I am committed to having this agency established as quickly as possible. Deputies are being a little unfair. I regret it has taken so long for this Bill to get to this Stage. There was a long delay in the publication of the Bill following the 1989 press conference; I regret that. We have had many political difficulties over the last number of months to which many Deputies referred. Since I became Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, we have had three Ministers for the Environment. The fact that I am still a Minister of State at that Department is a good sign.
I have no problem saying to Deputy Howlin that I will endeavour to the best of my ability to have this agency established as quickly as possible but if I were to accept the amendment I would be grossly irresponsible because the agency may not be fully operational. It is not that the agency will not be up and running, as Deputy Gilmore said; I have no doubt that this agency will be established this year. It is intended to get this legislation through the House in a matter of weeks and I hope I have the will and the co-operation of all Members of the House. Deputy Gilmore is involved in the establishment of a new party as I was a number of years ago, and we all know it takes time to do certain things. For example, the procedure we have put in place for the recruitment of the director general and the directors is such that it will take at least four to six months to recruit those staff. Why? We may have to have a head hunting exercise, we may have to recruit the services of a professional organisation to help recruit the right people. It will not be easy to find the director general and four directors with the expert, scientific and professional knowledge to allow them to carry out their functions. I want to be honest with you. There is no doubt that, following their appointment, it will take time before they can organise their affairs, recruit staff and carry out their various functions.
Reference was made to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Act was passed in 1990, almost two years ago, yet to this day, they are experiencing enormous difficulties trying to operate their integrated pollution control licence. It is new, it is difficult and it is complex. I am not even waiting for the agency. Recently, we commissioned consultants to draw up proposals in relation to BATNEEC so that, when the agency are established and begin to operate the integrated pollution control licence, they will have the assistance of a group of consultants who have done work on this issue for the European Commission. Other preliminary work is under way to ensure that when the Bill is enacted there will be no undue delay in relation to some of the back-up ancillary services that will be required.
In relation to the points made by Deputy Allen — he has made these points on a number of occasions — it is not correct to say that neither Cork Corporation nor any other local authority have the power to deal with pollution caused by hospital incinerators, although I accept that we have an inadequate system to deal with hospital waste. The Department of Health are working on proposals at present to try to rectify this in certain areas. Under section 26 of the Air Pollution Act, as implemented, local authorities have the power to serve notices. I will quote the Act exactly to ensure I am not misinterpreted. It reads:
Where it appears to a local authority that it is necessary to do so in order to prevent or to limit air pollution, a local authority may serve a notice under this section on the occupier of any premises from which there is an emission.
The local authorities also have the power under section 28 of that Act to go to the High Court to obtain an order to prohibit or restrict any emission. Those are substantial powers and the local authorities can chose to exercise them if they wish in relation to hospital incinerators or any other matter causing pollution.
I want to assure the House that it is my intention to ensure, when this Bill comes into operation, that the regulations I have to make will be made as quickly as possible. I will also ensure, in so far as I can, that the resources and staff are made available to the agency so that they can set about the comprehensive and complex task they are going to be given. I have always said, even in 1989, that from the time the agency are established it will be two years at least before they are fully operational. I want to be honest about this. If I accept this amendment and we cannot meet the deadline in 12 months those matters that cannot be put into operation will fall. It would be highly irresponsible of me for the sake of being popular on this occasion to accept amendments which I know cannot be met and will fall within a short period of time.
The procedures that will be put in place for the recruitment of staff, including the director general, will be more lengthy than we might have wished because they are going to be independent and we are going to headhunt to try to get the right people some of whom may have to give notice of one month or more. I am aware, for example, that those with an academic background may have to give more notice if they are to serve on the board of the agency. These are practical difficulties which I will have to overcome. As I said, it would be irresponsible of me for the sake of being popular to accept an amendment of this kind.
In relation to the question of resources to which Deputy Garland referred, we envisage that when the agency are fully operational, at present day monetary values, it will cost about £8 million to fund the agency about half of which will be met through the redeployment of existing staff in the State and local authority sectors while the remainder will be met by way of additional State expenditure. I have no doubt that the Government are commmitted to providing those resources. I have not been told, as Deputy Garland suggested, to slow it down and keep things going for as long as possible. As Deputies are aware, it has been difficult to get time in this House to debate this legislation. A number of Bills have been brought forward by my own Department, such as the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill and the Roads Bill, and we have been under a lot of pressure — indeed, there have been many changes — to get legislation onto the floor of the House.
I seriously considered a suggestion made by both Deputy Howlin and Deputy Mitchell — in fairness, Deputy Gilmore mentioned this during the course of the debate on Second Stage — that we set up a special committee. I felt that we might have had a more meaningful debate at such a committee because there are only a few Deputies who have an interest in this legislation, as can be seen from the number present. However, given the amount of time it took for the Companies Act and the Child Care Act to become law and that we have gone through a long process already I felt we could not go down that road.
It is my intention to see to it that this agency are established this year. As I said, I hope the Bill will be passed within a matter of weeks and that we can then begin the process immediately of recruiting the director general and the directors. I can tell the House from the time the Bill is signed into law that the process will begin within a matter of days. I can give the House that assurance. I should also say that other things that we can do in advance are being done and will be done.
Some political decisions have to be made in relation to where the agency will be located. These will have to be made as a matter of urgency because before we start to recruit people we will have to know where they will be located. In so far as the House is prepared to accept it, I want to give the House an assurance that I will endeavour in so far as I physically can, to use Deputy Howlin's language and to the best of my ability ensure that the agency are fully operational as quickly as possible. They will certainly be operational this year but they will not be fully operational for about two years.