Amendments Nos. 2 and 14 are cognate with amendment No. 1. Consequently I suggest that we debate those three amendments together, having separate decisions if necessary.
Local Government (Water Pollution) Bill, 1976 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 2, line 16, to delete "1974" and substitute "1976".
The enactment of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1976, which became law following the passing of this Bill by the Seanad necessitates the amendment of the collective citation of the Fisheries Acts where it occurs in sections 1 and 3 of the Bill. These three amendments provide accordingly.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 2, line 18, to delete "1974" and substitute "1976".
Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 7 are consequential on amendment No. 3 and No. 50 is related also. Therefore I suggest that we take these amendments together with provision for separate decisions if required.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 2, to delete lines 22 to 28, and substitute the following: "‘local authority' (except in section 25 (5) (b)), means—
(a) in the case of the administrative county of Dublin, excluding the borough of Dún Laoghaire, the council of the county of Dublin,
(b) in the case of the borough of Dún Laoghaire, the corporation of the borough,
(c) in the case of a county borough, the corporation of the county borough, and
(d) in the case of any other administrative county, the council of the county,
and, where the context permits, includes a water quality control authority established under section 25, and references to the functional area of a local authority shall be construed accordingly;".
I have put down amendments Nos. 3, 7 and 50 in order to give effect to the intention of Deputy Dockrell's amendments Nos. 4 and 5 which relate to the inclusion of Dún Laoghaire Corporation in the definition of local authority in section 1. I would point out that the Deputy's amendments would not achieve this objective fully. I am sure that in the circumstances Deputy Dockrell will be prepared to withdraw the amendments.
I accept that there are many precedents for grouping the Borough of Dún Laoghaire for various purposes with the four county boroughs and I see no objection to making similar provision in this case. Amendment No. 3 provides accordingly. Amendments Nos. 7 and 50, which deal respectively with the definition of "reserved function" and expences are consequential amendments of a purely technical nature.
I do not understand why there should be specific provision for Dún Laoghaire. Is it not covered by "county borough"?
It is the borough of Dún Laoghaire and is different from a county borough.
Is there any other borough in the country which is not a county borough but which has the status of Dún Laoghaire?
Why not include Drogheda?
It is included in a peculiar way. Dún Laoghaire Borough covers its own area while Drogheda is covered by Louth County Council so that there is no necessity for providing for Drogheda. There is a difference in size as well as everything else.
While I appreciate that there is no problem with Drogheda or with any of the other boroughs in this respect, I understood that Dún Laoghaire was known always to be a county borough and consequently would be included under the specific provision in that area which refers to county boroughs.
Dún Laoghaire is in a very different position from other boroughs and urban districts. Its population—53,171 in 1971—is 65 per cent greater than that of Waterford County Borough and is almost as large as Limerick. Dún Laoghaire Corporation provide practically all the local government services in the borough and in some instances provide a service for a large area of the county—for example, the fire service. Virtually no services are provided by Dublin County Council in the borough. This is borne out by the fact that the amount of county at large charges contributed by Dún Laoghaire Corporation is very small. It amounted to slightly more than 1 per cent of the total revenue expenditure in 1973-74 compared with an average of more than 27 per cent for all other boroughs and urbans. It will be seen, then, that there are special circumstances affecting Dún Laoghaire. It is almost a separate entity and for that reason it was decided to make a separate case for it.
We have no objection to that. I merely wished to be told what was the situation. What is the position in regard to the city of Dublin?
Strangely enough, it is a county borough.
Amendment No. 37 is consequential on amendment No. 6. I suggest that the two amendments be debated together.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 2, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
"‘monitoring' includes inspection, measurement, sampling or analysis, whether periodically or continuously;".
The term "monitoring" which is used in sections 4 (5) (b), 16 (4) (b) and 22 (1) (a) of the Bill is open to a number of interpretations and it is considered necessary to define it. The definition proposed by amendment No. 6 includes the various activities, such as inspection, measurement, sampling and analysis, coming within the meaning of the term as used in the Bill in relation to water pollution.
Why since we are defining the word "monitoring" do we not define it in toto? Is there any reason for this? It states here that monitoring includes such activities as inspection, measurement, sampling and analysis, whether periodically or continuously. The word “includes” indicates that there is something else involved. I am wondering whether the Minister is depending on the definition of the word “monitoring” in some other Act.
The word "monitoring" is taken as having the normal meaning but some people might argue that the words we are including in this amendment might not be included in the normal meaning. In order to prevent any misunderstanding it was decided that those words should be included. The draftsman, no more than ourselves, has not been able to think of any other wording which would be considered necessary to include here. We are merely ensuring that there will be no loopholes.
It seems strange that we are interpreting certain words in this way.
There is nothing unusual in this. In a number of previous Acts interpretations have been added to words in order to ensure their inclusion.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 2, line 43, after "a county" to insert "or the Corporation of Dún Laoghaire".
I note here that the word "person" is used in a number of instances, for example, in section 3, subsection (1).
We are dealing with section 1.
I am referring to the possibility of the need for a definition of "person". Section 3 says:
Subject to subsection (5), a person shall not cause or permit any polluting matter to enter waters.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence . . .
The same applies to section 4, section 5 and so on. What does "person" mean here? Does "person" mean more than an individual? Could it mean a corporate body or a statutory body? Is there a need in section 1 for a definition of the word "person"?
I would refer Deputy Faulkner to the legal interpretation in the Interpretation Act, 1937.
The word "person" shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be construed as importing a body corporate (whether a corporation aggregate or a corporation sole) and an unincorporated body of persons as well as an individual.
Do I take it that interpretation applies in this Bill irrespective of the fact that that interpretation does not appear in this Bill?
Board of conservators is interpreted as meaning a board of conservators under the Fisheries Act, 1959 to 1974 and includes the Foyle Fisheries Commission. In the event of a board of conservators being dissolved, which is the present position in some areas in this country, do we take it that those who are acting on behalf of the board of conservators are included here?
If it was intended to do that, an Act would have to be passed in this House and provision would have to be made in the Act to provide for that.
Do we take it that whoever would be acting on the part of the board of conservators is included here?
In the definition of "polluting matter" is "recreational uses" broad enough? Would it include swimming?
Recreational uses would include swimming naturally.
It includes all forms of recreation?
Yes. "Polluting matter" includes any poisonous or noxious matter and any matter which would render the water harmful or detrimental to public health or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or recreational uses. Recreational uses would include swimming. The main significance of the term as used in the Bill relates to the prohibition in section 3 on causing or permitting any polluting matter to enter waters. This prohibition will have fairly limited application. It will not apply to trade or sewage effluent. The term is also used in sections 12, 13 and 14.
I was mainly concerned that the word "recreational" should be absolutely clear. I am glad to hear that it covers all forms of recreation including swimming.
I cannot understand how it would not cover swimming. The Deputy can be assured that it includes all forms of recreation.
I note here that
"tidal waters" includes the sea and any estuary up to high water mark medium tide and any enclosed dock adjoining tidal waters.
It is a pity that the responsibility in relation to this whole question of water pollution is divided. I know that is not the Minister's fault. A Bill came before the Seanad recently in relation to pollution at sea. It is a pity that we should have a situation where we are dealing with all inland waters plus the coastal waters, estuaries and so on but that another Minister is dealing with the question of pollution at sea. When this Bill on sea water pollution was issued, there was no explanatory memorandum and everybody immediately assumed that it was a matter for me on this side of the House.
I cannot agree with Deputy Faulkner. The Minister for Transport and Power will only deal with discharges from vessels at sea and the responsibility for discharges from pipes and anything on land will be the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. "Tidal waters" has been defined and the main significance of the definition is to define a line below which discharges from vessels and marine structures will be excluded from the general prohibition in section 3. It would be a pity if we did not define the responsibility of the two Ministers. The Bill deals with the matter very adequately.
I am not concerned with the definition. I accept that it is all right. I am concerned with the fact that the responsibility should be divided. When the Bill in relation to pollution at sea was introduced in the Seanad, it was immediately assumed on this side of the House that it was also the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. We had felt that the problems in regard to the purity of water and pollution of water should be the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. I have no real objection to the definition.
I would not like Deputy Faulkner to get the impression or to give the impression that there was some sort of derogation of duty on the part of either Minister in this case. The matter is very clearly defined and it is my responsibility as laid down in the Act. The other Bill to which the Deputy has referred deals very clearly with an entirely different matter and while there is co-ordination between the two Departments this is not the only thing in which there has to be delineation between the local government authority and the transport and power authority on many matters dealing with the sea. The arrangements made in this and in the other Bill are more than adequate to ensure that nobody will escape.
I was basically concerned with the fact that I felt that this whole question of pollution of water should be the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government or of one Minister. We can agree to differ on that. Were EEC regulations in relation to monitoring taken into consideration when the definition was prepared?
This Bill will give us the power to implement EEC regulations.
Is the Minister including Dún Laoghaire Borough in this?
Yes. Dún Laoghaire is included. I put in a special amendment in relation to Dún Laoghaire Borough.
Amendment No. 9 is an alternative to amendment No. 8 and therefore, these two amendments may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 4, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following subsection:
"(8) The Council shall in each year make a report to the Minister of its activities during the preceding year, and the Minister shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas."
I put down this amendment to meet as far as I can amendment No. 9. It proposes that the Water Pollution Advisory Council be required to make a report to the Minister each year of its activities in the preceding year and that the Minister shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. A procedure on these lines is the more usual one adopted in regard to reports by bodies of this nature. I trust that the amendment is acceptable to Deputies J. O'Leary and Faulkner and will enable them to withdraw amendment No. 9.
The Minister has come more than half way to meet our amendment with his, but he should include in his amendment the word "recommendation". The amendment then would read: "The Council shall in each year make a report to the Minister of its activities during the preceding year and its recommendations . . . ". In any annual report there should be more than statistics and figures and a summary of the workings of the committee of the council for the previous year. It should also include any recommendations which that council or committee make during the previous year. In other words, if there is to be any informed discussion as a result of an annual report that report should include the recommendations made by the council.
We are, perhaps, playing a bit with words. I understand what Deputy O'Leary is trying to do but a report must include recommendations. Apart from its departure from the usual formula in regard to the reports by such bodies, amendment No. 9 is unduly specific in regard to publication of recommendations of the council. It might inhibit the council from making recommendations if they had to be published in full. There is even the possibility that the Minister might find himself in a situation where he might have to consider not referring certain matters to the council; which would be unfortunate.
If an advisory body is to be useful it is best that full and frank exchanges of views should be the rule. Deputies will agree with this. If a specific requirement regarding recommendations is omitted, there will still be every likelihood that the council will give information in their report as to the recommendations since that would form an important part of their activities. I cannot see how they could make the report without including in it recommendations which they felt should be made. I would expect that recommendations of general public interest would be adequately covered. Some discretion should be left to the council, and in view of the composition of the council and the wide range of interests involved, I do not think that we need have any fear that their activities will not be adequately covered if they are required to produce an annual report.
I ask the Deputies not to press the point because I feel that those concerned are all intelligent people; they know what they were set up for and if they are doing their job, and I believe they are doing it well, they will include any recommendations they consider necessary in the report and that will be available. Therefore, I feel it is adequately covered.
I agree with Deputy J. O'Leary that the Minister has come a considerable way to meet the point we made. I take it that we can expect that the recommendations, or at least some information in relation to the recommendations, will be made available in any report to the Minister which will be laid before the House.
It is well that the activities of the advisory council will be in the public eye. The fact that they will be in the public eye will be a spur to the council's activities. More important still, it would be very helpful to many of the bodies concerned about water pollution if they had access to the research and, to an extent, to the recommendations made by the council. This would help the activities of such bodies very considerably, firstly, by assisting them to protect the environment through the expert knowledge which would be made available to them. Also, and this is very important, the council's reports would give an opportunity to such bodies to assess in a factual rather than in an emotional way the dangers or otherwise to water supplies related to industrial development. At a time when we have such considerable numbers of people unemployed, it is vital that we should not lose an industry to purely emotional considerations. In those circumstances and in view of what the Minister has said about the likelihood of recommendations being available in the report which would be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, we will withdraw our amendment and accept the Minister's.
I thank the Deputies.
I would regard the advisory council, as I am sure the Minister does, as a very important element in assisting in the control of water pollution. They would be expected to bring what I might term a new dimension to the advice being offered to the Minister. They will not be part of the civil service who normally advise him, nor will they be part of the purely professional individuals or groups who might be involved. That does not mean that we would be satisfied with a body of well-meaning amateurs who would regard it as their function simply to note and accept the suggestions, proposals or actions of the Minister and add a few innocuous pieces of advice. There is nothing wrong with the well-meaning. In fact, it is of considerable advantage to have people involved in this council who are and who have been deeply concerned with the enormous problems presented by water pollution.
Nor, indeed, is there anything wrong with them being amateurs at the outset. If this body are to do the very important work laid down for them and to give advice which will make a mark on water pollution problems, they must have every opportunity to develop their expertise and to have up-to-date knowledge and information on water pollution problems. Therefore, I would urge that every facility should be made available to the council to acquire the requisite knowledge and expertise so that their advice will be well-informed and useful.
I should like to know what the present temporary council are doing in this regard. I should like to know what facilities are available to them. Have they got a headquarters? How many times have they met? What contacts have they got with similar bodies abroad? Are they in contact with the Council of Europe, a body who have taken a particular interest in the whole question of water pollution, as well they might, because the problems facing many of our partners in the EEC in relation to water pollution are much greater than, fortunately, we have had to face to date? There is a lot to be learned from the activities not only of our partners in the EEC but also the activities of the members of the Council of Europe in relation to this matter.
A considerable amount of worth-while documentation is available to anybody who is interested. I have no doubt the advisory council will be in touch with them. I should also like to know whether or not any links have been forged between the advisory council and any similar type of body either in the EEC or in Britain. Some time ago we learned that salmon were being caught again in the Thames which had been so polluted that there was no fish life in it for a considerable number of years. Anything the British have learned in relation to this matter would be helpful to us in our endeavours to ensure that our waters are not polluted.
As I said, we are very fortunate that as yet the problem is relatively small and I emphasise the word "relatively". In this technological age with the development of industry and with the extended use of various fertilisers in the agricultural sphere we are becoming more and more in danger of pollution. We are fortunate in having the opportunity now of being able to forestall the type of problems which almost destroyed some waters in Britain and in Europe.
I should also like to know whether the council will have the right to call on expert knowledge at home, whether they are building a library to facilitate them in their work, and whether publications are available to them from abroad. As I said, the council are exceptionally important. I am pleased to note that their raison d'etre will be to devise means by which our waters can not only be cleaned but that cleanliness can be maintained. In this technological age this is an extremely important matter in relation to the health of our people.
Much will be expected from the advice tendered by this council to the Minister. I wish them well. They have a very important task ahead of them. I have no doubt they will carry out that task. It will be impossible for them to do so unless they are given the full backing, financial and otherwise, they will need. Both through publications and by going abroad themselves, they will have an opportunity of reviewing the methods which have proved successful in some instances.
I am sure Deputy Faulkner is aware that the Water Pollution Advisory Council, on an informal basis in advance of this legislation, were set up by me with the approval of the Government. Their inaugural meeting was held on 7th February, 1975. There is very wide representation on the council. During the preparation of this Bill they were very useful and most helpful in their advice. They have headquarters at the Custom House, Dublin. The necessary staff are provided by the Department of Local Government. Any publications they may require are made available to them. Any research they have required so far—and I should imagine in the future—has been provided, in the main, by the bodies represented on the council.
We have on the council the Confederation of Irish Industry, Bord Fáilte, the IFA, the National Youth Council, the Department of Local Government, the County and City Managers Association, the Trout Anglers Federation, the National Science Council, An Foras Forbartha, the Department of Health, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, the General Council of County Councils, the Inland Fisheries Trust, the Electricity Supply Board, the Office of Public Works, An Foras Talúntais, the Department of Education, the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers, the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland, the Department of Fisheries, the Pharmaceutical Chemical and Allied Industries Association, An Taisce, the Institute of Biology of Ireland, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and the Industrial Development Authority.
I do not think there could be wider representation than that. They represent practically all that could be fitted into a reasonable council. They have been doing a good job. In the circumstances I cannot see where the fears Deputy Faulkner seems to have arise. On the question of travelling abroad, I do not think that arises at present. We will meet it if it does. Any information required can be obtained. Any documentation or books or publications they require can be made available. They co-operate with the Northern Ireland Council and attend meetings, as the Northern Ireland people attend meetings of the council in the Republic. That is the proper way to deal with this matter. They are doing a good job and they will continue to do a good job.
On the question of the salmon caught in the Thames, while I believe there has been a vast improvement, that is one salmon which has been caught so many times that it must be a little bit stale now.
I thought it was a trout.
I even heard it described as a minnow on one occasion. If there is any fish life in that river it is a good sign. I hope our people will be able to ensure that fish will be caught again in some of the rivers and lakes which have become pretty bad. They are improving and I am hoping that, within the next few years, we will be able to catch fish in any of our rivers and lakes.
From the Minister's reply he appears to think I am being critical of the council.
That is the impression I got.
I am very far from being critical of them. My purpose, and rightly so, is to ensure that whatever expertise is required by the council is made available to them and that the facilities which I have no doubt they will need are also made available to them. One of the most serious problems facing humanity today is the whole question of water pollution. It is such that we, who are in the fortunate situation that, relatively speaking, our problem is not as bad as it is in other more industrially developed countries, should ensure that nothing is spared to help a council such as this to provide the advice which is vitally essential to ensure that our water would not be polluted. It is not good enough to say that this council will have within themselves the means by which advice can be given; in other words, that they would have within themselves the expertise and basic knowledge which would be essential in a matter like this. There is no doubt that they will be able to provide quite a considerable amount of information that will be helpful to the Minister; nevertheless a certain expertise is essential which is available from areas where very serious water pollution obtained and where the problems in regard to it were overcome. It is essential that all this be made available to the council wherever it is needed. I am not being critical; I wish the council well but I want to ensure that whatever facilities are necessary and whatever financial provisions are needed will be made available to them so that the advice they will tender to the Minister will be of top quality.
I entirely agree with the proposal to set up this Water Pollution Advisory Council and I am glad to hear the Minister say that the committee which already exists is working very well. However, I think the section could be strengthened; there are many aspects of it with which I am not happy. The Water Pollution Advisory Council will have a vital role to play in the years immediately ahead. I presume the Minister has a good team of experts on this committee and that he will have a similar expert team on the water advisory council.
Advisory councils are common nowadays; we have one under the Wildlife Bill. Subsection (4) of this section says that the council will consist of such number of persons appointed for such period as the Minister thinks fit. Would it not be better to spell out the number of persons to be appointed? Does the Minister intend it to remain flexible so that he can add one or two who have a certain expertise in one field or another as he thinks fit? Subsection (6) says that the Minister may remove any member of the council from office. I think it is a bit severe to have this in the Bill. There are many arguments for and against it but I am against such a subsection. Can the Minister remove a member from office just because he does not like him? The conditions under which the Minister may remove a member from office should be stated in the section or else in regulations to be made under the Bill.
How will the Water Pollution Advisory Council stand in relation to An Foras Forbartha and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards? Will these bodies act in an advisory capacity for the water advisory council? Will they be working for that council? Must the council accept their recommendations, ratify them and submit them to the Minister? Or can the Institute for Research and Standards and An Foras Forbartha submit their own independent reports directly to the Minister over the heads of the advisory council, so to speak? I sincerely hope there will not be a conflict of opinion with different recommendations going from these organisations to the Department against the recommendations submitted by the advisory council.
I presume the council will have available all EEC draft directives from the very first stages and that they will be in a position to make recommendations to the Minister as to any changes they think should be made in the draft directives if they think that the directives if implemented would not suit Irish conditions or could not be implemented at reasonable cost. If the council are to have teeth their recommendations should be made public. No Minister would have anything to fear from the publication of such recommendations. If he does not agree with the recommendations I am sure he will be able to justify his position and will not accept recommendations only for good and sufficient reasons which he can stand over publicly. I think the section could be strengthened considerably.
This Bill was passed through the Seanad and was very fully discussed there and it has passed through this House and has been fully discussed so far. We are now on Committee Stage and a number of amendments have been put down by the Deputy, by Deputy Faulkner and by myself. Deputy O'Leary now raises a matter which he says he thinks should be included in the Bill but which has not been mentioned so far. I do not think he can justify what he says. If he had listened to what I said earlier, I went pretty fully into the matters he has raised. First, as regards publication, the position is the recommendations will be placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas and if anybody here knows of a document placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas that did not appear in the newspapers, I should like him to tell me about it. Of course everybody will know what the recommendations contain.
As regards what An Foras Forbartha or the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards may do, they are represented on the council as I pointed out and their advice will be available to the council at first hand. All the necessary documentation is available to the council and any information or documentation which they may require from anywhere will be provided. That being so, I cannot see where Deputy O'Leary's fears arise because we have done everything to ensure that the council will be well armed. In regard to the removal or appointment of a member, one of the reasons why we have not mentioned a number is that we believe it is better to be flexible. At some time some organisation may arise which could give some very useful information. Some very useful information could be obtained from some organisations. As it stands at present it would be possible to add to the committee for the purpose of using that information.
With regard to the question of removal, the normal thing in all Acts is that the members are appointed "with the right of the Minister to remove". It is suggested that he can go around with a little hatchet and cut off the people he does not like. They would not be there if he did not like them or if he felt they would not be useful. As far as I can see, we have set up this committee in advance of the legislation and picked the people best qualified to serve on it. We have made provision in case some other organisations could be useful. They can get all the information they require. Their report will be made available to the Members of the Oireachtas and will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I cannot see any sense in Deputy O'Leary's argument. All his points were adequately covered before we came into the House this morning. I thought I gave full information on all these points made by Deputy Faulkner and Deputy O'Leary. If they require any further information I will be glad to provide it. I do not think any of the fears expressed by Deputy O'Leary are likely to affect this Bill when it becomes law.
This Bill was introduced in the Seanad because we were anxious to get it made law as quickly as possible. The longer we delay it the longer we are preventing the necessary steps being taken. There are a few important amendments which must be fully discussed, and I think we are wasting time on matters which have already been fully discussed.
On and from the 15th of this month the new planning board will be in full operation. Will the recommendations the Water Pollution Advisory Council make to the Minister be binding on the new planning board and any decisions they may make?
Nothing will be binding on the new planning board. They will make their own decisions.
Regardless of whether the council feel that certain things should be done?
They would have to make that information available. As far as changing the planning board is concerned, you cannot do this because a certain organisation considers it is wrong. If we did that there would be no point in having a planning board. They have a very tough job and I would not like to tie them any tighter by saying they would be bound by decisions of outside bodies.
Despite the fact that the council will take into account the views of everybody concerned with water pollution, any recommendations they make should be binding on both county councils and the new planning board, especially in relation to water pollution. I agree the planning board will have a difficult task but I still feel that if a council such as the one being set up make recommendations to the Minister they should be acted upon both by the county councils and the new planning board.
This is an advisory council, not a statutory council to make laws. They will make recommendations. This is a different thing altogether. The recommendations must of course be taken into consideration by everybody, including the planning board, but they are not statutorily bound to accept them. In my opinion it would be wrong if they were.
As one who is suspicious of boards I admit that this is one of the most important ever set up particularly, as Deputy Faulkner said earlier, since pollution is rare here. We must industrialise the country. I read an article the other day which said that when you industrialise a country it cannot be as pollution-free as before You must make a choice—to create employment which is bound to lead to more pollution or to have a pollution-free countryside and unemployment. I know what my choice would be. The greater the population the more pollution we will have. If we had deserted villages we would be pollution-free. The reason we have very little pollution is that we were under foreign rule for a very long time and this was a holiday ground for an industrialised country.
We must control pollution and keep it to the minimum. This is a wide-ranging committee which should be able to do good work. The members must be experts. They must visit other countries. The Minister said he did not see any reason for this but in my view there is. I have great admiration for State companies but they are not doing enough to avoid pollution. I refer now to Bord na Móna, a company for which I have great respect. They are very good employers and are an asset to the nation and the ESB. This company should have had settling lakes along the Shannon when they started to develop bogs. I do not know if they did enough research at that time.
This is why I want to point out the importance of having experts to do research, to find out the best way to prevent pollution and to keep it to the minimum. State companies should set an example by insisting that pollution be kept to the minimum by industrial development. I assume that the new committee can only advise and the planning board will make final decisions. They will accept or reject the advice of the committee.
We must have expert knowledge on how to control pollution, not stop it. We must be very careful that we do not weigh too much in favour of certain people who might for personal reasons want to prevent industries being established in different areas. This reminds me of the itinerant problem. Some people say "Settle them, but not at my back door". This is happening all over the country.
We must ensure that not too many dirty industries are established here, but we must strike a balance. Anybody who thinks we can industrialise this country quickly and at the same time keep it as free from pollution as it was before is making a fool of himself. Of course we must keep pollution to the minimum and we must insist that we have the best experts available. Anything the committee can do to ensure that should have the support of this House.
This committee should spare nothing, money or anything else. They should go abroad to find out the latest and most modern way to prevent pollution. State companies must ensure that they do not cause pollution unnecessarily.
As usual Deputy Callanan made a number of very good points. The members of the commitee, as members of the organisations they represent, are frequently abroad investigating the facts the Deputy mentioned. When they come back they report on the steps being taken in other countries and there is no necessity for them to go abroad again simply because they are members of the board. Their advice is available. That is why the net was spread so widely. We have got everybody on the board we thought could give advice and at the same time we have tried to keep the committee to manageable proportions.
As Deputy Callanan said, if we industrialise the country we are bound to have a certain amount of increased pollution. It is up to us to ensure it is kept to a minimum. There are people who constantly condemn pollution. If they meant what they said they would never travel in a motor car and would try to prevent everybody else travelling by car too because cars are polluting the air. They would not smoke cigarettes or tobacco under any guise because they are causing a certain amount of pollution also. We can go overboard on this kind of thing.
The planning board must have authority to deal with the Planning Act. They have a statutory requirement to deal with it when matters come before them. I am quite sure that advice given from everybody, such as the advice that is being given at the present time from various bodies, will be taken into consideration. With regard to the question of cost the bodies which have been set up have already been able to provide a lot of expertise. We are already providing them with services. We will provide them with any documentation and any information they may require.
There is one thing I would like to mention which might be overlooked in this debate, or an outsider looking at the debate might miss it. This is one of the least water polluted countries in the world. At the present time, wherever there is any population, pollution occurs, but we should remember that this is one of the least polluted countries. Secondly, we do not have to go abroad to find out a lot of things. There are certain things here which are not in many other countries. Deputy Callanan referred to one of them. Where would we go to find out a way in which we could prevent peat from polluting water? We are almost the only country in the world that is commercially using peat so there would not be any point in sending somebody to a foreign country to find out what they would do about it because they never heard about peat. We have people working on it who are doing a very good job. I give credit to Bord na Móna because, even though again and again they cause a certain amount of water pollution, they are doing their best to try to prevent it happening. I hope this will be the case in relation to all the commercial industries in the country.
I believe we are labouring this. The committee which has been set up are doing a good job and will do a much better job when they come under this Bill because they will then see that we have provided the necessary muscle to allow them to work. They are advising at the moment and they know, as the law is and has been for a considerable time, there is nothing that can be done about it. In this Bill we are providing the teeth Deputy O'Leary referred to to enable them to do their job. I believe the position will be improved considerably. I want to say again that I believe we might be labouring this matter a little too much.
I would like to refer back to the Minister's reply to Deputy O'Leary in which he again referred to the fact that this matter had already been discussed in the Seanad. The Minister has done this on a number of occasions. I can only assume that he feels that, having had it discussed in the Seanad, there is no need to have it discussed to anything like the same extent in the Dáil.
I do not want to be misinterpreted. I said that the matter had been discussed in the Seanad and it had reached Committee Stage in the Dáil and everybody had an opportunity of putting down amendments including the Deputies opposite. I do not believe it is relevant to suggest new ones.
I feel that the Dáil is the place, as well as the Seanad, to have the Bill fully discussed so that everybody will be clear in their minds about what is contained in the Bill when we are finished with the discussion. Deputy O'Leary said that the Minister would decide on the number of people, that he would appoint them and he could summarily remove them. I feel that that is a bit arbitrary. However, the Minister pointed out that in relation to the appointment it might be necessary to appoint somebody from some new body which could contribute towards the work of the council. I accept that but I do not see why the Minister should not allow the council, once they are appointed, to elect their own chairman. As the Minister said, he would not have nominated them if he did not believe they would do a worth-while job.
There is another point I should like to question. Section 2 (2) states:
The Council may, either of its own volition or at the request of the Minister, make recommendations to the Minister in relation to any matter relevant to his functions or responsibilities . .
Why is the word "may" used instead of "shall"? I did not put down an amendment because I expect there is a specific reason why it should be that way. It appears to be rather strange that it is worded that way. It could be interpretated as meaning that should the Minister request information from the council that they would decide they would not give it to him. I accept that is a bit far fetched but the subsection says that "the Council may" make recommendations either of their own volition or at the request of the Minister. I imagine that this particular aspect of the work of the council is the reason for their existence, that is, that they shall make recommendations to the Minister either of their own volition or at the request of the Minister. I should like the Minister to explain why the word "may" is used here.
The only reason "may" is in the subsection is that if they feel there is no necessity to give advice on certain matters they do not have to. If they want to give advice they may do so. It would be rather ridiculous to say that they shall give advice on something when in fact that is what is being done and they are not in a position to give advice on it. Subsection (2) states:
The Council may, either of its own volition or at the request of the Minister, make recommendations to the Minister in relation to any matter relevant to his functions or responsibilities concerning control of water pollution and shall advise him on any matter referred to it by the Minister in discharge of his functions and responsibilities under this Act.
If they feel there is something they want to give advice on they may give it and if they do not feel they want to give advice they do not have to. If they are asked for advice they cannot say "No, we do not have to". They shall give advice on it. I believe the matter is very clear and I do not see any ambiguity about it. I do not see any reason why the wording should be changed.
With regard to the election of a chairman it has been practice for many years, when a board such as this is being set up that the Minister of the day appoints a chairman. The chairman appointed in this case is an excellent man and I believe he is doing a very good job. Possibly if the people on the board were appointing him they would appoint the same man. As Deputy Faulkner knows as well as I do, very often when a group of people come together as in this case the first thing they must do is elect a chairman. They may not know each other and, individually, they may not be able to assess who anybody is or what each person's capabilities are. In that case it is good, sound practice that the Minister, having a fair knowledge of the people on the committee, may appoint the chairman
Will the Minister accept that I am not attempting to reflect on the present chairman.
I would be glad of that.
Surely the Minister is not saying that he would be glad of it? Surely he will accept it.
I accept it.
Amendments Nos. 10, 12, 43, 44 and 45 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 4, line 11, to delete "any polluting matter to enter waters" and substitute "polluting matter exceeding the standards established under section 26, to enter waters".
I believe that this amendment is much simpler than the Minister's amendments but it implies that a standard has been set. As the section stands it is rather vague. It is very important that no polluting matter exceeding the standards should enter any waters. This is an important amendment because there could be very minor polluting matter entering waters which could be covered by the use of the word "any", something which could be polluting matter but shortly after entering the water would no longer be a pollutant; its polluting effect would be completely eroded.
Briefly, we feel that the standard which will be established under section 26 will be sufficiently wide to guard any problems envisaged by the Minister. As Deputy O'Leary has said, any sort of matter which would not necessarily be polluting but which might interfere with or be detrimental to the recreational uses of the water and which would come from natural causes could be regarded as an offence. We do not want to involve people in the commission of an offence in relation to some relatively minor matter. If the Minister would accept this amendment it would safeguard what he intends to safeguard but at the same time would not be an irritant.
I feel that we will have to establish some kind of standard, otherwise there will be vexatious court cases. People will claim that a matter is not serious because the polluting matter does not exceed the standards laid down. Very often where a fishery body prosecutes a firm they will claim that the matter may be undesirable but it is not polluting. There must be definite standards laid down.
I am afraid there must be a complete misunderstanding here. The fundamental point which the Deputies appear to be missing is that section 3 deals with discharges which would not be permitted at all and it is impossible to provide standards for something which is completely banned. We cannot tell a manufacturer or a farmer that he will be prosecuted if he puts matter into waters unless that matter comes up to a certain standard. I am afraid that section 3 has been read and section 4 has not. Section 3 deals with discharges which should not be permitted at all—waste oil, rubbish, slurry and so on—and it would make no sense to provide standards for such discharges. All discharges of a type which can be discharged to waters in a proper manner are covered by the licensing provisions of section 4. As I see it, this amendment to section 3 would make a provision whereby materials would be licensed or permitted when in fact this material had been completely banned. Regarding matter which would affect swimming, either it is banned and would not be allowed at all or we are talking about something entirely different which does not come under this Bill. We are talking about pollutants and there are two types, that which is completely banned under section 3 and that dealt with in section 4, which provides for the licencing of certain types. We must get this clear.
We are taking amendments Nos. 12, 43, 44 and 45 with amendment No. 10. The intention of amendments Nos. 10, 43, 44 and 45 appears to be that section 26 should be amended so that quality standards may be prescribed for any pollutants and to amend section 3 so as to restrict the prohibition to polluting matter exceeding such standards. The first point is that amendment No. 43 would not, in fact, enable quality standards to be prescribed for other pollutants because the addition of this phrase in section 26 (1) would only provide for standards in relation to methods of treatment. It would accordingly be argued that since section 26 enables quality standards to be prescribed only for trade and sewage effluents, a prohibition as proposed in amendment No. 10 could not apply to other pollutants. The prohibition will not apply to trade or sewage effluents because these will be controlled by licence. Therefore the effect of these amendments would be to make section 3 ineffective. The issue here is not simply a question of drafting. In case there is a misconception perhaps I should explain that trade and sewage effluents will be controlled by licence under section 4. The purpose of section 3 is to prohibit the entry to waters of any other form of polluting matter. Indiscriminate dumping in waters is something which we do not want at all. We could not fix a quality standard in that case and it would also be inappropriate to fix a quality standard for waste oil; it is completely prohibited. The same thing applies to pig slurry; it should not be discharged into the nearest watercourse. Silage effluent and industrial waste are other forms of polluting matter which would come within the prohibition.
Perhaps Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner had in mind that since there will be some exemptions under section 4 (10), there should not be an absolute prohibition in section 3. What we have in mind in section 4 (10) is that there may be classes of trade or sewage effluent where in the generality of cases there would not be a danger of pollution. Septic tanks which are properly designed and maintained and which deal with domestic sewage from individual houses are unlikely to cause pollution problems. There may also be other cases where the quality of polluting water or the normal effluent quality would not warrant the inconvenience and administrative cost of licensing. We are therefore providing in section 4 (10) for the possibility of exemption from licensing requirements and provision should be made that any effluent so exempted should be brought within the scope of the prohibition in section 3. Perhaps it was the intention of Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner, and I agree, that it would be clearer if section 3 were amended so as not to apply the prohibition in that section to any effluents exempted under section 4 (10) where they comply with any relevant standards under section 26. In other words, if an effluent is exempted from the licensing requirements of section 4 it would not come within the scope of the prohibition in section 3 if it complied with any relevant standard prescribed under section 26. Amendment No. 12 provides accordingly and I hope it will enable Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner to withdraw amendments Nos. 10, 43, 44 and 45, which, as I have already explained, are unacceptable. Section 3 provides for total prohibition and section 4 provides for the licensing of certain types. We must look at these two sections separately and the amendment which I have suggested does the job that Deputies Faulkner and O'Leary are interested in. That is all that is required.
I can clearly see the point made by the Minister "Polluting matter" includes any poisonous or noxious matter or any substance which enters the water and is liable to render such waters harmful or dangerous to public health or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or recreational users. Section 3 (1) provides that a person shall not cause or permit any polluting matter to enter waters. Take as an example when a farmer allows 20 head of cattle to stand in a river for the most part of the day during the summertime. Naturally, the waters become polluted. A few hundred yards downstream there is an area used for swimming or recreational purposes and this area could be deemed to be polluted. Farmer No. 2 could then bring a case against farmer No. 1, as the section stands. It is with the intention of preventing such situations arising that Deputy Faulkner and I put down this amendment.
I would be amazed if any effort were made to prevent farmers allowing their cattle to use a stream during a period when those cattle are running because of flies. Such a stream is one of the greatest assets a farmer can have. To suggest, as Deputy O'Leary does, that because there is swimming lower down the river or stream special provision should be made so that farmers would not be allowed to let their cattle use the stream I do not think would work at all. Subsection (3) says:
It shall be a good defence to a prosecution under this section to prove to the satisfaction of the court that the person charged took all reasonable care to prevent the entry prohibited under subsection (1).
I do not know if that means that a farmer should wait around with a little tin for his cattle to pollute a stream and try to collect in the little tin and deposit that pollution elsewhere. I am very anxious to ensure things are properly dealt with and while I have some sympathy with the people who want swimming facilities, I still do not see why farmers should be prevented from using an asset they have been using from time immemorial, namely, the streams running through their lands as drinking water and a refuge for cattle during hot weather. I doubt if any of Deputy O'Leary's party, especially rural Deputies, would give very much support to the suggestion that farmers should be prohibited from using such streams and that is the only interpretation I can take out of what the Deputy has said.
The Minister is misinterpreting. The reverse is the case and the main reason for the amendment is to prevent situations arising which might lead to litigation.
I am sorry if the Deputy did not make it clear. If that is what he means, then subsection (3) provides for that situation and the Department of Agriculture are quite satisfied this is a good defence.
Will the Minister not agree that, under the definition of "polluting matter", if we allow section 3 (1) to stand situations could arise like the one I have cited.
But the good defence would cover it and that is the reason that subsection is there.
We will come to that later. Let us deal with section 3 (1) as it stands.
How would Deputy O'Leary set standards? Would he let the cattle in but ensure they excreted before they entered the water? We must be reasonable about these things.
I would envisage standards being established under section 26.
No. We want to ensure that standards are laid down and we do not want to leave it open for anybody to pollute waters in which recreation takes place, and that includes swimming, but there is a good defence here. The Department of Agriculture are satisfied it is a good defence. What Deputy O'Leary is saying is that we either take out swimming completely as a recreation or say all recreation except swimming so that the farmer with the swimming pool will not have his portion of the river polluted by his neighbour's cattle or else we prevent the cattle from going into the river or arrange they do not pollute it when they go in. That would be an impossibility, as Deputy O'Leary knows. We are talking about something which is just not possible. We have gone as far as we can. I suggest the Deputy leave the matter as it is.
I still maintain that section 3 (1) could give rise to numerous court cases and to unnecessary litigation unless this amendment is accepted. Subsection (3) would add to the dangers inherent in subsection (1). I shall come to those later.
I have gone as far as I am prepared to go. I do not think the Deputy really studied the matter and, if he does so now, he will realise what he is asking is something this House would not accept.
What Deputy O'Leary intended was to ensure the situation he describes could not arise. He is convinced it could arise under section 3 (1) and he is anxious there should be no misunderstanding. If the Minister tells us amendment No. 12 is going some way to meet us, I will accept that.
It goes some of the way.
I want to be fair to Deputy O'Leary and ensure that there is no misunderstanding about his argument.
Amendment No. 11 in the name of the Minister and amendments Nos. 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 31, 39, 42, 47, 48 and 49 are cognate and, perhaps, these could all be discussed with No. 11.
They all relate to the change of title from Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to Minister for Fisheries.
That is so.
We have no objection to taking them together.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 4, lines 32 and 33, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries".
Do I take it from this that the Minister for Agriculture now only enters into the matter of water pollution where there is a reference to consulting with other Ministers?
I recognise that the change had to be made because a new Department of Fisheries was established and the decision to change from the Minister for Agriculture to the Minister for Fisheries is welcomed. However the setting up of the new Department is fortuitous in these circumstances. I am not concerned with the personalities presently occupying the positions of Ministers but with the difference of outlook of the Departments themselves. I felt somewhat perturbed at the many references to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in the original Bill because the reference to him concerned, in the main, exemptions. As the agricultural sector of his portfolio was the largest in that it related to a wider field and was concerned with more people and their activities on the farm, the main emphasis and thrust of a Minister for Agriculture would relate to exemptions.
It is possible that pressure groups might feel these exemptions were necessary in the circumstances but they could result in grave damage being done to the environment and, particularly, to the purity of our water. This pressure could appear to be justified on economic grounds. I must admit that when I studied the Bill in relation to the part to be played in it by the Minister for Agriculture, and particularly when I noted the emphasis on exemptions, I felt that the fisheries aspect of his portfolio tended to fade out.
I believe that now we are in a different situation when the emphasis is on the Minister for Fisheries. The pressures on the Minister for Fisheries would in my view be quite the reverse of those on the Minister for Agriculture. The pressures will be to exhort the Minister to do everything in his power to safeguard fish life and this in turn will ensure that the water is preserved and kept as free as possible from pollution in this technological age. This emphasis which will now be placed on the matter of water pollution, particularly when one notes from today's news that fish died because of water pollution in a river, is welcomed. For these reasons I am glad of the change even though I know that the change has taken place for technical reasons. I feel the emphasis now will be much more on ensuring that our waters will be kept pure rather than on exemptions.
We learned the profound lesson last summer when during the long hot spell we saw for the first time how badly polluted some of our rivers were and the effect this had on our fish life. We had a bad experience in relation to water for human consumption in Clogherhead in my constituency. I believe the change will alter the emphasis and this is good.
As far as the change in ministries is concerned it is true that the new Minister will have fisheries as his main concern but at the same time it would be unfair if I allowed the comment to pass that if a change had not taken place the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and his Parliamentary Secretary, would not have been as interested in protecting that particular aspect. While somebody whose sole interest will be fishing will be referred to in future, and that will be a help, the position would not be as black as Deputy Faulkner believed it would be. Deputy Faulkner told us of fish dying and I should like to tell him that I read in a newspaper, dated 1880, of the death of salmon and trout in a river in the south of Ireland. It was not attributed to "water pollution". The story stated that the fish appeared to have been poisoned and cattle running into the river were blamed for it. I do not think any prosecution was taken against the owners of the cattle by those interested in fish.
It was tragic that the position was so bad in Clogherhead but the Deputy cannot blame the Minister for Agriculture or anybody else for that. This is a case which proves that for years no Government spent enough money on the question of sanitary services. Had that been done Clogherhead and places like it would not find themselves in the position they found themselves in last summer. Deputy Faulkner's comment about realising how polluted our rivers were was not a fair one because, no matter what we do, if the supply of water runs low pollution will appear and it has been appearing for a long time, long before this State got its freedom. That is something even this Bill will not remedy. If we get another long hot summer we will have a lot of rivers running dry and pollution will appear. There is nothing we can do to prevent that. The Bill will prevent pollution in rivers throughout the year and we have a lot of that. We are still a lot better than Britain or continental countries.
When I noted in the original Bill the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries coupled with exemptions my attention was focused on what exemptions he would be looking for. The fact that he was also the Minister responsible for fisheries did not appear to me to enter into the matter because the Minister for Fisheries, rather than looking for exemptions, would be looking in the other direction. In those circumstances —and it is no reflection on anybody— I felt it is a fortuitous improvement that the name is changed from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to the Minister for Fisheries.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 4, to delete lines 34 and 35, and substitute the following:
"(5) Subsection (1) does not apply to—
(a) discharges of trade effluents or sewage effluents (other than a discharge the subject of regulations under section 4 (10), unless where a relevant standard is prescribed under section 26 the discharge complies with that standard);".
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 4, line 39, to delete "sections" and substitute "section".
This is a minor drafting amendment, to delete the word "sections" and substitute "section".
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 4, line 46, to delete "1974" and substitute "1976".
Will this section be used to control discharges from road vehicles or mobile containers?
It will prohibit completely certain types of discharges into waters, whether from road vehicles or anything else, where possible.
How can we be assured of this? Such discharges could cause serious problems. The Minister will agree that, though discharges through pipes could be supervised and controlled, it would be difficult to control the use of mobile vehicles for this purpose.
I think the Deputy will find that section 4 deals with this.
I am not happy about subsection (3), which states:
It shall be a good defence to a prosecution under this section to prove to the satisfaction of the court that the person charged took all reasonable care to prevent the entry prohibited under subsection (1).
This subsection will probably be regarded as a dream provision by junior and senior counsel. I can see it being argued for and against ad nauseam in the courts. As soon as any person or body is prosecuted for an offence his first reaction will be to claim the benefit of this subsection and I can see legal advisers taking the initiative and relying on it as a defence. I have been advised that district justices and Circuit Court judges will have to take such a defence into consideration when ruling on cases brought before them. I suggest the subsection is unnecessary because most people served with notice of prosecution will be inclined to rely on it. For that reason I suggest the subsection should be deleted.
There is considerable public disquiet about this. I was not happy about it when I first saw it, but we did not table an amendment to delete it, appreciating that there may be reasons why the Minister inserted the subsection? I would be anxious to hear those reasons. As I have said, undoubtedly there is considerable disquiet about the provision among those concerned with the environment, and with water pollution in particular. The Minister was good enough to furnish me with a copy of the recommendations sent to him by the advisory council and they, too, expressed disquiet in this regard. As Deputy O'Leary said, it would be a pity if this provision provided an escape for somebody from an offence in relation to water pollution. The difficulty is in relation to the word "reasonable". The Minister will probably say that the courts will have to decide, but I should be happier if the phrase were reworded. I agree it would not be fair to tie people absolutely in the sense that they would not be given any opportunity to defend themselves and that is another reason we did not table an amendment in this respect.
I agree with Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner because the words "all reasonable care" leave the thing wide open. We all know different judges will have different views on what is reasonable. Take a farmer who lays down a silage pit adjacent to a stream; he can argue that he took all reasonable care to avoid polluting the stream. However those of us who are farmers realise the havoc that can be caused as a result of the location of silage pits. It has been proved that streams which were not near to silage pits have been polluted. If a person is brought before the court can he not argue that he took all reasonable care to avoid polluting although he located a pit at such a point that it actually caused pollution?
Mr. R. Burke
I associate myself with the three previous speakers on this point. As Deputy O'Leary said, this subsection gives a sort of blank cheque to the legal profession. It is an escape device for people being brought before the courts. It reminds me of a provision in the old Planning Act in regard to prosecutions for unauthorised buildings—it was practically impossible to catch offenders under that provision because of the various mechanisms they could rely on. The delaying process was there in the old Planning Acts and it is very similar to the out that is being left here for people polluting waters. There is such an out under subsection (3) and I should like to hear the Minister's comments on it.
I think this House has gone a little screwy. The last two Deputies who spoke did not seem to be au fait with Deputy O'Leary's argument. Earlier he established the fact that swimming was a recreation and I agreed with him. He then mentioned the case of a person who might use part of a river for swimming and where a farmer might allow his cattle to use another portion of the river, thereby causing concern to the first person that the river might be polluted. That is the point at issue here. We are an agricultural country and I would not be prepared to see a Bill going through this House which would say that a farmer should not be allowed to let his cattle into a river during the summer. What is being suggested by the Opposition is quite ridiculous.
That is not what Deputy O'Leary wanted.
I should like to know what Deputies O'Leary, Hussey and Burke want. Deputy Faulkner tried to point out that Deputy O'Leary had said he was not trying to prevent the cattle from going into the river but he did not want the person with the swimming facilities to prosecute the farmer. Can anybody say that that line is being followed now? Deputy Burke suggested it would be wrong to have an out in this case. Is it not the case that the Opposition have been arguing that it would be wrong if there were an out for people who pollute rivers? The word "loophole" was used. Who is the loophole for? It is not for the person who does the swimming. The loophole is for the farmer whose cattle might pollute the stream. That is a very dangerous argument to follow and it would be very foolish if an agricultural country came down on the side of a person who might want to have a swim. Cattle do not stay all day in a river. The whole argument being advanced by the Opposition is ridiculous.
My advice is that it will give a better balance to leave in the subsection. The prosecution must prove that the pollution in the water was done wilfully or negligently. The alternative is to take out the subsection. That means we should not leave what the Opposition call a "loophole"; in other words, that we should ensure that the person who wants to swim in the river can take a prosecution against the farmer whose cattle have been using the river. The Opposition should take a long look at this matter because it is not as simple as it looks.
There are other problems we are attempting to deal with; for instance, there is the large-scale pollution of water supplies and we are making provision for this. This section is an almost exact replica of what is in the Northern Ireland legislation which has been in operation for four years. It has not caused any of the problems suggested by Deputies opposite and there have not been prosecutions as a result of it. I want to make it clear that while I am anxious to ensure that this Bill will be effective at the same time I am not going to agree that as an agricultural country we should take out this subsection and thereby leave the farmer open to prosecution without any defence if his cattle have been using a river or stream. Another point arises and I am not quite clear on it. It is the question of wild animals, into which category cattle fit, and domestic animals. Under law their control is quite different. The subsection is not perfect but it is the best that can be put into the Bill and I should prefer to leave it there.
I am glad the Minister admitted he understood what I was talking about when I spoke in relation to section 3 (1). Had our amendment been accepted on that point it would have covered this situation. I do not accept the Minister's point that subsection (3) is necessary as a consequence of section 3 (1). It appears to me that subsection (3) gives the initiative with regard to defence to a person who is prosecuted. His first reaction will be to fall back on subsection (3). In the case we discussed with regard to farmers, a justice would take into account the fact that reasonable care was exercised by the defendant. This is the normal practice in courts. The escape clause in subsection (3) should be deleted from the Bill because it is unnecessary.
The Deputy seems to be changing feet. He started the discussion and at first he stuck to his line of argument. Earlier he asked me to say if swimming was included and I said it was. His second point related to a person who had a river passing by his property and where he or his family wanted to swim. He mentioned the situation where a farmer next door to that person had an open field leading to the river and who allowed his cattle to use the river. The Deputy's point was that this section would allow the person who wished to swim in the river to prosecute the farmer. He is now talking about an entirely different matter.
Let me give another example. If a farmer spreads pig slurry on his land at the appropriate time and a sudden storm washes that slurry into a river or lake and he is prosecuted, section 3 (1) provides a way out for him. He is entitled to that because he did not intend to pollute the river or lake. Deputy O'Leary is saying that every case should be prosecuted. If the section is deleted, they will have no defence. We tend to forget that we are an agricultural country. Deputy O'Leary's discussion related specifically to the man with the swimming pool and the man with the cattle that are using the river above it. My advice is that it would be a good defence to say that he was not responsible for polluting the river to the detriment of the swimmer. If the section is not left as it stands, there will be many questions to be answered in the coming summer.
There is little point in giving examples. The Minister will agree that we might be in some difficulty had Deputy O'Leary not put the cattle in the river in an earlier section because it seems to be his main defence in relation to this subsection. We have discussed the matter at some length. The main purpose was to bring the attention of the Minister to the disquiet in relation to it. Deputy O'Leary has a point when he says that if a case came before the court, irrespective of the subsection, the judge would have to accept a reasonable defence. The fact that the subsection is in the Bill does not give any more protection than if it were not in the Bill. It leaves loopholes for other individuals in regard to polluting waters. The main purpose of the discussions was to bring to the attention of the Minister that there is disquiet; even the advisory council are perturbed about it. In that sense the debate was worth while.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 30 are related and may be taken together.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 5, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following subsection:
"( ) A local authority shall issue a decision within a period of two months, on an application for a licence received under this section."
We believe that this is a reasonable amendment and that it is in line with the provisions in the Planning Act. If the amendment is not accepted, a local authority could delay the issue of a licence as long as it wished. This could cause serious inconvenience to the applicant and, more important, it could mean that waters would continue to be polluted.
Subsection (1) (a) reads:
Subject to subsection (2), a person shall not, after such date as may be fixed for the purpose of this subsection by order made by the Minister, discharge or cause or permit the discharge of any trade effluent or sewage effluent to any waters except under and in accordance with a licence under this section.
Section 5 (1) reads:
A person shall be deemed not to have contravened section 4 (1) in relation to an existing discharge of trade effluent or sewage effluent made before he is granted or refused a licence under section 4 if, before the relevant date, he applies for such a licence and complies with the requirements of any regulations under section 6 regarding the furnishing of information to a local authority.
This means that where there is an existing discharge a person cannot be prosecuted once he has applied for a licence until such time as the local authority either decide to grant the licence or refuse the licence. If that time were to be lengthy, the pollution would continue. If we can specify a time limit we would be ensuring that the matter would be dealt with quickly by the local authority. This is a reasonable amendment and it should be accepted.
It would be unrealistic to impose a time limit because some applications may require considerable investigation by the local authority, for example, water quality investigations extending over a period of time. It should be possible for local authorities to give decisions in the vast majority of cases within a relatively short period, in many cases less than two months. Therefore, it would be undesirable to fix a longer period generally for consideration of applications. When giving instructions to local authorities, I will tell them that they should make every effort to speed the decision. There are many cases on which a speedy decision should be possible. At present there are a number of pollutants which will require to be dealt with. Some of them will have to be investigated at great length and for that reason to fix a time limit of two months would mean that many of them would probably get a refusal. There would not be adequate time to allow them to prove that they are entitled to a licence. The fixing of an unrealistic time limit would have the undesirable effect that licences would be refused or that stringent conditions would be attached to them. This could lead to appeals and further delays. On the other hand, applicants could delay in furnishing relevant information which would seriously inhibit the proper appraisal of applications within the suggested time limit.
The amendment would also remove the flexibility of approach to the licensing of existing discharges, which is provided for in sections 5 and 18 under which an existing discharge can continue to be made until such time as the local authority decide either to grant or refuse a licence. This could take quite a long time. If they do not apply or if a time limit is there, the natural thing would be so say: "All right, we think that is a pollutant. We will stop immediately" and it could cause a great deal of trouble; in fact, it might close down industries. My advice is that as the Bill stands an applicant for a licence can seek an order of mandamus where a local authority or sanitary authority fail in their duty to deal with an application. However, I think we can rely on local and sanitary authorities to operate the system in a reasonable and expeditious way. It would be better not to prescribe any period within which decisions must be given and for the various reasons I have outlined I would not be prepared to accept the amendments. However, I will try to ensure that a speedy decision is given and I will try to have any complaints that are made dealt with as quickly as possible. We are all on the one side in attempting to stop pollution of the waters but we do not want to tie it up unnecessarily. I believe that to make this order now would be a mistake. I shall keep the whole matter under review because I believe only experience will show whether or not a time limit is necessary. Existing cases are dealt with. New ones could possibly be dealt with in a fairly short time except that water tests have to be carried out. I would ask that the amendments be withdrawn.
I would accept that the Minister is just as anxious to control this situation as I am. There might be something in what he said in relation to requesting the local authorities to speed up matters, but when there is not a statutory control in a matter such as this local authorities can, if they so wish, continue to be rather slow in their operations.
The Minister, I think, appreciates what I am trying to get at, that where there is a discharge which is causing grave pollution, as the Bill stands at the moment this discharge can continue until such time as the licence is either issued or refused. I can accept what the Minister says in relation to an industrial project, that there could be serious consequences if a local authority were to refuse a licence. A local authority which has such an industry in their area would be very slow to refuse such a licence in any case, because I doubt very much if they would be anxious to take responsibility for disemploying quite a number of people.
I agree that in some instances it would be necessary to carry out possibly fairly lengthy investigations, but in relation to the problems which we have at present and to which the Minister referred, I would have thought that the local authorities would already have had a considerable amount of information long before this Bill was even introduced in regard to the difficulties and problems which arise from the discharge from these industries. In fact, they have at present a responsibility in relation to them. It would not take all that long for them to issue a licence, and there would be nothing to prevent them adding to that licence, as is allowed for in the Bill, the particular conditions under which this licence is issued. In issuing to the industry or whatever it might be the licence with the conditions attached, the local authority would have the right to go ahead in relation to the efforts to prevent the continuation of this discharge.
I was wondering while the Minister was speaking whether it might not be possible to amend slightly the amendment we have already submitted: "A local authority shall issue a decision within a period of two months or, with the consent of the Minister, a longer period, on an application for a licence received under this section". I am a little worried about the fact that while this Bill has very worthy objectives and, in my view, will, as I said in my Second Reading speech, do a great deal of good in regard to the question of water pollution, the fact that there is no time limit imposed will allow an out which will, to some extent anyway, frustrate the worthwhile objectives of the Bill. Is there not some way in which we could ensure that the local authority would issue a licence within a reasonable period?
The local authority themselves know a good deal about the problems and difficulties within their own area in regard to industry and many other aspects of life also which are the cause of water pollution. I do not feel it would take all that length of time to investigate those ones. The investigations into the new ones might take longer. While I understand the problems the Minister is facing, at the same time, if we leave it wide open as it is now, there could be instances where a particularly awkward case came before the local authority and the local authority would just put it to one side and not deal with it for a lengthy period. They might feel incapable of making a decision because they knew the decision would create other problems possibly for themselves. In those instances, the very fact that there would be a time limit would force that situation. I appreciate that in certain industries a hasty or a wrong decision could be very harmful, but as the local authority are entitled not only to issue the licence but also to lay down the conditions, that aspect if it could be overcome.
Deputy Faulkner will appreciate that, having got rid of one set of appeals, I am not very anxious to have appeals under another heading coming in. Therefore, I would not like to put into this Bill a provision that they would give the right to appeal after two months. There is the right to an order of mandamus. What I would be prepared to do when the regulations are being sent out to the local authorities is to tell them that unless they were in a position to give a decision within a period—we can think about two or three months—we would require them to let us have a report as to why this has not been done, and we could then take the necessary administrative action in order to speed it up. Or if anybody felt he was being held up and reported the matter to the Department, we would take the matter up with the local authority.
I do not want to tie the matter up any further because there can be exceptions. However, I can assure Deputy Faulkner that I am more than anxious that there would not be any unnecessary delay, and I would ask him to accept that assurance.
While I accept the Minister's assurance, I am sure he is aware that planning authorities are not finding it too difficult to issue decisions within two months even in the most difficult of cases. I hope there will be a sense of urgency in dealing with applications on the part of local authorities under this Bill.
I would not like to see any of the provisions of this Bill becoming too flexible. Flexibility is all right in respect of some legislation, but where the improvement and protection of the environment is concerned we must be very cautious about such flexibility.
I am sure the Minister realises the importance of local authorities being adequately staffed to deal with applications under the Bill; otherwise it would be impossible for them to deal with applications within a reasonable period. I am prepared to accept the Minister's assurances, particularly his assurance that the arrangements for the control of pollution will be reviewed after a reasonable period of experience of the operation of the Bill.
In anticipation of this Bill, a discussion document was issued some time ago to all local authorities and was laid also before the House. This relates to practical aspects of implementation, including staffing, which are problems that will have to be dealt with. There will be discussion in the very near future with the managers regarding staffing requirements. I would assume that in respect of new industries decisions in relation to licences would be issued with the planning decision. This will eliminate delays and will enable existing industries, for instance, to continue, provided they had applied for exemption, until the decision was made. It will be necessary to ensure that planning authorities, by reason of lack of action, do not allow existing pollutant industries to continue simply because they have applied.
I thank the Deputies opposite for the way in which they have dealt with this matter. We are all anxious that the situation be tidied up in the best way possible.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 6, lines 33 and 34, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries".
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 6, lines 35 and 36, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries".
Regarding amendment No. 18, Nos. 32 and 40 are cognate so I suggest that we debate those three amendments together.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 6, subsection (10), line 36, after "Agriculture and Fisheries" to insert "and the Water Pollution Advisory Council".
I have spoken already at some length on the function of the Water Pollution Advisory Council. This body will be doing worthwhile work in the field of research and so on.
Perhaps I might interrupt the Deputy to tell him that I am prepared to accept amendments Nos. 18 and 40 but not No. 32.
I appreciate the Minister's accepting amendment No. 18, the purpose of which is partly to upgrade the council.
Again, this is a situation in which we could have tabled an amendment. However, I wish to discuss the matter. Section 4, subsection (2) (b) says that subsection (1) does not apply to discharges from a sewer. It may be said that to have a local authority licensing themselves is not a very sensible procedure. The section gives to local authorities the right either to grant or to refuse licences. Although the local authorities concerned would be the licensing bodies, they should have to go through all the procedures laid down for any other groups or individuals. This is important. It is said often, but I do not know with what degree of accuracy, that local authorities are the worst offenders at times in relation to water pollution. In these circumstances I would consider it desirable that the local authority, as the licensing body, would fulfil all the requirements in regard to planning permission as must be fulfilled by industry, for example.
The Minister should direct the carrying out of a survey by the local authorities in relation to ensuring that modern disposal systems were in use. In many areas there are systems which are not up to standard, some of them being in very poor condition. A local authority which might not have sufficient financial provision could be in a situation where they would be insisting on certain conditions being fulfilled by industry while not taking any steps to provide modern disposal systems for themselves or one could visualise situations in which the Minister, who has power to prescribe standards in relation to effluent, might not press for changes because of financial considerations.
The doubts we have in relation to the local authority being the responsible body in so far as a major part of the Bill is concerned are increased by the fact that local authorities themselves are not included. I decided neither to table an amendment nor to ask to have the subsection deleted but I consider it worth while having the matter discussed here in order to hear the Minister's views in this regard.
The local authorities should be required to fulfil the same stringent conditions as apply to other groups or individuals and the one way in which we can provide for this is by exempting subsection (2) (b) from the conditions laid down in subsection (1) (a).
While I am well aware that many local authorities are polluters, they are the people who allow sewage into waters. I have been criticising this for many years. Every Government since the start of this State fell down in relation to money for our sanitary services. When I took over less than four years ago there was only slightly over £8.3 million spent on sanitary services for the whole country. Last year it cost £25 million and this year it will cost £25 million plus. It is not meeting the requirements but there is a scarcity of money. We are doing the best we can. The local authorities are the appropriate authorities to operate this Bill. It would be ridiculous to say that the local authority should report and prosecute themselves. That does not mean that we do not realise that a lot of things have to be done in regard to ensuring that where pollution is being caused by the local authorities steps should be taken to alleviate it. The local authority could say that they will prepare the schemes which can be operated provided they get the money. In a period of two or three years we would not be able to produce enough money to solve all the problems. Deputy Faulkner must be aware that these problems exist in many towns. We can only meet the requirements in a planned way as we are doing now. The larger amounts of money are certainly improving the situation. There are people who, having got primary and secondary treatment works in at a large cost are now insisting on tertiary treatment before others come into line with what they have already got. We must make sure that when we are notifying local authorities, we will try to ensure that they are aware of the fact that we expect them to do the best they possibly can.
It is up to us and the Government to ensure that money will be available as soon as possible to provide for the type of sanitary services required. The position under the Bill as regards the discharge from public sewers is that while they will not be licenseable under section 4, the Minister will have power to make regulations under section 26 prescribing standards for such discharge or for waters into which such discharges are made generally or in particular cases. Where such regulations are made, there would be a statutory duty on the sanitary authority concerned to take steps as soon as practicable to ensure that the effluent does not contravene the regulations. I know Deputy Faulkner did not put down an amendment but decided to have it discussed in this way. I have no objection to that; it may serve a very useful purpose if it brings to the notice of the general public that every sanitary authority have not got the necessary up-to-date equipment, and that it must be provided as quickly as possible. It would not be a good idea to ask the local authority to report and prosecute themselves if they are not meeting requirements. For that reason the best we can do is leave it as it is.
My main object was to try to ensure that the local authority would have to accept the same stringent conditions that would be placed on an industry. It would not be a good defence on the part of an industry which was creating a serious pollution problem to say that they could not afford a better system. In section 4 subsection (9) we find that:
A prosecution for an offence under this section may be taken by a local authority, a board of conservators, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries or any other person.
In circumstances where effluent from a sewer was obviously creating a serious pollution problem there is nothing to prevent another person from prosecuting the local authority. Admittedly, that would cost money and no doubt very many people would not do it. Nevertheless, the fact is that it is possible and it would not simply be necessary for the local authority to take a case against itself. I am uneasy about the situation. It should be incumbent on the licensing authority, which will decide where they will grant refuse licences to any other group in relation to this matter, where possible to have the same standards. It would be ridiculous to have a situation where a licensing body would insist that certain conditions be fulfilled by an applicant when they on the other hand would have lower standards. I agree that there are financial difficulties. I will accept this if the Minister keeps an eye on local authorities and will take action on receipt of a complaint in relation to the activities of the authority. It is vital that the local authority should give the example.
A number of local authorities have not got the equipment to improve sanitary services. Incentives should be provided for people to build houses in isolated parts of the country where they can put in a septic tank and effluent can be disposed of without having to be treated. That would relieve the situation in villages and towns. Local authorities should be asked to build more rural houses. The increasing amount of sewerage is a problem that has to be dealt with and I agree that it cannot be dealt with overnight but my suggestion would be a help. Local authorities are being accused of being the greatest polluters because of the fact that the treatment of sewerage is such a big job.
The Deputy is well aware of my approach to that problem. Four years ago when I took over dealing with planning appeals, the regulations said that houses should only be allowed in settlements, in other words, towns and villages. I think I have reversed that trend over the last four years. Of course there will be building in towns and cities. This is natural, but I have encouraged everybody who wants to build in a country district where there is the incentive of a much cheaper site——
There is no doubt about it.
I have encouraged all local authorities who have suitable applicants for local authority houses to build isolated cottages where sites are available for them. I will do everything I can to encourage them to do this. Again and again local authorities have instructions to do this. Some county managers are opposed to this kind of thing; I do not know why. Public representatives should ensure that they do it.
With regard to the question of who should be responsible for operating the Act, the local authority are the people who must do it. When we talk about local authorities polluting I wish people would understand, including people who complain, that when we talk about the local authorities we talk about ourselves. The local authorities are our representatives. We appoint people to them, we elect people to them, and those are the people who run the areas under this House. There is no reason why anybody should try to create mystery about what is happening. We have not the necessary money to do all the jobs. We are doing everything we can, but it will be ridiculous if we create the situation where not alone are a local authority asked to report and to prosecute themselves, but where an individual should be entitled to prosecute a local authority over the sanitary services or lack of them in the area polluting rivers, streams and lakes and we, the public, would pay whatever fine was imposed and would also pay the court costs. There would be a net loss to everybody and nobody would gain as a result of such a court case.
While we want to ensure that a very tight monitoring system is carried out on discharges into lakes and rivers by local authorities, we must have a reasonable approach and accept where responsibility lies. As far as I am concerned I am as anxious as anyone to see this matter dealt with as quickly as possible but I do not believe the suggestion made would be the best way to deal with it. We can deal with it properly under the Bill as it is going through. I give my word that I will do everything I can to ensure that there will be no breaches by local authorities where this matter is being dealt with.
We should face this problem in a frank, sincere and serious manner. There is great disquiet among the general public, particularly among the environmentalists, those interested in fishing, tourism and in the protection of our amenities, about the fact that this exemption is provided for in this Bill. There is great public concern about the fact that local authorities can keep on polluting rivers, streams and lakes.
This is a financial problem. It is very important that a planned system of priorities should be prepared as soon as possible and a programme drawn up over a period of five years or so which would eliminate pollution completely in the areas of major contention and disquiet. The Minister referred to a number of local authorities having sewerage plants installed adjacent to rivers and lakes at large cost to the ratepayers and taxpayers and they are now looking for a third stage or tertiary treatment unit. I understand that there is another system under consideration at present whereby chemicals would be applied to the existing treatment works. This system is known as chemical precipitation. If it is successful it could mean that the third stage treatment could be carried out at far lesser cost than was possible a few years back.
Another source of pollution which is very serious, as expert advice shows, is the discharge from sheep dipping tanks. The position is so serious that it may be necessary to restrict discharge from sheep dipping tanks into the sea, into tidal waters, despite the fact that it may have to be piped a considerable distance or there may be a soakaway adjacent to tidal waters or to the sea. If this is so, how serious is the position in relation to septic tanks adjacent to sheep dipping tanks which are near rivers and streams? This must surely kill off any form of fish life in these rivers and streams.
The areas of high amenity and tourism value as well as areas which are renowned for fishing should get priority in any such schemes. The Minister should exercise some form of control over the discharge from local authority sewers. Perhaps he could set himself or his Department up as the licensing authority in this regard. I see no reason why he should not insist on local authorities applying for licences to him or to the environmental section of his Department.
The public are very concerned that local authorities can carry on polluting by discharge from a sewer, which by the interpretation of this section includes sewerage treatment or disposal works of a sanitary authority. The Bill is weakened considerably by virtue of the fact that the local authorities can discharge untreated sewage in some cases into lakes, rivers and streams.
I recognise that the Minister has power to prescribe effluent standards which would be binding on local authorities but that is not the answer to the problem. There should be some commitment involving improved and effective management of existing systems, commencing with an early review of the systems. The need for the control of discharges from public sewers should be included in the review of the Bill referred to by the Minister when it becomes law.
We must face the fact that the main problem is a financial one. Some scheme should be established whereby local authorities would fix their priorities within a reasonable period, have the cost of eliminating pollution estimated and submit the overall cost to the Minister. Some years ago an effort was made to have this costed. That would be out of all proportion in relation to present day costs. I urge the Minister to set such a scheme in motion as soon as possible.
I do not know what Deputy O'Leary has against the poor farmers. Having had a go at the man with the cattle, he now has something to say about the man who is dipping sheep and what happens to the effluent when he is finished dipping them. This is covered completely in the Bill. All these matters are adequately covered and there is no way in which somebody who uses toxic material——
On a point of order, I did not say it was not covered in the Bill. I mentioned in passing how serious uncontrolled discharges from sheep dipping tanks could be.
That is hardly a point of order.
We propose to prevent uncontrolled discharges from sheep dipping tanks. That is not the most serious problem. There is a far more serious problem from industrial effluent which is doing a lot more damage. When Deputy O'Leary did not mention those and did mention sheep I wondered if he had a particular reason.
It is all right to say there must be special controls and there must be a special study of municipal sewage, and so on. One thing we need is more money. We are getting as much money as we can. In my short time here we have expended about £30 million on sanitary services, £30 million on the sewage end of sanitary services. If water schemes had not to be dealt with, we could spend a lot more money on the other side of it, but water schemes have to be dealt with and have to get more than their fair share of the money. We are putting as much money as we can into it. We are putting in a tremendous amount as against one-sixth in the previous four years. It would not be right to say we are not paying the necessary attention to it. The plain facts are that the Bill remedies a great many problems. It will not remedy the problems of sewage from towns and cities. We can only do that if we get effective ways of doing it. That requires money and the money will be provided as quickly as possible.
With regard to the question of the tertiary treatment, there are not only two as Deputy O'Leary said but 100 different ways in which people think the problem can be solved. In his own area at present an experiment is being carried on in Killarney to find out how one type of treatment would work. We have a report coming to the Westmeath County Council on a proposal for another type of treatment. I met a person recently who told me that they had cleared the lakes between Canada and America of sewage very effectively by tying bags of bluestone to motor boats and driving them up and down the lakes. Everybody has his own idea about how these things should be done.
The tertiary treatment has been suggested by certain interested bodies. There are lobbies in this as well as everything else. They usually consist of people who, no matter how well meaning they may be, have very effective water sewerage schemes in their own areas and therefore do not worry very much about those who have not. They forget that not only does the installation of the tertiary system cost a sizeable amount of money but there is also an annual payment which has to be made available. Until we are satisfied about one which will work, it would be wrong to expend some of the scarce finances on those schemes, not because we do not want to do it but for that reason.
I think we have established the fact that we are aware of what should be done. A continuing and increasing amount of money will have to be made available for sewerage schemes. For years local authorities have been preparing these schemes and presenting them to the Department. I believe one of my predecessors got a proposal about all the water and sewerage schemes then required in the country, and the figure of £36 million nearly made him faint even though he was a strong man. That was some years ago. Now £36 million will finance little more than one year's output. Local authorities can bring their proposals up to date. Some of them are a little doubtful as to which comes first and the representatives on the local authorities tend to differ as to which should come first.
I want to make it clear that when the documentation is finalised and cleared in my Department if a scheme is third, fourth or fifth on the list submitted by the county, we cannot be blamed if the allocation of money goes to one higher up on the list. This is a lesson which might be learned by many people when they are sending in their schemes because they tend to clear and finalise one which is much further down than the one they want to deal with principally.
The Minister mentioned the £36 million, which nearly made somebody faint, and the small effect it would have today. This underlines the fact that it is useless to compare the amount of money being spent now with the amount of money spent previously unless inflation is taken into account. In replying to what I said on this matter, the Minister said that if the local authorities were brought to court we would all have to pay. That is true but to quite a considerable extent we all have to pay when an industry is brought to court. Usually they will recoup their money in some other way, perhaps by increasing prices if the fines were all that big. While that may be so, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the local authorities who are the licensing people have as rigid and as stringent conditions imposed on themselves as they would impose on other people.
We have discussed this matter for a long time and I do not think it is necessary to discuss it any further. There are one or two questions I should like to ask the Minister. One relates to the matter I raised earlier with regard to discharges from road tankers and mobile containers.
Is Deputy Faulkner thinking of accidental or deliberate discharges?
They are covered completely by the Bill.
While it is reasonably easy to watch the outflow from fixed positions, rather than having a proper outflow somebody could have a mobile container and carry the effluent to some other place and discharge it into a river.
We are aware of that. It is being watched. Usually these people are traced. If somebody dumps waste oil he is caught and prosecuted.
That is covered by this?
Yes, it is completely covered by this.
Subsection (2) (a) provides that subsection (1) does not apply to discharges to tidal waters from vessels or marine structures. Does that mean if the vessels are in tidal waters when they discharge somebody else is responsible?
The Department of Transport and Power are responsible for that.
That does not appear very sensible to me. I could understand it if the discharges were well out to sea. I would prefer the Minister for Local Government to be responsible for the lot. If the discharge took place well out to sea we could say: "OK that is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and Power", but if the discharge actually takes place in tidal waters and, in many instances, very close to the shore——
It would have to be still well below low water mark.
I appreciate that, but nevertheless the Minister lives relatively close to tidal waters——
It would cause the trouble to which the Deputy referred earlier with the wrong Minister trying to deal with it because we have no facilities for dealing with a discharge below low water level as far as the law is concerned and there is nothing we can do about it.
I think it is a pity.
I do not think I should repeat what I have already said in regard to subsection (1) where it states that a person shall not be deemed to have contravened section 4 (1) in relation to an existing discharge of trade effluent before he is granted or refused a licence. We already went into that argument.
Amendment No. 19 in the names of Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner. No. 33 is cognate. Nos. 20 and 34 in the name of the Minister are alternatives to Nos. 19 and 33.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 7, subsection (3), line 45, after "£100" to add "and in such circumstances any licence granted by a local authority may be revoked or amended by them".
Might I suggest that if the Deputies opposite are satisfied with the amendments I have put down, we may be able to shorten the business?
We are, to a considerable extent. In regard to amendment No. 19 there is a much greater awareness today of the need to protect the environment. People recognise that unless they are eternally vigilant such damage could be done to our natural surroundings as would have very serious consequences for all of us. I think it is accepted that if a person were to get a licence in these circumstances, on the basis of false or misleading information, it could have very serious consequences. I believe we would have the full support of the public in pushing this amendment were it not for the fact that the Minister has submitted an amendment which more or less covers what we want.
I think it is desirable to cover the situation where a person obtains a licence on the basis of false information and I thank Deputies Faulkner and O'Leary for raising the matter. I have, therefore, put down amendments 20 and 34 which I am sure will be acceptable to the Deputies as meeting the full purposes of amendments 19 and 33 which I suggest should now be withdrawn. I am advised that it is preferable to provide that where a person is convicted under section 6 (3) or 19 (3) of making a statement in writing which is false or to his knowledge misleading in relation to an application or an appeal, any licence issued to that person consequent on the application or appeal should be automatically revoked and amendments 20 and 35 provide accordingly.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 7, between lines 45 and 46, to insert the following paragraph:
"(b) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this subsection, any licence issued to that person consequent on the application or appeal in relation to which the information was furnished shall stand revoked from the date of the conviction.".
I should like to refer to subsection (3) where it states that a person who, in relation to an application for a licence under section 4 or an appeal under section 8, when furnishing information under this section or when verifying any such information makes a statement in writing which is false or to his knowledge misleading in a material respect shall be guilty of an offence and so on. What exactly is meant by "or to his knowledge misleading"? How can you prove——
It is a normal provision in legislation. We just adopted this as it is. Obviously, it has been working and we have had no complaints about it. It is in many other Acts, the Planning Act particularly, and it appears to be operating satisfactorily. It means that if somebody makes a statement and he claims afterwards that he did not understand at the time or did not know something it might be a defence, but if he knew it and cannot prove that he did not know it, then it is false and misleading and to his knowledge.
I think it would be quite difficult to prove this.
It appears to be quite easy to prove. It is a question of whether or not a person is prepared to swear something that is false. If he is put on oath he will have to swear it; either he knew it or did not know it.
I wonder how many cases were proved on the basis of that provision.
I think that quite a number of cases through the years have fallen on that particular clause; people have had to admit that they knew certain things when making a statement. It figures very prominently in the Social Welfare Acts. Even without going to court people are punished for making statements which they knew to be false.
In regard to the question of publication of notices, could the Minister say in what form these are likely to be published? It is a somewhat similar provision to what is in the Planning Act?
This is dealt with in another part of the Bill if the Deputy could renew his question when we come to it.
Would the Minister not consider as rather harsh the requirement in subsection (2) (f) requiring an applicant to defray or contribute to the cost of any investigation carried out by a local authority? Could he state the circumstances in which he would envisage such a contribution being required?
Why? The local authority are entitled to put that on the licence and if you are not satisfied with it you have the right to appeal. I would think it is quite reasonable.
Subsection (2) (d) requires local authorities to give specific information in relation to any applications and the manner in which they have been dealt with or publish any specified notices in relation to applications for, and the granting or refusing of licences. Would the Minister state the circumstances envisaged?
It is the same as in the Planning Act. We took it word for word from that Act and again this seems to be the proper way to deal with the matter.
But what are circumstances under which local authorities would issue notices in relation to applications for the granting or refusing of licences under this Bill?
For instance, notices published with the intention of giving information about licences which are to be issued. Again, it is only an enabling provision requiring local authorities to furnish the Minister and any other specified persons with any specified information in relation to applications and the manner in which they have been dealt with or to publish any specified notices in relation to applications for, and the granting or refusing of, licences. There is nothing extraordinary or unusual about it. It is a section that has been found to be very useful in the 1963 Planning Act and it is also in the new Planning Bill. When you find something works well, you put it in and use it.
To revert to the first question put by Deputy O'Leary on subsection (2), I have a note on the side of the Bill asking as the Minister asked, "Why?" The Minister will make regulations in regard to the licences. Investigation may be necessary. For example, an industry is causing pollution and an investigation may be necessary to determine what is the extent of the pollution, and to consider what conditions will be necessary to attach to the licence which will be imposed on the industry and so on. This is all in the cause of improving the situation and the purity of the water.
I wonder why an industry which might have been causing this pollution for many years should now be charged a certain amount of the cost of this investigation. I would have thought the licensing authority would carry out an investigation, pay for it and then issue the licence with conditions attached. It would be a different matter if the industry were told that they were committing an offence and because they continued to commit the offence, an investigation was necessary. Then I agree they would have to pay the expenses. In this case where the whole function is of importance and of benefit to the public generally, I cannot understand why we should have a subsection which would require the applicant to defray or contribute towards the cost of the investigation.
Deputy Faulkner is missing the point. These are regulations I may make which may require an applicant to pay whole or part of the cost. We are talking about somebody who is causing what may be major pollution. In such a case it may be necessary to spend a very sizeable sum to find out if he is. I am suggesting in this Bill that I may make regulations which will allow the local authority to recover all or part of this money from the firm concerned.
At present certain firms have paid substantial sums for this purpose. I was not allowed do it in the Planning Bill but I would have considered it reasonable—and I said so in an amendment which I had to take out of the Bill—to make people who cause extensive investigations to be carried out pay a share of the expenses. Deputy Faulkner spoke about somebody doing this for the good of humanity and said that everybody would be helped by it. The whole cause of the investigation is that somebody was harming the amenities of other people by causing pollution.
The EEC have been discussing, approved and I hope will make a regulation which they call polluter pays. I would be in favour of that. I do not believe the general public should be asked to put their hands in their pockets to pay for something someone else is doing. We have too much of this going on at the moment. I can see nothing wrong in asking these firms to make a contribution. I am sure it will be dealt with in a reasonable way.
Deputy Faulkner appears to have in mind that a firm might be put out of business because they would be asked to pay more than they could afford. That is not likely to happen. If a firm are causing pollution and insist that they are not but try to prevent the operation of the Act to such an extent that expensive, or maybe not so expensive, investigations have to be carried out, there is nothing wrong in insisting that they be asked to pay some of the costs. It is not a question of trying to punish people who are in the right but people in the wrong should be prepared to contribute towards the public purse.
I agree with what the Minister says about polluter pays which is generally accepted by the EEC. As I understand it, the polluter who is deliberately causing pollution must pay. That is acceptable in these circumstances if the polluter believes he is not causing pollution and somebody else says he is. This is a new Bill under which an investigation will take place. The investigation will decide whether that person is creating a pollution problem. At that point the local authority are entitled to issue him with a licence with conditions attached to it. If he does not act in a way to reduce or end pollution, then I can understand his having to pay. That is how I interpret the polluter pays.
The Minister possibly misunderstood me because he said that I had said the person in those circumstances was doing a benefit to humanity. What I actually said was that this investigation carried out by the licensing authority would ultimately result in a benefit to humanity in general because it would prove whether pollution was present. If it was present, the authority could insist on action being taken to ensure that the pollution was abated.
I believe that when you talk about the polluter paying you are really saying that where a person in full knowledge, and having been forewarned deliberately continues to pollute the water. I fully accept he should be brought to court, have to pay fines and pay for any investigations that are necessary. But this is a different matter. The licensing authority will carry out this investigation to decide whether what he says or what they say is correct. If they decide ultimately that what they say is correct, then they can issue a licence with conditions and if he does not fulfil them, he is liable to prosecution, to be fined and he should have to pay for any further investigations necessary.
As I said at the beginning, the investigation referred to in this section is in the public interest generally and, therefore, should be paid for out of public funds.
This is a question of dealing with regulations. Industry generally do not take the same view as Deputy Faulkner. We are putting in the provision that an applicant is required to contribute towards the cost in cases where a special or unusual investigation is carried out by a local authority, to enable that to be done. The licensing authority would not do this in every case and this can be put in the regulations. We will also put in the regulations that where there are exceptional circumstances or excessive costs, all or portion of the costs should be borne by the firm. We will have large multi-national industries coming to this country. If we did not include this provision, we would not get one red cent from them. At present most of these firms would be prepared to pay a reasonable amount towards the costs. In my view we are protecting ourselves by giving authority in this case to make regulations which will allow this to be done.
Is the Minister saying that industry would be willing to contribute to the cost of overcoming the problem or is he saying, as is in this section, that they are willing to pay towards the cost of any investigation?
Towards every investigation of a special case.
What does "special" mean.
Where it would be obvious to everybody that pollution was being caused, and somebody else insisted on all sorts of tests which would cost money to be carried out——
Who would insist? Would it be the licensing authority, the industry or the public?
If the person who made the application insisted and said they were not causing pollution and we insisted on having certain tests carried out and eventually after spending a lot of the people's money it was proved that it was a pollutant, I see no reason why the firm should not be asked to pay some or all of that cost. Industry should be prepared to accept that. If there was a fairly expensive investigation carried out, where a firm was concerned, I see no reason why they should not be asked to contribute and I do not think industry see any reason why they should not. I am not talking about ordinary simple ones which might cost a small amount of money. There are special circumstances and if we do not put it in this Bill, then we will not be able to make the regulations. If we cannot make them we cannot get any money from those people. This is reasonable.
Would the Minister agree that in the type of special circumstances he is referring to the possible end product of the investigation would be quite similar to the one we have had recently where we had experts coming down forcefully on both sides?
No. I am a great believer in getting experts. If the State or a local authority employ experts, they employ people who will give an unbiased opinion on the matter as they see it. Unfortunately, it is possible to get people to prove one thing or the other. If you keep travelling around enough you will be able to get somebody to believe the point of view held by everybody else. Deputy Faulkner is as well aware of this as I am. I do not think we are talking about that at all. We are talking about where people will be involved in industry and where there is a question of cost. I do not believe that the public should have to bear all the cost of cases where they are not responsible for the extra cost.
I will accept it as long as the Minister assures me that it will be operated reasonably.
I assure the Deputy that it will be operated reasonably.
Is it definitely the Minister's intention that applicants for licences must publish notices in the same way as applicants for planning permission have to do?
A decision has not been made but it is the general opinion that something like that must be done because the public must be made aware of the intention.
Subsection (5) states that a prosecution for an offence under this section may be taken by the Minister or a local authority. Why is the Minister brought into the picture here when in other sections it is the local authority?
He is brought in because false information may even be given in the case of appeals and the Minister would then have to have the right. He would only come into the picture in this case. In the normal way it would be the licensing authority but if there was an appeal it would be the Minister.
Will the licence last for three years providing there is not a specific need to have it investigated earlier than that?
Subsection (1) states that any person may, before the expiration of the prescribed period, appeal to the Minister. Is there a specific prescribed period?
It will be set out in regulations the same as in planning.
The same argument would apply here in relation to an appeal as did in relation to my earlier remarks when I pointed out that the longer a person was refused a licence the longer the pollution of the waters would continue. I suggest to the Minister, in view of the damage that could be done, that the time given for the appeal should be reasonably short.
It will be 21 days or a month.
Is there any question of how long it will take the Minister to make his decision?
He will do that very expeditiously.
He will not necessarily be dealing with them in future.
I will be dealing with them for many years to come. We will have power to refer them to the appeals board.
Will those appeals be dealt with by the Minister or An Bord Pleanála?
As the Bill stands, they will be dealt with by me but the intention is to transfer them to the appeals board.
Is it at the Minister's discretion?
What exactly is meant by subsection (2) of this section?
This subsection deals only with the register of abstractions by local authorities from waters in their functional areas. The Bill does not provide for control of water abstractions. Such control would be more appropriate to some future measure dealing with the regulation of water resources. Water abstraction has, however, a considerable bearing on pollution control since major abstractions can reduce the assimilative capacity of a river or lake. That is what Deputy Faulkner was talking about earlier when he spoke about all the pollution last summer. The water was down so low that it looked a lot worse than it was. It is necessary, therefore, that local authorities should keep a register, at least, of significant abstractions. The requirement in this subsection that a register be kept of water abstractions will also facilitate the compilation of comprehensive data on water resources.
Who will make those abstractions? Is it the local authority?
All abstractions, no matter by whom they are made, will be recorded. There will be some done by local authorities.
Is there any stipulation about how often those abstractions are made or if they are made in different parts of a river and so on?
There may be areas where it will be necessary to make them but in others there may not. So many of them could be made that it would not be proper to set down a special condition under which they should be made, when they should be made or where they should be made. This would complicate matters far too much.
Subsection (8) provides that regulations can be made to provide that specified classes of abstraction shall be exempt from subsection (2). This means that specified classes of abstractions shall not be maintained on the register of abstractions from waters in the functional areas of the local authorities. What type of abstractions?
Subsection (8) makes it clear that regulations under subsection (7) may exempt certain classes of abstractions, for example, minor abstractions or abstractions for certain purposes such as public water supply, from registration requirements. In the case of local matters it would not be necessary that those shall be registered but in others it would. It is an enabling subsection so that somebody cannot come along and say: "Why is this not recorded?"
Is there any danger that classes of abstractions other than abstractions from public water supplies may be excluded?
No. Deputy O'Leary knows that a person who takes a bottle of water from a river is abstracting water from that river but it will not be recorded. If some industry were to take a few thousand gallons of water out of it, it would have to be recorded. Casual abstractions of small amounts will not have to be recorded. There is no danger in this at all. It is quite a simple matter. It gives some facilities to local authorities.
Amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 23 have been discussed with amendment No. 11.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 9, lines 26 and 27, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries".
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 9, line 29, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries". —An tAire Rialtais Áitiúil.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 10, lines 16 and 17, to delete "Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries" and substitute "Minister for Fisheries".
Subsection (1) states:
Where it appears to a local authority, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries or a board of conservators that a contravention of section 3 (1) or 4 (1) has occurred or is occurring, the authority, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries or the board may apply to the District Court for an order directing such person as may be named in the order to mitigate or remedy any effects of the contravention within such period and in such manner as may be specified in the order.
I should like to know why "or any other person" is not included. There appears to be some restriction here regarding the authorities who may take action in relation to a contravention of these sections.
This is the implementation of the licensing provisions and therefore it is only the bodies concerned who would be responsible. There is power, of course, for anybody to take a prosecution under a different section.
Does this mean that in relation to, say, section 3 (1) or section 4 (1) any individual who so desires can take action in the courts regarding a discharge of effluent which he believes to be a pollution problem?
Yes. An ordinary prosecution can be taken for contravention of either of these sections.
What exactly does this mean then?
This is follow-up action where a decision has been taken by the licensing authority which has not been implemented. If defects have not been remedied the licensing authority are entitled to take court action.
Would the Minister please explain section 10 (4)?
This is a subsection which empowers a local authority to take any necessary steps to mitigate or remedy the effects of contravention and to recover the costs in the event of non-compliance with a District Court order under subsection (1).
This is a provision which we see in many Acts, particularly those relating to local government and sanitary services. I often wonder how effective it is.
What is the Deputy referring to now?
I am referring to section 10 (4), the giving of power to local authorities to recover the costs of any steps they take.
There is no difficulty about this. It is one of the simplest and most effective means of dealing with matters of this kind, involving a simple District Court order rather than a long legal wrangle.
I am sure the Minister will agree that it is most unusual for local authorities to take this extreme step.
Naturally they would not take this step unless they had to but it is proper that they should be able to do this in the cheapest and most effective way.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 10, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) Where a contravention of section 3 (1) or 4 (1) has occurred and damage ensues to a fishery, a local authority may, where the ownership of such fishery can not readily be established, sue the offender for the full cost resulting from such damage.".
Section 10 does, in fact, do exactly what Deputy Daly is suggesting in his amendment. Perhaps Deputy O'Leary might bear this in mind before he proceeds.
In many rivers valuable fisheries exist where no right of ownership is exercised. Thousands of pounds worth of damage can be done and because ownership is not exercised no claim can be made under existing law for damages. A very considerable stretch of river could be involved. In the west this could apply to a complete tributory or catchment. The purpose of this amendment is to give power to the board or to the local authority to sue for damages where damage is done to fisheries and where no claim is being lodged by the private owners or by the person who may have the right to do so but who, for one reason or another, is not exercising that right.
Would Deputy O'Leary like to say what exactly is meant by the amendment? It looks like a case of the invisible man—if one cannot find who is responsible, one sues him.
The purpose of the amendment is to get around this.
Would Deputy O'Leary mind explaining how this is done?
I explained it. Action should be taken against the person or organisation who causes the pollution.
I quote from the amendment:
"(2) Where a contravention of section 3 (1) or 4 (1) has occurred and damage ensues to a fishery, a local authority may, where the ownership of such fishery cannot readily be established, sue the offender for the full cost resulting from such damage".
If the local authority cannot establish who the owners of the fisheries are, then they should sue that person or body though they do not know their identity. This is something I cannot understand. Can Deputy O'Leary explain exactly what he means?
I assume that what is meant is that if a contravention of section 3 (1) or section 4 (1) takes place the owner of the fisheries concerned would be the person to take action in defence of his property. Possibly what is involved here is covered already. Where the ownership is not known and therefore where the owner will not be in a position to take action, the local authority would then take such action.
That is adequately covered in sections 3 and 4. It is accepted that it is already covered.
I take it that in the event of a contravention of section 3 (1) or section 4 (1) the people responsible can be prosecuted by the local authority.
It is a pity that Deputy Daly did not come and give us the benefit of his wisdom on this.
There is a specific reason why he could not be here. Deputy Dockrell was also late this morning, so we will not argue about that.
He did, at least, come in afterwards.
Basically, the point is that normally the owner of the fishery would take action but if he is not there to take such action and if the fish in the area are being damaged by pollution, then the local authority should take the necessary action. I believe, as I pointed out, that the local authority can take action in regard to section 3 (1).
I note that the question I asked earlier is answered in this particular section. Where contravention of section 3 (1) or section 4 (1) occurs the High Court may, on the application of a local authority or any other person——
That is right.
——whether or not that person has an interest in the water prohibit the continuance of the contravention.
What type of person would the Minister visualise? Would it be a person interested in the prevention of pollution?
Any other person.
The most likely person would be someone interested in the prevention of pollution, I assume.
The Deputy assumes correctly. One would not expect any or every fellow to enter a High Court action and run the risk of High Court costs.
That is why I asked the question.
People are interested in the cost of such litigation. The man in the street would have little hope of curbing pollution on his own because the cost of securing an injunction is very high and securing the injunction itself is an unwieldly process.
That is so but there are bodies which could afford to take action and such bodies will take action if they consider it necessary. If an individual wants to have a go on his own, then he will have to bear his own costs unless the court decides otherwise. We do not want a situation in which everybody might proceed to the High Court and the ratepayers and taxpayers might have to bear the costs.
No sane person would take action unless he thought he had a reasonable chance of success.
I would not be too sure about that. There are people who take actions because they like going to court.
They are not sane.
It depends on one's definition of sanity. They enjoy themselves while the action is going on.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 11, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) A local authority may recover the cost of steps taken under subsection (1) from another local authority or from a sanitary authority, where its acts or omissions necessitated such steps".
As I said earlier, there is a feeling, whether it be true or false, among the public that local authorities are themselves very often offenders where pollution is concerned and they feel it is like setting a thief to catch a thief to appoint local authorities in charge. I am inclined to agree with the Minister that there is not much option though the Minister said that at a later date it might be possible to introduce some better system. Now we should be seen to be ensuring that local authorities will act within the law in the same way as the industrialist, the agriculturalist or the individual. One way of ensuring that local authorities comply with the law is by making them liable for damages, costs and so on. That would make them more careful. If a local authority can recover from a neighbouring local authority, the latter will be very careful to ensure it does not offend. This amendment would ensure that local authorities would be particularly careful in the matter of containing water pollution.
I am advised this amendment is unnecessary because the power it proposes to confer on a local authority is already contained in section 13. Section 13 (2) enables a local authority to recover the cost of any steps it has taken under subsection 1 from such person as it satisfies the court is the person whose act or omission necessitated such steps. The Interpretation Act, 1937, provides that the word "person" shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be construed as importing a body corporate, whether a corporation aggregate or a corporation sole, and an unincorporated body of persons as well as an individual. Local authorities and sanitary authorities, therefore, come within the definition of "person" and recovery of costs from another local authority or sanitary authority is, therefore, covered in the section.
I suggest that the amendment be withdrawn. It is rather interesting because, when Deputy Faulkner was speaking, I was thinking that one of the cases which might occur when this Bill becomes law would involve Drogheda Corporation. Again and again, Drogheda Corporation have been accused of polluting the beaches at Mornington, Bettystown and Laytown and Deputy Faulkner and I might very well find ourselves on the opposite side of the fence if such a court case cropped up. It would be interesting finding out what evidence might be produced.
While I agree the local authority have the power to prosecute and recover damages and costs, nevertheless I believe it would be salutary for us to direct the attention of local authorities specifically by the insertion of this amendment because it would clearly identify the local authority aspect of the matter. While local authorities will not be slow to take action in dealing with individual cases, I have grave doubts as to whether they will make quite the same effort to recover from other local authorities. Local authorities will be responsible for the implementation of the Bill. They will be the licensing authority and so on. The more emphasis we place on the fact that they must come within the scope of the Bill the same as any other individual, the better. It is because of this line of thought that we tabled this amendment. We recognised that a local authority already had the power to deal with "any person" and, as the Minister has said, "any person" could mean another local authority. It is incumbent on us to impress on the local authorities in every way possible how important it is for them, the authority responsible under this Bill for dealing with pollution, to recognise that they are not there to ensure that others preserve the environment but that they also have a grave responsibility in this matter. If the amendment was accepted, that emphasis, as far as the general public are concerned, would be placed on local authorities. I agree that "person" in the circumstances will include local authorities but nobody else outside the legal profession or those deeply interested in this matter realise this. They are of the opinion that nobody is involved here except private individuals, industries or other groups.
This amendment is important and the vital words in it are "where its acts or omissions necessitated such steps".
The vital word in my opinion is "may". We are just wasting time on this amendment now because this is already included. The local authorities are the people affected and they know the position.
I should like to know if the decision by a local authority to take action against another authority is an executive or reserved function or does it really matter?
It would be an executive function.
Could the council direct the county manager to take steps?
For that reason would this section not lead to all sorts of difficulties and problems?
No. If a local authority want to take another authority to court they are entitled to do so. Does the Deputy want this provision in or out? He is suggesting now that it might be a good idea to have it in but it is already included in section 13. At one stage the Deputy wants it in a second time and later he expresses the view that it should not be in at all.
I have asked the Minister to again impress on local authorities the importance of their role in this matter and I accept that he will do that.
I will, but I do not think it is necessary because local authorities are reasonable people and they are concious of their responsibility in this matter.
I cannot see the point in having this section when local authorities are allowed to discharge from sewers into lakes, rivers and streams. The section permits a local authority, which could be a major polluter but which would not come within the ambit of the Bill, to take proceedings against another local authority in respect of what could be a minor matter. Until such time as local authorities are obliged to licence their own sewers this section should not be included.
I find this extraordinary. Deputy O'Leary has put his name to an amendment to the effect that a local authority may recover the cost of steps taken under subsection (1) from another local authority or from a sanitary authority, where its acts or omissions necessitated such steps. Even though this was debated fully and an amendment withdrawn by Deputy Faulkner, Deputy O'Leary wants the same thing, which is included in section 13, withdrawn completely. We will never get legislation through the House if Members change their mind every five minutes. I can see no reason why we should not include in this section the provision to ensure that if a local authority deliberately continue to pollute waters flowing into the area of another local authority—we have enough of this on the continent between Germany, Belgium and Holland—the authority suffering the pollution should be entitled to take the necessary steps. That is included in the Bill, but Deputy O'Leary now says this should not be done. I do not think action will be taken very often because it will not arise very often. But the fact that it may arise only once in 25 years does not mean that it should not be the law of the land.
The omissions referred to by Deputy O'Leary are included. I believe the section is as perfect as such sections can be. We should leave it as it is. Deputy O'Leary talked about a local authority that is a major pollutant of its own waters. There is no way of stopping that authority; one cannot tell them to stop the sewage going into the river or lake until the necessary money is spent to prevent it.