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 Header Item Broadband Service Charges (Continued)
 Header Item Petroleum and Gas Exploration
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 1

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Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The Minister concluded his reply by suggesting that broadband costs in Ireland are almost on a par with the EU average. Some reports have suggested that the cost of broadband to households, businesses and services in this country is 27% higher than the EU average and 7% higher than the OECD average. Broadband is a fundamental issue for Ireland. I think it will define our society into the future. Over recent generations, we have seen a huge movement of people from the west coast to the east coast. The policies of successive Governments, including policies that are ongoing, seem to favour the east coast rather than the west coast. If we do not get our broadband policy right very soon, there will be a huge divide within Irish society. Any fair assessment of the policies to which I refer will conclude that they have been detrimental to society and will continue to be detrimental to society. That is a completely separate issue, however. The point I am making is that reports have suggested that broadband costs in this country are 27% higher than the EU average and 7% higher than the OECD average.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I agree with much of what Deputy Moynihan has said. I can tell him that the figures he has mentioned are wrong. He will have to trust me on that. I will give him the accurate figures. In Ireland, the average monthly cost of residential fixed-line services is €28. The EU average is €22. The average monthly cost of fixed-line services to businesses is €22, compared to an EU average of €30. The average cost of mobile pre-pay is €17 per month in Ireland, whereas the EU average is €18 per month. The average cost of mobile post-pay is €16 here and the EU average is €17.50. I agree with what the Deputy has said about the importance of telecommunications infrastructure. The issue for us is the quality of the service, rather than any comparative cost disadvantage vis-à-vis Europe. It is not the case that there is any such disadvantage. The broadband plan that I published acknowledges that State intervention is necessary because the broadband service in some less densely populated areas is basic. There is fierce competition within the private sector in urban areas. One sees that on television all the time. The State must intervene in less densely populated parts of the country where the service is basic. We have committed some €300 million for investment in that third tier. Approximately three weeks ago, we commissioned consultants to prepare our State aid application. We have to go through the state aid process if we are to be allowed to invest taxpayers' money in bringing the system up to par. That, rather than any comparative price disadvantage vis-à-vis the bulk of the countries in Europe, is the area we are focusing on.

Petroleum and Gas Exploration

 59. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte when he will carry out a review of the fiscal terms of petroleum licensing here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26711/13]

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte At the commencement of the Dáil debate on the report of the former Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture on offshore oil and gas exploration, and in deference to the work of the joint committee, I outlined my intention to seek independent expert advice on the fitness for purpose of Ireland’s current oil and gas exploration fiscal terms. I also said I proposed to listen to the views of Deputies through the course of the debate before initiating the process of seeking such expert advice. I believe such expert advice should focus on the level of fiscal gain that is achievable for the State and its citizens and the mechanisms best suited to produce such a gain. Certainty regarding fiscal terms is a prerequisite to attracting oil and gas exploration investment to Ireland with a view to establishing the true oil and gas potential of the Irish offshore. In that regard, and particularly in the context of planning for the next licensing round, I intend to bring my consideration of this matter to a conclusion before the end of this year. That will ensure the next licensing round can be launched against a backdrop of regulatory certainty and thereby encourage much needed new investment in exploration in our offshore.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy I will be brief because I know the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is under pressure. I welcome the Minister's decision to open a review of the fiscal terms of petroleum licensing in Ireland. I think we need to get away from setting the terms of production before exploration has been done. I do not think there needs to be an intrinsic link between one and the other. The terms of production should be set when we know what is there to be produced. The cost of exploring Irish waters should be written off over 15, 23 or 25 years - it should not be an upfront cost that has to be recouped to the companies before this nation takes in 1 cent in revenue. I assume the Minister will accept submissions from interested parties as part of all the work that is going on.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I will begin by responding to what the Deputy has said about "interested parties". The Oireachtas committee spent six or seven months on this issue and prepared a report. I am taking the recommendations in the report as the basis of the way to go forward. The entire thrust of policy is to generate more offshore economic activity and increase the offshore exploration rate. We need certainty for that reason. Up to now, we have simply not attracted the level of economic activity one would expect. The expectations of the early 1970s have not been realised. We have not had an oil find. As I said in response to Deputy Boyd Barrett earlier, I find it difficult to understand why I am accused of giving away our oil, given that we have not found any yet.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett What about Barryroe?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley There would be no putting up with the Minister if we found oil.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Minister is a gas man.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte If it is considered that our fiscal terms are a giveaway, I ask Deputy Colreavy to explain why our coastline is not black with ships exploring the Irish offshore. If our tax regime is so favourable to those who engage in prospecting and exploring, why is that work not under way? We have been drilling less than two wells per annum, on average, for the last dozen years. At that rate of drilling, it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley It is a shocking record.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Minister needs to up his game.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Has the Minister not heard about Barryroe?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte We do not have the State investment for a State exploration company. Therefore, we have to attract companies that can carry out such work. For that reason, we have to pitch the fiscal regime broadly in line with the situation in similar member states. There is no point in comparing apples with oranges. There is no comparison between this country and Norway, which has a particularly different geological structure and a hit rate of approximately one in four. Since the early 1970s, we have had four gas finds and no oil finds. I hope the signals from Barryroe continue to be encouraging as they are at the moment. Another couple of wells will have to be drilled before we know for sure whether it is commercially viable - whether the oil that is undoubtedly there is commercially extractable.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath We have to get it shovel-ready.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Helen McEntee - the need for the pyrite levy Bill to be passed before the summer recess; (2) Deputy Shane Ross - the policy of increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying schools; (3) Deputy Catherine Murphy - the provision of ambulance services in the Naas area of County Kildare; (4) Deputy Gerald Nash - the need to ensure the work of home helps is fully recognised and the budgetary commitment to restore the hours cut from the service last year is fully met; (5) Deputy Paschal Donohoe - the effects on part-time workers of the inclusion of Sunday as a working day for persons on social protection payments; (6) Deputy Dan Neville - the number of deaths from suicide in 2012; (7) Deputy Seán Kyne - the allocation of moneys to Comhar na nOileáin Teoranta in the recent Leader funding announcement; (8) Deputy Brendan Griffin - the allocation of moneys in the recent Leader funding announcement, in particular the shortfall of moneys for Gaeltacht regions; (9) Deputy Noel Harrington - the impact on energy security of the proposed sale of the oil storage terminal based on Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay and the oil refinery based at Whitegate in County Cork; (10) Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor - the issue of domestic violence, specifically in relation to the Women's Aid report; (11) Deputy Michael P. Kitt - the reduction in community project funds, Leader funding, in County Galway; (12) Deputy Michael McNamara - the use of the Finance Act as a blueprint for the regeneration of small towns and villages; (13) Deputy Denis Naughten - the need to provide additional staffing resources for the acute psychiatric unit at Roscommon County Hospital; (14) Deputy Patrick O'Donovan - the need for a new valuation process to be implemented to assist small businesses; (15) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the need to provide additional resources to An Garda Síochána and to review legislation on the sale of alcohol in seaside resorts including Portmarnock and Howth, County Dublin; (16) Deputy Thomas Pringle - the need to keep open St. Agnes's special needs preschool in Donegal town open; (17) Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly - the reports of the US National Security Agency's programme of indiscriminate information gathering and surveillance; (18) Deputy Clare Daly - the call by the Road Safety Authority for an independent inquiry into the termination of penalty points; (19) Deputy Joan Collins - the need for a temporary protection mechanism to be invoked by the European Commission to deal with the problem of refugees from Syria; (20) Deputy Mick Wallace - the call by the Road Safety Authority for an independent investigation into the penalty points controversy; (21) Deputy Joe Higgins - the response of the Turkish authorities to protests in Istanbul; (22) Deputy Michael Moynihan - the implications for the privacy rights of Irish citizens of the gathering of digital information by the US National Security Agency; (23) Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan - mental health services in County Roscommon; (24) Deputies Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Barry Cowen - the proposal to build a large sewage plant at Clonshaugh, County Dublin; (25) Deputies Eamonn Maloney and Anthony Lawlor - the quality control and integrity of State examination papers; (26) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the proposed new rent allowance limits and the risk of homelessness; (27) Deputy John Deasy - the need for additional capital funding to facilitate the runway extension at Waterford Regional Airport; (28) Deputy Brendan Smith - the need to progress to construction stage the proposed building project at St. Kilian's national school in Mullagh, County Cavan; (29) Deputy Timmy Dooley - the implications for the future of the M50 of a recent report by the NRA; (30) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the need to increase the level of rent supplement that is paid; (31) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill; and (32) Deputy Dessie Ellis - the need for measures to deal with street harassment particularly of a sexual or threatening nature levelled at women as highlighted by the Hollaback movement.

The matters raised by Deputies Helen McEntee; Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Barry Cowen; Shane Ross; and Eamonn Maloney and Anthony Lawlor have been selected for discussion.

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