I move amendment No. 73:
In page 20, lines 38 to 42, to delete subsection (2).
This amendment concerns the appointment of directors to the Environmental Protection Agency. In section 21, which we did not get the opportunity to debate because of the guillotine, there is a procedure laid down in subsection (1) for the appointment of the Director General. Subsection (2) provides that a committee shall be established consisting of (a) the secretary to the Government, (b) the secretary to the Department of the Environment, (c) the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce — the National Trust for Ireland, (d) the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority, (e) the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and (f) the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women, will recommend three names for appointment to the post of director general. On the face of it, that is a very fair way of making the appointment. As I understand it, the purpose of this provision is to take the appointment of director general out of the realm of political patronage and to establish some kind of independent basis for it. My understanding is that the thinking behind the section is to copperfasten the independence of the Environmental Protection Agency. While Members may wish to amend the manner in which this is done, I think we would all agree with the principle behind it.
However, a different procedure is being provided in section 24 to deal with the appointment of directors. The formula retains the idea that the committee will select candidates whose names will be passed to the Minister who will then make the appointment. However, in section 24 (2) there is the extraordinary provision that:
The Minister may, after consultation with the Director General (where a Director General is in office) or the Deputy Director General (where a Deputy Director General is in office) if there is no Director General in office, by order specify qualifications for all posts, or any particular post, of director.
It is extraordinary that the Minister should seek to require that power in the first place since the Bill sets out in some considerable detail the way in which the agency is to be structured and its functions. The qualifications of people who will carry out those functions clearly derives from the content of the legislation. It would obviously be a matter for the committee to be established to assess the qualifications of the various directors and make their recommendation to the Minister on that basis.
In the subsection which my amendment seeks to delete from the Bill, the Minister wants to be able to set down the qualifications for the individual post of director. This is a very small country and the number of people who would qualify to be appointed as directors to the Environmental Protection Agency would be few. If we sat down to think about it, most people could probably list, and it would not be very long, the names of the people who would qualify as potential directors of the agency.
If the Minister can make an order specifying the qualifications of the director general or individual directors, we will be opening the door to undermining the independence of the Environmental Protection Agency and to the kind of political interference in the appointment of directors which section 21 seeks to eliminate. This means he could be in cahoots with the director general, and effectively could virtually nominate the directors.
This is an extremely dangerous subsection to have in this Bill. In my view it has the effect of undermining the independence of the agency, of opening the floodgates for political interference in the appointment of the directors and it virtually gives the Minister power, sometimes in co-operation with the director general, to decide who the individual directors will be. I think that provision should be deleted.
If there is to be a committee which will have the power to nominate certain people for appointment by the Minister, then it should be left to that committee to assess the applications they receive. If the Minister can say it must be a qualification in chemistry, biochemistry or in one of the marine sciences or whatever, he can identify the person who will be appointed as director. That seems to defeat the whole purpose of the independence of the agency and the idea of an independent committee which would assess the applications and then make recommendations to the Minister.