Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 1993


I move amendment No. 40:

In page 21, subsection (1), between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

"(a) to cooperate in regular joint meeting of elected representatives and officials from the respective local authorities in the metropolitan as shall be called by request from one or more of the Dublin local authorities,".

In this section, I have noticed that the only reference of any substance is to the fact that all the administrative areas, with the city, are very much part of an overall unit; it is almost like a ship. We are dealing with them and providing for them to be in sections for the sake of being accessible and locally responsive, which is to be welcomed. However, the important area of co-ordination has caused problems in the past. Although section 32 states: "to have regard to the overall interests of the combined administrative areas of the principal authorities", in relation to the regional government framework, it goes no further than "having regard to" and "taking all appropriate steps."

Councillors, in particular, believe this is something to do with managers meeting on a regular basis, which they already do. They believe it is administrative and ensures officials do not make any blunders by stepping on each other's toes. Meetings between the city and the county have been few and far between. However, a recent meeting highlighted areas of common interest and if problems in relation in them are not tackled in a co-ordinated fashion by elected representatives and officials, difficulties will arise further down the road.

As the Minister knows, I have a keen interest in waste management. Given its size, the Dublin area has become a nightmare. Councillors and officials have spoken independently of one another in different areas and this has caused some problems. I speak with a certain amount of experience in this regard as there is a large municapal dump in the estuarine region of Rogerstown. It comes down to a question of co-ordination in that area. The various administrative areas have turned a blind eye to this problem because it is so great.

Transport is another area in which there are sectional interests and where co-ordination is needed if problems are to be tackled. I thought the Government had abandoned the eastern bypass but it has reared its head again.

Housing responsibility, something which has occupied the minds of councillors——

We will come to that later.

My amendment provides for regular meetings between representatives and officials from different areas. As I said earlier, it is important to allow that to happen now, rather than saying that we are planning a new regional government framework which will look after this in future. We should allow this to happen because many of these problems are already causing crisis in particular areas. Indeed we must encourage this to happen, rather than including "having regard" because that allows for negligence.

From what the Minister said about the new regional authority, we know the type of structure which will be in place in relation to regular meetings of councillors. However, I agree with Deputy Sargent when he said we do not know the extent of the remit of the regional authority and how it will control this.

If, for example, Fingal County Council or Dublin County Council institute a major development along the northern border of Dublin City Council without applying to the planning department, the housing department or anyone else in Dublin Corporation or Dublin City Council, would it be breaking the law as it stands or under section 32 of this Bill when enacted?

In relation to the Ove Arup proposals on the eastern bypass which Deputy Sargent mentioned, community groups and residents in the northside of the city in areas such as Whitehall and Drumcondra have been pressing for the construction of the tunnel and to get the new proposal through.

We will deal with the broader question of co-ordination in the next amendment. Suffice it to say now that in circumstances where new regional authorities are established, it is not necessary to have a mandatory provision for joint meetings as proposed in the amendment.

At present, I am working on the regulations for the establishment of the regional authorities and, as I said in the Dáil yesterday, they should be in place early in the new year. I am anxious that these regulations ensure the competence of the regional authority to deal with the broader question of co-ordination between State agencies and involvement in the planning process. While it should have a wide remit, if possible, it is important to keep our feet on the ground. The reason for the establishment of this new body of authorities is to bring the people closer to the administration. A strange development is that there is now pressure in regard to what will happen at regional level. The argument on both sides is correct. First, the administration must be as close as possible to the people and, secondly, there is the overall question of how we co-ordinate and make sense of everything we do in the city and, indeed, beyond the city and county.

Deputy Broughan raised a question in relation to what might happen in a border area. From June 1994 the full impact of the provisions of the Planning and Development Act, 1993, will be felt. As far as a public authority is concerned, the consultative process, the question of adequate notice for development and the decisions and the involvement of local elected members will mean that everyone knows what is happening in relation to planning, development and building.

The principle Deputy Sargent is trying to meet is met adequately by the regional authorities. However, there is always an opportunity to have joint meetings. In Tipperary north and Tipperary south joint meetings have always been part and parcel of the relationship between those two authorities, but only in circumstances where they were deemed necessary, as we have had I am sure may well be the position out the country more. Joint meetings between North and South Tipperary have always been part of the relationship between the two authorities but only were deemed necessary. The power to do that is a matter for the local authorities themselves but the regional authorities take care of the main arguments outlined here.

Broadly speaking we would all agree with what section 32 seeks to do, which is to facilitate co-ordination, co-operation and consultation between the local authorities in Dublin. However, it seems to me that section 32 will be a gift for lawyers. Increasingly local authorities are being brought to court by interest groups, residents' associations or individuals on foot of the performance of their functions in relations to halting sites for travellers, road proposals and so on. Section 32 as it stands as a statement of principle is going to add a further opportunity for litigation unless a mechanism is provided whereby there can be co-operation, and Deputy Sargent's amendment is going in that direction.

As I mentioned yesterday, it is a bit rich to include in this Bill a provision on co-operation between local authorities when the 1991 Act provided for the establishment of joint committees between local authorities and they cannot be established because the Minister has not yet implemented the relevant sections of the Act. In the area with which I am most familiar, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, we want to establish a joint committee with Bray Urban Council as there are a range of border problems between the respective local authorities on which we would like to work but we cannot do it because the relevant section has not yet been implemented. We would go a long way towards achieving co-operation between local authorities if the 1991 Act was implemented and the Minister introduced the regulations to allow the committees and joint committees of local authorities to be set up.

There is not much I can add. I was unaware of circumstances in which Dún Laoghaire Corporation could not have a meeting with their neighbours——

We can have meetings but we cannot set up a joint committee. The 1991 Act said we could set up joint committees but we cannot do so until the Minister brings in the regulations and implements it.

Is it not a matter of having that arrangement with Wicklow County Council as distinct from Bray Urban Council?

We cannot do it until the Minister implements the sections.

I am not sure that is the position but I am prepared to examine it.

Could the Minister tell us why those sections have not been brought in?

I hope we are making some progress. The Minister's response sounded almost like what I said myself and I was assuming he was going to say it sounded reasonable. However, I still have not lost hope. The urgency of the situation must be recognised. Regional government will not be put in place overnight but many of these problems are already spilling over into the community and causing enormous friction, not to mention giving rise to legal proceedings.

If at all possible we should learn from any experience which has not been good. Meetings and requests from area committees and Dublin County Council for meetings with the City Council have not always been met with open arms. I am not sure of the situation the other way around, but maybe Deputy Broughan will let me know. There have been delays and I do not know if they were intentional or accidental. At meeting after meeting we have asked if there has been any word back on proposals for a meeting but there is a deadly silence. That is not acceptable.

As the Deputy said, we are in broad agreement about what we are trying to achieve here. I have had a different experience of opportunities for joint meetings, which have never been a problem in the south. With regard to the non-implementation of a part of the 1991 Act and the amendment between now and Report Stage, I will look at a way which will give a better guarantee. I have to confess that I was unaware that requests for meetings of that kind in modern Ireland would be suffocated by anybody in an elected or administrative capacity. It is not something I have experienced in my work as a local representative. I am sorry to hear it has happened and that we have to legislate for it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 41, 42 and 43 are related and will be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 22, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following subsection.

"(7) The Minister may, by regulation, extend or modify the role of the Dublin regional authority.".

One of the greatest handicaps in discussing this Bill has been the lack of detail available to us on the proposed regional authority. This section deals to an extent with the principle of co-ordination but is incomplete. It makes little sense if we are not to hear from the Minister his plans as to the functions and structure of the regional authority.

My three amendments suggest the areas I would like to see come within the remit of the regional authority. I feel strongly that transport should be one of those areas. Amendment No. 41 facilitates the need for a subcommittee of the Dublin regional authority specifically charged with the physical planning and organisation of transport in the greater Dublin Metropolitan area. Since strategic planning and transport have such a broad area to encompass due to having four large and important local authorites in the Dublin area, we need a specific subcommittee to handle them.

I will not delay the committee this evening by going into detail but we could spend an afternoon discussing the functions of the former Dublin Transport Authority. This was an excellent authority whose functions should now be transferred to a subcommittee of the Dublin regional authority. We also need to provide for the co-ordinating responsibility of the regional authority in this Bill so that we will know exactly what we are discussing. The problems that will arise in terms of housing and the operation of housing policy in four distinct local authorities without an overall co-ordinating policy or directive of some kind, will be almost insurmountable.

At the moment, 60 to 70 per cent of the vacancies in Dublin Corporation houses occur in the county council area. Proposals under this Bill, with which we will be dealing shortly, will transfer all the houses owned by the corporation but which are actually in the county council area to the relevant county council. In other words, up to 70 per cent of Dublin Corporation's housing vacancies in any one year are being removed from its list. I do not know whether there will be a common housing list. Apart from housing applicants, how will transfers be organised between four independent local authorities? Dublin Corporation has 5,152 applicants on its housing list and a transfer list of 7,198. Are applicants on the Dublin Corporation transfer list to be excluded from the possibility of transfer from, perhaps, a high rise flat to a house which is located in a county council area, recently built by the corporation but now handed over to the county council? They should not.

Lest anyone thinks that magnanimity or generosity will prevail on this issue. I wish to tell the Minister that even at district level of a county council, district councillors jealously guard housing vacancies which occur in their area, keeping them for applicants from their area. That is the general experience. Therefore, saying that the authorities can meet and arrange a swap or a deal will not work. I suspect that with the huge numbers in Dublin relative to other county councils, the logistics of sorting out transfer applicants between different independent local authorities will be insurmountable unless there is an overall co-ordinating policy, common housing list or a greater Dublin transfer policy of some kind. Councillors will not house people from outside their electoral area unless they are obliged by some greater structure than exists at the moment. I am being honest about this. That situation exists in Wexford County Council. In my own district, the Wexford district of the county council, there is mayhem any time it is suggested that we house someone from the New Ross district, yet the New Ross district borders Wexford district and the applicant may only live a mile on the other side of the Wexford-New Ross border. These applicants are treated as if they are from outer Mongolia when it is suggested that they dare move into a house in our district. An extremely parochial view is taken of people from outside moving into the district. I suppose our electoral system has something to do with it.

Deputy Sargent briefly mentioned waste management. At the moment Kildare County Council and Dublin County Council are involved in megaphone diplomacy. We have public debate and confrontation between two neighbouring county councils in relation to the selection of the Kill site — whoever selected the Kill site without planning permission being agreed needs his head examined, but that is another day's work — and there is great difficulty in resolving that issue. If there is to be no co-ordinating body or regional authority as the Minister proposes, with the powers to deal with the problems I am raising here, without debating the role and function of the regional authorities parallel to this debate, we are seriously handicapped in being able to support various aspects of it. We are discussing the body without the head. Lest there be any misinterpretation of what I am saying, I believe a detailed co-ordinating role of a Dublin regional authority outlining its functional areas, as I have attempted to do, would in no way threaten the statutory functions of councillors or any of the county councils we are establishing. I am not attempting to suggest that the Dublin regional authority should tell Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council what it will spend on housing or where it will build its houses. I am talking about strategic planning in regard to housing, waste management and water services.

As regards rezoning, this is relevant to many sections. We have already had three helpings of it today and had a good debate on it. I am suggesting strategic planning as an absolute requirement in terms off the role and function of a Dublin regional authority. We are not sure whether this function would be granted to them but if it is, how will it be structured? There is agreement on how the fire services will operate. One local authority will operate the fire services for all four, if I understand correctly. Lest any problems should arise down the line in terms of the existing fire service or an extension of the fire service, this is an area where a regional authority would have an overall function in terms of planning for the entire greater Dublin area.

The same could be said of the library service. Two library services exist at the moment and I do not know whether we will have two librarians, one or an extra one, in the new county council areas — views on that differ. It is an issue for the strategic planning of the library service.

I have mentioned just some points. I feel very strongly that we need to know what the Minister has in mind in terms of the structural function and role of the regional authorities generally — but in particular the Dublin regional authority — in conjunction with this legislation. Many of the fears and concerns expressed here by Deputies on all sides might be allayed if we knew the structure of the regional authority which will have an overall co-ordinating and strategic planning function in terms of the greater Dublin area.

I ask the Minister to accept my amendments but if he cannot. I ask him to indicate in detail to the Committee what his proposals for the Dublin regional authority will be so that we can have assurances about the areas I mentioned. There could be many other areas about which Deputies are concerned will be catered for in terms of the proper planning and development and environmental impact of the greater Dublin area.

It is important to tease out the role and function of the regional authority. Deputy Broughan will remember a meeting between Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation — not exactly a meeting of minds, but at least it was a start — to discuss the difficulties which would face us and to some extent for people to get things off their chest. That was the start of a process to help the three county councils in Dublin to work together. None of us can exist in isolation.

Deputy Gilmore talked about the difficulty of setting up joint committees with Bray District Council and so on. It is critical that we have a co-ordinating body whose functions we understand. In the initial stages, part of its functions will be to support each other. It is useful in this regard that Deputy Doyle put down amendments because they help to focus the mind on those areas. She is right in saying that housing is a difficult area. In the county we are happy with the arrangements that have been made and I know Dublin Corporation has great difficulties in that regard. I am not anxious to simply ignore that, it should be the subject of discussion and it is important that we should be aware of the misgivings that collegues on other authorities have voiced. I appeal to the Minister at this time, or perhaps he would need to wait until Report Stage to delineate his thinking on the role and duty of the regional authority as it pertains particularly to Dublin and under the various headings we have listed, to give us his views on the co-ordinating of the functions under the headings described by Deputy Doyle.

The three county councils about to come into existence and the one existing council have worked out a modus operandi in many of the areas referred to in amendment No. 43, for example, Dublin City Council in the running of the fire service. From the city council’s point of view, the key matter is housing. For all the reasons Deputy Doyle eloquently expressed, the bottom line is — I know that we have not come to section 35 and the Third Schedule, where the key contentious issue lie — that Dublin Corporation loses half its tenancy housing and, as Deputy Doyle said, it has a huge transfer list.

The vast bulk of the housing stock with which the corporation is effectively left are apartments and flats, many of which are in bad condition and in Ballymun for example, a refurbishment programme which would cost in the region of £120 million to £130 million — a huge chunk of the Department's budget for any one year — is urgently needed. As it stands, it almost shoots an arrow through the heart of Dublin City Council's housing department. The Minister will say there is already scope in the legislation for the various managers, especially the managers of South Dublin and Dublin City Council, to work out a common procedure on housing which could alleviate the problem, but I would go along with Deputy Doyle's statements. We would need to spell out to the regional authority that there would be an onus on it to coordinate in housing and other areas, but especially in an area where one of the county councils would feel that a serious and major change is happening to the way it operates.

The structure of the housing lists in Dublin City Council and the other three counties is totally different. There is much greater deprivation in the city council area. For example, the proportion of local authority to private housing in Dublin city is far more than twice that in the three new county areas. There is a special problem here for Dublin City Council which I hope the Minister will tackle.

There is also some concern among members of Dublin City Council — and this may be true of the members of the other three new counties — that the basic powers of local government should not be moved too much towards a regional body because we could have a fairly powerful regional body but emasculated councils. A fine balance has to be found and I hope the Minister will strive to find it.

There is some merit in this amendment. While there is, theoretically, co-operation between the city and the county councils, in many respects it is hard to see it. The management of both authorities, and probably the elected local representatives, manipulate situations. There may be inbuilt confusion but people add to it.

If we are to have four authorities instead of two, the danger is that there will be a doubling of the confusion. At present, one would think that at times the two authorities were almost at war because we accuse one another of arrogance and lack of co-operation, the county councils blame us for what we do with housing in the county and we blame them for what they do around the boundaries with Dunsink and travelling camps. There is no co-operation. While there is some agreement on how to work in the future for some of the items listed here, large parts of the northside had their water supply cut off for 12 hours each day because the county council is hoarding its water and trying to build up Ballycoolin reservoir. They treat their own people one way but they do not care about the people living in the corporation area. Large segments of the northside are served through Leixlip and Ballycoolin, and the reservoir had run dry and the county council wanted to build up its water stocks. What did it do? It cut off the water supply for the corporation tenants for 12 hours — a theoretical 12 hours — for a week. In reality the water was turned off for 16 to 18 hours because the pipes got full of air and the people did not get any water. There is need for more co-operation because the danger is that with four bodies the confusion will increase. I will not discuss the housing list, which is the major problem, because it has been discussed in adequate detail already.

The case has been made that the regional authority should have a strong co-ordinating role in a number of areas. Although Dublin has had a common system of management through the years, whatever co-operation there is, certainly at elected member level, is more on a personal than a structured basis. It has been the experience, and it cuts in both directions, that services provided by one authority in the area of the other are poor because there is not the degree of democratic accountability to elected members in those areas, for example, where Dublin Corporation provides water supply to parts of the county council area or the county council provides a service to the corporation area. We already given housing as an example. Because of the lack of democratic accountability to elected members for those services, the service provided outside the council's area is of a lower standard.

We are now discussing making arrangements for the fire service. The proposal here is to absorb the Dún Laoghaire fire service into the corporation fire service. One of the concerns I would have is that, again, there is a lack of democratic control and accountability. It is important to put in place structures where there is accountability. Co-operation and co-ordination cannot be left solely to managers and officials. I would expect that to happen anyway, and it would be important that it would happen, but there has to be accountability to elected members. Where that is not the case, the service and the people suffer.

This is very much what I hoped to see, but I am not sure about how quickly it can be put into place. I have heard the Minister refer to Tipperary on a number of occasions. When density of numbers are being discussed, we should look towards the greater urban conurbation. It amazes me that there is this lack of co-operation and co-ordination between the various bodies with responsibility in Dublin compared to the population that has to be catered for in cities in Britain, many of which have populations greater than this country. There is a degree of co-operation that is possible — we do not seem to have reached it — but while we may put in place good models of co-operation and co-ordination at this point, I fear the transitional period will be critical.

I do not want any "as soon as possible" type of solution because, unfortunately, experience shows that "as soon as possible" is never immediate or soon enough. In this case, I would like to see the immediate problems being ironed out; in other words, breaking down the barriers which lead to a lack of communication. We must ensure this is done before beginning the grand scheme. We should do something as soon as possible and fill in details along the way.

In the late 1930s we had Canon Hayes in County Tipperary. We are used to co-operation and that is why we win All-Irelands. Is the Deputy going to draw me on Wexford?

I will hold on to my money. I am sensible enough when it comes to that.

These amendments concern the role and powers of the Dublin regional authority which is to be established by order under section 43 of the Local Government Act, 1991. I hope to do that so the authorities can be established on 1 January 1994. The only problem my officials and I had in relation to all the activities in this reorganisational process is that the same people have to complete this as well as other work. We are anxious to process that work, although a considerable amount has been done already. I look forward to fulfilling the promise I made this evening in that regard.

While the emphasis of the debate has been on a regulatory or an overseeing type of regional authority, I would like it to have a broader role, although one cannot make an order to that effect. In addition to bringing people together to do something, it should have a vision as to where these processes will lead the county and city and should work towards that.

These amendments are premature. They anticipate the precise role which will be conferred on the regional authority provided for in the 1991 Act and one way or another expand that role in a particular way. Co-ordinating regional authorities was first recommended in the report of the independent Barrington committee. This was provided for by the Oireachtas in the 1991 Act and specifically endorsed in the Dublin reorganisation report as the appropriate arena for co-ordination of services in the Dublin area.

As I said, the precise role of the new regional authorities will be spelled out shortly. It would not be appropriate to confer on the Dublin regional authority the powers vested in the former Dublin Transport Authority as these go beyond co-ordination and, therefore, beyond the role recommeded in the Barrington report and what was provided for in the 1991 Act. I would not be in favour of extending the role of the Dublin regional authority by way of ministerial regulation. Indeed, I am surprised Deputy Doyle wishes to vest such powers in the Minister for the Environment. Most of the Deputy's contribution in relation to additional powers for the Minister were the opposite to this. The specific service areas such as housing, sewage, etc., listed by the amendment are matters to be encompassed by the co-ordinating role of the Dublin regional authority. I do not believe they are necessary because the powers vested in me by section 43 of the 1991 Act are broad enough to allow the order to provide the necessary co-ordination in all these areas.

The underlying assumption behind these amendments is that the powers in the Bill to ensure co-ordination of services, with the powers in the 1991 Act, are defective or unlikely to work satisfactorily. That is not the case and I hope to prove it. To go beyond a co-ordinating role for the regional authorites would inevitably mean removing powers currently vested in local authorities. The thrust of local government reform is to build up the role of local authorities. I would be reluctant to move in tbis direction, except as a last resort.

There is uneasiness in relation to the regional authorities and we must clarify the position in this regard. It has been my ambition, since becoming Minister for the Environment, to give as much power as possible to those at local level. Regarding the regional authorities, I will not divest some of the authority as outlined in the amendment, although I am not saying I fully understand it. I am satisfied these amendments are neither necessary or desirable and that a satisfactory level of co-ordination can be achieved using the powers provided for in the Bill and in the 1991 Act.

There will be four principal authorities in the Dublin area, three new county councils and Dublin Corporation. To ensure proper co-ordination between the local authorities on an ongoing basis and in a properly structured manner, section 32 of the Bill requires their managers to put in place appropriate procedures for consultation and co-operation. These will involve consultation and co-operation at official level, regular meetings and other practical arrangements worked out locally to ensure the new statutory duties introduced by the Bill are complied with. In this regard, the Bill imposes a statutory duty on local authorities in performing their functions to have regard to the metropolitan interest, at official or elected member level. By virtue of section 32, in performing any statutory function which may have an impact on the metropolitan area in relation to waste disposal, roads, a major planning application, etc., the relevant local authority must take into account the metropolitan interest. This is designed to ensure local authorites do not operate in isolation and without reference to the overall Dublin area.

The regional authorities will be in a position to formulate a regional framework which will form a necessary backdrop for local authority operations to be undertaken with reference to the metropolitan interest. Their role will be to promote the co-ordination of public services generally in the regions, including local authority services. Dublin city and the three new counties will constitute the Dublin region. The regional authorities will have an important contribution to make to national development by promoting co-ordination and co-operation among the various agencies responsible for the provision of public services, including local authorities.

The new authorities will be well placed to view local problems, needs and priorities from the broader regional perspective. They will also provide a regional focus and voice where they are lacking at present. One aspect of the regional authorities' role which will be of immense significance is the fact that these areas will be used for the purpose of EC Structural and Cohesion Funds. They will be responsible for monitoring and devising the implementation of the operational programmes at regional level and making recommendations to programme monitoring committees. Specific provisions regarding the powers, functions and other details pertaining to the regional authorities will be set out in an order which is being prepared and its drafting will be completed as soon as possible.

Section 32 of the Bill specifically requires individual local authorities to have regard to any report, submission or joint submission made by the Dublin or Mid East regional authority. In this regard, I expect both authorities to work closely with a view to devising an appropriate frame work for Dublin and the surrounding areas. Taken together, the provision of the Bill and the operation of the regional authorities will ensure co-ordination on an ongoing basis and within the regional dimension. This will apply in relation to local authority services and functions affecting the entire Dublin area including the review and co-ordination of development plans.

I have been long-winded in relation to this matter, but it was raised by Deputy Doyle on Second Stage and I did not have the opportunity to reply. I believe it required this kind of treatment so that we could reach a consensus as to where this regional dimension will take us. On one hand, we have the maximum power vested at local level and on the other the broader regional power which would not take powers from locally elected members but would at official level, with the provision in section 32, give us the best type of co-ordination which would ensure that some of the problems outlined would not exist.

It is fair to say that we should have reached the stage before now where the question of meetings between local authorities should not require the backing of law. However, that is the reality and we are dealing with it in as comprehensive a way as we can. I look forward to the success of these authorities. As we complete the work on the preparation of that order I will bear in mind, as far as possible, the type of contributions that have been made and have as realistic and as powerful a regional authority as is necessary without undermining the fundamental strengths of the local authority itself.

I thank the Minister for a very comprehensive reply. He need not question or be amused at me proposing extra regulation or secondary legislation by way of regulation in this manner. My difficulty with regulations, and I thought I made myself clear yesterday, is the annulling procedure. I accept the need for the regulation process, particularly for minor changes or technical amendments to primary legislation. However, what I need to feel comfortable with the whole area of government by regulation is a much more flexible and democratic use of the annulment procedure whereby a motion to annual a regulation is taken in Government time and there is an opportunity to vote on it in the House.

I think we have reached an accommodation where we can try to make something.

We will try. That is my difficulty; it is not with the process of regulation generally.

Regarding the specific issue of the regional authorities, the Minister talks of hoping to meet a commencement date of 1 January. If I recall correctly, the Minister promised a full debate in the House on the regional authorities before they came into being. If he is to meet that promise I suggest it will be very hard to meet 1 January with the couple of weeks' business left this side of Christmas. I hope he can fulfil his promise because the regional authorities are a very important new step in terms of regional government generally. The powers and functions which will be conferred on them, how they will operate and the co-ordinating role generally envisaged, need to be properly teased out in the Dáil separately and as an issue on its own. We are handicapped in understanding how this Bill will operate when it is enacted by not having the full details of the co-ordinating role that will be provided by the Dublin regional authorities. There are major gaps. There are enabling provisions in this Bill for resolving problems that may arise, such as banging managers' heads together as the Minister mentioned, although he put it more politely.

The largest concerns, in terms of what this Bill is trying to achieve, rest with the co-ordination of major services in the greater Dublin area. One of the biggest concerns is how the housing needs of that area will be looked after, given the division into three new county councils and the particular problems we will reach in the next section or two in relation to Dublin Corporation and how they will meet their housing requirement. I am very concerned about strategic planning and without reopening the so-called rezoning issue, there is obviously a large area that needs co-ordination and is not just left to individual local authorities and individual development plans. There has to be an overall vision and philosophy of the type of greater Dublin area we want in the future and where it is going in terms of physical development and strategic planning generally.

There is a role there and I do not know how this regional authority will operate in this area. Similarly, one could take any of these areas and go through them. I hope the Minister can meet the commencement date of 1 January. We should have debated the regional authorities in conjunction with this legislation which would have been most appropriate. The Minister also needs to give a commitment that before the commencement date and the establishment of the regional authorities on 1 January there will be a full debate in the Houses in relation to their structures and functions.

I will be brief. My concern is about a word the Minister used. In line with his wish not to be restrictive, could he change the word waste "disposal" to waste "management"? I am sure he will rarely hear waste disposal at tomorrow's meeting of the Council of Ministers. The matter of dealing with waste is far broader than that.

That is a gentle slap on the hand for the Minister for the Environment. I support my colleague on this side of the House.

The Deputies must understand that, even with the best will in the world, and the best waste management systems, there will still have to be waste disposal.

It is part of the overall plan.

The Minister is talking about not being restrictive. I am simply trying to help in that process.

In relation to the question on planning, I would be extremely anxious to find a vehicle through the regional authority where it would have an involvement in strategic planning and it is not the easiest exercise in the world. In spite of what Deputy Currie said earlier, I hope to be able to demonstrate that we can have sensible ways of resolving controversial difficulties without always requiring ministerial intervention as he or she may not be the only person who knows everything about planning. We must all accept that it is not the easiest question to resolve in that way.

I will do my best to meet the 1 January commitment and I will be heavily involved next week on Report Stage. I must then go to the Seanad and complete Second, Committee and Reports Stages there. I must also complete Second Stage of the Road Traffic Bill, 1993, so I do not know what time I will have to make any further commitments.

The Minister indicated previously that we would debate the establishment of the regional authorities fully before commencement date.

It is pure——

That is why I questioned the logistics. We will be presented with a fait accompli in terms of these regional authorities. To be fair, to allow the democratic procedure to work, and to be seen to work, it is unacceptable to introduce a new tier of regional government without any debate in this House. That is why I questioned the feasibility of the timetable the Minister gave, regarding his promise some time ago for a debate. It is very important that we debate the whole concept of regional authorities and the structure and role of same.

I am still prepared to do my best. I am just unable to give any guarantees. It is stretching it and I do not want to——

We are buying a pig in a poke with this Bill if we do not know what role the Dublin Regional Authority will have in co-ordinating the new Dublin authorities.

The Deputy has listened to me for the last half hour. She has a good idea of where I am going.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.
Section 32 agreed to.