Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 25 Mar 1981

Vol. 95 No. 13

Dumping At Sea Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

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

The purposes of the Bill are:

firstly, to provide powers to control dumping at sea from ships, aircraft or marine structures and thus enable effective steps to be taken to prevent the pollution of the sea by substances and materials that are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea, and secondly, to enable Ireland to ratify two international conventions, namely,

—the 1972 Oslo Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft, and

—the London Convention of the same year on the prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.

In recent years international concern has been growing in regard to the risk of pollution of the sea through the deliberate dumping of noxious substances from ships, where the ship's voyage is undertaken for the specific purpose of getting rid of some hazardous substance. The first incident of this kind to attract widespread international attention occurred in 1970, when an attempt was made to dump a cargo of poisonous chemical waste in the Atlantic. Representations by a number of west European countries, including Ireland, led to the cancellation of the attempted dumping, but the incident served to focus attention on the growing practice of disposing of harmful substances by dumping them at sea and on the need for concerted action to prevent and combat marine pollution.

International action was taken by way of the two conventions I have already mentioned. The Oslo Convention, which came into force in April 1974 and has been ratified by 12 countries, applies, broadly speaking, to the sea areas northwards of Gibraltar and eastward of Greenland, including the North Sea, but excluding the Mediterranean and the Baltic—to which separate regional dumping conventions apply.

The Oslo Convention provides principally that contracting states shall ensure that, within the sea areas covered by the convention:

(a) the dumping of certain specified highly toxic substances shall be prohibited as well as other substances listed in Annex I to the convention:

(b) the dumping in significant quantities of other less toxic substances or other substances and materials which may present a serious obstacle to fishing or navigation or seriously reduce amenities shall require for each occasion of dumping a specific permit from the national authority concerned; these substances and materials are listed in Annex II of the convention:

(c) the dumping of any other substance or material shall require the approval of the national authority concerned; and

(d) each national authority shall, in issuing permits or approvals for dumping at sea, take into account certain specified factors listed in Annex III to the convention, for example, characteristics of waste, dumping site, method of deposit and so forth.

For the purpose of the Oslo Convention, dumping is defined as the deliberate disposal of substances and materials into the sea from ships, including fixed or floating platforms, or aircraft, other than any discharge incidental to the normal operation of a ship or aircraft, or the placing of substances or materials for a purpose other than the mere disposal thereof, provided that this is not contrary to the aim of the convention. The latter exception would, for example, cover the use of disperants at sea to deal with an oil spillage.

Each state ratifying the Oslo Convention undertakes to ensure compliance by its own ships and aircraft, by ships and aircraft of any country loading in its territory substances and materials with a view to dumping, and by ships and aircraft of any country dumping within its territorial seas, and to take appropriate measures to prevent and punish conduct in contravention of the convention. Vessels entitled to sovereign immunity under international law, such as naval vessels are exempted from the terms of the convention, although states are expected to ensure that in practice they comply as far as possible. Contracting states also agree to assist one another as appropriate in dealing with dumping incidents and to exchange information on methods of dealing with such incidents.

The London Convention, which came into force in August 1975 and has been ratified by 45 countries, is in substance and form generally similar in most respects to the Oslo Convention. Its scope is much wider, however, in that it applies to all the seas and oceans of the world. It has a number of other differences and variations of emphasis. For example, it specifically prohibits the dumping of high level radioactive waste declared by the International Atomic Energy Agency as unsuitable for dumping at sea and also the dumping of mineral oils taken on board for the purpose of dumping, Incineration at sea as a means of waste disposal is also controlled by the convention.

The prohibitions on dumping at sea imposed by the Oslo and London conventions are specially expressed in the conventions not to apply in case of force majeure due to stress of weather or any other cause, when safety of human life or of a ship, aircraft or marine structure is threatened, if dumping appears to be the only way to avert the threat, but full details of the occurrence are required to be reported to the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO), which administers the London Convention, and, as appropriate, to the Oslo Commission. If, in an emergency, a state considers that a prohibited substance cannot be disposed of on land without unacceptable danger or damage, it is obliged under the conventions to consult with IMCO and, where appropriate, the Oslo Commission, which shall recommend the most satisfactory methods of storage, destruction or disposal in the circumstances.

As an island nation we have a particular interest in preventing pollution of the sea and in the general protection of the marine environment, in the interests of human health, marine life and amenities. Ireland's geographical position, in conjunction with the pattern of prevailing winds and currents, renders it particularly vulnerable to the effects of dumping of harmful substances in the North Atlantic. The danger of our situation is accentuated by the natural tendency of vessels engaged in dumping, on economic grounds, to choose a dumping site no further west into the Atlantic than is absolutely necessary. By joining with other nations in taking measures for the strict control of dumping at sea of toxic, noxious and other objectionable materials, we will be protecting our own interests and at the same time contributing to international efforts to improve protection of the marine environment generally for the benefit of all humanity.

As an indication of support for the international objectives in this area, Ireland is already a signatory to both the Oslo and London conventions. However, it is only by ratification of the conventions and enforcement of their provisions that we can demonstrate our full commitment to them. I can tell the Seanad that it is the Government's intention to ratify both conventions as soon as possible after the Dumping at Sea Bill is enacted.

Basically, the Bill is a very simple one. In accordance with the provisions of the convention, it prohibits dumping at sea or loading at a place within the state or in its territorial seas for dumping at sea, from any vessel, aircraft or marine structure, of any substance or material, unless such dumping or loading takes place under and in accordance with a permit granted under section 3 of the Bill or under an authorisation granted by another state that is party to either convention. This prohibition on dumping will apply, firstly, to all sea areas under our jurisdiction, including tidal waters, and secondly, anywhere at sea where the vessel, aircraft or marine structure concerned in the dumping is Irish.

As in the conventions, provision is made in the Bill whereby the restrictions on dumping will not apply in certain emergency situations, but the Bill also provides that any such dumping must be reported to the Minister not later than seven days after it takes place.

For the purposes of the Bill, dumping means deliberate disposal at sea, including disposal by incineration, of any substance or material from a vessel, aircraft or marine structure. It includes disposal of material from dredgers or other such vessels specially constructed for the disposal of materials at sea but excludes disposal incidental to the normal operation of the vessel, aircraft or marine structure. Disposal of materials directly into the sea from a land based source is not comprehended by the Bill. This is controlled by the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, which also controls dumping into rivers and lakes.

In so far as oil pollution is concerned, the Bill applies to deliberate dumping of oil but does not apply to the accidental discharge of oil from ships such as spills arising from a marine casualty. The oil Pollution of the Sea Acts, 1956 to 1977, cover such incidents and provide for heavy penalties for pollution damage, even where spills are accidental.

Dispersants used for combating oil pollution are likewise excluded from the scope of the Bill. A strict licensing requirement on the lines envisaged in the Bill would not be appropriate for such substances which have to be used at short notice. The use of these substances is already subject to control by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959.

Section 3 of the Bill provides for the grant or refusal of permits for dumping or for loading for the purpose of dumping. Before taking a decision on any application for permits, the Minister will have to consult with the Ministers for the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry, Industry, Commerce and Tourism and Energy and he will also have to take into consideration the provisions of Annex III of both the Oslo and London conventions, which are set out in the table to section 3 of the Bill. Provision is being made for charging a fee in respect of an application for a permit and for an additional fee related to the cost of any monitoring, surveys and examinations necessary in any case in which it is proposed to grant a permit.

To provide for the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill, it is proposed under section 4 that authorised officers may be appointed by the Minister and, in the case of radioactive substances and materials, by the Minister for Energy. In addition, authorised officers may be appointed, specifically in respect of the harbours under their control, by the various harbour authorities, the Commissioners of Public Works and Córas Impair Éireann. It is intended that an authorised officer will have wide powers enabling him, inter alia, to enter any vehicle, place or premises, to board any vessel, aircraft or marine structure and to carry out any inspection and examination which he considers reasonably necessary. He will be empowered to detain a vessel, aircraft or marine structure if he suspects that a contravention of the Act is taking place or has already taken place.

The Bill provides for the prosecution of offences and specifies the penalties for such offences. In particular, it provides for substantial penalties, including imprisonment in certain cases, for contraventions of the restrictions on dumping imposed by section 2. It is the Minister's hope that the possibility of substantial penalties on conviction will be an effective deterrent to would-be offenders.

Up to the present, dumping at sea originating from Irish ports has not constituted a problem. Some treated sewage sludge is dumped in Dublin Bay by Dublin Corporation and material dredged by harbour authorities in connection with harbour maintenance or improvement works is dumped at various places around the Irish coast.

Some industrial wastes are dumped off the south coast in accordance with licences issued by the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry under the Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959. Dumping of this nature will also be comprehended by the provisions of the Bill.

The spirit of the Oslo and London conventions is that harmful dumping at sea should be prevented as far as possible and it is the Minister's intention that the Bill will be administered in the same spirit. Applicants for permits will have to satisfy him that there is no suitable alternative means of disposal of the substances for which they seek a permit and, where necessary, before any permit is granted special tests and investigations will be carried out to assess the possible effects of the proposed dumping.

I would like to draw special attention to the fact that provision is made in section 3(8) whereby, in the case of radioactive substances and materials, the powers under this Bill will be vested in the Minister for Energy rather than in the Minister for Transport. This will avoid a duality of responsibility in relation to those substances and materials.

I strongly recommend the Bill to the House.

I welcome this Bill. It is obviously an extremely welcome development. I do not think the ringing tones of the Minister and the triumphant manner in which he informed us of the great things this Bill is going to do were quite justified. I give the Bill a qualified welcome. We have some serious reservations about various provisions in the Bill and this party will try to have amendments accepted on various provisions. Obviously, the whole question of dumping at sea and the possible consequences for a small maritime country like ourselves is a very relevant one in this day of such advanced technological and industrial development and also because we have to close off possible escape routes for large companies who have been controlled in other areas, on land, as regards dumping.

I understand there have been only seven licensed dumpings off the coast of this country over the years. We have been relatively unaffected, as yet, by pollution caused by dumping at sea. That is a matter of luck rather than foresight on our part. We have got away with it over the years. We stand to benefit enormously from the implementation of the Oslo Convention, 1972, for the prevention of marine pollution and the London Convention, 1972.

We should remind ourselves, before we go on to discuss it any further, of the awful state of the Mediterranean Sea which is now a complete write off in terms of purity and has been misused and abused because of lack of co-operation of all the countries with a coastline onto the Mediterranean. It is also relevant to remind ourselves that although there has been a lot of excitement about accidental oil spillage from large oil tankers at sea more oil is dumped at sea than is accidentally spilled.

There has been an extraordinarily long delay in bringing this Bill before the House when one looks at 1972 as the date of these two important conventions which are the basis of the Bill. Such legislation introduced in so many countries, is part of the modern arsenal of safeguards against the worst depredations of industrial progress. It is part of a very important modern weaponry which environmental lawyers and those concerned with the protection of the environment work on and bring before their governments' attention.

This Bill comes under the heading of an important weapon against the awful side-effects of industrial progress. Ireland should have seized on this opportunity to join international efforts like this. We should have taken the opportunity long before now to avail of the international expertise which went into the conventions of Oslo and London. We are very lucky to be able to benefit from international efforts like this, but why has it taken so long to introduce these measures? It is now 1981 and the first incident of deliberate dumping of noxious substances occurred in 1970. It was as a result of that incident that the two conventions were undertaken. If it has taken us nine years to get around to bringing this Bill before the House, we must find out why it has taken nine years. We have to ask ourselves what could have happened during those nine years. The most alarming aspect is that it raises the question of what other delays are occurring in other vital areas which might affect this country where we wake up too late to do something about it.

Ireland has a notoriously bad reputation in regard to speed of implementation of international conventions. This is something that, unfortunately, we cannot put down to natural caution. We have to face up to the fact that we have a very bad record as to implementing conventions and that it has nothing to do with how carefully and painstakingly we study them. There is wrangling and inefficiency of a bureaucratic nature which go on in a most half-hearted and long-drawn out manner behind the scenes. If delays and bungling occur as a result of wrangling between bureaucrats, the blame has to be laid firmly at the door of successive Ministers, including Ministers who have held office since 1977 or more recently. Because the buck stops with the Government the buck stops with Ministers.

There has been an example of a delay like this one in implementing some of the amendments to the 1954 Oil Pollution of the Sea Convention. These 1969 amendments were not implemented until 1980—a delay of 11 years—by the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Records) Regulations 1980. That too is an absolutely appalling delay. The mind boggles at the thought that Ireland is not making use of the kind of international armaments available to us against pollution and disasters. It is blameworthy that there should be such long delays.

Implementation of the Oil Pollution of the Sea Convention meant that ships would have to keep strict records of what was happening to their stocks of oil and whether there was any oil jettisoned around the world. It is extraordinary that it should take us 11 years to implement that convention.

I would refer to a world-wide journal, The International Environment Reporter. This journal reports on international environmental measures right across the world and is a very prestigious document. It refers at some length to the Bill before us. It is a pity that I have to quote something like this from an international document, International Environment Reporter, Volume 3, No. 8, of August 13, 1980 which states:

Informed sources told IER that civil service wranglings on this issue delayed the introduction of the Bill for years.

The issue that they were discussing was which Government Department should be responsible for marine pollution and for the measures being introduced to deal with this matter. The problem was whether it should be the Department of Fisheries or the Department of the Environment. Obviously a third element entered into it and perhaps delayed it even further, because now the Department of Transport have been added and that in itself is another question mark. I am not denying that it is very important to decide definitively which Departments will be in charge of different areas but I wonder what sort of a country we are running when we cannot decide that much sooner and get this kind of legislation through Parliament. The Members of these Houses are elected by the people to make decisions and to make laws in the name of the people.

On the question of the mechanics of implementing the Bill, I was very interested to learn from the Minister and to read in the Bill all the things that these special authorised officers will do in terms of implementing the very complex responsibilities which the Bill imposes on the Minister's Department. What kind of staff, facilities and infrastructure backing has the Minister acquired for implementing the Bill? The Directory of State Services lists only six or seven surveyors in the technical section of the Department of Transport. I understand that these surveyors are already involved in the enforcement of harbours and oil pollution legislation. The mind boggles at how many people will be required to implement this Bill. What provision has the Minister been making for the acquisition of the kind of skilled personnel and facilities in his Department that will make enforcement of the Bill a reality?

It is undoubtedly true that the demands which will be placed on the people charged with implementing this Bill will increase every day because of nuclear science, industrialisation generally, the proliferation of toxic substances and the efforts of multinational companies to find places to dump toxic waste. The demand on the Minister's Department will be enormous. How will this Bill be implemented to protect this country? The fact that we have a debate on the Bill and go through the motions of legislating does not confer protection from marine pollution. It is easy sometimes to convince ourselves that talk is action, when talk is only clearing the decks for action. Will the Minister say how he intends to provide this protection in reality?

I am also very concerned about the way the Minister or Ministers will decide on who will or will not get a licence for dumping of different substances at sea. My main concern is the lack of mention of citizen participation in that kind of decision making. It flies in the face of modern environmental practice that there should not be a very strong provision that citizens may join in the decisions about the issue of licences. I see nothing in this Bill to allow third parties such as environmental protection groups to be informed about what is happening or to be consulted about what is happening. I am very disappointed that citizen participation is not provided for. I will be bringing forward amendments on section 3.

I do not mean that one would hope that every second Joe Soap will bang in appeals or disagreements about licences, but there are expert citizens who should be brought in to work in co-operation with the people who are running this country, either individually or in groups. For example, groups like An Taisce have acquired an expertise and have expert committees. Organisations like that should be used and should be welcomed by Government Departments. There should be every possible opportunity for groups like that to make a major input to protection of the environment. I do not believe that undue delays would be caused.

There are a lot of problems with delays in planning appeals, but in the matter of dumping of toxic material only real experts would come in to discuss with the Minister the kind of problems which would arise and this kind of expert skill and knowledge are not possessed by the ordinary individual. We should encourage experts to contribute to decisions in these areas. It is unusual internationally to have environmental legislation which does not have very good specific requirements for input from citizens. I am very interested to hear if the Minister can perhaps consider amending the legislation to allow this to happen. A register of licences should be maintained in a public office available for public inspection. I can find no mechanism in the Bill whereby the public will have easy access or full rights to see what licences have been issued. I cannot understand the reason for this apparent secrecy. There should be far more requirement for publicity for licence applications. I can see no reason why people should not be compelled to publish their intention to apply for a licence in the public newspapers. This is surely a minimum requirement. The people who will be looking for the kind of licence we are talking about are highly skilled very wealthy multinational companies who are very adept at dealing with laws and getting around laws and doing their own thing very efficiently. More power to them; that is what they are in business for; but we must make sure that our citizens who may be harmed by their activities have full knowledge of the position and full rights to protect themselves against such companies.

I would like to see a register of licences open to public inspection during normal office hours. I would also like to see provision that, before a licence is issued, the Minister shall take account of the objections and representations of interested members of the public and scientific or other expert bodies. There are people who might well be able to inform the Minister about some company applying for a licence a company which might have a very bad record in other countries, which perhaps might have escaped the Minister's attention. There are experts on toxic substances here who could give advice to the Minister on this question.

Those are my main worries about this Bill although obviously the spirit and the intentions behind it are very admirable. The problem of the incredible delay is something which must worry all of us and the problem of citizen participation in the whole question of the disposal of toxic substances must be tackled and should have been tackled in the Bill. I hope that before the Bill goes on the Statute Book it will have been amended to include provision for citizen participation in this area.

I welcome the Minister of State back to a full active life within the Oireachtas. He had my greatest sympathy in regard to the unfortunate accident which befell him as a result of which we all felt "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

An important and interesting aspect of this Bill is that it embraces so many Ministerial boundaries, as the Minister said, Transport, Environment, Fisheries, Industry, Commerce and Tourism and Energy, but when it is put into practice it controls only one aspect of dumping at sea. I, therefore, hope that this legislation is the forerunner of many other Bills which will ensure greater control over our ill-conceived plans in the future so that we do not perpetuate the disastrous decisions which are sorely affecting our natural habitation. I was glad to hear the Minister say that, as an island nation, we have a particular interest in preventing pollution at sea and in the general protection of the marine environment.

I took particular notice of the address of the Minister for the Environment in the confidence debate in the Dáil in which he stressed the necessary liaison between his Department and local authorities and how their combined contribution to the economy is immense, affecting virtually everybody in one way or another, as the providers of essential infrastructural services such as water sewerage facilities and roads which are prerequisites for industrial development. The Minister for the Environment illustrated aspects which lead to dumping at sea. Successive Governments have not fully recognised the importance of arterial drainage which is a continuing problem around the coast.

I do not agree with the Minister that up to the present dumping at sea has not constituted a problem. A most alarming example was reported last year in Dublin Bay where pollution levels exceed the mandatory limits allowed by the EEC. The pollution of Blackrock for instance is eight times above the limit imposed by the Brussels directive in 1975. I was somewhat relieved that the Dun Laoghaire councillors were shocked at these facts but I wonder what has been done in the meantime. The worst areas are north of Blackrock baths and Seafield Road in Killiney, but the levels along the entire coastline around Dun Laoghaire are higher than the limits desired in Ireland. The extent of the pollution was revealed in a regular survey carried out by Dr. Brendan O'Donnell, the Dublin medical officer, and samples were taken last September.

Dr. O'Donnell said in his report to the council that the sea was choppy and that the figures were unusually high. Controversy erupted last summer when Dr. O'Donnell warned that shellfish from parts of the coast around Dublin could cause typhoid. Caution signs were put up to act as warnings to the public. For some time local people have been complaining that untreated sewage is flowing into the sea at Seapoint. The Bill obviously does not go far enough to control this type of unwelcome dumping at sea which is hazardous to human health and survival.

As a Dubliner, I regarded Killiney Bay as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I have heard it likened to the Bay of Naples. But in recent years the view has dramatically changed and the picture in this year's Irish Life calendar bears no resemblance to the position today. It is a pity that we should use this calendar in the promotion of our tourist facilities when the scene is quite different. Killiney is built up and there is a large number of houses around Ballybrack and the adjoining areas. A complex is planned for something like 70,000 people. The drainage must flow into Killiney Bay. I am not just talking about sewerage, I am talking about all drainage into rivers. Drainage is causing a tremendous problem in the sea around Dublin.

The building development, including the thousands of dwellings that I mentioned, together with the road infrastructures, mean that there is no place for rainwater to go. The land is covered with concrete and the water has to flow into streams which are now becoming rivers and are carrying all the flotsam and jetsam of plastics, bedsteads, bicycles, wheels and everything into the sea at Killiney. Killiney beach now looks like the latest dumping ground around Dublin. It is a great tragedy. Also the tidal waves tend to sweep back the outflow of these estuaries which are not planned for, thus causing coastal erosion. I have been in correspondence with the Corporation in Dun Laoghaire about this. It is the increasing level of the river that is causing coastal erosion around Killiney and not the tides. Quite recently it was impossible to walk along the each because of flooding although this has been an established public amenity for many years. Apart from the effluents and the odours, objects are being dumped into Killiney Bay.

I referred to the problem of the east coast of Dublin to draw the Minister's attention to the responsibility of the local authorities for dumping at sea in such an insidious way. We can think of many other examples around Ireland's beautiful coast where similar ill-planned disaster areas are affecting our natural environment — the dumping of untreated sewerage in the town of Midleton into Cork Harbour, caravan sites sewage pipes going into such world famous beauty resorts as Glengariff, and the serious risk to beaches in Galway Bay. Enterprising developers are being highly criticised but they have not been made aware of the hazards they are causing.

Pollution is one of the greatest threats facing the world today. This Bill recognises only one form of pollution, to underpin, as the Minister says, the London Convention and the Oslo Convention. We should have an all-Ireland convention to initiate a Bill which would prevent dumping at sea within our territorial waters including river estuaries. We are committed to pursuing with alacrity and enthusiasm our economic and industrial development but we must hasten to impose — I agree with Senator Hussey on this — more cautious planning restrictions so that future generations will not be poisoned by the lack of co-ordinated control. With an increasing population, enterprising opportunism is bound to flourish and I hope the Minister will use his influence to impress on the Minister for the Environment the necessity to pursue more urgently this policy of liaison with his Department and the local authorities throughout our island so that everyone is made more fully aware of the hazards we face.

I welcome this Bill as a first step in safeguarding the glorious natural surroundings which we were fortunate to inherit, and I hope, starting with the Litter Bill there will be other Bills which will soon be introduced to overcome this very dramatic problem.

I thank the two Senators for their participation in the Second Reading debate. I thank Senator Hussey for her welcome for the Bill albeit somewhat qualified by some of her subsequent remarks. I would greatly regret if I thought that my triumphant tone suggested that the matter would be passed without any undue delay. I was hoping that it might be possible to give it unanimous support and I am still hopeful on that score.

The situation at present is that there are some four licences currently in operation for dumping off our coasts. Should Senator Hussey require any further information on the permits and what they cover I would be only too delighted to accommodate her in that regard at any time. Senator Hussey made considerable reference to the Mediterranean situation and I have to concur with her opinions in that regard in that there is a situation there that we would not like repeated off our coasts or in the Irish Sea. I suppose the situation in the Irish Sea would be the nearest thing we could have to the Mediterranean situation. However, I can reassure Senator Hussey that such is not the case and that it is our concern to see to it that the Mediterranean situation is not repeated in our waters. This Bill might be referred to as a substantial step towards ensuring that that will not be the case now or in the future.

Senator Hussey alleged that there was considerable delay in having this Bill brought before the House. A Dumping at Sea Bill was introduced in July 1976 arising from the Oslo and London conventions which came into force in 1974 and 1975 respectively. One would not regard the introduction of such a Bill in 1976 as indicating undue delay, in the circumstances. However, it was not proceeded with at that time because of pressure of other legislative work. It was not possible to proceed with the preparation of the text at that time. On the dissolution of the Dáil in 1977 it lapsed.

The current Bill was introduced in 1980. Perhaps because of my inability to attend in 1980 we are now dealing with it in 1981. However, in all the circumstances appertaining to the Bill and to the promotion of the Bill by the Department, there is no good foundation for the remark that there has been undue delay in promoting the Bill. Indeed, I must refute the suggestion that the delay was due to any wrangling between Departments. A great deal of urgent business had to be dealt with during that period. I think there was a shortage of staff in the section which might have accounted somewhat for the delay that did take place. I know it is no excuse. There has been no serious dumping at sea in the intervening period but that is not a justification for any delay. I readily understand that but, at the same time, it is reassuring to know that no serious dumping has taken place. We are assured of that because of our international participation in IMCO and other agencies which keep us fully informed of all permits granted for the disposal of any matter at sea.

Senator Hussey asked about the authorised staff, how many there are, from which Departments they come, and the implementation of the provisions of the Bill when it becomes law. I may be able to persuade Senator Hussey to give me all stages of the Bill this evening if I refer to the complement of staff which may be necessary for the full implementation of the Bill, and the number of officers that will be necessary to deal with its provisions. It will be somewhere in the region of 40 to 50 officers. Half a dozen or so will be drawn from both the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Forestry. The harbour authorities will provide the biggest complement of staff — up to 25 people. The Office of Public Works will be involved and CIE will provide at least one officer. The Nuclear Energy Board will also provide an officer. The staff complement is available to deal with the matter in hand. In particular the Department of Fisheries and Forestry will have their aquatic environment unit dealing with the matter. I understand they have all the necessary chemists, biologists and technicians available in that unit to deal effectively with permits sought by interested bodies. They also have sufficient engineering staff available to deal with any matters that might arise.

The Nuclear Energy Board, because of their involvement in regard to radioactive waste, will be very closely concerned. I understand that the Nuclear Energy Board have about six scientists and engineers and other staff to deal with all permits requested. They will be involved in the assessment of the licence applications, the assessment of the environment impact, and also the question of the issue of the licences. They will also monitor the permit once it has issued. All in all I can assure the Seanad that sufficient trained staff will be available, staff with very high technical qualifications. They will have access to the expertise of all the countries who are participating in the conventions. As a member of IMCO we have had access to that expertise for some time. Ireland has been represented at all the meetings of the joint monitoring groups, thereby providing the necessary information to the officers working in the Department of Transport, the Department of Fisheries and Forestry and the Nuclear Energy Board. We have available the necessary expertise to deal effectively with the licence requests and the subsequent monitoring and surveying.

The Senator dealt with citizen participation in the granting of permits. I suggest to Senator Hussey that there is sufficient expertise in the various Departments to deal effectively with any applications that come before us. It is well to point out that the seeking of permits for dumping at sea is not a major problem at this time. The Department are very conscious of their responsibilities and are taking this step in advance of any serious dumping that might occur because of our increased technology and our increased heavy industry situation. There is nothing secretive as far as the Department are concerned in dealing with these permits.

The Department have a register for their own purposes and that register is necessary when one considers that all permits issued are notified to the executives of IMCO and the other consultative bodies under the Oslo and London conventions. The information concerning permits is available. It might not be in the best public interest at all times if details of the waste to be disposed of were a matter for public participation. Almost invariably dumping of waste is a result of high technology. Waste has to be disposed of and this Bill is trying to ensure that when it is disposed of at sea it will be done in accordance with the best conditions and conventions available at this time in this part of the world. There is nothing secretive in the Department as far as dumping is concerned.

I recognise fully that there are experts other than the experts in the various Departments to which I referred. The advantage the experts in the Department of Transport, the Department of Fisheries and Forestry and the Nuclear Energy Board have is that they are in constant consultation with their fellow experts attached to the various conventions and commissions. They are continually attending meetings of these bodies and consequently they are recognised experts in dealing with applications from interested parties.

I agree with Senator Hussey that not all the people seeking permits to dump waste at sea have good records. That, basically is one of the reasons why this legislation is necessary. It is being enacted before any great number of permits are sought in this country to ensure that none of the "bad boys" of dumping practice gets a permit to dump matter deleterious to our environment or to our marine life. It is significant that all the countries of western Europe are involved in these conventions. We are a party to all the expertise and we have knowledge of all permits sought and granted in all other countries.

There is one little point which should be made at this time. Dumping at sea of the type of substance in the type of quantity that has been referred to is a very expensive business. It is not a small operation. I agree that monitoring, surveying and researching are absolutely necessary. Dumping at sea is an expensive business. Because of that aspect, what is being dumped and where it is proposed to dump it is always known. I am satisfied that we have the experts and that they will be appointed in due course to deal with any permits requested from the Department.

I should like to thank Senator Lambert for his very kind words of personal welcome to me after the unfortunate business near Castlebar in early December, and to thank him for his welcome for the Bill. I agree with him that we are all very much concerned with pollution levels in the sea and, in particular, pollution levels in the sea in and about Dublin. It is important to remember that pollution of Dublin Bay might arise from land-based sources or discharges from pipelines. That is the kind of pollution he was referring to and not pollution from ships loaded in other areas and dumped outside or inside our territorial waters. The main purpose of this Bill is to deal with dumping at sea from ships, or platforms, or marine structures of that kind. The question of pollution and discharge of sludge or sewerage in Dublin Bay is a matter for the Minister for the Environment. A separate convention, the Paris Convention, deals quite effectively with this. We propose to ratify that in the very near future. We can all agree with the Senator's sentiments about keeping a very tight control over dumping or pollution of any kind which can have a deleterious effect and can be harmful to the environment, to marine life and our general amenities.

Senator Lambert referred specifically to river pollution. As I said, the disposal of materials directly into the sea from land based source is not comprehended by this Bill. It is controlled by the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, which deals with discharges into rivers and lakes.

I think I have dealt with most of the points raised by Senators. This Bill ratifies the Oslo and London conventions to which we are signatories and we will apply the provisions in them. We are anxious and willing, and we have the necessary expertise, to implement the provisions of these two conventions. We feel that we are not asking too much in asking for a speedy passage for the Bill, and hopefully Senator Hussey will accommodate me. I appreciate the words of welcome for the Bill. Hopefully it will get a speedy passage through the House.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to take the next Stage?

The Minister said he is anxious to get all stages now.

I wish I could accommodate the Minister in this respect. Having heard the Minister's reply to the Second Stage debate, I feel it is essential that this Bill should be amended in the whole area of citizen participation. Obviously, I could not have those amendments prepared in advance of what the Minister would say to us in his reply to our suggestions. Therefore I am very sorry but I cannot see how we could possibly give him all Stages today. This Bill has been nine years in the making. I know the Minister had an unfortunate accident for which I have great sympathy with him but I do not believe that one more week will create any more danger for the nation than it already is in. I regret it but we could not possibly take Committee Stage today.

Is it proper for me to ask the Senator what particular provisions of the Bill she finds most objectionable? What provisions need to be amended to satisfy her requirements?

I could not go into detail now.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Chair would like to point out that the only question before the House is the proposed date for Committee Stage. The discussion has to be restricted to that.

I suggest next Wednesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 1 April 1981.