are subject to the Planning Acts and that there is a statutory obligation on them to provide the notice required under the provisions of those Acts. There are many reasons that seven days' notice appears inadequate on the surface. I suggested to the Minister yesterday that he consider an extended period of notice. I am aware that the period of notice under the provisions of the original Act of 1927 was 14 days which was amended under the 1944 Act to seven days.

I do not think I was alone ysterday in expressing reservations about the seven days' notice. The orighinal notice of 14 days would appear to be more appropriate and adequate. That is not to say that the ESB in many instances do not accept late objections if, for one reason or another, notice is not served in time or that they adhere rigidly to the seven days' notice. Because of the power vested in the ESB some people will contend that such powers are abused in some instances on the part of certain individuals. In an Organisation as large as the ESB one will always find individuals who for one reason or another will abuse the power vested in them. That is not unknown to members of thsi House or to me personally. Occasions have arisen when the ESB — perhaps becuase of the obstinacy or ham-fisted attitude of an individual in a particular area — have stood on their rights to place a very ugly pole on the lawn or in the backyard of a person's dwelling. The main issue involved is the protection of that type of user as against the wider issue of allowing the ESB the necessary power to do their job for the common good in the installation of supply. It is a matter of finding a balance there.

I am somewhat reticent about the seven days' notice. The case may well be made that there may be emergiences in certain instances. For example, there may be a local feast or community effort needing supply at very short notice. One can get caught up in that type of situation when, if the notice is too long, the ESB may not be able to lay on supply. I am also aware of industrialists seeking three-phase power, sometimes at short notice. Sometimes we want the ESB to respond quickly in situations like that.

I raised this issue of the stark seven days's notice to make the legislation as fair as possible to everybody and yet not impede the board from doing their job. I shall await whatever case the Minister may make with regard to adhering to it but I do appreciate that this amendment is required because of the disallowance of part of this section by the Supreme Court last week. Yesterday I said that section 45 could have been used, but it is a long and cumbersome section. It runs parallel with the type of legislation in other acts to acquire lands compulsorily where notices have be used to set up public hearings and so on. I know that the ESB could not do their job if they were stuck with that.

One must admire the courage of the lady in Wexford who tackled this section. As a result in future cases compulsory compensation will have to be paid. That is not to say that the ESB have not paid compensation after negotiations. We must respect the ruling of the Supreme Court and amend the Act. I am raising questions precisely with regard to the section dealing with notice and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in his reply.

I cannot understand why Government Departments and semi-State bodies defend what is so evidently the indefensible. I do not see whay a semi-State Body, and therefore indirectly the people through their taxes or their electricity payments, should have been put to the expense of defending this section up as far as the Supreme Court.

It is well settled here in all sorts of ways that if the State or its organs, for good reasons, has to interfere with someone's property it cannot be prevented from doing so if the public good requires it, but compensation is payable. Otherwise what we are doing must be counted as confiscation and that is an unjust attack on people's personal rights. I do not single out the ESB in this connection. I have noticed on many occasions that Departments and semi-State bodies appear to be determined to go to the bitter end with points that clearly will not succeed. That is not a reflection on their legal advisers, because I do not think there is such a thing as an open and shut case. It may be that there are arguments that seem powerful to their legal advisers and which they think should be given a whirl and therefore, I do not want to be over-critical of them. It seems to me that this was a case that had to succeed from the beginning. It would have been better for the ESB to proceed on the basis that they would have to settle with this lady by paying compensation for the interference they committed with the amenities.

My final point is intended to be helpful to the ESB in their application of this provision. I draw their attention to the words the Minister has put in his amendment. They are, "Such compensation to be assessed in default of agreement under the 1919 Act". I will give the ESB some legal advice for nothing: those words are not just a decoration or an embellishment of the section. They really mean what they say and if the ESB, in order to cut corners or save time, were to have recourse to their compensation procedure at once without trying first to seek agreement with the owner of property they proposed to interfere with, anything that happened thereafter would be a nullity, including a compensation award. They would be at the legal expense of having gone through this procedure and acheived nothing. The authority for that is the case Redmond v. Wexford corporation, which was decided in 1947 or 1948.

This amending legislation is being taken at very short notice and is being put through the Dáil very quickly to meet a certain situation. We have agreed to that procedure, but I want to make it clear that we are doing so reluctantly and because of the urgency of the situation and not to cause any unnecessary interference with the discharge by the ESB of their duties to the general public.

On another occasion we should come back to this matter and discuss it. I do not think anyone could regard the present situation as satisfactory. There are many cases where landowners and householders are shabbily and harshly treated by the ESB. The ESB should always remember that they are a big powerful state monopoly and that they have a corresponding responsibility to be sensitive and careful in the exercise of their fairly draconian powers. They have served the country well and they are a basic part of our economic infrastructure. Therefore, all of us want to facilitate them in any way so that they may give the service they are statutorily obliged to provide.

On the other hand, there is the whole question of conflict between the rights of the individual. I am not all that concerned here with the rights of landowners in particular although I have seen instances, as I am sure has been the case with every other Deputy, where they have acted in a quite insensitive way, particularly in regard to the treatment of trees and other aspects of he environment. Houseowners have been often seriously inconvenienced by rather dictatorial and insensitive decisions by the ESB in particular cases. On some other occasion when there is not pressure the House should consider the whole matter of the exercise by the ESB of their powers, and also other State bodies in the operation of their powers.

In this connection I ask the Minister to consider the environmental aspects of what the ESB are doing. I am especially aware of the situation that has arisen with regard to bringing electricity from Moneypoint power station to the east coast. In my view that has produced an environmental horror. These great, gangling pylons seem to march across the countryside like an invading army of Martains. They are marching in a dead straight line from Moneypoint to Dublin, up hill, down dale, across valleys and through woodlands without any regard whatever to their visual impact on the countryside. This is something that should not have been allowed to happen, but unfortunately it is part of the approach of the ESB.

The ESB see their mission as being of paramount importance. They see themselves as the body responsible for providing energy where it is needed to industry and householders. They set about doing that job in the manner they see to be most economically and technically efficient. We should try to look at the other side of the operation. That is relevant in regard to this major imposition which the power lines from Moneypoint to the east coast have caused. The Moneypoint power station was a very doubtful economic proposition from the first. Time has proved our reservations, but that is water under the bridge. Now I am concerned about and would avail of this amendment to draw the attention of the Minister to the environmental cost of Moeypoint and its follow up. There is an enormous environmental fall out in regard to the atmospheric pollution from Moneypoint. I hope the Minister is alert to that situtation and is aware of the dangers. People have talked, perhaps dramatically, about the fact that when Moneypoint comes on stream, the Burren will be destroyed or seriously damaged. I am not in a position to give any authoritative assessment of that but we can only hope that it will be considered and carefully monitored by the Minister and his Department.

The other situation is equally objectionable. I will not suggest how power could have been brought from moneypoint to Dublin without some environmental problem. That is not my job, but it is somebody's responsibility to see that the full environmental impact of this major operation is taken into account. In the course of my political duties I have occasion to fly around the country. It is from the air that the enormous ugliness of this new power lilne is most obvious. It seems that the engineers in charge have no regard for anything except the straightness of the line of those pylons. They cut through woodlands, across valleys, through the most scenic areas without regard. This development is changing the aspect of the Irish countryside for the worst. I avail of this amending legislation to direct the attention of the Minister and his Department and hopefully the attention of the Department of the Environment to the need to watch this sort of thing. It seems that the ESB in the zealous pursuit of their economic and energy missi treat the coutry as if it were just a building site and put pylons wherever it suits. They put buildings and power stations wherever it suits without regard to the environmental implications or visual impact.

I accept that there must be a conflict between economic progress and development and the creation of employment, and the environmental case. I accept that from time to time there will be some damage to teh environment due to economic progress but we must ensure that the environmental side of the case will not go by default. If, in the heel of the hunt, after judicious careful assessment a decision goes in favour of economic development with some environmental damage, so be it. I would stress the importance, of ensuring that in every situation the environmental case is at least taken into account before a final decision. I regret that in the case of the Moneypoint power lines that has not happened. I do not know whether all the powers that this power line seems to be in a position to bring to the east coast should necessarily be brought to the east coast or whether some other distribution system should not have been devised or whether the Moneypoint power could not have been used more economically on a regional basis.

The situation now is that these great big ugly pylons are straddling the country cutting through everything in their way, in a dead straight line. I might be wrong but I think there is not one single deviation from a straight line between Moneypoint and the outskirts of Dublin City. I would ask the Minister to keep these considerations in mind and to come back to the house on some occasion so that we can lay down guidelines for bodies like the ESB as to how they should deal with environmental aspects of their work.

While critical of the ESB, I am concious that they have from time to time done great work in the environmental area. I refer to what they have done along the shannon in promoting fishery interests. In regard to this other aspect of their work there is need for a much more careful and sensible approach. My colleague, Deputy Reynolds, who is responsible for energy on our behalf has agreed, with some reluctance, to accept this amendment as a sort of emergency urgent matter, but we are not happy about the situation. We are agreeing to this amendment now at the last minitue, in the expectation that the Minister will have regard to our worries and fears for the rights of landowners and householders and about the environmental impact of what that ESB do in the course of their work.

Like other speakers, I am conscious of the social benefits of electricity and its contribution to the economy generally. Nevertheless, we must not forget the rights of the individual. The seven days' notice worries me slightly. It is too much like the bailiff — after seven days somebody walks in. The Minister has outlined how an ESB representative, an engineer or some other official, deal with land owners. I do not believe such officials approach land owners with a view to having discussions with them. They go out to tell land owners where the line is going. I am anxious to know if it is possible to bring in an arbitrator at that stage to discuss the matter with the ESB and the land owner. That may take a lot of time but we must remember that land owners, like all property owners, have a high regard for their land. We should ensure that they are satisfied when poles are being erected on their land.

The leader of the opposition, Deputy Haughey, referred to pylons. There is no doubt but that they are unslightly. On the Limerick-Tralee road some farmers are very upset becauses of the way they were treated by the ESB. Some of the ESB officials and workers can be quite nasty to people. They approach them with that attitude that they are the controlling power and they can do what they like. It is essential that such State boards have a certain amount of power but I am always concerned about giving anyone too much power. When ESB engineers call to land owners they should have discussions about the route of lines. Would it not be better to erect ESB poles adjacent to fences instead of placing them in the middle of a field or in front of a private residence?

I accept that the legislation is urgent but I am not happy about the provision in regard to seven days' notice. It is not adequate. A land owner may be absent from home for a number of days and on return it may take him two or three days to contact his solicitor. I am doubtful about the time limit and the powers given to ESB engineers. Discussions between such officialss and land owners have never been brought to a successful conclusion as far as my constituents are concerned, and I am aware of cases where fields have been rendered useless by the construction of huge pylons.

I should like to express my reservations about the seven days provision. Will it be seven days from the date of the issuing of the notice or seven days from the receiving of the notice by registered post? I presume such notice will be sent by registered post. It is not unknown for letters posted on a Wednesday evening in Dublin to arrive in my constituency on the following Monday. If a notice is posted in Dublin on a Wednesday evening people in my constituency served with them will effectively only recieve two days' notice.

I agree with Deputy Willie O'Brien in regard to the attitude of some ESB officials, Engineers from the ESB and the county council, and assessors approach land owners supposedly for consultations but they adopt a take it or leave it attitude. They indicate to land owners what they will be doing. The ESB and other bodies with compulsory powers should approach land owners before they prepare their plans in their offices. If that is done the problems that arise in many areas will be considerably lessened.

Three of the best istes that exist in the vicinity or Ballina lie undeveloped because ESB lines run diagonally across them. Developments have taken place around those sites. Those lines could have been erected adjacent to fences but the ESB decided to erect them between point A And point B, adopting the attitude that if the poeple concerned did not like that route there was nothing they could do about it. In fact the ESB have gone further and persuaded the county council to give planning permission for such work, with the result that the question of compensation does not arise. People will not puchase or develop such sites because of the position of the power lines.

The suggestion by Deputy Haughey that the House at some stage in the future when there is no great urgency should discuss the question of the compulsory powers of the ESB, local authorities and others, is a good one and one I recommend to the Minister for Energy. The ESB are as efficient or courteous as the officers who approach land owners on their behalf. An a engineer I have found that some of the officals have been exceptionally co-operative. As long as they are willing to co-operate they will get reciprocal co-operation from land owners. However, some officials, without apologising, tell land owners that they are starting the line in a certain place and taking a specific route and that is it. That is not right.

In many areas local authorities, after taking away corners, leave electric poles five or six feet from a fence. They are a danger to road users. The pole is left in that position because of rows between the ESB and the county council. If an accident occurs and somebody is killed we will be all very sorry for the person involved but someting should be done about it now. There are many such obstructions, in Mayo and on the road to Dublin. The Minister should use his influence to have such hazards removed. I should like to express my reservations about the seven days' notice because of the amount of time it takes for a letter from Dublin to arrive at its destination in may constituency.

I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by other Members, in particular with regard to the seven days' notice. Will the Minister consider as as matter of urgency updating the 1927 Act? The problem in my view stems from the fact that the 1927 Act had the primary objective of getting electricity to all areas by the shortest route and with the minimum of delay. The aim was to provide a service. It is possible that in that year people were not so concerned about the environment and there may not have been so many threats to the environment. The contraptions used to convey power may not have been as objectionable visually as they are now. There is no doubt that the huge pylons now being erected have a horrific effect on the visual aspect of the environment. In the Kildare constituency historic hillsides have been marred by the presence of huge electric steel pylons.

There seems to have been a tendency to barely comply with the statutory requirements of the Act. I have had quite a lot of correspondence from constituents who complain that they were short-changed in that regard. They may have received notice, not directly from the ESB but from second or third parties who were aware of what was happening by virtue of the fact that they were living in the area all their lives or at least for a longer period than some of those who were in the path of the power line.

Further to what Deputy Willie O'Brien said, if the local authority propose to build a motorway they must hold a public inquiry and ensure that all the people affected will have their objections heard. There is a requirement to inform the people affected, but there is no requirement to hold a public inquiry or to ensure that the person or persons whose property is deemed devalued be heard. I know it is provided for to a certain extent in the section under debate, but up to this there was no provision.

There is also a hazy area in relation to planning permission, which was referred to by Deputy Calleary. An individual could apply for planning permission and have it refused because the ESB proposed to route a high-tension power line in the area. Up to now it was not possible to get compensation unless very strict procedures were followed and if it could be established that the devaluation was attributable to the fact that the power line was there. If there were other reasons for refusing the planning permission the ESB were not liable and, as we all know, there can be countless reasons for refusing planning permission. It is most important that the 1927 Act should be updated in line with modern requirements. Perhaps as a result of this amendment it will be found necessary to bring forward the review of the Act. Many people who proviously would have accepted the status quo feel that, because safety and statutory requirements have been complied with, it does not mean that they are prepared to accept a huge steel structure within 100 metres or so of their homes. There is no doubt that these huge steel structures devalue houses in thier immediate area and there are implications in this legislation which possibly we do not yet see.

The safety aspect must also be considered. Although experts may provide statistics to show that all safety requirements are complied with, one must remember that in electric storms the safety of these structures is in question. I have had cases reported to me in county Kildare where peculiar things happened after electric storms which would not apply in the case of an ordinary high building. Therefore, I reiterate my call for an early updating of the 1927 Act in an attempt to ensure that in future greater regard will be had for people's rights and entitlements and for the visual aspects of the environment. In line with modern requiremnts generally, the ESB and legislation pertaining thereto should give the protection which the public demands. If some of teh steel super structures for the provision of a radio booster station or something else, were to be located as close to people's property as many of these pylons are, there would be very strong objections, the public would not accept it and permission would not be granted.

I wish to add to what other Deputies said in regard to the seven day's notice, because obviously there are problems in the practicalities of delivering that notice within seven days, especially with regard to postal deliveries. I hope that the points made will be taken up by the Minister. We all agree that there is ugliness involved in the provision of massive pylons and poles and, ironically, the consumer is asked to pay extra when there is a need for extra poles even though there is the alternative of putting cables underground. Perhaps there are also other alternatives.

People in villages and towns at this time of the year are preparing for the Tidy Towns Competition and the first thing they tell their elected representatives is that some of the unsightly ESB poles in their towns should be removed. This has been done to very good effect in some towns, particularly in Tyrrellspass, which is very welcome. Not alone are these poles unsightly but they are a danger to pedestrians and the handicapped. I hope the ESB will do something about them. No worthwhile development takes place in rural areas without the involvement of the ESB and for that reason it is important that development should take place in a balanced way and that the landscape and environment should be investigated very thoroughly.

I hope that in rural Ireland the Western package, which the Minister's Department is dealing with, will be used more flexibly to deal with not only the charges for installation of electricity, which are very high, but also with ways in which electricity can be brought to people's houses by means of an underground cable system. That package will benefit also the agricultural sector. I know that we are not discussing that there here today but I hope we will discuss it at a later date because it is one of the most important schemes available in rural Ireland.

I hope that the Minister will look agian at the question of destroying our landscape. If the ESB development programme is not regarded in a balanced way the environments will be affected. People naturally are concerned about electricity charges, and perhaps more than seven days notice could be given if the ESB decide to disconnect the electricity supply to a householder. In that respect ESB public relations have fallen down and people in difficulty with their ESB payments are not getting that seven days' notice.

I have been very liberal in my approach to this debate but if we get into the day to day working of Bills and so on ——

I am merely making the point that if landowners get only seven days' notice the unfortunate consumer should get at least seven days' notice of a proposed disconnection.

Deputy Griffin.

I have been promised that I could speak after Deputy Kitt.

I point out, Deputy O'Keeffe, that the Leader of your party offered and I refused him because he was succeeding a member of the Fianna Fáil Party. Surely the Deputy does not expect me to do for him what I could not do for the leader of his party.

On a further point of order when Deputy John Kelly was in no Labour Deputy was present.

The Chair must consider the position when a Member is being called and not some time before that.

I join with my colleagues on all sides of the House in my concern about this seven days. Coming from a rural constituency I feel that it is an imposition on the framing community, especially on landowners. I am loath to give any semi-State body this power. The Minister has not indicated clearly how that seven days' notice is to be served. Is it by registered post? If the owner is away on a fortnight's holiday, as some Members here have suggested, he could return and find his land overrun by pylons, poles and other ESB fixtures. Recently in south Tipperary planning permission was refused to builders to erect private dwelling houses on a particular road because the scenic amenity of that area would be affected. If that applies to private people then we should be extremely careful about granting a body like the ESB any powers such as this. I know of one field in South Tiperary on which 14 poles have been installed. That field is totally devalued and sterilised in regard to industrial or commercial development. This perhaps is an extreme case, but it exists and I can bring any Members of the House to see that field.

I urge the Minister even at this late stage to examine this section again and if and when the Bill goes through, to request that the whole Act be examined. Whole valleys and beautiful landscapes have been ruined by the indiscriminate placing of electric pylons. I hope that when the ESB intend to erect pylons and fixtures they will consult local interests, An Taisce, the local planning officer and so on to ensure that those fixtures will blend in as far as possible with the valley, the glen, or the landscape. I urge the Minister to take into cognisance the tenuine fears expressed by Members of the house here. I feel that seven days' notice is totally inadequate for any occupier of land or a building to enable him to present his case. Has that occupier any court of appeal apart from the compensation, which is often totally inadequate? The compensation does not take into account the commercial value of the land involved as sites for private housing or industrial development. What court of appeal has the occupier against a demand by the ESB to enter his or her lands at seven days' notice?

I suppose flexibility is what we are really talking about here. We are dealing with people in rural area whose outlook might be conservative. The ESB should be more flexible than they are at present and should enter into dialogue or discussion with the people concerned, be they landowners or occupants of private houses or any type of hosues for that matter. The field officer is usually fairly approachable when he calls to discuss the problem, but probably a faceless man in the office gives him his riding instructions and that is where the breakdown occurs. I would like to see flexibility right down the line.

The question of the seven days' notice is very relevant to the farming community. Farmers at certain times of the year can be very busy and they are not very interested in officialdom or documentation or paper and when they get letters they may throw them on the the dresser, the shelf or the window sill.

That does not sound very businesslike of the farming community.

Mr. O'Keeffe

The Minister is as rural as I am and he should understand these people. There are not better people to co-operate if necessary and they have benefited enormously form the rural electrifiaction scheme since the fifties when it was introduced by Deputy Lemass. Steel structures during storms can be noisy and can have a detrimental effect in horse breeding areas. I referred to this yesterday and someone asked why I did not elaborate further on it. That is a very important sector of our agricultural industry and special consideration should be given to landowners who engage in horse breeding. I am thinking about electric storms and large networks of wires etc. Some areas are very susceptible to electric storms, which can have very serious effects. The ESB should have a businesslike and sympathetic approach to this and consider a wider spread rather than having the network in one kind of area. Geographical considerations might be important to them, but they should have resources enough to take care of this.

The environment has been referred to and that would include trees, shrubs and so on. Another semi-State body did enormous damage to a line of beech trees. Hardwood trees are becoming scarce in our environment, and I was amazed at the rugged approach of that body to this matter.

I ask the Minister to consider the extension of seven days' notice to 21 days to suit the rural community, and I hope that he will grant my request in that. I am aware that he comes from a rural constituency, as I do, and he knows what type of people farmers are. Given an opportunity they are always willing and able to co-operate.

I should explain again that what I am doing in the amendment which I am proposing here this morning is granting a facility to land owners and owners of property which they have not had hitherto. Prior to the enactment of this amendment landowners had not a right to have compensation decided by arbitration and this minor amendment will give them that right. As I explained to the House yesterday, the ESB normally made ex gratia payments and the land owners did not have the right of appeal or the right to go to arbitration to settle the amount of compensation. In effect, we are improving the lot of the owners of property in relation to the powers of the ESB to lay power lines across their land.

I fully appreciate the concern which has been expressed about the seven days' notice. The original period in the 1927 Act was 14 days but the Government of 1945 in their wisdom saw fit to reduce that period to seven days. Perhaps I might outline some background thinking and methods used by the ESB in relation to this seven days' notice. This may allay some of the very genuine fears which have been expressed by Deputies on all sides this morning.

In 1945 when the period was reduced to seven days it was to benefit consumers waiting for connections, particularly in emergency cases, as Deputy Reynolds said for fairs and fetes where the supply was required for a very short time scale, and in other emergency cases where a three phase supply was necessary for small industries or farmers. One very crucial point about the seven days' notice is that, to the best of my information, the ESB have never refused to consider any objection made outside the deadline period. They negotiate on every objection. The ESB have attempted to be reasonable in their dealing and they always try to move poles or change the route of lines if they can do so without affecting other land owners. We have to appreciate that there will be unavoidable situations where changes cannot be made. When we look at the number of people with whom the ESB have dealings, the amount of work in progress and the amount of land they will be crossing, we realise that in some cases land owners may feel that their points of view are not being catered for and that the ESB will have their way. As public representatives we all hear of people taking umbrage because poles have been sited in their back gardens, particularly if there is only a small site for a house, but in most situations the ESB try to make the necessary alterations to facilitate these owners.

In the case of the 400 KV lines at present being constructed across the country from Moneypoint, land owners were aware of the route the pylons will take many months before the way leave notices were issued. The ESB are always flexible and, as Deputy O'Keeffe said, flexibility is the criterion we should be looking for. Even after work has commenced on the placing of lines, in many cases the ESB have moved poles or changed the route. The stated objective of the ESB is to use their powers in a fair and reasonable manner and this is clearly set out in the way leave notices issued by the board.

The important thing to remember about this legislation is that it is increasing and securing further rights for land owners by adding the right of compensation on a statutory basis, not on an ex gratia basis as had been the case hitherto, and adding the further right of arbitration if negotiation and agreement on a figure cannot be reached. Deputy Kelly imparted some of his legal knowledge to us this morning——

Yes, free, unusual for a lawyer nowadays. The ESB always want to settle objections by negotiation and they are well aware that the amendment says "in default of agreement". The ESB will always try to have agreement before it is necessary to go arbitration. That has been their conduct to date and it will continue to be. Deputy Kelly said Departments and semi-State bodies were defending the indefensible. It is ironic that in this case a semi-State body do not go to the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of something which has been in force since 1927.

Deputy Calleary was concerned about the shortcomings in the postal service in the west and the time lapse between letters being sent from Dublin and arriving in counties like Mayo. I believe this service has been substantially improved in the past couple of years. If the letter of the law were to be applied, it would be the date of the issue of the notice which would be relevant, but the ESB never hold to the seven days and they always allow reasonable periods for objections. The staff of the ESB are given specific instructions to operate the powers in a fair and reasonable manner and to treat land owners fairly.

Much was made of the environmental aspects of the ESB's work — the erection of the pylons and power lines, especially in relation to the Moneypoint project. It was suggested that we might debate this issue on another occasion. That might be timely when the House has an opportunity to discuss the future development of the ESB, balancing environmental concerns with the progress and the development of the ESB's supply of electricity, particularly in relation to the power station at Moneypoint.

As I said, the instructions to the staff of the ESB have been that they exercise their power in a fair and reasonable manner. Reasonableness is the test in all these cases. The ESB must be reasonable in the exercise of their powers with property owners, be they farmers or other individuals, and the community must respond to the ESB in a reasonable manner. We have to remember that when dealing with thousands of people the ESB will meet up with the odd individual who is not prepared to live within the norm which should be applied to society. In those cases the powers in the Act might have to be used by the ESB.

Reference was made to the emissions from Moneypoint, a matter which is not strictly within the ambit of this debate, but cognisance will be taken of that and monitoring is being undertaken in all areas surrounding Moneypoint. Monitoring stations have been placed throughout the surrounding counties and there will be close monitoring of the effects of Moneypoint when it comes on stream and any adverse effects on the environment will be noted and attended to very quickly.

Deputy Durkan said there should be public inquiries in relation to the ESB's programmes. In my view, the test of reasonableness should be applied and this is adequately catered for in the 1927 and 1945 Acts. I do not disagree with the updating of legislation because, as Deputy Lemass said about the Constitution, it should be reviewed every 25 years. As norms and standards change in society and progress is made, there must be some legislative review to update legislation to meet modern circumstances. That should be done on an ongoing basis through a review body, and then it should be brought to this House. The ESB have to conform to planning laws and there is a double safety valve, so to speak, in relation to their procedures and the procedures to be applied by the local authorities.

Deputy Calleary was concerned about the danger in cases where road works or improvements take place, when ditches are removed and the poles are left on the side of the road. We are all concerned about that as public representatives. There is a case to be made for better coordination between the local authorities and the ESB so that any hazards that might arise by virtue of road improvements can be dealt with immediately and the poles removed if necessary.

The amendment improves the position of landowners in relation to the powers being exercised by the ESB in the course of their duties, and that is something the public will welcome.

I accept what the Minister says. We all detest emergency legislation, especially when it is brought in at the last moment but in this case I appreciate the need for it and the speed with which it is required. I will not stand over delays which would cost the ESB £1 million a week. Neither we nor the ESB can be all things to all men. We must try to get a fair balance between the rights of individuals and the common good for which the ESB works.

It would appear that if any amendment were made to section 5 an amendment would have to be made to subsection (4) and that would mean the Bill would be put back into the next session of the Dáil.

That is correct.

On that basis I accept what the Minister said in relation to it and will let the ESB get on with the job. I deliberately did not widen the debate. I would welcome an opportunity in the future to deal with some of the issues raised here and look forward to it. The Minister might ask the ESB to have regard to what happens in France, particularly in Brittany and areas around there, where the electricity poles are not ugly but are nicely designed. They are not big ugly things. They carry a common wire with the post office so that the beauty of the countryside is not destroyed. Perhaps the Minister would ask the ESB to consider that and to take the physical environment into consideration when they are designing pylons so that they will not stand indicted before future generations for destroying the beauty of our countryside.

I assure the Deputy that if we can get the ESB to liaise with the other State bodies we might perhaps achieve the ambience Francais which the Deputy mentioned. It might be necessary to carry out an inspection of the fields of Brittany which I have not done just yet.

The Minister will not get State funds to do it.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and passed.