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 Header Item Local Government Fund (Continued)
 Header Item Septic Tank Registration Scheme
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy, we have dealt with that. This has nothing to do with the question.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett -----and threatening the future of young people and their career and education prospects?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you, Deputy. There is a Deputy sitting here who has been waiting for the past three quarters of an hour for his question. I thought the Deputy had a question when I gave him the floor. I call Deputy Higgins.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Minister is not from County Clare, thank God.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins I ask the Minister to acknowledge that since the household tax is almost an austerity tax to bail out the speculators and bondholders, it is absolutely immoral for him to cut back on funds for services from central taxation that will affect the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people. Does the Minister not agree further that it is an outrage that county councils would threaten students with their grants-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I thank the Deputy and ask him to put his question in respect of what is on the Order Paper.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins -----to try to blackmail their parents into giving up their completely justified boycott against this tax?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We have already dealt with that issue.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan As Deputy Higgins is aware, the Government is trying to broaden the tax base from a standing start with no database and it will do that.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The Minister should listen to Peter Bacon, who has ridiculed that idea. He rebuts it.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Deputy must be the only socialist in the world who is against that-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Is it okay to blackmail people?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan -----as one of the few so-called socialists in the place. However, the Government will broaden the tax base. Unlike Deputy Higgins, it does not wish to impose any more tax on workers.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Who will pay the property tax? Will it be someone from Mars?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We will turn to Question No. 47.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Apparently, a Cheann Comhairle, there are secret pots of gold under every house.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you, Deputy. Please speak through the Chair.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Deputy should try the fracking.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you. Please speak through the Chair.

Septic Tank Registration Scheme

 47. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of septic tank owners that have signed up to the registration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39006/12]

 50. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the financial supports that will be put in place to assist households upgrading their septic tanks to meet the new standards. [39072/12]

 76. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will outline the details of the septic tank registration information campaign he has undertaken; the money budgeted for the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39011/12]

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 50 and 76 together.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provided for the establishment of a new system for the registration and inspection of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems. The 2012 Act augments the duty of care placed on the owners of on-site waste water treatment systems, under section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007, to ensure their systems do not endanger public health or the environment. The basic standard to be met by all on-site systems is they are operated and maintained correctly and do not endanger public health or the environment. Following a public consultation process earlier this year, I made regulations in June specifying standards for the operation and maintenance of treatment systems. The standards set out in the regulations are consistent with what owners should be doing as a matter of course to ensure their systems are working properly.

I also made separate regulations in June setting out the procedures for householders to register details of their treatment systems with their local authorities. The Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, has developed for the 34 county and city councils, on a shared service basis, an online registration facility and the agency is also tasked with managing a central bureau to process payments of the registration fee. There are just ten days remaining for people to avail of the reduced registration fee of €5 and thereafter, up to the end of February 2013, the fee will be €50 and I encourage householders to register as soon as possible. Application forms are available from local authority offices, public libraries and citizens’ information centres or the fee can be paid online at www.protectourwater.ie. I have asked the local authorities to distribute an information leaflet to all homes in un-sewered areas advising householders of how they can register, as well providing some practical advice on the operation and maintenance of septic tanks. In addition, the LGMA has placed advertisements with local newspapers and radio stations informing the public about the requirement to register and in particular about the reduced registration fee available until 28 September.

Revenue from the registration fee will be used to cover the costs of developing and maintaining the register and associated costs, including publicity and awareness measures.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Will the Minister penalise local authorities if he does not achieve the level of registration he expects or seeks in this regard as well? I note the Minister has been in possession of the Thornhill report since June and Members are waiting to find out when he will finish reading it before bringing it to the Government. Second, for how long has the Minister had to hand the recommendations in respect of the guidelines that might form a uniform guideline to be applicable nationwide in respect of standards for septic tanks? I presume the Minister has made no provision for funds that might be available for those who do not meet such guidelines for standards when he eventually publishes them.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley The Minister should indicate the number of people who have registered as I have not heard an answer to date. In a similar question to the previous speaker, will the local authorities be penalised on a pro rata basis in this regard? I refer to the financial supports that will be available because people are taking a leap of faith in this regard. While they may not be happy to so do, some people are registering. However, as matters stand they have no certainty or clue as to what kind of financial support will be in place. I am thinking in particular of low-income households that cannot afford to carry out the upgrades that will be required as per the inspections.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Minister to wind up.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The standards for septic tanks were agreed by the Oireachtas joint committee early last July and they are standard nationwide for each local authority. Consequently, they are well known by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and I assume everyone is clear with regard to them. A total of 76,000 have registered to date with the Local Government Management Agency.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Will the Minister penalise local authorities?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan No.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Before the last general election, the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, personally led a deeply cynical campaign on health promises and health issues. Across the length and breadth of the country, he promised that he and Fine Gael would ensure that no one lost any services and that a set of new, free services would be provided. Upon his appointment, the Minister announced the abolition of the management structures of the health services and that he was taking personal charge, but they have been leaderless and lacking governance ever since. He announced that waiting lists would reduce, prescriptions would be cheaper and free GP care for all was on the way. Since then, waiting lists have lengthened, prescriptions are just as expensive and the extension of free GP care is nowhere to be seen, despite being announced numerous times. He presented a false and dishonest budget to the House last year. He was warned repeatedly about this and was alerted about the crippling position regarding the health finances but did absolutely nothing except to repeat the mantra that front line services would be protected, while he already was implementing disproportionate and unfair cuts on the most vulnerable.

There is a deep sense of despair across the health sector in hospitals and community care. Members of the Government, as well as backbenchers, have been quoted left right and centre across the media as criticising the Minister, Deputy Reilly, and in particular his recent announcements in respect of cuts to those with disabilities. They have described those cuts in that announcement as being a catastrophe and regrettable. One Labour Party Minister was accused of having stated that "he should have had [I will translate - the liathróidí] to... announce the cuts himself, not hide behind one of his HSE lackeys". There is no precedent for a situation in which a Taoiseach praises a Minister for being brave in reversing cuts while the Minister simultaneously still is claiming the cuts never actually happened. The Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, at least has been honest about the failure by the Minister, Deputy Reilly, to manage the health budget by, for example, not negotiating a new agreement with the pharmaceutical sector.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I ask the Deputy to conclude the question please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin She even offered to chair those negotiations herself. However, she wrote to the Minister on 27 July asking for a report and stating she had no delegated statutory authority in respect of primary care and that she had not been consulted with regard to any matter pertaining to the budget.

I put it to the Taoiseach that the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, was asked specifically a number of times whether she had confidence in the Minister, Deputy Reilly, on Newstalk, on "Morning Ireland" and in newsprint. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, also were asked, in newsprint. All of them refused to state, very simply, "I have confidence in the Minister, Deputy James Reilly".

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I ask the Taoiseach whether the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, is correct in stating the Government's commitment to health reform genuinely is being questioned because of the Minister's lack of proactive engagement with the issues.


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