Amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, are related and amendment No. 5 is an alternative to No. 4. We will, therefore, discuss amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill 2000.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, subsection (1), lines 26 and 27, to delete "and Noxious Substances) (Civil Liability and Compensation)" and substitute "Substances) (Compensation)".
The purpose of this amendment is to change the Title of the Bill to make it less cumbersome.
I welcome the Minister of State and I commend him on bringing forward this Bill which has been floating around for the past four years. I do not know when it was last dealt with by the Houses but I cannot recall it being taken during my time as Labour Party spokesperson on marine matters. However, I welcome the fact that Committee Stage is being taken now. I hope we can expedite our deliberations on the Bill because we need to place two international conventions on the Statute Book as soon as possible. Given that these date back to 1996, all haste is necessary.
Amendment No. 1 is designed to tidy up the Title. Amendment No. 2 in my name suggests the substitution of the year "2000" for that of "1998" to take account of more recent legislation. As regards amendment No. 1, I presume our predecessors included the term "Noxious Substances" for a particular reason. I also presume that using only the term "Hazardous Substances" will not weaken the Bill.
I thank the Deputy for his kind words. Amendment No. 1 will not weaken or change the substance of the Bill in any way. It is merely a question of tidying up the Title and making it less cumbersome.
Amendment No. 2, which refers to a change in the Merchant Shipping Acts since this Bill was first introduced, is sensible and I have no difficulty in accepting it.
I welcome the Minister of State and I wish him well in his new brief. Deputy Gallagher knows what he is talking about in this area and has a good knowledge of the fishing industry, which is extremely important. I have been lobbying consistently for a super junior Minister to deal with marine and fishing matters.
I contributed to the Second Stage debate on the Bill in the Dáil. I welcome this legislation because if any area has suffered from pollution at sea by hazardous waste it is the south-west coast. In the past, there were three major oil spills in or around Bantry Bay involving the Kowloon Bridge, the Tribulus — a disaster in which a diver lost his life — and the Ranga, the wreck of which lies off Slea Head. In addition, there is the famous Bardini Reefer, which lies in the middle of the channel between Beare Island and the mainland and which is a hazard to fishermen. I have always advocated that the latter should be broken up and removed. The shipping lanes off the south-west coast, which are even used by traffic from South America, are probably the busiest in Europe.
The Bill is extremely important to places such as Kenmare Bay, Dingle Bay, etc., on the south-west coast. I welcome the thrust of this significant Bill and am glad we are moving forward with it. I do not know when it is proposed to enact it but I hope it will be on the Statute Book before the year is out.
I welcome the Minister of State and congratulate him on his new portfolio. It is important to have somebody who is dealing exclusively with marine matters. Given his experience to date, expectations are high, although I heard him say earlier that he would not like the bar to be set too high. He will have the interests of our island nation at heart, as so many people depend on the sea for their livelihoods. Tourism aspects arise in this context also, along with the ensuing economic benefits that have such a big impact on the country.
I am delighted with the Bill, although it has been in existence since 2000. It is good that the Minister of State is accelerating its progress as quickly as possible and I welcome his commitment in this regard.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, whose record is second to none. I was listening to Tom McSweeney's RTE radio programme "Seascapes", which included listeners' comments. They were all elated that the Minister of State has taken over responsibility for the marine portfolio. As most people have said, he is hard working, committed and dedicated. He knows his subject inside out.
In his previous capacity, the Minister of State approved a new fire station for Granard, for which I thank him. As I deal with inshore matters, I may not be bothering the Minister of State too much in his new role.
Can I mention the fire stations in Ballincollig and Skibbereen?
In County Longford, we have people like Mickey Doherty, whom the Minister of State knows, who is a maritime farmer when the River Camlin floods. Other than that we are an inland area.
We had better stick to the Bill.
We can supply Deputy Kelly with some fish from the sea.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, subsection (2), line 28, to delete "1998" and substitute "2000".
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 5, subsection (2), line 30, after "one" to insert "Act".
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 5, subsection (3), line 32, to delete "1998, and section 29 may be cited” and substitute “2003, and section 29 may be cited together”.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 2, after "Bank" where it secondly occurs to insert "and Financial Services Authority".
The amendment seeks to update the definition of the Central Bank by changing the wording to read "by virtue of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority".
Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 27, 28 and 29 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 6, subsection (1), between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:
"‘Council Regulation' means Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters;".
This is the amendment with the typographical error to which I referred at the start of the meeting. The amendment should read:
‘Council Regulation' means Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/20011 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters;
1O.J. L12 of 16.1.2001, p.1.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
What is the import of this amendment?
The purpose of the amendment is to insert a new definition in the Bill. This is necessary in light of amendments to sections 18 and 19 and the introduction of a new section 23, as set out in amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 29. It means that any legislation giving effect to the Bill, once enacted, would have to refer to European Directive 44/2001. I can flesh that out further when we deal with amendment No. 27 or, if the Chairman allows me to explain it now, I would be only too pleased to do so. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform requested the insertion of this amendment, which states that "this section shall not apply to a judgment of a court of an EU member state, unless it is a court or a tribunal of a territory of a member state to which the Council regulation does not apply". In simple language, that covers all countries except Denmark which, because of its accession agreement in 1973, is not included. This follows the adoption by the European Union in December 2000, after the publication of the Bill, of regulation 44/2001 on jurisdiction of the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.
Articles 38, 39 and 40 of the convention concern the recognition and enforcement of judgments. In November 2002, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council authorised member states to ratify or accede to the convention, subject to making a declaration on this matter. In brief, Council Regulation 44/2001 applies to EU member states other than Denmark. As I explained, that was part of Denmark's accession agreement in 1973.
Section 18 applies to all other parties to the convention. It was as a result of a recommendation by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that it was necessary for me to bring forward this amendment.
I get the general drift. It is becoming difficult because we are beginning to get European legislation at this committee, which is fairly complex. One would be fearful that an EU regulation or directive might exist which we have not taken into account when dealing with certain legislation. The Minister of State seems to have dealt with this matter fairly and squarely. In that regard it is right to agree to the amendment.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 6, subsection (1), after line 45, to insert the following:
"‘Member State' means a Member State of the European Community (other than the State and Denmark);".
The Danes obviously obtained an exemption. Does that mean they took a tougher line? While the conventions did not exist in 1973, does it mean the Danes have a better deal in maritime affairs? The Minister of State will probably be browned off listening to all of us by the time the next general election occurs but we feel the playing pitch for Ireland was a very bad one. Does it mean that the Danes have a different maritime regime? Denmark is not in the eurozone, so is this another such example, or is it just that it had a stronger regime?
It was part of Denmark's accession agreement. However, it does not mean that, as far as pollution is concerned, the legislation and regulations do not concern the Danes. I am told it relates to the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. While they were not included in Regulation No. 44/2001 and were excluded at the time of the concession, that does not mean that the position is any less cumbersome for them.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 7, subsection (1), line 1, to delete "the" where it secondly occurs and substitute "Communications,".
Amendment No. 11 is an alternative to amendment No. 10 and they may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 7, lines 44 to 46 and in page 8, lines 1 to 4, to delete all words from and including ", and " in line 44 down to and including "operation" in line 4.
Section 4, as drafted, seeks to create what is known as a Henry VIII provision. However, Article 15.2 of the Constitution provides that the sole and exclusive power of making laws is hereby vested in the Oireachtas. The section seeks to confer a power on a Minister which will allow him to make regulations which would amend an Act, which is fundamentally wrong. Does the Minister of State agree with that?
The intention of the Oireachtas is to give effect to the 1996 convention. The purpose of the section is to enable the Minister by regulation to remove any difficulty in achieving that. Normally we would not provide for an amendment in primary legislation by secondary legislation, but in this context it is clear what is the intention of the Oireachtas and the principle and policy is set out in the section. The British-Irish Agreement Act of 1999 contained a similar provision. I raised the question the Deputy asked when I was briefing myself on the legislation, namely, if this was necessary. There is no ulterior motive behind it. It is simply a safeguard measure. While it is a standard provision in legislation, we have ensured that it runs out after three years. After a three-year period it will no longer be effective. I hope that is a compromise between what I suggest and what the Deputy proposes.
The High Court decisions in the Mulcreevy and Liu Chang cases earlier in the year should have focused the minds of the Minister and his officials as to the danger in proceeding along the Henry VIII route, as such. I acknowledge what the Minister of State said about the three-year timescale. Does he have any discretion in this regard between now and Report Stage?
It is very much a standard provision which was introduced by the Parliamentary Counsel. It is intended to enable account be taken of any deficiencies that come to light in the legislation. I cannot go against the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel. If it was proposed that this position would continue in perpetuity, I would have to reconsider it. It is a reasonable compromise between what the Deputy proposes, namely, that we immediately bring this measure into effect and the proposal regarding the three-year timescale.
The Minister of State is in that way allowing for account to be taken of any imperfection in the Bill. Does he expect a situation to arise in three years' time that would warrant this measure?
I do not anticipate such a situation, but one cannot gaze into a crystal ball and predict the future. We do not anticipate any situation, but the measure is a safeguard.
I respect fully what the Minister of State is saying. He proposes a derogation of three years in this regard. Will it be automatically removed at that time or will it require direction to do so? Who will remove it in three years' time?
It will fall automatically. If we want to introduce any changes at that time, that will have to be done by way of primary legislation. The provision, in effect, withers.
It does not require primary legislation to remove it in three years' time?
The Labour Party had the same concern as that articulated by Deputy Perry. This is the type of provision one would prefer not to be in primary legislation. It means, effectively, that one could not introduce another section or provision. It is effectively the Minister of State's interpretation of how the provision can be most effectively implemented. We might reconsider on Report Stage what is proposed in amendment No. 11. I will withdraw my amendment.
To allay any fears that this would be done by order, the intention would not be that it would alter the substance of the Bill or that there would be any major changes. If members want to tease out this matter at a later stage, we can do that.
In light of what Deputy Broughan has, that we might reconsider what is proposed in amendment No. 11 on Report Stage and given that I respect from where the Minister of State is coming, I will withdraw my amendment.
Amendment No. 12 is consequential on amendment No. 23. Therefore, amendments Nos. 12 and 23 can be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 8, subsection (1)(a), line 16, after “section” to insert “9 or”.
The amendment is connected to amendment No. 23. Amendment No 12 is intended to make specific provision to punish those who deliberately dump waste from the bilge of a ship into the ocean. A bilge is a receptacle that stores waste material from oil, diesel and so on and leaks of such material often occur. If such a leak occurs, the captain may decide to simply empty the contents of the bilge into the ocean. This happens very rarely but with Ireland holding 12% of the total waters of the EU and given that our policing capability is somewhat restricted, this could be an issue. The new section proposed in amendment No. 23 will require the master of the ship to seek permission of a Minister or his or her officials before discharging what is contained in a bilge. If such contents are dumped, that would constitute committing an offence. We are taking about sea pollution. Having checked replies to questions tabled on this issue, I believe the Department would be supportive of this proposal. The new section proposed might not be drafted as well as it could be, but I would be open to advice from departmental officials on how it could be best perfected. This is a pertinent issue.
Deputy Perry has been vigilant in this area. If one considers the Bill in isolation, what the Deputy suggested would make sense. However, the Bill deals with materials such as liquefied gases, corrosive acids, volatile chemicals and certain solid materials. It does not include the materials to which the Deputy referred. They are dealt with in the Sea Pollution Act 1991. If an incident, such as the one to which the Deputy referred, occurred, that would be covered by section 10 of the Act, which deals with prohibiting the discharge of oil and other substances into the sea. If the Deputy was to read that Act and this Bill in tandem, he would find that what he proposes is adequately covered.
In the 1991 Act?
In section 10 of the Sea Pollution Act 1991.
Will it be possible on Report Stage to incorporate some of the provisions of that Act into the Bill because when dealing with the pollution cases people often only read the most recent enactments by the Oireachtas? Such provision would put down a marker regarding the issue of pollution.
By all means I will look at that, but I draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the necessary aspects of the 1991 Act are included in the Bill.
I thank the Minister of State for his approach to this matter. Currently, the captain has discretionary powers to empty the bilge without permission, although it may happen rarely. Is he in breach of the law in doing that?
He is in breach of the law under the 1991 Act.
This will be important legislation. Is there any way that interpretation in the 1991 Act could be incorporated in this legislation to give an inference to that effect?
Some aspects of the 1991 Act are incorporated in this Bill. Without giving the Deputy any commitment, if it would strengthen it in any way I will examine that between now and Report Stage.
It would be important, in terms of connectivity, for people reading the Bill because it would signify that the important pollution at sea aspect of the 1991 legislation was incorporated in this legislation. Will the Minister come back to me on that?
I will have a look at it.
I thank the Minister.
Amendment No. 13 is in the name of Deputy Perry. Amendment No. 14 is an alternative to amendment No. 13, amendment No. 16 is an alternative to amendment No. 15, amendment No. 18 is an alternative to amendment No. 17, and amendment No. 20 is an alternative to amendment No. 19. Is it agreed to discuss amendments Nos. 13 to 20, inclusive, together? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 8, subsection (1)(a)(i), line 19, to delete “£1,500” and substitute “€3,000”.
I believe the Minister intends to accept this amendment.
We have tabled the same amendment. Obviously, I accept it. Amendment No. 15 reads:
In page 8, subsection (1)(a)(ii), line 22, to delete “£1,000,000” and substitute “€1,270,000”.
This amendment comes about as a result of our conversion to the euro.
On the conversion rate, it is clear the Minister did a straight conversion from punts to euro but despite the fact that legislation on this area has been on the Statute Book for nearly five years, it appears this Bill does not take account of inflation.The Minister simply did a straight conversion, is that right?
It is, yes, but the same could be said with regard to many items of legislation. Much of it is a snapshot in time, so to speak. Two wrongs do not make a right but if we examine past legislation, some of the fines contained therein are quite low. It is my understanding, however, that it is the intention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to introduce a fines Bill, which would increase all fines across the board.
In all Departments?
That is my understanding from my time in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
We had a similar discussion recently when Deputy Perry's colleague, Deputy O'Keeffe — I represented our party on that occasion — spoke during Private Members' time about fines and so on. An interesting development that arose from that discussion was on the impact of fines. The figure of €3,500 came up in that discussion. The figure at subsection (1)(a)(ii), line 22 of this Bill is €1,270,000 and given the level of capitalisation of a company, that could be a reasonably minor fine. If a company with a turnover of hundreds of millions of euro causes severe pollution, on which a civil case may have proceeded, and if a state takes action that fine could be regarded as a slap on the wrist. It is always difficult to know the level at which to pitch these fines. Last week, we dealt with the Road Traffic Bill and given some of the offences outlined in that legislation, I thought the fines provided for were too low. It is important that fines are pitched at a level that will have an impact on people who are responsible for these incidents.
Will the Minister give some clarification with regard to the level of fines? There is an outcry that the level of fines for illegal fishing are considerably higher in this jurisdiction than in other member states. I am astonished that there is not uniformity of fines for similar offences in other member states. There is a massive difference in that regard. Are the fines in this Bill comparable to those in other member states?
I do not have a comparable table but the advice from the Parliamentary Counsel is that this fine is adequate. The proposed fines Bill will provide for a pro rata increase across the board.
The Deputy mentioned illegal fishing. I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss that problem. No one would disagree with the Deputy that there should be commonality in terms of the fines but——
People can be criminalised in many ways with regard to fines and that can have an effect on their livelihoods, which would not be the case in other member states. Does the Minister have any plans to harmonise the fines with those in other member states? In other words, will there be equality of treatment for people in breach of the law and will stricter or more lenient situations prevail?
There has to be uniformity across the board. That is something we will examine in the medium term. There is no disagreement on this area. The penalty should always fit the crime, although that does not always happen. It can work the opposite way as well. As Deputy Broughan said, it can be a mere slap on the wrist depending on the size of the company. Sanctions relating to pollution offences are being discussed at European Union level and I would like to think there will be uniformity, regardless of how quickly it will come into effect.
That is good.
Given that we are primarily talking about insurance offences, would the HNS fund established under the convention have the kind of resources to cover what might be incredible damage to the marine and coastal environment where a ship owner or master has behaved disgracefully and does not have insurance?
As far as insurance is concerned, there are two tiers to that. The first tier is that there would be a claim against the vessel. The fund has been established from payments of those who are importing such substances into the various countries, including our own. The maximum insurance payment under SDRs, special drawing rights, is €320 million, depending on the damage. This country is quite vulnerable. We are a maritime state. We are the only island that does not have any connection to mainland Europe. That figure of €320 million is topped up after tier one is paid out by the insurance company. If there is a further requirement, the fund will pay that.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 8, subsection (1)(a)(ii), line 22, to delete "€1,000,000" and substitute "€1,270,000".
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 8, subsection (1)(b)(i), line 27, to delete "€1,500" and substitute "€3,000".
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 8, subsection (1)(b)(ii), line 30, to delete "€10,000" and substitute "€13,000".
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 8, subsection (2), line 33, to delete "this Act" and substitute "section 16”.
In regard to amendment No. 22 what will be the impact of section 13 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1967 which will be inserted after section 7(2) and will become a new subsection (3)?
The amendment inserts a new subsection (3) which provides for the penalties set out in subsection (1)(b)(i) of this section to apply to offences under the Act other than section 16.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 8, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) Section 13 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1967 shall apply in relation to an offence under this Act (other than section 16) as if, in lieu of the penalties specified in subsection (3)(a) of that section, there were specified there in the penalties provided for in subsection (1)(b)(i), and the reference in subsection (2)(a) of the said section 13 to the penalties provided for by subsection (3) shall be construed and have effect accordingly.”.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 9, subsection (1), line 19, after "Article 48" to insert "in so far as it relates to paragraph 1 of Article 9".
Perhaps the Minister would explain the amendment.
The purpose of this amendment is to allow the convention, other than article 48 in so far as it relates to paragraph 1 of Article 9 of the convention, to have the force of law in the State. Article 48 of the convention involves a tacit amendment procedure in relation to limits. This amendment has the effect of allowing the tacit amendment procedure to apply in respect of the second tier, to which I have referred, of the liability and compensation system which is the hazardous noxious substances fund. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has advised that revision of the limits in the first tier should be effected by an Act of the Oireachtas as it affects the exposure of payment of individuals. In short, the first tier is the ship owner's investment or the P & I. The second tier is funded by the contributions of the importers of the substances. The tacit amendment procedure in the convention allows the thresholds of conventions to be revised without amending the convention. If it is to be in the first tier it will require legislation but if it is in the second tier it can be done by amendment. That seems to make much practical sense. Any changes to the first tier will require primary legislation — we are not seeking any orders or secondary legislation — and any changes to the second can be made by the tacit amendment procedure.
In the second tier does this mean that the contracting parties and the executive can increase the 6% or whatever?
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 12, subsection (3), line 21, to delete "only".
This is a drafting amendment.
What does it mean? Subsection (3) provides that a convention action shall be brought in the High Court. Could it be brought in a District Court?
The amendment ensures that it must be brought in the High Court. It clears any ambiguity that is there.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 12, subsection (3)(c), line 33, to delete “aginst” and substitute “against”.
This amendment is to correct a spelling mistake.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 13, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) This section shall not apply to a judgment of a court of a Member State (other than a court or tribunal of a territory of a Member State to which the Council Regulation does not apply).".
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 13, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) This section shall not apply to a judgment of a court of a Member State (other than a court or tribunal of a territory of a Member State to which the Council Regulation does not apply).".
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 14, before section 23, to insert the following new section:
23.—The Council Regulation and the European Communities (Civil and Commercial Judgments) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 52 of 2002) shall apply in respect of a judgment of a court or tribunal of a Member State (other than a court or tribunal of a territory of a Member State to which the Council regulation does not apply).
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 15, subsection (4)(d), line 17, to delete “she” where it firstly occurs and substitute “her”.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 15, subsection (1), line 33, after "who" to insert "reasonably".
Where an inspector, in exercise of the powers conferred under the conventions by this Bill, detains a ship he would have to reasonably suspect that an offence was committed. I am proposing the amendment for two reasons. First, under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, there is a requirement that any arrest must be grounded upon reasonable suspicion as opposed to mere suspicion.
Second, there is a contradiction in the Bill between sections 24(1) and 23(3). Under section 23(3) an inspector cannot exercise his functions under that provision on the basis of mere suspicion or even reasonable suspicion. He must have reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed which, clearly, is a much higher test than either suspicion or reasonable suspicion. Therefore, it does not make sense and it is contradictory for mere suspicion to be a sufficient basis for arresting individuals and-or ships under section 24(1). To make the Bill as fair as possible I suggest that the word "reasonably" be inserted.
The advice available to me from the Parliamentary Counsel is that the definition of the word "reasonably" is unnecessary, that section 23(3) provides that an inspector may only detain a ship where he has reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has committed. By the time section 24 applies the "reasonably" requirement has been fulfilled at that stage. The purpose of section 24 is to enable the court to make a determination in relation to the continued detention of the ship so the application may be made by any inspector. It does not have to be made by the inspector who initially detained the ship. I appreciate the case being made Deputy Broughan but I hope he can accept the explanation.
I see how the Minister of State is indicating. I shall withdraw the amendment but I may come back to it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 127, subsection (2), line 34, to delete "subsection" and substitute "subsection".
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for attending today's session. There are two other matters for the committee to consider.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for expediting the legislation and for the co-operative manner in which it was taken through this committee.
I concur with Deputy Broughan. I thank the Minister and his officials for their support since my appointment as spokesperson on the marine and for giving me some background information on several issues which I appreciate.
Does this committee have a convenor?
Yes, a new convenor, Deputy Fitzpatrick, has been appointed.
I thank the committee and particularly the Opposition spokespersons for their co-operation. I congratulate Deputy Perry on his appointment as spokesperson. He and Deputy Broughan can be assured of our full co-operation. I realise the importance of the Bill which has taken some time to get here. Hopefully, with the co-operation of the Whips, we can deal with Report Stage as soon as possible and have the Bill enacted. It will not come into operation until 18 months after it is enacted. The clock does not start until then and the sooner we can do this the better.
We got a note from the Department designating all the maritime matters of which the Minister of State has taken control. Is the Minister of State a super junior? Could he sit in at the Cabinet and ask, for example, for the emergency towing vessel, a matter I have raised a couple of times with the Taoiseach? Can he do that in the current situation?
All sides of the House have asked for the marine Department to be a separate Department. Marine issues have a much greater impact on this country than, say, defence and, perhaps, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Has any step been taken to give the marine a Cabinet place?
All the functions pertaining to the old Department of the Marine have been designated to me. The Government approved the recommendation of the Minister at its meeting on Tuesday last or the previous Tuesday. I have responsibility for that area. As regards the salary I do not know if there is any difference. If at any time the Cabinet requires my advice I will always be available.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for attending today's session. We look forward to engaging with him again on different issues of concern to both of us.