Confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Sargent on Tuesday, 30 March 2004:
That Dáil Éireann resolves that it no longer has confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, in view of the incompetent manner in which he has failed to introduce and implement policies that properly fulfil the functions of his Department, including measures to:
—encourage public support of the electoral process;
—construct and allocate social housing to the 50,000 applicants on local authority waiting lists;
—restrict the creation of unnecessary waste, resource the collection, reuse and recycling of waste materials, and the effective and safe disposal of unrecoverable waste, through funding methods that have the widest public acceptance;
— implement a national spatial strategy that properly distributes services, facilities and opportunities throughout the country;
—comply with international obligations that this country limit its increase of greenhouse gas emissions;
—responsibly protect national heritage; and
—enhance the quality of and access to local democracy.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"affirms its confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and commends the actions taken by the Minister to:
—improve, and promote confidence in, the electoral process;
—support sustainable development including the protection of the high quality of our natural and built environment;
—accelerate the provision of social and economic infrastructure and protective services (including record levels of housing output);
—implement policies to advance balanced regional development and social inclusion;
—promote and support effective local government;
and, in particular, welcomes and endorses:
—in relation to the electoral process:
—improvement of the electoral system by the introduction, on a national basis, of more accurate and more secure electoral procedures;
—the establishment of the independent Commission on Electronic Voting to report on the secrecy and accuracy of the proposed voting system;
—in relation to housing:
—the 9th successive year of record housing supply involving the addition of 68,819 new houses in Ireland;
—establishment of a strong social and affordable housing programme involving investment of some €1.8 billion in 2004;
—in relation to waste management:
—the major progress achieved in the modernisation of waste management, including major increases in recycling of wastes and significant advances in the development of our waste infrastructure and services;
—in relation to the national spatial strategy:
—the comprehensive range of measures which have been put in place at national, regional and local levels to support the continuing implementation of the National Spatial Strategy 2002 — 2020, in achieving its objectives related to more balanced regional development;
—in relation to greenhouse gas emissions:
—the active implementation of the Government's national climate change strategy, including the recent approval by Government of a national allocations plan for emissions trading;
—in relation to the protection of national heritage:
—the reorganisation of heritage functions at central government level to ensure optimum alignment and integration with his environmental protection responsibilities; and
—in relation to the enhancement of, and the quality of access to, local democracy:
—the continuing reforms of the local government system, including the greater focusing of the role of the local representative and the introduction of service indicators to ensure the delivery of value to local communities."
—(Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government).

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid áma a roinnt leis na Teachtaí Fleming, Glennon, Curran, Andrews agus Peter Power.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Tá áthas orm labhairt ar an rún ós comhair an Tí anocht. Mar cheall ar cheall ama, ní bheidh deis agam ach díriú ar roinnt de na hábhair atá sa rún atá curtha síos ag an gComhaontas Glas.

I want to concentrate on the issue of the national spatial strategy and balanced regional development. It appears that either the Green Party has not read the spatial strategy or its members simply do not understand it.

The Government is making it up as it goes along.

The purpose of the spatial strategy is to create balanced regional development through hubs and gateways. These are not to become "mini Dublins" in the regions but to help to stimulate growth throughout. Under the decentralisation programme, not all decentralised jobs will be based in the hubs and gateways——

No, just in the spokes.

——but rather spread throughout the regions. As the purpose of the strategy, that is a coherent and logical process. I cannot understand how the Green Party concludes that, by providing 10,000 jobs over three years to all the regions, the Government has failed in its duty to implement a national spatial strategy, properly distributing services, facilities and opportunities throughout the country.

Recently, I have noticed a new syndrome that has infected the Opposition. It calls for spatial development, decentralisation and rural development. However, as soon as these issues are addressed, the process is delayed by calls for more consultation and advice to the Government not to do anything. The Green Party is full of the rhetoric of small being beautiful. However, try to protect the small parishes of Ireland and the population therein and it immediately complains about the building of houses.

That is not true.

The Government acts in a coherent fashion. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's national spatial strategy and the rural housing guidelines are the two major policy initiatives for balanced spatial development to be adopted. As Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, I welcome both these initiatives. If the Green Party were really concerned about people——

Of course it is not.

There are times its members give me the impression of being more concerned about flora and fauna.

And trees. We are not from some small rural parishes. The Minister should stop talking nonsense. We do not care about his impressions. We would prefer if he spoke the truth.

That is what I am doing. Bíonn an fhírinne searbh ach is an fhírinne í. If the Green Party was concerned about people, it would focus its attentions on the effects of rapid agglomeration. In our major cities, particularly Dublin, this is the root cause of social deprivation in some areas. One of the most frightening manifestations of this is the combination of high drug and crime rates and low education expectations for our youth. It is time the Opposition spelt out exactly its vision for Ireland. Will it confirm that it is one where the countryside would be denuded of most of its population with rapidly growing towns full of social exclusion?

That is what Fianna Fáil has done.

Fianna Fáil wants balanced growth of our towns and cities, matched by growth in the countryside. Development should be spatially balanced because there are no advantages, both financially and socially, in concentrating all growth within a small number of areas. We are working towards the goal of a balanced spatial spread and regional development in real and tangible ways. We come up with fresh, new and innovative ways of dealing with these issues in an Irish context. The people are not being fooled. Green Party policy will lead to more social deprivation in our towns and cities——

I suppose that is our fault.

——and a countryside of old people separated from their families because Green Party members believe that the motor car is a rural phenomenon to be eradicated along with the rural population.

We propose nothing of the sort.

Tá áthas orm go raibh deis agam labhairt ar an ábhar seo agus is trua é nach bhfuil níos mó ama agam. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil go leor Teachtaí ar thaobh an Rialtais ag iarraidh labhairt ar an rún seo agus taispeáint an tseafóid atá ar bun ag an gComhaontas Glas nach bhfuil de pholasaí acu ach cosaint a thabhairt do bhláthanna agus ainmhithe seachas daoine.

The Minister cannot have it both ways.

Members should cease interrupting.

I thank my colleagues for sharing their time with me. Before dealing with the record of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government——

That will not take too long.

——I wish to address an inherent and fundamental flaw in the Green Party's motion. The wording of the motion is predicated on the accusation of incompetence on the Minister's part and that he has failed to implement policies. If both these accusations could be demonstrated to be true, then it would clearly be a matter for a motion of no confidence.

He is incompetent in implementing policies.

However, the Green Party has singularly failed to demonstrate how the Minister is incompetent. On the contrary, I suspect that it is complaining about his competence in bringing in the policies which he believes are right for the country. As a Minister, he has shown the political skill to bring these to fruition. It is a skill that is lacking on the Opposition benches. The Green Party may vehemently disagree with his policies. However, it should not accuse him of incompetence in introducing them. He has done so in record time and proved himself a radical and dynamic Minister.

The motion accuses the Minister for failure to introduce and implement policies. Accuse him of anything, but not of failure to implement policies. If there is anything that he has done since taking office, it is that.

They are all negative policies.

Those on the Opposition benches failed to demonstrate this last night. The Green Party only demonstrated its unwillingness to listen to any other viewpoint that might differ from its.

That is the Minister's problem.

We were listening with great interest.

That was the singular thing that the Green Party demonstrated last night. Its motion has failed to get off the ground for the two reasons I have mentioned. It hardly merits a substantive debate.

I would like to address an issue that was discussed at length last night. The Green Party alleged that the Minister's dynamic actions, contrary to what the motion says, have failed to encourage public support for the electoral process. An important distinction must be made between the Minister's reforms, with which one may not agree, and public confidence in the system. I will explain why it is regrettable that the Green Party introduced that element into its motion last night. Vastly differing views were expressed during last night's debate which was won by the Government side. When one talks about an issue of confidence, it should be understood that the Green Party is reintroducing this issue after the House has decided on it for a single simple reason. The Green Party wishes to undermine the electorate's confidence in this system.

The Government introduced the Bill.

I find it hard to take lectures from the Labour Party because its leader said in this House last month that he opposes electronic voting because "when it comes to counting the votes, I do not trust Fianna Fáil".

He is not the only one.

He was on a winner when he said that.

It was one of the most ludicrous statements I have heard since I was elected to the House.

He echoed the sentiments of many people.

The Labour Party Deputies will forgive me if I do not accept their arguments. There is one question that needs to be answered by the Government and the country as a whole. Is the Minister, Deputy Cullen, entitled to rely on the advice of internationally recognised experts on electronic voting? I believe that he is entitled to do so, just as we are entitled to hold that view, regardless of whether others agree with it. I have highlighted one of the five issues that were raised in the Green Party's motion. It is my firm belief that the Green Party has not demonstrated that the Minister is incompetent or that he has failed to act.

He did that himself.

The contributions of all of the Green Party's Deputies have underlined the fact that the Minister is dynamic.

Hitler was fairly dynamic.

The Minister has acted.

He is certainly an actor.

The Green Party is afraid to admit that he is extremely competent.

I am delighted to support the Minister's amendment to the Green Party's motion. Far from lacking confidence in the Minister, Deputy Cullen, I am delighted and pleased to assert my confidence in him.

The Progressive Democrats did that too.

Deputy Glennon missed the ball in that line-out.

I am happy to confine my argument to three issues that are of particular relevance to my constituency of Dublin North. Draft sustainable rural housing guidelines for planning authorities were published recently.

They are a sham.

Some people might ask why rural housing is relevant to a Dublin constituency but, as Deputy Sargent is well aware, Dublin North is unique among the Dublin constituencies in that it has a significant rural population. It is important that an appropriate balance is struck between urban and rural development as the north Dublin area is being developed. That has not been the case in recent times, however. I have encountered hundreds of cases of planning permission not being made available to the sons and daughters of farmers who have lived in the area for generations. Some 50% of the nation's annual horticultural output is produced in the region.

Will the new guidelines solve the problem?

Many people must live in urban areas away from the farms and communities in which they were reared. The Minister's recent announcement in this regard is a huge plus.

It will do nothing.

It has been welcomed across the north Dublin area.

It has given Fingal County Council a problem.

When will it happen?

It will be a major boost to——

It is a fake to get over the elections.

——the sustainability and vibrancy of the villages of north Dublin.

If it is true.

I suspect that some of the Members opposite have not visited this unique area; they may be ignorant of it.

The Minister, Deputy Cullen, does not seem to know about it.

I say that on the basis of some of their comments.

The Deputy's presumption of ignorance on the part of the Opposition is somewhat exaggerated.

I do not think it is exaggerated.

It is not all over here.

I think the assumption of ignorance is entirely justified based on the level of performance from the other side, but that is another issue.

When the Government starts to deliver, we will believe it.

It is appropriate, bearing in mind the abuse that is coming across the floor, that the second issue I wish to raise is refuse charges. It is ironic that Fingal was the scene of most of the major battles during the recent refuse charges campaign as it was generally accepted that Fingal's method of charging for refuse collection — the pay-by-use system — was the fairest in the country as it rewarded careful people and penalised polluters. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, has set next January as the deadline for the introduction on a nationwide basis of a system based on this basic principle. Almost 100% of the residents of Fingal are happy to avail of this good and fair system because they see the benefits that accrue from it. I welcome the Minister's plans to introduce the system on a national basis.

We gave him the idea.

It is equitable for the householder and incentivises efficient waste management, which is good for everybody and is the sole purpose of the system, in my view. It is a win-win situation. I congratulate the Minister on his ambitious timescale for the introduction of the system nationwide.

He is leading from behind again.

I was lucky enough to have been elected to this House at the 2002 general election to represent one of the pilot electronic voting constituencies.

Do not go there.

Start the recount.

I am happy and honoured to have been elected in such a way, just like my Opposition colleague, Deputy Sargent.

It was a system of shock and awe.

We subjected ourselves to the system voluntarily. We were the winners, but there many losers. The system being proposed is 99% identical to that by which Deputy Sargent and I were elected.

We cannot trust it.

He did not complain then, nor did any of his colleagues.

I did not have to.

None of the many losers in the three constituencies has complained since then.

There are no records.

They are in shock.

Their parties are making a song and dance of it and hyping up the issue.

There are no hanging chads to examine.

If there were any genuine grounds for objection or any apparent flaw in the system, we would have heard about it by now in the Four Courts.

They could not get a trail.

That has not happened.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

There are no tracks.

What is going on at present is a puff of smoke. I respectfully suggest that it will go the same way as other great puffs of smoke in recent years, such as Y2K, the euro changeover and the smoking ban. I am delighted to support the Minister, Deputy Cullen, and his amendment.

He has gone out for a fag.

The Minister, Deputy Cullen, opposed the smoking ban.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion this evening. I strongly oppose the Green Party's motion of no confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and support the Government's amendment.

In his contribution, the Minister outlined his policies on a wide range of issues and explained how the Government has been implementing them. I do not have enough time to go through all of the policies, but I would like to refer to one or two of them, in particular.

A short time ago, the Minister indicated that waste management charges would be determined by volume or weight. South Dublin County Council was probably one of the last local authorities to introduce a waste management charge. It did not introduce the concept of payment by volume until this year. That measure has led to a significant reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill. I look forward to the implementation of such a system on a nationwide basis from next year. The Dublin local authorities are operating a green bin recycling service to complement the new system. That is what makes the system work. The initiative must be rolled out throughout the country.

Many speakers, including Deputy Boyle, have made the point that they are not interested in the national figures cited by the Minister. They are interested in what is happening on the ground. Last night it was stated that the Minister would say he built 70,000 houses——

There are 50,000 people on the housing waiting list.

——and that the Green Party was not particularly interested in that aspect of it.

It is the people that matter, not the houses.

This Government has presided over a period in which we have seen massive growth in housing.

And more homelessness.

Over nine consecutive years the housing output has grown to almost 70,000. That is three times the EU average and five times the UK average.

Yes, but who bought those houses? They were bought by investors.

It does not matter who bought them; there are people living in all of them.

That is not true. A quarter of those new houses are second homes.

That was the output last year. There are people living in those houses in all circumstances. To follow on from Deputy Boyle's point, I will talk about what these figures mean locally. I was a member of South Dublin County Council, which has a housing plan of more than 1,400 houses in a three or four year period. Affordable housing is being built in the area. More than 1,500 houses are being bought under the shared ownership scheme. Many strides have been made.

The Minister puts forward various policies and makes finance available. South Dublin County Council had €50 million for its housing programme last year. It is important to remember that there is an onus on local authorities — on which Green Party members have also sat — to implement these plans. When have Green Party members supported them?

Every time.

When have they supported the adoption of estimates? When have they supported any of these schemes? The Green Party Deputies stand on that side of the House and say the Minister has not implemented various policies. The reality is that when it comes to social and affordable housing, it is local authorities who implement those programmes.

Not one house has been built. There have been no planning applications.

On the local authority on which I sat, when did Green Party members support those policies?

We supported them many times.

I am surprised the Green Party has chosen to put this motion before the House. A motion of no confidence is the most negative procedure available to the House. It is the most negative way of trying to put a point across, yet the Green Party calls itself the party of constructive opposition. The last time it had a motion on Private Members' business its members trumpeted the wonderful fact that it had introduced four Bills in such a short time. They announced this with a fanfare and heralded the Green Party as the great new wave in politics. Yet this is what they are reduced to this evening. It is pathetic and negative and they should be ashamed of themselves.

We are always positive.

There is no issue whatsoever. The text of the motion is so broad that it is meaningless. There is nothing in it that would warrant a motion of no confidence.

I agree with Deputy Curran's point. In my experience in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council the Green Party members have done nothing but speak out of both sides of their mouths at the same time. In regard to housing, the Green Party has been the most vociferous voice in preventing the rezoning of 70 acres in the middle of Dun Laoghaire.

There is plenty of rezoning.

The plans for those 70 acres are a perfect example of sustainable development.

Who owns the land?

It is close to transport nodes and schools. It will involve 20 acres of land for public access in an area in which none is available at present.

It is not available until 2008.

That is what sustainable development is, and that is what the Green Party opposes.

There is enough rezoned land in the area to last until 2010.

I put it to the House that the Green Party is indulging in bare-faced hypocrisy. Furthermore, it has opposed the "polluter pays" principle. It indulges in the view that it is all very well in practice, but the theory is a different matter. Somebody must have the courage to make difficult decisions. Its members state in the House that they support the principle, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the issue, as Deputy Curran said, they show no courage. They pander to the lobbyists and the voices they hear in their constituencies.

What we are dealing with here is an example of total opposition. The Green Party Deputies are against everything and propose very little, apart from some crackpot ideas that are sometimes put forward for our amusement. They proposed that Dublin Airport be closed down and they are seeking an economic recession so they can stop road building.

If we propose something we are crackpots and if we oppose it we are also crackpots. The Deputy should be consistent.

I wonder if any of this is serious.

Is tonight's motion an example of begrudgery? The Minister is doing a fantastic job. He is making great progress on making the polluter pay. The people I represent in Dún Laoghaire are pleased with the improvements being made. A pilot scheme is already in place and we are looking forward to 1 January 2005 — a great reforming date — when the pay-per-weight system will be introduced. I oppose the Green Party motion.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words in this debate. I thank the Green Party for allowing us the use of its Private Members' time to confirm our confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the actions he has taken in various areas. I agree with Deputy Andrews when he says the motion put down by the Green Party is highly negative. However, it has been a tremendous opportunity for Government Deputies to outline the Government's proposals.

The pleasure is ours.

I hope the Green Party will use its time similarly in the future.

There will be an election first.

Without going into the details, the Minister has a record of success in the natural and built environment. He has been successful in the areas of housing, waste management——

Has he? We are creating more waste than ever — 700 kg. per person.

——greenhouse gas emissions and our natural heritage. The only thing I can say about the Green Party when it comes to the Minister's success is that it is green with envy.

Deputies

That is original.

I am confused because I do not know which of the 40 shades of green I am talking about. When I look at the three Deputies opposite, I do not think any of them would agree on this.

Deputy Fleming is the Johnny Cash version.

I want to talk about practical issues in which the Green Party ought to be interested. I thought they would have supported the initiatives on the ground and supported citizens at a local level, but it seems they are much happier to condemn the Minister and say he should be fired. I am talking about waste management, prevention, re-use and recycling. Around the country in the past two years I have seen an explosion in the number of bring centres, bottle banks, aluminium banks and so on.

It matches the explosion in waste.

This is to be welcomed. For the first time citizens are recycling waste on a regular basis in every town and village — waste which used to be disposed of in landfills. The Minister is bringing about a cultural change in our society. This follows from the earlier introduction of the plastic bag tax.

That was a Green Party idea.

This was seen as a crackpot idea, but within an hour of its introduction it was clear from every retailer in the country that people thought it was an excellent idea.

The Deputy is welcome.

Now they bring canvas bags to the shops on an ongoing basis and are continuing to re-use existing bags as we used to do in the old days.

I mention recycling because even in small rural villages the recycling bins are collected one week while the regular bins are collected the next. The volume of material in the non-recycling bin, which is going to landfill, has reduced dramatically. I look forward to 1 January 2005, when people will start paying by weight. In my clinics in recent weeks I have been surprised by the number of people, sometimes elderly, who have come to me complaining that they must pay the full price for a wheelie bin while the big household next door which fills its bin to the brim pays the same amount.

Is it not Government policy to charge a flat rate?

We have now succeeded, through our recycling process, in ensuring that people adjust to the new arrangements.

We have a recycling rate of 10%.

From my experience in Laois County Council, I can say that the volume of recycling has increased enormously. If it is not happening in other Deputies' local authorities, they should be addressing the matter locally. I suspect they are creating a negative image for recycling which is not warranted. Recycling is going well and pay-by-use will be the way forward. People will not want to create unnecessary waste and will be happy to pay by weight because they will see that they are getting value for money.

The Minister should introduce a tax on chewing gum which is a big cause of litter on our streets. It destroys the general appearance of streets, so I hope such a tax can be imposed in the near future.

There will be little left to tax shortly.

Given the Deputy's comment, I take it that he opposes the principle of taxing those who destroy the environment. I am delighted to be on the opposite side of that debate.

There has been a rise in car tax and all sorts of other taxes.

There is a difference of opinion but it is clear that, in Deputy Durkan's opinion, people should be free to pollute and litter our streets.

I am surprised when I hear about a new tax.

He should support such taxes which, like the smoking ban and the plastic bag levy, will force people to reconsider their actions.

I should not be surprised because there is a new tax every week.

I thank the Green Party for the opportunity to highlight some of the Minister's successes. I ask its Members to use their Private Members' time in such a manner in future because it gives us an opportunity to outline Government policy.

The Labour Party supports the motion tabled by the Green Party, not because we doubt the Minister's ability or even his competence but because of his record and that of the Government in the areas for which he is responsible. We need go no further than the Minister's contribution to the debate to find the summary of his record. He said: "In my time in this Department I have worked to ensure that Ireland has the highest rate of home building in Europe". That is true. We have the highest rate of home building in Europe but we also have the worst housing crisis for at least half a century. We have some of the highest house prices in Europe and a housing list which has more than doubled since the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government took office in 1997. Approximately one third of newly formed households can no longer afford to provide a home of their own.

The Minister said he has worked to produce Ireland's first ever spatial strategy. That is true, although the spatial strategy came belatedly, several years after the announcement of the national development plan, and it has now been thrown out the window as a result of the decentralisation plan announced by the Minister for Finance.

The Minister, Deputy Cullen, said he has worked to make local democracy more transparent and accountable. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have the weakest system of local government in Europe and, in the history of this State, no Minister in charge of the Custom House has taken more powers from local authorities.

The Minister said he has worked to increase dramatically recycling facilities, yet this week we have read stories in our newspapers about dumping and trading in waste that is taking place, legally and illegally, as a result of the Minister's actions in commercialising the waste management system.

The Minister said he has worked to take the fight against Sellafield to the next level. That is one area for which I will give him credit. To be fair, he has built on the work which was initiated by me, my colleagues, Deputies Stagg and Howlin, and others when we were last in Government.

The Minister said waste management has been his highest priority since coming into office, but waste management is a mess. I heard Deputy Fleming speak of the outbreak of recycling tanks that we can find in shopping centre car parks throughout the country. That is true, but where will the material be recycled? The Minister has failed to build a recycling infrastructure and the result is that much of what is collected for recycling is exported. We have paper going to China, Tetrapak cartons to Scotland, and glass, which can no longer be recycled here, going across the Border. The reality, as people know, is that much of the material collected for recycling ends up in landfill because there are no recycling facilities.

The Minister acknowledged in his contribution that his solution to the waste management problem is not to recycle waste but to burn it. Later on in his contribution he spoke about recovering energy from waste through the use of thermal treatment technologies. As the Minister has admitted on a number of occasions in the House, he is an avowed supporter of incineration. It is not the strategy of the current Minister to have a worthwhile recycling system in this country. His strategy is to bury or burn waste.

One of the by-products of this strategy, whereby the Minister has shifted the area of waste management from a public service delivered through local authorities to a commercial service for which people must pay, is that we now have the legal and illegal commercialisation of waste management. We have seen numerous incidents of illegal dumping in many parts of the country. We have seen waste being traded across the Border and we have seen the development of a waste industry which is largely unregulated and out of control.

The Minister said that 1 January 2005 has been set as the date for completion of the changeover to pay-by-use waste systems. The Minister has not issued a regulation making it obligatory for local authorities to change over on 1 January 2005. He has simply announced his intention of setting that date. I agree with the pay-by-use system which is in line with the polluter pays principle. However, to introduce pay-by-use without addressing ability to pay or the levels to which waste operators can increase their charges will leave householders open to greatly increased costs.

I will provide an example. Last year, South Dublin County Council had a flat annual waste collection charge of €160. It decided to move over to a pay-by-use system under which people now pay €6 per collection. For a householder presenting waste once a week, that represents a significant increase in the waste bill to approximately €300. The Minister is already on record as indicating his wish that local authorities and waste service providers should charge the full economic cost of the service. The idea of pay-by-use, dressed up as the polluter pays principle, is a Trojan horse for increasing the level of charges and not taking sufficient account of ability to pay.

In his speech, the Minister also spoke about the national spatial strategy and said: "There is a strong focus on promoting the scale and critical mass at strategic regional locations — gateways and hubs — to lead and drive regional competitiveness". Why, however, did the Government decide in its decentralisation strategy to ignore most of the gateways and hubs it had identified in the national spatial strategy? The reality is that the national spatial strategy is a dead duck. It was published because the country is required under EU regulations to have such a strategy but there is no intention to stick to it or do anything about it. It is now well and truly dead and buried.

The Minister also spoke about the draft guidelines on sustainable rural housing, a subject which was referred to again by the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. The draft guidelines on sustainable rural housing are a con. The Minister unfairly last night accused the planners of Clare County Council of misleading local authority members. He said the guidelines were not adopted in Clare because the members misread them and they were misled by the planner who gave an outline at a meeting. The Minister and the Government are misleading the public on the guidelines because they are only guidelines. The Minister had two other options. First, he could have issued a direction to local authorities under section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 but he chose not to and, second, he could have made regulations under section 262 of the Act, which he also declined to do. He published draft guidelines under section 28 and, following the court case relating to the Meath county development plan, such guidelines have no force of law. A planning authority only needs to have read the guidelines and it does not have to comply with them.

The draft guidelines have been published to enable the Minister and the Government to give the impression to people applying for planning permission in rural areas that they are on their side against the planners. However, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is well aware the guidelines have no force of law and can be ignored.

There is a misunderstanding. The guidelines are in place and it is up to each local authority to draw up a plan.

And they will be even more restrictive than the existing plans.

I am glad the Minister intervened because it has been helpful. His party colleagues complain that people in rural areas cannot obtain planning permission. Their complaint is they draw up the county development plan, which allows for one scenario, but the planners will not comply with it. However, the Government's draft guidelines do nothing to improve that scenario.

The Deputy is missing the point. That was not the problem. When the local authority drafted its plans, it was toldad nauseam by planners that it could not do what it wanted in its county plans because it was contrary to Government policy. The guidelines clarify that issue.

The issue is Government policy.

When Meath County Council drafted its county development plan, a case was taken to the courts on the basis that the local authority had not complied with regional planning guidelines. The court's decision was the council did not have to comply with them, as a planning authority is only obliged to have read them.

The Deputy is missing the point. He should ask Deputy McHugh.

When an individual planning application is made to a local authority——

The Deputy should ask Deputy McHugh.

The Minister thinks the problems of social disorder are the product of rapid agglomeration.

That is largely the case.

The Minister is engaging in rapid agglomeration and I would like to conclude my contribution. When an individual planning application is submitted to a planning authority, the authority is restricted under section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 regarding the matters it can take into account and, as people will find out in time, the draft guidelines on rural housing are not worth the paper on which they are written. They are designed only to get Fianna Fáil beyond the local and European elections on 11 June because planning is an issue in many areas.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government also referred to Ireland's obligations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. He said he had submitted a national allocation plan for emissions trading to the European Commission. It is unfortunate that he is claiming a proud record in this area because he rolled over and lost the battle with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the interest of competitiveness. The national allocation plan was published by the Environmental Protection Agency on the basis of a formula designed by the Minister and his Department. If its purpose is to reduce emissions, how does he justify the plan's allocation of even higher levels of emissions to the greatest polluters, energy generation and cement production, than the emissions they currently produce?

The national allocation plan, for which the Minister claims credit, is a sell out of the environment to major polluting industries and he ought to be ashamed of it as he ought to be ashamed of his contribution on heritage, for which he also claims credit. He abolished Dúchas and has sent out a signal that heritage is not to be considered a priority any more. A major issue is looming and it will make the Carrickmines dispute look like a piece of cake. I refer to the proposal to develop a motorway through the Hill of Tara and Skryne, about which archaeologists and historians have become increasingly concerned.

The only interesting statement the Minster made in regard to heritage was that the first volume of a national shipwreck survey will be completed this year. The first entry ought to be the shipwreck of the Government's environment policies, for which the Minister has been the captain standing on the bridge.

The Progressive Democrats have jumped ship this evening.

The Minister praised himself last night regarding local government. I am delighted he has returned to the House because I hate praising him in his absence. Instead of providing for greater transparency and giving greater powers and so on to local authorities, no Minister who has held the office has done more to remove power from local government and undermine it. He reversed the decision to have directly elected mayors and he removed the power from local authorities to draft their own waste management plans. He is the first Minister to interfere with the autonomy local authorities had regarding the adoption of their annual estimates by giving power to county managers to set charges. He is also the first Minister to direct a local authority regarding what it should include in its county development plan. I represent the Dún Laoighaire constituency and the Minister's direction to Dún Laoighaire-Rathdown County Council in respect of what it should have included in its county development plan was disgraceful, unwarranted and went beyond his authority. He may yet have to answer for this decision in another forum.

The council left me with no choice. It was in contravention of its own plan, not my plan.

The Minister colluded with the management of the county council to subvert the will of the elected members of the council——

I exercised my responsibility under the law.

——and to browbeat them into bending to his will or the manager's will or a combination of both.

I want to provide houses for people, unlike the Deputy. Housing is the issue.

That is simplistic.

There is plenty of land in Dún Laoighaire.

That is interesting. The issue is not the number of houses but the affordability of houses, as is the case in many other parts of the State. I have told colleagues on the council that increasing the number of houses being built in that area where house prices are particularly high and in other areas without addressing the question of affordability will simply mean that more houses will be built for people with deep pockets and large bank balances who can afford to buy them and the sons and daughters of local people will have to move to Arklow, Gorey, Athy and——

A Deputy

Maybe even Waterford.

——30 or 40 miles away before they can afford to buy a home. The worst aspect of the Government stewardship on environment issues is its lamentable record on housing. Currently one third of young families nationally cannot afford to buy a home, rising to 40% in urban areas and more than 50% in the greater Dublin area. The Minister has talked a great talk about housing for a long time. We were promised——

Seventy thousand houses.

Seventy thousand houses is no use to somebody——

It seems to be of use.

To those who have second homes.

It is no comfort to the family which cannot afford to buy or to those who have been waiting for up to ten years to get a local authority house and may have to wait longer under the Minister's stewardship or to those who thought that affordable houses would come under the national pay agreement, which the Minister has welched on.

The Deputy should talk to the social partners

It is no wonder they are staying away from the talks

They have discussed the issue of affordable houses with me.

With the permission of the House, I wish to share my time with Deputies McHugh, Twomey and Ferris.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support the Green Party motion and, in the time available, I will address two issues.

We are experiencing the worst housing crisis in living memory. The local authority housing waiting list is double what it was when Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrat Party took office in 1997. At present 50,000 families are on the waiting list, which represents in the region of 120,000 to 130,000 individuals.

That is incorrect.

The number of homeless people has increased dramatically, especially in Dublin. The serious increase in the numbers on the local authority housing waiting list has been exacerbated to a considerable extent by the fact that many young couples, both with good jobs, are not able to afford the cost of private houses. People who would have bought or built private houses and not been a burden on local authorities are not now in a position to buy or build those houses and find themselves languishing on local authority house waiting lists. We were promised 10,000 affordable houses, but I have seen very few of them, if any. The Minister has effectively givencarte blanche to developers and builders to make serious profits by building private houses. The Minister stated that 70,000 houses were completed last year.

Of which 75% are going to first-time buyers.

How many were purchased as second homes? It is certainly a significant number. It is 25% if not more, and may well be near to 33% to 40%. This is while 50,000 families remain on local authority housing lists.

The Minister has undermined local democracy and local government over a period. He has taken from local authority elected members the right to make waste management plans and the right to levy refuse charges.

It might put a bit of backbone into councillors.

The Minister has withdrawn the right to directly elect a mayor which has undermined local public elected representatives.

The guidelines for once-off rural housing are a three card trick and a typical stroke by the Fianna Fáil Party. As Members have outlined, the Minister had a number of ways in which he could have dealt with the matter, by direction or by regulation, and both of these would have had to have been implemented by local authorities. Instead, he chose a different way which has no force of law.

What is the Deputy talking about?

The fact is that the guidelines which the Minister has issued are worse that the existing provisions of most county development plans. I was travelling through Waterford recently and heard local authority officials confirm on WLR that the ministerial guidelines mean nothing in that county, south Tipperary or other counties. This is simply a European and local elections stroke by Fianna Fáil,

Has the Deputy read the proposals?

I have read them in detail.

The use of the confidence motion is a serious sanction, should not be used lightly and should only be used as a last resort.

Hear, hear.

Common and routine use of the confidence motion has the effect of undermining its effectiveness. The use of such motions should be retained for serious breaches of responsibility by Government or Ministers or for situations where Ministers are in serious dereliction of duty. One of the strongest weapons available to the Opposition is to table a vote of no confidence and, for such a motion to retain its sense of seriousness in the public mind, it needs to be retained as a weapon of last resort. It is for the reasons stated that I am unable to support the motion before the House as it is presently constituted. However, I agree with most of the criticisms of the Minister and Government in the Green Party motion.

In the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, at the stroke of a pen undermined and set at nought the work and progress achieved by his courageous predecessor, Deputy Noel Dempsey, on the integration of the various strands of housing — social, affordable and private. In so doing, he capitulated to the might of property developers whom his predecessor had the courage to take on. The provisions in the Act had nothing to do with proper planning and development but with collapsing in front of the march of major developers.

The Government talks the talk about the national spatial strategy but it will not walk the walk when it comes to underpinning it with coherent policies that will give confidence to other development agencies and State organisations on the way forward so that they, in turn, will have regard to the national spatial strategy and tailor their policies accordingly. The Government has not shown the leadership and, with the programme of decentralisation recently announced, has shown that nothing has changed in Government policy towards achieving balanced regional development. It is the same old story for rural Ireland — talk and no real action. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, rolled out the national spatial strategy, but it is freewheeling since with no Government direction and no coherent follow up.

The Minister issued guidelines on planning for houses in the countryside. As far as County Galway is concerned, those guidelines will make no difference to the people seeking planning permission and who have difficulty in acquiring same. They give false hope to those experiencing those difficulties and that is unfair. It is quite obvious that the guidelines are being peddled now to get over the threat that this issue holds for the local elections. It is disgraceful that, because of this electioneering prank, decent people will have their hopes raised before the local elections and subsequently dashed.

The Government talks the talk about enhancing local government, but it refuses to walk the walk when it comes to bringing about real reform to provide genuine power to local councillors. Instead, the Government engaged in the charade of abolishing the dual mandate which changes nothing. It means only that a Deputy cannot take part in local authority meetings. The work of a Deputy is the same as it was before the abolition of the dual mandate. Rather than to enhance local government, the effect of the Government's actions has been only to undermine local authorities and sideline their members.

The removal of decision making powers from councillors in the context of waste management plans was the clearest example of the way in which local authority members have been sidelined by the Government.

They are all thanking me. They do not have to make the hard decision on thermal treatment. I will make it for them.

A further example of undermining of local government came on completion of passage of the Environmental Protection Act 2003 when the Minister inserted a provision which gave it precedence over county development plans. That was done for the single reason that members of Galway County Council had included provision on landfills in their county development plan, which the Minister did not like.

Correct.

So much for local democracy and so much for enhancing the role of councillors.

They would not want to come crying to me from the west when they have no jobs and no way of dealing with waste management. That will be the next cry. I should not be blamed.

The Minister should allow the next Deputy to speak.

He is being disorderly.

While the motion of no confidence will not have much effect on the Minister, it would be nice if we could get some straightforward answers from him given his mood.

The smoking ban has affected me badly.

The Minister was always that way.

I was not. I have always retained a sense of humour.

There is only a short amount of time left.

We are always looking for answers on incineration in the south east. The issue has been ongoing since long before the election but no Minister has been able to tell us whether incineration will be introduced. The Minister has responsibility for incineration and hinted strongly in his speech last night that it is on the way. By any measure, recycling and re-use of waste has failed. The input it needed to succeed was not forthcoming. I would appreciate it if the Minister would tell the House this close to the local elections whether incineration is on the way. I read between the lines that it is, though many Government backbenchers are of the view that the Minister continues to sit on the issue. In reply to a priority question last November, the Minister said the issue was due to be discussed at Cabinet. I presume it is being discussed.

There should be no doubt that thermal treatment is on the way all over the country.

Very good.

Absolutely. It is in all the regional plans. The Deputy should read them. He does not need me to tell him. They are a matter of public record.

Incineration is not in the Cork plan.

It is a matter of public record.

It is constantly being denied at local level within the regions. At least the Minister is clearing the issue up for us.

I will publish an overview next week in which Deputies will see the picture for the entire country.

That is what we want.

There is no ducking and diving from me. There never has been.

The Minister should allow Deputy Twomey to continue.

He asked me a question and he appreciates that I have given him a direct answer.

I do, actually. On heritage, a major infrastructural project which would have benefited hard-pressed commuters and the economy of Dublin has been held up for years because of a castle nobody seems to have given a damn about before the M50 was due to go over it.

Hear, hear. There is no castle there by the way.

Whether this was due to a deliberate or an unintentional cock-up in the planning of our infrastructure, millions of euros in taxpayers' money has been wasted.

Where is the Bill?

A sum of €10 million is provided for archaeological research.

The Minister seems to have set out to deliberately destroy our heritage which he has been given the responsibility for protecting. He has allowed planning guidelines to be overridden which in one case has permitted a hotel to be built in front of a castle. There have been other planning issues. As stringent as our planning laws supposedly are, they appear to be overridden by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government especially when heritage issues are involved. The Minister stands accused of giving commercial interests a much higher priority than our heritage.

The Minister will duck and dive for them all right.

Deputies will see when UNESCO's report is published how well I am doing. Will they accept UNESCO's judgment?

I am more interested in when the national infrastructural Bill will be published.

We will see what UNESCO has to say about my stewardship of the environment.

If the Minister does not mind, I would like to continue.

The Minister will have an opportunity to speak.

If the Minister's current attitude to his heritage brief is typical, things will only get worse if the national infrastructure Bill allows fast tracking of planning.

While I agree that the dual mandate should have been abolished, reform of and quality of access to local government constitute a significant element of what we are discussing. The Flood tribunal had its genesis very much in the corruption of elected representatives and unelected public servants at local government level. Has there ever been discussion of this by the Minister's Department or plans put in motion to find out if an environment of corruption continues to exist in the local authority planning departments which helped certain individuals to make substantial sums of money? The tribunal has been used to ignore the issues involved with the excuse that they are under discussion. If we wait for it to make conclusions before doing anything, we will have to start all over again to deal with any corruption which is occurring currently.

To mention that 69,000 new houses were built in the past year is to produce a red herring.

The people who occupy them would not see them as a red herring.

The Minister's Department is responsible only for local authority housing.

Whatever about the Minister surviving a vote of confidence, there is no doubt that he has lost the confidence of many, including people in his own constituency. During the last election, the Minister said he would stake his political reputation on securing a radiotherapy unit for Waterford hospital. He has not done so and his failure, which is also the failure of the Government, has been greeted with massive disappointment in Waterford. Waterford City Council has voted unanimously to condemn the failure of the Government to deliver a radiotherapy unit.

Did David Cullinane give Deputy Ferris the speech?

The council has the support of Fianna Fáil councillors. So annoyed were these councillors that they took the unusual step of joining a picket outside the gate of Leinster House to protest at the Government's failure to fulfil Deputy Cullen's promises.

It is called democracy. A member of Sinn Féin would not be used to it.

He is not the only one in the room.

They may have felt as I do along with many ordinary people and Fianna Fáil members, that the agenda of the Government is based on the right-wing economics of the Progressive Democrats. Perhaps, the councillors in question feel the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, is closer in his thinking to that party than some of his colleagues.

They do not feel that.

Something similar surfaced in my constituency when Fianna Fáil councillors in Tralee voiced their disappointment at the failure of the Tánaiste to meet the local council to discuss the jobs crisis in the town. The Tánaiste refused to meet the democratic members of the council. They felt she was being dismissive because her party did not have a single elected representative in County Kerry. She is considered to have felt it was unnecessary to treat the matter with the urgency it deserved. There is widespread concern among Fianna Fáil grassroots that members will have to pay the price for the right-wing policies they believe originate with the Progressive Democrats. I do not know if that is correct or whether some Fianna Fáil Ministers favour such policies themselves. While I suspect some do, including Deputy Cullen I am aware that there are members of the party, including elected representatives and perhaps, some in Government, who are instinctively opposed to the direction in which policy is being driven.

It is sometimes said with justification that Fianna Fáil has played a role in the State similar to that played by the Labour Party in Britain and some European social democratic parties. Fianna Fáil is the party people associated in the past with public housing, education, the health services and the development of State enterprises. That explains the level of support the party enjoys among the types of people who in other countries would vote for parties of the left. Fianna Fáil is in danger of losing that association and support if it continues to adhere to the right-wing policies advocated by the Progressive Democrats.

What would former Fianna Fáil members like Todd Andrews think of being in power with a party the leader of which has stated that the issue she considers most important — and one that might force her to pull out of Government — involves the sale of State enterprises. Surely, men like Mr. Andrews did not believe when they were devoting themselves to building up CIE and Bord na Móna that Fianna Fáil would some day be persuaded by its junior coalition partner to sell them off after decades of public investment and service. The Taoiseach told the House yesterday that there is no agenda for privatisation. While this may be true on his part and on the part of his party, it is clearly not the case with the Progressive Democrats. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, has helped further this agenda by encouraging local authorities to privatise local services, including waste management. The rationale for this was nothing other than providing lucrative earnings for people who like to term themselves "entrepreneurs". In my book, an entrepreneur is a person who comes up with an original idea and sets up a business. It is not someone who persuades his or her friends in power to let them take over a well-run and efficient public service.

If private enterprise was so efficient in all the areas on which it has now set its greedy eyes, why did it not establish businesses in them in the first place? Anyone familiar with the history of state enterprise in this State will know that the businesses were not established owing to ideological motivations. Those with wealth who resided in this State in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s were not prepared to invest this wealth productively. Now that these State enterprises have been run successfully for many decades, they are trying to persuade the State to sell them off. They are not so much entrepreneurs as buccaneers.

The Minister is one of the foremost advocates of this right wing agenda in the Cabinet. This is reflected in the area for which he is responsible. My party fully supports this motion of no confidence.

I found it difficult to take some of the sanctimonious drivel dished out last night by the Green Party.

The Minister of State should say what he has to say. He should not hold back.

In one respect I am tempted to ignore these comments. However, I must tell the Green Party that it is about time it grew up. Real policies are the only ones that work in the real world. Real problems require real solutions. The Green Party should realise that politics is the art of the possible, not the impossible. Those who peddle fantasies such as those peddled by the Green Party last night are only fooling themselves.

The Government was elected to provide leadership and we are doing this competently and courageously, and will continue to do so. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has done a good job in protecting the environment while carrying forward a range of economic and social infrastructure projects.

The Government is looking after developers.

How many social or affordable houses have been built?

Last night, Deputy Boyle spoke about the Cork Simon Community not getting its money and having its funds reduced. The organisation received €861,000 from the Department last year——

The homelessness plan is €6 million short.

The Deputy should listen for a change, he might learn something if he did. He comes into the House with a bully boy attitude. In the previous year, the organisation received less than €700,000. While the organisation may be looking for a couple of million euro, the Government looks after taxpayers' money and must ensure that service providers prove to us——

What about the homeless?

A number of Deputies criticised our performance on housing and, as this is my area of responsibility, I want to deal specifically with it.

Not one of the 10,000 promised social and affordable houses has been built.

While it is the Opposition's right to oppose and to slag off the Government, it should pick its ground more carefully. Last year, 70,000 houses were built in this country. It is an enormous figure. To put this in context, 22,000 houses were built in 1993. There have been nine years of record production. How could anyone criticise this?

The Minister of State is hallucinating.

The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act provides the necessary flexibility on Part V.

It provides flexibility for developers.

This will be meaningful and will provide significant numbers of social and affordable houses in the future. This year, the Department will invest €1.8 billion in social and affordable housing. It is an enormous sum of money. In each of the past two years more than 12,500 families have had their housing needs met.

There are more than 130,000 on the list.

This is making a serious dent in the numbers on the list. I could go on if the Chair allows me.

The Minister of State has only seconds remaining.

The Chair should give me injury time. The Opposition has had three hours to debate this motion and bullies us when we try to get a word in.

The interruptions were spread equally across both sides.

The Minister and I will continue to implement the Government's policies to protect and enhance the quality of our environment while simultaneously progressing a wide range of economic and social projects.

The Minister of State is hallucinating.

If those who tabled this motion do not want to end up on their own compost heap, they should stop tabling motions that are off the wall and factually incorrect.

I wish to share time with Deputies Gormley and Sargent.

So far in this debate, neither the Minister nor his Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats colleagues has done anything to instil confidence in his Ministry or the Government as a whole. It is like a big ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. If the ostrich were to look up it would receive a loud and clear message. We are destroying our environment. Our dependency on fossil fuels contributes to global warming and at the same time, worldwide oil production is about to peak. Contrary to what the Taoiseach believes, Russia does not have infinite gas reserves. Energy prices will rise and our unsustainable way of life will crash to earth with a bang.

Last night, my colleagues launched a sustained attack on the abysmal record of the Minister and we will do it again tonight. While they raised serious issues that were strong on facts and statistics, they got no serious rebuttal. Instead, there was mud throwing and clichés about the Green Party that might have been relevant in a 1970s hippy commune but hold no water with a party that pushes the boundaries for a sustainable Ireland and proposes 21st century solutions. While the Green Party has moved on, the Minister, Deputy Cullen, has not.

In last night's debate, my colleagues highlighted the deterioration of the natural and built environment. Ireland has the worst record in the EU for non-compliance with the Kyoto limits for greenhouse gases and has the worst compliance with EU laws on water quality. My colleagues spoke of the Minister's failure to protect biodiversity, criticised his increase in the cap on political donations and refuted his mad march towards the easy and destructive option of incineration. If incineration is to produce energy with toxic fly ash, it will have to be fed with material that would otherwise be recycled.

My colleagues spoke of the flawed emissions trading Bill that gives power companies a licence to pollute rather than incentives for good environmental management. They pointed to the stupidity of the cock-eyed and deeply cynical decentralisation programme and the partial implementation of a half-baked national spatial strategy. This is not to mention the castrated system of local government. While the end of the dual mandate is to be welcomed, it was tainted by a financial sweetener that some of us see as a bribe.

I want to focus on what the Minister and his Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats colleagues have done in my home county of Dublin. What happened in Dublin is a prime example of what is happening in urban centres nationwide. Dublin is an unsustainable, car-based doughnut. It stretches out much more than other cities with comparable populations. The population density in the inner city is too low and there has been too much development around the ring. Speculators have gobbled land up while the Minister allows this ring to grow in Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Louth. It is turning the whole area into an unsustainable gooey mess. One need only witness the traffic congestion on the N4 that has been caused by bad planning. There is no public transport infrastructure. Housing policy has gone mad and forces young couples to commute an irrational number of miles each year as they can only afford homes distant from the city. One also witnesses struggle for school places and other community facilities.

This is obviously the fault not only of the Minister, it has been going on for years but it has deteriorated on his watch. Inside the Dublin ring there has been decades of house building but little development of communities. There is no infrastructure and no facilities. This has happened in Adamstown, Clondalkin and Lucan and was exacerbated by the activities of corrupt scumbags. A weakened and watered down planning and development Act has seriously undermined the business plans. Why are developers not forced to provide infrastructure when planning permission is granted? Why should the Department of Education and Science have to purchase or lease land from a developer? Why can this not be provided as part of the infrastructure? Is it because developers would no longer make as many donations?

I want to point out some positive green solutions the Minister could have adopted. There could be a zero waste strategy, increased fines and prosecutions for illegal littering and dumping or the introduction of a system of money back bottles and cans that would halve the litter problem overnight.

It has not worked in Germany and the EU has blocked it. We cannot do this under EU law. The cans are back on the shelves in Denmark.

There could be progressive tax and funding policies to discourage energy wastage and pollution and encourage job creation. An end should be brought to the practice of land hoarding and paper profits for developer friends. If the Minister cares to read our policy document he will see that we have plenty of positive solutions for the 21st century. The Minister could even read the newspaper reports from our Ard-Fheis.

For years now we have made constructive suggestions to enable Ireland to develop in a sustainable manner, to preserve our environment and ecosystem and move forward with renewable alternatives to the destructive energy guzzling policies that are currently followed. The Government does not have a plan B — the Minister does not even have a plan A. Our positive message has fallen on deaf ears. This is why my party has no confidence in the Minister. Confidence must be earned and, politically speaking, the Minister has not earned a cent.

I thank the Deputy. His comments are much appreciated.

It is with regret that I must inform the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, that he fails to measure up to the high standards the Green Party expects of a Minister with responsibility for the environment. Even by average standards, his tenure has been an abysmal failure.

I take that as a compliment coming from the Green Party.

The Minister should restrain himself.

I am trying to liven it up for them.

His contribution to this debate showed he knows even less about the Green Party than he knows about the environment. This is a shocking level of ignorance. I will give the Minister and his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, a crash course in environmentalism and Green Party politics.

I have met Green Party Ministers at the European Council and know what real Green Party ministers do and say. They are not idealists who talk off the top of their heads.

The Green Party was the first party to object to nuclear power and call for the closure of Sellafield when the Minister's party colleagues wanted to build a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point.

The Green Party in Europe is embarrassed by the Green Party in Ireland.

We are embarrassed by the Minister.

The Green Party was the first party to call for a tax on plastic bags when the Minister's colleagues said it would cost jobs.

The Green Party now wants to snatch the plastic bags initiatives from the former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey.

The Minister should allow the Deputy to speak without interruption.

Ours was the first party to call for the introduction of pay by weight for waste management. Ours was the first party to speak about ozone depletion and global warming and, unlike the Minister, we knew the difference between them. The Green Party spoke of "reduce, reduce and recycle" in the 1980s when the concept was alien to Fianna Fáil. The Green Party has always been to the fore and ahead of the posse while Fianna Fáil has had difficulty keeping up. Perhaps we should be flattered that the Minister now seeks to imitate us and borrow our clothes. However, we are not flattered because we know the Minister takes a cherry-picking window-dressing approach to environmentalism. As Jonathon Porritt said this is a case of: "Having your cake and greening it".

The Deputy must have spent several nights working out his script.

It is about spin doctors, consultants and photo opportunities — sometimes with glamorous models to spice it all up. That is all the Minister has to offer.

Once in 15 years I had my photograph taken with a model and now everybody thinks I do it every day.

It lacks substance, particularly when it comes to waste management.

Now they all want to be photographed with me and be on the front pages of magazines.

The Minister's policies are based on knee-jerk, end-of-pipe, redundant ideas. A number of months ago, students in the politics department of Trinity College under the direction of Professor Michael Laver had the innovative idea of holding a citizens' jury in a hotel in Dublin. They invited 80 members of the public, who had been scientifically chosen, to debate the issue of incineration. The Minister was invited but refused to attend.

That is not true.

Yes, it is. The Minister refused because he knew would be exposed. His hollow arguments and soundbite politics would crumble under cross-examination.

I have no difficulty with the issue. Unlike the Deputy, I do not have time to waste by talking nonsense.

It is all about bluster and he is continuing with it this evening. When he does not have the facts he continually interrupts as he is doing now.

It is pathetic to watch them.

Deputy Gormley is entitled to his time.

I thank you, a Chathaoirligh. You might consider throwing the Minister out at this stage. He does not want to know and does not want to engage in argument. The audience decided unanimously in our favour because, with regard to the Ringsend incinerator, total household waste for the four Dublin areas according to the latest Environmental Protection Agency figures comes to 441,000 tonnes. The residual fraction is 22%. Household residual waste is therefore 97,000 tonnes.

The Deputy is inaccurate as usual.

The Minister wanted to introduce a 750,000 tonne incinerator to burn 97,000 tonnes of household waste.

The Deputy is being disingenuous as usual. I would not expect anything else from him.

These are the facts.

The Deputy has the wrong facts and has pulled figures from the back of his head.

These are the EPA figures.

The Deputy must lay awake at night dreaming these matters up.

The Minister should allow Deputy Gormley to conclude.

I would hate him to put incorrect facts on the record.

The Minister comes along with his facts indicating dioxins are caused by smoking. Perhaps he is a major contributor to dioxins because of his smoking habit. He has told us that dioxins are formed by people burning rubbish in their back gardens. The Minister frequently holds up Denmark as an example. However, the majority of airborne dioxins in Denmark are caused by municipal incinerators. These are the facts the Minister chooses to ignore.

Unfortunately I do not.

Unfortunately the truth hurts. The Minister was appointed to his portfolio, not because he knows much about the environment, but because he does not care about the environment and does not like environmentalists. He was brought in as the Government's hard man, the "Chopper" Harris or Norman Hunter of the Government to take the legs from under the environmental movement, and he has succeeded in a very short time. For the sake of the environment and sustainability, and for the sake of ordinary people, the Minister should resign.

Ar son an Chomhaontais Ghlais, the Green Party, gabhaim buíochas le Fine Gael, Páirti an Lucht Oibre, Sinn Féin, leis an Pháirtí Sóisialach agus le Teachtaí Neamhspleácha a thug tacaíocht don rún easpa muiníne seo san Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil. Clearly the Progressive Democrats Members do not give a damn for the environment as they have not shown up to speak in this debate.

We thank the Minister and other Members for their acknowledgement of the merits of Green policies. The Minister referred to his support for the plastic bag levy. I was the first Deputy to propose such a levy in 1994. He also recognised the merits of the pay-by-weight or volume system for waste collections, again a crude version of a long-standing Green policy. He tried to claim credit for ending the dual mandate, but then acknowledged the Green Party implemented this policy as far back as 1993.

Without the sweetener.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Sargent should be allowed to speak without interruption.

In recognising the merits of Green Party policy, the Minister exposes the hollowness of his own knee-jerk tirade. However, the Minister did nothing convincing to defend his record other than delude himself that his failure to tackle climate change is acceptable. It is not. Ireland is the worst performing country in the EU in its compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. He believes that it is acceptable for Ireland to generate three times as much wasteper capita as the Netherlands. It is not.

The economy in Europe means nothing to the Green Party. We have the lowest unemployment.

The Minister should become Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Deputy should allow his colleague to continue without interruption.

The Minister believes that the failure to commence even one of the 10,000 affordable houses promised in the partnership agreement is acceptable. It is not. Is the Minister saying it is acceptable that the Dublin homelessness action plan has been under-funded by €6 million, according the Simon Community? We say it is not. Is he saying that spending €50 million on electronic voting, which is less verifiable than the existing system, is acceptable? It is not.

That is rubbish.

It is not verifiable. Does the Minister believe dropping the 20% rule for the provision of local authority housing is acceptable? This too is unacceptable. Does he believe the national spatial strategy without the western rail corridor is either workable or acceptable? It is neither. Is the Minister saying that damaging production of safe food and preventing waste minimisation measures by pushing incineration is acceptable? We say it is not. Is he saying that reducing the autonomy of local authorities is acceptable? We say it is not. Disbanding Dúchas and watering down special areas of conservation are not acceptable. Is the Minister suggesting that the failure to release funds this year for the environmental non-governmental organisations is acceptable? Certainly it is not.

I increased the funding substantially.

Allow Deputy Sargent to continue.

The Minister has not given anything out yet. Perhaps the cheque is in the post. Is the Minister saying that needless blood sport cruelty such as terrorising tame deer, hares and foxes is acceptable? We say it is not. The Minister, by dragging his heels on the nitrates, birds and habitats directives, is costing Ireland dearly and ruining her clean and green marketing image. These actions are not just unacceptable, but illegal. By acting beyond his powers and breaking the law by frustrating the protection of national heritage, this Minister is as bad a holder of this office as one can imagine. His behaviour is not acceptable to this House, the High Court or the European Court of Justice.

As has already been said, the Minister may be green in one way. He is green with envy at the strong international movement of which the Greens in Ireland form a part. The Green Party is delivering in government elsewhere and providing valuable lessons on what works to bring about a sustainable, healthy and equitable communities empowered to enrich both cultural diversity and biodiversity. The Minister said he admired the Green ministers.

While I agree I said that, it has nothing to do with the Irish Green Party. They told me they regard the Green Party in Ireland as a joke.

While the Minister, Deputy Cullen, derided the sunflower, the symbol of the international Green movement, one wonders what symbol Fianna Fáil would have waved at its Ard-Fheis——

The envelope.

——to celebrate its involvement with the post-fascist elements in the European Parliament. Would it be the swastika, a brown paper bag or a bit of both?

This motion is not about Fianna Fáil, it is about a Minister who had at this disposal enormous public goodwill as well as record revenue to allow him to embrace waste minimisation measures. Thanks, however, to his jackboot arrogance in forcing incineration on local communities, this goodwill has effectively gone up in smoke.

The only thing going up in smoke is the Deputy's motion.

On the other hand, the waste minimisation powers available to the Minister in the Waste Management Act 1996 remain largely unused. That is the truth.

This is a Minister who has squandered opportunities. He has had access to unprecedented resources to end homelessness, to ensure effective regional development to stem the sprawl of Dublin——

The Deputy should sit down before he embarrasses himself.

——to counteract the worst car dependency in the world and to implement environmental directives. If he was interested, he would save our country a fortune in the future by tackling climate change effectively. The bottom line is that the Minister does not care; he wants to be leader of Fianna Fáil.

God help us.

He is a creature of smoke filled rooms and the Custom House is merely a rung on his rickety ladder of blind ambition. The environment needs better, politics deserves better and Ireland demands better. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, must go.

I commend the motion to the House.

Will the Minister resign before he is voted out?

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl, 50.

  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Padraic.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Durkan.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl, 50.

  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Padraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Durkan.
Question declared carried.