Business of Joint Committee.

The first item on the agenda is the minutes. The proceedings of the meetings on 28 and 30 March 2010 have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed.

The next item is correspondence, of which there is a large schedule. I will go down through the reference numbers. Item 2010/784 is a reply to the committee's collection of views from local authorities on a national policy for radon. I suggest we note it and forward it to the Minister for consideration. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next item is 2010/80. As it is a letter from Deputy Scanlon, we will deal with it when he arrives. The next item is 2010/802, consumer matters from the National Consumer Agency advising that certain functions of the Financial Regulator are to be transferred to the National Consumer Agency, as is well known.

As a long-standing critic of the National Consumer Agency, I never cease to be amazed at how it puts in its time or what it does as an organisation established to protect consumers. I rarely hear from it or hear the outcome of its work. I note there are people in these organisations who are very well paid for doing essential work and who are seconded from the Department. This organisation was to be merged with the Competition Authority. I do not have any confidence that having more functions transferred to it from the Financial Regulator will achieve the outcome or objectives it sets out. I do not know why it is before us in regard to correspondence because it is not directly relevant to the committee. Is this general to every committee?

It was copied to this committee and I understand it has been sent to other committees as well.

We should send a letter to, I presume, the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

We should scrutinise the functions and objectives of the National Consumer Agency.

I am happy to do that. The next item is a letter from Calor Gas which requests to meet the committee to discuss the role of liquid petroleum gas in meeting environmental commitments. How do members want to handle that? Will we just keep it on our work programme? It is an individual company that wants to make a presentation.

It gave a very interesting presentation in the Merrion Hotel some time ago on alternative sources of energy, heat supply and creating electricity to supply the home and business. Whether we should bring the company in, I do not know.

Perhaps it is more a matter for the energy committee.

Perhaps. It was very interesting. I do not know if other members attended.

Perhaps the company can send a note to us and we will see if the issue is relevant to this committee. The company should provide some information first and we can then decide.

We should consider it.

The company has written the letter and the person involved telephoned me in the first place to ask whether it could send the letter. When we receive a response, we may decide it is a matter for the energy committee.

Depending on the information we get.

Yes. At that stage, if it is appropriate for the energy committee, we will pass it on to that committee. There has only been a short letter to date.

The next item concerns derelict sites and the information sent by six county councils in reply to correspondence from committee members. Have members any comment?

Did we get replies?

Yes, we got all six. The document is item 2010/804 in the folder. If the Deputy wants to hold over consideration of that until the next meeting, we can do so and we will have it as correspondence at that meeting. He can examine the reply in the meantime.

The next item is 2010/805, correspondence from Laois County Council as a follow-up regarding assistance in raising the level of litter fines. We will keep that on the work programme. Litter is a big issue in every county.

It is a huge issue and getting bigger by the day. It is all right to fine people or to raise fines but we must detect the offenders before we can fine them. This is the big problem. We should turn it around and consider incentives for people not to dump litter rather than raising fines. I see very few people being fined for littering so I do not believe raising fines will solve anything. We should consider incentives for people to dispose of their litter in a proper manner rather than taking the approach suggested here. The issue might be opened up for discussion at some further time.

Everyone accepts that the level of littering has increased in every county.

We need to have it as an item. I know there is a national business agency that often prepares reports on littering in different towns. We might have a useful discussion on the issue.

Our town came third at national level. Cameras were installed at various blackspots throughout the county and a number of prosecutions were taken. This has proved very successful in dealing with the illegal dumping problem and the littering of the countryside. It should be rolled out nationally by the local authorities.

Laois County Council, which sent the letter, decided at its last meeting that it will publish the names of everybody who gets a court conviction or a fine. It is name and shame. When a person pays a fine in court, nobody knows about it. Where there is a court conviction, it is public knowledge at that stage, so why not publish it?

With all due respect, I can see how it would help the situation if somebody is detected. However, given the amount of littering——

It is small.

——and the number of people detected, there is no comparison. It is no different in any county. Deputy Bannon suggested cameras. Do we envisage cameras in nearly every roadway because there is dumping on every roadway I know of?

They are small cameras, the size of a glass. They can be put conveniently in a tree and can detect offenders. They do the job in County Longford and have got on top of the problem.

It might work for one particular area where there was dumping. I am talking in general.

For roadways.

They have been installed on county roads and cul de sac roads.

We should seek a response from the director of services of Longford County Council with regard to the strategy it is adopting and then circulate it. We will see if there is anything new we can implement. That might deal with Deputy O'Sullivan's issue.

At the end of the day, it is the cost of dumping which is driving the level of indiscriminate dumping into the ditches. We know our controversial waste management policy is up for review. These are the issues which will have to feed into it in regard to how we will get more consumer co-operation at less cost. The incentive is less cost in order to ensure we get the job done. It will not be easy. The big brother approach might work in some places but it might not work everywhere.

Mr. Gary Brady is the environment officer with Longford County Council.

The cameras are very successful where they are located, which is usually at bring banks and similar locations. I agree with Deputy O'Sullivan that the rural areas are a problem. To have enough cameras on bog roads and back roads is not possible. I was astonished last Saturday when I had to call to a client in Moylagh, near Oldcastle. It is a very small village with great community spirit. The people had picked up rubbish on every road out of the village to a distance of close to two miles. The number of bags of rubbish, bits of cars, prams and other items was unbelievable. I could not believe the amount of material collected on the roadside. That is a good community but not all are the same. Much effort is being put into bigger towns but seeing that happening in a small rural village with a population of 50 or 60 people is unbelievable.

I also came across loads of tyres dumped on bog roads, ditches and gripes. I do not know if other Deputies have the same problem but in my area a load of tyres was dumped in a gripe 500 yards from my House. It is very costly to get rid of these tyres and I do not know if the county council is responsible for them if they are dumped on the road. I had to get rid of the tyres. It is deplorable to dump lorry tyres. Increasing fines is no solution and will only deter the plum clients. We cannot detect many of these people because they dump in the early hours of the morning or late at night in rural areas. It is scandalous to see what is happening in some of the bogs and forestry areas. Something must be done to get rid of this problem once and for all. Those who do this must be named and shamed if they are caught.

Litter is quite an issue. What should we do?

Can we get a report on this and then have a further discussion? Everyone would like to participate.

National surveys are being undertaken.

The Minister announced additional funding for litter matters in the past week. We should get that documentation and have a discussion on the agenda.

The next item is No. 806 from Councillor Jarlath Munnelly regarding the refusal of An Bord Pleanála of a CPO for land for the N26 road. We cannot get into individual decisions by An Bord Pleanála. We must note the correspondence and say that the committee has no direct role in dealing with such matters.

Can we get a reply for this individual from the Department and send it to him? If he has written in, it must be a serious matter. The least he can expect is a response from the relevant Department.

Should we ask An Bord Pleanála for a response or the Department?

The Department.

We will ask the Department for a response.

This opens up a wider area of county and city development plans where An Bord Pleanála, the NRA and the county development plan may be in conflict. I can name a host of projects, one in particular outside Cork city, that have been put on hold because of the unclear position taken by the NRA. That is unacceptable.

I support Deputy Ciarán Lynch in inviting the NRA to appear in the context of planning matters. There are examples in Cork and Galway.

A proposal can be made on a planning issue and An Bord Pleanála may feel the proposal is not good. There is nothing wrong with that.

Without citing a specific example, if an objection is made to a planning application because of traffic density issues and the NRA is unclear on the position of roadworks in the area in the short or medium term, An Bord Pleanála will rule in favour of the objection. The activities of the NRA are creating difficulties for long-term, sustainable planning matters.

There is a problem when one agency objects to another but the NRA seems to have been very active in recent times in objecting to planning issues. Perhaps the Chairman wants to leave this matter to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill but the NRA should explain itself.

The query in the correspondence concerned a CPO.

This is a general issue and perhaps the Chairman wishes to respond. We cannot raise every individual item but this is a general policy issue and perhaps the NRA can appear before the committee before the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill goes to Committee Stage.

This meeting can discuss planning on national primary and secondary roads.

Yes, it concerns planning.

The NRA is one of the statutory bodies consulted with regard to planning.

An Bord Pleanála places a heavy weighting on the opinion of the NRA and this can put the kibosh on a county development plan or a city development plan. This does not happen because the NRA has a clear position but because it will not state that position.

We will get a response to the query. Should we ask An Bord Pleanála to respond?

No, we should ask the NRA to appear before this committee to explain its planning function.

Perhaps it should make a submission to us on planning.

The next item concerns the OPW, a report on the River Shannon flood risk management opportunities. Copies can be made available to members. It is a substantial document and we will consider it for our flooding report.

A query was raised in respect of why water levels rose so quickly in Leitrim. I read the report but the question has not been answered. Perhaps we can send another letter asking the authors of the report to clarify this point.

No answer was available on the day.

There was no answer to that specific question.

County Westmeath, particularly the south and Athlone, suffered greatly from the floods. We know what the problem is and I hope many of these areas can look forward to corrective measures in Westmeath, Cork and other areas so that we can discuss the problems in the past tense as we are now talking about Mallow. That problem seems to have been resolved. Now that we know the problems, let us address them. There is no point in coming back next year and the year after talking about the same problems.

I express grave disappointment and annoyance on behalf of those affected by serious flooding last November, December and January. Some €10 million in humanitarian aid was allocated to those people and only €1 million has been released to date. I am concerned by the bureaucracy and red tape that complicates applications. There should be a speedier release of funding when it is allocated by a Department.

Has the Deputy already submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister?

We will produce a report on flooding and at that stage we will receive a reply from the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

The next item concerns correspondence from the Journal Office about the referral of Committee Stage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill to the select committee. We will deal with that in due course. No date has been set.

Will it be in the month of May?

I do not have a date. The next item is an EU report on developments in Brussels and we will note it. The next item concerns parliamentary activities from the European Parliament during March and April. We will note the correspondence.

Item No. 811 concerns a European organisation for the homeless and we will note the correspondence. The next item concerns a press release from the Minister about a programme to house the homeless. The next item concerns the tidy towns competition and a press release from the Minister. We will note the correspondence. The next item is a ministerial press release regarding a funding package for the fire and rescue services. We will note the correspondence.

The next item concerns a ministerial press release about the housing allocations for 2010. We will note the correspondence. The next item is an environmental newsletter from GLOBE international. We will note the correspondence. The next item is the Europe's World newsletter and we will note it. The next item is a list of proposals for EU legislation from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny. We have no work to do on this occasion and we will note the correspondence. The next item is two requests to make presentations on dog breeding legislation from the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation and the Dogs Trust.

This is very importance correspondence. I know the canine breeders' association came before us and we had an interesting debate but I am interested to hear representatives from the greyhound industry. I am glad the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation has requested to come before the committee to explain its view of the impending legislation and the implications or consequences of it on the industry. I understand more than 70% of the dogs racing in the UK are Irish bred. If this Bill will have any implications we need to hear about them at an early stage so the committee can form a view or make recommendations. I recommend we give it a hearing at the earliest opportunity.

I suggest that when we bring these people before the committee that we also have the Masters of Foxhounds Association of Ireland to make a presentation. It is also a big player in this.

I support Senator Coffey. We should hear from the greyhound owners and breeders and it is important that we do so. Another extremely important matter is the theft of small purebred dogs, and I have made this point to the Minister. In many cases, they are stolen from elderly people living on their own — the only companion they have — and sold in car boot sales. I have made certain proposals to address this matter and I ask my colleagues on the committee to ensure that protection is enshrined in this Bill. It is more of a problem than people think; it is a big problem.

As is said in the movies, "dog gone". I propose that we also invite the Irish Foot Harriers Association. There is a huge amount of concern about the legislation.

There is a request from——

If I may finish, the greyhound industry has made it very clear it is regulated by the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 and there is no need for further regulation. That is my understanding of its position. The positions of other organisations are also known to committee members and throughout the country. It is extremely important from the perspective of rural Deputies and the preservation of rural life that we have a very comprehensive discussion with these associations.

I was at a public meeting last night attended by approximately 600 people in the Park House Hotel in Edgeworthstown. There was great concern expressed by Rural Ireland Says Enough, RISE! I understand a meeting was held in County Laois and another will take place in County Offaly tonight. Those people should be afforded the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee.

That is a request for the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, the——

——harriers——

I hope we will not have 101 Dalmatians coming before the committee and being over-swamped by various dog groups.

The Deputy is outnumbered here.

No, I am supportive of it. I suggest the HAI, as the representative group for many harrier groups——

Yes, the HAI, the Hunting Association of Ireland, is the parent group for many harrier groups. We need to tighten up or every harrier group in Ireland will want to come before the committee. That is fine but it will take months. A parent group exists and will probably need to be corresponded with.

We will trust the committee secretariat to find the appropriate national organisation and we will arrange to hear all the presentations in a row and have one series of questions and answers.

It is not for the want of bringing in more delegations but——

RISE! was mentioned also.

RISE! is co-ordinating a campaign.

Let it be here too.

The Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Greyhound Board are two national agencies which need to be consulted also.

I will ask people to contact the clerk with the names of the various groups and we will try to get the national organisations. If many organisations come before the committee they will have less time each but be that as it may. Much can be said in ten minutes if they get an opportunity to do so.

Excuse my ignorance, but the Minister introduced a regulation on stag hunting.

There is proposed legislation published.

Will we discuss it or will we ignore that legislation?

The RISE! people will certainly discuss stag hunting.

They will, yes.

I am sure RISE! will discuss stag hunting.

I wish to make a suggestion——

That legislation was published last week.

We need to keep those two pieces of legislation separate for the purpose of this debate. These people have made a request with regard to the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill——

Yes, the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill.

——and the agenda should be focused on that. They other Bill should be considered in its own context when it goes through the various Stages in the Houses.

"The stag at eve had drunk his fill, where danced the moon on Monan's rill."

There is our culture. That is very good.

No. 820 is with regard to the planning Bill. We have received a number of letters from Deputies Hogan, Ciarán Lynch and Conlon regarding the registration process for architects. They want a submission to be made to the committee about experienced architects who do not have qualifications. How do members want to handle this?

Everybody is getting representations about these matters.

We have all received them.

We had the same issue on engineers inspecting waste treatment plants who often do a FÁS course to obtain the correct qualification. Some of these people have been working for the past 30 years. The same applies to architects. They have been producing plans for donkey's years and will be affected by the introduction of regulations.

That is the problem.

People in the system should be allowed to continue. New entrants should be asked to qualify.

That is exactly the problem and that is why the architects want to come before the committee, to explain why they should conform with Deputy Fitzpatrick's suggestion but are not being allowed to at present under the legislation.

Legislation on this came before the House two or three years ago. However, the Department did not accept the definition of "architect" along the lines suggested by Deputy Fitzpatrick.

It is to allow them the opportunity to highlight this issue and then seek the Department's view on it. What Deputy Fitzpatrick described is exactly the position and we are in sympathy with it.

I know work is not as plentiful as it used to be but everybody is entitled to a living.

The least we can do is give these people an opportunity to tell their story and see what we can do to help.

Then we will agree to that presentation. The next item is correspondence from Deputy Terence Flanagan on pyrite contamination. We will put this on the work programme because it will be an ongoing issue.

There is a High Court case pending on this matter which will have implications with regard to who is responsible for pyrite contamination. We should take this into account when we bring witnesses before the committee.

We will not set a date for it at this stage. The next item is the Friends of Europe newsletter, Policy Debates in Europe. Is it agreed to note it? Agreed. The next item is a capital project audit, a report on spot checks of capital projects funded by the Department. People have seen it and can deal with it as they see fit. The next item is a ministerial press release on Ireland's new world heritage tentative list. Is it agreed to note it?

A number of people in areas where there are designated sites are concerned——

They are not designated, they are proposed.

People in areas of proposed designated sites are concerned that a huge area of ground in close proximity, within a 30 mile radius of those sites——

Correct.

——could be sterilised. People may not be allowed the freedom to farm. The Chairman is probably aware of that from his constituency.

Yes, in Offaly.

We need clarity on this matter from the Department.

We will ask the Department to provide further clarification on the process that will be involved. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next item is a press release on address by the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, to the recent IPI conference. We will note that. The next item is a press release from Comhar on its media fund. We will note the correspondence. The next item is on emissions trading, a note on stakeholder consultation on the transposition of the aviation directive. We will note the correspondence. The next item is a letter from Deputy Phil Hogan requesting a meeting on the implementation of registered employment agreements.

A matter coming to light in a number of constituencies is the inflexibility of some of the agreements now that there is a downturn in employment in building and construction. Maybe it should involve SIPTU or BATU, which is a subsidiary of SIPTU representing blocklayers. Those bodies want to talk about registered agreements at some stage. I know it will not happen immediately, given the line-up we have already agreed, but we might bring them in during the course of the year to chat about them. The Chairman may have constituents who are also affected.

I am fully aware of the situation and have met the gentlemen involved. We will put it on the work programme.

The next item is a letter from the ESB in response to queries made by Mr. Paudie Barry, a surveyor in Cork. It is noted and we will deal with the matter as part of our report.

Has a reply been issued to Mr. Barry?

A reply will be issued but none has issued as yet. The next item is the 2008 accounts and general report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for the local government fund and the environment fund. We note it and can return to it in the work programme.

The next item is a request from Killarney National Park to meet with the joint committee to discuss dung catchers. They are looking for an early debate.

I understand why. The tourism season is upon us and they are still not allowed into the park, causing a real difficulty. It would be helpful for the committee to meet with the jarveys to see if there is some way of hammering out a solution to the problem. It has become quite intractable with both sides adamant they are correct. I understand a court decision is pending but if the committee can help I do not see why it should not do so. In case anybody should think there is a conflict of interest, I think my brother acts for the jarveys.

We have had a number of representations from public representatives on this matter. How soon can we meet them?

I am not sure what the position is but I am sure a decision is pending.

We will ask the clerk to contact them to see how soon we can meet.

There are two sides to every story. We will hear the side of the jarveys but we should hear the other side as well.

Somebody told me recently there were three sides to every story — your side, my side and the truth.

Rather than wasting time we should invite both sides.

That is democracy. As long as we are satisfied that we will not cause further difficulties, I am happy with that.

Is the other side the local authority?

I do not know if it is the local authority or the owners ofMuckross House.

I think the dispute is with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

We will inquire into it. We will agree to invite the jarveys and, if we can establish who else can help, we will invite a second party.

We skipped an item of correspondence from Deputy Eamon Scanlon. It is a request from Leitrim County Council to meet with the committee on the new EPA code of practice for waste water treatment and disposal systems.

I am sorry I was a few minutes late for the meeting. This has arisen quite recently and yesterday I attended a meeting of the executive and the full membership of Leitrim County Council. It relates to an EU directive which was an EPA guideline until 5 January 2010 but has now become a regulation. The T-values, which are a measurement of ground soakage for septic tanks, must be below 90. If this is followed through, 85% of the land in Leitrim will not qualify for a septic tank or a treatment system for a person who wants to build a house. According to the figures given by the county manager yesterday evening, 80% of planning permissions granted in the past five years would not have been granted if the guidelines were applied.

There are technical solutions to this and the EPA, through Trinity College, is trying to find one that is acceptable to everybody. That is fine but the EPA states it could be two years before a solution might be found. This is very unfair and I am sure it will affect other counties, including half of County Sligo. I suggest giving Leitrim County Council the opportunity to talk to the committee and inviting somebody from the EPA in order to see how we might resolve the problem. It will cause a lot of distress to many people if county councils cannot grant planning permission on 85% of their rural land for farmers and families who wish to continue to work on the land. They have been the only people getting planning permission in recent times but now they will be totally excluded from building a house on their own land. It is a retrograde step and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should have some input into what is happening.

It is a very serious situation for any county or local authority to find itself in. How many other counties are affected?

Every county received the notice last Christmas.

How many would be in the same situation as Leitrim? It is important that we hear from every county.

It is happening in various counties, depending on their soil type.

Not too long ago, people who manufactured these units came before this committee and led us to believe they could adjust to any type of soil to overcome such difficulties. Perhaps we could seek clarification from those manufacturers on that point, as they assured us the plants could facilitate the treatment of effluent in any situation.

Deputy Christy O'Sullivan is correct but the EPA will not accept the statistics provided by the manufacturers of these plants. That is why a technical assessment is being carried out by Trinity College Dublin. However, it is very wrong that it should take two years. We were told systems were in place to deal with the problem and we need to hear from someone in the EPA as to what the situation is. The situation on the ground is as described by Leitrim County Council, the county manager and the director of services at 5 p.m. yesterday.

I understand that my brother, Councillor Larry Bannon, raised this matter at the BMW meeting last February. There was widespread public concern over this issue and over the issue of codes of practice for waste water treatment. There will be a bar on more than 50% of applications if this regulation goes through so it is important to nip it in the bud. Some farm families need to have a second home on the land so it is worthy of debate. We should try to block the regulation because it will have a detrimental effect on rural communities around the country, but particularly in the BMW region.

Shall we get a report from the EPA on how it feels about the issue? It must have carried out studies of systems throughout the country. It must know the implications.

Are we due to bring in the EPA shortly to discuss its annual report?

We are, but a date has not been set.

If we are bringing in the EPA to discuss its annual report, we could bring in a sample local authority — such as Leitrim County Council — to express its view. We could double up, because we are bringing in the EPA on the annual report anyway. Why not bring it in for both subjects?

We will. In advance of that meeting, we will write to the EPA specifically on the topic so that it is ready to deal with it.

On the topic of how it is implementing the new regulations.

There is not much we can do with the directive. It is an European Union directive.

We can delay its implementation.

I do not know if there is much flexibility with regard to the implementation. However, there are certainly solutions out there with regard to the plans, if the EPA would only accept them. It is an EU directive, and Ireland has been fined quite recently in relation to water quality.

The Irish Farmers Association might have other examples of technical engineering solutions that we could bring to the EPA's attention.

The IFA came in and met us here.

It did, about a year ago.

It was here, and it has said that the systems are 100%, but the EPA is not accepting that. That is the problem.

We have heard that the new guidelines were going to be a help. Now members are saying that they are going to make things worse in some cases.

If they are interpreted in a particular way.

Yes. Before we leave our discussion of correspondence, members will have seen details regarding green week in Brussels on 1 to 4 June. If any members are interested in attending, they should contact the clerk and we will see if there is a budget available. I do not wish to give a commitment at this stage. When we get the costing, we will send it along.

Has the Chairman a date yet for the meeting with the EPA? Does he have any idea when that might be?

I need to get back to Leitrim County Council on that.

It will probably take a few days to get the date. I would have hoped that we would have the date, but we have to put in a few other bits and pieces. We will have the date finalised for definite at the next meeting.

That is all right.

We will ask the clerk to contact the EPA in the meantime.

A draft travel report on the visit to Vancouver last month by a delegation from the joint committee has been circulated. I thank Deputy James Bannon and Senator Camillus Glynn for representing the committee. Does the committee agree to approve the draft report and have it laid before the House?

They should thank us for sending them.

Now the Deputy is talking.