Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 looks like it is doing a certain amount of tidying up. It is tidying up some loose ends and endeavouring to comply with EU directives. That seems to be the main purpose of the Bill. No doubt the legislation is necessary to address certain anomalies in current laws and address the matters outlined. However, there are other more important pieces of legislation that should be included.

Part of the Bill concerns the role of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and there are clearly issues regarding the EPA's role that might have warranted more attention. I am thinking in particular of the ongoing problems with waste management and the disposal of waste. There are unresolved issues that remain regarding the large fire out in south Dublin last year - that plant - and I highlight that as one instance. There are issues regarding waste management and the storage of waste that we need to deal with.

I also hope the Minister's Department will deal urgently with a number of other proposed pieces of legislation under this brief. I note there is nobody here from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The Minister of State who is here is not from that Department. Maybe there is good reason for that, but the Minister brought the Bill before the Dáil and we have little enough opportunity to question Ministers or to highlight the key issues that we see as needing to be resolved. The Minister of State has been sent in here and it is probably not his fault, but the least the Government could do is send in one of the two Ministers in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I know there is one financial dimension to this, and the Minister of State who is in the Chamber is in the Department of Finance. I recognise that he does have a role for one part of this Bill but it is mainly an environmental miscellaneous provisions Bill. That is what the Bill is called. There is one specific issue with which the Minister of State will be dealing later on.

The change in the electoral law needs to be addressed urgently. There is proposed legislation there; I brought forward a Bill two weeks ago in respect of lowering the voting age and the Government passed it on Second Stage. While I welcome that, I do not want the Bill just parked. We need to be a bit more imaginative. The Scots have shown the way forward and have given 16 year olds the vote, and the world has not shaken because of it. It is a positive measure and we need to move ahead with those as well.

There are a number of other recommended changes to electoral legislation that came out of the Constitutional Convention, which should be brought forward. There is also an issue - the officials might take note of this for the absent Minister - regarding the planning Bills in the pipeline, the stated purpose of which is to implement some of the findings of the Mahon report coming out of the Mahon tribunal. We welcome that, but want to highlight the importance of doing it. I ask the Minister if it is proposed, as recommended by the Mahon report, to establish a new office of an independent planning regulator? That is the key point of Mahon and it should be legislated for. Most people, if not all, in this House want to see the planning system tidied up. We do not need to rehearse what went before us here and we certainly want to put a stop to that. Hopefully we can have that independent office, but the Minister responsible might give me an answer regarding the recommendations of the Mahon report.

Part 3, section 17 provides that the agency will now have an integral role in air quality and monitoring air pollution as well as in prevention, control and enforcement. The main issue here is around bituminous coal or smoky coal. There are on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices. That is perhaps a more effective and efficient way of doing it. I wish to highlight one issue, namely reports of smoky or bituminous coal being sold as well as other fuels that do not come into the smokeless category, particularly in larger urban areas.

It is important there is an effective method to deal with that.

I have a concern in regard to peat or turf. The smoky coal ban is being rolled out across the State and it now applies to towns with a population of over 15,000. We do not want to be seen to penalise small-time fuel suppliers in rural areas who cut and save a small amount of turf and sell it to neighbours or people in the immediate locality. Smoky coal, or bituminous coal, is causing huge problems in terms of pollution and there are reports of it being brought in from other jurisdictions. However, a small amount of peat or turf being cut and saved and sold on a small-scale is not causing a major problem in regard to pollution.

I refer to section 20 relating to two new fixed payment notice offensives under the European Union (Paints, Varnishes, Vehicle Refinishing Products and Activities) Regulations 2012. There is provision for a new fixed payment notice of €1,000. I am not an expert on paint products, although I used to know a bit more about them at one time when working beside a panel beater. At this point, the products in this State may not be completely converted over to more environmentally friendly types. I am concerned that we give people a bit of space. Obviously, stocks should be allowed to run out.

I am also concerned about small-scale operations and panel beating shops. We live in a country of 6.5 million people but in a State of just under 4.7 million people. By and large, paint shops, or panel beating shops as they were commonly known until a number of years ago, operate on a small scale. This is not the middle of Berlin or the middle of London. When one goes outside the M50, one is talking about small-scale operations. Even in medium-sized towns, one is typically talking about one, two or three people working in panel beating shop or a paint shop, doing car finishing and repairing crashed cars. It is important we do not come down too hard on those people. I can think of a few operating in my area. They seem to make a real effort to run a good operation, to comply with the planning laws and so on. We need to be careful the provisions of the Bill do not hammer those people into the ground.

We hear the normal complaints from small businesses about all the regulations, the VAT requirements, the Revenue requirements, the local authority rates, the planning conditions, the development levies with which they must comply and, therefore, we need to be careful in the case of panel beaters and people repairing the bodies of cars. That sector is, by its nature, small, and it is very small down the country. The operations in my area have one, two or three people working in them. The largest one of which I can think has three people working in it and they are from the one family.

I refer to section 24 which replaces An Bord Pleanála with the EPA as the appeals body for decisions made by local authorities on the licensing of certain small-scale activities under the Act. That may make perfect sense in that the EPA will have expertise available to it which An Bord Pleanála will not have. However, whatever procedure is put in place, let us try to make it as straightforward as possible. Let us not make it an over-bureaucratic and a long drawn-out process. We must have common sense in this regard. Along with everything else, when trying to get a project up and running, people must deal with regulations, and rightly so. However, it is important that with that change-over from An Bord Pleanála to the EPA as the appeals body, the appeals mechanism is kept as simple and straightforward as possible and as quick as possible so there is no undue delay. As a result of some of the delays with An Bord Pleanála, cases go on for months and projects drag on from one year to the next. We must try to avoid that at all costs.

In regard to Part 4 extending the fee base of the EPA, the Minister is obviously giving the EPA an opportunity to charge what he describes as an appropriate fee given the work, research, investigations, inspections and so on it must do. It is important the fee is appropriate, is not excessive and proportionate to whatever matter the EPA is examining. It is important it does not become a cash cow. There is a cost which is carried by the taxpayer. Somebody must pay which is always the case. We recognise that but we do not want to see this becoming a revenue stream. The EPA must be funded as it carries out a very important role. However, fees must be applied in a cautious and measured way.

Another significant provision in the Bill relates to road tax and the non-use of vehicles. We certainly welcome what is being done and the extension of the period of notification from ten days to 21 days. Ten days is too tight and I think the Government has acknowledged that. That is a very positive move which will be welcomed. It is a more reasonable and a more workable proposition than ten days.

I would like to use the opportunity to highlight the issue of road tax. The Minister will be aware of an issue in regard to the taxation of HGVs. The road network must be maintained and road taxes must be collected. The change from ten days to 21 days will help road hauliers if it applies to HGVs. Hauliers have a problem in regard to vehicles when they are off the road and not in use. However, there is a big issue in regard to the differential between this country and Britain and the North of Ireland in terms of costs. We have been lobbied on this over the past number of months, as has the Government. The concern we have is that some operators have already relocated to England, the North of Ireland or to other countries. Nobody wants to see those companies relocate, set up depots or set up part of the business in other countries. County Wexford, in particular, has been badly affected by this.

There is also a problem in the midlands, including in County Laois where I live. Hauliers are hauling goods - it is a free market so nobody can stop this - out of County Laois, for example, with trucks based in other countries.

They could be based in Britain or anywhere in continental Europe and they are running loads out to the Continent. If local hauliers could compete, they would be able to get that work. I know the Minister of State is taking note of this and I thank him for that. Not alone are we losing the road tax, but we are also losing the PRSI, VAT and revenue on the fuel. There is a range of costs, including, of course, the jobs we are losing. If 20 or 30 jobs are relocated to Newry, it is not too bad as it is up the road and at least it is some benefit to the island of Ireland, but if they go off the island, to Bristol or Liverpool, we are really in trouble. Will the Government keep this issue in mind and try to do something with it? We asked in the last budget for something to be done with it. That did not happen. The haulage industry is operating on very tight margins. I know hauliers who are doing the same runs they were doing 20 years ago but they are doing them for lower rates. That is how cut-throat it has become. It has become very difficult to operate. They simply cannot compete with companies that are based in other jurisdictions. One regularly sees Eddie Stobart, the Scottish firm, on the motorways. They are able to compete. They are able to come in, pick up loads and take them out, and run loads in and out of the midlands or the west or anywhere along the eastern seaboard. They can do it at a price that the hauliers in this State simply cannot. The rates for the work have been pushed further and further down. We must take note of that. I ask the Government to keep it under review. It constantly says it is for jobs. That is fair enough. We are for jobs as well. We can create jobs at a very quick rate, but if we are haemorrhaging jobs at the same rate, we are in a standstill situation. We do not want to see jobs lost off the island of Ireland. We want to keep those haulage jobs here and give the haulage industry a level playing field to operate on.

In the amendment to the waste management Act, Part 6, section 23, fixed payment notices are being introduced again. I can see the benefits of that. I would like to see that expanded to take into account illegal dumping. Clearly the penalties for that are insufficient. Extensive illegal dumping is taking place. There is the small-scale stuff where people just throw stuff out the windows of cars and vehicles. All was revealed in the last month or two, when the frost kills back the growth on the sides of the road, and they are littered. The countryside is in a shocking state in places. Around every town and village there are people driving out. They are not always driving bad vehicles - some are driving very good 141- and 142- registered vehicles - and dumping rubbish in the countryside. They are not always people who are on the breadline. Some people who are on the breadline are more conscientious about these things. Unfortunately there are people who are unscrupulous and they are destroying the countryside. We need to deal with it in environmental legislation. What is there at the moment is not up to the mark. The Government will have to take action on this. Tidy Towns committees have been in existence as long as I have. I remember hearing about them as a child. There was a Tidy Towns committee in the town I grew up in, doing work and everything else. There are people in rural areas gathering rubbish, pulling it out of hedgerows and gateways every morning.

It is destroying the countryside, it is damaging the environment, and it is damaging tourism as well. People come here from continental Europe and take a spin through the countryside, only to see black bags shoved into every gateway and paper cups from Supermacs, McDonald's and wherever else littered along the sides of motorways. I regularly see people out along the sides of motorways with litter-pickers, walking along with a big truck behind them, picking up the rubbish that people throw out through the windows. They are obviously doing it at night when no one can see them. They just fling out these things when they are finished with them. There is a role for education in this. It baffles me that schools are doing green flags and everything like that, and yet people have it in their heads that when they are finished eating and drinking in a car, they just fling the rubbish out through the window and think somebody else has to pick it up after them. In a carpark recently, I saw four separate piles which, when I looked closer, were in the shape of a parking space, with a white line on either side. Obviously people in the back and front of the car had been having a takeaway. They wound down the windows and dropped the rubbish out of each side. One could see the four containers and the empty snackboxes left in the carpark. They drove away and left the four piles after them.

Laois County Council - the taxpayer, the public - must pay a man to go out the next morning to pick up this, day after day. It is one of the things we need to look at as a society, to get our act together on this and make a serious attempt to change the culture.

There are some issues that we will be looking to change and we will be putting forward amendments when the Bill moves to Committee Stage. The Minister of State, wearing his Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government hat, might take on the issue of road tax, particularly in respect of trying to keep jobs here. We must be cautious how we move forward in relation to some of the matters I raised. I look forward to Committee Stage, on which we will be tabling amendments.

I call Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice, Tom Fleming and Mattie McGrath. There have 30 minutes. How are the Deputies sharing time?

We will take ten minutes each.

When I look at this Bill, I wonder where we are going as a country. Every single page of it has some reference to EU legislation. Do we own our own country? Are we in control of our own destination or is the EU telling us, day in, day out, from when we go to bed to whatever we do in life, where we are going? Are we gone that bad as a country? Have we lost our patronage, so that we have to take everything from them and put it in?

I see ownership of Killarney National Park is being transferred to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Look at the Department's behaviour through the years regarding the turf issue and various things that occurred in different parts of the country. For example, in Limerick the National Parks and Wildlife Service tried to ram it down people's throats that there was a turlough in a place near Limerick even though it was gone for 20 years. It tried to ram it down people's throats about bogs. It brought out its own science and now, 18 years later, it has been proved that the science is up to 40% wrong, when independent consultants were brought in. Is this the way to go forward in getting a national park looked after or getting it under the auspices of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht? The record of the National Parks and Wildlife Service is despicable and deplorable, if one goes through what has gone on in each part of the country.

I look at this document and all I see is penalties. The one thing that strikes me is that we all encourage entrepreneurship. We all encourage youngsters to get out there and do things. There is a sad reality in this. If a youngster beside the Minister of State in Cork, or beside any of us in any part of the country, cuts a tree and decides to bag it to be a young entrepreneur, if they get a few bags of turf in their father's, mother's, uncle's or aunt's shed, and go down the road to try to sell it, they need a licence. That is the reality of what we are doing with this. If they have not got a licence, we have the on-the-spot fine.

This is a great country in which we will cripple people and discourage them from working or becoming entrepreneurs.

It will be necessary to make amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. While I fully agree that a licence is needed to sell fuels, youngsters selling bags of timber or turf should not have to look over their shoulders fearing they will be given a fixed charge penalty - this is a lovely new phrase - of €500.

People have to get all their paperwork from the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2009 and 2010, the EPA produced reports on Glenamaddy Lake in County Galway. The State pumps 200 tonnes of raw sewage into the lake every day but does not face fixed charge penalties from the EPA, whereas someone with €100 of timber will receive a fine.

Every part of the Bill creates costs for people by requiring them to get different types of licences. What are we doing as a nation? We are telling people that if they go right, left, up or down, they will be charged more to be in business and survive. Why are we doing this? It is because our magic masters in the great European Union have told us to do it. We can continue down this road or we can consider where we are going as a nation and ask whether these rules and regulations are costing jobs. Are the do-gooders both here and in Europe who tell us what to do causing more emigration? Do the 35,000 civil servants in Europe believe they must do something every day to justify their existence and produce bits of papers with more and more regulations? The Bill features references to EU regulation throughout.

When will some Minister ask whether this is good or bad? As a nation, are we able to be patriotic by standing up for ourselves and believing in ourselves or will we take this from our so-called masters in Europe, day in and day out? I do not class them as our masters.

That is what we are doing today in the national Parliament.

We are quoting all this European Union legislation because Ministers love EU law. That is the problem and it is about time Irish people stood up and questioned all this stuff that is coming from Europe.

This is Dáil Éireann and the Deputy can question away.

I ask the Minister of State to ensure the Bill is amended on Committee Stage to ensure more youngsters are not forced to take the boat to another country. We must encourage people to get out and going at a young age, rather than fining them €200, €300 or €500 for not having a licence.

The small fry are always hit in this country. We are good at generating tax revenue from petrol and making statements that we do not tolerate fuel laundering. Like a needle in a haystack, we are still trying to find out where it all went wrong. The sad reality is that ordinary people are being left to pick up the can. They must pay for a new engine without receiving any help from the insurance companies.

Let us start questioning Europe because not everything sent over here is right. As a nation, we must start asking questions and doing what is right for our people. If we keep quoting from this or that directive or regulation, we will leave the country with nothing. Like birds in their nests with their beaks open, we will end up waiting for Europe to feed us all the time. I and many others do not want that because we are proud to be Irish.

I welcome the provisions of the Bill regarding the transfer of functions from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These include the functions which, under the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932 as it stood immediately after enactment, were exercisable by the Commissioner of Public Works, and most of the functions which were exercisable by the Minister for Finance under the 1932 Act.

I wish the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, well in her stewardship of Killarney National Park. I am sure she will continue the excellent work carried out by her predecessor, the Minister of State, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, on behalf of the national park. I am also sure she will take a personal interest in this matter given that Killarney National Park is the largest national park in the country and the jewel in the crown of the national park network.

The nucleus of Killarney National Park is the 4,300 ha of the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park which was presented to the State in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parents-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, in memory of Senator Vincent's late wife, Maud. The generosity of the Vincent family ensured that the most beautiful lakeland, parkland and woodland in Killarney could be preserved in the hands of the State and will continue to be accessible to future generations.

The focal point for visitors to Killarney National Park is Muckross House and gardens. The house, which is a late 19th century mansion with all manner of furnishings and artefacts from that period, is a major visitor attraction. It is jointly managed by the park authorities and the trustees of the house who have formed a dedicated and proactive committee that provides ancillary facilities to complement all the physical features of the national park. These include historical, cultural, musical and folklore archives, a model farm and farmhouse. Each house depicts the various categories of farm family dwellings. The park also features a traditional schoolhouse and blacksmith's forge. Live demonstrations are given of all the traditional farm activities in the era of horse driven machinery as well as butter making and bread baking. Ongoing developments by the trustees greatly enhance the visitor experience and give an insight into 19th century and early 20th century Ireland. This is highly educational for the younger generation, including young people who visit Muckross House with their families or on educational tours with schools.

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, to convey to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht my acknowledgement of the work done by the trustees and request that she maintain the co-operative and friendly relationship that has always existed between the Department and trustees of Muckross House.

Muckross House is one of the prime visitor locations in the country. In 2013, the visitor book recorded 118,789 visitors and figures for 2014 should be significantly higher.

The restaurant is thriving but there is a huge number of unrecorded visitors to the national park and Muckross complex. The number of visitors to the complex is much more substantial than 118,000 and it could probably be trebled.

The newly refurbished Killarney House and Gardens is a major project and its location brings the national park closer to the town. It borders the centre of the town. A total of €17 million has been invested over the past few years and this has provided for the reinstatement of 35 acres of gardens to their original pristine state. This will be an iconic feature at the heart of the prime tourism town in the country. Will the Minister of State convey to the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the immediate need for staff to be appointed? Significant public relations work and advertising needs to be undertaken prior to the opening because this is a major acquisition in the context of the entire tourism product in County Kerry.

The current staff in the national park are under extreme pressure because of the maintenance and general upkeep that is required throughout. There is need for more manpower to undertake the physical work involved and to ensure part-time staff are available to work as guides and so on during the summer. The tourism industry is expanding, and the Wild Atlantic Way will also be a feature of the county's tourism product, as visitors do the Atlantic drive and then travel inland. Kerry Regional Airport is also flourishing and, therefore, there is good access to the county by air and rail, although there is a need to upgrade the road access through Adare and Macroom, in particular. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is making his own efforts in that regard.

I ask the Minister to co-operate with requests from jarveys regarding the use of the road inside the perimeter walls of Killarney House. It is parallel to Mission Road, which runs from the Killarney Plaza Hotel to the cathedral. There is a need for access to the park via Chestnut Drive and that facility should be made available. Mission road is busy with heavy traffic and it is not easy for the jarveys to travel along it. This would be a practical measure, which could be undertaken with minimum disruption to the environment by ensuring the access is provided within the perimeter wall. It would also be desirable to lower the wall, as this would be positive from an aesthetic and visibility point of view. It would improve the ambience and bring the national park closer to the heart of the town.

There is a need for an annual maintenance fund for the repair and surface dressing of a network of roads throughout the park, as they have drastically deteriorated in recent years. Minor works have been carried out but substantial funding is needed to bring the roads up to a good standard. That probably means a three year plan is necessary with sums expended annually.

I ask that the work on the walk around the lakes be expedited. The co-operation of the Department will be important in securing a walkway and a cycleway around the lakes. I ask that every assistance be given for that.

I thank my two colleagues, Deputies Fitzmaurice and Fleming, for sharing time.

The Bill will give effect to a waste policy commitment in the programme for Government. Many proposals in the programme have not been effected and they will not be either before the Government leaves office but, as previous speakers said, the Government parties seem to be trying to stifle small business. I accept legislation and regulation is required but it should not stymie initiative. Entrepreneurs such as Bill Cullen, Seán Quinn and many others started off in their own field in their own area as young people trying to make a living. They used their initiative, their brain and their business acumen. Most young people have business acumen but everything is tied up with regulation.

I do not blame the Minister of State for all of it or for the implementation of successive directives from Europe. Deputy Fitzmaurice might not agree but when we transpose EU directives, we have an uncanny habit of adding nine or ten regulations to the diktats from Europe. This has happened in many sectors. I am a small businessman and I have witnessed the way regulation has been imposed. I would have been unable to start my business, which I founded in 1982, today. It is too costly and prohibitive to do so. There is too much red tape and regulation after regulation with an enforcement army implementing everything no matter what industry one goes into.

The National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, took a court case against a filling station in Durrow, County Laois for employing people under the prescribed legal age. The judge threw out the case saying it was much better for the young people to be working part-time and gaining an understanding of commerce while earning a few euro in pocket money to help their hard-pressed parents and learning the ethos of work rather than for them to be sitting at home in front of a computer or on a Wii. I am delighted he did this. I do not blame the NERA officials because they must implement the legislation passed in the House but much of it is purely regressive and downright stupid. I wonder whether the people who draft these regulations ever consult small business people or people living in various parts of the country before they make changes.

The Bills provides for the reinstatement of fixed payment notices for certain offences under solid fuel regulations and their extension to a range of other existing offences. It is all about having a cash cow and generating money to keep the system going but this is driving people out of business. It is anti-work, anti-business and, in many cases, it is anti-rural Ireland. Many business owners started up as ordinary fuel merchants who bought timber from farmers, chopped it up and sold it door to door. This is hard, dangerous work and I accept it has to be regulated and safety must be ensured at all times. However, the Government wants to ban this and ensure all fuel must be bought from oil companies. Deputy Fitzmaurice is correct that the Government cannot touch the people who are laundering oil or those who are stretching petrol, which results in unfortunate families having their cars blown out of it, but it can get the little people all the time. They are easy prey and there is too much of that.

We are trying to recover from the downturn but the EPA, an organisation I admire, will not prosecute local authorities. I had occasion to pick up the telephone to EPA officials. I recall former Deputy, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who is now an MEP, outlining to the House how he tried to raise an issue in Castlerea with the agency. He was passed on to the county council with comments that Deputies Flanagan and McGrath were on their case. We were not on their case but we were seeking fair play.

Fairness should mean fairness for everyone. Why should they prosecute ordinary customers and small business people when they will not prosecute the county councils? They will not do that, as I have seen. They come a couple of times a year to my village. I met a landowner one day who has an outlet pipe from the local sewerage system belting into his land, approximately 200 m south of the bridge which is the main thoroughfare. They come and take the sample at the bridge. He asked them if they would go down 200 yd. and they would get a totally different sample, but they would not do that. They are selective, but when they come out to a farmer, they go where they like.

It is an unfair system and is becoming more unfair through the imposition of these kinds of ridiculous charges. This is wrong. We have fishing and game clubs that do a power of work for our environment and for the restocking of rivers and game, yet they too are being policed out of business. I do not know how far this will go. Take for example the issue of scrap and scrapyards. I tried, unsuccessfully, to bring in the Scrap and Precious Metal Dealers Bill and was promised by the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, that it would be introduced. I am aware the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduced some regulations, but they are toothless.

A man in Tipperary who owns three scrap yards, Mr. Michael Bailey, cannot move a battery from an end of life vehicle from one of his yards to another without a licence. He has come to me about this issue. One night, a couple of months ago, a gang arrived and fed and neutralised his Alsatian dogs then cut their way into his premises and took the batteries from every vehicle, chopping the cables and leads and doing untold damage. They then brought the batteries to a scrapyard in Limerick. There were no prosecutions of that gang for moving batteries without regulation. This type of activity is going on across the board. We have highwaymen outside of the law acting in this manner, yet we prosecute ordinary people. Mr. Bailey went to the gardaí in Tipperary town and fair play to them they traced the gang and recouped the batteries. Did the EPA prosecute them or the county council for moving batteries without a licence? They did not, which shows how farcical the situation is. Yet they prosecute the ordinary man.

A similar situation occurred in the case of another man, Seamus Clarke, who has a tyre business in Tipperary. His stuff was stolen and found, but nobody was prosecuted. Similarly, in Tipperary recently we could not continue our coursing meet because all the hares had been killed by roving gangs, marauding gangs with all kinds of dogs, including lurchers and terriers. These gangs held their own races, outside of the law. We had a coursing meeting planned which we hoped would be a success, to be attended by thousands with everything regulated properly, but we could not have it because for the first time in 80 years there were no hares.

Groups of people operate outside the law. When we pass their houses in the evening, they have bonfires burning, but if you or I burn a few papers outside we are prosecuted. The law seems to be applied to ordinary, small people, but it ignores the gangs I have mentioned, whether money launderers, diesel launderers or others. It is about time we copped on and stopped persecuting ordinary people. We talk about the boom and the Government keeps citing figures suggesting we are in recovery. That is true for Dublin, as far as the Naas Road, but not outside of that.

The Bill includes fixed penalties of €2,000, or €5,000 if a case goes to court. This is a scandalous option to face any small entrepreneur. What about court costs if a case goes to court? What about people who cannot afford barristers or solicitors to represent them? They may lose their case, having tried to defend themselves, and end up with a pile of costs. The officials who prosecute them are unaware of the costs. They get paid, get their wages and put in their bill for expenses. What is going on is outrageous.

The Minister and his officials should be aware of the situation. If they are not, those who drafted the legislation should. If they are not, they should put on their working boots and overalls and go out and see these businesses in rural Ireland. They should meet the entrepreneurs who are trying to bring about recovery in this country and who are trying to pass on the initiative instilled in them to their children. They should not tie people up in knots so that nobody can do anything. Who is going to run businesses, pay taxes and rates and everything else if these people are being persecuted and driven out of business by regulation after regulation and directive after directive?

These regulations and directives are being inserted in this Bill by the Government, as happened with the previous Government, and will be added to the statutory instruments already in place. A person would want to be a solicitor to understand the legislation and small business owners would need to employ a solicitor to explain them. It is about time the system copped on. We cannot keep adding regulation after regulation or keep introducing nonsensical, impractical and unworkable laws that turn ordinary people into criminals. Regulation for the NCT, road safety and you name it has gone over the top - gone bonkers - and people end up facing the judicial system.

We were promised a judicial council Bill and I asked the Taoiseach about it today. This would allow people to make complaints if they do not get a hearing. Ordinary people are trying to run small businesses, to pay their tax, their VAT and their rates, but they have no place to go and have not been enabled to defend themselves. They cannot afford to pay for legal representatives and often end up in prison as a result. I know of a man in Tipperary who did. Batteries and everything else can be stolen from a yard and sold to another scrapyard without an invoice, yet a man can be prosecuted for moving one battery from one of his yards to another.

I am all for protection against pollution. The scrapyard owner I know must ensure there is not a drop of oil in the engines of the cars in his yard- not a thimbleful. At the same time, we see people have bonfires, spill diesel and oil and do enormous damage to the environment, but they are not prosecuted at all. Somehow or other, the system picks on the easy target, ordinary people in rural and urban Ireland who are trying to make a bob. If we are going to tie them up in knots with regulations like those in this Bill, nobody will run businesses or be self-employed. They will all want good jobs in the public or State service. Where will we end up then?

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd is sharing his time with Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick.

The Deputies opposite have missed the point of this legislation. The truth is the opposite of what they are saying. The truth is it is far cheaper for somebody if-----

The Deputy is the one who brought in Irish Water, but then changed his mind and went against it.

I did not interrupt the Deputy.

I will not listen to that.

Why is this legislation important or why is it of particular benefit to small rural communities? Why will it benefit small towns and villages more than large cities and towns? The simple answer is that this legislation will empower the Environmental Protection Agency to issue on-the-spot fines for particular offences, such as polluting the air we breathe. The sale of bituminous or smoky coal is an offence in areas where it is prohibited. Its sale is a serious and ongoing problem. The particles emitted into the atmosphere from this coal are termed PM10 and PM2.5 particulate matter. The emission of these particles has a significant health impact, which is why we ban the sale of this coal in large towns and cities. These particles can go deep into our lungs and cause serious, life-threatening illnesses. In Ireland, the main source of these particles is the domestic use of solid fuels and vehicular traffic.

The results of tests that were conducted on air quality throughout the country for 2013 show there has been a significant decrease in cities and large urban areas of this particulate matter. In other words, the air is better and purer than it was. However, this decrease is not evident in smaller towns, where domestic solid fuel emissions are more significant than traffic emissions. Many towns do not benefit from the health effects resulting from a ban on smoky coal and often do not have access to cleaner fuel alternatives such as natural gas.

Ireland has a significant target to reduce the level of these pollutants in our atmosphere. Achieving the target is a challenge and will require an integrated approach across a number of sectors, including transport and industrial emissions. The clear message on page 62 of the EPA report is that certain communities have a significant problem with air quality, in the context of WHO emission levels. This is not to say the air is unhealthy, but the standards or levels the WHO will apply to air quality here are exceeded in some of the smaller towns my colleagues on the opposite side of the House have mentioned. For once, therefore, Deputy McGrath has been talking through his hat, because air quality in rural Ireland is worse than it should be.

I welcome the Department's intention to consider an extension of the ban on bituminous coal to other parts of the country. It should be extended not only to some towns and villages but the island as a whole. The need to extend the ban on smoky coal, North and South, is unanswerable. The health impacts of a countrywide ban are clear. It would benefit the health of ordinary people. I note that the Department has commissioned a survey, North and South, of the impact of a countrywide ban. The most significant impact would be on people's health. There are, however, many issues that we will have to address if and when we do it, including fuel poverty. Non-bituminous coal can be more expensive initially, but we should be able to prevent a significant increase in cost to poorer people in society through the social welfare system. The imposition of a countrywide ban would result in a clamp-down on the sale, distribution and transport of smoky fuel.

I welcome the provision in the Bill which provides for on-the-spot fines for certain offences committed under the legislation. While a person could challenge a fine in court, doing so, in terms of solicitors' fees and so on, would be very expensive. In terms of Garda and court time and administration overheads, it is far simpler and much less expensive and makes sense to have an on-the-spot fine system. A person who believes he or she has been incorrectly issued with a fine can bring a case to the courts, in respect of which he or she will incur costs. It is important that we keep people out of court. An on-the-spot fine for an offence committed under the Bill - the offences are significant - makes sense.

My colleagues on the other side of the House are, again, wrong in that this legislation will not put legitimate businesspeople out of work; rather, it will ensure those who break the law by selling coal which does not meet the requirements under the Bill and will have a detrimental effect on the health of the persons who use it and the surrounding communities will be put out of business.

Will people be required to obtain a licence to sell timber?

The clamp-down on the illegal sale of smoky coal-----

Timber is a clean fuel.

-----will boost sales for legitimate businesses paying the solid fuel carbon tax. They are the home truths with which we must grapple and understand and this legislation will help to fight that battle for us.

This legislation introduces many other measures. I am concerned about the provision on breaches of the waste management Acts. In terms of departmental policy on waste management, we must ensure we recover as much as we can by way of recycling and the re-use of waste. Irish people have been recycling waste for many years and we are increasingly exporting more of our domestic and other waste. That is wrong. It does not make sense to me that recyclable waste is sitting in the ports of our cities and large towns awaiting export for use elsewhere. This is an issue we ought to address urgently.

My colleagues opposite made reference to illegal diesel, diesel laundering and so on, which is a huge issue but not necessarily one covered under this legislation. The Bill provides for mandatory fines for using certain pollutants. The biggest pollutant in my constituency, as Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick and I know, is toxic chemicals used to launder illegal diesel along the Border. Despite the protestations and bleats from Sinn Féin on the issue, it is a significant pollutant that pollutes the water into which it flows, about which there is no doubt. I challenge Deputy Gerry Adams to drink that water at source where it is being polluted. Obviously, he will not do so because if he were to do so, he would not be around for very long.

We must address the pollution of our environment and society. We must, in particular, deal with the serious significant adverse impact of illegal diesel laundering in Border areas. This legislation is good and positive. It contains many constructive measures. I note, however, that there has been no regulatory impact analysis of it. Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, might set out in his reply or on Committee Stage the impact of the legislation in the context of some of the issues raised. This is important and constructive legislation which I support.

I have written to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, outlining my concerns about waste from diesel laundering that is being dumped in Lough Ross in County Armagh and entering the Fane river which is the source of drinking water for Dundalk and its hinterland. Approximately 1,200 incidents of such dumping have been dealt with by the local authorities since 2008, 596 cases of which have taken place in County Louth. It has cost the State approximately €4.8 million to dispose of this waste. There is no doubt that this is a major problem in County Louth.

We know anecdotally that a large proportion of this waste comes from across the Border, but we cannot prove the link. Following discussions between the Garda and Customs officials and Monaghan County Council which has also been seriously affected, the Minister has confirmed that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will fund a pilot sampling programme to test the dumped waste and, I hope, link the dump sites with particular laundering processes and identify the origin of the waste diesel. The pilot programme will be carried out by a specialist contractor who will visit the sites, sample the water, deliver the samples to the State Laboratory and compile a report based on the analysis. This is great news for County Louth and surrounding areas.

There is already good co-operation between An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and other enforcement agencies on both sides of the Border. However, given that it is likely that the origin of the waste material is Northern Ireland and given the major environmental impact south of the Border and the huge cost to the State in that regard, it is vital that an effort be made to build on these relationships. The Minister has assured me that he will highlight the problems being faced in Border counties at the next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Louth County Council carries out regular water sampling. Drinking water sample results for 2014 are compliant with drinking water regulations. However, with so much diesel sludge being dumped without thought or concern for local people, there is a grave danger that drinking water could be contaminated. It is unacceptable that the countryside is being damaged in a way that has become acceptable. Tackling the problem of diesel laundering is challenging and costly, but I am committed to continuing to work to address the issue. Diesel launderers are using the countryside of County Louth as a dumping ground and this must stop.

Following the enactment of legislation and the introduction of various environmental protection measures, including the introduction of the ban on smoky coal and a solid fuel carbon tax, there has been a major improvement in Ireland's environmental record. Many of these measures flow from Ireland's obligations as an EU member state. This Bill brings together a number of legislative amendments to update or reinstate the fixed payment notice charge provisions for certain offences, including under the 2012 fuel regulations and the Waste Management Act 1996, and extends the period within which a declaration of non-use may be made in respect of a new motor vehicle and on the transfer of ownership of a vehicle. It also extends the scope of activity for which the Environmental Protection Agency may charge a fee under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and corrects a number of typographical errors in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.

The Bill will give effect to a number of waste policy commitments contained in the programme for Government and implement the advice of the Office of the Attorney General on the use of fixed payment notices for environmental offences.

The EPA's national waste report 2011 states that Ireland is meeting most of its EU obligations and targets in respect of wastewater management. However, some areas need to be improved. With the exception of targets under the end of life vehicle directive, Ireland is achieving its common EU obligations across a broad range of waste legislation. This includes packaging, electrical waste and electronic equipment and batteries. Some targets remain at risk, including end of life vehicles, batteries, and biodegradable municipal waste from landfill.

I thank Deputies for their contributions. I look forward to further discussion on Committee Stage and Report Stage. As engaged as Opposition Deputies were during the debate, they are not in the Chamber to listen to my answers. While critical of the non-attendance of certain Ministers, they head off in a manner that is, to put it mildly, typical.

The 21 days for the non-use of vehicles applies to all vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles. This was a specific question. A mix of sentiment was expressed about Killarney National Park. I note the support of Deputy Tom Fleming from Kerry. Many contributions suggest Deputies have not read the provisions of the Bill. I hope they engage in constructive manner on Committee and Report Stages.

The day-to-day management of Killarney National Park is carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which will not change. The only change is a legal or technical change in ownership, which transfers from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. There were significant discussion about regulations that apply to smoky coal. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd was correct in his analysis that there is no impact on other fuels such as wood and peat, notwithstanding the contributions we have heard. The concerns about illegal dumping will be addressed in further detail on Committee Stage as will many of the other points relevant, which will be comprehensively dealt with as the Bill progresses.

In my capacity as the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, I see the Houses of the Oireachtas as the correct place to debate Irish law. We play an equal role in the discussion and agreement of directives and regulation as an equal partner within the EU. This is an important point. We are all aware of the importance of reducing the administrative burden of over-regulation on all citizens of Europe. There is significant movement in that space, particularly from First Vice President Timmermans in reducing the administrative burden on the citizens of the European Union.

Great strides have been made in recent years in advancing the legislative framework to protect the environment. The Bill will help to underpin and consolidate progress by providing licensing and enforcement authorities with common sense practical tools to allow them to fulfil their statutory obligations effectively and efficiently. It also removes a number of minor ambiguities and enactments, providing greater clarity to authorities and the public alike. I thank Deputies for their contributions and look forward to the next Stages.

Question put and agreed to.