Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Oct 2006

Vol. 626 No. 2

Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006: Report Stage (Resumed).

Bill again recommitted in respect of amendment No. 4:
In page 3, line 9, before "AND" to insert the following:
—(Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources).

This amendment relates to the reinstatement of lands and I support it. We had discussions with people from County Tipperary and as the Minister correctly stated, this proposal was put forward and is being administered by the local authority in the area. That is something of which we do not see enough in respect of various forms of mining throughout the country, regardless of whether it involves direct mining, sand and gravel extraction or whatever. It is an essential part of the reinstatement of the landscape that something such as that proposed in the amendment be incorporated in respect of all future excavations. Where planning permission is granted by a local authority, a condition should always be included in respect of reinstatement. For that reason, I welcome the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. I hope it can be used as a template for other sites throughout the country, particularly those located in sensitive areas where a great deal of value can be added by way of dividend to the community and the environment through the imposition of a provision of this nature. In areas such as those to which I refer, it is often the case that eyesores and health hazards are all that remain unless action is taken.

I commend the Minister on bringing forward the amendment. It is something with which we all agree.

I warmly welcome this amendment to the Title of the Bill and the new and substantive Part 8 the Minister is introducing.

I also welcome the fact the Ceann Comhairle has initiated a new procedure in respect of legislation to be taken in the House under which Opposition Deputies in particular will not be faced with a barrage of new amendments on Report Stage. I am aware, as a former member of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, that the Ceann Comhairle has a great interest in this matter. I welcome the fact it appears progress is being made in this regard because Opposition Members and even Government backbenchers did not have access to adequate resources to allow them, as with this legislation, to investigate the introduction of a major new part of a Bill. That became clear during the final hour of last week's debate when a raft of extraneous issues relating to the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 and its impact on this Bill entered the debate. The latter occurred because we did not have access to the relevant information. I commend the Ceann Comhairle on listening to requests from Deputies, particularly on this side of the House, who were, until quite recently, poorly resourced. They will now be in a position to do their work properly on behalf of the people.

On the new Part 8, it is clear the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has listened to the people of north Tipperary, particularly those who live near Silvermines and in the area surrounding Nenagh, and returned to the House with a programme for the future which, as Deputy Durkan stated, will be extremely valuable. I commend Senator O'Meara of north Tipperary who, with other Members of this House and the Upper House, was to the forefront in trying to progress the campaign to bring about the remediation of the Silvermines land.

The most important change the Minister has introduced is the fact that when a company which obtains a licence has extracted the natural wealth from an area, we can recover State expenditure where the remediation has not been made. When people from the Silvermines district appeared before the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and when members of that committee, including its Chairman, Deputy O'Flynn, visited the district, we were given information and witnessed for ourselves the way the company had effectively reneged on its obligations. That was regrettable. The Department has pursued this issue relentlessly and it is heartening to finally see this legislation undergoing its passage through the Dáil. I commend the Minister in that regard.

I do not know whether we will have an opportunity to discuss the new Part 8 in detail because the Title is being changed to accommodate its inclusion in the Bill. However, I welcome the methodology the Minister will be able to use to consult stakeholders in future in respect of matters of this nature. It is a very welcome development and I commend the Civil Service and the Minister for bringing it forward.

This is an interim measure and it will be repealed when the substantial minerals development Bill is enacted. It will be important to incorporate the experience gleaned from this interim measure and other similar measures. Deputy Broughan raised the point about the stakeholders in the community wherever a sensitive location like this exists. That can vary from time to time and from place to place and the emphasis may be greater or lesser as the case may be. In the last few days there has been strong opposition from the people of California to the siting of refineries offshore. There has currently been a debate in this country on whether such a refinery should be onshore or offshore. The experience to be gained from this is important.

Preliminary discussions need to encompass the full scope of likely eventualities. It is virtually impossible to anticipate everything, but we have arrived at a junction whereby it is incumbent on everybody involved in the provision of facilities of this nature to dot the i's and cross the t's and to ensure the negotiations provided for within the law take place beforehand. The experience gained from this interim measure should be used to good advantage in any negotiations in the future.

I welcome the intent of these amendments which are obviously related to the incidents in Silvermines. Our committee visited Silvermines and saw the remarkably unstable and unsatisfactory leftovers from the mining operation there. Under these amendments, does the Minister expect this or any future Government to be able to recover some of the financial costs from the companies involved in Silvermines? What commitments or financial contributions have the companies made? If there have not been any made to date, what guarantee do we have that the companies will pay a single euro for the rehabilitation plan that is needed?

I welcome any move that will prevent what we have seen in mines around the country where multinationals have exploited our resources and have left nothing behind except a mess. That was the case with Tina Mines and in other places.

The Shell to Sea campaign is about creating an offshore terminal, something which has already happened off Kinsale and which would be very acceptable to the people in Rossport. The people are prepared to talk and to do whatever has to be done to ensure their area is kept for the children in the future. It is the same with the mines where 400 acres has been earmarked for development in the future. The people of the area do not want to see a situation develop like that which happened in Tina Mines, where a terrible mess was left to be dealt with by the locals and their children. That is what the Corrib gas debate is about. This is happening under their noses for 50 permanent jobs, which is something the people cannot condone.

I thank the Deputies for their contribution and for welcoming the measure. This has been an ongoing sore across the political divide for a number of years and it needed to be resolved. When Deputy Michael Smith was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, there was much discussion, debate and research done on the issue. Part of the reason for the lack of resolution of the issue was the problem of recovering costs. There was ongoing dialogue between the Department and what is left of the company that was involved in the ownership of the mines over the years. Attempts were made to come up with a remediationprogramme that would be acceptable to everybody and to which funding would be given by the company. However, it appeared to me that if we were to depend on the company to provide a contribution, we would not get remediation that would be to the satisfaction of the local population. For that reason I decided to bring forward this proposal to the Government.

The Government remains committed to trying to recover the costs and a legal challenge is still extant. We served papers on this some time ago and it remains in place. If we can recover costs we will do so, but the chances of recovery are slim. However, we have made provision in the section to ensure that if the State spends €10.6 million, we will try to recover the costs. We have also provided for a claim on any benefits accruing from the sale of the land. We have done everything we can to ensure the taxpayer is protected, but in all honesty I do not expect too much of the €10.6 million to come from anyone other than the taxpayer.

It is intended that this section will be repealed when the minerals development Bill is enacted. We are finding our way on this to a certain extent. We are using the local authority to act as agents and if that method is successful, it will become the template for any such moves in the future and we can enshrine it in legislation. With regard to current mining operations, my constituency contains the largest lead and zinc mine in Europe and if one goes into Google earth one can see the tailing ponds before one can see the town of Navan. I have a keen interest in ensuring these problems do not arise in future. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Planning and Development Acts impose obligations on companies to ensure these difficulties do not arise in the future. This does not solve the legacy problems but I would not anticipate that with regard to any current or future mines, the taxpayer will be required to meet the cost. This is specifically a legacy issue.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments reported.

Amendments Nos. 5, 46 to 48, inclusive, 89, 99 and 100 are cognate and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are technical alternatives to the same part of the Bill.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, line 13, after "Energy" to insert "Regulation".

The inclusion of the word "Regulation" was discussed on Committee Stage and was referred to on Second Stage. This is a regulatory Bill, and rightly so, although some indication has been given to the effect that it is an energy Bill, but this is not so. As a regulatory Bill it should include in some shape or form the word "Regulation". This is of particular importance for reference purposes. It is important that the reference should be accessible and self-explanatory in the case when a person seeks to quote a regulatory section in respect of the energy industry. This is a small inclusion.

The Minister indicated on Committee Stage that he might consider this proposal. I am hopeful he will be in an expansive mood on this calm morning to include it for the benefits I have suggested.

I have gone as far as I can and as far as is necessary with my amendment No. 47 to meet the case made by the Deputy. The purpose of amendment No. 47 is to delete a reference to the Bill when enacted which is superfluous to the text and the purpose of subsection (c) of section 6.

I have no difficulty with the underlying reasoning for Deputy Durkan's suggestion for the Short Title of the Bill but I do not agree with his proposal for the execution of that reasoning. The Short Title of the Bill is simply a shorthand reference to it. The real name or Title of the Bill is contained in the Long Title. Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, change the name of the Bill to take account of the new provisions currently outside its scope.

A clear precedent exists. The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2005 contained a number of provisions outside the scope of energy matters. They included the use of radiological material for medical purposes and the payment of debts by Bord na Móna. The Maritime Safety Act 2005 amends landlord and tenant legislation. The proper place for the reference is in the Long Titles of both Acts. My magnanimity goes so far as to accept the underlying reasons but I am dealing with it in a different way.

I note the Minister's response, but I also ask him to recognise that the Opposition has been fairly magnanimous with regard to this Bill as it bears little resemblance to its original appearance at birth. It has changed dramatically in the intervening period and the Opposition has done its best to accommodate the Minister when he found himself in a quandary. We have accepted recommittal and allowed the redrafting of the entire Bill. I urge the insertion of the word "Regulation" as this word is an integral part of the Bill's purpose and this should be clearly stated in the Title of the Bill. It would be more descriptive of the Bill's purpose and would be the natural reference point for all those involved in the provision of energy facilities, whether that be gas, electricity or ordinary heating of public buildings or dwelling houses, as another amendment will propose.

The Bill regulates the area of efficiency and that is to be welcomed, but those regulations lay down certain criteria and guidelines which need to be followed to achieve particular standards. I suggest the Bill could be titled a miscellaneous standards or provisions Bill or the word "Regulation" could be inserted. This would introduce the need for the commission and the Minister, in conjunction with the commission, to be in full control of the regulatory system.

I acknowledge the co-operation in many different guises which I have received from the Opposition. I am not trying to be awkward in not accepting the amendment. The Deputy will know from reading the amendments that the Government has accepted the principle of a number of changes that were suggested on Committee Stage because they were good suggestions. For instance, we are increasing the minimum number of days for consultation on draft policy directives and tying the text of those provisions more closely to the Green Paper, as requested by Deputies opposite. We are providing a legislative underpinning for the involvement of the joint committee in the consideration of all draft policy directives. We have taken on board a number of suggestions made on Committee Stage. It is regrettable I cannot accept this amendment but I take the Deputy's point on the number of regulatory aspects. However, every Bill that is passed is regulatory; the House legislates for something so it is therefore regulatory. I ask the Deputy not to press the amendment because we have gone as far as we can on this proposal.

The Minister has not entirely explained his reason. He has said he was in a magnanimous mood and he has recognised the magnanimity of the Opposition.

We are back to the discipline of Report Stage discussions.

This is a recommittal of the Bill.

Not in respect of this amendment.

The Minister has recognised almost every good feature that I can think of and has acknowledged almost every reason I can think of for including the word "regulation". Will he explain the compelling forces that debar him from including the word "regulation", which is what the Bill will do?

Commonsense, conciseness and the fact that it is covered in the Long Title rather than in the Short Title and that one should keep the Short Title as short as possible.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 64.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Wall, Jack.


  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are technical alternatives to the same Parts of the Bill and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, to delete lines 15 to 19 and substitute the following:

"(2) Sections 4, 6, 8, 11 to 14 and 18 of this Act shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may by order or orders appoint either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or provisions.”.

This is a minor technical amendment. It specifies which provisions of the Bill are not to be brought into effect on its enactment but which are to be brought into effect by means of a ministerial order instead. In effect, this is a reversal of the provisions of the current text of section 1, which highlights those sections brought into effect on enactment. Therefore, we are just switching it around because we think it is easier.

Several of the new amendments to the Bill will need to be brought into effect immediately on its enactment. For example, the amendment allows for such matters as the power of Bord Gáis Éireann to create capital stock, increasing the borrowing limits of Bord na Móna and the rehabilitation of mine sites, to come in automatically.

Following consideration of the issues raised by Members on Committee Stage and because there is no administrative barrier to prevent it, it has also been decided to bring certain provisions — for example, those governing emergency measures and policy directions to the CER — into effect immediately on enactment.

The use of the ministerial order should, where possible, be restricted to those provisions which are dependent on preparatory work for their successful implementation and which are therefore unsuitable for bringing into effect on enactment of the Bill — for example, the regulation of electrical contractors and gas installers.

By specifying which provisions require such an order, rather than those that do not, it serves as a useful checklist for those responsible for drafting such orders. We believe this will make the procedure much clearer.

The universally suitable and acceptable answer is yes and no. The Minister is right in saying that there are some situations where the gradual introduction of particular sections of an Act may be desirable. In that case, the provisions of the Act are merely being introduced as required or on request. While that may be fine in some cases, Members of the House will recall that some sections of certain legislative measures were not activated or put into operation for one reason or another. I am not certain therefore that the Minister's idea is a good one. I would be willing to overlook the deviation if, for example, it were to be introduced subject to Oireachtas approval. Amendment No. 7 meets that requirement.

The term "subject to Oireachtas approval" would mean that on or in the course of introducing various sections, there would be a requirement for such matters to be referred to the Houses of the Oireachtas for debate. We tried to introduce such a provision during the debates on Second Stage and Committee Stage. It has also been a feature of discussions on a similar Bill. Members of the Oireachtas currently find it difficult to raise questions that are in order concerning certain subjects, including a sensitive subject of this nature. It would be highly beneficial to the operation of the Oireachtas and the monitoring of legislation if the term "subject to Oireachtas approval" was included. The Minister may find himself on the Opposition benches and on the receiving end of these matters in a short while — not that I wish him any harm or the Government any slippage in the opinion polls but they say one man's meat is another's poison. It may be beneficial from the point of view of the Government not to include this provision or to introduce the sections on a piecemeal basis but the Government amendment is imprecise and would be significantly improved if my amendment was accepted.

I do not wish to delay the discussion because a number of important amendments have yet to be moved but the public generally takes the view that a Bill passes into law once it has been signed by the President. Recently, for example, I was asked whether the fireworks provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 had entered into force. There are often misconceptions among the public about when legislation is brought into force. We all remember the classic case of the Children Act 1997, key aspects of which have not yet been implemented one decade later. In this regard, Deputy Kenny asked a question this morning about the treatment of young offenders. Tranches of the Children Act are not in effect because the Government will not spend the necessary money.

The public is very interested in some of the ideas presented by this Bill and expect them to be implemented. The Minister claims that his amendment will provide for clarity because, in the past, Bills could take years to enact. Sections 2, 5 and 16 to 18, inclusive, are already excluded. Now, amendment No. 6 proposes that sections 4, 6, 8, 11 to 14, inclusive, and 18 will come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may set. Clearly, certain elements of the Bill, such as the sections pertaining to gas and electricity safety, the interconnector and combined heat and power, are being included but debate on this could continue for a long time, so the sense of urgency we were trying to foster regarding, for example, the interconnector or microgeneration, might not be reflected in the Bill. The Minister may be able to bring into force immediate provisions to direct CER or act in an emergency but that remains uncertain. After going through the trouble of getting this Bill right, its sections should enter into force as soon after enactment as possible so that we can move on with the energy agenda. However, the Minister is confusing the matter with this amendment.

I oppose the proposed amendment, although I understand the intention behind it, on a basic point of principle. With regard to section 16, which concerns capitalisation of Bord Gáis in order to allow an ESOT to purchase a stake in the company, I have yet to hear an argument from the Minister setting out the reasons the State should allocate funding. We asked on Committee Stage to know the union's case for the capitalisation of the company and allocation of a significant shareholding, as well as the particular reasons for the Minister's change of mind. If I recall the Minister's comments, we are looking at up to €25,000 for every individual shareholder, based on the estimated final capitalisation of the company. The Minister said he would share with Opposition Deputies the case made by the union regarding any benefits or new productivity arrangements which would justify such a deal. Given the history of ESOTS and the effect they are having on State companies following the success — from a union perspective — of Eircom, I would have preferred to retain the practice whereby decisions are made according to ministerial regulations. I do not believe in enacting Bills which allow for such decisions to be made upon enactment; how can I make a decision when I have not been presented with an argument from the Minister on the benefits or changes in working practice that persuaded him to change his mind? In the absence of the reasoning for the decision, I would prefer section 16 to be issued by the Minister if he believes it a good idea.

I also oppose this amendment because the people I represent do not trust this Minister, who, with his predecessors, has been responsible for everything that happened to the Corrib gas field, despite never visiting the area. When will he meet the people involved? A TG4 survey revealed that 61% of respondents were in favour of Shell to Sea, 66% supported the stance of the Rossport five, while a survey conducted by the Mayo Advertiser indicated that 40% of people could not care less, only 15% were in favour of Shell’s actions and the remainder wanted Shell to go to sea.

In light of the Minister's responsibilities, when will he respond to the request made by Independent Deputies for a period of calm and the suspension of work at the Bellanaboy terminal in order that negotiations could be held? The Government will have to involve itself in this because, while the people of the area are all interested in negotiating, the Advantica report did not take account of the location of the pipeline and that remains the issue. The Minister has not responded to the statement issued by Deputy Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, Deputy Healy and myself. Deputy Sargent, who visited the area yesterday, made a call for greater transparency from Shell and urged the Minister to respond. The Fianna Fáil candidate in the area, Councillor Frank Chambers, has joined the chorus of those seeking discussions on an alternative location.

Two engineers, Brian Coyle and Leo Corcoran, a former Bord Gáis employee, have asked the Minister to commission a report by Advantica on the optimum location for the gas terminal, which they believe to be central to the dispute over the onshore pipeline. Given that they are the Minister's people and that he has responsibility for the matter, when will he meet his people? While there is collective Government responsibility for this matter, if I were the Minister I would find it hard to admit I never stood down there and never met those people. The Minister has cast aspersions on those people. They are fine decent honourable people who have been heavily put upon. They are very disturbed and upset over what has happened to their area. They have legitimate fears that have never been addressed.

The location of the pipeline to the refinery is the problem, as has always been the case. The Minister continues to insist on Shell proceeding to lay this pipeline, which does not have permission and could have serious problems regarding cold venting of gas which have been admitted. Serious questions remain to be answered. Why does the Minister continue to ignore the people? Why will he not visit them? Everyone who has done so has received a warm welcome and a cup of tea, and has heard what this is all about. I do not know how the Minister can stand over all that is happening when he refuses to visit those people. When will he visit?

When will the Minister address the initiative seeking an alternative location for the terminal suggested by the Independent Deputies, Deputy Sargent, the leader of the Green Party, the Fianna Fáil councillor, Frank Chambers, and, I believe, Ian McAndrew from Fine Gael? When will the Minister address the report by the engineers, Leo Corcoran and Brian Coyle, which called for a study by Advantica Consultants, who did not investigate the location of the refinery? When will the Minister commission them to report on alternative locations?

I am not sure what this has to do with the amendment.

It is the Minister's responsibility.

The Deputy keeps bringing back in this issue. It has nothing to do with amendment No. 6.

It has everything to do with it. It is the Minister's responsibility.

It would be nice if the Deputy would listen to somebody else at times. He continually asks when I will start listening. It is quite clear from all of his contributions in the House that he does not listen to anybody, nor do some of the people involved.

The Minister should tell us something.

The Deputy should try listening——

I am listening.

——rather than talking all the time and not listening.

When will the Minister visit?

I have no plans for any visit to the——

Why not?

Chairman, I am either to respond or to have a dialogue.

Acting Chairman

I ask the Deputy to allow an tAire to respond.

The Deputy continually talks and tells everybody else that they should listen. A small number of Independent Deputies made a request last Monday week. As the Deputy is well aware, I said last week that when the mediation process was established, both sides were asked to enter unconditional talks, with no conditions attached by either side. Both sides indicated they were interested in doing so and the people representing Shell to Sea refused to sit down face-to-face with Shell to have those talks. That is a fact, which can easily be verified. As I know the Deputy does not want to mislead the House, he should not talk to me in this House about not being willing to talk to anybody. Unless someone is saying what Shell to Sea wants him or her to say in this House, its representatives do not want to listen.

The local people the Deputy represents had genuine concerns and everything that could possibly be done to allay those concerns was done. I listened to them through third parties, through their spokespersons and through their public representatives, and I responded positively. Some of them have not moved an inch. Some of them have and are certainly less concerned following the report of Advantica Consultants, mediation, consultation and everything else. I will not try to satisfy Shell to Sea supporters, who represent a loose conglomeration of political activists from Sinn Féin, anarchists affiliated to various environmental groups etc. While they are entitled to their view, my concern has always been for the local people who had genuine fears and concerns. I have tried to address those concerns. While some people are not satisfied, I can do nothing further in that regard. I am sorry that some people do not seem to be able to get that message.

The amendment we are discussing is fairly minor and technical, and is designed to clarify. Any Bill brought before the House sets out various principles and objectives. In some cases they cannot be done immediately on enactment of the Bill. One good example relates to the provisions dealing with the installers, safety etc. Discussions are ongoing to make this as effective as possible and to try to prevent it from becoming too bureaucratic. By the time the Bill has passed through the Seanad, those talks may have been completed and we might be able to commence the section fairly quickly or it might take somewhat longer. However, in such cases where we are trying to tease out some of the details, it makes sense to have a commencement date. That is all that is proposed in this amendment.

I take the point made by the Deputies on the danger of going down a particular route and having commencement dates for individual sections. It is always a danger that matters will drag on. The alternative is to shelve the Bill until all the details are worked out and then come back to try to get the Bill passed through the House, which does not make much sense either. I assure Deputies, who have put considerable work into the Bill, as have my officials and I, that it is intended to have all the provisions brought into effect as quickly as is possible and feasible. There is no desire to delay any of them. Some of them are extremely important.

Deputy Durkan has been very consistent in his proposals in trying to ensure we have Oireachtas scrutiny of Bills. All of the orders will be required to be laid before the Oireachtas as a matter of course. Some of them need to be affirmed and some of them will be implemented if not opposed. It allows for scrutiny of the detail. While the Deputy has an interest in all sections, I know he has a particular interest in the section relating to installers and the safety aspect.

I will take another provision that was mentioned, that of combined heat and power.

In his second contribution, the Minister is allowed two minutes. The third round is open-ended. I have allowed some latitude in this case and I could run into difficulty accordingly.

I will do it the other way around. If I speak for a third time, I will only take two minutes. I am sorry I did not realise what was the requirement.

On section 6, which concerns combined heat and power, there is ongoing work at EU level, which work will affect the section. We do not want to commence the section until the work is finalised.

I will forward whatever details I can obtain on Bord Gáis Éireann before the end of the week. The principle involved was that if the workers were to get an ESOP, its value would have to be reflected in savings to the company over a particular period and the State would also have to receive some dividend. Some of the details involved are commercially sensitive but we will provide as much detail as we possibly can.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Durkan has two minutes.

Two minutes is a long time if one uses it well but if one uses it badly it could be of no benefit at all.

It has been necessary for me to try to incorporate the theme which the Minister says I have been pursuing all the time, particularly from the point of view of the Opposition. We find our interaction with the Government in the House is being narrowed time and again. Eventually Parliament will become superfluous to the legislative process and this should not be the case. There should be total transparency and accountability at all times.

It is proposed to defer the commencement date of six sections of the Bill. This is a fairly fundamental move. Notwithstanding what the Minister said about the ongoing talks, I do not believe one can produce legislation on that basis. One must determine what one believes to be legislatively correct. Over the summer we had to exchange views with the various interested groups that made representations to us. This process is particularly difficult for the Opposition — it is almost impossible. The Minister will ultimately introduce particularly sensitive and important legislation on a staggered basis.

Deputy Broughan referred to other legislation where the staggered approach caused a problem. It would be very helpful if, in view of the proposed deletion, my amendment were accepted. I know the Minister said measures will be laid before the House but this is certainly not the same as having accountability in the House. We need to recognise that the most effective course of action is to include matters on the Order Paper so that they can be raised in the House and the Minister can be questioned.

To respond to some of the Minister's points, a representative number of Independent Members were in attendance in addition to Deputy Joe Higgins.

The substance of amendment No. 6 is somewhat removed from the Deputy's contribution.

I have a right to defend myself in the House when accusations are made against me. The opposition in Mayo is not confined to a couple of radicals. It includes the local population, whether the Minister likes it or not. If he cares to read any of the surveys other than the one conducted by Shell, including those by TG4 and the Mayo Advertiser, he will note that the vast majority of the population is in favour of what the protesters are trying to do. They are just trying to be safe in their own area. Every party is entitled to support the campaign and no democratic party should be overruled. To say otherwise is wrong.

The Minister said people were not prepared to talk to Shell. The men who were jailed were——

Acting Chairman

The Deputy might address the substance of amendment No. 6.

There is great willingness to talk and a very genuine proposal that should be considered. One should remember the location of the refinery was never the subject of the study and this is the outstanding problem. Even an inspector from An Bord Pleanála said it was in the wrong location. There is a great need for the Minister to intervene. He could talk to Shell to Sea, which represents the majority of people in the area, and to Shell. This is the way forward and the Minister has responsibility in this regard.

We hope the Minister will visit the site in Mayo. He has been so involved in the process but has never visited. If he visited the headquarters of Shell to Sea, he would see it is a trailer, in which he would receive a hot cup of tea and a welcome. He would hear for the first time what this matter is all about and meet the real people involved, that is, the ordinary, honourable, decent people I represent.

The House understands that very detailed and intense preparatory work is involved in producing the legislation, including in respect of the all-island energy market. When we first discussed the Bill, we were trying to address all the safety issues. The Minister is, at long last, establishing a very fundamental safety regime for electricity and gas. The public would like to know that it will be in place.

When the interested parties met the Opposition representatives before the consideration of the Bill, they highlighted what they believed were deficiencies in the way the Minister was to regulate existing organisations and in the way safety measures were approved. One can say for definite that the gas and electricity safety measures are paramount and should be enforced as soon as possible. Regulations are made available to the Oireachtas Library but this is not the same as discussing them in the House, as Deputy Durkan indicated.

Let us consider Deputy Cowley's comments. To allow us concentrate on the Bill, which is not primarily about exploration, is there any way in which the Minister could facilitate face to face talks between Shell and the key people from Mayo? I note the points he has made in this regard. The whole country has been interested in this subject. There has been much comment on the matter in the media today and different parties, including representatives from my party, have a particular interest in it. Does the Minister foresee a fundamental role for Bord Gáis Éireann in resolving the dispute and getting the gas ashore safely in an agreed fashion so that we would have the interim fuel supply the country desperately needs?

The amendment we are proposing is simply a reversal of the provisions that obtained previously. Instead of saying the sections will commence immediately, we are specifying the ones that will not commence immediately. It is the same thing in a different way.

It is the same but different.

It is just a reversal. It has exactly the same import.

It is clearer.

It makes it clearer.

In respect of the extraneous matters that have been raised, I have dealt with the Corrib project and with Shell to Sea. If I thought there were the slightest chance that people would move from their positions, I would be very accommodating. I do not believe that will happen, however, because there is absolutely no evidence of it.

What about yesterday's newspaper article?

There is absolutely no evidence.

Did the Minister read the interview?

We have gone over time.

Statements are being made which have been made in the past. People are saying they will sit down and talk to Shell face to face provided there are no preconditions, but when those people are asked to sit down they refuse to do so.

The statement was that "we reiterate our position that we wish to resolve this conflict so that the health and safety——

The Deputy is out of order. I want to deal with amendment No. 6. Is the amendment agreed?

I would be willing to trade the amendment for amendment No. 7.

Deputy Durkan is testing the patience of the Chair.

It is no harm to test that as well as everything else.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.
Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.