Amendment No. 2 in the names of Deputies Gilmore and O'Sullivan. Amendment No. 3 is an alternative. It is suggested, therefore, for discussion purposes that we take amendments Nos. 2 and 3 le chéile. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Sea Pollution Bill, 1990: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 4, subsection (1), lines 34 to 36, and in page 5, lines 1 to 3, to delete paragraphs (a) and (b).
One of the deficiencies in this Bill relates to the number of cases where exemptions are provided for in the Bill. In the definition section, in relation to what constitutes a discharge, two categories of exemption are provided for: dumping within the meaning of the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, or the release of oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances or harmful substances directly arising from the exploration, exploitation and associated offshore processing of seabed mineral resources.
It will be interesting to hear the reasons for exempting these categories in paragraphs (a) and (b). In relation to the paragraph dealing with offshore oil and gas exploration we can envisage many situations where there may well be discharges from such activity which would pollute the sea. As I understand it, that paragraph would effectively exempt any of the offshore oil or gas platforms which operate off our coast. That is a serious omission because there is potential for considerable pollution of the sea from the activity associated with mineral exploration offshore.
The amendment in my name is one which states very clearly that we firmly believe there should be no exception to dumping whatsoever. We are very far behind other nations in regard to our acceptance of dumping, for whatever reason, but from this I will exclude accidental dumping. In paragraphs (a) and (b) we are not referring to accidental dumping or accidental damage but about dumping that would occur from experimentation or exploitation of the seabed in the search for mineral resources. I would like to hear what the Minister will have to say about the Dumping at Sea Act because for too long we have accepted that the sea is the refuse bin of the nation and of other nations where ships come and dump outside our territorial waters but, nevertheless off our coast. This has a serious effect on marine life and on the area surrounding our coast.
If this Bill is a serious attempt, as I believe it is, to control pollution of our waters, we will have to delete both of those paragraphs. I cannot accept that there would be exceptions to the dumping of material which could cause serious damage to marine life and could put this country back years. We will have to look very closely at other provisions of this section to ensure that they do not conflict with our attempt to introduce the MARPOL Agreement and to get to grips with what I consider to be the greatest threat to one of our natural resources. I am anxious to hear what the Minister has to say particularly in relation to paragraph (a).
Is it appropriate for me to move amendment No. 3 in my name?
It is not appropriate. We are discussing its contents with amendment No. 2.
The reason I put down amendment No. 3 is, as already stated by Deputies Gilmore and O'Sullivan, that there should be no exceptions to dumping at sea. Certainly paragraph (b) of this section needs to be removed. It smacks very much of the jobs-at-any-price philosophy which I thought had, once and for all, been laid to rest, but here is another example of it. Let us not forget it is jobs at the expense of other jobs. In many areas for every job gained, frequently one or more jobs are lost in tourism, mariculture and so on. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. On reflection I agree with the amendment put down by the two previous speakers which seeks to delete paragraphs (a) and (b).
I am amazed that these two paragraphs were included in the Bill and I hope the Minister will be in a position to give us a detailed explanation. Dumping at sea, regardless of what type, under whatever regulations or conventions, should not occur. Relatively speaking, we have been fairly strict in regard to the type of activity that occurs on land but there is a belief abroad that anything is good enough for the sea and if it is taken sufficiently far out it is safe, that if it is taken to trenches in deepwater that is fine, the danger ceases. That attitude is not acceptable because we all know regardless of the depth of the waters there is still movement in the sea bed which can vary from time to time. I am totally opposed to paragraph (a) even within the meaning of the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981. This Bill should prohibit all types of dumping, regardless of rules and regulations or monitoring and accountability.
The inclusion of paragraph (b) in section 3 (1), which deals with the release of oily mixtures and other substances, will release exploration companies from certain obligations and make it easier for them to conduct exploration in a carefree and haphazard way. Therefore, those companies will not be too concerned about preventing the release of oil and other substances which need to be monitored. The fact that the Bill will not cover exploration will make it more difficult for the Department of Energy to issue exploration licences. This Bill should strengthen the hand of the Department of Energy in the issue of exploration licences for oil and gas off our coast and for that reason I do not think this exemption should be included in it.
Much activity takes place off our coast, particularly in the Continental Shelf, and there is an onus on the exploration companies to ensure that the least amount of pollution possible occurs. Most of the exploration companies are multinationals with a lot of capital behind them. They can afford to take the preventive measures necessary to ensure that the minimum amount of pollution occurs. It is important that the same type of rigorous strictures apply to them as apply to the ships which use our waters. For that reason I oppose section 3 (1) (b).
Having listened to the contributions of the Deputies on these amendments I am gaining in euphoria that we are going to have a good Bill, well debated and discussed and decided after a proper teasing out of the issues.
Were the situations mentioned by the four Deputies not adequately covered otherwise I would be the first to accept the amendments before the House. I want to explain exactly what I mean by "covered". Article 2 of the MARPOL Convention defines the word "discharge". Article 2 (3) (a) states:
"Discharge", in relation to harmful substances or effluents containing such substances, means any release howsoever caused from a ship and includes any escape, disposal, spilling, leaking, pumping, emitting or emptying;
Article (3) (b) states:
"Discharge" does not include:
(i) dumping within the meaning of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters, done at London on 13 November 1972; or
(ii) release of harmful substances directly arising from the exploration, exploitation and associated off-shore processing of seabed mineral resources; or
(iii) release of harmful substances for the purposes of legitimate scientific research into pollution abatement or control.
That is the definition of "discharge" in the MARPOL Convention which we are in the process of adopting. We are giving effect to the Convention and its definition of "discharge" and exclusions must be accepted by us.
With regard to dumping at sea, under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, dumping is controlled by a licensing system, as this House very well knows, and by prosecutions in cases of illegal dumping.
With regard to discharges from exploration which was referred to by a number of Deputies, discharges arising from off-shore explorations are subject to regulations under the Continental Shelf Act, 1968. As the Deputies who have read the Bill carefully will be aware this will be amended by section 36 of the Bill. The position is that while the concerns raised by the Deputies opposite are valid they are covered by MARPOL 1973 and other statutes.
There are three categories of exemptions identified under this definition. I have no problem with the exemption made for the purposes of scientific research and I am open to persuasion on the exemption which relates to the London dumping convention. In regard to releases in connection with exploration or exploitation of sea-bed mineral resources, I had a quick glance at section 36 which the Minister stated covered such releases by way of amendment to the Continental Shelf Act, 1968. I must say from my reading of the section that it does not appear to adequately cover the situation at all. It provides that the Minister for Energy may make regulations prohibiting or regulating the discharge of oil, and so on from a pipeline or otherwise than from a ship as a result of any exploration or exploitation of the seabed.
I should like to ask the Minister a specific question: are service vessels which service oil rigs and operate out of Irish ports exempt under the definition included in the Bill? From my reading of the section it would appear that they are exempt because they are engaged in an activity which arises directly from the exploitation or exploration or off-shore processing of seabed mineral resources.
Secondly, what is the position in relation to oil rigs — are they exempted or included? I raise this point specifically because there is a fair deal of exploration for oil and gas off our coast. Deputy Garland referred to the employment potential which has been generated by that. I certainly welcome the employment generated by this activity but I am also aware that — fortunately none of this has occurred in our waters — there have been very serious accidents on oil rigs in the North Sea. In the case of the most serious accident which occurred in 1988 — the name of the rig escapes me at present, but I am sure the Minister will recall it — very serious questions were raised at that time about the standard of maintenance on the rig. That accident resulted not only in the loss of life but in very serious pollution of the North Sea.
As I have said, fortunately there has not been any example of that type of accident here but it is important that we know precisely the position in regard to oil rigs. I would be concerned if oil rigs were totally exempt from these provisions because that could give rise to abuse. I should like the Minister to clarify the position in relation to service vessels and, specifically, in relation to oil rigs.
With regard to the specific point of the amendment, the exemption relates merely to the release of harmful substances directly arising from the exploration, exploitation and processing of sea bed mineral resources. The safety of rigs, etc. is quite a different question. We are covering releases into the sea and the MARPOL Convention excludes the three discharges I have just mentioned. The position is as I outlined. There is coverage in MARPOL and coverage by specific statute.
We will come to the amendment of the Continental Shelf Act, 1968 at section 36. The Government made a decision on 17 May 1990 approving the text of the Bill, subject to amending the text to cover all territorial seas. The amendment will apply to pipelines used for offshore exploration operations, etc. and to any operation for the exploration of the seabed. The Department of Energy and the Department of the Marine are currently in discussion with the parliamentary draftsman on suitable amendments to be made on Committee Stage on this point.
Section 36 states:
The Continental Shelf Act, 1968, is hereby amended by the substitution for section 7 of the following section:
7. —(1) The Minister for Energy, in consultation with the Minister for the Marine, may make regulations prohibiting or regulating the discharge of any oil, oily mixture, noxious liquid substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage—
(a) from a pipe-line, or
(b) otherwise than from a ship, as a result of any operation for the exploration of the sea-bed and subsoil, or the exploitation of their natural resources in a designated area.
(2) Where there is a contravention of any such regulations the owner of the pipe-line or, as the case may be, the person carrying on the operations shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £1,000, or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding twelve months, or, at the discretion of the court, to both such fine and such imprisonment, or
(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £10,000,000, or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding 5 years, or, at the discretion of the court, to both such fine and such imprisonment.
The points raised by Deputy Gilmore are covered.
I agree that the MARPOL Convention states only a limited number of items. In this Bill the Minister has adhered fairly closely to the MARPOL Convention but he is not obliged to confine himself to what is contained in that convention. There is an opportunity to show national independence on this matter and to show that he is more committed than the MARPOL Convention to the protection of the marine environment by introducing tighter guidelines.
The Minister's statement with regard to the pipeline is open to question. It could be interpreted to mean solely the pipeline coming on shore from a rig, while the pipe from the rig to the seabed could be interpreted as the drill. There is a danger that the exploration could be exempt and that the section would apply only to the pipe going on shore. There is a defect in what the Minister is suggesting and there is a need for a real examination of the position. I still believe that neither exemption should be included. The Minister has an opportunity to show his independence and a commitment over and above that of other countries and I ask him to withdraw both subsections.
If there is a breach in a gas pipeline and liquid gas is polluting the sea, I understand it is covered by this legislation. It seems that the requirements for reporting such leaks are not very strong and that the penalties in the event of a prosecution are very mild. A company might be prepared to risk a fine of £1,000 on summary conviction or £10,000 on conviction on indictment.
The fine is £10 million on conviction on indictment.
That clears up the point.
The Minister drew a distinction between a discharge and the standards of safety and maintenance on an oil rig. I would remind him that discharges can result, and have resulted, from accidents which have occurred on oil rigs and those accidents in turn have been attributed to standards of maintenance on the oil rig. I would refer the Minister to some of the famous North Sea cases where there have been major blowouts and people like Red Adare have tried to cope with the associated problems. The Bill is quite specific when it deals with ships and relating the possibility of polluting discharges to the standard of maintenance on ships. We should not have one rule for ships, another rule for oil rigs and another for something else.
The Minister did not reply to the specific question I asked earlier. I draw from what he said that oil rigs will be exempt from the Bill as it stands, but I am not clear about the position of vessels which will be servicing oil rigs and whether they are included. Perhaps the Minister would clarify the point.
The ships attending oil rigs are not exempt. Regarding oil rigs themselves, we will probably have a fruitful discussion on that matter under section 36. They are exempt under section 3 but section 36 applies the terms of the Bill to them.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Clohessy, Peadar.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
- 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.
- Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Harney, Mary.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kelly, Laurence.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Lyons, Denis.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McDaid, Jim.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- 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'Toole, Martin Joe.
- Power Seán.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Roche, Dick.
- Smith, Michael.
- Stafford, John.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Tunney Jim.
- Wallance, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Wilson, John P.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Ahearn, Therese.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Barry, Peter.
- Belton, Louis J.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, John.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Carey, Donal.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Creed, Michael.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- Ferris, Michael.
- Finucane, Michael.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Garland, Roger.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- 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.
- MacGiolla, Tomás.
- McGrath, Paul.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Gerry.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Owen, Nora.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Sheehan, Patrick J.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Spring, Dick.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
Since this amendment has been negatived, amendment No. 3 in the name of Deputy Garland cannot now be moved.
We now proceed to amendment No. 4 in the name of Deputy Garland.
On reflection, I should like to withdraw this amendment.
We come then to amendment No. 5 in the name of the Minister. I observe that amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5 is related. Therefore, I suggest that amendment No. 5 and amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5 be taken together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 5, subsection (1), line 34, after "applies" to insert "or Dún Laoghaire Harbour".
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Act, 1990 brought about the position that this harbour does not fit into any of the categories listed in the interpretation of "harbour authority". As Dún Laoghaire Harbour deals with a considerable volume of traffic, of which the House will be aware — mainly passenger/car ferries — it is essential that Dún Laoghaire be part of this Bill, that its provisions should apply to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. I recommend this amendment to the House. I know I will have the support of the House for it.
Deputy Gilmore may now move his amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5.
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 5:
In the second line, after "Dún Laoghaire Harbour" to insert "(pending the statutory establishment of a Dún Laoghaire Harbour Authority)"
I am delighted the Minister has introduced an amendment to refer specifically to Dún Laoghaire Harbour in this Bill. It is nice to know that Dún Laoghaire Harbour is constantly in the mind of the Minister. However, as the Minister will recall when we debated the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Bill — which transferred responsibility for the harbour from the Office of Public of Works to the Department of the Marine — it was clear that the intention was that that was to be an interim arrangement pending the establishment of a statutory harbour authority. As we know, the Minister has established an interim harbour authority and I know he is committed to establish, on a statutory basis, a proper harbour authority for Dún Laoghaire Harbour. I hope it will not be long before the necessary legislative measures are implemented to establish a statutory harbour authority for Dún Laoghaire.
It is appropriate that in this Bill, the provision — which is really one of stating that the harbour authority would be the responsibility of the Minister for the Marine — is seen to be an arrangement pending the establishment of a statutory harbour authority for Dún Laoghaire. In that way it would be clear from the provisions of this Bill that the control by the Department of the Marine of Dún Laoghaire Harbour applies until such time as a statutory harbour authority is established.
I am sure the Minister will have no difficulty in accepting that amendment.
I would think that the establishment of a harbour authority for any major port would be essential to the enforcement of the provisions of this Bill. I am trying at this stage to make a case for the establishment of a harbour authority at Howth. At present the Harbour is under the authority of the Department of the Marine and is without a harbour-master. It is very difficult to run the port, let alone monitor pollution, without a harbour-master. Howth is a major fishing port on the east coast. It had landings of fish worth £4.7 million last year. It caters for large beamers and very large trawlers, and the establishment of a harbour authority there would be very beneficial to the running of the port and help in the monitoring of pollution. Perhaps the Minister will consider that.
It is unfortunate that the Minister's amendment, or Deputy Gilmore's amendment to it, has to be tabled at this point. This House hoped a considerable time ago that Dún Laoghaire harbour authority would have been set up by now on a statutory basis. I appeal to the Minister to view this matter urgently and set up a proper harbour authority in Dún Laoghaire. I know he took over the responsibility some time ago from the Office of Public Works, but we were promised repeatedly in this House that a Dún Laoghaire harbour commission would be established. It is unfortunate that at the end of 1990 we still have not got this much promised harbour authority.
While I support the general thinking behind both amendments, I hope this will be temporary and will prevail only until a proper harbour authority are put in place in Dún Laoghaire, one of the busiest ports in the country. There is a need for a proper harbour authority to monitor and develop the harbour in Dún Laoghaire. There is tremendous potential there and it is up to the local authority, and members of the harbour board who will be appointed, to set about doing that work. The Department of the Marine have a national responsibility and harbour authorities have responsibility for specific harbours. I support the line of both amendments but I appeal to the Minister to come before the House shortly with legislation in relation to Dún Laoghaire Harbour.
Let me dissuade Members from ranging around various harbours. It could develop into Second Reading speeches quite easily.
I appreciate Deputy Gilmore's special interest in Dún Laoghaire. The interim board are working very well. We are vigilant in the Department about Dún Laoghaire and it is generally agreed that it is being well managed as of now. The fact is we must not lose sight of the main purpose of the Bill. It is a sea pollution Bill and that is what it is all about. Whether the authority are statutory or non-statutory, interim or permanent, the sea pollution aspect is the paramount aspect of the Bill and we want to apply it no matter what type of authority are there. I cannot say I am blaming or being critical of Deputy Gilmore for using the opportunity of getting his blow in for a permanent harbour authority, but we are now concerned with sea pollution. For that reason I want Dún Laoghaire included and to have the protection of this Bill. As the Deputy knows, the interim board are working very well at the moment and we will have eventually a statutory authority.
I accept that Howth is without a harbour master at the moment but that is not connected with the fact that there is not a harbour authority. The Deputy knows the circumstances with regard to the harbour-master in Howth. I am not in any way minimising the importance of Howth as a fishing port or the size of the business there each year. Deputy Taylor-Quinn was exaggerating a little when she talked about "constantly promised" and so on. I want to put on the record what is known in the House, that the Bill transferring Dún Laoghaire Harbour to the Department of the Marine is the Bill of 1990, though Deputy Taylor-Quinn made it sound as if there were decades involved with regard to this authority.
It seems to be two years in my recollection.
I have to apologise to the House for what is obviously a defective timepiece. How stands the amendment in the name of Deputy Gilmore?
The last thing in the world I want to do is delay the process of this Bill on a local matter. My only concern here is that this section of the Bill defines what a harbour authority is and the Minister's amendment defines the harbour authority in the case of Dún Laoghaire as the Minister for the Marine. My concern is that that would establish on a permanent basis the Minister for the Marine as the harbour authority for Dún Laoghaire with no reference to the concept which, when we debated the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Authority Bill, seemed to have been accepted by the Minister, that he would in the not too distant future establish on a statutory basis a proper Dún Laoghaire harbour authority. If the Minister can simply tell me that is his intention I will be happy to withdraw the amendment and accept his good faith in the matter.
I stand by what I said already about Dún Laoghaire.
Shall I put the question?
I will withdraw the amendment.
We now come to amendment No. 6 in the name of Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan. I observe that amendments Nos. 21 and 21a are related. I suggest, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 6, 21 and 21a together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 12, after "a", to insert "suitably qualified".
For me the amendment before the House is one of the most important. I know the Minister can appoint an inspector which could mean a surveyor of ships, a person appointed to be an inspector by warrant of the Minister under section 20, an officer holding a commissioned naval rank with the Defence Forces or a member of the Garda Síochána. I have a difficulty with the last part. I have asked for the insertion of a "suitably qualified" member of the Garda Síochána. I have no argument about appointing a particular garda but under sections 20 and 21 it could mean that an inspector would have the power to order a harbour-master to do certain things or take certain action which I feel he may not be qualified to do under the Bill as it is. As we all know, a harbour-master has a very important and difficult job.
I was under the impression that the Harbours Act should be repealed to allow the appointed person to override the harbour-master's power. Unless the Minister states categorically that the Garda appointed should be suitably qualified in matters concerning the pollution of the sea, in matters concerning shipping, this cannot work. I do not see, under the sections laid down, that that is the case.
Sections 20 and 21 provide for the appointment of inspectors by the Minister and his or her scale of powers are very far-reaching indeed. I also notice that an inspector could mean surveyor of ships, an officer holding a commissioned naval rank, a member of the Garda Síochána, etc. I maintain that a member of the Garda Síochána must have a specific rank with qualifications, sea-going experience or experience in dealing with noxious substances. I cannot understand why the Minister has not included harbour-masters as inspectors. If the harbour-master was an inspector he would have full control. There is confusion in my mind as to the powers of an inspector and those of a harbour-master. Section 23 (3) is as follows:
If the harbour-master has refused entry under subsection (1), the Minister, or a person appointed under subsection (2), may direct the harbour-master to permit the ship to enter, and to comply with such conditions as may be specified, in which case the harbour-master shall permit the ship to enter the harbour upon such conditions, and the Master of the ship shall comply with said conditions.
This gives fairly wide ranging powers to an inspector to override a harbour-master in this instance. To go back to my original point, the Minister has indicated that he could appoint an ordinary Garda to be an inspector. Will the Minister clarify the position because it seems to be unsatisfactory? I have experience of the port of Cork and other areas where harbour-masters have to take on a very important and vital role. A harbour-master has a Master's Ticket and is normally fully qualified to deal with any shipping emergency within his jurisdiction, which is the whole harbour area. I would like the Minister to explain why he has provided that a Garda could become an inspector.
I do not think the section defining an inspector is sufficiently specific and it is for that reason that I tabled an amendment to section 20. My amendment seeks to insert the words "with suitable qualifications". The reason I tabled that amendment is the legislation is very specific as to what an inspector is. He is a surveyor of ships, a person appointed to be an inspector by warrant of the Minister under section 20, an officer holding a commissioned naval rank in the Defence Forces or a member of the Garda Síochána. I do not object strictly to the definition that is there, but I do think it is limited and that there is a need for a broader definition, particularly when one is dealing with modern naval or maritime activity. Modern ships carry a variety of goods, a variety of chemicals, a variety of toxic liquids, dangerous substances of all sorts, and there are various types of ships traversing the seas.
The different types of situations that could occur where an inspector would need to be put on board are quite considerable and I believe there is a need to include as inspectors people with scientific, engineering and, indeed, nuclear qualifications. The definition of inspector is much too limited in view of modern developments and the variety of situations that now occur. There is a real necessity to broaden the definition and to include persons with suitable qualifications and expertise. If the Minister includes that amendment it will give him the necessary legislative power to employ or instruct somebody to go on board a ship or do what is necessary in the circumstances with the necessary legal documentation, and there will be people with that additional expertise over and above those with legal expertise. A member of the Garda Síochána, or indeed an inspector or superintendent, are very much legal people implementing the law.
In relation to the contravention of this Bill, there is a need for the Minister to have a case that he can sustain. That is why it is important that the inspector who goes on board should be in a position to make a scientific or engineering analysis or have whatever other type of expertise is required. It is for that reason I am tabling this amendment and I hope the Minister will accept it.
I agree with some of what has been said by the previous two speakers. There is a need to be clear about who may or may not be appointed as inspectors. It is important, however, not to get carried away and require inspectors to have PhDs in nuclear physics before they can go aboard a vessel to carry out some of the functions that are provided for in this Bill.
I would imagine, and I think it is provided for in the Bill, that the appointment of inspectors may differ from time to time, but the warrant appointing an inspector may specify particular functions and requirements given the particular situation. We have to have a clear priority and the priority here is to prevent sea pollution and to find the evidence of where sea pollution is occurring so that the persons responsible can be prosecuted.
Obviously the persons appointed as inspectors would have to be suitably qualified and I take the point made by Deputy O'Sullivan in the case of members of the Garda for example. It does not need to be clear whether we are talking about any garda being appointed as an inspector. Are we talking about a situation where any member of the local Garda Síochána can walk down to a harbour-master and, on foot of this Bill, make requirements of that harbour-master? That needs to be clarified. However, there is a balance to be struck between making sure that there is no abuse of the powers conferred on an inspector and, at the same time, that we do not set the standards for the appointment of inspectors so high that it would be virtually impossible to find somebody in the State who would fulfil those requirements.
I will make up my mind on this amendment when I hear what the Minister has to say. As Deputy Gilmore said, one can look at this question in two ways. Section 21 outlines the powers the inspector will have. We need to project our minds forward to what inspectors will be doing and what timescale is involved. There may be a high degree of urgency in appointing an inspector. It may be that at the end of the day the only person available who would get to the scene before the ship leaves port would be a local garda. By accepting this amendment one could be constraining whoever is responsible for appointing the inspector. It may be that flexibility is required. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in this regard.
As was adverted to by other speakers, Deputy O'Sullivan pitched the qualifications very high. I will outline to the House precisely what we are doing. The intention is that members of the Garda Síochána and commissioned officers of the Naval Service would only be used as support to the technically qualified inspectors in the performance of such duties as stopping and detaining ships and ship personnel. It is important to stress that.
The marine surveyors of my Department will be qualified to carry out all the functions appropriate to an inspector. With regard to the inspectors appointed by the Minister under section 20, which was adverted to by Deputy O'Sullivan, they would have warrants — I want to emphasise this very important point — and the warrants would specify the functions they could perform. I would have to be satisfied that the inspector was qualified and equipped to perform those functions.
The statement made by Deputy O'Sullivan that, for example, an inspector could overrule the harbour-master is not correct. The only person who could overrule the harbour-master is the Minister of the day, and it is important that that is known. There are examples where gardaí have been used for inspection purposes. One example is the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) Act, 1988. Under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, the gardaí are deemed to be sea fisheries protection officers. There is no question of making demands for over-qualified people or using under-qualified people for functions to which they are not suited.
The Minister has made life more difficult. I have been listening to this debate on the monitor. As a harbour commissioner in a harbour not too far from here, I am well aware — or at least I thought I was well aware — of the powers of the harbour-master but as I read this Bill I think the Minister is creating a monster. He said the inspector will be a support for the qualified personnel, who I assume will be the harbour-master.
The garda would be in support——
Yes, but he would be the inspector with the warrant to carry out his duties, not the harbour-master.
The inspector would have the warrant.
If he is in support and he has the warrant, he is the boss. There is a need for the Minister to be very clear about the position of these inspectors in terms of the port authorities covered by the Harbours Act, 1946. We know there are many ports and harbours other than those covered by that Act which carry on a great deal of trade. Therefore one sees the need for a person such as an inspector who would cover these ports, some of which bring in a lot of business. For example, there is a very busy private port outside Arklow, and I can see the need for an inspector in that area where the Arklow harbour-master would have no rights or duties.
Nevertheless, I am concerned that there would be some conflict under the Harbours Act as to which of the personnel would have the duty to carry out inspections. At present the harbour-master has that duty. Perhaps the Minister might be advised to make amendments to the Harbours Act, 1946, to allow a harbour-master to do the work that is to be carried out by these inspectors. The harbour-master is appointed not as a servant but as an officer in his own area. He has to go before the Local Appointments Commission for appointment and he must have certain qualifications.
I see a possible duplication in appointing an inspector who, as the Minister has said, may be less qualified than the harbour-master but yet will have the power of a warrant to carry out specific duties in this area. It is in this regard that I have a difficulty with the Bill and that is the reason I came in here tonight. Those of us who represent the ports should know exactly what the Minister is doing. I see no provision in this Bill to repeal any sections of the Harbours Act, 1946.
Perhaps the Minister will give some time during the next year to modifying and up-dating that legislation which has been in operation for the last 45 years. This legislation is outdated in many areas, for example, as regards ports and in this area. These problems were not considered when that Act was brought into law. The Minister may be creating a difficulty for those port authorities covered by the Act in that specific duties are conferred on the harbour-master under the Act while the Minister is giving the inspector similar duties under this Bill. There seems to be considerable conflict as between the duties outlined in the Bill before us and those which are laid down very specifically in the Harbours Act, 1946.
This amendment proposes to insert "suitably qualified" as an adjective to Garda Síochána. With regard to the Act which the Deputy rightly says is 45 years on the Statute Book, I think the Deputy knows — I have made it known publicly — that a review of all harbour legislation is being carried out in my Department at present as a matter of urgency, having regard to changing circumstances in 1992. I said specifically that the marine surveyors of the Department will be fully qualified to carry out all the functions appropriate to the inspectors. The second set of inspectors appointed by me will carry a warrant and their functions will be specifically stated in the warrant. There will be no question of confusion or a clash of authority as far as they are concerned. These functions will be performed when the Department — and I as Minister — are satisfied that the particular inspector is qualified and equipped to perform those duties. There is no question of enlarging the powers.
As far as the point about the harbour-master is concerned, I reiterate what I said already, that an inspector would have no power to overrule a harbour-master.
I refer the Minister to section 23 (3) which says that if the harbour-master has refused entry under subsection (1), the Minister, or a person appointed under subsection (2), may direct the harbour-master to permit the ship to enter. It is clear that the inspector may override the harbour-master. He may direct the harbour-master to permit the ship to enter the harbour and to comply with such conditions as may be specified, in which case the harbour-master shall permit the ship to enter the harbour upon such conditions, and the master of the ship shall comply with the said conditions. As Deputy Kavanagh said, there will be a very clear direction by the inspector, the man with the warrant, who has been appointed by the Minister. He is the boss when there is a disagreement in relation to a ship. That is why I included the words "suitably qualified" member of the Garda Síochána because, as I outlined already, the harbour-master, generally speaking, has the qualifications of a sea-going man. He has his ticket, he knows his harbour, the ships, the conditions and, again generally speaking, the cargoes of the ships entering port.
I have great difficulty in accepting what the Minister said even though he may have meant that he would be supportive of the harbour-master. However, it is clearly stated in the section to which I referred that that is not the case. It states that the harbour-master will be under the control of the inspector when it comes to a dispute about a certain vessel. That is why I inserted "suitably qualified" member of the Garda Síochána because, technically speaking, a Garda Síochána, under this Bill, can be appointed an inspector. I have grave reservations about a garda being appointed an inspector. I do not want an inspector to be a professor in a particular field, I want to him to be a man who has knowledge of the sea, ships and pollution. He should be a man — or woman — who can decide whether a ship can enter the port. If the Minister had said that the harbour-master can be an inspector it would at least have tied the two things together. However, I have difficulty in accepting that the Minister or the Department can appoint a member of the Garda Síochána. I do not mean any disrespect to the Garda Síochána but, under this Bill, an ordinary garda who has no knowledge of the sea, cargoes, wreckage, pollution or toxic waste could, technically, be appointed an inspector.
The Minister, speaking earlier on the amendment, stated that the suitable qualifications would apply to the Garda Síochána. Amendment No. 21a in my name refers to "suitable qualifications and expertise" in relation to someone that the Minister may, by warrant, appoint to be an inspector to carry out, for the purposes of this Act, such functions as are specified in the warrant. Section 20 is not specific and that is why I tabled the amendment. I am afraid that a situation will arise in future where literally anybody could be appointed an inspector. Will the Minister say where it is stated in the Bill that an inspector from his Department will have expertise? There is nothing in the Bill which suggests that to me.
In other areas of the Department of the Marine bailiffs appointed by the local fishery boards were political appointees — we might as well be honest about it — who in many instances, know very little about their job. However, when some of them acquired power they abused it. That is a reality in different parts of the country and I tabled the amendment to ensure that someone, for political patronage purposes — I am not suggesting that the Minister would do that — would not give this authority to someone unsuitable. The definition of "inspector" is not adequate and I am concerned that people without the necessary expertise or qualifications would be able to board a ship.
Deputy Kavanagh made a lot of sense in relation to the position of the harbour-master and the Minister should look at the points raised by him in relation to the Harbours Act, 1946. I should not like to see someone who knows less than the local harbour-master acquiring power to execute the necessary work under the warrant.
In the course of the last 20 minutes or so we learned a lot about the possible difficulties which the existing definition may give rise to. The proposers of the amendment are seeking a very modest addition — the insertion of the words "suitably qualified" in the definition. Presumably, the Minister will not appoint somebody who is not suitably qualified so perhaps the simplest thing would be for the Minister to accept the proposed amendments which would enable us to make more progress on the Bill.
I should like to bring the House back to section 3, page 6, line 12, where a member of the Garda Síochána is listed. I indicated to the House that the intention was that the Garda Síochána would be qua Garda Síochána because, if we accepted a suitably qualified member of the Garda Síochána it would be impossible to define what that was. Perhaps we should send them to a marine school and so on but we are getting into very difficult country there. I said to the House that the intention was that the Garda Síochána, and I mentioned commissioned officers of the Naval Service, would be used to support the technically qualified inspectors.
Where does it say that in the Bill?
"Technically qualified inspectors", it does not say that in any section.
The inspectors appointed by my Department would have to be technically qualified.
The Minister is saying that, but where in the Bill does it say it?
All of the inspectors appointed in my Department have special qualifications for their roles. Marine surveyors are the first I mention, and they are qualified to carry out all the functions of an inspector under this Bill. Later we will be dealing with section 23 in relation to specific inspectors. Those inspectors will have a warrant and I and my Department will have to be satisfied that they are fully qualified and equipped to perform the duties specified in the warrant. The warrant is the job specification. They will have to be qualified before being appointed to do the job outlined in the warrant.
Somebody appointed by the Minister to go down to that little place south of Arklow would be fully qualified and would have specified in his warrant what he is entitled to do. If the Minister decided to overrule the harbour-master's decision, the inspector is the only person who could do so. I accept, as Deputy O'Sullivan said, that the harbour-master is usually a man of experience with regard to all the matters covered in this Bill. I have taken full cognisance of that in the wording of the Bill.
The warrant will specify the job and the person who has it will know what he is supposed to do but where in the Bill does it state that the person who will get that warrrant will have the qualifications to implement that warrant? I put down the amendment because, as far as I am concerned, that was not specified in the Bill.
I have a whole range of qualified inspectors in my Department. I do not pull them out of the sky or pick them off the street. They have to apply for their jobs, show their qualifications, pass an interview, and so on.
I am not arguing about whether departmental inspectors are qualified. I fully accept that they are qualified, but the Bill does not state that the inspectors appointed will be from the Department. It only says that the Minister will arrange to have a warrant issued to a person who is an inspector. Then it defines in section 3 what an inspector shall be. In section 20 it further defines what an inspector will be, but it does not specifically state that the person who will be appointed inspector will necessarily have special qualifications and expertise in that area to actually implement the job specification in relation to the warrant. That is the deficiency in the section.
I do not accept that.
I accept that in the Minister's opinion a garda would support the inspector who would have to go on a ship. Why is the garda specified in the Bill if the Department have very efficient inspectors? The Department have proved this over and over again. In the Bantry Bay debacle the inspectors did an excellent job controlling pollution and their expertise is beyond question.
My difficulty relates to why a harbour-master cannot be an inspector. Is there a clash of interests here? The harbour-master would be the ideal inspector in certain cases and it would save quite a lot of money. The Minister should answer that question.
Having read the sections carefully I am still convinced that the inspector can override the harbour-master. The inspector will have a warrant and will be acting on the Minister's behalf so that the Minister can override the harbour-master. In relation to the appointment of an inspector, the Bill says clearly that a garda can be an inspector. Unless a suitable adjective is inserted in front of the word "Garda" the word "Garda" should be taken out. Looking at it realistically a garda can go to the harbour-master and insist that a ship will come in, even if the harbour-master disagrees, because a garda can say that he has the warrant, that he has been appointed by the Minister and that he is acting on behalf of the Minister. Has the Minister discussed this problem with harbour-masters or harbour boards? I suspect that there is a certain amount of concern in harbour authorities about this aspect of the Bill which concerns harbour employees and the harbours for which they are responsible.
We should try to plug every loophole in the Bill. This is the first time we have had a Bill of this nature before us. It is the first time we will be appointing inspectors with certain duties to carry out. I would have difficulty in accepting a garda or other inspector appointed by the Minister when qualifications are not specified in the Bill. An ordinary garda without any qualifications in this area could be appointed as an inspector and he would have far ranging powers in determining what happens in certain ports or harbours. I accept the Minister's motives but I cannot accept the Minister's proposition. If the Minister agrees to amend the Bill or to accept my amendment, I will be happy.
It is important to keep our eye on the object of the exercise which is to put on the Statute Book a sea pollution Bill, not the powers or little empires of anybody. I cannot envisage any situation where the inspector from my Department, the harbour-master, the officers of my Department or the Minister at the time would not be fully committed to the one objective, that is, to be as effective as possible in the control of pollution.
Regarding the much emphasised Garda Síochána at paragraph (d) under the definition of "inspector", that garda would have no powers except what the Minister gave him in the context of this Bill. It is important to emphasise that if the Minister gives him power then he has it; if not he does not have it. In the case mentioned by Deputy Kavanagh and, indeed, by other contributors to the debate — I am not sure if it was Deputy Gilmore — the garda might be available in an area where an accident took place which could cause serious pollution when nobody else would be available and it would be highly desirable that he be equipped with his warrant specifically stating what his powers would be in that instance.
I want the Minister to understand clearly that I am making a distinction between two different groups of ports and harbours: those covered by the Harbours Act and those which are not covered by the Act. I see the need for this inspectorate for those areas which are not covered by the Act. As Deputy O'Sullivan said, if there are harbour-masters who are not appointed by local generals in any particular port but are required to prove before an appointments commission that they have the expertise, the master certificates etc., why is it not contained in the Act that they are appointed inspectors for their harbours under the Harbours Act and that the other categories of people, which the Minister has listed, including the member of the Garda Síochána, refer to those areas, which may not be ports but could still be polluted, for example, Brittas Bay or some such area that could be threatened? Thus a member of the Garda Síochána might be the person, be he a garda, a sergeant or an inspector, urgently required to take control where there was a danger of oil pollution from a vessel. I see the need for a provision such as this in the Bill, but I suggest very strongly to the Minister that where there is an expert he should automatically be designated the inspector. There is no doubt about the expertise in the Department. When the Minister looks to his right he will be aware of the level of the expertise there. Some of the officials in the Department know more about the harbours around this country than the harbour commissioners. They have been dealing with them for a very long time and have been considering extensions which were being built and grants that were required. They know exactly where everything is in every harbour.
I join with my colleague, Deputy O'Sullivan, in underlining the suggestion that where there are something of the order of 27 harbour authorities with harbour-masters etc., the Bill should provide that they be automatically designated the inspectors for their areas. If the Minister has some reason why they should not be, then he should inform the House. The Minister intimated earlier, and I was delighted to hear it, that he will review the whole Harbours Act. There should be a fairly long debate on that subject because it is so outdated, and some of the appointments made under that Act need to be very closely scrutinised. I urge the Minister to be very careful how he appoints inspectors because some of the methods for appointment of harbour commissioners under the provisions of the Harbours Act need to be reviewed but that is for another day.
I hope the Minister will tell us why a harbour-master should not be the one automatically appointed as the inspector for those ports under the Harbours Act. If he could explain why that is, I might be prepared to advise my colleague that he should reconsider his amendment.
The specific amendment we are dealing with refers under paragraph (d) to a member of the Garda Síochána and is simply stated. Deputy O'Sullivan has put down an amendment seeking to insert "suitably qualified" and there are other amendments related to it. I can tell Deputy Kavanagh that when we come to deal with section 23 we will have a look at what he has been saying. I am not making any promises — that would be a rash thing to do — but certainly I will have something to say about the points made by Deputy Kavanagh. I would like to reiterate that the much needed review of the harbour legislation is under way at present in my Department. We realise much time has passed since a worth-while review and revision of the legislation took place, and that review is in train at the moment.
The Minister still has not answered the questions I put to him. We have a situation where an inspector means a person appointed to be an inspector by warrant of the Minister under section 20. Section 20 (1) states:
The Minister may, by warrant, appoint a person to be an inspector to carry out for the purposes of this Act such functions as are specified in the warrant.
Where in this Bill is it stated that that inspector must be from the Minister's Department? I know the Minister would appoint one of his own inspectors. We are putting through this House legislation that will be on the Statute Book for future Ministers and we want to ensure that it is so specific and tight that there is no leeway for strange machinations. This is a dangerous situation. Under paragraph (b) defining "inspector" and under section 20, the local Fianna Fáil cumann member or the Fine Gael branch member or a Labour Party branch member, who has the ear of the Minister, or the parish priest or the local shopkeeper could be appointed an inspector if the Minister of the day was crazy enough to do that. This Bill does not prevent the Minister from taking that action. Where in this Bill is the guarantee that the inspector will be a person from his Department or a person with the necessary expertise to execute the warrant with which that inspector is issued?
In the universal discourse we are dealing with everybody knows what an inspector is in the Department of the Marine and, indeed, Deputies have already mentioned that the expertise of the inspectorate in the Department of the Marine is well known.
We are not arguing with that.
I did not interrupt the Deputy.
Where is it stated——
I should like to indicate that that is the universal discourse we are dealing with, and it has been accepted in this House that that expertise exists. The Deputy said that in some mad moment a member of the Fianna Fáil cumann or the Fine Gael cumann or the Labour club or——
Not cumann — branch.
The Deputy forgot to mention The Workers' Party. As they were committed to their community and taking part in the political process, that would not necessarily exclude them from an inspectorate provided they had the qualification which my Department insist that inspectors should have. I do not think there is anything disreputable about belonging to any of the organisations mentioned by Deputy Taylor-Quinn.
I want to repeat that I am satisfied that the range in this section covers suitably qualified people.
Paragraphs (a) to (d) contain the definition of "inspector". I am satisfied that the range of people will cover suitably qualified people for this job. When we are dealing with section 23 later we can have a further discussion on harbour-masters. Harbour-masters have very specific and wide ranging powers in all the areas and for the most part they are used very well.
The Minister should come back to the question.
Deputy Cosgrave said a moment ago that Howth harbour does not have a harbour-master. There is a problem there which when resolved will result in a harbour-master being made available to Howth harbour.
I do not accept that we are doing anything which will in any way damage the thrust of the Bill, which is to put an effective sea pollution Bill on the Statute Book.
The Minister did not answer my question. He has gone right, left and side-ways but he has not answered the specific question I asked. This Bill is not specific and it is evident from the Minister's reply that the warrant may be issued to anybody because there is nothing in the Bill about appointing a person who is suitably qualified. Our amendment provides for the appointment of someone with suitable qualifications and expertise but the Bill does not provide for this. The Minister, by his reply in the House, has admitted that anybody can be appointed as an inspector under section 3 and section 20 by a Minister who is haywire enough. We should remember that strange things happen in political life and that a Minister could do strange things in the future. It is up to us to ensure that the legislation we pass has as few loopholes as possible so that this type of situation will not occur in the future. I know I am talking about a hypothetical case but within the terms of the legislation it could occur. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment to ensure that that does not occur.
This Bill does not specifically state that the inspector appointed and issued with a warrant shall be an inspector from the Department of the Marine. Everyone agreed that the Minister's inspectors are excellent — the only problem is that he does not have enough staff — but the Bill does not specifically state that the inspectors shall be experts from the Minister's Department; and Joe Soap could be appointed. I ask the Minister to guard against this happening by accepting this amendment.
No, I will not accept it.
The Chair gets the impression that we have reached the point of near exhaustion in the matter of contending——
We are only warming up.
May I ask Deputy Taylor-Quinn to put in her amendments earlier than a half an hour before the debate comes before the House? If she does she will be able to improve the Bill considerably.
That is not true; I put in those amendments this morning. It is unfair of the Minister to say that.
I got some in my office a half an hour before I came to the House.
This is an unnecessary reaction from the Minister. Because he wants to funk the matter, he has not responded to our questions and is side-tracking the issue. The Minister has decided to personalise the debate and that ill-becomes him as Minister. It would be better for the Minister to stand up and admit that he has not covered in this Bill the point I have raised and accept the amendments before the House.
The Deputy has got so excited she must have a guilty conscience. I have put to the House the reasons for the substance of the Bill. I am retaining what I have before the House and I ask Deputies to accept it.
Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan has a final point to make without repetition.
So far as I am aware, we are discussing my amendment first. Are we taking amendment No. 21, which is more or less the same?
We are discussing amendments Nos. 21 and 21a. The question will be put on Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment No. 6. The other amendments refer to a later section but in so far as the matter was related we took the three amendments together for discussion.
I again seek your guidance, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Will amendment No. 21 be discussed at a later stage?
It will be discussed if the Deputy who put down the amendment wishes a separate question to be put on it. Only one question will be put now, that is if Deputy O'Sullivan requires it, and that will be on amendment No. 6. As the Deputy has heard, the discussion has ranged over the other two amendments, that is amendments Nos. 21 and 21a.
I again seek clarification. Amendment No. 21a will not be taken at a later stage because it is part of the present discussion?
It will be taken only in so far as it will be formally moved and, if necessary, a question put on it. There will be no further discussion on it.
Thank you very much for clarifying the position. My amendment was not put down today or yesterday; I put it down a while ago. I studied carefully the phraseology used in the Bill and I completely accept the Minister's integrity on this issue. I have no doubt about what he has said this evening. He has made a determined effort to bring this Bill before the House so that it can be enacted as soon as possible. I accept this whole-heartedly and I have no doubts about his intentions.
Nevertheless, with all due respect to the Minister and the people who framed the Bill, I have to say that, like other Deputies, I am not clear about this provision. We have discussed this provision for nearly three quarters of an hour and some Members referred to the weak points in it. I am as anxious as the Minister to ensure that any legislation into which I have an input is as strong and water-tight as possible. I ask the Minister to look again at this amendment. We have asked certain questions but the Minister has not answered them.
The Bill provides that an inspector can be a member of the Garda Síochána. As Deputy Kavanagh said, perhaps the people who framed the Bill intended a member of the Garda Síochána to act only if a harbour-master was not present and, obviously, he has the law behind him to act in such a manner. I have no difficulty with that provision but I have difficulty with the paragraph which specifically provides that a member of the Garda Síochána can become an inspector. I have great difficulty in accepting that provision. If the words "suitably qualified" are not included in this paragraph I will not be able to accept the section. Even though the Minister has tried to explain this provision and outlined his Department's intentions, I am not satisfied that a member of the Garda who is appointed with a warrant would not in certain circumstances use his powers to override the harbour-master. My amendment stays.