Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item National Spatial Strategy (Continued)
 Header Item Semi-State Bodies Privatisation

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 839 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 65 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne] The past week has seen contracts signed in respect of the M17-M18 motorway, which will be a great help to the regions and to the west, as well as developments regarding the Government's policy on broadband in that area. While these measures all are important, the importance of the gateways as economic drivers for the regions must be supported fully.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan It is early days as the Government only has to hand the scoping document at present. However, anyone who agrees with and seeks good and proper planning would accept the concept of gateways and the idea of having regions with centres as important economic drivers of those regions as being important principles that work in all countries and which would be a basis of good planning. I do not anticipate any change in direction in respect of having such gateway entrances or centres of economic activity for regions that will work with the economic hinterland surrounding them. However, the Government intends to have wide consultation with all interested parties, including both the public and significant organisations that have an interest in this area. The Government intends to have a conversation on how the country has changed and on whether there are lessons to be learned from the previous strategy, as well as from actions that were taken subsequent to the previous strategy such as the decentralisation policy, which did not appear to relate greatly to what actually was contained in the national spatial strategy. It is important to have a good national spatial plan that works for the country, that identifies the strengths of different regions, that develops those strengths and has a plan and a policy that is clear and which links into all the other agencies of the State, Departments and so on in order that there is a coherent policy and planning basis on which the country will be developed into the future.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank the Minister of State for her statement and welcome her views. At present, 50% of the country's population resides in the Leinster area. The challenge ahead will be to prevent that area from growing further at the expense of the regions and, consequently, the future spatial strategy will be of great importance to the future of the west. I welcome the consultation and again welcome the Minister of State's understanding of the importance of the gateways.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Briefly, I agree with the Deputy that there always is a danger in any country that the capital city becomes the centre and the regions are not supported adequately. I certainly share the Deputy's view that one must ensure the strategy contains strong recognition that strong regions are needed throughout the country, west, north, south and east-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley And the midlands.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan -----and that policies are put in place to ensure those strengths are developed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt As Question No. 11 is in the name of Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, who is not present, it cannot be taken.

  Question No. 11 replied to with Written Answers.

Semi-State Bodies Privatisation

 12. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he has received correspondence from the European Commission regarding the privatisation of water services here; if he will publish any such correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19460/14]

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Given that the Government is due to finalise water charges soon, will the Minister confirm whether he or any other member of the Cabinet has received correspondence from the European Commission regarding the privatisation of water services? The Minister may recall that in late 2012, the office of Commissioner Olli Rehn acknowledged in a letter to civil society groups that the Commission is promoting water privatisation as a condition of bailout programmes.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The programme of financial support with the EU, IMF and ECB provided for the establishment of a national water utility and the introduction of domestic charges. In this regard, the programme partners were kept informed of progress towards the achievement of these objectives. My Department has not received any correspondence from the European Commission on the privatisation of water services.

In a communication issued by the European Commission earlier this year on the European citizens’ initiative, the Commission confirmed that the decision on how best to operate water services is firmly in the hands of the public authorities in the member states, and treaty rules require the European Union to remain neutral regarding national decisions governing the ownership regime for water undertakings.

Section 5 of the Water Services Act 2013 provides that one share in Irish Water is held by Bord Gáis, with the remaining shares held by the Ministers for the Environment, Community and Local Government and Finance. An amendment to this section, introduced by section 46 of the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013, provides that the three shareholders in Irish Water are prohibited from alienating the shares issued to them. Accordingly, the privatisation of Irish Water is barred by statute.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I was referring to a letter to which the Corporate Europe Observatory body gained access. It was from Olli Rehn's office to the Greek Minister for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan To whom is the Deputy referring?

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Olli Rehn's office in the European Commission wrote to the Greek Minister. He stated:

As you know, privatisation of public companies contributes to the reduction of public debt, as well as to the reduction of subsidies, other transfers or state guarantees to state-owned enterprises. It also has the potential of increasing the efficiency of companies and, by extension, the competitiveness of the economy as a whole, while attracting foreign direct investment.

The Minister states that neither he nor his Department has received any letter from the Commission encouraging the privatisation of water. Has there been verbal communication from the European officials who have visited here to encourage the Government to privatise Irish Water?

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen He needs no encouragement.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace What is the Minister's personal position regarding the idea of privatising Irish Water? Does he believe it would be a good or a bad idea?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Deputy Wallace can go to Kilmore Quay and fish for that red herring which he has tried to introduce today. I brought in the Irish Water legislation, which was approved on the basis that the Government will not privatise Irish Water. The Government is trying to keep track of its own correspondence and, in the Republic of Ireland, we do not follow or track correspondence between Olli Rehn and other member states.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace In his initial reply, the Minister stated it is illegal for the European Commission to take a position on this matter but it has done so. In addition, it has put pressure on both the Italians and the Portuguese to do this. While the Minister has stated it would be illegal to privatise Irish Water at present, he is aware that the rules introduced under the Lisbon and Nice treaties dictate that no state in Europe can stop privatisation if it chooses to get involved in it.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We are a sovereign nation.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Part of the treaty was designed to facilitate the privatisation of public services. The Minister probably can tell me that it will not be privatised during his time-----

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Correct.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace -----because he probably will be going to sunnier climates soon-----

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Is the Deputy asking my opinion? I do not know where he will be.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace -----but I find it hard to credit. I refer to the entire idea behind not giving the local authorities the money to improve the water infrastructure but instead parcelling it all up into a nice little bundle that can be saleable at a later date.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The dogs in the street suspect that the next Government will privatise Irish Water.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan While Deputy Wallace may kick any dog he wishes in respect of this issue, he is not getting anywhere with it. The position of the Government is that there will be no privatisation of Irish Water. Perhaps the Deputy may support a Government in the future that may wish to do so or do certain things, but as far as I am concerned and as far as the Government is concerned, correspondence of the European Commission is a complete red herring and I wish the Deputy well with it.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.


Last Updated: 24/04/2020 14:46:49 First Page Previous Page Page of 65 Next Page Last Page