Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages.

On a point of order, I understand that, on Committee Stage, the Minister undertook to table two amendments, but they have not appeared yet. Will the Minister clarify the position, please?

Does the Minister wish to make a brief comment? We could deal with it when we reach the relevant sections.

I do not know whether we can procedurally propose that the Bill revert to Committee Stage. Is that in order?

It is in order for any Member to propose a recommittal of any section or of the whole Bill.

I would be happy to hear what the Minister has to say. I do not want to prejudge the issue.

On Committee Stage, I indicated that I would consider tabled amendments, the appointment of local authority directors and, in some way, facilitating a nomination——

The Minister should make a brief intervention. We can deal with that point when we reach the section.

I will still consider the proposal. It does not require an amendment on Report Stage. It is an administrative matter.

I wish to raise another issue. I seek to be helpful because we have been clear on——

I take it that this is another point of order.

Of course. The previous matter was only one of the issues the Minister agreed to reconsider. I am sure that Deputy Sheehan is on his way, but the second issue relates to the Bantry Bay commissioners. The Minister undertook to examine the matter. What is his response?

I wish to speak on the same two matters. The Minister gave us strong commitments on a number of contentious issues. It seems that——

Perhaps we will deal with them when we reach the sections. We will be in order at that point.

We were expecting to see some amendments.

That was our expectation.

I did not promise amendments.

This is our problem in progressing the matter. The amendments have not materialised. Regarding the other issue, we were given a firm commitment that there would be an amendment on the retirement age of pilots, that is, to return it to 65 years of age. As with the representation of city and county councillors on harbour boards, some democratic accountability and the Minister's commitments regarding Bantry Harbour, there do not seem to be any relevant amendments in this regard.

We cannot have an open discussion on what might be in the Bill. Let us deal with the sections and, as we do so——

The essence of the issue is that we might decide to recommit the Bill.

Yes. That is the point.

If the Deputy would allow, we will deal with the Bill section by section.

Can we propose that the whole of the Bill be recommitted?

The Deputy can propose that this minute, if he wishes.

I move:

That in accordance with Standing Order 130(1), the Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 be recommitted in its entirety.

I oppose the motion.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 76.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan.
Question declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"(b) after full consultation with relevant maritime stakeholders,”.

I tabled this amendment on Committee Stage.

This Bill is such a fundamental revision of the Harbours Act 1996 that it gives us the opportunity to mention the integration of transport networks, particularly between ports and major new road facilities. On Committee Stage we heard that much of the departmental responsibility for the marine and ports would be transferred to the Department of Transport on the basis that there would be integration. That is what I seek to do in amendment No. 2.

In amendment No. 3, I propose that the traffic separation scheme also be mentioned in the Bill. The Minister may recall that the Pilots Association mentioned that part of the new boundary is not within the traffic separation scheme in Dublin Bay. The Minister indicated that he would review ports policy and that we would have a chance to update this five year old document and include provisions on general ports policy and infrastructure. On that basis, I will withdraw my amendment.

I am happy that the Deputy is withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

Amendment No. 4 is out of order because it involves a potential charge on the revenue.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 7, line 7, after "harbour" to insert the following:

"provided that those activities are clearly beneficial to the harbour in question and to the Irish State".

A key aspect of this Bill is to encourage a more dynamic approach to commercial activity in all of the national ports which includes giving ports greater freedom in respect of their investment or commercial activities outside the harbour limits and State ports in certain instances. The amendment to the 1996 Act states, "the company may invest in or engage in commercial activities outside the limits of the harbour". My amendment seeks to amend that briefly to prevent some commercial activities, perhaps by way of investment, outside this country becoming the dominant feature of the port company's activity.

In amendment No. 6, I seek to amend the guidelines that the Minister is bringing forward to the effect that in making decisions about the acquisition or disposal of land the company must be "fully cognisant of the priority of maintaining port lands in the public interest for public transport uses and for the public good". That is important given the history of, and recent allegations about, some port activities and the fact that port lands have not been used for beneficial purposes.

It is important to improve the ability of ports to behave dynamically and the Minister made several comments about that on Second Stage. Having considered his views as expressed on Committee Stage, I ask him to bear in mind the issues I have raised in both of these amendments but I will withdraw amendment No. 5.

I did reflect further on the issues raised and the appropriateness of using the term "public interest" but on reflection decided not to use it. I thank the Deputy for offering to withdraw the amendment. I assure him that the public interest is part of the existing legislation, this Bill and the ministerial consent process contained in this and other Bills.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are cognate and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 8, line 41, to delete "and".

These are technical drafting amendments to correct an imperfection in the original Bill by deleting the word "and" on page 8 and inserting it between lines 6 and 7 on page 9. This does not alter the content or substance of the section as originally proposed but merely corrects an error identified during the proofreading process.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 9, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

"and".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 11 are related and amendment No. 12 is a technical alternative to amendment No. 11. Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 9, to delete lines 20 to 30.

A substantial part of this Bill aims to amend the Harbours Act 1996 to enable a Minister effectively to remove democratically elected councillors from the boards of harbour companies and ports and to nominate instead a single member from local government. It will also give him the power to reduce the number of worker directors to one and to reduce or remove one of the key elements of the 1996 Act. Labour Party councillors who served on ports and harbour boards did so with great distinction. The Minister's action is predicated on the fact that the boards are too large and that we must now have eight person boards. The kind of widespread local democratic representation that we have had over the years is no longer fit for purpose. I argued the point on Second Stage that many effective boards have more than eight members. I am not sure what the ideal number of board members would be; the Government has 15 people and there are many other instances of very effective bodies and boards of organisations where there may be ten, 12 or 15 members. They seem to work best.

On Committee Stage the Minister indicated that one of the reasons he had to reduce the number of board members was because too many companies had more board members than workers. Dublin Port has 155 employees and 650 pensioners; Cork has 121 employees and 159 pensioners; Shannon Foynes has 60 employees; Waterford and Dún Laoghaire have 50 employees; Galway has 15 employees; and New Ross and Drogheda have 14 employees. These are significant companies by any standards and the normal kind of company governance should apply.

There are many famous ports which are fairly close to us in this part of the world. For example, Belfast has 15 board members, four of whom are councillors; Antwerp has 18 board members, ten of whom are councillors; Singapore has a board of 12 members; and the great port of Hamburg has a board of 22, including two worker directors. The more we look at international comparisons, the less clear the Minister's case becomes. Overall, the case of removing the right of local authorities to nominate their members as they have selected on to harbour and port boards has not been made by the Minister.

There is always the fear that political patronage will become an avenue whereby a Minister in power will be able to nominate members of his own party, and it may be possible that a person being a chairman of a comhairle ceantair, branch of a political party or a constituency party could be a requirement for discharging the office of director in a port company. That would be a bad and ludicrous position, which we should avoid at all costs.

One can consider the very impressive contribution to port companies of local government city and county councillors over recent decades and particularly since 1996. The Minister's action seems to be a retrograde step. At the start of this debate we asked to recommit this Bill because the Minister indicated he might have considered avenues whereby the local council would have been able to nominate preferred representatives on to the boards in question. The Minister indicated he could do this by regulation but there is no amendment to the Bill to this effect.

There have been various reviews of the ports back to 2000, with the Packer report being the first to indicate that boards should be smaller. If one considers effective commercial activity from ports and other companies, smaller port board size is not necessarily the best way forward. The suspicion continues that decimating the representation of councillors and worker directors on the boards of ports is being done at times to facilitate the Government in permitting ports to move in a way that would be out of the public interest, or where their aims and ambitions would be more removed from the public interest. In the past there were big agendas regarding the privatisation of ports, and that would fall into the same kind of category.

Worker directors have made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the development of commercial State ports since the Harbours Act 1996 was implemented. Worker directors by their nature tend to be people with a profound knowledge of their own port and a deep interest in its work. Given that worker directors have been some of the most supportive in developing the commercial remit of ports outside their immediate area, it seems to be a retrograde move to cut the size of their contribution to large ports. Worker directors must go through the democratic process and are elected by colleagues, unlike the rest of the ministerial nominations to boards.

These three amendments seek to prevent the Minister from changing the 1996 Act and removing direct democracy from the boards of these large and important local companies by reducing the number of worker directors. In general terms, this would create a very small and elite board around the chief executive. The Minister has not made the case, either on Second or Committee Stage, that this will necessarily end up in much more effective governance.

Ultimately, in our political world, would we be better off with a Government of seven or eight people? Some might say that we would be and in the current Administration, a number of people would not make that seven or eight. Most people feel a slightly larger group would be better. With my own long experience of boards in different areas of the social economy, sport and other sectors, I believe that a board with eight members would be too small and could prevent wider representation and expertise that would enable the organisation to move forward in a better way.

I appreciate the Minister considers that in order for ports to have a commercial remit, we must have tighter governance and administration. We have had complaints about certain actions taken by ports in the past. I agree with the spirit of adopting that approach but losing local councillors and halving the number of worker directors would be a retrograde step. As a result, I am proposing these three amendments on behalf of the Labour Party.

There are many good facets to this Bill and the core issue is to make the boards more dynamic and businesslike as organisations. The number of representatives on boards is to be reduced from 12 to eight and the Bill clearly enunciates a procedure whereby there would be an election among worker directors if the directors of the company declare that more than 30 people will work there in a particular year. Due provision is being made for a democratic election among workers in a port authority.

For the public representatives elected by the people, there is no clarity in the Minister's actions. On Committee Stage I understood the Minister would think about what we said. I respect the Minister and I do not believe what he said was anything other than what he believed at the time. Not having a direct election from the elected local authorities on to the board would fly in the face of what is being done in the Bill for workers and elected representatives generally. It is making little of them in that it does not recognise their capacity or ability to select from their own number an individual or individuals who have already been elected by the public to represent the local authority and other interests.

That such a person would be selected by a local authority as opposed to the Minister would lend greater credibility to the mandate he or she would enjoy. If he or she is appointed by the Minister — regardless of who might be that Minister — questions will always arise in the context of political issues. However, if he or she is selected by a local authority, clarity will be brought to the process. Local authorities already appoint elected members to the boards of various bodies. If the heart of local democracy is reflected in the fact that directors can come from among the ranks of elected local representatives, it would not be acceptable if absolute clarity were not provided in respect of the process to which I refer.

Another issue to which I wish to refer relates to the situation where local authorities that are located adjacent to each other have representatives on a harbour authority. Louth County Council, Meath County Council and Drogheda Borough Council are represented on Drogheda Harbour Commissioners. If only one representative is to be selected from among those three local authorities, the Minister of the day will have major difficulties in keeping his supporters at bay on the two authorities that lose out.

The democratic process would benefit if the selection of representatives is made by local authorities. If the Minister, as seems to be the case, is reducing the number of representatives to one in each case, perhaps a rotation system might be introduced in order that the various local authorities would, at some point, be represented. I am not sure as to what will be the period of office of the representative but I presume it will be five years. In such circumstances, a local authority that is represented on the board for a five-year period should not be so represented on the next occasion and the honour should pass to another authority. I am of the view that this is a fair way to proceed.

I accept the need to reduce the numbers serving on the boards. However, democratically elected representatives who are accountable but who are not appointed by the Minister should be central to the process.

I tabled amendments Nos. 22 to 37, inclusive, and 40 to 42, inclusive, on Committee Stage. These were designed to put forward a two-pronged defence in respect of Bantry Bay Harbour——

We will deal later with the matters in respect of which those amendments were tabled on Committee Stage.

I merely wish to make a remark to the Minister.

That is fine. However, we are dealing with amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 and these do not relate to the matter to which the Deputy refers. I will call on the Deputy when the relevant amendment is moved later.

Unfortunately, I was not in a position to make a contribution to the Second Stage debate on the Bill. I have an interest in Fenit Harbour, which is located in my constituency. I am glad the Minister, more or less, reversed his original intention in respect of amalgamating it with Foynes Harbour. The latter would not be appropriate and it would be better if Fenit Harbour Commissioners were incorporated as a company.

With regard to representation, Tralee UDC and Kerry County Council have decided who are supposed to be their representatives on the harbour board. However, these individuals will not take their places on the board in six months' time and instead the Minister will appoint one councillor to serve as representative. Fine Gael happens to hold a majority on Kerry County Council at present. It must be the case that whichever party holds the majority on the council — it could be the Minister's party in the future — should have the right to nominate the councillor who will serve as representative. Surely it would be anti-democratic if the Minister were to go against the wishes of the majority by putting forward his own nominee. I presume that said individual would not be a member of an Opposition party. That is not good for democracy.

Fenit Harbour has a great future, both from a commercial and marine recreation point of view. In that context, I hope the Minister will nominate someone with real expertise to serve on the board. Perhaps he might look outside the immediate area or even the county to find a suitable person with expertise in running ports. I reiterate that the Minister's nomination of a person to serve on the board when a majority of the county council might not support that nomination runs contrary to the principle of democracy.

I thank the Deputies for their comments in respect of these amendments. Long discussions on the matter to which they relate took place both in the Seanad and at the Select Committee on Transport. What we are doing is establishing a commercial approach, as outlined in the ports policy statement, in respect of our ports and harbours. Essentially, we are adopting a model which is different from that to which we have become used with regard to port companies. Such companies will now have a commercial remit.

The ports policy statement indicates that the State will no longer be responsible for financing the various ports and harbours. The latter will be obliged to provide their own funding when the new regime comes into place. If we are to make the companies as commercial as possible, we must provide those in charge of them with the wherewithal to achieve this goal. Of course, this will be subject to the oversight of the boards.

At present, boards are comprised of 12 members. However, as indicated in the ports policy statement, to achieve a streamlined position the number will be reduced to eight. This will have consequences. For example, it will not be possible to have three local authority members and two worker directors on a board of eight. We cannot state that we are determined to implement a commercial approach in respect of the ports and harbours and then leave matters as they currently stand. An inevitable consequence of moving in the direction we propose to take is that the number of members on the boards will be reduced. A second consequence is that those who might have been entitled to representation in the past will not enjoy the same level of representation on a smaller board.

We would defeat the entire purpose behind the ports policy if we were to leave matters as they stand, namely, with three councillors and two worker directors on each board. Attracting only three other directors from elsewhere would not achieve the goal we have set ourselves in respect of this matter.

When they become members of the boards, councillors do not represent their local authorities. At that stage, they become directors and have fiduciary responsibilities and obligations in respect of the governance of those boards. These individuals are not appointed to boards to represent the views of the local authorities, they are there to act in the best interests of the port companies. References to the representation of local authorities or to anti-democratic practices are not accurate in this instance.

On Committee Stage, Members, particularly Deputy O'Dowd, expressed concerns with regard to the fact that there was no indication as to what we might do in respect of local authority directors and how they might be selected. Deputy O'Dowd also inquired as to what might happen in cases where two or three local authority areas might be located contiguous to a port. I indicated I would consider those matters and I have been doing so.

I certainly am minded that instead of the Minister simply selecting someone from the local authorities, I will allow the local authorities to make nominations and to put forward their candidates for a position on the board.

However, I am somewhat amused that a Minister, who in the first instance is elected directly by the people of a constituency and who then is elected a Minister by the elected representatives of the people in Dáil Éireann, should not have a say in who should be appointed from a local authority to a harbour authority but that the local authority should have that say. There is a discrepancy in thinking in that regard. In any event, I made the political point to Deputy Broughan on Committee Stage that while I do not believe that being the chairman of a comhairle ceanntair is an absolutely necessary qualification for a member of the harbour authority, neither do I believe it should disqualify him or her from being such a member. Similarly, I do not believe that being a member of the Labour Party or the Fine Gael Party should either qualify or disqualify one from such a position. The Deputy is aware that many of these people, regardless of their party, are highly committed community activists who are as entitled to be considered as is anyone else.

However, I do not need to make an amendment to the legislation. I have given Deputy O'Dowd a commitment that I will come up with a nomination procedure that will allow local authorities to make nominations in respect of the local authority representatives or directors and I will so do. However, I cannot increase the representation because to do so would distort the balance on the boards, on which it is reasonable to have one local authority member. Although the Deputy asked that it might be rotated, I am unsure whether so doing would provide the kind of continuity a board should have. While it may be possible, I have never favoured one year each in the chair of an strategic policy committee or whatever else. Deputy O'Dowd is familiar with the position in Drogheda, in which there are three local authorities and I would prefer to stipulate that a person would have a minimum term of a couple of years on a board. However, I will consider the matter to ascertain how I might come up with such a scheme. I am prepared to provide that the nominations will come from the local authorities and that I will select from their nominations.

I am much happier on foot of the Minister's remarks and I am glad he has put it on the record of the House. I will not delay him any further as he has taken the point, which I welcome. Democracy will be stronger if this is done, rather than having the Minister of the day appointing whomsoever he or she wishes, because sometimes the Minister would appoint defeated electoral candidates and so on, whereas this clearly will be an elected person from the local authority, which is welcome.

What protocols are in place in respect of existing boards to which the Minister invites nominees from local authorities? Does the Minister have an exact model that could be used in this regard? It is important for Members to have an idea in this regard. In other words, the Minister will invite a council to provide a nominee and then that nominee, who will have been democratically selected by the council, will become a member of board. Are there instances within the Department of Transport whereby such a process operates at present?

A number of Bills have been enacted containing a stipulation that at least 40% of the composition of a board would be female. I am on a committee that is examining the role of women in politics at present, of which Senator Ivana Bacik is rapporteur. I note that whereas Government policy is that it should be 40%, it is not enshrined in the legislation. I believe the Minister included such a stipulation in an arts Bill some years ago. Can he provide a commitment that when he appoints these boards, at least 40% of their members will be female or is this another example in which a contradiction exists between Government policy and its failure to incorporate such a commitment in legislation?

On Deputy Deenihan's point, it is Government policy that at least 40% of any board should be male or female and this will govern the decisions in this regard. It is true that such a stipulation has appeared in legislation and I cannot honestly answer as to the reason it is not included in this Bill. It is included in some items of legislation but not in others. I always have been a strong advocate of the inclusion of such a provision in legislation and I believe I was the first Minister to make it compulsory. I actually included a stipulation that it should be 40% when I introduced legislation in respect of the National Council for Special Education. Part of the difficulty with nominations made by local authorities is that they often will not nominate women and the same is true of trade unions much of the time and, consequently, I seek flexibility in this regard.

As for Deputy Broughan's point, I have not quite worked out how this will be done, except that it will be by invitation. I will ask each local authority to make nominations and will include a stipulation therein that nominations must be male and female to provide me with the greatest choice.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 10, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

"(ii) to insert in paragraph (b) the following new subparagraph:

"(iii) an annual report on the status of all leases of the company's lands."".

The Minister referred to this issue on Committee Stage, where I raised it at length. It relates to the leasing arrangements that pertain in some ports and the difficulties that Dublin Port and one or two other ports got into in respect of infirm leases and leases that had deteriorated over the years. The Minister stated that he would expect to have information on leasing and so on in the company accounts and the annual reports of boards. Can he specifically indicate to boards, via guidelines, that they should provide an ongoing update on all leasing arrangements?

The Minister made the point on Committee Stage that when council representatives go on the boards, they become part of the boards and if they are doing their job, they are no longer directly representing the councils. This is true and the Minister mentioned on Committee Stage that they are obliged to withdraw during planning discussions and so on. However, given that the Minister's own nominees have such a function as members of the board, how are people outside the board structure, that is, the people as the ultimate owners of such companies, to know they are being well served unless they get some form of an update in this regard? I make this point given the history in a number of ports and in Dublin in particular.

Members had a good discussion on this issue on Committee Stage and I will reiterate what I said at that time. Section 28 of the Harbours Act 1996 contains a detailed list of requirements regarding the information a port company must return to the Minister of the end of each accounting year. It includes a statement of all significant developments that occurred during the year, including any acquisitions or disposals of land, as well as a statement that the relevant guidelines issued by the Government or the Minister for Finance in respect of their accounts and financial affairs have been adhered to. The specific provision in the area to which the Deputy referred, which relates to the disposal of land, states explicitly that disposal by means of a lease must be also included in the annual report. This stipulation exists.

I take the points made by the Deputy. We had a brief conversation following the debate on Committee Stage. I intend to use my existing powers to request the port companies to furnish me with a full account of the status of all leases held by them. It can be difficult to get the kind of information one wants from State and semi-State companies. If it does not work on a voluntary basis, I will include it in a future item of legislation so that we achieve what we are trying to achieve.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 12, to delete line 15.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 13 to 19, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 15, line 34, after "circumstances" to insert the following:

"and after all relevant consultation with maritime stakeholders has taken place".

These amendments relate to a lengthy discussion we had on Committee Stage about the role of pilots and the perception in the Association of Maritime Pilots of Ireland and other pilot representative bodies that their concerns were not being adequately addressed by the Minister and the Department.

Amendment No. 13 is similar to previous amendments. Pilotage charges may be imposed by a company in different circumstances and it would be very helpful for pilots and their representative bodies to have a statutory right to be consulted in these circumstances. I sought to amend section 13 by inserting this amendment.

Amendment No. 14 concerns an issue that goes to the heart of the concerns of pilots. This section refers to lengthy representation and correspondence between the Association of Maritime Pilots of Ireland, the Minister and Department in respect of the retirement age of 60, which was introduced by the 1996 Act. Many view it as grotesquely unfair. This has been the subject of numerous representations, correspondence and meetings between the Association of Marine Pilots of Ireland and the Department. It is felt that there is an authoritarian rule whereby an age limit of 60 was introduced arbitrarily. It goes against the interests of good pilotage. Given the importance of pilots to the safe administration of ports, this is a grievous blow to able and fit pilots over the age of 60 and introduces an element of discrimination. There was no such requirement for an age limit before 1996.

We had a lengthy discussion on this matter on Committee Stage. We discussed compulsory retirement and the issue of a senior garda taking a case in the courts on this matter. We discussed how our attitudes to this area are different and referred to the European directive. The 1996 Act introduced unfair discrimination against pilots and we should have considered this.

I have correspondence from Mr. Bob Kieran, chairperson of the Association of Maritime Pilots of Ireland. He understood that the Minister had given a commitment to remove the compulsory retirement age in this legislation. The Minister told us on Committee Stage that it could not be done but gave a commitment to table an amendment to this effect in the Merchant Shipping Bill, which is before this House and will be discussed in September.

We voted on recommitting this Bill because I was not sure that this was the case or whether we can look forward to this anomaly and injustice against marine pilots being removed from legislation in the Merchant Shipping Bill. Mr. Kieran and others asked why we must wait for the Merchant Shipping Bill and why we cannot do this tonight. The Minister can insert an amendment to this effect, remove the arbitrary limit of 60 years of age and return it to 65.

Amendment No. 15 is based on correspondence with marine pilots who raised concerns about the levels of insurance they must have if we increase fines by a particular amount. A major insurance problem will emerge. I sought to remove this by removing the section. Amendment No. 16 concerns the possibility of the junior officer being in charge of the navigational watch and getting a pilot's exemption, which seems to be an unsafe practice. The amendment seeks to remove a navigational watch officer from having pilot exemption. The Minister said that this would be for a very small vessels. It seems to introduce nonsense in respect of safe pilotage in our major ports.

Amendment No. 17 refers to the holder of a subsisting document issued by another member state of the European Communities, the Kingdom or Norway or the Republic of Iceland and the fact that such a person would have the highest standards in internationally recognised pilotage qualifications and medical fitness so that there is an absolute standard for pilots. Amendment No. 18 is similar to amendment No. 13, proposing that certain developments will take place only after consultation with pilots.

Amendment No. 19. proposes that we adopt the international standard for pilotage organisations. This is a key group of maritime marine workers. Many of us represent marine constituencies. Many pilots feel they have been badly treated, particularly in respect of the age limit but also in respect of consultation. I urge the Minister to accept these amendments.

Under section 18 of the Harbours Act 1996, provision is made for the transfer of harbour authorities to local authority control by ministerial order in cases where there is little or no commercial traffic. The ports policy statement provides that in cases where there is significant commercial traffic, consideration will be given to bringing the relevant harbours under the control of a port company. This is relevant to two harbour authorities, namely, Bantry Bay, and Tralee and Fenit. The proposed amendment will allow flexibility in legislation to provide for their transfer to either local authority control or to local port company control.

What is wrong with the vibrant Bantry Harbour Board which was established 25 years ago? I want an assurance from the Minister tonight that Bantry Harbour Board will act as its own harbour authority. Will the Minister provide this assurance in view of the consideration we gave him on Committee Stage last week when he was trying to get us to unanimously agree to withdraw the amendments tabled? He stated that he would be flexible with regard to them on Report Stage. Furthermore, I have a very serious view on these amendments because of the Minister's behaviour in that we are here tonight under false pretences; the Minister misled the select committee to have the Bill at this Stage before the House tonight. Is he trying to slide it in at this late hour under the shadow of darkness on one of the shortest nights of the year?

I remind the Minister that he was facing 19 amendments tabled by me and Deputies O'Dowd and Broughan on Bantry Harbour in sections 18 and 19 of the Bill. On Committee Stage, having taken one vote on the first of my amendments, amendment No. 22, which the Minister won with the most slender of margins, he was facing a further 18 amendments. Tonight, it seems to me that with all the dexterity of a three-card trickster the Minister misled the select committee——

——when he stated after that first vote, "Having had ten minutes to reflect and in light of the very passionate plea from Deputies Sheehan and O'Keeffe, if they are prepared to withdraw these amendments I will consider the matter further on Report Stage." I await the Minister's verdict on what I ask him now.

In view of the Minister's commitment, Deputies O'Dowd, Broughan and I agreed to the withdrawal of the other 18 amendments. I remind the Minister that he was facing a vote on each of these 18 amendments and the select committee was due to adjourn 20 minutes later. If Deputies O'Dowd, Broughan and I had not withdrawn our democratic right to have these amendments put before the select committee, would the Bill be before the House tonight? Would it be before the House tonight but for the false promise by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, to the select committee?

I stated I would use a lifeboat to save Bantry Harbour but I did not expect to be towed on to the rocks after being thrown a lifebelt by the Minister on that evening.

The betrayal of trust shows the contempt he has for the Members of this House and does not show him in a favourable light. On several occasions after it had been passed by the Upper House, I asked when the Bill would be brought before the House. The Minister chose to bring it to the House and railroad all Stages through in the last two sitting weeks of this recession——

I wish there were only two weeks left in it.

——a time when there was more guillotines presented than during the French revolution.

After those 18 amendments were not duly considered by the select committee because of the false misleading comments made by the Minister and the fact that the Government voted this afternoon to railroad this legislation through the House by guillotining this debate on Report Stage, these amendments will not even be debated tonight given that we have only one hour to discuss——

Only 15 minutes now.

——and only 15 minutes remain to discuss all the amendments tabled.

It is time the Minister gave us a commitment for a viable harbour authority such as Bantry Harbour Authority. It has withstood the test of time, having been established for 25 years and going strong without any pound or euro of Government aid. The time is right to not let the people on the harbour board live in cloud cuckoo land; give them the right to proceed immediately and the authority to mind and cater for their own business. It will not cost the Minister €1 and all I will say is that the Minister should act on the promise he made to us last week on Committee Stage and grant us this opportunity to copperfasten the status of Bantry Harbour Authority.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I assume Deputy Jim O'Keeffe merely wishes to second Deputy Sheehan.

I have soldiered in the House with Deputy Sheehan for many years and I must avail of the opportunity to go through the final stretch with him tonight on the Bantry Bay Harbour Commission. He spoke about the guillotine and now and again during those 25 years I thought I was the one for it——

It looks like I am for it now.

——but at this stage I am very happy to support the approach he made on the local harbour commissioners. On a very serious level, this commission has worked very well for many years. It has operated efficiently and effectively and has run at a profit; we have had the oil imports into the terminal at Whiddy Island which has been a major consideration.

The question is whether it is to be absorbed into the Port of Cork. The Port of Cork is a very fine company running the Port of Cork but Bantry is 60 miles from Cork and we really do not have a huge notion at the far end of west Cork of being merely an outpost of the Port of Cork. The Minister has gone some bit of the way in the amendments he introduced in the Seanad and he has spoken about consultation and so on but at the end of the day that is not sufficient.

It is literally five minutes to midnight as it is metaphorically with regard to the Bill. I strongly suggest that if Bantry Bay Harbour Commission was to be accepted as agreeing to it then that is fine with me. However, if the approach is merely to have a public consultation prior to its being abolished then that is not acceptable in west Cork. The answer is in the amendment which requires that any approach on the ending of the Bantry Bay Harbour Commission should be with its approval. If the Bantry Bay Harbour Commission agrees then that is fine with me but if it does not then it should be allowed to continue on an independent basis. That is my plea by way of support for the excellent case that I will not even try to match made by Deputy Sheehan. I strongly support the approach he has made. Coming from west Cork like Deputy Sheehan, I believe the Minister should take into account the strong views of the local representatives in that regard and go along with the approach we propose.

I am so deeply upset by the remarks of Deputy Sheehan that I will stay in order and address the points that Deputy Broughan made to me on marine pilots.

The Minister should give some sort of an answer.

Deputy Broughan made several points that we rehearsed very carefully on Committee Stage and I do not want to rehash them. The Deputy was very specific in the queries he raised on the age specified and whether we can change it from 60 to 65.

As I explained on Committee Stage and reiterated here, it was the intent of my colleague, the former Minister of State Deputy Noel Ahern, to try to amend this following consultation with the representative bodies. He fully intended to change the age limit for marine pilots, but when he started trying to change it, the parliamentary draftsmen in the Office of the Attorney General raised a number of serious issues. These relate to health and safety, pension rights and contracts, etc., and it was not possible in the time available, and because of the other pressures of the Bill, to make progress in that area. I know that is a disappointment for the Deputies opposite who raised the matter and for marine pilots.

I undertake to remedy the situation as quickly as I can and I give a commitment now to do that, even though my notes use the word "probably". I commit now before my officials that the provision will be in the next Bill we bring forward, namely, the Merchant Shipping Bill.

Is that an absolute commitment?

Yes. It is an issue that needs to be resolved. Now the problems have been identified, we should be able to identify solutions. I will do that and ensure that the provision is in the Bill. The situation is more complicated than people thought because of existing contracts.

With regard to the other matters, in section 13 there is already a well established system for harbour and pilotage charges. I do not intend to change that or to accept the amendment regarding inserting a specific reference to consultation. That is already implicit in the Acts and happens in effect. We dealt with the other amendments and for the reasons outlined on Committee Stage, I do not intend to accept them. I fully accept we have made a commitment on pilots and we will abide by that commitment and bring in that change as quickly as we can.

People have queried how this will operate. The plan is to amend the Merchant Shipping Act, which will in turn amend the Harbours Act 1996. Is that correct?

Yes, just the Harbours Act 1996.

There will be no need to amend this Bill because no reference will have been made to the change in it. On foot of that, I warmly welcome the commitment given by the Minister. It must be said, one only has to listen to such a distinguished Deputy as Deputy P. J. Sheehan to realise how wonderful it is to have his kind of experience, eloquence and expertise available to the Dáil and to our profession. The element of experience with regard to key professions such as marine pilots is critical. I welcome the proposed change and look forward to it being in the next legislation.

With regard to the other amendments, the key element running through all of them was to ensure that there would be adequate consultation with pilots on the matters that would arise regarding the national ports. I hope the Minister bears this in mind when considering the limits of a port, boundaries, safety concerns and how visiting mariners are allowed to perform when in our ports, etc. All of these should be matters on which the Minister would liaise closely with the pilots.

I note from correspondence that the Department officials have been liaising closely with pilots, but perhaps this could be done on a more formal basis. I mentioned that before 1996 we had pilotage committees in each of the ports. There was no necessity to remove those committees following the 1996 Act, but they were allowed to fall into disuse. I urge the Minister to bring them back. There is probably still a statutory basis for them and we could bring them back.

I wish to indicate my strong support for Deputies P. J. Sheehan and Jim O'Keeffe for their amendments concerning Bantry.

I must move on quickly. How does Deputy Broughan stand on amendment No. 13?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 14 to 20, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 21 to 39, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 17, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"‘public consultation' means a publicly advertised invitation for submission from stakeholders and the general public;".

The issues have been discussed. I call on the Minister to reply.

Give us the verdict on Bantry Bay.

I thank the Deputies for their passionate pleas on this issue. As Deputy Sheehan said, I indicated on Committee Stage that I would give very careful thought to this matter before Report Stage. I take issue with the Deputy in saying that I made any commitment other than to consider his passionate and carefully worded statement on Committee Stage. I do not wish to reignite the debate, but despite his passionate pleas, I cannot change the particular provision in the Act.

The Minister has bottled out of doing it.

What I am trying to do here is to provide an added option when the future of Bantry Bay, Tralee and Fenit is considered. All this Bill will allow us to do when enacted is allow that a Minister may establish a private company in respect of the harbour, may transfer control to a relevant local authority or, subject to a statutory consultation period, transfer control to a port company control. That is all that is being included. It is an enabling provision to give the maximum freedom to somebody in the future with regard to what will happen in the case of both Bantry and Fenit.

I understand the views well articulated here by Deputies P. J. Sheehan and Jim O'Keeffe with regard to the desire to retain small, independent harbour boards. This is admirable in the context of local pride. However, it runs contrary to what members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport have repeatedly stated when questioning the executives of State commercial port companies. They have repeatedly stressed the benefits of mergers and amalgamations and port companies have been asked to explore the possibilities created from such mergers. In this particular case, all Members would recognise the benefits to be gained in areas such as marketing, piloting, dredging and increased operational efficiencies from a merger between a regional harbour with significant commercial trades and a port company. However, that is for another day.

I acknowledge the contributions made by all sides to this debate. I am convinced the amendments provided here will provide a Minister with the maximum scope in deciding the future of the harbour. It is with great reluctance that, despite the eloquent pleas, I will not be able to accept the amendment.

I am very disappointed by the Minister's reply. He is consigning Bantry Bay to limbo.

As it is now 12 midnight, I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That Report Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 50.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Thomas P. Broughan.
Question declared carried.