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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 16 May 2001

Vol. 536 No. 3

Adjournment Debate Matters. - Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill, 2000: Second Stage.

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

The purpose of the Bill before the House today is to provide for the enactment of a new legislative regime to promote and enhance the safety of all persons who engage in adventure activities at adventure centres in Ireland. The key provision of the Bill is the establishment of an independent standards authority to regulate the safety of adventure activity centres and providers.

Specifically it will allow for the establishment of the Adventure Activities Standards Authority; mandatory registration of adventure centres and providers with the authority for specified activities; mandatory codes of safe operating practice for specified adventure activities; implementation of a regulatory scheme involving inspection of centres and providers for adherence to safety codes and powers for the authority to order cessation of the provision of any or all adventure activities in the case of failure to observe safety codes.

It is well known that, as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, the safety of those participating in adventure activities, particularly young people, is very important to me. Deputies will recall that on the evening of 18 February 1995, two young people tragically died in a canoeing accident at Dunmore East, County Waterford, when they were swept out to sea in rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. The fatalities occurred in the context of a canoeing expedition involving a group of individuals whom, while not members of a club, organisation or activity centre, were under the unofficial leadership of a trainee adventure centre instructor.

My Department carried out a review of the accident following which an intensified safety awareness effort aimed at the marine leisure sector was launched by the Department and organisations involved in water sports safety. Mr. Michael Davies, whose son Ros lost his life in the accident at Dunmore East, has campaigned intensively since the tragedy to have the activities of adventure centres, which operate on a commercial basis, regulated from a safety perspective.

In August 1998, a Private Members' Bill entitled the Adventure Centres (Young Persons' Water Safety), Bill, 1998, was introduced by Deputy Finucane, and debated in the Dáil at the end of March 1999. The Bill, which was based largely on the legislative framework introduced in the UK in 1995, proposed that a new licensing and policing scheme for adventure centres be established by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources in conjunction with the Health and Safety Authority. However, that Bill was confined to watersports, and the general view of Members of the Dáil was that while regulation was necessary, any new legislation should extend to all adventure activities, not just water based activities. During the Dáil debate, my predecessor, Deputy Woods, stated that the Government intended to bring forward a Bill of this kind as soon as possible. As part of this process, Deputy Woods set up an interdepartmental working group to undertake urgently a detailed examination of the issues and to consider the possible regulation of adventure activities. It was therefore agreed in the House that the Private Members' Bill would stand in abeyance until the results of the interdepartmental working group examination were known.

The setting up of this group was an expression of the importance which we in the Department attach to tackling this issue. The working group was representative of Departments and agencies and was charged with making recommendations aimed at enhancing safety in adventure centres. In accordance with its terms of reference, it was to consult with those with interests in the sector, examine models in other countries, assess current safety arrangements in Ireland and make proposals based on the findings.

The working group consulted widely, meeting all the main representative bodies in the sector in Ireland. It also consulted with neighbouring jurisdictions in the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, to ascertain their views on the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the recently introduced UK legislation in increasing the safety for participants in commercial adventure centre activities. The group received submissions from a number of persons and organisations with an interest in the subject and it sought and received the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs in ascertaining whether other EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada operated safety licensing of adventure centres or other suppliers of adventure activities. The working group also enlisted the help of a consultancy company to assist it in ascertaining the nature and size of the sector in Ireland and the likely impact of the introduction of legislation akin to that envisaged in the Private Members' Bill and to that operating in the UK.

The interdepartmental working group completed its examination with commendable speed and submitted a detailed report of its deliberations in June 1999. In its report, which was published immediately by my Department, the group outlined its findings and made a number of important recommendations. It found that safety standards in the sector are generally high with little risk to the participants from the activities themselves. The evidence gathered suggested that the active combination of highly professional and safety conscious providers create a safe environment for most persons using the services of the providers. However the group found that there was a case for a form of statutory regulation of safety in adventure centre activities in Ireland and recommended that a statutory authority should be constituted to manage the regulatory scheme and to advise the appropriate Minister on all aspects of its set-up and operation. The working group recommended that the aim of the regulatory regime should be to encourage high safety standards, particularly in that part of the sector which has not participated in the existing voluntary inspection and approval scheme for providers of adventure activities established by the Association for Adventure Activities, the co-ordinating body for most of the national governing bodies for adventure sports. This scheme, along with the Irish Sailing Association's independent scheme for recognised teaching establishments, has been the primary mechanism for establishing standards of safety at adventure centres and is mainly based on the qualifications of the staff working at the centres.

The scheme is voluntary and provides an inspection, approval and spot checking system. However there are no sanctions available to force the inclusion of centres in it and a sizeable part of the adventure activities sector has opted to remain outside of the scheme and is not subject to close governing body control and approval. The working group was unable to gather sufficient information to draw conclusions on the danger or risk to persons using providers who operate outside the voluntary scheme but noted that below standard procedures, practice or management can often only come to light in the context of a serious accident followed by an inquiry and investigation. It took the view that there may well be provision of adventure activities on a commercial basis in Ireland which is not in accordance with accepted safety practices and which poses an undue risk to participants. It is to be expected that greater dangers to public health and safety occur in sectors or parts of sectors which are not subject to some form of external scrutiny or monitoring, either through statutory control or voluntary safety standards.

The working group recommended that regulation should take the form of compulsory adherence to a set of safety codes in centres which would be required to notify or register with the statutory authority as providers of certain specified adventure activities. The statutory authority should in turn oversee an inspectorate which would visit and inspect all notified or registered centres, initially focusing on those which did not participate in the voluntary scheme and those which cater for children and young people. Significantly, the group proposed that the inspectorate would be entitled to direct centres which do not demonstrate adherence to the safety codes to cease providing activities.

The group concluded that the sector encompassed by the current voluntary approval schemes probably does not require regulation as standards and internal safety ethos are high and are likely to remain so in the future through the current approach of standards setting, implementation and monitoring through the joint involvement of the national governing bodies and providers. However, the group pointed out that centres and providers who are outside the current voluntary schemes might well operate at less than adequate safety standards thereby exposing participants to unacceptable risk. It was for these reasons that the working group recommended that a statutory authority with responsibility for drawing up safety guidelines or codes for prescribed providers of adventure activities and for enforcing these guidelines should be established. In July 1999, the Government accepted in principle that there was a need for a statutory regime to regulate safety in adventure centres and agreed that the development of this regime be progressed by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The Government also agreed that procedures be put in train to establish a new unit within my Department to deal with marine leisure and tourism, which includes this issue.

In the interim, my Department provided grant-aid to the Association for Adventure Sports (AFAS) to enhance and extend the centre standards board (CSG) scheme of inspection of adventure activities providers' facilities. AFAS was also tasked by my Department with undertaking a wide-ranging consultation process amongst adventure activity centres and providers with a view to drawing up a blueprint for an inspection on which the new statutory authority could base its operations when established. The blueprint document was presented by AFAS in July 2000, and many of both the blueprint recommendations, and those of the interdepartmental working group, have been taken into account in the Bill while others are issues that the new authority can consider for itself when it is established.

First and foremost, the Bill provides for the establishment of the Adventure Activities Standards Authority. The authority will have 15 members comprising of an independent chairperson, nominees from the Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, my own Department, the Health and Safety Authority, four nominees from recognised national governing bodies for adventure activities, four nominees from adventure activity operators, and one nominee who shall be appointed on the basis of his or her knowledge, skills or experience as is considered appropriate for membership. After consultation with the authority the number of members, or the number of members that can be nominated by a person, or the persons who can nominate members can be varied. It is to be hoped that the inclusion of nominees from all of the areas mentioned will continue the teamwork approach that developed over the history of bringing this Bill before the House and carry forward the momentum towards a better safety environment in the adventure activities sector.

The function of the Adventure Activities Standards Authority will be to promote, encourage, foster, facilitate and regulate the safe operation of adventure activities. To this end it will be empowered to administer schemes and grants, to procure or provide educational, training or advisory services and to carry out research. It will also advise me on matters relating to adventure activities. I will be able to confer additional functions on the authority, by way of order after consultation with the authority.

The Bill provides a definition of adventure activities and 13 activities are covered by this definition. These are: hill-walking in areas more than 300 metres above sea level; orienteering in areas more than 300 metres above sea level; caving; dinghy sailing; kayaking; canoeing; surfing with a surf board; wind-surfing; scuba-diving; snorkelling; abseiling; archery and rock climbing.

Provision has been included to cater for the amendment to the definition of adventure activities, in consultation with the authority, by adding or deleting items from this list by Order. This procedure will follow a risk analysis of the relevant activity by the authority.

The Bill provides for a definition of an adventure activities operator as meaning a person who provides to members of the public for payment or reward: (a) training, instruction, supervision or leadership in an adventure activity; (b) facilities, including equipment for hire at a specified location, for the carrying on of an adventure activity, or (c) any two or more of the services specified previously at (a) and (b). Again, provision has been included to cater for amendment to this definition if necessary.

Under the provisions of the Bill, it will be mandatory for adventure activity operators to register with the authority in respect of specified adventure activities. The authority will develop codes of practice for specified adventure activities and it will be mandatory for adventure activity operators to abide by these codes. It will also introduce a regulatory scheme for specified adventure activities. This scheme will include the carrying out of inspections of operators by inspectors authorised by the authority. In certain circumstances, including non-compliance with a code of practice, the authority will have the power to direct an operator to suspend or cease the provision of specified adventure activities. It will also have the power to remove an adventure activity operator from the register of operators.

It should be noted that the definition of a provider in the Bill covers only those who provide adventure activities on a commercial basis. It does not cover schools or other educational establishments, which is a complex area. Schools do, in some instances, engage in adventure activities, but on an individual, local or preparatory level rather than a commercial basis. It has been agreed with the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Health and Children that, at this stage, the direct provision of adventure activities in schools to schoolchildren would not be included in the definition. This matter will, however, require further detailed investigation and it is proposed to leave this to the authority to examine after it has been established. New regulations would perhaps make schools, particularly the less well off ones, unwilling to undertake adventure activities. However, even though they are not covered by the Bill, it is anticipated that such institutions may wish to voluntarily adhere to the codes of practice the new authority will develop.

The Bill provides that the authority will be able to investigate any accident, incident, occurrence or any other matter related to the general purposes of the Bill. The investigation will be conducted solely to establish the cause of such acci dents and the adequacy of any codes of practice published or approved under this Bill with a view to recommending changes where appropriate. The authority will not have the power to direct an investigation into an accident at work, as this is covered under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, or into an accident in Irish waters, as this is covered under the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act, 2000, without my consent, given with the agreement of any other appropriate Minister. The purpose of the investigation will not be to attribute blame or fault but rather to produce a special report on the matter, however the authority will have the power to establish a tribunal of inquiry, with my consent, where it considers that such an action is necessary.

The Adventure Activities Standards Authority will have the usual powers and duties regarding recruitment, salaries, superannuation and other financial matters relating to its proper functions as have other statutory authorities. In this regard it should be noted that the operation of the authority will involve a cost to the Exchequer, as any possible income it will receive from inspection fees will be limited and will not be sufficient to cover its costs. It is estimated that these costs could be in the region of £300,000 per year, for staff, agency payments, board expenses, promotion and lease of premises. Income will depend on the nature and format of the regulatory scheme developed or adopted by the authority.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of Mr. Michael Davies who, following the death of his son Ros, campaigned to have a statutory safety regime in place for adventure activities in the hope that other parents would not have to suffer such a tragic loss. It is because of Mr. Davies' dedication that this Bill is now before this House. It was a sad and poignant occasion for me to meet Mr. Davies and to hear the details of the accident in which his son was lost. There is no question but that it was a life lost through carelessness. It is as a result of his dedication and his campaign that this legislation is before the House.

I would also like to thank all of those who took part in the consultation process in the lead up to this Bill for the enthusiasm and commitment they have shown over the course of the entire process. There are far too many persons, clubs and organisations involved for me to name them all individually. However, I would like to acknowledge the work of the centre standards board and say a special thanks to the Association for Adventure Sports, for the diligence and dedication that they showed while undertaking, on my behalf, a wide ranging consultation process amongst adventure activity centres and providers on how the new authority should operate. This consultation process, which was conducted simultaneously with the legislation being drafted, considerably expedited the publication of the Bill.

I am acutely aware that regulation on its own cannot and will not address all of the safety issues in the sector. In the final analysis, good and enduring safety practices can only be achieved, not by the authority, but by the people who provide the adventure activities on a day to day basis throughout the country. Everyone involved in the adventure activities sector must aim to make the prevention of accidents their top priority. Regulation must not be seen to in any way diminish the individual or organisational responsibility to at all times keep safety as their foremost priority.

This legislation to establish a new authority to regulate adventure activities from a safety perspective is vital to the well-being of not alone the participants but to the sector as a whole. I hope that the good work undertaken to date by all interested parties, in a spirit of co-operation and partnership, will continue when the Bill is being debated in this House and in the Seanad. I look forward to the speedy enactment of the Bill and the establishment of the Adventure Activities Standards Authority as soon as possible.

I commend the Bill to the House.

The production of this Bill by the Government owes its inspiration directly to a Private Members' Bill published in 1998 by Deputy Finucane who was, as he made clear at the time, pressing forward at the instigation of Mr. Michael Davies, to whom the Minister has referred. Deputy Finucane was the then spokesperson on the marine and his Bill was the first formulation of the need for a statutory approach to the regulation of adventure activities in the interests of public safety and in the interests of the quality of service being provided in such centres.

While the report of the interdepartmental working group on the safety regulation of adventure activity centres in Ireland published in June 1999 points to the excellent safety record of adventure activity centres in Ireland which participate in their various sectoral organisations, it also makes the point that it is impossible to form any view on the safety or quality of services provided by centres which do not participate in any of the current voluntary schemes. Accidents involving tragic loss of life both in Ireland and in the UK in recent years pointed to the need for a consideration of public interest issues in these sectors.

Deputy Finucane came to the conclusion that a statutory approach was needed at the time he published his Bill in 1998 and when it was being debated in March 1999 the Government had not yet come to that conclusion. The Minister has indicated that the Government came to that conclusion in July 1999. I am glad the Government has decided to take that approach and that we are now debating a Bill which, in broad terms, we can support. It is proper and fair, and I am sure the Minister will agree, that the interdepartmental working group be commended on the quality and speed of its work. It has produced a thought provoking report and one which both benefits from the UK experience and takes a rather more incis ive approach to dealing with the issues than seems to have been taken in the UK. It got to the target much more quickly than those in the UK. That is not a criticism of the UK but the group's report is a model of clarity in identifying the core issues with which we had to deal and I hope our debate will benefit considerably from that.

It is commonly accepted that adventure activities make a significant contribution to tourism. That is true but there is more to it than that. Adventure activities also make a significant contribution to an appreciation of dimensions of our quality of life that are getting more attention and they help to play an exemplary role, that of giving an example, that would be useful in developing public attitudes to fitness and to health. There is a great deal more to the activities of adventure centres than first meets the eye.

While I broadly welcome the Bill I have questions about its scope which I shall come to in a moment. There is also a substantial issue of principle to be dealt with, that is, the making of charges on adventure activity providers for the services set out in the Bill. That issue becomes one of particular concern when we have regard to the fact that the Health and Safety Authority, which plays a substantial role in workplaces all over the country, makes no charge for its services. I shall return to that issue later but I believe there is an important issue of principle to be dealt with. There are implications in the question of charging as pointed out in the interdepartmental committee's report and as referred to by the Minister when he spoke of schools that we should not lose sight of. When all those issues have been properly examined and concluded on, I look forward to having legislation in place with which we can be satisfied.

Perhaps the Minister will address some of the issues that arise when he concludes the Second Stage debate. It is clear that the function of the proposed authority is not one that could properly be given to the Health and Safety Authority which has an entirely different remit. How will this authority stand in relation to other safety agencies, for example, the National Safety Council and the Water Safety Authority? What kind of relationship does the Minister see between the work of the agency and those other agencies?

The issue of charges is dealt with in section 20. There are a number of considerations about the question of charges in the interdepartmental working group's report. It states that:

Charges should not be set at a level that would tend to push these activities underground. [That is perfectly understandable]. Equally they should not be set at a level that would create pressure on adventure centres to reduce the scope or the range of activities that they offer.

For the sake of completeness we should add in the reflection that we should observe the principle that we should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg because an excessive level of charges would choke off quite an amount of activity in the sector. There is the question of principle. What is being proposed is a measure in favour of the protection and the promotion of public safety. Other promotion functions are envisaged for the authority which I shall refer to later. The central reason for doing this is to promote public safety, to promote the safety of people who engage in adventure activities and to promote safety as a normal part of the ethos and operation of these centres. When I say that, the Minister knows I am not criticising those reputable centres in operation that are rightly identified in the report as having a perfectly good and serious ethos of safety. The function of this authority is to promote public safety in the same way as the function of the Health and Safety Authority is to promote safety in the public interest. That being the case, it is not obvious that there should be a charge. This is a service which we can rightly expect public authorities to provide. I cannot think of other cases offhand where we make a charge for public safety. We do not require our citizens to make a specific contribution to funding the Garda but it is done through our general taxation. It seems to me that general taxation is arguably the way to deal with the costs involved in putting this authority in place.

I would assume, unless informed to the contrary, that operators would have to provide for the normal liability insurance for their operations. If I am wrong about that and they do not have to do it then they should be required to do it.

Any operator providing a service to the public should be insured to the proper extent so that people do not take unnecessary risks even in areas not necessarily covered by the kind of provisions that are in this Bill.

The Minister referred to some of the implications of the imposition of charges when he said: "The group concluded that the sector encompassed by the current voluntary approval schemes probably does not require regulation as standards and internal safety ethos are high and are likely to remain so in the future through the current approach of standards setting, implementation and monitoring through the joint involvement of the national governing bodies and providers." The Minister is saying that it can be argued that for those operators we do not need this provision but we are bringing it in just in case. For other operators we probably do need them. Given that the people who are currently operating to these standards as part of their ethos will continue to do so, it is not fair to make a new charge on them just because we set up another piece of State machinery with the inevitable bureaucracy that goes with it. I do not use the word "bureaucracy" in any pejorative sense. We have to put the machinery in place that goes with operating a service of this kind. There has to be a building and staff. People who already keep good safety and quality standards without an authority to oblige them should not have to pay a charge to this new apparatus of State, imposed on them for the luxury of being allowed to continue to do so. There is no need for the State to look over its shoulder and tell them to do what they are doing already anyway. I am not opposed to the authority. I am arguing on a point of principle about people, who are already doing what we require them to do, now having to pay a charge.

The Minister is proposing to leave schools out of this for the moment, although there are some considerations that might argue for their inclusion in the scope of this. He said: "New regulations would perhaps make schools, particularly the less well off ones, unwilling to undertake adventure activities." What he seems to be saying is that the new regulations involving a charge might mean that schools, particularly the less well off ones, would be reluctant to undertake this because it would be another reason to have to go back to parents looking for a contribution to running the school. The Minister is saying that the very business of imposing a charge would possibly dissuade less well off schools from attempting to get their pupils involved in these adventure activities. The result would be that we would add another little twist to the screw of disadvantage for schools attended by pupils from lower income groups. This refers to disadvantaged schools in urban areas. Incidentally there are no advantages these days for disadvantaged schools in rural areas. Towns like Athy, for example, are considered rural areas for the definition of disadvantaged schools and they do not qualify. However that is a fish to fry with a different Minister.

The Minister is conscious that doing what he proposes might mean that disadvantaged schools in disadvantaged areas with economically disadvantaged pupils will again effectively be excluded from an area of activity that could be beneficial to the students. I know, as I am sure do many Members, that many children remember with some pleasure the odd excursion involving an adventure type activity. There are many children and adults who got their first introduction to an adventure activity while they were at school and then took it up afterwards with great benefit to their well-being. We should not run that risk, especially when this proposed charge is so suspect on grounds of principle.

Section 3 deals with orders and regulations. Orders made under this Bill will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas for active approval. I am delighted to see that. Regulations apparently will be made by this obnoxious passive procedure. I will return to that on Committee Stage when I have got a better grasp of the balance between orders and regulations. I do not expect that the Minister will agree with me, although he might surprise me as the Minister for the Environment and Local Government did last year when he accepted some of my recommendations on other matters.

The activities to be covered are outlined in section 8 of the Bill. The organisations involved in providing adventure activities want the activity of raft building to be included in the scope of the Bill. The Minister should tell us what he thinks of that. They also want to change the definitions given here of hill walking and orienteering. Instead of using a line of 300 metres above sea level, they propose to use a measure of remoteness from an access road. Again I would like to hear what the Minister thinks of that.

A number of sports are not included in this, for example, equine pursuits. Is that because the Association of Irish Riding Establishments – AIRE – has a scheme that seems to be satisfactory in the context of what is proposed in the Bill or is there another reason?

I note that parachuting is not included. Is that because it is regulated by the Irish Aviation Authority? Parachuting is a sport that has many passionate devotees, but it is also one where serious injuries can be and have been sustained and perhaps it is an area that needs to be considered. If I can be assured that it is properly regulated by the Irish Aviation Authority or some similar authority, I will accept that.

I notice that bungee jumping is not included, although I have not heard that it is an activity that is widely offered here. It is a sport that appals me. I have seen people bungee jumping and I found it difficult to watch. I know that the people who do it get an enormous kick out of it – I do not know if anyone in the House has tried it. There were times when being a member of Fianna Fáil was a bit like bungee jumping. They could never be quite sure when they were going to hit the bottom. The Bill also includes a provision whereby additions can be made to this list. I would like to know why the specific ones that I have mentioned have not been included.

I note also that the activities that are normally carried on, for example, in local authority swimming pools do not seem to be included. Is that because we are happy that they are all properly covered by insurance or by standards of quality, conduct or safety, is it just an inadvertent omission or is it simply a decision to leave out that part of the public sector? I would like the Minister to tell us the reason for what seems to be an omission.

Why is only the provision of activities, training, etc., for payment and reward covered? Is there a reason for not covering activities not provided for payment or reward? The Minister said he has some hesitation in relation to schools and sectors where such things are voluntarily provided, but it seems that if we are concerned with safety in general we should include these activities whatever the circumstances in which they are carried out.

The operators in the field have indicated they do not believe it is correct to bring the hire of equipment within the scope of the Bill on the basis that the equipment should conform with the relevant safety criteria and that they cannot reasonably be held to have specific liability for equipment of the correct standard. Perhaps this is not a complete argument or presentation of the case and I would like to know if there is a specific reason the hire of equipment is included in addition to the offering of training and activities.

Section 14 states that among the functions of the authority, quite apart from regulation, will be the promotion, encouragement, fostering and facilitation of adventure activities. That may well be a good thing, but this is a public authority which will look after the interests of public safety. Why should we give the authority the duty of promoting, encouraging, fostering and facilitating these activities? The Irish Aviation Authority, for example, does not have as part of its remit the promotion, encouragement, fostering or facilitation of air travel or flying for pleasure. These activities are more properly a matter for the operators than for an authority charged with regulating activities. How does the Minister see the functions of promotion and facilitation falling in with regulation? I know that in every sector where there is a regulator the operators in that sector will start giving out saying the regulator is going about its job in a way that makes it nearly impossible for them to develop their sector – we could all write the script for that argument, which is sometimes justified and which we have heard many times. It is not obvious why these functions of promotion, facilitation, etc., should go with the process of regulation.

There are a couple of odd provisions in the Bill relating to the director and members of the authority. The Bill, including the Schedule, proposes to give the Minister power to dismiss the director or any member of the authority without giving a reason, which is rather odd. I am not sure I have seen such power being given to a Minister in other legislation. I am not accusing the Minister of bad faith or of being any more irredentist and benighted than is the general run in Fianna Fáil and the Government, but I do not know why he should want this absolute power without giving any reason. I am further puzzled by it given that it is proposed that four members of the authority will be nominated, proposed or suggested by the operators. Why would the Minister want to fire one of these without giving a reason? Can I be told of any other authority or body of this kind in the public sector where the Minister has power to fire the director or a member without giving a reason?

I have examined the Bill very carefully. There is such provision in other legislation, but usually the power to fire is on the basis of stated misbehaviour or for some specific reason. I do not think I have ever seen a provision that a person duly appointed a member or director of such an authority can be fired by a Minister without giving a reason. I am not saying a Minister would do so for no reason, but when a Minister is given such an unfettered power, it can be used for a reason which is not respectable, and I worry about having such provision in the Bill.

Section 33 provides for registration. It seems a person who is already in the business, who will be when the Bill comes into effect, or who wants to set up in the business, simply has to inform the authority that they want to be registered as a provider of a service and that person is then registered. I want to be sure I have understood this correctly. Is this the only process which has to be gone through? I am not saying that is the only obligation – there is a question of regulation.

Why does section 35 provide that the authority "may" regulate things? The purpose of setting up this process is that the authority will regulate the sector. A constant argument in the House, particularly on slow afternoons, involves Opposition Deputies asking why a Bill does not include "shall" rather than "may". However, I am really puzzled by the use of "may" in this case as it seems there is not much point in having this Bill and the associated new bureaucracy in place if the authority will not be obliged to do something and have a function. Why does the section contain this permissive rather than an obligatory formulation?

The Bill sets up a system of inspections and inspectors. There is an odd provision which says a person who is not an inspector may nevertheless inspect, and I will go into this in some detail on Committee Stage. When we set up a system of inspections and inspectors we need to be sure the process is fair and is seen to be fair, and that there is some basis on which the people being inspected can argue. A fault with the Bill is that there is no provision for an appeal against the decision of an inspector which obliges somebody to stop doing something. I see nothing in the Bill which gives me objective confidence that the people who will carry out the inspections will know what they are doing or be in any way skilled or knowledgeable about the area they will be inspecting. One person said to me they do not want to be inspected by an inspector who stands on the top of the nearest hill and has a look over the operation.

Will inspectors be given a means of identification which includes a photograph? I have asked this in relation to every Bill which concerns inspectors being sent out to do a job on behalf of the State. This ensures people who have to maintain certain standards in order to earn their living know that the person who turns up on their doorstep saying they are an inspector is the same as the person whose photograph is on the identification produced. Does the Minister intend to do this?

An issue which has been brought to my attention is that there was an understanding during the consultations which took place that two of the four people appointed to the authority to represent the operators would come from the private sector operators and two would come from the public sector operators. For understandable reasons, the operators have taken the view that this is important. They do not see this aspect reflected in the Bill and they are anxious that it should be made explicit in the Schedule and, if necessary, in the sections dealing with the issue.

Subject to the various questions I have raised being answered satisfactorily, I am pleased the Bill has been introduced and I hope that at the end of this discussion we can be confident of making a substantial contribution to public safety.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to contribute to the Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill, 2000. I wish to put on the record that I supported the Bill introduced by my colleague, Deputy Finucane, when he was spokesman on the marine. He deserves credit for doing so and I agree with Deputy Dukes that he was partly responsible for moving the issue forward in a positive way. He did so as a result of consultations following the tragedy which occurred in Dunmore East, County Waterford, when it was felt that more comprehensive legislation would be required. I am pleased to be in a position to support this Bill because, together with the canoeing accident in Dunmore East, there was an accident in Dunany in my constituency when a number of young people were lost because their boat was overcrowded and as far as I can ascertain, there were no safety precautions in place.

This leads me to a number of questions, some of which have already been referred to by Deputy Dukes. Why are certain activities such as fishing excluded from the Bill? Perhaps it is covered by a different organisation. I do quite a bit of fishing in the west and many people in that region and the south earn part of their livelihood by hiring out boats for rod fishing and other fishing activities on lakes and rivers. I am not aware of regulations in this regard or whether those who provide this very useful service to the tourism industry are legally obliged to abide by certain safety standards when hiring and leasing boats for fishing activities.

I take Deputy Dukes's point in regard to schools in disadvantaged areas. If there is a charge for such activities, it would mean there would be no provision for those who are the least well off and who could effectively be deprived of leisure activities. The OEI made it clear in its recommendations that there should be no charge whatsoever. Deputy Dukes made the point that people who are currently applying good safety standards may be asked to pay for what they are doing. I would be more in favour of going after those who are not performing their functions in accordance with the regulations introduced under the Bill.

The Minister referred to removing operators from the register. What does that mean? If a register is set up under the legislation will people be required to register and if they do not comply with the regulations, can they be removed from the register? Does this mean that if they are removed from the register because they do not comply with the regulations they cannot perform the activity, in other words, they will be put out of business? Simply removing them from the register and allowing them to operate without complying with the regulations will achieve no purpose. The opposite will be the case. This would have a completely negative effect. I would like the Minister to explain what is meant by removing someone from the register. Who will be in charge of the register and how will one apply to get on it? Will it be compulsory to register? Will a planning application for permission to operate certain activities require local authorities to ensure these people are registered, have made an application to register or have a certificate to the effect that they are obliged to conduct their activities in accordance with the regulations?

I am satisfied with the section in the Bill which allows for the adding of activities. We frequently see on television all sorts of new leisure activities, some of which will probably end up on the Olympic agenda. These activities are too numerous to mention. Will it be up to organisations which start activities such as bungee jumping and so on to apply to the authority for a certificate or to get on the register? What incentive will the Minister include in the regulations to encourage people to register? Will it mean, for example, that no grants will be made available for sporting or tourism activities if people are not listed on the register? There must be an incentive for those who register and a deterrent for those who do not. Those who do not register will probably be the people who will break the rules, as is the case in all sorts of activities.

Debate adjourned.