Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

Amendment Nos. 86, 89 and 93 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 45, line 23, after “failures,” to insert “including the imposition of financial penalties”.

The Labour Party has tabled similar amendments in this category. We are dealing with matters such as compliance reports whereby the competent authority can come up with proposals to avoid or reduce failures. This relates to giving the competent authority the power to impose financial penalties on those who avoid or fail to implement noise mitigation, operating restriction measures and so forth. The Bill allows the competent authority to bring forward a compliance report regarding what work it has done on the measures and it also provides that the competent authority can bring forward proposals to avoid or reduce failures referred to in the sections. What we are seeking to do here is give the competent authority the ability to levy a financial penalty as part of trying to reduce or avoid the failures of compliance. The reason is that the carrot does not go very far and unless one has the ability to financially penalise the airport operator, airline or whomever, the incentive is massively reduced.

I tabled a different amendment in this regard on Committee Stage. It was more cumbersome and prescriptive, which was probably beyond what should be in primary legislation, but we must have a reference to it here that does not tie hands and is not too prescriptive. Other jurisdictions have this principle in place. The night noise policy in Manchester Airport is an example. The strategy is based on six different categories and noise penalties are a substantial part of that. Manchester operates a system whereby night movements cannot exceed 7% of the airport's total movements. That is first. Then it looks at developing a quota count, QC, budget for summer and winter seasons and a points system. Basically, points are graded based on the noisiness of the aircraft. Old aircraft would have a high quota count while new aircraft would have a low quota count. The policy then involves the putting in place of measures. For example, it states, "A modern quiet [aircraft] ... may be classified as QC0.25 on arrival and QC0.5 on departure, whilst older aircraft ... may be classified as QC4 on arrival and QC8 on departure." It is a way of allowing the airport operators to manage the noise but when they do not do it, and there are many measures restricting the number of noisier aircraft, particularly at night, there is the ability to impose a financial penalty.

It is encouraging pilots to take steps to reduce the noise and to fly aircraft in the quietest way possible. It also tries to encourage the airlines to introduce the quietest aeroplanes. However, it has a grading in terms of decibels and anything over that would bring a minimum penalty. It is €750 for the first decibel at which the noise level is exceeded and a further €150 for each decibel beyond that. The principle is there and it works. It is a little bit of carrot and a little bit of stick. In the same way engine testing would not be permitted within certain timeframes or the airport would agree on a certain number. In Manchester, 20 engine tests per year are permitted and they would generally be prohibited between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

We are seeking to get a genuinely balanced approach for the implementation of noise mitigation measures and the implementation of operating restrictions. Encouraging good activity is one way of doing it by generating a positive list of recommendations for pilots, such as to avoid the use of reverse thrust and so forth. There is all that good stuff but having the ability to impose a financial penalty is a key part of that as well. The amendment I propose to insert overcomes some of the more prescriptive attributes of the amendment I proposed on Committee Stage and gets over some of the concerns the Minister had then that there might be a constitutional impediment or some other legal argument as to why we cannot put measures in the Bill. I do not accept that. The generality of this amendment, which establishes the ability to set a financial penalty, overcomes that point. I propose my two amendments in that regard.

I strongly support amendment No. 86. The International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, has a famous guidance on the balanced approach, the ICAO document 9829. Its four principles are: reduction of noise at source; land use planning and management; noise abatement operational procedures; and operating restrictions on aircraft. Over the past 40 years, many of the organisation's efforts have gone towards addressing airport noise. It has been addressing noise at source in the performance of the different aeroplane models, the processes for take-off, landing and so forth. For example, the ICAO states, "The first generation of jet-powered aeroplanes was not covered by Annex 16 and these are consequently referred to as non-noise certificated (NNC) aeroplanes (e.g. Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8)." It is clear that, even in the balanced approach, there is a prescription for how operators such as the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, and companies can operate their businesses.

A noise database, NoisedB, was developed in 2006 by the French Government under the aegis of the ICAO. The database is a general source of information to the public on the certification noise levels for each type of aircraft as provided by certification authorities. It involved a move to set medium and long-term nitrogen oxides, NOx, reduction goals and, when this had been done, there was a further move to noise reduction technologies. One of the difficulties is that we do not have directly specified levels of noise. We know what the levels are that would enable most people to have a night's sleep or to be able to carry on their business during the day if they live quite close to the flight path, but they are nowhere specified in the balanced approach.

I would go further than Deputy Daly's original amendment in Committee to being very prescriptive. The point about financial sanctions, and other sanctions, is that there is a need to prescribe the levels of sanctions that might be applied. However, I am supportive of the amendment in that it is a basic attempt to give power to the regulator to ensure that, at least, the basic principles I mentioned of the balanced approach, particularly in regard to noise, would be adhered to.

I am supportive of amendments Nos. 86 and 93 which provide for financial penalties. My amendment No. 89 is slightly more focused. It is designed specifically to encourage the use of quieter aircraft and to give the competent authority the power to direct the DAA to fix charges based on noise in respect of a particular aircraft or class of aircraft. Obviously, some older aircraft are noisier than the new ones. Noisier aircraft should be penalised. The objective is to control the level of noise at take-off and on landing and to promote compliance with noise regulations and noise requirements. These penalties, if applied, should be additional to any regular charges for use of airports. These penalties would be specifically related to noise issues and would be in addition to standard airport charges. As provided for in the amendment, these would be fixed following consultation with stakeholders and with a view to reducing inconvenience from aircraft noise.

I hope these amendments will be accepted but even if they are I will still have serious concerns about the independence of the competent authority. If it is the case that some of us in the Opposition are right and the competent authority proposed by the Minister turns out to be not as independent as designed we will face serious issues.

I wish to return to the importance of the letter from AnnMarie Farrelly to the Department on this matter. She states that currently Fingal County Council has an extensive remit in both shaping and determining the strategic direction of Dublin Airport. Towards the end of the second page, she says that in light of the existing complex and varied role that Fingal County Council plays, as outlined above, it is considered that the council may not be best placed to act as the competent authority for the purposes of the implementation of regulation 598/2014. In saying that, she makes particular reference to clause 13 of regulation 598/2014 and picks out the language in it which she and the local authority believe works against the council being the competent authority. She refers specifically to clause 13, as have many of us the Opposition side. She goes on to say in the second last paragraph of the letter that in the context of clause 13, which we are trying to incorporate into Irish law, competent authority may be a role for other independent bodies which do not hold conflicting responsibilities. She is clearly stating that it is her view that the council holds conflicting responsibilities which indicate that it should not be the competent authority.

I raise this issue again because we are edging towards the end of this debate and it is probably the final opportunity I will have to raise it. I am asking the Minister, even at this late stage, to reflect on this issue between now and the Bill's return to this House from the Seanad.

I support amendments Nos. 86 and 93. Financial penalties will definitely strengthen this particular legislation. They will act as a deterrent and ensure compliance with the regulation. This is a good proposal, which I do not believe the Minister should have a problem accepting. It is a swift and easy method of reprimanding those who do break noise regulations. I hope the Minister will accept the amendments.

I too support Deputy Daly's amendments Nos. 86 and 93. For the foregoing reasons, we have to have penalties for misdemeanours or breaches of guidelines. There is a plethora of question marks around this regulation and the competent authority and the independence of same. Competence is not only an issue in this area. In my county, the county council is the planning regulatory authority but issues have arisen in regard to the location of a shooting range close to the homes of a number of families and it will not deal with them. It is playing around and Joe public is left with no redress. People should not be deprived of their sleep, which they will be if noisy aircraft are permitted. Airlines should be compelled to operate aircraft with low noise emissions. There should be strict standards in this regard and an independent arbitrator to adjudicate on breaches of noise regulations. This requirement will need to monitored and enforced. As in the case of many similar issues in the past there were rigorous planning processes, oral hearings and legislation introduced and debated here but people were left with diddly-squat in terms of being able to make a complaint or get satisfaction.

I cannot believe the Minister, Deputy Ross, is opposed to financial penalties. Maybe he is not: maybe he has changed. He was well able to incorporate financial penalties into other legislation, including in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, to penalise ordinary families. That Act provides for punitive penalties on young people who want to learn how to drive but do not want their cars seized or their parents fined. It is a case of to Hell or to Connacht with those people in the country and in some cases in the city. In this area, we are dealing with big business and large aircraft companies and the Minister is reluctant to provide for any meaningful penalties on them in respect of breaches of the regulation. As I said, there are a lot of question marks about whether Fingal County Council should be the competent authority. I do not know the answer to that question but I have concerns given the manner in which the Minister, Deputy Ross, has addressed other issues and the hames he made of them. There is nobody on the Government benches tonight to support the Minister on this legislation. There is nobody here from the Independent Alliance or Fine Gael. Last night, when the soccer match was on, many Deputies went missing and the Minister could only muster 29 Deputies to support him. Fianna Fáil, as usual, sat on its hands but the Minister still could not get sufficient support to pass his amendments. The Minister needs to consider if he is capable of enacting legislation and if there is anybody in the Cabinet who supports him or has any respect for his legislative measures.

Deputy Mattie McGrath should stick to the Bill.

I am sticking to it. I am talking about it and I am supporting amendments Nos. 86 and 93. I am questioning the competence of the authorities and the reluctance of the Minister to put meaningful penalties in place for the people who will be covered by this legislation. Is it that the great and powerful can escape all these penalties and the wrath of the Minister, Deputy Ross? When he was writing for the newspapers he could move mountains and put men on the moon and bring them back again but now he can do diddly-squat.

He cannot get a Bill like this passed, or even get sections of it passed. He cannot get enough people on his own benches to support it.

Members should not make personal comments.

I am not making personal comments; I am stating facts.

The Deputy should speak to the amendments.

I am talking to amendments Nos. 86 and 93, and have mentioned the Minister's erstwhile colleagues in the confidence and supply agreement. I have said before that it is all supply and no confidence. That was clear last night when only a small number could be mustered for the votes.

People have concerns about this because they live beside the airport. I live a long way from it, although I use the airport occasionally. However, I have been in houses in Finglas and other such places and I know that the noise is intrusive. We cannot just keep heaping it on. Other airports in the country could be developed instead of forcing all airplanes into Dublin. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, should consider the regions. These amendments do not deal with them, but other amendments do. Everything is Dublin-orientated, and the people of Dublin are entitled to a modicum of rest. They should be able to perform their duties in the morning, whether they be nurses, doctors or anything else, after a night's sleep. Sleep deprivation is a war crime in times of war, so it must be respected.

Big businesses do not like financial penalties. They seem to be able to do what they like in this area. We seem to want to tickle them, or rub butter in a fat you-know-what. I question the Minister's competency in bringing this legislation t

hrough. The attitude to the country people previously was to hell with them and croppies lie down. This Bill is meandering around and he does not have a single Member supporting him.

The reality is that Deputy Mattie McGrath is quite right when he says that the Government regularly gets defeated in the Dáil. The reality is that we are dealing with a new situation here.

He had 29 votes. He would have got more in a county council meeting.

I fully accept that certain amendments-----

We are dealing with the amendments.

-----motions and Bills which the Government is not in favour of come before this House and are passed. The Government makes it clear that it does not support those instruments, but the will of the House prevails. That is exactly as it should be. That does not mean that the Government should fall or that it has done anything wrong. It simply means that the democratic wishes of the Dáil prevail. Nobody could quarrel with that. It is a dimension of democracy that some people find very difficult to understand. That very thing is happening in this Bill, which has been negotiated through the House. On Committee Stage we have accepted amendments from all sides. We have accepted amendments from-----

The Minister should speak to the amendments.

-----Deputy Clare Daly, from Members of Fianna Fáil and from others. Sometimes those acceptances arise from political pressure or through conviction. There are many reasons for it. This is something new. I have absolutely no shame that amendments from the other side of the House have been accepted and that the Government has not got its wish. That is good democracy.

The Minister should speak to amendments Nos. 86, 89 and 93.

I just want to respond to something.

The Minister is in a hole; he should stop digging.

I agree with the Acting Chairman, but I want to respond to a point that Deputy Mattie McGrath was allowed to make.

I asked Deputy Mattie McGrath to not make personal remarks.

I am not making personal remarks.

I ask the Minister to deal with the amendments.

It is very important that we agree things in this House sometimes. There is no shame in the Government being defeated sometimes. In fact, it is a good thing if the Government loses various amendments, if that is the wish of the House.

These amendments will not be accepted for the same reasons I set out on Committee Stage. I may be defeated on that, but if that is the wish of the House so be it. I am as anxious as everyone else to ensure that there is full and timely compliance with all decisions of the noise regulator. However, financial penalties, such as those proposed here, are unlikely to be effective. The ability to quickly bring court proceedings to bear simply works better. This is a matter of opinion. Some Members of this House genuinely believe that the threat of financial penalties to the DAA or other airport authorities will work. Others feel that such an approach will be less effective. I am not sure that those who have said that big business responds to fines are correct. Big businesses, particularly State monopolies, are not paying out with their own money. If State monopolies were fined it would, in effect, fall to the taxpayer to pay those fines. We should think about that.

In the event that there is non-compliance with noise mitigation measures, section 23 of the Bill gives the noise regulator the power to direct the airport authority or an airport user, using an enforcement notice to undertake actions in order to comply with a noise mitigation measure or an operating restriction. This might be in response to a complaint made to the regulator from a local resident, for example. In circumstances of non-compliance with such an enforcement notice, the noise regulator then has direct recourse to the High Court. Indeed, section 25 of the Bill, as it stands, provides that such a hearing can be expedited.

The issue of fines was considered by my officials, by myself and others in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, and the very strong consensus was that what is currently provided for in this Bill is the most effective form of enforcement. It is considered that the direct path to the courts is the most effective means of enforcement of this Bill, and in particular it is in practice more effective and faster than administrative sanctions which themselves could be challenged all the way to the court. In reality, an administrative fine system, such as this, serves to delay enforcement because fines are issued, disputed and end up before the courts. The approach I am setting out bypasses this potential delaying tactic.

On amendment No. 89, referred to by Deputy Brendan Ryan, I do not propose to set out in primary legislation the requirement for the noise regulator to direct the airport authority to fix its airport charges in respect of noisier aircraft. This may well be a measure required by the noise regulator because it is part of the so-called balanced approach under regulation 598/2014. However, that is a matter for the independent regulator to determine, having regard to the cause of noise and the best way to tackle it. For the regulator to be truly independent, it must be able to come to its own unencumbered decision as to what is required to mitigate noise created by aircraft at Dublin Airport. In line with regulation 598/2014, independence must mean that the regulator is not directed to take a specific course of action.

Deputy Clare Daly referred to the Manchester scheme. I understand that is a voluntary agreement between the airport and the local authority. We are dealing with primary legislation, and a statutory administrative fine scheme is not something I am willing to support, based on the legal advice I have referred to on the effectiveness and suitability of such a scheme.

Deputy Brendan Ryan has referred many times to the Fingal letter. That letter dates from November 2017. All the issues have been addressed. Fingal has gone on record, specifically in October last year, saying that it is now satisfied of its own independence. The Attorney General has done likewise.

The matters in the letter have not been addressed, but luckily there will be other opportunities later on. I will return to some of Deputy Brendan Ryan's points; he is totally correct.

The Minister has made no argument whatsoever, legal or otherwise, as to why these amendments cannot be agreed. Nobody is arguing for the deletion of the court action remedy. It still stands. If the competent authority wants to bring someone to court, we will not stop it. This simply provides the competent authority with another string to its bow by giving it the ability to issue a fine as a potential deterrent. There is no complication there. The idea that access to the High Court is being put forward as some sort of quick fix will be a sad irony for many people, including those sitting in the Gallery. Access to the courts is incredibly slow, and some of the people here tonight have been pauperised after having to go through the higher courts in order to deal with issues such as this with the DAA.

It is not a level playing field and, therefore, the suggestion that the courts system offers an easier route adds insult to injury for many people who are already suffering because of the airport. The Minister's point that if we issued fines, they would be disputed and delayed is a nonsense argument because the breach will have already occurred when the fine is imposed. The fine is not put forward as a deterrent to the action which has taken place and for which it was issued. Rather, it is a deterrent to future breaches. We do not consider it a panacea but instead it is one avenue the authority could use. Based on the Minister's response, I am satisfied that there is no legal impediment to us putting the amendment forward. It is not prescriptive and it does not specify the financial penalty. That the agreement might be voluntary in Manchester is neither here nor there. The amendment will simply allow the authority to have the power to impose a penalty.

The Minister stated a fine is unlikely to be effective, that the courts system would be quicker and that, in any event, if there were penalties, the taxpayer would pay. They are not solid reasons for rejecting the three amendments in question. The amendments seek to give powers to apply financial penalties. In respect of my amendments, the Minister stated he would not direct the competent authority to impose financial penalties. If one reads the amendment, however, one will see that it does not provide for such direction. It provides for consultation with the stakeholders and gives the authority a toolbox that it may use - the word "may" is used specifically - if it so chooses. It will give the authority the power to take that route if it is appropriate. Why would one decide not to give the competent authority an appropriate set of tools that it may wish to use? I do not accept the Minister's response to those amendments.

The Minister stated the letter was written in 2017 and that, therefore, it has been addressed. It has not been addressed because it refers specifically to clause 13, which has not changed since 2017. If the issue relates to clause 13, which remains in the directive, how could time change that? Clause 13 remains in the directive to be brought into Irish law. For this reason, I reject the Minister's suggestion.

The arguments Deputy Clare Daly made about fines possibly being more effective than court proceedings are perfectly reasonable but I happen not to believe them. I do not believe that fining a State monopoly is an effective way of deterring it from doing things that I hope it will not do. The threat of High Court proceedings is likely to be more effective in deterring it from doing what has been outlined. The regulator and the DAA could, if they so wish, agree a fine system based on the Manchester model. I do not need to mandate that. This is a matter of judgment and opinion, not of great ideological or practical significance, on which the Deputy, along with other Deputies on her side of the House, and I disagree. I believe that the prospect of proceedings in the High Court will make the authority think twice about taking an action which we want to discourage, and that the threat of a fine will not deter it.

Deputy Brendan Ryan asked why fines were not appropriate. The reason is that we do not believe they would be effective. I acknowledge he is persistent about the letter but I cannot say much more about it than I have said, except that these issues have been addressed. Fingal County Council is happy that it is independent, as are all the other bodies which others have judged not to be independent. We believe that at this stage it is time to move on and that the council's independence has been established.

The Minister has a fundamental misunderstanding of some of the measures that the competent authority will employ. It is not just a case of fines or High Court action against the DAA. That could be the case for a large, fundamental breach but some of the breaches we are speaking about might be one-off occasions where the body responsible for the breach might not be the DAA but rather, say, Aer Lingus. For example, a pilot's behaviour could result in the decibel soundings being breached in an area. If a rule was in place to the effect that if the noise of the aircraft exceeded the limit by 1 dB, the fine could be the equivalent of £750, as is the case in the Manchester model, and that could be invested in a community fund in the area. In that instance, the authority would not bring Aer Lingus to court over that one breach. When the fine is flagged, however, will Aer Lingus not approach Clare Daly, the pilot, and tell her it has been levied with a fine of €3,000 because she had used the reverse thrust far too much? It could say she had been told to bring in measures to fly the aircraft more quietly.

Pilot behaviour has an impact. While the type of aircraft also has an impact, fines would not be as suitable in that regard and, therefore, the intention of the fine is to correct behaviour. The Minister's response shows that it is not an either-or matter and we do not seek to remove anything from the Bill. The three amendments in question can, and should, be incorporated into the legislation because all we are doing is giving the authority the power to impose a financial penalty. As the Minister has correctly stated, the DAA and the stakeholders could sit down with the competent authority and agree a voluntary scheme, which nothing in our amendments prohibits. In fact, they will give such a measure a firmer statutory footing whereby it could be done properly.

I wish to make other points about the letter but I will do so when speaking on some of the subsequent amendments. Over the course of the debate, I have become more convinced that we need to incorporate the three amendments, which are complementary rather than contradictory. I hope, therefore, that we will pass them.

The Minister responded by stating the threat of High Court action is better than a fine. Like Deputy Clare Daly, I do not believe it is a question of one or the other. Rather, the amendment will add a further tool to the toolbox. There may be occasions where the competent authority will decide the matter does not need to be heard in the High Court, given that the court may take a long time to reach a conclusion. It might be appropriate to give the competent authority something in its toolbox which can provide a quick and sharp result that might not be as costly as going to the High Court.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 43; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Curran, John.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Brendan Ryan; Níl, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 87, 88 and 99 are related. Amendment No. 88 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 87. Amendments Nos. 87, 88 and 99 will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 45, to delete lines 38 and 39, and in page 46, to delete lines 1 to 18.

Amendment No. 87 deletes section 20, which includes the noise insulation scheme inserted into the Bill on Committee Stage by means of an amendment tabled by Deputy Troy with the support of Deputy Darragh O'Brien. I fully understand and share the very good intentions behind it, which I accepted on Committee Stage but which, as we discussed at the time, needed to be reworked.

Amendment No. 99 inserts a new section, section 31, to replace section 20. This new section provides that the existing noise insulation schemes which are currently available to residents around Dublin Airport will be treated as if they were noise mitigation measures introduced by the noise regulator. This new section is a far more workable provision that better secures and safeguards the current insulation schemes available to residents. I am putting this forward as a more legally sound and workable proposal to address the concerns of Deputies Troy and Darragh O'Brien regarding the status of insulation schemes. These amendments achieve just that and have been cleared through the Office of the Attorney General. What I propose in amendment No. 99 is that the DAA's existing noise insulation schemes will be deemed to be noise mitigation measures introduced by the noise regulator in order that the rights embodied in this Bill shall apply in respect of them. This means that the insulation schemes will be monitored by the noise regulator and that it has powers of enforcement as if it had included these schemes in its own regulatory decision.

Furthermore, by virtue of amendment No. 91, once these schemes are deemed to be noise mitigation measures, any person will have the ability to write to the noise regulator and request it to review their effectiveness. This amendment achieves what Deputies Troy and Darragh O'Brien set out to do in this regard. It ensures that the existing insulation schemes are protected and that they are monitored and enforced by the new noise regulator. As I have explained on several occasions this Bill is technically complicated and its interaction with EU regulations, and directives, and with national planning and development law is finely balanced. That is why we have had to be very careful and deliberate in our drafting and it is why we have had to rely heavily on the drafting expertise in the Office of the Attorney General. I say this because the language contained in the Committee Stage amendment is much more straightforward and easier to read. However, it does not work and that will be to the disadvantage of local residents which is not what is intended. If we are to progress good, implementable legislation and if we are to include in it additional protections and entitlements relating to insulation, I ask the House to support my amendments.

I welcome the Minister's clarification of the existing insulation scheme, that between 180 and 200 houses qualify under the voluntary scheme and also under the scheme prescribed as a condition of a previous planning application. We are still concerned to ensure that houses that will be affected by the operation of the new runway will be able to avail of the same home insulation schemes as the existing 180 to 200 houses. That is why we brought forward our amendment on Committee Stage. We accepted on Committee Stage the advice of the Minister's officials that our amendment was very broad and left the potential for people in places far from the airport to make applications to be included in the scheme.

That is not what our intention was. Our intention was that for people who would be within the flight contours, the existing scheme would be taken out of the control of the DAA and put in the place of the responsible authority, and I accept that is done, and that future noise mitigation measures could be recommended by the independent competent authority to expand that scheme more widely from the existing 180 to 200 houses. The amendment as the Minister is proposing does not quite clearly get that and we have a concern on that.

I want to back up my colleague, Deputy Troy. I thank the Minister's officials as well because we have discussed this at length and we have discussed it on Committee Stage also. If one looks at the section within the Bill from page 45 to page 46, as Deputy Troy said, this would be giving the oversight to the competent authority, which is the right thing to do so that the DAA would not be the arbiter and the final decision maker on who is in the scheme or not. However, as Deputy Troy has said, it specifically relates to not just the existing scheme and the voluntary scheme but to those who may be affected by the new runway when that opens and we are aware of that. That is why we tried to improve the drafting of amendment No. 88, which we are discussing in this block and which was passed on Committee Stage.

The amendment states: "Expand the existent noise insulation scheme to all homes affected by any and all flight paths into the airport, including those created by any future developments at the airport." I understand why that would be too broad and there could be someone in An Clochán or in Waterford or somewhere on the approach to Dublin actually applying to the scheme based on that language and that would reduce the capacity to allow more people in the affected areas into the scheme. That is why our amendment states: "In page 46, lines 1 and 2, to delete “affected by any and all flight paths into the airport” and substitute “located within relevant noise contours”." There are specifically published noise contour maps that we have that are very distinct but it would still allow the competent authority to decide whether a person was in or not. We are allowing the competent authority to do its job and we are removing that function from the DAA.

That is probably something that the DAA would welcome but my concern is for the residents and is the reason for the amendment we passed on Committee Stage and the reason for this change. It is for people who are not opposing development of the airport, who understand the economic importance of the 20,000 jobs and the 114,000 indirect jobs that are supported there and the livelihoods which result. They deserve, on the basis of the balanced approach, that their lives are not impinged upon any further by this so this is a very reasonable amendment.

In section 2 of the amendment that we put forward, which was worthwhile, we stated that: "The competent authority shall be responsible for evaluating the design and implementation of the airport authority’s noise insulation scheme, with a view to ensuring maximum benefit for local residents." That is important. The Minister's amendment No. 99 is basically bringing in the existing scheme. That is fine, it cannot just be left out there and the Minister is responding to the request that Fianna Fáil made on Committee Stage to bring the existing scheme in. I get that and that is welcome so that means those people are there. Then we are saying that it would be responsible for the evaluation, design and implementation of the airport authority's noise insulation scheme based on the new runway as well. In the Minister's amendment, I respectfully say that it does not allude to that and we need to be prescriptive on that element of it to give comfort to residents so that they know that it is not just the existing scheme and that the scheme can be expanded. I know that in the explanatory notes the Minister and his officials have explained that the Minister's amendment would permit that and that the competent authority could expand it. However, I believe that we need to be prescriptive and it is no harm to have that in the legislation.

We are also saying that: "The competent authority must publish an evaluation immediately following the design of a new noise insulation scheme, and no later than 1 year following the commencement of the new scheme." There are pieces such as that which we put in around what the evaluation would consider. That may be too prescriptive. It is not necessarily for us to say to experts there that they need to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G. For the second part of it, if further work is required then that could be done in the Seanad. However, it would be crucially important for buy in from people for this process that it is clear in the legislation that the insulation scheme can and will be expanded, as decided by the noise regulator, along the lines of the other aspects of the Bill that we have managed to get through, such as the World Health Organization noise guidelines and all of those matters that have been an improvement to the legislation that was published in the first instance. This is crucially important for those communities which are beside the existing runway and in the flight path but which will be in the flight path of the new runway as well.

It needs a bit of additional work and we have tried to do that with amendment No. 88, which was tabled in the spirit of co-operation from lengthy discussions that were had with the Department to try to find a way forward on this. By deleting "affected by any and all flight paths into the airport" and substituting that with "located within relevant noise contours" we have reduced the numbers who may potentially get into the scheme. We are only talking about those who are within those parameters. I say respectfully that Deputy Troy has tabled a very relevant and helpful amendment that will improve the situation. If something needs to be done further down the line, if we are being too prescriptive on what we want the competent authority to do then that is something that could be looked at in the Seanad. It is crucially important that we are prescriptive and descriptive on the noise insulation scheme because people need confidence that this scheme can and will be expanded on the basis of how communities are affected by the expansion of the airport.

I will not say much. I will be interested to hear what the Minister's response is because the points have been very well made. This was put forward coming out of the spirit of a good amendment that was passed on Committee Stage but in the hope of making it better and to give the added security as Deputy Darragh O'Brien said, which is demanded by residents because we are talking about mitigating the impact of aircraft noise. One of the key areas of this is the whole issue of insulation. Some people are saying that if we do that no aircraft will be able to fly and we will shut down Dublin Airport. That is nonsense. What it does mean is that more homes will have to be insulated and it is a key area of the balanced approach. Hopefully the Minister will see reason because the points have been well made. However, if he thinks it needs further tweaking we should pass this now and that can be looked at in the Seanad.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions. I fully appreciate what they are saying and I hope they fully appreciate the fact that the Government has agreed with a lot of what they have said. That is in our amendment and that is in response to what the Deputies have produced.

What I am proposing with these amendments is that the insulation schemes would be deemed to be a noise mitigation measure introduced by the regulator and the provisions of this Bill shall fully apply to it when it is enacted. The regulator will have the full powers of enforcement as if it had required the schemes itself. Furthermore, by virtue of amendment No. 91, which I spoke to earlier, once the schemes are deemed to be noise mitigation measures, any person has the ability to write to the noise regulator and request it to review the effectiveness of the scheme. This amendment achieves what Deputies Troy and Darragh O'Brien have set out to do here, namely, to ensure that this scheme progresses and is monitored and enforced by the regulator. There is absolutely no question in my mind but that what I am providing here is what the Deputies are looking for. Future schemes and expanded schemes will be within the power of the regulator. Nevertheless, I understand the Deputies' apprehension about that and it is only fair to say that we should pass this tonight but I am prepared to look at going even further down the direction which the Deputies are talking about and giving them the reassurance they are seeking in an amendment which we will bring to the Seanad.

What exactly is the Minister proposing to do? Is he proposing to withdraw his own amendment and take amendment No. 88 and then bring forward an amendment to that in the Seanad? We are quite happy to accept that.

I think it is a great improvement but the Deputies are going to have to accept a certain amount of goodwill here, which is absolute. I am proposing that my amendment goes through because it goes 90% of the way to what the Deputies want. I think it goes 100% of the way but they obviously do not feel so. If my amendment goes through, because it is a great improvement, I propose that we devise an amendment in a spirit of co-operation and goodwill that gives the Deputies the reassurance they want in the Seanad. The political reality is that it should be easily achieved.

I appreciate what the Minister is saying. However, his amendment would remove the section we put in on Committee Stage. It was debated in great detail and in a decent spirt, I might add: the Minister was there. His amendment No. 87 would remove that in its entirety. By bringing in amendment No. 99, effectively he is bringing in the existing scheme. He is saying that someone could review the effectiveness of the existing scheme. We are not talking about extent or expansion. That is not something that could be accepted. I mean this respectfully. We need to see that it is there.

We could certainly work on things. I am not saying that everything is perfect. In amendment No. 88 we have tried to improve the scope and I think it does that. By leaving the section in, if the Minister wanted to propose an amendment in the Seanad, subject to discussions we would have, to improve that section, that would be absolutely fine. However, what he is asking us to do here this evening is to remove a very important section that was passed on Committee Stage. I grant the Minster that it is imperfect. Passing amendment No. 88 will improve it.

I propose that the Minister withdraws his amendment and lets our one go through, and we will then work to agree on an amendment to that section in the Seanad that either he or we would bring forward. I cannot remove that as it would be taking the whole thing out. We could agree on a shared amendment in the Seanad to improve part (2) of the section in particular. That was a really important part of the committee meeting. We would be removing it in its entirety. I propose that we give a commitment on the public record for the Minister to withdraw his amendment, to let that section stand, pass amendment No. 88 to improve it and to work together on an agreed change to it in the Seanad. If we accept the Minister's amendment this evening, all we are doing is saying the existing scheme is in and that is pretty much it. I know that would be a problem.

Just for direction, if amendment No. 87 is agreed to, amendment No. 88 cannot be moved.

If my amendment No. 87 is agreed to, amendment No. 88 cannot be moved, is that correct? Okay. We will do what the Deputies want. We will agree to what Deputy O'Brien wants because I think it is a sensible way of going forward, but we must do this in a spirit of goodwill and constructiveness.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 46, lines 1 and 2, to delete “affected by any and all flight paths into the airport” and substitute “located within relevant noise contours”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 46, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“Airport charges: noise

21. (1) The competent authority may, after consultation with the airport authority stakeholders and for the purposes mentioned in subsection (2), by notice in writing direct the airport authority to fix its charges in respect of an aircraft or a class of aircraft by reference (among other things) to—

(a) specified facts or matters relating to the amount of noise caused by the aircraft or to the extent or nature of any inconvenience resulting from such noise,

(b) specified facts or matters related to the effect of the aircraft on the level of noise at any place in or in the vicinity of the airport,

(c) any failure by the operator of the aircraft to secure that noise requirements applying to the aircraft are complied with.

(2) The purposes mentioned in this subsection are—

(a) in relation to subsection (1)(a), encouraging the use of quieter aircraft and reducing inconvenience from aircraft noise;

(b) in relation to subsection (1)(b), controlling the level of noise in or in the vicinity of the airport so far as attributable to aircraft taking off or landing at the airport;

(c) in relation to subsection (1)(c), promoting compliance with noise requirements.

(3) This section is in addition to, and not in substitution for, any provision relating to the use of, or charges for the use of, airports which is made by or under any other enactment.”.

On the basis that amendment No. 86 has been accepted, which covers the intent of my amendment No. 89, I do not wish to press it. I hope amendment No. 93 is also accepted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 46, line 23, to delete “subsection (3)” and substitute “subsections (3) and (4)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 46, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

“(3) (a) The airport authority, or a person upon whom there is a noise impact from the airport, may, by notice in writing given to the competent authority, request the competent authority to review the effectiveness of the noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions (if any) on achieving the noise abatement objective.

(b) The competent authority may, at its discretion, comply with a request under paragraph (a).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 46, line 28, after “subsection (2)” to insert “or (3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 47, to delete lines 24 to 29 and substitute the following:

“(4) The competent authority may impose a financial penalty for failure to comply with a relevant provision.”.

I thought this was identical to amendment No. 86, in case the clerk thinks I was trying to cod him. I see there is a difference but I am happy to withdraw it on the basis that amendment No. 86 covers the basic point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 94 and 95 are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 95 is consequential on amendment No. 94.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 48, to delete lines 7 to 20.

I am not going to make a big deal out of this but I find this an utterly mad section and I would really like some clarity on it. I am looking just to remove it. What we are talking about here is a scenario in which the competent authority has issued an enforcement notice against a company, meaning they have gone through all the steps, a noise mitigation measure has been suggested, any appeal process has been gone through, all of that is finished and it has been agreed that the work will commence and the suggested measure will be implemented. The organisation against which the order was made has not bothered implementing it so the competent authority has had to issue an enforcement notice. The DAA or an airline has gone all that length of the way. What we are putting in here is a section that gives the offender, the body that has breached the enforcement order, fast-track access to the courts to appeal the enforcement order. This body will never be a local resident, this is about the big players.

I think that is the maddest thing I have ever heard. It is not necessary at all and in fact it is giving life to the appalling vista to which the Minister referred in his previous answer when we were trying to deal with the fines issue. This is giving carte blanche to a big semi-State organisation to use the courts at the taxpayer's expense. As the Minister said earlier, they are not footing the bill on this so we are giving them a specific mandate to breach regulations and go through the whole process, ignore an enforcement order and then go to the courts. They will say to themselves that they are not going to comply with that enforcement order because they can go to the courts and the courts have a laxity in terms of where the costs are going to be. We do not need this provision at all. The Bill gives adequate protection and I cannot understand it.

I will not be accepting these amendments for reasons explained already on Committee Stage. As I set out on Committee Stage, this is a standard provision to allow a recipient of an enforcement notice to apply to the High Court to have that notice issued by the noise regulator cancelled. The fact is that the noise regulator can apply to the High Court for an order requiring a person to comply with an enforcement notice. Again I reiterate that it is only right and balanced that the recipient of such a notice is afforded the opportunity to question that enforcement notice. Simply put, it gives the right to the DAA, to which the Deputy referred, to have recourse to the courts if it considers that the noise regulator has not acted properly in issuing an enforcement notice against it. It gives the same right to any other person who has received an enforcement notice from the noise regulator.

It does not do that. If the competent authority goes to the court to seek an enforcement order, as in any court case where something is sought against somebody, that person has the right to defend himself or herself. That is in place. They can of course argue against what the competent authority is doing.

This provides that when the competent authority has done that, it can go to the courts and object. It is nonsense; we do not need to specify that here.

We will not agree on this. Every organisation is entitled to its day in court. If it thinks it is a good idea to take the regulator to court, it is entitled to do so in order to provide balance because of the rights the regulator also possesses.

I know it is the 11th hour, but I think this is an affront to the residents and to the stakeholders in this process. The Minister stated that everybody has access to the courts. In theory, that is obviously the case. However, it is not the case in reality. An individual is not a big semi-State organisation and has to fund a challenge himself or herself. The legislation gives the big organisation fast-track access to the courts for which, as the Minister indicated, the taxpayer will end up paying. Meanwhile, the little person or the resident has no such authority or favourable access to the courts. He or she can do so, of course, but my argument to the Minister is that the DAA or another organisation can go to the courts in any event and they do not need us to include that in legislation. Why, therefore, are we doing what is proposed? The argument in this regard does not stack up. I do not think that having it in or having it out makes a fundamental difference. However, what is proposed is indicative of an unbalanced approach. That is regrettable, particularly in the context of legislation which is supposed to deliver a balanced approach.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 95 not moved.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 50, line 22, to delete “relevant authority” and substitute “ “relevant authority” ”.

This is a technical drafting amendment to include inverted commas where they were omitted previously. I do not think anybody would have a problem with this.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 50, to delete lines 28 to 37, and in page 51, to delete lines 1 to 4.

These are pretty interesting amendments. We had a very interesting discussion about the intent behind them on Committee Stage. When I moved them, I indicated that I was not sure if I was barking up the right tree. It turned out that I was, which made the amendments even more important. These two clauses in the legislation give the DAA the ability to seek to have the existing An Bord Pleanála restrictions on night flights overturned. As has been rightly been pointed out on a number of occasions, this is separate from the legislation providing for a competent authority in the future but, ironically, it is one of the reasons this Bill has been pushed. The intention of the DAA has been abundantly clear. Once the competent authority is in place, its first mission will be to use the structure we will set up here to get those two conditions overturned. That is an incredibly worrying scenario for the residents, many of whom are workers at Dublin Airport.

Let us deal with some of the issues. Nobody wants to shut down Dublin Airport. I worked there. Most of my friends still work there. My constituents work there and we all live close to it. It has been a very important economic driver for all of us and we want that to continue. However, just like the discussion we had on farming earlier, the aviation business has to be seen in the context of climate change, sustainability and the damage done to people's health and the environment. That is not just my objective; it is EU law that we must have this in place. Ten years ago, when we did not know as much about the negative health impacts of aircraft noise as we do now, An Bord Pleanála saw fit to put measures in place to restrict night-time activity. To offset that, it got off lightly in terms of, for example, noise insulation on the understanding that these restrictions would be put in place at night. It does not mean the airport will shut. We have seen the statement from the DAA suggesting that if we bring this in, it would lead to something like a 40% reduction. Air traffic at Dublin Airport will increase when this runway opens. It is good that some of the night-time activity will be more curtailed than previously, but it does not mean that there will be fewer aircraft. It also does not mean that the airport will close or that airlines will locate in other airports. It means it will cost them a bit more money, which is just tough.

The enormous increase in air traffic between 2008 and 2018 has come from the non-business sector. Non-business tourist travellers do not need to get up in the middle of the night in order to fly out of Dublin Airport at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. to go to Fuengirola on their holidays. If they live in Waterford and need to go at 5 a.m., it means having to get up at 1 a.m. in order to drive to Dublin Airport. They are absolutely knackered and the first two days of their holidays are ruined. It does not suit them, but they do it because the airline operators schedule it so they can get the aircraft out and back more than once and increase their revenue.

Making airlines adhere to a night-time restriction means some of their aircraft will not go out and back, but they can still do their scheduling. There are hundreds of people employed in aircraft scheduling who match the airport operators' aircraft with their routes and carry out the planning in that regard. What they would do then, because we are not getting rid of all the aircraft, is that they prioritise the business routes. When airlines want somebody out early and want the businessman or businesswoman to return that night and have a range of flights to facilitate this, their aircraft scheduling allows them to do so without impacting on their sleep. This makes perfect sense. Nobody suffers. I accept that it might mean they have to employ a few more personnel to schedule the flights because they might have to add in more computations and permutations into the arrangements, but it is doable. How do we know it is doable? It is because it is done everywhere else.

This is a quality-of-life issue. The key reason we need this is that mentioned by Deputy Brendan Ryan earlier. The legislation is not complete; it is very imperfect. We cannot have a competent authority, which is also the planning authority, regulating these matters. It is utterly insane to have these two clauses allowing Fingal County Council to overturn the decision it made on planning permission in the first instance. The Minister stated, when Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the question earlier, that the issue of the letter has been dealt with. It has not been dealt with. Fingal County Council is on record as stating it has problems with that. In January 2018, the Government made a decision to appoint Fingal County Council as the competent authority. On the previous occasion, we read into the record correspondence subsequent to that decision from senior officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to Fingal County Council in which they were seeking to discover what was the rate base. This shows that the conflict of interest points had not been explored prior to the decision being made. This actually teed up a pretty strong legal action and led to the EU writing to the Minister informing him that the independence of the authority must be sacrosanct.

Subsequently, the residents, by means of freedom of information requests, obtained an outline of all the contact between the Department and Fingal County Council including details from the Minister's diary. There are no records anywhere of the meetings that supposedly took place. The Minister told Deputy Brendan Ryan that it was all right and that Fingal County Council knows it is sorted now. Where are the records? Fingal County Council was supposed to deliver information under freedom of information yesterday and then it postponed doing so until today. As a result, we have not seen any evidence. Where is the paper trail to show that the council changed its mind? Allowing these two clauses to remain will open up a legal nightmare in the future.

As the Deputy would expect, I will not be accepting these amendments for the same reason I gave on Committee Stage. I set out the purposes of these provisions on Committee Stage and I will briefly reiterate these now. These sections provide clarity that any existing noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions, whether in effect or not, will come under the remit of a noise regulation and the full provisions of this Bill and regulation 598 will apply to them. This includes the noise insulation scheme, about which we have just spoken, and any measures attached as conditions to an existing planning consent, including the current operating restrictions which have not yet been activated. Simply put, all legacy measures related to noise management will transfer to the remit of a new noise regulator.

It is vital that the noise regulator is empowered to take a full view of all existing and potential future noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions at the airport. This is in order to apply the balanced approach properly now and through each future regulatory cycle. To be able to regulate, monitor and manage noise at the airport now and into the future, the noise regulator has to be able to review and consider how well existing measures are working, whenever they were introduced. Technology and noise management solutions are bound to change and simply because something is effective at offsetting noise today does not mean it will be effective forever.

I know there is a deep suspicion that these sections are about undoing the operating restrictions that are attached to the new second runway at Dublin Airport. They are not. However, they allow the noise regulator to review these restrictions and other measures, if it has cause to.

It is no secret that the DAA's position is that the operating restrictions attached as conditions to the planning permission for the new runway mean that the new runway is unworkable. The company has explained that the effect of the restrictions will be to halve the number of night time flights from current levels. It claims that this will have serious implications for connectivity, passenger choice and future growth at the airport. I do not know the extent to which that view is correct and I do not know if the operating restrictions are the right solution to managing the noise impact of the new runway. I suggest that nobody in this House knows that either. However, I know it is perfectly sensible to allow the new noise regulator to review them, if it has cause to do so. If it decides to do so, that review will have to be done under the balanced approach, as set out in regulation 598 and reinforced by this Bill. There will have to be extensive technical assessment and public consultation. Should this take place and should there be a decision at the end of it, that decision will ultimately be appealable to An Bord Pleanála. That approach is open, transparent, fair and balanced. There is no pre-determined outcome to any such review of existing measures. It would be entirely nonsensical to prevent the new independent noise regulator - operating in accordance with EU and national law - from examining, in the course of its comprehensive regulatory review, the impact and continued effectiveness of legacy noise management measures. As a point of principle, the noise regulator has to have the legal powers to review, revise or replace noise mitigation measures from time to time as new technology comes on board or as better options come to light.

I support Deputy Clare Daly’s amendments with respect to the deletions. This is extraordinary. To go back to what I said on Second Stage, in his earlier career the Minister would have found it unbelievable that a conflicted body would be appointed as a regulator. The papers released by the Department recently under a freedom of information request and reported in the journal.ie show that Minister was briefed that many regulated bodies are funded by the regulated entity in the form of a levy or charge on that entity. That is precisely what he would have railed against in the financial sector over the years. We know what happened in the financial sector when a regulator who was a hostage was not able to deliver independent judgments. The Minister is saying there is clarity. The point about this Bill is that it is a total failure. There is no clarity and there is no question that we will return to this legislation to appoint an independent regulator in the next Dáil. The Minister had the opportunity to address this matter and I believe his Department told him that. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, did not have the organisational capacity but one of the functions of the EPA under the European legislation is to be the regulator of noise in this country. This is provided for in legislation introduced in 2006. The EPA asked the four local authorities to work together to prepare an agglomeration of noise maps across our county and city region. That was the job given to the local authorities but, again, people refused to allow the noise map of the airport to be included in that.

We are dealing with a very flawed process. We do not have noise limits in this country. The Minister can search through all the road traffic legislation. He will know this issue comes under a series of Acts covering noise, be it from barking dogs to machinery in factories and right across the area of production of noise. We know what the World Health Organization has codified as desirable low sound levels, namely, under 50 dB at night and under 55 dB in the daytime, with undesirable high sound levels defined as being above 55 dB at night and above 70 dB in daytime. The absolute values the WHO was aiming at were a little lower than that. As I understand it, we have not provided for these thresholds in any legislation.

In a previous Dáil, as the Minister might remember from his time in the Seanad, the former Deputy Ciarán Cuffe of the Green Party brought forward a noise abatement Bill to take account of noise across the board, including aircraft, commercial activity, major events or neighbours playing loud music or practising playing the drums, lead guitar or bass guitar. It was all-encompassing noise legislation, which we still have not enacted. I agreed with colleagues that it would have been better to appoint the Commission for Aviation Regulation, CAR, as the regulator, but we did not do that either.

The last thing the Minister has given us is clarity on this matter. We do not have clarity and we do not know what will happen. The Minister has refused to create some form of reasonable regime, which an independent regulator could operate. It is reminiscent of other legislation in which he has been involved.

A number of Members referred to the famous letter from 2017 which was sent by Fingal County Council's distinguished director of services, Ms AnnMarie Farrelly, in which she stated: "Fingal County Council does not have the requisite competencies available within the Council in areas of aviation operations, noise (including contour mapping) and economic feasibility assessments for the purpose of determining the cost-effectiveness of solutions within the context of the 'Balanced Approach' as set out in the Regulation." That statement could not be clearer. Regardless of whether complaints go to An Board Pleanála or into the courts system, we will regret that we had an opportunity in the Dáil - there is still an opportunity in the Oireachtas - to have a truly independent regulator but the Minister did not take it. He is leaving us with a bit of a mess because he is not prepared to deal with one of the important sources of noise, certainly for the area in question.

I asked the Minister about the noise impact maps the last day. One of the things we know about the airport is that the serious noise impact map is growing across south Fingal, the north of my constituency and north west across to parts of County Meath. That is why so many of us were interested in this Bill in the first place. The basic point is that we wanted to give our constituents some kind of confidence that there is a system in place as the north runway commences operations and as the DAA intends moving from a 30 million passenger cap to 40 million or maybe 50 million - another Gatwick, another hub airport.

Through the years, we have supported the development of the airport in a sustainable way because of the 100,000 jobs in the airport zone, to which the Minister referred on Second Stage. Nonetheless, we need a very clear regime in regard to aircraft noise and airport noise and we need systems of management, such as Deputy Daly outlined, in regard to managing the different cohorts of passengers, given the numbers are heading for 750,000 or 1 million a week. That is something the Minister has signally failed to do. He has not given us clarity. We have a real problem with this Bill. Unfortunately, we will be returning to this early in the next Dáil.

This is a serious situation. The Minister basically said he does not have a clue about the allegations in regard to the DAA or what the impact of those is going to be. That is not very comforting because what we have got a clue about, and what we know very clearly, is the health impact of exposure to noise, particularly exposure to noise at night-time. It was in deference to that, albeit at a period of time when we did not even understand as much about this, that these restrictions were put in to curtail night traffic. The Minister's opposition to my amendments was that we cannot tie the hands of the authority and it has to have the right to review things that have happened before now. However, it does have the right to review things that happened before now and that is inherent in the Bill. There are two methods whereby people can be brought before this organisation, one being new planning permissions and the other the impact of noise under the existing day-to-day life of the airport, which is already provided for. Something which was given at the time of the planning permission may not arise initially but then kicks in once the airport becomes operational, and the Bill covers that anyway.

We are not tying the hands of the authority in anything other than diminishing the protection of residents. The clauses that are there now are there. There is nothing to stop the competent authority from improving that situation by removing the two clauses that I want to remove in these amendments. It can still seek to improve the measures. All we are doing is stopping it from diminishing them. If it wants to outlaw more aircraft at night, that is brilliant, and it can do that. If it wants to put in more restricted conditions at night, it can do that. However, what it cannot do is make the protection less, which is incredibly important because it is already the case that noise insulation has to go well beyond the remit of this Bill. We have already provided for that in the legislation so the Minister's argument is irrelevant in that sense.

We have discussed this for a long time and it is getting late. However, it is a very clear issue as far as I am concerned. I will be pressing the amendments.

The focus of this legislation is to bring EU Regulation 598/2014 into Irish law. On Committee Stage, on a range of issues, the Minister responded to proposed amendments on the basis of WHO guidelines by saying that cannot be done because there is quite a specific purpose in this legislation. When we sought to change the definition of a balanced approach, the Minister came up with a similar response and said he had been advised by his legal advisers that this is quite specific and cannot be done. Yet, in this section, it appears miscellaneous matters are okay provided they are designed to achieve a particular objective, which has been clearly defined by the DAA in terms of its intent. It would be unfortunate if the starting point for this legislation was to assist the DAA in rowing back on what has been hard fought for and hard won at An Bord Pleanála on behalf of the residents. It was always open to the DAA to go back under the old legislation to An Bord Pleanála to seek to have these matters reversed. It is unfortunate that the Minister is facilitating this in the legislation.

I do not wish to be repetitive in any way because some of the statements being made are somewhat repetitive, although I understand the strength of feeling behind them. I want to address the issues which have been brought up once again. If anyone reads the regulation, they will see that its objectives are very much in line with the sentiments which are expressed by Members of this House. This is not my document. This is not a Fine Gael or Independent Alliance document. We are implementing a directive from Europe with some discretion about how we do it, admittedly, but with objectives which I hope everybody in this House would share.

We are continuously getting the voice of the residents coming from the floor of this House, which we hope that we reflect. This directive constantly lays out that its objective is to take into account the views of local residents. I do not wish to read it to the Deputies. However, the issues which have been raised by the Deputies today and yesterday - of health, of local residents and of independence - are all prerequisites of what is in this document from Europe which we have in front of us. To suggest that we are somehow running counter to the care of the environment, to the interests of health and to the interests of local residents is just not a fair interpretation of what this Bill is doing.

The Bill is appointing, in accordance with the directive, an independent noise regulator to take into account, in a balanced approach, the views of residents, the needs of health and the requirements of the environment. That is what we are doing. There may be disputes and differences about who it should be, and we have been through that several times here today. However, what we have done is put it to tests of independence. The best tests we can put it to are legal tests, the Attorney General's tests, and a discussion with Fingal County Council itself. Although I do not know if the council needed much persuasion, it came around to the view, after a long discussion to which the Deputy was referring when referring to the letter, that it believes it is independent. The Attorney General has that view. I am not a position to challenge the view of the Attorney General on that or anything else, particularly as it is already decided. It had a contrary view in terms of the IAA, which many Deputies here would like to see as the independent regulator.

What we are doing here is producing, in difficult circumstances, a measure which will take into account everything which is in EU Regulation 598/2014 and take into account the balanced approach. It is a genuine and sincere effort to accommodate those conflicting interests in a very fair way. That is what we hope the regulator will be doing. It is wrong for anybody here to prejudge any decision by the regulator.

There is absolutely no indication that it is or would be sympathetic to any party.

The Minister said that Fingal County Council came round to the view and that it did not really need much persuading but we do not know whether it needed any persuading at all because the record does not show evidence of any meetings whatsoever. There are no minutes or records of contact but what the record does show is that subsequent to the Minister's decision to appoint Fingal County Council as the competent authority, his senior officials wrote to the council and asked some very basic questions around conflict of interest. After the decision was made and the Attorney General's view was sought, we know that departmental officials were in contact with the local authority looking for more information. This means that they did not have that information when the decision was made.

To return to the point made by Deputy Broughan, the Minister is setting himself up for an absolute hiding in terms of this legislation because of the conflict of interest. It is a conflict of interest that he was warned about by senior officials in the European Parliament in terms of how this should be advanced. I repeat that we are the only member state that has chosen to appoint a local authority as the competent authority in this way. This is a very serious situation.

In terms of the amendments that we are currently considering, the Minister is absolutely right that the competent authority is being brought in and this regulation is to improve the lives of residents in dealing with noise impact. If current measures which are in place in that regard are not sufficiently protecting residents, then the competent authority is being lawfully authorised in this legislation to order improvements. Taking out these two clauses is not going to prohibit, for example, the competent authority from looking at the operation of the new runway and deciding that 66 flights per night is too much and that it is going to cut the number down to zero, or whatever the case may be. That will not be impacted upon by these amendments. The only reason these two clauses are in the legislation is to allow the competent authority to reduce the protections that are already in place for residents. That is all they do and that is going against the spirit of this Bill and against everything we are supposed to be here to deliver. It is a betrayal of the residents who fought long and hard against that planning application in the first place. The route is still open to the DAA to apply for a new planning condition. It can come in at any time and submit a new planning application and have the issues evaluated. If my two amendments are passed, that will not change. The only thing my amendments will do is stop the DAA from going in immediately and undermining the existing conditions. It is absolutely true to say that I do not know if the competent authority will actually approve it or not. I do not know that but given that under this legislation Fingal County Council is the competent authority, it does not bode well. We would be better off fulfilling our responsibility and taking these two clauses out.

Amendment put.
Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 43; Staon, 24.

  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Brendan Ryan; Níl, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 51, to delete lines 5 to 18.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 51, after line 18, to insert the following:

“Transitional provisions - noise insulation schemes

31. (1) In this section, “scheme” means a noise insulation scheme put in place by the daa before the commencement of this section and in force immediately before such commencement.

(2) On the commencement of this section, a scheme shall be deemed to be a noise mitigation measure introduced by the competent authority and the provisions of this Act and of the Act of 2000 shall, with all necessary modifications, apply to the scheme accordingly.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 51, after line 18, to insert the following:

“Review of operation of Act

31. The Minister shall, not later than 3 years after the commencement of this section, carry out a review of the operation of this Act.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 65; Staon, 0.

  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Thomas P. Broughan and Catherine Connolly; Níl, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."
Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 28; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Louise O'Reilly and Brendan Ryan.
Question declared carried.