Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Committee Stage. (Resumed).

Sections 22 and 23 agreed to.

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.

I too have considerable reservations about the manner in which it is proposed to appoint directors. We already discussed at some length the method by which the director general would be appointed by the Government. While I was not totally happy with the provisions of section 21 we accepted it. The director general has no independent board to be accountable to; there are no outside directors and there are no directors on the board who can feel independent of the Minister. We have a situation where the director general, the chief executive of the Employment Equality Agency, will have next to no clout in the appointment of directors. That will greatly undermine the authority and power of the director general in the appointment and of the other senior executives of the agency. Does the Minister of State know of any other board, company or agency, where the chief executive has virtually no say in the appointment of the other senior executives. It seems to me that the director general will, on the other hand, be beholden to the Minister to whom he will report directly, in the absence of an independent board and, on the other hand, he will be hamstrung because he has no power over the directors. Not only will he not have the power to appoint or influence the appointments, he will have no power to dismiss, the only power he would seem to have in respect of the other directors will be assigning duties between them.

All the sections from section 21 onwards, in this part of the Bill, are making untried provisions which we should have had more times to tease out. We should not be afraid to try novel provisions but we are trying to set up an effective and powerful agency which will be independent of Government and will be firm in the prosecution of its remit to improve and protect our environment.

Under section 24 we could have directors who happen to find favour with the Minister of the day but who may be totally incompatible with the director general. I know from my experience as a Minister responsible for many State companies, and from my experience in life, that if the chief executive of any company or body does not have effective control over the senior executives, and they are independent of him to a great extent it can be a recipe for disaster. Not to have a say in the appointment of directors is a great weakening of the powers of the director general. I would ask the Minister to reflect on these points and perhaps we could have some significant input by the director general by way of an amendment on Report Stage.

I find it hard to understand the purpose of the amendment which seeks the deletion of subsection (2). I want to respond, first, to Deputy Mitchell because he seems to be at variance with what is being suggested by Deputy Gilmore. Deputy Mitchell seems to take the view that the director general — or the chief executive as he described him — should almost have full say in who is to be appointed as a director of the agency. I do not accept that because, to a large extent, all five directors will be equal but, obviously, somebody must have overall responsibility by way of being chief executive or, in this case, director general. In virtually every other case the directors will be very much on an equal basis, except where a casting vote is required and the director general, being the chairperson of the board, will have a casting vote. I assume the directors will meet to make decisions in relation to the operation of the agency.

I want to refute immediately the suggestion by Deputy Mitchell that this board will not be independent and that the director general will be responsible to the Minister. This board will operate independent of the Minister, the Department and the Government. He is right in saying there is no precedent for what we are doing here because no such board exists. The nearest we could get to the appointment of a board of this kind was An Bord Pleanála and that is appointed on a different basis. The board members of An Bord Pleanála are appointed following a nomination procedure by various prescribed bodies.

I felt it was not desirable to follow that procedure in this case for this reason. The board of this agency will not just be any five people; in the main, so far as the directors are concerned, they will be people with professional expert qualifications because they will have to do a very complicated job, particularly in relation to their licensing role, which we will debate in the morning. They will have to assess and lay down conditions in relation to licence applications for very complicated and technical processes in the pharmaceutical chemical industry and across a whole range of activities in the First Schedule. That will require that some directors, not necessarily all, will need to have a scientific professional qualification, and Deputy Gilmore is right in saying that. To assume that, because we wish to prescribe the kind of qualifications that might be required, after consultation with the director general, is in any way seeking to interfere with who might be personnel directors of this agency, is being very dishonest, and the Deputy knows that. There are several people with qualifications in chemistry, biochemistry and biotechnology, for example, but our hope is that we will be able to get some of them to apply for the position of director general or director of this agency.

The power being given is not a mandatory one; the word "may" is used as opposed to "shall"; and it may well be necessary, following discussion with the director general, to specify qualifications. This would help the selection committee and make them aware of what is required by way of professional expertise and it will avoid people applying for positions for which they clearly are not suited because they do not have the expertise required.

Each director will not need to have scientific expertise nor should each director have the same expertise but, because this will be a full-time executive board who will have to make very difficult decisions on licensing applications, some of them will have to have particular scientific qualifications. That is the reason this power is being given. I cannot think of any other way of going about it.

It is quite common when vacant positions in both the public and private sectors are being advertised to specify what qualifications will be required. It is understandable that we would specify the kind of people we will be looking for, in terms of their expert qualifications, when we place advertisements for the appointment of director.

Deputy Mitchell seemed to take issue with the fact that the chief executive of the Employment Equality Agency will not be part of the selection committee. I think he is being less than honest in seeking to make an issue of it because he knows that, for the first time in legislation, we are making provision for the chairperson of the Council for the Status of Women to be part of the selection committee. The reason for this is that the Government want to ensure that women have a fair chance of being appointed to senior decision-making positions. The best way of making sure that women will have a fair chance of being appointed is to make sure that they will be represented at the selection procedural stage. That is why we are making provision, for the first time in legislation, for the chairperson of the Council for the Status of Women, whom I believe is the most worthy person to represent women's interests, to be a full member of the selection committee.

Provision is not being made for outside directors to be appointed to the board of the agency, and Deputy Mitchell seems to think that this will jeopardise the independence of the agency but I would dispute this. At the outset, a firm decision was made — it received widespead support among environmental organisations and others — that it would be a full-time executive board and not the more traditional board we often find in many public and State bodies where it is a part-time occupation and, therefore, many board members cannot devote much time to the work of the board and often many of them have a passive interest in the activities of the board given their other commitments. That will not be sufficient in relation to this agency. It is important that the agency have a full-time board of directors.

While I want to ensure that they will be concerned about the environment they need not be members of environmental organisations; the important thing is that they have professional know-how and expertise to be able to assess and make very important decisions. I assume they will work together and make decisions as a board rather than make decisions on their own as individuals. There will be a quorum — we will discuss that matter shortly — but they will have to come together and make decisions as a board on many of these issues. It is important that the directors should have different skills, qualifications and expertise and that is why I believe it is necessary to keep subsection (2). This subsection will be vital if, following discussions with the director general we feel particular skills are required and that the people with those skills might not apply unless they are specified by the Minister of the day.

I also believe that many people, who might otherwise apply will be very pleased to know they may not qualify and will not have to go through the mundane and tiresome process of having to make an application given the expense involved. Second, the selection committee will know what exactly will be required and will not have to go through the time consuming procedure of having to interview hundreds of people when what they will be looking for are people with particular skills.

As Deputy Gilmore said, this is a small country but small as it is, it is not unreasonable to specify what qualifications will be required. I want to ensure the Deputy that in drafting the Bill, it was not my intention, nor have I any intention — I hope I will be the Minister who will specify what will be required — to seek to influence the board of directors and the director general. As far as I am concerned, and I think I speak for the Government as a whole, I want the best people. It is more important to have the best people than anything else.

I also want to ensure that we have the best possible selection procedure to make sure the best people are appointed. I hope at the end of the day when the directors are appointed that they will be seen to be independent minded people with professional qualifications and the necessary expertise to carry out the comprehensive task being assigned to them under this legislation.

I do not wish to challenge the bona fides of the Minister of State in relation to this matter, but it is important that we tease out these issues on Committee Stage. I think she would reassure us if she gave us a more specific answer about the qualifications she would consider appropriate. I had expected her to do this on her reply, but she did not do so. Does she think that different criteria will be laid down for different directors? As she has obviously given some consideration to this matter, would she be more forthcoming in relation to the qualifications she would consider appropriate? Would she agree to publish the criteria in advance of Report Stage to allay fears that the criteria will be tailor made to suit a particular individual or individuals or to exclude a particular individual or individuals and to ensure that we will have total confidence in the procedures when it comes the appointment of directors?

A distinction has to be drawn between the posts under discussion here and the generality of staff positions which will arise in the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environmental Protection Agency will employ staff with a wide range of skills and disciplines. It will be in order, therefore, for the Environmental Protection Agency when they advertise in the newspapers for a planner or engineer to specify what qualifications will be required, but we are talking here about the four people who will make the decisions. I do not want to pre-empt the debate, but they will make those decisions in groups of two; two of the directors will make critical decisions about the future of the environment.

It seems that the principal requirement in respect of any of these posts is judgment rather than expert knowledge in a particular area. In practical terms, the judgments that will be made by directors will presumably be based on reports they will receive from the staff employed by the agency. They will obviously have to make an assessment whether a licence should be issued based on the information in front of them. Therefore, it is wrong of the Minister of State to suggest that it may be necessary for directors to have particular skills.

The type of people who will apply and who will be appointed as directors of the Environmental Protection Agency are likely to have experience and skills over a range of areas, whether scientific, managerial, relating to environmental protection, local government or whatever. It is acceptable for the Minister to want to achieve a certain balance in people appointed as directors of the agency, but if the Minister has particular qualifications in mind, or if she has in mind that the committee in assessing the applications should have regard to a range of qualifications, she should specify that in the legislation.

The difficulty with this subsection is that at any point when a vacancy arises for a director, the Minister of the day may make an order saying that the director now to be appointed shall have experience in academic life, in industrial life, etc. The Minister may step in and completely change the complexion of the agency by deciding what qualifications are necessary at a particular point. The Minister could also effectively influence the choice of director by specifying particular qualifications. This is a small country and it is often known who are available candidates or the likely candidates for posts of this kind. I want to ensure that a Minister cannot completely change the nature of the agency.

As it stands, there is nothing to stop the Minister deciding that he or she wanted four directors with experience in industry, and that would change the complexion of the agency. If there was pressure from industry to relax environmental conditions or if there was a controversy involving the CII or the IDA, the Minister can ensure that the next four directors will have experience in industry. That power should not be there. We should provide for a genuinely independent agency.

There is a great deal of merit in having a committee send in a list of names. We might all have different ideas as to who should comprise the committee, but it should be as independent as we can get. If the Minister wants to set down qualifications criteria this should be done under legislation and not on an ad hoc basis when vacancies arise. This will undermine the independence of the agency. It makes the agency an arm of the Minister, and that runs counter to what the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to be about.

Deputy Howlin asked me to specify the kind of qualifications that might be required. Every director would not necessarily have to possess any of these qualifications, but I want to make sure that we do not have, for instance, four directors with the same experience coming from a similar background. Aside from this legislation, decisions are always better if some people on the decision-making board have expertise in what they are doing. We would have to assume that all the directors and the director general would be people of good judgment, and that is, perhaps, more important than anything else. I accept what Deputy Gilmore says in that regard but, in addition to good judgment, those making the decisions should be aware of what they are talking about and should be capable of readily assimilating technical and detailed concepts in relation to all kinds of toxic waste matters, chemical processes and so on. A qualification in chemistry or an honours qualification in biology might be essential.

If any Minister was to specify that all the representatives must have a background in industry, as suggested by Deputy Gilmore, he would have to answer to the House and to the electorate. Something like that would not happen. It might be necessary to specify that one of the directors should have an in-depth professional experience in agriculture because, in addition to the food industry and agricultural industries being licensed under the First Schedule, the agency will be involved in drawing up codes of practice. It may also be important to have somebody with an engineering qualification. I do not intend that specifications should be necessary for all four posts.

Deputy Gilmore's reference to judgment is interesting and nowhere is judgment more important that in relation to members of the judiciary. To be a judge of the High Court one must have a minimum of ten tears' experience as a practising barrister. For most significant posts it is reasonable to specify qualifications and it is not desirable to leave that solely to the selection committee. If it was left solely to the selection committee, they would probably approach the Minister of the day for help in making their decision. They would want to know what precisely might be required for some of these posts.

No matter what changes occur in the future, any Minister for the Environment who specified qualifications is answerable to this House and to the elctorate, and I do not anticipate abuse of this practice. It would be extremely difficult for any Minister who wished to have a particular person appointed to specify the qualifications in such a restrictive way that only one or two people had those qualifications. I accept that in some very rare disciplines we might not have many people with a qualification, but I do not anticipate that the specifications would be so limited as to apply to only one or two individuals.

It was ingenious of the Minister to import into this a discussion we had on section 21 about the Employment Equality Agency. That would have been a more appropriate body to have had included in the list than the Council for the Status of Woman, because they are a statutory agency whose job it is to try to ensure equality for women.

Section 24(1) says that the directors of the agency shall be appointed by the Government. Section 24 (3) (a) says:

` "The committee provided for in section 21 shall, whenever so requested by the Minister ....".

Taking those two subsections together, could they be construed to mean that the committee would only make recommendations when requested by the Minister? Is it conceivable that the Minister could proceed to make an appointment without making such a request to a committee? Perhaps the Minister would clarify that.

The Minister might also explain subsection (5), which appears to be in a form of gobbledygook.

It is advisable to consider the amendment before us.

Question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand" put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 73a in the name of Deputy Garland has already been discussed with amendment No. 67.

It was not reached. It related to section 21.

We commenced business today at section 22 on the presumption that everything else had been disposed of.

My amendment was not discussed.

Section 21 was put.

The House agreed on the question put. All that was dealt with and disposed of. Technically the amendment has been discussed. The Deputy is entitled formally to move this amendment and to have a question put.

The guillotine motion was not really a guillotine, which is a form of murder. This was a self-guillotine, which I suppose is a form of suicide.

We had better terminate that presentation or next we will be into abortion.

May I raise this on the section?

Of course. If he wishes the Deputy could enter the amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 73a not moved.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 21, subsection (4), line 13, to delete "those," and substitute "those".

This amendment has already been discussed.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 24, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Subsection (3) (a) contains the phrase "whenever so requested by the Minister". This seems to imply that the Minister may not so request. If there is no such request, may the Minister proceed with an appointment under subsection (1)? Perhaps it would be better to clarify subsection (1), possibly by inserting the phrase "pursuant to a request to the committee as provided for in subsection (3)".

Subsection (5) contains a lot of gobbledygook. On subsection (8) regarding the reappointment of a director, would that reappointment have to be made after a request to a committee or would a request be necessary in that case?

I have some difficulty with subsection (5). I understood it was based on the original wording of section 21 (9). We did not have time on the last occasion to discuss section 21 and a number of amendments tabled to it. I understand that the original section 21 (9) was withdrawn and reworded following complaints in the other House about its obscure wording. It was made clearer by its division into two new subsections which in the current Bill are section 21 (9) and subsection (10). Apparently the same logic that prevailed in clarifying section 21 (9) did not apply in respect of subsection (5) of this section, which is extremely obscure. Anybody trying to understand it would have great difficulty. I wonder why it was not clarified.

On subsection (8), the selection procedure for the director general is on the basis that the term of office will be seven years, whereas the term of office for a director will be five years. Is there a reason for that?

I wish to address the question of qualifications of the directors. It is all very well for the Minister to talk about qualifications, special knowledge and experience. These are all absolutely vital, but there is something more important, namely, that the directors should have a genuine concern for the state of the environment. Knowledge is one thing; concern is an entirely separate matter. This is something which would have to be teased out in the selection process. The selection committee would have to give an immense amount of thought to it and it should be written into the Bill. It would be useless if the director general were fully qualified but lacked the true commitment of achieving a proper ecological balance. We in the Green Party believe that the role of the director general is more than just a job — it is a vocation which demands 100 per cent allegiance to the environment. The Minister might consider including this as an amendment on Report Stage.

If I wished to be popular I would certainly say I would accept this. In theory it is obviously desirable that every director and staff member of the agency would have deep concern for the environment, but to include that in legislation would be quite meaningless. I do not think anybody will apply for a post of this kind and say that he or she is not deeply concerned about the environment. It would be legally meaningless. I am not keen to write into legislation something which will have no practical effect. While I accept Deputy Garland's desire to ensure that the directors and the director general would have a deep concern for the environment, I assume that anybody who would go for a position of this kind would have such a concern. To put a requirement of that kind into legislation would mean nothing. Presumably the interview board would ask any candidate if he or she had a deep concern for the environment and presumably the answer would be yes and that would be the end of it. I doubt if anybody applying for a position of this kind would say that they are not greatly concerned about the environment. Certainly if there was a requirement that these people had to indicate that they had a high concern for the environment, naturally anyone wishing to hold this position would indicate that they had that concern. While I sympathise with and understand the sentiment behind Deputy Garland's proposal, it would have no practical or legal effect and, therefore, it would be unnecessary and undesirable to write it into the legislation.

What about my question?

In this case the Minister is used in lieu of Government but it is the Government who make the appointments. A person cannot be appointed to the post of director without having gone through the selection committee procedure. Deputy Howlin asked why subsection (5) has not been changed. The simple and truthful answer is that the desire in the Seanad was that changes should be made in relation to the director general but the matter was not followed up. I will consider this proposal for Report Stage to see if that can be done. It is always my intention and desire, particularly since I am not a lawyer, to make legislation as easily understood as possible and to set it out in as clear a form as possible. For many of us, to try to comprehend Acts of this House is a mammoth task, and the clearer the legislation the better. I will consider this matter before Report Stage with a view to simplifying the provision in relation to the director general.

What about the reappointments?

In relation to the term of office, the director general will be appointed for seven years and the directors for five years. The reason two different time periods were chosen was to allow for some degree of continuity. If the director general and the directors were appointed this year, in five years' time they would all go out of office and a new director general and directors would take over. In the interests of continuity and to provide for some overlap from one board to another we felt that the director general, as the most appropriate person, should serve for a period of seven years while all other directors would serve for a period of five years, unless they were reappointed.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 25 agreed to.

Amendment No. 75 is in the name of Deputy Gilmore. I would remind Deputies — this information might not be as popular now as it will be at 6.45 p.m. — that they have agreed to dispose of sections up to section 79 by 6.45 p.m. and, therefore, an economy of words might be in the best interests of all.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 23, subsection (1), line 4, to delete "two" and substitute "three".

Like yourself, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am usually very economical with words. This amendment relates to an amendment I put down to section 21, which was not debated, concerning the number of directors to be appointed to the board. The Bill proposes that four members be appointed, but that seems to be a very low number, given the range of activities the agency will have to engage in. I had suggested that seven directors be appointed and that there be a quorum of three. I concede that a quorum of three out of four directors would be a little high whereas a quorum of three out of seven directors might be more acceptable. Perhaps the Minister would reconsider the number of directors to be appointed.

I think the Deputy is more concerned about the number of directors than about the quorum. However, I will deal first with the question of the quorum. When the Bill was being drafted it was intended not to include any reference to a quorum but to leave the decision totally to the agency. Given that we wish this agency to be independent it would be desirable that they set their own quorum and organise their own affairs in so far as possible. However, it was felt, particularly in the Seanad where this issue was debated quite extensively, that we should provide for a quorum. Taking into account that the director general would have a casting vote, if the director general and one other director acting alone disagreed it would be unacceptable in those circumstances that the director general would have two votes. In that instance three out of five people would form a quorum. If somebody was ill or on holidays it would make the workings of the agency difficult if the quorum was very high. In any event, in regard to fundamental and important matters the agency would probably decide their own procedures and I doubt if any two directors would make decisions that they knew would be at variance with those of the other three directors.

In relation to the number of directors, whether it is five, six or seven, there will always be a dispute as to the optimum number. I am anxious to ensure that this board be a full-time board, a board that would be as manageable, effective and efficient as possible. In my experience the smaller the board the better. A large number of people is not needed in order for the board to perform effectively. For example, the board of An Bord Pleanala which consists of six members deal with about 3,000 planning applications per year. When the proposed agency are fully operational in relation to their licensing and monitoring role they will have about 1,000 different activities and, in addition, they will have a wide range of other functions. However, much of the day-to-day work of the agency will be done by staff other than the directors. The directors will make the fundamental decisions in relation to licensing, overall policy and direction matters.

On balance, I think five is the appropriate number of directors, but of course in cases such as this it is always argued that the number should be more or less. Some people have suggested that five is too many and that as it is to be a full-time executive board we should have provided for the appointment of a fewer number of directors and pay them more. However, we have got the balance right in providing for five directors. That would allow for a range of experience and expertise on the board. Unfortunately, therefore, I cannot concede to Deputy Gilmore's request for seven directors. I accept that his proposal for a quorum of three was based on the supposition that there would be seven directors. I assume that he will be quite agreeable to a quorum of two considering that the number of directors will be five.

Accepting that the board will consist of five directors I believe that the quorum should be at least three. I strongly support Deputy Gilmore's amendment in those circumstances. It is utter folly to have a quorum of two, a minority of the directors, because it could lead to conflict. What would happen in the event of a conflict arising between the two members present? There is reference to this matter in an earlier section. What would happen, say, if two people present could not agree on who should chair the meeting? A quorum of three would be much more acceptable. It is notorious in many companies that it is impossible to resolve difficulties in these circumstance because both people would have equal votes.

On the last section the Minister spoke about appointing engineers, biologists and so on. I hope that included among the directors will be a generalist who need not necessarily have experience in any of those areas but who has a flavour for the environment and for the administration of environmental matters.

I do not wish to delay too long on this section. I understand that the amendment dealing with a quorum was based on the notion that there would be an increase in the number of directors. I support the proposal that the number of directors be greater than five. Under the Bill the directors will have a great deal of power and responsibility. When talking about the qualifications required the Minister listed, at my request, the criteria that should be taken into account in appointing directors. If the board consisted of a representative of the agricultural sector, the industrial sector, a chemist and an engineer — to name the areas mentioned by the Minister — unless there is a multi-talented individual who would meet all the criteria laid down, that would account for the filling of four vacancies. Five is a small number to do all of the work laid down, particularly in the initial stages.

Notwithstanding the fact that the number of directors will be five — the Minister's mind seems to be firmly fixed on that — I also consider that two is a small number of directors to make an important decision. As a general rule an even number of contributors to a debate is not as good as an odd number. An odd number of participants would at least ensure a decision. The Minister should consider the motion that three would be a better number for a quorum than two. The position is not the same as that for an ordinary meeting in which a small number only is required for a meeting to start. In the case in question, once the quorum of two is present, important decisions may be made. I consider that two individuals should not have the authority to make important decisions. It could happen that directors might be sick, absent or abroad and two directors meeting together could make a decision that would be neither correct nor in line with the majority view of all directors.

Having listened to the debate, and for the reasons stated by the three Deputies who have spoken from this side of the House, I am strongly of the opinion that three is the correct number for a quorum. I realise that there are advantages either way. I accept that it is important that the directors of the agency be able to meet but I also consider that two out of five directors is a very small number for a quorum and that that could lead to all kinds of problems. This is a very minor point. The arguments have been very well made and it is time the Minister threw us a bone.

I suppose this issue is a little like mixing primary colours — a different secondary colour is made depending on which two primary colours are mixed. Given that the Minister talked earlier about the directors coming from different backgrounds, and so on, the decision on a critical issue could depend on which two directors happened to meet on the relevant day.

The Minister seems to be set on having the number of five directors. That provision should be considered again if having five directors means there will be a quorum of two. To have two directors make a decision would seem a little too cosy. It would be preferable to have a quorum of at least three. Therefore, the Minister should give fresh consideration to the issue.

I do not consider that the argument of people being away on holidays or being ill holds. The directors of the agency will be appointed full time and their job will be to serve on the agency. What kind of an agency would it be if three of the five directors could be absent at any given time? Meetings should be arranged early enough to ensure that at least three of the five could be present.

The Minister should accept an increase in the number for the quorum. In that way, both the agency and the decisions made by the agency would be strengthened. People going to court will know that the outcome of their case depends in some cases on the judge who presides over it. We do not want people interested in a decision made by the agency to ask themselves which directors met on the day the decision was made or to regret that it was not a different two directors who met to consider that issue. A quorum of three directors would be preferable in that it would provide for a greater consistency of decision-making.

In relation to the query raised by Deputy Mitchell, the director general, if present, chairs the meetings. If the director general is not present then the directors present would decide which one of them would chair the meeting.

When two directors were present at a meeting and disagreed a third director would be required before a decision could be made. An amendment made by the Seanad provided that the director chairing the meeting in that instance would not have a casting vote.

The agency themselves will have the discretion to set a quorum at a higher number than two. We are providing in legislation that the quorum be at least two. Deputies should consider what it is we are doing. Here we are establishing an agency in which we all want to have faith. We want the agency to be credible and be operationally independent of the Government but it seems now that Opposition Deputies are proposing to tie the hands of the agency behind their back.

We do not want to do that.

Deputy Gilmore asked what kind of agency it would be if there could not be more than two directors present at any given time. The issue is not merely one of a quorum required for the meetings of the agency. The agency will have specific time limits with which to comply. In relation to matters such as decisions on licences, the agency will obviously be making daily decisions. If we want the agency to operate then we will have to be practical when we consider the making of such decisions, otherwise it could well be necessary for the agency to decide that they have to close down for a certain period in the summer and have everyone take their holidays at the same time in order to ensure that at least three directors were always able to meet. It is possible that directors could be away from the agency headquarters on official business.

I accept that if one wished to limit the scope of the agency and their capacity to make decisions in particular circumstances one would provide for a quorum of three directors but I consider that proposal to be unnecessarily restrictive. It would place difficulty in the way of the day to day management of the agency.

When the agency are established and the directors first meet it may well be that they decide themselves that it is desirable to provide for a quorum of three. I do not consider that three directors of the agency would be happy to have two other directors decide for them on matters of widespread fundamental importance. On some occasions it may be that the directors of the agency were equally balanced, two each way, when trying to reach a decision of significant importance to them, with perhaps one director taking a middle stand and waiting to assess his or her decision. On such occasions the agency themselves would want to decide what to do. Some of the directors might not wish to have themselves associated with a decision that they could not stand over. On particular occasions it might well be decided that all five directors should meet in order to make a particular decision. The agency would certainly be free to do that and I expect that it is very possible that that decision will be made on very special occasions.

If the Government were to provide for a very restrictive quorum, that quorum would have to be reached every day in relation to every decision taken, even when there might not be a problem. I consider such a proposal to be unnecessarily restrictive.

I equally accept that it would be unreasonable to expect a casting vote from the director in the Chair in the case of a quorum of two meeting and not being able to reach agreement. That would effectively mean that one person was making the decision. The Government have taken account of such a scenario and are ensuring it cannot happen. It is desirable to keep the legislation as workable and as practical as possible and I am confident the Government have done that in the Bill.

Question: "That the word proposed to be deleted stand" put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

We proceed to amendment No. 76 in the name of the same Deputy. I observe that amendment No. 77 is related and suggest that they be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 23, subsection (4) (a), line 19, after "General" to insert "and such appointment shall be for a period not in excess of six months".

This amendment was tabled to deal with circumstances in which a director, perhaps due to illness, would not be able to perform his or her duties. The Minister is giving herself power to appoint a civil servant to perform those duties for a period of nine months. My amendment proposes a shortening of what period, to six months, which speaks for itself.

Rather than delaying the House, I should like to indicate that I am prepared to accept amendment No. 77. If I accept amendment No. 77 no need arises for amendment No. 76 in that anybody appointed on that basis could serve for six months only. I am happy to accept the proposal.

I welcome the Minister's aceptance of the amendment. Since there is no mention of it in the section may I ask the Minister whether it is possible for such a person to be renominated, on the expiration of the six months period, ad infinitum? Therefore, does it really have any meaning?

That is the point I was about to raise. The Minister could, by a succession of appointments, fill posts rather than go through the statutory requirement that is in the Bill.

I thank the Minister for accepting the amendment. However, I should like to hear her reply to the questions posed by Deputies J. Mitchell and Howlin although I understood from section 26 (4) (b) that a person appointed would not serve for a term — as the Bill is drafted — in excess of six months. My understanding is that the question of reappointment could not arise but I should like to hear the Minister's explanation.

Actually a person could be reappointed for a further period of six months——


This provision obviously is intended, as Deputy Gilmore said and is clear from the Bill, to apply in a period in which a director may be ill. In the unusual circumstances in which a director's illness was unlikely to continue on a permanent basis it might be desirable — in order to allow the agency to function — to reappoint somebody for a further six months rather than have to go through the procedure of dismissing the director concerned or not facilitate his or her return. While this provision applies also in the case of the legislation in regard to An Bord Pleanála it has never been used for longer than the period specified. I would not envisage it being resorted to in this case except in the most unusual circumstances.

We ought to consider a further amendment of this section on Report Stage. Clearly it is unsatisfctory that the Minister could over-ride the provisions of earlier sections with regard to the appointment of directors by just renominating a civil servant every six months.

Section 26 (4) (a) states:

(4) (a) Where, owing to the illness of the Director General or of a director, or for any other reason, a sufficent number of directors of the Agency is not available to enable the Agency effectively to perform its functions, the Minister may, as an interim measure, appoint from among the officers of the Minister who are established civil servants for the purposes of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956, one or more persons to be a director and, where necessary, one to be Deputy Director General.

Therefore, if "for any other reason" a vacancy arises, the Minister could continue to appoint a substitute. Obviously, that is a dangerous proposal. I wish to give notice of my intention to table an amendment to this section on Report Stage.

While fully accepting the bona fides of the Minister vis-à-vis the intention of the section is contend it is not good legislation that includes in its remit a mechanism to circumvent the whole intention of the Bill. Any Minister who might succeed the present one, could simply circumvent the normal appointments procedure by appointing whomsoever he or she chose to be a director, deputy director but, apparently, not Director General ad infinitum. The Minister said that is possible but will not happen. She cited the legislation establishing An Bord Pleanála and said a similar provision had been included there and has not been abused. But, when in preparing legislation, we should strive to have our actual intentions enacted. Will the Minister consider tabling an amendment on Report Stage to limit a subsequent reappointment to one term only?

May I make it clear, in relation to the An Bord Pleanála legislation, the relevant provision has never been used, not that it has never been abused. I hope it will never have to be used in relation to this Bill or agency either. The illness of an officer does not necessarily mean one would have to apppoint a civil servant; it may not be necessary, the agency may be able to continue to operate very effectively. However, circumstances could arise where due to the illness of an officer the agency would be unable to operate effectively because of the workload or whatever. In such circumstances it would be desirable that we be able to appoint a public servant, on a temporary basis, to be a director or deputy director general of the agency.

I want to be reasonable about this. I do not envisage it being used very often if ever. If a director is genuinely ill, dare I say, has open heart surgery——

A very fashionable phrase.

——or has a major medical problem and after six months, despite that director's best intentions, he or she is unable to return to work but might be able to do so a couple of months later, it would be desirable that, after six months, the appointment would be reviewed and a substitute appointed. I stress a reappointment would arise only in such circumstances. If it was a case of an officer resigning, failing to turn up or taking a long holiday, obviously other arrangements would be made to appoint a full-time director and dispense with the services of the former.

In the case of a person who is genuinely ill I do not want to be unreasonable. I do not want to have to force a good director of the agency to make up his or her mind within six months, which is rather short. While I may give Deputies a commitment to re-examine the matter before Report Stage, I have to say my thinking is unlikely to change. That was my view when we discussed this matter in the Seanad. Indeed I reduced the relevant period from 12 to six months, which does force one to re-think every six months whether a public servant should be reappointed, or whether it might be desirable to ask the relevant director to resign because he or she might be unable to return to work. Where a person is unable to return to work after six months, but might be able to return after another few months, in the interests of natural justice, if for no other reason, it would not be desirable, caring or humane to have the services of that director dispensed with and not be able to appoint a public servant in the interim to carry out his or her duties.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 23, subsection (4) (b), line 22, to delete "nine" and substitute "six".

Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That section 26, as amended, stand part of the Bill" put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 23, subsection (2), line 27, to delete "not less than five and not more than".

I have a number of amendments tabled to this important section which has attracted some comment. The section provides some mechanism for directors of the agency as an institution, to interface with the environmental organisations, with people working professionally in the environmental area and with those working in the wider social and economic arena. It is also the section which deals with the question of accountability. There is nothing to indicate — this is always a difficulty when an independent agency is established — to whom the agency will be accountable. The advisory committee will be the only vehicle through which environmental organisations and professionals working in the environmental area, for example, local authorities and so on, can have an input into the work of the agency and have some influence over it.

My amendment deals with the number of members who will make up the advisory committee. As it stands, the Bill provides that membership of the advisory committee can range between five and 12. During the debate in the Seanad I think it was proposed that membership of the advisory committee be increased to 15. If my memory serves me correctly, the Minister rejected that amendment. An advisory committee of five members would be too small. I cannot see how one would get a sufficiently representative committee across a whole range of interests by confining it to five members.

My amendment proposes that the advisory committee should have 12 members and that the Minister would not have the discretion, as is the case at present, to appoint an advisory committee of fewer than that number. What I can see happening is that — I hope the Minister will not take any personal offence; I am not impugning the intentions of Ministers for the Environment — a Minister for the Environment might not like the nominees put forward by various bodies or might simply wish to reduce the size of the advisory committee for whatever reason. I do not think that that discretion should be there. The advisory committee should have 12 members. Our objective is to get as representative a body as possible. Even with 12 members, there is a whole range of organisations whose input would be valuable to the advisory committee but who, because of necessity, would be excluded from it. If there are fewer than 12 members I do not see how the Minister can get a sufficiently wide range of bodies on the advisory committee in order to give them balance and some degree of representation. I ask the Minister to accept my amendment which proposes that the advisory committee should have 12 members and not to provide that the number be as low as five.

It struck me as odd that there was such a wide possibility of numbers. I imagined the Minister would have thought out the correct number in this case as she did in regard to the number of directors. I know there was some debate as to what should be the correct number. I suppose we will never agree on a particular number but I strongly contend that five is too low. It would be wrong to provide this sort of guideline in the Bill.

I support Deputy Gilmore's amendment because excluding the director general, who will be an ex officio member, 11 members will be selected from a range of groups put forward. I welcome the inclusion of some of these groups and the innovation the Minister of State has brought to the section. However, as I said a baseline of five is too low.

I support this amendment which proposes 12 members, which should be the minimum and the maximum number.

As the Deputies are probably aware, when the Bill was being debated in the other House I put forward the figure five because the debate went along the lines that nobody would ever be appointed and this provision would be left there as a noble idea which would never be implemented. Therefore, I introduced the concept of not fewer than five members. In politics anyone who changes their mind, even after nine or ten months, are accused of not knowing what they are talking about or perhaps of not knowing what they were about in the first instance. However, I want the debate to be as meaningful as possible and for Deputies to have an input into the Bill. Therefore, I am happy to accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment, but with one proviso that I come back to this issue on Report Stage because before I got to my feet I was advised of a particular difficulty which might arise if the nominating bodies did not make any nominations, that in these circumstances the Minister could not appoint the 12 members. The Minister is restricted to appointing four members; the director general will be an ex officio member, which makes five members, and seven members will be nominated by the nominated bodies. It is unlikely but if in theory the nominating bodies were to decide — there are groups of nominating bodies in each category — not to nominate their four members, then obviously nobody could be selected. I wanted to clarify that point in order to ensure that the provision has a practical effect and that we do not introduce an amendment which it might not be possible to implement. Subject to that provision, I accept the substance of Deputy Gilmore's amendment.

It would be my intention to have the fullest possible advisory committee, as they will have a very important role to play. We decided to have a full-time executive board for the agency and therefore, environmental organisations would not necessarily be represented on the board of the agency, unless one of their members happened to be appointed on a professional basis, in which case they would be there in their professional capacity rather than as a representative. Although I went that route, unlike the Bord Pleanála route, which involves a nomination process, I was equally keen to provide a facility for environmental and other organisations, a wide list of which is covered under section 27 (5). It is my intention to exercise fully the powers laid down in the legislation to appoint the maximum number of members to the advisory committee from a comprehensive range of people and organisations in the cultural, social, economic, environmental and academic world. The descriptions in section 27 (5) are fairly wide.

It is also my intention to ensure that the committee is small enough to be effective and important and to have an input not merely into the operation of the agency in regard to individual licence applications but also into overall policy, the direction of the agency and advising the Minister of the day. The advisory committee will have a very important and significant role to play in this area and it is my intention to ensure that they can do this. As I said, I will return on Report Stage with either an amendment similar to the one tabled by Deputy Gilmore or one which will give the best possible effect to the concept he has outlined.

Even though I may be straying slightly from the amendment, I should like the Minister to clarify a point. With regard to the mechanism for nomination, it appears that under section 27 (7) all of the organisations prescribed under section 27 (5) will act collectively. Yet I get the impression that under section 27 (10) they will be expected to act individually. How does the Minister envisage the nominations actually being carried out by the groups prescribed under section 27 (5)?

This seems to be my lucky day. I thank the Minister for accepting my amendment, albeit subject to clarifying the position between now and Report Stage. It is not often that we get an opportunity of improving on what is done in the other House. It makes our time here seem very worthwhile when we get that opportunity.

I wish to clarify one or two points which have been drawn to my attention. Subject to that, I intend to accept the substance of Deputy Gilmore's amendment for Report Stage.

Deputy Howlin asked me how exactly the procedure will apply. Obviously bodies will be prescribed. I did not think it was desirable to name particular bodies in the legislation. We will be dealing later with amendments in this regard. It is important not to single out any particular body. If this were done it would be only fair to name all bodies. Obviously the mainstream organisations will be prescribed, and I have already given a commitment in the Seanad to prescribe local authority representatives. I assume that each of these bodies would then meet——


Obviously they could meet individually or as a group. Is the Deputy asking whether more than one body will meet?

As I said, they could meet individually or as a group.

There seems to be a difference of emphasis between subsections (7) and (10); subsection (7) seems to imply that they would meet collectively and present the nominations to the Minister but subsection (10) seems to imply that each individual organisation could nominate. How then will four nominations be presented to the Minister?

Obviously, each organisation can meet and decide to forward names to the group of organisations which will meet. In subsection (5) (b) these are organisations concerned about environmental protection, so I assume that the organisations in that sector would meet individually or together, to find some process of forwarding four names. We can prescribe the way they should do that by making provision for the calling of a meeting and so on and giving notice.

Who will decide who appears on the list?

The organisations who are a party to the group——

Will it be by vote, by democratic election? Do some organisations have a bigger say than others? Is it by the membership of the organisation?

I do not think it should be by membership of the organisation; that would be undesirable as it would then require the Minister to try to assess the numbers in each organisation. Obviously it would be difficult to try to assess the strength of one organisation in relation to another. However, we can certainly make provision for that.

I assume that the organisation will send a representative to a meeting where they will vote, disagree or decide to nominate one each for the purpose of the group. There is a minimum of four but they can forward ten or 15 names if they wish. We did not wish to restrict it to one or two because, with a number of organisations, there would be environmental politics between the different organisations as to whose representative was chosen. That is why we specified a minimum of four; if there are only four organisations, I assume they would have one each, although that does not necessarily follow. They may decide not to do that; one body could decide not to nominate anybody. If there are five organisations they may decide to forward five names and then it would be a matter for the Minister to decide the person to be appointed, duly advised by a committee from that group.

Is the amendment agreed or will it be dealt with on Report Stage.

With the permission of the House, we could defer it to Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We now come to amendment No. 79. I observe that amendments Nos. 80 and 81 are related and I suggest, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 79,80 and 81 together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 23, subsection (3) (a), line 31, to delete "and shall chair the meetings".

We have just had a discussion on how the advisory committee will be appointed and these amendments relate to how such a committee will work. I am concerned about the provision in the Bill that the chair of the advisory committee will be the director general or his or her deputy in the absence of the director general. I propose to change that and to enable the advisory committee to elect their own chairperson. As you are no doubt aware, a Cheann Comhairle; whoever chairs a meeting can exercise a great deal of influence in the way in which the meeting proceeds. To all intents and purposes the director general will be the agency and the advisory committee is really the only forum in which there is a degree of accountability in relation to the director general and the other directors. It would be unusual for the director general to chair the meetings of the advisory committee.

There is provision in later sections in relation to matters of information regarding particular cases which might be before the agency, the kind of information to which the advisory committee are entitled and the kind of matters which would be eligible for the agenda of the advisory commmittee. The chair of the committee should be someone selected by the committee; we can try to imagine the situation in which there is a permanent director general and permanent directors of the agency, where the advisory committee meet once a month. The committee is made up of people representative of environmental organisations, they meet and are supplied with the documentation for the meeting by the director general and by his or her staff. If the meeting is also chaired by the director general he or she would be running the show and the advisory committee would be a sham. The director general, as chair of the meeting, could rule things in or out of order, dictate the agenda, the pace of the meeting and supply the information. This would give the director general far too much power in the context of the meeting and it should be changed.

The advisory committee should elect their own chairperson; the director general will continue to be a member of the advisory committee and will, obviously, supply the committee with whatever information and documentation they require, which would provide for a greater degree of balance than a situation where the director general is running the show. It would be like the Taoiseach being Ceann Comhairle of this House. I do not believe that any individual office holder, in addition to being the most powerful executive in the organisation, should also chair the meetings of the advisory body.

There is great merit in this amendment. If we are to have an advisory agency it must been seen to operate independently of the permanent executive of the agency. The permanent executive will carry out the functions but they are to be advised and monitored by the advisory committee. The detail of the functions of the advisory committee is set out in the next section, with which we will deal shortly. It is proper for the director general to be a member of the agency and to hear the views and clarify matters, but not to steer discussion. As we know, a chair can steer discussion and there is great merit in having an independent agency in every sense. A good way of achieving that would be to have an independent chairman of the advisory agency.

I strongly support the amendment as it is a very important issue. There is a danger that a very strong willed director general — we are looking for someone who will be strong willed and passionate about his job — could steer the agency because he will have control of all information and be in a position to organise the agenda. It would be preferable to have a line of demarcation between the advisory agency and the executive who will be mandated to carry out the specific legislation which we are putting in place.

I, too, would like to strongly support this amendment and I urge the Minister to accept it. I am concerned about the absence of directors who would take a view different from the hands-on management. The advisory committee could reduce to some extent my anxiety in that respect by providing a forum for ensuring that outside views are heard.

We all know that a determined chairman can order the manner in which business is taken, the manner in which questions are put and the order in which speakers are called. It would be a significant improvement if the Minister agreed to provide that the director general or one of the directors shall not be the chairperson.

I concur with the previous speakers on this subject. Section 28 which deals with the functions of the agency provides that the advisory committee will report to the Minister or to the board of the agency. It is quite clear to me that there must be an independent chairman and, like the other Deputies, I feel very strongly about this. I look forward with interest to hearing the reasons the Minister might possibly have for establishing the committee on this basis.

I can assure the House that I have nothing suspicious in mind. I have considered this issue particularly since it arose in the Seanad where the matter was discussed and I wondered whether I was doing the right thing.

Strangely enough I take the opposite view to the rest of the Deputies. One may ask what objection would I have to anybody being chairperson. While in theory that is the case, I quite honestly believe that the advisory committee will be far more integrated in the running of the agency and in the formulation of their policy if the director general is the chairperson rather than it being almost a separate body altogether. If that were the case, I think it may be like many of these advisory committees where they will do a great deal of good work but will not be taken seriously. If the committee were to make particular recommendations or decisions they would be taken much more seriously if the chairperson of that committee happens to be the director general of the agency.

There is something strange about the way the Deputies are dealing with this issue, because there is an assumption — and I listened very carefully to all four Deputies — that it is better to have somebody who is independent of the director general, as if the director general would be a very authoritarian, difficult person and that the directors would not be independent-minded people. There is only so far that we can carry the independent process. I believe it is important that as we have a full-time executive board of directors we would have a facility for bringing in outside people on a voluntary basis to act in an advisory capacity to the agency, which would keep it abreast and informed on matters on the ground. Outside agencies working in a voluntary capacity often have a different perspective and it is important that their viewpoint is understood and listened to. Equally, the advisory committee have an important role in advising the Minister for the Environment of the day. I believe the advisory committee would have a lot more clout and would be taken a lot more seriously if the director general is also the chairperson rather than some other person.

I also think the Deputies do not have much faith in the kinds of people to be appointed to the advisory committee as they are suggesting by inference that unless somebody other than the director general is in the chair, he will be able to ride roughshod over the advisory committee. That is assuming the people on the advisory committee will be weak-minded individuals who will not be able to stand up for themselves. I do not envisage that such people will be on the advisory committee because, as I have said seven will come from nominating organisations involved in the environment or in industry, such as local authority members and representatives of the County and City Managers Association. The representatives from these organisations will be more than capable not only of representing their organisations but of being able to fight their corner. I do not anticipate the director general or any other person in the chair being able to push them around or order business in a way that would not be satisfactory to the advisory committee. I do not accept that this could arise; I think we would be making false assumptions if we were to assume that that would be the case.

I believe also that if we leave the post of chairperson of the advisory committee open to everybody there may be political lobbying for it and I am not necessarily sure that is a good thing. I will probably be accused now of not having faith in the democratic process but the 11 members of the advisory committee may not necessarily know each other. The director general of the agency working in a full-time capacity is the person best suited in all the circumstances to chair the advisory committee. If one of the representatives of industry, for example, were to become chairperson of the advisory committee some people might take the view that Irish industry would have clout on the committee; similarly, if a representative of a particular organisation were to become chairperson of the advisory committee, it might be assumed there was something political about his appointment, and the kind of advice and direction he might give the agency.

It is true a chairperson has a great deal of clout in the way a business is run and you need a strong person to chair meetings particularly of strong-minded independent individuals, as I anticipate the advisory committee will be. However, to assume that the chairperson has the power the Deputies have assumed is a little naive and I do not accept the Deputies are that naive. I believe a chairperson can do a great deal where he is surrounded by weak-minded individuals or a low level committee but where you have a high-powered advisory committee, as envisaged, the role of the chairperson is not as influential as the Deputies would like to suggest.

The main reason I wish to retain the director general as chairperson of the advisory committee is that it forces the director general to attend the meetings and be attentive and responsive to the committee of which he is a chairperson. I cannot imagine a chairperson would want his committee to be out of line with him, neither do I anticipate that the members of the committee will be so weak-minded that the director general can lead them down any avenue regardless of how they think. On balance, in order to have the advisory committee as fully integrated as possible in the operation and direction of the agency — and since we did not take the route of appointing environmentalists and representatives of the various organisations to the board of the agency — the next best thing is to have a fully integrated advisory committee where the director general is chairperson of that committee.

There were some suggestions — although no amendments to this effect were tabled — that the board of the agency should comprise of representatives of particular organisations. Since we have made the decision not to go down that road, which I believe is right, because a full-time executive director is required, the next best way of fully incorporating the types of people we would like to see involved, accepting that they cannot be involved on a full-time basis, is to involve them in an advisory committee that is as fully integrated as possible. If the director general were not chairperson perhaps he might not attend the meetings of the advisory committee or take their views seriously. There is no political reason for doing this but I genuinely believe it will be the most effective way of having the advisory committee taken seriously and requiring the director general to be as attentive and responsible as possible to the proceedings of the committee which he or she happens to chair.

It is very laudable but I think it is a waste of time.

Clearly, the Minister has an extraordinary view. It is an interesting giveaway by her as to what the powers of this advisory committee will be that the director general is unlikely to take it seriously unless he or she is in the chair controlling meetings. That says something about the functions which are being given to this committee. I do not agree with the argument the Minister made that the director general must be in the chair to get over the problem she mentioned, the possibility of politicking between the various organisations and members of the advisory committee. There is an easy way to get over that problem, the Minister could appoint the chairperson of the advisory committee from one of her nominees, if necessary. There are many people who would be accepted as being independent in the chair. It is unwise — I do not want to labour the point because of the time factor — to compound the power the director general has by giving that person the chair of the advisory committee.

The more the Minister talks about these sections at great length the more I get suspicious. Her line of logic is curious in this respect, to say the least. The more she spoke on this amendment the more she discredited her argument. There are precedents for the Minister's stand. Caligula, the great Roman emperor, appointed his horse a Consul and what the Minister is trying to do is to appoint the horse the horse's adviser. It is absurd.

The horse's jockey.

The last person who should be the chairman of the advisory body to the agency is the director general who is also chairman of that agency. He will be chairman of the agency and chairman of the advisory committee. I am amazed at the curious logic which dreamt up this proposal and which, despite the unanimity of argument on this side of the House, the Minister insists on defending. We will be pressing this amendment very strongly. We want the advisory body to be truly independent of the agency so that they can not only give advice but if they believe their advice is not heard can make that advice public.

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

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies McCartan and Flanagan.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 not moved.

I move amendment No. 81a:

In page 23, subsection (4), line 39, to delete "the Director General" and substitute "any director (including the Director General) who is a member of the Advisory Committee".

As I am happy with the wording in the amendment, I would like to withdraw it while retaining the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

To save time, may I assure the Deputy that the concept is covered by the Bill, that is, while the directors will be able to attend the meetings of the advisory committee, they will not have a vote? I think the Deputy is concerned about that but I can assure him that it is already covered by the legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

As amendments Nos. 82 and 84 are related we can discuss them together. Agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 24, subsection (5), between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

"(f) organisations which represent the elected members of local authorities.".

The amendment concerns the kind of bodies entitled to nominate persons for appointment to the advisory committee. The bodies already listed include bodies representing professions which relate to the environment, environmental organisations, social and economic bodies, and so on. The big omission in that list is the elected members of local authorities. We have had much discussion during the last year about local democracy and the need to strengthen local government. Every political party made it their theme song during the local elections last June that greater powers should be given to elected members of local authorities.

The local authorities are at the coal face of environmental protection. At the very least the elected members of local authorities should be entitled to representation on this advisory body. The formula I am proposing is for the minimal representation one can get. A number of organisations represent the elected members of local authorities — the General Council of County Councils, the Association of Municipal Authorities and the Local Authority Members Association. Those bodies should be entitled to nominate persons for selection by the Minister as possible members of the advisory committee. It would be anomalous if voluntary bodies, commercial bodies, social bodies and professional bodies were entitled to make nominations while directly elected members of local authorities, elected to protect the environment, did not have the same right. That would be wrong and I urge the Minister to accept this amendment.

It is my intention and I indicated it in the Seanad, to prescribe for the purposes of this section organisations representing elected members of local authorities. I am not keen to accept an amendment of this kind because it would be wrong to single out some bodies and not others. Why should I single out organisations representing elected members of local authorities and not An Taisce or an organisation which represents some professional body dealing with environmental protection? I assure the Deputy that organisations which represent local authority members and which represent county managers are covered under section 27 (5) (b), (c) and (d). These organisations represent people involved in environmental protection, the promotion of economic and other development and in the promotion of community, and social, economic and general interests. They may also be organisations which qualify under subsection (5) (a).

I am giving a firm commitment to prescribe, for the purposes of nominating persons to the advisory committee, organisations which represent elected members of local authorities. I also undertake to prescribe for the purposes of this section organisations which represent city and county managers. There is only one such organisation and I intend to prescribe that organisation. It would be wrong to specify some organisations and not others in the Bill.

I would ask the House to accept my assurance that the bodies representing local authorities and city and county managers will be prescribed for the purposes of this section of the Bill and that we should not write this into legislation putting these groups on a different basis to that which applies to other organisations. To treat some organisations on a different basis would be unfair and would be misrepresented by the general public and by members of organisations which were not specified in the Bill.

It is not in order for Deputy Carey to move amendment No. 84, but we are discussing it with amendment No. 82.

I appreciate that. I am disappointed with the Minister's reply and we will be supporting the amendment tabled by Deputy Gilmore. I am particularly disappointed that the Minister who was a member of a local authority does not understand the difference between people who offer themselves for election from time to time and members of voluntary bodies like An Taisce. Elected representatives are accountable to the people but members of voluntary bodies are not accountable in the same way.

There is a reason for supporting this amendment as it affects accountable bodies. The Minister should recall from her days in the local authority all the hassle about proper representation at the highest level. This is an opportunity to reform some of the attitudes of the Department of the Environment towards local authority members and county managers. I am disappointed the Minister, having regard to her experience in the Department, is relying on her own good will. Others will follow her who will appoint people to other advisory councils and there will be no guarantee that local authority members or the County Managers Association will be represented. The Minister is being very trusting of officials and bureaucrats.

When she was on this side of the House she looked for the highest standards from people in Government and she was always very concerned about appointments. The quality of the appointees is critical. The people who come from the General Council of County Councils or the County Managers Association would have the national interest at heart. I appeal to the Minister to review this matter for Report Stage.

I support the amendment. I am not happy that local authorities as a group would be subsumed into another heading, whether it is an organisation which, in the opinion of the Minister, is concerned with environmental protection or with the promotion of economic or other developments. Obviously local authorities would fit readily into either of those categories.

It is not good enough that the whole strata of local administration, democratic structures at sub-national level, would be slotted in by regulation under some other heading. We need make no apology for giving them a category of their own. They are not analogous to An Taisce or anybody else. We are talking about the democratic tier of administration below the national level. There was much talk last year when the local government legislation was going through these Houses about empowering local communities and giving real strength to the local authorities. We are still awaiting a Bill to restructure local authorities at sub-county level. It is nothing short of farcical that local democracy and local authorities are not seen to be worthy of a category of their own. I ask the Minister to think again on this. I have not spoke as trenchantly on any other amendment this afternoon.

In the past couple of years no organisation has impacted a greater degree for the betterment of the environment than the local authorities. I have seen it at county and urban level cross the country. Through urban renewal and beautification measures local authorities are transforming the whole landscape of Ireland. That should be recognised. They are of strategic importance in the battle to improve our environment, a battle in which this Bill is simlpy an instrument. It is important that local authorities should be afforded a particular slot. We should not have to be in any way apologetic about it.

I disagree very strongly with Deputy Howlin. I would oppose both of these amendments. There seems to be an effort by the other parties on this side of the House to politicise the committee. We have enough politicians in positions of power. We need independent-minded environmental people on this committee, not representatives of local authorities or city or county managers. Whether we like it or not, the local authorities themselves have been very much at fault over the years. Much of the pollution is caused by local authorities. They may say they lack funds from the Department of the Environment and admittedly this is often the case. One of the duties of the agency will be to call local authorities to task in the event of pollution arising locally.

Everyone in this House agrees with the principle of subsidiarity. Many environmental problems have to be dealt with at national or international level. It is totally inappropriate for many of these problems to be dealt with at county level. I am not mollified by the Minister's speech because she is implying that these people will get in by the back door or under some other subsection. She should state clearly that there will be no specific representatives of the elected local authorities.

The Minister has agreed to do what the amendment is seeking, which is to prescribe organisations representing the elected members of local authorities. I cannot see, therefore, why she is not prepared to accept the amendment and to include it in the legislation, thereby ensuring that her successors, should they wish to change the organisations which are prescribed, do not exclude the elected members of local authorities. There is a principle involved. The elected members of local authorities cannot be lumped in as bodies which in some circumstances might be concerned with environmental protection and other circumstances might be concerned with economic or social development. The elected members of local authorities represent the organisations which have primary responsibilty for environmental protection at local level.

What Deputy Garland has said is claptrap. One cannot on the one hand say one is for subsidiarity and on the other hand rubbish the people elected at local level. There is an idea — and it is perhaps useful that it has come up at this stage — that independent bodies can be appointed. There is no such thing as absolute independence. A person appointed to a position in the Environmental Protection Agency will bring with him his own life experience, views, attitudes and so on. When any independent agency is established a balance must be achieved between, on the one hand, the independence of that agency from vested interests, political interference and so on, and on the other hand a degree of accountability. Without that there is an élitest structure where people are accountable to nobody. The principle of accountability is important.

I happen to be not just a Member of this House but also a member of two local authorities and it is my experience that I am made much more accountable by the people whom I represent as a member of a local authority than I am ever made as a Member of Dáil Éireann. As a member of a local authority I am asked, week after week, to attend meetings in local communities about matters which affect the immediate environment. There is a far greater degree of accountability between members of the local authorities and the public who elect them than there is between Members of this House and their electorate. Perhaps it is because the environmental issues which members of local authorities deal with at local level are much more tangible and closer to the people. I may disagree, and regularly do, with other members of the local authorities to which I am a member, but that is part of the normal process. Why do we have local government if we say that elected members of local authorities are not the kind of people who should be eligible for appointment to this body? I submit that people elected by the public are every bit as entitled to be appointed to a body like this as people who represent commercial or other interests.

I agree to some extent with the point that local authorities have contributed to problems of pollution, but local authorities and their staffs must be given some credit for the contribution they make to the environment. Who collects the rubbish bins, takes away sewage, provides water and roads? The local authorities and their staff. It is grossly insulting to local authorities, to the elected members, to the staff who work for them at all levels and to the people who vote in local elections to rubbish local government as Deputy Garland has done. There is a principle to be taken into account. The elected members of local authorities should be included in the Bill. The Minister has accepted this in practice by saying she is prepared to prescribe the elected members of local authorities. She should give legislative effect to that by including it in the Bill.

I wish to comment on the outrageous assault on locally elected members by the representative of the Green Party. It is clear that Deputy Garland has no understanding or knowledge of the workings of local authorities, although I understand he was invited to my local authority area by members of a local authority. I thought he would have some appreciation of the work carried out by members of local authorities in relation to the environment. It is scandalous for anybody to suggest that such people should be excluded. We have already discussed sections which seek to include, as directors of this agency, people from agriculture and industry, people who are hardly noted as always being perfect in their attitude to the environment, but that was not decried. The only people Deputy Garland wants to specifically exclude, not only from the directorships but from membership of the advisory committee, are local elected members who serve the community so well. This is an outrageous assault on the thousands of individuals who work so hard, for very little recompense and gratitude, to improve our environment, the fruit of whose efforts is to be seen up and down the country.

I know Deputies are anxious to move on, and therefore, I will not reply at length to the points made. I think Deputy Garland's comments have been misunderstood. I do not think he intended to convey the impression that he totally disregards the role of elected members of local authorities and local authorities generally. A repesentative of Deputy Garland's party could be a representative of the advisory committee, but that person would not be there in his or her capacity as a party political representative but rather as a representative of local authorities and its elected members.

The reason I am not keen to accept the amendment is that I do not wish to put local elected representatives on a different basis, even if that affects some members from, for example, farming and environmental organisations and others. In the process of drafting this Bill a large number of organisations representing environmentalists, farmers, industrial and economic development, workers and so on, lobbied for representation on the advisory committee, but all of them cannot be represented. It is my intention to nominate and prescribe, for the purposes of this section, organisations that fall into the categories so described. It would be wrong of me to single out, in relation to local elected members, three organisations, and, in relation to city and county managers, one organisation. It would be wrong to put some organisations on a different basis than others.

Deputy Carey chastised me for not having faith in the democratic process and in the people who are elected. His party have nominated the city and county managers, who are certainly not elected through a democratic process. I am not faulting the manner in which they are appointed but there are good organisations that are not necessarily elected by the universal franchise, and we must recognise that. They do invaluable work in many areas in relation to environmental protection.

Deputy Gilmore said he is more accountable as a local authority representative than he is as a representative of this House. I share his view that that is the case, but that is regrettable. Very often constituents have a greater interest in matters that are of immediate concern to their locality than they have in, for example, the education, health or taxation systems, which may have an effect on their lives although the effect is not often realised. The link between the ordinary life of an individual and the role of this House in legislating is not as easily understood as one would wish. If the present clientelist system did not exist here this House would be the better for that. I am not criticising the fact that people are genuinely concerned about their own locality. Everybody is concerned about the quality of the environment in which they live, but it is not an argument in favour of putting local elected representatives on a different footing, as seems to be suggested, from other organisations that have a very meaningful and effective role to play in relation to environmental protection.

I cannot agree to writing into primary legislation that we nominate a representative from local authorities when we are not equally writing into legislation that we nominate, for example, a category that would allow a representative of An Taisce or that we are not precisely specifying the environmental organisations. The Deputy should accept the assurance that, for the purposes of this section, the organisations representing local elected members and the organisation representing city and county managers, will be so prescribed. It will be a matter for the Minister of the day, in making the appointment, to decide whether these organisations should be represented on the advisory committee when such a committee is being appointed. That is a political decision. I am not anxious to put one group of organisations, albeit local elected representatives, on a different footing to organisations that represent environmental concerns in a general sense. Therefore, I ask Deputies to accept my commitment in this regard. It is my intention to prescribe the organisations about which they are concerned.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 83 and 84 not moved.

I move amendment No. 84a:

In page 24, subsection (7), line 17, to delete "four" and substitute "two".

Subsection (7) of this section provides that the prescribed organisations shall, whenever so requested by the Minister, select such number, not less than four, of candidates as the Minister may specify for appointment. That gives too much scope to the Minister and takes power from the nominating bodies. For that reason the word "four" should be changed to "two", thereby giving more leeway to nominating bodies. If the Minister intends to appoint two people from a particular panel surely she should accept the two people put forward by the nominating body. If she insists on the selection of four members she may end up appointing third and fourth choice rather than first and second choice candidates.

I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment. The Deputy seems to think that, for the purposes of this section, there is only one organisation in each category. As I said earlier, there may be as many as four organisations involved. Rather than have environmental politics between the different organisations, it is appropriate that each organisation be able to make a nomination. Provision is made for a minimum of four nominations, and more nominations may be made if required. It is for the Minister for the Environment to decide who to nominate to the advisory committee. In relation to environmental organisations, for example, in which An Taisce and several other organisations might be prescribed, acceptance of Deputy Garland's amendment would mean that there would have to be some kind of voting procedure between the organisations to decide which organisation would send a nominee. That would not be desirable.

Perhaps Deputy Garland misunderstood the position and assumed there would be only one organisation and then asked why that organisation should have to send forward four names. Obviously, if there were only one organisation, four names would not be expected. As more than one organisation is involved, a minimum of four nominations is reasonable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We now come to amendment No. 85 in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendment No. 85a is an alternative amendment. Therefore, for discussion purposes, I propose that amendments Nos. 85 and 85a be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 25, subsection (11), line 4, after "reappointment" to insert "provided that he has been re-selected by the bodies prescribed in subsection (5)".

This amendment relates to the reappointment of members of the advisory committee. The Bill as it stands provides that members of the advisory committee can be reappointed when their term of office expires. My amendment makes that reappointment subject to the person having been reselected by the bodies which nominated him or her in the first place. The objective of the amendment is to prevent a poacher turned gamekeeper situation. By the time the term of appointment of someone selected by organisations to represent their interests has expired, the person appointed might no longer represent those interests or might no longer be acceptable to the organisations that nominated him or her. The Minister should not be able to reappoint that person without the approval of the organisations that nominated him or her in the first place.

I think there has been a misunderstanding here. I am strongly advised by the parliamentary draftsperson that section 27 (11) is subject to section 27 (8), which requires a person to be renominated by the nominating group. Of course, the Minister may decide to nominate someone who is not a nominee of an organisation. I am sure the Deputy does not wish to exclude that possibility. No one could be reappointed as the representative of an organisation unless reappointed under section 27 (8).

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 85a:

In page 25, subsection (11), line 4, after "reappointment" to insert "subject to the agreement of the organisation which selected him or her in the first place".

On the basis of the Minister's remarks, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment. However, I intend to consider the matter further and, if necessary, come back to it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 85b:

In page 25, subsection (15), lines 15 and 16, to delete paragraph (b).

This amendment concerns section 27 (15) which deals with ministerial regulations. The amendment proposes the deletion of section 27 (15) (b), which provides that the Minister may make regulations as regards "any other matter which the Minister considers expedient for the purposes of this section". The power given there is too broad and should be deleted.

I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment. The purpose of the provision is to give the Minister the power to prescribe organisations and then, if necessary, to change the body so prescribed. For example, the body might no longer exist, which is the case in relation to one of the bodies prescribed under the legislation establishing An Bord Pleanála. I consider that the Minister should, therefore, have the power to change the body so prescribed without the complicated procedure envisaged if Deputy Garland's amendment were accepted. The section also empowers the Minister to specify the way in which nominations were to be made if there were difficulties. For example, the organisation or organisations concerned might be required to call a meeting to give a particular notice. This is a housekeeping provision to deal with matters of that kind and it would be ineffective and impractical if we were to accept Deputy Garland's amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 85c:

In page 25, subsection (16) (b), line 19, after "may" to insert "subject to the requirements that he/she give adequate reasons".

This amendment concerns section 27 (16) (b), which deals with the removal from office of a member of the advisory committee by the Minister. This provision requires amendment. After the words "The Minister may" I want to insert "subject to the requirement that he/she give adequate reasons". Section 27 (16) (b) gives the Minister too much power to remove from office a member of the advisory committee for unspecified reasons. The provision could be too easily used to silence a politically embarrassing but otherwise capable member without giving adequate reasons. The expresion "stated misbehaviour" has to be defined. In exercising the Minister's power to remove from office a member of the advisory committee, he or she should be required to give adequate reasons in the interests of natural justice.

Again I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment. It is highly unlikely that anyone would ever be removed as a member of the advisory committee, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. I do not recall the removal of any individual under provisions of this kind, which are fairly usual in legislation of this type.

If the Minister had to specify the adequate reasons to which the amendment refers — and the definition of "adequate reasons" could be debated forever, because what might be adequate to some might not be adequate to others — that could prejudice any legal proceedings that might be taken against the individual concerned. It should be remembered that members of the advisory committee will be serving in a voluntary capacity. The Minister could become aware of security reasons that necessitated an individual's removal from the committee in the interests of the credibility of the agency. Would it be desirable for the Minister then to have to state publicly very detailed reasons that could prejudice any legal proceedings that might be taken? That could run against the course of natural justice and the rights of the person concerned.

The requirment in section 27 (16) (b) is precisely the same as that relating to the director general and the directors. The provision gives the Minister power to remove from office a member of the advisory committee if, in the Minister's opinion, that person has become incapable through ill-health of effectively performing his duties or for stated misbehaviour. That provision is considered satisfactory. As I said, similar provisions exist in legislation of this kind and I do not recall them ever having to be used. I do not consider that any Minister would try to remove someone from an advisory committee simply because of a difference in politics. Very often an individual's politics would not be known or, if they were, they would not necessarily prejudice that person's effectiveness as a member of an advisory committee. I do not accept that that could be a reason for the dismissal of someone from an advisory committee. The individual concerned would have recourse to natural justice. I do not envisage anything of that kind happening.

I am very disappointed at the Minister's reply and that there has been no response from other Members on this side of the House. I consider curt dismissal to be a serious issue. I am not impressed by the Minister's argument that similar provisions are found in other legislation. Something that is taken for granted is often the very thing that needs to be examined. I am also not impressed by the argument that such a provision has never been used before; there is always a first time. I wonder whether the Minister and I could find middle ground in this regard. I agree that from time to time people have to be removed from office.

Would it not be preferable that the advisory committee themselves would recommend to the Minister that a person be removed if there was somebody who was unreasonable, who was not attending meetings or was otherwise undesirable or unsuitable in that the first people on whom this would impinge would be his or her fellow members of the advisory committee? Perhaps the Minister would re-examine this to ascertain whether an amendment could be tabled on Report Stage to provide that the Minister could remove somebody on a recommendation from the advisory committee.

I cannot give the House a commitment to re-examine this. The amendment the Deputy seeks to insert would weaken the provision of the Bill. If a Minister, under the provisions of the Bill as drafted, seeks to remove somebody from the advisory committee, it must be for stated misbehaviour whereas under Deputy Garland's proposal a person could be removed simply for "adequate reasons". For example, a Minister of the day could decide it was an "adequate reason" to remove somebody because he or she did not like something they had said in relation to a particular matter at a meeting which had been brought to the Minister's attention; it could be something as simple as that. "Adequate reasons" does not say anything; anything could be an "adequate reason" whereas "stated misbehaviour" actually requires a member of the advisory committee to do something wrong. It is a much more restrictive provision than what Deputy Garland seeks to introduce and prevents anybody from being dismissed willy-nilly from an advisory committee. In fact, what Deputy Garland seeks to introduce would have the opposite effect to what he said or seeks to do. In theory, under the provisions of Deputy Garland's amendment, somebody could be removed for perhaps being of a different political persuasion than what might be felt to be desirable; that might be considered to be an "adequate reason". I contend the concept is much too wide, loose and liberal and I would prefer the provision of the Bill, as drafted, which are common in legislation of this type. Those provisions have never been used and I do not envisage their being used except in the most extraordinary circumstance in which somebody may have committed a serious misdemeanour.

I am sorry to persist on this point but clearly the Minister misunderstands my amendment. If she looks at it again she will see I do not say anything one way or the other about stated misbehaviour. For example, section 27 (16) (b) says: "The Minister may remove from office ...". I want to insert after the word "may" the words "subject to the requirement that he or she give adequate reasons". That does not in any way detract from the reasons for removal but rather specifies that the Minister should give the full reasons for his or her decision to seek a removal, which is entirely different from what the Minister was saying.

As I said earlier, these will be people working in a voluntary capacity. Suppose a member of the advisory committee decides to take a piece of equipment from the agency's headquarters, is involved in a serious act of theft. Such a person probably will have a family, is serving in a voluntary capacity. Would it be in order that a Minister of the day would have to make a public statement about that matter? Would it not be proper that the normal law would take its course rather than a Minister having to become involved in making a public statement which could prejudice the outcome of any legal proceedings? Quite honestly, I do not believe the introduction of a provision of that kind is either desirable or necessary. I think we are wasting time.

Is Deputy Garland consoled in his disappointment?

No, but I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 27 stand part of the Bill."

Perhaps the Minister would explain briefly the categories she would envisage being encompassed by the provisions of section 27 (5) (d). For example, what organisations in her opinion "are concerned with the promotion in relation to the community of social, economic or general interests"?

I am now talking off the top of my head. Obviously, represented elected members of local authorities——

They fit into every category.

Exactly. Well, they are people concerned about "promotion in relation to the commmunity of social, economic or general interests". I would envisage representatives of city and county managers, perhaps trade union organisations, representatives of workers. I am advised it would include representatives of the farming organisations, as people concerned about social, economic or general interests. Perhaps a voluntary body involved in the social area could qualify for the purpose of this provision. The phrase "general interests" is a general one to allow us to nominate groups. As I said earlier, in the process of drafting this legislation, I and my officials had widespread consultations with many organisations who expressed an interest in participating in the advisory committee of the agency. It is the intention of the Government to appoint as many people as possible, subject to the provision that we do not end up with an advisory committee that is all things to all men, or that we simply appoint people for the sake of so doing. We want to appoint people with a genuine interest in environmental issues even if they do not work in the environmental area on a day-to-day basis. For example, it is important, in the context of the environment, that we make environmentalists out of farmers, industrialists, trade union officials and so on. That is the way to ensure that our environment is protected rather than keeping it strictly within its own area. Therefore, I was keen to ensure there was a fairly general provision to allow us to nominate bodies with an interest, knowledge and widespread concern, as members of the advisory committee. I am sure I will be advised later by my officials of further organisations which I will bring to Deputy Howlin's attention.

Question put and agreed to.

May I raise a point of order on the sections remaining to be dealt with today. On the Order of Business we agreed we would pass those amendments in the name of the Minister or those accepted by the Minister. Will the Minister be indicating before 7 o'clock which of the remaining amendments she will accept between sections 28 and 79?

The Chair has an indication that there are amendments, apart from those in the name of the Minister, that will be included in the question; for example, amendments Nos. 86, 88, 126 and 151, will be included in the question.

I know we are running out of time. But, if it is helpful to the Deputy, I can indicate — and the Ceann Comhairle will have it on the Order he will be reading to the House — amendments Nos. 77, 86, 88, 126 and 151 will be included. In order to be helpful to Deputies we will return on Report Stage with an amendment in relation to amendment No. 98 in the name of Deputy Howlin, amendment No. 124 in the name of Deputy Gilmore and amendment No. 134 in the name of Deputy Jim Mitchell.


I move amendment No. 85d:

In page 25, subsection (1) (a), line 28, after "Agency" to insert "and the interpretation of its guiding principles as described in section 52 (2)".

This section deals with the functions of the agency. Section 28 (1) (a) reads:

It shall be the duty of the Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Agency or to the Minister relating to the functions of the Agency.

I should like to insert after the word "agency" the words "and the interpretation of its guiding principles as described in section 52 (2)". This would assist us in concentrating the mind and it sets out more clearly the duties of the agency. I hope the Minister will be able to accept my amendment.

I can assure the Deputy that the substance of his amendment is included in the provisions of the Bill, as drafted. Obviously, the advisory committee in giving advice either to the agency or the Minister would have to bear in mind the requirements of the agency as a whole. Under the provisions of section 52 (2) (d) — which speaks of the "polluter pays" principle — the advisory committee would be required to take that into account in any advice being given the agency or the Minister. The advisory committee cannot operate outside the law that establishes the agency or outside its functions and the manner in which those functions are assigned to the agency. Therefore, I can assure the Deputy that the provisions that apply to the agency apply equally to the advisory committee.

Among the functions envisaged by the Minister for the advisory committee is that they make recommendations to the Minister regarding the functions of the agency. It may well be that the advisory committee would want to advise the Minister that the role of the director general should be changed, which may well be something the director general does not approve of or want to do. This is another reason the director general should not be chairman of the advisory committee.

Obviously the advisory committee will be free to advise the Minister if they believe changes are desirable. In fact, that will be one of the more useful roles the advisory committee will perform. Outside people, volunteers, will be coming in and having a very integrated and important say in relation to the operation of the agency. Obviously it is desirable that those people would use their experience to advise the Minister of the day, and the advisory committee will be completely free to give whatever advice they believe is in the interests of the more effective operation of this agency.

As it is now 7 p.m., I must, in accordance with the order of the day, put the following question: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment and not disposed of, together with amendments Nos. 86, 88, 126 and 151 set down to Parts II and III of the Bill are hereby made to the Bill and, in respect of each of the sections undisposed of in the said Parts, other than section 59, that the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to".

Question put and declared carried.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.