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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 29 May 2003

Vol. 567 No. 7

Protection of the Environment Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Today is not budget day, but the legislation the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has introduced today will cost the average householder more than any single tax measure introduced on budget day in this House over the past ten years. I estimate from what the Minister has previously told us – I will deal with this later – that what this Bill will do is result in levels of household refuse charges of up to €700 per household per annum.

That measure is being brought in here under the cover of the Protection of the Environment Bill. It is being done in a way that is now becoming quite familiar. Last week when the Minister for Education and Science wanted to reintroduce fees he held up educational disadvantage like the political equivalent of a human shield to cover what he was trying to do. Today the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is doing exactly the same thing with the protection of the environment. Who after all can oppose the protection of the environment? Essentially this legislation which transposes the EU directive on licensing is being used here as political cover by the Minister to bring in by stealth an increased tax on the people. I do not believe there will be a great deal of controversy about this although Members may have some differences about some areas of detail in the Bill when we come to Committee Stage.

I want to deal with that in some detail because that will be done in three measures which are being introduced in the Bill. It will be done first, by the transfer of the power to make waste management plans and to levy waste charges from the elected members of local authorities to county managers, the making of that function an executive function rather than a reserved function; second, by giving the councils the power not to collect waste from somebody who has not paid; and, third, under the provisions of section 30 to which I will return.

The first question is the power to levy refuse charges being made an executive function? It is certainly an undemocratic measure. Elected members of local authorities have gradually in recent years been stripped of many of their functions. The two major functions which elected members of a local authority ended up being left with, in theory, were making of the county development plan and adopting the annual estimate for the local authority. The role of the elected members in making the county development plan has now been greatly undermined and eroded by the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the way in which it is being interpreted by some county managers. The power that local authority members had to make and adopt the annual estimate for the local authority area is effectively being interfered with here by a measure which will give to the county manager the power to set and levy the charge for waste collection.

I could understand why the Minister would want to do that if a significant number of local authorities had failed to adopt their annual estimate as a result of an inability to adopt waste charges, but not a single local authority in any year since waste charges came in has failed to adopt an annual estimate by being unable to adopt a waste charge. Some may have come close to it or may have had a great deal of difficulty. There may have been a great deal of pain in some local authorities as members struggled between levying a charge, the threat of abolition by the Minister and the desirability of keeping a local authority in existence. The fact is that no local authority has failed to adopt an estimate as a result of the charge.

Why then is this being made an executive function? It cannot be argued that it is because of a failure on the part of the elected members of local authorities to carry out their statutory functions. The reason this measure is being introduced and the power to levy charges is being transferred from elected members to county managers is because the Minister wants these charges increased.

I cite a piece of evidence for that, namely, the Minister's comments to a meeting of the committee on the environment and local government some months ago. When questioned on this issue, he chastised local authorities for not levying refuse charges which met the full cost of the refuse service. When I asked him what his estimate was for those charges, he said it was €11 per collection. The average household with a black bin collection every week and a monthly collection of recyclable materials has a total of 64 collections a year which comes to €704 on the Minister's calculations.

That is what this measure is about – increasing charges for waste collection. The Minister knows it is highly unlikely that he would be able to persuade elected members of a local authority, even those from his side of the House, to go the distance and impose charges of about €700 per household for the collection of waste. That is why he is transferring the power to the county manager.

That is not all. Section 30 is very interesting. I will go through it in detail because there is bad news in this for the average householder. We need to strip away the camouflage the Minister has introduced about protecting the environment and expose what he is trying to do in the legislation. Section 30(1) states:

The operator of a landfill facility (other than an internal landfill facility), or such other facility for the disposal of waste as may be prescribed [and so on] shall impose charges in respect of the disposal of waste at the facility.

In other words, the operator of a waste disposal facility, regardless of whether it is a landfill or incinerator or whether the operator is private or a local authority, will be required to impose charges for the disposal of waste for that facility.

What order of charges will they be required to make under the Bill? According to section 30(3):

The amount or amounts of charges imposed . . . shall be such as the operator of the facility concerned determines is likely to ensure that the result specified in subsection (4) is achieved.

What is the result specified in subsection (4)? It reads:

(4) The result referred to . . . is that the aggregate of the amount of charges imposed by the operator, in relation to the facility concerned, during the relevant period will not be less than the amount that would meet the total of the following costs (irrespective of whether those costs, or any of them, have been or will be met from other financial measures available to the operator), namely—

(a)the costs incurred by the operator in the acquisition or development, or both (as the case may be), of the facility,

(b)the costs of operating the facility during the relevant period (including the costs of making any financial provision under section 53), and

(c)the estimated costs, during a period of not less than 30 years or such greater period as may be prescribed, of the closure, restoration, remediation or aftercare of the facility.

This places an obligation on the local authority or private company that has the incinerator or landfill to levy a charge which covers the full cost of buying the site, the capital cost of establishing the facility, the cost of running it and the cost of closure, remediation and management of the site for at least 30 years after the facility is closed.

The Minister said earlier that he wanted to be blunt. I would like to give him an opportunity of being so. I would like him to tell the House and the people what that cost will be. I believe he and his Department have modelled this for incinerators, landfill and other waste disposal facilities and have totted up the cost of buying the land, establishing the facility, conducting the different studies that must be done in advance, the cost of running the facility and the cost of remediation for 30 years after it has closed. That is a large cost and we need to know what it is. The Bill is transferring that, lock, stock and barrel, to householders, and without taking account of State funding or any subsidy that might be received because the legislation explicitly states that the costs must be met irrespective of whether any of them have been or will be met from other financial measures available to the operator.

Many householders, to be fair, understand in light of the polluter pays principle, that a cost is associated with having their waste collected, whether it is €150 in some areas, €250 or even close to €300, as it is in my local authority area. They understand that and are prepared to contribute to it. What they need to understand now is that we are not talking about charges of the order of €150, €200 or €300 a year for the collection and disposal of refuse but about substantial household charges. The reason the legislation is before us and this power is being transferred to county managers is to facilitate the increase in those charges.

For those communities, and there are many, concerned about the health implications of incineration, and Deputy Allen referred to the report in the British Medical Journal which will be disturbing reading for many people in localities where it is proposed to locate incinerators, the Minister will not only impose incinerators on them, he will add cost to the injury. Not only will they have to endure incinerators under the Minister's policy, they will also have to bear the cost of them as well if it is to such facilities their waste is eventually transported.

The Minister seeks to justify all this by relying on the polluter pays principle. His understanding of the principle and the way he has used it is a distortion. His definition of a polluter is that everyone is a polluter. We all are in some way. However, no attempt is made to attribute proportionate responsibility for pollution between householders and the original producers of the waste in the first place. The legislation is not making the polluter pay but making householders pay for the entire cost of the operation of waste disposal facilities. While many householders are quite happy to pay a proportional contribution to this, to introduce a system where they pay the full cost is quite disproportionate. In any event, it ignores the fact that the average householder has no choice regarding domestic waste. The average householder has no control over the way in which groceries and household goods are presented and packaged or the amount of waste they contain.

The assumption underpinning "the polluter pays" principle is that there is an available alternative. The concept of using a charge or environment tax that causes people to change their behaviour is something I support. While the Minister's predecessor has not had many complimentary things said about him recently, he successfully introduced such a tax in the form of the tax on plastic bags. This succeeded in changing the environmental behaviour of people and I acknowledge that it was successful. The way in which charges on waste are imposed here, where everything is charged for, does not encourage a change in environmental behaviour.

It is trying to shift it.

It is not doing this. We all know that recycling must be part of any waste strategy. What is the practice here? People have to pay for the disposal of both their black and green bins. They have to pay for material to be recycled; there is no incentive for recycling. The charging for waste disposal as operated here does not encourage a shift to recycling, nor can it. The Government's strategy has fallen down because of its failure to invest in a recycling infrastructure. The Minister talked about 14% of municipal waste being recycled. While it is recycled, most of it is recycled abroad and that is only the waste that has not ended up in landfill anyway. It is ridiculous.

We do not have the required volumes.

Paper goes to the Far East for recycling and Tetra Pak goes to Scotland and our glass bottle company has closed. The little that passes for recycling infrastructure is nothing more than experimental, pilot study or social economy activity. There is no serious recycling infrastructure here and until such time as there is, recycling will not be a realistic option.

If we are unlucky, we will have had to endure eight or nine years of this Fianna Fáíl-PD Administration by the time its tenure is over. I acknowledge that by the end of this period the Government will have changed the way in which waste is dealt with. However, it is not a change I welcome. The major change that will have been made is one from the management of waste as a public service to the treatment of waste as a commercial business. If one looks at the changes taking place one will see the gradual privatisation of the disposal and management of waste. Deputy Allen spoke about the proposal for the incinerator in Cork and I am sure others will speak about similar proposals elsewhere. Private companies are making all these applications and will operate many of our landfill sites.

It means there will be more money for health and education.

Private companies are handling much of the disposal collection. There has been a shift from the treatment and handling of waste being treated as a public service delivered by a public authority that makes it universally available, to a commercial business for which people must pay. This is the fundamental change the Government is overseeing. I see the Minister is agreeing with me and I am not surprised at this.

It is profiteering.

It gives me more money for housing.

It is not releasing more money for housing. It is taking money from the pockets of householders in the guise of "the polluter pays" principle. It is really a form of taxation. The Minister has perpetrated a confidence trick on the people. In every budget the Minister for Finance has told people he is reducing taxes. Now the Minister is introducing legislation that will mean people will have to fork out €700 or €1,000 per year to have their waste collected and treated. This money will be paid to a private company. The commercially operated waste management system the Government is putting in place will last for the next quarter of a century and will be virtually impossible to reverse. It is a mixture of private companies, private incinerators, private landfills, private collection – if local authorities do this they will have to do so commercially – and a charging regime that will be administered through county managers.

Apart from the environmental consequences of this and the cost to householders, it does not make economic sense. Deputy Allen and I attended a conference on waste disposal in Philadelphia some months ago. The technology for dealing with waste is developing and advancing. This late 20th century incinerator technology to which the Minister is now so committed will be out of date. We will find ourselves—

What should we do now?

The Minister told us about the EU. I predict that before we are far into the Minister's strategy we will find the EU has reconsidered the waste hierarchy. The idea of taking waste from the middle of Finland and transporting it by truck to the south of Finland for incineration will have to be thought about again.

The Deputy has chosen an example of the one country that is building new thermal treatment plants.

The hierarchy and strategy the Minister feels he is bound into will be undone. The problem is by that time, the Minister will have already committed this country to an out of date technology.

While I do not mean to be argumentative, the Finnish minister recently asked me what is happening in Ireland. We have two or three new facilities and Finland is closing down four facilities. We will come in at the top end of the scale. They are fascinated by what is happening here.

The Minister is introducing a strategy that is out of date. What will this result in? One of the provisions of this Bill is that if one does not pay waste charges one's bins will not be collected. This is going to lead to additional illegal dumping.

It will lead to additional problems of "fly-tipping". It is already leading to illegal incineration. I even see what are called "garden incinerators" being advertised in garden centres. Householders are encouraged to buy a contraption to put in their back gardens to burn their garden waste.

That is terrible.

Before long they will use them to burn household waste, or people will put it in the fire, and we will end up with a bigger environmental problem than we started out with.

It is all very well to say that if one does not pay waste charges, waste will not be collected. I might pay my waste charges and my waste will be collected, but if my neighbour decides not to pay his waste charges, storing waste in his garden instead, what will happen then? This cannot be dealt with under the Litter Act because it only applies to litter in public places. It is simply irresponsible to absolve the public authority from taking responsibility for the environmental and health consequences of waste not being presented. If the Minister proceeds with this we will have to come back to it in the future, because we will have problems in neighbourhoods when people try to deal with their waste inappropriately by burning it, resulting in smoke billowing into their neighbours' gardens—

That would be appalling.

Who will enforce this?

The enforcement agency mentioned in the Bill.

The enforcement agency, my eye.

The enforcement agency and the local authorities.

The Minister should consider the staffing and financial implications. He has not provided staff or resources for this enforcement agency. Incidentally, the programme for Government told us we would have an office of environmental enforcement. We are not getting one. Instead, some wing of the Environmental Protection Agency is being designated as this office, which is not the same thing at all. It is being done in such a way that no resources are being provided for it. The Minister is making environmental law, yet he is not providing resources or staff to monitor and enforce it. He is effectively handing over responsibility for good waste management, which the public authorities have traditionally had in this country, to private companies so that they may operate waste management as a commercial business and make the householder pay for it. This legislation will hit the householder in the pocket and it will hit the environment. It is bad legislation and the Labour Party will oppose it.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Morgan and Joe Higgins. I welcome many aspects of this Bill, but it is in many ways a curate's egg – it is good in parts. The Minister is somewhat like a curate in that he is adopting a fairly sanctimonious and superior approach and preaching to us about the proper way forward.

I do not mean any discourtesy to any Deputies, but unfortunately I had been having a meeting with the county managers since 11.30 a.m., at which we discussed many issues, and I left it to come over here. I have an hour to get back to it, so if the Deputy does not mind, my colleague will sit in for me so that I can finish this meeting. It had been arranged months ago. It is a coincidence that it was scheduled for today. I will pick up on the debate later. I mean no disrespect to the Green Party, Sinn Féin or anybody else who has not spoken.

I thank the Minister. I was going to comment on the shade of blue on the Minister's tie, which somewhat resembles the Bill. It is sky-blue from a distance, promising a clean and healthy existence, but there are aspects of conservatism in it.

It is Tory blue.

Also, as one approaches it one notices a faint whiff of smoke. This reflects somewhat the substance of the Bill, which is promoting incineration as a panacea. Unfortunately, the Minister is not here to take this up.

I note that the Minister is absenting himself to confer with the County and City Managers' Association and I take offence at that. The Minister may have an answer to this, but our waste policy is being decided by the Minister in solemn conclave with the city and county managers, who have not been elected, have no democratic mandate and are not answerable directly to the people but only to their own councillors. This is a very disturbing trend. The major decisions in our local authorities are not being taken by elected members but by the city and county managers. The substance of this Bill – and one of its most appalling and draconian aspects – is to take away the democratic powers of a local authority and hand them to a county or city manager. I regard this as a savage attack on local democracy. To take power from local authorities and councillors is a retrograde step and does not bode well for the future of local democracy.

Many aspects of the Bill are worth commending. I applaud the mention of greenhouse gases and climate change within the Bill. I look forward to seeing tighter controls and an increase in fines. However, the Bill gives the green light to incineration and creates a permanent democratic deficit. On that substantive issue, my party will oppose the Bill.

The former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, introduced a plastic bags levy, albeit many years after the Green Party first proposed it to his predecessors in Government. However, this time last year the Government stood idly by as the Irish Glass Bottle company in Ringsend closed its doors forever. We had a proper recycling facility in the heart of the nation's capital and the Government watched as it closed its doors and its employees joined the dole queues. That incident epitomised this Government's approach to creating employment in recycling and coming up with green initiatives.

The Government then failed to take up our idea of a beverage container levy. There should be some kind of levy on a litre of milk or a bottle of Coca-Cola to encourage recycling. The Minister is not doing that, so our highways and byways are littered with empty plastic containers and aluminium cans. Why does he not take up our idea and introduce a beverage container levy to encourage recycling? As a child in the early 1970s I remember pulling up empty Cidona bottles from underneath bushes so I could get a shilling or five pence. This encouraged me to recycle. Why does the Minister not introduce this? Why does he not introduce more innovative measures to encourage recycling? It is not rocket science, it is simple enough, and we encourage the Minister to do it.

When it comes to the environment, we have a huge amount to do. This is the worst country in Europe for climate change emissions. Our greenhouse gases are going off the scale while the Minister stands idly by. He is pumping money into new roads and increasing our climate change emissions. In a couple of years we will face draconian fines from Europe for our failure to tackle climate change seriously. While this Bill mentions the issue, it does nothing to encourage a reduction in climate change emissions.

There are illegal dumps in the Garden of Ireland. Illegal dumping is continuing and will continue unless something is done about it. While I appreciate that the Minister is setting up an office of environmental enforcement, we need action, not words. Why does the Minister not set up a task force to tackle illegal dumping? Dumps covering hundreds of acres have been illegally placed all over the country, particularly in County Wicklow, and we have yet to see real action taken to combat this or to initiate a clean-up, especially of a particular dump that threatens Dublin's water supply. This is the reality of what is happening to our environment – huge increases in climate change emissions and illegal dumps left, right and centre. The Minister should tackle this, but we have yet to see action on the ground.

Within the Bill, there is a separate system for integrated pollution control licensing and the planning system. This system creates an artificial divide in relation to applications for incinerators or new industry. It is confusing to the general public and it confuses the procedure for dealing with the issue because one is making a very artificial distinction between planning and emissions. People find it hard to understand that one deals with the Environmental Protection Agency in respect of one aspect of the application and with the relevant local authority in regard to the other. I am not sure this is the best way to proceed.

We also believe a separate appeal body should deal with integrated pollution control licences. If one is unhappy with a local authority's decision on planning, one can take the matter up with An Bord Pleanála but if one is unhappy with an integrated pollution control licensing application, the only course of appeal is to the EPA. That is not proper and does not provide an independent voice in adjudicating on the appeal issue. I had hoped this matter would have been dealt with in the Bill. It is not right that the body of appeal is the same one from which one seeks an application in the first instance.

We also believe the Bill is fundamentally flawed in relation to our approach to incineration of waste. The "burn baby burn" approach is not the right way to go for Ireland. It threatens our agricultural and tourism industry. In March this year, I spent a week in Switzerland studying its waste management systems. I saw many incinerators and many enlightened approaches to waste management. On the issue of incinerators, they had no monitoring for dioxins on several of the incinerators and admitted in relation to one incinerator that the waste input goes up in flames at least a dozen times a year resulting in their having to call out the local fire brigade. I do not believe their approach to waste management represented the cutting edge of technology, nor, do I believe we should emulate a burn approach to our waste problems.

This Bill has much smoke and mirrors and has a slight whiff of sulphur in its approach to our waste problems. Several months ago, the Green Party brought before this House a Bill which emphasised a zero waste approach to our waste management problems. It is an idealistic and visionary approach but it is a realistic one. It is based on what has been done in many cities and states in Australia, Canada and around the world. We believe we can tackle waste by proposing zero waste in 15 years time. In the interim, we should emphasise waste reduction, re-use and recycling and should have proper well-managed landfills for the waste created. It is realistic to propose zero waste within a 15 to 20 year timeframe and I believe well-managed, modern landfill is better than incineration. The Minister is reducing democracy here in that people will be faced with high charges and will have their hands tied in relation to altering it.

The Green Party opposes this Bill. The Minister is going for an end of pipe solution and should charge industry at source. The consumer does not want to buy four apples covered in plastic with a polystyrene base. They want to buy clean, fresh fruit. Why does the Minister not tackle industry and ensure that waste is tackled at source instead of passing the cost on to consumers? My colleague referred to the fact that waste charges may rise to €600 per annum. That is a draconian measure. To insist that waste is collected and that councillors will have no input into policy is not the way forward. The Green Party advocates a zero waste solution and has put its legislation to the House. We are disturbed that the Minister has not put a similar and sustainable solution before the people.

It is unfortunate the Minister had to leave the House because I would have liked him to hear my sharp contribution. I am sure his expressions would have motivated me a little. That this Bill will destroy local democracy and introduce a new tier of taxation is motivation for any Deputy on this side to get stuck into it.

This Bill, from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, is another blow against local democracy. He has already taken that course in previous legislation where he abolished what little democracy was increasing in local government terms. He tore that out, tore it up and probably threw it away. That anti-democratic thrust is what we have been getting from the current Minister for the Environment and Local Government and that is most unfortunate.

While the Minister sponsoring this Bill may currently be a member of the Fianna Fáil Party, it is clear from all the features of this document, that he remains ensconced in the right wing, almost "McDowellism", of the Progressive Democrats ideology. That is unfortunate for the people of Ireland if not for his current party. This Bill is an attack on local democracy and should not be accepted by anyone. I acknowledge, as other Deputies have, that it contains some good and positive elements such as the strengthening of anti-litter laws and the banning of flight posters. We have all had leaflets stuck under the wipers of our cars and seen other people remove them from their cars and throw them on the ground. That provision is to be welcomed as are the ones dealing with end of life vehicles and the new powers given to the EPA to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. The Bill contains a number of positive features which will go some way towards meeting Sinn Féin policy on these issues. The cornerstone of that positive environmental policy is to set in place a zero waste strategy. That is critical. Unfortunately, the positive features are far outweighed by the anti-democratic elements of this Bill which, if passed, will leave local councillors with virtually no power.

The Minister made a fundamental mistake in not introducing this Bill prior to the introduction of the Local Government Bill dealing with the abolition of the dual mandate. Members of this House know that if this legislation is passed it will not be worth their while being members of a city or county council because county managers are being given powers to do as they will. There would have been considerably less resistance to the Local Government Bill if that had happened.

Section 19 amends section 22 of 1986 Act and shifts the power to make waste management plans from councillors, the elected representatives of the people, to county managers. I have a crow to pick with county managers. I sought an explanation from the Minister on an issue relating to an alleged case of bullying by the former county manager in Louth. The Minister told me he could not deal with that matter because it was outside his brief. I then wrote to the Committee of Public Accounts and asked it to investigate the matter only to be told it could not do so. Are county managers a law unto themselves? Can nobody hold them to account? How are people to get to the bottom of the shenanigans in which some county managers are engaged?

We are shifting powers away from those elected by the people of this State to autocratic people to do as they will in terms of budgetary constraints, levels of charges and so on. That is fundamentally questionable and it is a negative step for this Government to take. It used to be said that if one paid taxation one was entitled to representation – that was one of the old principles of western democracy. People elect their representatives and they are already paying their taxes but they will have virtually no representation. What function will local authority members have under this legislation? They are powerless. If the county manager imposes charges of up to €1,000 per year for waste collection services, the members can vote for or against it but the manager will impose them anyway.

Not all backbench Members of the Government parties are in favour of this measure. The Minister said he had received wonderful support for the Bill in the Seanad and that there had been considered and measured contributions to the debate. County and city councils are far more representative than the Seanad of the people and the Minister should consult with members of those councils to find out what they think about this issue. However, Senator Mansergh, former adviser to the Taoiseach, said: "I have grave reservations about removing responsibility for service charges from local representatives to the manager. A fundamental principle of western democracy is that there should be no taxation without representation". At least one Member of the Government parties understands the point I make.

Section 35 introduces a new subsection to section 75 of the 1996 Act and provides for a new explicit power to levy charges on waste services. It gives the county or city manager the power to introduce service charges. Most Members will be aware of the history of this issue. When rates were abolished in 1977, taxation began to rise in almost unquantifiable leaps because that was how local government was to be funded. There was no need for rates because the central Government would pay for local services. This was to be the means of funding local government. However, that did not happen. We have seen the battles that have taken place over the issue of service charges. In 1991, when the former Deputy Padraig Flynn was Minister for the Environment, Waterford City Council was under pressure from the Minister and was refusing to adopt the service charges or the crazy notion that its democracy could be overridden. One of the members of the council, who happened to be a Senator at the time, said he did not believe it would come to that. He said it was a question of nerve and that he had no intention of losing his nerve to Padraig Flynn and his Department. He went on to dare the Minister to appoint a commissioner to replace Waterford's democratically elected representatives. People will be surprised to learn that the person who made those comments is the current Minister for the Environment and Local Government. He was prepared not to lose his nerve on that occasion but his nerve did not survive the cauldron of the right wing Progressive Democrats-led Cabinet. He could not resist the temptation to introduce these service charges.

This Bill is being sold as a polluter pays measure. It is nothing of the sort. It is about introducing incineration and damaging people's health. It is the wrong approach to take and we need to reverse it. I call on Government backbenchers to resist this measure and defend the people.

I deplore the fact that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has absented himself. The county and city managers could have waited to hear what the elected Members had to say on Second Stage. I would have liked to have sent the Minister to the county managers with his ears burning about what ordinary people, the taxpayers, feel about this proposal.

This Bill, according to its Title, is about integrated pollution prevention and control. Everybody agrees with that and many measures in the Bill in that regard would be agreeable. However, the Bill is a trojan horse through which three provisions are introduced which constitute a savage attack on local democracy or what is left of it. It also provides a weapon to impose a new tier of local taxation on ordinary people. The Bill should be rejected out of hand.

Section 19, which gives the power of review, variation and replacement of a waste management plan to the city or county manager is simply a means of facilitating incineration as a solution to waste disposal. That means privatisation as well, which contradicts the alleged aim of the Minister and the policy of the Department of the Environment and Local Government to reduce the amount of waste going for disposal to incinerators or landfill. Private ownership of waste disposal facilities means there is an incentive to increase the amount of waste rather than reduce it because profits depend on increasing amounts of waste, particularly in the case of incinerators. It will avoid the real solution to waste disposal which is waste reduction, programmes of re-use and recycling.

Section 35 gives managers the power to set the level of bin charges. Councillors betrayed the people on this issue by introducing bin charges but at least they felt the hot breath of ordinary people and residents and this moderated the amount they were prepared to sanction in terms of the level of the bin tax imposed. Now it is proposed to give this power to unelected officials, who have generous salaries and do not know the struggle many ordinary PAYE workers have to survive. They will relentlessly raise the level of charge and that is the reason the Minister is giving them this power.

Section 22 gives councils the right not to collect the bins of householders who have not paid the charge. This is a blatant attempt to try to break the widespread resistance to the bin tax and particularly to break the anti-bin tax campaigns in the greater Dublin area, where tens of thousands of households are rejecting this tax and refusing to pay it. The Minister included this provision because he believes he can break those campaigns.

What is the Minister's real agenda? He hopes to bludgeon householders into an acceptance of the bin tax. He then wants the level of bin taxes increased annually to substantial amounts. The next part of the agenda is an attempt to restore the hated water charges. It is, in other words, the creation of a parallel tier of local taxation which will, in no time, reach €1,000 per household. That is intolerable from the point of view of the ordinary working person, people on moderate to middle incomes and young people currently purchasing homes at the inflated prices developers are demanding as a result of their profiteering in the housing market. It will not be accepted.

The Minister for Finance and the Government want to be able to come to the House on budget day, make provisions for the Exchequer finances and wash their hands of financing the local authorities and the level of charges set by the local authorities. They want to be able to say it has nothing to do with them. They want the local authorities to become tax levying organisations that are not accountable to the Dáil. The Minister can claim he is not responsible for them. I want to warn the Minister, and I appeal to his officials to take careful note of what I have to say since he is not here himself. The patience of ordinary householders and PAYE workers has run out with this Government. Some 90% believe they were lied to by the Government in the course of the general election campaign. Some 90% believe the Government betrayed them with its raft of extra charges, stealth taxes, cutting away of the first-time buyer's grant and other measures that are hitting hard at the income of ordinary people. If the Minister thinks that this summer he can enact these measures to bludgeon them into submission with this legislation, he should think again.

I am telling the Minister now, and the councils, that the first day they try to implement the provision of refusing to collect the bins of the decent taxpayers of Dublin or wherever, the campaigns, particularly in Dublin, will be fought on the ground. They will be met by mobilisations of people power and peaceful disobedience. They will not be allowed to enact, and to put into effect, this repressive measure in order to beat and defeat the decent taxpayers, who fund the bulk of the taxation system and the bulk of services and who are not prepared to go back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s when the PAYE man and woman was hammered while multi-millionaires were salting their ill-gotten gains – in many cases in off-shore accounts. The Ansbacher men were thumbing their noses at the tax-gathering system and the PAYE people were hammered. They are not prepared to go back to that again. It will be resisted. There will be mobilisation in the communities against it and it will not be accepted so the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, can tell the Minister that at this stage he would do much better to withdraw these provisions from this legislation and then let the discussion proceed on what is worthwhile in the Bill.

I absolutely reject this trite slogan of the polluter pays as being applied to the householder, as if the householder was in the same league as a chemical factory, for instance. According to the EPA's last nationwide survey in 1998, households account for only 1.5% of all that is going into landfill. I agree that the percentage can be cut back further. If the Government was to take effective measures to reduce the totally unnecessary and ridiculous packaging in the supermarkets and elsewhere which the householder is forced to take home, then that percentage could be cut back further. Householders are waste receivers, not polluters.

There are polluters who could subscribe significant resources to beefing up and implementing good waste management practices. Big business corporations, to whom this Government is giving €1 billion this year alone in reductions in corporation tax and in PRSI, could finance many measures as well as huge advances in waste management, waste reduction and recycling programmes.

There are other polluters at whom we could look. There are stallions in Kildare which produce plenty of pollution on a weekly basis, but their billionaire owners are not hit for a cent of taxation on their activities while the ordinary householder is faced with this kind of measure in an attempt to get more out of them.

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, to tell the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and I invite the Government to take note of that. We will not wait until the local elections next year to sort this out. It will be sorted out if they attempt to bludgeon decent people into submission. We will also carry the battle into the local elections but long before that this issue will be resolved through people saying enough is enough from this Government, that they will not accept this false pretence and attempt at a new taxation system.

I wish to share time with Deputy Kelly.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on this Bill. The Bill includes proposals on the integrated pollution prevention and control licensing system, new waste management measures and amendments to the Litter Pollution Act 1997.

Among the measures proposed in the Bill are provision for the revocation or suspension of licences where there are serious breaches of the "fit and proper person" requirements; increases in fines for breaches of licence provisions; local authorities are being given explicit power to discontinue the collection of domestic waste in the event of non-payment of charges; powers for local authorities to impose, as an executive function, charges for the provision of any waste service; increased litter fines; the variation or replacement of a waste management plan to become an executive function, that is, a matter for local authority managers; and new powers for by-laws covering issues such as the provision and use of supermarket trolleys and placing obligations on businesses to wash the public area outside of their premises.

The Bill will fully transpose into Irish law the EU Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control. The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 established a strong and successful integrated pollution control licensing system to regulate industrial and other activities with significant polluting potential. Currently, 550 licences are in force.

The 1992 Act anticipated and implemented most of the requirements of the directive, as well as addressing other environmental policy priorities of national concern. The new Bill makes legislative provision for the remaining elements of the directive and, while some of these are technical in nature, they all contribute to a significantly strengthened regulatory framework for environmental protection. In addition to provisions arising from the directive, the Bill also includes a number of further measures to strengthen the existing IPC licensing system, including in relation to implementation and enforcement.

Among the key changes to the IPC licensing regime – now to become IPPC licensing – introduced by the Bill are a greater emphasis on pollution prevention and on minimising environmental problems at source; a change in the technical basis of the licensing system from best available technology to best available techniques; an explicit requirement for the inclusion of emission limit values in licences; increased emphasis on energy efficiency in the carrying out of activities; a new power for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in IPPC licences; extension of the scope of licensing for the purpose of fully implementing the directive, bringing into the licensing system more activities in areas such as intensive agriculture, the treatment and processing of milk, the slaughter of cattle, food production, and the production of paper, pulp or board; a new provision for an objector to request the EPA to hold an oral hearing in relation to a licence application; a requirement for an applicant to be a "fit and proper person" as defined in the Bill, including being free from conviction under either the IPPC or waste management codes, and possessing the technical and financial capacity to carry on the business to which the licence relates; provision for revocation or suspension of licences where there are serious breaches of the "fit and proper person" requirements; a new power for any person to seek a High Court order where an activity is being carried out in contravention of licensing requirements; and increases in fines for breaches of licence provisions, including a maximum fine for summary conviction of €3,000 – currently £1,000 – and a daily fine of €600 – currently £200.

To ensure that Ireland maximises environmental advantage and gain, the general approach taken in this Bill is to apply the requirements specified in the directive, or those already in place under the 1992 Act, whichever is the higher standard and to build on to them further improvements arising from the directive. In this way, Ireland will remain to the fore in this key area of environmental policy and action.

In addition to changes due to the IPPC Directive, the Bill introduces a number of other important measures to do with waste management. Among the measures proposed is that the variation or replacement of a waste management plan will become an executive function and a matter for local authority managers.

Is that a good idea?

I have been a member of a local authority for 29 years. We are elected public representatives and we had some very difficult decisions to make in this area over the years. Some of us made those difficult decisions. Unfortunately there are times when some public representatives do not wish to take difficult decisions and that may be the reason for this provision. I would rather see the elected representatives taking these decisions but on occasions they have not taken the decisions, sometimes in the best interests of their county or their area.

This Bill will ensure that regional waste management plans, most of which were only adopted after much deliberation and delay, cannot now be overturned because of short-sighted local considerations. The focus is and must remain on the implementation of these crucially important plans. If we are to avoid a waste crisis, we must pursue these plans vigorously to deliver the integrated infrastructure necessary to maximise waste prevention, re-use and recycle and ensure the environmentally sound disposal of waste that cannot be eliminated or utilised.

The express provision in waste legislation is that local authorities have powers as an executive function to impose charges for the provision of any waste service, either by themselves or on their behalf.

The "polluter pays" principle applies to the collection of waste. If some people pay, I do not see why everybody should not pay. We have all been forced to confront this problem regarding the collection of waste. I am aware of those in the waste business who do a very good job and comply to the letter of the law. Officials have hounded them – and rightly so – to ensure that they do a good job. What worries me is that only some people must observe the law. There are people who observe the law but, even in my own county, a few miles away from those who observe the law, others are flouting the law on a daily basis and seem to get away with it. That is not good enough. The people who observe the law do not understand why others seem to get away with it. Will the Minister instruct the county managers and officials of county councils to see that this does not continue and that everyone is treated in the same manner?

I welcome this Bill. The Government is committed to an ambitious programme on the environmental agenda. Without a strong framework of rules and regulations, we will not achieve the environmental quality to which we aspire and to which the Government is committed.

This Bill strengthens the law dealing with those industrial and other activities which have the potential to do the most damage to the environment. It will have an impact on all the key environmental media. It gives an enhanced focus for action by the EPA to secure energy efficiency and to regulate greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. It contains important new provisions to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation.

It contains a number of key issues which the Government regards as essential to further strengthen Ireland's approach to waste management. The Bill is a substantial addition to Ireland's environmental legislation and it signals the Government's determination to ensure that the environment receives the protection it deserves.

The Bill brings national legislation fully into line with the EU directive by amending the licensing provisions of both Acts. In the context of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, there are a number of key new provisions arising from the EU directive. Transposing the directive requires a move from integrated pollution control to integrated pollution prevention and control. This change of wording reflects the increasing emphasis placed on the prevention and minimisation of environmental problems at source rather than on controlling them after they have arisen.

The EU directive brings more activities into the licensing regime, including poultry rearing, the treatment and processing of milk, the slaughter of cattle, the production of food from animal or vegetable raw materials and the production of paper or board. A focus of the Bill is to modernise the integrated licensing regime in light of the experience of a decade. Amendments are proposed which facilitate better implementation and enforcement.

Recently, the issue of local authority waste again became contentious. The position is simple. The "polluter pays" principle underpins European Union environmental policy and legislation and must be applied by member states. Specifically, EU waste legislation requires that households as well as other waste producers pay for the cost of disposal of their waste. Household waste charges are therefore mandatory and are here to stay under Irish and EU law.

It is up to everybody to minimise waste and to recycle. It is up to us all to keep the cost down. If each individual plays his or her part equally and fairly then the cost will not be big because it will be the polluter who pays. Some people can keep their premises tidy, clean and hygienic and others do not seem to be able to do so.

Our purpose is to create a proper waste management infrastructure which will be to the benefit of all, including visitors and the tourism industry. Accordingly, the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section into the 1996 Act to give local authorities explicit powers to charge for provision of waste services. The new section provides that the making and waiver of such charges shall be an executive function and is intended to facilitate the levying of charges on a per-use basis.

In section 22, local authorities are given explicit powers to discontinue the collection of domestic waste in the event of non-payment of charges. This addresses the consequences of the 2001 Supreme Court judgment, which was that local authorities do not have this right at present. As a result, they can only seek recovery of unpaid household charges as a normal contract debt through the appropriate courts, a system that is costly and unwieldy. It is now proposed to allow local authorities to respond in the most direct manner to those who will not pay for the services provided and who expect their neighbours to subsidise them for the collection of their waste.

Debate adjourned.