We had a long debate on this amendment on the last occasion we discussed the Bill. In the meantime I have had occasion to look at the way the Bill is framed and I have to say that I have not changed my mind about the necessity for this amendment. It is very important that this aspect of the Bill is considered very carefully. My amendment proposes that only a suitably qualified member of the Garda Síochána should be appointed as an inspector. On the last occasion we debated the Bill the Minister indicated that a member of the Garda Síochána would only be present as a back-up for the inspector who would have the responsibility of checking any ships coming into our ports. I have looked carefully at the Bill which provides that a member of the Garda Síochána could be appointed as an inspector. I have to emphasise that I have no axe to grind with any member of the Garda Síochána who would be appointed as an inspector but the Bill should specify the qualifications of an inspector. This is very important as section 23 (3) categorically provides that:
If the harbourmaster has refused entry under section (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 harbourmaster shall permit the ship to enter the harbour upon such conditions, and the master of the ship shall comply with the said conditions.
The Minister said that an inspector appointed by his Department would be suitably qualified for the job. I do not doubt his word for one moment. I fully accept that inspectors of the Department of the Marine are highly qualified, and they have proved this over and over again in various ways. I would be the first to admit this. However, the Bill provides that a member of the Garda Síochána can be appointed as an inspector. This is where I disagree with the Minister.
I have asked the Minister to either include the words "fully qualified" in section 3 or to delete this subsection. It would be a travesty of justice if a member of the Garda Síochána was empowered to order a harbourmaster to do certain things. As I said, a harbourmaster is a very qualified person. Usually he has a master's ticket and does a first class job. However outlandish it may seem to us here this evening, under this Bill a member of the Garda Síochána could, technically speaking, order a harbourmaster to do certain things. The Minister will probably say this cannot happen, but unfortunately this is possible under the Bill as framed.
I believe the people who drafted the Bill did not recognise this point. They probably took into account small ports where there is no harbour authority and believed that the local garda sergeant would be the ideal person to look after the harbour. I accept this to a certain extent but I want to point out that we are framing legislation which will probably be on the Statute Book for a long time. I am anxious to ensure that this legislation is as tight as we can make it. There is a flaw in this section which the Minister should address.
I have no difficulty with a surveyor of ships, a person appointed by warrant of the Minister or an officer holding a commissioned naval rank in the Defence Forces being appointed inspectors. We have gone aground, so to speak, in regard to the appointment of a member of the Garda Síochána as an inspector. I ask the Minister to accept my amendment which I believe is fair. If the inclusion of the words "suitably qualified" removes the Garda Síochána from the system, then so be it. It is necessary to emphasise that unless the people appointed as inspectors have the same qualifications as harbourmasters, this section will only be a joke.
I ask the Minister to look at my amendment in the light of the other amendments. This is very important. I appreciate the Minister's statement that the Garda Síochána will provide a back-up service for an inspector — it would be very necessary to have a Garda Síochána back-up especially if there is trouble — but the Bill specifically states that a member of the Garda Síochana can become an inspector. I am concerned about the qualifications of gardaí so appointed. They may be qualified in the enforcement of law but in this instance they must have the necessary qualifications to carry out their responsibilities in regard to ships which may be polluting our waters. I ask the Minister to accept my amendment.