Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Nov 1980

Vol. 324 No. 5

Dumping at Sea Bill, 1980: Committee Stage.


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, after line 16, to insert the following definition—"`substance or material' includes thing.".

I do not get the meaning. That seems to be bad grammar. It seems to me to be incomprehensible.

The London Convention included dumping and deliberate disposal not only of wastes and other matter from the vessels and aircraft or platforms but it also includes the dumping of the vessel itself or the platform or the aircraft. That is the reason why the amendment includes "thing". Otherwise it could mean that the ship itself could be dumped.

I think the word the Minister should have used is "scuttled".

I appreciate the Deputy's concern about the word but I think he will have to agree that it is necessary that this be included so it covers the ship itself or the platform or the aircraft.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, after line 16, to insert the following definition:

"`territorial seas of the State' means the territorial seas of the State for the purposes of the Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 1959, and the internal waters of the State for the purposes of that Act.".

This simply means that under the Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 1959, there is a three-mile limit from the base line and it did not include the internal waters, say, from the Aran Islands towards the coastline and the estuarial waters. This makes it possible for us to have jurisdiction over the three-mile limit from the base line outwards plus the internal waters between the base line and the land.

How far inland in relation to the internal waters of the State does this mean?

It would include the tidal waters right up the estuaries. On the west coast, north-west coast and south coast the base line is a line drawn and agreed and it does not include the sea between the islands and the land and this extends jurisdiction to cover all waters from the tidal limits out as far as three miles beyond the base line.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, subsection (2), lines 31 and 32, to delete paragraph (a).

By way of explanation, Deputy Corish and Deputy Keating are not in the House but they raised this matter on Second Stage. This means in effect that somebody prosecuted under this Bill cannot use it as a defence to say that they were instructed to do so by their employer. The removal of this section means that this can no longer be done. In practice if the amendment were not made at this time a person who proved that he had acted on the instructions of an employer could not be prosecuted. In deference to what was said by Deputy Corish and particularly by Deputy Keating I have agreed to remove this section in its entirety. It makes it a stronger Bill and I would like to thank Deputy Keating for raising the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 3, subsection (2), to delete lines 41 and 42 and to substitute the following:

"or, in the case of dumping to which subsection (1) (b) of this section relates, under and in accordance with a permit granted by another State that is party to the Oslo Convention or the London Convention.".

This disallows dumping inside our territorial waters under permits that might be granted by another State.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2. as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I want to say just a few words on section 2. As he promised on Second Stage, the Minister was good enough to forward a list of the countries which are signatories to the Oslo Convention, 12 of them, and also of the 44 signatories to the London Convention.

There has been one further addition to the signatories to the London Convention, which number stands now at 45, with the addition of Japan who signed quite recently after considerable discussion.

That was one of the questions I was going to ask the Minister, whether Japan, being one of the greatest industrial nations of the world, particularly in the chemical line, was included in the 44. I am glad to learn that they are now included. In regard to those countries could the Minister tell me what is their standard territorial waters limit? We talk here about the territorial seas of our State. Can the Minister tell me what are the territorial limits of the 12 or 44 signatories in question?

As the Deputy knows, the Law of the Sea Conferences of 1958 and 1960 failed to agree on the limits. But I understand that the present Law of the Sea Conference, not yet concluded, has been considering the extension of the territorial seas to a 12-mile limit. Approximately 76 states have to date claimed this limit of 12 nautical miles as against three. A draft Council resolution in 1979 of the member states of the European Economic Community suggested that they might extend their territorial limit to 12 miles as well. But, as far as we are concerned, that has not yet taken place. The majority of the EEC states, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, have a three-mile territorial sea limit. Italy and France have already claimed a 12-mile limit. It is expected that, after the present Law of the Sea Conference is concluded it might be necessary to claim a 12-mile limit. But, as things stand. Italy and France are the only two countries of the nine EEC countries that have claimed the 12 miles territorial limit. Ours is still three.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 5. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are related and may be discussed with amendment No. 5.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, after subsection (7), between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following subsection:

"(8) In relation to the application of this Act to substances, devices, apparatus and products to which the Nuclear Energy (An Board Fuinnimh Núicléigh) Act, 1971, or any order under section 6 thereof applies—

(a) references in this section (other than in this subsection) and in sections 2 (3) (b) and 5 (1) of this Act to the Minister shall be construed as references to the Minister for Energy and to An Board Fuinnimh Núcléigh as his agent, and.

(b) references in this section (other than in this subsection) to the Minister for Energy shall be construed as references to the Minister,

and a permit granted by the Minister for Energy or An Bord Fuinnimh Núcléigh under this section authorising any dumping or loading shall be deemed, for the purposes of any such order, to be a licence under that order authorising that dumping or loading.".

Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7, by and large, refer to the Nuclear Energy Board.

I was surprised that there was not more specific reference in the original Bill to the danger of nuclear discharge or dumping. I am glad to see that the amendments make provision for such control. How effective are An Bord Fuinnimh Núicléigh? What status have they and what authority do they have? What work have they carried out in the past and what work does the Minister envisage them carrying out in the future?

It is interesting that the Deputy should raise these matters on these amendments. This Bill covers all dumping, including low level radioactive waste but because the Minister for Energy and the Nuclear Energy Board would have the expertise and manpower to deal with matters connected with radioactive waste it has been decided that we should extend the licensing powers of this Bill to the Minister for Energy. He may appoint officers to deal with radioactive substances and the dumping of such substances at sea. This Bill will not alone strengthen the hand of the Minister for Energy but will close any loopholes that might have existed as far as his jurisdiction over dumping at sea was concerned. One amendment is for that specific purpose.

I would suggest that even though, to date, the Minister for Energy might not have been able to prosecute successfully for dumping at sea, this Bill gives him that power. To avoid duplication of power in so far as the Minister for Energy would be responsible for radioactive waste disposal and other matters concerned with radioactive waste this Bill is being extended to give him the power to deal with all matters concerning waste disposal at sea of low level radioactive waste. It is important, in the public interest, to state once again that high level radioactive waste may not, in any circumstances at all, be dumped at sea. We are talking about low level radioactive waste in selected sites under very close surveillance. I can assure the House and Deputy Deasy that the Minister for Energy and the Nuclear Energy Board have the expertise and personnel to monitor all of these matters, to follow through and, if necessary, to prosecute should it ever happen that such would become necessary under this Bill. I am satisfied that this Bill gives the necessary powers to deal with dumping of low level radioactive waste at sea and that such power should be vested in the Minister for Energy.

Is it not a fact that what we have before us here is largely irrelevant? First of all, we do not have any nuclear waste in this country, so the question of its loading does not arise. Secondly, the Bill refers only to territorial waters extending to a limit of three miles. The public concern about which we spoke on Second Stage really concerns the area beyond the three mile territorial limit. What function, if any, does this Bill fulfil in governing that type of dumping?

This is a very important Bill in so far as at this time we may ourselves not have any processes providing radioactive low level or other kind of waste. If I might take a simple example, if another country that might be producing this kind of radioactive waste granted a permit for the dumping of such radioactive waste to an operator who suddenly decided to dump it in our territorial waters we would have no way of stopping them without this legislation. Let us not forget that all the other countries which are signatories to the London Convention specify that prior notice must be given of proposed dumping of this kind of waste at sea.

Sites are picked after extensive and exhaustive investigation with all concerned—indeed our officers have participated fully in the monitoring and inspection of the disposal of radioactive waste. So it is essential even though we do not have that loading factor at the moment. In another case radioactive waste might be on one ship and transferred to another and subsequently dumped just outside our territorial limits. We would want to be in a position to protect our interests in that regard. Also any loading or waste disposal carried out by an Irish ship irrespective of where it is dumped in any part of the world will be controlled by this legislation and can be successfully prosecuted if there is infringement of the legislation. I think that is essential, apart altogether from the fact that we do not at this time concern ourselves with the production of this waste and also so that we would participate fully in the convention and the control of it so far as the European scene is concerned. It is essential to proceed with the legislation at this time.

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

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 7, subsection (1), after paragraph (a), between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following paragraph:

"(b) The Minister for Energy may appoint an officer of that Minister of the Government or of An Bord Fuinnimh Núcléigh to be an authorised officer and an authorised officer appointed under this paragraph may exercise the powers of an authorised officer under this Act only in so far as this Act applies in relation to substances, devices, apparatus and products to which the Nuclear Energy (An Bord Fuinnimh Núcléigh) Act, 1971, or any order under section 6 thereof applies.".

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

Amendment No. 7 has already been discussed.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 9, subsection (4), line 46, after "this Act" to insert "or for an offence under section 6 (4) of the Nuclear Energy (An Bord Fuinnimh Núicléigh) Act, 1971, committed at sea".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Section 6 and 7 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 10, line 39, to delete the word "indictment" and substitute "indictment,".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"

I want to refer to a point raised on Second Stage, the amount of the fine mentioned in this section. £500 seems to be a trivial amount. If the dumping were of a dangerous nature, as most likely it would be, I do not think £500 would be an adequate penalty. I was under the impression that the Minister agreed with this idea and I thought he would have changed the £500 to at least £50,000 or some such figure. The sum of £500, or 12 months imprisonment, or both, especially as we know that courts normally opt for the fine, seem to be very small for such a potentially dangerous action.

The position is not as the Deputy states. The Bill as framed, bearing in mind the damage that can be caused to human life or to maritime environment, provides no limit to the fine that can be imposed in the case of prosecution for an indictable offence. Perhaps the Deputy is referring to a matter that is tried summararily in the District Court and there is a £500 limit there for a very minor offence. It is strictly confined to a minor offence and a district justice may impose that fine of £500 or up to 12 months imprisonment. But for a serious offence under this Bill there is no limit on the amount of fine and/or up to five years imprisonment can be imposed for an indicatable offence. Both cases are covered and no limit is imposed in the case of an indictable offence because of the seriousness of the nature of the offence and the damage that might be done either to the environment or otherwise.

I see that in subsection (1)

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 9 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Agreed to take remaining Stage today.