Private Members' Business. - Radiological Protection Bill, 1990: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

The following amendment was moved:
(3) In page 15, to delete lines 22 to 29 and substitute the following:
"(1) The Institute shall cause a report on the performance of its functions under this Act to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas anually, and may from time to time cause to be laid before each House such other reports with respect to those functions as he sees fit. The terms of any direction under section 20 shall be included in a report under this section.
(2) Notwithstanding the generality of these reports each annual report shall include—
(a) a report of any notification made to the Institute and under section 34 of this Act,
(b) a report of the current state of preparedness of the National Radiological Emergency Plan and any trials of procedures within that plan which have been undertaken during the year,
(c) report on the arrangements for the disposal of radioactive waste emerging from activities with the State, and
(d) any other information in such form and regarding such matters as the Institute sees fit.".
—(Deputy Flaherty.)
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 3:
Before the second last line, to insert the following:
"(d) a report summarising the results of any monitoring of radio activity carried out by or for the Institute,
(e) details of any subscriptions or gifts received under section 19.".
—(Deputy Garland.)

I should like to reaffirm what I said before Private Members' Business, that this side of the House is very disappointed that the Minister has not seen fit to accept any of the amendments we put to him in relation to the annual report. The Minister indicated that this was a standard form of drafting in the context of provision for annual reports for organisations and institutes with this kind of responsibility. We on this side of the House expressed some surprise that the Minister would be satisfied with that. Perhaps the history of the Bill warrants a little more time than was given. Members of the Nuclear Energy Board, now to be transformed into the Radiological Protection Institute, come from a background very different from what ideally one might have expected. With due respect to all the members of the board who I am sure, have their own tradition, a tradition marked in their history by secrecy and hostility to public inquiry, they would require some transformation to deliver what one would expect from such an institute. The Minister might instead have looked to the National Pensions Board, recently set up under the aegis of the Minister for Social Welfare. They, in order to allay concerns which relate to the substantive point here decided that a report is of value only to the people it is meant to protect, in that case members of pension schemes. The Minister for Social Welfare accepts in that situation that certain specific requirements should be written into that Bill to ensure the members are adequately protected. I regret the Minister here has adopted a different approach. The public will need a great deal of reassurance that this agency are being asked to perform a new and very different task, without very clear instructions to perform that task adequately.

It seems that we are going to have a vote on this and if we could have a single vote that would be desirable. We are willing to accept Deputy Garland's amendment to the amendment and then, perhaps, our amendment, as amended could be accepted. Is Deputy Garland agreeable?

Perhaps we can have a single vote on the composite issue if the Minister will co-operate. Alternatively, if he had time in the last hour and a half to consider his position he may be willing to accept the amendments. I accept the point he has made and we will have no problem if he is willing to accept these amendments. Due to an oversight on our side, the matter to which he referred was not included in our amendment when we reintroduced it —"As soon as may be after the end of each financial year.... but not later than 6 months". I accept his criticism. We shifted ground a little during Committee Stage and maybe things were not handled as tightly as they might have been. If there is to be public confidence in this Bill these provisions must be very tight.

What can there be to fear? I cannot envisage an occasion or a time in the future when the matters referred to here would not be relevant to an agency given this responsibility. Notifications under section 34 of major accidents will be an ongoing concern. The current state of preparedness of the national radiological emergency plan is very relevant on an ongoing basis. The arrangements for disposal of radioactive waste would be an ongoing concern. "Any other such information" is a general, catch all phrase.

The monitoring of radioactivity would provide vital information which should be available. The Minister tells us this information will be made available, and that any agency will make it available. If that is so, what is wrong with specifying it in the Bill? The Minister has given some examples and I will give another. To ensure a basic level of information which is required to ensure that the persons concerned — in this case the broad mass of the Irish people — are getting the protection they want, this should be specified in the Bill. Deputy Garland has dealt with the issue of the gifts, etc. and I share his view of its significance. We will be seeking a vote on this amendment if the Minister is still obdurate.

How stands Deputy's Garland's amendment?

I agree with Deputy Flaherty. I am not too clear on the procedures of the House but I accept Deputy Flaherty's suggestion and would like to incorporate my amendment in her amendment, because mine is additional to hers and is in no way exclusive.

I take it you are including your amendment in Deputy Flaherty's.

I would like to make a short contribution if I may at this stage in reply——

I am sorry, Deputy. Deputy Flaherty who moved the initial amendment had the right of reply and, strictly speaking, she concluded the debate on the amendment and on your amendment when she spoke just now. Your brief comments are worth while and I am glad of them because you have indicated to the House what precisely you want to do and that is important.

May I speak a little further? No?

I take it Deputy Garland's amendment is agreed to.

I am opposing both the amendment and the amendment to it.

The question is "That amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 3 be made."

The Minister can agree that.

I understand that the Minister is opposing it.

I am opposing it.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 3 put and declared lost.

We come now to dispose of amendment No. 3.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 62; Níl, 57.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Flanagan and Boylan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 4 is in the name of Deputy Mac Giolla. Amendment No. 5 is an alternative and I suggest we take amendments Nos. 4 and 5 together for discussion, if that is satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 15, to delete lines 37 to 46.

This amendment has been tabled in order to prevent the Minister from tying the hands of the board. The whole section has been carelessly drafted since different meanings can be taken from it. Subsection (3) (a) of section 17 states:

(3) Not less than 3 months before the end of each financial year of the Institute, it shall furnish to the Minister a report in writing—

(a) outlining its proposed activities (other than day-to-day activities) in the financial year immediately following.

Naturally they will suggest what they hope to do the following year but they cannot project what will happen that year, whether there will be another Chernobyl or whether a nuclear submarine will crash off the Wicklow coast.

Subsection (3) (b) provides that the institute shall give estimates of their expenditure in the last mentioned year in relation to each of those activities. I cannot understand that and I hope the Minister will explain it. What is the last mentioned year and is there a separate last mentioned year in relation to each activity? Subsection (3) (c) provides that the institute shall give estimates of their incomes in the said last mentioned year. I propose to delete the remainder of the subsection which states that the institute shall not carry out any of those activities or incur any such expenditure until the report has been approved of by the Minister.

Members of the House, especially Ministers, are aware that a Minister's approval is a very unpredictable thing. The Minister could give his approval immediately or he could say he needs more time, perhaps up to 12 months. A new Minister could be appointed and he would have to look at the matter again before giving his approval. Does anyone have any idea when the report will be approved by the Minister? It is a rather meaningless provision unless the Minister inserts a provision to the effect that this will be given within a specified period of, say, two or three months.

Subsection (4) states:

The Institute shall not during any financial year—

(a) carry on any activity (other than a day-to-day activity) not specified in the report under subsection (3) of this section in relation to that year, or

(b) incur expenditure in relation to any activity in excess of the estimate of that expenditure given in that report,

without the prior approval of the Minister.

This is hogtying the institute under the Minister's control. The independence of the institute is again in jeopardy. This section, in the hands of a particular Minister, could remove all independence to carry out activities or incur expenditure. To be independent the institute should at least have a budget and they should be able to incur any expenditure they wish within the terms of that budget. If they had further income, as provided for in section 17, they could even go beyond their budget provided they had the income to cover the expenditure. As it stands, unless the Minister allows them to incur expenditure in excess of the estimate, they are completely tied down. It is very important for Ministers to know the projected income and expenditure for a year, yet the Minister for Finance will admit that the greatest experts never get it right. The figures flow up and down, mostly up. There are difficulties every year in budgets.

Very little care has been taken in the drafting of this section to assess the effect on the activities of the institute of tying them down to submitting this report three months before the end of the financial year, then restricting them from carrying out any proposed activities or incurring any proposed expenditure without the approval of the Minister. I wonder how the Minister can stand by that section and still stand by his firm commitment to an independent board.

As I said, the Minister must not look at this section from the point of view of his intentions, which we all accept are honourable. He must consider the possibilities the section offers to any other Minister who may not like the composition of the board or individual members of it, or what the board are doing and who wants to place restrictions on the board or to tie their hands in relation to particular activities or expenditures.

This section gives wide powers to the Minister to tie them up in knots. For example, by not approving their report over a long period he would thus leave them inactive in relation to their activities and their expenditure. He could approve their report in relation to their activities but not approve of their expenditure. If the board have a budget why should a Minister have to have a tie on expenditure? He can hold them to the budget. Surely it is a common occurrence for an institute to engage in activities and incur expenditure in excess of the estimate. They should be allowed to do so. In the event of an unforeseen accident or a crisis expenditure may be incurred outside what had been projected. One would expect that the Radiological Protection Institute would be involved in assisting where a crisis occurs. If everything could be foreseen there would be no problem and there would be no accidents. There would hardly be a need for the institute if one could predict what will happen from year to year.

We are really dealing with the unknown. We are surrounded by a sea used by nuclear powered ships and submarines which may carry nuclear missiles and we have to deal with that. There are also nuclear stations and nuclear processing plants located 60 miles off our coast to the east. Accidents may occur and have occurred from time to time. We cannot place this type of a restriction on the institute.

In my amendment I am proposing that we delete lines 37 to 46 on page 15, that is the end of the sentence of section 17 (3) and all of subsection (4).

Our amendment is on similar lines to Deputy MacGiolla's. It tries to remove powers the Minister has taken on himself to restrict the institute in the preparation of reports, the carrying out of activities and the establishment of priorities. Deputy Mac Giolla has given an exhaustive presentation on the possibilities and probabilities and our concerns about the section.

In the course of our discussion on our last amendment we expressed our concerns and we have the same concerns in relation to this amendment. The role of the Minister is still overly restrictive. Regrettably the Minister does not appear to have moved on this. The power of the institute to engage in and initiate various activities is restricted by the Minister. This restriction could easily be deleted and this would leave the institute with increased flexibility.

The Minister was unwilling to accept our earlier amendments but this amendment is of major signficance. Perhaps the Minister will be more willing to look on this amendment more favourably.

At the risk of repeating myself I want to re-emphasise that the success of this Bill will depend on public confidence. The most important thing that must arise from the passing of this Bill is that the public have confidence in its provisions. How can the public have confidence in the institute if they are not clearly independent? The amendment will make the institute as independent as they could be. If the Minister refuses to accept the amendment he is confirming the arguments put by this side of the House that the Bill as it stands does not express a level of independence acceptable to the general public. The institute must be free to do what they think necessary and must be unfettered by political control or interference. The section as it stands could result in political control or interference of the institute.

I appeal again to the Minister to accept this amendment because it will strengthen the Bill and engender greater public confidence in the institute. It will prove also that the Minister is as determined as we are to ensure that the institute are completely independent.

This is an unusual section to say the least. A supposedly independent free-ranging institute are being set up and the Minister rightly hopes we will have a Radiological Protection Institute which can examine and monitor radiation, deal with impending dangers and in which the public can have full confidence. This section is unnecessary and the wording is quite loose. For example, the words "other than day-to-day activities" in section 17 (3) (a) could give rise to an argument with the staff of the institute. They could argue that something is part of their day-to-day activities while the Minister might argue it is over and above their day-to-day activities.

For the sake of argument let us say that another accident like Chernobyl happened on 25 November of a given year, and the institute's budget was running out, they would have no power without getting permission and more money to examine the effects of such an accident. That is farcical. It is unnecessarily restrictive and I do not believe it is in keeping with the genuinely held views of this Minister, who has seen his way to make and accept a number of amendments to improve the Bill, nor is it in keeping with the role he would like the institute to play.

We are now entering uncharted waters. We are coming to that part of the Bill which was not dealt with in Committee.

I find subsections (3) and (4) rather puzzling. On Second Stage the Minister did not elucidate the reason for these subsections. Deputy Owen referred to the distinction between proposed activities and day-to-day activities. I would appreciate if the Minister would explain the difference. Subsection (3), which Deputy MacGiolla wants to delete, requires that the institute shall not carry out any of these activities or incur any such expenditure until the report has been approved of by the Minister.

It seems reasonable that the report must be in three months before the end of the year. A review of the institute's budget for the following year takes place. In that three months the Minister has an opportunity to do this. If the Minister fails to approve of the report, where are we? Does the institute cease to exist or do its day-to-day activities continue but its proposed activities, whatever they are, cease? It is not at all clear.

With regard to subsection (4), I think I can see what the Minister is getting at. He is concerned — and we all must be concerned — to try to control Government expenditure whether it be in this area or anywhere else. Perhaps it is reasonable for the Minister — and I would reserve judgment on this subsection pending his reply — to have to give prior approval to any excesses in the budget.

I think it was Deputy Owen who mentioned the possibility of a major emergency such as the Chernobyl one. It is arguable whether the institute should have an immediate go-ahead or should have to go back to the Minister for more money. If this section is passed as it is in the Bill the Minister will certainly need to be on the ball and will need to respond immediately to any request from the institute for further funding in a doomsday situation. It is up to the Minister to allay fears in this area.

I share other Deputies' concern about the Minister's approach to this section. It seems that the Minister ultimately has financial control: he does vote money and money will be voted by the Dáil for expenditure by the institute. That is obviously the Minister's financial control on the activities of the institute.

However, the Minister is going way beyond normal decision-making in the estimate procedure of deciding on what should be available for expenditure by this institute. He is insisting on trying this group up in a way that even his own Department probably would not be under his own thumb. It is now commonly accepted that effective operations of public expenditure and public spending activities require that flexibility be given to managers in the field to switch money from one activity to another if they find that they can make savings in one area and they want to develop another. The institute is a body we would be particularly keen to see responding in a flexible way as things develop in the radiological protection area and allocating their resources to priorities in a given year. Indeed the whole function set out by the Minister for the institute of monitoring, of keeping abreast of research, of involving themselves in research requires flexibility in the approach to planning, and it is not reasonable of the Minister to expect that they set out in tablets of stone exactly how they plan to spend the money and then have to come back to him, cap in hand, if they want to change a ha'penny from one area to another.

The Minister has obviously allowed his Department to lift these sections from some other body and they are wholly inappropriate to the radiological protection institute. It sounds very like some ready-made formula that the Minister's officials delved out of some previous Act and decided to tack on here. It really comes out of the same stable as the original section 20 which the Minister also sponsored at the beginning but saw the wisdom of withdrawing from in the course of the debate.

The Minister should reconsider this. He should not seek to wrap up the institute in such an amount of bureaucratic approval that it cannot respond flexibly. He should appreciate, from the way he has to go to the Minister for Finance for approval in triplicate of very minor changes, how much the institute could be tied up in black knots by the sort of provisions involved here. It is welcome that the Minister has pulled back a little bit by dropping the reference to the Minister for Finance which originally was in all these sections. However, he has not gone far enough. He should look again at these sections and have a simple financial control of the amount the institute would spend, and if they were going to overrun he could come in with a supplementary estimate. No one would object to that. It is the restriction of individual activities which is not practical.

Deputy Garland said that we have not discussed this section before. I was beginning to wonder whether any of the Deputies would recognise that even though we had not discussed it on Committee Stage I had in fact amended it in response to arguments that had been made during the course of the discussion on Committee Stage. With all due respect to Deputy Bruton, he very kindly made reference to that just at the end. He was the only speaker who made any reference to the fact that we have already implemented some of the wishes of the Members of the House who spoke on this in regard to the type of controls that were included here.

It was reduced from triplicate to duplicate.

That amendment was significant. I would appeal to the Deputies on the other side not to throw commonsense out the window when making their various arguments. Some of the suggestions that were made would lead me to believe that the new institute could exist completely separate from this House. In the case of any State body there is the question of answerability to the House. For that reason and other reasons I have to oppose the amendments that are being suggested now. They would effectively mean that the Minister of the day would not have any role in approving the expenditure requirements of the new institute which will, it must be pointed out, be a non-commercial semi-State body in receipt of direct Exchequer funding.

To delete section 17 (4), as has been suggested here, would leave the institute with much too wide a brief, give the Minister of the day very little indication of their proposed activities and little guidance as to the financial provisions necessary for such activities. Therefore, the Exchequer would not be in a position to countenance such activities. In addition, I would submit that the preparation of an approved annual programme and budget is an excellent planning tool and will ensure that the institute retain a clear picture of their objectives and implement their strategy as efficiently as possible.

The IDA are efficient and do not go through that exercise.

I consider it most appropriate that the Minister of the day should be aware of any major changes to the approved programme and budget of a State body that receives most of its funds from the taxpayer. However, it is not intended, as seems to be implied here, that the provisions of this subsection be implemented in a heavy-handed manner. I do not envisage any difficulty in approving adjustments to the institute's programme during a year. Perhaps it is inevitable that changes to the programme necessitating adjustments of expenditure might be necessary in the course of a year in the light of changing circumstances. Indeed, forecasting of future spending, as has been suggested, can be very inexact.

The Bill does not propose that the institute cannot engage in or are forbidden to carry out any extra activities which may be necessary to fulfil their role. If Members will refer to section 17 (4) they will see it is clear that the institute can engage in important activities which arise in the course of their work but which are not pinpointed in the report. However, the institute must seek approval for such activities. I would submit that that is a reasonable requirement.

Deputy Mac Giolla sought clarification of the points raised at section 17 (3) (b) which requires the institute to furnish the Minister of the day with estimates of expenditure incurred in the last year of the accounting period in respect of activities they propose carrying out in the forthcoming year. It is merely to give the Minister an idea of what was spent before on particular areas of activity before approving any future expenditure.

Deputy Garland made some play of what was appropriate for inclusion in the programme and what might be deemed to be a day matter. Again, I would suggest that common sense would tell the Deputy what was likely to be appropriate for inclusion in a programme of work for a 12-month period as distinct from a day to day matter. One would deal in a more general fashion whereas the other would deal in a more specific manner. I do not think a matter of that kind would raise any great difficulties.

It is unreasonable to suggest that the institute should not be expected to lay out, in some general form, what will be their programme of work for the forthcoming 12-month period, particularly bearing in mind their funding by the State. Otherwise we would be encouraging circumstances in which this House would not necessarily have the kind of answerability necessary in the case of any State body. One cannot examine this section in isolation and arrive at the conclusion that, because of these requirements, the institute will be inhibited in some way from carrying out their work in the independent manner we have sought to establish. One has to deal with the Billin toto. One must examine the powers being given the institute in each of its sections.

The conclusions being drawn here are wrong. It excludes or defies common sense to arrive at that kind of extreme conclusion in regard to the operations of the institute because of the simple requirement stipulated in this section. I do not see it being the major obstacle Deputies make it out to be.

I might make the point again that I did amend this section by deleting reference to the necessity to have approval of the Minister for Finance included in the Bill as originally circulated. By removing that necessity we have greatly enhanced the independence of the institute, something I have been endeavouring to achieve in the Bill as a whole.

For those reasons I have to oppose the amendment suggested.

The Minister has been endeavouring to defend the indenfensible. He advanced arguments on retaining sections nobody was proposing be removed.

Obviously the Minister was upset that we had not congratulated him on having amended the section, as we have done so gallantly throughout this Bill——

No reference to it.

I am delighted to avail of this opportunity to say how pleased I am that reference to the Minister for Finance has been rooted out of this Bill. There should not have been any such reference to him in the first place. It would have been an absolute disaster had reference to the Minister for Finance remained in that section and we would have been lashing the Minister present for so doing. Bad and all as is one Minister, the Minister for Energy, having such powers, the Minister for Finance having additional control over him would have led to an absolute shambles.

——and his Department.

I congratulate the Minister and thank him. However, that is not getting to the nub of the section with which we have been dealing. Nobody has expressed any objection whatever to the idea of the institute making a report to the Minister three months in advance of setting out their proposals for the following year and how much they predict they would spend in that year. That is an excellent idea contained in section 17 (3) which nobody has suggested be deleted. However, what I did seek was an explanation of section 17 (3) (b). The Minister has given an explanation which is not at all apparent from the wording in the Bill.

At the outset I said there was some very sloppy draftsmanship here and I repeat it because section 17 (3) (b) states: "giving estimates of its expenditure in the last mentioned year — not in the last year but in the "last mentioned year in relation to each of those activities". If the Minister reads the section he will see that the "last mentioned year" is the "financial year immediately following" whereas I take it the Minister meant to insert the last year. Therefore this section does not mean what the Minister said it means. In fact, it has no meaning. In effect it is saying: giving estimates of its expenditure in the financial year immediately following in relation to each of those activities. If the section were to mean what the Minister said it meant, he would have to insert its expenditure in the last year of operation, or some other such words. I would ask the Minister and the parliamentary draftsman to take another look at that because the "last mentioned year" is the "financial year immediately following" contained in the previous subsection.

To revert to the main point, the Minister did not reply to the points made by all the speakers here in relation to the manner in which the institute are tied already by his budget, why there must be further ties on them in relation to their expenditure of that budget. We do not see the necessity for the inclusion of section 17 (4) which is the point we have been making. That is the subsection which ties the hands of the institute in relation to their activities at a time when they must operate within their budgetary income. We cannot understand why that independence must be hamstrung, that is the primary point we are making.

We are not objecting to projections for the following year. That is a great idea but why must all those be restricted? In the earlier part of this section there is a further restriction where it is stated "until the report has been approved by the Minister" in which no time limit has been imposed. I would hope the Minister could put in a time limit on the report from the Minister which shall be not less than three months or something similar. At least, that would put a brake on future Ministers who would want to hog-tie the whole operation by not approving a report.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 62; Níl, 55.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Byrne and McCartan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 21, between lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:

"(9) The Minister shall by order regulate the entry into Irish territorial waters of any foreign State ship, submarine, or hovercraft, and the passage through Irish airspace of any foreign State aircraft by requiring, prior to any grant of permission for such entry or passage, the production of a certificate from the relevant foreign State authority that the ship, submarine, hovercraft, or aircraft in question does not carry any nuclear explosive device.".

As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will recall, we had a considerable debate on Committee Stage when we examined much of the detail behind this issue. The motivation behind this amendment is that this country has traditionally operated a ban on nuclear weapons in its air space and territorial waters. It has been the position of successive Irish Governments that this ban should be strictly observed by all people seeking to enter our waters or use our airspace.

In recent times we have seenprima facie evidence that the essence of our policy is not being honoured in the letter in many instances. Greenpeace recently carried out an examination of this issue which produced telling evidence suggesting that our policy was not being observed. We cannot ignore that finding. This is the first opportunity we have had in this House to debate a Bill which proposes to set up an institute to deal specifically with the protection of people from nuclear hazard as it might affect Ireland. If it is to have a proper voice on issues of world security Ireland must maintain its deeply held view that there should be no further nuclear expansion and nuclear weapons should be gradually eliminated. We can underpin this if we take seriously the policy we have adopted that forbids nuclear weapons to pass through our territory. We cannot declare such a policy in principle and then turn a blind eye to the possibility that it is being breached in practice. In the context of a European defence policy in future years it will become all the more important for Ireland to stitch clearly into the record its non-nuclear approach to defence. We can do this in a practical way by underpinning, in a way which operates effectively, our belief that nuclear weapons should not pass through our territory.

Our amendment proposes that the Minister could, by order, regulate the entry into Irish territorial waters or Irish airspace of foreign craft by requiring, prior to granting permission for such entry or passage, the production of a certificate from the relevant foreign State stating that the craft in question is not carrying a nuclear explosive device. That certification requirement should not create any great difficulty. If countries are honouring our policy position — they know well what our policy position is and the Minister for Foreign Affairs has repeatedly said that our policy position is being honoured — I do not think it would be unreasonable to expect them to present a certificate to that effect. If the Minister wants to exclude certain categories from the certification requirement because he is confident, from their capacity, that these craft could not be carrying nuclear weapons, that would be acceptable to us on this side of the House.

We should have a certification system in principle to back up the policy position we have long held. That is the thinking behind the amendment. As we dealt with the various reports from Greenpeace in considerable detail on Committee Stage I do not intend to rehearse the arguments again. Reference was also made to the very large number of visits made and to our concern that the policy is not being honoured. Rather than hold up the House by going into that matter again I hope the Minister on this occasion will see the wisdom of this amendment and accept it.

I put down this amendment with Deputies Flaherty and Bruton, and it is probably the most important amendment which has been put down to the Bill. The object of the Bill is to protect the people of Ireland from the hazards of radiation. However by confining itself to dealing solely with civil radiological protection it turns a blind eye to one of the major sources of possible nuclear accidents, namely, overflights by foreign military aircraft and visits to our ports by foreign naval vessels. The amendment seeks to rectify this.

Approximately 7,000 foreign military aircraft are given permission by the Government to overfly the country each year while over a dozen ships with nuclear capability have visited our ports since 1987, half of which were officially inspected and cleared to carry nuclear weapons before leaving their home ports. Greenpeace have verified this. The policy of successive Governments has been not to allow nuclear weapons to be brought into Irish territory. However when permission is sought for overflights by foreign military aircraft and visits by foreign naval vessels the Government do not ask if nuclear weapons will be carried on board. If they did ask, they would not be told because it is the policy of the nuclear powers to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on their ships or aircraft. This is not good enough. If the Minister is serious about protecting the people of Ireland from radiological hazards and against the bringing of nuclear weapons into the country he should give teeth to these policies by accepting this amendment.

This amendment is effectively supported by The Workers' Party through Deputy Mac Giolla's amendment No. 7, which although different expresses much the same sentiments. I would imagine that the Labour Party will also weigh in, and therefore this amendment will have the support of all the Opposition parties. The Minister now has the opportunity to display vision and declare Ireland a nuclear-free zone. What we are seeking is that aircraft or ships carrying nuclear weapons be banned from entering our air space or ports.

I wish to thank Deputy Garland for reminding me of the relationship between amendments Nos. 6 and 7. Perhaps we would agree that we should discuss both amendments simultaneously.

I will accept your ruling——

No, it is not a ruling but rather a suggestion that we discuss both together.

It is a wise suggestion.

I had expected you to make that suggestion at the outset but since you did not I was going to take the opportunity to have two bites at the cherry. I agree that the two be taken together.

Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 6 and 7 be taken together? Agreed.

I was going to speak in favour of amendment No. 6 and then take mine later but I will speak in favour of both now. The amendments are similar, although amendment No. 7 is more specific and contains more detail.

It is unfortunate the Minister did not, as was suggested by a number of speakers on Second Stage and again on Committee Stage, adopt the New Zealand approach and declare the country a nuclear-free zone. In fact, this city has been declared a nuclear free zone by the city council. I had the honour to propose the motion some years ago. Indeed, the motion asked the city council to erect signs around the city including one at the port, stating "you are now entering a nuclear-free zone" but these signs have never been erected. Dublin City Council do not have the power to implement such a motion declaring the city a nuclear-free zone but they have declared that that is what citizens of this city want. The power to do this rests with the Government. Apparently, they have given these powers to the Department of Foreign Affairs who have a responsibility to monitor shipping and aircraft and who have laid down specific regulations which contain the proviso that such vessels — I take it that this covers aeroplanes — should not carry nuclear weapons and should not form part of a naval exercise. I presume this instruction is given to foreign governments and the matter is then taken on trust. The United States has adopted the line that they should neither confirm nor deny that nuclear weapons are on board. I do not know what position has been adopted by other governments but I presume that they say "we are clean" and then come in, be they French or British naval vessels. I doubt if any of them have ever confirmed that nuclear weapons were on board or that a vessel was engaged in a naval exercise. I presume once a ship leaves the exercise area they can argue that the vessel is no longer engaged in a naval exercise and that therefore they can overcome the instruction issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Greenpeace have carried out an enormous amount of work in the United States. Making use of the Freedom of Information Act, they went through all the naval records and presented a report to the Government and Members of this House which shows precisely which ships had nuclear capability and which ones had not, and showing that ships with nuclear capability which entered our ports had left the United States carrying nuclear weapons. They were not able to prove that nuclear weapons were being carried on board when they entered our ports. The only ones who are in a position to prove this are the Government by checking every ship with nuclear capability to see whether or not nuclear weapons are being carried on board. We should not take matters like that on trust. Those ships with nuclear capability, which were known to be carrying nuclear weapons on leaving the United States, should have been checked on entering our ports. That is what we are seeking here.

Greenpeace gave a similar report to the Swedish Government. That Government have the same policy we have, that is, taking Governments at their word and trusting them. They received the same replies from the United States Government, neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons. Since the Swedish Government received this report they made a decision that from 1992 they would seek guarantees.

Debate adjourned.