On the Order of Business this morning we agreed to take the Report Stage of the Air Pollution Bill, 1986. As the House knows this is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order No. 82, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the Question: "That the Bill be received for final consideration" the Minister may explain the purport of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation of these amendments. We are now taking the Report and Final Stages of the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, a Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil. Members are aware that they may speak only once.
Air Pollution Bill, 1986: [ Seanad Bill Amended by the Dáil ]: Report and Final Stages.
This is my first opportunity to speak here and I should like to congratulate the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach on their election and also the Members who have been elected and nominated to the House. I wish you all well.
I will deal with this Bill briefly. Ten amendments were made to this Bill by the Dáil. Some of these amendments were connected, leaving only six separate points in all. The most substantive amendments were those made to section 14 and section 39 and these were proposed by the Minister in response to concerns expressed at length in this House. It will be most convenient if I deal with the amendments in numerical order.
Amendment No. 1 replaces references in section 6 (2) to "the 1st of July, 1987", with the phrase "relevant day to be prescribed by the Minister". Directive 84/360/EEC envisages the licensing of emissions from new industrial plant from 1 July 1987. It is still our intention to work towards this as closely as possible. However, it is only realistic to acknowledge that the slow passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas makes this commencement date somewhat problematic. The amendment is designed to give greater flexibility as to the commencement of licensing under Part III of the Bill and to avoid a situation where new plants might be required to have applied for licensing before procedures for this were in place.
Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 relate to the powers of authorised persons to enter premises, in particular private dwellings. The background to these amendments, a Chathaoirligh, is the considerable disquiet which was expressed during the Bill's passage in this House that the power of entry to private dwellings was excessive.
These amendments have been drawn up to effect some moderation of the section on this aspect. Amendment No. 2 removes the immediate power of entry which section 14 previously allowed in a case of urgency. To balance this concession to domestic privacy, amendment No. 3 provides that entry may be effected following 24 hours, rather than 48 hours, notice. Finally amendment No. 4 is intended to make it clearer that the powers of an authorised person, upon entry, must be exercised with discretion.
I hope Senators will agree that following these amendments, section 14 now strikes the right balance between the requirements of meaningful supervision of the Bill and the right of householders to privacy.
Amendment No. 5 is a drafting amendment. The phrase "nuisance to any person" which had been in section 24 is not fully accurate having regard to the common law meaning of nuisance. This can also include nuisance to land. Accordingly, it is provided that the section will now refer only to "nuisance".
Amendment No. 6 is a minor drafting addition in response to a request of the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries that the term "incident" in section 29 should be amplified. The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that one of the main things referred to in this section will be so called "fugitive" or accidental emissions.
The remaining amendments, Nos. 7 to 10, relate to special control area orders. Amendment No. 7 is designed largely to satisfy concerns expressed in this House and by Coal Information Services that the Bill did not clearly enough require local authorities to identify the sources of air pollution in an area before proposing an order under section 39. This amendment adds to the list of considerations to which local authorities must mandatorily have regard before making an order. It makes it quite explicit that the first factor for consideration is the incidence and cause of air pollution in the area. I hope this amendment will reassure those who advocated it that orders proposed under this section will be subject to fair standards of justification. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are fully consequential on amendment No. 7.
Amendment No. 8 substitutes the word "expedient" for "necessary" because of an arguable inconsistency between the discretionary nature of the Minister's powers and the absolute nature of the word necessary. The amendment makes it clear that the Minister may direct a local authority to make a special control area order where he considers it expedient to do so in order to prevent or limit air pollution.
I believe these amendments will contribute to a flexible and effective Bill which will enable local authorities to ensure good air quality in their areas for the future.
To conclude, these are some of the amendments we have brought in following comments made in both Houses in regard to the Bill. In part of the Bill they thought we might be going a little too far under but we are trying to strike a balance here. I strongly recommend all of these amendments to the House which we made after due consideration of the reservations felt by Members in both Houses. Thank you very much.
I have said already that Senators can discuss all the amendments but speak only once.
I welcome to the House the Minister of State, with responsibility for urban affairs, an area in which I have a keen interest. All the amendments before the House today were passed unanimously in the other House. For that reason they are acceptable to my party in this House.
The amendment to section 6 is a very important amendment which allows the Directive 84/360/EEC to be brought into force by 1 July. The Minister said that the delay in passing the Bill through both Houses caused a problem. Certainly I will not delay the Bill any further because it is very important that the licensing of industrial plant emissions should take place as soon as possible.
The Minister is quite right when he says considerable disquiet was expressed about the power of entry into private dwellings. Amendment No. 3 will remove the immediate power of entry without agreement. Of course entry can be made by agreement at any time. In the case of major nuisances there is still power under Part II of the Bill to gain entry.
Section 29 was amended at the request of Irish Chemical Industries who requested that the word "incident" be clarified. I think that has been sufficiently clarified in the amended Bill. The amendments to section 39 were major to satisfy the justifiable concern of the Coal Information Services that the Bill did not clearly require local authorities to identify the source of air pollution in an area before making an order under section 39 of the Bill. It is possible for pollution to travel from one area to another and it might end up in an area which was quite innocent of the initial problem. This goes some way towards solving that problem.
In general the coal industry have acted in a responsible way in meeting the requirements to alleviate the pollution of our atmosphere. Reading the debates in the other House I see that some people had harsh things to say about the coal industry. I was at a demonstration recently where they had on display what they call a slow burning fire. This new invention was designed and manufactured in Ireland. It has the ability to reduce smoke in the atmosphere from a fire by 80 per cent. It does this by a fire burning mechanism whereby cold air meets hot air and drives the smoke down instead of up. The fire itself consumes the smoke so there is only an emission of 20 per cent. This is a wonderful contribution to society and I am sure it will help when it goes into use in a pilot scheme which is with Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council at the moment. It is an open burning fire just like the ordinary fire we all have in our homes. To have a mechanism in the fire which can reduce the smoke element in the atmosphere by 80 per cent will go a long way towards controlling air pollution. Initiatives by other people will give real effect to the Bill. The coal industry have acted very responsibly in this matter and I congratulate them on their achievement in this area.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, and hope I will see him fairly often in this House. I do not think these amendments are of major import. I anticipated that they would have been dealt with individually. It does not make any difference but this is the first time I have been in the House to see the procedure of a Seanad Bill coming back from the Dáil.
It is an amended Bill from the Dáil.
This is an enabling Bill and I am not too sure that there is any great significance in the omission of the dates in section 6. I know that EC Directive 84/360 dealing with the licensing of industrial plant emission was to be brought into force on 1 July. I hope there is no derogation in this case. The Minister has given an assurance that if possible there will not be any derogation and I welcome that. If and when the Bill is enacted the date will be specified and I presume a forward date will be included at that stage. I do not see that it has any great significance.
With regard to amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to section 14, we devoted a great deal of time to this section in the House. I would like to pay tribute to the Coal Information Services for the practical and fair way they approached the matter and the scientific information they supplied us with. During the debate in the House on the last occasion the provision regarding the consent of the occupier was added to section 14 (2). Now "or in a case of urgency" is being omitted and 24 hours has been substituted for 48 hours. At that time the case was made that the private dwelling should be sacrosanct. Private dwelling is defined in section 7:
"private dwelling" means any building or structure or any part of any building or structure (including any ancillary building or structure) which is used, or intended to be used, solely for human habitation but does not include—
(a) a curtilage or garden, or
(b) an ancillary building or structure,
or part of a building or structure, having a fireplace with a maximum heating capacity exceeding 45 Kw which serves more than one dwelling;
We are dealing with the four walls of a house and nothing more. It is unlikely, no matter how big the house is — most of them will not be big — anything of a major nature with regard to this legislation could be carried on in it. If business were being carried on it would not be a private dwelling and there is provision under the planning laws to deal with that. It is a concession. The further qualification in amendment No. 4 "—having regard to all the circumstances, —" with regard to the procedures that an authorised person may carry on, such as making plans, is acceptable. Section 24 (2) states at present:
The occupier of any premises shall not cause or permit an emission from such premises in such a quantity, or in such an manner, as to be a nuisance to any person.
Amendment No. 5, which deletes "to any person" improves the subsection. I could see situations where a person might, not offend and yet a nuisance would be committed. That tidies up that section.
Amendment No. 6 to section 29 states:
In page 19, between lines 2 and 3, the following subsection inserted:
"(2) In this section ‘incident' includes an accidental emission."
The Minister feels that this is necessary and I accept his opinion but in my view this is unnecessary. This morning I looked up the definition of "incident". There are a number of definitions. I took two. One is that "incident" is something that occurs casually in the course of or in connection with something else of which it constitutes no essential part; an event of accessory or subordinate character. That is not covered directly. The second is as follows: "an occurrence or event viewed as a separate circumstance". In other words, an accidental emission is included in that definition of ‘incident'. It seems that there is some tautology there but I accept the Minister's opinion and I do not think it is of any great consequence.
We have major amendments to section 39. This section concerned the House for a long time during the Second and Commitee Stages of the Bill. Amendment No. 7 to section 39 states:
In page 25, subsection (2), between lines 20 and 21, the following paragraph inserted:
"(a) the incidence and cause of air pollution in the area, and"
Subsection (2) states:
In deciding whether it is necessary or expedient to make a special control area order in relation to any area, the local authority shall have regard to—
as well as all the other matters that are specified
"(a) the incidence and cause of air pollution in the area,"
This caused a certain amount of disquiet in the other House. I do not understand why because as was pointed out at that time under section 39 (3) (b) it is necessary to specify the pollutant with which it is concerned. There is double safety there. It is necessary to establish the situation scientifically. The Minister said he looked for a balance. I think it is a fair balance and it meets the points that were brought up in a fair way without in any sense taking from the Act. This is important.
Amendment No. 8 of section 39 states:
In page 25, subsection (4), line 33, "necessary" deleted and "expedient" substituted.
Section 39 (4), as amended, states:
The Minister may, if he considers it expedient so to do in order to prevent or limit air pollution, having regard to the provisions of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (2)....
There was a certain amount of play in the other House with regard to whether a Minister should have discretion if it were necessary to do something. That matter was brought up by Deputy Avril Doyle who was very helpful, attentive and understanding as Minister of State in this House when she introduced the Bill. She was totally on top of the job and knew her brief thoroughly. I understand the merit in the point raised but it seems that necessity is never just black and white. There can be different degrees of necessity so that the Minister should have discretion in an area of not very considerable necessity.
I wonder if the word "expedient" which replaces "necessary" is, in fact, better. In subsection (2) "necessary or expedient" is used. Perhaps in this instance a case could be made to include "necessary or expedient" in the same sense. It is not a major issue. I am just wondering if the Minister on second thoughts might decide that perhaps "necessary" should have been left there or to include "or expedient" as well. "The Minister may, if he considers it necessary" gives the Minister discretion. It depends on the degree of necessity. While I agree with the amendments, they are not substantial.
It is a tribute to this House and to all the Members who took part in the debate that this Bill is substantially the same as the Bill passed in this House. Finally, I am in agreement with all the amendments.
I should like to welcome the amendments that have been made to the Bill. In all they improve the Bill to an extraordinary degree having regard to the situation before the introduction of the Bill. I hope the Minister of State will, as far as possible, use this new vehicle he has and the new powers he has to ensure that a very determined effort will be made to conserve our atmosphere and environment. My fear is that local authorities may not be adequately financed to enable them to put the very worthwhile sections of this Bill into operation. It is important that this is done. The easiest way to achieve the objectives of this excellent piece of legislation is to enable the responsible authorities, through adequate financing to carry out the wishes of the Oireachtas and to implement the very full, worth while and highly desirable and, indeed overdue power which this Air Pollution Bill, 1986, gives to the Minister, to his Department and to local authorities. I welcome the Bill and I hope it will be implemented in full.
I should like to thank the House for its cooperation. I thank Senators Joe Doyle and Jack Fitzsimons and other Members, who made very important contributions to this Bill. Senator Fitzsimons had doubts about amendment No. 8 but I am of the opinion that it will bring about an improvement. Our main aim was to cooperate as far as possible with both Houses in getting a good Bill. We will know very soon how it is operating. We listened to all the points made in both Houses. Very good contributions were made by all. On behalf of the Minister, on my own behalf and on behalf of my officials I thank the House.