I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 26 and 60 together.
The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.
Officials from my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government worked closely with Teagasc throughout the entire process of developing the action programme, the regulations and the derogation application. A series of meetings, involving Teagasc and both Departments, took place during 2005 to examine a number of issues and to facilitate submission of the draft regulations to the Commission. In the negotiations which followed, and which were frequently difficult, both Departments made use of the advice provided by Teagasc. Documents provided by Teagasc, including a note on aspects of the proposed nitrogen fertilisation rates for grassland in Ireland, were provided to the Commission.
It was the Commission which determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.
Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.
Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.