Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Nov 1980

Vol. 324 No. 5

Dumping at Sea Bill, 1980: Fifth Stage.

Question proposed "That the Bill do now pass."

I shall not oppose the passing of the Bill because I agree with its contents but I want to reiterate a point I made on Second Stage about the Ineffectiveness of our control over the type of dumping referred to in the Bill due to the limits involved. The territorial limits are obviously far too small and this means that 99 per cent of the world's seas are available for dumping of dangerous substances. If one draws a three-mile limit around each of the world's maritime countries one finds that the percentage covered by the Bill is pathetically small. Could the Minister give us any hope of bringing about a situation where the 99 per cent not covered under this Bill will get some protection? Can he give us some hope that the signatories to the Oslo Convention and the London Convention will not just include the 45 referred to here today but will include every nation in the world whether maritime or landlocked so that the possibility of dangerous dumping of toxic or nuclear waste or anything injurious to fish life or human life will be prevented?

In its present state the Bill goes a certain distance to alleviate our fear of disasters occurring around our coasts but there is this great yawning gap outside the three-mile limit which is not dealt with at all. As I pointed out previously, there are many industrialised countries not listed in this Bill in these conventions that are quite capable of dumping a quantity of dangerous materials not just in the open seas but close to our coast. There is no provision in this Bill to prosecute people who might dump even within our three-mile territorial waters.

In reality, the Bill is doing a certain amount of good but, overall, the dumping at sea problem remains with us and the two conventions referred to in this legislation have not solved the problem. They are only nibbling away at it at present. Could the Minister in his reply give us some hope that a convention will be drawn up which will govern dumping in the greater areas to which I have referred, outside the territorial waters of the maritime nations of the world?

First of all, I should like to register my appreciation of the participation of Deputy Deasy and the other Deputies in the debate on all sections of the Bill. It is my opinion that this is the first serious step taken by a Government Department to deal with a matter which may not at this time cause disturbance to us as we do not have a great amount of this type of dumping, but it is a step in the right direction in that we are living in a time when dumping of toxic wastes,— including low-level radioactive waste—will become part and parcel of everyday life. It is essential that we be prepared for it and be able to protect the environment, maritime life and fish stocks by having this legislation on the books. It gives, in effect, considerable control to the licensing agency as far as this dumping is concerned. It must be remembered that it applies not just to territorial waters but also to any ship, aircraft or structure registered in Ireland, irrespective of what sea or ocean of the world it operates in.

The whole idea of the Bill was that it would ratify the two conventions, the Oslo Convention which has no jurisdiction over all the seas of the world and the London Convention which has, and this Bill does ratify both these conventions, in effect. It is aimed at controlling pollution of the seas caused by dumping of harmful substances from any kind of ship, aircraft or maritime structure, When one considers that annex I of the conventions provides that certain substances may not be dumped anyway and annex II provides for the material which may be dumped with special permit and others which need a permit also, in effect all dumping at sea will be controlled by this Bill irrespective of whether the substances are of a harmful nature or not.

It will be remembered that part of this Bill gives power to the licensing authorities to stipulate where and when the dumping may take place and this will be monitored very closely by the licensing authorities. In effect, the authorised officers will be in a position to enforce the safe dumping of these substances in so far as our territorial seas and the seas outside them are concerned. As Deputy Deasy rightly stated, we have not a large amount of this type of dumping at present but in the future it will be important. This Bill is the first comprehensive legislation to deal with this very important matter. I am hoping that we will never have the need to implement the provisions of the Bill, but if we have I am convinced that the authority given and the limits applied in so far as the fines which might or might not be imposed by the courts are concerned will act in a deterrent way and ensure that this type of infringement of our seas will not take place.

I am confident that this Bill will deal effectively with any possible future dumping and, for that reason, I am glad to see that the Opposition Deputies are not opposing the Bill. I sincerely hope it will act in a way which will continue to protect our environment and fish life, irrespective of whether inside or outside our territorial waters.

I am aware——

I am sorry, Deputy. The Minister has replied to the motion that the Bill be now passed.

I just want to ask the Minister a question or two on the Fifth Stage.

This is completely out of order. I shall allow the Deputy a brief question.

I shall not get a chance again. I see that the USSR is one of the signatories of the London Convention, and just above that I notice that the Ukraine is also a signatory. I know that the Minister has performed some fair feats in his time and has been referred to as the Messiah of west Mayo, but——

The Deputy is very kind.

——when did the Minister liberate the Ukraine from the clutches of the USSR?

Does the Minister wish to reply to that question?

I am glad that the Deputy appreciates the great talent I have in dealing with all matters that might be of concern.

Can the Minister explain how the people of the Ukraine got into this list?

They are one of the people who are signatories of the London Convention. What is the Deputy suggesting?

We cannot re-open that matter.

As to the reference to what the people of the Ukraine can or cannot do, I am quite sure that the Ukraine has a parliament of its own and is entitled to ratify, or otherwise, international conventions. Perhaps it must be done by referring the matter to the USSR, although I am not aware of that. It is a signatory to this convention and we are happy to see it there and would hope every other country of the world would do the same thing, as far as this convention is concerned.

Is the motion agreed? Shall we await Deputy Boland?

The Minister might continue for a few moments and tell us——

The Minister cannot continue.

——why Russia is number three.

The Bill is now concluded.

If the Deputy has any matters which he would like to raise in the Seanad, I shall be delighted to deal with them at that time.

No more speeches, please. Is a quorum being sought?

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Question put and agreed to.