Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill, 2000: Second and Subsequent Stages.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is unusual that a Bill should be introduced in this manner and at such short notice. However, the Government considers it necessary to do so on this occasion to address a legal doubt which has emerged in regard to the powers of local authorities to make charges for services which they are required or empowered to provide under current legislation.

This short Bill does no more than confirm the commonly understood position regarding the powers available to local authorities to charge for certain services. As part of that process it is necessary to validate the position in regard to any such charges made to date. It would be useful to put the charging issue in context. As Members will be aware, local authorities charge for a wide range of services and they derive their power to do so in four main ways.

First, certain legislation empowering or requiring a local authority to provide a particular service can include a specific power to enable authorities to charge in respect of that service. An example is fire call-outs under the Fire Services Act, 1981. Second, in some cases legislation empowering or requiring a local authority to provide a particular service may specify a mandatory charge or fee and also set out the level of such charge or fee in primary legislation or regulations. An example is planning fees. Third, in some cases where legislation confers some power or function on a local authority in regard to the provision of a service, that legislation may empower the auth ority to make by-laws in regard to that service, including the power to charge for it. Some examples include off-street car parking charges which are covered by by-laws under section 101 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, and also on-street car parking by-laws under section 36 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994. Finally, where none of the first three charging powers applies, and relevant legislation does not specifically address the question of charges for services provided, local authorities have relied on the provisions of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1983, to levy charges in respect of such services. That is the situation in relation to local authority waste charges.

The Waste Management Act, 1996, put in place a modern, comprehensive framework for waste management. In doing so it repealed the provisions relating to waste which dated back to the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, and the Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1907.

At the time, it was clearly envisaged and understood that local authorities could and would continue to provide waste collection and disposal services and, accordingly, would continue to levy waste charges. As a result of the general reliance on the 1983 financial provisions legislation, however, it was not considered necessary to make provision for charging in the 1996 Act.

The then Government's intention was clear. Its December 1996 policy document, Better Local Government, stated explicitly that waste charges are an important instrument in waste management policy and that the option must be retained to allow local authorities to continue to provide environmentally safe refuse services while being in a position to defray the costs through charges.

This Government's 1998 policy statement on waste management – Changing Our Ways – recognised as fundamental to efficient waste management that all producers of waste must pay fully for its collection, treatment and disposal. The document specifically recommended that local authorities move rapidly towards full cost recoupment for waste services they provide and, as a matter of equity and to incentivise waste reduction, the level of waste charges imposed by local authorities should vary according to usage.

Local authorities have relied on the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1983, as a legal basis for the imposition of waste charges. Looking at that Act, section 2 provides that where any existing enactment requires or enables a local authority to provide a service, but does not empower the authority to charge for that service, the enactment is deemed to empower the authority accordingly.

The term "existing enactment" used in that section is defined in section 1 of that Act to include any amendments or extensions made to the enactment concerned. On that basis, and in light of the provisions of the Interpretation Act, 1937, dealing with the construction of references to repealed statutes and revoked instruments, it has been considered that the modern provisions and repeals introduced under the Waste Management Act, 1996, did not affect the entitlement of a local authority to rely on the 1983 Act for the making of charges in respect of waste services.

A view could be advanced, however, contrary to this general understanding. This view would suggest that reliance on the 1983 Act to levy charges might be unsound if the relevant subsequent legislation empowering or requiring the provision of a service does not explicitly purport to amend or repeal pre-1983 legislation. While the specific concern at issue arose in relation to the basis for waste charges, other local authority charges made under the 1983 Act may also be affected. In these circumstances, the Government cannot allow the uncertainty in this issue to prevail and I have, therefore, brought forward this Bill to put the matter beyond doubt and to validate relevant charges made to date.

The substantive sections of the Bill are sections 2 to 4. Section 2 substitutes a revised definition for the definition of "existing enactment" in the 1983 Act. The effect of this is to ensure that an "existing enactment" will mean any enactment in force on, or at any time after, the commencement of the 1983 Act until the passing of this Bill.

Section 3 validates certain charges made by local authorities. It provides that a relevant charge made by a local authority by virtue of section 2 of the 1983 Act is deemed to have been validly made and may be recovered as validly and effectively as if this Act had been in operation at the time of the making of the charge.

Section 4 provides that this Act will not prejudice any proceedings that might have been initiated prior to the publication of the Bill in relation to the validity of the charge made by virtue of section 2 of the 1983 Act.

The proposed Bill does nothing more than confirm thestatus quo. It does not in any way extend the current powers of local authorities to charge for services they provide under existing law. It does not introduce any power to charge for services which local authorities might be required or empowered to provide under any future legislation. It also does not overturn or affect any existing legislation which prohibits the imposition of charges for any local authority service. The sole intention behind the legislation is to avoid doubt so that there is legal certainty about the power of local authorities to rely on the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1983, to charge for services which they provide.

I commend the Bill to the House.

It is undesirable that it should be necessary to consider legislation of this nature. In matters where we are making charges on the public it is important to get things right the first time, that legislation brought through this House is properly considered and that all its implications for and connections with other legislation have been considered. We can only regret that it has been found necessary to introduce this Bill and deal with it so quickly.

Hindsight makes wise men of us all. I reread the debate on the Waste Management Act, 1996, and on no Stage in either the Dáil or Seanad was I able to find any trace of concern about the statutory basis for making these charges. When the Bill was being debated there was no doubt about the validity and solidity of the basis that had been provided in the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1983, for the charges. That Act was vociferously opposed by the current Minister's party and the implementation was vigorously objected to. There was, of course, yet another Damascene conversion and Fianna Fáil has since taken a different view. When the Waste Management Act, 1996, was passed, no question was raised about the validity or reliability of the basis for charging.

I do not want to misinterpret the Minister but the feeling that there is something amiss in the basis of these charges is not a finely settled feeling. The Minister, in his speech, did not say there is a problem. He has not said there is a quantifiable doubt. What he said was there may be a problem and that there are two possible interpretations of the basis for the charges. We could say we, and the Minister, are not really sure this measure is necessary but that because there is that question, it is felt we better do this. That is a reasonable case to make.

If we examine the provisions of the Waste Management Act, 1996, specifically section 6, which deals with repeals and revocations, we will see that Act did not interfere with the 1983 Act. It did not repeal or modify any of the provisions of the 1983 Act which is the basis for charges in this case. Far from being the dramatic rescue operation, which some people have classified this legislation, it is what I would call in more mundane terms, a ministerial safety pin to add to the belt and braces already in the legislation. I do not see a reason in this Bill, as far as the substance of it is concerned, for being hugely concerned or for delivering any of the single transferable rants about the Bill and local charges generally which we have heard since it was first announced.

The Minister said section 4 will not prejudice any proceedings which might have been initiated prior to the passage of the Bill through the House. Is there information on what proceedings, if any, might have been taken on the basis of the doubt which seems to have arisen? Have any proceedings been taken? If so, what stage have they reached and what is the basis of such proceedings?

The Minister went on to state that the Bill does nothing more than confirm thestatus quo and that it does not introduce any new power for local authorities to make new charges which are not currently contemplated in existing legislation. Is there anything in the Bill – the history of this entitles me to ask this question – which, if enacted, would constitute an obstacle to charge which might be contemplated in the future? I do not say this to encourage the Minister to invent new charges but I would like to know if consideration has been given to obstacles this Bill might place in the way of anything this House might wish to do in the future by way of legislation. If there is, we should think about it very carefully and avoid doing that. It would be bizarre if, having considered the Bill, we were to run the risk of having another Bill in similar circumstances in the future designed to prevent the opposite happening. I would like to know if the Minister, the Government or the Attorney General have considered anything this Bill might prevent in the future.

The Minister knows well that in working out environment policy here and under the terms of European directives, to which we have subscribed, there may be cases in the future where we will be required to have charges either on a narrow or broader basis for certain environmental policies. I would like to be sure we do not put obstacles in the way of the proper consideration of those types of policies by passing this Bill today.

Can we be sure the basis for the charges, which are currently the subject of some doubt in the Minister's mind, is secure if this Bill is passed? Will the Minister assure me that this matter has been properly considered by the Government and the Attorney General, although I have to take a certain distance bearing in mind that when the Attorney General was a member of the Opposition, his most frequent criticism of measures he disliked was to immediately claim they were unconstitutional? However, he seems to have changed his mind about a good many things since then.

In the statements on this matter which have emanated from Government in the past day or two, reference was made to the fact that this year there is upwards of £70 million in revenue involved in these charges for local authorities and that in the period since the doubt appeared to become operational, that is, since the coming into effect of the Waste Management Act, 1996 in the region of £100 million has been collected. Will the Minister tell me if there is any estimate or guesstimate of how much might be outstanding and still owed to local authorities either this year or since the Act came into effect? Will he indicate the status of any amount still outstanding and due to local authorities? If we pass this Bill in its current form, will those amounts unpaid and still outstanding be recoverable?

How much time is available to me?

I wish to share my time with Deputies Rabbitte and Bell.

Deputy Gilmore, I understand you wish to move an amendment.

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"having:

–regard to the inadequate time between the tabling of the Bill and the opening of the debate;

–the inadequate information provided by the Minister as to the need for the Bill;

–the failure of the Minister to ensure that there are adequate waiver schemes in place for persons whose means are insufficient to meet charges;

Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill.

This is one of the strangest pieces of legislation to come before the House in a long time. The Minister acknowledged that the Bill came before the House in an unusual way. It was published yesterday and all Stages are being taken in this House today. It is intended to pass all Stages in the Seanad tomorrow and to enact it this side of Easter. Only in very extraordinary circumstances should the Oireachtas be asked to address legislation in that type of emergency way.

The legislation was bounced at the House and is being rushed through. We are told it is ostensibly to address deficiencies or omissions in earlier legislation. The one principle or lesson this House has learned over the years is that rushed legislation is bad legislation. This House will not have sufficient time to consider the full implications of the Bill the Minister has put before us. I expected some explanation from the Minister on what prompted the Bill. Given that the House is being asked to deal with the Bill as an emergency, I expected him to put before it the legal opinion on which the Bill is based. I expected him to tell us what gave rise to the Bill. What prompted it? Is there a litigation? Has somebody made charges? Are there cases being taken against local authorities? If so, how many? When were they initiated? What is the basis of them?

It is not clear that this Bill is necessary. I understand the terms of the Interpretation Act are such as to deal with the kind of situation the Minister has described where an old enactment is repealed in later legislation but where that older enactment is effectively repeated in some form in that legislation and is deemed to be continuing.

It is not unusual for legislation to occasionally come before the House when there has been some legal action, where a case has been tested in court and the courts have made a decision and it becomes apparent that legislation is needed. There has not been a court case in this instance. The courts have not said there is any deficiency in existing legislation. All we are being asked to accept here is opinion that we have not seen, prompted by circumstances that have not been described to us. An adequate case has not been made by the Minister for the introduction of this legislation.

We know what the legislation means in practice. It means the Minister is asking the House to retrospectively validate charges made by local authorities irrespective of the legal basis for those charges in the past. It is an extraordinarily wide, sweeping measure to say that, in respect of any charges made by local authorities since 1983, irrespective of any basis for a legal challenge against them, this legislation will legally wipe the slate clean. It is a measure designed to prevent any possible seeking of redress in the courts by any citizen who considers that a charge has been unfairly or improperly made. It is the wrong way to deal with legislation and it is profoundly anti-democratic.

I have had some practical experience in my local authority in the making of waste charges. The local authority in Dun Laoghaire introduced charges for refuse collection earlier this year. Policy documents, including policy documents of the previous Government, stated that waste charges could be an instrument in waste management. However, it was not intended that they should be a catch-all revenue raising instrument for local authorities who cannot balance their books. The charge introduced in Dun Laoghaire, which I opposed at the time, is unfair. It is a household charge of £150 which makes no distinction between people who can afford to pay it and those who cannot. The sum of £150 may be the price of a few rounds of golf for some well-off people, but it is a week's take-home pay for somebody who is on the minimum wage. Even the reduced charge, the so-called "waivered" charge of £75, is a week's income for an old-age pensioner on a social welfare pension. It is an uneven charge because it makes no distinction between the household that puts out half a bag ful of waste and somebody who puts out several bins. It is an environmentally unsound charge in that it provides no incentive for reduction in waste. A charging regime based on the amount of waste produced would make some sense on environmental grounds, but a charging regime which makes no distinction based on the amount of waste produced is ultimately environmentally counterproductive. I have met quite a number of constituents who tell me that they were taking their bottles to the bottle bank, that they were taking paper for recycling, that they had a compost heap in the garden and were doing their best to reduce their output of waste, but that if the county council is now going to charge them £150 irrespective of the amount of waste they put out, they will put it all in the bin for the council to collect. A blanket household charge which makes no distinction between the amount of waste produced is counterproductive.

It now appears, and I invite the Minister to tell us whether this is so, that the charges made by the Dun Laoghaire council were not in fact legal, and that the legislation he is bringing in is to retrospectively make them legal. We should have some explicit answer on that.

The whole area of waste management here is an absolute mess. The Waste Management Act, 1996, which was introduced by Deputy Howlin when he was Minister and the Litter Pollution Act, 1997, also introduced by Deputy Howlin, are not being implemented by the Government. We have chaos in the area of waste management. The amount of waste being produced by this country at the moment is increasing by 12.5% per annum. The number of sites which are available for the disposal of waste has been reduced from about 300 in the early 1990s to less than 50 currently. There are disputes and controversy in virtually every local authority area in the country about a super dump or an incinerator. There is confusion and difference between one local authority area and another in relation to charging.

Meanwhile, there is a supposed national strategy on waste, which is contained in a document published by the Minister in 1998 on changing our ways. Central to that strategy, we were told, was recycling. A very ambitious target of 35% for recycling was set in that strategy document. Instead of reaching that target, the amount of waste being recycled as a proportion of the total amount of waste is in decline. The recent EPA report shows that it had dropped to less than 4% in 1998. The Kerbside recycling facility in Dublin has collapsed, and there are no signs that there are any strategies or facilities in place to enable this country to meet its recycling targets.

Despite all this, the emergency legislation being introduced does not relate to the crisis of waste and litter. It does not relate to any other area of the Minister's portfolio. That homeless men in this city are being put out on the street due to the closure of hostels for the homeless, or because these are not being made available to the Eastern Health Board as they previously were, is apparently not an emergency. The only thing that has become an emergency is the possibility that certain local authorities might have made charges which are not valid and that they might not now be able to collect the money. The plight of the homeless is not an emergency. The collapse of Kerbside was not an emergency. The state of our streets with litter and waste is not an emergency. The fact that the landfill dumps in the greater Dublin area are exhausted, that there is nowhere else to put waste in Dublin and that we are on the brink of a very serious waste crises in the greater Dublin area is not an emergency. What is an emergency? It is that some councils might not be able to collect money from the public. That is what the Minister regards as an emergency.

The Minister is going about dealing with the problem of waste in the wrong way. The waste problem needs to be tackled not at the householder's end, which is where it is being tackled at the moment, but at the producer's end. We know, for example, that 50% of waste going into landfill sites is from the construction industry. There is an unanswerable case for the reuse and recycling of construction materials. Where are the proposals on that? It is purely on an experimental and voluntary basis with the building industry. The Minister has not put any serious measures in place to date on the reuse and recycling of construction material or on the recovery of waste. No regulations have been made requiring car manufacturers or suppliers to take responsibility for the disposal of used cars nor have the manufacturers and suppliers of electrical goods been made responsible for the disposal of those goods. The whole focus in the Minister's and the Government's strategy on waste is to put it at the end of the cycle, on the householder putting out the bin. It is a wrong strategy and will not deal effectively with the problem of waste. In this Bill the Minister is introducing a measure that is unfair, unwarranted, rushed, does not make good legislation and will not have the support of the Labour Party.

I wish to share time with Deputy Bell.

There are 16 minutes remaining in the slot.

The first I heard of the Bill was today. I profoundly object to legislation being railroaded through the House in this manner without any adequate case being set out as to the purpose of the legislation and why there is an emergency. The Minister describes the purpose as unusual. That puts it mildly. He said the justification for it is "to address a legal doubt that has emerged". The least he owes the House is to spell out the origins of the legal doubt. How did it emerge? "Emerge" is a beautiful word but as used here it only serves to obfuscate the purpose of this legislation. Why did it emerge? Does it arise from a particular case? Will we learn a great deal more about this Bill after the Government puts it through the Oireachtas and it is enacted?

We have had emergency legislation rushed through the House like this before. One will recall the danger of the liquidation of the PMPA and one could understand why the Minister for Industry and Commerce would come into the House and take prudent steps to try to protect the consumer in such a situation. However, I do not see any analogy in this case and it has been rare, in the history of the House, for legislation to be railroaded through all Stages just before we rise for the Easter recess. If a doubt has emerged, when did it do so? Could we not have taken this legislation at an early stage in this term when we could have reflected on its provisions and have had an opportunity to scrutinise it in the normal way? What is so pressing that it could not await the Easter recess and be initiated immediately on our return so that it could be subjected to proper scrutiny? The Minister has not explained any of this. As a result, his pointing to a defect that no one on either side of the House identified during the passage of the Waste Management Bill, 1996, seems to be the best argument for not rushing this Bill through. If there was a defect in a Bill that was prepared and processed in the normal way in 1996, surely that is a very good argument for not rushing this Bill through in this fashion.

Deputy Gilmore dealt in some detail with the record of this Minister as if he were searching for emergency issues relating to his portfolio to put through the House. He is responsible for some of the biggest issues that confront society at present. As regards housing, all he has done is drive up the cost of private rents. The city, where there is such affluence, is a disgrace in terms of the problem of homelessness. On the waste disposal problem, I received figures from my local authority last week to show that, for the first three months of this year, 550 abandoned cars have been fished out of streams in my constituency, yet the Minister refuses to acknowledge there is a problem with abandoned cars. He refuses to make the motor industry play a part in the disposal of them and make its contribution. There are a range of other issues on which this Minister is squatting.

We are told the package of local government reform has now been approved, after three years, but within the space of 24 hours he expects the House to acquiesce in the publication of a Bill which is to be processed through all Stages on the eve of the Easter recess without telling us what has produced this emergency. My constituency does not have local service charges because it refused to pay the existing ones. It is easy for people to snigger at why that happened. It was because people were subjected to punitive taxes and were expected to pay this as a double tax and they simply refused to do so. It was very interesting a few years ago to see the campaign whipped up in the House for the repeal of residential property tax. It was all very well when it began to bite the middle class. It was an inequitable tax and it was right that the Rainbow Government terminated it. If it was right for them, it was equally right for people who object to paying double taxation, as people in my constituency did on the question of water charges which I opposed then and have opposed consistently. As a member of the Rainbow Government I had some small hand in ensuring they were terminated.

The Minister must tell the House the basis of the emergency that has emerged and has caused him to bring forward this legislation, process it in this undemocratic fashion and not give us any reasonable opportunity to scrutinise its provisions, otherwise he is leaving himself open to the charge that something is being concealed from the House that we will learn about when the legislation has been enacted.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute. I thank Deputies Gilmore and Rabbitte for sharing time. There was an old saying that at Eastertime you got your Easter clúdach. We used to go around collecting eggs. This is certainly an Easter clúdach. In Drogheda Corporation and Louth County Council, of which I was a member for 25 years, both my wife, Alderman Betty Bell, and I consistently opposed service charges of any kind for the reasons enunciated by my colleagues. I was very proud of the fact that, prior to the 1999 estimates, Drogheda Corporation was the only council outside of Dublin that did not have any service charges, water, sewerage or bin charges. After a long and bitter debate I was very disappointed that charges of £110 were approved for the first time in the history of my home town, the largest borough in Ireland. I was equally disappointed when the corporation members voted 9 to 3 in favour of those charges and did not listen to what I had said consistently – that the imposition of bin service charges was not legally constituted, would not succeed, would be challenged and fail. I wish to put on the record, because it will emerge in my home town, that while Drogheda Corporation voted in favour of bin charges by nine to three, three Labour councillors voted against the charges. That decision was illegal. It was prompted and pushed by the manager on the advice of the Department. This means that from the initiation of these charges in Drogheda anybody who was notified for the payment of charges was notified illegally. The least that could have happened was that this would be recognised by the Department and if an illegal decision was taken the Department should pay the bill. A bad mistake was made against the advice of people such as myself and we were not listened to. An illegal decision was put through in Drogheda Corporation and in other local authorities throughout the length and breadth of the land. Therefore, the Department and the Government should pick up the tab. Like my colleagues I resent the fact that this is being bulldozed through. At least we could have tried to find some agreed method of getting around this issue but this is not the way to do it. To bulldoze retrospective legislation that is not necessary at this stage because it has not as yet been challenged in the court – even though I suggest it will be challenged – is wrong.

The whole question of waste management is a national catastrophe because no two local authorities apply the same rate of charges or the same system of waste management. Only a couple of weeks ago I asked the Minister the number of councils that had applied a waste management plan. Only a handful, three in Dublin, three elsewhere and one in Cork, had submitted a waste management plan to his Department after three years. The largest dump in Ireland, in Drogheda, was closed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The other two dumps, one in mid-Louth and one in Dundalk, also under investigation, will be closed. Where will the refuse be put? This is an absolute shambles. We push through emergency legislation simply to make the people pay for a service they will not have. They will not have a dump into which to put refuse. It is being opposed in Dublin and all over the country. Yet we are bulldozing through legislation to make people pay for a service that is diminishing on a weekly basis.

This matter is the responsibility of Government. It is immoral for the Government to put through a plan to deal with waste disposal in this form. The money is available. Rather than bulldoze through this type of legislation on a retrospective basis, for a service which the people do not have, the Government should bring forward a proper national plan to deal with this important subject.

It was a Labour Minister who was responsible for the elimination of water charges in conjunction with our colleagues in Government. We were told in Louth County Council, in Drogheda Corporation and by every local authority that it could not be done. Yet, Deputy Howlin found a way to do it and it has been successful. The Minister, who is Deputy Howlin's successor, must find a way to eliminate the system of charges for bin collection. He can then get on to the same platform and be respected in the same way as my colleague Deputy Howlin is respected both locally and nationally.

I wish to share time with my colleague Deputy Sargent?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Government Chief Whip, Deputy Brennan, never tires of telling Deputies that Dáil Éireann is not a legislation factory. Therefore, it is revealing how the Government can increase legislative production when the mood takes it. Legislation can be rushed through the House when it is deemed necessary. Today's Bill is a good example of that.

The Minister will, no doubt, argue that waste charges are a key element of the "polluter pays" principle. They should be part of the "polluter pays" principle but the reality is that the Minister and the local authorities have turned this principle on its head. The "polluter pays" principle has now become the "pay the polluter" principle. Ordinary people will be asked to fork out their hard earned money to fund incineration projects throughout the country. This is precisely the way the primary polluters, industry, would like it to be.

The Bill has come before the House because of deficiencies in the Waste Management Act, 1996. That Act also provided for the setting up of Repak to look after the recycling responsibilities of industry. Recently on a "Prime Time" programme the Minister was forced to admit to me that Repak has not been a success. There have not been any prosecutions to date of those companies that have not joined Repak. Repak has not lived up to its environmental responsibilities and yet the Minister sits back and allows a waste problem to become a waste crisis. The Minister says he is not to blame, neither is industry but rather ordinary people who have got the wrong attitude apparently. Who will pay for this mess? Again, it will be ordinary people.

How much money has Repak raised by recycling? If we compare that amount with the amount raised from waste charges on households there is a glaring disparity. Why has the Minister not rushed through regulations or legislation to deal with any anomalies concerning, for example, Repak. EPA figures show we have a waste crisis. Waste has doubled in recent years. Why the excessive delay in a small measure such as introducing a tax on plastic bags? We have been waiting a long time for it.

While we have a waste crisis the Minister has sat back and has not introduced emergency legislation. We have a housing crisis and as other Deputies have said the Minister sat back and allowed rents to escalate and people to go homeless and yet there was no emergency legislation. We now have a drinking water crisis. We were informed this morning that local authorities said that in three to five years there will be severe water shortages in Dublin. There are already problems concerning water pressure all over the city and yet emergency legislation is not required. There is a severe litter problem but the Minister sits back and allows it to continue. There is also a river and water pollution problem and yet there is no legislation to tax nitrates or phosphates. This is a Minister and a ministry that is marked by complacency because he has his priorities skewed. This Government has all but ignored the environmental issues. The reason he does so is that these concerns conflict with the needs and interests of the financial backers of the major parties.

Today's revelations in Dublin Castle have convinced ordinary people, as if they needed convincing, that the establishment is deeply corrupt. Will the Government rush through legislation to deal with corruption? I do not think so.

Last Saturday I was approached by a woman in the Dublin Food Co-op who told me she had no objection in principle to paying waste charges but she objected strongly to those charges being used to fund an incinerator in Ringsend. She represents the very reasonable view of many people. A "waste not, pay not" scheme linked to proper "reduce, re-use, and recycle" policies makes perfect sense. We know that the bulk of the money raised by way of these charges will not go towards recycling but will go towards capital intensive incineration projects. Many of my constituents feel let down by the Kerbside scheme which dumped up to 40% of recyclable materials in landfill sites. When the Green Party recommended some years ago that Kerbside be monitored by a committee the idea was rejected. Now we know why. Kerbside cost about £2 million per annum. This is a pittance in terms of waste man agement and minuscule compared with the monstrous and unjustifiable costs of incineration.

I would not have considered tabling an amendment to this Bill if the establishment parties had accepted an amendment to the Waste Management Bill, 1996, in the name of my colleague Deputy Sargent. Deputy Sargent sought to exclude incineration as a waste management option but his farsighted approach was rejected out of hand. Under the Act, incineration is defined as energy recovery. This means that by incinerating waste the local authorities are meeting their objectives under the EU Packaging Directive which stipulates that we must recycle and recover 25% of our waste. The Commission makes clear that we must first try to recycle as much of our waste as possible.

I will outline the worst case scenario of what might happen. Local authorities will sign contracts with private incinerator companies and the local authority will be obliged to supply the private contractor with waste. Incinerators usually have a life of up to 30 years. One can see that there will be a conflict between recycling and incineration. If the private company wants to make a profit it requires waste with a high calorific value, such as paper and plastics. Likewise, the local authorities can claim that there is not a market for recyclable materials and that incineration recovers energy. Inevitably, recycling will decline and incineration increase and all the time those conscientious people who are paying charges for what they believe is recycling will see that money going up in smoke.

The Minister often speaks about sustainability but incineration is not sustainable. For many years municipal incinerators have not been built in Australia, Canada or the United States. The arguments for incinerators are bogus. That is why we will put down an amendment to this Bill. For every three tons put into an incinerator, one ton of ash is left. What will we do with that ton of ash? An incineration policy will mean continued landfill with highly toxic residue and very little recycling. That is why these charges are a con job.

Tá mé i gcoinne an Bhille seo. The Green Party objects strongly to the panic with which this Bill is being rushed through the Dáil. The Bill attempts to cover past mistakes but hiding mistakes will prove as difficult as hiding landfill sites. It seeks to endorse the appalling list of disastrous charge regimes throughout the country and will remind people once again of just how flawed the policies of the Government and of various local authorities have been.

These many flaws are found in relation to charges and to waste management in general. The first flaw is glaringly obvious to anyone who sees taxation as a way of affecting behaviour and not merely of raising revenue. It is the flat charge nature of water and refuse collection charges which penalise and discourage environmentally careful and conscientious behaviour. They reward the most wasteful behaviour while penalising the most disadvantaged. They are everything that taxation ought not to be. Furthermore, they are uncollectable because of the understandable resistance to them.

Repak is another example of this Government's attempt to side-step its responsibilities in relation to waste. By being licensed by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Repak is supposedly doing the work of the Minister. However, it has failed to reduce waste and its only success has been in allowing waste producers to avoid their responsibilities – a shameful boast.

Local authorities have also been allowed to abdicate their responsibilities. One of 200 or more amendments I tabled to the 1996 Bill would have ensured that each local authority made a waste plan before it co-operated in a regional waste plan. The Rainbow Government judged that it would be sufficient for each local authority to buy into a regional plan without having a waste plan of its own. This has resulted in local authorities paying homage to an engineering blueprint for a regional waste plan which centres on engineering rather than environmental solutions, hence the reliance on large landfill sites and incineration.

The failure by the Minister to act on minimisation of waste, the supreme option in the hierarchy of waste management, is shameful. The Minister has spoken of European legislation preventing the retention of glass milk bottles, for example, or the use of other re-usable packaging. He has shown none of the courage of EU countries such as Denmark which have challenged that provision in European legislation and refuse to lie down in the face of European bureaucracy, which is anti-environmental in this case. The lack of enforcement of anti-litter legislation is another example of a failing the Minister must correct before he imposes charges on people who can ill afford them.

The biggest flaw in our waste management policy is that we are not using the best available waste management technology. Why should we pay for flawed technology. When the Minister talks of using state of the art technology many people who deal with waste and who have examined this question in depth answer that he is using state of the ark technology.

That is so clever. My goodness.

This is old technology. If the Minister is serious about providing solutions, why is he using technology which other countries tried more than 20 years ago and would abandon now if they could? Large landfills and incineration, both of which involve the need to get rid of large quantities of ash, are cousins of each other. The Minister must realise that the people doing the work on these systems are engineers. They are not environmentalists and they do not have environmental ways of thinking. They seek economies of scale and take engineering approaches. For that reason they will, obviously, say that incineration and large engineered landfills are the best way to deal with waste. If the Minister was to look further afield he would discover there are many companies which would be willing to look at zero waste options. There is a multitude of options. They include placing responsibility on householders and local communities to audit and reduce waste. This has been done successfully in the Tidy Towns competition. That is the key to the solution. An out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach penalises small rural communities which are least responsible for the waste crisis.

In endorsing this policy which provides for large regional waste plans the Minister is flirting with voracious worldwide companies seeking to peddle their technology here which is not acceptable in more advanced societies. They are very keen to ensure it will be a case of business as usual and that provision is made in large regional waste plans for incinerators and large infill sites so they can corner the profitable waste market.

We have an opportunity to get the matter right. We have not gone down the road followed by other countries which are now stuck with 25 or 30 year plans. If they knew then what we know now about what is possible with the best available technology they would not have gone down that road. The Minister should stand back from this measure and go back to the drawing board with the help of environmentalists and not rely totally on engineers to ensure we find a solution that will be a credit rather than a liability to future generations.

It is not a good idea to rush legislation. About 12 years ago just before Christmas the famous rod licence Bill was rushed through the House. This was something we came to regret and it was finally repealed within a period of four or five years. The Minister is not doing himself justice in not spelling out more clearly the reasons this Bill is necessary. In doing so he may bring more Members with him. The absence of Government backbench Members is noted.

Since Deputy Dukes spoke an anti-everything line has been taken. I refute some of what has been said. Service charges are not being introduced to build incinerators. Service charges would not cover the cost of recycling facilities and landfill sites. Some valid points have been made however. Householders should be rewarded for reducing, recycling and re-using some of their waste. Apart from a waiver scheme which applies to those who put out a bin every second week, for example old age pensioners, there is no incentive for them to do so at present, except to satisfy their conscience.

In August 1998 the Government directed local authorities to produce waste management plans. Galway County Council, of which I am a member, was lumped together with the remaining counties in Connacht. As they did not possess the required expertise they hired consultants to produce a waste management plan which follow ing its publication was discussed at public meetings. There was misinformation at meetings organised by those opposed to the proposals contained in the plan. People got it into their minds that the objective was to poison their lambs, children, grandchildren and everybody else. I do not have any lambs but I do have children and one grandchild whom I do not want to poison.

What many people fail to understand is that when a waste management plan is produced by a local authority or a group of local authorities submissions must be invited. In the case of the local authorities in Connacht the closing date for the receipt of submissions has twice been extended. Submissions may now be submitted up to 31 May. Whenever a waste management plan is published and on public display members of the local authority concerned are obliged to keep an open mind until all submissions are received and considered. They are also obliged to educate themselves on all aspects of the plan and to seek all professional advice before finally making up their minds. They have to satisfy themselves that what is being proposed is safe and that there is no hidden agenda, as was hinted at several public meetings and in the House today. That is my interpretation of the responsibilities of public representatives.

At public meetings attended by 200 to 300 members of the public all opposed to all forms of waste management except recycling, new or inexperienced councillors may state they are opposed to the proposals contained in a waste management plan. This will lead members of the public to ask, "How come councillor X is able to say he or she is opposed to the plan and you are not?" Having been a member of a local authority for 25 years I think I know what my duties are. I am obliged to keep an open mind until I educate myself fully on all aspects of a plan and until the public process is complete. I will not be slow in casting my vote once I have decided what is the proper thing to do for the area I represent.

Although everyone at public meetings says he or she is in favour of waste recycling, re-use and reduction, little or nothing has been done to encourage this since August 1998. A shopkeeper in Oranmore has purchased a baler to make it easier to transport cardboard to the cardboard recycling plant in Galway. That plant will sometimes take cardboard without imposing a charge. However, it cannot take it at other times because there is no trade for recycled cardboard.

The Minister should give tax incentives to people who set up cardboard, paper and plastic recycling plants. We have given tax incentives for building houses and student accommodation, so why can the Minister not introduce a tax incentive scheme for the proper separation and re-use of waste? I understand from my research that it costs 2p to produce a plastic bottle but 15p to recycle it. No one will set up a business to recycle plastic bottles unless the Minister and his Department are serious about giving people grants.

The Minister for Finance proposes to introduce a tax of between 3p and 10p on plastic bags in the next Finance Bill. I hope he chooses the top rate. Up to a few months ago my household used 18 plastic bags a week. If the Minister put a tax of 10p on each plastic bag, it would cost us £80 a year. That would be a step forward.

I recently produced a re-usable cloth bag, which costs £2, with my logo, "Padraic McCormack TD Supports the Environment", and I give them to people who come to my office. I have invested £1,200 in this project because I want to change people's mindset about using re-usable bags. The first day I went shopping with my daughter to a supermarket in Galway I almost had to assault the assistant to stop her putting our groceries into plastic bags. I told her I had my own bags and she did not believe me.

I have since visited all the supermarkets in Galway and asked them to use linen bags made by Firefly in Galway, which is an association for mentally handicapped adults. I would be pleased if the supermarkets put my logo on them but I presume they will put their own logo on them, which might be more realistic. As long as they do not put the Minister's logo on them I will be happy. They can sell them for £2 at the checkout if they wish but they should be made available. I am not asking them to give them to people free of charge – I am making that sacrifice.

I did not come up with this idea. I must give credit to Galway Corporation which produced a reusable bag approximately six months ago and asked shops to take them. The Minister was presented with one when he was in Galway, although he thought he was getting one of mine, which is a better bag.

I was at a public meeting recently where 200 people spent three and a half hours talking about recyling. I asked them if they were aware of the bag produced by Galway Corporation or if they used it. However, no one answered me. I showed them my bag and told them to call to my office if they wanted one. I have already given out more than 250 bags. When my secretary gave a woman from Connemara my bag as she was leaving my office she said everyone in the shop would know she had visited my office. I told her if she was not happy with it she could turn it inside out. I give that as an example not to brag about myself but to show how much we must do to change people's mindset about recycling.

I ask the Minister to promote, encourage and subsidise recycling and other waste reduction measures. Now is the time to do it. Many public meetings have been held in different areas and they have helped to make people realise that we cannot continue to produce large quantities of waste without doing something about it. The amount of waste produced in the past four years has doubled. This is due to people's growing affluence in the Celtic tiger economy and the fact they are buying more products which are wrapped in several layers of plastic. We must also deal with commercial waste.

I am not against the principle of charging for the disposal of waste. However, we must compensate or reward those who reduce their waste. Unless local authorities or the Minister do that, people will stop trying to reduce the amount of waste. Bottles are the only material recycled in Galway at present. There is a good bottle recycling unit in the area. Galway Corporation is the first local authority to use a specially adapted toxic waste lorry. It comes to Galway city once a month to recycle toxic waste, such as paint, paint strippers, batteries and fluorescent tubes. We have circulated to every house in Galway a list of approximately 25 toxic materials which are recycled. I was in Galway the first day the toxic waste lorry came but nobody turned up to recycle their toxic materials.

People must start to segregate and recycle their waste. Local authorities will have to include a charge for the disposal of refuse when they adopt their estimates. We will not get away with what we did five, ten or 15 years ago when dumps were covered over after three or fours years with a few loads of gravel or clay. It will cost more to keep landfills at a high standard compared to what it cost in the past.

The Minister should not sit back and say the Government has done its duty by asking local authorities to produce waste management plans and having a public debate on the issue and that it is up to councillors in local authorities to adopt the plan. The Minister should outline today or after Easter what he and his Department are doing about helping and encouraging people to recycle. We are only scratching the surface. We are fooling ourselves if no distinction is made in the cost charged to the house which puts out two or three bags every week and the house which puts out a bag every second week or a half bag every week. We cannot expect people to continue to put their bottles in the bottle bank and their paper or cardboard somewhere else every week if there is no difference in the charges. If people in Galway are going to be charged £120 per year, they will simply put the whole thing in the bin. What has the Minister done to examine the potential of recycling cardboard which is only ticking over at present? What is he doing to help shopkeepers to produce cardboard as this man is doing at his own expense in Oranmore? He has a baler which cost £5,600 and he is bailing his cardboard which makes it easier to transport.

I have researched this issue. As a result of my initiative in Galway a woman asked on local radio why I was giving out re-usable bags because she would have no plastic bags with which to line her bins. This woman need not worry as there will be plenty of plastic bags left in Galway. Degradable plastic bags are being imported from the Far East and distributed by a firm in Dublin. These bags can be used to line bins and they degrade. They sell for £35 per 1,000 and £80 per 1,000 for large bin liners.

I hope next year's Finance Bill will introduce a maximum tax of 10p on plastic bags. I also hope, however, that degradable bags will be exempt from this tax so there will be an incentive to use them. The Minister should ask his officials to investigate the possibility of setting up a facility to manufacture degradable plastic bags in Ireland. Why should we import such bags from the Far East? Why is somebody not given a tax free or tax deductible incentive to set up a manufacturing facility here? The Minister should play his part in conjunction with local authorities in helping to change the mindset from disposing of waste to recycling and re-using it.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Seán Ryan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank Deputy McCormack for sharing his ingenious use of bags to serve the twin virtues of self promotion and environmental protection.

No plastic is fantastic.

However, the Minister should not take inspiration from this approach as I would hate to see the country flooded with "Dempsey bags". We are in enough difficulty without having such an additional problem.

This is extraordinary legislation being presented with extraordinary speed. From time to time Opposition Deputies have raised serious issues relating to legislation which require an urgent response from Government. However, we have not received the necessary response. An example of this problem in my area of responsibility is the denial of basic human rights to psychiatric patients because of a lack of legislation. The Government's lethargy in producing the Mental Health Bill speaks for itself in terms of how it perceives this issue.

There has been no urgency regarding homelessness, even though it is a serious problem, particularly in urban areas. We have not seen any legislation nor any intention to introduce legislation to deal with erring members of the Judiciary even though this matter is of grave concern and needs to be dealt with. This morning, the Taoiseach responded very inadequately to Deputy Quinn's demand for action regarding the Labour Party's Private Members' Bill regulating the activities of lobbyists. This response showed a lack of urgency and focus.

This Bill has been rushed into the House to deal with something which may happen. It deals with a doubt, a possibility, a will-o'-the-wisp which might happen but has not happened yet. There is no court case or constitutional challenge or any clear explanation from the Minister as to why this Bill is being introduced. The only good thing one can say about it is that it gives us the opportunity to raise issues concerning waste management and disposal and I am glad other Deputies have raised very pertinent issues which require urgent attention. Sadly those issues are not receiving such attention.

In recent times in Wicklow there has been a very serious upheaval and dismantling of an essential service which people have availed of and understood as part of the work of a local authority. This service delivered protections in terms of public health which is now at risk because of management failure to deal with a serious crisis in the county. The problem is also due to political cowardice, primarily on the part of Fianna Fáil, in running away from challenges posed by recent estimates.

As a result, Wicklow County Council and Bray Urban District Council rammed through a measure to privatise the service. This decision was opposed by the Labour Party. It is wrong to even call this measure privatisation. It did not constitute privatisation. What happened was that a majority of local councillors abdicated their responsibility because management provided them with the opportunity of doing so. This move delivered a service which was well established in the county to a group of predatory privateers who now operate across the county. The decision has been a cause of great public distress and anger. I am proud and glad that, in Bray at least, we managed to overturn this decision and succeeded in bringing back a local authority service. However, this did not happen in beneficial circumstances and the system has been harmed as a consequence of this disgraceful abdication of responsibility by members of the council and by management.

Serious questions were raised in both local authorities as to whether they were in compliance with the Waste Management Act in terms of the comprehensiveness of the privatised service and the adequate disposal of waste. Incredibly, the Department did not even have a licensing system in place to ensure people setting up or operating such businesses were properly licensed.

These issues are now the subject of a legal challenge. Did the Department of the Environment and Local Government investigate? Did the Minister establish whether there was a matter of concern? Did he examine whether there was a doubt about this decision by a local authority? I am not aware of any such response regarding the serious issues raised, yet this Bill is being introduced on the basis of a doubt. It seems a double standard is in operation. This matter concerns a real life decision made by a local authority responsible to the Department about which serious questions have been raised and not investigated by the Department.

County Wicklow is probably no different from many other counties in that it has a serious waste management crisis. We do not have sufficient capacity in our landfill sites or provision for incineration. The future is very uncertain in terms of landfill. The arrangements that are being made are very short-term.

Our waste management plan, which was passed by the county council this week, relates more to wonderland than the reality with which we must all live. It contains high recycling ambitions which are very worthy and which we all support. However, while the public says it is interested in recycling, I am not sure if it is willing to participate fully. However, we must give people the benefit of the doubt. We must provide the option of recycling to every householder because of the urgent need to fully exploit that option.

There was a recycling system in Bray where householders put out green boxes which were collected by the local authority. That service is no longer available. There is now a battle over who owns the green boxes – it is a privateer or the local authority? That kind of breakdown in the system sends out a very clear signal that we must take this seriously.

The management record of private landfill sites has been outrageous. Local residents complain constantly about noise, nuisance, the dumping of materials that should not be in a private landfill site, vermin, disregard for planning permission and work being carried out beyond the time limit in a planning permission. For example, books could be written about how poorly the local authority has dealt with the complaints of local residents about Killegar in Enniskerry. The residents are carrying out their own monitoring because the local authority has been unable to do so.

To be fair to Wicklow County Council, it is curtailed by lack of numbers and resources. We have a waste management plan which sets out very ambitious targets. It looks very good and up to the minute but does not deal with the central issues of staffing and resources in the local authority. People are becoming very cynical about the number of glossy reports, which often include a letter from the Minister and his photograph at the front, being produced. The means of implementation are never outlined. It is not clear what happens once the report comes into the public arena or how the timeframe, if there is one, will be delivered on.

I was contacted today by a resident of Blackditch in Newcastle, County Wicklow. Truck after truck is driving past this householder's residence, delivering builder's rubble to a field which does not have planning permission for dumping. The well known builder who is delivering this rubble and the owner of the land, who is also well known, have no right to do this. It is clear to me that illegal dumping has increased significantly in the county as a result of what has happened. However, the measures and protections are not adequate to meet the need.

Private abuse, in terms of littering and dirtying our landscape, particularly the rural landscape, is matched and reinforced by public neglect. I understand the Minister is talking about giving an amnesty for buildings and works carried out without planning permission. If that is true, I would be strongly opposed to it because it is part and parcel of allowing things to be done that are illegal. We seem to be facilitating rather than preventing illegality.

The amendment tabled by the Labour Party deals with a very important issue, which is the lack of a waiver system provision. Elderly and poor people are hit very badly by the waste crisis. We all recognise that the cost of waste disposal is increasing. We cannot argue against that point. However, we have a social responsibility to ensure the very poor and elderly are not hurt by the fact the State has this responsibility. A proper waiver system underpinned by legislation is vital. Surely the Minister will recognise that is only fair.

The Labour Party, as our spokesperson, Deputy Gilmore, outlined, opposes this Bill. We do so partly on the basis of the proposal to push the Bill through the House this evening. That has given very little, if any, time for the consultation process that is required when a Bill is introduced. The Bill falls down on that issue.

The issue of service charges has been highly contentious over the years. The reorganisation of the greater Dublin area Bill in 1993 split the old Dublin County Council into three new local authorities – Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. That caused a major financial problem in that a Bill was introduced and the Minister said that no additional expense was to be incurred by the Exchequer. That resulted in a situation where, for example, Fingal County Council, through its elected members, was obliged to bring in water charges. As far as we in the Labour Party are concerned, water charges are an unjust method of financing local authorities.

The problem over the years, dating back to the infamous budget of 1978, is that the amount of money allocated to the local authorities has decreased substantially on an ongoing basis. Labour Party Deputies and members of local authorities gave a specific commitment that we wanted the then Minister, Deputy Howlin, to introduce legislation to abolish water charges. That is now the situation and we take credit for it. The great fear is that the current Minister will bring in water charges by the back door.

While the Minister and the Government have engaged in a great PR exercise on waste management and litter, in reality they have done a minimal amount with the powers under that legislation. I recognise that local authorities are responsible for implementing policies, but at the same time all we hear is the principle that the polluter pays. That principle does not take into consideration the multinational companies, which are responsible for much of the pollution and waste. Let the Minister or the EU deal with that issue before they start putting their greedy fingers on the PAYE workers, the old age pensioners and the various groups again. The Labour Party is opposed to the Government's approach.

Reference has been made to the waivers. To the best of my knowledge, many of the local auth orities, which are controlled in many cases by a combination of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael representatives, have been in favour of privatisation of the services. Where they decide themselves that is the method and type of services they want to introduce, it is incumbent on the Government and those local authorities to ensure a mechanism is employed to allow a waiver system for senior citizens.

I could speak at length on this issue. The Bill is being rushed through and there are other motives for this. The Labour Party is opposed to it.

In response to the request of the Chair, I will facilitate all who wish to contribute to the debate.

The rushing of the Bill through the Dáil without proper prior notice and without proper debate is a deplorable manoeuvre on the part of the Government. It is an attempt by sleight of hand to enable local authorities to continue to apply and to retrospectively apply refuse and other charges to householders.

The Government knows this issue is political dynamite and therefore it has brought this legislation forward in this shoddy manner in the final hours before the Easter recess in the hope that it will be enacted with minimum fuss. Clearly that will not be the case. Already today we have seen the public expression of anger at the Bill and, with little notice, a significant protest at the gates of this House.

Refuse charges and other such charges affect hundreds of thousands of people and are set to affect many more as further local authorities prepare to impose charges, yet the Bill, which will affect so many people, is being guillotined in this House and sprung on an unsuspecting public.

Section 2 refers to the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act, 1983. This of course brings us back to the sordid history of water charges. In the face of widespread opposition to those unjust charges, Fianna Fáil solemnly promised the electorate before the 1985 local government elections that it would not impose them. That promise was broken in local authorities throughout the State as the charges were voted in by Fianna Fáil councillors. In many cases, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael combined to secure their passage through local authorities.

Many people resisted water charges and were hauled before the courts. Hefty fines and even jail sentences were imposed. Those who resisted the charges were subsequently vindicated as the water charges were abolished. Contrast the treatment meted out to service charge resistors with the treatment of those who we now know have been up to their necks in corruption during the period in question, the 1980s. It is ironic that the Bill is rushed through the House on a day of shocking revelations on how local government was abused and corrupted by certain public representatives. Nobody who indulged in bribery in the planning process or who held an Ansbacher account has gone to jail, but we have seen people jailed for protesting against the payment of unjust service charges.

The context of the Bill is that the Government has failed to devise and implement a comprehensive waste management strategy. It has dumped responsibility for waste management on to local authorities without providing the necessary resources. The costs are being borne by householders who must meet refuse charges and in many cases the spiralling demands of private sector service providers.

The reality is that there is no proper waste management in Ireland. Governments in both states have a range of stop-gap measures which cannot cope with the ever growing mountains of waste engulfing the country. The rate of waste reuse and recycling is the lowest in Europe. Only 7.8% of waste is recycled. The State has the highest dependence on landfills. Some 92.2% of commercial and household waste in the 26 counties goes to landfill.

The onus to solve the problem has been shifted by successive Governments from themselves to the local authorities and the householders through privatisation of refuse collection and the imposition of refuse charges. Sinn Féin agrees with the principle of the polluter pays, but my party's understanding of who is the real polluter and the understanding of others, the Government included, points up two very different approaches to this principle and the issue at its core. The biggest polluters are the manufacturers of products in our consumer society. Over packaging, of which there are many examples, and over marketing must be tackled by the Government, both within this economy and at EU level.

Under the national development plan, waste management is geared towards, and even dependent upon, incineration. There are legitimate community concerns at the environmental effects of such incinerators. Will they too be foisted upon communities as the Bill is being dumped upon us all here? There is huge public goodwill for recycling, environmental enhancement, combating litter, etc., but this has not yet been harnessed by Government.

These local authority refuse charges are both unnecessary and unjust. People currently dependent on the private operators are equally deserving of a State-backed refuse collection and recycling service. That is by far the eminently preferable approach. The responsibility rests on central government to provide funds to actively address the pressing issue of the lack of local government funding in the area of tackling waste management.

Given that I represent a Border constituency and spent a lifetime living within four miles of the Border, I take this opportunity to urge consideration of the cross-Border dimensions and the potential which exists to employ an all-Ireland approach to waste management. I think there is merit in considering establishing a national waste management board as a further vehicle of cross-Border co-operation. Without going into specific instances of the reality on the ground, I can see where we are replicating facilities and opportunities on both sides of the Border which might be better shared. Such an approach is one I commend to the Minister and I hope, all the other arguments aside, that this focus will be given serious consideration.

Sinn Féin has been and will be responsible and constructive on this issue, but we will not tolerate scapegoating householders anywhere on the island or labelling us all as polluters as a substitute for a proper waste management policy. I urge the Minister's favourable consideration of a cross-Border approach and again record my opposition to incineration and my support for a waste management policy which honestly addresses and reflects the concerns and needs of citizens. I register my opposition to the Bill and my intention to support the Labour Party amendments in relation to waiver schemes.

I am worried about householders and I am here to speak on their behalf. We have seen in the past few weeks in this city how people elected to councils were more concerned with big fellows who had money than small people. I have got into trouble on many occasions at estimates meetings fighting for the poor and the week in society. I hope the Minister will concede that there will have to be a waiver for people living in local authority housing and for the elderly.

On the one hand the State is providing grant aid through the IDA to major companies locating in the country. These companies are producing and creating more waste than 1,000 householders would create yet we are subsidising them by giving them grant aid for buildings, machinery, etc., while poor people in housing estates have to pay for a refuse service, something which amazes me.

I pay rates, water charges and refuse charges but I receive no service from the local authority. They do not sweep outside my door or clean the drains, jobs I have to do myself. I have been a member of a local authority for 21 years and I must say the structure is collapsing. I am a member of Mayo County Council and each year we are appointing more engineers and fewer tradesmen. We cannot get a man to sweep the streets because the council will not employ people, or a man to open a drain because the council says it does not have the necessary resources. I opposed the proposal last week to include provision for the tenure of county managers to be increased from seven to ten years in the Planning and Development Bill. County managers run the country, not the Taoiseach or Ministers.

I was in the bread business for 20 years at a time when it was not necessary to wrap bread. People then came to us from the health boards to prosecute us because we were not keeping the bread clean and wrapped. In the milk industry, every morning housewives would wash the empty bottles and leave them out for collection by the milk company to be refilled. Similarly, in the summer children used to collect mineral bottles, bring them to the local shops and collect a few pounds in deposits. Now, however, everything is disposable, including bags, bottles and drink cans, and we know where this material ends up.

The other day a constituent came to my clinic who got a £40 fine for throwing away a cigarette butt.

Rightly so.

Not rightly so. The Minister was approached by residents from County Kildare where a developer had been dumping for four or five years. The county manager, the assistant county manager, every official on the local authority and the Minister were approached on the matter and none of them did anything about it. The residents had to raise money and go to the courts, and I am glad to say they won the case. That person was creating a dump on his property, so much so that the local authority felt it would cost too much to remove it, but I am glad the courts dealt with the person involved. He was prosecuted and must now rectify the damage he did.

A private operator in my town, who has lovely vehicles and works late and hard, had to put his refuse in a landfill dump owned by the council. The council took all the prime business in the towns while this person catered for all the rural business. The council doubled if not tripled the charges for that man to use the landfill, something which is wrong.

I am disappointed by the service provided by local authorities. There is a parallel here with water charges. The Minister is aware that there are many people in rural areas who are prepared to pay for water if it is provided. Water charges were being abolished in Dublin and throughout the country while at the same time people were trying to collect money to put water schemes in place where the State failed to provide a service. The person who creates refuse must pay for its disposal. The business sector must pay a reasonable charge.

Local authorities are always complaining they never have money yet, at a meeting the other night of the local authority of which I am a member, the county manager, without consultation, introduced grants of £40,000 and £70,000 for different golf clubs, giving in the end a total of £140,000. People in rural areas cannot travel the roads because of overgrown hedges which the county manager says he has no money to cut yet he could spend £140,000 on golf clubs. I am not a golfer and I have nothing against golf. However, those who can afford to play it can afford to pay for it, and I do not see why rate payers and taxpayers have to subsidise golf courses which have already been subsidised in terms of grant aid for their construction. I am upset and annoyed by this.

I hope it will not be like the water charges where more money was being collected from housing estates than from the business sector. Local authorities were adding water charges to rent, and those who did not pay were in trouble, which was wrong. The person who creates waste – manufacturers, industrialists and business people – should have to pay, not the poor woman, the single mother or the person with a large family living in a housing estate. There must be a waiver.

Local authorities are unable to deal with existing problems, including planning, housing and existing services. Nothing is being done in relation to repairs to council houses and I do not understand why the Minister is giving councils responsibility in terms of refuse.

(Dublin West): The ramming through of legislation, which we have had sight of for scarcely 24 hours, amounts to disgraceful bullying by the Government. I was only informed late yesterday evening that this emergency debate would be held and that all Stages of the Bill would be railroaded through the House this evening. That is a gross abuse of democracy and does not allow adequate time to address the serious issues raised by this legislation because once the question of local authority charges is raised, it is inevitable that we must go back to the principle on which they are levied and their history.

The Bill seeks to validate the illegal collection of £100 million by local authorities, mainly in refuse charges, in 1997, 1998, 1999 and so far in 2000. It is quite clear that the Attorney General would not have gone to the Government with this advice unless he was absolutely convinced that charges for those years would not survive a challenge in the courts. Most of the £100 million arises from a bin tax on ordinary householders. It is a local tax bearing most heavily on that section of the population which already pays the majority of taxes in the State. Since these charges were introduced by Deputy Spring and Fine Gael in 1983 they have remained the subject of contention, opposition and resentment for ordinary taxpayers. Their introduction at that time amounted to a double cross of honest PAYE workers who were taxed to the hilt and who funded the bulk of the tax system.

These charges were a source of contention in the 1980s and if the decent people objecting to them then only knew what else was going on at that time behind closed doors these charges would only have survived a matter of months because of the injustice involved. While the ordinary taxpayer was called upon to pay over and over again, through this back door local tax, powerful swindlers were in action in other sectors of the economy ripping off the tax system to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. The most powerful individuals in the State, captains of industry and establishment politicians, were stashing hundreds of millions of pounds in off shore accounts to avoid paying tax with which the ordinary PAYE worker was hit.

These workers were called upon to pay this local tax, which was an out and out unjust charge. Many quite correctly did not pay. Water charges were struck down in 1996 as a result of a campaign of people power. They were outraged by the double standards in taxation which they faced and the audacity of major right wing parties to introduce these taxes at local authority level which was then followed in 1993 by the Fianna Fáil/Labour Party Government introducing a tax amnesty to legitimise millionaire swindlers who had robbed hundreds of millions of pounds and being givencarte blánche to get away with it.

It is official now that the Labour Party is right wing.

(Dublin West): When that campaign of people power, with no support whatsoever from the political parties of the establishment in the House, forced the abolition of charges it was a blow for justice for the ordinary taxpayer. It struck me strongly last night when I heard about this legislation that declaring such charges to be illegal from 1997 onwards is poetic justice as far as ordinary householders are concerned because following the abolition of water charges the Attorney General is telling us that the remaining charge, the bin tax, is also illegal. By accident rather than by design on behalf of the establishment parties, we find that ordinary people were robbed again through this tax.

The Government is coming into the House at a few hours notice to ram through this emergency legislation because the little people are involved, such as the PAYE pensioners, the low paid workers and those who pay the majority of taxes. The little people must never be allowed any tax breaks and that is why the Government is coming into the House in this fashion. Did it introduce any emergency legislation to target the Ansbacher men in order to extract the hundreds of millions of pounds they owe the tax system over the past 20 years or more? It is three years since the Government fought tooth and nail against those of us in the House who wanted the tribunals to pursue the Ansbacher men. It has introduced emergency legislation to ensure the little people do not escape the tax burden but has done nothing about the big fish. I have no doubt that the big fish made large political donations to certain right wing parties.

The Government has introduced this legislation on an unfortunate day following the stunning revelations at Dublin Castle which, unfortunately, discredit local authorities because of the outright corruption of a minority of councillors which is now patently obvious. The same people who took bribes had no compunction about going into council chambers and lashing local taxes on the hard pressed PAYE worker. I was a councillor fighting them in 1991 and what I knew then I now know to be the truth. The councillors who introduced this local tax on ordinary people have no moral authority and the Government has no moral authority to come into the House and insist that £100 million in taxation which was illegally grabbed from the decent tax paying public must be kept by local authorities.

Bin charges should be scrapped and the Government should provide adequate local authority funding to address waste management. Bin charges do not comprise a policy on waste management. The trite slogan "the polluter pays", which is used by some political parties to cover their tracks, equates the decent householder to a chemical factory. It is quite sickening. The majority of landfill waste is commercial, not domestic. The majority of household waste could be reduced to nil if there was proper and strict legislation beginning at manufacturing level to reduce waste at source. It is ridiculous that when one enters a supermarket one still finds foam trays containing one or two sausages. Is it any wonder that waste piles up in landfills? The Government adopts programmes of reuse and recycling to eliminate unnecessary waste production.

Plastic bags have been mentioned and they are a blight which the Government has done nothing about. The plastic bag should be adopted as the national flag. Any visitor coming to our shores would then think we were the most patriotic people on earth because every bush, briar and boreen flies the national flag as a result of plastic pollution. The Government pathetically adopts the trite slogan, "the polluter pays" in order to impose extra local taxes on decent taxpayers. It is not interested in implementing a proper waste management strategy. There is a boycott of these waste charges in many places and I expect more to follow. People should not pay these charges, they should boycott them and come together in political lobby to force their public representatives to recognise that these charges should be abolished. The Government should be on notice that this will be an issue in the run up to the next general election. I had thought it might be in 12 months time but, judging by what has spilled out in Dublin Castle in the last 48 hours, it might be in a matter of weeks. There is probably more and worse to come and who knows in whose courtyard it will land?

There is a serious question mark over the legality of what the Government is attempting to do. The Minister has not addressed that and he must do so. It is very possible that under Article 15.5 of the Constitution the High Court will strike down this Bill. I have no doubt that it will finish up in the High Court and so it should. As well as a campaign of people power and a boycott of these charges to demand justice, the ordinary householder should use the courts to secure justice. According to Article 15.5 of the Constitution, the Oireachtas shall not declare acts to be infringements of the law which were not so at the date of their commission. The refusal by householders to pay in 1997, 1998 and 1999 cannot be said to be an infringement of the law now because it was an illegal and invalid act to demand that money at the time. The Oireachtas may not retrospectively say that this was an infringement of the law. The Minister has been well briefed about this. He knows there is a law which says that no one should suffer a detriment by the application of a doubtful law and there is also a question mark over retrospection of legislation. This will end up in the High Court and that is only right.

Today we see yet another shameful double crossing of the people by the Government, once more it is ignoring them and it will pay the price for that.

The problems with refuse collection and the imposed charges are causing concern. In Offaly private contractors collect refuse and their charges are roughly £160 per year – £13.50 per month. That is a lot of money to those on low incomes. There has never been an overall Government strategy for the collection of refuse. A comprehensive policy must be put in place to ensure uniformity throughout the State.

Many dumps had to close because of European Union regulations. There is no problem closing a dump but problems arise when a new dump has to be opened. This demonstrates a lack of common sense on the part of the European Union. Those dumps which remain open are almost full and there will be problems shortly finding alternative sites for dumping.

The charges have risen from £50 a year to at least £160 per year in some areas. I am very concerned about the manner in which those charges are rising. The Minister and the local authorities will have to act. When one speaks to those carrying out collection on behalf of the local authorities, the response will be that the local authorities have increased their charges at the gates of the rubbish dumps. The local authorities are responsible for a proportion of these increases. Overall, there is much dissatisfaction with the charges.

The introduction of the national car test will aggravate the already serious problem of abandoned cars. There is no plan to get rid of these cars. Throughout Laois-Offaly there are abandoned cars lying in scenic areas and they are a blight on the environment. The money being obtained from the tests should be used to ensure that abandoned cars are removed and properly dismantled.

There is a major crisis in housing. Day after day people come to me looking for housing. When I entered politics there were problems in this area but the Rainbow Government did a great deal to reduce the waiting lists. Since Fianna Fáil returned to power, the housing lists have grown at an uncontrollable rate. We are forgetting those who cannot afford to buy houses and they feel abandoned. Families of five who are living in the worst possible accommodation come to my clinic and I have to tell them that they will be on a waiting list for years. This problem must be addressed. The worst housing crisis we have ever experienced is currently taking place when the State has never been better off. RTE highlighted the problems in the private rented sector and those problems are being aggravated by the lack of housing available. A major initiative must be taken by the Government to tackle this crisis.

The Deputy is straying somewhat from the subject.

We are talking about local authority funding. It is all part and parcel of the one financial provision.

That is a good effort. It deserves full marks.

It is important I say that because it is a very serious matter.

I refer to other problems which have arisen. I have been in contact with the Minister's Department on a number of occasions in regard to sewerage problems. I received letters from the Minister on the Mountrath, Abbeyleix and Durrow sewerage schemes which have not been improved for the past 50 to 80 years. I thank the Minister for his letter in which he stated they are included in the scheme of assessment of needs 2000-06. These towns will not be able to develop unless proper sewerage facilities are provided. I ask the Minister to deal with these schemes because a number of people have raised this matter with me. He might also examine the scheme at Ballybrittas.

I am concerned about the refuse issue. Material is being dumped everywhere and it is time for a national comprehensive approach to tackle the problem of dumping. We are missing out as a country because the dumping problem has been allowed to develop over the years.

I thank Deputies who contributed to the debate. I will attempt to address some of the questions raised, although I noted that people in some quarters seemed to be more in the mood for giving information than seeking it. The House will have noted from my opening speech that the purpose of this Bill is specific. It is simply to confirm the commonly understood position regarding the powers currently available to local authorities to charge for certain services. Those of us who listened to the Labour Party contributors will have noticed they spent the bulk of their time talking about anything other than the Bill and what is contained in it.

That is not the case.

The reason for that is very simple – the Labour Party members know it was the Government in which they were involved that is responsible for the uncertainty which has given rise to this legislation.

Now we know what the Bill is about – it is a political whack.

A member of the Labour Party was Minister at the time the legislation was passed.

It is good legislation. It is a pity the Minister would not implement it.

I thought they might have had the good grace to accept their responsibility for the fact that we are here this evening but, as usual, my faith in the Labour Party was badly misplaced.

Much was said about the fact that we are dealing with this matter by way of emergency legislation whereas other issues of importance to society did not receive similar treatment. If we are to address a legal doubt, it has to be done by legislation – hence the Bill. I make no apology for moving to remove a legal doubt before any legal proceedings are brought to my attention.

The attitude in certain quarters of the Opposition seemed to be that I should have sat back, waited until there was a court challenge and to be hauled into the court something about it. That may be the way certain Members of the Opposition want to act but it is not the way this Government will act. We will face up to our responsibilities and the problems and try to deal with them.

Not all the important issues facing us require emergency legislation. The broader environmental, housing and other issues raised are being addressed head on by this Government through a wide range of measures and initiatives which are being implemented with unprecedented determination. There is a striking similarity between this legislation and the housing area mentioned by so many Deputies. The similarity is that we are left in a position in which we have to clear up the mess created by the previous Government, but we are doing that and we will shoulder our responsibility.

House prices have doubled in the Minister's term in office.

Some Deputies asked how this matter came to light. A question was raised by consultants engaged by the Department of the Environment and Local Government to advise on public-private partnerships – the PP initiatives about which we talked – for the purpose of implementing regional waste management plans. Shortly after that and independent of the Department advice and the doubt being raised, advice to the same effect was received by Dublin Corporation which is considering specific proposals for domestic waste charges as provided for in the Dublin region waste management plan. That is the background to the—

It is about privatisation.

Deputy Dukes and others specifically asked about the background.

In regard to another question raised by Deputy Dukes, as far as we are aware there is no legal challenge currently to the validity of the local authority waste charges. That is the best information we have. Any legal action would probably be taken against the local authority rather than the Department.

A number of Deputies asked why we are rushing this emergency legislation through now. One thing which was notably absent from any of the contributions was the possible effects of this if we did not take action and remove the doubt, that is, a serious loss of revenue to local authorities. Deputies on all sides constantly tell me how committed they are to local democracy, local government and the local authority system but nobody seems to care about them when they are faced with the possibility of a £100 million loss, and I cannot put it more strongly than that. That is why this legislation was introduced.

More importantly, once a doubt arises over the validity of any charge levied by local authorities, there is the possibility that it could, in a broader sense, undermine the entire income local authorities have included in their estimates for 2000. Should a notion gain currency at some stage that any charge levied by a local authority is unfounded in law, it could sow the seeds of uncertainty and doubt in regard to all their charges and could possibly start a movement against payment of all valid charges and payments which are critical to local authorities. Such an outcome could undermine the financial position of local authorities and, therefore, their ability to provide necessary services to an acceptable standard. I do not think anybody in this House would like to contemplate anything like that and it is for that reason we moved as fast as we did.

Charges form a very important part of the income of local authorities. On the basis of the Estimates for 1999, it is estimated that charges for goods and services contributed £443 million to local authorities out of current expenditure of £1.6 billion. That is about 27% of their total income. Because of the doubt, the potential for increased uncertainty and the adverse effects it would have on the local government system, I felt it was important to act quickly.

(Dublin West): How much of that came from the bin tax?

The Deputy had his opportunity.

(Dublin West): I just asked the Minister a question. I wanted some information.

The Deputy can do so only if I give way, and I am not giving way. He ranted for 15 minutes and did not ask one question.

Acting Chairman:

The Minister, without interruption.

(Dublin West): I asked the Minister how much money came in in bin tax in 1999. Can he tell me?

I moved fast to ensure that there will be no doubt about a local authority's right to charge for services. I acted properly and fully in accordance with my responsibilities in that regard.

Deputies Gilmore and Dukes wanted to see a written opinion. I have no written opinion. A judgment was formed, and confirmed by the Attorney General, that a doubt could be held to apply in relation to the validity of charges. As is clearly laid out in the Bill, this legislation is without prejudice to any existing legal challenge. That is contained in section 4 of the Bill.

It is extraordinary that there is no legal advice.

Deputy Dukes asked about the possibility of legal proceedings to date. I am not aware of any existing challenge, and the Bill will obviate any future such proceedings.

Deputy Dukes raised the question of obstacles to future legislation and the possibility that this would prevent local authorities at some stage in the future from taking or being given powers to charge for services under existing legislation. I assure the Deputy that there is no fear of that. This is to rectify a situation that has arisen between 1997 and now. Any future legislation will be able to operate on its own merits. Questions were also asked about arrears of charges. I have no information about the level of arrears of charges or what is outstanding at the moment.

Deputies have asked what is at issue in relation to waste charges and why the introduction of legislation is the route we have taken. In the speech I made, which is available in written format for the Deputies, I made it quite clear what we are trying to do. I will not, therefore, waste the time of the House in outlining it again.

Another Deputy raised the spectre that this is a way of introducing charges by the back door. We are merely legislating for what people thought was in existence for the past three years. We are not introducing new charges.

The purpose of the Bill is to promptly address the element of doubt which has arisen. The question of waivers was raised. Waivers are a matter for individual local authorities. To my knowledge, most local authorities that continue to provide a refuse collection service provide some form of waiver. That is a matter for them.

We have heard the hoary old argument that the levying of waste charges by local authorities is double taxation. That does not stand up to scrutiny, especially in the current circumstances where the Government has ensured unprecedented annual reductions in income and other central taxation and where householders automatically receive a credit for waste charges against their income tax. In many cases local authorities operate a waiver system for people who are on low income or who are not in the income tax net.

The European Commission has made it clear that there is a legal requirement on EU member states to ensure that, in accordance with the principle that the polluter pays, there is a charge for waste disposal applicable to all waste producers. I do not know what kind of Utopia Deputy Higgins lives in, but we are all waste producers, whether we are householders or commercial operators. Commercial operators have to pay waste charges.

Independent socialist rubbish is clean rubbish. It has a halo on it.

I suppose it might be. To the extent that Irish local authorities exempt householders from waste charges, the Commission considers itself justified in taking an infringement proceeding against Ireland under Article 169 of the Treaty. The Commission has indicated that it is reviewing progress in relation to the introduction of household waste charges to determine whether or not to initiate such proceedings against Ireland, and Community funds cannot be used for any waste project if a system of waste charges consistent with the requirements of EU legislation is not in place in this regard. The Commission has suspended and may revoke Cohesion Fund grant assistance of more than £6.5 million in respect of South Dublin County Council's baling station at Ballymount because we do not have charges in place in that area or did not have until recently.

I am delighted Deputy Gormley has returned to the Chamber. On the last few occasions on which I wanted to reply to him, he was not in the Chamber. For his information, eight proceedings were taken under the Waste Management Act against firms who were not involved in Repak. The cases were struck out by the District Court because of an unrelated planning judgment relating to the local authority's powers to take proceedings in the courts. The court stated further that cases should not be taken until the other issue was resolved. That matter is being resolved and an amendment to legislation is being prepared.

How long will that take? The Government is taking its time.

Some of the companies in the above cases subsequently joined Repak and are in compliance at present. We are trying to ensure that more and more companies do that.

Deputy Gormley and the Green Party manage to be on the side of angels at all times. They constantly tell us how important environmental matters are, how important it is that basic principles are followed. They tell us about the polluter pays principle. They tell us all about prevention and minimisation, all very laudable principles on which Government policy is based. However, when it comes to hard decisions in this House or in the local authorities they run for cover. Tonight we saw a perfect example of that. They are using a fig leaf to distance themselves from their stated adherence to the polluter pays principle. We hear all sorts of pious platitudes until hard decisions have to be made. I am sure Deputy Gormley's colleagues in Europe would be horrified if they read his contribution to this debate. He has distanced himself completely from the polluter pays principle. It has nothing to do with him. If a person is a supporter of Deputy Gormley, he should not have to pay.

We will pay for recycling, not for incineration.

Deputy Gormley says he does not want incineration. Two minutes later, Deputy Sargent says he does not want any landfill. It is the Paul Daniels solution to our waste problem – clap our hands and it will disappear. It is typical of the Green Party.

(Dublin West): What about the polluters of the political system who were exposed today in Dublin Castle?

The Deputy might have had the leisure to listen to what was going on in Dublin Castle today, but some of his colleagues spent most of the day working on the Planning and Development Bill.

(Dublin West): The councillors were looking after planning in return for brown envelopes.

The Green Party cite wonderful examples to us all the time—

(Dublin West): It is a pity the Minister did not know about that in 1991.

—about the most advanced countries in Europe in relation to environmental matters and the one most often quoted, and mentioned again here, is Denmark. There are 32 incinerators operating in Denmark.

I mentioned Canada, the US—

The Minister for the Environment in Denmark is horrified that we do not have an incinerator in Ireland and so are the Deputies' so-called colleagues in the Green Party across Europe. They do not understand where the Irish Green Party stands.

The Minister does not know what he is talking about. He is talking nothing but rubbish.

Acting Chairman:

Please resume your seat, Deputy. As it is now 7 p.m. I am required to put the following Question in accordance with an Order of the Dáil this day: "That in respect of amendment No. 2 to the motion for the Second Reading, the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the main Question and the Bill is accordingly declared to be read a Second Time; that sections 1 to 5, inclusive, and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put.

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor. McCreevy, Charlie.

Tá–continued

McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.

O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Bell, Michael.Broughan, Thomas.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Higgins, Joe.Howlin, Brendan.McDowell, Derek.McManus, Liz.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, William.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Stagg, Emmet.Upton, Mary.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies S. Ryan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.