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

Debate resumed on amendment No. 69:
In page 18, subsection (9) (a), line 44, to delete "particular".
—(Senator O'Toole.)

I think it was opportune that we adjourned at the point we did yesterday. Certainly I was thoroughly confused with this section by the time we had finished with it. I have spent a lot of time between last night and this morning trying to unravel the system of appointment. With due respect to the parliamentary draftsmen, it is gobbledygook. I defy anybody to read this and to explain how an appointment is made when we run into the difficulties envisaged by some of the subsections to section 21. I have an amendment to delete the word "particular". I would like to draw attention to the fact that, first, we have to look at subsection (4) which begins, where the Minister makes "a" request under subsection (7). It is not a special request; it is "a" request. Subsection 9 (a) reads:

if the committee is unable to select any suitable candidate pursuant to a particular request, ...

It has now become "a particular" request.

Subsection (4) begins with:

Where the Minister makes a request under subsection (7) or (9) or section 24 and at the time of making the request any of the offices specified in subsection (2) is vacant, the Minister may appoint a person to be a member of the committee and such person shall remain a member of the committee until such time as the selection by the committee pursuant to the request is made.

That is absolutely right. It becomes "the" request which is precisely what my amendment provides. In that case "a" request becomes "the" request. That has to be precise.

In subsection (8) there is a reference to "a" request under subsection (7), and that is also fair enough. Subsection (9) (a) states:

if the committee is unable to select any suitable candidate pursuant to a particular request...

which does not make any sense at all. In my opinion subsection (9) (b) should include the words:

If the Government decide not to appoint to be the Director General any of the candidates or, as the case may be, the candidate, selected by the committee pursuant to the request.

Apart from being incorrect, what is proposed is contradictory to what comes in the next section. In the next two subparagraphs it is quite clear that the question of "the" request is totally irrelevant. In subparagraph (i) and (ii) it is quite clear that the Government can act on the basis of any of the requests. Subsection (9) (b) (i) reads:

(i) the Government shall appoint a person to be the Director General who was among those, or, as the case may be, was the candidate, elected by the committee pursuant to a previous request (if any) in relation to that appointment,...

We then go on to subsection (9) (b) (ii) which reads:

(ii) the Minister shall make a further such request...

It is not "a particular request", it is "a further such request". It continues:

...to the committee and the Government shall appoint to be the Director General a person who was among the candidates or, as the case may be, was the candidate selected by the committee pursuant to that request or pursuant to another such request made in relation to that appointment.

I do not understand it even though I have gone through it thoroughly. It would be fair to say, without being in any sense disparaging — and I am not trying to be smart about it — that if I were to put my name on the list of candidates for this job today, nine or ten requests later if the Government felt that I was the right person to choose they could take my name from the number of candidates who applied. However, that is a separate issue. One cannot talk about "a" particular request because "the" particular request cannot be followed right down through the sections. It is "a" request. I have a difficulty in principle with the way in which it operates, particularly in relation to the two subparagraphs.

The Government appears to be able to do anything they wish. Even the relationship between the Minister and the Government is not clear at some points. We are not talking about a particular request. To tie it together, subsection (9) (a) refers to a particular request, but it is not about a particular request. It is about any request which comes under subsection (4) which reads:

Where the Minister makes a request under subsection (7) or (9) ...

It is any request under those subsections, and it is also any of the requests made under subsection (9) (b) (ii). From what I can figure out they are interchangeable. At the end of the day somebody is going to say "words say what I say they mean" but nobody can follow through logically how an appointment is to be made. It is trying to cover all aspects — and I do not disagree with that — but it is trying to cover some things which cannot be dealt with. The normal practice is that when a committee of selection fails to make an appointment there is only one thing to do and that is to start all over again. Normally, that means advertising from the beginning.

I have another specific question on subsection (9) (b) (ii) in relation to the last few clauses in it. It states "... or pursuant to another such request ...". When the Minister or the Government make a request at that point are they talking about a rerun of the whole section, or are they talking about going back to subsection (9)? That is unclear in subparagraph (ii). It is not clear whether that request is supposed to go back to subsection (9) or whether it goes back to the very beginning of the structure.

Senator O'Toole obviously over yesterday evening and last night, has tried to clear this point in his mind. In all the legislation put through this House since 1977 I do not remember a measure as complicated as this and if it is complicated to Senator O'Toole what chance have I? Would the Minister consider redrafting it in a simpler fashion? I am quite sure it would still mean the same thing but perhaps I am asking too much. Now that it has been brought out again in detail to us here this morning, I wonder would the Minister comment on it? Perhaps it is absolutely clear to the Minister and to her senior departmental advisers, but it is not clear to us and if it is not clear to us it will not be clear to Members of the Dáil and to the people outside. This is one record this House has, that if a section needs to be changed and this has happened before — this is the place to do it. Perhaps it is one section that could be redrafted with less repetition in it.

I read this subsection and I am not deliberately trying to hold up the Minister but may I suggest that part of the confusion about subsection (9) is that two entirely different things are being covered in the same subsection. One is a problem to do with the committee being unable to select somebody — it is perfectly legitimate that the legislation should make provision for that likelihood given the structure of the committee and I would see a clear division between the insiders and the outsiders as liable to be 3:3, but that is a separate issue. A separate problem is that the Government may not be happy to make the appointment the committee recommends. It seems that a lot of clarity would result if those two issues were dealt with in separate subsections, one subsection to deal with the possibility of the committee not being able to agree, and the other possibility that the Government do not want to make the appointment the committee recommends. They are two separate issues. If they were dealt with separately a lot of these problems would be avoided.

Subparagraphs (1) and (2) refer to either of two different possibilities and the permutations become extremely complicated at that stage. The simplest way would be to ask the people in the draftsman's office who give Ministers briefs to give us lectures about the necessity for clarity in legislation to make the separate subsections. At this stage I am sure every page of the Minister's brief has a quote from the draftsman's office. The Minister should ask them to say precisely what she wants them to say. I cannot make any sense of it and I do not think we should spend a lot of time on it here. It should be looked at again and my suggestion would be to separate the two eventualities which are not related. One is the committee cannot do it, the other is the Government will not do it. They are two separate things and should be dealt with separately. A lot of the overlap would be got rid of if they were dealt with separately.

I fully support Senator Ryan's interpretation of this section. I await the Minister's response. It strikes me that what we were talking about yesterday in terms of adding even one more member to the selection committee would change the vote to 3:4 if we are talking strictly in terms of voting and you are less likely to have the problem that is indicated here but that is gone and I will not develop it. It also strikes me that if the National Heritage Council or another body with an environmental bent had been added, but particularly the National Heritage Council which could be considered insider, we might have the right balance to avoid the problems this section is trying to take care of.

I look forward to the day when the law will be self-explanatory to all of us. It causes me as much confusion as it does everybody else. I often pick up American legislation and see how easy it is to understand exactly what is intended. These provisions are taken from the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, 1974 and the 1983 Act establishing An Bord Pleanála. Precisely the same wording is used and neither has caused any problems. I will explain in English — if that is not out of order — what exactly happens.

The Minister acting on behalf of the Government makes a request to the committee for names in relation to the post of director-general and the committee can send up to three names. If, in the event, the Government do not appoint somebody on that request, they make a particular request, which is another request, and if——

That is precisely the point.

I am just explaining what happens. They make a particular request which is for another set of names or whatever. If they do not select somebody from the second request the Government can go back and take somebody who was on the first list or another request. In order to avoid confusion I will have a look at this again.

Obviously it would be my intention to have it made clearer. I did not envisage that this section would cause any problems since we had taken it verbatim from two Acts that have been on the Statute Book for some years and have not caused confusion. It has not arisen that a Government did not appoint somebody who was suggested. This is to deal with all eventualities. I am told it is here for legislative clarity and so on. We will have a look at it again.

I appreciate that. There are a number of things that should be clarified. First, what is meant by the Government making a request? Do the committee begin the process of selection ab initio? It is not made clear here how this appointment is made. It is left up to the committee. I presume they would advertise and so on but that is not in the legislation. In all these requests it is not clear to me whether the Government have to go through the whole process of selection. In other words if the Government decide not to appoint do they have to begin again from the beginning and go through the whole procedure on each occasion? That is an important factor.

One of the things I found very confusing was that at the beginning of subsection (9) it says: If the committee is unable to select any suitable candidate..." that surely should be "or candidates". If you are beginning the process all over again, when they come back to make the selection it might be for three or fewer. That has to be made clear. I think we have discussed this in full. I have made the point and I am not pushing it any further. If the Minister would appeal that it be drafted with clarity and with legislative and legal safety that is good enough for me.

Obviously we will be making regulations in relation to procedure. The positions would probably be advertised. I will be making provision that the committee would use the services of a professional recruitment company to help them in the process. It is a difficult process. The reason "candidate" and not "candidates" is used, is that the committee may send only one name forward. They do not have to send three. I do not envisage that the Government would not appoint the name sent forward. This Bill is to deal with somebody having perhaps a subversive background or something of that nature. It is to deal with these kinds of eventualities that this legislation is framed in exactly the same way as the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, and the Local Government Act, 1983, establishing An Bord Pleanála. Given my commitment, we will have a look at it again to see if we can simplify the matter.

Thank you. On that basis I will withdraw my amendment. I have no difficulty whatsoever about the Government having the right not to appoint somebody because I would be the first person to criticise the Government for making the wrong appointment. I would want them to have the discretion, for whatever reason not to appoint somebody. I look forward to a redrafting of this in an appropriate form which would make life easier for all of us.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 70 to 72, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 19, subsection (15), lines 47 and 48 and in page 20, line 1, to delete "or if his removal appears to the Government to be necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the Agency of its functions".

Once the director general is properly appointed, he should have the maximum security of tenure, his activities should not be subject to any interference whatsoever and the Government should not be in a position to dismiss him for some vague and arbitrary reason or because he is politically unacceptable. I note that they would have to bring such a case before the Houses of the Oireachtas and give stated reasons, but that is not a guarantee that they would be dismissing him for the right reasons. They could allege another reason, as it were. It seems to me that when you say he can be removed on grounds of ill-health and, therefore, incapable of performing his duties or for stated misbehaviour, that that is as far as you can go. Once you talk about the Government thinking that his removal is necessary or desirable for the effective performance of the agency you are on to quite dangerous ground.

Our rule of thumb in all these matters should be to give the Government the minimum power to interfere with the agency and its director once it is set up. I see no good reason why that clause should be included in the subsection and I propose its removal.

I am sure the Minister's brief says this provision is contained in the Director of Public Prosecution's legislation and in the Bord Pleanála legislation.

It may come as a surprise to the Minister that I have found on many Committee Stages that some of the sections that cause most of the trouble are the ones that have been in a whole succession of previous legislation. The reason is because they are often so confused or so peculiar that people have let them slip past and quite genuinely it does a lot of good to actually have a look at them. I do not believe that you should have a director general who cannot be dismissed if he or she is clearly incapable of carrying out his or her duties for reasons of ill-health or stated misbehaviour. However, I am unhappy with the idea that you set up an agency, you give it a board of directors, you operate an appointment procedure, the person has a maximum period in office of seven years and, on top of all those constraints, you say that if his removal appears to the Government "to be necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the Agency of its functions..." and so on. That is the sort of catch-all phrase that may well tempt Governments and may well appeal to Governments, but it is the stuff of bad legislation. I am concerned that if Governments want the power to dismiss people, they should specifically circumscribe that power. Otherwise it is far from their being accountable nor is it clear.

In subsection (15) it is stated that "the Government shall cause to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas a statement in writing of the reasons for the removal". That is not just dealing with, what I will call, for argument's sake, the offending part of this. It is for any reason. It appears to me that if the Government use the phrase "the removal appears to the Government to be necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the Agency of its functions" then the statement from the Government that would come before the Houses of the Oireachtas would simply say, "The Government dismissed the director general because it appeared to the Government that his removal was necessary or desirable for the effective functioning of the Agency".

The phrase as it stands gives the Government a considerable, and I do not think a justified, capacity to dismiss the person simply because they do not like the way the agency is doing its business. I am not saying that it would be done lightly but I believe Governments have enormous power. After all, Governments can introduce amending legislation and have it through both Houses of the Oireachtas in most cases in half a day if necessary. To include catch-all phrases like this, just in case we did not think of everything, suggests a tendency to believe that our capacity to draft legislation is limited and that we have to have these catch-all phrases in case we do not think of something. It is a bad way to do it and I fully support Senator Murphy's amendment.

I do not see the need to change this because I believe that apart from grounds of ill-health, or for stated misbehaviour, there can be other very good reasons why the director general would have to be removed from office and there must be some way of achieving that. I do not think it is the intention of the Government to be vindictive to the point of getting rid of the director general for some spurious reason. There must be regulation other than ill-health, or stated misbehaviour. Because the Government must then lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a statement in writing of the reasons for the removal, I would favour leaving that section as it stands.

In relation to what we have spoken about already, and the previous amendments, surely when the Minister says that it was in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act and so on, you could go back to the 1880s. That is what gets us into difficulties. We are dealing with language that is archaic. I take the Minister's point about American legislation. It should be possible for any intelligent citizen to understand the law of the land. I sometimes think that the language used in legislation is a device by the lawyers to keep themselves in business rather than to allow the citizens understand the law. That is perhaps a separate issue. In that respect, at least, I agree with Senator O'Toole.

We are appointing a director general to look after the Environmental Protection Agency. What is "stated misbehaviour"? Let us say the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency decides to take shares in a chemical waste disposal plant in Connemara. Would that be stated misbehaviour? Are we talking about that horrible word "sex" or of morals? What is the misbehaviour we are talking about here? Is it an unacceptable type of relationship? I have difficulty with this phrase "stated misbehaviour". Would bribery be regarded as stated misbehaviour? Would it be all right for the director general to take a bribe to give a licence for a dirty industry to be set up in Dingle?

Another thing that worries me slightly about the director general is that he or she can be removed for "stated misbehaviour" whereas the deputy director general can only be sacked for "committing stated misbehaviour". I am intrigued by the difference. One seems to be a passive situation where we can all nod and wink but the other person has actually to do it and be seen to do it. I do not have the same difficulty as my colleague, Senator Ryan, about the words:

or if his removal appears to the Government to be necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the Agency of its work.

I would oppose that if it were left like that, but the fact is that they have to lay before each House of the Oireachtas a statement in writing of the reasons for the removal. To put it in context, if the Government decided tomorrow to remove the Director General of RTE there would be one almighty national row. I do not think any Government would do so lightly. I am not worried about that part, but I am concerned about "stated misbehaviour". On Tuesday night last I had a discussion with one of our best known Irish authors, John McGahern. John McGahern was sacked from his job for "stated misbehaviour" in 1963. Who stated it, I do not know. I found it unacceptable at the time. I feel that "stated misbehaviour" is something that can move from time and place. I think "stated misbehaviour" is unnecessary in this legislation. I do not know what it means. I do not know if it has to do with unacceptable practices to do with the environment or to do with personal relationships or private life, or money, or bribery and so on.

I can assure Senator O'Toole that one's private life, unless it impinges on one's public responsibilities, will not be considered stated misbehaviour unless, of course, some of the new waves of enthusiasm sweeping through certain quarters take control here such as the Christian Democrats principles, or whatever they are called. Obviously, "stated misbehaviour" deals with corruption, bribery and matters of that kind. Since the Government will have to specify in a document to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas that should satisfy us.

I wish that Senators Lydon and Hanafin were here to get that firmly on the record. They might have a different view of that.

In relation to Senator Murphy's amendment, it is desirable that if a director general is incompetent or not performing his duties or if the agency is not being run efficiently there should be some room for manoeuvre for the Government to be able to dismiss that director. The term "ill-health" is clear and "stated misbehaviour" is corruption, bribery, and so on. Incompetence arises if the agency are not functioning or if the director general is in conflict with others in the agency and the work is in cnaos. There is a need for such a subsection. In relation to the dismissal of public servants this is exactly the procedure that is followed and the power that is given to the Government. I do not think anybody would suggest that it has been used either excessively, been abused or whatever. I do not know how one would get rid of the General Secretary of the INTO, what kind of procedures are involved.

They are very clear and they are written into the constitution.

Maybe the Senator should give me look at them. Obviously, the director general would have at his disposal the Unfair Dismissals Act, his natural rights under the Constitution and so on. I do not think we need worry that a Government would willy-nilly seek to get rid of somebody because they did not like him or for some reason like that. I know that is the point the Senators are concerned about.

We need to leave room for a Government to act where there is gross incompetence and that is the reason why the additional phrase is included after "stated misbehaviour".

I want to make a general point with reference to what Senator Dardis said about the necessity for the law being clear. A corollary of that is that we should not be necessarily impressed by provisions because they have been in other legislation. In fact, we should look at each legislation totally afresh. Maybe it is because I am not used to working on Committee Stage of a Bill that to me all this is new. I am there making a present to Senator Ryan for his electors. I asked, outside of "stated misbehaviour" and "ill-health" what other reasons were there. I perfectly accept the point, and I was already aware of it, that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a director general, having been appointed as being qualified and suitable and showing every promise and so on could inexplicably begin to swing the lead or be diverted by other matters and so on. However, I would prefer, instead of that kind of blanket clause, that the Minister could have another specific thing on the lines of "stated misbehaviour". Incompetence is, after all, a fairly clear condition as it were. It was my general feeling that the role of the Government, once the Director General has been appointed, should be absolutely minimal to interfere with the functioning of the official or the agency.

The Minister jogged my memory when she pointed out that this subsection was the same as that applied to public servants and civil servants generally. Do I not recall correctly that even though reasons must be given for their removal from office they need not be detailed reasons. For example, in this case the Minister could lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a statement that the director general had been removed for reasons of ill-health or that he had been removed because he had committed a stated misbehaviour or that he was removed because it appeared to the Government necessary and desirable for the effective performance of the agency. There is no commitment in this subsection to give detailed reasons so that we would know what specifically caused the removal. It will be one of these generalities that will be put in the statement that will be laid before the Houses. I do not think, from the Minister's assurances, that we will be any wiser when some document is laid before the Oireachtas. I would like the Minister to clarify that point.

Another point that struck me is whether the director general being declared bankrupt, for example, would be considered by the Government as rendering him unsuitable for office.

I understand the point the Senator is making and I more or less agree with it except to say that if a Government are taking this drastic action, obviously one wants to minimise the effect of that on the individual and his or her family. Subject to that, I will have a look at it. I accept the point the Senator is making, that it is not good enough to say "stated misbehaviour" and leave everybody wondering. At the same time the director general, and his or her family, have rights which I would not like to infringe, although I accept that being in a key position they have responsibilities that probably lessen their rights in that regard and that the people have a right to know. I will have a look at it to see if in some way we can satisfy what the Senator is saying which, basically, I agree with.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 21 stand part of the Bill."

I want to make a general comment on section 21 for the record. I support what we have decided. To my mind the process as outlined in the section and the people and interests represented on the selection committee, is absolutely correct in as much as it represents Irish life.

Under the section the people who will select the candidate are the Secretary to the Government, the Secretary of the Department, the Chairperson of An Taisce, the Managing Director of the IDA, the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Chief Executive of the Council for the Status of Women. The appointment of the latter two shows a very progressive development on the part of the Government in many ways. It also shows a response to the demands by the social partners, particularly the trade union movement, and also reflects the trade union movement's concern for the status of women.

It is quite in order and quite correct and I would like to be seen to be in support of what is there. Despite comments made yesterday by people the Council for the Status of Women have a perfect right to be represented. It is an issue in which they would have a particular interest and many others have but in terms of size and groups represented they are an important one. I am happy that the committee of selection will represents those areas in Irish life which are most important.

I want to ask the Minister a question on section 21 (11). It reads:

The Director General shall be appointed in a wholetime capacity and shall not at any time during his term of office hold any other office or employment in respect of which emoluments are payable.

What about the director general being involved in stocks and shares, in the purchase of land, the sale of land and so on? Should he or she not be prohibited from those activities which are neither offices nor employment but which could be potentially sources of a serious conflict of interest? It seems to me that this is a position which must be above reproach. Like the rest of us the director general is perfectly entitled to have his insurance policies and so on in which he has no real say over what happens to his funds, but the direct involvement in ownership of land, sale of land or sale of stocks and shares seems to me to be an area where the director general of an agency like this should not be involved. If he or she has any sense they will not be doing it but we should ensure in legislation, if it is possible, that he or she does not do it.

The intention here is that the director general would be a full-time official and would not hold any other employment. Obviously, they could be involved in voluntary groups or something in their spare time. Therefore, it is a question of their employment interests. Their interests in property or shares or whatever is dealt with by way of declaration of interests and we should deal with that there. Obviously, they have to declare their interests and they cannot partake in anything that has to do with something in which they have an interest. That is the appropriate way to do that. We cannot expect the director general and directors to cease to be property owners or to not be involved in the ownership of shares. That would be unreasonable. That is better dealt with by way of declaration of interests.

With respect, a very active person who is interested in this could end up being debarred from taking many positions. I have an amendment later about the interests of the director general being on public record. That generally does not mean that the value of any of these shares has to be disclosed but simply their ownership. What I would be inclined to suggest is the sort of requirement that is imposed on Ministers in the Government in that any directorships or any involvement would have to be done, as in the United States, by way of a blind trust. When somebody becomes a member of the government in the United States all their ownership of shares etc. has to be passed on to a trust which deals with them without the person having any personal involvement.

I do not think the director general of the Environment Protection Agency should be involved in the Stock Market or should be involved in land deals. They are a serious area of risk and conflict of interest. We accept that in a specific case the interest has to be stated. The specific case is a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency, the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency might be aware that certain companies were interested in certain areas of development and had informal contact. It seems that is going into an area with a receipe for uncertainty. I do not think that the director general should be the sort of person who takes those risks. There is a case to be made for doing more than simply saying in a specific case when it comes before the Environmental Protection Agency an interest should be stated. Stating an interest at a time when a decision is well under way does not necessarily mean that the person will not have benefited from astute use of information that was perhaps obtained informally.

I was interested to note that Senator O'Toole has belatedly joined Senator Ryan in nailing his colours to the feminist mast and, incidentally, nailing down the feminist vote as well. Perhaps because I bring to these matters the freshness of someone who has not been very assiduous in legislative work, I was appalled, as a democrat, to note that the masculine pronoun and possessive adjective are used throughout this Bill. There is no introductory section which takes the harm out of this by saying "he" and "his" shall embrace "she" and "her". I am amazed that every feminist nerve in the Minister's body did not jangle at this atrocity; mine do. I am not a feminist — far from it — but I am a democrat and I am appalled that there should be this exclusive use of the masculine in this Bill.

Could I intervene, because Senator Murphy has raised an important point that has relevance not only to this Bill but to the proceedings of the House. Item No. 8 on the Order Paper is the Interpretation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1989, which addresses precisely this point, which the Taoiseach in the Dáil some months ago said was important but which has got lodged at this legislative stage. The point raised by Senator Murphy would be addressed if the Government were to give the short length of time necessary to pass this legislation which is obviously so needed. I would be very interested to hear the Minister's views on this technical point of drafting.

We have got amendments in relation to that later, so perhaps we could deal with it them. I am open to what the Senators are saying.

Could I ask the Minister to raise at Government level the possibility of taking this measure through the Seanad?

Question put and agreed to.
Government amendment No. 74:
In page 20, subsection (1), line 7, after "period" to insert ", not exceeding the current term of his office of director,".

Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 are related and may be discussed together.

Obviously, Senator O'Toole and I are not of one mind about this. As subsection (1) is drafted at present, it is not sufficiently clear that the period of appointment of a person as deputy director general should not exceed the remaining term of the appointment of that person as ordinary director. The purpose of this amendment is to remove any such doubt. The intention is the same as that of Senator O'Toole.

I thought it was important and I am delighted the Minister took it on board. I am quite happy to withdraw my amendment in favour of her amendment. It is just a straightforward technical matter.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 75 not moved.
Section 22, as amended, agreed to.
Section 23 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 76:
In page 22, subsection (11), line 8, to delete "if he has committed" and substitute "for".

Senator O'Toole drew my attention to this on Second Stage. The sole purpose of this amendment is to maintain consistency between the provisions of this subsection and section 21 (15) in relation to the basis for the removal of the director general from office. Obviously, in one case it was for stated misbehaviour and so on. We have removed the difficulty there.

I thank the Minister for taking this proposal on board. It gives equity to the director and allows him or her the same scope to misbehave as the director general.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert a new subsection:

"(12) The Agency shall compile and publish a register of interests, financial, commercial and property held by the Director General and the other Directors.".

There is very little one needs to say about this amendment. Either one believes in it or one does not. I recall that when I, in my innocence, a few years ago tried to introduce, not to mention have discussed, a Bill in this House to have the interests of Members of the Oireachtas put on public record, my colleagues on the other side refused even to allow me permission to print it. Hope springs eternal and the Minister's party are particularly sensitive on the issue of accountability and of standards in public life. It is a perfectly reasonable amendment.

Let me explain that a register of interests in the conventionally understood sense does not mean that people have to state how much the interests are worth. They do not have to state that they own £2,000 worth of Greencore shares, which seems to be the fashionable ones at present.


I keep hearing stories about people making money out of this magnificent exercise. I am not sure what good it does the productive sector of the economy but it seems to be the fashionable thing to do. The register of interests traditionally, as it is understood in other countries, does not involve people having to state the actual cash worth of the various operations they are involved in. It simply means that the places where they have direct financial interest, either in shares or in property, would be a matter of public record. It is not an unreasonable request that somebody in so sensitive an area should actually have to go through the areas where they have shares or cash or property to make sure that the publication of that list will not suggest to the public a conflict of interest that may not even have dawned on the person who has those interests. Therefore, the most simple way to focus people's attention on it is to ask them to publish the list of what they own, not how much they are worth — although I would have no problems about that, I think it would probably be a good thing for our society. What a normal register of interests means is that the interests are listed, not their value.

I would like to support Senator Ryan for precisely the reasons he has stated. They have been raised on a number of occasions in relation to other legislation. I was not aware that Senator Ryan had introduced or attempted to introduce a Bill seeking the——

You signed it.

Did I? In that case my memory has failed me. I knew I was in agreement but I did not realise I had actually signed it. At least I am consistent, if amnesiac. It would be a good thing, particularly when the director general will be dealing in commercial areas where it might be suggested that he or she had a vested interest. I see no strong argument against this.

Obviously, a beneficial interest and disclosure of interest is dealt with in section 37. I am open to the suggestion made by Senators Ryan and Norris and perhaps I will take a look at that on section 37.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 24, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 22, subsection (3) (a), line 20, to delete "chairman" and substitute "chairperson".

I presume amendments Nos. 78, 79 80 and 81 are all being dealt with together as they all refer to the same thing.

Amendments Nos. 79, 80, 81, 91, 95, 145, 146 and 147 are all cognate.

In putting down this amendment, I feel that draftspersons also have to reflect changing times. Notwithstanding ancient and well-honoured practices, it is time we went somewhere beyond where we are. The term "chairman" is unnecessary. I have been at meetings and I have attended conferences where people have insisted on being referred to as "chairman". Men and women have both insisted on being referred to as "chairman" because that is how they are termed under legislation. In the Labour Court it always annoys me that I have to refer to the person as the chairman. It has been brought to my attention on a number of occasions that it is not "chairperson" or anything else.

I do not particularly like the term "chairperson", it is not a very elegant title. When I was faced with this within my own union, the INTO, we changed the term many years ago from "chairman" to "cathaoirleach" which is an equally non-sexist word and far more acceptable than the term "chairman". I would have preferred to have put in the word "cathaoirleach" here but I reckoned it might lead to difficulties in drafting, although the Minister did accept an earlier amendment from me in Latin. I do not see that this will create any difficulty. We are reflecting changing times. The title of "chairman" is discriminatory and unacceptable to a large number of people, even though it may be well intentioned. I would ask the Minister to respond positively to this in the Bill. It does not cost anything, it does not create any difficulty to replace the term "chairman" with the term "chairperson" throughout the Bill. I know the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women would be very pleased to see that changed in the legislation. She would be much happier to ensure that she was involved in something which had a "chairperson" rather than a "chairman" running it.

We are dealing with this in Senator Murphy's absence, which concerns me. Perhaps he has been converted overnight. They say that "chairpersons" or "chairmen" are a bit like angels, they are sexless. It does not really matter which term is used. I am obviously very well disposed to what the Senators say and I am going to have a look at this for Report Stage. Some people prefer to be called "chairwoman", "chairman" or "chairperson", so there is confusion as between the terms. I will ask the parliamentary draftsman to have a look at this so that it is not offensive and that we are keeping pace with the changing times, which is certainly my concern. It is offensive to a lot of women that these titles are always referred to in the masculine. It is my desire to try to end that, so we will have a look at this for Report Stage.

There is a little point here that needs to be clarified because "chairperson" can become a synonym for a female chairperson. You will still have "chairman" and "chairperson", which is still discriminatory because they are two different words. That is why alternatives should not be allowed. The word that should be used is one that does not have sexist connotations. You cannot have a situation where you have chairmen and chairpersons because that leaves the title which historically has had the weight of authority behind it. It is still appropriated by men and you have another title for women. It is a bit like "Ms." Most people will tell you that when newspapers use "Ms." They mean "Miss", and that "Ms." is not really a substitute for "Mrs" or "Miss". It is a term that categorises people as well, except in certain circumstances. If the Minister is going to have a look at this she should not allow people to persuade her to put in alternatives which will leave men being called "chairmen" and women being called "chairpersons" or something like that, because that does not solve the fundamental problem that the language we use is wrong.

I am between two minds about the Minister's response. I put the amendment down for the reasons outlined. I expected an absolutely positive response. The term "chairman" is now unacceptable. The Minister has not indicated that clearly in her response. I know when I read "spokesperson" in the newspaper that it is a woman and, as Senator Ryan says, when I read "Ms." I know it is Miss or at least an unmarried female. I would like us to grasp this one and say we will use a non-sexist term. There are many reasons for this. There is the question of adjusting society to change. There is the question of educating society.

We have a situation in schools at the moment where teachers are saying to us that they are coming across sexist language all the time. This is sexist language without a shadow of a doubt. I would only find acceptable something which is not sexist language. I would be appalled at the idea of what Senator Ryan suggested might happen: that somebody would have the choice of saying "I am the masculinist here. I want to assert myself and therefore I want to be called chairman, and chairperson is for wimps". I do not want that to happen. But the fear is that people will exult in this kind of thing, wanting to be called "chairman" or "chairwoman" or whatever. I am not sure whether it is a question of people not being self-assured about their sexuality, or whatever it is. From the point of view of the need for changes in society, of educating people to equality, and from the point of view of those in the situation — and I am particularly talking about teachers, who would be most concerned about bringing people to an awareness of equality "chairperson" is the term to be used. It is particularly important, because a move forward has to be made. The Taoiseach has interviewed on radio last week and showed himself very open to making the type of changes I have suggested here. I think it reflects Government thinking.

I have come across a very serious problem at different levels in different Departments. The Government have a view on equality and they have set up the second Council for the Status of Women. They have shown themselves to be open to move forward on women's affairs and so on. But this is not trickling down to the Departments at all. This is a classic example of it. If I were writing a document tomorrow morning to the primary teachers I would not consider using the term "chairman". If I did, I would get hundreds of letters back, not from women but from people who would be concerned about the impact in terms of equality. We should just grasp this one and change it. It is not "chairman"; it is "chairperson".

I am in agreement with the sentiments expressed by Senator O'Toole. I accept what the Minister has said, that she will refer this back to the draftspeople. It is unfortunate to see legislation coming before us still using archaic, sexist language. It is needless at this stage. It is disappointing to see legislation in which the term "chairman" is still being used. Language is very important. The term "chairperson" is more and more accepted and should be generally accepted, just as we have in the Irish language "Cathaoirleach", which is non-gender. We should have a greater awareness of the use of language. The use of the word "chairman" is indicitive of the type of awareness that is needed.

I would like to support this amendment strongly. I am glad the Minister has given an indication that she will refer the matter to the draftsman; but, as Senator O'Toole said, perhaps she might be even more definite because the word "chairman" reflected an historical period when the senior positions were universally occupied by men. Society has changed and the language must reflect that. I would emphasise a point Senator O'Toole was making that this alteration in language has a educative value. Even people like myself find the word "chairperson" slightly unattractive; it is a little bit ugly, but that may be because we are simply not used to it. The fact that our attention is drawn to it because we may feel a slight distaste for what we see as a stylistically unattractive word makes us think about the fact that society is changing.

A very good point is being made that it should be "chairperson". There should not be an alternative. It reminds me of the time when people used to ask when a women gave birth: is it a boy or a child? This kind of distinction is unfortunate and we ought to reduce this impact in our language. Curiously, I turned earlier on to Senator Ryan and said that the word "Cathaoirleach" is a very good example. He said "I was just going to say that" and, as he was speaking, Senator O'Toole said it and then it was confirmed by——

We find we are forming a group here.

It is one example of where the Irish language has a superior definition, so I hope the Minister will be even more positive now.

I was very interested in Senator Norris's last comment because he asked me to refer this matter back to the draftsman.

I grovel in shame and misery. I will wear sackcloth and ashes; it will not be just my black tie that I wore yesterday for the loss of Senator Ross's political virginity. I am overwhelmed with shame.

Anyway I will refer this matter back to the draftsperson. I certainly support the sentiments that are being expressed and, subject to there being no legal difficulties with it, we should be able to satisfy the Senators. I believe language is important and in particular I believe that if somebody gets to one of these positions who happens to be female they should not be offended by the titles. Personally, I do not mind whether I am called "Miss" or "Ms" or "Chairperson" or "Minister" or whatever. There are many who would say the word "Minister" implies male anyway, because traditionally men are associated with these positions. Besides the actual word, it has a lot to do with history and association and social thinking. I do not disagree with what is being said and, if I can, I will accede to that. In future I will instruct the draftsperson to take careful note of what titles are being used.

I was interested in the debate, because for years women who did make it into chairs insisted on being called "chairman", or agreed that they should not be called anything else. I remember at one stage when I became chairman of the county council I clobbered the councillors who decided to call me "chairperson" because I was chairman and that was that. I insisted that I be called chairman. I agree with the Minister, but some women have commented to me that they saw "chairperson" as a lesser person than a chairman. The few women who made it to boards insisted that they be called chairman. By changing the title to "chairperson" are we indirectly devaluing the chair? With due respect to Senator O'Toole, when the INTO and other teachers unions give women some appointments at the top — they are finding it hard to do this but they might let one or two eventually——

On a point of information, I would like to bring to the notice of the House that the INTO executive propose that there will be reserved seats for women on the INTO National Executive. That has happened in very recent times.

I have as much communication with teachers as the Senator. I do not need their votes but I get them. We are leaving this with the Minister. There is a view that "chairperson" signifies a lesser position than "chairman". I feel there is a kind strength about chairman. Why should women feel that they are not chairmen? I would hope to be a chairman again.


Acting Chairman

Senator Honan without interruption, please.

If everybody feels strongly that it should be "chairperson" I would have no trouble agreeing to it. I must express how I feel, and there are people who would feel as I do about this change. If it is only going to be in this Bill, so be it.

On the basis of the Minister giving me the guarantee she did that, subject to there being no legal difficulties, she would bring in on Report Stage a change to "chairperson", I just want to make the general point that what Senator Honan says is absolutely right. That is why I want it legislated for. She made the point that she did not feel any less of a Cathaoirleach because she was a woman or was called the Cathaoirleach than she would have been if she were called Chairman, if that were the official title. It is significant that nothing reflects our culture more definitely and more certainly than our language. The reality is that "chairperson" and other terms would be seen as a lesser title if it was just something that was put aside for women. But I know that many successful women have been very "iffy" about this issue, about the removal of sexist language, on the basis that "I made it myself and other people can make it. I feel stronger in the position as chairman". I have always felt that they were wrong about that when I heard so many men who were opposed to women supporting them and always using them as the example.

I take Senator Honan's point. She is absolutely right. There was a perception that this was a lesser role —"chairperson" rather than "chairman", but times are changing and they are changing very quickly. It is by bringing in these changes that we address that particular point. I am happy, on the basis of what the Minister has said and the commitments she has given, to withdraw the amendments. It also means that we have dealt with ten or 12 amendments in jig time.

I am glad to hear the Minister will have this matter looked at and come back on Report Stage. Having said that, I am absolutely amazed and I would ask the Minister to ensure that the parliamentary draftspeople in future when drafting a Bill would use the phrase "chairperson" rather than "chairman". We must recognise that things are changing. I was surprised to see this Bill refer on many occasions to the position of chairman because that implies that the post would be held by a male. I was surprised to see a female Minister bring a Bill to this House with the phrase "chairman" used on so many occasions and she was not the only person to use it. Senator Doyle also used that phrase when referring to the chairman of the National Heritage Council and the chairman of the Confederation of Irish Industry. The time has come for that position to be referred to as chairperson. Our party, some ten years ago, changed the word "chairman" to "chairperson". We were before our time but in future when the parliamentary draftspeople are drafting a Bill the term chairperson not chairman should be used and I am glad that the Minister has undertaken to examine this for Report Stage. I cannot see how there could be any legal difficulties involved — the term relates to the person who is chairing whether they be male or female. We should adopt that principle in any future legislation.

I was taken by what Senator Honan said. I am sure she reflected a real situation where women in the past felt that they were not in command unless they were called chairman; chairperson was a lesser kind of being. That situation, although undoubtedly real, illustrates classically the internalisation of oppression in that the word "man" somehow conveys strength, command, control and authority. For that reason it is important to change to ‘chairperson' so that the language may reflect the situation in which people are genuinely equal. Finally, the business of Ms. Mrs. and Miss and so on is not vital but I find ‘Ms.' a most useful title. If you do not know whether the person you are addressing is married or not you put down Ms. and it is fine. I am all in favour of that because it is neutral as I believe the word chairperson is.

If you do not know whether it is a man or a woman.

The Honourable Justice Carroll sorted it all out when she asked to be called "judge" and not "your lordship", "your ladyship" or "Miss Justice" or whatever. Words can be found that do not imply a gender. This exercise is extremely useful because it is the language that stereotypes as much as anything else.

Why not call it the chair and leave it at that? Leave out man and women and all the rest of it.

Call it a thing.

It is difficult to get the precise phrase to cover the situation. In my opinion "Cathaoirleach" is the most appropriate but we will refer this back to the draftspeople and ensure that we are subject to no legal difficulties. I certainly take on board the views of the Senators.

I was interested in Senator Honan's comments. I had a very recent experience with a lady chairperson of a local authority. I referred to her as the lady chairperson of local authority X. I thought I heard an interruption but I went on. I later referred again to the chairperson. She made it clear that she was offended to be regarded as chairperson and told me afterwards that it meant to her that she was not as good as the men. It is not as simple as it often appears. Many women, particularly those who have been in politics for some time, are accustomed to titles like chairman and feel psychologically and socially and in every other way that the word chairperson is a lesser title and is sexist or implies inferiority. Language does help to get over that. Legislation obviously has to play its part by instituting titles that do not cause offence and do not imply that something is always in the masculine when it should be neutral. Subject to coming up with an appropriate amendment I give the House an undertaking that I will come back on this matter on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 79 to 81, inclusive, not moved.
Section 25 agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 82. Amendment No. 83 is an alternative and both may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 22, subsection (1), line 45, to delete "two" and substitute "three".

This is not one on which we should take too much time. It is a question of what is a reasonable quorum. I am unhappy with the idea of two as a quorum, which seems like a very small proportion of the membership. The Minister may have a good reason for picking two. The reason may be that it is the first number above one because one would be an unacceptable number and that two makes it as functional as possible. However there are good reasons to ensure that this agency works as as unit and the idea of a quorum of two is dangerously close to trivialising and individualising it. I am happy to move Senator O'Toole's amendment that the number of persons for a quorum should be three rather than two.

I have put down this amendment together with Senators O'Toole and Doyle. The minimum for a quorum should be three; two is moving dangerously close to dictatorship. Out of the number of people involved if three persons cannot be present at a meeting the meeting should be called off and I cannot understand how two could form a quorum if democracy and the agency are to be seen to work. If members are committed to the working of the agency a greater number than two should be able to turn up for a meeting and I appeal to the Minister to accept this reasonable amendment.

Amendment No. 83 reads:

In page 22, subsection (1), line 45, to delete "two" and substitute "four".

Senator Hederman, who is absent abroad, asked me to deal with this amendment in her name and I agreed to do so, but only technically so that it may be placed on the record, and I will explain why. I have no difficulty in supporting Senator Ryan's amendment. I look back to section 19 (3) which gives the number of people who constitute the agency as I understand it, and I quote: "The Agency shall consist of a Director General and four other directors." We are dealing here with some kind of proportionality. You must know the number of people before you start deciding on what constitutes a quorum. Four out of five is a strict requirement for the constitution of a quorum. On the other hand, two out of five is a minority. Even though I am a member of virtually every minority in this country and I tend to speak out on minority rights I do not——

You are not unemployed.

No, I am not unemployed. That is true, for the time being. It is a good point. There is a wonderful debate going on in the back benches. We have become very chummy this morning. My point is a serious one. In a body charged with the degree of responsibility that this agency will have, with a small number of people directing it, a minority ought not to form a quorum. I will be happy to move Senator Hederman's and Senator Ross's amendment in their absence but I feel myself more in agreement with Senator Ryan's amendment.

When I was framing the legislation I was anxious to give the agency as much flexibility as possible in the way it organises its own affairs. Under section 25 (5) the agency can set, if it so wishes, a higher quorum but as I was equally keen that the agency would not be given so much flexibility that one person could effectively make decisions, we set the quorum at a minimum of two. They can obviously have a higher number if they wish. The practical difficulty of raising it to three out of five would be that in a holiday month two directors could be away on holidays at the same time. That would not be unreasonable during, say, August. Another director could be tied up at another meeting or be away on agency business which would mean that ordinary decisions about the issuing of licences and so on could not be made until you got three people together. This might pose practical difficulties. The Office of Public Works, for example, have a quorum of two commissioners for making decisions, as do the Land Commission, I am told. There is precedence for that.

I take the point that we do not want a minority making decisions over the majority. That is not going to happen. The agency may decide to set a higher quorum. If anything controversial arose or a decision in which most of the directors wanted to be involved they would make sure they were involved. This is simply setting a minimum so that they can without restriction conduct their everyday business of issuing licences and do the various chores they will have to do in the name of the agency. If we raise it to three we might be making it somewhat unrestrictive for the ordinary everyday decisions.

What Senators would be concerned about is that with a controversial decision where there might be a difference of opinion within the board of the agency, a majority would have to form a quorum to make a decision. I accept that and the agency itself will so regulate its affairs. I do not think any two are going to act in a way that will be at variance with the remaining three who for the time being are absent for whatever reason, even at the beginning of a meeting. The quorum is what begins the meeting and does not normally apply thereafter. I presume Senator Hederman's request for four was put in when it was intended to increase the number to six or seven. Four out of five would be excessive and would place a huge burden on the agency and be very restrictive.

It is the An Taisce amendment.

Senator Naughten said that if they are interested they will turn up. It is not a question of turning up for a meeting. These people will be full-time officials of this agency and their work will involve more than being sent to head office where they will need to make decisions from time to time. Much of their work may necessitate going outside the agency to meet various people and so on. To increase the quorum to three for ordinary cases might be desirable in some circumstances but might be too restrictive. The provisions in section 25 (5), which allow the agency the maximum flexibility in arranging its own affairs, is a happy compromise in the circumstances. I ask the Senators to accept that.

I have listened to what has been said and while I appreciate that we would all hope that the two members forming the quorum would do the job in a businesslike fashion and work in the spirit of the Bill, nevertheless what we are asking is that three of the five directors — the director general and other directors — be there for important decisions which will affect a large percentage of the population.

It is not good enough that two people should be in a position to take those decisions. If we have five directors at least three should be there when important decisions are taken. I take the Minister's point that they will have to go out and examine different projects. Surely it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they arrange a time each week to sit down and take important decisions whether it is on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon, always allowing that those officials will be entitled to holidays. Four would be stretching it but there is not unreasonable. I hope the Minister will accept this amendment. It is in the best interest of the agency to have a minimum of three for a quorum.

I was happy that the quorum would be two because as the board is so small it would put extreme pressure on individuals if all had to turn up for meetings, but then I read in the previous section that the chairman would have a casting vote. If there was not a casting vote the two people would have to agree and that in itself would be a safety mechanism. The casting vote of the chairperson means that one person can decide in the event of a vote. I imagine that in practice that would be quite unlikely. There could be some important issue where the chairperson would be the person to decide in the event of two people being the quorum. I have some reservations about two in that context.

Senator Dardis makes a very valid point. Two people at a meeting, when one has a casting vote, effectively means one person at a meeting. I am concerned that the agency could effectively be run by one person; the other person would be wasting his or her time. We hope that will not be so. During my period on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Building Land, if anyone remembers that famous committee of many years ago which laboured for long hours to produce a report that nobody has noticed ever since, we had long discussions with An Bord Pleanála as it was then constituted. The committee were not overly impressed with the burden of work being undertaken by each member of An Bord Pleanála. This was a previous board, a good number of years ago. We did not have the impression that this was the most — in terms of the hours put in by each member — demanding job in the world. Some of the information supplied to us suggested that. I know it is the Minister's intention that the Environmental Protection Agency will be different. We would want to be very careful about giving a casting vote to the chairperson at a two person meeting.

I think Senator Dardis has raised a very important point. The proposal as it now stands is open to all sorts of skulduggery. What is to prevent the chairperson in the month of August, when a dodgy decision is to be put through from arranging a meeting when he or she knows that the other directors will be out of the country? It will be a dictatorship of the chairperson in those circumstances. It is highly dangerous and I would be very concerned about the present proposals.

I support amendment No. 82 and I would urge the Minister to take on board the very reasoned points that have been made about the dangers of two people sitting in a room, making major decisions in relation to the agency, one of whom will have a casting vote which will effectively means one person dictating on a major decision. The important issue is public credibility in relation to the agency and the assumption and absolute belief of the public that the agency is independent, that its integrity is beyond question and that there is absolute faith in the decision making process. By allowing part of that process to be a decision between two people, one of whom could have the casting vote, effectively giving one person the decision on what could be a vital issue in terms of the agency or an industry, takes away totally from the integrity of the decision making process, from public credibility and from the independence of this agency.

I accept the difficulties in relation to the casting vote. I will have a look at the particular matter on Report Stage, if that is in order.

Maybe you will, or will you?

I will have a look at it.

This is an extremely important amendment and as has been pointed out by Senator Dardis and Senator Doyle, without the number being three, what you are talking about is the chairman making decisions. That is the bottom line.

We will avoid that.

If the Minister will accept three, I will withdraw the amendment but if she does not give a commitment to accept three, I have no option but to press the amendment.

I was not going to make a huge issue about whether it should be two or three because I think there were good reasons when there are five members on the board. If we have a two person meeting of this agency without a casting vote I am happy to accept two people because a stalemate would have to be resolved by a full meeting of the agency. At a two person meeting, when one person has a casting vote the person in the chair knows that he or she can decide everything that day. They can go through all the rituals of discussion but everything will be decided by one. If the Minister is saying that she is going to make sure that that would not be the case, then I am happy to withdraw the proposal to have a quorum of three, with the possibility of reintroducing the amendment when we see what the Minister comes up with on Report Stage.

I would like to make my position clear on this. I am comfortable with two provided the casting vote does not operate. It is otherwise a question of amending section 25 (4) where it says, "every question at a meeting of the agency shall be determined by a majority of votes of the directors present and in the event that the voting is equally divided, the person who is chairman of the meeting shall have a casting vote".

You cannot remove that.

My concern is to devise a mechanism whereby the single person cannot decide the outcome of the meeting.

I do not think, with the best will in the world — I accept what the Minister says about looking at it — that the casting vote can be removed from the chair; it is a well tried and practised democratic procedure. In this instance, however, when you could conceivably have two, one being the chairman, there could be an abuse of the system in terms of fairness of votes because the casting vote would give the effect of one person dictating. If we do not remove the casting vote from the chairman under section 25, the only way of avoiding this situation is to move from two to three. That is the simplest way, otherwise you are interfering with the procedure of the chair of any meeting having a casting vote, which has been well tried and tested over the years. I would favour the move to three rather than remove the casting vote from the chair.

When I started to draft this legislation I would have favoured three, three out of five being a majority, but when the difficulties and the practicalities of difficult periods emerged and the fact that it might totally restrict the operation of the agency on a non-controversial basis, I felt it might be too restrictive. It is not my desire or intention that one person would make the decisions and I accept the difficulties with the casting vote. Perhaps after casting vote, we could remove the chairman having a casting vote where there are only two present. I will either do that or make a quorum of three. I know it is the intention of the Senators not to have one person making decisions on everyone's behalf. I will come back on Report Stage on this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 83 to 85, inclusive, not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 86 and 87 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 23, subsection (4) (a), line 12, after "General" to add "for a period not in excess of six months".

I am not a party colleague of Senator Ross. Senator Hederman asked me to move amendments on her behalf. The intention behind these amendments is to avoid a situation where the Minister nominates the director general on a permanent basis. Subsection (4) (a) reads:

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

At that point there is no limitation although one does come in subsection (4) (b), that is 12 months. A 12 month illness is a serious illness and it seems reasonable that power of appointment should be limited to a period not in excess of six months. I will await with interest the Minister's response to this point. These amendments were urged upon many of us by various environmental bodies who sent briefing material around. In fact, I would have added my name but I thought that when one person had got in first it seemed a little silly to put down the same amendment half a dozen times.

That has not always been the Senator's view.

I find a curious coincidence of viewpoint between myself and Senator Doyle as she pointed out, that is, that putting virtually the same amendments down all the time and reprinting them is silly. Adding your name to an amendment is not social justice precisely because you are then in a position to move it and argue for it if the other person is not present.

I certainly have great pleasure in supporting the principle behind both of those amendments. I compliment Senator Ross for putting down his amendment because I believe it is very important that we would have a time span, that we would not have a situation where, for example, the Minister could appoint a civil servant and that appointment could run on for two or three years or longer. It is fair and reasonable that amendment No. 86 be adopted by the Minister. That would allow for a time span of six months. I do not think any of us in this House or anyone in the other House either would like to see a situation where somebody would be appointed and could be there in an acting capacity indefinitely. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.

I support the amendment but I am aware of subsection 4 (b) here which might restrict such an appointment for 12 months if I interpret it correctly. Perhaps we could limit the restriction to six months in subsection (4) (b) rather than subsection (4) (a) if the Minister, sees fit. I fully support the principle enshrined in the amendments.

I reiterated that above all the Environmental Protection Agency must be seen to be independent. If there is any question — though this would seem unlikely — of the Minister having to appoint a director general, a deputy director general or any number of directors, a maximum of six months should be sufficient. A possible reason for the Minister having to take such action would be the illness of the serving personnel but if an illness is such that it necessitates the director general for example, having to be absent for more than six months, the whole question whether he or she was fit to continue in office or even whether there should be a temporary appointment of the deputy director general would have to be examined. In such circumstances the deputy director general should be able to take over rather than have a ministerial appointee run the agency.

We should not forget that the matter of the independence of this agency, operating at arms length from Government, particularly from the Department of the Environment, is of fundamental importance for other public credibility of the agency. We must not do anything that detracts from that in any way. Six months should be a sufficient length of time to take care of any contingency that might arise. This is all highly improbable but I suppose it could happen if both the director general and his deputy were to be ill at the same time. I cannot think of any other circumstances in which the need for a Ministerial appointment would arise. In any event I would not like to see a civil servant or other public servant or Government appointee run the agency for longer than six months.

I would not consider a 12-month period to be unreasonable. There can be circumstances nowadays in which somebody has a fairly prolonged period of illness necessitating absence from work for a considerable period, of up to 12 months, but where the person concerned is likely to make a full recovery and be able to return back to his duties, I understand the point that is being made about a six month limit but I think it would be preferable to provide for a 12 month period.

Why could the deputy director general not take over in such circumstances?

I do not think this amendment would make all that much difference at all. It seems to me as if we are talking in terms of extending the term from six to 12 months. Is there any reason the Minister could not appoint someone for a second, a third term or a fourth term? Accordingly the amendment would not really make any difference so long as that possibility exists. It just means the Minister will have to write out a note every six months instead of every 12 months with minimal expenditure on ink.

Amendment No. 86 is covered by paragraph (b). I am in total agreement with what Senator Upton said I do not see it makes any difference whether it is six or 12 months in this case.

First, can I make it clear that there is a restriction in subsection (4) (b); Senator Naughten seemed to think that was not the case. The restriction is 12 months. I know it is desirable that a temporary director would only be appointed for a fixed period and the shorter the better. There are circumstances in which people can be very very ill. It might be six months before it is decided whether a director would ever be able to return to work. Then one would have to go through the procedure of selecting a replacement and that could take up to 12 months.

The Minister would only use this power if the agency, for example, could not carry out their functions as a result of a director, who had a particular expertise, not being available as a result of illness. Then the Minister might seek to appoint somebody who has a similar expertise so that the agency could continue to function. I would be prepared to opt for the six-month period or perhaps a nine-month limit. However, six months might be too restrictive and it might be unfair to a director who was seriously ill to impose that limit. Effectively it would mean that he or she would have to make up their minds very fast and might put pressure on somebody who, perhaps had had open heart surgery, cancer or whatever. That would be enough to cope with without being faced also with the loss of their career. We all know of people who have been very ill for up to a year but who then recover and return to normal duties. I do not want to be unfair to anyone. That is why I suggest a 12 month limit. Equally I do not want to be unfair to the extent of having a temporary director appointed as infinitum. Similar provisions exists in Bord Pleanála legislation and, thankfully, it has never had to be used. If Senators persist, perhaps on Report Stage we could consider a nine month limit as a happy medium between the two.

I am persuaded by the Minister's argument and also by Professor Conroy. One must have regard to the fact that as Professor Conroy indicated, people can be seriously ill for a period but with modern medical treatment can make a total recovery. Therefore, I will not press the amendments.

I acknowledge also the Minister's response on this but maybe I am interpreting it incorrectly. This is a measure that will be invoked only if the director general or his deputy are absent for a lengthy period.

Yes, either of them.

Can the deputy director general act as director general in the absence for any length of the director general? Normally I understand that would be the case.

The board will comprise four directors and a director general. In the normal way in the event of the absence of the director general for reasons of illness or whatever, another appointment would not be made. However, if the person who was absent has an expertise without which the board could not function, the Minister could then appoint another person. I note Senator Conroy's intervention in particular because he is a medical person. People can, as we know, be very ill, but make a full recovery, return to work and do an excellent job. One would not like to think that we would put the extra pressure on that person of having to make up his mind within a period of six months. I can talk to the Senators again in relation to this matter. All of the Senators are reasonable about it in this regard. There is a slight misunderstanding about the way the provision is worded but, subject to me having a look at it again, I may or may not come back on it at Report Stage. If the Senators are going to press the amendments perhaps we will come back with a proposal for a nine-month period.

I am quite happy that the Minister has accepted the spirit in which this amendment was put down. We are trying to have a situation where we will not have some civil servant appointed and maybe acting for quite a long time. The Minister has accepted in principle the bones of that amendment. I ask her to come back on this on Report Stage.

I have no difficulty in appreciating the Minister's point that if somebody with a particular expertise was sick or absent for a long time he or she would need to be replaced. My concerns relate more to the Government or the Minister appointing a director general for any length of time. The head of the agency is the sort of public face that the agency will be given and the independence of the agency will depend to a large extent on the role played by the director general and the perceived role, integrity, experience and knowledge of that person when in office. An I right in assuming that the deputy director general can act as director general if the director general is ill for any length of time? If a person with a particular experience is necessary then I expect it is the experience that will be replaced. I am just nervous about the perception that the Government will jump in the minute the director general is sick and appoint someone to run the agency for a year.

That cannot happen.

I will not be pestiferous about this and waste a lot of time. We could be here for six or 12 months with this. There is a little inconsistency in one aspect of what the Minister said. She said there may be circumstances where a very specialised form of expertise is required. In other words, this is virtually a unique qualification that this person possesses in some scientific area. I am delighted that the Minister is so confident in the richness of the Civil Service. That section goes on to say that she can choose from among the range of established civil servants. There is just a little hint of contradiction there. On the one hand, there is this uniquely talented and qualified person and, on the other hand, the Civil Service are bulging with these people from whom a replacement can easily be picked. I will not go on ad nauseam about this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 87 not moved.
Section 26 agreed to.

Amendment No. 88 is out of order as it involves a charge on the Revenue. Amendment Nos. 89, 90, 92——

I do not wish to be obstructive but could the Chair explain how can a difference in numbers because they are paid——

Because they are expenses.

Amendment No. 88 not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 89, 90, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97 and 98 are related and will be discussed together. Senator Hederman to move amendment No. 89.

Posing as Senator Hederman, I move amendment No. 89:

In page 23, subsection (3), line 22, to delete "shall be the Chairman" and substitute "may attend all meetings".

Acting Chairman

Is the Senator moving amendment No. 89 on behalf of Senator Hederman?

Yes, she asked me to do so because she has to go abroad.


If it involves a charge on the Exchequer which the Exchequer is incapable of bearing due to depleted finances and the constant demands of the public——


This deals with the role of the director general in terms of the advisory committee. The section as it stands reads:

The Director General of the Agency shall, ex officio, be a member and shall be the Chairman of the Advisory Committee...

The amendment is intended to remove this automatic role of chairing the advisory committee. This seems to be quite sensible because if one is being advised by somebody one should adopt a listening posture. One should not be conducting the meeting.

I would like to remind the House that there is a legal point not too far distant from this that a person should not be judge in his own case, that he should not sit and chair a committee which is examining matters relevant directly to his career and so on. The fact that the director general would chair the advisory committee might have an inhibiting impact upon those discussions. For that reason it seems appropriate to remove this automatic role of chairing from the director general but of course, to have the director general, himself or herself, in attendance. He or she must be a member but I do not think it is appropriate that he or she should be the chair of a committee that is advising them.

I fully support this amendment. The advisory committee is an excellent structure but is weakened by the fact that the director general will actually be chairing it. That is a mistake. The chairperson of the advisory committee should be elected from among the members of that committee and, if necessary, the director general or the Minister should approve that appointment if the Minister feels that is necessary.

I imagine if people have reached the level of being accepted on the advisory committee there should be no difficulty with any person among their number acting as chairperson of the same committee. If there is a difficulty with that they should not be on the advisory committee in the first place. It weakens the whole procedure in having the director general running the advisory committee, chairing all the meetings and listening to the debate as they tease out issues with a view to subsequently advising the director general and the directors on a particular point.

I support all Senator Norris has said. I cannot understand the rationale behind this. Being a great supporter of the concept of the advisory committee I do not want to see it weakened. I would like to see the chairperson come from among their own and report back to the director general and the directors.

Could the Chair indicate the exact amendments we are discussing. A list was read out but I did not get the numbers.

Acting Chairman

We are discussing amendment No. 89. Amendments Nos. 89, 90, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97 and 98 are being taken together.

I am easy enough whether or not the director general is chairman of the committee. I have no major hang-up about that. If in the absence of the director general, whether through illness or for whatever reason, the post is vacant then the deputy director general should act as chairperson. I have no great hang-up about whether the director general is chairman of the committee. Senator Doyle has argued he should not be. I believe, in the absence of the director general the deputy director general should automatically take over in a situation like that. I tabled amendment No. 92 because I believe, for the smooth running the agency, it is important that the deputy director general would be able to take over and run it in the event of the director general being sick and carry out the functions of the director general.

I do not agree with the amendment proposed by Senator Hederman. I am happy to take Senator Naugten's amendment on board. Traditionally we often appoint advisory committees and they are token committees. They are there to fulfil either political or certain interests for the time being and thereafter are totally ignored. Whilst they might produce very fine reports nobody heeds them. I was keen that would not happen in relation to this committee that it would be fully integrated into the running of the agency. I felt that by making the director general the chairman of the advisory committee one was making it a much more powerful committee, giving it greater status, and making sure the Director General had to abide by the advisory committee. If he or she is the chairperson of it, it is most unlikely that that person will be able to ignore the advice of the advisory committee.

The second reason was that when the setting up of the agency was mooted and discussed openly among a number of organisations some people suggested to me that farmers should be on the board of the agency. It was suggested to me that An Taisce, Earthwatch, the Confederation of Irish Industry and a host of organisations wanted their person as a director. That was not what the agency was about. The directors are to be professionals, mainly scientists, with expertise and it was not appropriate to have a board of directors made up of a host of vested interests. I was equally concerned that those vested interests would be very much involved in the agency. It would be good for them, it would be good for the agency and it would be good for the environment because they would be working in tandem.

It was to give groups like industrial groups, local authority representatives and environmental interests a real and meaningful role in the operation of the agency that I decided to construct the advisory committee in this way. I did that very deliberately. People outside this House feel that it is in some way wrong to have the director general as chairperson. I do not accept that. If the director general is not chairperson much of the advisory committee's work might fall on deaf ears. I do not think it would have the same kind of status and importance and I do not think it would be fully integrated into the operation of the agency.

I would not agree with Senator Doyle's suggestion that the Minister should approve the chairperson. That is fraught with many dangers. Senator Naughten suggested that where the director general is not available to chair the committee that the deputy director general would so do and I would be happy to bring in an amendment along those lines on Report Stage. I would agree with that.

I strongly urge Senators not to have an independent chairperson from the people who will be appointed. If that occurs that committee will not be taken seriously, its work will fall on deaf ears and it will not be incorporated fully into the running of the agency. I do not think it will have the status, the clout and everything it needs and deserves. The agency will be the worse for that. I strongly believe that having the director general in is incorporating that committee fully into the operation and structure of the Environmental Protection Agency and making it part of the agency rather than separate from it which is extremely important.

In moving amendment No. 89 I should have asked that amendments Nos. 94 and 97 be taken with it. That is an important consideration. They all flow from each other; there is a logical sequence there. I listened to what the Minister said and I was not fully persuaded. The situation she envisaged is possible in any case if the three amendments are taken together. One says that the director general shall attend as a member. It does not automatically make him or her chairperson but they could be elected. They have a possibility of being elected, I imagine that if the arguments the Minister presents are as strong as she feels he or she would be elected chairperson. The amendment seeks to remove the automatic status.

Amendment No. 97 states that the advisory committee shall, at its first meeting, elect a chairman from among its members; the chairman may hold office for no longer than three years but shall be eligible for re-election if reappointed for a second term as a member. It will strengthen the committee if the committee elects its own chairperson. If, as is quite likely, that chairperson were also director general then that would be a considerable strengthening. It also leaves open the possibility that the director general might not be regarded as always inevitably appropriate.

I support Senator Naughten's amendment and, in some ways, I have great sympathy with what Senator Doyle and Senator Norris are saying. At the same time, the purpose, the functioning and effectiveness of this advisory committee are a key part of the effectiveness of the agency. It is important that the director general of the agency be very deeply involved with in direct responsibility in relation to the advisory committee. There is no more effective way of getting somebody directly involved and taking responsibility than having that individual made chairman of the committee rather than being a member who may attend or almost, by implication may not attend or may not take notice.

I welcome the statement by the Minister that she will consider for Report Stage my amendments Nos. 92 and 98. The reason I tabled those amendments was for the same reason the Minister gave, to have the director general chairman of the committee. I have been 17 years in public life and I have been on a number of different committees. It is very simple to set up a committee for it to issue a report and so on but if the director general is not chairman of that committee chances are he will not attend those meetings. I have seen it happen at health board level, at county council level and at Oireachtas level that somebody else is asked to take responsibility or deputise. If the director general has to attend those meetings the chances are that he will have more interest in the advisory committee. It is more likely he will take on board their suggestions or will steer them in a certain direction. I tabled those two amendments so that in the absence of the director general the deputy director general would automatically take over as chairman.

I appreciate the point made by Senator Doyle but there is a danger that if on an advisory committee there is not a direct input by the directors and the director general, it will not function properly. The best way is by having the director general as chairman. Very often that committee can issue lovely glossy reports at great cost to the taxpayer but nobody pays any heed to them.

I support what Senator Naughten has said because my experience is that where one is serving on advisory bodies they are much stronger, are listened to much more when the executives of the organisation must attend. Where an executive chairs it he or she is much more likely to attend, contribute and are much more likely to listen.

We have spent much time discussing the procedures by which the director general should be appointed, the nature of that job and how to strengthen that position. If we get the person which it is the intention of the legislation, that person should be involved at every level in the organisation. If we are to have continuity within the organisation and if the advisory committee are to function properly, it is essential that the director general be involved, that the director general be the chairman of that committee, and that in his absence the deputy director general chair the committee. I would go along with having continuity right through the organisation and having the advisory committee not just meeting in isolation and sending recommendations and views to a higher authority, which they will read at their leisure. It is much more important that they be present at and have a direct input into the meetings.

Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

We were discussing five or six amendments together, all relating to the same point on section 27. They referred mainly the chairing or the chairmanship of the advisory committee. I listened with interest to the Minister's defence of the procedure outlined in the Bill. Her point that to ensure that the recommendations and advice of the advisory committee are acted on it would be necessary to have the deputy director general chairing the meetings, did ring true with me. I fully support her reasoning. Like her, I have seen too many reports from sub-committees of one kind or another gather dust and not be taken seriously, but apart from that rather good line of defence which she has, I am not satisfied.

When one considers that this advisory committee shall consist of not more than 12 members, that means that it could, in effect, consist of only two members. We do not know how many will be on it. Unfortunately, amendment No. 88 was ruled out of order as constituting a charge on the Exchequer, but the whole point behind amendment No. 88 was to try to define the minimum number of members that would be on the advisory committee. We would like the Minister's view on that.

The chairpersonship of such a committee is relevant in the context of the total membership of the committee and the numbers on it. If it is a committee of two, the director general may go ahead because if you have a chairperson plus one, we are back to the argument we used previously about the casting vote and effectively the chairperson deciding what happens in relation to the advisory committee. How do we know what sort of quorum these advisory committee meetings will have if we do not know how many members will be on them? The quorum could be two if there are only four or five members on that committee.

The composition in terms of the numbers on the advisory committee are still very vague as we did not have the opportunity to debate amendment No. 88 and the imposition of the director general as chairman of the committee is a further reason for concern. I want a strong advisory committee. I fully support the concept of it. It is an excellent concept, but I am a bit nervous as we are not sure what the composition of the advisory committee will be. I would like to tie the director general to the advisory committee. I accept the Minister's point there, but whether that means the director general must be chairperson or not I am not so sure. I am not sure it has to go that far, because in the absence of knowing the structure of the advisory committee, the numbers on it, what a quorum will be and who will have the casting vote, we were back to the debate we had on the last amendment.

I would like to make two points. One of the reservations expressed by Senator Dardis at least is countered in the series of amendments, because it reads quite clearly that the director general shall attend the meetings. That is prescribed behaviour. That is the statutory part of his or her duty. It is not correct to say that if the director general were not to be made chairperson of the committee he or she would never attend. It is a statutory function to attend. The force of the word "shall" is quite clear and specific, so that argument goes right out the window.

My second point is an organisational one. I chair a number of little committees of different kinds myself. I know from my own experience — and I do not think that it is confined to myself — that there are occasions when the function of chairing a committee distracts your attention. Because you are managing the business of the committee you are not listening as carefully as you ought to. Your business is to steer the committee through. If it is an advisory committee it would be much better to allow for a situation in which, for example, the director general might not particularly want to be chairperson but might prefer to take the listening role, and listen to the advice that was being given by that committee. If these amendments were accepted the director general would have to attend. There would be no escaping from that. It would be a requirement, and he or she might very well feel that their attendance would be better by not being in the position of chairperson.

To recap on the reasons for the director general being in the chair, the more I hear the debate the more I am convinced it is the right approach. If a director general was merely compelled to come to the meetings it would be a ritual and the advisory committee would not be seen as an integral part of the agency. The advice would be very unlikely to be acted upon or might not be acted upon. On the other hand, if the director general is in the chairing position there is a huge onus on him or her to ensure that advice is part of what the agency does, and that the advice and the agency are almost synonymous. That is my idea. I do not want the advisory committee to be separate from the agency. I want this advisory committee to be an independent forum within the agency itself, to allow outside bodies to come in, advise and be part of the agency's work. I want the advisory committee to be very much involved in what is not in the day-to-day running in the sense of individual licenses, and so on. That is made clear in the Bill. It should be very much involved in policy orientation, performance and the way the agency executes its functions.

I believe it would be far more impressive and would give a much higher status to that committee if it were chaired by the director general. It would be very difficult for a director general to ignore the advice of a committee he chairs. It would also be much easier for the committee itself to be kept informed of what the agency is involved in and of its thinking in relation to matters if its chairperson is also the director general of that agency and if it very much incorporates the kind of people I would like to have incorporated into the functioning of the Environmental Protection Agency but who would not be suitable persons to have on the board itself.

In relation to Senator Doyle's query about a minimum number, subsection (6) (a) makes it clear that the Minister has to appoint one from each of the subgroups, that is, a minimum of five, and then may appoint four other persons. I am not averse to putting in an amendment that would require a minimum number. There is no intention to have a committee of two, three or whatever. Subsection (5) provides that various organisations will be prescribed and will have the power to nominate. One will be selected from each category. That would give us a minimum of five. I am prepared to have an amendment put in on Report Stage that has a minimum number on the advisory committee.

Many people said the advisory committee should be larger rather than smaller, and the number 15 or 20. Various numbers were suggested to me. My own view is that I like to keep committees as small as possible but equally, I want them large enough to be able to incorporate the kind of interest I would like to have in that committee — local authority representation, environmental organisations, representatives of industry and so on. The figure 12 was both large enough to allow us to have the maximum number of organisations and interests incorporated in that committee and small enough to allow it to function. Very large committees tend to be very unwieldy and unmanageable; it is very difficult to get quorums, and so on. I am not averse to the points made by Senator Doyle at all. If the Senators so wish I shall come back on Report Stage with the minimum number, if that would be in order.

At the bottom of page 23 subsection (6) it says "not more than seven persons being appointed" with the intention to have no more than seven on the official committee. Do you intend to change that? Is that correct?

There is a misunderstanding. It means not more than seven from the list in subsection (5). In other words, there has to be a minimum from organisations designated under (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e) — one from each — and then there can be two others from the five. Not more than seven can come from the subsections as will be defined in regulations under 5 (a). Then four others can come from the Minister.

Does it mean that five will be the minimum and seven will be the maximum under 6 (a)?

I want to continue for a moment. It is slightly separate from the main thrust of the amendment in relation to the chairpersonship of the advisory committee, but it is related in that we need to have some idea of the numerical composition of the advisory committee we are talking about. Section 27 (6) (a) is unclear and that is just not my opinion: It is the view of many of the environmental organisations as well, not least An Taisce. As worded, you could have from one to seven members, in fact, from the organisations above, because "not less than one shall be so appointed from among persons selected by the organisations which for the time being stand prescribed". It is not one from each of the organisations. It could be one from the collective organisations.

One from each paragraph.

Under a particular paragraph. The Minister is quite satisfied that there is no ambiguity? There is a view abroad that that is slightly ambiguous in terms of what it refers to. I accept the Minister's word on that. We are talking about a minimum of five and a maximum of seven from that group, plus the balance to be nominated by the Minister. You could have an advisory committee of five if the Minister did not appoint any and there was just one from each. Five would appear to be the minimum number and 12 the maximum. Is that correct?

Five and the Director-General.

Is the amendment being pressed?

There is no point in being tedious, because the Minister has indicated very clearly her firm conviction. I do not have to agree with it but it is wasting time to press it.

I still have reservations but I accept what the Minister says.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 90 to 98, inclusive, not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendment Nos. 99, 100, 101, 104, 105 and 106 are related and all may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 23, subsection (5), between lines 42 and 43, to insert a new paragraph as follows:

"(f) The Minister will have regard to the organisations specified in section 7 (2) of the 1983 Planning Act when choosing to prescribe organisations for the purposes of subsection (6).".

Senator Ross asked me if I would move his amendments if they came up and I was in the House.

Is he moving any more Fine Gael amendments?

No. I do not know that I would bother with Fine Gael amendments. I have no doubt that the Chair will protect me from the sniping of the revolutionaries over there who want to abolish this House altogether.

Acting Chairman

I will send them to Kildare instead of Coventry.

Senator Norris is often let away with unparliamentary remarks, Yesterday there was a remark with reference to me. He should not be allowed to describe the Progressive Democrats Senators in this House as revolutionaries or anything else like that.

Senator Dardis was enjoying it.

He passed quite a derogatory remark about me here yesterday and nobody protected me, so I think I am only protecting Senator Norris.

Senator Norris can protect himself.

I meant Senator Dardis.

Acting Chairman

If either of the two of you want to have a meeting on your own, we can arrange another room. We have to get on with the business before the House. Senator Norris to continue without interruption.

This involves the insertion of a new paragraph, which reads:

The Minister shall have regard to the organisation specified in section 7 (2) of the 1983 Planning Act when choosing to prescribe organisations for the purpose of subsection (6).

I do not imagine that the Minister will find anything offensive about this. The intention is, of course, to be helpful and to draw the attention of the Minister, in making the selection, to the analagous provisions in the 1983 Planning Act where organisations are specified. It would appear to be perfectly rational that organisations regarded as appropriate for the purposes of the 1983 Planning Act would be precisely the kind of organisations that would be appropriate to be considered by the Minister in making this selection. It simply says: "shall have regard to". There is nothing mandatory about it. She is not directed to include all or any of those organisations. It would be a useful point of reference for her to have regard to the organisations specified in analagous legislation. That is all I want to say on that. Should I say something about some of the other provisions? Senator Brendan Ryan asked me to deal with some of his amendments as well. We will move on to those later. I will stay with amendment No. 99 now.

Acting Chairman

You can speak on any of the amendments that are related to this: Nos. 99, 100, 101, 104, 105 and 106.

So that they may be discussed, I would like to move them and say a little about amendment No.——

Acting Chairman

You cannot move them until you come to them. You can talk about them under this heading.

Thank you for your guidance. Amendment No. 100 reads:

In page 23, lines 43 to 49, and in page 24, lines 1 to 35, to delete subsections (6) to (10) inclusive and substitute the following:—

"(6) (a) The members of the Advisory Committee shall be appointed by the Minister as follows:—

(i) one member chosen by organisations prescribed under subsection 5 (a),

(ii) one member chosen by organisations prescribed under subsection 5 (b),

I will not go through all the subsections. The principle is quite clear, however. That is a very democratic one. I would be most interested to hear the Minister's response. In other words, rather than the Minister appointing the person to represent the organisations, the organisations themselves should have the opportunity afforded to them to select their representative. I believe that that would only serve to strengthen that representation. I am not suggesting for a moment that there would be any kind of hostility or difficulty between a Minister and these organisations. I said this to the Israeli Ambassador just the other evening when we were talking about the PLO; I believe the Israelis were trying to dictate who should represent the Palestinian people. It seems quite idiotic to me. You would not allow that in the football match in which everybody took such a consuming, passionate interest yesterday. You would not allow the Irish manager to select the Polish team. It is always good when the representatives emerge from the organisation and are chosen by that organisation. They then have the strength of that organisation. In principle, it is much better to have the person chosen by the organisation than by the Minister. I imagine that in many instances there would be no difference of agreement. Very likely, both the Minister and the organisation would be thinking along the same lines and would select the same person. As a matter of principle this should be enshrined. I will listen with interest to the Minister's comments.

I rise to speak to amendment No. 105 which is being taken with the other amendments. I would ask the Minister to accept this amendment. The amendments proposes to delete all words after "Minister" and substitute "nominate one person for appointment by the Minister." I put down this amendment because if those organisations mentioned in subsection (5), are requested to select four members or more — it says not being less than four — it means that what you have, effectively, is the Minister making the selection. That is my interpretation of the section. Perhaps the Minister would clarify if that interpretation is correct. If those organisations select a number of people and submit the names to the Minister for appointment, I feel that this is undemocratic in so far as the Minister will receive a list of names and can pick whoever he or she likes from that list. It would be far more democratic if that organisation selected a member for appointment as happends with Bord Báinne and several other boards which have representations from farming organisations. The organisation itself selects its member and the Minister then appoints, whether it is the Wool Council, An Board Bainne or a whole host of bodies who have members from voluntary organisations. I would like to hear the Minister's reply.

I support the thrust of these amendments. I hesitate to suggest which one I feel specifically that the Minister should take on board. There is a message in them, and that is that the drafting is very unclear in this part of the Bill. Specifically section 27 (7) is unclear, and I quote:

The organisations prescribed under a particular paragraph of subsection (5) shall, whenever so requested by the Minister, select such number (not being less than four) of candidates as the Minister may specify for appointment...

There is a view that that means that all the organisations collectively shall come up with not more than four names or that each organisation shall submit four names individually. It is really for clarification. If I interpret amendment No. 100 in the name of Senator Brendan Ryan correctly, I think he is trying to clarify that by singling out each organisation and stating specifically that each shall come up with recommendations. Apart from whether each organisation should recommend one member to the Minister to be included or they should recommend a choice of two or three, we need to clarify what the Minister is asking of the organisations because there is a lack of clarity in subsection (7) of this section.

In relation to subsection (5), before we go into specifics, the Minister describes the type of groups she would like to have represented on this advisory committee. Farmers, farming organisations and agribusiness generally are in one sense the conservators of our environment. They are our main environmental protectors because they are in the frontline with the land and the waterways. I know there have been problems. That is well documented. The assistance to help the farmers overcome their problems has been outlined by successive Governments but there are still difficulties there. Whatever one's view of agricultural activities and farmers generally, they are the main conservators of our environment and they are in the frontline. I would like an assurance that, under some of these trade descriptions from (a) to (e), the Minister envisages farmers/farming organisations being represented.

I do not want anyone in there whingeing and whining. I want a genuine agriculture input in terms of environmental protection. There is no one as good as a farmer who is environmentally aware to see that a job is properly done. Perhaps more farmers need to be brought on board, but the better farmers today, and the farmers who will be with us in the long term, know that the care of their environment is in their own best interests, apart from the country's best interests. Could the Minister give an assurance under subsection (5) (a) that their occupations relate to environmental protection? Tilling the earth is part of conservation. I would like an assurance from the Minister on that particular point. Also, subsection (7) is unclear in terms of what is being asked. When we know what is being asked then perhaps we can discuss whether it is democratic, as one of my colleagues mentioned.

I would like to refer to amendment No. 104. This is an important amendment because it refers to the General Council of County Councils who, I believe, will play an important part in regard to this Bill. I would ask the Minister to consider having two members from that body.

All these amendments in one way or another seek to deal with the make up of the advisory committee. I will begin by giving Senator Doyle an assurance that, obviously, it is intended that farming organisations will be represented. They probably will come under a number of different subgroups. Obviously, they will come under subgroup (c) in that they are involved in the promotion of economic and other development and in subgroup (d). In fairness, they will probably come under other categories because of the kind of work they do. I can assure the Senator that it is the intention to prescribe farming organisations and farming interests for the purposes of subsection (5).

In relation to Senator Foley's comments on amendment No. 104, I sympathise with the gist of that amendment that it is the intention that local authority representatives would be represented on the advisory committee. I am not in a position to give any specific undertakings in relation to numbers because I think that would be undesirable and I think two out of six would be excessive, as Senator Doyle said. Equally, I am not disposed to naming one group as opposed to some other group. If we start the General Council there are, of course, other bodies that represent local authority members. It would be preferable if we had one body that represented them all but if you start naming interests then you are forced to name everybody; otherwise it would cause much difficulty.

Senator Norris suggested that the organisation should nominate their own person. I would not be totally against that except to say that there would be a tendency, I think, for the same kind of people to be nominated. Generally in the case of many organisations, even where they come under the different subheads of subsection (5) similar kinds of people may come through — planners, engineers — and I certainly do not want an advisory committee that is made up totally of the same kind of people. That is why we wanted some kind of flexibility to be able to pick and choose so that the overall committee was a balanced and unbiased one, and it is for that and for no other motive. That is the reason as well to have a minimum of four, to give that wide choice rather than to restrict it to one. It is a minimum of four. I think Senator Doyle thought it was a maximum of four. It is a minimum of four in section 7.

Four from each subgroup under 5 or four collectively?

From each subgroup, they may nominate up to four. If you like we can come back and discuss that if you want me to reconsider it in the light of the comments and suggestions that were made. The important thing is that we have an advisory committee that is independent, has outside interests, that it is big enough to be representative but small enough to be effective, that it has a balanced number of people on the committee.

I am not badly disposed towards Senator Ross's amendment that we would have regard to the organisations prescribed in the Planning Acts but, of course, they are only a small part of the organisations interested in the environment. Their main interest tends to be with the built environment and, of course, this agency's work in the main will be in relation to the natural environment. I am not against the gist of what that amendment proposes.

I do not think there is any difference between us there. Obviously it is the intention to have a balanced committee made up of a number of different interests because that would be very good for the agency, for the outer interests themselves to be that much involved, for the farmers, for industry representatives and very good for environmental organisations. Since this advisory group is also going to advise the Minister, I think it would be good for Government policy-making generally to have an advisory group that is as representative as possible.

I regret the Minister cannot see her way to change the method of nominations. I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and while I take the point that there is a danger of a certain type of person coming through from those organisations I think it is unlikely that all of those organisations would put through the same type of person. In future years it could be some other Minister who would be presented with a set of names from one of those organisations and maybe there would be political pressure on him in respect of a candidate or candidates selected from one of those groups. That could happen. They could get on, regardless of their qualifications.

We are all practising politicians, we know the realities of life, and this is why I am suggesting we should ask those organisations to nominate one for appointment to the board, that one name would go forward to the Minister and that he would use his or her statutory function to appoint that person. The principle here is very important because I can see great difficulty years down the road if you have a situation where an organisation can nominate four, five or six people. The names go to the Minister and perhaps the person who was last in gets appointed because he had the greatest influence. I think it is far more democratic if the organisation nominates a person to sit on this board.

With regard to the points made by Senator Foley in moving Senator Finneran's amendment, I think there is a lot of merit in that amendment. The General Council of County Councils is the one overall body which represents county councils. To nominate two persons from that is a very reasonable request in so far as these are the people who are dealing with planning matters and with sanitary matters who will be discussing——

And doing a lot of damage.

No damage.

Did you ever hear of section 4?

Senator Norris has thrown in the question of section 4. The Senator is speaking from a very confined area in Dublin but there is a far greater area throughout the country and of all the local authorities in the country there are only four to my knowledge using section 4 motions. As a member of a local authority, I used one section 4 motion in 17 years. I want to put that on record.

Wexford has had two section 4 motions in 17 years.

Acting Chairman

Would you please stay on the amendment.

I will. My apologies. The members of the General Council of County Councils all have experience of local government at first hand. They are all people who have served for a number of years on local authorities. They have first-hand experience and I would ask the Minister to examine the possibility of taking this amendment on board in so far as I do believe that the representatives of the General Council of County Councils would have an important role to play on this advisory committee.

I do not think it would be profitable for me to simply attack county councils and so on but I think it should be kept in perspective. It is very appropriate that there should be a representative but I think two out of the small number that is there would overload it. Their interest should be represented, they play an important role in terms of local government but I maintain my point that they have not always been on the side of the angels and I have not confined my experience of county councils just to the Dublin area. I went down three or four years ago to Ballybunion where they had this annual meeting of the General Council of County Councils and I spoke on section 4 planning permissions and agricultural pollution.

Acting Chairman

May I make an appeal to the Senator. You are straying from the amendment.

I am staying very closely to the question of the suitability of nominees of the General Council of County Councils to be on this body. I think that is relevant. I am talking about the qualifications. I do not think there should be two instead of one because they are not always on the side of the environmental angels. It was said from the other side of the House that they were protectors of the environment and all that kind of stuff and had direct knowledge and this is why they should be included. I should like to say when I raised environmental questions on matters such as slurry pollution it was denied. I do not think it is a good idea to overload this organisation with representatives. I think there should be one.

With regard to amendment No. 100, I would like to press this because I do think there is a very important principle here. It is a democratic principle and I would very much like the Minister to take this on board. I know the present Minister is well disposed towards the agency and the Government have certain environmental concerns and so on but that may not always be the situation and we could have a Minister who might wish to weaken and render inefficient an agency of this kind. What better instrument could be placed in the hands of such a Minister than the opportunity of selecting one from four? I believe that such a Minister would select the weakest. This would create clumsiness. It would be inefficient and undemocratic. I see no real reason for it. It is sloppy. It is idiotic going to organisations and telling them to select four people and then leave it a while before the actual selection is made. This renders the whole process very inefficient. What about the three who are not nominated? There would be a series of selections. The prescribed organisations would select four, and then there is another run off selection. I would like to press this amendment. It is important that the Minister should take it on board.

Senator Doyle referred to section 27, page 23. It is astonishing to see the Minister referred to throughout as "his" decisions when we have a woman Minister sitting there and consistently in this section Minister Harney has "his" decision and "his" choice. Nothing could illustrate the idiocy of the language more than the presence of the Minister here today.

Unfortunately it is Padraig Flynn that "his" refers to in this case.

I beg his pardon.

There is the Minister who does the work but he is referred to as "the Minister".

That explains it. It suggested a kind of visual contradiction. Maybe one day, with the help of God, he will go the whole hog and become the Minister in full glory.

Do not call him God. He is not.

Acting Chairman

I would appeal to Senators not to make these exchanges. This is a very lengthy Bill. What Senator Norris is worried about will be taken care of under the interpretations.

I am grateful to you for suggesting that. It is on the Order Paper. If that were to happen then that would be very welcome.

I want to support my colleagues Senator Foley and Senator Naughten in supporting amendment No. 104 moved by Senator Finneran. If there are 12 places then the General Council of County Councils — they are the top body of councils — should have two places. I want to be positive in supporting this amendment but I will leave it to the Minister and trust in her judgment.

I am not keen on the amendment which would allow two people from the General Council of County Councils to be nominees. The reason I am not keen is that I belong to an angling association, I am chairman of my local angling club, and my experience as an angler, not just in my own club but in other waters, is that the local authorities have been the biggest offenders in terms of water pollution, even bigger offenders than farming, which is not to be excused. Farming has a role, but certainly it has caused pollution. I said on Second Stage that Lough Ennel was virtually destroyed by a local authority.

My angling club sued our local county council for pollution of the River Liffey. I do not think the county councils stand excused in relation to the matter of pollution and in relation to the protection of the environment. Having said that, I have no objection in principle to them being part of the advisory committee but I do not think they should have two places as of right.

If one were to look at the organisations which may be prescribed by the Minister under section 27 (5), the county councils can be included under one or other of those categories. We could go on all day talking about organisations which might or might not be suitable. From the angling point of view I would have a vested interest in that I would like to see angling represented. As a member of the Royal Dublin Society I would say that the society have a very wide interest in all these matters. Its membership reflects a very wide spectrum of society. It has an environmental sub-committee that is involved in economic development. It would be another organisation that would spring to mind as being suitable. We could go on all day talking about particular organisations and once they are dealt with in general terms the specifics can be entered into when the agency has been put in place.

It never fails to amaze me as a former Junior Minister for the Environment and as a member of a local authority since 1974 and having been involved in various environmental issues over the years, how Oireachtas Members and others can consistently state that local authorities themselves per se are responsible for the pollution that undoubtedly occurs in different areas through lack of proper treatment of sewage and effluent generally.

We need to state firmly that the local authorities at any point in time over the years and during successive Governments are only as good as the political will of the day to fund the local authorities to put in the treatment plants, etc. Criticism is warranted but it is warranted against the politicians because there did not appear to be votes in providing the money for primary, secondary and tertiary treatment around our country. The local authorities are not financially autonomous any more. They were never really in a position to raise sufficient capital to carry out the treatments or to put in the plants that were required in this area. While there have been problems and while there has been pollution, the blame rests squarely on the national politicians over the years for not putting their money where their mouths are because they did not think there were sufficient votes in this type of spending. It is an easy way out always to blame the local authorities. It would suit me to do so as well, but we cannot, we must be honest.

In relation to the specifics of the amendment, we are asking the Minister to use up two of his or her nominations because the Minister has only got four under this Bill. We are asking the Minister to appoint two of the four nominations he or she will have from the General Council of County Councils. I firmly believe that local government and county councils must be represented. I do not think it is fair, however, to ask the Minister, if he or she has only got four nominations and, if we refer back to subsection (6) (b) only four have been given to the Minister — unless we extend that and I am not in favour of that — to give two to the General Council of County Councils. There are excellent councillors on the General Council of County Councils, there is no doubt about that but the appointment to the general council from the different local authorities is purely political and it depends on who has control of the different local authorities in different areas.

Since 1985 the main Government party have had control on the majority of councils, so the general council is controlled by Fianna Fáil. Times will change and we could have a Fine Gale-led Government and Fine Gael dominated county councils. We are all practising politicians. I do not want to let any Minister of any colour, hue or creed have any control in relation to political appointments. I am nervous in this regard. If I could have assurances that appointments of this kind would be on merit, and strictly on merit, rather than feel that the Minister was going to have a party hack of any colour, be it Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, stuck on a very small advisory committee, perhaps to spy on what is going on and report back to the Minister, then I would be happier about what is before us.

Most of us here have had long experience of how local government operates and how people are appointed on the General Council of County Councils and of how ministerial appointments to various bodies over the years have worked. If it is in the interest of the environment and if it is someone with experience who will expand the authority of the advisory committee I would have no difficulty in a nomination by the General Council of County Councils. I am nervous of any Minister, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrat or otherwise — the Progressive Democrates do not have many councillors at the moment — having control of two of the four in this way because they would be political appointments. The nature of the General Council of County Councils is that card carrying members are on it. I am a little nervous of that even though we have excellent councillors. I want to see local government firmly represented on this but we need to think long and hard about the best way to do that.

I want to speak on amendment No. 104 which I tabled following consultations with the General Council of County Councils. I would go back to the time when the Bill was being prepared. One of the first organisations the Minister was good enough to contact was the General Council of County Councils. She attended a full meeting of that body in the offices of Dublin County Council and issues were discussed openly with all political sides. The General Council of County Councils is representative of all parties, even the smaller parties. The Minister felt that they were a group that could and should have an input into her preliminary discussions before the parliamentary draftsman drafted the Bill.

The General Council of County Councils are a national body. They represent all county councils and four of the five borough councils. I hope the fifth borough council will at some stage be a member of that body. They have a direct input into the activities of county councils at a national level. They have a very clear and defined structure, an executive and a brief. There is an input from each local authority as each local authority sends three delegates to that body. The General Council of County Councils are representative of all political parties.

People who know the system of appointment of committees at local authority level will fully understand that no one party can hold the three positions on the general council when committees are being formed. The General Council of County Councils have a particular role to play as regards the implementation of this legislation because they are the people who are in day to day contact with planning problems and the prevention of pollution, whether it is air pollution or water pollution. The councils have a direct input but it would be physically impossible for the Minister to accommodate 27 county councils and four or five borough councils. For that reason the umbrella body are the group we should look to. The umbrella body in this case are the General Council of County Councils. They have a very positive and constructive role to play on the advisory committee being proposed.

I submit that two of the nominees should be from the General Council of County Councils. I fail to understand Senator Doyle's thinking on this. She seems to think that there is something bad about a political appointment. Senator Doyle is a political figure and we are all here on a political basis. No member is here because of his or her religion or education; we are here because we are politicians. Politicians elected us except my good friend Senator Norris and his team. The number on his team is dropping now.

We were elected democratically, by 20,000 voters.

Acting Chairman

We were not doing too badly until Senator Finneran arrived. He should confine himself to the amendment.

Political people need not necessarily be excluded from all advisory committees.

Provided their environmental experience is the reason for their appointment.

I do not know where we would get anybody more experienced in the protection of the environment than a person nominated by a local authority and who had served in an executive or a chairperson position on the general Council of Council Councils.

And was elected there.

Yes, indeed. This is an ideal opportunity to give a position of prominance to a very responsible, constructive, well organised and efficient organisation as the General Council of County Councils. This is an opportunity for the county councils to see themselves through their national umbrella body, as having a direct input into the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. I await a response from the Minister. I know she holds that body in very high standing. If there is a different nominee after five years so be it. Nobody need think that once appointed one is a member of the agency forever. I would not envisage that and I would not think that that would be the case. When Governments change, and I do not see a change of Government coming for a long time, there would not be anything wrong with the new Government giving advice to that committee. I put it to the Minister that this is a body of importance, the premier body as far as local authorities are concerned. The Minister should consider allocating two positions to that body.

One thing that has become obvious from the debate on this Bill is the willingness of Senators on all sides to advance a personal view. I welcome that, it is a very good and constructive approach. I have sympathy for the suggestion that two nominees from the General Council of County Councils be part of this advisory body. The General Council of County Councils are the umbrella organisation representing elected councillors and their members — I have been a member of it in the past — are people of sound judgment. When the agency is up and running it will become obvious if it is taking a certain direction, or if there is a certain over-riding influence on it. I would welcome the General Council of County Councils having a direct channel of their views through the advisory body.

I want to pick up on another issue that was referred to. There is a widespread practice by individuals whose support among the electorate would not see them on the smallest urban council or town commissioners to engage in a regular exercise of undermining the standing, sincerity and objectivity of elected local representatives. I often cringe when I find there are people here who are, quite inadvertently, by what they say giving support to that particular lobby.

I do not want to deal with some of the contributions I have heard since I arrived here, but in relation to the point that the local authorities themselves are among the greatest polluters, that is an unfair accusation to make. It should be obvious to anyone with any understanding of the situation that, if that happens, the reason is a denial by central Government of the financial resources to these local authorities to enable them to put in place the means to prevent that pollution. There is not a local authority in this country that will willingly engage in any activity that causes pollution. There are, in the Minister's Department and before the Government files upon files of applications by local authorities seeking finance to enable them to overcome the danger of pollution.

I have the utmost respect for my colleague here in front, but I criticise him for referring to party hacks. I do not care what political side these appointees come from, I would have more confidence in them representing solid, objective views, because they are answerable to the public every five or six years when practically everybody else on this committee will never be answerable to the public. We should never ignore the importance of that answerability to the public. Members of local authorities throughout the country are in that position, and for that reason I have the utmost sympathy and support for what is intended in this amendment.

As a member of a local authority for 30 years it is my duty to support Senator Finneran and the other speakers who have defended the rights, responsibilities and activities of elected representatives of local authorities down the years. In my years as a local representative I have discovered that if anything goes wrong there is only one person blamed and that is the local representative. If there is pollution of a river or a water supply, it is the local authority who are blamed. My amendments which were disallowed, emphasised that the local authority have a very important role to play, but that role cannot be carried out without the full support of the central authority. Finance is the basis of all our problems; and until such time as the local authority are sufficiently financed, the criticisms at present being levelled against local authorities about pollution are null and void because it is not their responsibility.

I fully support Senator Finneran. Irrespective of what political party they represent, the General Council of County Councils are a responsible body and I have admired them and appreciated their work over the years. They have always represented our views, irrespective of what party they belong to, and they have a very vital role to play in the fulfilment of the ideas and objectives of this Bill.

I do not think it would be profitable for me to go on an exercise in bashing county councillors. I know that elected local authority representatives do valuable work and do not receive remuneration for it. I know they are elected and all the rest of it, but I am not sure that this House is completely unbiased or objective because, after all, most of the people here are county councillors. So they are heaping all this wonderful praise on themselves. I think it is a little immodest for them to tell the Irish people how wonderful they are. Listening to some of the speeches, I thought it was really a pity we bothered having a Government. It really would be much better ——

Will the Senator be a candidate?

You never know. I might, that is quite possible. I will consider it. However, I was very interested in what Senator Finneran said. He was disarmingly honest when he said he was all in favour of political appointments and so on. I do not agree with political people being appointed. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what he had in mind, but I think there is a subtle distinction. What I would be concerned about is not the appointment of somebody who may have a political belief — I hope most people in this country would have a political belief, people should be in a political party if they wish to be and should express themselves politically — is a TD, a Senator or a councillor, what I object to is the possibility of the politicisation of the process of appointment. That is highly dangerous. That may only very marginally come in here and I do not think there would be much point in raising scaremongering tactics about it. But from a practical point of view, if you go down this road of putting in named specified organisations you will have a queue a mile long. Of course, not all of them will be so effectively represented in Seanad Éireann as the councillors are, but it is a dangerous road to go down. I think that two members out of 12, about 16 per cent, from the councils is far too heavy a loading to put into this committee. Provision exists in the machinery whereby this kind of representation can be considered. Whatever the reasons, councils have been involved in acts which have been to the detriment of the environment. Pollution is an example I mentioned and Senator Dardis took it up. There are bad, inadequate or downright wrong planning decisions.

I would like to end by referring back to the other amendment I moved for Senator Ross, amendment No. 99. The Minister did very graciously say that she would bear this principle in mind, but she did not say she would take it on board. She said that the organisations referred to under the 1983 Planning Act were principally dealing with the built environment, and there is certainly an element of truth in that. However, I would have to say that planning decisions very often have a real impact on the environment particularly in terms of the preservation of green space and so on. I could list dozens of instances where planning actually impacts directly on the environment. For that reason it is quite important that we bear in mind the organisations referred to under the 1983 Planning Act.

In case I would be misinterpreted in any way — and I know it would not be a deliberate attempt by Senator Norris — I have two points to make. Senator Norris said that every other organisation would be looking for nominations as well. Where would you get a similar organisation to the General Council of County Councils which represent possibly 700 elected representatives? There is no other organisation in the country that is directly involved in the planning area. He also makes the point that perhaps somebody would be appointed on a political basis from that organisation. That would not be my intention at all. I would consider one or two office holders, such as the chairman and vice-chairman, from the General Council of County Councils. It would not be my intention that the Minister would pick two people out of that organisation for political purposes.

If there is one thing that happened in the general council down the years it is that there is an appreciation that they are expressing the views of local authorities and not a political view. If you look at their record you will see that, irrespective of who held power in it, they have always been very responsive to the needs of the councils rather than seeking to back up the Minister. I have been involved in the general council for some time and I was chairman of it in 1983. I can say that there has been no attempt in that organisation to be a back-up or support group for whatever Minister or Government was in power. I would not intend that the Minister should pick two people from the organisation. I would be more interested that it be two office holders, so that when the office holder changed the nominee to the Environmental Protection Agency would change as well.

It is quite understandable that members of a family should seek to defend other members of the family, and that is what we are having here this afternoon. What we have been having here are speeches for the constituencies. On the first day back, when the proceedings were televised live, we all made speeches for our own areas.


Order, please. Allow Senator Dardis to make his point.

Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. We need to be big enough as politicians to accept that there are people in the country who are outside the political arena but are competent enough to participate in institutions of the State effectively and to contribute to the welfare of the country. However, that is not to take from Senator Finneran's point. As I said earlier, I have no objection in principle to the county councils having possibly one member, but I would not go as far as two.

I stand over the statement I made that county councils have been serious polluters, irrespective of the reason, whether it be lack of finance or whatever. The fact is that they have polluted and at times it is quite obvious that, not only have they polluted, but that there has been a lack of will to rectify the faults there. You only have to think of the way landfill dumps are managed. For instance, we had a case in my own constituency — we can now get back to constituencies — where the wind blew litter all over the road. What I am saying is that we as politicians have a responsibility to be able to stand back. Yesterday, when we debated section 21 dealing with the appointment of the director general, we had repeated calls to depoliticise the procedure by which the director general was appointed, and now we are saying we should politicise this aspect. Which is it?

I had spoken to on amendment No. 104 before Senator Finneran came in supporting the principle of having two nominees from the General Council of County Councils and I do not intend to cover that ground again. I must reply to Senator Dardis, who was grossly unfair when he criticised the local authorities and said they were responsible for some of the pollution. County councils have not got the money from central Government to clear up this pollution. Senator Finneran, as a member of Roscommon County Council, knows that a report was brought before us the last day which indicated that the source of the major pollution of two rivers was two sewerage works, because the Department of the Environment had not given Roscommon County Council money to modernise them. I will leave the argument there. To accuse local authority members of being responsible for or being lackadaisical about pollution is unreal.

Here we have a body with members elected from every council in Ireland. They are elected to the council and then elected by that council to the General Council. Some of them are further elected to the executive and we are seeking to have two of them on this advisory committee; you can have them under subsection 6 (b) as Ministerial appointees, or under subsection (5). The suggestion that there will be a queue a mile long is absolutely ridiculous, because there is no body other than the General Council of County Councils which represent the joint voice of all the elected authorities. No other body can put themselves in that class. It is only fair, right and reasonable that they should have two members on this committee.

I appeal to the Minister to accept amendment No. 105 because that is the only way members can be democratically elected or appointed on to this agency. Under subsection (7) the prescribed organisations put forward not less than four — there could be seven or eight — candidates for appointment by the Minister. What will happen is this. Somebody with a close association with the Minister of the day will be put forward by that body because they will know that that will be the member appointed. While there may be other names put forward, regardless of the expertise of these people the individual with a line to the Minister will get the appointment. That is a fact of political life. It does not matter which Minister is in office, that is going to happen, because that Minister will be under pressure from his organisation to appoint that individual.

So that the agency can have its independence and retain its self-respect, I ask the Minister to accept amendment No. 105. I do not see any conflict between amendment Nos. 104 and 105. Amendment No. 104 is to appoint two members from the General Council of County Councils as a body representing all the local authorities. Amendment No. 105 basically is giving to the organisations mentioned in subsection (5) the authority to elect — and that is what I am talking about — onto the agency their member rather than putting forward four or five and the Minister deciding on it.

I support Senator Finneran's amendment. It is a sensible amendment. I certainly do not join the element who find it convenient and fashionable to laugh at county councils. We have to remember that county councils are elected. That is the bottom line. If they misbehave the public have the capacity to sort them out in due course at the next election. That is more than can be said in relation to everyone else who will be on this committee. They will be nominated. They will not have to go to the bother and the difficulty of being elected. I speak as someone who is not a county councillor although I do not mind admitting that I will be a candidate — I aspire to be one — and I hope that the people in a certain part of Dublin will go along with my aspiration.

Political commercials do not form part of the play. Address yourself to the amendment.

The other thing I would say in relation to my experience of representatives of the General Council of County Councils in public affairs is this. I was on the governing body of UCD for a nine year period. On that body there are eight people who are nominated by the General Council of County Councils. I would have to say that they behaved entirely properly and their contributions on that body were worthwhile. I say that from the experience of a nine year spell working with them. I found them entirely reasonable and sensible in what they did on that body.

When I spoke on this section earlier I said I was sympathetic towards it and that I was inclined to support it. Now I fully support it. That support has been confirmed by the more recent contributions of Senator Norris and Senator Dardis. I would like to respond very briefly. Senator Dardis accused me and others of defending the family. Yes, I am defending something, something far more essential than the family. I am defending basic democracy here. It is quite unreasonable of Senator Dardis to continue along these lines even though it was clearly explained to him that the problem of local authorities in relation to pollution is the absence of adequate finance. Still he persisted in undermining the standing of the members of local authorities. I wish him well in the local elections in Kildare and I will be interested in seeing how effectively he brings a prosecution for pollution against himself when he is a member of that body.

The other comment I wish to make relates to Senator Norris's reference to — a repeat of what has often been said before —"appalling planning decisions." It is probably "appalling" because it is in conflict with Senator Norris's view. Are we to take it that in relation to every situation in which Senator Norris holds an opinion, everybody else who disagrees with him is wrong? What I am defending here — and I am supporting this — is democracy, the local electorate, the people who elect the politicians.

Listening to the enthusiasm for contributions to this sector I cannot help reminding myself who the electorate to this Chamber are. One wonders exactly what motivates many of the contributions, including my own, if I am strictly honest. I have made my views quite clear. If Senator Finneran really feels that we could have a county councillor appointed to the advisory committee, not on the basis of his political persuasion but purely because of the environmental experience and the contribution he will bring to the advisory committee, I will accept his word. He is a practising politician, and so am I, but you can understand my reservations looking back over the years as to how these ministerial appointments have been made.

He would have the advice of 700 or 800 behind him. He would have a collective view.

What I am not clear on from Senator Finneran's motion is this. He appears to want the Chairman and vice-Chairman, or chairperson or vice-chairperson, of the General Council of County Councils to be the two nominated by the Minister. That is not specific in his amendment. We need to clarify that. I have no doubt——

We will have to change it to the "chairperson" after this morning.

That will be great. I am sure that august body will waste no time appointing some of the excellent women councillors——

Into the family.

Into the family. I am glad you recognise it at last. Most women have recognised that factor for decades never mind generations. Perhaps we could ask Senator Finneran to be a little bit more explicit on how he feels those two would be selected from the general body of the General Council of County Councils; it is two out of four. I am a little worried about weighting the Minister's maximum four nominations in terms of declaring now that two must be from the General Council of County Councils. He could in fact pick three if the correct persons were there and if they were the people the advisory committee needed. I am not so sure we should be specific in terms of the quantity he must pick when he is allowed to have only four under the section.

The amendment refers to subsection (6) (b) of section 24. Subsection (6) (b), if I am correct, restricts the Minister appointing not more than four members; it is not just two out of 12. It is restricting the Minister appointing two out of the maximum of four. Whether that is wise I am not sure. I have no objections to a county councillor being on the advisory committee provided that county councillor is there purely because of the breadth of experience on environmental matters that he will bring to the county council. We need to clarify that.

I support Senator Finneran's amendment. If there is any body, organisation or group of organisations which require and deserve to be represented on this advisory body it is the county councils. One of the unusual situations — perhaps not unsual situation but a true one — is that the county councils are, as we all know, very closely involved in matters which will be of particular relevance to the environment, and they are involved at a very practical level at the same time. There is also, hopefully, going to be a good deal of cross reference between this body and the various planning authorities associated with the county councils. To have somewhere in this Bill a specific reference to the nomination of councillors to the advisory body is very appropriate.

Let us be quite clear about this. These are nominees of the General Council of County Councils. They are not necessarily being put forward in any direct political capacity — although I do not think that is necessarily any harm in itself — but representing all county councillors and all county councils. It may vary from time to time who the nominees should be. I feel that, even if they were specifically political, of whatever party, that would not necessarily be such a bad thing, because clearly the vast majority of the other appointees are being appointed because of the various other non-political bodies, which are being represented. This couple of councillors are unlikely to be on the General Council of County Councils unless they are very experienced councillors. It could be very beneficial to have on the advisory body a couple of down-to-earth councillors who really know what it is like when you are facing the various planning applications.

Obviously, I am aware of the interest Members on all sides have in relation to having appropriate local authority representation on the advisory committee of the agency. That would be my wish too. As I said earlier, I do not think it is desirable to single out particular groups or organisation because that would cause difficulties. There are lots of other groups who asked to be specifically named and I have said the same thing to them all. When I was framing this legislation in all we received 50 submissions from organisations and individuals. I would say from half a dozen to at most ten submissions came from individuals, the remainder came from organisations. You are talking about 40 different organisations all of whom have an interest in this committee, of of whom felt it was important enough to make a submission, and in many cases a very comprehensive and well thought out submission.

It is going to be difficult with a small committee of 12 — 11, effectively, when the Director-General is included — to try to encompass that wide cross-section of interests on to the advisory committee. It would be undesirable to have more than one from any group, Having said that, I share the sentiments of Senator Finneran. He has spoken with me before on this matter. I know he is very concerned about this. He raised it in his Second Stage speech as well. I accept that it has the support generally of all sides of the House, with the exception of Senator Norris, although I think Senator Norris accepts perhaps that one might be reasonable.

I will give a commitment that when we are specifying organisations under paragraph (d), local authorities would come under that specification. To include them in the four members the Minister would have to appoint would be making the Minister's nominations extremely restrictive, although they could be included there as well. However, they obviously would be appropriate as an organisation to be prescribed under section 27 (5) (d). I would give that undertaking to the House, if that is an order.

In relation to organisations merely nominating one for appointment, that presumes that if an organisation makes one nomination the Minister will nominate that one. As I said, it would be very difficult to narrow down the organisations to the tidy number of seven, which is the maximum which can be appointed under subsection (6) (a) because of the number of people who have an interest in this Bill — people from the trade union movement, professional organisations like engineers and planners, An Taisce, Earthwatch, Greenpeace, ACRA, community based organisations, the Confederation of Irish Industry, the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries, both the General Council of County Councils and the Local Authorities Members Association — LAMA — the municipal authorities representatives. All these bodies made very good and detailed submission.

In relation to the local authorities, it would be easier if there was one body and not a number of bodies. This point was made by the expert committee appointed by the Government to look into local government reform. In their report they recommended that it would be preferable if local authorities could have one representative group, not just for this kind of purpose but for a whole host of other reasons. Of course, there are many who would argue that because of the relationship between the agency and the local authorities perhaps the county managers should be represented and so on. Many different interests are going to look for representation here. Certainly, I will give an undertaking that the local authority members will be a group specified under paragraph (d). I hope that will be acceptable. I, too, would be anxious to have people who represent the public, who are elected by the public, and who have a very important role in environmental protection. Even after this Bill is passed and the agency is established, the local authorities will still be in the frontline of environmental legislation. They will be the people in the main operating our environmental laws, enforcing them, and involved in environmental protection. It is extremely important that there is a good relationship between the local authorities and the agency and that there is goodwill among local authority members. When this agency was mooted, many local authority members felt it would mean an erosion of their powers and that is why I went to great lengths to meet the various bodies and their subgroups. There is an acceptance and a consensus among local authority members that this agency is essential and they want to co-operate with its establishment and running in every way possible. In the spirit of co-operation I, too, will ensure that the sentiments if not the substance of Senator Finneran's amendment No. 104, on the idea of representation for local authority representatives will be taken on board.

Am I to take it that the Minister is referring to section 27 (5) (d), "organisations which in his opinion"? The use of "his" is another matter we should look at considering the debate we had this morning.

I accept that the Minister will look at local authority representation in the Bill. Will the General Council of County Councils have a nominee?

The Minister in her reply mentioned local authority members as distinct from members of the General Council of County Councils. I would see a distinct difference there as members of LAMA could be involved. I would not see LAMA as the body representative of county councils. The General Council of County Councils have a certain function and it is that body who are referred to in amendment No. 104 and which we would like to see having membership. We recognise that it would be impossible to have a member from every county council or to try to get nominees from all the regional committees suggested under the new local government reform. The appointment of two members from the General Council of County Councils would meet the wishes of County Councils and indeed, of the Members of this House who have spoken in favour of this amendment.

Did I hear the Minister say she would have them included under section 27 (5) (d)? Could they become a conglomerate of a number of other organisations under that heading? In fact, they may not get any consideration. I would not be happy with that. The amendment tabled by Senator Finneran clearly specifies that they should be included in subsection (6) (b). I ask the Minister to accept the amendment in the spirit in which it was put down.

I request the Minister to be more specific in what she is suggesting. The amendment proposes two nominees of the General Council of County Councils. Subsection (5) (d) states:

organisations which in his opinion are concerned with the promotion in relation to the community of social, economic or general interests,

A variety of organisations come under this. I am sure I would get a reaction from Senator Dardis if I were to say that I object to an organisation of the standing of the General Council of County Councils being brought down to the level of several bodies that could be included there.

I thought the Senator was going to say brought up to the level.

Maybe the Minister will tell us how many organisations she envisages could be included in this pool because that is where the dilution can start? Subsection (6) (a) states that not less than one shall be appointed from this particular group. Therefore, there could be up to a dozen organisations in that pool with only one being appointed from it. That would be defeating the object of the exercise this afternoon. How many organisations are likely to be in this pool? Once we put in the General Council of County Councils in the pool and take them away from what is proposed in the amendment, they may or may not survive in that pool. In fairness to those who have strongly supported this amendment, the Minister should outline the implications of what she is now suggesting.

I would like to compliment the Minister on admitting responsibility and on outlining the activities expected of local authorities to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency will be a success. She clearly indicated that local authorities have a major role to play and if they have the Minister should accept the amendment rather than go into, as Senator Howard has indicated, a maelstrom of applications. If local authorities are to be seen to represent the people and ensure the objectives of this Bill are carried out the amendment submitted by Senator Finneran should be accepted rather than asking the General Council of County Councils should get into the swimming pool with perhaps 15 or 16 other associations. The Minister clearly indicated she will be depending on local authorities to ensure that the objectives of this Bill are carried out. For that reason, not to protect the family as some Senators suggested, and to ensure that the objectives of the Bill in its entirety can be fulfilled, the amendment should be accepted.

I have no objection in principle to the General Council of County Councils being represented but what is undesirable is that they be specifically mentioned in the Bill. It would be better if they were treated as one of the organisations under section 27 (5) (d) and be represented through that vehicle rather than have it statutorily included that they would as of right have representation. Within the public mind, if it was included in the Bill that they should have representation, it would certainly cause some suspicion that this agency were not entirely independent because we had mentioned one body to the exclusion of other bodies who might have some good claims to be represented also and be named in the Bill.

From section 55 onwards a great deal of the Bill concerns itself with the role of local authorities in the operation of the agency. One could argue on both sides that it may be undesirable for local authorities to be represented because so many parts of the Bill impinge upon what they should do and govern their activities. Senator Doyle asked earlier on what basis people would be nominated to represent the General Council of County Councils. I suppose the Cathaoirleach might suggest that the names be put into a hat and drawn out.

He has no objection.

If they included my own.

I hope the House is aware that when names are put into the hat it is the name that remains in the hat who is the winner.

There was only one name in the hat.

The same name twice.

There is agreement among us but if you push me too far I might go back into my shell. We cannot specify one group as opposed to any other. It would cause too many difficulties because whilst I appreciate and sympathise with the concern of Members here that local authority members are not ignored and should be very involved in this advisory committee equally I have had pressure from other organisations and groups who would like to be given an assurance. I will adopt the same approach to everybody to ensure that there is a balanced and representative group on the advisory committee. I am prepared to ensure that under ministerial appointments or under section 27 (5) (d) there will be a representative of the local authorities and I hope that that will satisfy the Senators. They are going into the pool but local authorities are good swimmers even in a large pool and are able to survive better than most. They may have more influence than other groups within this procedure.

I think that any Minister or Government of whatever colour appointing the advisory committee would ensure that local authority representatives were incorporated and that an appropriate person to represent local authority interests was on the committee. I give you that assurance here this afternoon and I hope that that will satisfy the Members. Otherwise we will have a whole host of problems because it is going to be difficult to prescribe the organisations and specify who or what organisations are involved here and then to do the picking and choosing. Regardless of who would be deciding the Minister of the day would ensure that the goodwill of the local authority members was with this agency and that they were very much involved in the advisory committee.

I spoke specifically about the General Council of County Councils. The Minister replied on the basis of local authorities and I can understand that, but on that point she raised I do agree with her that for this agency to work well there must be a tandem approach. The local councils and the county boroughs are the planning authorities which is why they are so different from any other organisation. I respect Senator Dardis; any contribution he makes in this House is excellent but I feel that he is not grasping my point. The General Council of County Councils, representing the 27 local authorities and five county boroughs has a vital role as far as this agency is concerned. If there is any conflict between the two or any sense of oneupmanship, the agency will not work satisfactorily. Representation on the advisory committee from the General Council of County Councils is desirable. When the Minister replied she did not specify the General Council of County Councils as being involved.

If there was a representative from a local authority, where would that person take their brief from? They could only take it from the local authority they came from. The brief of a representative of the General Council who had aspired to the position of executive, vice chairman, or Chairman would have to come from 32 different local authorities; they would not be speaking on their own behalf or with the authority of one county council or one county borough, but on behalf of that organisation which represented 32 local authorities. That is why I am interested that this umbrella organisation for the whole planning process should have an input into the advisory committee. Therefore, I am appealing to the Minister to recognise the General Council of County Councils for what they are. The whole basis and future of planning and development in this country and the co-operation that will I hope ensue between the agency and the local authorities could at any time be enhanced by having somebody there who be able to advise on one side or the other as a representative of both agency and council. It would be a two-way process and I think nothing but good could come from it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 100 to 103, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 24, subsection (6) (b), line 2, after "Minister" to insert "two of whom shall be nominees of the General Council of County Councils".

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 26.

  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Hourigan, Richard V.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Neville, Daniel.
  • Ó Foighil, Pól.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Raftery, Tom.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Upton, Pat.


  • Bennett, Olga.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Byrne, Sean.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Conroy, Richard.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Fallon, Sean.
  • Lydon, Don.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullooly, Brian.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • Farrell, Willie.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Kiely, Dan.
  • Lanigan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donovan, Denis A.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • Ryan, Eoin David.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Cosgrave and Neville; Níl, Senators Wright and Fitzgerald.
Amendment declared lost.

I am amazed that the Fine Gael group cannot accept the Minister's word on this. She has given a commitment that one nominee of the general council will be on the advisory committee.


Order, please——

Their bluff was called.


Both sides have done very well on this.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.