Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Prohibition of Micro-Plastics Bill 2016: Discussion (Resumed)

9:30 am

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the delegates for the presentations and again acknowledge the work of both Deputy Sean Sherlock and Senator Grace O'Sullivan. If the departmental officials take anything from this meeting it is that there is a very strong consensus in the committee that we want to see something being done in a timely fashion. One of the values of engaging in pre-legislative scrutiny is that it allows us have these conversations to ensure the final legislation - be it from the Opposition, the Government or an amalgam of the two - will be the best possible. I welcome all of the comments made.

Mr. Harrington is overstating the potential problems from a European Commission perspective when he says there will be implications for the principle of free movement. In its engagement with the British Government on this issue, for example, the Commission explicitly stated this might not be the case and that there could be circumstances where a ban on certain products for environmental reasons could be consistent with internal market rules and that, therefore, a derogation would not be required. It is important to note that it is not as hard and fast as Mr. Harrington's choice of language suggests. As we know, the French have passed legislation dealing with microbeads and the British Government is progressing its own. There are some reflections at EU level on how EU policy in this area fits into global policies. Notwithstanding that, I am interested in Mr. Harrington expanding a little more on two comments made in the presentation. What are his thoughts on including "robust" and "future-proofed" definitions of microbeads and plastics? Will he expand a little more on the information contained in the briefing note? He spoke about working out how prohibition could be enforced. If there are even initial thoughts on that issue, I am interested in hearing them.

I was quite taken by Dr. Nash's comments on the umpire analogy. The straight question from our perspective is what would she like to see added, taking account of Dr. Lynch's point that we cannot include everything in one piece of legislation. Could certain things be added at this point before returning to others? This is not just about substances to be banned; there is also the concern about mitigation, on which I am interested in hearing further comments.

As a side point, last week we were considering another piece of water-related policy - the revised EU drinking water directive. It is about trying to take a risk-based approach to removing things from sources of drinking water. We have spoken primarily about the marine end of the microbeads issue. Is there any research or consideration from the science or Department end in terms of the implications for drinking water? It is something we might need to consider in the context of the revised EU directive.


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