We come now to amendment No. 10. As amendment No. 19 is related, both amendments may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Private Members' Business. - Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 10, line 25, after "environment" to insert "through inter alia implementation of the precautionary principle".
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 10, line 32, to delete "would" and substitute "could".
As the Minister has not responded to the Committee Stage debate I consider that I have no alternative but to withdraw this amendment; likewise No. 13.
We now move to amendment No. 16, in the name of Deputy Garland. Amendment No. 17 is related. Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 16 and 17 be discussed together? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 11, line 6, to delete "best available technology not entailing excessive costs" and substitute "clean production".
This is a very important amendment. There was considerable debate on Committee Stage on the matter to which it refers. I am sorry that the Minister is still quite unrepentant in her attitude to clean production. I do not intend to debate the matter further; what I said on Committee Stage stands. However, I should like to press the amendment.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that I fully support the concept of clean production, which is why I introduced an amendment to section 50 at an earlier stage. By these amendments the Deputy is seeking to achieve an idealistic and noble state. I compliment him on that, but it is not practical. It is not possible to provide the kind of facilities that we require for our ordinary, everyday needs in a way and in an atmosphere that avoids the production of hazardous waste. Therefore, until such time as we have developed technologies, internationally or nationally, to ensure that we can have clean production it would not be possible to accept what Deputy Garland seeks to introduce here, albeit desirable. Ireland is a net importer of technologies and is very dependent on development elsewhere. To my knowledge there is nowhere in the world that can provide the required industries and the kind of resources produced by those industries without the generation of dangerous and hazardous wastes.
Throughout the Bill it is clear that the agency, in their licensing functions and so on, will have to take into account the effect on the environment and will seek as far as possible the elimination, abatement and reduction of pollution. The Bill is comprehensive in that regard.
I do not wish to make further comment but I should like to press my amendment.
I think this House is out of order in that there is no one from Fine Gael in the Chamber. That is a reflection on Fine Gael Members. There are three names appended to this amendment but not one of the Deputies concerned is present. That is disgraceful.
We move on to amendment No. 23, in the name of Deputies Kavanagh and Howlin. Amendment No. 24 is a related amendment, so the two amendments will be taken together for discussion, if that is agreed. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 12, line 40, after "order," to insert "after consultation with the Agency,".
This amendment seeks in section 7 (2), to modify the power of the Minister. Under the subsection, as drafted, the Minister has powers, by order, to revoke or amend the First or Second Schedules. There was considerable debate on Committee Stage about the Schedules and their importance. I seek to simply modify the power the Minister seeks to give herself by requiring consultation with the agency in any revocation or amendment she proposes to the Schedules. It is a reasonable request. It does not require the concurrence of the agency but simply that they would be consulted on the matter. It is a very fair and reasonable request and the Minister should accept it.
In the spirit of the debate I accept the Deputy's amendment.
Since amendment No. 26 is an alternative — amendments Nos. 25 and 26 may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 12, after line 46, to insert the following:
"(4) Every order made under this Act, other than an order made under subsection (1) or (3), shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made.".
I tabled this amendment having given Deputy Howlin a commitment to do so on Committee Stage. The amendment is similar to Deputy Howlin's amendment No. 26. Obviously section 7 (2) and (3) involve orders that must be laid before the House in any event; that is why they are excluded.
The Minister gave a commitment on Committee Stage and her amendment goes half way to meeting my intention. At least it requires an order to be laid before the House. I welcome the Minister's positive attitude in this respect. Since the amendments are identical the Minister's acceptance will suit my requirement as specified in amendment No. 26.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 13, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:
"(3) Where an offence under this Act is committed by a person acting on behalf of a body corporate but without the knowledge or consent of that body corporate that person shall also be guilty of an offence.".
As I explained on Committee Stage the circumstances described in this amendment are quite clearly covered in the generality of section 8 (1). Section 8 (2) deals only with circumstances in which other persons may be implicated. I am also advised that adoption of the proposed amendment could give rise to further complications from a prosecution point of view in that it would have to be proved to the satisfaction of the court that an offence took place without the knowledge or consent of the body corporate. Therefore I am more than happy, on advice, that the purpose of the Deputies' amendment is more than covered in the generality of section 8 (1).
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 13, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:
"(2) In imposing any penalty under subsection (1) the Court shall, in particular, have regard to the risk or extent of damage to the environment arising from the act or omission constituting the offence.".
We had a long discussion on this matter on Committee Stage when some Deputies sought to remove the monetary sum and others sought to retain it but also to ensure that the court took into account the risk or damage caused to the environment. I gave an undertaking that I would table an appropriate amendment on Report Stage. This amendment covers the matters without excluding the possibility of a significant fine being imposed when there is no damage caused but when there is, for example, gross negligence.
If the amendment in Deputy Gilmore's name were adopted it would result in no fine being imposed if there was no damage caused. Obviously if there has been negligence, a fine should be imposed and, where damage has been caused, that too should be taken into account.
I welcome this amendment. We had a long discussion on Committee Stage on the type of penalty that should be imposed on a very serious polluter. In a number of incidents around the world in recent years horrendous damage was done to the environment, and the clean-up costs were such that even a figure of £10 million, which seems a sum sufficiently large to cover every eventuality, might not be sufficient. I am thinking of theExxon Valdez experience and others. The form of words now proposed by the Minister of State constitutes an improvement. It is fair to suggest that an act of negligence should be taken into account rather than having to adopt the terms of Deputy Gilmore's amendment. I welcome the Minister's move towards the impassioned arguments advanced by this side of the House on Committee Stage and support her amendment.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 13, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:
"(3) A court when imposing a fine for an offence committed under this Act, shall have regard to the cost of restoring the damage caused by the offence.".
Essentially the Minister has taken on board the essence of Deputy Gilmore's argument contained in this amendment in her amendment No. 29. I am delighted Deputy Gilmore made such an impression on the Minister that she has decided to substantially improve the Bill. Unfortunately, Deputy Gilmore cannot be present and I am substituting for him at short notice. He is endeavouring to address the classic issue of oil spillages around our coast when, time and time again the question arises of who will foot the bill, the relevant local authority or the polluter. This amendment seeks to place the responsibility where it rightly lies. In the event of a case being taken to the courts and a judge has the option of fining the person responsible for breaching the provisions of the relevant Act——
I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but I should advise him that this amendment was discussed earlier with amendment No. 28.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 13, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:
"(3) A court in determining the amount of a fine under this section may have regard to the cost (if any) of remedying the effects of the offence (if any).".
This amendment covers substantially the same issue. I yield to the Minister's amendment which I think will fit the bill.
Amendment No. 32 is in the names of Deputies Kavanagh and Howlin. I observe that amendment No. 33 is related. Therefore, I suggest that we discuss amendments Nos. 32 and 33 together, by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 13, line 39, to delete "Notwithstanding subsection (1), the" and insert "The".
The import of these amendments is to deal with the provisions of section 11 and the agencies that may prosecute an offender. First the primacy of the Environmental Protection Agency must be copper-fastened. Certainly we would want to do that. Section 11 (1) declares that the agency will prosecute. Obviously, the Environmental Protection Agency will be the prime agency, but section 11 (2) gives power to the Minister, by way of regulation, to specify other persons, including herself to prosecute.
The first thing I wish to achieve in these amendments is to underscore clearly that, in all circumstances—except exceptional ones which do not readily come to mind — the agency should institute such prosecution. Second, in terms of the language used, notwithstanding section 11 (1), the reference to the agency is a duplication leading to rather difficult and awkward English which emanates occasionally from the draftman's office. Deleting "notwithstanding subsection (1) the"— which clearly gives the agency power to prosecute — and the words, "and the Agency" from the last line of the subsection saves a certain amount of duplication and, I humbly contend, is more readable English.
I concur with the Deputy's last point and am happy to accept amendment No. 33.
I am not in a position to accept amendment No. 32. Although the agency will be the primary body to deal with summary prosecutions, other authorities will have responsibilities and prosecution powers, for example, local authorities will have responsibilities in relation to the noise regulations to be introduced; other bodies may be responsible for genetically modified organisms. This is why it is necessary to retain the phrase "notwithstanding subsection (1)". It is also my intention to make the legislation as clear and concise as possible. Therefore, I am happy to accept Deputy Howlin's amendment No. 33.
Obviously I am pleased that we are progressing in making the Bill as readable as possible. I welcome the Minister's acceptance of my amendment No. 33. Although we are making more substantial progress than I expected, I still do no want to waste time. I believe the phrase "notwithstanding subsection (1)" is irrelevant. Subsection (1) provides that: "An offence under this Act may be prosecuted summarily by the agency". My amendment proposes that subsection (2) should simply read: "The Minister may, by regulations,...". I believe the phrase "notwithstanding subsection (1)" is redundant. If the Minister is convinced there is a need for this extra bit of English, I accept that.
On the face of it this term looks confusing, as the Deputy suggests, but I am advised by the parliamentary draftsman that if the term "notwithstanding subsection (1)" was not included in subsection (2) there would be confusion or conflict between the powers in subsection (1) and the powers in subsection (2).
I believe the Minister.
For that reason I have no option but to accept the advice of the parliamentary draftsman, much as I might admire some of the very fine amendments put down by Deputy Howlin.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 13, line 42, to delete "and the agency."
We now come to amendment No. 34. Amendments Nos. 35 to 42, inclusive, are related. If satisfactory, we shall deal with them together. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 14, line 35, to delete "An" and substitute "Subject to subsection (6), an".
My amendments Nos. 34 and 38 arise from amendments proposed to this section on Committee Stage and will give effect to the spirit of those amendments. These amendments will allow the agency, where they believe that evidence in relation to an offence may be removed or destroyed, to apply to the District Court for a warrant authorising entry to any premises, including a private dwelling, without first having to be refused entry or, in the case of a private dwelling, without having to give 24 hours notice of his intention. I believe my amendments meet the aims of all the other amendments to this section with one exception, that is, amendment No. 37. The power being accorded to the Minister under this amendment would be too wide. I have raised this matter with the Attorney General and he would not be willing to consider such a wide-ranging provision without a full list of the relevant enactments and the functions under these enactments to be given to an authorised officer first being set out. Even if he approved the provision, which is far from likely, a schedule of the enactments and functions would have to be incorporated in the Bill.
We need to address a number of issues in this debate as each amendment has a different import which needs to be taken into account. Therefore, I will go through the amendments one by one.
Amendment No. 35 seeks to insert after the word "occupier" the words "or under and in accordance with a warrant of the District Court". It is clear from section 13 (2) as it stands that the authorised person would have to give 24 hours notice in writing before he would have the power to enter a private dwelling. We believe that provision is far too restrictive. If the District Court gives a person the power to enter a premises, that should supersede the provision of having to give 24 hours notice. This would be an improvement to the Bill.
I am disappointed that the Minister believes the powers proposed in amendment No. 37 are too broad and that the authority under this legislation should not be given to authorised individuals to act in regard to other environmental legislation. If the Attorney General has a difficulty with this proposal the enactments can be specified. I am anxious to ensure that the authority we give to people to act in accordance with this legislation should also apply to other relevant and linked environmental legislation passed by these Houses in recent years. If it is acceptable for a person, by regulation, to have authority to act under this legislation surely it is acceptable to give them the same authority in relation to other linked legislation which is designed to protect the environment. I do not understand the logic of the case put forward by the Minister or the difficulties the Attorney General has in regard to this proposal. As I said, if necessary, we can specify the other pollution Acts which have been passed by this House in recent years. I would be loath to have my amendment dismissed because of a lack of specificity in relation to particular enactments. Perhaps the Minister would consider putting down an amendment specifying the enactments, if she agreed with the principle of it.
My amendment No. 39 seeks to amend section 13 (6) by providing that: "Where an authorised person in the exercise of his powers under this section is prevented from entering any premises or from exercising any other powers...". The extra clout proposed in my amendment would apply not only to the barring of entry to a premises but to preventing an authorised person from exercising other powers conferred on him under this legislation. This would give the officer acting for the agency under this legislation additional powers and scope which are warranted and necessary rather than simply confine him to the authority to enter premises. I ask the Minister to reply to this point. Assuming my amendment No. 39 is accepted section 13 (6) would provide that: "Where an authorised person in the exercise of his powers under this section is prevented from entering any premises, or from exercising any other power, the authorised person or the person by whom he was appointed may apply to the District Court...".
My amendment No. 40 proposes to insert the words "without notice to any other person" after the word "Court", while amendment No. 41 proposes to insert the words "and the Court may grant such a warrant" after the word "entry". If all my amendments were accepted section 13 (6) would read as follows:
Where an authorised person in the exercise of his powers under this section is prevented from entering any premises, or from exercising any other power, the authorised person or the person by whom he was appointed may apply to the District Court without notice to any other person for a warrant authorising such entry and the Court may grant such a warrant.
I wish to go through these amendments again in order of importance. I am advised that it is necessary to be specific when giving power to the District Court to issue such a warrant. Maybe the Minister thinks I am being over-specific but I am advised it is necessary. Maybe she will give her legal advice on this point. I am sure she would not disagree with the need to give power to a person designated under this Bill to do more than simply enter a premises. If they are obstructed from exercising any other power under the Bill it should be the subject of an application to the District Court also.
Amendment No. 40 proposes to insert the words "without notice to any other person" after the word "Court", so that there will not be any difficulty in achieving an authorisation from the court because of a lack of consultation. It would be specific and clear in the legislation that notice would not be required to be given to any person. If that was not spelt out in clear detail there might be some complication or difficulty in the District Court issuing such a warrant.
The Minister said that her amendments adequately covered amendment No. 36, but that is not the case. We are concerned about the powers of authorised persons. In law at present a private dwelling is protected and nobody has the right to enter unless a search warrant is obtained. Usually the Garda would carry out the necessary investigations inside the house and our amendment seeks to insert "except where the authorised person has obtained a warrant from a court to enter the dwelling without prior notice".... There might be occasions when the authorities might not wish to give prior notice, the element of surprise might be required. It could also be the case there might not be anybody in occupation in the dwelling house in question or it might be difficult to get someone to answer a knock on the door. It is important that the due processes of law are gone through. Instead of just bursting through doors and gaining entry that way, they should have a court warrant.
As I said, there are occasions when you may not wish to inform anybody of your intention to enter a dwelling and to investigate what is going on in a dwelling house the person making the approach should have a warrant. The Minister has not adequately covered that element by her amendment.
I support the amendment in the name of Deputy Gilmore because it is a good one. Is the Minister trying to cover a point of principle of law? If not, will she accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment? I can visualise a situation where some form of pollution is being caused from within a private dwelling. I could cite a couple of cases in my own constituency. If 24 hours' notice is to be given the offending cause could be removed until the inspector had made his call and, as soon as he left, could be reinstated. If Deputy Gilmore's amendment is not accepted there will be a significant gap in the legislation through which a coach and four could be driven by some difficult residents or an individual. In one of the oldest parts of the city, Stoneybatter, there are piggeries within private dwellings which pollute the whole neighbourhood but we have been unable to do anything about them although people have to live next door to them. Deputy Gilmore's amendment would ensure that this sort of thing would be stopped once and for all. The stench certainly pollutes the air and there may be other health risks.
I support Deputy Gilmore's amendment for the same reasons I gave on Committee Stage. I hope we will move forward to reach the unchartered territory from section 21 on.
There is confusion in regard to my amendment. It is much wider than the amendment tabled by Deputy Gilmore because his would require the authorised officer to get the warrant and to go to the dwelling in the company of a member of the Garda Síochána.
Yes, but without notice.
My amendment does that but does not require the presence of a member of the Garda Síochána. My amendment No. 38 would mean that section 13 (6) reads: "where an authorised person in the exercise of his powers under this section is prevented from entering any premises, or where after he has reason to believe that evidence related to a suspected offence under this Act may be removed or destroyed, the authorised person or the person by whom he has been appointed may apply to the District Court for a warrant authorising such entry". Obviously if he has reason to believe that the giving of the notice will have the evidence removed then he does not require to give the notice and he can go to the court to get a warrant. That covers what the Deputies seek and it is wider than Deputy Gilmore's amendment which restricts that part, to be given only in the context of the authorised officer being accompanied by a member of the Garda Síochána. That is not necessary in all situations, in the vast majority of cases it would be a burden on the Garda which they do not require and which is unnecessary.
Will the Minister of State reply to the other amendments?
I thought I had replied to them in my initial comments. In regard to amendment No. 41, it is obvious that discretion for granting a warrant lies with the District Court. I do not think there is any need to state it. The Bill is quite clear that the authorised person can apply to the District Court for a warrant and obviously if a warrant is applied for the court will make the decision. We do not need to state the obvious.
I think we do.
I am advised that there is no need for that. I took advice on amendment No. 37 and the Attorney General was quite clear that any other acts covered by this Bill would have to be specified because it would be unsatisfactory not to do so. The Deputy is trying to cover a situation in relation to an inquiry where the agency would be called in or the Government of the day may decide that the agency would be the body to carry out the inquiry. We may deal with this if we get to the section dealing with inquiries later on but, obviously, those powers exist, not just in relation to this Bill but also in relation to the legislation which established tribunals of inquiry. Obviously it is open to the Minister, in consultation with any other Minister, to add to the Second Schedule of other Acts to which this Bill may refer. It is not necessary, therefore, to accept Deputy Howlin's amendment.
Amendment No. 35 has already been discussed with amendment No. 34.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 14, line 38, after "entry" to insert "except where the authorised person has obtained a warrant from a court to enter the dwelling without prior notice, and the authorised person is accompanied by a member of the Garda Síochána".
I wish to make a brief comment on this amendment.
It must be very brief because it is deemed to have been discussed already.
Our concern was that owners or occupiers of premises should not be forewarned in relation to entry. Of course that is the tendency in regard to environmental health officers visiting restaurants and hotel kitchens where they tell them a week in advance that they intend to call. If you give a person notice he or she knows that you are alerted and we are anxious that there should be an element of surprise in these cases. We were anxious to have an element of surprise, that it would be a matter of getting a court warrant and then entering the premises and surprising the occupant. May I take it that the Minister has encompassed a surprise element in the amendment?
The Deputy is placing the Chair in an invidious position in that the Minister of State has already replied to the discussion on these amendments, including the one to which he has referred.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 14, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:
"(3) The Minister may by regulations provide that an authorised person for the purposes of this Act may also be appointed to exercise powers under such other legislation regarding the environment as may be specified under such conditions as may be specified.".
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 15, line 20, after "premises," to insert "or where he has reason to believe that evidence related to a suspected offence under this Act may be removed or destroyed,".
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 15, line 20, after "premises," to insert "or from exercising any other power,".
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 15, line 22, after "Court" to insert "without notice to any other person".
Although this amendment has been discussed with a number of related amendments, is it implicit in the Minister's amendment that notice will not have to be given to a third party?
I am sorry, Deputy, I forgot to reply to that point. In line five of page 15, it states in relation to an authorised officer entering a premises that:
as he, having regard to all the circumstances, considers necessary for the purposes of, and exercising any power conferred on him by or under, this Act.
On a further point of clarification, my specific question is whether he can apply for a warrant without notice to anybody?
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 15, line 22, after "entry" to insert "and the Court may grant such a warrant".
On the advice of the Minister that it is redundant, I will withdraw my amendment.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 17, lines 26 and 27, after "Government" to insert "with the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas".
As this has been adequately debated on Committee Stage, I will withdraw the amendment.
We now come to amendment No. 47 in the name of the same Deputy. Amendment No. 48 is an alternative and amendments Nos. 49 and 50 are related. I suggest, therefore, that we debate amendments Nos. 47 to 51, inclusive, together. Is that agreed?
I contend that amendment No. 50 is unrelated.
I can assure the Deputy that careful consideration is given to these matters by my office. Unless the Deputy is very strong in his opinion — I could look at it again——
If I argue the case——
It is unusual to challenge the Chair on such matters.
I defer to your judgment, A Cheann Comhairle.
Thank you, Deputy, I assure you that my deduction is right. If amendment No. 47 is negatived, amendment No. 48 cannot be moved by Deputy Gilmore.
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 17, to delete lines 33 and 34 and substitute the following:
"(d) a senior member of one of the third-level environmental studies faculties within the State,".
We are now into uncharted territory so perhaps we will go a little slower. My amendment refers to section 21 which deals with the appointment of the director general, and more particularly with the committee set up to appoint the director general. In the section, a list is given of the bodies who will comprise the committee. In my amendment I seek to substitute the following:
"(d) a senior member of one of the third-level environmental studies faculties within the State,"
for "the Managing Director of the Industrial Development Authority,"
The composition of the committee set up under this section is totally unbalanced. Three of its six members are Government or semi-State employees, for example, the Secretary to the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and the Managing Director of the Industrial Development Authority. The Minister and her Department claim that this agency will be independent. The Minister's definition of "independent" suggests that she knows as much about the English language as she does about the commitment to environmental protection and ecological sustainability. It is totally unacceptable that this committee, which excludes representatives from consumer, agriculture, tourism and fishing bodies, the Confederation of Irish Industry and, most importantly, environmental organisations, provides that the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority has the automatic right to a place and inevitably a major input into the role of supplying lists from which the Minister appoints the directors.
The IDA should have no influence whatsoever in this committee and absolutely no influence in the make-up of any committee attached to this agency. The IDA are ten years behind contemporary Irish life and half a century behind in environmental awareness. How can the Minister possibly have an organisation like the IDA on the board of an independent environmental body when they are pro-development, pro-industry and represent everything that is anathema to environmental policy? Politically, the Industrial Development Authority should not be let next or near the Environmental Protection Agency. There is no one in the IDA with an ounce of environmental sense or who knows anything about the environment.
Earlier this afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to Deputy Garland's contribution on the establishment of an employment committee and I must say that it qualified for one of the most remarkable contributions made in this House for a long time, equalled perhaps only by the one we have just heard, because it is very much on the same theme. Earlier this afternoon Deputy Garland began his contribution by making a defence of the Luddites and he has continued on the same theme in this contribution.
In general, I believe the principle being established in this section is good and that the directors of a State agency are to be appointed some committee outside the party political domain should be established to recommend the names of the potential appointees. I would have some criticism of the way it is being done in the section. For example, the committee should recommend the names in order of preference and there is probably too much discretion given to the Minister to ignore the committee's recommendations. I have some slight worries about the composition of the committee.
We could all come up with our six favourite constituencies from which the six members of this committee could be drawn. The idea of involving the Council for the Status of Women, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, An Taisce and the Department of the Environment is perfectly correct. Involving the Industrial Development Authority is giving a weight to a particular sector of Irish economic life that is unwarranted. The Industrial Development Authority have a remit for the promotion of manufacturing industry. Clearly there is a particular interest on the part of the Industrial Development Authority to promote manufacturing industry and there are occasions when the promotion of manufacturing industry comes into conflict with protection of the environment. It would be far better if the wider business-industrial-employment area was given representation. I do not often argue for representation for the Federation of Irish Employers but I think it would make more sense if the balancing representation to the Congress of Trade Unions were through the normal social partner area rather than through the Industrial Development Authority. The Industrial Development Authority have a particular role to play in Irish life, which is to promote Irish industry. Obviously, they will want to get the quickest and shortest possible way of promoting industry. It would be a better and safer method if the Federation of Irish Employers were involved since they would have a wider remit than the IDA who are purely concerned with manufacturing industry.
I do not disagree with the criticisms made by Deputy Garland of the Industrial Development Authority. When it comes to job creation one of the first things we need to do is to abolish the Industrial Development Authority because of their abysmal record.
Any examination of their record and the amount of money spent over the last ten years will show that they have been an abysmal failure. They are great at promoting their own image. This is not the first occasion I have said that in this House; I recall in 1979 referring to the artificial figures for job creation announced every year with absolute credulity by the newspapers. I contested them in this House. I have no remit for the Industrial Development Authority and I agree that the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority should be deleted from this list of people. I am proposing also that the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women be deleted and substituted by the chairperson of the Employment Equality Agency which has a more direct and appropriate relationship. The specific job of the Employment Equality Agency is to ensure that women get an equal chance in these appointments. That is the reason I propose that the chairperson of the Employment Equality Agency be substituted in place of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women.
I am also proposing in amendment No. 49 that we add to the list the chairpersons of two other national organisations concerned with the protection of the environment. One of the extraordinary things about this list is that other than the chairperson of An Taisce — out of six — that is the only one who can be said to belong to an organisation directly concerned with the environment. That is unbalanced in my view and I hope the Minister will see fit to accept my amendment.
I have serious reservations about the matter of appointments. The trend and fashion is to remove from political influence these sorts of appointments. In reality, just like Mr. Justice O'Hanlon, none of these people is answerable to the electorate. At least——
The Deputy should not refer to an outside person in that fashion. It is out of order.
You are quite right, a Cheann Comhairle, and I apologise. It is a great thing now to take these appointments out of the political spectrum but that means we are removing them from answerability to the people. We are diminishing the power of our people. One of my criticisms of this legislation generally and, indeed, much of the legislation we pass in this House is that we are removing power and influence from people especially over local matters. That is why I argued strongly on Committee Stage in relation to the licensing procedure that it be done centrally rather than locally.
In section 21 — to which these amendments relate — we are proposing a mould of appointment which is all very fine Dublin 4 stuff — but it will remove power from the elected representatives of the people and, thereby, from the people. I have serious reservations about this trend. In my view it is much better that we have clear political appointments and that the politicians who make those appointments are answerable to the people if things go wrong. Here nobody is responsible. If things go wrong and if there has been a disastrous appointment of a director general, because of this ménage-type of committee, nobody is responsible and the Minister can wash her hands of the appointment. The matter could drift for years and we could find ourselves in an impossible situation. However, in saying those few words I hope, even though the Minister did not accept my amendment on Committee Stage, she may consider it appropriate to do so now.
First, I disagree fundamentally with Deputy Mitchell. The establishment of such a committee to short list recommendations for the Minister to appoint is a welcome trend and should be followed in all similar public offices. Frankly, there is no record to support the contention that the politicising of offices is a good trend, the record is the reverse. The number of bad appointments to State boards over decades by Governments of all political hues and which allowed practices to go on, without checking them, are testimony to the need for change.
Change, but not this change.
I welcome the trend in this legislation in that it is not simply political friends of the Minister who are appointed, where if one slapped the right backs at the right time one could expect to get the job later on. That sort of situation obtained for too long in this country and I am afraid the consequences across the economy are visible from that clientist-shoneen type of politics. I am glad we are moving away from it and the quicker the better. I do not think those appointees were accountable because they were appointed by a Minister. When names of people of exceptional ability were handed around, because they were not the right colour at the right time they were excluded from appointment. It was regarded as a weakness to appoint somebody of the wrong political colour. The move away from that type of appointment is to be welcomed.
In relation to the actual listing of people who will make up this committee the Minister has done a good job. I support the inclusion of most of the people suggested. Mention has been made of the Industrial Development Authority. I am no great fan of the IDA. God knows I have criticised them often enough. The green flat earthism we have heard twice today in this House does no service to the cause of trying to create jobs in this country. The 300,000 people out there who are looking for jobs will thank us in no small way when we talk in jocose or simple terms of technology being bad in the most basic and luddite of terms which is patent and absurd nonsense.
It is all right to have 300,000 people unemployed——
A Cheann Comhairle, I once heard Deputy Garland's solution to the job creation problem in this country. He put it so forcibly that if we all had half a job we would have twice as many jobs. He did not mention, of course, that we would all have half pay as well. That sort of simplistic nonsense does not substitute for thoughtful and rational policy. We could all come forward with additional people whom we would consider appropriate in relation to this panel of selection. I am happy enough with the Minister of State's list and have not suggested anyone else. However, I raised an eyebrow, in looking at the amendments tabled, when I noted that the Democratic Left were suggesting that the chief executive of the Federation of Irish Employers should be included but I am sure there is great merit in this suggestion.
I am tempted to support the Fine Gael suggestion that the chairpersons of two national organisations concerned with the protection of the environment should be included. While the notion that the only environmental organisation that should be represented is An Taisce is insufficient the Fine Gael amendment is too vague. It would need to specify the organisations because who would determine which two national organisations should be given this important role? It would be necessary to specify the two organisations so that we could discuss the merits or demerits of their involvement.
While I do not want to take issue with the Ceann Comhairle my amendment has nothing to do with the committee who will make the selection. Amendment No. 50 deals with something quite different. It seeks to ensure that the director general, once appointed, would be made anex-officio member of the board of the Industrial Development Authority. There is a concern that at times industrial policy is at variance with proper environmental policy. Part of the reason for putting legislation such as this in place is to set out a framework under which industrial policy would advance. It would be a great advantage if the person whom we consider to be suitable to steer this agency was also given a role in relation to industrial policy. That person should be on the board of directors of the Industrial Development Authority to ensure they take into account the views of the agency in coming to any decision. In this respect the IDA would be coupled in a tangible way with the progressive work of the Environmental Protection Agency in relation to policy formulation.
On Committee Stage I said I saw a great future for this country with regard to green technology. Jobs could be created in the food processing sector based on purity, quality and pollutant free foods. We need not be afraid of this. We can lay down the most stringent standards and they will be both positive and beneficial even in relation to job creation. This link should be made and I exhort the Minister of State to accept amendment No. 50 so that it can be made in a tangible way. We should not just be aspirational. I hope the Minister of State will accept the logic behind this suggestion.
Each person who sets out to draw up an appropriate selection committee would probably come up with a similar list of people but perhaps different organisations. If I had suggested some of those proposed in the amendments rather than the ones I mentioned I would probably have got some of the people I listed but, perhaps, this is normal in looking seriously and aggressively at legislation of this kind which is the function of Deputies.
I was keen to ensure that the director general and directors would be appointed by the Government on the recommendation of the selection committee and that that selection committee would be as broadly based as possible. Lest there be any misunderstanding, we are not picking a group of environmentalists to review licences, issues new licences or to carry out a whole host of tasks which are being provided for in this legislation. What we are doing is choosing a director general and a full-time board of directors who will be given a very important role and function in relation to the way the agency will operate. They will be the governing body of this agency on a full-time basis and will fulfil an important function in relation to licensing. I said on Committee Stage that some of them will have to have particular expertise. In addition, they will need management skills and be capable of making decisions.
When I set out to choose an appropriate selection committee almost every group that one could imagine lobbied to be included. Initially, I have to admit that instead of including the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority I considered including the chief executive of the Conferderation of Irish Industry. At that time I was lobbied by the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries, by the representatives of farmers' groups and a host of other people. I decided, rather than choose one group to represent industry from FICI, the CII and the Federation of Irish Employers, who, in fairness, I have to admit did not lobby me, that it would be much more appropriate to pick the Industrial Development Authority because they have responsibility for the development of industry, including agriculture and the sectors covered by the CII and FICI. I felt for that reason it would be more appropriate to pick the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority. In addition, the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority is accustomed to assessing management skills and making decisions in relation to the appointment of staff and so on. He is also a person who is at the forefront with regard to the formulation of industrial policy.
I should add, in response to Deputies Mitchell and Garland, that so far as environmental matters are concerned if an inappropriate industry locates here this is not the fault of the Industrial Development Authority. If our planning and permit procedures are not satisfactory that is the fault of our legislation and controls rather than the fault of the body charged with the task of aggressively selling Ireland and promoting industrial development.
I do not accept for one moment that we must encourage industry to locate here at any price; it is not a policy to seek jobs for the sake of them. Environmental considerations are of the utmost importance in deciding whether an industry is acceptable. The people who will make the decisions and lay down the controls and regulations under which that industry will have to operate are not the Industrial Development Authority but either the local authorities, An Bord Pleanála and now, in relation to licences, the Environmental Protection Agency. I believe they are the appropriate body so far as environmental standards are concerned.
My decision to appoint the Secretary to the Government and the Secretary to the Department of the Environment was questioned. It is normal practice in appointing selection committees — this applies in the case of An Bord Pleanála — to include the Secretary of the Department of the Environment. The reason I included the Secretary to the Government is that that is the kind of person involved in TLAC. Since that body were established, they have worked well and many brighter and younger civil servants have been promoted. The traditional practice whereby one serves out one's time and one will get to the top does not necessarily apply any longer. The TLAC have worked extremely well and are seen to be fair and above board.
Many young civil servants who have not been there that long have been given the opportunity to go right to the top of Government Departments. In recent years a large number of younger civil servants were appointed to management positions at both Assistant Secretary and Secretary level. Their experience will be invaluable in making recommendations to Government in relation to the appointment of the director general and directors.
Obviously, I was keen to ensure that workers in industry would be represented by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and it is appropriate, therefore, that the general secretary of that body should be involved in the selection committee. We will have succeeded in relation to the environment when we have trade unionists, industrialists and farmers who are environmentalists. If we keep having this matter off to environmental organisations only we will never succeed. It is important, therefore, that the representative of workers, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, should be involved.
About two years ago the Irish Congress of Trade Unions produced an excellent position paper on the environment. They are concerned, are pro-active in relation to environmental matters and are constantly in consultation with Government Departments in relation to environmental issues. It is wrong to assume that because somebody is an official of a trade union that their whole concern is the pay and conditions of their workers. They have a wider brief that they exercise all the time, and I welcome that.
The inclusion of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women on this selection committee is significant. It is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that a representative of women's organisations and women's point of view has been specifically written into legislation. One of the reasons women do not make it to top decision-making positions in this country is that they are not there at the selection stage. The chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women is, I believe, a more appropriate inclusion on the selection committee than the chief executive of the Employment Equality Agency. However, one could argue that it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Both groups are obviously concerned about equality, about ensuring that women have equal opportunities in employment and a fair chance of getting on to key decision-making bodies. Because the council is an umbrella for a whole host of different organisations, including women who are not involved in employment at all, and who might never become the concern of an employment equality agency because they are in the home and are not, according to our definition of work, gainfully employed, they are more representative of such women than the Employment Equality Agency. However, I accept that the important thing is to have a representative of the female point of view on this committee.
Some environmental organisations did not wish to be involved in the select committee. They do not want to take part in a State board or a body that has to do with Government policy on any legislation that might be passed by the Oireachtas. Their view is that it might prejudice their independence. That was the view expressed to me by Greenpeace. If one accepts Deputy Mitchell's definition, there are not that many nationally organised general environmental protection organisations. Many of them have a specific role in relation to a clearly defined area of the environment. The one with the widest brief, the longest experience, that is beter organised nationally and that is more involved in the kind of activities that this agency would be involved in, is An Taisce. That is why An Taisce is included. They are also the prescribed body for the purposes of the Planning Acts and are known to be a very responsible environmental organisation. That is not to say that some of the others are not.
At one stage it was suggested to me that the Green Party should be involved in the selection committee. A political party would be a most inappropriate representative to have on a selection committee of this kind, even if it was the Green Party. Deputy Garland did not seek to have the Green Party included, so I presume that is no longer the policy.
In relation to Deputy Howlin's amendment that the chief executive would beex officio on the board of the IDA, I thought initially that it was not such a bad idea. However, on further consideration I think it would prejudice the work of the director general if he were to be involved in the IDA. It has been said that one of the difficulties for local authorities is that there is a conflict between their developmental role and their responsibilities in relation to environmental protection and legislation. The same might apply if the director general were involved in the IDA. The IDA is the primary body involved in industrial development. If the director general were to be ex officio on the board he would be privy to the IDA's views and policies on new development in Ireland. He would then, in his capacity as director general, be involved in licensing, controlling and, therefore, monitoring these activities, and it would be undesirable, from the point of view of the independence of the agency and would certainly lead to some confusion and probably some concern on the part of the public at large. If the director general were involved and some controversial proposal that had been brought in by the IDA got a licence, many people might question whether the decision was made independently. However, in principle it is a good thing, certainly in relation to the board of the IDA, that there would be on that board and on State boards generally people who are concerned with environmental protection. Just as we need to involve industry and farming organisations in environmental matters, we need to involve environmentalists in industry, agriculture and so on.
At the end of the day we have chosen a selection committee that is representative and broadly-based. Various skills and expertise will be brought together. People from different backgrounds will bring their differing experiences to it. The composition of the selection committee is comprehensive. It is generous to all the concerns that had to be taken on board. It involves the main sector of Irish life in the selection process. Industry is represented; workers are represented. Government are represented by the Secretary of a Department and the Secretary to the Government; the public service is represented by two individuals in senior ranking positions; An Taisce are represented and the women's point of view is represented. I am not at liberty, and it would not be desirable to exclude anybody that I have proposed in this Bill. Neither would it be desirable at this late stage to extend the selection committee. It would be quite unwieldy and very difficult for it to operate if there were eight people on the selection committee. I envisage that as many as possible of the selection committee would be involved in the interviews. To be interviewed by six people is fairly adequate, but if that were extended to eight it would become unwieldy. I have tried to keep the selection committee as small but as broadly-based as possible. I think on balance we have got it right. It has been generally acceptable, as far as I can see, to most people I have discussed it with. Some people might argue as to who should be on the committee but nobody has argued against including the representatives that have been included here.
This debate has been broadened to include Luddites, jobs and job sharing. I did not seek to widen it but I would like to nail Deputy Howlin's assertion very firmly. I have never, either in this House or outside it, suggested that everyone should work a 20 hour week with a corresponding reduction in pay. That is not Green Party policy. I did refer to job sharing as one of the methods of solving our unemployment problem.
I tried to get an overview of this debate in section 21 (2). I agree that we must put a limit on the number of people who will serve on the selection committee and six is probably a good number. I wonder if we could get some kind of consensus on this because the concept of consensus is something of which our party are very fond.
It does not extend to Councillor Richard Green.
I am afraid it does not extend to Councillor Richard Green.
We will not complain about the selection committee.
Councillor Green was more green than Green.
Indeed. The Minister made a side swipe at me when she spoke of the need to have people other than environmentalists on the committee. I do not think anybody referred to that. I think we are all quite happy to have the Secretary to the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, the Secretary of the ICTU and so forth. I do not think anyone is suggesting anything other than that it must be broader based. What the Minister is trying to do here is to in put a trade union person on the one hand and put in a counterweight by having somebody from industry on the other and that is a very good concept, bearing in mind the "them and us" attitude that is a reality of life in industry at the moment.
Deputy Mitchell agrees with me in regard to the managing director of the IDA not being a member. Unfortunately, Deputies Gilmore and Howlin have a touching faith in the ability of this organisation who have proved themselves to have created 7,000 jobs in the last 11 years at a cost of £500,000 per job, who have shown extremely poor negotiating skills with their efforts to get Merrell Down into a green field site in Cork. These are the people whom the Minister feels have the management skills to be involved in the selection procedure for the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency. I do not share the touching faith of the Deputies and the Minister. I agree with Deputy Mitchell that we do not want the managing director of the IDA to be in any way involved with this agency. On reflection, I agree that my amendment is a little woolly and that the Fine Gael amendment is woolly in so far as it concerns the two national organisations involved with the environment. I would have no problem with the chairperson of the Employment Equality Agency, except that it would add an extra person to the committee, and I am inclined to oppose the Fine Gael amendment on both counts.
I agree with Deputy Howlin that amendment No. 50 should not really have been taken with this amendment because it is not related. I agree with the Minister that the director general's appointment as anex officio director of the IDA would be a great mistake and would compromise the agency. I strongly oppose amendment No. 50. As a compromise, will the Minister accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment to substitute the chief executive of the FIE instead of the IDA? On that basis I would be happy to withdraw my amendment. The IDA are not the ideal people to be involved in this.
I move amendment No. 48:
In page 17, to delete lines 33 and 34 and substitute the following:
"(d) the Chief Executive of the Federation of Irish Employers,".
I would like to give the Minister an opportunity to accept Deputy Garland's suggestion so I would like the amendment to be put.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 17, to delete line 37 and substitute the following:
"(f) the Chairperson of the Employment Equality Agency, and
(g) the Chairpersons of two other national organisations concerned with the protection of the environment.".
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 17, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
"(3) The Director General shall beex officio a member of the board of the Industrial Development Authority.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 18, line 2, after "period," to insert the following:
(c) the office concerned is vacant,".
This is to add another subsection to the categories within which it might not be possible to find a person in each case. It could happen that the office which would be one of the designated categories, could be vacant. This would be a more comprehensive section with this subsection included.
I would not be happy to accept this amendment. It is not a good idea to leave offices vacant for any appreciable period. Where a vacancy occurs or where there are difficulties in relation to an illness or something, the agency, subject to ministerial approval, can be given a public servant to carry out the duties for the time being. The amendment proposed by Deputy Howlin would in theory give the agency the power not to fill vacancies as they occur. That would be undesirable.
I do not accept the logic of the Minister's argument but it is not important enough to delay the House, so I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 18, to delete line 27.
In what has probably been one of the longest debates on a batch of amendments in the course of this Report Stage, we have just debated how the committee to nominate or to recommend the prospective director general and the directors of the agency are to be composed. In what was probably the longest contribution in this Report Stage debate, the Minister went to great lengths to explain why she had fixed on the six people concerned to compose this committee. Now we come to subsection (6) and this extraordinary line 27, which says that the Minister may by order amend subsection (2). In other words, having told us why she is going to select these six people, she now has a clause in the Bill which says that having done all that, having failed to accept the compromise consensus approach suggested by Deputy Garland, she now wants to retain the right to change it by order. The Minister in office at the moment prefers a composition in this form and another Minister might prefer a different six entirely and may by order decide to amend that. Prior to the appointment of a director or a group of directors a Minister might for his own reasons, because he does not get the nominees he would like, from a committee composed in this way, decide to appoint six different people. Having decided to set down in the Bill who should compose this committee, having defended that in the course of the debate in this House, having rejected amendments and suggestions to improve or extend it, the Minister then wants to retain the right to change it herself, if the whim should take her or one of her successors. That is an extraordinary provision. It should be deleted. If it is not, it will undermine the general rhetoric of independence that has surrounded the approach to this Bill so far.
There seems to be a misunderstanding about what the Minister can do here, so it is important that I intervene. The Minister does not wish to have the sort of power Deputy Gilmore is talking about. If an order is made under this section, it must be positively approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas, otherwise it does not take effect. What we are talking about here is changing the selection committee. In normal circumstances the selection committee would not be changed, but an organisation might no longer exist. For example, under the Planning Acts there are a number of bodies prescribed and one of them no longer exists, that is the National Monuments Advisory Committee. It is possible that An Taisce could decide to amalgamate with some other organisation or change their name and they might no longer exist in their present form. It should not be necessary in that situation to bring in a Bill. It is appropriate that the Minister should make an order which would have to be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. That guarantees the kind of independence about which Deputy Gilmore is concerned. It is being done for reasons of efficiency. If an organisation becomes defunct, amalgamates with another or changes its name, it would be unwieldy to have to bring in legislation. It makes far more sense to be able to change matters by a simple order which would require the approval of the Oireachtas.
I was inclined to accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment and am still so inclined. With the greatest respect, the Minister has not stated where in the Bill it provides that such an order must be laid before both Houses. The Minister is doing us a disservice in asking us to take this on trust. In saying that, I intend no disrespect. I accept that there may be changes. The Secretary to the Government will not change. The title of the Department of the Environment might change. In theory an organisation like An Taisce may disappear, but I hope it never will. Perhaps the Irish Congress of Trade Unions might disappear. The Minister might be afraid that the committee would be unable to act in the appointment of a director general. If so, why not accept an amendment providing that if any of these bodies should cease to exist they would be struck off the list and replaced by another body?
Section 7 (3) makes the position quite clear. It states:
(3) Where it is proposed to make an order under subsection (2) or under section 21 (6) (a), (100), 101 or 102 a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.
If Deputy Mitchell becomes Minister, perhaps the IDA will be abolished. I accept that Deputies do not want the Minister of the day to change the composition of the selection committee for the sake of it. It would happen for only very good reason and with the approval of the Oireachtas. An organisation may not necessarily cease to exist; it could amalgamate with another and become a different organisation. The provision is designed to cover the type of difficulty which could arise. If an organisation became defunct, another could not be nominated instead. If An Taisce decided to amalgamate or become a different body we might not have a representative of an environmental organisation on the selection committee. If the Council for the Status of Women became a different body we would not be free to nominate somebody else unless we had a procedure of this kind. That is why it is so important and subject to approval.
Perhaps it is a pity that the Minister when this was being drafted did not make it clear that it is designed to cover only situations where a named organisation either ceases to exist or amalgamates. However, she has made it clear that there are two safeguards. It applies only in situations such as I have mentioned and the order would be brought before the House for approval. In those circumstances I am prepared, somewhat reluctantly, to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 18, line 32, after "candidates" to insert "in the order of the committee's preference".
This deals with recommendations made by the committee in the nomination of a prospective director general or directors. The Committee have the power to select three candidates and to recommend them to the Minister. The appointment is then made by the Minister. It would be advisable if the committee were required to nominate the candidates in order of their preference. It very often happens that, when a selection board or a committee nominate prospective candidates for appointment by a Minister or a public body, the first-named candidate is passed over, sometimes for dubious reasons. Various factors come into play, including the candidate's political preference, the organisations to which he or she might belong and whether those organisations are open or secret. One secret organisation was mentioned in the course of an exchange in the House earlier. Depending on who the Minister might be, there might be a secret society appointment taking place. It is desirable that the preference of the committee should be clear and made publicly known so that if the Minister decides to pass over the first choice of the committee there is some good reason. It is an important safeguard.
I wholeheartedly support Deputy Gilmore's amendment, which is an excellent one. I commend it to the Minister.
Most of what Deputy Gilmore said is not unreasonable in that a person who is the first choice should be appointed, all things being equal. I do not want to be accused of trying to promote members of secret organisations for appointment to the committee or to any other body. The Top Level Appointments Committee, which has worked extremely well, and the committee for the purposes of appointing the chairman of An Bord Pleanála are the models for this selection procedure. If we were to do what Deputy Gilmore is suggesting, the Government would be rubber stamping the selection committee. That is not necessarily a good thing.
The Government of the day make the decision on the basis of the names put before them by the committee. The guarantee is that nobody can be appointed who is not suggested by the committee. The committee may not want to be put in a position where they have to place candidates in order of their preference. It might be that any one of the three would be acceptable. There might also be varying views among the members of the committee. It is more appropriate that the committee should nominate three people and that the Government should choose between them in appointing the director general of the agency. Because we are following established procedures I am not at liberty to accept this amendment.
The Minister outlined a couple of scenarios that could arise and I would like to outline a further one, that is where the committee come to the conclusion that there is clearly one candidate of outstanding ability and merit who should be appointed to the post of director general. As the committee are required to nominate three candidates, the Minister may decide to select one of the two lesser qualified candidates. In those circumstances how would the committee communicate to the Minister their preference of candidate? For example, since it is the Minister for the Environment who will make the decision will the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, who will be a member of this committee, discreetly whisper in the Minister's ear who should be appointed? Where one of the three candidates nominated is preferred by the Secretary of the Department of the Environment — I am not suggesting that there would be anything improper in this; it would be quite normal that this might happen — but the other five members of the committee disagree with that view, the Minister will presumably take advice from the Secretary of the Department, thereby adopting a distorted view. From the point of view of the protection of the interests of the Minister and of the Secretary of the Department, who has a double role in this regard, it is desirable that the order of preference be listed. The Minister has rejected that approach and unless she is prepared to have a second thought on it I wish to put the amendment.
The Minister of State rose.
We have concluded on this amendment.
On a point of order, I would say to Deputy Gilmore that while it is not mandatory on the committee to nominate people in order of preference they are certainly not prevented from doing so if one candidate is more outstanding than the other two. If, as the Deputy suggested, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment favours a candidate who is not favoured by the other five members of the committee, it is unlikely that that person would be one of the three candidates nominated. If the committee cannot reach a consensus which would be desirable, obviously they will take a majority decision. Therefore, if the Secretary of the Department is alone in his view as the Deputy suggested, it is unlikely that the candidate whom he favours would be nominated. The committee are free to nominate the candidates in order of preference, but it is unnecessary to put a mandatory requirement on them to do so. As I have said, it does not apply in relation to the other procedures which seem to work well.
Amendments Nos. 54 and 56 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 20, to delete lines 38 to 42.
This matter was debated on Committee Stage. The amendment provides that the Minister specify the qualifications for the post of director. It is my recollection that the Minister gave an undertaking on Committee Stage to reconsider the matter in view of the possibility that a Minister at some stage might, where a vacancy arose for an individual post of director, by setting down particular qualifications for the post, influence the appointment. As I have said, the matter was debated at some length on Committee Stage and I will not repeat that debate.
Amendment No. 57 is an alternative to amendment No. 56a and it is suggested that they be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 56a:
In page 21, to delete lines 16 to 32 and substitute the following:
"(5) Notwithstanding subsection (3) or (4), if the Government decide not to appoint to be a director any of the candidates or, as the case may be, the candidate selected by the committee pursuant to a particular request
(a) the Government shall appoint a person to be a director who was among those, or as the case may be, was the candidate, selected by the committee pursuant to a previous request (if any) in relation to that appointment, or
(b) the Minister shall make a further such request to the committee and the Government shall appoint to be a director a person who was among the candidates or, as the case may be, was the candidate selected by the committee pursuant to that request or pursuant to another such request made in relation to that appointment.
(6) Notwithstanding subsection (3) or (4), if the committee is unable to select any suitable candidate pursuant to a particular request—
(a) the Government shall appoint a person to be a director who was among those, or as the case may be, was the candidate, selected by the committee pursuant to a previous request (if any) in relation to that appointment, or
(b) the Minister shall make a further such request to the committee and the Government shall appoint to be a director a person who was among the candidates or, as the case may be, was the candidate selected by the committee pursuant to that request or pursuant to another such request made in relation to that appointment.".
The purpose of this amendment is to do what Deputy Howlin suggested on Committee Stage and what his amendment No. 57 seeks to do. I gave a commitment that I would consider this matter and I am bringing forward this amendment to ensure consistency in the drafting of sections 21 and 24.
I welcome the fact that the Minister is honouring her commitment. I do not have the Minister's amendment and, therefore, I am not sure what the difference is between the two amendments. I welcome the clarification of this matter which is what I sought on Committee Stage. There was a consensus that the section, as drafted, was gobbledegook and was certainly extraordinarily difficult to follow. There is clarity in the redrafted section, which is very much welcomed. Perhaps the Minister, in conclusion, would indicate the differences between her amendment 56a and my amendment No. 57.
I sympathise with Deputy Howlin in not having an opportunity to do his work properly on this matter. I must put on record, as I have done time and time again, that it is absurd to take Report Stage of a Bill so soon after Committee Stage. For example, the Official Report of some of Committee Stage is not available. It makes nonsense of the way we conduct business in the House. I do not know if any improvement is proposed in this regard but when considering changes in the workings of the House, we should allow for more time between the taking of Committee and Report Stages of Bills.
To clarify the point made by Deputy Howlin, the only difference between the two amendments is that Deputy Howlin's amendment states "selected by the committee pursuant to the request" whereas my amendment No. 56a states: "selected by the committee pursuant to a previous request (if any) in relation to that appointment,"...
I move amendment No. 59:
In page 23, line 22, after "months" to insert "and may not be reappointed on more than three occasions".
This matter was also discussed on Committee Stage. The amendment relates to section 26 (4) (b), which as drafted, states:
A person shall not be appointed to be a director or Deputy Director-General under this subsection for a term in excess of six months.
The amendment would define the terms of office more clearly. As there are only ten minutes left on Report Stage, I am anxious to make progress but I do hope that the Minister accepts the amendment to put an end to the length of time someone could serve as a director or deputy director general of the agency.
It is my view that in all positions of this kind we need new blood fairly often but not always. We also need consistency and people with experience. The Deputy's amendment is not unreasonable and I accept it.
We now come to amendment No. 60. Amendment No. 61 is an alternative amendment and amendments Nos. 62, 70, 71 and 75 are related. I therefore suggest that all of these amendments be taken together. Is that suggestion agreed to? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 23, lines 26 and 27, to delete "be not less than five and not more than" and substitute", subject to subsection (II)*,
My amendments are designed to fulfil the intent of the Deputies' amendment No. 61, which issue was also raised on Committee Stage. The amendments fix the membership of the advisory committee at 12, while enabling the committee to carry on their work when vacancies arise. I think it was Deputy Gilmore who proposed a similar amendment on Committee Stage and I then undertook to come back to the House in this regard, which is what I am doing.
I know that there is a problem with order here, but perhaps the Minister might raise another point of order and tell the House how many members the advisory committee will have. My amendment on Committee Stage sought the provision of 12 members but I am not sure how many members this batch of amendments will provide.
The number will be 12 except when a vacancy arises. We want to ensure that the committee can work when a vacancy arises. The Bill as drafted provides that the number of members of the advisory committee shall be not less than five and not more than 12. The provision will now read:
The number of members of the Advisory Committee shall be twelve, subject to subsection (II).
My amendment No. 75 seeks to insert the following in page 24, between lines 47 and 48:
(II) The Advisory Committee may act notwithstanding vacancies in its membership.
That is the new subsection (II) referred to in amendment No. 60.
In those circumstances, I wish to withdraw my amendment.
Perhaps it is the lateness of the hour, but I am having a little difficulty in trying to slot in the Minister's amendments. It is confusing that the Minister is moving amendments that dovetail amendments tabled by the Opposition. I certainly welcome and accept the provision that the advisory committee will now consist of 12 members. My amendment No. 61 is therefore redundant in that the provision is made under the Minister's amendment No. 61.
My amendment No. 62, that the advisory committee may act notwithstanding a vacancy among its members, is to be substituted by another amendment, amendment No. 75. Perhaps the Minister would explain the reason for tabling her amendments rather than accepting similar amendments already tabled. The other amendment to be taken with it, amendment No. 71——
The Deputy is doing it as well.
That is true. I am trying to sort out just where it fits in. Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 are the other two amendments to be taken with discussion on amendment No. 60. Basically, two of the Minister's amendments fit two issues with which I am concerned. That is fine.
I wish to clarify the position. The advisory committee will be made up of 12 members but, in the event of there being a vacancy because a name has not been sent forward for nomination, the committee will be able to operate legally with the vacancy. That is the objective of the new section 27 (11) provided in amendment No. 75.
Amendment No. 64 is in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendment No. 65 relates to that amendment so I suggest that amendments Nos. 64 and 65 be discussed together. Is that proposal agreed to? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 23, line 36, to delete "and to chair its meetings".
I am completely puzzled. The amendments relate to the director general being the chairman of the advisory committee, which issue was also debated on Committee Stage. The Minister agreed to give some thought to the issue because on Committee Stage I argued that it was not desirable to have the director general being the chairperson of the advisory committee's meetings and that the advisory committee should elect their own chairperson. I said that, in that way, the advisory committee could act in a manner somewhat more independent of the director general and the agency proper than would be the case if the director general also chaired the meetings. I do not understand the way in which it is out of order to delete the director-general's chairmanship of the meetings but not out of order to delete the deputy director general's chairmanship of the meetings. I hope that some day I shall understand the logic of the Chair.
Far be it from me to take over the job of the Ceann Comhairle, but I think the reason is probably that amendment No. 63 was voted on during Committee Stage. However, I am not an expert on the rules so I shall leave that to others.
As I said on Committee Stage, the advisory committee is an essential element of the operation and functioning of the agency. It will bring in a cross-section of outside people who will have a different perspective and who will be able to bring to the agency their experience and views on environmental issues. That will be an important asset to the agency in the carrying out of their work. In addition, it will give members of the advisory committee, who will be involved in many organisations that play a central role in relation to the protection of the environment, first-hand experience of how the agency carry out their duties. If the advisory committee is to be the important body I want it to be, given that we shall have a full-time executive board as opposed to what is often appropriate in the State sector — part-time boards — there will be a role for voluntary people in the work of the agency.
It would be more appropriate that the advisory committee should have, as its chairperson, the director general of the agency. With the director general as the chairperson of the advisory committee it will carry more weight, ensure that the director general is present at meetings and takes on board what the committee direct. Deputy Gilmore expressed doubts about this, indicating that a chairman can get almost whatever he wishes. Those who will serve on this advisory committee will not be weak-minded individuals but rather people able to stand up for themselves and put forward their points of view. I do not think they would allow any chairperson to dictate to them what might or might not be their position. On balance, in order to integrate the advisory committee into the operations of the agency as much as possible I consider it desirable that the director general should be the chairperson.
As it is now 10.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an Order of An Dáil of this day:
That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment and not disposed of, together with amendments Nos. 86, 87, 88, amended by insertion of "and before 1983" and "before 1991" and 89 are hereby made to the Bill, that Report Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.
This Bill is considered, by virtue of Article 20.2.2º of the Constitution, as a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann and will now be sent to the Seanad.