This section deals with the making of by-laws. Regional fisheries boards should have the power to make by-laws covering such matters as the dates on which the season starts and closes without having to seek the permission of the Minister.
Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1999: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
They already have this power. It was suggested that by-laws should be reviewed every two years to ensure co-ordination. They will be continually reviewed by the Central Fisheries Board.
The formulation of this section is excessively generous to the Minister. It means that he can manage virtually everything at anytime he wishes and there are no grounds on which he has to justify his interventions. He may issue directions on a range of issues. It is far too generous and does not meet the test of management by exception that he himself introduced.
I explained the need for this provision on Second Stage. There is a similar provision in the 1980 Act and it has not caused any problems.
That is no excuse.
In view of the new management arrangements the Central Fisheries Board especially considers that in exceptional circumstances it should be able to advise the Minister to give a direction which should be forthcoming.
Under existing legislation one regional fisheries board may employ another to provide protection and ensure conservation. The Naval Service is hired by the regional fisheries boards and from time to time one finds officers of different boards on board Naval Service vessels. In many instances salmon fishing vessels are arrested. What criteria are laid down on how these officers should fulfil their role? I am aware of instances where nets have been taken from fishermen. In some instances only the quantity of net in excess of the legal limit was taken while in others the entire quantity was confiscated. Why is there a lack of uniformity?
That has nothing to do with the section.
That is an operational matter. This Bill is not concerned with it. There are measures which the Minister can take in relation to surveillance. That is a separate matter which can be dealt with separately.
Where is it dealt with?
It is an operational matter.
Is it dealt with in legislation? We are dealing with management, conservation and protection. In relation to conservation and protection, these specific operational procedures take place. On a number of occasions there have been discrepancies and inequality in the application of the law. I would like to know how these officers can, in one instance, take the entire net off a fisherman and, in another instance, take the surplus net over and above what is legally allowed.
That is something that would be co-ordinated by the Central Fisheries Board. It is an operational matter, a day-to-day matter which occurs all the time. It has no specific relationship to this. If there was a major issue that the central board felt the Minister should be advised on and that he should issue some direction on, that would be different but they operate under separate legislation which covers the penalties. If someone exceeded themselves in relation to penalties that would have to be dealt with. This is inland fisheries.
I know but they are officers of the boards.
In the interest of trying to be helpful, and I know that there is pressure on the Minister, he gave me assurances earlier when I pushed the issue of eel fisheries. He is aware that I have tabled other amendments. In section 10 it states:
18A.–(1)The Minister may, from time to time, give to the Central Board or a regional board policy directions for the management, conservation, protection, development or improvement of fisheries. . . .
I do not want to push these issues tonight but I would like to hear the Minister say that, following consultation with the eel fishing interests, he will give a direction, if necessary, under this order for their protection and development.
If that was necessary it could be done but the problem, as I said earlier, is that the legislation relates to the ESB. We must look at it and I will do that.
Can the Minister be generous towards them?
Of course I will be generous towards them.
It would be fair to report that if they make a case to the Minister he would be prepared to protect their interests under this section where he felt it was appropriate.
Yes, if that becomes necessary. I do not see it becoming necessary but if it is I will have no hesitation.
On that basis I will not move my other amendments.
I want to compliment and criticise the Minister. I congratulate him on setting a six months deadline for publication. However, I would love to see it much earlier. When I came into the House in 1993 publication deadlines were not mentioned. Reducing it to six months is a step forward. I urge the Minister to consider making the time shorter. I know it is three months for regional boards and four months for the Central FisheriesBoard. He is moving in the right direction regarding the publication of accounts.
The Government is trying to do that with all reports and they are all nearly into the six month period. The financial side causes the most problems because it must go to the Comptroller and Auditor General. With the new pressures the Government has placed on that aspect the Comptroller and Auditor General has had some difficulties in some cases. There are some special instances where the Comptroller and Auditor General must take more time. I accept the Senator's point.
I hope the Minister and his Department will ensure that this will be done. In the 1998 legislation there was a section that stated it should be every five years but in reality only one or two reports have been published by the Central Fisheries Board over the past 20 years. This shows a total disdain for the legislation. I hope the Department will ensure that this does not happen on this occasion.
Some of the biggest companies in Ireland can publish accounts within three or four weeks of the end of the financial year.
That should be the objective.
Section 22 is badly drafted. Section 22(1) states: "The Act of 1980 is hereby amended by the substitution of the following for Part V." That should read "the Act of 1980, as amended by Fisheries Act, 1997", because the Act of 1980 contains a section 54 which was deleted by the Fisheries Act, 1997, and this is profoundly misleading. Furthermore, since section 55 has been removed reference to sections 55A and 55B, etc. are quite anomalous. It should be section 55 followed by section 55A, etc. The use of "55A" in the section is incorrect.
We took up this matter with the parliamentary draftsman on a number of occasions during the drafting of this Bill. He confirmed that this is the correct expression. I had better not try to go into the reason because there are a number of blanks where things were removed previously. We cannot put something back into the blanks so we must insert things after them. It is something like that. It is a complicated matter but he confirmed that that is the right way to do it.
Did he confirm there was no need to refer to the Act of 1980 as amended by the Act of 1997? I find it strange that there is no reference in this Bill to the Fisheries Act, 1997.
That would be taken up in a Consolidation Bill but it is not necessary here. We will have the different segments consolidated in order to try to bring Members up to date.
I am worried that the board will be appointed by the Minister or by other Ministers. In other words, the Minister will appoint the whole board. If I had more time I would go into this in more detail but as we have time constraints I will only make that point.
I thank Senators for the extended discussion we had on the Bill. I have noted everything they said.
I thank the Minister for bringing through the Bill. I would also like to thank Sara White, the Minister's private secretary and his staff for their co-operation on the Bill.
I, too, thank the Minister and wish him a happy Christmas.