Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Committee Stage.

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

In view of the fact that there have been huge claims made about the powers of this Bill and the Minister's intentions, perhaps the Minister of State would explain to the House exactly what is meant by the provisions of this section. This matter was debated already in the Seanad when a certain amount of controversy arose because of the section's wording. Perhaps the Minister would explain exactly what is meant by its wording which reads:

This Act may be cited as the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1991.

I am very glad that this Bill has finally reached the House on Committee Stage since we have awaited it for a very long time. There was a debate in the Seanad in relation to its title. I understand that the logic of the case put forward by the Minister of State there was that the Bill wassui generis and did not constitute a consolidation of previous legislation. To call it the Environmental Protection Agency Bill is a limiting title in that its provisions will have a much more profound impact on environmental awareness and protection then simply the establishment of a state agency. The comparable legislation in the United Kingdom — the Environmental Protection Act — would be a more appropriate title, to actually call it an Act, to indicate the determination of the Oireachtas to protect the environment rather than simply an Act to establish an agency, which demeans its purpose, focus and comprehensive nature.

I might remind the House that the debate in the other House in relation to the title had more to do with the fact that the proceedings of the day were being televised and there was a question of some Member wanting to get in first before the proceedings went off air. That is why an amendment was tabled to the title. If Members read the comments of other parties in the House I think it will be seen that they took that view.

What we are establishing here is an environmental protection agency. Certainly we would confuse the public now were we to endeavour to change the title of the Bill since it is associated in the public mind with the establishment of a new agency to re-organise the way we deal with environmental protection and pollution matters.

I do not quite understand the point Deputy Howlin made. The United Kingdom Environmental Protection Act is an Act because it has passed through the legislative process, as will this Bill once enacted. I might add that the United Kingdom Act contained provisions in relation to legislation already on our Statute Book in regard to air and water pollution. We already have those Acts in place. While we are not here consolidating our environmental protection legislation, essentially, we are establishing a new body with very precise powers and controls to reorganise the manner in which we deal with environmental protection and pollution matters. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for this House to seek to endeavour to change its title. Unfortuntely, the Bill has taken quite a long time to reach this Stage. I hope we will have the co-operation of all sides of the House in its speedy passage through final Stages. It would be to the detriment of the agency if we were to seek to confuse people now by simply changing its title.

I welcome any move to have this Bill processed through the House as quickly as possible since, to date, the promise of the agency has been milked to the utmost by all Members on the Government side. At the same time there are insufficient regulations under the legislation obtaining.

What does the Minister mean by going headlong into the establishment of the agency while legislation obtains — and the Minister herself referred to this — in the form of the 1987 Act allowing the Government to do many things? Yet they have not even introduced regulations to carry out those obligations.

I might give one example, that of an issue raised in Dublin, Cork and a number of other cities recently about the whole question of hospital incinerators and we were informed that local authorities do not have power under that Act to monitor emissions from hospital incinerators. Yet we have the Minister rushing headlong into——

The Deputy must adhere to the section under discussion. He is embarking on something tantamount to a Second Reading speech. This is Committee Stage and we shall go through it section by section, amendment by amendment, in the normal way.

My fear is that we will have another Act on our Statue Book without any will to implement its provisions. Legislation without the will to implement its provisions is quite useless, as has already been witnessedvis-à-vis the 1987 Act. I hope the Minister will get her act together in relation to the legislation already obtaining. There is no point in establishing agencies without resources, when obviously the will does not exist to implement the provisions of the legislation already on our Statute Book.

The point being made about the title of the Bill is not an invalid one. The point made by Deputy Carey, supported by Deputy Howlin, is that the Bill, rather than one to establish an Environmental Protection Agency should be called the Environmental Protection Bill. Indeed, if many of the amendments tabled are accepted this Bill will become more than just an Environmental Protection Agency Act.

I am very disappointed at the slow progress made on this Bill. The Minister must be criticised for the tardiness with which this Bill has come before the House. She has been Minister of State at the Department, responsible for environmental matters, for more than two and a half years. The sad fact is that her Government would not accept the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill introduced by my party's former spokesman on the environment, Deputy Shatter, that sought the establishment of an environmental protection agency. It is dispicable that this Government have resisted any positive contributions from the Opposition, just as they resisted the idea of an employment forum.

I wish members would come to grips with the section before us, section 1. There are many amendments to be dealt with.

There are indeed very many amendments. I rise to support the proposal that the Bill be cited, not as the Environmental Protection Agency Bill but as the Environment Protection Bill. It is also valid to criticise the Minister of State on her tardiness in bringing this Bill in Committee before the House after some two and a half years and on her lack of generosity in accepting the Private Members' Bill introduced in this House over two years ago.

The Minister of State certainly misunderstood my previous comment. Obviously the Bill will become an Act when it is enacted. The difference between ours and the British legislation is that the British title is the Environmental Protection Act since it has been enacted, whereas this Bill will be called the Environmental Protection Agency Act once enacted. Indeed the point has been made across these benches that it is far more than a Bill to establish an agency. It is not a four page Bill to establish an agency, define their terms of reference, funding and staffing; it is a measure to tackle the whole issue of environmental protection. Therefore, it would be more appropriate, and the signal would be clearer, to call it, at this stage, the Environmental Protection Bill and the Environmental Protection Act once signed by the President.

I am somewhat reluctant to become involved in this discussion since we are dealing with section 1 which merely cites the short title and there is no amendment tabled thereto. Like previous speakers I am somewhat concerned that this Bill has been in the offing for more than three years. We are still a long way from finishing it in this House, longer still from having the agency put in place. We have approximately 300 amendments with which to deal. If we commence our deliberations by lengthy debates on what it is called, about what I consider to be rather cosmetic aspects of the entire issue, we will not make a great deal of progress.

I agree with Deputy Gilmore's comments. As he said, it is interesting that there are no amendments tabled to this section. Deputy Jim Mitchell made great play of the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill which was also called the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. We need to get on to the substance of what the agency will do, which is what is important. I know there is anxiety on all sides of the House to have that agency established as soon as possible. We should not delay any longer. What something is called is not as important as what it does or its overall purpose. We should now proceed to debate the substance of this Bill and the moving and discussion of the 289 amendments tabled.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 2.

Amendment No. 1 is an alternative amendment to amendment No. 2 and amendment No. 3 is related. I suggest, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, subsection (1), lines 19 and 20, to delete "Part I, Part II (other than section 43), Part IV (other than section 91) and Part VI will come into" and substitute "Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI will commence".

According to the Bill as it came from the Seanad, Parts I and II, other than section 43 and Part IV, other than section 91 and Part VI will come into operation on the passing of this Bill. About half of the Bill will come into operation on the passing of the Bill and the remainder will come into effect at some stage in the future. It is worth reflecting on where this legislation came from and how long it has been before us. I have a press statement issued by the Minister for the Environment and by the Minister of State at the Department, on 5 December 1989 and I should like to read some of the aspirations expressed by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, at the time. He said:

We are planning to have the legislation enacted and the agency in operation next year. Pending the enactment of the legislation we are proposing to put interim arrangements in place so that some aspects of the work of the agency can be got under way on a non-statutory basis as soon as possible.

The intention at the end of 1989 was that the legislation would be enacted and the Agency would be in operation some time in 1990. There was at that time a budgetary provision of about half a million pounds to enable the agency to come into operation on a non statutory basis pending the enactment of the legislation. Such was the urgency at the time to get into place an environmental protection agency which would deal with the many areas which concern us. It took another year before the legislation was published. There was then a long debate in the Seanad. There is no point in criticising the Seanad because it is a very long Bill and we will probably have a very long debate in this House on it as there are 300 amendments to deal with. The Seanad took eight or nine sittings to deal with approximately the same number of amendments.

In the Seanad there was an amendment that all sections of the Bill be brought into operation by the end of December 1992. Given that the Seanad were debating it at the beginning of 1991, it was hardly a very ambitious objective. That amendment was rejected by the Minister of State in the Seanad. Clearly it is not the intention to have the agency and all sections of the legislation in place by the end of 1992.

The Bill provides that Part I which deals with routine and regulatory matters, and Part II which deals with the structure of the agency should come into effect when the Bill is passed, but Part III, which deals with the functions of the agency, should not come into effect until sometime after that. Part IV will come into effect on the passage of the Bill with the exception of section 91 which deals with charges in relation to emissions. Part V, which deals with general pollution control, will not come into effect until some time later. We will get a mish mash with some parts of the Bill being brought into effect and others being left in abeyance. We had a similar experience with the local Government Bill. We now have the absurd situation that parts of that legislation which deal with the establishment of committees and joint committees on local authorities, have not been brought into effect.

I can understand that in certain circumstances time is needed to put aspects of legislation in place and that is why in phrasing this amendment I used the term, that the parts of the Bill "will commence" operation when the Bill is passed. What we are looking at is legislation which was born in 1989, took one year to draft, another year to go through the Seanad and may take another year to get through this House. Its provisions may not come into effect until the mid-nineties by the time the agency is established and the various bits and pieces are put into place.

If we are serious about environmental protection and about establishing an agency which will provide some kind of objective, independent, scientific forum to deal with aspects of environmental protection, we need to address the question as to when it will happen. This is one of the longest promised bodies ever. During the five years it will have taken to come into operation further damage and destruction will have been done to the environment. There was an urgency stated by the Government when they first announced this legislation at the end of 1989. That urgency seems to have gone out of the legislation. At this stage the Minister should agree that at the very least, when this House is finished with the Bill, its provisions should be implemented so that we will not have to wait for another 12 months, 18 months or two years for the Minister to introduce regulations and so on.

Section 2 is a very important section which deals with the commencement of the Act. This section was added, I understand, by way of a Government amendment in the Seanad. Even the sections which are to commence on the passing of the Bill require regulations to be drawn up, or an order made by the Minister to enable them to come into effect, for example the commencement of the agency under section 19 (2). We are all concerned at the length of time Bills of this nature take to be enacted, but it is even more frustrating when after a huge effort is put into preparing the best legislation we can it is left on the shelves. I was a member of the special committee on the Child Care Bill. A huge amount of work was done on that Bill and at least as many amendments were tabled and debated as will be debated on this occasion. Unfortunately, many of those sections have yet to be brought into effect and funded, although they have been the law of the land for some considerable time.

The effect of the amendments will be to circumscribe the coming into operation of this legislation. We cannot allow for prevarication and delay due to lack of resources or lack of will with regard to the implementation of the important provisions in this Bill. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment tabled by Deputy Gilmore or the broader amendments tabled by Deputy Garland and myself.

Amendment No. 3 propose that the provisions not mentioned in section 2 (1) should come into effect not later than a year after the enactment of the legislation. Surely it is reasonable to provide a year for the Minister to draw up regulations and make the necessary provisions in terms of the infrastructure for the agency. Obviously it cannot be done instantly but one year is sufficient time if there is a commitment to have this agency up and running and all the provisions of the Bill in operation.

I would like to support what the two previous Deputies have said. My amendment is identical with Deputies Howlin's amendment and similar to that of Deputy Gilmore. We realise things cannot be done overnight. It will take time to set up the agency and a great deal of thought must be given to selecting their director general. But surely a time limit of one year is not unreasonable.

Part V of the Bill deals with one of the main duties of the agency and provides for the extension to the agency of certain powers under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, and a similar extension under the Air Pollution Act, 1987. It also sets emission limit values and quality standards. These are very vital matters which are not being dealt with properly at present, as there is no machinery for doing so. It is not unreasonable therefore to propose a period of a year as the limit for the coming into operation of the legislation. This is very important amendment and I ask the Minister to consider it very carefully.

The purpose of my amendment is to suspend the repeal of section 51 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, which provides for the control of noise as a nuisance until the replacement controls which are to be provided for by means of regulations under section 106 are in place.

I want to assure the House that it is my intention to make the regulations allowing for the introduction of the new and better arrangements for dealing with noise nuisance as soon as possible after the enactment of the Bill. I understand the desire of Deputies Howlin and Garland to ensure that all sections of the Bill are commenced within a reasonable period of time. However, the amendment, if adopted, would be counter-productive. Were the deadline in the amendment to be accepted, the agency would be obliged to commence operations on a very broad range of fronts in a very short space of time. This could only result in a rapid demoralisation of the agency's personnel and an erosion of public confidence in the agency as it sought to undertake all of their statutory duties and functions with underdeveloped structures and an inadequate staff.

If the agency are to be successful they must be given the opportunity to build up their staff and expertise over a reasonable period of time and they must be given their functions in line with the availability of staff to perform them. Having said this, I can assure the House that the agency will be given the necessary resources and there will be no undue delay in assigning functions to them. Nevertheless it was always intended that the full range of functions, which are extremely wide and some of which are of considerable complexity, would only be assigned over a period of some years.

These arguments apply equally to Deputy Gilmore's amendment which would oblige the agency to commence operations on all fronts at once. Bearing in mind that it will take some time, possibly up to six months, to recruit and put in place the board members, the director general and other directors and the need to get an adequate staff for the agency. It would not be possible, I believe, to take on all the functions in the time proposed.

I might also add that if this legislation, having been signed by the President, were to be subjected to any legal challenge, that would obviously add further delays and make it impossible to meet the deadlines proposed. If the proposed deadlines are not met, the legislation falls, and I do not think that anybody would think that is desirable.

As Deputy Howlin said, initially there was no time specification at all and as a result of the debate in the Seanad, the Bill was amended to bring in as much as possible of the legislation as quickly as possible on the passing of the Bill. However, desirable and all as it may be — and I understand the intent of the amendments — I do not believe it is physically possible or practical to do so. I have always said that after the agency is established, which will of itself take a number of months, it will take two or more years before we can assign the full range of functions to the agency because they are very complex, wide-ranging and comprehensive. There are many matters, particularly the operation of an integrated pollution control licence which is new to this country. It will take some considerable time for the agency to get the expertise and resources together to carry out that task alone. Therefore I believe it would be counter-productive to achieving the aim we all have if we were to pin the agency to be fully operational within a year of the enactment of this Bill.

The contents of the Minister's reply — and obviously it is a prepared statement — are a recipe for inactivity on some of the most pressing issues facing us today. The lack of a coherent policy in relation to environmental protection and waste management affects our industrial development policy. The Minister has got fair mileage out of this issue in recent years. In every paper we read and on every television channel we turn on, there is coverage of the Minister dealing with environmental issues and the pressing matters of the day. Now that it comes to make-your-mind-up time, the Minister says it will be six months before the executive is set up and at least two years before the range of functions of the environmental agency are on stream. This is extremely disappointing news for the many people throughout the country who had anticipated swift and decisive action from the Minister in dealing with the most fundamental problems facing the country today.

There is so much lip service to unemployment and job creation, and one of the major issues affecting job creation, the formulation of proper policies in relation to environment protection and industrial development, is being long-fingered again. I always suspected that the Minister's statements far outran the Government's commitment to the implementation of a comprehensive and adequate environmental protection policy. If the Government had a real interest in environmental protection, they could have used the provision of the Air Pollution Act, 1987, to bring in many of the regulations that are being considered at present and which would have given the existing agencies throughout the country the teeth to control what is happening in the country. You ruled me out of order earlier, a Cheann Comhairle, but my point is really relevant in view of the Minister's statement.

The local authorities do not have the power to clamp down on one of the greatest sources of poisonous emissions in this country, that is hospital incinerators. They do not have the power even to monitor emissions from incinerators. My own local authority in Cork has informed me that the absence of regulations under the 1987 Act prevents them from monitoring emissions. The simple task of issuing regulations under that Act would empower the local authorities to put pressure on the bodies that are polluting our atmosphere. The Minister may reply that under the 1987 Act bodies causing pollution have a responsibility to ensure that everything is in order, but who wants self-monitoring for such bodies.

Here again is an example of foot dragging and long fingering on environmental protection. It is down to the issue of resources. If the local authorities had been allocated the resources to protect the environment, they could have done so very effectively. However, it is a matter of following up promises with the financial commitment, and I suspect that that commitment is not there.

I am extremely disappointed that this Committee Stage debate should start on this note. The Minister knows what amendments she will accept or reject. She has the voting power in the benches opposite to put through whatever legislation she wants. She knows the detail of the finished product and I would ask her to explain it. The record of this House shows that amendments considered vital by the Opposition but contrary to the Government's views are voted down. There is no excuse for the Minister not to have in place some of the detail of the agency so that it could come on stream within the time set out by Deputy Howlin in his amendment. It is totally unacceptable to say that we will have to wait two years before any real action occurs. We hear lovely phrases such as "integrated approach" but such phrases mean nothing if there is not financial commitment and if decisions are not made within the Department.

I can only describe the Minister's response as parliamentary bunkum. She will be aware that the Government published for the "green" Presidency of the European Council an Environmental Action Programme. That programme stated:

Proposals for the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency have been published and the necessary legislation is being prepared as a matter of urgency with a view to having the agency in operation in 1990.

If that is the measure of the word and commitment of this Government and of this Minister of State to this agency, I am not prepared to accept that the provisions of this important legislation will be implemented in two or more years. I have already instanced my experience in this House in relation to putting a Bill in place after a horrendous amount of work and taking the word of the Minister steering the Bill through that it would be implemented as quickly as possible. The Child Care Act has still to be implemented.

The Government must be required to bring in the provisions of this Bill within 12 months. It can be done if the Government are so minded. I do not believe it will necessarily take six months to put the executive of the agency in place. It is patent nonsense to suggest that the agency would be demoralised if we gave them a requirement to implement their statutory duties in 12 months. They would not be demoralised if they were given the duties, the responsibilities and the resources to do the required job of work.

I thought this Minister of State would get away from the shadow dancing that occurs on the passage of Bills and that we would try to do what is right by Ireland, with no prevarication and no "Civil Service-speak". The Minister has it within her power to accept this reasonable amendment which provides that we will endeavour to the best of our abilities to have this done within 12 months. It would be a tremendous signal to us as we embark in detail on this Bill if she would accept that it will be done within the time scale. If she were willing to do that, we would forget all the announcements made around the country and in this House and the comments on the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill and we would trust the Minister to do her best to have it in place.

I am astonished at the Minister of State's response that it could take two or more years to bring into effect many of the provisions of this Bill. Assuming normal practice in this House, the legislation before us will probably be enacted by the end of this year and that means that the agency may not be in operation until sometime in 1995. It was promised in 1989.

At roughly the same time as the Minister of State was going to Power's Hotel on 5 December 1989 to announce that the Bill was on its way, the Berlin Wall was falling. Since then there have been enormous changes on the European Continent. The Single Market is about to come into effect and the whole idea of European union has advanced. There is to be a new treaty on European union and we will have a single currency in Europe before this Bill comes into operation. The Minister need not try to convince us that things cannot be done. If the entire political configuration of Europe can be changed in a couple of years, surely it is possible to put in place a semi-State agency and to give them the necessary powers to enable them to do their business. What the Minister is really saying is that when this legislation is passed the Environmental Protection Agency will be an under-resourced, under-staffed and under-empowered body which will have to depend on the goodwill of the Department of the Environment to cede some of their responsibilities to them. It will be beholden to whomever happens to be in office as to whether they are given powers and functions.

My amendment refers to the coming into effect of all sections of the Bill, while the amendment tabled by Deputy Howlin and Deputy Garland specifies a period of one year for all of this to be put in place. Both amendments are reasonable and both get at the heart of the debate. Has the commitment to establish an Environmental Protection Agency gone off the boil? In 1989 the Minister was being photographed with every group protesting about environmental protection. Environmental protection and the need for an agency were at the top of the Minister's agenda but they seem to have disappeared. At the rate we are progressing, I supect that the Minister will never get to cut the tape.

There will not be any tapes.

She will not be the Minister of State who will open the Environmental Protection Agency. The whole situation has changed. Perhaps it is because the dog is wagging the tail again. The commitment to the Environmental Protection Agency has gone off the boil and the agency will not be in operation until two or three years after the enactment of this legislation. In 1989 there was general support for the idea of an agency which would get to grips with environmental problems and have the requisite powers to do so, but the whole thing is beginning to drift away. It is critical that this House puts down a marker that the Environmental Protection Agency be established without delay, get on with their business without delay and be properly resourced and staffed.

You will know the seanfhocal, tús maith leath na hoibre. This is a very bad start for the Minister and I think she will regret what she has just said. It shows she has no clout, that she says a great deal about environmental protection but has no real determination to get on with this Bill and to get agency set up and running. If she had, she would grasp the amendment in the names of Deputies Howlin and Garland. That is a reasonable amendment and proposes to give her one year, following the enactment of this Bill, to set up the agency and to get all parts of the Act in operation. Deputy Gilmore has acknowledged that that amendment gives more flexibility than his.

The Minister should quickly redeem herself and accept the amendment in the names of Deputies Howlin and Garland, otherwise she may have left the Government benches like the three Ministers for the Environment since this Bill was first mooted. Indeed, Deputy Flynn has been recycled to the back benches and now to the Front Bench since this Bill was launched. I do not wish the Minister of State Deputy Harney, to be recycled to the back benches but she may be before this Bill is passed. From her comments it is clear she will no longer be Minister of State with responsibility for environmental protection by the time this agency is up and running.

Her remarks on these amendments are regrettable. I ask her to reflect on what she has said and accept the need for a timescale bearing in mind that when the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill on the proposal to set up an Environmental Protection Agency was before this House in November 1989 it was voted down by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats on the basis that they were bringing in their own Bill and would be setting up their own agency in 1990.

It is appalling that the Minister should come in here this morning and say she cannot accept a time limit of one year, not from today but from the passing of this Bill and signature by the President, which could be a couple of months down the road. The Minister said she cannot accept that because it might be two years or more before any of the sections can become operative. That is extremely disappointing bearing in mind that there have been several offers from this side of the House to expedite the progress of this Bill either by way of agreed times for dealing with sections or by special committees. Deputy Howlin and I have made that offer on different occasions in order to expedite the Bill because of the importance and urgency of it.

At the outset of Committee Stage the Minister has stripped herself of any reputation she had for a sense of urgency in relation to environmental protection. I ask her to reflect on her position and to accept the amendment in the names of Deputies Howlin and Garland.

Like previous speakers, I am disappointed with the Minister's response. We all realise we have not got the luxury of being able to go through this Bill slowly, dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's. I would remind Members and the Minister that we in this country and people throughout the world are facing a major ecological crisis. What is the Minister's response? She said the Environmental Protection Agency may not be set up for another two years following the enactment of this Bill.

We cannot wait that long. The coded message I am getting is that there has been a message issued by the Cabinet which says, slow this down, we have to cater for the chemical lobby, the agri-business and for budgetary restraints; slow it down, bring it in gradually, string it out as long as possible. Since I have been elected to this House there has been a cynical provision in the budget each year for the Environmental Protection Agency. The people framing that budget must have known in their hearts and souls there was no possibility of any expenditure being made for the Environmental Protection Agency because there was never any possibility of the Environmental Protection Agency being set up. I wonder if there will be any expenditure provided this year for the Environmental Protection Agency. To me it seems very doubtful.

Without digressing too far from the subject in the last few months thousands of people in Naas were subjected to poisoned water. The latest incident is in Strokestown, County Roscommon, where three days ago, thousands of families were affected by polluted water, which was not fit to drink even after boiling. We must get this agency up and running. We have a crisis at this stage. We cannot afford to fiddle about with it. Let us get on with it and, please take this amendment on board.

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.

The Minister of State's assurances are meaningless because we were given assurances as far back as 1989. I am not going to go through the statements that have already been made or to repeat myself but we were given assurances in 1989. It is quite obvious, to use the Minister of State's own words, that it is a question of resources and that the resources that will be required by the agency will not be available to them. We are now talking about the redeployment of staff from the local authorities and other bodies but if the Minister of State is going to depend on staff who will be redeployed from the local authorities the local authorities will be left with very little — to return to the point I made at the outset — in relation to their ability to monitor emissions from hospital incinerators or other incinerators within their jurisdiction.

The Minister of State quoted section 26 of the Air Pollution Act and stated that the local authorities will be able to go to the High Court to seek an injunction. That is all very well but one must first have evidence. At present the local authorities do not have the expertise, the technology or the powers to enter property of other bodies to monitor emissions. This is correct and the Minister of State should not try to fudge the issue. At present the local authorities in my own city are only monitoring emissions of sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. That is the only testing being done in regard to atmospheric pollution. There is a possibility — this is a problem in your own constituency, Mr. Chairman — that dioxins are present in emissions from hospital incinerators which inefficiently burn disposable waste, such as plastics and polyvinyl chlorides. There is evidence to show this. Last week the Southern Health Board stated that their incinerators did not have the capacity to cope with the pressure. Given the possibility that very dangerous and hard to detect gasses are being emitted, the Minister of State's statement is very shallow. I can state quite categorically that the local authorities do not have the ability to take any offender to the High Court and it is grossly misleading to suggest otherwise.

In relation to the question of resources, it is quite obvious, while I do not doubt the Minister of State's good intentions, that there is a greater master, that somebody else is pulling the strings and dictating the pace. As I have already said, this most pressing issue is tied in with the question of an industrial policy because if we do not have proper controls, a proper policy and agency, industrialists will be very slow to deal with us. This is fundamental in relation to the drive towards job creation. Yet, the Minister of State has come into the House to state that the agency will not be fully operational for two years.

The groundwork and the homework have not been done. It is only now that the Department are preparing plans to implement what is passed by this House. The groundwork should have been done. Both the Minister of State and her Department have been extremely negligent in regard to this lack of preparation. Will the Minister tell us what financial resources are available from the Exchequer for this and next year to carry out the very important functions referred to in the Bill?

The Minister lacks credibility; she talked convincingly, as she is prone to do, about setting up the Environmental Protection Agency this year. However, the problem is she said that more than two years ago and that is why we find it difficult to believe her now. We listened incredulously as she said it could be more than two years after the Bill has been enacted before some of its provisions will be in operation. Deputy Allen inquired about resources. What provision has been made in the budget for the agency this year?

I did not fully agree with the point made by Deputy Garland a few minutes ago but perhaps there is some substance in it. Are some of the Minister's party industrial friends slowing the progress of the Bill? What other explanation is there? The Minister initially said the Bill would be implemented in two years and four months but now she says that it will perhaps be another two years and four months before some of the sections are implemented. If the Minister was sincere, she would not have to wait, she could set up a non-statutory agency which was done in the case of Bord Telecom and An Post. Before the enactment of legislation these bodies were set up and did all the preparatory work so that they could be in operation as soon as the legislation was enacted. Why has the Minister not set up non-statutory boards? Why can she not set procedure in train for recruiting a director general now, anticipating the legislation? The Minister has been fooling us and all her speeches about environmental protection have been fakes. It is certainly a very depressing start to the debate on this Bill.

I wish to address my amendment which deals with the same problem, in a different way. The Minister of State to date has concentrated on the mechanics of setting up the agency and the length of time it will take to recruit a director general. She also talked about the extent of the notice someone in the academic world — I do not know whether she has anyone in mind — might have to give to their employer. That is all understood. However, when the Bill is passed there is provision for establishing the agency straight away taking into account the time they would take to recruit staff, set up an office and purchase equipment. There is no sign of implementing Part III which deals with the functions of the agency and which might not be brought into effect for another two or more years. Curiously, she proposes bringing into effect immediately the Bill is passed Part V which I would have thought was more complicated and with which she would have the greatest difficulty as it deals with integrated pollution control and the very significant changes in the way planning and licence applications and so on are to be made.

Nice words.

I would have thought that part of the Bill — borne out by the submissions I received — is likely to cause the greatest difficulty; it is the most complicated and will involve the greatest deal of interface between local authorities, the agency, the Department and so on. Yet it is the part with which the Minister is going ahead. The only conclusion I can come to is that it is the part which industry wants her to go ahead with. It is the part which will get industry through the licensing and planning procedures more quickly than at present. However, Part III, which deals with environmental protection as we all know it, will not come into effect for some time afterwards. I should like to refer to matters dealt with in Part III and to explain to the Minister of State, if it has not already dawned on her, the implications of what she is saying.

The functions of the agency relating to drinking water will not be brought into effect until a Minister, at some point in the future, decides to give the agency functions in that area. As Deputy Garland said, there has already been a crisis in Naas in regard to the quality of drinking water. One of the most frequent environmental complaints which I get as a public representative is about the quality of drinking water which contains particles. An industry has grown in this supposedly green country for bottled water because people do not trust the quality of water coming out of their taps. Yet the function of the agency in that regard will not come into effect until sometime in the future.

A critical situation is developing in regard to a proposed landfill site for Dublin's waste. People in Kill, County Kildare, oppose the location of a major landfill site to take Dublin's waste. Dublin local authorities are actively considering what they will do about waste disposal as the life of the existing waste disposal dumps comes to an end. These matters are being considered at present yet the section of the Bill which would have given the Environmental Protection Agency some control and power to make regulations as to how local authorities manage landfill sites, how they select them and so on will not come into effect until all the decisions have been made. The Dublin local authorities will have made their decision about how they will deal with waste disposal for probably the next 20 or 30 years before the section comes into effect.

The same applies to the monitoring of activities of public authorities. There are controversies in parts of the country at present in regard to where the Office of Public Works propose to locate interpretative centres. Yet the regulations in the Bill dealing with the monitoring of public authorities, which would have some influence in that regard, will not come into effect until later. We know that a report on the state of the environment which the Minister's Department should have prepared last July for the Rio de Janeiro Conference has not yet been prepared; presumably the Environmental Protection Agency are the kind of body which would play a role in that yet the functions of the agency involved in preparing reports on the state of the environment do not come into effect until sometime in the future.

There will also be a European Directive in relation to labelling long before the Environmental Protection Agency deal with it. I cannot understand why it is possible for the Minister to activate immediately Part V dealing with the most complicated aspect of this legislation, integrated pollution control, and it is not possible to activate the section giving the agency functions in relation to all these current matters which are urgent and which certainly cannot wait for two or more years before they are dealt with.

Deputy Mitchell said earlier that he felt I was conceding that the amendment I have tabled is not wide enough. It is a very wide amendment. All I am saying is that those sections should come into operation once the agency are established. It is perfectly understandable that a new agency will not be able to get on top of everything immediately but as soon as the agency are set up they should be able to start dealing with all of these urgent matters.

I though it would have been a matter for the agency, the director general and his or her directors, when they are appointed, to decide the immediate priority of the agency. The Minister is proposing to make integrated pollution control the priority. Because of all the complications which will be involved — the involvement of the planning staff in local authorities, An Bord Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency, etc — I believe this will bog down the agency for years. It will take the agency, if they are under-resourced — which I suspect they will be — years to get around to dealing with the day to day matters of environmental protection which are of concern to the public, for example, matters relating to drinking water, disposal of waste, the state of the environment, what public authorities are doing, etc.

It is critical that Part III is given effect to as soon as the Bill is enacted. I have deliberately used the term "commence operation" on the understanding that it will take time for the relevant staff to be transferred, etc. Surely there is no reason the Minister cannot concede that, unless what is being proposed here is a fake Environmental Protection Agency which in practice will turn out to be a clearing house for quick fix licences to be issued to industries which find it a bit cumbersome at present to go through the normal planning procedure and which sometimes end up in An Bord Pleanála under appeal.

First, I want to say to Deputy Gilmore that what is being proposed is certainly not a fake Environmental Protection Agency. Deputy Mitchell, who unfortunately has left the House, accused me of being influenced by what he called my big industrial friends who perhaps had asked me to slow down. I do not know who my big industrial friends are but I presume Deputy Mitchell has many more big industrial friends than I have. Whatever about being taken to task over delays in regard to other matters, I do not think I could ever be accused of bowing to any vested interest. I reject Deputy Mitchell's incorrect suggestion and I respectfully ask him to withdraw it. In fact, it was not even put to me by any vested interest that there should be a slowing down. Even if it had been, it is not something I would consider.

I want to assure Deputy Gilmore that I do not have anyone in mind to serve as director general or as a director. However, it has been put to me by many people, particularly by those in the environmental world, that it will be extremely difficult to get the kind of staff necessary to do the job. There may not be many of these people in the country at present. This is why we have so many problems in the way we organise environmental protection and pollution matters. By making 33 local authorities responsible for such matters obviously they cannot all have the kind of expertise which will enable them to monitor and licence very technical, complex and difficult issues. Therefore, it will take time and it will be a difficult process. There may have to be a head hunting exercise to recruit the broad range of staff who will have to be part of the board. Obviously everyone cannot have the same kind of expertise and different expertise will be required.

Deputy Gilmore made some very useful points in relation to the functions of the agency. I will undertake in advance of Report Stage to look again at what functions can be reasonably given to the agency when they are set up. I want to sound a warning in this respect. I remember being told by the people who worked in An Foras Forbartha that when there was a difficult problem they were snowed under with work and were not given adequate resources: it was a handy way of handing out work and making somebody else responsible. I am keen to ensure that that does not happen to this agency. This is why I have included a provision in the Bill which proposes that no additional functions can be given to the agency without consultation with them. It would be very easy for a Minister or Government of the day to pass on a difficult problem to some independant outside body and leave it there. This would not be appropriate or reasonable. When the director general and the directors are appointed I envisage discussing with them the phasing in of the operations and responsibilities which they will be given. I have always said that this has to be done on a phased basis and I believe it would be reasonable if I discussed with them a type of phase-in programme, for example, areas which they believe they can begin to work on immediately and those which might take some time.

With regard to the integrated pollution control licence, obviously we will have much discussion about this later. This issue has probably taxed my mind more in recent times than any other Part of the Bill. I believe many of the problems have been caused because of the way the existing licensing system is organised. This has also led to a lack of confidence in some parts of the country about the existing enforcement and monitoring mechanism. If there are new developments and we have an agency in place who do not have any say, I believe public confidence in the agency will be immediately eroded. If a community group are agitated about a particular project which is still being handled by the local authorities who, on occasion are not perceived to be handling it adequately, it will be very difficult for the agency to start off on a right footing if they do not have an integrated pollution control function in the first instance. If they have to sit back while debates are going on in relation to these matters, because they have not been assigned this function, it would be very awkward and would discredit the agency.

I accept that it would be easier to leave this function to last as it will be an enormously difficult task, as can be seen from experience in the UK at present. It is a totally new function and it will be particularly taxing on the resources and expertise of the agency, particularly in terms of complex developments. Nevertheless as it will be a central function of the agency and is part of theraison d'etre of having the Bill in the first instance I believe it is appropriate that the agency should begin to operate that licence immediately.

As I said, Deputy Gilmore made some very valid points. I will give an undertaking, without giving any commitments, to look at them again to see what we can do to ensure that some of the functions are brought into effect on the passing of the Act and the establishment of the agency. Obviously the agency will have to be established before the functions can be put into place. I had always envisaged discussing the allocations of the functions on a phased basis with the director general and the directors as they recruited staff and staff were transferred from local authorities and public authorities generally. I believe it is appropriate to start devolving the functions on that basis. It will be in my interests to ensure before I leave office, which hopefully will be in two years time or so, that I give this agency, which will be in being, all the functions I can. That is certainly my intention and I will endeavour to do this. Obviously no Minister wants to establish a body and then leave them stripped of functions and powers. This would be grossly irresponsible and I can assure the House that that is not my intention.

In relation to resources, I want to say to Deputies Mitchell and Allen that £710,000 was provided in this year's Estimate. Some of this money is being spent on consultancy work in relation to BATNEEC for certain sectors. A substantial amount of the resources will come to the agency when staff are redeployed. Many of the staff in the Environmental Research Unit of my Department who were formerly with An Foras Forbartha, and staff from other public authorities, will be redeployed to the agency and the resources will travel with them. As I said earlier, approximately £4 million will come from the redeployment of existing State or public authority staff. There will be a net additional £4 million when the agency are fully operational. That is the best estimate of cost I can give at present. I am satisfied that the Government are committed to providing resources of that order to ensure that the agency can do their job.

The Minister has gone around in circles without really saying anything. She referred to the integrated pollution control licences and the complicated and complex issues involved.

There are pressing issues that could be dealt with more than adequately given the will and the necessary resources. The more the Minister goes on, the more dubious I become of the whole exercise. She said that £710,000 will be provided this year and that staff will be deployed from other bodies. The deployment of staff alone is not the answer. What about the technology required to carry out the extensive monitoring on industrial sites throughout the country?

Where will the money come from to carry out that work? A sum, of £4 million may sound impressive but it is totally inadequate. I accept it is very easy for the Opposition to say that but that amount of money will not provide the comprehensive air-water pollution monitoring system required here. It seems we will have a toothless giant, a body that will have powers they cannot implement, while industrialists will be left to monitor themselves. The more the Minister goes on, the more incredible this exercise becomes. The Minister is fast changing from being the darling of the Green lobby to someboyd who will be seen as the greatest hedger of all time.

I could not be more the darling of Deputy Garland.

I forecast that the Minister will be well gone from office before this agency have any real ability to tackle the major problems here. I could talk about these problems all day. It is incredible that only £710,000 is being provided this year and perhaps £4 million next year, with a deployment of staff. If it is just a question of moving bodies around the bodies who are there already could do the work. It is all about powers and resources such as the technology and equipment that is required in each area.

For example, in Cork we have the manpower but not the resources or the equipment to deal with the problems there. Last week again in Little Island noxious fumes were emitted but nobody could tell the people what was happening. Neither the Garda, the county council, the corporation nor any of the State agencies know what is happening. Problems constantly arise in Cork Harbour, but the industries do not have the equipment to deal with them. I pity the industries in this area because there is a culprit there but everybody is being tarred with the same bush and the protest groups are being given more and more muscle. Here again there is a fudging of the issues. The Minister speaks nice words and makes general statements but no action is taken. About four years ago this matter became a very important political issue but before that time nobody was interested in environmental protection. Suddenly everybody rushed in with pious platitudes to the people involved but no real commitment was made.

Everybody had great expectations for this legislation but only £710,000 is being provided, with a little more to be provided next year and people to be deployed from one body to another. There is no detail as to the equipment or the technology that will be involved. The buzz words of the moment, which can be seen in all magazines, are, "integrated pollution control licences". The whole exercise is vague and abstract. There will be academic discussion, a great deal of debate and conflict, but no real action for the people who are affected, the industries, the people living nearby and, most important, the unemployed who demand a combined effort between industrial development and environmental protection and a guidance as to where we are going. At this stage we do not know were we are going. We will be debating Committee Stage for four or five weeks and we will end up with a toothless giant without resources.

Section 2 deals with the commencement date. We have had a very broad-ranging discussion on aspects of the Bill, but I will try to avoid getting into the meat of the legislation which will be dealt with by way of specific amendment. We have all put great effort into the preparation of this Bill and are frustrated at the slowness of its passage through the Houses. I am anxious to reach a consensus because I know we cannot force this issue. If the Minister does not accept the reasoned argument from this side of the House she can troop in enough bodies to vote down the amendments. I am asking the Minister to display her commitment to bringing in this legislation by moving an amendment to the amendment in my name and that of Deputy Garland.

The Minister said it was her intention substantially to accept the import of what we propose, to have the balance of the Bill brought into effect on or before one year after the passing of this Bill. She voiced the fear that if it was not possible to have one section enacted by that date that section would fall. I am suggesting that she insert an extra clause to the amendment in my name and that of Deputy Garland to the effect that such a deadline would be contingent on a resolution of the Dáil, or a form of words to the effect that if it was not possible to have every provision enacted within the 12 month deadline a subsequent resolution of the Dáil could defer the enactment of any particular provision.

If we cannot agree to a form of words now perhaps the Minister, on Report Stage, will accept the thrust of our arguments and ensure that the agency with all their functions are up and running within 12 months. If for any technical reason that is not possible, despite the legislative imperative I am seeking to put into this Bill, perhaps the legislation could be referred back to the House, giving the people's representatives an opportunity to pass a resolution allowing for a delay in any one section which could not be put into effect for some reason. This is much too important a clause to let slip by. We have about 300 amendments to address but if we withdraw this one and accept the word of the Minister — I know it is made in good faith — all the hard work and all the good intentions will mean nothing to the people. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment, to agree that the legislation be enacted into law within the 12 month timeframe and, if there is difficulty with any section or subsection, we can address it in 12 months time by way of resolution in this House.

The Minister in her reply made two promises without commitment; that she would examine what functions could be commenced and that she would come back on the matter on Report Stage. I have some doubt as to the value of a promise without commitment, but I am prepared to accept the Minister's word and, therefore, I will be withdrawing my amendment. However, I wish to put on record that I will be tabling it on Report Stage and if the Minister does not come back with a positive response she will have to explain her position.

I ask the Minister to seriously consider the points made by Deputy Howlin. We have had a long debate on this important matter and that reflects the anxiety of Members to have the agency up and running as quickly as possible. To some extent, it also reflects our frustration that that has not happened before now. The reasons given by the Minister for not accepting the amendment of Deputy Howlin and Deputy Garland were legalistic and technical. Deputy Howlin has now provided the Minister with a formula whereby she could overcome her legalistic and technical concerns. As the Minister has already made a commitment in relation to my amendment, it would be only fair of her to make a similar commitment or agree to the point made by Deputy Howlin in respect of amendment No. 3.

I should like to make one or two points at this stage.

On the most recent occasion I spoke I forgot to comment on a point made by Deputy Allen and, in the main, by Deputy Mitchell. Deputy Mitchell wondered why I could not appoint the director general and the board in advance of the passage of the Bill if I were really serious about getting the agency off the ground quickly. The Deputy suggested that I follow the procedure taken in the appointment of the board of Bord Telecom and of An Post. If Deputy Mitchell is suggesting that the appropriate manner of appointing a director general and directors is for a Minister to choose names, put them to the Government and have the Government appoint those people, I cannot accept that. It is fundamental to the operation of the agency that there be a selection process that is seen to be independent and that an outside committee consisting of organisations such as the Congress of Trade Unions and the Council for the Status of Women be involved in the selection process. Although there is no nomination procedure involved here, that would be similar to the way in which the board of An Bord Pleanála is appointed. I do not consider it appropriate to follow the procedure used in the appointment of Bord Telecom. I forgot to reject that idea earlier.

In relation to the points made recently by Deputy Howlin and Deputy Gilmore, I do not disagree with most of what has been said. I want the agency to be working as quickly as possible. I, too am very frustrated at the length of time that is being taken on this issue. That is probably the reason I am being encouraged to think again before Report Stage in relation to what Deputies are saying. Even in 1989 when the idea was first mooted, I said that I envisaged a period of about two years before the agency would become fully operational. I still believe that that is the kind of timeframe that will be required before the agency can be given its whole range of functions. I also believe that it would be appropriate to discuss the allocation of functions with the director general and the director so that, on appointment their capacity and their feelings about dealing with the functions are known. For example, the agency would devolve certain functions, perhaps monitoring functions and so on to local authorities and other groups. All such matters will take time to organise.

Deputy Allen mentioned monitoring costs. It is envisaged in the Bill that the cost of monitoring processes and companies and plants will not be borne by the taxpayer but by the companies so monitored. That provision is reasonable and fair. When high monitoring costs are incurred they will have to be met by the person or the company so monitored.

As I said earlier, I will consider the matter before Report Stage. I shall do my best to determine the way in which we can best do what I realise the Deputies want done, which is also what I want done. Obviously, I have to take the advice that if the agency were to undertake their role in all functions within a year they might not be able to cope. The reasons for that might be only technical reasons, it could be that the agency would not have the required capacity in a certain area because of a lack of expertise or a particular resource, and in this I do not necessarily mean a lack of financial resources from the Government.

I do not want to countenance the agency falling for such a reason. It would be better that the agency not be operational in all its functions for two years than that they never become operational. That is the reason I do not accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment now. I do not want the agency to commence all functions immediately. It would be unreasonable to establish a new body and expect them to carry out such a large number of functions from the first day. Such a requirement would prove very cumbersome and difficult and would be very much an instance of the Government passing the buck to the agency.

I shall come back to the House on Report Stage and shall do my best to take on board what the Deputies want to achieve.

I have a very brief final comment. I am anxious that there not be a full opening of the debate again on Report Stage. The formula I suggest has been followed by the House in the past. I suggest the addition at the end of amendment No. 3, in the names of Deputy Garland and myself, the words "unless Dáil Éireann otherwise order.". I am sure that Deputy Garland would have no objection to that proposal. The result would be that the amendment would come into effect but there would be an out clause if that were not possible for a reason such as one of those outlined by the Minister. I am sure the Minister could now indicate to us that that is feasible rather than put the House through another two-hour debate on Report Stage, precious time that the House does not have available. If this issue is not put right the Bill will be fundamentally flawed. I again ask that the Minister now accept the amendment, with the ministerial addendum I have suggested, that the Minister herself propose the addition of the words "unless Dáil Éireann otherwise order.". The Minister has broadly accepted the amendment.

I wish that I could accept that now but, unfortunately, I cannot. I want to again consider the amendment and I want an opportunity to discuss it with my advisers and with legal advisers. I am not able to accept it now for that reason but I undertake to seriously consider it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, subsection (1), line 19, after "Part I", to insert "(other than section 18 (1))".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, subsection (2), line 23, after "days" to insert "(on or before the day which is one year after the passing of this Act)".

With the agreement of my colleague from the Green Party, I am prepared to take the Minister's word on the matter. I think we shall probably both resubmit the amendment on Report Stage and press the issue to a vote at that stage if the Minister does not accept our very reasonable suggestion. In the interim, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 3.

Amendment No. 4 in the names of Deputies Jim Mitchell, Carey and Allen relates to section 3. Amendment No. 5 is an alternative amendment and amendments Nos. 12 and 21 are related. It is proposed that amendments Nos. 4, 5, 12 and 21 be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(e) ionising radiation, electro-magnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat), or

(f) residues (salts and pesticides);".

The list of items mentioned in the Bill as it comes from the Seanad — the emission into the atmosphere of pollutants, the discharge of polluting matters, sewage effluent or trade effluent, the disposal of waste and noise pollution and so on — are all matters of major concern. I could speak for hours on the issue. However, I am puzzled by the omission of ionising radiation and pesticides. I ask the Minister whether the whole question of ionising radiation is a matter for the Nuclear Energy Board. Is it solely the function of the Nuclear Energy Board to monitor and report on such issues? What interlink will there by between the agency and the Nuclear Energy Board? I seek assurances on that whole area. I shall not waste the time of the House by going into too much detail. The House has spoken about nuclear waste, its dangers and related issues. I draw attention to a recent incident involving the robbery of a vehicle containing nuclear waste. The issue is major and I should like to hear the Minister's comments on the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in that regard.

In today's papers we read again of a major health scare concerning pesticides, this time in Holland, and involving many Irish workers who have gone over there to work in horticulture. It is alleged that dangerous pesticides are being used in horticulture in Holland. This is another huge issue that has created a lot of uncertainty. I should like to hear the Minister's opinions on this issue also. What will be the agency's role in relation to pesticides? What will be their working relationship with the Department of Agriculture in relation to the use and control of pesticides? I shall make my position on the issue known, depending on the Minister's response. Deputies could go on at length and spend another hour and a half discussing these two issues but if the Minister can satisfy me that these matters will be dealt with adequately either by the agency, or the agency in conjunction with some other body, I shall be happy. I should like to hear her views on this.

Amendment No. 5 in my name basically deals with the expansion of the definition of "emission" in section 3. There are already four different types of emissions in the Bill. I was proposing to add an additional two. My first additional proposal is very similar to that in the Fine Gael amendment tabled by Deputies Mitchell, Carey and Allen; while they call for the definition of "emissions" to include "ionising radiation, electromagnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat)," mine simply says "radiation". Possibly theirs is a better proposal. I have no problem with paragraph (f) of their amendment which reads "residues (salts and pesticides);". I propose another addition — subparagraph (f) of my amendment —"release of a genetically modified organism as defined in section 109;".

I will deal with the radiation aspect first. This matter arose in connection with the debate on the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. At that time I had tabled amendments to take the power for dealing with radiation and radiation related matters from the proposed Radiological Protection Institute, and vesting it in the proposed Environmental Protection Agency for the simple reason I felt it was ridiculous to have the Department of Energy monitor their own protection agency. Clearly radiation and related problems should come within the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency. If this amendment is accepted it could necessitate an amendment of the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. If that is the case, so be it; if we got it wrong, let us put it right. I hope the Minister of State will not resort to the lame excuse that she would have to amend the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. We should first establish what is the proper place to deal with this. I submit that it arises more properly on this Bill than on the Radiological Protection Act, 1991.

The second part of my amendment deals with the release of a genetically modified organism, a rather technical, but nonetheless important subject. Two EC Directives have been issued on these GMOs which were to have been implemented by 23 October 1991. It would appear that the Government are not taking their responsibilities seriously in regard to GMOs since they have failed to implement those directives by the deadline, particularly disturbing since many of the worthwhile provisions in this Bill will not apply to GMOs. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency is not being given a proper role with regard to GMOs; basically they would not be controlled by the agency. One problem arises in that sometimes GMOs are used to clean up pollution. Nobody knows what the consequences will be; nobody knows what actually happens these novel organisms. I commend these two additional definitions to the Minister.

I, too, support the amendments in the names of Deputies Mitchell, Carey, Allen and Garland. It is odd that responsibility for nuclear power and nuclear-generated pollution should rest with the Radiological Protection Institute under the provisions of the Radiological Protection Act, 1991, rather than with this proposed new agency. I do not think anybody will take offence when I say that this is a much more impressive, encompassing Bill than the Radiological Protection Act. I contend it would be wrong to segregate radiation and the nuclear industry from the general pollution controls coming within the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. If I were to be mischievous I am minded to say that the reason this section was beyond the scope of the Department of the Environment led agency might be interdepartmental rivalry but, on reflection, I could not see how there could possibly be rivalry between the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, with responsibility for environmental matters, and the Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, in that they are soad idem on all issues. I do believe it is fundamentally wrong that the agency should be debarred from having control over this important area. I have never seen any cogent or clear reason advanced for this being the case.

I would ask the Minister of State to accept the reasonable amendments to give on all encompassing power to the new Environmental Protection Agency we want to establish.

Certainly paragraph (f) of amendment No. 4 —"residues (salt and pesticides)" is a fair, acceptable broadening which I am sure the Minister of State will have no difficulty accepting.

I also commend Deputy Garland's inclusion in amendment No. 5, (paragraph (f), of "genetically modified organism" which has been the subject of discussion in recent times. If we are to enact a comprehensive Bill I contend the Minister should accept the reasonable amendment tabled by Deputy Garland at paragraph (f). I think the Deputy himself accepts that paragraph (e) of his amendment No. 5 would be better defined within the Fine Gael more comprehensive definition of "radiation" which spells out the different forms of radiation to be included. Unless there is a compelling reason I have yet to hear for excluding the nuclear industry from the provisions of this Bill, I contend they should be included and be subject to monitoring by the proposed agency.

I refer to my amendment No. 12 which also deals with the inclusion of "radioactive substance" in the definitions and in the forms of pollution the provisions of this Bill are intended to cover. I contend the Bill would be seriously defective if its provisions were to omit radioactive material from their remit and/or that of the proposed agency. The question of radioactive substances is not confined purely to their management and/or their scientific control. We know that a pollution problem arises from radioactive substances. There was a recent case of radioactive material having been found in a truck which gave rise to a potential environmental hazard. We know also there is a problem with regard to the disposal of radioactive materials, particularly by hospitals. Essentially those are areas of environmental concern.

The argument advanced — and I know this ground was covered in the debate in the Seanad — by the Minister of State was that the Radiological Protection Institute would be the body responsible, and that, therefore, there was no need to involve the Environmental Protection Agency. That logic does not apply to other areas of the Bill. For example, local authorities have responsibility for waste management, waste disposal, the provision of water, sanitary services and a whole range of areas where other more normal, day-to-day substances are concerned. Yet, in those areas the Environmental Protection Agency has been given specific responsibility to make regulations and provide for the environmental protection aspects. In this legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency are being given responsibility to give directions to other public authorities on how to deal with the environment.

It is extraordinary that radioactive materials are being left out of this. What this reflects is an attitude that has prevailed in society that radioactive materials are out of sight and therefore they are not really a hazard. There has also been a denial here of the existence of radioactive pollution. When we think of nuclear waste and radiation there is an automatic assumption that we are talking about Sellafield. It is almost as if there was no radiation before Sellafield. Yet, we know that there are radioactive materials used in hospitals and that there is a problem with the disposal of them and so on.

It is time we faced the fact that we have a problem with radioactive materials and with environmental and pollution hazards from radioactive materials and that we make provision to address it. It is not sufficient to say that radioactive materials need an expert body to deal with them and that there is no cause for worry now that we have an expert body to deal with them. There is cause for worry. There is need for a second agency which deals specifically with environmental protection to have an interest in this area. I have no reason to doubt that the radiological protection institute will not do their job, but who will check if the institute get it wrong or are not applying the highest standards? There is a need for a second agency to have an interest in this area in the same way that the Environmental Protection Agency will have an interest in the area of drinking water, waste and a whole range of things which are the remit of local authorities. They should also have a remit in the area of radioactive substances. The definition of radioactive substances should be in this Bill and the Bill should cover radioactive materials.

With regard to Deputy Howlin's comments it has nothing to do with my ministerial colleague, Deputy Molloy. Deputy Molloy and I do not always agree on everything. I am delighted to be in a party in which we can express those views just like many other members of parties can express different views on fundamental issues.

In relation to radioactive substances, if we lived in an ideal world, everything that had anything to do with the environment would be under the auspices of my Department, but we do not and there are lots of other arms of Government that deal with certain environmental matters. We will come to that later when we are talking about the definition of environmental protection and so on.

We recently passed legislation to establish the radiological institute to replace the Nuclear Energy Board. That institute will be established very shortly. It is appropriate that this institute should have sole responsibility for radioactive substances. We work to streamline the way we organise matters and that is why we are establishing an agency. It is not fair to say that because we are taking responsibility from local authorities, that is a reason to take responsibility from the radiological protection institute. We are taking responsibility from local authorities in some cases because it is not possible with the kind of resources and expertise required for all of the 33 local authorities to be able to have the full range of expertise at their disposal.

It does not make sense in a country which has under four million people to duplicate throughout the country the range of expertise that might only be used to deal with one plant in one county. It is appropriate to reorganise the way we deal with environmental protection matters by giving an overall agency responsibility, certain supervisory powers and so on. Since we are also establishing an agency to deal with radioactive substances, it would be improper to give the Environmental Protection Agency a role in relation to that too. It would lead to confusion and a duplication of scarce resources. We could not expect this State to recruit and employ on a fulltime basis, experts in relation to radioactive substances in two different agencies. I am anxious to ensure that there is consultation and discussion. I am anxious that the agency do not work in a vacuum and that is why there are specific provisions in relation to consultation. I envisage that when the institute and the agency are established they will work together closely.

Deputy Gilmore referred to the radioactive substance found in a truck last week. I presume he was referring to the incident in Rathcoole. The people called to deal with that were not local authority staff, they were the Nuclear Energy Board, because they are the only people who can handle matters of that kind.

In relation to residue salts and pesticides, they are already included in the definition of an emission if they are discharged through polluting matter, sewage effluent or trade effluent within the meaning of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, or if they are emitted into the atmosphere as a pollutant within the meaning of the Air Pollution Act or if they are included in the disposal of waste. We did not go through the Air Pollution Act and the Water Pollution Act and the various waste directives in operation and include everything by way of defining emissions. It would not have been satisfactory to do that, but I assure the House that I am fully satisfied that they are covered and that there is no need to include a specific reference to these matters.

With regard to electro-magnetic radiation, light and heat, I am assured that they are already covered under the definition of environmental pollution. Under section 4 (2) of the Bill, environmental pollution includes:

"air pollution" for the purposes of the Air Pollution Act, 1987;

Pollutant as defined in the 1987 Act includes as well a specific substance as specified in the First Schedule to that Act and any other substance or energy which may cause pollution. I am advised that this includes electro-magnetic radiation, light and heat and that therefore this part of the proposed amendment is not necessary.

In relation to genetically modified organisms, perhaps from here on in we should call them GMOs before we are accused of doing rather strange things through this legislation. They are catered for in section 109 of the Bill which provides for the establishment by means of regulations of a specifically designed control system by these highly complex substances which require special and separate treatment. This is the approach to GMOs adopted worldwide. The agency and the IPC licensing system is not the appropriate means for controlling GMOs.

In response to Deputy Garland's comment in relation to the European Community Directive, the Deputy is right in saying that we have not implemented it. Only four member states have implemented it, because many of them have to pass separate legislation. That is why we are including it in this legislation. The release of GMOs is not necessarily a pollutant. What is required is to control the releases. That is what we propose to do by providing a mechanism through this legislation so that we can establish a separate special authority to control the use of GMOs.

In relation to the manufacture of pesticides and pharmaceutical or veterinary products, Deputy Allen asked me a legitimate question in relation to the role of the Department of Agriculture and Food and the role of the agency. It is the case that the agency will be able to advise on these matters and draw up codes of practice in relation to agriculture. All pesticides are not pollutants but the manufacture of pesticides, pharmaceutical or veterinary products and their intermediates are controlled under the licensing system in the First Schedule. Under paragraphs 5 and 6 of the First Schedule, the manufacture of these items are and will be controlled by the agency. Obviously the agency will have a role in relation to the laying down of codes of practice and they will be encouraged to advise Ministers either on request or of their own volition in relation to matters of this kind.

My amendment No. 4 dealing with ionising radiation is linked to waste management. I cannot understand how the Minister can allocate different areas of waste management to separate agencies.

We do not have a waste management policy, but I will not go into that point further today. How can one separate toxic waste, chemical waste and radioactive waste if it is coming from the same industrial source? What process will be put in place to separate the waste into these different categories? It may be difficult for the Minister to answer that question because we do not have a waste management plan. I thought I made a slip of the tongue when I referred to the Nuclear Energy Board; however the Nuclear Energy Board is still operational because the Radiological Protection Institute has not been set up, despite the enactment of the Radiological Protection Act, 1991.

I am not raising this matter just to be awkward but I wonder how much thought has gone into the issue of managing waste. We had the example last year where nuclear radioactive sources were found in waste from an industrial plant. How does the Minister propose to define the role of the agency in the areas of waste management and how will the agency's role be separated from that of the Radiological Protection Institute? Will everybody's baby be nobody's baby? What is the distinction between the functions of the agency and those of the Institute? I have worked in this area but I find it impossible to divide them. If one agency is to be responsible for toxic and chemical waste, I believe it should also be responsible for nuclear waste because at times it can be hard to separate waste into different categories. In the absence of a waste management plan, this may be a difficult question to address. I would like to hear the Minister's response and perhaps between us we could come up with positive ways to control this growing problem.

Deputy Gilmore is right when he says that Sellafield is the most dramatic and publicised issue in the debate on nuclear waste. It is very convenient to focus on the problem that another country is generating while ignoring the reality at home. I see that Deputy Burke is in the chamber; he was here one evening when I spoke about nuclear waste and the embarrassment we had to endure when we went to Sellafield to protest. After raising the question of threats to our environment and health, we were taken four miles down the road and shown a tip head. Then we were told, very diplomatically, that that was where our nuclear waste was disposed of. Before we criticise anybody else we should get our act together. As I said, it is very convenient for us, at times, to focus on an external threat or an external problem, and ignore the reality at home. We have ignored the problems under our noses for far too long.

Hospitals, research institutes and universities generate waste. Before I came into the more radioactive pasttime of professional politics, I worked in this area. Looking back, it is apparent that the guidelines for dealing with radioactive waste were primitive, in my view they are still primitive, and until such time as we have a national waste management policy there will be major grey areas that will be open to abuse.

The absence of a waste management policy is a defect in our quest to have a proper industrial development policy and encourage job creation. I keep harping on this because I have spoken to a great many industrialists who were considering setting up here, but who were aware that there would be a problem with the disposal of waste. We have not faced up to this problem. Will the Minister outline her views in this area before I decide whether to press my amendment?

The Deputy makes some very valid points in relation to waste and as Members know, we do not have appropriate waste legislation other than the Acts of the last century and the nine EC Directives. I am very reluctant to say that we are working on waste legislation that will be produced soon — I say soon but without defining what "soon" means. A draft Bill has been prepared but it has to be discussed with a number of interested bodies before it goes for Government approval and subsequent publication. I am very keen that we will have appropriate waste legislation because it is a gap in our environmental protection legislation. We have up-to-date legislation on air and water pollution, but we do not have up-to-date legislation in relation to waste. Legislation can do so much by way of penalties and fines, but legislation would also need to be accompanied by a waste management plan with the emphasis on the minimising and reduction of waste and providing appropriate disposal facilities.

I do not know a great deal about radioactive waste. I notice that while Deputy Gilmore brought "radioactive waste" into the definitions, he did not bring it in subsequently in the Bill. I am not sure what the agency would do in relation to radioactive waste. Because this is a very specialised, complicated and expensive area to deal with, it is appropriate that the Radiological Protection Institute would be the body to deal with radioactive waste. I do not think it would be appropriate to load this agency with a function they would find impossible to carry out because another body had the resources and expertise to handle it.

The Deputy asked how we would handle several different types of waste from the same plant. If the agency were faced with a problem of that kind, I envisage that they would consult with and get the advice of the institute and ensure that the standards considered appropriate by the Radiological Protection Institute would be enforced in relation to that matter.

Waste is dealt with by way of licensing under the First Schedule. It will be the agency's responsibility to license any hazardous waste incinerator or any hospital waste incinerator. I share the Deputy's concern about hospital waste. The agency generally will be the licensing, monitoring and enforcing authority. When they deal with matters relating to radioactive waste they will consult with the Radiological Protection Institute and ensure they are involved.

I am not trying to be awkward but it is difficult to understand why we should have two agencies dealing with the one issue. I would prefer to see the agency dealing with it. I would envisage the institute dealing with the controls, conditions and so on. When we have a national waste management policy it is essential that one agency should deal with it. More than one would be a fatal flaw in the management plan. We cannot separate the questions of nuclear, chemical or toxic waste. I will not press the matter if the Minister will undertake to consider it and perhaps come back at a subsequent stage.

I cannot give the Deputy that assurance because it is not envisaged nor do I think it appropriate that this agency should have responsibility for nuclear waste. The Radiological Protection Institute will have the power to regulate by license activities involving radioactive substances and to monitor. The institute will have a long list of responsibilities. Many people would feel that eventually many of the responsibilities of the Departments of Energy and the Environment should be streamlined in regard to environmental matters. It is, however, appropriate that the Radiological Protection Institute should have responsibility in relation to radioactive waste. Community Directives on toxic and hazardous waste do not include radioactive waste. That is always dealt with on a separate basis by a different expert body. It is appropriate to allow our expert body to handle matters of that kind.

While I have reservations, I do not intend to press this amendment. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the matter with the Minister for Energy. The Minister said that pesticides are defined under "emissions". I am worried about the use of pesticides in the cultivation of crops. The Minister did not give me a satisfactory explanation as to the interlink between the Department of Agriculture and the new agency regarding the use of pesticides as controls.

The agency has the power to advise Ministers of the Government and public authorities generally on any matter in the interests of environmental protection. The agency also has the power to draw up codes of practice, including codes of practice for agriculture. A recent Community Directive is now in force relating to the use of pesticides. The matter is handled by the Department of Agriculture. I support the Deputy's point about the need to have appropriate controls on the use of pesticides in agriculture. The agency has an appropriate role by way of advice and codes of practice in relation to a large number of issues, including pesticides. It has a very broad remit.

What section deals with this?

Section 55 (2) (iv).

I am not entirely happy with the Minister's reply to both my requests contained in amendment No. 5. I am prepared to consider the matter further and I will withdraw the amendment, reserving the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.

As amendment No. 6 is consequential on amendment No. 171, these amendments may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 8, subsection (1), line, 30, to delete the definition of "established activity" and substitute the following:

" `established activity' means an activity—

(a) in respect of which a permission under Part IV of the Act of 1963 is granted prior to such day (in this paragraph and in paragraph (b) referred to as `the relevant day') as may be prescribed by the Minister and which on the relevant day has not ceased to have effect, in accordance with the provisions of sections 2 and 4 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1982, or

(b) which is, on the day immediately prior to the relevant day, or was, at any time during the period of twelve months ending on the day immediately prior to the relevant day, carried on, other than an activity which involves or is associated with an unauthorised structure or an unauthorised use within the meaning of the Act of 1963;".

santhi

In a very detailed Bill we should try to make its provisions as clear as possible to the reader. I have sought to put all the definitions in the definitions section. The definition of "established activity" is not spelled out in the definition section but it is spelled out in section 80. People reading the Bill should be able to see the definitions in the definition section without ploughing through the Bill to see where it might occur. If one did not know it was in section 80 one would have to plough through the Bill to find it. For ease of reading and for clarity purposes my amendment seeks to take the definition out of section 80 and put it into the definition section where it belongs. I hope there is no difficulty about that.

My advisers and I were not clear as to the intention of this amendment. In fact my note states: I am unclear as to the reason for the change. The Deputy has made a valid point and we will agree to the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

We come now to amendment No. 7 in the name of Deputy Gilmore.

Is it possible to address amendment No. 7 in the absence of Deputy Gilmore?

Acting Chairman

I am advised that the amendment must be moved by Deputy Gilmore or somebody authorised by him.

May I ask the Minister — this will allow time for the Deputy to return — to define what she means by "local authority".

The 33 major local authorities are those covered by the existing definition which is standard in practically all environmental legislation.

Deputy Howlin rose.

Acting Chairman

I am sorry Deputy, that does not arise now. It may be raised at a later stage.

With respect, may I respond to the Minister's definition?

We are talking about a public authority. Local authorities are referred to in the Bill at a later stage.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Howlin this cannot arise now. When we are discussing the section at a later stage the Deputy may raise the matter.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 not moved.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 9, subsection (1), line 30, after "statute" to insert "(other than the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990)".

We are dealing now with the definition of public authority. There are two issues, a public authority and a local authority. My understanding is that the normal definition of "local authority" in previous legislation included UDCs in some instances. This amendment seeks to clarify the definition of "public authority". "Public authority" is defined in paragraph (f) as:

a board or other body established by or under statute,

The impact of my amendment is simply to add "(other than the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990)". I understand this was discussed in the Seanad. For purposes of clarity I want to ensure an ordinary company is not classified as a public authority. Obviously a company would be a board or body established under the Companies Acts. While the company is defined in two other subsections each subsection stands alone. For the sake of clarity the amendment as I framed it would improve the definition section.

I appreciate the Deputy's concern for clarity in this case. However, I have been advised by the parliamentary draftsman that it is clear in the context of the definition that companies incorporated under the Companies Act are not included. Paragraphs (g) and (h), in particular, bring State-owned companies incorporated under these Acts within the ambit of the definition and serve to make clear that other companies are excluded. The parliamentary draftsman is anxious that we follow the procedure followed in recent legislation so far as the definition of these matters is concerned so that there is no confusion. For example, both the Urban Renewal Act and the Derelict Sites Act, 1990, follow this definition of a statutory body. In the interests of clarity it is better that we do not confuse matters by adding in "(other than the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990)" which might imply in the other Acts that because these words are not included that they are included.

I am at a loss to understand the logic of that, that we should not have clarity in this Bill lest I would undermine in some way previous Bills because they were less clear. Clearly, each subsection stands alone. The Minister rightly said that paragraphs (g) and (h) include certain public companies but they do not exclude any company. When drafting legislation let us do it to the best of our ability and let clarity be its hallmark. When we do not mean companies under the Companies Acts, let us state that. Let us not hope there is an implication by including some companies that other companies are excluded. That is a very bad way to make laws. If people were not sharp enough in framing previous legislation to include the sharpest definitions it is no excuse for us not having the finest definitions included in this Bill. Let us go along step by step putting together the best Bill possible. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.

It adds absolutely nothing to the Bill.

It adds clarity.

I do not think so. Section 3 defines what "public authority" means. It would not be satisfactory or desirable to state in legislation who is excluded rather than what is included.

I will not press the issue but I do not think the Minister is listening to the argument. Nothing is being excluded. The Minister has stated in the Bill that a "public authority" means a board or other body established by or under statute. That means any company because the Companies Acts are statutes of this House. For the sake of clarity we should exclude the Companies Acts. The Minister is not listening to the case being made. If good arguments are put forward to make issues more clear they should be accepted by the Government side.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

We come now to amendment No. 10 in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 11 is an alternative and it suggested that amendment Nos. 10 and 11 be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 9, subsection (1), line 37, to delete "means any street, road, seashore or other" and substitute "includes any".

I am proposing amendment No. 10 in response to amendment No. 11 which, presumably, is intended to ensure there is a broad definition of "public place". I have been advised that the definition in the Bill could be interpreted on a narrow basis and, accordingly, I am proposing the deletion of street, road, seashore to ensure a broader acceptance of what is a public place.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Will the Minister explain exactly what she means by "local authority"?

The existing definition of "local authority" covers the 33 major local authorities. This is the standard provision in practically all environmental legislation. Deputy Gilmore was going to propose to extend the definition so that it would cover over 100 local authorities. If he had moved the amendment, I would have clarified the implications of the extension. Perhaps we can deal with it later on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 4.
Amendment No. 13 not moved.

Acting Chairman

We now come to amendment No. 14 in the name of Deputy Garland. Amendments Nos. 14 and 24 are consequential on amendment No. 26. It is proposed therefore that amendments Nos. 14, 24 and 26 be taken together. Is that agreed?

I would prefer if the amendments were taken separately. They are all in my name and are somewhat different. I do not want to engage the House in a long procedural wrangle but if the House does not agree with this immediately I will go along with the proposal.

Acting Chairman

I would prefer if the House would go along with the suggestion that amendments Nos. 14, 24 and 26 be taken together.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 10, subsection (1) (a), line 24, after "pollution" to insert "throughinter alia promoting clean production”.

We are now dealing with section 4 which deals with the definitions of "environmental protection", "environmental pollution" and "environmental medium" whatever that word means. Amendment No. 14 proposes that we include after the word "pollution" the words "throughinter alia promoting clean production”. It should be said very clearly at this stage that it appears the agency will be committed to pollution control rather than pollution prevention. It is a tragedy, as Ireland establishes its own Environmental Protection Agency, it is adopting an already outmoded and increasingly discredited approach. Despite several references to the importance of pollution prevention the overwhelming emphasis is on the regulation, licensing and control of pollution.

The Bill assumes that significant levels of pollution are inevitable in a developed economy. It sees the role of the Environmental Protection Agency as determining levels of pollution which are to be acceptable in Ireland. This is a fundamental flaw. In order to correct this serious weakness the Bill should be amended to contain a statement of commitment to economic planning incorporating the concept of clean production. If the Bill does not incorporate such a commitment to pollution prevention at source on a phased basis the Green Party consider that the agency will be so fundamentally flawed as to be incapable of inspiring public confidence in their ability to protect the environment.

Environmental protection, in the view of the Green Party, begins at the start of the production process regardless of whether it is pills, pigs or potable water that is being produced. The Environmental Protection Agency need to focus on and eliminate the causes of pollution and not just concentrate on setting limits for emissions to air and water or for amounts of hazardous waste for disposal on land. If they are, essentially, preoccupied with these end-of-pipe solutions and the Bill ensures that this will be the case they will fail to tackle the root cause of the pollution problem. The Environmental Protection Agency will be like a doctor who treats only the symptoms and ignores the causes of the diseases. The Bill's commitment to pollution prevention at source needs to be stated unambiguously. I should say to the Minister of State that environmental protection is pollution prevention, not pollution control and this must be addressed to ensure the sustainable development of our economy in the immediate and long terms.

Amendment No. 24 to section 5 would delete from subsection (1) the words "best available technology not entailing excessive costs" and substitute "clean production". This is the so-called BATNEEC clause which is rightly seen by industry as providing protection for them against what they consider to be the worst effects of this Bill which in some cases would entail excessive costs. The point should be made that we cannot use this clause, which has been inserted at the behest of industry, to discourage us from producing goods using clean production methods. I do not think there is sufficient commitment to do this.

In amendment No. 26 I suggest a definition of "clean production" which reads:

"clean production" means production systems which avoid or eliminate hazardous waste and hazardous products, and which ensure that inputs of water, air, soil, energy and other raw materials are renewed, reused or conserved."

That amendment is self-explanatory. I commend the amendments to the House.

I support these amendments. In the preparation of the next European environmental programme, there has been a thrust away from the "thou shalt not" principle towards a different frame of mind in relation to the need to protect the environment. A list of prohibitions which says that one cannot do this and one must not do that would not be put in place; rather it would address in a positive way the issue of enhancing, protecting and defending the environment.

These are the first in a list of amendments which deal with the definition of "environmental protection". I support the contention put forward by Deputy Garland in the amendment that we should promote clean production in a positive way because it is not enough to say that we will outlaw transgressions against the environment. We should in a positive way help, assist, promote, develop and encourage mechanisms which are environmentally friendly. That is the new thinking and the way we should proceed. Since this legislation is to be the standard for the future, this concept should be incorporated in the definition of "environmental protection".

I support these amendments also because prevention is better than cure at any time. The emphasis therefore in our policy should be on prevention rather than on the cure which can prove to be far more costly. Like Deputy Howlin, I welcome the moves which have been made in some of our research institutes in recent times where industry, whether some people like it or not, has become involved in projects the aim of which is to encourage the use of clean processes in industry. This should be supported in every way. I hope the Department will place greater emphasis on prevention rather than on the cure because this would be far more cost effective. Naturally, we are all concerned about the environment and, as I said, it is better to prevent damage rather than have to repair it.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.