Private Members' Business. - Economic Development and the Environment: Motion.

The following motion was moved by Deputy Clune on Tuesday, 20 June 2000:
That Dáil Éireann:
noting that Ireland's rapid rate of economic development is resulting in increased pressures on the environment, and noting in particular
–that the rapidly rising numbers of vehicles in our towns and cities are causing serious traffic congestion, noise pollution and air pollution;
–that we have already exceeded our greenhouse gas emissions target for the 2008-2012 period;
–that our natural resources are being wastefully exploited; and
–that child care, accommodation and travel costs are unsustainable in large urban areas,
therefore calls on the Government to implement a concerted and comprehensive programme of public and private sector decentralisation and regional development incorporating
–targeted investment in water and sanitary service infrastructure for key towns to facilitate large-scale housing and commercial property development;
–the accelerated roll out of broadband high capacity telecommunications services to facilitate e-commerce business development;
–the relocation of Government Departments and agencies wholly or in part to towns requiring economic regeneration; and
–the extension of tax or other appropriate incentives for service industries to facilitate new jobs and relocation to selected provincial towns, in light of the high congestion and social and other costs associated with the current centralisation of such jobs in metropolitan centres.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"commends the Government for its overall economic and social policy framework under which record levels of economic growth and prosperity have been sustained and, while acknowledging the infrastructural and environmental pressures to which rapid economic growth can give rise, welcomes:
–the National Development Plan 2000-2006 which lays the foundation for economic and social development consistent with more balanced regional development through; reducing the disparities between and within the Border, Midlands and Western Region, and the Southern and Eastern Region, and developing the potential of all regions to contribute to the maximum extent to continuing prosperity;
–the Government's decision to prepare a National Spatial Strategy which will: address the future spatial structure of Ireland in the context of sustainable development, identify broad spatial development patterns, and set down indicative policies for the location of different types of development and develop proposals for the future of the Irish urban system and its links to rural areas which recognise their economic and social interdependence;
–the key priority given by the Government to channelling, through the decentralisation process, public sector jobs into provincial areas;
–the priority accorded by the Government to investment in economic and social infrastructure since it took office, including projected investment of some £20 billion over the seven years of the national development plan for public infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, water and waste water ser vices, environmental protection, telecommunications, energy, housing and health;
–the initiative taken by the Minister for Public Enterprise to improve international broadband capacity in and out of Ireland, firmly placing Ireland on the world stage and enabling companies locating here to be in a position to exploit the myriad of opportunities that the information age has to offer;
–the Government's intention that the objective of balanced regional development should be informed by the overall aim of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, 1997 of ensuring that the economy and society develop to their full potential within a well protected environment, without compromising the quality of that environment and with responsibility towards present and future generations;
–the dimension to the Government's regional development policy which facilitates the more effective development of the major urban centres already functioning as gateways, and the development of a comparable role for other centres that have the potential to achieve strong and sustainable growth, and to growth within their regions".
–Minister for the Environment and
Local Government).

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this motion tabled by the Fine Gael Party. I will focus on decentralisation which is an important issue in County Westmeath. I welcome the commitment made by the Government this week to relocate up to 2,000 civil servants outside Dublin. The success of the decentralisation programme will depend on the Government's will to ensure that the recipient towns are provided with the necessary infrastructure and supports to capitalise on an increasing population. This is not a simple matter of locating civil servants in towns throughout Ireland or about rewarding towns in which there is a sitting Minister, regardless of the towns' employment or economic needs. The process is far more complex than that.

Earlier this month, I contributed to the debate on the Town Renewal Bill. I stated that local authorities should be given greater autonomy for planning the social, physical and economic infrastructure of their towns and villages. Local autonomy and the devolution of central Government is a central ingredient in the success of the decentralisation process. Ireland is sufficiently small to ensure that a decentralised form of government can work successfully. Devolved government is not the only ingredient in successful decentralisation. The provision of telecommunications infrastructure, adequate transport and housing is also crucial.

I refer to the case which has been well made for Mullingar by Westmeath County Council in co-operation with Mullingar Town Commission, the Westmeath County Enterprise Board, the Mullingar Chamber of Commerce, the Mullingar District Trades Council and the Westmeath Community Development Association. These groups made a presentation to the Minister for Finance in March on the reasons Mullingar would be an ideal centre for decentralisation. The most recent quarterly national household survey clearly showed that the midland and Border regions have benefited least from employment growth where the jobless rate still hovers at around 7%. That statistic should be borne in mind when decisions on decentralisation are made.

Mullingar has been bypassed on a number of previous occasions. We are not into the politics of begrudgery in Westmeath as they do not achieve anything. However, many towns around Mullingar have benefited from the transfer of Government Departments and jobs. I am delighted by the success of the decentralisation process which is important for the reinvigoration of rural Ireland and the reduction of congestion in and around Dublin. Many civil servants from Mullingar and the surrounding towns and villages in north-west Meath travel to Dublin or elsewhere on a daily or weekly basis and they would welcome the opportunity to transfer back to their homes or an area near their homes. They would also welcome the opportunity to apply for transfers to other decentralised Departments or agencies which may be located in Mullingar. If they were presented with the opportunity to move back home, they could avail of a cheaper standard of living and more affordable property prices. Some commuters travel daily on a rail service which can prove problematic and they would welcome the opportunity to work in a decentralised Department in Mullingar.

I will outline some of Mullingar's virtues with which the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Wallace, will be familiar. Mullingar, which is located only one hour from Dublin, is the county town of County Westmeath. With its rural hinterland, the town displays the best rural and urban aspects of contemporary Irish life. The town offers a quality lifestyle, having first class schools, excellent health care services and an enjoyable social atmosphere. Mullingar is a friendly, outward looking town which combines modern facilities with a co-operative, supportive and welcoming environment. Those are important attributes for any town wishing to attract a decentralised Department.

Mullingar has traditionally served as the market and service centre for a large agricultural hinterland which itself has attractive villages, towns and rural areas. Today, Mullingar has a strong industrial infrastructure comprising a healthy mix of indigenous and inward investment firms. The service sector is an important player in its own right in addition to being a support to industry.

Mullingar, known as "the capital of the lakelands", is an ideal location for leisure and recreation. It is located close to Loughs Owel, Derravaragh, Ennell and Lene, the latter two boasting Ireland's only inland blue flag bathing locations. Mullingar's 18 hole championship golf course is one of the best in Ireland. Horse riding enthusiasts can avail of a choice of equestrian centres while the town's swimming pool offers top class facilities.

Mullingar Arts Centre is a hive of activity for the performing of visual arts and Belvedere House park and gardens, the gem of the midlands, is now open to the public and is set to become one of Ireland's premier tourist attractions. These attractions will be augmented by the opening of a national transport museum which is being planned for Mullingar.

Mullingar is an ideal centre for Government decentralisation from an administrative, professional and personal standpoint. While it is obviously for the Government to decide on this matter and while we would welcome any Department or agency in the town, local and regional circumstances might suggest that particular consideration should be given to the relocation of the Central Fisheries Board, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of the Environment and Local Government. I have made a strong case for Mullingar's ideal location, 50 miles from Dublin, as a centre for decentralisation.

It is essential that new development patterns are shaped in such a way as to minimise the need for people to travel. Under developed parts of rural Ireland must be revitalised and we must ensure that their redevelopment meets the needs of existing communities, rather than excluding or isolating them. Counties such as Westmeath, Cavan and others in the midlands and north-west region must be promoted and utilised as regional and national centres of trade, business and tourism. There must be positive discrimination in regard to housing development in rural areas in which there is demonstrable population decline. I urge the Minister of State to convey that message to the higher echelons of the Department. The Department must be made aware that rural people want to live in their own environment.

The lack of sewerage infrastructural development is a major problem in rural areas. I cannot understand why the Minister has failed to address this. I welcome the increased grant of £5,100 for group water schemes, based on a maximum allowable cost of £6,000, announced at the end of March. Similar action is required for group sewerage schemes in order that rural areas can be kept alive. People living in places such as Rathowen, Castletown-Geoghan and Ballymore in County Westmeath badly need such grants. Many people, including old age pensioners and recipients of social welfare benefits, in County Westmeath and other counties are attached to group water and sewerage schemes but are being denied services because they do not have the wherewithal to pay for them. That matter should be immediately rectified by the Minister. The level of grants available for group sewerage schemes should be increased to the same level as those available for group water schemes.

Sustainable development must embrace quality of life issues in addition to concerns about the physical quality of the urban environment. We must provide adequate recreational open space to meet our population's needs, together with adequate educational facilities to cater for the educational requirements of our young people. It is vital that adequate child care facilities are provided, at least at the rate of 20 places for every 75 dwellings as outlined in Westmeath County Council's draft development plan. I would like to have commented on the issue of transport but time constraints do not permit me to do so.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Haughey, McGuinness, Martin Brady and Brendan Smith.

I am pleased that the tone of this motion is less condemnatory than is usually the case with Opposition motions. It appears merely to raise some of the very serious issues presented by our unparalleled economic success and the implications of that success for our economy and society.

Some British based economists argue that the economy is overheating and there is much evidence for this. Central Bank officials have suggested that inflation could be 9% rather than 6%. These are issues which may be resolved at a later date. However, the main point of the Opposition motion is to point up the infrastructural overload in our economy and the huge pressure on resources such as roads, railways and child care facilities. These problems indicate an economy which is running ahead of even the wildest expectations.

The Taoiseach cited an interesting statistic recently which will be welcomed by women. Until approximately two years ago the level of female participation in the work-force was well below the European average. As a result of the Government's wise policies on taxation and other matters, female participation in the work-force is now above the European average. More women participate in the work-force than did before Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats came to office. This startling fact reveals the great achievements of the Government, particularly in personal taxation. The last budget provided a great benefit to women who wished to return to work. The Minister was not trying to force women to go out to work. He was simply providing them with a realistic option. Before the budget I frequently heard women in my constituency clinics complaining that it was not worth their while going out to work. The position of women who wish to work outside the home has been greatly enhanced by the budget.

The issue of child care provision requires further study and commitment by the Government. The Government has made progress in this regard in the budget provision and the 100% capital allowance for employers and commercial operators who wish to provide crèche facilities. However, we must go further. There is anecdotal and real evidence that women are leaving the work-force because they cannot access affordable and viable child care.

We have enacted equality legislation but the child care issue impinges on equality for everyone who wishes to participate in the work force. The cost of child care and the lack of facilities for parents who wish to go out to work is inhibiting female participation in the work force and encouraging people to opt out of it. Many people choose to opt out of paid employment to devote themselves to looking after their children in the home. However, the lack of child care affects people who do not wish to make that choice.

I urge Ministers who are involved in this area, particularly the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Finance to allow the cost of child care to be tax deductable. This is the norm in the United States and in many other countries and I hope this measure will be part of the next budget.

This motion is redundant because it calls on the Government to undertake a wide range of actions on a broad range of issues which are already either planned or implemented.

The national development plan sets out a comprehensive and practical philosophy and a huge range of detailed measures and programmes to address the various issues arising from the unprecedented economic and social development which Irish society has undergone in the past five or six years. It also provides a framework for the development of our economy and society in a balanced and caring way for the next decade or so. The national spatial strategy which complements the national development plan, but which will go far beyond it, will address the issues of rebalancing development away from the existing urban areas of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and provide an opportunity to create and foster new centres of growth in medium sized towns and cities.

Regional development is particularly important in this regard. The plan is the first one to address the regionalisation concept, with regional development operational programmes for the Border, Midland and Western region as well as the Southern and Eastern region. The plan proposes that £2 billion be spent in the BMW region and £3 billion in the other region. The Government is concentrating on gateways in promoting regional development through ease of access to domestic and foreign markets and modern telecommunications. I compliment Deputy Albert Reynolds who, as Minister with responsibility for telecommunications, began the modernisation of our telecommunications network. He upgraded the infrastructure and installed 80,000 connections in a very short time. I was a member of the trade union which dealt with the Minister at that time and I compliment him on his achievements.

Good education facilities are very important and we have a skilled and educated work-force. New regional gateways in a number of strategically placed centres which are already showing good development potential will be given special attention, both for themselves and their zones of influence. The existing major gateways will continue to grow but the encouragement of new and alternative modes of development will bring prosperity to relatively neglected areas and will take developmental and infrastructural pressures off the major conurbations. Towns such as Sligo, Athlone, Clonmel and Dundalk, for instance, could become thriving development centres in their own right providing new and enhanced work and lifestyle opportunities for the people in their hinterlands.

This development which will be achieved through the national spatial strategy will be grounded in continuing sustainable economic and employment growth. The national spatial strategy will respect the sustainable development concept and ensure the economy and society can develop to their full potential within a well protected environment without compromising the quality of that environment and with responsibility to future generations and the wider international community.

The national sustainable development strategy will require constructive and co-ordinated responses to a number of significant challenges. I have a personal interest in some of these, such as arresting the decline in water quality in our rivers, lakes and waterways and better waste management. I compliment the Minister and his Minister of State, Deputy Dan Wallace, who has made tremendous inroads into this area by, for example, allocating significant finances to schools and so on, to create a litter awareness campaign, which has been well received and proven to be very successful.

The national plan also commits significant capital sums totalling £20 billion for infrastructural development on roads, public transport, water and waste water services, environmental protection, telecommunications, to which I referred earlier, particularly e-commerce, energy, housing and health. Approximately £4.7 billion is allocated for national roads to eliminate bottlenecks and capacity deficiencies and give better access to ports and airports. Water and waste services will receive an investment of some £3 billion for improving rural water supplies, opening up serviced land for commercial and residential use and for the implementation of the EU Waste Water Treatment Directive.

On housing, the policy responds to the third Bacon report, focusing on curbing pressure on house prices and strengthening the position of first time buyers, which is very important. There are not any financial cuts in the health services. I am a member of the board of management of Beaumont Hospital and I asked a question on this at a board meeting. There are not any financial constraints on the health services.

I fully support the Government's amendment to the motion as should the Opposition.

I am glad to have the opportunity to make a short contribution on this important debate and as Deputy Martin Brady said, I am very glad to support the substantial amendment moved last night by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey. In his wide ranging and comprehensive speech, the Minister dealt with Government investment policies, its balanced regional development policy and its drive to create job opportunities throughout the regions, particularly in the less-developed regions. The Minister also spoke at length about the need to attract economic growth to the less-developed areas and to provide housing faster and more housing units per annum.

Listening to the debate last night, I was very surprised that Deputy Gilmore of the Labour Party was so negative in his comments about the Government's national development plan and about regionalisation. Deputy Gilmore spoke about vision. He did not speak about action. This Government has a vision for the future economic and social development of this country but it is also putting that vision into effect. It is acting and investing in human resources and infrastructure.

I was glad to hear Deputy Penrose speak tonight in a very positive manner about the need for development in rural Ireland and to build up our small towns and villages. I remind the Fine Gael and Labour Parties that when Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats very trenchantly advocated the need to regionalise this country and the need to confer Objective One status on the Border, midlands and western region, those two parties failed to support the Government. Were it not for the fact that the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Parties had the courage and the right vision to regionalise this country, there would be no hope of the necessary economic and regional development in those less developed areas. The Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party would have continued a policy of more development on an east coast that is already strangled with too much.

The President of Deputy Gilmore's party, Deputy De Rossa, trotted out arguments at length in this House and on the national media, that there should not be regionalisation and that there should not be Objective One status conferred on the Border, midlands or western areas. He trotted out figures about the long-term unemployment in the urban areas in the east. He conveniently forgot to mention that the area with the highest level of long-term unemployment has consistently been the Border region. Deputy Crawford and all the public representatives in both our counties have spoken at length, whether in Opposition or in Government, about the need for economic development in our area. Unfortunately, we had political difficulties on the other side of our province for 30 years, which hindered economic and social development. Take the village of Swanlinbar in County Cavan as an example – the fact that a small village could have six of the roads leading into it closed for a period in excess of 25 years shows the progress we need to make in the economic sphere in those areas.

I sound one note of caution on the regional gateways and the spatial strategy plans. I hope the officials in the different agencies, in devising this strategy, will bear in mind that the Border region has to catch up economically with other areas which have gained much more from a regional economic viewpoint. I hope that when we talk about gateways, we are not talking about just a few centres countrywide. I hope that each county town at least and the other major towns in each county will be given particular development priority to ensure that there is a spread of population throughout the rural counties.

Deputy Penrose quite rightly spoke about the need to have a better spread of housing developments in rural areas but thankfully in County Cavan we have had a policy over the years of building small clusters of houses in our small towns and villages and building rural houses. It is important that we have a proper spread of population. Already in those areas, rural parishes, small towns and villages, there is basic infrastructure such as schools, shops, post offices etc.

On decentralisation, Deputy Cullen gave a very cogent speech last night on this Government's determination to ensure that we have a very effective and progressive decentralisation policy. In the late 1980s, County Cavan was chosen by the Fianna Fáil Party in Government as a location for decentralisation of a major section of the Department of Agriculture. That decentralisation has been and is very successful. I appeal tonight to the Government, as I have done through parliamentary questions and written representations, to have further decentralisation to County Cavan.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows that the towns of Cootehill, Belturbet and Cavan have all put in very strong cases to the Minister for Finance and his Department, showing their need and the merits of those centres for decentralisation. Any of the three towns to which I referred have adequate schools, recreational and sporting facilities and housing at reasonable cost. Also, in Cavan town, there is a college of further studies which provides for further education.

I hope that it will be possible for this Government to decentralise a major section of a Department to County Cavan and I support the case for decentralisation to County Monaghan put forward by my colleagues from that county as well.

The Fianna Fáil minority Government which came into office in 1987 adopted the right economic policies which resulted in the unprecedented levels of economic growth and prosperity we are currently experiencing. In 1987, the main issues of the day were unemployment, emigration and crime. Today the issues are very different. New difficulties and challenges have emerged. In short, the Government must now manage our economic success and it is responding. The National Development Plan 2000-2006 is now being implemented. This will facilitate massive investment in our roads, public transport, waste management and waste services, environmental protection, telecommunications, energy, housing and health. A national spatial strategy is being prepared which will bring about balanced regional development. Peter Bacon's recommendations in his three reports on housing are being implemented. An overhaul of our public transport structures is commencing. These are just some of the measures the Government is taking in response to the changed situation.

Some years ago, I spoke out against decentralisation along with many of my Dublin colleagues. At that stage, Dublin had many economic problems and had a higher than average rate of unemployment. In addition there were many economic blackspots within the city with high rates of unemployment, poverty and economic decline generally. Thankfully, that has all now changed. As economic growth and prosperity puts more and more pressure on the greater Dublin area, I am now fully committed to the concept of balanced regional development as outlined in the national development plan and the national development strategy currently being prepared. Overall balanced regional development makes perfect sense from both an economic and a social perspective. Nevertheless, parts of Dublin need special intervention measures. The establishment of the local drugs task forces and the partnerships to tackle long-term unemployment, were necessary and should be continued. Serious consideration should be given by the Minister for Finance to decentralising a Government Department to the Northside Partnership area of Dublin. Such a move would send a powerful message to the people there that at last economic and social exclusion is a thing of the past and would be supported by north Dublin organisations, such as the Northside Partnership, Nordubco, Round Ltd. and Dublin City University.

An increased demand for houses combined with a supply shortage has resulted in urban sprawl in the greater Dublin area. The accommodation supply could be increased by allowing more urban sprawl into Counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow and beyond or increasing housing density or building on our parks and green spaces. The latter option was the outrageous suggestion of the economist, Colm McCarthy of DKM and it is simply not on. At a time when massive apartment complexes are being constructed, everything should be done to retain our parks and open spaces. Increased density is the way forward but this policy should be implemented carefully. I have concerns regarding the transformation of traditional neighbourhoods in suburban Dublin whereby lovely old houses are knocked down and replaced by one or two bedroom apartment complexes. In addition, the quality of design of these new buildings is often poor and they do nothing to promote family and community life. Housing density should be increased, but only in selected appropriate areas.

Increasing economic growth and development threatens our urban environment in another way. Approximately 44 telecommunications operators are licensed by the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation. In addition, many statutory utilities and local authorities are undertaking extensive road works in our towns and cities. Local authorities can issue directives to these organisations under the Road Traffic Act, 1961, in regard to such road works. However, their powers are inadequate. The standard of reinstatement works by telecommunications companies, in particular, can be poor. Roads and footpaths are dug up regularly causing widespread inconvenience to local residents and reinstatement works are often not undertaken for several months and when they are the work is of a poor standard. Local authorities need more power and resources to compel these companies to do a proper job and this should be examined as a matter of urgency.

Many other issues could be raised under this motion. Litter pollution is a major problem in all urban areas and local authorities are still not performing in this area. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dan Wallace, is doing everything to pressurise local authorities to fulfil their responsibilities in this regard. Aircraft noise and the infill of 52 acres proposed by Dublin Port are big problems which are related to our economic prosperity and affecting our environment. My time has expired but I will resume my deliberations on these issues on another day.

I will address one aspect of the motion which seeks an acceleration of the roll out of broadband high capacity telecommunications services to facilitate e-commerce. When the Government took office telecommunications infrastructure demand was not what it is today. As a result of the Government's policies there has been significant investment in this area which offers Ireland an opportunity to develop e-commerce and provides for decentralisation of its economic structure to make sure that every region can play its full part in our economic success.

Some of the main players in this industry have set up in Ireland. The IDA annual report outlined flagship projects, such as EMC in Cork, AOL Netscape, Oracle, Novell, and Hewlett Packard, which has established a European data centre here. Dell has sales of between £4 million and £8 million on-line which indicates that regardless of location e-commerce allows one to access all markets and all regions can benefit. I compliment the Minister for Public Enterprise who liberalised the telecommunications market in 1998, years ahead of schedule. A further step must be taken in this regard which involves the unbundling of the local loop and I hope that objective is also met earlier than the anticipated date. I acknowledge the role played by the Minister in ensuring that the global crossing contract was implemented at an early date and is serving Ireland by linking it to world wide markets at the speed required within the new economy being developed through information communication technologies.

However, we need to continue to develop ICTs and not be complacent because further progress can be made through the allocation of £120 million in the national development plan and the upcoming initiative to be taken by the Minister for Public Enterprise to ensure that marginalised communities and others play a full role in this area. The Government should make sure, in rolling out the plan for the regions, that it examines education in terms of ICT and projects such as that undertaken in my home city of Kilkenny where there is a third level outreach centre involving NUI Maynooth and Carlow Institute of Technology and, I hope, Queen's University will come on board shortly.

I ask the Government to acknowledge that this is a step forward and the third level sector needs to be involved. ICTs enable this to happen and by doing so hi-tech industry will be attracted to the constituencies which have not benefited from such investment up to now. A small sum of money is required and I call on the Minister for Finance to examine such investment in terms of developing the regions. The other part of that equation is that investment in Carlow Institute of Technology should be increased as a result of its inclusion in a third level project which assists a neighbouring county.

Advance factories have been built in Counties Carlow and Kilkenny and £4 million has been invested in a digital park in Carlow town. The IDA has invested huge sums of money in Kilkenny to construct two advance factories and a digital park. The Government in rolling out the necessary infrastructure to complement these projects and to enable the investors to focus on IT development should ensure that a policy is put in place for the south east region. A cross-departmental working group is needed to ensure that the IDA can focus on the need to attract hi-tech industry to the advance factories already constructed in Kilkenny. There was 4% employment growth in this industry in 1999 and 61,500 jobs have been created by the IDA in this area since its inception, which represents more than 50% of the jobs it has helped to create. That is an indication that e-commerce is the way forward and is a success story.

However, it must be ensured that everybody is included and that is why the IDA should focus its attention on the advance factories in Kilkenny which have been idle for that past 12 months to ensure that some of the main players from Europe and beyond create jobs there. The neighbouring county of Carlow would benefit as a result because of the £4 million investment in its digital park. I welcome the debate in this area but a great deal has been done which should be recognised by the Opposition.

I call Deputy Hayes. I understand he is sharing time with Deputies Naughten, Cosgrave, Ó Caoláin, Gormley, Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny), Burke, Crawford and Stanton.

Mr. Hayes

I am glad of this brief opportunity to deal with some of the issues contained in the substantive Fine Gael motion before the House. It is always good to follow Government speakers. For the past half an hour or so we have had to listen to Lite FM quite regularly. Listening to the Government Deputies one would think that all was well and that the quality of life is wonderful for people. As we all know, however, pressures of modern living and the disparities in economic growth within cities – and particularly between urban and rural areas – have grown substantially since the Government took office.

Working in the run up to by-elections provides one with an opportunity to see such disparities. While working on the forthcoming by-election in Tipperary South, I was quite appalled to see the huge economic disparity between small to medium towns and other towns within a five or ten mile radius of them. In one area unemployment can be as low as 4% or 5%, while in another it could be as high as 35%. The need for economic regeneration in such areas is quite evident.

The net point behind my party's motion argues for radical decentralisation, not just of public sector employment but of private sector employment also. We will not achieve an increase in living standards unless private and public sector jobs are created for people in the regions, but that has not happened. Listening to the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister of State, Deputy Cullen, yesterday, one would have thought they had only come to office in the past few months. The reality, however, is that the Government has been in office for three years. We hear continuous mantras about the national spatial strategy; grand words indeed, but what precisely do they mean?

Three years into the life of this Dáil, the Government still has not selected the new growth centres for the country's economic and housing development for the next ten, 15 or 20 years. It has still not decided where it wants to built the 500,000 new homes over the next ten to 15 years, but our party has. In Fine Gael's plan for the nation, we have spelled out the designated growth centres which are required to address the housing shortage. We want to do it in a co-ordinated way with public infrastructure to ensure that we will not have a developer-led process as happened in Dublin over the past 15 years.

We want to ensure that enough housing is in place but the Government does not have any such plan. It has a national spatial strategy and it plans to consult everyone under the sun for the next few months, which should bring it to about a month prior to the next election. The Government is doing this because it does not want to take any hard decisions on the potential growth centres before the election. It does not want to tell Kilkenny that it will not be a designated growth centre compared to Athlone.

Are they going to say that?

Mr. Hayes

It does not want to tell Nenagh that it will not be a designated growth centre compared to Mullingar. Hard decisions have to be made but the Government is completely incompetent when it comes to making them.

Since taking office the Government has done nothing in respect of the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement we signed in Kyoto and which was subsequently changed at Buenos Aires at the second conference on climate change, said that by the year 2008 and beyond we must reach a certain level of reduction in COf11>8 gas emissions. However, we are way above the current targets that have been set for 2008 and it will cost huge sums of money to redress the deficit from 2008 and beyond. About one third of COf8>2 gas emissions emanate from the construction industry, a sector in which shoddy building regulations still exist. Elements of the building industry are allowed to erect any kind of development thereby producing poor thermal performances. If the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is really serious about the Kyoto agreement and reducing COf8>2 emissions, why does he not bring forward regulations to improve thermal efficiency?

In the current economic climate many industries are finding it ever more difficult to recruit skilled staff. This is forcing the establishment of new industry in major towns and cities to the detriment of our smaller towns and rural communities, as highlighted in the motion before the House. At the same time, many young couples in cities are fighting their way through the daily traffic chaos while paying astronomical prices for houses and the use of recreational facilities. They do not have the opportunity to work and reside in smaller towns due to the lack of employment. It is a chicken and egg situation: industry will not locate outside urban centres as it fears it will not be able to fill vacancies, and people will not move outside major urban centres unless they have a job.

Companies considering locating outside Dublin first look at the age profile of the local community and their educational background before considering anything else. Yet, graduates and other well educated people from every town in every county are currently living in Dublin. County development officers should establish a skills register for each county with the support of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. This would assist in targeting industry to rural towns and away from the clogged up cities. People could register their skills, qualifications and interests on such a register, as well as indicating their desire to reside in a particular part of the country. This information could then be used to target specific industries to the regions. This would be of benefit to industry which could avail of a workforce residing locally, and it would be less likely to lose workers to other industries. This would provide an improved quality of life for new employees coming from the cities and it would rejuvenate many rural towns. Such a skills register would be inexpensive to establish and would provide an invaluable resource for the development of smaller towns.

We must examine the issue of encouraging people to move out of Dublin, thus alleviating the capital's traffic and housing chaos. The Government, however, is not committed to decentralisation of industry or Government Departments. Even if it decided to decentralise tomorrow, the infrastructure is not in place and it will not be provided even within the parameters of the national development plan. Take the N5, for example, which is the main arterial road to Westport, County Mayo. Last week that substandard road nearly caused the deaths of 48 people whose lives were put at risk by its poor condition. The passengers in the Bus Éireann vehicle involved could have suffered far more serious consequences. They had a lucky escape. Much of the danger comes down to the fact that the basic roads infrastructure is substandard and, thus, not able to carry current traffic levels.

Some industries package their products in County Mayo but have to repackage them in Dublin because of damage sustained on the journey along the substandard N5 route. If we are serious about decentralisation and developing the regions, we will have to put the basic infrastructure in place. We will have to take a new approach towards industrial development in the regions. Forcing industry to locate in particular areas by twisting arms will not work. We have seen that method fail. We must ensure that employees are available in rural areas. Skilled staff is the big issue facing industry in the months and years to come. The Government must review the situation and should support the motion.

This motion deals with the housing crisis. The quality of life of each citizen is affected by Government action in respect of this great challenge. The response to the latest Bacon report has been poor. There is a growing realisation that the proposals put forward by Mr. Peter Bacon are inadequate to fully address the problem. Anger against the Government is growing for its failure to take positive ownership of the situation and make the decisions which would change the future. The nonsense of the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, attempting to deflect the Government's deficiency to local authorities will not work. People are not stupid and they know a red herring when they see one.

The Government must address the problem nationally. We cannot allow Dublin to expand all the way to Gorey, Athy, Mullingar, Castleblaney and Dundalk. Some eight million people reside within London's ring-road which constitutes a loop of 25 miles, but we are creating a loop some 60 miles long to accommodate a far smaller number of people. In general, cities have developed on the basis that one hour's travel time from home to the place of employment was the maximum journey people were prepared to accept. We are now creating outer suburbs that are 90 minutes from the hub. This time, amalgamated with the travel time from home to the main transport corridor and from the arrival point through to the place of employment, is in some instances up to two and a half or three hours, a loss of approximately five hours a day. This time could be much better used. This is why I support the motion, which seeks action by the Government to address these problems.

Too many cars are causing traffic mayhem in our towns and cities, with all the consequent pollution. The build up of health costs which are created by citizens having to cope with noise and air pollution, along with the added stress of travel and negotiating their way within cities and towns, will be a real problem in the years ahead. Radical solutions are required.

Modern technology affords an opportunity to establish employment centres away from the capital. This would rejuvenate country towns and villages and bring people back, which would improve the quality of life for all. We must stop the unnecessary pollution of our atmosphere and find ways of containing the amount of emissions of green house gases by reducing the need for long journeys.

The issue of the social complexity of communities must be considered. The good use of resources is most important. Time is people's most valuable resource. It is very limited and every effort should be made to maximise every minute. Time spent travelling is, in essence, wasted. There is always something better to do with one's time. Spending quality time with family and friends, developing the neighbourhood or promoting the welfare of youth is much better than travelling.

Through radical measures, it is possible to segment communities outside the main cities. Every effort must be made to maximise space and conserve our resources. The Government must focus on areas outside the greater Dublin commuter belt and invest in facilities for towns around the country which are stagnating. It should fund programmes to enhance water services and power supply and address the issue of upgrading sani tation services while investing in the physical facilities for sport and community use.

The Government must ensure that technology is available by upgrading the telecommunications network, enabling e-commerce to relocate in these attractive places. It must ensure that critical mass is available to sustain communities. The Government must consider a sensible approach to relocating Departments and State agencies in targeted sites. These locations should be chosen because of their strategic value and not for political advantage.

I support this broad ranging motion. In his budget speech on 1 December 1999, the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, said the next round of decentralisation would be "more radical than those to date". He stated the Government's intention to transfer the maximum possible number of public service jobs from Dublin and to move almost complete Departments of State and other public bodies to provincial centres. We have yet to see significant progress on that pledge.

For too long the people of Counties Cavan and Monaghan, whom I am proud to represent, have been keenly interested, but almost always disappointed observers, of the decentralisation process. Decades of disadvantage as a result of partition have been compounded by neglect on the part of successive Governments. The record of inward investment and job creation in the two counties by State agencies ranks among the worst in the country. The decentralisation record, particularly for County Monaghan, is equally abysmal. This has been a cause of great disappointment.

Peripherality, poor infrastructure or proximity to the conflict in the Six Counties have frequently been used to excuse the absence of inward industrial and commercial investment and job creation. While not conceding validity to these excuses now or in the past, they could not be used in the case of the decentralisation of the offices of the State. My argument is that decentralisation should have been deployed long ago in the case of County Monaghan to compensate for the absence of other inward economic support.

It is time to put these omissions of the past to right. County Monaghan should be placed at the top of the priority list for the decentralisation of major Departments of State and other public bodies. The Breffni county and the towns of Cavan and Cootehill in particular must also feature in Government decentralisation plans. The motion calls for the accelerated roll-out of broad band, high capacity telecommunications services to facilitate e-commerce business development. The need for this is keenly felt in the Border region. There is a need for early progress there and elsewhere. I support the motion.

I support the motion but there is a need to distinguish between economic development and economic growth. Development is sus tainable while economic growth is unsustainable. I hope all Deputies will agree that there cannot be infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

The problems with our environment and the deterioration in our quality of life are directly linked to accelerated economic growth. There has been phenomenal growth of 11% but what does this mean? The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, said it is wonderful that there are so many new cars on our roads. However, she must realise that this has resulted in a huge amount of extra air pollution in cities. There are now volatile organic compounds, benzene and PM10s in the air. Perhaps Deputies do not realise that more people die each year from car emissions than as a result of car accidents. This is a phenomenal statistic and I ask the Minister to address that problem.

There are also problems with regard to waste. The amount of waste has doubled over a five year period. It is the Achilles heel of our consumerist society, yet the Government offers a quick fix, end of pipe solution. This will not deal with the problem. If our environmental problems are to be seriously addressed, there is a need to go back to the root causes –"radical" means going back to the root cause of problems – and also to have some form of understanding of interconnectedness. Departments are doing things which are leading to environmental problems with which another Department is trying to deal.

This type of schizophrenia is most evident in the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The Minister is opening dual carriageways and motorways but he then talks about the Kyoto protocol. He should realise that there is a link between opening up new motorways and the rise in carbon dioxide levels. There has been controversy about the road through the Glen of the Downs. This new motorway will increase commuter times by approximately 40 seconds. The road was first built in 1970 and it is being expanded now. However, if traffic growth continues, it will be necessary to expand that road again in 15 years. This does not make sense.

If we are serious about dealing with this matter, environmental NGOs must be part of the social partnership process. The environment has been forgotten. The talk is all about economic growth and GDP, but people's quality of life and the environment are going down the tubes.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Tá athas orm go bhfuil deis tugtha dúinn anocht labhairt faoin timpeallacht mar tá an-dualgas orainne aire a thabhairt di.

One of the principal ways in which the environment could be looked after is if our dreadful habit of littering the countryside, towns and cities stopped. As I said many times previously, as a nation, we only react to punishment and the sooner larger fines are introduced for littering, the better. It is the only way anything will ever be done about it.

A positive lead should be given by the provision of a sufficient number of refuse bins. There is no point expecting a careless individual to carry a piece of paper in his or her hand for a couple of hundred yards. Sufficient bins should be provided, and they should be emptied regularly. There is no point having overflowing bins. It should be possible to increase the amount of recycling. People in other countries can separate their bottles, plastic and paper, but we appear to have great difficulty getting the process under way. There has been talk about it for long enough; there should be action.

Our rivers should be protected. Silage is being made at present and farmers have made tremendous efforts in recent years to prevent pollution from silage effluent. Accidents happen but we must highlight the importance of preventing the pollution of our rivers because the damage caused in terms of fish kills takes a long time to rectify.

I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Minister of State outlining in detail last night why Carlow should be a priority town for decentralisation. His criteria included the availability of housing and schools. Planning approval has been given for 800 houses and there are applications for a further 600 houses so Carlow is in a strong position to provide housing. It also has top class schools. Another criterion is proximity to third level education. Carlow has an institute of technology and also St. Patrick's College, which has been in existence for more than 200 years and which provides degree courses. Another criterion is the population of the centre in relation to the numbers being relocated. The balance in Carlow in that regard is perfect. A balance has been struck between the population of the centre and the numbers being relocated. We must also look at the capacity of local infrastructure, particularly water, sewerage and telecommunications. We will be to the fore when we get our motorway. At present, we are perfectly positioned because there is a train service for the 50 mile journey to Dublin, Rosslare or Waterford. I am sure the Minister will be sent these details to back up the submission already made. There is also the question of the availability of suitable sites or office premises with a £4 million investment in a business park.

A previous speaker mentioned the number of women at work compared to previous years. It would be good to think that women went to work on a voluntary basis. However, anyone who got married in the past five years has no choice because of the price of housing. That is one of the factors we should take into account.

I support the motion. I welcome the opportunity to highlight the fact that one of our greatest problems is waste management. The Minister must take responsibility for this because he has failed to introduce a national waste management policy. He has abdicated his responsibilities by giving the power to local authorities to provide for waste management in their areas. This is true in Connacht, County Galway and Galway city.

There are not any constructive ideas on this issue. Communities are in disarray and are set against each other as a result of the reports published by M. J. O'Sullivan and Mr. Rudden. There are not any winners in the area of waste management except the consultants who have been employed throughout the country. The same waste management policy has been introduced for the entire country by these consultants. They believe they can solve the national problem by slightly varying this policy at local level. That is a disaster. If the Minister had the courage of his convictions to implement a national policy, the waste management problem would be solved.

We have options for incinerators, gasifications, landfills or recycling and we are encouraging people to choose some of them. It is a disgrace that only 5% to 6% of waste is recycled at national level. Incentives are not being given by the Department to local authorities to change their ways. People are responsible for creating waste and they should be made to pay for that. It is the Minister's fault we do not have a coherent policy.

When will the Minister for the Environment and Local Government take responsibility for the rehabilitation of derelict mining sites? I live near one in Tynagh, County Galway, which served this nation well in terms of the resources it provided through the mining industry's taxes. This mine has been abandoned by the company which took the wealth from the land since its gates were closed in 1982 and the caverns beneath the earth were flooded. There is an onus on the Minister to take responsibility for it and to ensure that those companies which are still operating in the country rehabilitate it.

The Border, midlands and western regions have been granted Objective One status not because the Government wanted to do it but because the EU insisted it should. The Government wanted to add Kerry and Clare for political purposes. We should have more benefits than we have in the area.

The national development plan does not refer to roads running from the east to the west. I am thinking of the Belfast to Galway road which runs through Monaghan, Clones and Cavan. There are many accidents on this cross-Border road, particularly between Clones and Cavan. Yet that road is not included in the next six year plan. Is it fair not to improve the infrastructure of the Border region?

Decentralisation was mentioned by many Members. County Monaghan is one of the few counties which was not included for decentralisation in the past. The only offices decentralised to Monaghan during this party's short period in Government were the INTERREG office and the peace and reconciliation office. One cross-Border office which should have been located in Monaghan was located in Cork as a result of representations made by politicians north of the Border, and Cork-based Deputies. Three towns in County Monaghan need to be bypassed, but the Government has not provided one penny to buy the land or to put one stone on it. This is causing traffic chaos.

There is no sewerage infrastructure in Monaghan town. One house was sold there four years ago for £85,000. It was resold two years ago for £142,000 and last week it was sold for £260,000. This is driving young people from setting up home in the region. Something must be done about it.

I commend my colleagues for tabling this motion. I draw the attention of the House to the difference between this motion and the Government's amendment. The Fine Gael motion is about people but the amendment is about an economy. That is the basic difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government is focused on an economy and it has done a major U-turn on its election slogan, "People Before Politics"; it is now "Politics Before People". We must focus on people's quality of life. The Government introduced the national development plan but it has neglected to introduce a spatial plan. It has put the cart before the horse.

Some of my colleagues spoke about waste management, which is a major issue. However, I do not see any evidence of leadership by the Government in terms of recycling material or reducing the amount of waste produced. It has abdicated responsibility by telling local authorities to look after it. Pontius Pilate Dempsey has washed his hands off it. It is evident he does not want to know about this issue which is causing major problems. There is a proposal in Cork for a 250 acre super dump which would be 70 feet high with baled waste. That is a legacy for our children. Instead or recycling or reducing waste, we are dumping it on future generations. Consultants are proposing to put these dumps in natural aquifers. That is totally wrong. The blame lies with the Government.

There is also a problem with traffic congestion throughout the country. People's quality of life is being sorely depleted. New rail tracks have not been laid on the rail link to Midleton since the Government took office. The Government has commissioned one consultants report after another. It is long-fingering the issue instead of making a political decision to open it.

Child care is a huge issue in our society but the Government's amendment does not refer to it or to children. Does the Government realise the type of pressure, stress and costs families face because of child care? The Government has not made provision to help mothers, fathers and families who must go to work to get someone to look after their children. Inflation is another issue. The people's quality of life has plummeted since the Government came to office.

The Deputy is exceeding his time.

The Government will not be exceeding its time much longer. Its days are numbered also.

I could go on with this response but unfortunately we do not have the time.

The motion put down by the Opposition calls to mind our economic success and prosperity. Let us remember that the benefits of economic growth are real and tangible, especially in terms of jobs and living standards. When we speak of the difficulties posed by the rapid and sustained expansion of our economy, we should not forget the benefits which have accrued to our society. I accept that this level of economic growth poses challenges. Capacity constraints, whether these occur in the labour market, the construction industry or our physical infrastructure, can slow down economic growth and impact on our quality of life. As Minister of State with responsibility for environmental awareness, I am especially conscious of the environmental pressures which can accompany economic growth.

Clearly, all these trends are creating a need and demand for improved levels of service across a range of sectors. The Government has been proactive in responding to those needs. We have put in place, through the national development plan, the policies and investment programmes to support continuing growth and development, to improve our quality of life, to protect and enhance our environment and to secure more balanced regional development.

Previous national development plans focused on issues of genuine national concern such as fiscal discipline and employment creation. Inevitably, the resources available for infrastructure had to take second place but we now have the resources to address comprehensively the infrastructural deficits which have been identified. The national development plan provides both the strategic framework and resources to ensure that our infrastructure is upgraded to a standard that will match the country's status as a dynamic and buoyant economy.

Over the period to 2006 we will see, with the implementation of the plan, a renewal and transformation of Ireland's physical capital. All sectors will share in this investment. The road network, water services, private and social housing, public transport, waste management, telecommunications, energy and health all stand to benefit from the £20 billion set aside to enhance these capital services under the plan.

Implementation of these programmes will be informed by the national spatial strategy, which will have a 20 year time perspective on social and economic development. The strategy, which is well under way in my Department and which is due to be completed by the end of next year, will provide a framework within which investment in infrastructure will be used to achieve development objectives both nationally and at regional level. It will pay particular regard to the objective in the national development plan of more balanced regional development both between and within regions.

It is important to emphasise that Ireland's environment has been subject to fewer pressures than the environment of other EU countries and consequently is of a relatively high standard, but our environment is now under increasing threat due largely to the pace of economic growth. To meet the challenge we need a strong environmental policy, integration of the environment into sectoral economic policies and greater environmental awareness.

It is not possible for me to list all aspects of the Government's environmental policies but I will mention a few – the planned investment under the national development plan in water services, waste management and public transport, the work under way on the national spatial strategy, the waste management strategies being developed by local authorities; the planned national greenhouse gas abatement strategy; the action we are taking to tackle the litter problem, the phase out of leaded petrol and the extension of the coal ban to more towns. This Government has an excellent record on the environment and more is to come, but others have to play their part also. Respect for, and protection of, the environment is a shared responsibility.

I want to deal with Deputy Penrose's point about sewerage systems. There are £290 million for water and waste water treatment services in the Estimates for this year. The national development plan allocates £3,000 million over the 2000-6 period, an increase of 150% on the previous 1994-9 period. The Minister will announce a three year programme for waste water and water treatment next month.

The Government welcomes our unprecedented economic growth and we accept that it brings challenges which must be responded to, but we are addressing these challenges through investment in infrastructure, spatial planning, regional development, decentralisation and action to protect our environment. I wish I had more time to respond to some of the points made by the Opposition Members which were way off target. I commend the Government's amendment to the House.

Acting Chairman

In the last speaking slot we have three Deputies offering – Deputies Belton, Dukes and Clune. I call Deputy Belton.

I thank my colleagues for sharing their time with me. I welcome the opportunity to support the motion. The Minister mentioned regional development, decentralisation and action to protect the environment, which are nice phrases, but I have continually asked the Tánaiste to provide an IDA regional office in Longford to reduce the jobs crisis there and I have been ignored at all stages.

On decentralisation, the midlands have the lowest level of job creation by the IDA in the country. The midlands is an ideal area for decentralisation and I hope that the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, will see fit to transfer Government jobs to the midlands.

I want to refer to the state of our roads and one particular road which is a hazard to traffic, that is, the Ballymahon-Lanesborough road. Traffic, including heavy vehicles, continually goes off that road and I would like the Government to make a note of that because a request for special funding will be made by Longford County Council for this particular road.

Sewerage development is most important because the planners are very strict in this regard. There is a lot of resentment throughout the country because people cannot get planning permission in rural areas. I realise local authorities have to monitor this but if people want to live in rural areas – and we are talking about attracting people back to live in rural areas – services such as sewerage and water have to be put in place. I ask the Government to deal with those matters as well. It is a good idea for elderly people to live in villages and that is where housing for the elderly comes in. It is important to stress that people like to live in the area where they were born, near their own families and neighbours.

I suppose with a major threat to its own sustainability hanging over its head, it is not surprising that the Government is not paying much attention to sustainable development. It is not surprising but it is deplorable at the same time.

Last night, when he was responding to our motion, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, devoted one-sixth of his speaking time – ten seconds out of every minute – to environmental questions. That is a measure of how this Government sees environmental issues. The Minister introduced what he said about the environment in the following way: "I would like to deal briefly with some environmental issues in the context of the motion before the House". How is that for a concern with sustainable development? It is an accurate reflection of the Minister's approach to these issues.

When it comes to setting out expenditure plans for flagship projects, the environment is only an afterthought as far as this Government is concerned. The Minister identified eutrophication last night as one of Ireland's most serious environmental problems, and what is the Government doing about it? The Minister mentioned last night the phosphorous regulations made in 1998, the development of catchment management stra tegies throughout the country, nutrient management planning, the phase-out of phosphate based domestic detergents, and the implementation of REPS. Are the resources in place to make sure that the phosphorous regulations are properly applied? The answer is no. Are there resources in place to implement catchment management strategies? The answer is that the Government has not even begun to think about that.

What is nutrient management planning? The Minister did not say and there is not a programme in place for carrying it out. I would like Members of this House to ask him if REPS is an environmental strategy? It is in part, but much more than that, it is a recognition not by the Government but by the European Union that it is impossible to make a decent living on a small farm and there is a need to give income aids to small farmers in ways that do not increase production. That is what REPs is all about. For the Minister to include a reference to REPS as part of the Government's environmental policy is another reflection that the Government does not know what an environment policy should be about.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government said last night and the Minister of State at that Department said tonight that there will be record levels of investment in water services under the national development plan, but despite repeated questioning the Minister is unable to say when we will stop discharging raw sewage into our water courses. He has made no correlation whatever between levels of expected residential growth and the level of investment in water services. Even with all the money that will be spent on water services and in other areas under the national development plan over the next six years, I predict there will not be a net improvement in our quality of life because given the policies in place, the amount of money that will be spent will not be sufficient to maintain the current quality of our environment.

The Minister spoke last night of regional waste management plans and of the recognised hierarchy of prevention, minimisation, re-use, recycling and disposal. We have heard him say that umpteen times, but what resources are being made available to promote re-use and recycling? From where will funding be made available to make recycling possible where it is not now economic? The Minister said nothing about that.

What measures are being put in place to deal with the large volumes of waste currently being produced by excessive and unnecessary use of packaging materials? My colleague, Deputy Clune, and I made inquiries about this last year and found that many local authorities did not seem to be aware of their obligations under the packaging waste directive and many more of them do not appear to have done anything about it. The Minister is not driving our waste management policy or the implementation of directives in this area. He is leaving that all to the local authorities, but he has not given them they resources they need to make things happen.

Local authorities and regional authorities throughout the country are considering waste management plans. What will emerge from that? Will we see an end to the blight of super dumps? Not on your life. If the Minister of State cared to do it, he could give us a list as long as my two arms of sites for super dumps. In the year 2000 when we are supposed to have such a strategy in place for the past four years, what has the Minister done about it? He has done nothing. He is exhorting people to consider different ways of managing waste but has turned a blind eye to super dumps in Counties Cork and Dublin and proposals for them in Counties Galway and Tipperary. Super dumps are proposed almost everywhere one looks. The Minister is hoping people might change their views about thermal treatment. That is not a directive policy, although I am not surprised because a Minister for the Environment and Local Government who refuses to include the concept of sustainable development in a planning and development Bill, but includes it in a small town renewal Bill, under which he has goodies to give away, is not taking the environment seriously.

What about the Waste Management Act, 1996, introduced when the Deputy's party was in Government?

The intent of this motion is to highlight the pressures our rapid rate of economic growth and development is putting on our citizens, our quality of life and our environment. The motion, tabled by the Opposition, calls to mind our economic success and prosperity, but it also focuses on the effect that is having on our environment. It highlights that despite our rapid urbanisation and our rapid rate of economic development in one of the strongest economies in Europe, we do not pay attention to our environment. We do not recognise that our environment is finite and cannot continuously absorb the pressure and assimilate the residuals of our economic achievements that are demanded of our environment.

A recently published EPA report, to which the Minister referred last night, highlights a range of issues, which shows substantial signs of how our environment is beginning to experience the strain and the pressures of our economic success.

Eutrophication of our inland waterways is widespread. Recent reviews indicate their standard is continuing to deteriorate. There has been a pattern of continuous deterioration of our waterways since the 1970s. I accept there has been a mild to moderate deterioration of our waterways, but it is a pattern that is continuing to increase and has not been reversed by the Government.

The number of cars and vehicles on our roads has continued to rise and the emissions from them are the greatest threat to air quality.

The target level for greenhouse gas emissions is 13% over the 1990 levels and already we have exceeded that figure. We are likely to reach three times our target level if we continue on this basis.

Levels of waste produced is continuing to increase. A total of 91% of our municipal waste is disposed of in landfill sites. We have witnessed a major exploitation of our natural resources. Damage to our landscape from insensitive development is leading to a loss of habitat and threatens certain species of flora and fauna. All this has been highlighted by the EPA recently. We need to develop a change of policy towards our environment.

I, like my colleague, Deputy Dukes, was disappointed by the Minister's contribution last night. He spoke at length of development across the State, but devoted only a small part of his contribution to the environment. He acknowledged there was room for improvement, but that development is proceeding and we will continue to develop our urban areas and to put pressure on our environment. That is all very well, but the development we are experiencing should not be at the expense of our environment.

The Minister did not mention the word "sustainable" once in his speech, despite our having a national sustainable development strategy in place since 1997. I remind him that the concept of sustainability is to ensure that the economy and society can develop to their full potential within a well protected environment and with responsibility towards present and future generations and to the wider international community. Where is there evidence of that commitment when there has been a deterioration in the standard of our waterways? Where is there evidence of our international commitment to the agreement we signed up to in Kyoto in 1997? We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, yet we are still awaiting the Government's strategy on that issue.

How long do we have to wait?

This motion is intended to highlight the stress and strain people who live in urban areas experience. There is urban sprawl in Dublin. Media reports yesterday highlight that people from outside Dublin have to spend one and half to two hours commuting to work. Where is there evidence of sustainability in such long commuting times? Does the Minister not realise the pressure that puts on people in terms of car spaces, adding three hours to a day's work, trying to gain access to one's place of work and the cost of accommodation in the city and of child care facilities?

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has exceeded her time.

I urge the Minister to remember our environment because it will be at a cost to future generations.

The Government is politically and environmentally unsustainable.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Flood, Chris.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.

Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Tom.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.


Barnes, Monica.Barrett, Seán.Belton, Louis.Boylan, Andrew.Broughan, Thomas.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, John.Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Enright, Thomas.Farrelly, John.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Gormley, John.

Gregory, Tony.Hayes, Brian.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.McCormack, Pádraic.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Callely; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.