I welcome the Minister back to the House. I would like to clarify a particular point. A reference was made which, although it is not relevant to this section, should be clarified. The Minister referred to the Cavan model. It has been mentioned in the Dáil and by the Minister on radio and television programmes and throughout the country. The Cavan model is an excellent one. It has worked well in Cavan and is still doing so. I was a member of Cavan County Council when the regulations were brought in. Cavan was exempt from the recent European Court of Justice ruling because we had taken the initiative and brought in our own guidelines. They have worked and are working. As a result, Cavan County Council has been able to grant planning permission where otherwise we would not have been able to do so.
When the Bill comes into effect, the so-called Cavan model will go out the window, so to speak. We understand the new departmental guidelines will be totally different from the current Cavan guidelines. If that is the case, and I await the Minister's reply on this, the Cavan model will cease to exist and planning permissions will cease to be granted in Cavan and other counties. We ask the Minister for clarification on this point. What guidelines will the Minister use and why is it necessary to introduce new fines relating to the pollution Act when the existing fines are adequate?
Inspections will visit upon people who are already in difficult economic circumstances the need to carry out necessary work. I say "necessary" because if the work is necessary, it should be carried out. However, if the work is necessary and householders cannot afford to carry it out, a grant should be available to assist them. We are not saying that if a septic tank is found to be polluting, it should not be rectified. Of course it should. Anyone who suggests otherwise should be locked up. However, a grant should be provided to allow those who could not otherwise afford to do so to rectify the situation.
Further clarification is required on the matter of the legislation if grants are not to be provided. If an inspection is carried out which finds that work needs to be done and the owner of the septic tank cannot afford to have it done, is the local authority compelled to carry out the work and then seek to be refunded? Where will the local authority be refunded from? People in rural Ireland are finding it difficult enough and very few could afford to pay €18,000 or €20,000 to rectify a septic tank. In the absence of grant aid I see no alternative to local authorities having to carry out the work and seeking the money from the Department. I ask for clarification of some of these points.