Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 4 Dec 1990

Vol. 403 No. 4

Sea Pollution Bill, 1990: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.

Amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy O'Sullivan. Amendment No. 1a is an alternative. It is proposed therefore, with the agreement of the House, to take for discussion purposes amendments Nos. 1 and 1a together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, lines 24 to 26, to delete all words from and including "on such day" in line 24, down to the end of the section and substitute the following:

"on a date not later than 2 years from the passing of the Bill by the Oireachtas".

I welcomed the Bill on Second Stage but I pointed out to the Minister that I would be making amendments to it. I am firmly convinced that a certain time limit should be incorporated in this section. As it stands, the Bill is rather open-ended. The existing stipulation that commencement of the Act depends solely on the will of the Minister is too loose and I consider it inadequate. I would ask the Minister to consider a period of two years which I consider to be reasonable. There are other bodies who would be involved when the Bill becomes law such as harbour boards, local authorities, the Garda Síochána and others. My first reaction was to oppose the section but if the Minister accepts this amendment which proposes two years as a reasonable timespan, I would be happy.

I tabled an amendment because I am fearful of the provision in the Bill which suggests that the Act will come into operation on such day or days for the different provisions. There is a tendency to pass legislation in this House without making the subsequent orders. Therefore, we end up with the time having been spent in the Houses of the Oireachtas and Bills being left on the shelf and not put into operation. Fearful that a similar position would arise in relation to this very important legislation, I tabled an amendment to section 2 which proposes that it be enacted not later than one year from the passing of the Bill by the Oireachtas. I do not believe there is anything in the Bill that would prevent it being enacted within a year.

This is important legislation and it is vital that we act as quickly as possible to prevent further pollution of the seas around our coastline. It is equally important that not alone do we specifically set down a date on which the legislation would become law but that the Minister uses every opportunity outside the State to ensure that all other member states and other parties to the MARPOL Agreement have their legislation dealing with this matter implemented. I tabled the amendment because of my fear that the legislation would not be implemented, because of the tradition where legislation has remained on the shelf and has not been implemented in the past, and because of the importance of the protection of our seas.

We discussed in detail on Second Stage what is involved, and action needs to be taken. It is not enough to say: "We, the Irish Government have adhered to the MARPOL Agreement and have introduced a Bill which deals with Annex (v) of that Agreement". It is not enough for Government Ministers to say that in speeches and at various meetings at EC and international level. A date for the implementation of the legislation must be laid down and I propose that it be within a year of the date of the passage of this Bill.

The Workers' Party oppose this section, but I would be prepared to accept the amendment that the legislation be implemented at a minimum within a year. This is a very important Bill which we will spend some time discussing and on which many people have worked. We have been told that if the Minister so wishes, the Bill will not be brought into law. What is the point in our discussing such a Bill if it is not going to be brought into law? It will be passed in this House and yet will not be brought into law if the Minister so wishes. That makes a nonsense of legislation and of our position here in the House. We will be going through various sections and suggesting amendments but what does it matter at the end of the day if the Bill is going to lie there until the Minister, or whatever Minister in the future, does not feel like bringing it into law? It is an insult to the House to put such a section at the beginning of a Bill.

I have not seen this happen — possibly it did arise — in any Bill that I can recall but I have seen cases where sections or parts of sections were not brought into effect until the Minister said so. I have never seen a provision at the start of a Bill which states that if the Minister so wishes, he will not bring this Bill into law. Why is the Minister bringing the Bill before us? Is it a cosmetic exercise? We will discuss the Bill for some days and give the impression to the general public that we are bringing in a Bill about sea pollution, discharges into the sea and so on. People will think the Minister is great to have brought in the Bill, but after it goes through all Stages and is passed it will not become law unless the Minister so wishes. He can decide to bring it into law within a year, two years, five years or ten years. If this section is left as it is, it means we have no power at all.

The Workers' Party favour the deletion of this section which states that the legislation shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister, by order, appoints, and different days may be appointed for different provisions. We have no idea what a Minister — or civil servants who are probably making the decisions — will do in relation to bringing provisions into law on a day or time in the future. Little bits here and there might be brought in at different times and it makes a nonsense of the Bill. The section should be deleted but, if the Minister does not agree, at least there should be a time set when it must come in. After going through the whole charade in this House of talking about sea pollution and discharges, and the wonderful things we will do as a result of the powers in this Bill, the Minister may decide at the end of the day not to implement such powers. I ask the Minister to withdraw the section.

I appreciate the purpose of the amendments put down by Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan and Deputy Taylor-Quinn. It is an earnest of their commitment to achieve a Bill in connection with sea pollution and the MARPOL Convention. The nature of the Bill is such that, like the MARPOL Convention, it lends itself to implementation of some parts ahead of others. There is a great deal of technical detail — as Members who have studied the MARPOL Convention will know — associated with some of the annexes of the Convention and amendments can also be made to them. The House should reflect on that. Some regulations will take a longer time to implement than others and we do not want the implementation of some parts deferred or delayed pending the sorting out of some technical details on another part of the Bill.

The Government are committed to terminating the indiscriminate disposal of ships' waste in the marine environment as part of the environment action programme and, consequently, annex (v) on garbage is a top priority.

I know that Deputy Mac Giolla is substituting for his spokesperson but I cannot understand his contribution. He has been a Member of this House for some time and what he says he does not remember seeing before in Bills is quite common. For example, in the 1988 Act dealing with oil pollution of the sea, section 2 states that this Act shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister shall, by order, appoint and different days may be appointed for different provisions. The kind of "scare" position which Deputy Mac Giolla outlined of it not being implemented did not apply in that case, nor will it apply in the Bill. I reject the amendment on the grounds I have outlined.

I seek clarification from the Minister because the only explanation he has given is that he is very anxious to bring in one particular annex of the Convention and that he does not want it to be delayed until all the other technical difficulties have been resolved. As has been done frequently, he can keep that option for a particular area where there will be a technical difficulty, make it the exception where the Minister will have power, and leave the remainder in. The Minister said that there was no problem in regard to annex (v) so why not ensure that it is brought in immediately and that his power of preventing the operation of the Bill coming into effect be implemented in relation to the other sections in regard to which there are technical difficulties? He should let us know what the technical difficulties are because this section gives him wide powers and his explanation does not hold water. He may, by order, appoint different days for each section in the Bill and the different annexes and, when the Bill has gone through, he could, by order, implement annex (v). The Minister's explanation is not valid, obviously he saw it somewhere else and decided to bring it in without any relevance to the provisions of the Bill. Why can a part of the Bill not come into law on the day it is passed by this House? If that is not the case, will the Minister correct me and let us know the sections in relation to which there are technical problems?

The Minister said on Second Stage that he proposed to give effect to the five annexes of the MARPOL Convention. On that occasion I questioned the Minister because I thought it was highly unusual to introduce the five together. Indeed, it was unrealistic. For instance, a ship would have to bring sewage and garbage ashore and dispose of it there. I pointed out that some harbour authorities — such as Cork Harbour Authority — have no method of disposing of sewage from ships, or indeed from the city for that matter. I said that two years was a realistic time to set for a harbour or local authority to put facilities in place given that the money would come from Central Funds. Presumably, the authorities could then provide facilities for ships to discharge their sewage and garbage. I did not pluck the two year period from the air, I know that most local authorities are starved of cash at present and could not possibly provide any facilities from their own funding. I expected that there would have to be discussions between the Department of the Marine and local authorities to put such facilities in place which would allow ships to dispose of their garbage and sewage. I asked for the two year period because the Minister indicated he would put the five annexes in place without delay. If he had indicated he intended introducing them on a phased basis I would have been happier but that is not the case. I am a little nervous of giving the Minister a free hand to impose such legislation as he pleases.

I am disappointed with the Minister's reaction to the amendment because it was put down in good faith and to help him. There is a need for a sense of urgency within the Department and the relevant authorities, such as the various harbour boards around the country, to provide the type of facilities which are necessary. The facilities about which we are talking are not magically sophisticated or beyond the bounds of putting into operation fairly fast because we are talking about very basic facilities which have already been provided in airports and there has not been any difficulty in regard to them.

I do not see the problem. It was evident from the Minister's Second Stage contribution that he is genuine in relation to annex (v), but there are things which need to be taken seriously. Unless there is a time limit, urgent action will not be taken and the seas will continue to be polluted. That is not good enough. We are only too aware of the extent of pollution being caused and the lack of ministerial powers in relation to ships coming into our waters. It is imperative to put an operational date on this Bill so that this vitally important legislation can be implemented at an early date. It will not be good enough to put this through both Houses without having the ability and facility to put it into operation. I hope the Minister recognises that that is why I have tabled my amendment.

I support the amendment put down by Deputy O'Sullivan. Like Deputy Taylor-Quinn I think this is putting things on the long finger. There must be a maximum timescale. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. A two year period is possibly too long but it shows that a real effort has been made to get a consensus on this issue. I ask the Minister to take this on board.

I assure the House that it is with a sense of urgency that the Bill is being introduced. If the Members who are contributing have a look at the long Title of the Bill they will see it says:

to make a provision for the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil and other substances; and to give effect to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships done at London on the 2nd day of November, 1973, as amended by the Protocol done at London on the 17th day of February, 1978; and to give effect to the Protocol relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution by Substances other than Oil done at London on the 2nd day of November, 1973; and to provide for the repeal of the Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts....

It is because of the urgency of the matter that this Bill was constructed in this way. I have to ask the House to accept my word that I am anxious to put this on the Statute Book. The more expeditiously and efficiently we do this, the sooner what is waiting since 1973 will be enshrined in our legislation and the sooner we will get on with the job of dealing with pollution.

As mentioned already, Deputy Mac Giolla indicated that he never saw this in a Bill before. It is quite a common part of a Bill, but it does not necessarily inhibit or delay the putting into effect of what we do in this House. I am asking the House to accept bona fide that I want to have this legislation put through this House and the Seanad to become part of our law as quickly as possible.

I appreciate the personal commitment of the Minister this evening, but there could be a Cabinet reshuffle in the morning, or within the next week and while we know that the Minister has made a fair effort since he became Minister and while we appreciate his commitment, his successor might not have the same commitment or give the same priority to this and it could be left on the shelf. That would be serious and that is why I am pressing this amendment.

The Minister in reading out the Title illustrated that we are way behind other nations when it comes to pollution. We are starting from a disadvantage. Nevertheless, our waters are relatively pollution free. By asking the Minister to consider a two year timescale we are not asking him to do something outlandish. If the Minister cannot accept this amendment for a reason which is beyond our knowledge at this time he could undertake to come back to the House at a later date. I would like to see the two year timescale stitched into this Bill. I gave serious thought to this amendment and taking into account the authorities that would be involved in the implementation of this legislation, the two years is a reasonable timescale. I am sorry the Minister does not see it in that light although the Minister has credited us with the aim of getting this into law as fast as possible.

Lest the House be under any illusion about it, the fact that I am not accepting the amendment is not an indication that it is my purpose to delay longer than two years. I hope to have it in place before the two year period, but I do not want to be constrained by a fixed period.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 71, Níl, 61.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, Patrick J.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Howlin and Ferris.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Since amendment No. 1, in the name of Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan, has been negatived, amendment No. 1a in the name of Deputy Taylor-Quinn cannot now be moved and consequently it falls.

Amendment No. 1a not moved.
Section 2 agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.