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 Header Item Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 856 No. 2

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey] Our economy was contracting and there were massive cuts in public services and increases in taxation.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Deputy is joking.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey Thanks be to God we have put the brakes on the runaway train that was doing serious damage not just to our economy but to the livelihoods of so many people in the country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Will the Deputy adjourn the debate?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley He can do it now he has stopped the runaway train.

Debate adjourned.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yesterday the Tánaiste stated in the Dáil that a family of four adults would face a water bill below €200.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara Is it less than the Deputy would like?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach could not or would not say that yesterday.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Would he change it?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin A spokesman subsequently stated that the Tánaiste was expressing a "personal view". However, Fine Gael Cabinet sources stated that they were appalled at the Tánaiste's intervention, saying that such a charge would, for some reason, be a disaster for the economy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Not worth a candle.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Fine Gael Ministers are apparently insisting that the minimum charge must now be €250. A ministerial source told the media, specifically the Irish Daily Mail,

The concern is that Joan's figure is just too low - and that it could throw the whole lot back onto the national accounts. If that happens then it blows the arithmetic .... That would be a disaster.

That was a Fine Gael ministerial source in response to the Tánaiste.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae A solo run.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This latest episode illustrates the shambles that this has become for the Government. There have been about nine different instances of climb-downs from the original water charge regime proposed by the Government.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is sinking.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government was warned about the savage impact that the charges regime would have on families with four adults, or those with two or more adult children. I and others warned the Taoiseach time and again in the Dáil, but the Government simply ignored the issue and carried on. The meters have been ticking for the past five weeks. This means charging began on 1 October, but nobody has a clue what the water bills will be. The Government is now telling the media there will be flat charges, but the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is boasting that a meter is being installed every 30 seconds. For what reason are they being installed?

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae It will break the country.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No audit has been carried out of the water infrastructure.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is there a question for the Taoiseach?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We did not have a proper debate and there was no transparency around this from the beginning. There was no accountability to the Dáil. John Tierney told a journalist, Sean O'Rourke, about consultancy costs and nobody was told about that in here. In short, the establishment of Irish Water and everything to do with it has been a telling narrative of the Government's disdain for the people and their views, the Government's culture of secrecy and its incoherence. As Deputy Eoghan Murphy indicated this morning, not only is the credibility of Irish Water in tatters, but the Government's credibility is in tatters as well.

Will the Taoiseach bring his much sought-after clarity and certainty to the Tánaiste's comments yesterday? Is she correct in saying the bill for a family of four adults will be less than €200? Is it the case that the Fine Gael Ministers are right? I asked the following question yesterday.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin What is the minimum level of revenue required to enable the Government to borrow off balance sheet and invest in water infrastructure? That is the bottom line, and the Taoiseach is not telling us the details.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy is a great man for knowing what are now the bottom lines. His party proposed to introduce a system with no allowances and a minimum charge of €400.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Who is the Taoiseach?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley That is not the case. Correct the record.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I share the Tánaiste's view that the decision to be made here must be clear and affordable while taking into account the concerns and anxieties of people. The Deputy has given a long list of comment and speculation in his contribution. The average charge has been set out and the Tánaiste made her remarks in a personal capacity here.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley She did not.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher She represented the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Stay quiet, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Government-----

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley She was standing there as Tánaiste.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy Dooley's leader is quite capable of replying on his own behalf. He does not need assistance.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley He might need a break.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan Somebody might give him a long one.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Government has made it perfectly clear that a number of changes are to be made. It has indicated that it will make a decision in the next two weeks or so. It will bring clarity and restore confidence where there has been confusion.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It will be Christmas before we get it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I accept and admit that. I share the Tánaiste's view that the decision-----

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Is that her personal view?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----to be made should include a regime of charges that are simple, clear and affordable. It should take into account the difficulties and concerns that have been articulated. It is also very important to understand that this entity - Irish Water - is being set up for a particular purpose of being able to borrow off the Government balance sheet to pass the market corporation test.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There is no credibility.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin What is the revenue figure required?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It should be sufficiently resourced to stand on its own two feet, independent of the Government, and invest in fixing the problems that have been evident for many years. The €10 billion programme for fixing infrastructure that must be implemented is very extensive and will cover all parts of the country. I notice today that the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, issued a comment on the setting up of Irish Water to the effect that it would bring in standards as a national entity. In that sense it should be welcomed.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath One quango praising another.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Independent analysis will be carried out by the EPA relating to the inferior treatment works and infrastructure that have been referred to on a number of occasions. We know 30% of households in the country are occupied by one adult and 49% of houses are occupied by two adults, with 13% occupied by three adults, 6% occupied by four adults and 2% occupied by five adults. There is a clear issue where there are a number of adults in a house. A person living alone will have 48% of the required water supplied through the free allocation from the State, and so on.

The comment made by the Tánaiste yesterday is in respect of making the charges as fair and as affordable as possible. The Government has not made a decision on this yet and the Government will make its decision in the next two weeks. It will be perfectly clear about that, taking into account all of the issues that have been raised here and those which must be dealt with. There is a major programme of reconstruction and investment to be put in place.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Tánaiste was not speaking in a personal capacity yesterday. She was speaking as deputy leader of the Government during official Question Time with regard to her brief of social protection. She answered clearly that a family with four adults would pay less than €200. The Taoiseach is the leader of the Government. He has come in the following day to say that the Government has made no decision; nevertheless, he is blaming everybody else for the confusion and the lack of certainty or clarity.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Bluster.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I asked the Taoiseach a simple question. Is the figure of less than €200 for a four-adult family correct? Will he answer that question?

We have all heard about the famous off balance sheet mechanism, which is essentially an accounting mechanism. One needs 50% revenue from non-State sources, which essentially means charges. What is the level of revenue required by the Government to enable it to borrow off balance sheet? The Taoiseach must have that figure. He knows it, but for some reason he will not tell us. That is a reflection of the entire debate. There has been no debate and nobody can ask questions of Irish Water through parliamentary questions.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government has made a decision that the Revenue Commissioners will be taking over the collection of water charges? The Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, refused to rule that out yesterday.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Has the Government sacked the regulator?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I can confirm that the Government has not made a decision in that regard. I can confirm that I agree with the Tánaiste's principle that we should have these contributions as low and as affordable as possible.


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