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 Header Item Business of Dáil (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Establishment of Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services: Motion

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 930 No. 2

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I will take two points of order from Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett and the Minister of State, Deputy Regina Doherty.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I will make this brief. Earlier it was essentially suggested that if we had spoken less in the debate on the Finance Bill last night, we would not have this problem. I object to that logic because we have a job - a solemn responsibility, I argue - to scrutinise legislation, in particular something as important as the Finance Bill. Any suggestion we should have hurried things up to avoid being here until 3 a.m. is not really appropriate. Given that the debate ran on until 3 a.m., much later than anybody would have anticipated in the discussion at the Business Committee, it was entirely reasonable when we were dealing with legislation dealing with as important and as complex matters as finance and tax to say, "Listen, we are not doing justice to this at this hour of the night." It is not fair to use strict procedural arguments when things ran on much later than anticipated or to suggest we should have rushed things in order that we would not be in this dilemma. Against that background, we get late notice of this motion which, by any stretch of the imagination, deals with a controversial issue. We got last minute notice of a change to deal with a highly controversial issue and most Deputies did not know until 11.40 a.m. In that context, it is perfectly legitimate to protest about the manner in which the motion has been taken.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty This is my point of order. I have been accused this morning of pulling a fast and a sly one and not adhering to proper procedures. I would like both comments about my reputation withdrawn. Let me be very clear. Every single party and none in this House negotiated and discussed the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services with the Minister and his officials. Even though Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett's representative on the Business Committee was not aware of it, his party was involved in the discussions. The recommendations to form the committee were brought to the Committee on Dáil Reform on Tuesday and the notice to have it on the business agenda this morning was sent to the Business Committee. Every Member received notification of the agenda yesterday. The green document we all received this morning was published and printed last night and issued this morning.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry At what time yesterday?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There was no attempt to do anything other than follow normal procedure, as we always do in this House. The problem is that Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett and his party members do not know what normal procedure is.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger At what time was it sent?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Please withdraw the two slanderous remarks made about my reputation and how I do my job in this House.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Pursuant to Standing Order No. 27E(8), it is proposed that No. 10c, motion re establishment of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, be taken now without debate and that any division demanded thereon be taken immediately. We are proposing an amendment to allow 15 minutes to discuss the establishment of the committee starting now.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the amendment to the proposal agreed to? Agreed.

Establishment of Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services: Motion

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders—
 (a) a Special Committee (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Committee’) is hereby appointed, to be joined with a Special Committee to be appointed by Seanad Éireann, to form the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. The Joint Committee shall consider the report of the Expert Commission on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, and report thereon, with recommendations, to both Houses of the Oireachtas, in accordance with paragraph (h);

 (b) the Expert Commission shall, as soon as is practicable after it adopts its report, forward the report to the Clerks of both Houses, who shall arrange for the report to be laid in the Parliamentary Library, whereupon the report shall stand referred to the Joint Committee;

 (c) the number of members of the Committee shall not exceed 16, and the members shall be appointed as follows:

 (i) five members appointed by the Government,

 (ii) four members appointed by Fianna Fáil,

 (iii) two members appointed by Sinn Féin, and

 (iv) one member each appointed by the Labour Party, the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit (AAA-PBP), Independents 4 Change, the Rural Independent Group, and the Social Democrats– Green Party Group;

 (d) the Ceann Comhairle shall announce the names of the members appointed under paragraph (c) for the information of the Dáil on the first sitting day following their appointment;

 (e) the quorum of the Joint Committee shall be eight, at least one of whom shall be a member of the Dáil, and one a member of the Seanad;

 (f) the Chairman of the Joint Committee shall be Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh;

 (g) the Joint Committee shall have the powers defined in Standing Order 85(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (7), (8) and (9); and

 (h) the Joint Committee shall report to both Houses of the Oireachtas by 28th February, 2017, or within three months of its first public meeting, whichever is the later.”

How much time do I have to speak?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I ask the Minister to be very brief because we have only 15 minutes for the entire process.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will do my best to take 14.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I take it every party will have a minute or two.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Everyone who offers.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I do not think the setting up of the committee should come as a surprise to anybody. I have spoken to many Members in this House informally in the build-up to this to try to get a consensus on what parties could live with. I know that there are deep divisions in the House on how we should fund domestic water services and so on. I accept that this is a very political and difficult issue with which to deal. However, the setting up of the committee was aimed at ensuring every group represented in the House would have representation on it. I personally insisted on this to ensure nobody would feel left out of the debate on the detail of the expert committee's report, recommendations and so on, and in the putting together of the recommendations to come from the special committee when set up. We had discussions with various Members. Obviously, I could not speak to everybody in every group. This is an attempt to try to ensure every grouping in the Oireachtas will be represented.

A point was made about Seanad representation. It is proposed that one of the four Senators on the committee come from the Civil Engagement group because that is the only group in either House that does not have an automatic right to nominate somebody to the committee.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl All right, Minister.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Let me finish the point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We only have 15 minutes.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am the Minister proposing the motion-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl You are.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney -----and I have not even spoken for two minutes yet. We are trying to ensure everybody can have his or her say on the substance of the issue.

On the appointment of the Chairman, no Chairman has yet been appointed. We are putting it in the motion for a democratic decision in this and the other House that Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh be supported by a majority of this House to be Chairman of what will be a difficult committee to manage and chair. The only motivation is to try to have a neutral person who will be respected by the vast majority of the members of the committee - I hope by all of its members - to try to move towards compromise and consensus on what is a difficult issue.


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