Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2002 [ Seanad ] : Report and Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, line 2, after "Act" to insert ", and inPart 3 includes a licence, authorisation, permit or instrument made under sections 222C or 223A of that Act or section 20, or such other licences as may be prescribed by the Minister for the purposes of this definition, provided that any fee chargeable in respect of a licence for the purpose of this definition as extended for the purposes of Part 3 shall be limited to the costs of providing the services of the Appeals Officer to such licensees under that Part”.

The manner in which this Bill was presented to the Oireachtas was very unsatisfactory. It seems a long time ago since the Bill was in the Seanad and a long time since it was discussed in this House on Second Stage. At that time, Members believed they were discussing a Bill regarding a licensing appeals system and the ratification of international conventions regarding fish stocks. However, in the meantime and as I said to the Minister on Committee Stage, the Bill has grown. We have ended up with a major innovation which is the new licensing system now included in the Bill.

As the House will know, Committee Stage was deferred because of the increasing confusion over the presentation of this legislation. At one point during Committee Stage, when the Opposition spokespersons and the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, were trying to wade through most of the amendments, there was the incredible situation where, on one section of the Bill, there were amendments to amendments to amendments to the Minister's new section of the Bill. In the almost 11 years I have been in the House, I have not seen such a messily presented Bill. Given that this vast Department is responsible for a great deal of our key natural resources and infrastructure, legislation in the next term should be more coherent and in finished form when it is first presented to the House. I am not criticising the Minister of State, but his Department has had a year in which to integrate two and a half other Departments and it should be possible, on such a fundamental issue as fisheries licensing, to present a reasonably coherent Bill to the House. The Labour Party is unhappy with the way the Bill has been presented, but we will try to get through as many amendments as possible.

My amendment would have the effect of extending the appeals system to other licenses under the general Act. I hope we will have a full fisheries consolidation Bill in the next year or so and this measure would be a useful addition until the comprehensive legislation is in place. The Minister of State made a number of points about this issue on Committee Stage. The Labour Party studied the Bill at that stage and adjusted the wording to try and take account of the Minister of State's concerns, which was a reversal of the usual situation.

It is not intended at this time to extend the statutory appeals process beyond sea fishing boat licensing, for which there is an acknowledged and pressing need. A statutory appeals process for sea fishing boat licensing must be given time to operate and will be reviewed after a suitable period. Amending legislation will be needed for extending the remit of an appeals officer and that amending legislation would have to make appropriate tailored provisions for any extended remit considered necessary. We will keep the matter under review.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(2) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall be appointed following approval of his or her nomination by both Houses of the Oireachtas.".

I am disappointed that the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is not here, but I understand he is representing the country at another difficult stage in the defence of the Irish Box, which is of great value to some 25,000 families from Greencastle to Howth to Louth, and I wish him well in that regard. Yesterday, I called for the Minister of State's promotion because he seems to represent his Department to the House on all the key issues.

The key section of Part 2 of the Bill creates an independent licensing authority under the Registrar General of Fishing Boats. This is a valuable initiative which is welcomed by the industry and the Labour Party. This position will be one of the most significant in the administration of the critically important fisheries industry. I feel about this, the same way I did at the time of the appointment of the Ombudsman, Ms O'Reilly, that significant positions like this should require that candidates be presented to the relevant Oireachtas committee, as is the case in the United States. Having heard the views of members, the Minister could then make the decision. The position is sufficiently important to be placed before the Oireachtas, as it will be a key role in the administration of fisheries from now on. It is important that we set out to create an indepen dent licensing and appeals system. It is also critical that these systems be seen to be independent from day one. The best way in which to do so is for candidates for the position to be presented to and approved by the Oireachtas.

The Minister of State told us on Committee Stage that there are some positions in the public service which are at a lower level than that of the Ombudsman. Nevertheless, there is a general feeling that the role should be provided for in the Constitution. I hope Ms O'Reilly is about to set out on six good years of service to the State. The fisheries registrar's role is a particularly important one, given the history and future of the industry, as well as developments in aquaculture, water sports and the fact that we are an island nation. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendment.

I admire the Deputy's consistency. He has been vocal on this issue for some time. However, as I said on Committee Stage, there are few public offices which can be filled only following approval of a nominee by the Dáil or Seanad Éireann. One is the office of the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner and that office, with its extensive remit across the public service, is clearly not comparable with the office of Registrar General of Fishing Boats, with its limited remit. The Registrar General of Fishing Boats has traditionally been a senior civil servant in the Department of the relevant Minister and, as such, is therefore subject to the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956 and also the Ethics in Public Office Acts of 1995 and 2001, which require the furnishing of an annual statement of interests. Therefore, I do not accept the Deputy's amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(2) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall make and submit to the Standards in Public Office Commission a statement of his or her interests each year.".

This amendment follows logically from the previous one. We had a discussion this morning with the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, on the Order of Business about spending by Deputies and Ministers during the general election campaign last year. This is a process which has obtained over the last five or six years to try and make public life as transparent as possible, to make it clear how our democracy works and to make sure there is no golden inner circle that can bypass rules. As regards yesterday's publication, the Labour Party has grave concerns about attempts to raise the level of spending. We are used to the fact that we declare our interests. There was controversy in recent days regarding the declarations of interest by one Member of the House concerning the political philosophy he espouses.

I must remind the Deputy that we are dealing with amendment No. 3 on Report Stage of this Bill.

I am referring to the Standards in Public Office Commission. All senior public servants, including elected representatives, should declare their interests. This is an opportunity for the Minister to insert this in the Bill and to create a useful and important precedent. People should be aware of the interests of a person who is maintaining a register of licences and exercising an almost quasi-judicial function. Such a submission to the Standards in Public Office Commission should be a requirement for this office as well as all senior public offices at both national and local government levels. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment.

This amendment is unnecessary. The current Registrar General of Fishing Boats has furnished the required annual statement of interests for 2002. The Ethics in Public Office Acts grant power to the Minister for Finance to make regulations to extend the requirement of these Acts to lower Civil Service grades and other public servants and office holders as may be necessary from time to time.

Does that mean it will happen? It is not in the Act. Why not put it into the Act and make it clear from day one?

As I said in reply to amendment No. 2, the Registrar General of Fishing Boats has traditionally been a civil servant in the Department and, as such, is subject to Civil Service regulations and to the Ethics in Public Office Acts. The area is reasonably well covered.

What if the person is not a civil servant?

The Minister for Finance can make regulations to extend the requirements of these Acts to lower Civil Service grades and to other public servants and office holders as may be necessary from time to time.

Amendment put.

Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Burton, Joan.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.English, Damien.Ferris, Martin.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Harkin, Marian.Higgins, Michael D.Higgins, Joe.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.

McCormack, Padraic.McGrath, Finian.McManus, Liz.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Murphy, Gerard.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Quinn, Ruairi.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Wall, Jack.

Níl

Ahern, Noel.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cowen, Brian.Cregan, John.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Tony.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.

Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Seán.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Wallace, Dan.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G.V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Stagg and Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher.
Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 4. Amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24 are related and amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are alternatives to amendment No. 13. Amendments Nos. 4, 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24 may be discussed together by agreement.

I have no problem with grouping generally and I am anxious to move on but I have a concern in regard to the grouping proposed. Amendment No. 14 in my name which is specifically about safety is included in this grouping. I would like a specific reference to the need for fishing vessels to provide a safety certificate before being considered for a licence. That is not included in the Minister's proposed amendment, which is along the lines that we have to be consistent with the Common Fisheries Policy regulations and so on but it may include it. I was anxious that we would over-emphasise it if necessary.

It is in amendment No. 16.

The Minister is saying it is included in section 16. If the House wishes we will debate it as a grouping but this debate primarily is not about water safety or safety certificates. If you wish me to discuss it within this group of amendments, I can do so.

Acting Chairman

I advise Deputy Coveney that there is a technical consideration with amendment No. 14. If the Minister's amendment No. 13 is successful, amendment No. 14 automatically falls so there is an inter-relationship because of that. As a consequence we have the proposal to group the amendments for discussion purposes.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

"(3) A policy directive given undersubsection (2)(b) may require certain prohibitions or conditions to be imposed in relation to sea-fishing for the purposes of protecting, conserving or allowing the sustainable exploitation of living marine aquatic species.”.

I advise the House that since Committee Stage I have again very carefully reviewed the Bill in light of concerns expressed by Deputies Broughan, Coveney and Ryan, in particular, to ensure that only safe and sustainable fishing activity is permitted. I share fully those concerns. The substantial package of amendments I propose for the approval of this House addresses specifically the sustainability issue in terms of safeguarding fish stocks and marine aquatic eco-systems from over fishing. It strengthens the law against illegal fishing which undermines sustainability. The safety and sea-worthiness requirements on fishing boats are also being copperfastened.

With amendments Nos. 13 and 24, amendment No. 4 addresses concerns raised by Deputies Broughan, Coveney and Ryan on Committee Stage about the sustainability of fishing activity which may be licensed. Amendment No. 4 expressly signals that sustainability could be covered in a ministerial policy directive to the licensing authority under section 3 while amendment No. 24 makes parallel provision for ministerial policy directives to an appeals officer under section 6. Amendment No. 13 is consequential on amendment No. 4.

It is easy for me to get my one concern out of the way first. It is addressed by the Minister in amendment No. 16 and I thank him for emphasising the need for vessel inspections to ensure the necessary safety standards are met. We cannot over-emphasise the safety issue. Every summer there are tragic and needless drownings and deaths at sea. After the event, we say it would have been different if only we had done something about safety equipment, safety regulations and improved guidelines. This is the reason I insisted on Committee Stage about requesting the Minister to bring a wording forward which would be legally acceptable and which would emphasise the need for independently carried out inspections of boats prior to the issue of any licence. I thank the Minister for bringing forward amendment No. 16 on the basis of which I will not move amendment No. 14.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In age 6, line 41, after "practicable" to insert "but within a period of 21 days".

This amendment is not part of the grouping.

Acting Chairman

The grouping was amendments Nos. 4, 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24.

Do we not deal with that grouping first? Do we go to amendment No. 5?

Acting Chairman

The intention is to group amendments for the purpose of debate.

The Minister of State will have to excuse me as I have misplaced my glasses and it will take me a little longer to read the wording of the amendment. The Minister of State will see a consistency among my amendments in terms of attempting to introduce time limits on employees of the Department and on the Minister in relation to directives which are to be brought before the Oireachtas. I feel strongly that if we impose time limits on applicants and on the licence applications procedure, we should also impose time limits on Ministers and on the Department in responding to queries and putting policy directives before the Oireachtas. I am a strong believer in setting specific targets rather than using grey terms such as "as soon as practicable". With amendment No. 5 I seek to impose a time limit on the Minister whereby he will place any policy directive he makes before the House within a period of 21 days.

I support Deputy Coveney strongly in this regard. Across a range of Departments we see matters announced in the press many weeks before Opposition Deputies get a chance to respond. Documents may be placed in the Oireachtas Library early on, but the general way in which Government informs the Oireachtas of its decisions is unsatisfactory. The policy directive on the Registrar General of fishing boats is very significant and it is important that the House be informed of the matter as soon as possible. This should be the rule across Government which is why I commend the amendment to the House and support Deputy Coveney.

This amendment is not accepted. It is not envisaged that there would be a delay of up to 21 days in publishing or presenting to the Dáil or Seanad a written ministerial policy directive to the licensing authority under section 3. No delay is envisaged in publishing or presenting any such directive which will also be available on the Department's website as soon as is practicable after it is made. A matter of two days at most will be involved. As Deputies will know, the Minister has made a commitment that all issues in our Department will be on the website. I find things on the website that people are aware of before I see them myself. We are very open and transparent in the Department.

The Minister is missing the point. I accept that things have improved in terms of information being published on the Department's website. When press releases are made and press conferences are called we see it on the website before we are informed in this House. I am attempting to copperfasten in legislation what the Minister is saying will be the case. The wording of the amendment suggests that directives be placed before the House as soon as is practicable while imposing a time limit of three weeks. If it is practical to put a directive before the House within 24 hours, that is great, but it is not acceptable to say it was not practical to place a matter before the House within four weeks. The three week limit will not be relevant most of the time as policy directives will be placed before the House within a couple of days, but Opposition parties need to be sure that they are fully up to speed within three weeks of a decision being made on a directive. The only way to be absolutely sure is not to rely on the good will and transparency of the Department, which exists; it is to copperfasten this provision in legislation.

Acting Chairman

Does the Deputy wish me to put the amendment?

Acting Chairman

We will then move on to amendment No. 6. Amendment No. 7 is an alternative and amendments Nos. 6 and 7 may be taken together, by agreement.

Are we still to debate amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24?

Acting Chairman

We will decide on those when we reach them. The discussion of the amendments is completed, but the decision on them will be made when they are moved.

Does that mean we cannot discuss the amendments?

Acting Chairman

When amendment No. 4 was moved, it was agreed to discuss amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24 with it. A debate on those amendments took place, but we will decide them when they are reached in order. That is the normal procedure on Report Stage.

I have a point of order about fairness to this side of the House, though I have said what I had to say on the amendments in question.

There was an understanding that we would have an opportunity to debate amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, when we reached them and before they were decided. That is why I was somewhat surprised when we took amendment No. 5 without having a longer debate on amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, and 24. I do not know if it is possible for the Chair to facilitate this.

Acting Chairman

I understand the dilemma but I am concerned about setting a precedent. However, if there are amendments on which the Deputy indicates he wishes to express his views, we will try to accommodate him.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 7 is an alternative to amendment No. 6. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 7, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(c) The licensing authority shall produce an annual report detailing activities undertaken for the previous 12 months.".

To save time so we can discuss amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, I will withdraw this amendment. The Minister has accommodated my concerns in amendment No. 7 which requires the licensing authority to produce a report each financial year giving detailed descriptions of the performance of its functions over the previous year. My amendment required the licensing authority to produce an annual report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 7, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(6) The licensing authority shall, as soon as practicable but not later than 6 months after the end of each financial year, report to the Minister on the performance of the functions of the licensing authority in that year and the Minister shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.".

This amendment is proposed in response to concerns raised by Deputy Coveney on Committee Stage. It requires the licensing authority to prepare and present an annual report of its activities. That requirement is on the same lines as the requirements on an appeals officer under paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 7, line 22, after "Minister" to insert ", or any commitments given in writing by the Minister or his predecessor,".

This amendment is probably crudely worded. The intention is to address a concern that does not appear to be covered under the legislation at present. A commitment is given under subsection (7)(a) that any process under the Minister's control in relation to licensing that had commenced before this legislation is enacted would be continued through the licensing authority when this Bill is passed. I am trying to provide the same for any commitments that had been given to boat owners in relation to licensing should they exist, although I doubt that there are many. However, if commitments were given in writing by the Department or the Minister, they should be honoured by the new licensing authority.

I am willing to withdraw the amendment if the Minister gives me a verbal assurance that if commitments are given in writing by the Minister or his predecessor to boat owners or boat owning companies in relation to licensing, they will be honoured.

Section 3(7)(a) is the appropriate standard mechanism for completing any sea-fishing boat licensing work in progress before the Bill becomes law. My officials and I are not aware of any commitments given prior to this Bill becoming law.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 8, line 44, after "application" to insert "within a period of 28 days".

This amendment reflects my approach of trying to impose timetables on the Department and the Minister to prevent undue or unfair delays for an applicant or for the House in the case of requiring the Minister to put a policy directive before the House. This applies to subsection (3)(c) which provides that where an application is made for a sea-fishing boat licence, the licensing authority may, subject to subsection (4) of this section, allow or refuse the application. I am seeking to insert the phrase “within a period of 28 days”.

It is not unreasonable that when an application is made, the applicant should know within a month whether it has been successful. That gives ample time to the Department or the licensing authority to process the application. The Minister will say that standard practice to date in the Department is that decisions on licensing are expected to be made within 21 days or less. If that is the standard practice, it is welcome but let us still insist on a time limit and provide that it is unacceptable to go beyond a month in making a decision on a licensing application.

This amendment is not acceptable. In the majority of cases the final decision on sea-fishing boat licence applications must await the response from the applicant with precise details of the boat proposed to be licensed and submission of the necessary condition survey report confirming the safety and seaworthiness of the boat. This often takes up to a year. A substantive reply is issued to most licence applicants within 21 days and all applications are quickly acknowledged on their receipt.

Licensing of sea-fishing boats is done on a case-by-case basis and the level of customer service by the Department is directly dependent on the accuracy and completeness of the applications received. Obviously, the application must go through a process where the Department surveys the boat. The surveyor must see the boat and sometimes there are enormous delays in that regard. What the Deputy is seeking could not be practically operated.

I am seeking that the applicant would get a response within the 28 day period. If the overall licensing process was going to take a year, this would be explained to them. However, they would have a response from the Department within a month.

Unfortunately, I will have to withdraw the amendment because the wording does not address that specific concern. The amendment would provide that the decision on the licensing application would have to be made within 28 days and that is not practical.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 8, line 48, after "authority" to insert "shall have regard to the projected annual targets for economic development under the State's regional and spatial policies and".

This amendment refers to section 4 which lays out the criteria by which licences will be granted. There was a lengthy discussion on this on Committee Stage. In my amendments I sought to include more specific consideration of socio-economic and environmental issues under subsection (3)(d). The Minister said the authority may take account of the economic and social benefits which the operation of the boat would be likely to contribute to the coastal communities, the projected number of landings at the ports, the annual tonnage and value of fish and the projected annual level of expenditure.

The reason this Bill is so welcome is that we have had to put up with much criticism, much of it justified, over the years of the bizarre nature of licensing. I remember referring to the Dingle licences and problems in Lough Swilly and other locations around the coast. Obviously, for these coastal communities the sustainability of the fishing industry into the future and the protection of jobs for fishery workers has to be a critical factor.

What I have sought to do in this simple amendment is to make it a necessary requirement for the registrar general to have regard to the projected annual targets for economic development under the State regional and spatial policies. The Government outlined its spatial policy some months ago, and my own party has a long-standing regional and spatial policy. Either we are serious about this or we are not. We are all aware that in most of the main fishing ports around the coast, such as Kilmore Quay in the Minister of State's territory, Castletownbere and Greencastle, the industry is very often the most important generator of jobs and wealth.

Around Greencastle, for example, we have read again in recent days of the great difficulty of the Greencastle fleet in relation to the restrictions on Area 6 in the north-east waters, where the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources allowed Ireland to literally get tangled up in the Scottish nets. Scottish issues were allowed to rebound very adversely on our fishermen and our industry in north-east Donegal. In future, it behoves the registrar general and the Minister, by way of directives, to directly refer to what our employment targets are.

In recent days I have noted the reports from Castletownbere – one of our great fishing ports and an area with which I am very familiar – indicating that 70% of the people of the Beara peninsula are dependent on fishing. It is by far the biggest generator of economic wealth in an area that does not have famous beaches and that is quite remote, being located 240 miles from where I am standing now. It is critical that there be some specific targets for social and economic development. If we are to sustain employment in Beara, Connemara, Donegal, Kerry, south Wexford and my own area of the Howth peninsula, where the industry is an important provider of jobs, then we need specific targets. I urge the Minister of State again to come the extra mile on this. I know he has come some distance with us but my requirement is that he would be more specific. Otherwise, what is the point of having spatial and regional plans?

I am a member of the regional authority in the east which is in the process of joining up with the mid-east to form a very strong region comprising Dublin and the surrounding counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. We have regional targets in this kind of development, so why should we not have the same in the fishing industry? Why should it not be a key parameter of the issuing of licences into the future?

Very briefly, I wish to support Deputy Broughan on this. If regional and spatial strategies are to have any teeth at all, then they need to be confirmed and supported in legis lation. We are not saying that licensing decisions would be dictated by the spatial strategy but that it should be a factor. The wording of the amendment is reasonably balanced. I accept that the Minister of State has come quite a long way in this area and has already accepted an amended wording on Committee Stage which moved things in this direction, but what Deputy Broughan is saying makes some sense.

This amendment is not appropriate. The licensing of sea-fishing boats is necessarily done on a case-by-case basis following due consideration of each application. However, within the parameters of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, Section 222B of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 – as restated in section 4 of the Bill – specifically allows the licensing authority, in assessing any such application, to take account of the economic and social links of the sea-fishing boat concerned with a particular coastal community or region in the State.

Clearly, sea-fishing boats which could not demonstrate having such economic and social links would have fewer prospects of being licensed. Moreover, the overriding issue, namely, the sustainability or otherwise of the sea-fishing proposed in regard to living marine aquatic species will have to be considered by the licensing authority before deciding on an application for a sea-fishing boat licence. As a result of the ministerial amendment to replace lines 21 to 26 of page 9 of the Bill, any economic development targets which might be specified under the State's regional and spatial policies would have to take sustainability into account, not the other way round.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman

I remind Deputies that it is proposed to take amendments Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, and amendment No. 24 together by agreement. Amendments Nos. 12 to 16, inclusive, and amendment No. 24 are related, and amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are alternatives to amendment No. 13. These amendments may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 9, line 1, to delete "and social" and substitute ", social and environmental".

I thank the Minister of State because we can be frank and honest and say that he has come a long way in meeting some of the concerns raised on Committee Stage. That is very welcome, and it is rewarding for the Opposition to see that some of the comments and thoughts we put into such matters do bear fruit. I commend the Minister of State and thank him for that. I do not have any problem with amendment No. 24 in his name or with amendment No. 4 which we have already agreed.

However, I would still argue the need for amendment No. 11 on the basis that while amendments Nos. 4 and 24 do go some of the way, they are subject to ministerial directives having to be applied on the particular issue. It is right for us in the wording of amendment No. 11 to take in the full spirit of what the Minister of State himself has agreed in his other amendments – that our policy in licensing our fishing has to be a balanced one. We have to take into account our economic and social interests but also environmental considerations. Given that the Minister of State has moved in that direction or has recognised it in his own amendments, I hope he will accept this wording.

I do not know whether it is possible for the Minister of State to amend the Bill himself from the floor on Report Stage. I have looked at the Bill in terms of how else he could encompass what I am trying to get across. One change of wording in the Bill which would achieve this would be to a later section which provides that the licensee has to take into account conservation and rational exploitation of fish stocks. By simply substituting the word "sustainable" for "rational," we would address some of my concerns.

Even taking that on board, I would still argue that the approach in amendment No. 11, that the licensing authority would have to take into account social and environmental, as well as economic considerations, is the right one. One could look at the type of craft and at its own sustainability in terms of the amount of fuel it uses and the amount of pollution and discharges it produces. One could look at the equipment it is using as certain trawling equipment can be quite damaging to an eco-system. One could look also at whether it is involved in sustainable fisheries or not. The very introduction of the word "environmental" would give the licensing authority the broad scope by which it could actually take into account all of those different environmental issues. The wording of the amendment is simple and I would be happy to withdraw amendment No. 12 if it is accepted. While the Minister has gone a long way to meet my concerns, without this wording the legislation will require further a ministerial directive to deal with the environmental aspect. It would be easier and preferable to accept the amendment, which is in the same spirit as the Minister's.

An essential requirement for the licensing authority is to assess the sustainability or otherwise of the proposed sea-fishing activity in terms of the exploitation of living marine aquatic resources. This is highlighted in Government amendment No. 13, as well as Government amendments Nos. 4 and 24. It represent a major policy advance. Wider environmental issues are a matter for the relevant competent authorities with a wider remit than the licensing authority. In addition, the licensing authority is specifically obliged to consider whether a sea-fishing boat proposed for licensing would confer economic or social benefits on any coastal community in the State. Sustainability would be a key factor in such consideration.

This is the most complicated process in which I have been involved in the House in that we are considering amendments to amendments that were originally amendments. I take the Minister of State's point regarding amendment No. 13, which also addresses some of my concerns. However, perhaps he will elaborate on the problem in terms of general Government policy. I believe the Government is interested in moving in the direction of sustainability and, on that basis, I would have thought that when setting broad policy objectives, the Government would consider economic, social and environmental interests, which constitute a definition of how sustainability is measured. In view of this, I do not understand the Minister of State's problem with the amendment.

This is a wider issue. For example, problems with pollution come under the remit of the Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, other Departments and various authorities. In view of this, I do not consider extending the remit of the licensing authority is the right way to deal with it.

I accept that pollution and other issues are also the responsibility of other Departments and bodies, but if something can be nipped in the bud at an early stage many future difficulties will be avoided. In view of this it would save the State from having to later impose enforcement measures if, at the licensing stage, it is indicated to boat owners and developers that they should not use pollution creating equipment and that they must take account of the sustainability of their craft.

I appreciate Deputy Ryan's concerns and those expressed by other Deputies on Committee Stage. We have gone as far as we can on this aspect.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, to delete lines 21 to 26 and substitute the following:

"and the protection, conservation and sustainable exploitation of living marine aquatic species and requirements of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Community.".

I accept the Minister has gone a long way to meet the concerns expressed by the House on the environment and sustainability. However, one of the difficulties with the Common Fisheries Policy is that decisions are made by qualified majority voting. With the expansion of the Union next year to 25 member states, Ireland's influence as a small country will be even more diminished. Does the Minister of State envisage that a common fisheries policy could be decided against our will, or is it possible that we would be out-voted on the need to conserve the environment and the sustainability of our fish stocks and industry? I hope the Minister will be successful in the ongoing discussions on this aspect.

Is there a danger that the use of the word "requirements", set out in the amendment, may be too weak, especially in a situation where the Government may consider it has been maltreated by the European Union? It must be acknowledged that Ireland's fisheries interests were sacrificed in the negotiations on our accession to the EEC. As a result there has been an ongoing battle for 30 years to retrieve some of the losses incurred in this area. Does the Minister of State foresee any dangers if, God between us and all harm, the Minister does not deliver?

I am sure the Minister is doing his best today to protect the rights of the fishermen of the country. As a member state of the European Union, we must always hope that common sense will prevail when decisions on fishing issues are made at EU level.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 not moved.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 9, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

"(4) The licensing authority shall not grant a sea-fishing boat licence in respect of a sea-fishing boat unless an independent survey of the boat conducted by a competent person approved of by the licensing authority has confirmed to the satisfaction of the authority that the boat is in a safe and sea-worthy condition.".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 18 is an alternative to amendment No. 17 and both may be considered together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 9, line 33, after "State." to insert "Where the boat is owned by a body corporate, the beneficial owners should be clearly indicated and be resident within the State.".

I thank the Minister of State for recognising some of our concerns on this issue. Government amendment No. 18 is slightly superior to this one and it addresses my main concern. In view of this, I am happy to withdraw this amendment in favour of amendment No. 18.

I commend Deputy Eamon Ryan for tabling amendment No. 17, which prompted an important amendment from the Minister dealing with the question of corporate ownership. It means we will be able to identify the players in this business.

The Minister of State's amendment is excellent. We know what Deputy Eamon Ryan was trying to achieve on Committee Stage, although we agreed it would not be possible, especially in the context of EU requirements, where it is not possible to refuse a licence in respect of a fishing boat in the Irish fleet because the individual concerned does not live in Ireland. The Minister of State's amendment will require that details regarding boat ownership, regardless of whether the owner lives in Ireland, be provided to the licensing authority and be available to an agent in this country. It is a progressive step. I had not expected the Minister of State to introduce such a positive amendment in terms of addressing Deputy Eamon Ryan's concerns. It is very welcome.

Amendment No. 18 comprises two subsections. The first is designed to ensure that the licensing authorities are keptau fait as to the ownership or control of any body corporate licensed by them.

The second subsection requires each licensed body corporate to have an agent in the State for contact purposes at any time needed by the licensing authority and empowers the licensing authority to refuse to grant the licence or to suspend or revoke a licence, if a licensing authority is not satisfied the requirement is complied with. This is in response to Deputy Eamon Ryan, supported by Deputies Broughan and Coveney, and I thank the officials, in particular Mr. Tobin, for finding a wording that could deal with this matter without interfering with EU regulations. It is a worthwhile amendment and I thank the Deputies on the opposite side of the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 9, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

"(5) Where a sea-fishing boat is owned by a body corporate, the name, address and nationality of the beneficial owner or owners of the shares in, or of the person or persons who otherwise controls or control, the body corporate, shall be given to the licensing authority–

(a) on application for a sea-fishing boat licence in respect of the boat, or

(b) where a sea-fishing boat licence is in force in respect of the boat, if there is any change in such ownership or control.

(6)(a) A body corporate which is applying for a sea-fishing boat licence or holds a sea-fishing boat licence must have an agent in the State and give the licensing authority the name and address of the agent and details of contacting the agent at any time by or on behalf of the licensing authority.

(b) The licensing authority may, as the case may be, refuse to grant or suspend (for such period as he or she sees fit) or revoke a sea-fishing boat licence where he or she considers that a body corporate is not complying with paragraph (a) to the satisfaction of the authority.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 10, to delete lines 5 to 11.

I have a concern which I raised in the form of a question on Committee Stage and that I hope the Minister of State may solve. There is a practical concern about linking specified conditions on the nationality of crew with licensing and expecting that the portion of crew that may be non-Irish would not be allowed to change during the term of the licence. The reality, as we all know, in the fishing industry is that it is at times very difficult to get crew, and at other times, depending on economic conditions it is not so difficult. The nationality of crew changes from time to time, depending on the size of the vessel, where it is going and what it is doing. I have a real concern that the wording is too restrictive on the flexibility that boat owners and skippers need to employ crew from inside and outside the EU, from within or outside Ireland. I hope the Minister of State will be able to allay my concerns so that I can withdraw the amendment but if he cannot I will have to press it because I think it does not make any practical sense.

The amendment is not accepted under the Fisheries Acts. The current requirement is that at least 50% of the crew of licensed sea-fishing boats are EU nationals, whether nationals of Ireland and/or of another EU member state. That requirement, which is in line with EU policy, is designed to foster economic links of EU sea fishing boats with coastal areas in the EU and is subject to review over time. It is clearly in the national interest to retain that requirement. For example, the requirement was reduced from 75% to 50% a few years ago in the face of crewing difficulties being experienced by some Irish sea-fishing boat owners. With the scheduled addition of up to ten EU member states next year continuance of the 50% requirement should pose no difficulty for Irish sea-fishing boats in crewing their boats, rather the opposite. Nevertheless the Minister and I hope to see more Irish people crewing Irish fishing boats and to help sustain Irish coastal communities in the future. BIM has been promoting careers at sea recently in a major way by offering FETAC courses in commercial fishing and intensive one year Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources fishing vessel engineering class courses for new entrants. Within the Department, and with BIM, we are promoting possibilities and opportunities for Irish people to enter and work on these boats but the situation that exists at the moment has to be adhered to and it is working reasonably well.

I agree with what the Minister of State is saying about requiring a 50% EU nationality within the crew. My concern is the wording here where it says: "required for so long as the licence is in force the members of the crew of such boat or any portion of such members specified in the condition shall be of a nationality specified in the condition." Does that mean that if, for example, a boat has 70% Irish crew at the moment and they want to change that to 80% the portion of crew is changing and is not under the same conditions as when they got the licence? I do not want to facilitate boats having more than 50% of their crew from outside the EU. If the portion is changing from 60% to 80% or from 70% back to 50% of Irish or EU nationals, my reading of the wording, and I may be wrong in this, is that one cannot change the portion of such members specified in the condition. Does that mean that the condition is 50% and one cannot change that portion, in other words one cannot change the 50% figure that has been agreed? Is that what the wording is saying? If when one gets the licence 60% of the crew are Irish and 40% are Lithuanian and in six months time one wants to change that to 50/50 proportions is that allowed under this wording? If it is, my concerns are baseless. I just want to get the Minister of State's assurance.

One can re-apply to the Department to make that change.

That is a ridiculous situation. Is the Minister of State saying that if somebody needs to change crewing over a weekend, for example, before the boat goes out, he or she has to re-apply to the Department to change the make up of the crew? In a vessel that employs 40 or 50 people, as many of the vessels would, particularly coming out of a port such as Killybegs or Castletownbere, is the Minister of State saying that the captain cannot change the portion over the weekend depending on who is available? It seems to be far too rigid a system. If one is changing from 50% Irish to 55% over a weekend does one have to apply to the Department to get permission to do that?

One has to have a minimum of 50%.

I accept that, but 50% is not an issue because if one has 60% Irish people on the boat and wants to change that to 70% one is changing the portion of such members specified in the condition.

There is no problem. One has to have at least 50% but if one goes higher there is no problem.

So the reference to "the condition" is the 50% condition?

That is in the previous legislation.

It is a minimum of 50% at the moment.

So if one goes below the minimum of 50% one has to get permission from the Department and that is the only time when one needs permission from the Department?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 20 in the name of the Minister arises from committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related. Is it agreed to take 20, 21 and 22 together? Agreed.

I move amendment No 20:

In page 10, line 22, after "revoke" to insert "or suspend (for such period as he or she sees fit)".

The purpose of this amendment is to provide for the suspension of a sea-fishing boat licence in the event of illegal fishing coming to the attention of the licensing authority. The current law provides only for the revocation of the licence in such circumstances, which may be too drastic a measure. The timing and duration of the suspension would be a matter for the licensing authority to decide, subject to appeal to the court under the new subsection being inserted into Section 4 of the Bill by amendment No. 21.

Amendment No. 21 is consequential on amendments Nos. 16 and 20 and comprises three paragraphs. Paragraph (a) requires the holder of any licence suspended or revoked by the licensing authority to return the licence to the licensing authority as soon as practicable. Paragraph (b) makes it a summary offence punishable by a fine of not more than €500 for the licence-holder who fails to return to the licensing authority a sea-fishing boat licence suspended or revoked by the licensing authority. Paragraph (c) empowers the District Court to vary or end the period of suspension if appeal is made to it.

These seem reasonable amendments to give the registrar general sufficient powers. On amendment No. 20, which gives the officeholder the power to suspend a licence for such period as he or she sees fit, is there any guidance in the original legislation to which we have referred, such as the Fisheries Act 1959 or the Fisheries Act 1967? I hope that there will be a consolidation Act in order that we have a basic reference for the industry. Is there any precedence in any other part of the current controls? For example, could it be for ten or 20 years? It seems very broad. Will it be a basis for continual appeals in the area?

There are currently no suspension powers, so we are dealing with something new.

Does the Minister not agree it is too open-ended?

The court is there to make the decision.

There would inevitably be an appeal.

I welcome amendment No. 20. The licensing authority should have the power to suspend as well as revoke a licence for such time as it sees fit. Essentially, it gives it an extra option. Otherwise the licensing authority may feel that it needs to take some action against a boat-owner but that revoking a licence is probably over the top. For economic reasons it may not want to damage the industry but may need to impose a sanction or punishment of some sort. I am glad the Minister has proposed this amendment, which gives the licensing authority another weapon in its armoury, and that is welcome.

On subsection 6(b), dealt with in amendment No. 21, a fine not exceeding €500 is a fairly derisory amount. If someone is required to hand over his or her licence because it is suspended or revoked and refuses to do so, we should consider a fine far in excess of €500. I know that there is also the option of summary conviction, but it is not appropriate to put people in prison for such an offence – fining them is far more appropriate. People should not be in prison unless they are a danger to society as it is costly to keep them there. The natural alternative is to fine them but €500 is no deterrent whatsoever.

It is generally felt that if someone loses his or her licence, it should be for a serious offence. It was felt that the €500 would be an encouragement for the individual to return the licence, but he or she will already more than likely have been hit with a substantial fine.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 10, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(6)(a) The holder of a sea-fishing boat licence suspended or revoked under subsection (6)(b) or (5)(c) of this section shall, as soon as practicable, surrender the licence to the licensing authority.

(b) A person who fails to comply with paragraph (a) of this subsection is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €500.

(c) Where a licence has been suspended under subsection (6)(b) or (5)(c) the District Court, may upon application to it, direct the licensing authority to re-issue and return the licence or it may reduce the period of suspension.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 10, between lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:

"(7)(a) Where the holder of a sea-fishing boat licence–

(i) ceases to be the owner of the sea-fishing boat to which the licence relates, or

(ii) is a body corporate which ceases to be under the control of or beneficially owned by or under the control of and beneficially owned by a person or persons who, or, as may be appropriate, each of whom, is either a qualified individual or a qualified body,

the licence ceases to have effect and the holder of the licence shall, as soon as practicable, deliver the licence to the licensing authority.

(b) A person who fails to comply with paragraph (a) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €500.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 23 arises out of committee proceedings.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 11, to delete line 13 and substitute the following:

"2003;

‘Member State' means a Member State of the European Communities.'.".

This is a technical amendment to define member states in section 4 of the Bill to assist in readily interpreting that section without having to seek clarification elsewhere.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 24 arises out of committee proceedings and was already discussed with amendment No. 11.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 12, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

"(4) A policy directive given undersubsection 3(b) may require certain prohibitions or conditions to be imposed in relation to sea-fishing for the purposes of protecting, conserving or allowing the sustainable exploitation of living marine aquatic species.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 24a arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 27, 33, 34, 34a, 35, 36, 37a, 38, 39 and 40 are related. Amendment No. 32 is an alternative to 24a. Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 are alternatives to 37a. Amendments Nos. 24a, 27, 32, 33, 34, 34a, 35, 36, 37a, 38, 39 and 40 will be taken together by agreement.

On a point of order, this is incredibly confusing, something which is now par for the course for this Bill. I received two lists yesterday, and I am not sure exactly what we are referring to. I do not know how other Members feel.

I propose to accept Deputy Broughan's amendments in any case.

Perhaps we might skip through the amendments one after the other.

Acting Chairman

Is it agreed that they be discussed together?

We should not take them together by agreement for the purposes of debate. That would mean that we would have to discuss them all now in the debate and then agree to them or otherwise one after the other. We should simply take them one by one. I expect that Deputy Broughan is in any case likely to skip through them quite quickly.

Acting Chairman

We can proceed in that way.

I move amendment No. 24aIn page 13, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

"(2) The applicant for or holder of a licence to which an appeal relates shall be a party to the appeal.".

The purpose of amendment No. 24a, proposed in response to Deputy Broughan's amendment No. 32, which is accepted in principle, is to make it clear that the applicant or holder of a licence which is the subject of appeal is a party to that appeal, even though he or she may not be the appellant. The amendment is proposed to section 7 of the Bill, which is the principal appeals provision of the Bill, rather than to section 10 as was suggested by the Deputy.

We are effectively discussing amendment No. 32 in my name, one of the original Report Stage amendments. I welcome the fact that the Minister has recognised that there is a lacuna here and has moved to fill it. I thank him for that. Should I now withdraw amendment No. 32?

Acting Chairman

We will deal with that when we put all the amendments at the end.

Have we agreed that we will not take the amendments collectively but will, instead, take them one by one?

They are all technical amendments.

It will probably be easier to skip through them that way.

There are one or two substantive amendments at the end which we wish to reach.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 13, line 4, to delete "registered".

This is a technical point regarding the original amendment and goes back to when this was a much smaller Bill. I am not sure what the Minister of State is doing but the Labour Party view is that the phrase "registered post" in section 7(2)(a) is unnecessarily restrictive. With this type of appeals system it has been the practice that unless the postage has to be proved, we can use ordinary post.

This amendment is opposed. The deletion of "registered" from page 13, line 4 of the Bill in relation to post is not acceptable. Registration is a standard requirement to confirm both the posting and receipt of important mail.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 13, line 7, after "Officer" to insert "and, if made by a person other than the applicant for a licence, shall also be served on the applicant by post or by leaving it at the office of the applicant during normal office hours with a person who is apparently employed by or on behalf of the applicant".

The Chair probably finds this strange but this is possibly the fifth set of amendments and some are amendments to amendments. The hard-pressed officials accompanying the Minister should come in with a Bill they are going to accept. We are making law and it is important we do not make a mistake.

This amendment refers to the right of appeal and relates to the matter accepted by the Minister of State – the Bill did not expressly state that an appeal by a third party must be served on the applicant, though that seems to be clearly the Minister's intention. On a previous Stage the Minister said an applicant will be kept informed, but we feel the applicant should know what the position is from the start. That is what we are trying to achieve with this amendment. Is the Minister of State moving on this?

The due processing of appeals is a matter for the appeals officer. The appeals officer is obliged by section 10 to give a copy of the notice of appeal to each party to the appeal and to specify to each party the time limits for making written submissions or observations on the appeal in question to the appeals officer. Section 10 more or less covers this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 13, line 10, after "for" to insert "or holder of".

Has the Minister of State covered this?

I have no objection to the amendment.

Did the Minister of State accept this on the last Stage? This is very confusing.

We decided to take them one by one.

It is a simple drafting matter.

I am giving good news to the Deputy.

I thank the Minister of State. It is a simple drafting amendment because there could be an appeal by a holder whose licence is revoked or amended. We felt there should be a reference to the holder.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 are to be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 14, line 29, after "oath" to insert "or affirmation".

Did the Minister of State accept this?

I am not accepting amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

I remembered another Bill in which we moved similar amendments. This amendment relates to the appeals officer conducting oral hearings. He or she may take evidence on oath or affirmation and we sought this amendment because the Oaths Act 1888 may only apply to legal proceedings as opposed to administrative proceedings. We felt it was better to put the matter beyond doubt and on a previous Stage the Minister said that under the Interpretation Act 1937 "oaths" includes affirmation. However, the Interpretation Act does not say that but that oaths include affirmation for any person entitled by law to affirm rather than swear. Where is the entitlement in this regard? The Oaths Act provides an entitlement to affirm for certain persons for proceedings, which may mean legal proceedings, but to cater for this kind of administrative proceeding we should also refer to affirmations. That is our legal advice.

The Deputy has more or less given my answer. By virtue of the Interpretation Act 1937, the term "oath" in statute includes the term "affirmation"– I draw the Deputy's attention to paragraph 20 of the Schedule to that Act.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 29 not moved.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 14, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

"(c) A solicitor or counsel appearing before an Appeals Officer at an oral hearing shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were acting in proceedings before the High Court.”.

I tabled this amendment because the Bill as it stands deals with the immunity of witnesses but not of legal representatives. The Minister of State already mentioned immunity for legal advisers but when they become advocates they represent their clients and are liable to be sued. The Minister of State says they still have privilege, but under what statute or rule of law does that arise? Is the Minister of State accepting this amendment?

This amendment is not appropriate. Counsel and solicitors are entitled to certain privileges by virtue of their role as legal advisers. The statutory appeals officer provided for in the Bill is in essence equivalent to a tribunal established by law to which the same privileges attach as to a court for the purposes of counsel or solicitors appearing.

The Minister of State is not changing his mind.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 31 arises out of committee proceedings.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 15, line 44, after "practicable" to insert "but within 21 days".

This amendment is an attempt to require an appeals officer to supply a copy of the details of an appeal to each party involved and to include a timetable within 21 days. We seem very fond of the phrase "as soon as practicable" but that does not mean much. I do not feel that strongly about this but if one looks at the planning process one sees that timetables have been put in place very successfully to ensure we get results within a certain period. I do not see why we cannot use that rationale in other areas and a three week time limit is reasonable, though I hope "as soon as practicable" would mean a lot less than three weeks. I have made this point twice already so I will not labour it.

I commend Deputy Coveney's amendment and support it.

This amendment is not appropriate. It is a matter for the appeals officer to manage the appeals in an effective and efficient way, subject to the Bill when enacted. Thus it would be eminently sensible, as provided for in section 10(2), for the one month period for the making of submissions or observations on appeals in any particular case to apply to all such appeals received in the appeal period rather than from the date of receipt of each separate appeal received during that period.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman

As already stated, amendments Nos. 24a, 27, 32 to 34, inclusive, 34a, 35, 36, 37a and 38 to 40, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 32 has already been discussed with amendment No. 24a so it cannot be moved.

Does the Minister's amendment No. 24a mean he is, effectively, accepting the point of these amendments?

Yes. There are no objections to the seven amendments which Deputy Broughan has tabled.

I thank the Minister of State again for listening on Committee Stage.

Amendment No. 32 not moved.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 17, line 12, after "for" to insert "or revocation or amendment of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 17, line 13, after "for" to insert "or holder of".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34a:

In page 17, line 13, to delete "the licence, the applicant" and substitute "or holder of the licence, the applicant or holder".

This amendment is proposed for completeness in support of Deputy Broughan's amendments Nos. 33 to 36, inclusive, and 38 to 40, inclusive, which are acceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 17, line 14, after "applicant" to insert "or holder".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 17, line 15, after "applicant" to insert "or holder".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 17, line 41, after "section” to insert “9 or”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37a:

In page 17, lines 45 and 46, to delete all words from and including "a" in line 45 down to and including "applicant" where it secondly occurs in line 46 and substitute the following:

"or revocation or amendment of a licence and the appellant is not the applicant for or holder of the licence, the applicant or holder, unless the applicant or holder".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 18, line 1, after "applicant" to insert "or holder".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 41 in the name of Deputy Broughan arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 are related to amendment No. 41 so amendments Nos. 41, 44 and 45 may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 18, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"16.–Where an appellant who is not the applicant for or holder of a licence to which the appeal relates makes comment in writing pursuant tosection 13 or 15, an Appeals Officer shall, as soon as practicable, give a copy of any such comment to the applicant or holder and the applicant or holder may make a final comment in writing thereon to the Appeals Officer not later than 14 days after having been given the copy.”.

This amendment relates to the final right of appeal by the applicant or holder. Based on our experience of the planning area, I believe there is a loophole in the Bill where a person whose livelihood is at stake is the applicant for or a holder of a licence. That person must have a right of reply which must be final. The right of that person must take precedence over the right of the third party objector. As it stands, this is not the case. Where the third party appellant makes submissions under sections 13 or 15, the applicant holder is left out of what the Minister called the "documentary loop". He or she has no right of reply, save on an exceptional discretionary basis. If that right of reply is not exercised, the third party has a further right of reply. Clearly, the cycle of reply and rejoinder cannot continue forever. We are of the view that the applicant holder of a licence must be the person who has the last word. This is, to some extent, reflected in sections 13 and 15, as the Bill stands. However, the Minister has left a loophole which the Labour Party wants to close. A right of reply is a matter of right and not of discretion.

This amendment is not considered to be necessary having regard, in particular, to the wide powers of the appeals officer in section 12. The word "final" in the suggested amendment would unnecessarily limit the application of section 12. Under section 12 the appeals officer, where he or she considers it to be in the interests of justice to do so, can request any party or other person who made or was entitled to make a submission or observation to the appeals officer on an appeal to make a submission or observation on any matter which has arisen in the appeal in question. Thus section 12 is not confined to matters arising under previous sections of the Bill on the appeal in question but extends also to matters arising under sections 13 to 15 on that appeal. The appeals officer must have the final say in bringing the appeals process to a close as section 16 envisages, subject to the possibility of a judicial review as provided for in section 19.

We sought to deal with a situation where new matters, or matters thought to be new, are brought to the appeals process. The applicant or the holder would be placed in a difficult situation by perhaps omitting something from the original appeal and not having a final opportunity. This might be a slightly cumbersome process but we, as public representatives, have some experience of appeals processes. It is important that the person whose livelihood is most at stake should have a fundamental last word in this regard.

The appeals officer, who is independent, must be the final judge and I am sure he or she would deal fairly with the situation about which the Deputy spoke.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 18, line 48, to delete "section 8(1)” and substitute “section 7(1)”.

This amendment is required to correct a wrong reference to the main appeals provision of the Bill, namely, section 7(1). The Bill, as it stands, erroneously refers to section 8(1).

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 43 arises out of committee proceedings.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 19, line 25, to delete "absolute".

This amendment is consequential on the deletion of the word "absolute" before "discretion" in sections 8(1) and 16(1) on Committee Stage. It was raised by Deputy Broughan.

I thank the Minister of State for accepting that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 20, line 3, after "information" to insert "or comment".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 20, line 7, after "information" to insert "or comment".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 46 arises from committee proceedings and may be discussed with amendment No. 47, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 20, line 35, after "Court" to insert "or Supreme Court".

The Supreme Court should be included in respect of the application for judicial review. It should be entitled to decide whether it wants to hear an appeal. On Committee Stage, the Minister may have been incorrect when he said he was not shutting off the possibility of appeal and that refusal of leave to appeal could be appealed to the Supreme Court. This is because the Supreme Court has held that a refusal of leave to appeal by the High Court is not appealable to the Supreme Court. Consider this in light of the case of Baby Ov. the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the 2002 Irish law reports.

The Minister said the amendments would involve forum shopping but this is also incorrect because one would have to make an application to the High Court first in any event. This is expressly provided for in the rules of the superior courts. I am advised that the Minister should accept this amendment if the appeals system is to be as complete and transparent as possible.

Our legal advisers advise us differently. This amendment is not acceptable as it would open up the possibility of forum shopping. The standard arrangement is for the High Court to decide whether to grant leave of appeal to the Supreme Court. A refusal by the High Court to grant leave would be appealable to the Supreme Court.

My legal advice is different. We have some excellent legal advisers who have also served in Government and who have advised Attorneys General.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 47 not moved.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 23, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

"(3) The conservation regulations may also include measures which the Minister may introduce to reduce the bycatch of small cetaceans as a result of the fishing for straddling fish stocks or highly migratory fish stocks. These measures could include:

(a) the allocation of on board independent observers of bycatch on sea fishing vessels in order to–

(i) assess levels of cetacean bycatch in Irish fisheries on a statistically meaningful level,

(ii) enable compliance monitoring of regulations to reduce bycatch and also the effectiveness of mitigation measures as part of a regular monitoring scheme to assess levels of cetacean bycatch in Irish Fisheries on a statistically valid level;

(b) the mandatory use of acoustic deterrents (‘pingers') on nets for specified fishing methods;

(c) the mandatory use of dolphin exclusion separator grids with certain trawling nets;

(d) the mandatory use of designated technologies or materials which would improve the sonar reflective qualities of nets;

(e) the introduction of regulations which set dolphin bycatch limits and mortality caps for certain specific fisheries with high bycatch rates based on scientific advice and agreed observer protocols with set reductions in fishing effort being introduced once agreed bycatch limits had been reached;

(f) as required by the European Union Habitats Directive, the Minister may designate suitable areas as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) for the harbour porpoise and the bottlenose dolphin. The Minister may introduce fishing restrictions including–

(i) bycatch reduction measures specified above,

(ii) measures to reduce fishing impacts on important prey species for harbour porpoise and/or bottlenose dolphin within or bordering the SAC,

(iii) measures to reduce disturbance impacts by fisheries,

(iv) measures to reduce impact of fisheries on habitats within SACs to reduce bycatch,

and

(g) the Minister may establish an accreditation scheme for those fisheries or fishing vessels adopting or providing assistance in researching cetacean-friendly methods of fishing.”.

This is the appropriate legislation in which to include the measures I propose by way of this amendment. The Schedule lists the highly migratory fish stocks that I am concerned are suffering at present or which are being lost unnecessarily because of our fishing activities. The main purpose of the amendment is to reduce the level of bycatch of small dolphins and cetaceans and to put in place measures whereby we can monitor this level statistically and with accuracy.

The first part of the amendment is probably the most important and seeks the allocation of independent, on-board observers who can monitor bycatch levels so we can be statistically certain of them. There are many different estimates. In certain cases, up to 30 dolphins have been caught in one trawl involving Irish boats. We know that many of the gill netting methods we use are trap ping a large number of dolphins in Irish waters. The belief among the environmental community, based on the statistics we have to hand, is that bycatch is reducing the population of dolphins and small cetaceans.

People will be aware of the high profile of certain dolphins, such as Fungie or the Fanore dolphin, but they may not be aware that thousands of dolphins are being killed every year in Irish waters due to fishing activities. This is also the case in other waters, such as those along the French and other coasts, where we are engaged in pair trawling and other trawling methods, which have a serious effect in terms of the level of bycatch. This is a serious issue. We have declared our own whale and dolphin sanctuaries, yet we are allowing the mammal species which share our waters to be killed.

The main content of the amendment is similar to that in recent reports on how the UK hopes to develop its policy. We also have had some help from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and other international organisations. We are suggesting what will probably come into effect throughout Europe in the coming years. We know the European Commission is keen to tackle this issue. It has stated that we should now be introducing independent monitoring systems on boats. Therefore, I am not proposing something which is radically ahead of European policy or which is radically different to what other countries are considering. If we do not introduce the proposed measures in this Bill, we will have to wait some years for the slow legislative process to put them into place.

Now is the time to introduce the changes. The conservation section is looking at the same sort of measures as I am speaking about. The Minister of State may state the same effect can be achieved by regulation but it is important that we be seen to take the issue seriously and put it into legislation when we have the chance to do so, and not just do so when we are compelled by some order from the European Union.

Some technologies are more effective than others. The issues of whether pingers or certain grids are successful is debatable and requires scientific analysis. We are not saying that they have to be introduced immediately but they might be of some benefit. I promote the use of certain reflective nets, which will be effective in reducing bycatch. The use of such technologies costs money and, in certain cases, reduces the level of fishing and leads to more expensive equipment. In the longer term, it leads to a reduction in bycatch and allows us sell our fishing products abroad and say we are doing the right thing and achieving our objectives in terms of sustainability. The customers will recognise that we will get a premium price. It will be better for the Irish fishing industry in the longer term even if there are costs and impositions involved in the shorter term.

I hope the Minister of State will take this issue seriously and accept the amendment in the spirit that it has been tabled. This Bill is the appropri ate legislation in which the Government should state that it treats the issue of bycatch of small dolphins seriously. The public wants it to be taken seriously, as does the European Commission.

We had a wide-ranging discussion on this issue on Committee Stage. The detail of effective controls to be imposed by regulations under section 25 of the Bill on highly valuable and vulnerable fish stocks, including certain cetaceans, has yet to be decided at EU level and beyond but could include some or all of the measures mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e) of the Deputy's amendment if the considered expert view is that they could be effectively put in place. Other non-regulatory measures may have better prospects of success than some of the technical regulatory ones identified so far in the context of required concerted international actions. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to specify particular technical regulatory measures and not others in section 25 of the Bill, which is purposely wide enough to give effect to the concerted international measures to be agreed in due course.

Paragraph (f) is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and paragraph (g) is essentially a matter for the fishing industry to pursue as a market initiative. I understand where Deputy Eamon Ryan is coming from and he would have support from our Department in terms of the overall picture. The protection of small cetaceans against over-fishing is an international problem requiring effective international actions, both within the EU and beyond. The recent UK consultation document emphasises that the issue transcends EU boundaries. Considerable attention is being paid at national and international levels to measures to address the problem. The banning of drift netting for tuna represents a measure of progress but much remains to be done, and Ireland will continue to participate actively in the relevant international fora for addressing these issues.

If conclusions could be reached at EU and international level, what the Deputy is talking about could be introduced through ministerial regulations and would not necessarily mean reintroducing a Bill.

It seems the Minister of State is saying this must be dealt with on an international basis but that it is likely that the type of regulations proposed in our amendment are ones that probably will come in the near future through international community efforts. Surely it is no harm for the Government to make a stand and take a lead. We did that when we set out Irish waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary. We must back that up with some real detailed measures, particularly the allowing of observer status on boats to measure bycatch. We are good at lip service and at doing the easy thing but not so good at doing the harder thing.

I take the point that ministerial regulations might allow some of the measures, but this amendment would allow us to make a statement as to how we want to go and that is why I am pressing it. Could we set up, under the current system or by ministerial regulations, onboard observers to measure bycatch on a statistically accurate level?

We discussed in committee a couple of weeks ago the Council regulation for the conservation of fisheries resources through technical measures for the protection of juveniles of marine organisms, COM/2002/672 of 4 December 2002. The committee is just trying to get used to the idea of what invigilating the regulations involve. It is supposed to invigilate the regulation and hand the committee's deliberations to the Minister when he goes to Brussels.

I am sympathetic towards my Green Party colleague in regard to this matter. The Government has an awful record in this regard. One of the worst decisions made in this area regards the assurance the Taoiseach gave about three or four years ago to the people I represent in Fingal, north County Dublin, that he was going to save the seal sanctuary. Despite endless questions from Deputy Ryan, former Deputy Owen, myself and others, he blithely disregarded the commitment.

Given that as island nations ourselves and the British are unique in the EU general marine ecosystem, although we will be joined by Malta, we should take a lead. In this regard Deputy Ryan's well thought out and well crafted amendment deserves support. Obviously, we must strike a balance between protecting the livelihoods of the workers in the industry and our fragile and valuable marine ecosystem. The amendment is extremely valuable in regard to the small cetaceans. Can the Minister of State give us some assurance that we are going to move and will have immediate European legislation in this regard?

It seems that many areas of the marine have been forgotten once again. Initially this Government forgot to have a Department of the Marine. Unfortunately, this signifies the way the Fianna Fáil Party down through the years has treated marine issues. The reality is that there has been 30 years of neglect. Hopefully this side of the House will get the chance to remedy that some day. This valuable amendment is one small step forward and should be accepted.

This detailed amendment is clearly well thought out. However, I have some concerns. Is it appropriate to highlight dolphins as opposed to another species or type of fish or mammal requiring conservation? I have limited experience regarding marine legislation but I am not sure that it is normal to specify what the Minister may do. The wording in the legislation already says quite clearly that conservation regulations may include such incidental, supplemen tary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary for the purpose of regulations. Having said that, I accept Deputy Ryan's point that this is an opportunity for us to make a statement in legislation. Perhaps we should not pass up that opportunity.

Bycatches are a huge issue and a case the industry itself would argue. The concept of putting independent observers on vessels is something we should examine seriously. Did the Minister respond as to whether that is possible under directive or regulation without further legislation? He should have it within his power to do so.

The Department will give that request consideration to see if it is possible.

It is important that the Minister would have that power and we should ensure this legislation gives it. In regard to dolphins, I would like some stronger mention of the need for conservation of other species. Perhaps we should say "species such as dolphins". I am not sure what power we have now to include amendments or to agree them from the floor. On balance, I support Deputy Ryan's amendment. He does make a qualification within the amendment by saying "These measures could include". It is really a statement of intent that we are taking the issue seriously in regard to dolphin bycatches. He is not committing the Minister to introducing these measures but just giving the Minister an option. On that basis I am happy to support his amendment.

We will certainly give Deputy Ryan's request some consideration. I understand where he is coming from and the support of the other Deputies. The decisions in this particular area must be made in the wider fora at EU and international level. Once this Bill is passed it will give us a stronger voice to put Deputies' views at EU level on making decisions quicker in this regard. I assure Deputies that the Department will be fully involved in the debate and will reflect the views of Deputy Ryan and his colleagues. At the moment what we have is as far as we can go today.

The Minister of State said that section 25(3)(f) is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Section 24 of the Bill allows for conservation areas along similar lines to what I propose. Why I feel 25(3)(f) is necessary is that it takes the statistical information we would glean from having onboard observations and uses it to decide whether areas should be declared special areas or whether fishing should be restricted in certain areas. My point is that section 25(3)(f) is necessary and should not relate back to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is a fishing related issue. Can the Minister of State clarify whether we have the ability, under regulations or legislation, to operate an onboard observation system for bycatch?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

At this stage, I must put the question.

Will the Minister answer the two questions?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

No, the Deputy has replied on this amendment.

It is an important question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

There is no provision for the Minister to make another contribution.

May he answer purely on whether we have the ability to have onboard observers?

Perhaps the Minister could just nod his head.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

He may answer the question but he may not make a contribution.

I will consider the issue of licence conditions and come back to the Deputy.

Do we have the power at present to put in an onboard observer?

If that was the case, there would not be a particular difficulty with this amendment in terms of the onboard observer system.

We will give the matter consideration where appropriate.

Amendment put.

Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Gilmore, Eamon.Harkin, Marian.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.

Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGrath, Finian.McManus, Liz.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Sargent, Trevor.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Wall, Jack.

Níl

Ahern, Michael.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Tony.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.

Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Conor.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M.J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Boyle and Durkan; Níl, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 49 in the name of Deputy Coveney is out of order as it does not arise out of committee proceedings. We move on to amendment No. 50 in the name of Deputy Broughan.

On a point of order, may I ask why my amendment is out of order?

It does not arise out of committee proceedings.

It came straight from committee. It is the exact same amendment I raised on Committee Stage, therefore, I cannot see why it is out of order. Amendments Nos. 49 and 51 came straight from committee in the same manner.

The amendment is unacceptable because the €3,000 maximum fine for the summary offences in question reflects the current extent of jurisdiction of the District Court.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We cannot discuss the amendment since it is out of order.

On a point of order, I am entitled to know why my amendment is being ruled out of order. This amendment being ruled out of order is a different scenario from its being unacceptable to the Minister of State. What is the basis for the decision to rule it out of order?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The reason is that it does not arise out of committee proceedings.

It actually does, but I am anxious that we finish this Bill quickly. I made the point on Committee Stage that I felt the fines were not high enough.

Amendment No. 49 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Amendment No. 50 is an alternative to amendment No. 54, therefore both may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 25, after line 50, to insert the following:

"(9) The Appeals Officer shall be entitled to an indemnity in respect of proceedings taken against him or her in respect of acts done in good faith in his or her official capacity.".

This amendment makes the point that if we have an appeals officer, we must ensure his or her protection by giving him or her legal indemnity. I am anxious to allow the Minister for State to finish this Bill.

The principle of the amendment is acceptable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 51 not moved.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 27, line 10, to delete "court" and substitute "District Court".

The purpose of this technical amendment is to make it clear that the District Court is the forum in which to appeal against the suspension of a sea-fishing boat licence. A similar provision is made in section 4 by amendment No. 21, which deals with suspension of sea-fishing boat licences under the section.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 27, line 12, to delete "suspended".

This is purely a drafting amendment to delete an unnecessary word in line 12, page 27.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53a:

In page 30, lines 35 and 36, to delete "the Minister, the licensing authority (if not the Minister)" and substitute "the licensing authority".

This amendment is consequential to the insertion of section 3 of the Bill on Committee Stage to transfer fully sea-fishing boat licensing functions from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the licensing authority as defined in section 3.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 31, after line 50, to insert the following:

"Indemnity9. An Appeals Officer shall be entitled to an indemnity in respect of proceedings taken against him or her in respect of acts done in good faith in his or her official capacity.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration and passed.