Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Dempsey. As amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are alternatives, I suggest that we discuss amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 together. Agreed.
Waste Bill, 1995: Report and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, line 17, before "Waste Act, 1995" to insert "Avoidance and Reduction of".
This amendment relates to the title of the Bill. I note that the Minister has decided to change the name of the Bill from the "Waste Bill" to the "Waste Management Bill". My proposal was to change the name to the "Avoidance and Reduction of Waste Act". As the Minister has gone some way to meet my requirements and as the title of the Bill itself gives further detail of what the Bill is about, I am prepared to withdraw this amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 7, line 17, to delete "Waste Act, 1995" and substitute "Waste Management Act, 1995".
The new title of the Bill better reflects the intention of the Oireachtas in relation to the comprehensive nature of this enactment.
Before I hear Deputy Sargent, let me say that if this amendment in the name of the Minister is carried, amendment No. 3 cannot be moved.
This is an opportunity that should not be lost because the name of a Bill is the part most often referred to. The title "Waste Management Bill" is a slight improvement on "Waste Bill", but we could have taken the opportunity of giving some indication that we are not simply talking about the best way of putting waste into a landfill site which is what is on the minds of most people, given past experience. Inserting the concept of minimisation or reduction or even reference to a secondary resource would have helped to change the mindset of people which will be difficult to do because of the way waste has traditionally been dealt with. I regret we have not gone further and I am sorry, indeed, that I cannot move my amendment.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 7, line 22, to delete "provisions." and substitute "provisions:
Provided that if immediately before the expiration of the period of 2 years from the date of passing of this Act, this Act has not been commenced by an order under this section or any provision or provisions thereof remains or remain to be commenced by such an order (including as respects a particular purpose), this Act or the said provision or provisions shall come into operation (or, in the case of such provision or provisions that remains or remain to be commenced for a particular purpose, shall come into operation for that purpose) upon the expiration of the said period.".
This arises from detailed discussions on Committee Stage. The amendment provides that the whole Act will come into operation not later than two years after the passing of the Act. This means that any provision which has not been formally brought into operation by means of a commencement order will come into operation automatically on the expiry of two years from the date of enactment. It also provides that any provision which has been brought into operation for a particular purpose during the first two years will come into operation for all purposes on the expiry of a two year period. We discussed this in some detail. Deputies opposite were fearful that we were providing a corpus of legislation that might not be brought into effect in the timeframe we envisage in passing this Bill. It is an appropriate response to the fears of the Opposition and a set objective of my own Department to ensure that all the provisions set out will become operable within a two year period.
Although I welcome the fact that the Minister has moved as far as he has, I do not think he has gone far enough. Our original objective was to try to ensure that the Bill would not be put on the long finger with no set target for the Department and local authorities. The Minister has indicated that putting matters on the long finger can be avoided by means of this amendment. I would have preferred the Bill to be operable within two years of its passing.
It will be two years from the passing of the Bill.
The Minister has moved in the right direction in relation to this and I welcome the amendment.
I also welcome and support this amendment. It is important to have a definite timeframe within which the provisions of this Bill will be put in place and responded to. Two years is a reasonable period considering the comprehensive nature of this Bill. It is important, even within that framework, that when the Minister is making regulations he should set out a schedule for bringing into force sections of the Bill.
Tá an-áthas orm gur féidir liom tacú le leasú an Aire. Tugann sé le fios do dhaoine nach leanfaidh an nós a bhí ann leis na directives a bhí ag teacht ón Eoraip go raibh siad ar an méar fhada. Is léir nach féidir iad a chur ar an méar fhada leis an leasú seo.
Ag an am céanna ba mhaith liom tacú chomh maith le mo chomhleachaí an Teachta Quill. Is léir go mbeidh gá le roinnt mhaith pleanála a dhéanamh ó thaobh cur i bhfeidhm cuid den Bhille seo. Ba mhaith an rud é iad a roinnt agus iad a chur i bhfeidhm de reír mar is féidir leis an Roinn idir an dá linn.
Amendment No. 5. Amendment No. 6 is an alternative. Is it agreed to discuss amendments Nos. 5 and 6 together? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, line 29, after "effluent" to insert "(other than sludge from a facility for the treatment of sewage)".
As we deal with Report Stage Deputies will be aware that my amendments reflect commitments I gave on Committee Stage and this amendment arises from one of those. The purpose of the amendment is to make it explicit that sludge is included and it will meet Deputies' reservations.
The amendment goes some way towards meetings the fears expressed on Committee Stage. I am sure the Minister received a letter from Greenpeace expressing concern about farming practices, particularly in the pig industry. Did the Minister take those concerns on board? Now is the time to ensure there is not what could be described as a toxic loophole in the Bill. I know there is other legislation covering aspects of farm pollution but it is important that the matter does not fall between two stools.
The amendment seeks to include sludge. As was stated on Committee Stage, this Bill is not meant to be a comprehensive one dealing with all aspects of pollution control. There are a number of Bills in place. Farm activity and its potential to cause pollution is covered under the licensing regime of the Environmental Protection Agency Act. I do not intend to duplicate existing provisions.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 9, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:
"(5) In this Act, `waste hierarchy' means management of waste policy according to the following priorities—
(a) Waste prevention, that is to say activities in production, which consist of the substitution and the reduction of the use of raw materials, the change of the performance of existing and the design of new processes and products, resulting in the non-generation or the reduction of waste and/or its pollution potential, in the materials life cycle;
(b) minimisation of waste;
(c) re-use of secondary materials;
(d) re-cycling of secondary materials including composting;
(e) safe and orderly storage of secondary materials and waste.".
I put down this amendment because people will be slow to voluntarily change thestatus quo. The Minister spoke about a voluntary code and having a fall back position if that does not work. I do not say that the wording in my amendment is the ultimate one but it is necessary to realise that when we talk about a waste hierarchy we are not talking about a list of options in waste management, reduction, minimisation and avoidance. What we are talking about is giving due weight and priority to unfamiliar ideas on the disposal of waste. People must be informed of these at every opportunity. The Minister said he does not wish the Bill to be an educational document and I accept that. However, when people are interested in the subject it is important to refer to areas such as waste avoidance and waste minimisation. To most people waste is something they get rid of and put in a hole. It will be difficult to change that view.
If the Minister does not intend to accept my amendment perhaps he will indicate if the Department or the Environmental Protection Agency will ensure the public are made aware that the hierarchy is heavily in favour of waste avoidance and does not just have it as part of an overall package of options. There was a long and heated debate on waste incineration. The people rejected that, as was evidenced recently in Ringsend, but since our EU colleagues went down that road and wish it to be considered reasonably respectable and legitimate, it is included as an option. I hope we can develop a regime for waste management that goes beyond thestatus quo.
I do not accept the Deputy's definition. We discussed this at length on Committee Stage. I outlined a waste hierarchy that is acceptable to me and under EU law. Its principles underwrite my approach to the Bill and to waste minimisation, which is the first step in a strategy to deal with waste. The hierarchy proposed by the Deputy does not coincide with that nor with the strategy adopted by the EU in the 1990 strategy for waste management or that outlined in the framework Waste Directive 75/442 EEC.
The three point waste hierarchy has waste prevention and minimisation as a first and most important step. Second is reuse and recycling and third is the safe disposal of the residual amount. The proposed amendment does not recognise the options of energy recovery or even the basic requirement of waste disposal. We may put forward a code of practice which pretends there will be no ultimate waste to be disposed of and we may pretend we will never need a landfill. However, we need to have a concerted plan that is practical.
Landfill is mentioned in paragraph (e).
The Deputy refers to storage in his amendment.
It is the same thing.
I presume storage means recovery. One does not store it——
Ask British Nuclear Fuels what storage means.
I am not a fan of British Nuclear Fuels Limited and my record in that regard is well known.
The Minister should meet them and put his case to them as we did.
As the Deputy knows, I put my case clearly to them.
The Government has not made its case to them.
The Deputy knows that is not the case. I have made my case often to BNFL. The Minister of State, Deputy Stage, will personally give evidence to the current inquiry.
Why was he not there last week?
He is scheduled to be there during——
He did not turn up.
I must remind Deputy Eoin Ryan this is not the Committee Stage.
I can understand the Deputy is incensed that for the first time the Government will have a co-ordinated and concerted plan to deal with issues related to the Irish Sea and Sellafield. I know that upsets the Deputy as he has a genuine interest in the issues. This Government is doing something about it.
The Government has no plan.
The Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, will give evidence to the inquiry, I have met my British counterpart, Mr. John Gummer, and I have raised the matter formally at a European Council meeting. I will circulate the record of that. I also raised the matter in the context of the Sofia conference on the environment. I will circulate a full brief to the Deputy if he is interested on that issue.
It is important to have a waste hierarchy recognised in law, practical in its implementation and ambitious in its programme. I have outlined my thinking in that regard. I do not accept the waste hierarchy put forward by Deputy Sargent.
I do not accept that his definition of safe and orderly storage of secondary materials and waste is final disposal. There will be a residual amount of waste of some description which might need to be put in a landfill or disposed of in an environmentally acceptable way.
The Bill is ambitious in its targets. If we can implement it in all its elements we will do a tremendous job in changing the attitude of the Irish people to waste so that we might see it as a raw material, empower local authorities to have a comprehensive waste management plan and set the parameters on the basis of international practice and European law — minimisation, prevention, reuse, recycling and, ultimately, safe disposal.
I recognise there will be some residual waste. If it was only "some" residual waste I would welcome it being residual. Unfortunately, it is the far greater part of the waste stream at present.
The Minister dwelt on paragraph (e) of the amendment and tried to imply that safe and orderly storage of secondary materials and waste was not landfill, and that disposal was what he had in mind. That may well be the way for the lifetime of this Government and, indeed, the lifetime of civilisation as we know it. Whether or not this Government lasts that long is another question.
There is every possibility.
Will civilisation last that long?
I do not know what that says for civilisation.
The Government will finish civilisation.
I will be humble and recognise that what is waste for us——
Why change the habits of a lifetime?
——may not be waste for future generations. In some places when materials were in short supply people re-examined what they had considered waste and found useful material.
I am trying to be all-embracing with regard to the term "landfill". Landfill is a dirty word to those who live beside them because of the way in which they are affected by them. We should not be so touchy about words such as "landfill", which may not mean exactly what they did in the past. We must deal with waste safely, we must have the correct standards and aim not to have to see the waste again. However, nothing disappears in terms of environmental pollution as people think it does — incineration, or "energy recovery" as the Minister quaintly put it, should be recognised as the dispersal of pollution rather than its disposal. "Energy recovery" is something of a euphemism when one considers the problems incineration has caused where it has been practised.
The Minister did not reply as to whether, in the absence of accepting this amendment he would give any assurance that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Environment or any other agency that may be involved would begin to explain that the hierarchy can be put into effect. I am not happy that "reduction" and "minimisation" are twinned. They are different in their implementation and there is a great deal of difference between the practice of waste avoidance and minimisation, although there are cross-over points. Large scale public education is required.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 10, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
"compost" means the product of decomposition of organic matter,
"composting" means the accelerated form of the natural process of decomposition;".
The Minister mentioned that he tries to be positive and take on board the points made on Committee Stage and, if it is of any comfort to him, I am also trying to do that.
It is a comfort.
I rethought an amendment I tabled on Committee Stage which is important, given the largest component of our waste stream is compostable. Shortly people will be wondering what to do with their used Christmas trees and they will bring them to sites in St. Anne's Park in Raheny and elsewhere for composting. That is a once a year phenomenon — although it continues throughout the year on a smaller scale — but only a tiny proportion of its potential is being used. I hope the Minister will take on board the huge possibilities of composting in the domestic and general waste stream. By including a definition I am trying to give equity or parity of esteem to different concepts in the Bill. This legislation contains many definitions; even transport is defined. The Minister may recognise that many of these definitions are of no greater or lesser importance than those for compost and composting. I ask him to allow this amendment. It will show we have thought about what we were doing and wished to give attention to this area.
We had this discussion on Committee Stage. There is no point defining a word which is self-explanatory. The reason for a definition is to avoid doubt as to its interpretation but any dictionary will show that "compost" means exactly what the Deputy proposes to put in the Bill, that is "the accelerated form of the natural process of decomposition". It is not needed in the Bill and there is no point inserting unnecessary provisions. I support the principle of composting but there is no need for it to be defined in the legislation unless there is ambiguity or doubt about its meaning. To avoid doubt we defined some words but as I said on Committee Stage the definition section is not meant to be a dictionary of environmental terms. It would be ludicrous to assume that because it is not defined it is not important. We would have to trawl through the Bill and define every term in case it was felt that if we did not define a well used and understood word we did not have a high regard for it. I hope the Deputy accepts it is not necessary.
In general terms, the Government's national recycling strategy aims to divert some 100,000 tonnes of the organic fraction of the combined household and commercial waste stream by composting between now and 1999. That is an ambitious target. The Bill refers to composting in section 29 (4), under which regulations may require local authorities to facilitate, promote or undertake composting of municipal waste of an organic nature; and in the Fourth Schedule, which specifies at point 10 recovery activities for the purposes of the definition of recovery in section 4 (4). The aim the Deputy advances is therefore included and there is no need to include a definition of a word everyone understands. I am not minded even to include the Deputy's two lines of print to burden the Bill with unnecessary phrases. I could list 15 others which could be included if I wanted to define words for the sake of definition but that is not what legislation involves.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 11, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
"(d) causes to be lost, or render unnecessarily difficult to recover re-usable or recyclable waste."
I will not delay because there are many amendments. This amendment is a change from my previous suggested amendment and this debate is to help us reach points of common understanding and purpose. The principle here is important. A great deal of recoverable material is currently lost to the disposal aspect of waste management. We should discourage this — I will put it no stronger than that but there are ways of discouraging certain actions, such as causing to be lost or rendering unnecessarily difficult to recover, re-usable or recyclable waste. Perhaps we may find a meeting of minds but I await the Minister's reply.
Perhaps we should not go over ground adequately covered on Committee Stage. This applies to many amendments and I will not accept this one as it is totally onerous to insert such a definition. It is too broad in scope and would present significant legal difficulties. As proposed it would make it illegal to cause "any re-usable or recyclable waste" to be lost. This is not a practical proposition and if the Deputy looks through the Committee Stage replies he will see I went into some detail on it. Although the wording he now puts forward is somewhat different, the intent is the same and it is impractical. I consider sufficient powers are already provided under sections 28 and 29 to achieve the common objective of all sides of the House, which is waste prevention, minimisation and recovery in a planned and appropriate manner. I ask the Deputy to accept my word on that.
I withdraw the amendment and hope those powers will be used at some stage.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 11, line 24, after "date," to insert "being carried on".
This is a drafting amendment to correct the English in the text of the second subsection.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 103 are related and I suggest they be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 12, line 9, after "thereon" to insert "and land covered with water (whether inland or coastal)".
This arises directly from discussions on Committee Stage and I am anxious to facilitate Deputy Sargent in this respect. He was concerned that the foreshore would not be covered so I wish to amend the definition to ensure that land, even land covered by water, would be included. I am advised that is the case anyway but to avoid doubt I propose this amendment. It extends the definition of land in section 5 to include land covered by water. Its purpose is to make it explicit that land, for the purposes of the Bill, includes foreshore and any other lands covered by water.
I thank the Minister for giving this some consideration and including an amendment, which I support. While he may not feel it was necessary and simply included it to eliminate doubt, there are some peculiar legal scenarios around our coast, such as private foreshores which appear to have a law unto themselves. People from Rochestown estuary in my constituency will be assured they are being considered and I hope their plight, which involves a bad landfill problem, will be rectified in due course on account of this amendment.
Amendment No. 12 is in the name of Deputy Dempsey. It presents the Chair with something of a dilemma if the Member who tabled the amendment is not present to move it. The procedures are very strict in this area. If the Deputy is not present to move his amendment it cannot be moved unless the Chair has a specific understanding that the Deputy who moves the amendment has the authority of the Deputy who tabled the amendment to so do.
May I move the amendment?
Does the Deputy have the authority?
I accept that.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 13, lines 26 and 27, after "Harbours Act, 1946" to insert "and the Harbours Act, 1995".
The amendment is very clear and results from the new Harbours Bill. We would like to hear the Minister's response.
I am afraid the answer is the same as on Committee Stage. We cannot anticipate the enactment of the Harbours Bill which is still before the Seanad. It would be inappropriate to include it in legislation until the Oireachtas has finished its consideration of that enactment. It is premature.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 form a composite proposal and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 14, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:
"temporary storage of waste' shall be construed in accordance with subsection (3);".
Arising from long discussion on Committee Stage, I have tabled amendments Nos. 13 and 14. These amendments provide that, for the purposes of the Bill, temporary storage of waste means storage for a period not exceeding six months, unless provision to the contrary is made by regulations under section 39 (6). The amendment, as Deputies will recall, arises from the Committee Stage amendment in the name of Deputy Eoin Ryan who sought to provide that temporary storage should mean storage for a period of not more than three months.
I considered the argument put forward by him and other Deputies on Committee Stage. However, I was unable to accept such a rigid provision and I undertook to look at it again. I think that the amendment I have now tabled meets the Deputy's point. It specifies six months as the maximum period for temporary storage in normal circumstances. The Deputy will accept that that goes a long way towards meeting his requirement.
I thank the Minister as his amendment covers the matter adequately. "Temporary" was not defined as well as it should have been and I welcome his amendment.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 15, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
"(3) In this Act, a reference to the temporary storage of waste shall, without prejudice to any particular provision that may be made pursuant to section 39 (6), be construed as a reference to the storage of waste for a period not exceeding 6 months.".
Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed?
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 16, to delete lines 1 to 10 and substitute the following:
"(3) A regulation under this Act (other than a regulation under section 7 (6), 39 (8) or 62 or an order under this Act (other than an order under section 1 (2), 8 or 69 (1)) or an order under subsection (5) amending or revoking an order under section 8 or 69 (1) shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling such regulation or order is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House has sat after the regulation or order is laid before it, the regulation or order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.".
This results from a long discussion on one of Deputy Dempsey's favourite subjects, which is the way regulations which arise from enactments are brought into effect. All sides of the House have engaged in this debate. I undertook to trawl through the Bill to see where regulations which would have an impact on amending legislation would require positive affirmation by the House.
I am bringing forward three amendments to include three sections which were heretofore excluded from positive affirmation type motions. That is as far as I can go and it moves a long way to meet the requirements of the Deputy. It would be overly onerous to provide that every single regulation, or amendment to a regulation, should be subject to a positive affirmation. There are two types of resolution which will be required to bring the provisions of this Bill into force. One is positive affirmation for serious, weighty enactments and the other is the normal procedure of the requirement of an annulling order to prevent provisions coming into effect for those of less moment.
It might help the House if I explained the sections which I am bringing in for positive affirmation. Including the ones which already exist, the Bill at present requires an affirmative resolution in relation to an order made under section 7 (5). That is a broad power to amend the Bill and it is right and proper that that requires a positive vote of the House, whereby the Minister for the Environment has to argue his case and get the support of the House. Section 8, which amends the Third and Fourth Schedules which define licensable activities under the Act, also requires that, which I think people will accept. Section 62 empowers the Minister to make amendments by regulation, as would be required by European directives. Rather than simply giving the Minister that power, I am requiring him to come before the Dáil to seek a positive vote, even where there is a European legal or directive requirement in that regard.
I am also including regulations under section 7 (6) resolving difficulties in relation to the implementation of the Act. These must be made within two years of the commencement and may modify the Act, or any other Act, if necessary. If, in the course of the set up of the Act, there is an obvious anomaly which needs to be addressed, I have taken in section 7 (6) the powers to make adjustments. I am now moving a step further and requiring the Minister to obtain a positive vote in the Dáil before that becomes operable.
I am also including under this affirmative motion procedure regulations made under section 39 (8) which adds any of the waste activities specified in the Third and Fourth Schedules to the First Schedule of the Environmental Protection Agency Act. It will, therefore, no longer be enough to have the Minister's authorisation as it will also require the authorisation of the Dáil. It also includes an order made under section 69 (1) which is transferring from the Environmental Protection Agency to local authorities functions in relation to licences for waste related activity carried on within the authority's functional area. I had heretofore decided that I could do that by regulation and I think that is of sufficient importance to require a positive affirmation.
I believe that when the Deputies reflect on all the changes I am now proposing, they will find that they meet the case put strongly by Deputies on the other side of the House on Committee Stage that significant powers given to the Minister should require a positive vote of the House, which I am minded to accept.
I acknowledge what the Minister has done in these amendments and thank him for deciding to take this route. He is following the amendments which I tabled on Committee Stage where he indicated that he would look at the question positively and realistically. From what I have read in the short time we have had the amendments, I cannot find any fault in what the Minister has done.
The Minister has obviously taken on board the points which I made on Committee Stage. I was probably not the first person in the House to raise these points over the years. To be fair to the Minister, he is the first Minister I know of to take such an attitude in relation to this. He has gone a long way towards making the whole system of regulation and legislation much more transparent and much easier for Members of this House who want to keep track of what Ministers are doing after legislation has been passed.
As I stated on Committee Stage, too much legislation is passed that enables Ministers to act virtually with impunity and without the knowledge of other Members. Therefore, I welcome this proposal. Perhaps the Minister might also consider introducing a measure to allow for a debate on regulations at a committee rather than spending time debating them here. That would be an effective way of using the committee system and it could be done when the regulations are in draft form. Much was said on Committee Stage about openness, transparency and accountability. I acknowledge the Minister's openness, transparency and accountability in this case and welcome his amendment.
A typographical error has been noted in the amendment list. In amendment No. 15 in the name of the Minister, the following minor typographical corrections are required: in line 2, a parenthesis should be inserted after the reference to section 62; in line 3, the second parenthesis after the reference to section 69 (1) should be deleted; and in line 4, a second parenthesis should be inserted after the reference to section 69 (1).
I take it that the terms of amendment No. 17 are part of the Minister's thinking.
His amendment will reassure the public on the level of openness in the area of environmental legislation. Until now there has not been a sufficient level of openness in that area. However, much will depend on how this proposal is put into practice. I look forward to a level of consultation that will ensure this is not merely a rubber stamping exercise and hope the Minister's follow-up action will demonstrate the level of accountability in this area. Until now the exercise was somewhat cynical because a regulation could be agreed in the House and altered later. This exercise will be meaningless unless there is follow-up consultation. I welcome the Minister's amendment.
I commend the Minister on his approach to this matter. His proposal will enable public representatives to more systematically police the legislation enacted in the House. This will enable Members to know exactly how regulations are being implemented and their effects and is a sensible way to make law. Members should be aware of the effectiveness of legislation after its enactment.
This measure is a precedent in law making. It will not alone improve this legislation but will be imported into other legislation. This is a landmark decision and I support the amendment.
I thank Deputies for their kind words. When I was first elected to the Seanad one of the few committees that existed at that time was the Joint Committee on Legislation, the function of which was to examine Statutory Instruments. As a parliamentarian rather than a Minister, I believe in some cases too many powers are devolved to Ministers without proper follow-up scrutiny. I support Deputy Dempsey's suggestion that committees should have the power to monitor the Statutory Instruments. As there are thousands of Statutory Instruments, many of which are of little consequence, this would be an extremely onerous task. However, some are of great importance. We would have to devise a filtering system so that all Statutory Instruments would not have to be debated. Assistant clerks could be assigned the task of bringing to the chairman's attention the ones that should be debated. Such parliamentary scrutiny would be beneficial in enacting all legislation. Parliamentary scrutiny should be at the heart of the legislative process.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 16, to delete lines 11 to 14 and substitute the following:
"(4) Where regulations under section 7 (6), 39 (8) or 62, or an order under section 8 or 69 (1) or an order under subsection (5) amending or revoking such an order, is or are proposed to be made, a draft of the regulations or the order, as the case may be, shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the regulations or order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.".
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 16, to delete lines 40 to 44.
I move amendment No. 19.
In page 17, line 16, to delete "section 16 (4)" and substitute "section 16 (5)".
This is a technical amendment for the purpose of rectifying an incorrect reference in section 10 (2). The subsection provides for penalties in respect of specified summary offences and incorrectly specifies an offence under section 16 (4) when the relevant reference is to section 16 (5).
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 17, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
"(3) A person guilty of an offence under section 32 (6) (where the offence consists of a contravention of regulations under subsection (4) of that section), 38 (6) or 40 (13) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.".
Since Committee Stage I have been advised that our colleagues in the English parliament do not deem it necessary to place a limit on such a fine.
We have a written Constitution.
I accept there are many differences between here and Britain but it is necessary to make the comparison. I seek the guidance of the Minister on the matter. Is it within our remit to make such an amendment? As many large corporate entities have larger GNPs than Ireland and other countries, it can be seen as mere gesture to impose a penalty that does not match their economic fire power. It is necessary to bear this in mind in considering the amendment.
This matter was discussed on Committee Stage. There are legal precedents in relation to the maximum fine which may be imposed. Following his review of the matter, I am advised by the Attorney General that £1,500 is considered the norm in new statutes for offences dealt with summarily in the District Court. This is the maximum fine laid down in a number of enactments.
I cannot, therefore, accept the amendment which seeks to increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction in the lowest court in the land to £1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
The sections specified in the amendment are section 32 (6) where the offence consists of a contravention of regulations relating to insurance cover, section 38 (6) where the offence consists of a failure to comply with a requirement of the local authority or the Environmental Protection Agency in relation to the disposal of specified wastes and section 40 (13) where the offence consists of a failure by the licence holder to notify the agency within one month of the cessation of a licensed activity. In this connection a fine of £1 million would be onerous. I am guided by the advice of the Attorney General in these matters and I am unable to accept the amendment.
In the light of the Attorney General's advice I will withdraw the amendment.
We now come to amendment No. 21. Amendment No. 22 is an alternative and amendments Nos. 24 and 25 are related. It is proposed, therefore, to take amendments Nos. 21, 22, 24 and 25 together by agreement. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 17, to delete lines 32 to 34 and substitute the following:
"(1) Subject to subsection (5), summary proceedings for an offence under this Act may be brought by a local authority (whether or not the offence is committed in the authority's functional area) or by the Agency.".
This amendment will extend the powers of local authorities to take summary proceedings under section 11 by providing that a local authority may take summary proceedings regardless of whether the alleged offence took place on its functional area. These amendments arise from the discussion on Committee Stage, particularly on amendment No. 177a in the name of Deputy Sargent concerning the application of the Bill to the foreshore, which is not included in the functional area of a local authority. The purpose of this amendment is to bring the foreshore within the ambit of the Bill.
I thank the Minister for meeting the concerns expressed.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 18, line 6, after "no" to insert "such".
This is a technical drafting amendment. Paragraph (c) reads "whichever is the later provided that no proceedings..." I am advised that "no such proceedings" is the correct phraseology.
Amendment No. 24 was discussed with amendment No. 21. How stands that amendment?
I understand that under the planning Acts persons may act independently of agencies, such as An Bord Pleanála, if they wish. I am not clear as to the reasons their ability to do so should be restricted in this instance. Under the Bill proceedings may only be brought by the agency. That seems to be a circumspect way of approaching the problem.
I am aware I am out of order, but I beg the indulgence of the House to correct an error I made on Committee Stage when, as the Deputy will recall, I made the point forcefully that it would be inappropriate for an individual to have this right because of the fear of multiple prosecutions. However, I have since rechecked the matter with the Attorney General and have been advised that a member of the public has the right in common law to bring a summary prosecution. This is a general provision which does not have to be provided for in any enactment.
The amendment is made in effect.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 18, to delete lines 22 to 25.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 19, line 2, to delete "an" and substitute "a".
This is a technical drafting amendment. The text should read "a risk".
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 21, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:
"(2) The Minister shall draw up within a reasonable time, regulations governing minimum standards for monitoring"."
This section deals with the monitoring of emissions. The Minister may refer to the amendment in his name, the purpose of which is to ensure that the provisions of the Bill will be implemented within two years in which case there may be no need for me to feel so strongly about this amendment. However, I would still like to hear his views.
As I indicated on Committee Stage, I am anxious to establish the Environmental Protection Agency as the competent expert body on these matters. I do not want to establish the Minister as a superior authority. Under this amendment the Minister would be required to make regulations governing minimum standards for monitoring. This would be inappropriate as it would interfere with the primacy of the Environmental Protection Agency as the expert body on all environmental issues, including monitoring. I ask the Deputy to accept my view.
I will not get very far with this amendment, but it is still a matter of concern that the Environmental Protection Agency will have primacy in more and more areas. Ultimately, the democratic process will be at a loss. I assume the Minister has access to expertise at all times. We should try to ensure accountability which is rooted in democratic institutions and this applies equally to local authorities, the Dáil and Seanad.
I am gratified that the Deputy has such confidence.
We now come to amendment No. 28. Amendments No. 29 and 30 are related. It is proposed, therefore, to take amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30 together, by agreement. Is that satisfactory?
On a point of order, amendment No. 29 does not appear to be related to the other two amendments.
They all deal with public records.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 22, line 10, after "Minister" where it firstly occurs, to insert "and make available for public inspection".
This section deals with the monitoring and inspection of emissions that accrue from the holding, recovery or disposal of waste. The section states that records of this monitoring would be made available to the Minister on request and would also be made available to such persons as the Minister might nominate.
My amendment proposes that records of such monitoring should also be made available to the public. In the past the public lost a good deal of confidence in the manner in which waste, particularly sanitary landfills, was managed and maintained, and not without reason. We hope there will be a new waste regime with better practice in place. To ensure that the general public has confidence in that regime and in the legislation it is imperative that it be reassured that better practice will be observed and that those who are responsible for the holding, recovery and disposal of waste will be monitored effectively. The public can be assured of that only by making the records available to them. For the successful implementation of this Bill it is essential that the public would have renewed confidence in those who deal with the recovery and disposal of waste.
This Bill will fall or stand on the manner in which the public co-operate with its provisions. It is important that the public should have access to this type of basic information which would restore confidence in those who deal with the disposal of waste. Essentially it is a matter of the age old question of who will judge the judges. The public will not be in a position to judge the records of those who deal with the disposal of waste as specified in this section unless they have access to the records. I ask the Minister to accept this amendment.
I now call Deputy Eoin Ryan. Is the Deputy satisfied with the grouping of the amendments?
Yes, I can incorporate them together. I agree with Deputy Quill that it is important there is openness and transparency in this area.
We are back to OTA again.
It is important that people should be able to gain access to these records. I inserted the provision in my amendment that they should be provided within 21 days. Most people will not want to check the records, but if an issue arises some people may wish to gain access to the necessary information as quickly as possible. It is important that the Bill gains credibility and that people are confident it is effective in protecting the environment. These amendments will strengthen the Bill.
My other amendment requests that records should be kept for not less than 75 years. That is important as frequently information is not available in respect of what has happened on certain lands. We dealt with that matter in detail on Committee Stage and we do not know the history of many sites. That should be rectified by the inclusion of this amendment.
We discussed amendment No. 28 in committee and I explained it is unnecessary. On Committee Stage I circulated details of the existing regulations on access to information on the environment that I upgraded this year. All the data to which the Deputy referred is subject to public availability under the access to environmental information regulations currently in force. The monitoring data under section 15 (4) of this Bill will also be subject to those existing regulations. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary as the information the Deputy requires is already available. I ask the Deputy to withdraw her amendment as it is better to deal with environmental information in totality to give people a right of access to information in a general form rather than to insert provisions in anad hoc manner as they arise in other legislation. That is what I did under the access to environmental information regulations.
Are local authorities aware of that?
They should know. Citizens are entitled to demand such information from a local authority.
Can they gain access to the information immediately?
Yes, currently. There are always practical issues involved in terms of getting a copy of the information but that can be determined locally. If there is undue difficulty, citizens have a right of appeal to the Ombudsman. There is a process in place to deal with that.
Amendment No. 29 dealing with the retention of records for a period of 75 years was discussed in committee. I am anxious that we would not deal with the issue of records in the narrow function of a Bill such as this. Records should be properly dealt with when dealing with the issue of all Government records. Guidelines to local authorities will issue under the Local Government Act, 1994 which specifically deals with the issue of the maintenance of local authority records. When dealing with this issue I will be mindful of the arguments put forward by the Deputy on Committee Stage and today regarding environmental issues that might have long-term consequences. I ask the Deputy not to push his amendment on this section, but to let me deal with the archive practices of local authorities, which will not be confined solely to environmental matters, but to a range of others when I issue the new guidelines to local authorities under section 65 of the Local Government Act, 1994.
Deputy Eoin Ryan proposed in amendment No. 30 that all information and requests for information provided under the section must be made public by the Minister, agency or local authority as appropriate within 21 days. I am unable to accept this amendment. Registers under section 19 will be required to include details of notices issued under section 18 (1). All information received by the agency or, I stress, the local authorities will be subject to the existing regulations on access to environmental information. That is as much access or information as the public could possibly require.
If the type of information on monitoring records is as available as the Minister indicated, why is it deemed necessary to include this section? It states that each local authority and the agency shall, if so requested by the Minister, supply to the Minister or any person specified by the Minister, at such intervals and in such manner as the Minister may require, records of all monitoring carried out under this section that are in its possession or control. A reading of that section would suggest to a lay person that this type of information is only made available to people in certain circumstances or else I have lost my capacity to read the English language. I would be grateful if the Minister would explain the necessity for that section, following which I will be willing to withdraw my amendment.
For the benefit of the House, the mover of the group of amendments may be called to speak a second time, but I may not call any other Member. If it were within the function of the Chair to call Deputy Eoin Ryan I would be very pleased to do so. Is Deputy Quill pressing her amendment?
Amendment No. 31 is in the name of the Minister, and No. 32 is an alternative. It is suggested that amendments Nos. 31 and 32 be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 24, line 40, to delete "as soon as may be" and substitute "within a period of 21 days".
This arises from a Committee Stage debate on an amendment tabled by Deputy Sargent. He was concerned that the phrase "as soon as may be" was too loose and I propose to substitute "within a period of 21 days" for it.
I believe I will have a happy Christmas when amendments are accepted on the basis of debate. It is reassuring to me and to many others that when a new operator comes on the scene with a new licence it will not be under the cover of a bureaucratic loophole but will be known about. The new licence will be communicated in writing and I am glad that it will be done within the agreed period of 21 days.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 25, line 41, after "Agency," to insert "and with the agreement of the relevant Local Authority,".
As imperfect as our democratic system is, it is intended to allow power to be exercised at as local a level as is effective. I appreciate that "as effective as possible" are the operative words but a great deal more can be done to make this a realisable objective. There is a valid concern that if powers are to be taken from the local authority it should not be done in a pickpocket fashion with the local authority finding out about it after the event and in no way being able to participate in the decisionmaking process. It should be with the agreement of the local authority and on the basis of reasoned argument. I have no doubt that the Minister and the agency could put their case for lifting powers from a local authority if it was found to be necessary in the same way as the benefit of the joint waste plan is easy to argue if it is explained rationally.
This is an important amendment because every local authority should know and be able to participate in the decision to have its powers lifted by the agency. They are entitled to it and that is why I tabled this amendment.
I tabled a similar amendment on Committee Stage which the Minister could not accept because it would mean the agency would have to consult with every local authority. I note that Deputy Sargent has come up with the wording "and with the agreement of the relevant Local Authority" which seems to address the Minister's point.
I support Deputy Sargent's amendment and I hope the Minister will agree that this amendment will serve local democracy well. The section as worded smacks of the "mother knows best mentality" of central Government. I am convinced that the powers of local authorities can be stolen under the provisions of this section. It is not right in a democracy that there is no prior consultation. The Minister makes the point that things never just happen and that in practice there are consultations and so on. I would prefer to see the practice reflected in legislation and the wishes of this House reflected in the Bill. It cannot be the arbitrary decision of an agency which is not democratically based and I urge the Minister to accept this amendment.
I am afraid I cannot for the same reasons I gave on Committee Stage. The Deputy, in fact, does his own Committee Stage amendment a disservice because his amendment No. 61 referred to the agreement of the relevant local authority. I instanced in that debate the functions that nobody would disagree with moving from the local authority to the agency and which would apply to every local authority in the land. How would we conduct the discussions? Would there be a critical mass who would have to say "yea" or "nay"? If some were opposed to it would it have an impact? I think it would be impractical. If as a general provision we are talking about consulting with every local authority as a triggering mechanism, it would not be appropriate. On Committee Stage I instanced examples of issues that would be appropriate to be encompassed by this provision and I have not changed my mind on that. I ask Deputies not to make the Bill unworkable and impractical, to accept what I am saying and not press the amendment.
I will not be pressing this amendment but it is a retrograde step if we cannot come up with a way of ensuring that powers are handed up rather than being stolen from the local authorities. If they are to be given to a centralised forum——
There will be no disagreement on it.
This is a fundamental concept and I am sorry for speaking on it again. It ought to be remembered that as a democracy, the local authorities should be handing up their powers and their role in this does not seem to be recognised.
It is suggested that amendments Nos. 34 to 38, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 40, 49 and 65 which are related be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 26, line 39, before "and" to insert "having regard to section 22 (3)*,".
We got off to a wrong footing in the debate on this issue on Committee Stage. I stress that the proposal in this amendment is not at variance with my support for joint waste plans between local authorities where each local authority has a well documented strategy for dealing with waste in its area. This relates to the need for a fundamental strategy on waste reduction, the waste hierarchy and the way it operates. It is important to deal with waste at the lowest effective level. There are many reasons for this but one of the most important is that people are more inclined to take responsibility for a problem of their making in their area. If the general trend is towards large scale operations for the disposal of waste, landfill sites, etc., then people will not take their personal responsibility seriously.
Given our relatively small population, a number of components in the waste area will need to be dealt with on a joint basis. Some materials, for example batteries which are used here in small quantities in comparison to other countries, may have to be dealt with on a national basis. This should not allow — I use "allow" advisedly — a local authority to simply tell people that it has a joint plan with another local authority, thus enabling it to evade its responsibilities. This amendment, therefore, proposes that each local authority should formulate its own waste management plan and incorporate a component which would allow for a joint plan with another local authority. This would ensure that we do not lose sight of the basic principle that waste should be dealt with at the most effective local level which can go right down as far as the disposal of garden compost by households. If we do not deal with the loophole in the Bill we may, unwittingly, allow local authorities to evade their responsibilities in this area. I do not know the reason Cork and Donegal county councils do not join together——
One should not throw out the baby with the bath water and people should do their utmost to ensure they do not impose their problems on others. This is not reflected in the Bill and my amendment seeks to redress this anomaly.
I have not changed my views since the Committee Stage debate but the Deputy has amended his to some extent.
That is the Minister's view.
On Committee Stage he was trenchantly opposed to the notion of joint plans and I am glad he now accepts the importance of providing a facility for such plans where appropriate. However, his amendment works against this principle in that each local authority would be largely compelled to act in isolation. This does not represent a good environment strategy and I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.
I am anxious to support the growing trend among local authorities to develop inter-county waste management planning which is in the interests of sound management and the effective use of resources. As the Deputy readily recognises, some materials can best be disposed of in regional areas and this should be facilitated by good planning.
My amendment No. 52 addresses some of the Deputy's concerns in that it proposes that a local authority which has jointly made a waste management plan with one or more authorities must seek to attain the objectives of the plan in its functional area. This means that local authorities will not be able to regard themselves as less responsible for the implementation of the plan. The general thrust of the Deputy's proposal is achieved by my amendment. His amendment goes too far in the wrong direction and would isolate local authorities in a way which is not environmentally sound.
This Chamber must have better acoustics than the committee room as the Minister heard the point I made and now recognises that I am not against joint plans. His amendment No. 52 will address some of my concerns but I still believe the Minister is overwhelmed by a certain euphoria about the possibility of local authorities getting together, discussing their problems and putting forward solutions. While these solutions may be sound from an environmental point of view they will render householders remote and give local communities no option but to put up with problems partly created by them but mainly created by other people. My sympathy lies with those people who will have to live with the down-side of these so-called solutions.
Amendments Nos. 39, 55, 57, 58 and 59 are related. It is suggested that amendments Nos. 39, 55, 57, 58 and 59 be taken together if that is satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 27, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
"(5) A local authority shall, before it commences the preparation of any of the following, namely, a waste management plan under subsection (2) or (3), a variation of, or a replacement for, such a plan under subsection (4) or a replacement for such a plan in compliance with a requirement made by the Minister under section 24, cause notice of its intention to commence such preparation to be published in a newspaper circulating in its functional area and such a notice shall state that written representations in relation to the matter may be made to the local authority within a specified period, being a period of not less than 2 months from the date of publication of the notice.".
The amendment provides that before commencing work on the preparation, variation or replacement of a waste management plan, a local authority shall advertise its intention in this regard and invite members of the public to submit written representations on any relevant matter. This point was raised by Deputies opposite on Committee Stage. The amendment gives effect to amendment No. 93 tabled by Deputy Dempsey which he has submitted as amendment No. 55.
Where there is already provision for the public to make representation on draft waste management plans, Deputies opposite were concerned local authorities might be reluctant to take on board amendments to a draft plan. I said I would reflect on the desirability of allowing public input before substantive preparation on a draft plan had commenced. I have now decided to accede to the Deputy's request and tabled an amendment in that regard.
In view of what the Minister said I will not move my amendment. It was not that I did not trust the Minister but I did not have a list of the amendments before I tabled my amendment although I noted that the Minister said he would come back with something on Report Stage. I welcome the Minister's amendment and acknowledge that the case I made was purely in the interests of democracy and participation. We have all had examples, particularly in the planning process, where officials decide, with the best will in the world — I am not knocking them for that — what people want in a development plan. They produce the draft plan and feel they have to defend it once it goes on public display. What the Minister has done here is a good move and one for which he must be commended.
The amendment will allow the officials, who may be somewhat removed from the realities experienced by people in the locality, to say certain matters are of concern to them and they would like to see them addressed in a draft plan. It will help people to feel they own these plans as they go through the various processes. I thank the Minister for taking my suggestion on board and allowing for pre-plan consultation. I understand a review of the planning and development Acts is under way and, perhaps, that idea could be taken on board in the context of development plans generally. It would help the whole process and it will certainly help the process of waste plans and the democratic process.
I too think the Minister is reasonable in tabling an amendment that ensures we do not replicate the "uisce faoi thalamh" culture when it comes to making a variant on a waste management plan. I sound as if I am speaking here as a representative of a local authority.
I take it the neighbouring local authorities would receive a special notification. I appreciate it is intended to publish such a plan in a newspaper circulating in the functional area. Presumably that would extend beyond the borders of the area, but I want to ensure nothing is left to chance. I applaud the Minister's support for local authorities operating jointly. The reason I tabled the amendment was to ensure that neighbouring local authorities would be aware of the plan and procedures close to them. Perhaps the issue is taken on board but I would like to be reassured.
I thank Deputies for supporting the amendment. They are recapturing the essence of their own argument. I hope I have displayed my willingness to listen and to take on board good suggestions from the other side of the House. In regard to the final point made by Deputy Sargent, I said I would give effect to his amendment on Committee Stage which sought notification of such amendments to adjoining authorities. I intend to make such regulations under subsection (1).
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 27, line 8, after "concerned" to insert "or as directed by the Minister".
The Minister will, no doubt, chuckle to himself that, having said much about giving powers to local authorities, I am advocating caution in this amendment. Section 22 (5) states:
A waste management plan shall, in respect of non-hazardous waste, contain such objectives as seem to the local authority or local authorities concerned to be reasonable and necessary—
I agree the objectives should be set by local authorities for their functional areas. There is a danger that some local authorities may not be as committed to high standards as we would wish. This amendment seeks to allow the Minister, where a local authority does not comply with best possible standards, have a direct power in relation to setting these objectives. Perhaps the Bill allows for that in other sections, and if so, I will be happy to withdraw the amendment. It is important that the Minister would have a power, not to be used willy nilly, but in cases where standards were not being adhered to.
I do not propose to accept the amendment and I am delighted to stand in defence of local authorities. A legitimate discretion is allowed under the Bill and a legitimate responsibility is devolved on local authorities and I do not propose to upset that. The amendment is not appropriate as it would place the Minister in the position of directing a local authority as to the objectives to be set in its local waste management plan. That would run counter to the basic responsibility of local authorities in local waste management planning generally and the thrust of the discussions we have had in this regard. I ask the Deputy not to push his amendment and I look forward to the wholehearted support of Deputy Sargent in this regard.
The Deputy was not going to say anything.
The Minister is being a little provocative. I do not wish to debate this matter now. Deputy Dempsey made his case and the Minister put forward counter arguments, but I have another few fish to fry on this Bill.
I will withdraw the amendment because it is not worth going to the wall on it.
There are general powers under section 60 dealing with this matter.
Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 are alternatives to No. 42. It is suggested, therefore, that amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 44 be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 27, to delete lines 9 and 10, and substitute the following:
"(a) to prevent the production of waste,
(b) where the production of waste is unavoidable to minimise the production or harmful nature of waste,".
We had a long debate on this matter on Committee Stage and I do not propose to repeat the arguments made then. The amendment is designed to make very explicit that the primary objective must be to prevent the production of waste. This goes back to Deputy Sargent's comments on the hierarchy of waste management.
I wish Deputy Dempsey well on his crusade. I fell at the first fence in terms of my proposal. It is important to prevent or minimise the production or harmful nature of waste. We should try in so far as possible to cover all eventualities. The more "either-or's" that are inserted, the more difficult it will be to police this matter and the easier it will be for people to overcome the requirements to maintain a high standard.
My amendment No. 44 seeks to insert a new paragraph:
(b) the measures which—
(i) will be taken during the relevant period by the local authority or authorities concerned, and
(ii) in so far as the local authority or authorities concerned can determine, will or may be taken during the relevant period by persons other than such authority or authorities,
for the purpose of preventing or minimising the production of waste.
There was a long discussion on this matter on Committee Stage, and my amendment goes a long way to address the issues raised. Amendment No. 43 does not properly reflect the waste hierarchy or the principles I outlined on more than one occasion as encompassed in the waste framework directives, and for that reason I cannot accept it. The preferred option in the EU waste hierarchy relates to prevention or reduction of waste production, not merely to waste prevention as proposed in the amendment. Since my proposal goes a long way to meet the issues raised on Committee Stage I ask Deputies to withdraw their amendments in favour of No. 44 in my name.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 27, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
(b) the measures which—
(i) will be taken during the relevant period by the local authority or authorities concerned, and
(ii) in so far as the local authority or authorities concerned can determine, will or may be taken during the relevant period by persons other than such authority or authorities,
for the purpose of preventing or minimising the production of waste;".
Carlow-Kilkenny): Amendment No. 48 is an alternative to No. 45 and it is suggested that both amendments be taken together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 45:
In page 27, line 43, after "period" to insert "and matters relevant to the selection of sites in respect of facilities aforesaid".
Amendment No. 47 is an alternative to amendment No. 46 and it is suggested that both amendments be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 28, lines 4 to 8, to delete all words from and including "the" in line 4 down to and including line 8 and substitute the following:
"measures proposed to be taken, or, where such an assessment has already been made, measures taken, in order to prevent or limit any such environmental pollution, the identification of necessary remedial measures in respect of such sites, and measures proposed to be taken, or, where such measures have already been identified, measures taken, to achieve such remediation, having regard to the cost-effectiveness of available remediation techniques;".
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 28, lines 24 to 27, to delete all words from and including "the provisions of" in line 24 down to and including line 27 and substitute the following:
"the provisions of—
(a) the development plan or plans and any special amenity area order made under the Act of 1963.
(b) a water quality management plan made under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990, and
(c) an air quality management plan made under the Air Pollution Act, 1987,
for the time being in force in relation to the said area or areas.".
Amendment No. 53 is an alternative to No. 52 and it is suggested that they be taken together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 28, to delete lines 28 to 31 and substitute the following:
"(11) A local authority shall take such steps as are appropriate and necessary to attain in relation to its functional area the objectives in a waste management plan made by the authority (whether such plan has been made by the authority or jointly by the authority with another local authority or other local authorities).".
Reference was already made to this matter. The amendment provides for a joint waste management plan and I think there is broad agreement for that.
I welcome the amendment as the only means of setting down in law what I had suggested.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 28, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
"(13) The local authority shall furnish the full cost of each aspect of implementing the waste management plan.".
We had a long discussion on this matter on Committee Stage and I am not prepared to accept the amendment.
I am aware we had a long discussion on the matter. The bottom line in terms of waste management plans is that while they are almost works of genius it is difficult to know what is involved unless there is a realistic assessment of the estimated cost of such plans. It is important, when drawing up waste management plans, that each aspect is costed. Perhaps that will be done but is it important to ensure it is laid down in statue.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
There is a deafening silence and I get the message. I will withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 29, line 3, after "section," to insert "or to replace in compliance with a requirement made by the Minister under section 24,".
Amendments Nos. 60 and 63 are related and it is suggested that they be taken together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 29, line 35, after "fit)." to insert "Where material alterations to the plan are made as a result of the public participation process, the procedure above shall be repeated.".
This is similar to other amendments. The argument is well made that having agreed a waste management plan there may be a temptation, perhaps brought about by legitimate changes in circumstances, to make an alteration to the plan.
That could be pertinent to the overall plan. Yet, unless subjected to procedures somewhat similar to those that applied to the original plan, it could lead to a dangerous loophole, when a local authority might proceed with its publicised waste plan but subsequently devise a very different, behind the scenes plan which, no doubt if challenged, would be accompanied by well argued reasons. I want the same type of consultative process in both cases.
I do not propose to accept this amendment which, as I explained, could lead to the possibility of a continuous cycle of public consultation and revision of a proposed plan. Amendment No. 63 proposes that, having allowed at least two months for the first round of public consultations, a local authority should then engage in a second round of public consultation for at least another month. I do not consider that suitable or appropriate and ask the Deputy not to press his amendment.
Amendment No. 61 in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 62 is an alternative. Therefore, it is proposed that both be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 29, line 40, after "plan" to insert ", within a period of 21 days of receipt by the authority of such request, or of payment of such fee as it may charge, whichever shall be the later".
Amendment No. 64 in the name of the Minister and, since amendment No. 66 is an alternative, it is proposed that they be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 30, line 1, after "may" to insert ", after consultation with the local authority or authorities concerned".
This amendment imposes a requirement on the Minister to consult the local authority, or authorities, concerned before exercising his powers under this section.
I move amendment No. 67:
In page 30, line 8, after "and" to insert "all waste management plans should be able to stand as independent documents, and".
While it may sound pedantic, whenever a local authority is requested to produce its waste management plan, it should be able to say that its waste management plan should stand alone, albeit drawn up jointly with another or others. I want to ensure the greatest possible degree of local accountability in regard to waste management.
The Deputy's concerns are dealt with in amendment No. 52, which we have just agreed. A waste management plan, drawn up under the provisions of the Bill, will have the full status of a plan irrespective of whether it is drawn up by a single local authority or by two or more. Therefore, there is nothing to be gained from the Deputy's amendment.
I move amendment No. 68:
In page 30, line 17, before "have made" to insert ",has or".
This is a technical amendment.
I move amendment No. 69:
In page 30, line 23, after "section," to insert "but not later than such date as may be prescribed,".
This amendment gives effect to my Committee Stage commitment given by me on foot of a case advanced by Deputy Sargent, providing that the agency shall submit a copy of the national hazardous waste management plan to the Minister not later than a date prescribed by him.
Amendment No. 70 in the name of the Minister and, since No. 71 is an alternative, it is proposed they be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 70:
In page 31, line 5, after "activities", to insert "the taking or recommendation of measures in order to prevent or limit any such environmental pollution,"
This relates to section 26 (2) (c) which sets out the information to be contained in the hazardous waste management plan relating to sites at which hazardous waste recovery or disposal activities have been carried out. The amendment would extend the subsection to provide that, in addition to the matters already specified in subsection (c), the plan would also indicate the measures taken, or recommended to be taken, in order to prevent or limit environmental pollution from such activities.
I move amendment No. 73:
In page 31, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:
"(e) have regard to the need for precaution in relation to the potentially harmful effect of emissions, where there are, in the opinion of the Agency, reasonable grounds for believing that such emissions could cause significant environmental pollution;".
I had table this as amendment No. 112a on Committee Stage and have a note to the effect that it was accepted by the Minister.
That is correct, it is already part of the Bill.
Amendment No. 74 in the name of Deputy Dempsey. Since Nos. 75 and 76 are alternatives, by agreement, they may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 74:
In page 31, lines 28 and 29, to delete "from time to time as it thinks appropriate review" and substitute "review from time to time but at least once in every three years".
I tabled this amendment, anxious that some timescale be inserted for review of the hazardous waste management plan. Since I have reservations about the subsection as it appears in the Bill, as amended in Committee, will the Minister consider revising it?
There were two amendments tabled on Committee Stage, one proposed by Deputy Dempsey specifying five years and another by Deputy Sargent specifying three years. I was swayed by Deputy Sargent's persuasive argument into accepting three years, which I consider to be an appropriate and practical interval. We have all had experience of how long planning reviews can take but I do not want to insert a requirement that simply would not be implemented, which would not be good law.
The Minister has inserted a clever clause to the effect that the five years can be somewhat elastic. While accepting that we are moving in the right direction in suggesting a timescale, it is not sufficiently specific and could be interpreted as an elastic period within which such plan must be reviewed, which leaves me unhappy. When the Minister accepted my amendment on Committee Stage, I had expected my wording to be inserted in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 76:
In page 31, line 29, to delete "review the hazardous waste management plan" and substitute ", and at least once in each period of 5 years after the date of making of the hazardous waste management plan, review the plan".
The amendment flows from the Committee Stage amendments Nos. 113 and 114. It provides that the hazardous waste management plan shall be reviewed by the agency on a regular basis. I have now put in the time frame for that review which will be every five years. Once the plan is in place that will be an automatic mechanism. It is not elastic; it must be done within a five year timescale.
I will defend the Minister on this. The note I took on Committee Stage was that if all of these amendments were withdrawn he would table his own amendment.
I agree to the amendment because I have no alternative.
We now come to amendment No. 77 in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 78 is related. We will discuss them together by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 77:
In page 31, line 41, after "Minister" to insert ", each local authority".
The amendment of section 76 (4) (a) requires that a copy of a proposed hazardous waste management plan or a proposed revision of the plan shall be furnished by the agency to each local authority in addition to the Minister and other prescribed person. This arises out of our Committee Stage debate on amendment No. 120 tabled by Deputy Dempsey, tabled now as amendment No. 78. I undertook to consider an amendment whereby a copy of the draft hazardous waste plan would be sent to each local authority at whose office it could be made available for inspection by the public. In all other significant respects the new section 27 proposed by Deputy Dempsey repeats the existing provisions of section 26. Therefore, I do not believe it is necessary.
I move amendment No. 79:
In page 33, line 31, to delete "identifying opportunities" and substitute "producing proposals within a definite timescale".
This amendment speaks for itself. Its aim is to try to pin people down a little more than the Bill is proposing, because of the difficulty involved in meeting specific targets.
I remember the Deputy's thinking on this. I am supportive of the principle, but I indicated on Committee Stage that the Bill already achieves the intended effect of the amendment and, therefore, the amendment is not necessary.
The amendment would require that a waste audit as defined in section 27 would have to incorporate an action plan with a specific timescale for implementation. The amendment would, therefore, inappropriately amalgamate audit and action. The Bill makes a clear distinction between waste audit on the one hand and waste reduction programmes, or action, on the other. The audit is an evaluation of the opportunities for waste reduction. A waste reduction programme refers to the taking of steps to achieve waste reduction. Both expressions are defined in section 27. I envisage that regulations under section 28 will incorporate timescales and specific requirements for the carrying out of waste audits and for waste reduction programmes. The intention of the amendment is already provided for in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 80:
In page 37, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:
"(b) the Minister shall set minimum recovery and recycling percentage rates for each class of waste and these rates to be reviewed and revised periodically.".
This amendment seeks to reassure people that the fine words and intentions will have some effect. There is a considerable amount of PR about the percentages recycled in one area or another which tends to be quite selective. I would argue that our own recycling strategy on packaging is minimalist. It could go further, particularly as international markets change and the recycling of items such as paper becomes more profitable. There are vagaries in terms of economic viability as well as environmental standards that we ought to be setting. We ought to be allowing for a periodic revision or targets. That is what I was trying to achieve by this amendment. I would appreciate if the Minister would respond charitably.
The amendment as it stands would require recovery targets for every type of waste. However, it is not legally meaningful in that it does not indicate who would be bound subsequently by those minimium recycling and recovery percentage rates. Nor does it specify how those targets would be achieved. I do not see how it would add in any meaningful way to the wide range of powers which are already available under this section, including the general power to impose producer responsibility which is really to impose on an identifiable source a responsibility or an obligation to reduce specific wastes. That may also include a requirement to achieve specific targets. Those powers are already there for the purpose of waste recovery and waste minimisation. I do not see that the amendment adds anything to that and it is not legally meaningful.
Having taken that on the chin, can I ask the Minister——
He will not be able to reply.
——if he would simply assure me that those powers he talks about will be given effect at least in terms of the sentiment I expressed that there will be a recognition that these things are changing. I note, for instance, that the Smurfit Group could see themselves accommodating the whole 25 per cent mentioned in the context of paper recycling. We could say, not entirely truthfully, that we were doing a wonderful job in recycling because we had achieved this target when in fact it is hidden behind uncontrollable international economic forces as opposed to any conscious and categorical strategy on our part. I tabled the amendment simply in an attempt to address that issue.
Amendments Nos. 81 and 82 are related. We will take both together by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 81:
In page 38, lines 32 and 33, after "conducted" to insert "and where the Minister is satisfied that no adequate recovery or recycling facility exists".
We had a long discussion on this on Committee Stage. I tabled this amendment to see if the Minister had changed his mind since then.
Essentially this section requires industry to put in place an action plan in terms of its waste reduction programmes. That is something I fully support and which is essential to undertake if the Bill is to succeed. All I ask is that we should have a little more subtlety in the manner in which we approach industry, and that, in the case of an industry where it can be demonstrated that a programme of action relating to recovery and recycling is already in place, that the Minister would take that into account when he is making further requirements in respect of waste that remains after the processes of recycling and recovery have been fully employed.
We had a long discussion on this during Committee Stage.
There is no point in restating what I said.
I thought the Minister might indicate he agreed with the sentiments expressed in the amendment even if it was not well worded. Those who make an effort to recycle waste material should be given special recognition. The Minister may do so through the voluntary code following his consultations with IBEC.
I move amendment No. 83:
In page 39, line 8, after "production" to insert "and the Minister may introduce regulations under this section to provide for verification of the material or component quantities, whether virgin, recoverable or recovered".
There is a suspicion in industry that sometimes false claims are made about the environmental value of some materials or their component parts. The Minister should introduce regulations to define the different processes to ensure the claims made stand up in fact.
This amendment is not necessary. There is already power under the Bill to make regulations. Specific provisions on the clarification of targets are contained in section 29 (4) (t) (iii) and (u).
Amendments Nos. 84 and 128 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 84:
In page 39, line 23, after "facility" to insert "and that this requirement could partially offset the requirement for a specified number of car parking spaces specified in the planning permission of such a sales outlet".
I understood on Committee Stage that the Minister was sympathetic to the import of this amendment. In general, retail outlets are supportive of and interested in collection facilities for recycling secondary materials. However, planning permission requires them to supply car parking spaces for their premises. If space is limited they cannot accommodate recycling units. I wish to ensure that such a planning restriction does not prevent the development of a network of collection points. It is understandable that a retail outlet would encourage people to bring their recyclable materials to such collection points because when they empty the box or bag containing the materials they can reuse them to take away their purchases. It is a sensible procedure and should be encouraged.
The Deputy will be pleased that I accept his argument. Amendment No. 128 amends section 54 which deals with the interrelationship of this Bill with the planning Acts. It gives effect to amendment No. 114 (b) tabled by the Deputy on Committee Stage which sought to ensure that a requirement of supermarket planning permission specifying a minimum number of car parking spaces would not of itself present an obstacle to the provision of waste collection receptacles in accordance with regulations under section 29 (4) (o).
I move amendment No. 85:
In page 39, line 33, after "authority" to insert "and/or potentially responsible parties generating waste".
This amendment seeks to avoid creating a loophole by inserting "and/or potentially responsible parties generating waste".
I am unable to accept the amendment for the reason given on Committee Stage.
Amendment No. 87. Amendment No. 88 is an alternative and both maybe discussed together.
I move amendment No. 87:
In page 41, lines 5 to 7, to delete all words from and including "undertake" in line 5 down to and including line 7 and substitute the following:
"carry out in a specified manner the composting of municipal waste of an organic nature or any other process for the biological transformation of such waste,".
This amendment relates to section 29 (4) (y) which deals with local authority activities for the recovery of organic waste. The amendment will extend the paragraph to include not only composting but any other process for the biological transformation of organic waste. The amendment will provide a comprehensive basis for the activities of local authorities in dealing with organic matter.
I commend the Minister for putting forward this amendment.
That is included. The Minister has given some thought to it and I commend him.
I move amendment No. 89:
In page 41, line 29, after "may be" to insert "but not later than 3 years".
This amendment seeks to give local authorities a specific time by which they are bound. It is important that local authorities would have a specific time, following enactment of the Bill, within which to meet the terms of the Bill rather than leaving it "as soon as may be". I urge the Minister to take this amendment on board so that there will be an agreed date.
I know the danger is that if the period is three years a local authority may consider it does not have to be ready for three years. However, I urge the Minister to include this as an outside date.
I have given some consideration to this matter since Committee Stage and my suggestion is the correct way to proceed. There are a number of difficulties in specifying a three year timeframe, including what the Deputy mentioned: people may say it is a long way off and may do nothing or may decide that when the time arrives they can do anything they like.
I intend to promulgate a public authority waste management programme as soon as I can after this Bill becomes law and to progressively develop and expand its scope. The necessary ground-work has already begun and I hope we will complete the main portion of the work within 12 to 18 months. I consider a provision which requires me to develop a substantial programme applicable to each and every public authority within a specified period to be too inflexible.
I do not want to militate against the development of a comprehensive programme in consultation with the appropriate bodies or against the synergy I am anxious to create by putting forward a timeframe that might have less than desirable consequences. The approach I indicated on Committee Stage is the better way to proceed. I assure the Deputy that we have begun the process. The local authorities have begun to prepare themselves for the implications of this provision and for drawing up their Agenda 21 and waste management programmes. The fears of the matter being put on the long finger will not be realised. I will not allow it to happen.
I move amendment No. 90:
In page 42, line 13, before "implementation" to insert "cost".
One of the main oversights in many of the plans drawn up is the absence of costing.
I do not propose to accept the amendment for the reasons already given.
I move amendment No. 91:
In page 42, line 14, before "reduction" to insert "and prevention"
If, as I understand it, the hierarchy starts with the prevention of waste, "reduction" should not be included without "prevention" before it.
If one reads the amendment in context if it was accepted the provision would state: "The conduct by public authorities of waste audits and the implementation... by them of waste and prevention reduction programmes...". What are "prevention reduction programmes"?
There is a drafting error; it should read "prevention and reduction".
I move amendment No. 92:
In page 42, line 19, after "them," to insert "subject to minimum targets agreed beforehand by the members,".
It is important to have clearly laid out targets.
I indicated on Committee Stage that I do not consider the amendment appropriate or technically correct.
I move amendment No. 93:
In page 42, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:
"(2) A local authority may not hold, recover, or dispose of waste in a manner which causes, or is likely to cause, environmental pollution.".
Experience tells us that although the local authorities are charged with many of the functions of discharge licences and pollution control, they have not always given the best example in environmental standards.
I indicated on Committee Stage that this amendment is not necessary. A similar provision in section 32 (1) prohibits any person from holding, recovering or disposing of waste in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, environmental pollution. For the purposes of legal interpretation "person" includes a local authority or any body corporate.
I move amendment No. 94:
In page 42, line 40, after "hold," to insert "transport,".
This amendment to section 32 (1) will require that person shall not hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner which causes, or is likely to cause, environmental pollution. This is a response to Deputies' concerns about the exclusion of transport.
I move amendment No. 96:
In page 44, line 41, after "local authority" to insert "or an authorised waste collector".
This amendment relates to section 33(8)(a) which prohibits a person from disturbing, interfering with or removing anything deposited at a facility provided by a local authority. The amendment will extend this prohibition to apply also to materials deposited at a facility provided by an authorised waste collector, such as Kerbside or Rehab.
I move amendment No. 97:
In page 45, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:
"(4) The local authority will communicate its decision to the applicant, not later than three months after the date of application.".
I wish to set a limit on the time allowed for processing an application for a waste collection permit. It would bring these provisions into line with those for planning permission, for example. It is important to set out a time frame within which a licence would be granted or refused.
I support Deputy Quill. We need to have a little more transparency at local authority level. On Committee Stage I cited the example that some local authorities are in competition with private waste operators and in relation to the granting of a permit the local authority will be judge and jury. There should be a set period to protect private operators. If the Minister will not accept this amendment I hope he will deal with the matter in regulations.
I agree with the logic of the case and, having regard to the relatively straightforward nature of most waste collection activities, I consider three months might be the outer limit. I intend to prescribe a timescale of three months or less in regulations under section 34 (11) (b) (iii).
Amendments Nos. 98, 99 and 100 form a composite proposal and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 98:
In page 46, to delete lines 18 to 26.
The net effect of these amendments is to provide for a system of public consultation regarding an application for a waste collection permit and for a right of appeal to the District Court by an applicant for a permit or a permit holder in respect of a decision by the relevant local authority to grant, amend, refuse to grant or revoke the said permit. These amendments give effect to the Committee Stage amendments put forward by Deputy Dempsey and Deputy Sargent.
I thank the Minister for responding to points made on Committee Stage. My proposal concerned an appeal to the agency or a similar body. The Minister explained about the courts. I have reservations about matters going there but I will accept the Minister's generosity in this case.
I move amendment No. 99:
In page 47, to delete lines 10 to 30 and substitute the following:
"(8) (a) A local authority, before making a decision in relation to an application made to it for the grant of a waste collection permit, shall consider any submissions made to it under and in accordance with regulations under subsection (1) in relation to the application.
(b) A local authority shall, if it decides—
(i) to grant, or amend any conditions that it has attached to, a waste collection permit, or
(ii) to refuse to grant, or revoke, such a permit.
forthwith notify the applicant therefor or its holder, as the case may be, of the decision and the reason for the decision.
(9) (a) An applicant for, or the holder of, a waste collection permit may, within one month of the date of a notice under subsection (8), appeal against the decision of the local authority concerned to the judge of the District Court for the District Court district in which the principal office of the local authority is situate.
(b) On the hearing of an appeal under this subsection, the judge of the District Court may make an order giving such directions to the local authority concerned as he or she thinks proper in relation to the grant or revocation of a waste collection permit or the amendment of conditions attached to such a permit.".
I move amendment No. 100:
In page 48, to delete lines 13 to 15 and substitute the following:
"(vii) the making available for inspection by members of the public of an application for the grant of a permit, and the making of submissions by members of the public to a local authority, within a specified period, in relation to such an application.".
I move amendment No. 102:
In page 59, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
"(xi) require the holder of the licence to effect and maintain a policy of insurance insuring him or her as respects any liability on his or her part to pay damages or costs on account of injury to person or property arising from the carrying on of the activity concerned,".
We had a long argument about this. Is the Minister inclined to change his mind?
No. The amendment proposes to make it mandatory rather than discretionary for the agency to attach a condition to all waste licences requiring third party liability insurance to be taken out. Even on reflection I am not minded to include that in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 104:
In page 61, line 36, after "licence" to insert "and shall consult with members of the public living in the direct catchment area of the proposed facility".
This amendment seeks to ensure those living with the downside of the strategy to put a large landfill site in a central location serving a wide area are recognised, by ensuring they are consulted directly if they live in the catchment area of the proposed facility. In the past that consultation has been less than wholehearted. Many promises were made, such as that the facility would only be open for five or ten years, but whatever commitments were given were later revised to the point of being meaningless. It must be acknowledged that is wrong and it undermines the integrity of local authorities. I ask the Minister to take that concern on board whether he accepts this amendment.
I understand the Deputy's position but I indicated on Committee Stage that I do not regard this amendment as appropriate. The role of the agency is to ensure the conditions attaching to a licence are complied with — it cannot go into consultancy with anyone who might be affected by it.
Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 106:
In page 63, line 30, to delete "the principal" and substitute "any prescribed".
This relates to Wexford again. As much as I love Wexford I see practical difficulties in not allowing this amendment. The office may well be in Wexford, but it is not necessary to state "the principal office". My amendment would allow any office to be used, as may be appropriate as time goes on and circumstances indicate.
I am not sure why amendment No. 107 is grouped with amendment No. 106. Amendment No. 107 is to replicate the provisions under planning law, where people are informed in due course of a decision, whether by the agency or a planning department. The subsection I propose to insert states:
The Agency shall provide written confirmation of the receipt of, and admissibility or otherwise as the case may be, of, an objection or request for an oral hearing, as soon as may be, and in any case, within a maximum period of 10 days following receipt of such an objection or request.
I have increased the number of days so that the Minister would not say it was unworkable or too much to ask. I tried to be more accommodating and we will see if I have succeeded.
I still do not consider the amendment necessary. Subsection 10 as drafted provides for the delivery by ordinary post or by hand of notifications to the agency at its principal office. That is simple, clear and adequate. The subsection also allows for other means of delivery to be prescribed as appropriate, so when the internet reaches the office we can deal with that. However, as I indicated on Committee Stage, the notion of having a number of possible offices is a recipe for documentation going astray and confusion. It is better that all documentation should arrive at the same office. People would be much happier if they knew a letter they registered would go to the principal office of the Environmental Protection Agency. It will take into account whether various documentation relating to the issue will be in a number of different offices. For the sake of clarity and efficiency, the proposals I outlined are best.
Amendment No. 107 is to impose a time limit of five days with which the agency must adjudicate on the admissibility but not the substance——
I have changed it to ten days.
I beg the Deputy's pardon. Nonetheless, whether it is five or ten days, what addition to the procedure will flow from it? The existing provisions are more than adequate and meet the needs most Deputies would have. I ask the Deputy not to press his amendments.
I will not press them but courtesy comes into this as much as anything else.
Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 are related and it is suggested that they be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 108:
In page 64, line 3, after "decision" to insert "and reason or reasons".
This relates to the current practice in planning law where a decision is given and people are given reasons to help them understand why that decision was made and to ensure the openness to which we all aspire. My amendment is reasonable and I do not see how it is any different from the practice under planning law.
Amendment No. 109 proposes to insert a new paragraph (c) which states "where the Agency decides not to hold an oral hearing under this subsection the person or persons who requested an oral hearing may appeal the decision by way of an application for judicial review". This may already be provided for, but I tabled the amendment in order to have the matter clarified.
I made it clear on Committee Stage that I did not see merit in these amendments. Amendment No. 108 proposes to amend section 42 of the Bill so as to require the agency to state its reasons for refusing to hold an oral hearing. There can only be one reason for refusing an oral hearing which is that the agency considers that the matters before it can be adequately dealt with on the basis of written evidence, which means that there is no requirement for an oral hearing. The holding of an oral hearing is decided on the basis of the needs of the case and it does not add anything to the Bill to spell that out.
Amendment No. 9 proposes to add a new paragraph to provide a right of appeal by way of an application for judicial review of a decision of the agency not to hold an oral hearing. That amendment undermines a central and fundamental objective of the Bill which is, as I have repeatedad nauseam, to appoint the agency as a licensing authority for waste activities. The amendment proposes to frustrate rather than facilitate this objective and would serve to introduce a right of appeal in relation to an intermediate procedural decision of the agency to the courts. It would be very much a retrograde step. I ask, therefore, that these amendments not be pressed.
It may not seem very important to the Minister to get reasons for not having an oral hearing. However, I can assure him that it is far from unnecessary for someone who has a great deal to lose. I ask him to take that on board.
I move amendment No. 110.
In page 64, line 41, to delete "subsection 42 (11)" and substitute "section 42 (11)".
This is a technical drafting amendment which does not alter the effect of the section. The purpose is to make the reference in question consistent in terms of drafting with similar references in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 111:
In page 66, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
"(i) the categories of persons who can conduct an oral hearing,".
We have talked about the democratic aspect of the agency and the fact that it is not directly elected but is the competent body. It is reasonable if we are going to have an unelected body acting with comprehensive powers to set down as many guidelines as are appropriate. We may argue about it, but it is appropriate for the categories of person who can conduct an oral hearing to be known and clearly stated, letting everybody know where they stand. That is fundamental to public confidence in the procedure.
I do not agree with the Deputy. I have a very high regard for the agency. The amendment would unreasonably infringe the discretion of the agency under subsection (1) (a) to select and appoint a person to conduct an oral hearing. The whole process of determining an application for a licence is a matter prescribed for the agency. The decision whether to hold an oral hearing is entirely a matter for the agency. It is entirely appropriate that the agency should appoint the person who will conduct the oral hearing and I do not propose to interfere with this arrangement.
I am not trying to interfere with the discretion of the agency. I am trying to ensure that the agency has a range of options about which we all know and in which we can feel confident. I worry when I hear the Minister say that the agency is in charge of the whole process and it should be let get on with it. It sounds to me as if the agency is taking away our worries or all the pain of having to think through the decision making process. It is not a great deal to ask and it is not taking discretion from the agency. The amendment states "categories of persons". However, I will withdraw the amendment as the Minister is not being accommodating.
I move amendment No. 112:
In page 67, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
"(2) The Minister shall make regulations in respect of the termination of a waste licence.".
Since I resubmitted this amendment, I read the Minister's response to it when it was moved on Committee Stage and I now wish to withdraw it.
I move amendment No. 113:
In page 67, line 45, before "relates" to insert "relate or".
This is a technical drafting amendment to section 45(2)(h). The amendment is intended to improve the text but does not alter the meaning of paragraph (h) in any way.
Amendments Nos. 114 to 116, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 114:
In page 68, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
"(d) upon request from the local authority in the area to which the licence applies.".
These three amendments comprise quite an amount and cover a recurring theme. Amendment No. 114 asks that the agency may review a waste licence upon request from the local authority in the area to which the licence applies. Given that the local authorities would have previously been the competent body, to use the Minister's words, it is appropriate that they should still hold some semblance of authority and at least be able to kick start the mechanism, if not actually carry it through, when they feel there is a valid reason for reviewing a licence. That is local democracy on as good a level as we can devise. It is not that the local authorities would take over from the agency but that they would be there as an indicator of local feeling on the need for a licence to be reviewed.
With regard to amendment No. 115, the Bill refers to the situation where the agency considers any emission arising from, or as a result of, the activity to which the waste licence relates constitutes a risk. I was worried that it referred to the result of an activity and it could be legally argued that the activity itself, although it was causing a problem, did not come under that aspect of the Bill. Perhaps the Minister would reassure me on this matter.
Amendment No. 116 would mean that the local authority would at least have an input into these matters. They could deal with problems that arise after office hours, at weekends and on bank holidays. Irrespective of the agency's competence and location, it could not be fully informed on all activities. In the same way as one of the local radio stations requests people to telephone its newsroom if they witness a newsworthy event taking place, it should be possible for people to bring matters which they consider constitute a risk of environmental pollution to the attention of the agency. I am sure the Minister will tell me that those powers exist, but that is not clear from the Bill.
I cannot accept amendment No. 114. It is not intended that a waste licence should be open to frequent review. The section, as drafted, makes adequate provision for the circumstances which will give rise to review and I do not propose to outline them.
Amendment No. 115 proposes to extend the scope of section 46(3)(a) regarding the grounds for a review of a waste licence. The amended provision will enable a waste licence to be reviewed where the agency considers that an emission arises from, or as a result of, the activity to which the waste licence relates or if the activity itself constitutes a risk of environmental pollution. The terminology of the amendment is inconsistent with the general terms of the Bill. The amendment appears to distinguish between an activity and the emissions from the activity and implies that environmental pollution can arise separately from both. I do not know how this could happen.
The substance of amendment No. 116 is already contained in the Bill, as noted by the Deputy.
I thank the Minister for his clarification, but I hope he is more accommodating on later amendments.
Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 are related and, therefore, may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 117:
In page 69, line 48, after "Agency." to insert "They shall also jointly publish a notice in a national newspaper of their application for a transfer.".
This brings us back to our old friends, openness, transparency and accountability. I would like the Minister to accept this amendment purely on the basis that the public have a right to know about the transfer of a waste licence. The public should know who applies for the licence and to whom it is transferred. It would not be an onerous task for those involved in the transfer of a licence to place a notice of the application in national newspaper. Members of the public are entitled to such information and there should be a facility through which they can make known their views on the matter. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
These amendments would require the joint applicants for transfer of a waste licence to publish a notice of their application in a national newspaper. The agency, in turn, would be required to have regard to submissions from the public when deciding on a transfer application. I do not want to introduce an unduly bureaucratic or burdensome system. The Deputy's amendments are unnecessary and should be withdrawn. The name of the new licensee would be a matter of public record, maintained in the agency's register and available for public scrutiny, similar to all other such documentation and information.
Is it proposed to take amendment No. 119 with No. 117? The points I wish to make on No. 119 are similar to those made by Deputy Dempsey.
No, it was not proposed to group that amendment with another.
While that may not have been the intention, it would be logical to take Deputy Sargent's amendment in conjunction with Nos. 116 and 117.
Is that agreed? Agreed. We will take amendment Nos. 117, 118 and 119 together.
Amendment No. 119 relates to some of the concerns expressed by Deputy Dempsey. The Minister stated that the information concerned would be a matter of public record and, having regard to the Internet revolution, I am sure that is correct. However, because of its sheer volume the information is, in effect, hidden from the public. It is reasonable to ask the transferee to make that information known to members of the public in the same way as the name of the original licence holder is known to them. As this is a valid concern the Minister should accept at least one of these amendments. The public will not know the information is available unless the proposed transferee shall cause to be published, or give notice of, his or her intention to assume the licence in such a form and to such a person as may be prescribed under section 45. This is a reasonable request in a time of openness, transparency and accountability.
I note the Minister is unmoved. Will he at least examine the logic of this request? I graciously accept his point that amendment No. 118 would serve to make the procedures somewhat burdensome.
I would be even so gracious as to admit that amendment No. 119 is better and I ask the Minister to accept it. I will not reiterate what Deputy Sargent said, but there is a need for openness and transparency. While it is nice to know that records on licences will be open for inspection at the Environmental Protection Agency offices in County Wexford, a lovely county where Fianna Fáil hopes to secure three seats next time round, I hope not at the Minister's expense——
Christmas is coming.
——this does not adequately meet our concerns. If the public had a right to know initially, they have a right to know after a licence has been transferred. I plead with the Minister to accept the amendment in the name of Deputy Sargent, if he will not accept mine.
It is a matter for the Seanad to consider.
The Minister has not closed the door.
That does not mean much to me as I do not have any colleagues in the Seanad. Can we not deal with the matter here?
I will not accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 120:
In page 71, line 12, after "emissions" to insert "or activity".
The Minister referred to "activity", but this is a slightly different proposal. In this instance we are dealing with the likely effect on any environmental media of emissions from the relevant facility. It should not be limited to emissions only. Where heavy machinery is used the environmental damage done could be severe. This is relevant. I am not sure if this would be covered by the terms governing waste licences, particularly paragraph 6.
The subsection in question deals with the assessment by the agency of the condition of a waste facility and the likely environmental effect of any emissions from such a facility after the waste activity in question has ceased. It is difficult to understand the purpose behind the amendment which would require the agency to assess the likely effect on any environmental media of any emissions or activity from the relevant facility.
I do not know what the Deputy has in mind. Perhaps he will give some examples to make his intentions clear.
For instance, where a facility ceases operations I would like to be assured that there will be procedures in place to ensure after-care for a number of years. It is proposed to do this in the case of a number of facilities throughout the country. One would imagine that due attention will have to be given to a facility after it has closed down. I am seeking to close any loopholes that may exist.
I move amendment No. 121:
In page 71, to delete lines 41 to 50, and in page 72, to delete lines 1 to 4, and substitute the following:
"(2) The Agency shall, given all reasonable technical evidence, set a maximum life span on the operational life of the activity at the specified location.".
I have tabled this amendment because of the sad experiences of some people where the maximum life span of a landfill site was revised regularly despite the trenchment commitments given. The amendment I tabled on Committee Stage was rejected on the grounds that it was too detailed. I am anxious not to tie people's hands.
The amendment would require the agency, given all reasonable technical evidence, to set a maximum life span on the operational life of an activity at a specified location. It is important, to protect people's quality of life, that they should know for how long they will be crucified by activities which have an impact on their area and I am not referring solely to emissions or other occupational hazards, such as smells from an old style landfill site. I remain to be convinced that the new style landfill site will be any different.
I cite Rogerstown Estuary in my constituency as an example. Young school children in this rural area cannot go outside their own gates because of the number and size of lorries travelling in increasing numbers to and from the landfill site in question. Although the county council resurfaces the road periodicially, there is a curfew during the periods the site is operational. People living in the area have been assured time and again that it is nearing the end of its life span.
It is time we faced up to our responsibilities to local communities and gave an assurance that any commitments will be honoured. If the agency wishes to revise the maximum life span of a landfill site, it should accept responsibility and not change the goalposts. It is reasonable to ask that it co-operate with communities.
The amendment would require the agency to set a maximum life span on the operational life of each licensed waste activity. If a licensed waste activity results in crucifixion, this legislation will have failed, but that is not my intention. The amendment is not appropriate and I do not propose to accept it.
It is sad that the Minister has failed to recognise that there is a need to provide reassurance in the legislation to local communities.
It does provide reassurance.
Their experience should be borne in mind. This legislation will not have the effect of changing the lethal danger of vehicles trundling up and down small roads, nor will it have the effect of changing many things. It is important that we accept that people have valid concerns and assure them they should not have to suffer any longer than is necessary.
We now come to deal with amendment No. 122. Amendments Nos. 123 and 124 are related and I suggest that amendments Nos. 122, 123 and 124 be taken together by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 122:
In page 72, to delete lines 41 and 42, and in page 73, to delete line 1.
This amendment proposes the deletion from the section of the words, "sludge from a facility operated by a local authority for the treatment of water or waste water, blood of animal or poultry origin". Concern expressed about agriculturally generated pollution is the issue here. I welcome anything further the Minister has to add on this. I will not go into the detail of the argument on this matter now.
I do not propose to accept these amendments, which would effectively negative the intended effect of this section. The amendments appear to be based on a misconception of the purpose and effect of the section. The central features of section 51 incorporated in the Bill are the exemption of the recovery of certain organic wastes from the licensing requirements of section 39 and provision for an alternative system of control involving the prior written consent of a local authority for such recovery activities. The section relates only to the recovery of waste, that is, the land spread of manure or slurry. I wish to emphasise that, similar to other types of waste, the disposal of all agricultural waste is subject to the provisions of section 39. The land-spreading of natural agricultural waste and sludges is a widespread agricultural practice and is economically and environmentally beneficial if carried out in a proper and controlled way. It would not be appropriate or practical to require that each such activity should be subject to a licensing regime set up under Part V of the Bill. We must be realistic about that. The agricultural community would not be able to bear that type of imposition.
I indicated already that there is provision in subsections 3 and 4 for alternative regulatory control for the recovery of specific wastes to be exercised at local authority level. The provisions are intended to complement existing wide-ranging powers under other Acts. I envisage that regulations under sections 3 and 4 may be used at an early date in relation to certain activities and I instanced some on Committee Stage. For example, I am not satisfied that the continued land-spreading of blood is justified. I will give early consideration to the prohibition of that as soon as I have the required statutory power. I propose to replace the European Community's regulations on the use of sewage sludge with regulations under this Bill. It would be appropriate to introduce an authorisation system under section 4 (a) for the recovery of certain types of natural farm wastes which would be technically classified as hazardous wastes, for example, silage effluent. Under all relevant EU requirements the recovery of any such hazardous wastes must be subject to proper authorisation. As the Deputy will remember, I also gave formal notice on Committee Stage of a possible amendment to the Water Pollution Act, 1990 to provide for certain new powers under the Act to secure better environmental performance in the application of natural and artificial fertilisers. This amendment is not for Report Stage. I intend to bring it to the Seanad and it will have to be dealt with here in due course. I recommend that amendments Nos. 122, 123 and 124 should be withdrawn.
I appreciate that the Minister has given this matter some thought. I look forward to the amendment he proposes to table when the Bill goes to the Seanad.
I move amendment No. 125:
In page 73, lines 19 to 22, to delete "(other than that involving the spreading of such waste on, or its injection into, land on a farm from which such waste originates),".
This amendment relates to section 51 (4) (a) which provides for a control system of prior written consent by a local authority in relation to the recovery of certain organic wastes. The section, as drafted, would not allow for the controls to be applied to the spreading on land or injection into land of farm waste on the farm on which the waste originates. The amendment would remove that restriction and, therefore, would allow the control system to be applied to the land-spreading or injection of farm waste on any land, including the land on which the waste arises.
It is a good amendment.
I move amendment No. 126:
In page 75, to delete lines 42 to 50 and in page 76, to delete lines 1 to 16, and substitute the following:
"(3) A planning authority will consider a planning application for a development that requires a waste licence only after that licence has been granted.".
This matter was discussed on Committee Stage at which time I proposed a broader deletion of the section in the light of experience since the enactment of the Environmental Protection Act. A proposed incinerator for Ringsend is a class example of how the legislation is flawed. For many people that proposal highlights that if environmental considerations are excluded from the planning procedures when a planning application is under consideration, it may transpire that a project is granted planning permission subject to environmental audit. I tabled this amendment to address this matter. Given that most people are concerned about the environmental consequences, I hope that a project requiring a waste licence will be assessed on environmental criteria before undertaking all the necessary work involved in considering the planning aspects of it. This matter would have been more appropriately addressed under the Environmental Protection Act, but to avoid repeating mistakes it should be dealt with in this Bill.
This matter is somewhat related to the next amendment. I raised this matter on Committee Stage and I am not sure if Deputy Sargent's amendment, any more than my later one, will solve this problem. I understood from the discussion on Committee Stage that the Minister was mindful of the problems now arising because of the division between the Environmental Protection Agency Act and, in this case, the Waste Bill, but in other areas it is in relation to the planning Acts. Deputy Sargent referred to the problem about the incinerator at Ringsend. The Minister will also be aware of the serious reservations expressed by the inspector of An Bord Pleanála in respect of the Masonite planning appeal when he referred to the division of responsibility which had given rise to a considerable amount of controversy. The argument has been made that there are serious problems in the control mechanisms due to the division and that the division is impractical and irrational. I am inclined to agree with those arguments. I am not sure if this amendment meets the need.
Like Deputy Sargent and others I stated on Committee Stage that even if provision were made to ensure licences were processed, granted or refused, the mechanism should be similar to the planning process, with various notices and so on. If the application for the licence took place before the planning application, that might alleviate the problems now arising.
This problem will get worse. There will be more and more conflict whether within the planning laws or under the Bill when enacted. When a planning application is going through for a waste disposal facility, a factory or whatever, people believe they should be able to object on planning grounds and they regard environmental issues as part of planning. I appeal to the Minister to give consideration to this amendment and to what has been said by various people, including the inspector at the Masonite appeal, to amend or in some way co-ordinate the Environmental Protection Agency Act, the planning Acts and this Bill, when enacted. Otherwise we are looking at a recipe for disaster in the future.
I am mindful of the arguments advanced. In the context of the legal requirements becoming more complex and the requirement to have more expertise in evaluating, for example, the environmental consequences, there is room for confusion about different areas of function. The path we are going down, under this Bill, is to set up an expert body on the environment for Ireland, which would be the competent authority to make assessments.
I do not agree with some of the inspector's comments quoted by Deputy Dempsey. I do not see an alternative to establishing a body of expert opinion, before whom evidence must be submitted for a determination in their area of competence, but I can see where it will sometimes be at odds with another process, the planning process, as opposed to the environmental assessment of a particular project. I can reflect further on it but I am not minded to accepting any of the amendments because, in essence, subsection (3) provides that a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála shall not, in the course of considering an application for permission to develop a waste facility, consider any matter relating to the risk of environmental pollution for a waste activity which is or would be subject to licensing under the Bill.
It is explicit that the licensing function and the environmental evaluation is a matter for the competent environmental authority. There is no point in that being second guessed by a planning authority which would not have that environmental competence. The corpus of environmental law will increase in the future from the European and the domestic perspectives. We need to have a competent changing dynamic environmental authority to be abreast of current thinking and to make a rational and pro-environment decision in these matters. I am not convinced we can get away with having a planning authority capable simply of doing that. We will have it compartmentalised in that way and that is inescapable. I see the difficulties in terms of phasing and how it will work when different evaluations are made at the same time or subsequently. That will probably have to be rationalised in a way we have not done and, perhaps, the overall review of the planning Acts will encompass that.
The Minister may make regulations under subsection (8), specifying the relative timing of applications for planning permissions and for a waste licence. It would be rash of any developer to invest in a particular facility, on foot of a planning application, without having obtained a proper licence from the agency. It would be foolish to assume that because one has received planning permission, one can invest in a fine facility and bulldoze the agency into granting a licence.
I think the regime I am putting in place is the correct one. There may well be anomalies in the future but those can be addressed in an overview of planning law. There is no escaping the establishment of expertise in the environment area that is envisaged as the Environmental Protection Agency grows in its scope and in its competence.
I gather the Minister said that the planning process should not be allowed to second guess what the agency would decide. I accept that entirely. The purpose of my amendment is to try to ensure that that would not happen, that the waste licence would take precedence and would be considered so that at the time of the planning consideration it would be possible for the public to have full information which would, hopefully, allay any concerns they had on environmental grounds. It would also prevent the bulldozing, to which he referred, where a planning permission is granted. To be specific, in the Dublin North constituency a proposal for a large landfill was accompanied not simply by lavish plans, environmental impact assessments and well produced documentation with colourful graphics but by details of free trips to England for the purpose of informing and entertaining the residents, communities and whatever local area representatives would be creating a fuss. We are encouraging that type of approach by separating the planning procedure from the environmental assessment and by ensuring that the planning permission is received before the granting of a waste licence.
The Minister said he is mindful of our concerns and I hope this will translate into action and the introduction of the necessary changes.
We have two options. We either retain the separate nature of the functions but ensure that the waste licence is considered in advance, thereby ensuring the public knows exactly what the planning application entails, or allow environmental issues to be raised at the planning stage. Given the road the Minister has taken, I do not think we will follow the latter option. Nevertheless, some action must be taken to address the present chaotic system under which the proposer of a development can do his best to sweeten, so to speak, the objectors and the public is frustrated in its attempts to address its valid concerns about the environment, health and quality of life, matters with which the planning law is meant to deal. It is understandable that people may wish to raise points which may not be permissible under the law as it stands. The Minister must do more work in this area and acceptance by him of my amendment would ensure a working alternative to the present provision. He has not said he is totally opposed to the amendment and I am not sure where it stands.
I cannot accept it.
I move amendment No. 127:
In page 76, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"(4) Nothing in subsection (3) of this section shall prevent a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála from deciding to refuse permission for development where the planning authority or the Board, as the case may be, are of the opinion that the development for which permission is sought would be incompatible with and injurious to existing land uses in the immediate vicinity of the development because of the risk of environmental pollution from the activity to which that development relates.
(5) In assessing the compatibility of the proposed development with existing uses for the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, the planning authority or the Board, as the case may be, shall assume that the best available technology not entailing excessive cost will be employed in the activity to which the development relates.".
This amendment raises similar arguments to those raised under the previous amendment. It is totally unacceptable to exclude a local authority or An Bord Pleanála from considering the land use implications of a development where there is an overlap with environmental or pollution considerations. Under this section no account will be taken by a local authority, An Bord Pleanála or the Environmental Protection Agency of the effect, in land use terms, of activities licensable under the Bill on surrounding land uses. My amendment seeks to address this anomaly. The planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are better qualified than any of the other agencies to consider the land use implications of a development. If the Bill ties the hands of local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in the manner proposed it will not command from them the respect which it should and which we would like to see.
This brings us back to the debate about divisions of responsibility and the functions of the Environmental Protection Agency. I will not reiterate some of the comments made by the inspector which left me very worried about this issue. Local authorities and An Bord Pleanála should have the right to consider the land use implications of a development. This right is not provided for in the Bill and my amendment addresses this anomaly.
The proposal in Deputy Dempsey's amendment is one solution. Given the experience of the planning authorities, his points about land use are valid. Does the Minister think it is possible to come back at a later stage with an amendment in this regard? Given the concerns expressed about the Masonite factory and the proposed Ringsend incinerator, this bad law will give rise to unforeseen difficulties and bad practices, which we are trying to prevent in other areas. In some cases developers do not go through all the proper procedures because the law does not allow them to do so. This is wrong from everybody's point of view. We should allow the waste licence to be considered in advance or, alternatively, allow An Bord Pleanála to have an input on environmental grounds. Will the Minister say how progress can be made in this area?
There has been a number of controversial cases but the sitution is not as grave as the Deputy painted it. The establishment of an independent environmental agency, which will make environmental assessments, is the correct option given the requirements of an increasing environmentally aware population.
This amendment proposes to insert two new subsections in section 54. These would undermine the intended effect of the section which proposes to co-ordinate the planning and development functions currently exercised by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in so far as they extend to matters of environmental protection with those of the agency as the waste licensing authority under Part V. If we are to achieve the purpose required there must be a clearer understanding of the roles of these bodies and how they interact with each other. There will be no diminution of the public's right of input or appeal in regard to scheduled activities under the 1992 Environmental Protection Agency Act, nor would any such diminution exist under the Bill in relation to waste activities. Essentially, section 54 provides for a clearer definition of functions so that objections to a proposed waste facility which are based on environmental grounds would be directed to the agency in the context of waste licensing rather than to the planning authority or An Bord Peanála in the context of planning permission.
Deputies have alluded to a broader problem which cannot be solved by including an amendment in the Bill. However, I will reflect on the points made in the context of the planning regime generally. I have power to make regulations specifying the relative timing of applications for formal planning permission and the subsequent licence for waste. I will reflect between now and the debate in the Seanad on whether it is necessary to introduce further amendments. It is not a perfect system and there will be anomalies but by and large we have got it correct and are going in the right direction by setting up the structures proposed in the Bill.
My colleagues and I were going to ask for the question to be put on this amendment and, therefore, I welcome the chink of light and slight softening in the Minister's attitude to this matter.
I understand what the Minister is saying in having experts deal in their areas of expertise, my colleagues can understand it but the public has some difficulty with it.
We need to have consistency across the country.
I accept that. That is precisely the point I wish to make. To have consistency, the Minister should use the planning Acts as the model for the Environmental Protection Agency legislation and the waste legislation to ensure that the procedure for getting a licence is exactly the same as the procedures followed in planning applications as the public feel they have a public and open way of making their views known at the application stage. I suggest the Minister will have to align the procedures for licensing under the Waste Bill with planning application procedures.
I accept the difficulties the Minister may have with this and the previous amendment and I accept in good faith his commitment to look at it again. The Minister has not made any promises but in order to be consistent and avoid future conflict the section should be dealt with in the Seanad. To show the Minister that I have faith in his word, I will withdraw my amendment.
I move amendment No. 128:
In page 76, line 44, after "1993" to insert ", and a condition attached to a permission granted under Part IV of the Act of 1963 shall not prejudice, affect or restrict in any way the provision of waste collection receptacles as aforesaid".
I move amendment No. 129:
In page 79, line 2, after "prevent" to insert ", remediate".
The words "preventing" or "limiting" are in relative terms minimalist when considering what ought to be done in certain cases. It is appropriate to include the word "remediate" so that the local authority has the responsibility to be a actively involved in remedying environmental pollution. I am not convinced that comes across as strongly as it needs to in this section. The words "prevent" and "limit" implies certain acceptance of thestatus quo when, in fact, a great deal of work may need to be done improve the situation.
I ask the Minister to consider this amendment favourably.
The section is intended primarily to deal with situations requiring rapid intervention by a local authority. It is not intended, for example, to involve a local authority in carrying out long-term remediation works on pollution caused by another person. That would be done under a different section, section 55 or one could seek a court order under sections 57 and 58. It is a provision that is replicated in the other Acts, the Air Pollution Act and the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, that allow for immediate intervention to minimise the damage. I do not think we should be trying to lump everything into the one section. The procedures for remediation are dealt with in other sections. It is not appropriate to put it in this section.
Amendment Nos. 130, 131 and 132 are related and I suggest they be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 130:
In page 85, line 34, to delete "£1,000" and substitute "£100,000".
In this amendment I seek to increase the penalty for water pollution offences. At present the fine does not exceed £1,000 and in some cases it may be worth somebody's while to contravene the law and pay the fine and be done with it because it is a limited sanction. The Minister may say the courts have decided this already and he is not in a position to alter the penalties. It should go further. If we are restricted from increasing the penalties, we should bear in mind some of the catastrophic problems caused around the world by tragedies that occurred in other countries. I hope we can provide proper sanction to deter illegal acts. I know it is not exactly the same but we saw the devastation caused by theExxon Valdez in Alaska when the captain was found to be drunk. It is essential that there be realistic sanctions that reflect the seriousness of the crime being addressed in this section.
What comes to mind are the badger baiters who fled from the court and who would have been subjected only to a paltry fine if they had been convicted. A fine or prison sentence that does not properly reflect the seriousness of the crime makes a laughing stock of the law. I would also like to know whether the fines are index linked or whether we will have to amend the provision as a result of changes in the rate of inflation and other vagaries outside the ambit of this legislation. Will we be in the ridiculous position in a few years where fines will be quaint and reminiscent of another era? I hope a realistic measure such as that proposed in my amendments will be inserted to reflect the seriousness of the crimes.
This matter relates to the requirements under statute on summary conviction. Summary offences are heard in the District Court where the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial and the general parameters of fines are determined for such offences. The Deputy is being overly-critical of the level of fines available under the Water Pollution Act. The intention of section 66 is to insert a new section in that Act. The big penalty under the existing legislative provision is not so much the fine but the power of the court to demand restitution and a full clean up. That is where there is a financial bite. That power is explicit in current legislation. I would not be overly-concerned about a £1,000 or £100,000 fine; if a person does environmental damage that is quantifiable, they may be required by the courts to make it good. That is where the real teeth of the provisions lie.
I did not get an answer to my question on index linking. Will the provision apply in future regardless of future changes?
The Dáil is organic.
I move amendment No. 133:
In page 86, to delete lines 1 to 6.
This amendment relates to immunity of the agency and local authorities. In the past problems arose where an élite operated with impunity — that applied particularly to local authorities. Section 67 (1) states: "No action or other proceeding shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or a local authority for the recovery of damages in respect of any injury to persons, damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to exercise any power or carry out any duty conferred or imposed on the Agency or local authority by or under this Act." It is irresponsible to provide that the agency and local authorities will not be liable. Is it not possible to deal with that matter through public liability insurance or other such provisions? Should people be prevented from holding accountable the agency or local authorities? That seems to be a very sweeping provision.
It is not sweeping, unique or new. The State does not have third party liability. It gives an indemnity to its servants; that is the way the insurance provision works. Section 67 deals with the indemnification of the agency, local authorities and their employees. Subsection (1) provides that the agency or a local authority should be immune from legal proceedings for recovery of damages arising from a failure to exercise any power or carry out any duty conferred or imposed on it by this Act. People who have listen to me through every Stage of this Bill will be aware of my great faith in the agency and in local authorities. I believe they will act very diligently in performing their duties and carrying out their powers under this Bill. However, we must be mindful that the range of functions under the Bill is extremely broad and such immunity from legal action is necessary.
Under Irish law there is a doctrine of joint and several liabilities, and an agent of the Environmental Protection Agency or a local authority could be joined in any action arising from any incident of pollution. It is possible in practice that the agency or a local authority would be regarded as more amenable and attractive targets for compensation than the perpetrators of pollution. The State is always a safe target on which to focus, and that would be very undesirable. The overriding principle is that the polluter pays. If there is a slip-up in the vast responsibilities on the various State agents, whether the Environmental Protection Agency or local authorities — God knows we all make mistakes on occasion — the onus of responsibility should be on the polluter rather than on the State agents charged with monitoring pollution. We can demand and monitor the standards of local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency, and this House will have an active role in that regard, but it would be unfair to set up any body as an easy target for litigation. I therefore ask the Deputy not to press his amendment.
I cannot see into the future and I do not wish to create a problem, but we should be mindful that very often in the past there has been one law for the people and another for the authorities.
I move amendment No. 134:
In page 87, line 10, to delete "(Water Pollution Act)" and substitute "(Water Pollution) Act".
This is a simple technical amendment to correct a typographical error in section 68.
I move amendment No. 135:
In page 88, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
"(5) The Minister shall cause an order under this section to be published in theIris Oifigiúil.”.
This amendment gives effect to a Committee Stage amendment tabled by Deputy Sargent. It provides for the publication inIris Oifigiúil of any order made by the Minister under section 69 (1) transferring functions relating to waste licences from the agency to local authorities.
Amendment No. 137 is related to No. 136 and it is suggested that they be discussed together. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 136:
In page 88, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:
"16. Building materials and building debris.".
Given that we had not agreed to change the title of the Bill or take into account certain categories of waste, secondary materials or whatever, these are in need of definition since there are categories of waste included that ought not to be dumped in landfills at all, building materials and debris which, if properly managed, can be reusable for different purposes, even in further building construction. Far from minimising our hazardous waste, such a provision would lead to its acceleration. While it is satisfying to see economic activity and jobs generated by construction activities, I question whether this should involve adding to waste disposal. There should not be the number of landfills we have already. Building materials and debris should be excluded from that category.
The First Schedule specifies categories of waste and directly transposes Annex I of the Framework Waste Directive No. 75/442/EEC. The Second Schedule directly transposes Annexes II and III of the hazardous waste Directive No. 91/689/EEC which serve to define the meaning of the term "hazardous waste" for the purpose of EU and member state legislation. Therefore, it would be inappropriate and confusing to depart in any significant way from the terms of these Schedules which have European-wide implications and effect.
I do not propose to accept amendment No. 136 which purports to add "building waste and building debris" as a new, separate category in the First Schedule. I can assure Deputy Sargent that the First Schedule, as drafted, encompasses building waste, so his amendment is not necessary.
Amendment No. 137 would have the effect of introducing into Part I of the Second Schedule three new categories of waste, which would be classified as hazardous wastes if they contain any of the hazardous properties specified in Part III of that Schedule. I cannot accept that amendment since the Second Schedule serves to define the meaning of the term "hazardous waste" for the purposes of EU and member state legislation. The relevant definition in this Bill is based on Article 1 (4) of the EU Framework Hazardous Waste Directive No. 91/689/EEC. It would be a source of great confusion if this country's main statute on waste was out of line with the normal provisions and statutes of the European Union. For those reasons I ask the Deputy not to pursue his amendment.
I omitted to make some comments on amendment No. 137. The point the Minister makes is serious inasmuch as I question whether we are here to legislate for this country and include all of the vagaries pertinent to us or merely to rubberstamp lists drawn up by and decisions taken in Europe whether or not we consider them appropriate to our conditions. It is not appropriate or dignified to be intimidated into falling into line, despite any justification——
We negotiated the line.
I did not and I am entitled to table an amendment and to argue the point.
And I am entitled to respond.
I consider it prudent to reflect on those negotiations, which appear to have been secret. Certainly I did not hear of any arguments being advanced at the time. Is there any report available of the discussions that took place in the course of those negotiations and showing our contribution, in the same way as we have available reports of our Committee Stage discussions here? These are flawed lists drawn up from the lowest common denominator within the European Union.
That is not true.
I feel it is.
The Deputy's feeling does not change the fact.
Certain conditions, while not peculiar to us, are more relevant to this country than to other member states, which would justify the inclusion of my amendments Nos. 136 and 137. I hope we do not simply have to follow the European line even if, on reflection, it appears that certain aspects would be pertinent to us — an argument advanced in the course of the recent referendum on divorce.
I move amendment No. 138:
In page 94, to delete line 36.
There is general public awareness that incineration is a fairly flawed technology, in spite of the euphemism of energy recovery and the other hard-sell approaches adopted. The Minister will be aware that, in the case of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Greenpeace requested that attention be drawn to legislation at present before the US Congress placing a moratorium on the construction or expansion of municipal solid waste incinerators, because of the grave environmental and health effects of incineration on communities there. It is ludicrous of the Irish Government to give the green light to incineration, listing it in the Third Schedule under the heading "Waste Disposal Activities". It would be my hope that we could make a stand on this issue since, despite the post-Maastricht culture, I do not consider it acceptable to the vast majority of our citizens which we legislators have a duty to represent. Other countries that went down that road are now endeavouring to turn back. These lessons should be learned and we ignore them at our peril.
Incineration is not carried out in this country and, therefore, has been appropriately listed in the Third Schedule. I know it will upset the Deputy when I tell him that the Third Schedule directly transposes Annex IIa of the Framework Waste Directive 75/442/EEC into Irish law. Therefore, removal of the reference to waste incineration would render the transportation defective, resulting in Ireland being in breach of European Union waste legislation.
In relation to the Deputy's specific reference to incineration at sea, this is banned under the 1991 Paris-Oslo Convention we have signed but have not yet ratified.
Under our legislation, incineration at sea is defined as "dumping" under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, and does not, therefore, fall within the compass of the measure before us.
The easiest thing would be to say nothing about this. However, it is important to put on the record what I said on Committee Stage. The Green Party and other groups disagree philosophically with incineration because they feel when it is an option it will automatically be taken and that there will be no commitment to waste minimisation, waste prevention and so on.
Apart from the reasons given by the Minister relating to European law, I would be seriously concerned about deleting the option from this Bill in light of the submission we received from Mr. Tim Delaney, the secretary-manager of the Adelaide Hospital when we were considering the Bill at the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. In his submission he specifically highlighted the fact that cytotoxic drugs can only be disposed of chemically or by incineration. Whether we like it or not, within four or five years Britain will stop taking our clinical waste, and the debate then will be about whether to continue to bury it or to dispose of it by microprocessing it as is done in some of the hospitals. It would be very foolish to remove the option of incinerating such waste. We would all love to be able to get somebody else to take all our waste, but that is not a feasible option. Within the next four or five years it will be even less feasible. Although I agree with Deputy Sargent that the majority of people in this country would be against the provision of an incinerator to destroy our waste, this has more to do with lack of an informed debate on the pros and cons — which need to be spelt out — of incineration. The Minister would be serving the people well by initiating a debate. All we have had so far is a debate led by one sector. In some countries in Europe the only legal way clinical waste can be got rid of is by incineration. I am not saying we must follow Europe slavishly — much of the time we would be better going in the opposite direction. However, we cannot dismiss the evidence. The Minister does not need my support on this, but it would be foolish indeed to delete this option from the Bill.
I also support the Minister. It would be short-sighted of this generation to remove the option of incineration from the Bill. I fully support the points made by Deputy Dempsey. We cannot ignore the realities or forever assume that other counties will be prepared to take and dispose of our clinical waste.
Apart from all the other implications outlined by Deputy Dempsey, the essence of what we are attempting to do in this Bill is to encourage everybody to take ownership and control of their own waste. Householders, the commercial and the industrial sectors and citizens should be responsible for their waste. Unless all these sectors are prepared to take a modicum of responsibility for the manner in which they deal with their waste at one level and dispose of what is left of it at another level, this Bill will have failed. If that applies to individuals and sectors within society, it applies to us too as a country in the context of how we deal with our clinical waste. It may very well be that down the road we will have to consider how to do that. For that reason, we should be squaring up to it now instead of carrying on with the pretence that it does not exist, as we are also good at doing in other areas.
In matters of general municipal waste, we cannot ignore the fact that other countries that are much more environmentally conscious than ours and have more successful environmental protection measures use incineration. Denmark and Sweden are examples. We should not ignore those facts.
In terms of incinerating processes, new successful technologies are emerging all the time. Siemens, for example, now have incineration that is emissions free. For those reasons we would be very foolish to tie down a future generation of people who might want to introduce other processes for dealing with waste. It would be very wrong of us to take that option out of the Bill. I, therefore, support the Minister.
I do not know if I would get any pleasure from going through the lobby on my own while my colleagues bring in their troops to walk in the opposite direction. It would be an interesting experience. There is a fundamental disagreement, and it is far from being a question of philosophy. Ar an gcéad dul síos the Minister mentioned that incineration at sea is now illegal, and we are providing that incineration at sea is acceptable. I do not know if we are meant to rubber-stamp crime, but it seems that that is what we are doing from my reading of the Bill. Perhaps the Minister would like to reflect on it and try to tighten it up so that at least we are complying with the law as it stands. By saying that incineration at sea is not considered a legitimate waste disposal activity we might be moving in the right direction. It is important to try to be consistent. I argue that it is a consistent position to take to do everything to encourage avoidance and reduction of waste. It is also consistent in line with this Bill to co-operate at the appropriate level. Deputy Quill mentioned that everybody should take responsibility for their own waste. We have already gone over that. I said at the outset that I was in favour of joint waste management plans etc., where they are appropriate, but that this should not prevent us from taking personal, local and regional responsibility at the lowest effective level.
Our limited experience of incineration, which has not been a happy one, does not enable us to talk about the type of facilities, such as the one in Pontypool, that must be fed large quantities of waste material in order to make their operation economically and environmentally feasible, though I question whether they are environmentally feasible. There will not be the same motivation to use clean technology and reduce waste if incineration is seen as an acceptable option. I hope my colleagues will have an opportunity to reflect on the merits of the Bill in regard to waste reduction and the use of clean technology.
The Minister will be aware from his Health portfolio that some clinical waste technology does not require the age old means of dispersing the polluting effects of the waste through incineration. Technology is improving all the time in accordance with consumer demand. Clean technology and the option of autoglaze will render a debate such as this unnecessary in the future. However, if we tinker with the incineration option we will jeopardise a way of thinking as far as waste reduction and the use of clean technology is concerned.
We should look at the alternatives in global terms. The world is turning its back on flawed technology. As I stated earlier, the US Government could do us a favour and affect thinking on this area. Do we intend to run with incineration at sea in spite of legislation which out-laws that in other areas? We should try to keep abreast of changing legislation and show leadership in the management of waste.
How stands the amendment?
I am not prepared to endorse something that is wrong.
If it is deleted from the Schedule it will not be a licensed activity. I am making it a licensed activity.
It would be legal.
If the amendment were carried an incinerator could be established without a licence.
The question is "That the words proposed to be deleted stand" and on that question a division has been challenged. As only one teller has been appointed for the Níl side I declare the question to be carried and the amendment lost.
Amendment No. 140 is an alternative to amendment No. 139 and both may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 139:
In page 94, to delete lines 39 and 40 and substitute the following:
"10. Release of waste into a water body (including a seabed insertion).".
I move amendment No. 141:
In page 95, to delete lines 19 and 20.
Lines 19 and 20 of page 95 refer to the Fourth Schedule whereby the use of waste principally as fuel or other means to generate energy is acceptable as recycling and is thus considered to be better than nothing. I appreciate there are legitimate aspects to this but the inclusion of this provision allows a cop out to the more unscrupulous and dangerous practices that have arisen in relation to incineration.
I do not object to this provision as much as to point 8 in the Third Schedule given that we already have laws referring to incineration at sea being unacceptable yet we are allowing it to pass in this case. I am amazed we cannot delete the "at sea" provision from the Schedule on the basis that it comes from our masters in Europe.
What about amendment No. 139?
The Minister is gloating.
He is not gloating. He is just trying to get the business done.
I am also trying to get the business done. This is the thin end of the wedge because once incineration is allowed as per the Schedule, those proposing incineration for selfish reasons can dress it up as being for the good of energy recovery. In the process they are making a frontal assault on the waste hierarchy.
It is a disgrace that incineration is being introduced not as a result of any reasoned debate but simply because other countries have allowed some incineration of a municipal nature, probably because of their large populations and an inability to come to terms with other means of dealing with waste. We are doing this by default because it is a European provision setting the course for Irish legislation. It is coming from other countries that have different circumstances and are trying to deal with them as best they can. It was hardly their proposal that Ireland should copy them without going through all the procedures and debate necessary to arrive at a mature decision. I would be unhappy if we allow point 8 of the Third Schedule to stand, or point 9 of the Fourth Schedule. Energy recovery, as it is euphemistically called, is a selling point for incineration but it is unacceptable. I have an idea what the Minister will say but we will see.
I am tempted to say nothing. Waste incineration for the purpose of generating heat or power is a well-established and recognised waste recovery activity which is widely practised in many countries.
It is well respected also.
They would be environmentally respected countries whose population base would not be dissimilar to Ireland's, such as Denmark. Not only is it used there, it is highly supported by well respected environmental NGOs in that country. People caught in a time warp sometimes cannot even look at an issue afresh to see if technology has changed or if there is any merit in it. By including these activities in the Schedule we wish to make them licensable activities. I know the Deputy wants to make a political rather than an environmental point.
It is the Minister who is making a political point.
The exclusion of these activities from the licensing regime would mean they could be carried out without the need for the environmental audit to which this schedule will subject them, which would be quite inappropriate and wrong from an environmental perspective. In this issue the environment is a poor second to political expediency as far as the Deputy is concerned.
Certainly not. That is a disgraceful remark.
The Deputy and his party have an unrealistic attitude to this issue. The Bill proposes to introduce a framework to evaluate all technologies from an environmental perspective. Let us do what is right for the environment, not because there is a climate of opinion one way or another on these matters. Let us be open-minded in how we approach the real problem of waste generation and let us not pretend we have no waste to be dealt with in this country——
I am not pretending that. Why are we sitting here?
——or that we can continue to ship it abroad or be dependent on others. We have a responsibility to deal with our affairs as an independent State and we have a proud environmental record. We have had a good debate on all aspects of the Bill and as we come to the last few amendments I am sorry to have to speak in these terms.
So am I.
It is extremely important that we be realistic, united in purpose and only have one objective, which is environmental excellence in all we do.
I am sorry to hear the Minister launch into a quasi-personal, political broadside. He described people in a "time warp" in relation to technology but that is the point I am trying to make — there are technological advances from which Denmark might have benefited if it had not taken decisions when it did. Rather than speaking about a time warp we should see how matters are developing and meet the trends in technology and waste management as they arise, rather than following whatever blueprint was the common practice at the time.
I am sad to hear this descent into a political harangue because a fundamental question of economics and environmental well being is involved. One does not make large scale investments which in time will be either redundant or not best practice. That is my point and I hope we can focus clearly on the environmental consideration to ensure we look at the best practice and options, rather than being taken in by popular decisions in another country which may not be best now or for the future. If President Clinton was here he might be my ally. The American Government might have as hostile a debate but at least it would be informed by their experience, which has not been happy.
I move amendment No. 142:
In page 95 line 23 after "processes" to insert "which may take place prior to spreading".
This amendment responds to concerns, shared by the Minister, about the spreading of agricultural produce such as blood. As it stands the Schedule refers to "spreading of any waste on land with a consequential benefit for an agricultural activity or ecological system, including composting and other bilogical transformation processes." That allows a person to spread material and declare it will be fine because in time it will break down, so no one should worry. That argument could be made about the spreading of blood — it is organic so it will go away and should not be a problem, despite the fact that there may be heavy concentrations of pollution as a result, as there could be from slurry. By making reference to the transformation which may take place prior to spreading we could encourage a more scientific way to spread organic waste on land so that it would not be a problem but rather more of an asset and thereby more acceptable.
I will be ending by annoying the Deputy further, which I regret. The Fourth Schedule specifies categories of waste recovery activity and directly transposes Annex 11B of the Framework Waste Directive 75/442/EEC. As I already indicated I am reluctant to depart from the terms of those schedules without a compelling reason — I am willing to hear such a reason but I have not — and without also being certain that the Bill continues to give full effect to the legal obligations on Ireland as regards those framework Directives. For that reason I do not accept the Deputy's amendment.
The amendment allows us not to affect in any detrimental way what is there already but to ensure that we encourage a better way of dealing with the problem. I suggest that that is to do as much of the transformation process as possible before putting in on the land so that we do not overburden the environment.
I thank the Deputies opposite. We have had a very long process on Committee and Report Stages and a great deal of work was put into the preparation of the Bill by my officials. I commend them for their diligence in these matters and in processing the very large volume of welcome amendments submitted by Opposition Deputies. Our collective work has resulted in a very important landmark Bill. I look forward to its passage through the other House and its enactment into law. It will probably have another short visit to this House before then because we have not quite finished refining one or two points which we discussed today. I am very grateful to you, Sir, the staff of the House, particularly the Bills Office which was so accommodating with a very broad range of amendments, and, in particular, to Deputies Dempsey, Quill, Sargent, Eoin Ryan and the other Deputies who were so actively involved in the discussions of this important landmark Bill.
I join the Minister in thanking the officials of the House for their assistance. This is my first time to be involved in processing a Bill from this side of the House and the Bills Office and the other staff of the House were very helpful. I also thank the Minister and his officials. Despite the nonvote about 15 minutes ago, one of the reasons this discussion has not been contentious or fractious is the approach which the Minister adopted. He was open to amendments, ideas and suggestions. That made it easier for us even when we disagreed with the final decision. I also wish to convey my thanks to the chairman and staff of the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. There has been more discussion on this Bill than any previous legislation as we spent September and some meetings in July discussing submissions.
This is a landmark Bill which has yet to go through the other House. The Bill complements environmental protection legislation already in place. I hope that when it becomes law all its elements will be rigidly enforced because it is very good legislation. If it is properly and fully enforced and if its aspirations are complied with by the public it will transform the country. I hope the Minister will be in a position to get the public to agree that this legislation is timely and worthwhile and that every citizen has a role to play in ensuring that it meets with success.
It will make demands on and have costs for industry but I hope industry will see that the rewards will justify the cost. There will also be a demand on the public and the carrot and stick approach will probably have to be used. I hope that the public will respond more to the carrot than the stick as it is in their own interest to so do.
I hope the Minister will be in a position to provide the additional resources the Environmental Protection Agency needs to enable it to put the provisions of this Bill in place, particularly in terms of personnel. Local authorities will also need additional resources and a switch in attitude and emphasis to ensure that the changed approach to waste management outlined in this Bill will be put into practice.
I compliment the Minister on bringing forward this fine legislation. I also thank him for the very courteous way in which he dealt with amendments on Committee and Report Stages and I endorse what he said in respect of his officials who put a great deal of work into the preparation of this Bill. They were always available to help the spokespersons to understand the aims and objectives of this Bill and the very detailed nature of the different sections. I also thank the Bills Office. I look forward to the success of this Bill in achieving its objectives.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leatsa ar dtús. Tá súil agam nár chuir sé isteach go ró-mhór ort go raibh mé beagáinín feargach mar gheall ar rudaí anseo is ansúiúid. I welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for introducing it. I look forward to its enactment. I am not 100 per cent happy with it but it is a leap forward and should be helped by other measures in time.
I particularly thank the officials of the Department who were always very efficient and courteous when I called about any point of information. I hope that the Bills Office appreciates that I was not trying to burden it unnecessarily with amendments — I did honestly want to put them in although I am sure that at times they felt I wished to give them more work. I thank them, the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the other Acting Chairmen.
I hope the example of how this Bill was taken today is a lesson which does not need to be repeated. I am in a peculiar situation in that I am a member of a party which is too small to allow me to be represented among the Whips. Given that the Whips are charged — as far as I understand from an outside point of view — with the responsibility of organising the time at which Bills are taken, it was extremely annoying and very difficult to deal with not being consulted in relation to today's sitting until it was on the Order Paper.
As a matter of courtesy, surely a Deputy who tabled approximately 166 amendments on Committee Stage would be interested in contributing on Report Stage. I hope I am not making demands that are beyond the goodwill of other parties, but I believe I should have been consulted.
There is broad interest in this legislation. Some of those in industry, the health sector, environmental NGOs and so on attended the Committee Stage debate. While I welcomed their attendance, apart from those with experience in dealing with parliamentary procedures, the majority of them did not know how to make a direct input into the legislation. They merely expressed their concerns in the hope that members of the committee would table amendments to address them. While I welcome consultation with the various sectors, we should provide a facility through which they could make their views known.
We are dealing with Fifth Stage and contributions should be brief. The Deputy should not make a Second Stage speech.
I am not making a Second Stage speech. I am making an important point in the hope that we do not make similar mistakes in the future. I hope those matters are addressed.
In regard to the Bill, the voluntary code is important and I hope the Minister is successful in that regard. We should lead by example. Each time I ask for recycled paper in the stationery office I am told that it is available for me but other Members do not request it. The industry would benefit if more people demanded recycled products.