Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Environmental Protection Legislation.

Michael Bell

Question:

9 Mr. Bell asked the Minister for the Environment if, in light of his failure to date to bring forward the heads of a Bill or details in a substantial form of the environmental protection agency, he is now, having regard to the delays in the legislative process, prepared to establish on an interim basis the environmental protection agency so as to ensure that the agency is up and running in advance on enabling legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

40 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment if he has completed his consultations with all of the relevant groups prior to the enactment of the Government proposed environmental protection agency; if he will indicate the timetable for its establishment and operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 40 together.

It is intended that the necessary legislation to enable the environmental protection agency to be established will be introduced in the current session and the agency will become operational during 1990.

In the meantime, pending the enactment of legislation, preparatory work has already commenced on the development of the organisational arrangements and staff structures necessary to ensure the early establishment of the agency once the legislation is enacted. In view of the proposed functions of the agency, particularly in relation to the licensing of activities with a potential for serious environmental pollution, it would not be feasible to give powers to an interim body without statutory backing.

Will the Minister of State confirm that the Bill will be circulated before the first week in July? Will she also confirm whether it is her intention to have this agency established on a statutory basis by 1 January 1991? Any failure to meet those two dates will be seen as a lack of commitment on her part.

Yes, I can confirm both those dates.

Will the Minister confirm that the legislation required to set up the agency will be passed through this House before the planning process gets underway for the establishment of the national toxic waste incinerator? Can the Minister confirm whether the Environment Protection Agency will be in a position to carry out an examination of the environmental impact of any incinerator in respect of the site proposed in any application made?

We are going back to a previous question.

It is of relevance to the Environmental Protection Agency.

If the Deputy wishes to debate that issue he should do so at another time. It is not a serious question.

It is a very serious question.

I can confirm that the Environmental Protection Agency will be up and running very shortly and they will have a role in relation to monitoring the incinerator.

Deputy Gilmore.

Will it be up and running before the planning process is completed?

Deputy Gilmore has been called and I insist upon his being heard.

Can the Minister reconcile her statement that the legislation will be introduced in this session with the document which was circulated to us yesterday by the Government and which states that the Environmental Protection Agency Bill is at an advanced stage of drafting and may only be circulated during this session? Which is correct — the statement the Minister has made that it will be circulated during this session or the document circulated by the Government Whip which states that the Bill may only be circulated during this session?

I can confirm that the legislation is almost drafted and will be circulated during this session. Depending on the co-operation of the Deputy and other parties, I am confident that it will be through the House before the summer recess.

I shall not respond to the last point made by the Minister because it is patent nonsense, since the Bill is not scheduled to be taken in this session and we will have to squeeze it in between 25 October and 14 December, which will be for another time. On the basis of the Minister's track record to date she will be lucky to meet that date. In view of the inordinate delay which has taken place in the establishment of this agency will the Minister outline to the House the kind of preliminary steps which have been taken as an interim measure in regard to staff and other procedures to which she referred in her reply?

I do not accept that there has been an inordinate delay. As the Deputy knows, this is major comprehensive legislation——

The Minister voted against it.

The Deputy equally knows that it takes quite some time to prepare it. The legislation is almost completed and I am confident it will come before the House during this session. With regard to the interim measures which have been made, the collection of data bases, computerisation and matters of that kind are under way and discussions are taking place with the staff about the staffing of the agency and the transfer of staff from other areas of the public service. Similar arrangements of an administrative kind are also well under way.

Does the Minister——

A final question, Deputy Shatter.

——envisage that the agency will have to recruit new staff who are not currently employed in the public service and, if so, when does she anticipate advertisements will be put in the national newspapers seeking such staff so that the necessary processes can get under way and the staff be recruited?

I envisage that new staff will be required. Obviously that will be a matter for the board of the agency when they are appointed.