Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2002 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.

SECTION 1.

Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 40 are consequential on amendment No. 36 and we will take all these amendments together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, subsection (2), line 23, after "Act", to insert "(other than section 30 and section 2 in so far as it relates to section 30)".

The amendments are reasonably straightforward. The Deputies on the other side of the House would have received a copy of the amendments. Is there any particular issue they want to raise?

What will be the effect of amendment No. 2 on the Foreshore Acts? One of the issues we on this side of the House have had over the past number of years - my Green Party colleagues have pursued it - is coastal management and the foreshore and, indeed, the way in which planning permission, for example, in Dublin Bay is controlled. Another issue, which I raised recently at this committee and which was brought to my attention again at the weekend, concerns the Bantry Bay charter. What impact will this have?

Although it is not directly related, I presume at some stage the Government will introduce to this committee the coastal zone management Bill. Deputy Sargent has asked about 100 times in this Dáil about that legislation. Will this bring us any further in that context?

There are three Foreshore Acts and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is preparing proposals for a coastal zone management Bill to establish a new legal framework for the integrated management of the coastal zone and to replace the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 1998. Subject to Government approval, the Bill is expected to be published by mid 2004. Therefore we are actually preparing a coastal zone management which should deal with some of the questions raised by the Deputy.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) The Foreshore Acts 1933 to 1998, section 30 and section 2 in so far as it relates to section 30, may be cited together as the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2003 and shall be construed together as one.".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 2.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, subsection (1), line 26, after "Act" to insert ", unless the context otherwise requires".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 33 form a composite proposal and are consequential on amendment No. 8. Amendment No. 5, amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5, amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, to amendment No. 8 and amendment No. 34 are consequential on amendment No. 8. Amendments Nos. 2 and 2a to amendment No. 8 are alternatives. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5, amendment No. 8, amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, to amendment No. 8 and amendments Nos. 33 and 34 may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, subsection (1), between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

" 'Act of 1983' means the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1983;".

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5 has to do with sections 222C or 223A of the principal Act. What I was trying to do originally - there have been a number of stages and when we get to the main amendments it will not be as complex - was to extend the new independent appeals system to other licences, in other words, that there would be a coherent system and that we would not enact legislation the benefits of which would not be enjoyed in other areas of fisheries licensing, including inland fisheries and so on.

Basically this Act has grown organically. Most of us on this side of the House, as we stated the previous day, very much agree with the approach of an independent licensing system and an appeals system, and it will be a big step forward in achieving a sustainable, environmentally friendly fishing industry.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5, seeks simply to take the benefits of the new independent system, as it existed in the original Bill, and extend it across the existing Fisheries Acts. The Chairman said that at some stage the committee will presumably deal with a consolidated fisheries Bill which will pull together all the legislation. Hopefully it might be one of the memorials of the 29th Dáil and this committee. Would the Minister of State accept that little amendment to amendment No. 5?

The amendment is opposed. The amendment is not textually complete as the words "licence", "authorisation" or "permit under" should have been included before "an instrument".

It is not intended at this time to extend the statutory appeals process beyond sea fishing boat licensing for which there is an acknowledged and pressing need. The statutory appeals process for sea fishing boat licensing must be given time to operate and will be reviewed after a suitable period. Amending legislation would be needed for extending the remit of the appeals officer and that amending legislation would have to make appropriate tailored provisions for any extended remit considered necessary.

The clear intention as regards the fee charge in section 5 and the new section 32 of the Bill is to proceed towards meeting the heavy administrative costs to the Exchequer of processing the relevant applications and not to generate revenue independently. Reference may of course be made to comparable cost for fees for An Bord Pleanála and the Aquaculture Licences Appeal Board, which are relevant precedents for the appeals process. Regulations would have to be made under the new section 5 and new section 32 and, in accordance with such provisions, would have to be presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas, either of which would resolve to annul regulations if they had any reasons for doing so.

On Deputy Broughan's question particularly, it is felt that we should give the sea boat licensing appeals system a chance to settle down. We will review all the appeals systems within the Department in a given period. We have a lab appeals and other appeals in the Department but at the moment we feel this appeal should be left as it is.

We have taken the initiative. We put the cart before the horse when we came forward with the appeals system without an independent licensing system. I am glad the Minister of State decided to come back to this with a more coherent approach. That is why I felt we almost need a second Bill. If we had had that, the Minister of State could have gone ahead with this.

The Department might advise us if there is any way we could frame this to make it more attractive. I will withdraw my amendment for the next stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, subsection (1), to delete lines 31 to 33 and substitute the following:

"licence in Parts 2 and 3 of this Act, means a sea-fishing boat licence granted under section 222B(3) of the Principal Act;".

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5:

After "Principal Act" to insert the following:

", and in Part 3 includes an instrument made under sections 222C or 223A of that Act or section 20, or such other licences as may be prescribed by the Minister for the purposes of this definition, provided that any fee chargeable in respect of a licence for the purpose of this definition as extended for the purposes of Part 3 shall be limited to the costs of providing the services of the Appeals Officer to such licensees under that Part".

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 5 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 7 to amendment No. 7 are consequential on amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2a to amendment No. 7 are alternatives. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 to amendment No. 7 are alternatives. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 and amendments Nos. 1 to 7 to amendment No. 7 are to be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, subsection (1), to delete lines 34 and 35 and substitute the following:

" 'licensing authority' has the meaning assigned to it by section 3;".

Amendment agreed to.

The amendments have come forward in waves on top of us. Will we get to deal with these coherently on Report Stage? We are following the chairman but with great difficulty.

It was explained to me earlier that this is how they came in and then there were amendments to amendments.

It is almost as if there are amendments to amendments to amendments at this stage. It should be clearer on Report Stage. We have had enough time to consider this at this point.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, before section 3, to insert the following new section:

"PART 2

LICENSING OF SEA-FISHING BOATS AND CERTAIN SEA-FISHING

3.-(1) The licensing authority in relation to sea-fishing boats shall be-

(a) the Registrar General of Fishing Boats, or

(b) acting under the superintendence of the Registrar General of Fishing Boats, the Deputy Registrar General of Fishing Boats.

(2) The licensing authority shall be independent in the exercise of his or her functions under this Part subject to-

(a) the law for the time being in force in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing, including, in particular, the legal obligations of the State arising under any law of an institution of the European Communities or other international agreement which is binding on the State, and

(b) such policy directives in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing as the Minister may give in writing from time to time.

(3) Where the Minister gives a policy directive under subsection (2)(b), a notice of such directive and details of it (including reasons for giving the directive) shall, as soon as practicable after the directive is given, be laid before the House of the Oireachtas and published in Iris Oifigiúil.

(4) Subsection (2)(b) shall not be construed as enabling the Minister to exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case or group of cases with which the licensing authority is or may be concerned.

(5) (a) The licensing authority shall-

(i) maintain a register of licences (which shall be known as the Register of Sea-fishing Boat Licences) in electronic form capable of being read in legible form and satisfying the requirements from time to time of any law of an institution of the European Communities, and

(ii) give to the Minister such information relating to the performance of the functions of the licensing authority as the Minister may from time to time request.

(b) The licensing authority may, on his or her own initiative, or at the request of the Minister, make submissions or recommendations to the Minister on any matter relating to the functions of the licensing authority or to licensing under section 222B of the Principal Act.

(6) The licensing authority shall cause to be published by electronic means capable of being read in legible form details of-

(a) all applications for licences received after 1 January 2003,

(b) all decisions made after 1 January 2003 on any such application or to amend or revoke a licence.

(7) (a) Anything commenced before the passing of this Act by or under the authority of the Minister under section 222B(3) of the Principal Act may be carried on or completed on or after such passing by the licensing authority.

(b) Every licence granted by or under the authority of the Minister which is in force immediately before the passing of this Act shall be deemed to have been granted by the licensing authority under section 222B(3) (inserted by section 4) and references to the Minister in any such licence shall after the passing of this Act be construed as a reference to the licensing authority.

(8) In this section, 'the Registrar General of Fishing Boats' and 'the Deputy Registrar General of Fishing Boats' mean, respectively, the Registrar General of Fishing Boats and the Deputy Registrar General of Fishing Boats appointed under Regulation 5 of the Merchant Shipping (Registry, Lettering and Numbering of Fishing Boats) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 294 of 1997).".

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 7:

After subsection (1), to insert the following subsection:

"(2) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall be appointed following approval of his or her nomination by both Houses of the Oireachtas.".

I welcome the independent licensing system, the registrar general and the deputy registrar general as well as the provision of a register of licences in electronic form. On Second Stage I said it was interesting to look at the applications on the Department website, which is very helpful. I am raising many of the issues today that colleagues raised on the day of the appointment of the Ombudswoman, as she intends to call herself. While many felt the candidate selected by the Minister for Finance was a worthy one, we felt there should be a mechanism to bring such a person before the Oireachtas, as he or she is clearly subject to nomination by the Houses of the Oireachtas. That was done in the case of the Ombudswoman and I seek the same transparent process here. Maybe I should have gone further here and asked that the registrar general be brought before the committee. Deputies could then hear the likely policy on licensing in the future.

This is an important public office in a critical industry which gives employment to at least 100,000 of our fellow citizens, as we have often said in the Dáil. In the next few years we hope the critical errors made by Deputy Fahey when Minister, in terms of tonnage allocation and so on, are not made again. The section is welcome but the nomination should be approved by the Oireachtas.

Amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 7 is also critical. The chair and the clerk know we discussed this in relation to another matter relating to our business. We are all used to declaring our interests as public representatives so everyone knows precisely where we stand. We must combat the feeling that politics is about "back-handers" and who one knows. The best way to do so is to ensure this high official will make a submission to the Standards in Public Offices Commission. I urge the Minister of State to accept these two amendments.

Will Deputy Broughan move amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 7?

The chair does not want me to move the amendment regarding the Minister? Deputy Coveney and others have similar amendments on that issue.

I will speak on whatever the chair deems appropriate.

Deputy Coveney has a number of amendments.

In the senior Minister's last ministerial incarnation he liked to include policy directives for some of the bodies set up under the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. It is good to see here that the executive will lay down clear steps as he already has powers in relation to ComReg, the energy regulator and the various other bodies being established under the aegis of this vast Department the committee is trying to supervise. In my amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 7 I seek to ensure the Minister lays his policy directives on the Registrar General of Fishing Boats before the Dáil as soon as practicable. The Labour Party would like any such policy directives to be immediately laid before the Dáil so they can be fully discussed by ourselves, the people we represent, the fishing community etc., to make it a little more transparent.

Amendment No. 2a to amendment No. 7 is very relevant to the concerns Deputy Broughan has just expressed. The idea is that we would add subsections (2)(a) and (2)(b) to the end of subsection (2). The first of these is that “The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall be appointed with the approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas”. All I am trying to achieve here is that when the Minister makes a decision on a suitable person, he or she would bring that nomination before the Oireachtas for approval so that it is an open and up-front process. On most occasions it would go through the Oireachtas without debate if the parties were satisfied, but Opposition parties should have an opportunity to raise concerns about the appointment of a registrar general. That is a not an unreasonable request. I am not asking that the registrar general necessarily appear before the committee. What I am saying is that the Minister would seek the approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas so that if there was a serious concern among one or all of the Opposition parties, they would have an opportunity to raise that concern in the most transparent way possible, which is through the Oireachtas.

The second element, which is subsection (2)(b), is that “The registrar general of fishing boats shall issue an annual report giving full details of licensing activity and the working of the licensing authority.” I welcome the provision later in the Bill that the licensing authority would have the ability to make representations and recommendations to the Minister on certain policy issues, but it is important to provide a formal commitment that the registrar general produce an annual report so that people can measure progress on policy and licensing activity of the authority year-on-year so that in ten years there will be ten annual reports to look back on for the purpose of records, and also for the purpose of formulating or improving policy, should that be necessary. That is a prudent measure and is not unreasonable. If the registrar general of fishing boats is doing his job, he will be keeping accurate records anyway. An annual report would be an opportunity for him to formally make recommendations or comments on an annual basis on how the licensing system is working. If concerns were being expressed by the registrar general, this would certainly assist the Minister - perhaps with policy direction - or the Oireachtas generally. These are the two subsections to my amendment and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on it.

The change contained in amendments Nos. 1 and 2 to amendment No. 7 is totally disproportionate and is, therefore, unacceptable. There are few public offices which can be filled only following approval of a nominee by Dáil or Seanad Éireann. One is the office of the Ombudsman and Information Commission and that office, with its extensive remit across the public service, is clearly not comparable with the office of registrar general of fishing boats, which has only a very limited remit. The registrar general of fishing boats has traditionally been a senior civil servant in the Department of the relevant Minister and, as such, is subject to the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, and also to the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 which require the furnishing of an annual statement of interests.

Regarding the need for the registrar general of fishing boats to publish an annual report, there is a specific statutory obligation on the registrar general - I refer the Deputy to amendment No. 7, subsection (5) - to publish electronically, as in the example on the Department's website, all sea fishing boat licence applications received since 1 January 2003 and all decisions regarding those applications. Moreover the annual report of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will continue to report on sea fishing licensing during the year in question. Perhaps Deputy Coveney might elaborate on what he wishes to achieve by this amendment before we conclude on this section.

On amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 7, rather than proceed with these amendments, I recommend that the committee agrees to the fuller approach adopted in the Minister's amendment No. 7 and the Minister's amendment to amendment No. 11a. Under the Minister's amendments, details of any ministerial written policy directives directed to the licensing authority or to an appeals officer, and the reasons for those directives, would have to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and published inIris Oifigiúil, the official gazette which is published twice weekly. Those obligations would have to be met as soon as practicable after such directives are given by the Minister. Full information about such directives would also be available on the Department’s website as a matter of course.

Deputy Coveney, did you want to explain something?

The Minister was referring to subsection (2)(b) of my amendment and I thank him for taking it seriously. What we are trying to achieve here - I explained it already - is that a formalised system of producing an annual report specifically on licensing would build up a record over a period of time. It would provide an opportunity for the registrar general, who is an independent body as such, to offer comment regarding policy and it would be on the public record, both electronically and in hard copy. It would be a useful exercise to have annual reports over a period of time so that in five or ten years’ time, for example, one could look back over them and see a progression. The obvious person to do that is the registrar general rather than the Department because he is the person making the decisions at the coalface. Surely it makes sense that he would be the person. What could potentially happen is that he would issue an annual report which would be part of the Department’s annual report, but it is important that the registrar general has a vehicle for expressing comment and views and possible policy direction in an annual report, rather than doing his job and not having an opportunity to comment on that during the year.

Based on what Deputy Coveney has said, we will have a look at it and see if we can sponsor an appropriate Report Stage amendment.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 7:

After subsection (1), to insert the following subsection:

"(2) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall make and submit to the Standards in Public Office Commission a statement of his or her interests each year.".

Amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2a to amendment No. 7:

After subsection (1), to insert the following subsection:

"(2) (a) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall be appointed with the approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

(b) The Registrar General of Fishing Boats shall issue an annual report giving full details of licensing activity and the working of the licensing authority.”.

I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister will examine the idea of providing for an annual report from the registrar general.

Amendment No. 2a to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 7:

After subsection (2), to insert the following subsection:

"(3) A policy directive given under subsection (2)(b) shall be given by order and laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made.”.

I am not sure whether the Minister of State precisely addressed this before because I am operating off four lists of amendments. Am I correct in saying the Minister of State has not accepted yet that we would get to see the policy directives of the Minister, which he or she will give from time to time?

They will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and inIris Oifigiúil. We are accepting that.

That is great.

Amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 7:

After subsection (2), to insert the following subsection:

"(3) A policy directive issued by the Minister under subsection (2)(b) shall be laid before the Oireachtas within 14 days of being issued and be available in electronic form capable of being read in legible form.”.

On the basis of what the Minister of State has said regarding Deputy Broughan's last amendment, this is basically making the same case. If the Minister of State confirms that it will also be made available to the public on the website, I will withdraw it.

It will be available to the Houses of the Oireachtas, inIris Oifigiúil and on the website.

Amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5 to amendment No. 7:

In subsection (4), in the fourth line, after "concerned" to insert "unless the Minister has the prior approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas to do so".

This relates to subsection (4), which states that subsection (2)(b) shall not be construed as enabling the Minister to exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case or group of cases with which the licensing authority is or may be concerned.

I am attempting to put flexibility in place for a Minister when they get the approval of the Oireachtas to make a decision, perhaps in special circumstances. I was unsure whether to table this amendment, as the whole purpose of the section is to take the Minister out of the decision-making and licensing process. However, we should not be so politically correct about this as to remove the capacity of the Minister should he or she get the full approval of the Oireachtas to make a decision on licensing. There may well be special circumstances in certain parts of the country which the Minister feels warrant his or her intervention. In the past he or she could have intervened without Oireachtas approval and we should consider that where a case is made to the Minister that special circumstances exist which cannot be dealt with through the licensing authority, which will have strict criteria by which to make a decision, he or she may, with the full approval of the Oireachtas, make a decision on licensing.

I will withdraw the amendment if the Minister of State will consider it and change the wording to tighten it up so as to apply it to genuinely exceptional circumstances as opposed to just political decisions on licensing. It is not unreasonable to have some flexibility in the Bill for a Minister so that if there is an exceptional case he or she may go the Oireachtas and say: "In normal circumstances the licensing authority would make the decision and it would not be a case for me, but a case has been made here and it would not be unreasonable for me to make a ruling."

I am interested in the Minister of State's comments on this, as it may help a future Minister, regardless of party, to react to exceptional circumstances.

The whole purpose of the Bill is to take the Minister out of the licence granting process. When the Bill was going through the Dáil and Seanad that was all Members wanted. Deputy Broughan makes wild allegations every so often about the previous Minister. Bringing the Dáil or Seanad in to deal with individual cases is bringing the Minister in through the back door and the legislation was drafted to leave him out of the equation. From his point of view and mine, we do not want to be involved in individual or special cases while we are in the Department. As the Deputy knows, once an issue is raised in the Dáil it becomes a very special one. We should leave well enough alone and leave this as drafted so the Minister has no say, good, bad or indifferent, in the granting of licences.

I am happy enough with that. I just wanted to raise the issue.

Amendment No. 5 to amendment No. 7 withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 7:

In subsection (5)(a), after subparagraph (ii), to insert the following:

"(iii) respond to an application for a licence within a 14 day period, acknowledge the application and set a likely timescale for processing the application concerned.".

This is an effort to respond to a criticism from fishermen and boat owners in order that the application for a licence be responded to in a reasonable period of time. A decision need not necessarily be given, as it would be unreasonable to tie the licensing body to a set period, but a response to an application should be required within two weeks. That response should include a timescale for when a decision is likely to be made on the application. This seeks to ensure efficiency and a reasonable timeframe within the licensing application process. It is straightforward.

I feel strongly about amendment No. 7 to amendment No. 7. If commitments have been given by a Minister, whether it is the current or previous Minister, they should be honoured by the licensing authority. If a boat owner has a ministerial commitment in writing on licensing then that should be honoured. That is an addition to subsection (7)(b).

It may not be an issue at all if commitments have not been left unfulfilled but just because we are setting up a new agency the commitments made by a Minister should not become irrelevant. That would be unacceptable. I agree that Ministers should not be part of the decision-making process but if they have made commitments in writing prior to the setting up of this body - obviously they cannot do so afterwards - those commitments should be honoured by the licensing authority.

I support amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 7. When reading the Minister of State's amendment this issue was on my mind. It is also desirable to have clear timeframes, which we are familiar with from other areas of our work as public representatives such as planning and other licence applications. This should be clear in the Bill and I commend the Deputy's amendment.

In terms of customer service, a substantive reply is issued to most applications within 21 days. In complex cases or where applications are incomplete or questionable, more time may be needed. That level of customer service is generally acceptable and reflects good use of limited resources. In the majority of cases it is for the applicant to respond in due course to licence offers with precise details of the fishing boats to be licensed and many delay in doing so fully. Customer service levels will continue to be kept under review and improved where possible in light of departmental business, demands generally and staff resources available from time to time. Deputies can rest assured we will keep under review service within the Department with a view to improving it.

Regarding amendment No. 7 to amendment No. 7, section 3(7)(a), which is inserted by amendment No. 7, is considered to be an appropriate standard mechanism for completing any sea fishing boat licensing work in progress before the Bill becomes law.

I thank Deputy Broughan for his support. The planning process is a good comparison. I accept what the Minister stated, that we are constantly trying to improve the service of the Department to the industry, but with all due respect that is not good enough. People who apply for a licence are entitled to get a response, although not necessarily a decision, within two weeks. Perhaps it should be 21 days, not 14. If, in straightforward cases, they are getting a response within 21 days, that is fine. In a complex case, however, the applicants should still get a response outlining why the case is complicated, why it will take longer and how much longer it is estimated it will take. It is unacceptable that an owner applying for a licence would not get a response for a prolonged period of time, even if the case is complicated. If it is a mere response to say, "Your application is being considered, it is a complex case for the following reasons and it will take six weeks", then that is all well and good and the boat owner can plan on that basis, but I am concerned about the element of the unknown when they do not get a response. In this day and age we should put a timeframe in place and put an onus on the Department to meet that. There are certainly many elements of this legislation which the applicant has to meet and it is not unreasonable to put a timeframe on the Department. That is why I hope the Minister of State might reconsider that. I would be happy to accept a change from 14 days to 21 days, if the Minister of State thinks that is more reasonable for his Department, but applicants need to know why they have not received a response.

Following the Minister of State's comments on my amendment No. 7 to amendment No. 7, I will withdraw that amendment for the moment. I want to ponder what the Minister of State said because I did not fully follow it. If need be, I will reintroduce it on Report Stage.

On amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 7, the Department is always trying to improve and give quick responses to the applicants. We give a substantive reply within 21 days, and also it will be on the website. Given that timeframe, the Department will respond fairly quickly.

We in the Department are always trying to improve and nothing stands still. Compared to the planning appeals, and planning applications, at county councils which take months, we inthe Department are reasonably efficient atpresent.

That is not the point I am making. The point I am making is that there is a statutory timetable put in place for planning applications and even though they go beyond that timeframe at times, the planners are required, after eight weeks, to either make a decision or request a deferral. What we are talking about is putting a statutory timeframe in place so that the Department is not allowed the flexibility to say that this is a complicated case and it will not respond for a month or that this is an easy case and it will respond within four or five days. If the applicant needs to meet strict criteria under this legislation, it is not unreasonable that the Department also would have a timeframe set out for it to make an initial response. That is all I am asking for. I have not asked for a timeframe for a decision.

I could not go beyond what is there at present, that is, the substantive reply within 21 days.

Is the Minister of State giving a commitment that there will be a substantive reply within 21 days? If he is, I am happy to withdraw it.

At present that is the Department's norm, not for a decision but for a reply.

Amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 to amendment No. 7 not moved.
Amendment No. 7 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 6, before section 3, to insert the following new section:

"4.-The Principal Act is amended by the substitution for section 222B (inserted by section 2 of the Act of 1983 and amended by sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Act of 1994) of the following:

'222B.-(1) This section applies to any sea-fishing boat which is-

(a) a fishing boat within the meaning of Part IV of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 and which-

(i) is entered in the Register of Fishing Boats,

(ii) is required by section 373 (as amended by the Act of 1983) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 to be so entered, or

(iii) but for the passing of the Act of 1983 would, by the said section 373, be required to be so entered,

or

(b) a ship which-

(i) is registered under the Mercantile Marine Act 1955,

(ii) is required by section 18 (as amended by the Act of 1983) of the Mercantile Marine Act 1955 to be so registered,

(iii) but for section 8(1) of the Act of 1983 would be required to be or might be so registered, or

(iv) may be so registered.

(2) A sea-fishing boat to which this section applies shall not be used for sea-fishing (whether within the exclusive fishery limits of the State or otherwise) nor shall a person on board such a boat fish for sea-fish or attempt so to fish, save under and in accordance with a licence ("sea-fishing boat licence") granted for the purposes of this section and in relation to the boat by the licensing authority.

(3) (a) The licensing authority may grant sea-fishing boat licences.

(b) An application for a sea-fishing boat licence shall be-

(i) made to the licensing authority,

(ii) in such form and contain such particulars as the licensing authority may specify, and

(iii) made by or on behalf of the owner of the boat in respect of which the application is made.

(c) Where an application is made for a sea-fishing boat licence, the licensing authority may, subject to subsection (4) of this section, allow or refuse the application.

(d) In deciding on the grant or refusal of a sea-fishing boat licence or the attachment of conditions to licences the licensing authority may take account of economic benefits which the operation of a boat would be likely to contribute to the coastal communities and regions which the quotas within the meaning of Council Regulation No. 2371/2002 of 20 December 20021 are designed to benefit, including-

(i) the projected annual number of landings at ports in the State,

(ii) the projected annual tonnage and value of fish landed in the State,

(iii) the projected annual level of expenditure in the State on wages, fuel, supplies, equipment and services, and

(iv) the projected annual level of social security and tax payments in the State in respect of employees and the operation of the boat, and the general sea-worthiness of the boat, the protection, conservation and rational exploitation of fish stocks, and requirements of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union.

(4) The licensing authority shall not grant a sea-fishing boat licence unless the sea-fishing boat in relation to which the licence is granted is wholly owned by a national of a Member State or a body corporate established under and subject to the law of a Member State and having its principal place of business in a Member State.

(5) (a) The licensing authority may attach to a sea-fishing boat licence granted such terms (including terms specifying the period during which the licence is to remain in force or an event or other circumstance on the occurrence of which the licence is to come into force) and conditions (including conditions precedent to the licence’s becoming operative) as he or she shall think fit and he or she may also attach further conditions to or vary the conditions already attached to such a licence or remove any such condition.

(b) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a) of this subsection, a condition attached to a sea-fishing boat licence may-

(i) restrict sea-fishing by the boat to which the licence relates in a manner specified in the condition,

(ii) require that for so long as the licence is in force the members of the crew of such boat, or of any proportion of such members specified in the condition, shall be of a nationality specified in the condition, or

(iii) specify an event or other circumstance on the occurrence of which the licence shall cease to be in force.

(c) Where the licensing authority is satisfied that a person has fished in contravention of a condition attached to a sea-fishing boat licence or that a person has attempted so to fish, the licensing authority may, if he or she thinks fit, revoke the licence.

(6) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3)(c) of this section, where the licensing authority receives an application for a sea-fishing boat licence and-

(a) the application relates to a sea-fishing boat which is owned by a body corporate and the licensing authority is not satisfied that the body corporate is under the control of, beneficially owned by or under the control of and beneficially owned by a person or persons who, or, as may be appropriate, each of whom, is either a qualified individual or a qualified body, or

(b) the licensing authority is satisfied that the applicant has previously used or attempted to use a sea-fishing boat for sea-fishing in contravention of, or that the applicant has fished for sea-fish or has attempted so to fish contrary to, subsection (2) of this section, he or she may refuse the application.

(7) (a) A person who uses or attempts to use a sea-fishing boat in contravention of subsection (2) of this section is guilty of an offence.

(b) A person who, while on board a sea-fishing boat, fishes for sea-fish or attempts so to fish in contravention of subsection (2) of this section is guilty of an offence.

(8) In this section-

"Act of 1983" means the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1983;

"qualified body" means a body corporate in which all of the shares are beneficially owned, or the body is otherwise controlled, by one or more individuals who, or, as may be appropriate, each of whom is, a qualified individual;

"qualified individual" means an individual person who is a national of a Member State;

"licensing authority" has the meaning assigned to it by section 3 of theFisheries (Amendment) Act 2003.’.”.

There are amendments to amendment No. 8 and these have already been discussed with amendment No. 4.

I move amendment No. 1 toNo. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in the fourth line of subsection (3)(d), after “authority” to insert “shall have regard to the projected annual targets for economic development under the State’s regional and spatial policies and”.

This is where there is confusion. While the amendments are listed together, we have not discussed them. We have not had a chance. The two substantive amendments are amendments Nos. 7 and 8. We have discussed amendment No. 7 and now we are on amendment No. 8, but these are the substantive amendments to amendmentNo. 8.

Deputy Broughan, you are correct. As you will be aware, there was a list of additional and substitute amendments dated 13 May and this is what has complicated the issue for us. Would you like to speak on that amendment?

I welcome amendment No. 8, in general terms, which was the first re-think of the Bill that we got regarding the licences and the fact that we are taking the step to set out the conditions whereby licences may be granted regarding types of boats, the projected tonnage and value of fish landed at particular ports, and amounts of expenditure. What I tried to do in amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8 - I note my colleagues have pursued similar angles in other amendments - was to broaden subsection (3)(d), the criteria for granting the licences, which already includes the projected annual number of landings at ports, the projected annual tonnage and value of fish, the projected annual level of expenditure in the State on wages, fuel, supplies, equipment and services, the annual level of social security and tax payments in respect of employees, and the general sea-worthiness of the boat.

I want the Minister to add to that the social economic area. This goes to the essence of the discussion the first time I came on this committee four or five months ago, when we got an opportunity to look at the fishing industry throughout the State. I accept what the Minister has said and the battles he has about the Irish Box, the fall in white fish resources and the grave danger which the Irish Sea fleets are under in the case of white fish. When I looked at some of the background material with which the committee provided me, it struck me that the strategy group, which was headed by the distinguished former public servant, Pádraic White, was trying to pull together the regional policy and the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union. They felt that in the key districts such as the Beara Peninsula, which I visited yesterday and where I spoke to some of our people who work in the industry, Howth in my own constituency, the Minister of State's Kilmore Quay - basically all the key ports from Greencastle around to Clogher Head - we should have to have regard in any licensing policy to the regional policy and the spatial policy of this country. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, and his predecessor, Deputy Dempsey, tried to develop a spatial policy for the State. We had many debates about that and journalists such as Frank McDonald pursued it in the public media. It seems that in areas like the Beara Peninsula, west Donegal, north-west Donegal or my own constituency where fishing is a critical part of the socio-economic fabric, it will be necessary in licensing policy for us to take into account the needs of those areas. We must try to respond to what Mr. White and his committee were trying to achieve. We must frame a future for fishing that takes regional policy into account and we must not say "bad luck" to these communities. The policies we have for the development of those areas must be paramount and contained in the legislation. While colleagues have gone further, this is what the Labour Party wants.

This amendment is unnecessary. The licensing of sea fishing boats is necessary on a case by case basis following the consideration of each application. However, within the parameters of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, section 222B of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, as restated in the new section 4 inserted in this Bill, specifically allows the licensing authority in assessing any such application to take account of economic and social links. Deputy Coveney has an amendment that will be taken later. Clearly, sea fishing boats that could not demonstrate having such economic and social links would have less prospect of being granted a licence.

Is the Minister of State including references to the broader socio-economic, regional and spatial policies?

Yes. Deputy Coveney has tabled an amendment that includes this and we will accept it.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 8:

In subsection (3)(d) of the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in the fourth line of subsection (3)(d), after “economic” to insert “, social and environmental”.

The Minister of State skipped my wonderful amendment and went on to that of Deputy Coveney. Can I take it that he will accept the insertion of the words "economic and social consideration" but not accept "environmental"?

"Economic" is already in place and we are adding "social".

What about "environmental"?

Perhaps the Deputy could elaborate on this.

This is a crucial area in terms of what direction we legislators can give to any future registrar as to what he or she should take into account. It is important that we take economic and social economic considerations into account. It is also important that we give prominence to the importance of environmental considerations that reflect EU treaties and agreements. There is always recognition that to have a successful and sustainable policy environmental, social and economic considerations must be taken into account. Failure to state this in this Bill will lead to a continuation of some of the difficulties in licensing we have had where environmental groups feel environmental considerations were not taken into account. How fishing affects the environment is a complex issue and cannot simply be reduced to what fish is taken from the sea - there is also the issue of by-catch, etc. I would find it unusual if Government policy was to exclude environmental considerations in such decision-making. It is important that we steer the registrar towards taking a holistic approach when he is considering boat licences.

I support Deputy Ryan's proposal; environmental concerns come into this. The issue of economic and social concerns is quite clear when one looks at the communities involved. If a boat seeks a licence in an area where there has been low fish stock levels, this should be a consideration if a boat is seeking a licence in another area where there are no stock problems. While there is an environmental issue, I am most concerned about social and economic issues. Issuing licences to fishing boats in areas where stocks are low does not make economic sense. Including the word "environment" makes a statement that we are serious about the marine environment as well as the fishing industry.

We will look at this before Report Stage.

Amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2a to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in the fourth line of subsection (3)(d), after “economic” to insert “and social”.

The argument for this has already been made.

Amendment No. 2a to amendment No. 8 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in subsection (3)(d), after subparagraph (iv) to insert the following:

"(v) whether the boat would comply with the requirements of the common fisheries policy of the European Union that fishery measures are designed to protect and conserve living aquatic resources, to provide for their sustainable exploitation and to minimise the impact of fishing activities on marine ecosystems.".

While this may be a slightly awkward means of trying to broaden the direction given that we are giving the rights, it is still useful. The wording of the amendment reflects stated EU policy and it is useful to include it. If we believe in sustainable development, we must not just pay lip service to it. We must take a balanced approach and look at the entire ecosystem and how we relate to it. Sustainable development requires us to look at environmental, social and economic issues and I understand the Government is committed to this. It is useful and purposeful to state this rather than restricting ourselves to economic considerations which, without these amendments, the Bill would do.

The amendment is unnecessary. Section 222B of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 is restated in the new section 4 of the Bill. It makes clear that sea fishing boat licensing must take account of the requirements of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. Appropriate licensing conditions imposed by the licensing authority would therefore reflect those requirements as they evolve over time and compliance therewith would be expected from licensees. Enforcement of licence conditions generally is a separate matter and would be pursued on an ongoing basis by the sea fisheries protection officers.

If the drafting of the Bill reflects our priorities, it is clear that we have sections dealing with economic interests and the size of the catches landed, etc. At the end of subsection (3)(d), there is a brief afterthought which takes into account the requirements of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy. It seems this is the main strategic policy direction we will be following in our fisheries policy and it is no harm to outline that so we will be clear as to what we are about. Conservation and protection measures should not be included as an afterthought. The Minister is right in contending that the wording does allow it to be included in the last clause of the last section. I am disappointed that the modern Irish State, in taking on sustainable practice policies, includes this as an afterthought and does not state it explicitly.

This Act has been in existence since 1983 and there have been many Ministers in my Department since then. They have all considered the requirements to be adequate and therefore we feel it is not necessary to change them.

I do not agree. Conservation should not be shunted from the policy agenda.

Amendment No. 3 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 3a and 3b to amendment No. 8 have already been discussed.

I move amendment No. 3a to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in subsection (3)(d), after subparagraph (iv) to insert the following:

"(v) the National Spatial Strategy and National Development Plan and the related legislation for a region or community,".

This amendment has been referred to already but amendment No. 3b certainly has not. Amendment No. 3a seeks to insert in subsection (3)(d), after subparagraph (iv), a new subparagraph (v). It refers to the national spatial strategy and the national development plan and the related legislation for a region or community in terms of the considerations for giving a licence. If the Government has a stated policy to develop or redevelop certain regions, it is appropriate that would be a factor when considering licence applications. For example, it would be the case if there was an application from a coastal community entirely reliant on fishing and if it was part of the national development plan to develop that area and its fishing industry. I concede that it does, perhaps, come under the social and economic categories. Therefore, I do not feel that strongly about it but I am interested to hear the comments of the Minister of State. I know Deputy Broughan has already raised this matter.

Amendment No. 3b relates to the seaworthiness of a vessel before a licence is issued. The wording, as it exists under the Minister's amendment, refers to "the general seaworthiness of the boat, the protection, conservation and rational exploitation of fish stocks, and requirements of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union." I am not quite sure how general seaworthiness is assessed, apart from taking the owner's word that he has a seaworthy boat. That is why I included "for which proof of survey shall be required" after "general seaworthiness". A boat would need that survey anyway to be registered. The wording might be slightly clumsy but I think the Minister knows what I am getting at. It is important that, on application for a licence, the owner of a boat should have to prove the boat is seaworthy and that it has all the usual safety requirements necessary to be registered anyway.

Amendment No. 3b to amendment No. 8 is unnecessary because it is the standard practice that the required proof of seaworthiness of a sea fishing boat for licensing must be by means of an independent survey carried out by a competent person. The industry understands that requirement very well and there is no need for Deputy Coveney's amendment.

The Minister has greatly improved the surveying staff in recent years. I have broad sympathy with the amendment Deputy Coveney is attempting to make. Is the Minister of State certain that the safety survey is carried out independently?

There is no downside to a belt-and-braces approach to seaworthiness. If it is understood by boat owners that proof of general seaworthiness is part of the application process, nobody will have objections to the inclusion of the phrase, "proof of survey shall be required". It is a little bit like an MOT process for a car. We have seen too many accidents on fishing boats due to a lack of seaworthiness or general safety equipment on boats. It is not unreasonable that, if somebody is seeking a licence, he should provide proof of survey.

At present, if a boat is not seaworthy it will not be licensed but if the Deputies feel that strongly about the matter, we will examine the issue to see how we can bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to copperfasten the requirement.

I am happy to withdraw my amendment on that basis.

Amendment No. 3a to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3b to amendment No. 8 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in the second last line of subsection (3), before "requirements" to insert "other".

I wish to withdraw this amendment. Some of these amendments were tabled very quickly in the heat of battle and amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 8 may not be necessary given my earlier amendments.

Amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5 to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, in the last line of subsection (4), after "State." to insert "Where the boat is owned by a body corporate, the beneficial owners should be clearly indicated and be resident within the State.".

I do not know if it is possible to change this amendment as amendments have been changed so much. It is very important to find out who the beneficial owners are when the boat is owned by a body corporate. I should have used the wording, "the state those owners are resident in".

This is an important amendment and I do not think we can emphasise it enough. I have been made aware of concerns about boats brought in by the Naval Service because of some breach of regulations, such as foreign trawlers with foreign crews and captains. It is only by looking through details in the register that one might find out the beneficial owners are based in Dublin, for example. However, even in that case, they might be represented by a holding company in Dublin and not reside there themselves. It is important, given the increasing complications that will exist in respect of the Irish Box and elsewhere, that we try to use the opportunity to be certain of the location of the beneficial owners of any vessel we are licensing.

I have some concerns about this amendment. I agree with its principle but I wonder if it is anti-competitive and whether we are entitled to be such in Europe. We are living in the EU, where free trade is supposed to be allowed between states and where an Irish person can set up a company in another member state and get a licence to do so. I wonder whether it is possible for us to do this in legislation. Even though I would like Irish owners to get preferential treatment in regard to licensing, I am not sure whether we can legally eliminate the possibility of a Frenchman coming here and applying for a licence to run a fishing boat out of Ireland.

I recognise that. I take Deputy Coveney's point. I thought I had indicated that I saw some of the difficulties in the current wording and that it would have to be extended to ascertain residency. We have to be careful we do not create a situation where it would be anti-competitive. I take that point but I will be interested to hear the Minister of State's view on the merits, the importance or otherwise of finding out who beneficial owners are.

The amendment is not acceptable as it is contrary to EU law which precludes discrimination against nationals of other member states. We talked earlier about economic and social links and said that sea fishing boats which could not demonstrate having such economic and social links would have less prospect of being licensed here. That is as far as we can go at this stage. In the Bill, a "qualified individual" means an individual who is a national of a member state, that is, any of the 15 member states.

I take the point the Minister of State made which is similar to that which Deputy Coveney made that we cannot be anti-competitive. I am willing to accept different wording which the Minister of State might consider and which would not restrict an owner from a member state holding a licence. I refer to the point about the need for us to clarify who beneficial owners are where a licence is owned by a body corporate.

Deputy Ryan, you could consider this before Report Stage. It would also give the Minister of State an opportunity to consider the views you have expressed.

As the Minister of State said, this will come into it under the economic, social and possibly environmental considerations but the licensing authority should be required to establish from where the owner comes when assessing the social and environmental considerations. The boat may be working out of Castletownbere but may be owned by a Spaniard, so it is important that the licensing authority should establish the owner and from where he or she comes when assessing the economic, social and possibly environmental considerations before it makes the decision. That should be a factor in assessing the social and economic conditions.

I support that. When we discussed the Irish Box, one of the areas which was incredibly confusing was the case of French boats which were actually Spanish vessels and which seemed to have some connections with our ports. That seemed to make assessing the availability of our resources for Spain, in particular, incredibly difficult. The general point the two Deputies made, as set out in Deputy Ryan's amendment, is valuable if we are to consider the overall impact on the communities we seek to help in this legislation.

Including economic and social links is as much flexibility as we can have in the legislation because of EU law in regard to discrimination against nationals from other member states. The Bill states that applications may contain such particulars as the licensing authority may specify. The Department is entitled to, and asks, from where the corporate body comes and for full details. We will think about it between now and Report Stage but by including economic and social links, we are being reasonably flexible.

I will withdraw the amendment but the purpose of my tabling it is not necessarily to be anti-competitive and to see Irish owners favoured ahead of others. I take the Minister of State's point that under the regulations of the Bill it is possible to ask about corporate ownership. It is important the legislation requires that ownership, particularly by a body corporate, is made clear, especially since many holding companies in overseas markets and outside the European Union own the licences. That is why I proposed the amendment. I will work on a different wording prior to Report Stage.

Amendment, No. 5 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 8:

In the new section 222B of the Principal Act, after subsection (5)(c), to insert the following:

(d) Where the licensing authority decides to revoke a licence, the Minister shall be informed and the reasons for revoking the licence shall be outlined.”.

This amendment ensures the licensing authority is fully answerable to the Minister and that the Minister is aware at all times of what is happening. If a licensing authority decides to revoke a licence, it would have serious implications for the boat owner. In those circumstances, the Minister should be informed and given detailed reasons the licence is being revoked. For many reasons, it is a sensible amendment. I am not saying the Minister needs to bring the matter before the Oireachtas, which would be crazy, but the Minister and the Minister's office should be aware if a licence is being revoked because it is a serious decision which the licensing authority may make in certain circumstances. If an authority decides to revoke a licence, it should outline its reasons to somebody and the appropriate person is the Minister.

The amendment is not considered necessary or appropriate in the context of the announced reform of sea fishing boat licensing which is designed to allow the Minister to concentrate on policy issues and to distance the Minister from individual cases or groups of cases. The purpose of setting up the independent appeals process is that it would deal directly with the applicant. If it has reason to refuse or revoke a licence, it will give a full explanation to the applicant and not the Minister. If the Minister is informed of what is happening, is he being asked to intervene or to look again at the application? When the acquaculture appeals board makes a decision - I have responsibility for that area - I am precluded from making a call to the chairman. The chairman must explain the reasons to the applicant who has further recourse but not through the Minister.

I agree with the Minister of State and I am not for one minute suggesting the Minister should get involved in reversing a decision or in the appeal. This amendment is purely for information purposes so that the Minister has a record of licences which have been revoked because that may be useful if he is formulating policy, regulations or whatever.

It is not something about which I feel particularly strongly but if a licensing authority makes a serious or detrimental decision for the boat concerned, the authority should at least produce a report outlining the basis under which it made the decision because it is, effectively, putting somebody out of business. If it makes such a decision, it would be for a valid reason but the Minister should be informed and the reasons outlined so it is on record.

I do not know whether that information would be available under the freedom of information legislation but the Minister should be informed of such a serious decision which would put a boat out of business to ensure he is up to speed on what is happening. I do not feel strongly about this amendment and I will withdraw it if the Minister of State does not think it is necessary.

Where a decision is taken to refuse or revoke a licence, a person has a right to appeal. While this appeal is ongoing, the decision is suspended. I do not think the Minister should become involved or be made aware of this.

Amendment No. 6 to amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

I want the Minister to clarify his amendment in the section we have been through. When will I have the opportunity to do this? I did not table an amendment as I was not sure what was appropriate. My query relates to members of the crew. The new section states:

Without prejudice to the generality ofparagraph (a) of this subsection, a condition attached to a sea-fishing boat licence may. . .

(ii) require that for as long as the licence is in force the member of the crew of such boat, or of any proportion of such members specified in the condition, shall be of a nationality specified in the condition,".

What happens if a licensed boat from Killybegs cannot get an Irish crew, secures work permits for a Latvian crew that leaves after six months and then seeks a Lithuanian crew? Is it not possible to do this under the terms of the licence? Large trawlers that are offshore for days and weeks at a time go through crew on a regular basis. Depending on the time of year they can find it difficult to get crew in Ireland and rely on foreign crew. Unless I am reading it wrongly, this section seems to preclude a boat from doing this. This is a genuine concern - I am not trying to be awkward. Perhaps the Minister could look at this on Report Stage.

We will return to the Deputy on this. There is an EU requirement that a certain quota of EU workers would be employed.

Amendment No. 8, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 9 is in substitution for amendment No. 9 on the principal list of amendments dated 16 April. Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 9 is consequential and both amendments may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 6, before section 3, to insert the following new section:

5."(1)An application for-

(a) a sea-fishing boat licence,

(b) a licence, authorisation or permit under any instrument made by the Minister under section 222C (inserted by section 3 of the Act of 1983) or 223A (inserted by section 9 of the Act of 1978 and amended by section 4 of the Act of 1983) of the Principal Act or section 20, or

(c) amendment of any such licence, authorisation or permit, shall be subject to such fee as the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe by regulations.

(2) The grant of-

(a) a sea-fishing boat licence or a licence under section 11 by an Appeals Officer, or

(b) a licence, authorisation or permit under any instrument made by the Minister under section 222C or 223A of the Principal Act or section 20, shall be subject to such fee, as the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe by regulations.

(3) Regulations under this section may provide for fees of different amounts in respect of applications referred to in subsection (1) or the grant of a licence, authorisation or permit referred to in subsection (2) of different categories and in different circumstances.

(4) Where under regulations made under this section a fee is payable in respect of any application referred to in subsection (1) or the grant of a sea-fishing boat licence or other licence, authorisation or permit referred to in subsection (2)(b), the application shall not be considered or the licence, authorisation or permit granted by the licensing authority or the Minister, as the case may be, unless the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is in receipt of the fee.

(5) Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House has sat after the regulation is laid before it, the regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.

(6) Every fee received by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources under this section shall be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance directs.".

The new section 5 enables fees to be charged for sea fishing boat applications and licences so as to contribute to meeting the costs of licensing that currently run at €500,000 per annum. No such fees are chargeable under the Fisheries Acts 1959-2001.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 9:

After subsection (5), to insert the following subsection:

"(6) All information relating to fees under this section will be available in electronic form, legible and accessible.".

We have repeatedly said information would be available, legible and accessible in electronic form. In other words, information should be included on the Department's website. While it is probably the case anyway that information is electronically accessible, it is important to include it in the legislation. We have made the decision to do this in other sections and it is prudent to be consistent. It would be helpful that information relating to fees would be available on the website.

This amendment is unnecessary. Full details of any fees imposed under the new section 5 of the Bill will be in ministerial regulations. Such regulations are required to be presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas and notices of the making of them must be published in Iris Oifigiúil. Full details of any fees imposed will, as a matter of course, be available on the Department's website.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 9, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 agreed to.
SECTION 3.

Amendment No. 11a is an alternative to No. 10 and they can be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) A policy directive given under subsection (3)(b) shall be given by order and laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made.”.

We touched on this earlier. When the Minister of State gives a policy directive, my amendment says "as soon as may be" while the Government amendment says "as soon as practicable". Our concern was that policy directions would be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 6, subsection (4), line 39, after "case" to insert "or group of cases".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11a:

In page 6, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) Where the Minister gives a policy directive under subsection (3)(b), a notice of such directive and details of it (including reasons for giving the directive) shall, as soon as practicable after the directive is given, be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and published in Iris Oifigiúil.”.

This amendment requires the details of any ministerial written policy directive to an appeals officer and the reasons for these directives, to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and published inIris Oifigiúil, the official gazette that is published twice weekly. Those obligations will have to be met as soon as is practicable after the Minister gives them. All the information about such directives will be available on the Department’s website as a matter of course.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 4.

Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related to amendment No. 12, and these amendments can be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 7, subsection (2)(a), line 9, to delete “registered”.

This amendment, and those related to it, relate to the right to appeal. As laid out in the original Bill, the important area of appeal must be dealt with in the fairest possible way. Looking at similar appeals systems in other areas of national and local government, we feel it would be fairer to make these small technical amendments. Amendment No. 12 seeks to delete "registered". We understand the rationale of the requirements regarding registered post but there is a feeling that it may be unnecessarily cumbersome and that it would be adequate for a disappointed applicant - they are usually disappointed - to serve his or her notice by ordinary post and then, if necessary, prove service in the case of a dispute, as is the case in some other appeals areas. I am aware that we representatives are always getting registered letters relating to planning matters and planning representations. Amendment No. 12 seeks to keep the appeals system as simple as possible.

With regard to amendment No. 13, I am advised that, after "by" in line 11 of section 4(2)(a), “or on behalf of” should be inserted because there was a High Court case regarding whether the service of a security man at a reception desk was sufficient service. Thus, we believe the service of the appeal should be determined in the narrowest way possible so, if the person concerned is employed by or on behalf of the officer, that should be sufficient. These amendments try to ensure that appealing applicants get the best possible chance.

Amendment No. 14 seeks the insertion of "and, if made by a person other than the applicant for a licence, shall also be served on the applicant by post or by leaving it at the office of the applicant during normal office hours with a person who is apparently employed by or on behalf of the applicant" after "Officer". We drafted this because there was a feeling that the Bill does not necessarily state that an appeal by a third party must be served on the applicant, although this is clearly the intention.

Amendment No. 15 demands the insertion of "if the appellant is not the applicant for a licence," after "state". If he is not the applicant for a licence it is obvious why he is appealing and therefore subsection (2)(d) does not need to apply. These are minor points of law but our legal advice is that if they were to be accepted or considered strongly for Report Stage, it would ensure that the Bill would not be open to challenge later on.

Amendment No. 12, which seeks the deletion of the word "registered" in line 9 of subsection (2)(a), which concerns post, is not acceptable. Registration is a standard requirement to confirm both the posting and receipt of important mail. Amendment No. 13, which seeks the insertion of “or on behalf of” after “by” in subsection (2)(a), line 11, is acceptable and amendment No. 14 is not necessary or appropriate. The due processing of appeals is a matter for the appeals officer. Accordingly, the appeals officer is obliged by section 7 to give a copy of the notice of an appeal to each party to the appeal and to specify to each party the time limit for making written submissions or observations on the appeal in question to the appeals officer.

The proposed Minister's amendments, amendments Nos. 27a, 28a and 29a, are designed to deal comprehensively with keeping appellants and applicants fully in the documentary loop and giving them the right to comment on relevant documentation not originated by them before the appeals officer determines the appeals in question. I have no objection to amendment No. 15 in the name of Deputy Broughan. My acceptance of two amendments out of four is not too bad.

I thank the Minister for agreeing to accept amendments Nos. 13 and 15.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 7, subsection (2)(a), line 11, after “by” to insert “or on behalf of”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 7, subsection (2)(d), line 15, before “state” to insert “if the appellant is not the applicant for a licence,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 is an alternative to amendment No. 16 and they may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 7, lines 41 to 47, to delete subsection (6) and substitute the following subsections:

"(6) This section applies to an appeal made under this section against a decision, made after one month after the passing of this Act, of a licensing authority on an application for a licence or to revoke or amend a licence.

(7) A decision of a licensing authority on an application for a licence or to revoke or amend a licence stands suspended where an appeal against the decision is made under this section until the appeal is determined or withdrawn.".

This amendment substitutes two subsections for subsection (6) of the existing section 4 of the Bill. The purpose of this technical drafting amendment is twofold: first, to make it clear that the statutory appeals provisions being provided for in the Bill will apply only to licensing decisions made one month after the Bill becomes law and so will not apply to any area or decisions, and second, to make it clear that a licensing decision which is duly appealed will be suspended until the appeal is decided or withdrawn, as the case may be. Thus, the amendment is intended to avoid unnecessary litigation regarding the Minister's intention to establish a statutory appeals process for sea fishing boat licensing decisions made on or after a definitive future date.

Is amendment No. 17 the same?

It is an alternative. It can be discussed but cannot be moved if amendment No. 16 is accepted.

I am trying to work out what is different about it. We had tabled amendment No. 17 first.

I am advised that it can be discussed but cannot be moved.

The Deputy's amendment appears to be based on a misunderstanding and is therefore unnecessary. The specific publication requirement on the licensing authority inserted in the original section 4 of the Bill by the Seanad is restated in subsection (5) of the new section 3 being inserted in the Bill by the Minister's amendment No. 7 to deal with sea fishing boat licensing as distinct from appeals to which the original section 4 of the Bill relates.

Is publication of the decision provided for under the Minister's amendment?

It is being put into section 3, not section 4.

I cannot see any difference between my amendment and the Minister's. I thought ours was tabled before that of the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 17 not moved.
Section 4, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 5.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 29 are cognate and they may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 8, subsection (1), line 3, to delete "an absolute" and substitute "a".

This amendment was tabled to ensure that the process would be as fair as possible and as impregnable as possible to future challenges on points of law. Section 5(1) states that an appeals officer of his or her own motion or at the request of a party shall have an absolute discretion to hold an oral hearing. The amendment seeks to delete "an absolute". Following the famous Lord Acton, who did not like any kinds of absolutes, be it absolute power or anything else, I am advised that it would be better to simply state that the appeals officer would have "a discretion" rather than an "absolute discretion" to hold an oral hearing. That should be sufficient.

This part of the Bill does not affect the substantive ideas but it affects the fairness of an appeals process. My office looked at other legislation and we believe we do not need to include the words " an absolute" and that the word "discretion" is sufficient. It is up to the Minister of State whether he agrees with our reading of the law.

We are happy enough to accept the amendment to remove the words " an absolute".

I thank the Minister of State.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 20 is cognate on amendment No. 19 and both may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 8, subsection (5)(b), line 33, after “oath” to insert “or affirmation”.

These amendments relate to issues of law which were brought to my attention. Section 5(5)(b) states:

An Appeals Officer, in conducting an oral hearing, may take evidence under oath and for that purpose may administer oaths, and a person giving evidence at an oral hearing shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were a witness before the High Court.

I am advised that there is something of a lacuna in relation to oaths, which apparently date back to the Oaths Act 1888, because they may apply only to legal proceedings as opposed to administrative proceedings under which this will come. It would be better to put the matter beyond doubt by stating "an oath" or "an affirmation", so we are covered when oral hearings are under way.

The amendments are not necessary. By virtue of the Interpretation Act 1937, the term "oath" in statutes includes the term "affirmation".

Our barristers think differently but I will accept what the Minister of State has said for the moment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 20 not moved.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 8, subsection (5), between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

"(c) A solicitor or counsel appearing before an Appeals Officer at an oral hearing shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were acting in proceedings before the High Court.”.

A solicitor or counsel appearing before an appeals officer at an oral hearing should also be entitled to the same immunities because the Bill, as it stands, only deals with immunities of witnesses and not necessarily of legal representatives. We are setting out a procedure we are used to in employment law for example, the last area in which I represented the party, and we should include legal representatives.

The amendment is not appropriate. Counsel and solicitors are entitled to certain privileges by virtue of their role as legal advisers. The statutory appeals officer provided for in the Bill is, in essence, equivalent to a tribunal established by law to which the same privileges would attach as to a court for the purpose of counsel or solicitors appearing.

Again, I have different legal advice. I hope that in the future, somebody does not tackle us on some of these issues and say the Bill is deficient. I will accept what the Minister of State and the parliamentary counsel said and I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 6.

Amendments Nos. 22 to 27, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 27a, 28a and 29a are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 9, after line 47, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) The licensing authority shall, at the same time as submitting the documents referred to at subsection (2)(b) and (d) to the Appeals Officer concerned, submit a copy of those documents to the appellant.”.

Section 6 relates to the notification of appeals and the supply of documents by the licensing authority. Section 6(2)(d) states “any supplementary documentation or information which the licensing authority considers to be necessary to enable the Appeals Officer to duly consider the appeal.” We wish to add the proposed amendment. This clearly sets out that the appellant should have access to all the data to which the licensing authority has access. It is a bit like discovery in a civil or criminal case.

We thank Deputy Broughan for drawing our attention to these amendments on which we have reflected. We tabled amendments Nos. 27a, 28a and 29a which comprehensively address the issues raised by Deputy Broughan.

I will withdraw amendment No. 22. The Minister of State has effectively accepted amendments Nos. 23 to 27, inclusive.

We have tabled our own amendments but with different wording.

The Minister of State has accepted the issues raised. The amendments were inspired by the fact that we wanted the process to be as fair as possible. I welcome the Minister of State's amendments in that regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
Amendment No. 23 not moved.
Section 7 agreed to.
Amendment No. 24 not moved.
Section 8 agreed to.
SECTION 9.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 10, subsection (1), line 40, after "made" to insert "or was entitled to make".

We accept the amendment.

We are trying to give discretion to extend the time. I thank the Minister of State for accepting amendment No. 25.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 26 not moved.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 11, before section 10, to insert the following new section:

10.-(1) Notwithstanding section 9, the appellant and the applicant for the licence if he or she is not the appellant shall have a right of reply within 14 days from being given notice of the matter concerned, to any documentation or information furnished by virtue of section 6 or 10, or submissions or observations made under sections 7 to 9.

(2) Where an appellant who is not an applicant for a licence exercises a right pursuant to this section, the applicant shall have a right of final reply within 7 days of being notified of the submissions or observations of the appellant under this section.".

This amendment relates to the right of reply. I thank the Minister for accepting this in the shape of his own amendment.

Yes. This matter is covered in amendments Nos. 27a, 28a and 29a.

This is an unusual Bill.

That is all right, I have two advisers, one on either side of me. One of them is telling me to do this and the other is telling me to do the other.

We thought it was the other way around.

We have four sheets and we are not sure what day of the week it is. We have gone through this thoroughly and I thank the Minister of State for being so forthcoming.

I think the doubling up of amendments stems from the technical problems in delaying the Bill.

We should have a single amended Bill and single list of amendments for Report Stage.

It is confusing.

Other than finance Bills, I have never seen a Bill like this.

New sections are being included in the Bill and this makes it difficult, as the controversial parts of it need to be amended by the Opposition.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 27a:

In page 11, before section 10, to insert the following new section:

10.-Where any submissions or observations are made under section 7, 8 or 9 to an Appeals Officer, he or she shall, as soon as practicable, give a copy of the submissions or observations to-

(a) the appellant, or

(b) where the submissions or observations are made in respect of an application for a licence and the appellant is not the applicant for the licence, the applicant, unless the applicant has made the submissions or observations,

and the appellant or the applicant, as the case may be, may make comment in writing on the submissions or observations to the Appeals Officer not later than 14 days after having been given them.".

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 10.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 11, subsection (2), line 27, after "fails" to insert "without reasonable excuse".

We felt this amendment should be included for the sake of fairness.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 10, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 28a:

In page 11, before section 11, to insert the following new section:

11.-An Appeals Officer shall, as soon as practicable, give a copy of any document, particulars or other information received by him or her undersection 10 to-

(a) the appellant, or

(b) where the document, particulars or other information was submitted under section 10 in respect of an application for a licence and the appellant is not the applicant for the licence, the applicant, unless the applicant has submitted the document, particulars or other information,

and the appellant or the applicant, as the case may be, may make comment in writing on the document, particulars or other information to the Appeals Officer not later than 14 days after having been given the copy.".

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 11.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 11, subsection (1), line 30, to delete "an absolute" and substitute "a".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29a:

In page 11, subsection (2), line 39, after "served," to insert "and any comments duly made on any such submissions or observations under section 10 or on any such documents, particulars or other information under section 11, as the case may be,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 13, subsection (6), line 3, to delete "main".

This was introduced in order to ensure a statement of the reasons. This is also provided for in the Freedom of Information Act. It would be a dilution of fair procedures to retain the word "main".

I do not object to this.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 12 and 13 agreed to.
SECTION 14.

Amendment No. 32 is consequential on amendment No. 31. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 can be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 14, subsection (3), line 9, after "Court" to insert "or Supreme Court".

This amendment would give the discretion to the Supreme Court so that it may decide on a point of law whether it wants to hear the appeal.

This amendment is unacceptable as it would open the possibility of forum shopping. The standard arrangement is for the High Court to decide whether to grant leave of appeal to the Supreme Court. A refusal by the High Court could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 32 not moved.
Section 14 agreed to.
Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
SECTION 17.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 15, subsection (1), to delete line 18.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 15, subsection (1), lines 35 and 36, to delete "(inserted by section 5 of the Act of 1994)".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 18 and 19 agreed to.
SECTION 20.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 17, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) The conservation regulations may also include measures which the Minister may introduce to reduce the bycatch of small cetaceans as a result of the fishing for straddling fish stocks or highly migratory fish stocks. These measures could include:

(a) the allocation of on board independent observers of bycatch on sea-fishing boats as part of a regular monitoring scheme to assess levels of cetacean bycatch in Irish Fisheries on a statistically valid level;

(b) the mandatory use of acoustic deterrents (pingers) on nets for specified fishing methods;

(c) the mandatory use of exclusion separator grids with certain trawling nets;

(d) the mandatory use of designated technologies or materials which would improve the sonar reflective qualities of nets;

(e) the introduction of regulations which would set dolphin mortality caps for certain fisheries based on scientific advice and agreed observer protocols with set reductions in fishing effort being introduced once mortality limits had been exceeded;

(f) as outlined in the European Union Habitats Directive the Minister may identify suitable areas as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) for the harbour porpoise and the bottlenose dolphin where fishing restrictions may be introduced to reduce bycatch;

(g) the Minister may establish an accreditation scheme for those fisheries adopting or providing assistance in researching, cetacean-friendly methods of fishing.”.

This is a substantial, substantive and important amendment. This is an appropriate location to introduce the type of regulations and conservation measures described in this amendment. Given that the dolphin and porpoise species are feeding on the same migratory fish that is the main intent of the Bill, the conservation measures that apply to one species relate to the bycatch issue for porpoises and dolphins. We have a serious problem with bycatch in our fishing industry. The problem does not only relate to the migratory species such as tuna and so on, but to other fishing methods such as gill netting, etc. This issue needs to be addressed and the EU and Commissioner Fischler intend to address it in the near future. It would be appropriate if we were to take the lead for once, rather than being the last country to sign up to conservation measures.

The main intention of the amendment is clear from the wording. There are new technologies that, it is hoped, can have a positive effect in reducing bycatch. The range of measures includes the use of "pingers" in certain trawl nets. The use of more reflective substances in net material to help dolphins and porpoises avoid them is an important long-term development that we will increasingly see being introduced. The most important measure is that we start to get a correct and clear statistical record for what is happening. There is significant controversy regarding the level of by-catch and whether it is sustainable. Records of by-catch associated with certain trawling mechanisms, particularly pair trawling when fishing for tuna, indicate very significant mortality of dolphins and porpoises. In some cases, numerous cetaceans are caught in the one trawl. There is also a belief that the level of by-catch in our gill net fisheries in the Irish Sea and other of our waters has been such that it has resulted in a threat to and reduction in species.

It is important that we start by getting a clear statistical record of the level of by-catch by having mandatory and random monitoring of the fishing fleet. It is essential that we set certain by-catch limits and, if we are approaching these, that the Minister has the ability to place restrictions in certain areas, to set conservation areas and to finally start using the habitats directive, which allows us to set special areas of conservation and to put a halt to fishing in relevant areas for a period to address the by-catch issue. This would benefit the fisheries because it would lead to a restoration of certain species. Many environmentalists argue that there is such a level of by-catch that we are diminishing the species, and it is important to address that.

Many of the provisions here are similar to those recommended in the UK in its recent Government report on recommended developments concerning by-catch. Given that we will be arguing about conservation measures in Europe and at the Commission, it is correct and advantageous for us to be seen to be taking a lead and taking the issue of by-catch seriously. It is appropriate for us to address this in this legislation. If we do not do so now we will not get an opportunity to do so in a timeframe that would be beneficial in terms of getting similar legislation through the Dáil. The timing is right and the Minister has made some amendments at a late stage to introduce significant improvements in the conservation area, for which I commend him. My amendment represents another significant improvement that could be introduced and it leaves the authority to introduce conservation regulations in the hands of the Minister, where appropriate. It does not necessarily set a timeframe but gives him the powers to start doing something, which is an important first step. I hope he will consider accepting the amendment on that basis.

I want to support the principle of the amendment. The issue of by-catch is becoming more topical. We have had lengthy discussions on by-catch at committee with staff of the Department and we have been looking at ways to try to reduce it or, at an absolute minimum, ascertain its extent and the impact it is having on juvenile fish stocks, dolphins, porpoises, etc. We have used this legislation as a way to get a whole raft of fishing related issues into a legislative format. We should look at the opportunity to introduce this also. I agree with Deputy Eamon Ryan that we are unlikely to produce separate legislation specifically to deal with the by-catch issue.

I do not know if the wording of the amendment is acceptable to the Minister. I would like to see a slightly more detailed section on conservation. If the Minister does not refer to the by-catch issue under a section on conservation he is missing a fairly vital point. The idea of an independent observer that can randomly board fishing vessels will be an incentive to ensure that skippers report accurately the level of by-catch they are throwing back. That would be positive and I would be surprised if the industry did not work with the Minister on this because it is also concerned. Whether individual skippers would welcome the measure is a different issue but the industry as a whole would welcome the opportunity to measure by-catch accurately, report it and, if necessary, accept independent observers from the Department.

I support the tenor of the amendment. Very often we leave a lot to regulation when legislating. Given that conservation is so critical, it seems fair to spell out in some detail, as Deputy Eamon Ryan's amendment seeks to do, what we might do about the by-catch of small cetaceans.

As Deputy Eamon Ryan said, Ireland will be attempting to lead the way in Europe in relation to conservation measures to prevent unnecessary by-catches, particularly in the area of technical conservation measures concerning net size, net shape, net technology and materials, and all the other devices that can be added to nets, which are expensive at the moment but which I hope will become the norm over time. If we are to lead that debate in Europe it will add to our credibility if we include in the legislation wording similar to what has been outlined in the amendment.

I fully share the Deputies' concern to reduce the level of by-catch of small cetaceans, which is an international problem requiring effective international actions, both within the EU and beyond. As the recent UK consultation paper emphasised, considerable attention is being given at national and international levels to measures to address the problem. The banning of drift netting for tuna represents a measure of progress but much remains to be done.

The detail of effective controls to be imposed by regulations under section 20 of the Bill in relation to highly valuable and vulnerable fish stocks, including certain cetaceans, has yet to be decided at EU level and beyond but could include some or all of the measures mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e) of the Deputy’s amendment if the considered expert view is that they could be effectively put in place. Other non-regulatory measures may have better prospects of success than some of the technical regulatory ones identified so far in the context of required concerted international actions. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to specify particular technical regulatory measures in section 20 of the Bill. Paragraph (f) is a matter for Dúchas and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, who have the requisite statutory powers. Paragraph (g) is essentially a matter for the fishing industry to pursue as a market initiative.

On the issue of by-catch, the discards are a complex technical problem, especially in mixed fisheries such as those that prevail around Ireland. The level of discarding varies from fishery to fishery. Based on estimates from scientific sampling programmes, the discarding rate is estimated to be typically between 20% to 40% of the main whitefish species, such as cod, haddock and whiting juveniles. Steps are being taken at EU level to tackle the problem and the most recent EU Council of Fisheries Ministers held on 8 April approved the Commission action plan. Some pilot projects are to be started this year to test the effectiveness of a number of possible solutions. Particular areas of interest include the structure of fishing gear, a review of minimum landing sizes, by-catch quotas and the possibility of departure from fishing grounds where large quantities of discarding are occurring. I am strongly supportive of these steps and believe that we will be able to secure improvements in this field when the results of these projects are to hand.

I agree with the Minister of State's comments with regard to the by-catch of other fish species and we are all keen to see the measures that are put in place. This amendment is purely in regard to cetaceans, including porpoises and dolphins. I am glad he recognises this is an important area and that the technical measures outlined here, which reflect what is coming from the US-UK government recommended report on what technical and other measures should be included. I take the point that there may be other non-regulatory or non-technical measures which could have an effect but the Minister of State does not have a problemper se with the measures outlined here. Will the Minister of State consider including these between now and Report Stage? I would be quite happy to see the way he might wish to amend it. I take it from his comments that he does not have a problem as such with technical measures even though it may be a matter for another Minister. I presume one would have to issue a communication or directive to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. Again, I take it from what the Minister of State said that he does not have a problem with the technical measures. Will he agree to proceed with the amendment on that basis?

We would have to be able to prove the measures would work. The EU is looking at this so maybe what the Deputy is talking about is a bit premature. We will look at this again between now and Report Stage but I will not make any commitments today. We mention the list of highly migratory fish species and that includes cetaceans.

I am very keen that the Minister of State gives this serious consideration because it will help our cause. This is a unique legislative opportunity to bring this in. If we do not do so now, we will have to wait for years. I hope the Minister of State will give this serious consideration and I will withdraw the amendment in the meantime.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 20 agreed to.
Sections 21 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 21, after line 40, to insert the following new section:

"PART 5

Foreshore Application and Other Fees

27.-(1) An application for-

(a) a lease under section 2 of the Act of 1933,

(b) a licence under section 3 of that Act,

(c) approval under section 10 of that Act,

(d) a consent under section 13 of that Act, or

(e) an amendment of any such lease, licence, approval or consent,

shall be subject to such fee as the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe.

(2) Every-

(a) approval under section 10 of the Act of 1933, or

(b) consent under section 13 of that Act,

shall be subject to such fee as the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe.

(3) Regulations under this section may provide for fees of different amounts in respect of applications referred to in subsection (1) or approvals or consents referred to in subsection (2) of different categories and in different circumstances.

(4) Where under regulations made under this section a fee is payable in respect of any application referred to in subsection (1) or approval or consent referred to in subsection (2), the application shall not be considered or the approval or consent granted, as the case may be, unless the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is in receipt of the fee.

(5) Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House has sat after the regulation is laid before it, the regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.

(6) Every fee received by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources under this section shall be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance directs.

(7) In this section-

'Act of 1933' means the Foreshore Act 1933;

'prescribe' means prescribe by regulations.".

Amendment agreed to.
SCHEDULE 1.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 22, lines 16 and 17, to delete paragraph (c).

Schedule 1 states that the appeals officer shall vacate his or her office on attaining the age of 65 years. I refer to equality legislation and I do not see why there should be an age limit. In 2005, age discrimination legislation will apply to all positions in the public service and elsewhere. There is a European directive which states that we should not include these age limits in respect of a new position.

We have no objection to the deletion of lines 16 and 17 on page 22 which impose an age limit of 65 years.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 22, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

"5. An Appeals Officer shall make and furnish to the Standards in Public Offices Commission an annual statement regarding his or her interests.".

Amendment No. 38 relates to furnishing a statement of interest to the Standards in Public Offices Commission. The Minister of State dealt with this matter earlier.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 23, after line 50, to insert the following:

"9. The Appeals Officer shall be entitled to an indemnity in respect of proceedings taken against him or her in his or her official capacity.".

This amendment is necessary. If we want an outstanding legal officer to be the appeals officer, we should state in the legislation that he or she shall be entitled to an indemnity in respect of any proceedings taken against him or her in his or her official capacity. The Minister of State should have included that in the legislation as has been done in other appeals legislation.

This amendment is not necessary. The question of an indemnity for an appeals officer is an administrative matter which is more appropriately dealt with in the contract with the appointing Minister.

Should we not include it in the legislation, so we are completely covered?

Our legal advice is that it is not necessary and can be dealt with by the Minister making the appointment.

I thank the Minister of State for accepting amendment No. 37. I will withdraw amendment No. 39.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.
Schedules 2 and 3 agreed to.
TITLE.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 5, line 14, after "AMEND" to insert "AND EXTEND THE FORESHORE ACT 1933,".

Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.