Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are alternatives to amendment No. 1. All three amendments may be discussed together.
Death of Former Member. - Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990: Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, lines 17 and 18, to delete "the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1990" and substitute "the Pollution Control Act, 1991".
Our Members on the Independent benches and all Members of the House are pleased by the signals from the Minister of State that she will be prepared to accept amendments to this Bill. That is a very welcome move by the Minister and I hope that when this Bill finally gets through the House, hopefully before the summer, it will be a greatly improved Bill and that it will follow the precedent set by the Companies' Bill, the Clinical Trials Bill and other Bills which have gone to the Dáil massively changed but greatly improved. I hope we will see this first amendment of 330 amendments being considered seriously by the House and illustrating that the Seanad is doing an effective job in amending the legislation.
I propose this amendment to change the citation and, therefore, the Long Title of the Bill in response to submissions I have received, as I am sure have many other Senators, from such environmental groups as An Taisce, the Cork Environmental Alliance and other concerned groups who gave serious consideration to this Bill. The reason for the amendment is that the Bill does not indicate in its present Title that there is much of unfinished business to be done regarding the protection of the environment. The impression might be received from this Bill that it was an all-purpose Bill which would effectively protect the environment and prevent pollution. I want to change the name of the Bill to the Pollution Control Act, 1991. That in the main is what this Bill is doing, and that title would reflect the functions of the Environmental Protection Agency which we are setting up under this Bill.
The Environmental Protection Agency Bill, as it is known for short, is a Bill which is committed to pollution control. The main functions, purpose and effect of this Bill will be the control of pollution in Ireland, not, as the Title says, the absolute protection of the environment in Ireland. Many submissions which I have received, particularly from An Taisce pointed out that one of the primary principles of environmental protection is the prevention of pollution which this Bill fails to tackle.
I do not wish the Minister or anybody else to think that in trying to amend this Bill, or in criticising the Title, that I am in any way opposed to the Bill. It is an extraordinarily good Bill, one of the best pieces of legislation which we have been privileged to consider in this House. The Bill concentrates, especially in its later parts, on the regulation, licensing and control of pollution. What it is, reflecting the general philosophy which runs through this Bill, is a damage limitation Bill. It indicates that the Government and the House accept that a certain level of pollution is acceptable and inevitable. That is an assumption which we should question by changing the Title of the Bill to reflect what the Bill does. The Bill does not attack or concentrate the causes of pollution; what it attacks are the symptoms. It is known in environmental terms as the end of pipe philosophy, maintaining that there is a certain acceptable level of pollution which should be——
I do not wish to interrupt you but I must point out to you that your address is more in keeping with a Second Stage speech. I would like if you would, to the greatest possible degree, attend to amendment No. 1 in your name.
I am trying to give the reasons why I think the Title of the Bill should be changed to reflect what the Bill actually does. It should be changed because it does not tackle the clean production principle which should permeate industrial production in Ireland and elsewhere. This proposal is not only coming from me but from environmental groups who are very concerned and who have made submissions which the Fianna Fáil benches who are attempting to interrupt now will have received as well; probably none of them will have read these submissions.
Order, Senator Ross without interruption.
Some of the submissions to me state quite categorically that the Bill will be flawed if the Title is misleading. That is what they state and that is the reason for this amendment. I would like in that context to point out some of the powers in the Bill and why it would be more effective to call it a pollution Bill because the powers of the agency have more to do with the giving of advice and integrated licence than with preventing pollution as the Title, as it now stands, implies. In the explanatory memorandum and in the sections of the Bill it is most noticeable that the powers of the agency in sections 55 and 56 are to advise——
We are on the Title of the Bill.
——to assist in section 57; to supervise——
In fairness to the Minister and to all Members of this House it is important that you address yourself to amendment No. 1 which is in your name. I should not have to remind you of that.
That is exactly what I am attempting to do.
Not very well.
If you are going to range across all the sections of the Bill you are going to make it quite difficult.
If the Fianna Fáil benches would not interrupt me——
In what has been said by the Senator up to now, he has accused some of the Fianna Fáil Senators of not having read the Bill. It appears to me from what has been said by the Senator to date that he should look to his own house. Throughout this Bill——
There is little point in us going down that road. Again, I am asking Senator Ross to adhere to amendment No. 1.
That is exactly what I am trying to do. If Members on the benches on the other side of the House would cease from interrupting it would be easier to put this case.
It is a filibuster.
There are probably influences beyond the Members on the other side of the House that are affecting your contribution.
You still have ten minutes.
And, with great respect to the office you hold Sir, maybe your own contribution is similarly affected. The integrated licences which this Bill empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to grant, are licences which are concerned with areas of pollution. They are all to do with control of pollution. I am not inviting interruption from that side of the House.
That is an inadequate statement and I would like to clarify it. Licences are concerned with air and water pollution. Therefore, they are concerned with the protection of the environment.
I am satisfied that the Minister will be in a position to make the necessary replies. If Senator Ross addresses himself to amendment No. 1 he has unlimited time, but you know what that means.
I am delighted to hear the interruptions from that side of the House. I hope we will also have some contributions from the Fianna Fáil side. Undoubtedly, they will be able to produce——
I am going to rule you out of order unless you address yourself to amendment No. 1.
I am addressing myself to it.
You are not addressing yourself to it if you are talking about Members on the other side of the House who have nothing to do with it.
Members on the other side of the House are continuously interrupting in order to attract the television cameras.
That is a matter for me to deal with, not you. You are taking plenty of opportunity in the presence of the television cameras, too.
That's pure coincidence, as you know I want to point out that in the Schedule to the Bill, where the powers to grant licences are given to the Environmental Protection Agency, we are dealing with processes which the agency should be attaching rather than confining itself to the control of pollution. Instead of acting as a Pollution Control Bill as it does, the Bill should be stopping the sort of activities that are named in the Schedule, such as waste incineration and asbestos processing. It is in that area that the Title to the Bill is inadequate because the Title gives an incorrect impression, that the Environmental Protection Agency will be able to prevent pollution. That is not so, and to call it a Pollution Control Bill would reflect what is contained in the First Schedule, the powers of the agency and the very good work which the agency is going to do.
I would like to change the name of the Bill in order to remind future generations that this business is unfinished, the environment is not protected by this Bill but pollution has been controlled. This Title change would reflect the great work which the Minister has put into this Bill. We should not sit back and say that this is the final word in environmental protection.
I would question and oppose the amendment as put forward by Senator Ross. His name for the Bill would narrow the perception of the Bill. If he reads the explanatory memorandum that accompanied the Bill he will see that control and regulation are but one area covered by the Bill. There is provision for a general monitoring of environmental quality and for support and back-up and an advisory service to the public authorities. There is provision for the promotion and co-ordination of environmental research. To call the Bill a Pollution Control Bill would narrow the whole concept of it.
Senator Ross stated that pollution is out of control. I would not accept that. There is a general perception that Ireland has an excellent environment. If such a Bill was being promoted in certain other European countries then I could see how the level of pollution there would justify the name he wants for the Bill. We are talking about the protection of what we already enjoy. The Title of the Bill is excellent. I want to compliment the Minister on it and to welcome her to the House. Obviously when this Bill was being thought out by the Government they were conscious that it was the intention of this Bill to protect what we have.
I thank Senator Ross for moving the amendment. The Title of legislation should reflect the purpose of the Bill which is, in this case, to effect major institutional change in how environmental protection legislation is implemented and how environmental standards are reflected. Senator Ross believes that the Bill should not be a Pollution Control Bill, which I would argue very strongly that it is not, but should be an Environmental Protection Agency Bill and yet he seeks to make it a Pollution Control Bill. I do not understand how somebody who wants to broaden the scope of the Bill is seeking to narrow it from the beginning. I have never seen so many attempts before to move amendments to the Title of legislation and I have to question why this seems to be a new feature in our approach to legislation. The Government are establishing this agency because there was a lot of public disquiet at perceived partiality in the way in which local and public authorities dealt with the licensing procedure, particularly as far as controversial developments were concerned.
It is a fact of modern life that the licensing of certain activities is now very specialised and complex and requires a different approach, involving the employment of experts to deal with chemical companies, mining operations, pharmaceutical companies, the food industry and the various other activities listed in the First Schedule. I believe that legislation should be easily understood by the lay person and if the Title of legislation does not explain its purpose readily then it is not going to be widely used. This will not be user-friendly legislation and many people will feel that it is not for them.
We are trying to establish an agency which will be independent of the Government, of the local authorities and of vested interests. We aim to set high standards and to enforce a new integrated licensing regime for certain classes of development. I say to Senator Ross that the most effective way to control the discharge of pollutants into the atmosphere, or into the water, is to set down very strict criteria when new or existing developments are being given permission.
It is extremely important that this agency should have the function of operating an integrated licence. If this Bill were simply about bringing all the environmental protection legislation together as a Consolidation Bill then it might be appropriate to change the Title. But it is not. It is concerned with the establishment of a new body comparable to what exists in the United States, in the Scandinavian countries and in the Netherlands. The French are about to establish such an agency, as are the Australians. It is the way modern environmental legislation is going to be enforced and this country should be ahead of the posse rather than waiting until everybody else has done it first. Therefore it would be very wrong indeed to limit the scope to this Bill.
I received 50 submissions from various organisations in relation to this legislation. I held a one day seminar at which I met many organisations and nobody suggested that it should be called the pollution control agency. Nobody, in any of the submissions I have received since the Bill was published, has asked me to change the Title. I cannot agree with Senator Ross and I would think that rather than limiting the focus of the Bill he should deal with some of his other queries on particular Stages, for instance, when we are dealing with BATNEEC.
Some of the comments he made are more appropriate to individual sections. I regret that I cannot accept this amendment; I will be accepting many amendments from all sides of the House and many of the amendments I put forward bear in mind what was said on Second Stage. In all there are 330 amendments. The Government are anxious that this legislation should be through this House by summer and therefore I would ask everybody to co-operate. I will be as receptive as possible and will accept any amendment that I sincerely believe, and that I am advised, will help in environmental protection and not narrow the scope of the Bill.
Senator O'Toole has put down two amendments as alternatives to amendment No. 1 and he should be allowed to speak at this stage.
On both of these amendments I think the Minister will have to change her response because far from narrowing the scope of the Bill, what I require is the Title to reflect what is in it. The Minister will be aware of having received submissions from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, from SIPTU and from various other professions who asked that the range of the Bill be broadened and my amendment reflects that, as do many of the other amendments I have put down. I do not intend to make a long speech but to make the point which I will be elaborating upon later.
The first proposal is one that limits the Bill. The Long Title of the Bill makes clear that the legislation is to make further and better provision for the protection of the environment, to control pollution and to establish an environmental protection agency. The establishment of this agency is the third issue in the Long Title of the Bill. Both the amendments which I have proposed would have the effect of deleting the word "protection" or the word "Agency" and call it the Environment Protection Bill.
I checked the position in the UK, which I am sure you know yourself, and the position in the US and I looked at some of the consolidated Bills which have been enacted in the US. The name of the Bill in the UK is the Environmental Protection Bill. The proposal I have before the House today is that it be referred to as the Environment Protection Bill which would reflect what is in the Bill. The Bill does more than set up an agency. It seeks to respond to many other needs, but I believe the Minister is not doing the Bill justice by this Title. I thought the Title might well reflect the scope of the Bill. I do not intend pushing it any further than that, a Chathaoirligh.
I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate her on the way she has dealt with this very important legislation. She has stated there are 333 amendments and has been very receptive and I congratulate her for that. We will be opposing the three amendments. The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of an environmental protection agency and if we were to accept the changes as outlined here in the three amendments it would certainly narrow the Bill. For that reason it would defeat its whole purpose.
I join with the other Senators in welcoming the Minister to the House. I noted from her comments that she was prepared to accept certain amendments to the Bill and I welcome that. We have 333 amendments here and I sincerely hope that in the days ahead we will be able to go through this Bill, tease our the various sections and take on board whatever amendments will strengthen the Bill.
I have no great difficulty with the Title of the Bill. I think the important thing for this House is that the Bill be put on the Statute Book. I welcome the fact that we are on Committee Stage today, a year and a half after a similar type Bill was introduced in the Dáil. I regret very much that that Bill was not adopted at that time and that the Government have tabled amendments to it. As far as the Title of the Bill is concerned, I have no great difficulty.
I would like to support Senator Naughten when he commended the Minister's willingness to accept amendments if it will strengthen the Bill. I am delighted the Minister has made it quite clear to us that she will be doing so. We are talking about an Environmental Protection Agency Bill which is a Bill to protect the environment. The Minister has said quite clearly that the Title should be simple and the scope of the Bill reflects the Title. To change it, as Senator Ross proposed, to the Pollution Control Act, 1991 would weaken the aspirations of the Bill.
Like the Minister as Leader of the House I have not received one letter from any side of the House or from any environmental group to say that the Bill should be named anything but the Environmental Protection Agency Bill and it is an appropriate Title for the Bill.
We are dealing with a very difficult area of legislation. It is impossible to legislate for emergencies no matter what you call the Bill but here we have a determined effort on the part of the Minister who is committed to doing something for the environment and we have, as a result, a massive Bill. Senator Ross tried to suggest that this side of the House did not speak on the Bill; in fact about 80 or 90 per cent of this side spoke on Second Stage and will speak, I am sure, on Committee Stage.
I could not accept Senator Ross' amendment that we rename the Bill the Pollution Control Act and I think the Minister is totally correct in leaving the Title of the Bill as stated.
If Senator Ross got his way he would actually take away from what the Bill intends to do because, as I read it, it is for the purpose of environmental protection. It is not a question of pollution protection, and does not read as such. The agency itself will have to prepare, revise, revoke or approve codes of practice to protect the environment so, therefore, it does not seem consistent to change the name to pollution control. The Bill covers the broad aspects of environmental protection and that is the way it should be left.
I oppose the amendment by Senator Ross. I do not see the need for it at all. I share Senator Ross' enthusiasm for the Bill and I congratuilate the Minister on her energy and determination in bringing it before Seanad Éireann. We have heard about her openness in relation to all the bodies she has heard from and in listening to the representations that have been made and since none of those people wanted the Title of the Bill changed I do not see the need to change it. To accept this amendment would restrict the scope of the Bill and that is not something that should be done.
I wonder if some of the contributions we have heard today, as you remarked yourself, a Chathaoirligh, had more to do with factors outside the House than within the House and I wonder how well we have conducted ourselves in those circumstances and how approving the public might be of the way in which we have demonstrated our relevance to life in general. The Bill has enormous relevance for the country, and for the welfare of our tourism, farming and food industries and for that reason I am very happy to support it as it stands. I oppose the amendment.
I found the discussion ragarding the Short Title useful and may I say a number of legal people have suggested to me that the Short Title could be changed and the Short Title in the UK is considerably different. From reading the Short Title and the Long Title I support the view of Senator O'Toole and I would suggest that the Short Title should read The Environmental Protection Bill, 1990 because that summarises and crystalises the purpose of this Bill and does not delimit the essential role of the agency. When we look at the 109 sections, at the six Parts and the two Schedules, we will see that Part II deals with the Environmental Protection Agency.
This is an excellent Bill. I welcome all the principles and the ideals enshrined in it. I think it is good for the environment, for the citizens, for industry and for agriculture. I am pleased the Minister of State has brought the environment to the top of the political agenda. It is clear that environmental issues will feature very much in national and international debates. If the Minister is open to suggestions I would like to suggest to her than a similar Bill was debated at considerable length in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons and they have an Environmental Protection Bill. Various commissions in the UK, the United States and in other countries have examined these matters.
If we want simplicity then the Short Title should read: the "Environmental Protection Agency Bill" and, thereafter, the "Environmental Protection Act". It is important that we should look at the Long Title because there are four points in that, first, to make better provision for the protection of the environment; secondly, to make provision for the control of pollution; thirdly, to set up the environmental protection agency and, fourthly, to provide for penalties and other related matters. Therefore, the Minister should be open to my suggestion. Indeed, I have discussed this with a number of eminent lawyers who see the Title, the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, as being more appropriate. It is more than the setting up of an agency. It is dealing with the global position. We need not put the matter to a vote at this stage but on Report Stage the Minister and her officials might examine the Title of the Bill. If she thinks it appropriate to amend it I hope we will have unanimity in the House.
Senator Ross has prompted a very worthwhile discussion. His amendment is too limited and does not sum up what the Minister is trying to achieve. I could not support the amendment. It is a simple matter of deleting the word "Agency" and letting it stand as the Environmental Protection Bill, 1990.
I join other Members in welcoming the Minister of State to the House and express to her and the Department of the Environment our appreciation of what they have done to promote the environment as an issue over the past number of years.
I have to smile at Senator Kennedy's remarks, in particularly in relation to what was said by Senator Naughten. It looks as if Senator Kennedy is well briefed by his new-found friends in the Tory Party across the water. Might I say about Senator Norris that I think——
I cannot find room for the Tory Party in this Bill.
I certainly could not agree with Senator Norris's suggestion on pollution control.
It is not my amendment; I do not actually agree with it.
I have spoken a number of times about Senator Ross so I had to move on this occasion. In terms of pollution, anybody reading the explanatory and financial memorandum——
Normality is beginning to restore itself.
We are becoming more relaxed. The explanatory memorandum refers to the control and regulation of scheduled activities likely to cause a major risk to environmental quality. Most of the contributors to date have mentioned the word "environmental". While one can appreciate what Senator O'Toole and Senator Kennedy mean in terms of the word "environment"——
I did not say "environment", I said "Environmental Protection Bill".
I sympathise with both contributions to a certain extent. However, I will come back to Senator Ross's contribution on pollution. The fact that he is not a member of a local authority inhibits in some way his understanding for instance, of licences and the fact that licences would involve air, water, soil and waste control. If they are not environmental matters, then we certainly do not know what we are talking about here.
On a point of order I would like to indicate to the House that I do not intend proposing amendment No. 2 but I would like to hear the Minister's views on amendment No. 3.
I will be brief in my remarks. As has already been mentioned, there are 333 amendments and I believe we all want to see this Bill become law as quickly as possible. If we are to get through that number of amendments and if the Bill is to go through all Stages, we will need to keep our contributions to a minimum and I hope to do that.
If it is any comfort to Senator Ross, I checked this morning with An Taisce about his amendment. I also got their suggestions and I read through them carefully. I noted that Senator Ross had taken many of his amendments from their suggestions and I wondered if they would support this amendment, but they said they would not support it for reasons which have already been stated. We need to broaden the scope of the Bill and I hope that will happen. I have some amendments down which I hope will help to do that. Many of the 333 amendments endeavour to broaden the scope of the Bill so that it will not just deal with pollution control but instead do something much more positive about the environment. I will not be supporting the amendment.
In regard to Senator O'Toole's amendment, taking out the word "Agency" and making it the "Environmental Protection Bill" may be the other extreme. That might give the impression that this Bill, exclusively, will bring about environmental protection. There are other Bills in existence already which play a part in this — planning Bills, fishery Bills, the Water Pollution Act and so on. I am happy with the Title as it is. Therefore, I will not be supporting any of the amendments.
Senators should have listened more carefully to the Minister when she was replying, the one chance she got since we commenced this discussion. We can now relax and behave as legislators because the live cameras are off. Everybody will be normal for the rest of the evening but there will probably not be too many of us here.
The Minister has served for some time in local government and in the Houses of the Oireachtas and she has said she put this wording in so that everybody would understand what she was trying to do. We have had legislation where the parliamentary draftsman have used jargon that not even we could understand. The title explains what the Bill is about and I totally agree with the wording. I do not know how Senator Ross thought of this amendment but fair play to him; he worked out the time we would be live on camera and decided to put down this amendment.
That is disgraceful.
I am talking about Senator Ross, not you.
I represent the group in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and we have gone to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges with less than that. That is unfair and it is not the first time people have proposed amendments to Titles. It is ungracious of the Senator to make that comment about a Member of the House.
The group are split already on the amendments so I do not know what the Senator is checking me about.
The Minister has tried to make this Title simple so that everybody in the nation will understand what the Bill is about. I congratulate and totally support her. Since Senator Kennedy got all his law degrees he only wants about four words, instead of the 20 he wanted in the old days.
I am not a barrister in this House, I am a Senator. I am surprised at Senator Honan and I would ask her to withdraw that remark.
Senator Honan has expressed an opinion about how you expressed yourself as against how you expressed yourself in the past. She is entitled to make an observation.
Has she a law degree?
I have not checked that and I am not interested.
Senator Kennedy's request for the last remark to be withdrawn was reasonable. That is coming from someone who can hit hard on occasions but we should not get personal. We can hit hard politically in this House and even that, to some on the back behches, may not be acceptable. It may be a custom in this House but personally I do not think we should hit one another hard.
If it upsets Senator Kennedy in the fashion it did, I withdraw the remark.
That is gracious and we will keep our hard hitting to the politics.
Senator Honan has been particularly gracious about the matter, which should surprise nobody.
I support amendment No. 3 in the name of Senator O'Toole, which seeks to delete "Agency". I only do this after considerable thought and having listened to the other contributions here. I ask the Minister to reflect on it. We will not pursue it now but perhaps we could come back on Report Stage. One reference to the Long Title of the Bill makes it obvious that the Bill before us is about far more than establishing an environmental protection agency. It is doing that and that is its most important function, but it is much more than that. I support Senator O'Toole's amendment to delete the word "Agency" so that it reads "Environmental Protection Bill". I refer Senators to section 108 which does not mention the Environmental Protection Agency at all. It is a section that was tagged on to the Bill. It concerns genetically modified organisms as if, with respect, somebody had a brainstorm; it was stuck in quickly so there would be some control if such organisms got loose in the laboratories of Ireland. A very important section was shoved in but it is at the tail of the Bill. There is no mention of an environmental protection agency in section 108. It sits uncomfortably with the rest of the Bill.
On a point of order, did Senator Doyle's party attempt to bring in a Bill with a similar name in the other House in 1989?
I do not think that is a point of order but it is for the Cathaoirleach to decide. It is a point of interruption.
It is not a point of order but I had to hear it to decide.
I am referring the Minister to section 108 to support Senator O'Toole's view that perhaps the "Environmental Protection Bill" would be slightly more correct. The Title is not a major issue. We all know what we want to achieve but if one considers all the arguments that have been made and similar legislation in other countries — Senator Kennedy referred to the British Environmental Protection Act — and the very important job over and above the establishment of an agency the Bill purports to do, perhaps it would be more correct to drop the word "Agency". It limits the intention of the Bill although it includes the agency as part of what it sets out to achieve.
I want to put on record that I find much of this discussion incomprehensible in its pedantry. I take the Bill's Title as perfectly acceptable. The establishment of the agency is the core of the Bill and it is vital that the Bill should retain the word "environment". I must disagree entirely with Senator Ross. To drop the word "environment" immediately restricts and limits the Bill. The Bill must aspire to be as comprehensive as possible.
I do not regard bodies such as An Taisce as infallible. Let us not make the mistake of thinking that. I hope the pace of Committee Stage will quicken a little. I am glad I did not make the television cameras during that hour and a half because I found myself ageing even more visibly than my normal rate. I do hope that things will improve as we go on.
I could not agree more with what Senator Murphy has just said. The whole thing is a load of nonsense. None of these names make much difference. What is important is what is contained in the Bill. If there are problems with the content of the Bill, it is those problems and the content that should be addressed and amended rather that putting the cart before the horse and changing the name of the Bill. Senator Murphy spoke about the prospect of appearing on the television screens making people old; in many ways the whole experience today has made us all young. We are starting to behave the way we did in private business in students' debating societies longer ago than most of us are prepared to admit.
Despite what Senator O'Keeffe assumed about my position, and he appeared to assume that I actually put down this amendment, not only did I not put down the amendment but I find it impossible to agree with it because the title seems to me to be perfectly adequate. If you take together the Short Title and the Long Title, which is a gloss on it, it appears to me to meet every argument that has been made here today. The short title is "Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990"; I will not read the Long Title into the record because it is already there and anybody who reads can see that it specifies the areas of anxiety Senators have spoken about. I am tempted to use the colourful phrase of the late Brendan Behan, that it actually does not matter a fish's tit one way or the other what the thing is called as long as we now get on to discuss the substance of the Bill.
I will have to check that one out.
I thought in view of the subject matter, fishes and their tits might be quite appropriate today.
I congratulate the Minister for introducing this very fine Bill. Perhaps what we should have done at the outset was to add together the three amendments and say something like the "Pollution Control and Environmental Protection Agency Bill". As a teacher, I am concerned about the grammar. If we have an Environmental Protection Agency Bill, I see three nouns qualifying each other: protection — an abstract noun — agency, bill, and environmental. There is a second proposal that we change "environmental" to "environment". Perhaps we could add "environment" and have four nouns. In the future all the poor students will be examining an Environment Protection Agency Bill consisting of a collection of four nouns——
Would you like more verbs, or prepositions or a little scattering of——
The Joycean scholar speaks.
The meaningful question here is whether we have a grammatically correct Title. I have some sympathy for Senator Ross's proposed amendment that the Bill is very substantially concerned with pollution control but it does not feature as such in the Bill, the point being that control is the issue of dealing with symptoms. We are regulating matters, we are controlling matters, as distinct from stopping the process that requires the control. That reflects much of what is in the Bill. The ultimate purpose, of course, is the protection of the environment but much of the Bill and the explanatory memorandum is concerned with controlling, regulating and monitoring rather than any strong emphatic statement dealing with the causes that attack and destroy our environment. It is difficult to see what this Bill can do to protect various areas of the environment like our heritage, the city of Dublin and to prevent the destruction that is taking place. The Bill controls waste, water and the soil, but in terms of protecting our heritage, or listed buildings, or dealing with our transport policy, which is interfering with our environment, it will do nothing. I sound a note of caution in relation to the Bill. While there is no great advantage in amending the Title, certainly what Senator Ross said reflects on the question of pollution control and much of what is covered by this Bill.
I will respond to some of the comments made in relation to Senator O'Toole's amendment. I distinguish between the two amendments although I am not happy to accept either. Senator Ross's amendment is limiting in that he wants to limit the scope of the agency even though he argued for extending the scope. He sought to limit it by way of the Title. To omit the whole reference to the environment and to protection from the Title would be wrong.
In relation to Senator O'Toole's amendment, I accept that this has a different purpose but I do not accept that it is appropriate. We sought to establish a new body to enforce and set high environmental standards to ensure that complex processes, and so on, which can pose a threat to the environment if something goes wrong will be monitored by an independent body. If we were to drop the word "Agency" from the Bill we would confuse the public. They would not readily know what this Bill is about.
This Bill is not just about environmental protection. It is not consolidating all the Environmental Protection Acts. We still have the water, air and oil pollution legislation. That is existing legislation in relation to waste and new legislation is to be introduced shortly in that area. As Senator Hederman said, there is an extensive range of legislation in the whole area of planning which has a huge impact on environmental protection. Therefore, it would be wrong to simply say that this is the Environmental Protection Bill. This Bill seeks to establish a new body to enforce the law, to set the standards and to do so on an independent basis. That body should be acceptable and accessible to the public and carve out a distinctive image for themselves.
When the Government agreed to the establishment of this agency, I was keen that the Title would remain as simple as possible. Many bodies were set up by the Oireachtas and while I am very supportive of the Irish language sometimes those bodies become known by their Irish form and many people do not know exactly what they do, apart from the narrow range of people that use the particular body. I do not want to instance names because people would accuse me of being anti that particular body, but it is important that as many people as possible are aware there is an agency available for them, that they should use it and find it accessible, particularly to get monitoring results and information generally. Therefore, if we drop the word "Agency" we will confuse people since it is now acceptable to the public. There has been public debate on this for a long time and it has taken some time to compile the legislation. We would end up confusing the public.
Senator Doyle quoted from section 108. With the exception of Part VI of the Bill, all the other Parts deal with the agency. In Part VI we used the opportunity to do other things which are required. When the opportunity came to present legislation to the Oireachtas — it is difficult to get legislation together — we thought we would not miss the opportunity to bring into force certain matters we have to do anyway because of EC directives. We used the opportunity to do that in a number of respects which otherwise we would have had to do by way of separate legislation.
As Senator Murphy and other Senators said, the important aspect of this debate and what the agency will do, is the substance of the Bill. At the end of the day, no matter what we argue about the Title, that will not change the powers one way or another. We should now concentrate our efforts on the specific powers and functions of the agency. I hope to accept amendments, as I said earlier, across the House because I want this agency to have widespread support. If it is to be acceptable to the public it is important that it should command the support of all sides of the House. The fact that there was no division on Second Stage is welcome, it shows that the principle of what we are doing is acceptable and I hope we will be able to agree on the substance as we go through this Bill.
I would like to reply to one or two matters raised on the other side of the House, not in the same personal vein, but sometimes I think people deliberately misinterpret things which are said in this House. This amendment is not meant to limit the functions of the agency or the Bill in any sense nor would it limit the performance of the agency. What it is meant to do is to reflect the general contents and thrust of the Bill. Senator Honan asked where I got the idea for this amendment. I will reply specifically, notwithstanding what Senator Hederman said about her own conversation with An Taisce this morning. I got it from two sources, the Cork Environmental Alliance and An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland. I will read very briefly into the record, for the benefit of Senator Honan, what the submission says. I quote:
Before commenting on a complex piece of legislation of this nature, it is useful to examine what should be the basic legislative requirements for effective environmental protection. In order to attain the objective of protecting the environment, public good and the quality of life, legislation should go beyond mere pollution control.
It goes on in that vein. On the assessment of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, An Taisce is quite specific. I am fallible and I do not necessarily spurn ideas from organisations expert in their own field. In the second last paragraph of page two the submission states:
However, the Bill does contain some significant flaws, weaknesses and inconsistencies which could have the effect of making the proposed Environmental Protection Agency unable to carry out its functions effectively. There are conflicts with existing legislation (particularly in the fields of planning and environmental impact assessment) there is no right of appeal from the Agency on technical or environmental issues, certain aspects of local democracy are weakened, and the Bill might be better described as a Pollution Control Bill rather than an Environmental Protection Bill.
That is where I got my amendment from and that is why I put it down. I do not know as much about the environment as the people of An Taisce but I accept, when they send me a submission of that sort, that the are doing it bona fide and that they are to be taken seriously. Having read that, I put down my amendment and I stand over that amendment. I understand the Minister's point of view and the point of view of many members of the House who feel it should stay as it is. To question, as Senator Honan did, anybody's bona fides is reprehensible and I hope I have adequately answered that for the benefit of Senator Honan.
I certainly would not question Senator Ross's bona fides. It is noticeable that he has a very considerable number of amendments down, many of which he has indicated he has taken from An Taisce. I support the Minister when she says that the principle function is the establishment of an agency. I do not think that we should waste too much time on it. That is what this Bill does. I will deal with the point raised by Senator Ross about the submission from An Taisce, which we all received. It actually states that it would be better described as a Pollution Agency Bill. It is the kind of polemic point they are making.
Not alone that, but many of the amendments suggested by An Taisce, which Senator Ross has very wisely and appropriately put down, will have effect, if accepted by the Minister — and there are 339 amendments and they deal with precisely the questions that were read into the record by Senator Ross. The Bill is not absolute yet. It has not been passed by this House. It has not even been introduced in the Dáil. I believe that whatever little qualms might be raised at the moment about the status of the Bill in its present form these will be met when the Bill has been refined as a result of passing through this House.
My point is really that this is a commentary, making a polemic point that at this stage it might be described as a Pollution Control Bill, it might be better described as such, and so on. But I do not actually think that is an invitation to us to call it that because An Taisce are saying this is a limitation. The Bill could be improved in certain ways. It seems to me to be paradoxical to take on board that point, then put down all the amendments and still require the change, because it is almost as if Senator Ross, most uncharacteristically, was anticipating defeat.
I would like to know procedurally how you intend dealing with this. I will withdraw amendment No. 2. On amendment No. 3, I have listened carefully to the Minister's response. I am not going to go into the arguments. I would like to formally propose amendment No. 3 but not push it to a vote because, in light of the discussions right through Committee Stage, I would like to refer back to it on Report Stage and ask the Minister to consider it on the way through. I have looked at the Titles of all the legislation on the environment in this country and other countries. The Bill is much broader than an agency, but I am not going to go into those arguments again. I am not clear how it is intended to take it.
I am advised that you cannot move amendment No. 3 until amendment No. 1 has been disposed of. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 will depend on how amendment No. 1 is dealt with.
It depends on how it is put. If the proposal is that the questions proposed to be deleted stand, then amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are not taken and then I do not get a chance to speak on it.
If amendment No. 1 is withdrawn, then there is the opportunity to debate amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
I would like to formally withdraw amendment No. 1.
I would like to withdraw amendment No. 2. I would like to move amendment No. 3 for the record and, having moved it and taken on board the arguments I made earlier, I would ask the Minister perhaps to respond to it on Report Stage in the light of the discussion on Committee Stage. As well as proposing it, I will also withdraw it at this point.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 7, line 17, to delete "Agency".
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 7, line 24, after "areas" to insert "provided that all provisions of this Act shall be brought fully into operation on or before 31st December, 1992".
the purpose of this amendment is to try to ensure that all of this comes fully into force by a definite date.
May I interrupt the Senator to say that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are cognate and are alternatives to amendment No. 4 and may be discussed together?
I am aware of that. The only difference really is that my amendment produces a definite date. The general principle here is the itolerable delay in legislation generally. I might instance two pieces of legislation which in different ways dragged their weary way through this House and afterwards. The Marine Institute Bill took ages. I remember also in regard to the Tobacco Act, even when it was enacted into law, asking the Minister, by way of an Adjournemnt Matter a year later, when it was proposed to bring the regulations into effect. This really is intolerable. I would think the Minister herself regards it as scandalous, because it is a central policy with the Progressive Democrats that the pace of legislation should be expedited. Even within the last few weeks the spokes-people of the Progressive Democrats have again been saying how intolerable indefinite refusal to implement parliamentary reform will be for them.
That is the general principal. Theoretically, the process of bringing in this Bill could go on forever. There is nothing in the Bill which introduces any sense of urgency. The Minister can make one set of orders to bring legislation into force and then another order to establish the agency, another order to fix a date when the agency's licensing powers come into operation and, beyond that, a massive body of regulations to make the legislation fully effective. The point of my amendment is to try to obviate this indefinite aspect of legislation. A definite date would concentrate minds fearfully everywhere — within Government, within the Houses of the Oireachtas, within the Civil Service. I suggest also, through the Chair, that if there is a promise at the outset that this will become law and become effective at a definite date, it will enhance the credibility of the legislation in the popular mind and, moreover, it will enhance the credibility of politicians and the whole political process. This is a very important point.
I have in my possession a letter written by the Minister's Department to a colleague of mine in which one of the aspects behind the legislation was discussed. The last line of the letter from the Private Secretary to the Minister, written on 9 January 1990, was: "It is hoped to have the Agency in operation this year". That was the hope in January 1990, from the Minister's own Department. Therefore it is not widely unrealistic to suppose that everything could be ready in time for total implementation by the end of next year.
I am not sure how for long the Bill is going to go through this House. The Leader mentioned a legislation period here of this session of 15 weeks. Surely we will have dealt with it by then. If it takes the autumn term to go through Dáil Éireann, there is still a vast amount of time beyond that to make sure that everything is brought into operation. This amendment is not unreasonable and I urge the Minister to consider it seriously.
I, too, have the same fears as Senator Murphy wth regard to the starting date for this agency. In the past we introduced legislation and put it through both Houses but, unfortunately, in many cases, like the Marine Bill and the Tobacco Bill, it took ages to get it up and running and on stream. Despite the fact that many hours were spent here discussing them — they were found necessary, otherwise they would not have gone through both Houses of the Oirachtas — yet they were not put in place.
I would like just to reflect on a couple of pieces of legislation that went through both Houses of the Oireachtas but which, for one reason or another, are not being implemented at present. Take, for example, in the health area the Nursing Home Bill. There is no money to implement it. We have the Child Care Bill, and again there is no money to implement it. I will say this for the Minister, that in regard to this Bill a sum of money is being put in place. Again, we saw the Office of the Ombudsman collapse because of the lack of adequate funding. The Abattoirs Bill, again under the Department of the Environment, broke down simply because again there was not adequate funding in the local authorities to implement it. We saw a similar situation in regard to the Water Pollution Act. There was no money in the local authorities to implement it. Although the money is being provided in this Bill, there is no starting-up date. I have put down an amendment that it should start not later than six months after the passage of the Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I think it is fair enough to give six months to the Minister to set up the agency, to get a director general and an assistant director general. I do not think it is unreasonable to put a six month's time limit. I feel that if we do not put a time limit on it, and if we do not concentrate our minds on getting this agency underway, it can lie there on the Statute Book with absolutely nothing done to have it implemented. Let me remind the Minister that the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987 abolished An Foras Forbartha and the Water Pollution Advisory Council. It is important, therefore, that this Bill be put in place as soon as possible. Hence the reason I put down this amendment that within six months of the Bill passing both Houses of the Oireachtas the agency would be put in place.
I think there is a lot of substance in the point made by Senator Murphy. It would add credibility in the Bill, as he stated, if a definite time period was put on the Bill. I ask the Minister, therefore, to consider amendment No. 4. It would be assuming that the Bill would go through this year; it would be a 12 month period. That would be 31 December 1992.
I do not wish to add a great deal to what has been said already. There is a mistake in the typing of my amendment it says "Acts" but it does not really matter. In essence, my amendment is the same as Senator Naughten's and is not all that different from Senator Murphy's. Senator Murphy and Senator Naughten have been here a great deal longer than I have and are, therefore, more likely to be able to assess how likely this Bill would take to go through, but in the unlikely event of it having a very speedy passage perhaps Senator Murphy might agree that December 1992 might be a year away from the actual passing of the Act. I do not mind. I am not going to quibble over whether it is either six months or December 1992. But, as has been said by both of the previous speakers on this side of the House there has been a great number of measures that have not come into effect. I will mention one.
I think I am correct in saying that the Bantry Bay Harbour Act was delayed because, while the order was signed creating the Authority, the order for the harbour dues was not signed and the whole thing became ineffective. The Minister, Deputy Harney, has played a very prominent and forceful role in steering this legislation through — I am sure against a good deal of opposition but she might not always be the junior Minister in that Department. I would feel happier that these provisions were written into the Bill so that we could be assured it would become effective and meaningful as quickly as possible.
I have great sympathy for these three amendments and I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to them. The amendments come out of frustration and, if I can say so without being too disparaging, a lack of trust in the Establishment to get on, to get out and get working with the legislation on which we all, in both Houses, labour long and hard, if I paraphrase Senator Murphy's words correctly.
There is another point that has just struck me as I have been listening to the contributions on these amendments. I understand that legislation was passed during the Irish Presidency about 12 months ago which was a regulation on the establishment of the European Environment Agency. We were obviously party to it and that was passed this time last year. Is it not so that we must ratify, if that is the correct word, that regulation by 31 December 1992? Could this legislation not be used as a vehicle to do so, even if it meant the Minister coming back to the House next week or whenever with a Government amendment to allow us to ratify that regulation? If so, that date given by Senator Murphy in his amendment would make good sense because in theory I think we are supposed to ratify all of these by the end of December 1992.
Having said all that I can imagine that for a Minister to accept a date deadline for the implementation of any Bill might be questionable, because in theory when it goes to the President to be signed we do not have control over what Bills will be sent on or questioned on constitutional issues or what any other difficulty the President may or may not find in this or any other Bill. If we tie our hands or the Minister's hands to implementing a Bill by a certain date and that Bill then finds its way to the Supreme Court on some constitutional issue, I am not sure how it would fare logistically. I have that query at the back of my mind. I am wondering why so many Bills do not have an implementation deadline. I think it is because of that possible hiccup in the system, but I fully support the sentiments in the three amendments and I look forward to the Minister's response to them.
I would like to thank the Senators for moving the amendments. I share the concern of the Senators. Indeed, when this Bill was being drafted I sought to have a time limit provision included and it was immediately shot down by the Attorney General's Office for precisely the kind of reasons Senator Doyle has mentioned. If the deadline could not be met for any reason, perhaps because the Bill was delayed at the Office of the President — although I do not expect that would be the case — or had to be appealed on constitutional grounds to the Supreme Court, the Bill would then fall completely.
There are also difficulties, I am advised. Because it is a framework Bill eastablishing a new body and so on there is obviously going to be recruiting of staff, recruiting the Director-General, getting the kind of specialised staff to deal with the licensing procedures and so on. It may not be feasible to do all of that within a period of six months. There may be some aspects of the Bill in regard to which the Director-General and the directors may feel they need some time to be established before they would feel happy to take on board certain matters that are going to be referred to them.
For all of those reasons it was impossible to put in a time limit. However, I do not want to be totally negative about the idea, particularly since Senator Murphy seems to be giving us the end of 1992 — although with 330 amendments here and probably a similar kind of debate in the other House I certainly hope we will be able to proceed through them fairly quickly. If we take as long with all the amendments as we did on the previous three, I was counting up the number of hours and unless we are going to meet through the night on Saturdays and Sundays we will be here a long time.
There are practical reasons why it might not be possible, but I do not want to shoot down the possibility totally. I will have a look at it again and in the context of Report Stage will discuss what aspects of the Bill on which we might be able to put some type of limit. I will come back to you again if I can. It is my intention that the provisions of this Bill will be put in place as quickly as possible. I accept there was a delay in producing the legislation, although it still has been produced much sooner than other legislation that was promised a lot longer. We do not have total control over that. My officials have worked tirelessly on the production of this legislation. It was a mammoth task. Even dealing with all of the amendments and so on it has been a really difficult job for a few people to handle.
I have to be realistic, fair and straight about it. If we could put in a time limit it would be my intention to do so. We cannot because of constitutional difficulties and so on and the fact that the whole thing would fall if for some reason the limit could not be met; or if we had an agency that was up and running but did not have an expert to deal with particular licences and could not actually operate for that reason. There may be difficulties there, too. For all of those practical reasons, I would ask the Senators if they would reconsider putting in the limits and perhaps we could discuss the general thrust of what this is about at a later stage.
I just want to make a comment related to the point Senator Doyle brought up about complying with the EC directive. There is also a more general point, of course, that the sooner legislation like this is up and running the more it is going to benefit generally from European Community assistance anyway. That is another reason why time is of the essence. That applied to the Marine Institute Act particularly. I accept what the Minister says. I am in no position to challenge the constitutional advice. I must say that, quite honestly, I suspected there would be some catch in this. I am not sure whether the advice applies both to the definite dates suggested in my amendment and to the six months clause suggested in the other two amendments. I accept also the Minister's promise to have regard to our amendments as far as is practical, as far as is possible, because I know she shares our anxiety that the legislation be implemented as quickly as possible. Under those circumstances I, for one, would not press the amendment.
Listening to the points made on both sides, I think we should call it a draw at this stage. What the Minister says has to be absolutely clear, that were Senator Murphy's amendment to be put into the Act and were the dates not capable of being implemented, then the whole thing would fall and we would have to start all over again. I certainly recall the introduction of the Companies Bill. It was more complicated than this Bill in the sense that there were more aspects of legislation being dealt with, but at the same time it is a similar type of Bill and everybody was keen to get it through as quickly as possible. We know the history of that and the finger cannot be pointed at anybody. It just needed to be amended time and time again and it needed long discussion.
The Minister has indicated that the Bill before us should be implemented as soon as possible and so also have the movers of the amendments. It certainly will be appropriate for us to look at that on Report Stage and the fact that the amendments have been proposed means they can be raised again at the very first discussion on Report Stage, where we can then perhaps have some indication in regard to Senator Murphy's point that the Bill would come into operation as quickly as possible. It would indeed be easier to make a judgment at that time as well.
It also incidentally raises another point which I think we should not be afraid to address and that is the question of whether or not we should put a time limit on aspects of the debate on this Bill. The first three amendments took over an hour to dispose of which means over a hundred hours of discussion if we were to continue to give them the same amount of time.
That was because we were on television.
I do not think so. People will make their case on aspects of it as we go through it and people will have certain commitments to certain parts. I would say that we will have to agree to be prepared to — I hate to use the word — guillotine discussion at certain points as we go along just to ensure that we make progress. Certainly, on the Independent benches everyone of us has indicated that we want this Bill to be enacted as quickly as possible and we will certainly co-operate in every way possible to get it through.
I can also assure the Minister that we will do everything as far as our side is concerned to try to have this Bill go through as fast as possible. Having said that, there are many amendments which will have to be teased out and discussed but I am sure it will not be necessary for every amendment to have the same discussion as the amendments to date.
Having listened to what the Minister has said with regard to the time aspect, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment at this stage since the Minister has said she would consider what could be done for Report Stage. I believe it is important that some time span is put on getting this Bill in place and, if the words there have to be amended, fair enough; but I would ask the Minister to have it examined for Report Stage. We look forward to the Minister coming back on Report Stage when, hopefully, we will have the Bill amended to allow some timescale for its implementation.
I appreciate the Minister's goodwill and bona fides in this matter. I am not going to press my amendment either but I would feel at liberty to raise it again on Report Stage. I am sorry that Senator O'Toole has had to leave the Chamber briefly because I would not favour or agree that we should put a guillotine on the debate. There are aspects of this Bill which are complex and which will have to be teased out. I think there is goodwill on all sides of the House to press on with it and I hope there will not be a repeat of what happened over the first group of amendments. Everybody wants to press on, but if we put on a guillotine we put ourselves in a situation where, when an important issue comes up, over which there is genuine concern, we find ourselves being guillotined. I think we should proceed, see how we are going and hope that things will ameliorate.
I would be interested in the Minister's response to our European obligations.
I want to apologise for not dealing with that. What the Senator says is not correct because no decision has been made yet on the location of the proposed European Environmental Protection Agency and therefore there is no requirement on us to ratify anything at the moment.
Has the European regulation been passed?
Yes. The difficulty is that no decisions have been made on the location. While the Council of Ministers have agreed to the establishment of an agency, I think it is a matter for the general Council or the heads of Government to decide on the location and that has not yet been agreed.
Could we make a bid for the headquarters of the agency and could I suggest Johnstown Castle in County Wexford as being eminently suitable?
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 12, after "effluent" to insert "nutrients".
I believe that the inclusion of nutrients there would strengthen that section.
While the amendment is a laudable one, it is covered by paragraph (b) which refers to the Water Pollution Act of 1977. In the 1977 Act polluting matter is defined to include:
any substance the discharge of which into waters is liable to render those or any other waters poisonous or injurious to fish, spawning grounds or the food of any fish or to injure fish in their value as human food or to render such waters harmful or detrimental to public health or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or recreational uses.
It is clear, therefore, that any polluting matter or any discharge of nutrients in a manner that is harmful to the environment is covered under that definition, so perhaps that would be acceptable to the Senator.
The next amendment in the name of Senator Ryan, which I will be moving on his behalf when it is appropriate to do so, also deals with the same issue. The effects of the nutrification process and the addition of nutrients into water is not quite clear. I am not just 100 per cent sure of what the Minister is saying. I do not have that legislation in front of me and I am not sure whether that precisely covers the issue of both of them. Certainly, the question of non-point pollution as well as point pollution has to be addressed.
In my Second Stage speech I referred at some length to the need for tertiary treatment plants. This is one of the reasons why I dealt with them. Since then, I received a number of letters from people in the Kerry area pointing out that the reference to the problems in Lough Léin in Killarney were very much highlighted by the media and the Killarney people and the Kerry County Council were very vehement in explaining to me that they had in fact put in a tertiary treatment plant. I want to raise that for the record because in my Second Stage contribution I referred to the fact that Cavan town was the only place I knew of to have a tertiary stage treatment plant. I did that in good faith because I took it from the documentation which was published by the Minister's Department, dated October 1990, and I would ask you please to correct that piece of information so that Kerry Council do not suffer indignities from fellow Kerry persons like myself.
I dealt with the question of tertiary stage treatment at some length. If the Minister says to me that this matter is completely covered by the reference in paragraph (b), then I will certainly accept that and that is the end of the matter. It allows us to deal with it as we go along through the Bill. The Minister will assure me that it deals with both straight pollution from a pipe and also non-point pollution and that it deals with all the effects. I listened carefuly to what the Minister said. It may not necessarily always be a killer. The extra nutrients lead to the growth of algae and to an enhanced, increased and unnatural growth in some cases which by changing the balance of the oxygen content of the water can then result in deaths, fish kills, etc., later on. The Minister is saying that the section of the Water Pollution Act, 1977, which deals with the discharge of polluting matter, covers the Senator Ryan's amendment dealing with the discharge of nutrients and the fact that nutrients can be equated with pollution matter and sewerage effluent as referred to in the 1977 Act. I want to be quite specific. I will listen closely to the Minister's response. I do not want any doubt about it. If it covers the matter, then it covers it; if it does not, then we need to address it.
I give the Senator that assurance. I am also advised that if you specify nutrients and exclude other pollutants you might be implying that nutrients are to be covered and not other things. One might be narrowing the definitions of the 1977 Act. I am advised that what the Senator asks is covered.
I am not happy with that answer. If somebody wants to play games with words I am the one to deal with that. All I was seeking was for something to be added to the 1977 Act. If the Minister is saying that adding the word "nutrients" could be seen as a narrowing of the 1977 Act I do not understand that. I am asking the Minister to assure me that "nutrients" are included in the 1977 Act. I do not need to go any further than that. There is no question of narrowing it.
It is included in the 1977 Act.
Senator O'Toole may move Senator Ryan's amendments if he has the Senator's permission to do so.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following new paragraph 8:
"(c) discharge of nutrients to waters or sewers,".
On the basis of the assurances given by the Minister, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendment Nos. 9 and 10. Amendment No. 10 is an alternative to amendment No. 9 and both may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following new paragraph—
"(c) an emission which is a pollutant by reason of its smell,".
Both my amendment and Senator Finneran's attempt to introduce the concept of smell into legislation for the first time. It is important even though it may be considered superfluous under the Air Pollution Act, but smells generating from different sources are becoming an ever-increasing nuisance to the ordinary person. Our concept of air pollution often does not go beyond smell in many cases. In other jurisdictions, they introduced the concept of smell into legislation. The UK Environmental Protection Act has the concept of smell in it under the statutory nuisance and clear air section. I ask the Minister to consider it because to the lay person it is a very important matter.
Unpleasant smells from different sources, be they big farms, industries or whatever, are perceived by the ordinary man or woman in the street as a major statutory nuisance. In order to assure people that there would be complete control by the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating for this area I would like it specifically mentioned, albeit for the first time, in legislation now. I will not be pedantic about the wording of my amendment. Perhaps there would be a more appropriate parliamentary expression to introduce the concept of smell but I would like the Minister to accept the introduction of that concept now, either in my words or in her words, which would be infinitely better, with the advice available to her.
I refer to the UK Act which is interesting in that it gives tremendous detail and 80 per cent of the area covered is exactly the same area we are trying to cover and protect today. In the UK Environmental Protection Act, 1990, on page 87 under Part III, Statutory Nuisances and Clear Air, (c) defines as a statutory nuisance fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance and (d) any dust, steam, smell or other effluvia arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance. I would like to see that introduced here. We have introduced the concept of noise in this Bill for the first time in legislation. Noise might be hard to nail down in terms of clear definition. I accept that smell may be also hard to nail down in terms of definition but in terms of environmental protection and the elimination of a statutory nuisance in the environment, smell rates very highly. I request the Minister's indulgence in relation to this amendment.
I support what Senator Doyle said because, for the first time, in this Bill noise is defined as a nuisance. I would like to see offensive odours also included as part of this Bill. We had a very difficult situation in Roscommon last year which created a major difficulty. It was a sweet odour which polluted an area for about two miles. The people who lived there found it objectionable and were very concerned about it from a health point of view. It was difficult to deal with it. There should be a section in the Bill to deal with that problem because it can be very offensive and ruin the tourist potential of a particular area. I ask the Minister to take this amendment on board. It would strengthen this section of the Bill.
My amendment asks that industrial emissions which are pollutants by reason of their smell be included. I would distinguish between my amendment and the amendment tabled by Senators Doyle and Naughten.
I do not think it was pointed out that amendment No. 10 is an alternative to amendment No. 9 and both may be discussed together. Amendment No. 10 is in the Senator's name. I do not think that was made known.
Both are being taken together. As I have said, I consider that there is an essential difference between the two amendments. I was very conscious when I submitted this amendment that it would be somewhat specific. I would be quite worried that to include emissions that are pollutants by reason of their smell might interfere with the activity of our agricultural industry. This could be perceived to be anti-farming and anti-rural and possibly anti-countryside in so far as our countryside, to a large extent, survives by reason of the activities of the farming community. I would be interested in distinguishing between that scenario and the persistent odour from an industrial development. I do not think any of us could equate the two. In the case of a farm smell, whether from slurry or some other activity, it is usually of short duration. It is something that is part and parcel of the life style, the development and activity in the area.
The other situation has far more serious aspects. I believe that where industrial smell interfere with a neighbourhood there should be legislation to control it. I appreciate that we have the Air Pollution Bill and it is possible that this can be dealt with under that Bill. I will be guided by the Minister and I will listen with interest to what she has to say.
From my reading of the Air Pollution Act, to control industrial smell is a pretty cumbersome process. There is the problem of how to gauge smell. What equipment and what technology is there to do so? In the final analysis, as far as I am concerned, the only technology you have is your nose. Some possess better equipment than others, but that is another matter. I come from a part of the country where a whole catchment area suftered as a result of a smell. I did not put down this amendment lightly.
We have the Environmental Protection Agency Bill before us. Persistent odours from industrial development are offensive. I want to see that, at the end of the day, either in this Bill or under existing legislation such as the Air Pollution Act, we have that control. I found it somewhat cumbersome to deal with it under that Act. We have now established in this Bill that noise can be determined a nuisance and I believe smell can and should be identified here also. I will listen to what the Minister has to say and proceed from there.
I have sympathy with amendments Nos. 9 and 10 but I fail to see how they could be implemented. In the context of where they are in the Bill, it is very clear they come under the definition of emission — a definition which leads to action at a certain stage. I sympathise with the point made by Senator Finneran about the difference between agriculture and industry. His argument is lost completely. I am sick and tired of hearing every time I turn on the radio that agriculture is our biggest industry. Despite the attempts to call it otherwise agriculture is an industry and it is an industrial smell. I accept his point that it is different. One of my near neighbours is a pig farmer and I am used to the smell of slurry around the place. People who are used to agricultural smells can make the distinction between them. The reality is that there is no way of measuring a smell. If we expect an emission to be measured so that action can be taken, then I cannot see how it fits in with this section of the Bill.
I thoroughly support the point made by Senators Doyle and Finneran but I cannot see that it is capable of being implemented. I have said consistently from the first day I came in here that the worst kind of legislation is legislation which cannot be implemented. Senator Finneran put his finger on it. There is no way of gauging or measuring smell. Not only that, but in terms of smell and taste, most of us cannot even describe them. Our greatest single lack in vocabulary is vocabulary to describe taste. Listen to two people trying to describe the taste of something and they do not even have the vocabulary to do it. I have been saying to teachers all my life that it is the one aspect of the senses which we have neglected to pass on to a new generation. Families have certain ways of describing certain kinds of tastes and smells. The Chinese have given us sweet and sour but most people when they taste a Chinese meal cannot quite distinguish which is sweet and which is sour.
There is good and bad taste.
Yes, there is good and bad taste. I thoroughly support the sentiments expressed by Senators Doyle and Finneran. I cannot see how they can be implemented. What I hear is: we would like it to be said that smell is a pollutant. Anyone would agree with that. Once we have agreed and established that point we then want to say: well, the next step is how do we implement this as part of legislation? Senator Finneran has told us that it cannot be done. Despite what Senator Finneran said, agriculture is an industry and agricultural effluent is industrial effluent by any standards. It does not need a very big dictionary to get us to that point. The Senator is aware of that himself.
In the UK they attempted to address this and failed to do so. They failed to find a way to implement it. My information is that they have failed to find a way of measuring it. I know that in continental countries they have certain restrictions on industry and agriculture inasmuch as they are restricted to certain times of the week when they can release smells into the atmosphere. They are not allowed do it at weekends or after certain hours of the day. This is recognition of the inconvenience it causes to residents in the surrounding area. They have not managed to measure it. We would all like to include it in the Bill but I fail to see how we could implement it.
I have sympathy with both amendments. I know it would be difficult to implement or even to define industrial smell as against agricultural smell. Those of us living in rural areas recognise those smells — pollution from slurry and so on, which is not too bad. There is another kind of pollutant that I am very worried about and it is something that has affected my particular area over a long period of time, that is the dumping of belly grass and blood from the local meat factory. I will not name names. We all know who it is. This has caused considerable trouble to the local community in County Galway and parts of Mayo.
Something should be done, whether in this Bill or in some other Bill, to try to stop that kind of activity. Lorries dump belly grass and blood in certain areas at night and you have people dumping into drains. I saw in the local paper last week where families were actually getting sick in their own homes and had to leave because of this terrible odour. Senator O'Toole spoke about measuring smell. I can assure the Senator that he would have no trouble measuring that smell.
You can take that on a shovel.
You could measure it with a spade it is that thick. If the amendments proposed by Senators Doyle and Finneran would remedy that, I would support them. Something should be done about that situation. There is no reason why a community should be disturbed by meat barons who are prepared to dump their waste on the side of the road or on waste ground. Something should be done to stop that kind of activity.
If, as Senator O'Toole said it would be impossible to implement this because smell cannot be measured I would be very preturbed because the whole question of smell is extremely important. I will not repeat anything that has been said. If I understood Senator Finneran correctly, he said he was worried that if Senator's Doyle and Naughten's amendment were accepted it would include agriculture and his amendment was specific to industrial emissions. He said we would not want to be seen as anti-farming, anti-rural and anti-agricultural. If anything is to be said about this Bill, it is that it comes down too heavily on the side of assuming that all pollution is necessarily industrial pollution. The Schedule deals with intensive agriculture and on very large units. They are far too big and I would not agree with Senator Finneran that agriculture should be excluded. It is an industry and it is going to be one of the chief causes of pollution. We should not accept the argument that because we want to tidy up agriculture we are anti-rural and anti-farming. If it has to be done, it has to be done. At a later stage I will propose amendments to the relevant Schedule.
This is a tough one and I have sympathy with both amendments. I remember some years ago in Clare we had massive problems monitoring a large industry. There was very strong objection, it was a very big industry and the cost of monitoring was huge. On one side, we had to try to hold the industry because of its importance and the jobs it created and, on the other side, there was a strong smell in a whole village. It was a chemical smell. I have sympathy with the Senators moving the amendments but the cost of monitoring equipment that the Minister would have to put in place to monitor such smells would be very large.
I cannot see why effect cannot be given to this. What is an agricultural smell and what is an industrial smell? For example, if one is slaughtering horses as they have been in Mill Street for years, there is a terrible smell.
Keeffe's the knackers no longer exists.
No, they went out of business because of competition, the thing that gives us all employment. If one passes Guinness one gets a terrible smell that would not be acceptable to everybody. It is difficult to nail down this issue. I agree with Senator Hussey that if meat factories are dumping waste that must be covered by some legislation. If it is not, it should be considered. It is very difficult to say that anything that causes a smell should be legislated for in some way.
I was reflecting that on a programme I said life is not entirely odourless. I said it against the kind of people who want to live in a fragrant paradise, frequently at the expense of other people's employment. If I have to come down on one side or the other, I am a jobs man. In terms of smells created by local authorities, the most glaring example at the moment is the corporation refuse dump in the southern suburbs of Cork on the Kinsale Road and I live within inhaling distance of it. Nevertheless I accept that there are strong reasons in the corporation's case and I am not particularly concerned about the value of property declining as a result of the smell. I would notipso facto accept this kind of amendment because of the difficulty in defining smell and because of my principle that life is not entirely odourless. I like some of the odours that Senator Harte referred to.
I support amendments Nos. 9 and 10. My local town, Cahir, has been virtually destroyed over the years by a well-known international company involved in many areas of the meat business. They have a meat and bonemeal industry there and have virtually destroyed the town. The local authority have not been able to control it under the Air Pollution legislation. The firm got a minor fine. This problem must be tackled in some way. People had to leave their homes and get out of town. Property has been devalued, both land and house property. People will not buy a house within three or four miles of the factory. I get the stench five miles away from that industry depending on weather conditions. The tourist trade has been destroyed in the town and business has been affected. People must be allowed to live.
I know there is a lull in the meat trade due to market conditions. We have two such industries in the constituency and both are causing great concern. The one in Cahir is the worst offender. There are trucks travelling around the country with offal from meat factories, often unsealed and uncovered. This is from industries that are State and EC-funded. The smell is not very nice. They can bring this stuff through town and country, leaking offal all over the place. The Garda tell the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture tell the local authority and the local authority tell the health board. I appeal to the Minister to tidy up that area. They are delivering that horrible stuff to the factories and causing a terrible stench. This is not only the case in processing it but also in relation to storage. There are often storage areas with thousands of tons of rotting material. It is a real health-hazard and is a hazard to livestock because vermin distribute parts of carcases around the place. It is a very serious problem and I appeal to the Minister to take these amendments seriously. It affects people's livelihood, tourism, homes, property values, health, everything. We must deal with the problem in some way because the Air Pollution legislation has not sufficient teeth to tackle it. The local authority appear to be helpless. There are three Departments involved, showing it from one to the other — the Department of Justice — there is no justice in it — the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health. It goes through the three Departments to no avail. It is a major problem. Regulations for the transportation of the material should be tightened also.
I support the purpose behind these amendments. The Senators who have spoken are concerned to control these offensive odours. I agree with Senator Murphy when he says that local authorities — as is the case in my own local authority in Limerick — have problems with regard to offensive odours especially in the vicinity of large housing estates. This is a definition section and matters such as activity, authorised persons, development, disposal, emission and so on are defined in it. The purpose of these two amendments is to give an extended meaning to the word "emission". The first definition of emission is an emission under the Air Pollution Act, 1987, the second is a discharge under the Water Pollution Act, 1977, the third is the disposal of waste and the fourth one is noise. Senators are suggesting that offensive odours are not already covered under any of those four headings.
While there is reference to a waste management plan and what it might mean there is no definition of waste. Everybody knows there is a difficulty in defining waste. The courts over the years have found great difficulty in doing so. Has the Minister considered giving a definition of waste? There are various forms of equitable waste such as voluntary waste, permissible waste and concepts such as statutory waste have been considered by the courts. I ask the Minister to consider the whole question of waste.
It is interesting to consider the eleventh report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution on the question of managing waste. The duty of care is an important concept which was emphasised on page 38 of their report and I quote:
The first task is for society to identify where the responsibility lies for ensuring that wastes are properly handled and disposed of. In our judgment this must rest with the individual or organisation who produces the waste. The producer incurs a duty of care which is owed to society and we would like to see this duty of care reflected in public attitudes and enshrined in legislation in codes of practice.
In the Bill there is provision for the drafting of codes of practice but there is no reference to this basic duty, the duty of care, placed on individuals and organisations in this matter.
This duty of care has been enshrined in health, safety, welfare and labour legislation. Does the Minister see any possibility of including this general common law duty of care in this legislation, or does she think that it should not be included?
I am enjoying this discussion. There are some things we make smelly in order to make them safe. Methylmercaptan is released into natural gas so that we can detect a leak by smelling it. Smells are covered by the Air Pollution Act. Senator Byrne made the point that an offender was convicted but he took offence at the low level of the fine. I appreciate the points being made by the Senators. The problem is detection and enforcement. I would like to discuss this matter again with the officials to see if the law can be improved. What is a bad smell to one may be a good or less offensive smell to another. Smells associated with agriculture seem to be acceptable in many quarters because they are natural or native, or whatever, and not seem to be as offensive to some as a smell from industry. Perhaps fear of the unknown causes associations to be made between unfamiliar smells and danger. Many people find the smell from Guinness's brewery unacceptable. I find it quite attractive. It is extremely difficult to define an offensive odour. Enforcement is essential so that major nuisances can be dealt with.
I will quote from the Air Pollution Act:
Anything that impairs or interferes with amenities or with the environment is considered a nuisance.
Odours and smells which cause a nuisance come under that definition. In the light of the discussion I will try to strengthen the provisions. Senator Finneran, in particular, made a strong case. I discussed it with my officials but they felt his case was adequately catered for in the Air Pollution Act. The question comes down to enforcement. One of the main reasons for establishing an agency of this kind is to have the best expertise and equipment available to detect smells that are causing particular nuisance.
The point made by Senator Hussey would be more appropriately dealt with in the proposed waste legislation that we are currently framing. I will try to deal with the kind of problems which have arisen from mad cow disease at a later stage.
I would like to thank the Minister for her comments because she covered some of the points I intended to raise. Some materials and gases are highly toxic and are not smelly. I take the point that there may be a need to include substances to create a smell to warn people about the type of materials being dealt with. Paraquat is a case in point, where something was introduced to give it a smell to warn people of its presence.
We have a great deal of sympathy for the sentiments behind both of the amendments. The problem is how to achieve the intentions in practise. The smell is a product of the emission so we have to concentrate on controlling the emission. I would challenge Senator Hederman when she said that agriculture was one of the chief causes of pollution in the country. That has not been established by any independent evidence. It is a serious cause of pollution but I am not sure that it is the chief cause of pollution. Local authorities may be the chief offenders in regard to pollution.
Senators who are accustomed to travelling on the Naas motorway by-pass will know that there is a sewage farm beside it and the smell on some days can be quite objectionable. There is a livestock mart just a few hundred years down the road on the other side and I have never detected a smell from it, so obviously they can deal with their situation. I know of a court case involving a farmer who put up a cattle shed adjacant to a private dwelling. The householder took the farmer to court. The farmer won the case on the basis that if one lived in the country one had to tolerate the smells and sounds of the countryside. The question arises as to what is an acceptable smell in the country. If an objectionable smell can be dealt with by the courts on grounds of nuisance it might not be necessary to have this matter included within the scope of the Bill. I accept that it is highly desirable that smells be legislated for.
There is a confusion between smells from agriculture and from farming. Pollution from agriculture and of the food industry in the global sense, and in particular from meat processing plants is a serious problem. The vast majority of farmers are as concerned as any other citizen to preserve the quality of the life they have in the country and to preserve the countryside in its pristine state.
In case there was any misunderstanding by Senator Hederman, it was not my intention to exclude all smells from agricultural or farming development and to support an amendment to control industrial odours I was attempting to distinguish between ordinary agricultural practices on the one hand and industrial farming practices and industrial agricultural practices on the other. In normal farming practice if something goes wrong, such as slurry getting into a stream or silage leaking into a river, we have adequate and effective legislation to deal with that in the Water Pollution Act.
The Minister referred to the smell of Guinness and some people would even have a liking for the taste of it. At the industrial end, there might be objections to the smell from a fish and chip shop — that is a commercial industry. We could take this to extremes but Senator Dardis put his finger on it when he focused on the actual emission from the process. The fear is — and the Minister referred to this— that there may be chemicals contained in an emission. I am not satisfied with this area and I am glad that the Minister said she will go back to it because it is a matter of public concern. I do not mind what legislation covers smells as long as we have the opportunity under some Act, legislation or agency to deal with them.
I would like to have another look at this and perhaps we will deal with it on Report Stage. I get the gist of what the Senators are talking about and I will try to see if we can come up with some amendment that might satisfy their needs. I will come back to it on Report Stage.
I thank the Minister for her response and I am quite happy to wait until Report Stage to further tease out the problem we have all tried to explain today to the Minister. Two points were made that struck me. One was in relation to local authority waste tips. If the rest of the Bill goes through unamended particularly section 60 — if I am correct the local authorities will not be subject to most of the directions in relation to this Bill but I hope we may be able to change that — and if the BATNEEC principle goes through unamended, also I do not accept the concerns of the farming community that this might be excessively severe on them. I think I am the only person, in either House who has produced a pig production policy document so I am very sympathetic towards those who may be considered the greatest defaulters in this area, namely, pig farmers and particularly intensive pig farmers. There are major difficulties in controlling emission and smells from pig farms but it can be done particularly by starting from a greenfield situation or by retrospectively imposing certain technology on existing plants. We cannot exempt local authorities from the directions of the environmental protection agency or exempt any one sector of our community. We are talking about reasonableness.
I fully accept Senator Murphy's point that we are living in a world which is not free from smells, nor would we want it to be. The difficulty is to decide on the sort of monitoring or metering we could put in place to decide what smells are acceptable or what are noxious and at what level a smell becomes unbearable. Some people can tolerate and enjoy strong smells while others find even minimal smells nauseating. There is a real difficulty here. What is the generic name for this area? Is it olfactometry? Certainly the scientists in Teagasc are very concerned. Many scientists are concerned that the concept of smell is not contained in this Bill as it is being covered under similar legislation in other jurisdictions. The ordinary public are concerned about this issue. If the Minister could accommodate it I will look forward to discussing it further on Report Stage.
Are you withdrawing your amendment at this stage?
May I re-enter it on Report Stage?
Senator Finneran may move his amendment No. 10 and withdraw it if he wishes.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(c) industrial emissions which are pollutants by reason of their smell.".
Amendments Nos. 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:
(b) all natural and physical resources,
(c) the social, economic, aesthetic and cultural values of the environment,
and ‘ecosystem' means any system of terrestrial or aquatic organisms within their physical environment.".
This amendment attempts to define "environment" or to include a definition of "environment" in the definitions section. I like the extensive definition there and I hope the Minister will accept it and take it on board. I know other environmental protection Acts have had a simpler, more concise definition of environment but I cannot understand how we can be discussing an Environmental Protection Agency Bill without having a definition of what constitutes the very basis of the Bill, namely, the environment. I am prepared to change my words for the words of the Minister so long as we have the concept of the definition in the Bill when it is completed.
The Environmental Protection Act in the UK defines the environment, and I quote from page 2, Part I subsection (2):
The environment consists of all or any of the following media, namely, the air, water and land and the medium of air includes the air within buildings and the air within other natural or manmade structures above or below the ground.
That is a very clinical and limited definition. I prefer the more extensive definition which includes a visual dimension to the environment.
Can I take it that the amendments mentioned are all open for discussion?
All the amendments as referred to are now open for discussion together. If Members move an amendment subsequent to the discussion they cannot debate it at that point.
I do not want to move the amendment but to speak on general issues. I find it extraordinary that we do not have a definition of the environment at this stage of the Bill. I have looked through the Bill at some length and I recognise that on page 79 there is for the purposes of a section a definition of "environment" which includes atmosphere, land, soil, water and all living organisms. Unfortunately that definition is only for the purpose of section 108. A definition of "environment" is needed in the Bill. In section 4 "environmental medium" is defined. I have looked very closely at it. I think there is a difference between environmental medium and environment.
In my own amendment No. 24, I have tried to take on board what is defined in "environmental media" and I have also tried to add to it the section from the UK Bill defining "environment" which Senator Doyle has just quoted. I have taken the second half of that and put the two of them together and I have added "air" as well as "atmosphere". I have looked at some length at the difference and similarities between air and atmosphere. They are not interchangeable. I am absolutely convinced of that. I do not want to go into a long discussion on the definition of the atmosphere with its five different strata and different aspects and the changes that take place in different parts of it. The atmosphere refers only to that mixture of gases above the surface of the earth which change all the time. Air is not necessarily atmosphere and certainly the atmosphere at higher levels could not be considered to be air.
I would like to hear the Minister agree that the Bill should include a definition of the environment. If the Minister would give us such an assurance we could all come back to the basic request which is that the Bill should contain a clear definition of "environment" and the explanation of "environmental medium" does not satisfy that request. An environmental medium is just simply one aspect of the environment. The environment must include all the environmental media. The list of environmental media given in section 4 is not exclusive. Would the Minister be willing to take on board a definition of "environment" in the Bill? If we could agree on this we could come back to it on Report Stage or with an amendment at another point.
I express the same fears as previous speakers. There is a need to clarify the word "environment". Everybody agrees upon that. I have put down amendment No. 25 in an effort to include every aspect of the environment. I look forward to the Minister's reply to that point.
Amendment No. 17 reads:
In page 10, subsection (1), between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(c) the protection and enhancement of all aspects of the environment, including fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climate, landscape, architecture and the cultural heritage.".
Senator O'Toole has covered practically all of the concerns of the people associated with amendments which have been linked together. We are concerned with the question of the protection and enhancement of all aspects of the environment. We feel that the Bill in the way it is framed at present does not go deeply enough into the question of fauna, flora, air, water, climate and cultural heritage. We could quibble for hours about this. Since we are all interested in the same question, no matter how we put the amendment down, I suggest in the interest of the Bill's progress that we make a short statement on our amendment having regard to the fact that they all link together and see if the Minister can come back to us on Report Stage with something that would meet the concerns expressed in all those motions.
I would like to speak in support of Amendment No. 18 in the name of Senator Hederman. A number of the amendments are very similar and may have resulted from briefings we all received from the interested agencies. The reason I prefer to support Senator Hederman's amendment over the similarly worded amendment from the Labour Party, Amendment No. 17, is because it seems to me that amendment No. 17——
Are we discussing amendment No. 18?
I beg your pardon. I thought it had been moved.
No. That amendment is in the name of Senator Hederman.
I did not intend any discourtesy to Senator Hederman. In that case I will speak generally about amendment No. 17. I have already indicated that I prefer Senator Hederman's amendment and I will be supporting it. The reason is because amendment No. 17 includes the built environment and it does not seem to me, worthy though it would be as an objective in princple——
That amendment is in the names of Senators Upton, Harte and Costello and J. Ryan. That has not been moved.
I was under the impression that it had. I was listening on the monitor and missed part of the debate as I came over. I asked advice from my colleagues and I was told they were all linked. In this Bill the environment is construed principally as the natural environment. There is a difference between the natural environment on one hand and the built environment on the other. I believe the Minister is concerned about both areas, which she has made clear to the public, but this instrument deals specifically with the natural environment. Amendment No. 17 in the name of Labour Party Senators takes in the natural environment including fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climate, landscape, architecture, agriculture, health and adds architecture and cultural heritage. The last two elements in that description stray beyond the purposes of the Bill. It is perfectly appropriate to deal with fauna and flora and we have in this country some unique species of fauna, such as certain species of toad in Kerry. I am not sure that our pinemarten is not a sub-variety of this genus. I do not know.
There is the Kerry slug.
I am most grateful for the additional information supplied to me by Senator O'Toole but I do not think he should limit himself to one Kerry slug. There are quite a number of them around. The Minister must have had in mind places such as the Burren in County Clare which is not only a refreshment and delight to people but is also of major scientific interest and draws foreign tourists to the country. It is most important to protect that and it is appropriate to do so within the provisions of this Bill. We will not make this instrument efficient by arbitrarily widening its scope to deal with areas that should be dealt with but are not properly dealt with by this Bill. I say that with some regret.
I urge the Minister to look at the question of the built environment. An Cathaoirleach ruled out of order a motion I put down regarding No. 7, Batchelor's Walk. That is precisely the kind of thing I would like to see properly dealt with. There is no direct ministerial responsibility apparently. I tried the Minister for the Environment during the last session and I tried the Taoiseach this morning. Neither of them appear to have any responsibility. I wish we could have a Bill in which there would be direct ministerial responsibility for protecting our environment in this area. It is scandalous that British Aerospace are allowed to get away with demolishing this building which is clearly what they are set upon. It does not come under the provisions of this Bill. The natural environment does and for that reason I would have difficulty in supporting the Labour Party's amendment. However, I will certainly support Senator Hederman when she moves her amendment.
I want to correct one point. When we refer to architecture, we are talking about the pollution of buildings and the fantastic costs incurred in cleaning them. The only reason they get dirty and abused is because they are being polluted.