That a sum not exceeding £575, 366,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1990, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for the Environment, including grants to Local Authorities, grants and other expenses in connection with housing, and miscellaneous schemes, subsidies and grants including certain grants-inaid.
Is ámharach mar a tharlaíonn an díospóireacht ghearr seo ar an Meastacháin Chomshaoil ag deireadh ár nUachtaránacht an-rathúil ar an gComhphobal Eorpach — tréimhse inar chuireamar romhainn Uachtaránacht Ghlas a chur i bhfeidhm. Níl aon dabht faoi ach go bhfeichfear an tréimhse seo mar dhul chun cinn tábhachtach i bhforbairt cúrsaí comhshaoil ar an leibhéal náisiúnta agus idir-náisiúnta.
The adoption by the European Council of a substantial Declaration on the Environment, proposed by the Presidency, was a historical event; it was the first time that the Council had addressed environmental issues in a comprehensive way and agreed a framework and guidelines for future action. This in itself demonstrates the importance the Irish Presidency attached to the environment, but the significance of the declaration was enhanced by the fact it was backed up by specific action on a broad front at home and at international level.
Last January, I launched the Government's environment action programme. This is an ambitious IR£1 billion environmental investment plan with the object of improving still further Ireland's already high quality natural environment. The plan, for example, means that by the year 2000, all municipal sewerage discharging to inland or coastal waters will be fully treated; all dumping at sea will be stopped by 1998; air quality will be dramatically improved; and good forestry, agricultural and industrial processes will be promoted.
The Government have backed up these proposals on the environment by committing additional financial resources to implement them. Measures costing £20 million in 1990 were provided for in the budget and built into the relevant departmental estimates. In the case of my own Department, an additional £8.55 million was included. Over and above the extra funds for water and sewerage schemes, the funds allocated in 1990 for environmental and related services have increased by 144 per cent over the 1989 expenditure. Details are set out in subhead G in Part III of the estimate.
On the international level, it became clear to me that Community environment policy needed to be orientated to a much greater degree to what was happening outside the boundaries of the Community. At the same time, greater progress was desirable on the backlog of environmental legislation required to face environmental challenges within the Community after 1992.
At an early stage in my Presidency, I decided, following consultation with the Environment Commissioner, that political contact should be made with the emerging democracies of Eastern and Central Europe — countries beset by grave environmental problems which can affect the Community through transboundary water and air pollution. My initiative culminated in a special meeting of EC Environment Ministers and their counterparts from the USSR and Eastern and Central Europe in Dublin on 16 June. At this meeting, the EC Ministers were able to hear first-hand descriptions of the problems involved and to set in place a series of steps to help resolve these problems.
A major challenge which faced the Presidency was to ensure that Community member states acted together on matters of global interest and I am happy to say that some success was achieved in this area. A strong unified Community position was achieved at the Bergen Conference on Sustainable Development, at the White House Conference on Global Change and at the recent London meeting on ozone depletion.
During the Presidency, progress was made on a number of important measures at Community level. At the March Council, there was agreement on the Regulation setting up the European Environment Agency; an important directive on access to information on the environment; two directives on biotechnology; a resolution prepared by the Presidency setting out future Community strategy on waste; and a decision to extend the CORINE programme for gathering information on the environment.
The June Council built on the impressive record achieved in March and agreement on three new directives was secured. These were: a directive banning the sale of commonly used batteries with a high mercury content; promoting recycling; and requiring separate disposal of used batteries; an important new directive governing all aspects of waste planning and management; and a directive establishing strict controls on discharges into water courses of four dangerous substances generally used as solvents in the dry cleaning and other sections.
By any standards, the Green Presidency was a considerable success. I intend to maintain the momentum in the period immediately ahead.
Last year was a great year for the construction industry. The fall in output and employment which had persisted in the industry since 1981, was completely reversed and overall output increased by about 10 per cent over 1988. The total value of construction output in 1989 exceeded £2.1 billion and direct employment in the industry increased by 4,000 to 74,000. The projections for output and employment in the industry remain more promising than they have been for many years. Adequate mortgage finance continues to be available from a wide variety of sources and the recent reductions in interest rates are another welcome development.
The upturn in the industry is underpinned principally by the recovery in the residential market and by strong growth in new commercial and retail construction since 1987. The buoyancy of the residential market resulted in over 18,000 new dwellings being built in 1989, an increase of over 2,400 dwellings on the 1988 figure. I expect about 20,000 new dwellings to be built in 1990.
The value of new commercial and retail construction output increased by 115 per cent over the three years 1987 to 1989. This trend in private investment is an indicator of the high level of business confidence and of the favourable economic climate which Government policy has fostered.
As regards public investment, the upturn in our economy and the improvement in our public finances enabled the Government to significantly increase the 1990 Public Capital Programme provisions affecting the construction industry. An additional £131 million of public investment is being provided for construction work. This is almost 16 per cent more than the 1989 provision. It will add about 6 per cent to overall output volume growth for the industry this year and will create over 2,000 new jobs.
The 1990 allocation of £33 million for the local authority housing construction programme represents an increase of over 50 per cent on the 1989 outturn. This marks a significant departure from the pattern of recent years. To date in 1990, approximately 1,150 new local authority houses have either commenced or been brought to tender stage. It is clear, therefore, that good progress is being made towards achieving our targets for the year.
We are now well into the National Development Plan covering the period 1989 to 1993. As required by the Community Support Framework, an operational programme dealing with roads and other transport was submitted to the European Commission on 25 May. Already, the Commission have agreed to provide £451 million in grants for roads in the period up to 1993 and work is going ahead on that basis. There is no question of implementation being held up pending the EC Commission's approval of the operational programme.
This year, a record £219.7 million is being provided by the State for improvement and maintenance works on public roads, an increase of 13 per cent on 1989. Within this overall allocation, £188.5 million is being provided for road improvements, including works for storm damage which arose in February last, and £31.2 million for maintenance work.
I have allocated £72.5 million this year to local authorities for improvements and maintenance works on non-national roads. Of this provision, nearly £67 million has been allocated to county councils in discretionary grants for works on regional and county roads. This compares very favourably with £47.4 million last year and £33.4 million in 1988. This large allocation for regional and county roads should ensure a major improvement in these roads which are very important for local communities and for tourism development.
Mar sin, feictear domsa go gcabhraíonn Meastacháin na bliana seo bonn airgeadais na n-údarás áitiúla a chothú agus a mhéadú maidir lena seirbhísí riachtanacha agus traidisiúnta. Cabhraíonn sé freisin le forbairt na gcláracha atá i dteideal airgead a fháil on gComhphobal faoi na Cistí Struchtúrtha. Chomh maith leis sin, cuireann sé níos mó acmhainn ná riamh ar fáil do chlár samhailteach agus cuimsitheach chun an comhshaoil a chothú. Táim cinnte go bhfuil an Teach seo ar aon ghuth liom leis an dearcadh sin.