Adjournment Debate. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Fleming.

Acting Chairman:

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am reluctant to raise this matter in the national Parliament, but it is of great importance to my constituency. There has been some confusion and foot-dragging in the matter of the approval of the long-delayed sewerage scheme for the village of Ballyroan. This was first mooted over 27 years ago, and it is now the spring of 2002 and work has not yet commenced. This is a source of serious concern, not only in the village of Ballyroan but also in surrounding areas. Over recent years we have seen considerable improve ments in infrastructural developments throughout many rural towns and villages in County Laois and it is most regrettable that this matter has yet to be addressed.

Ballyroan is a village that wishes to participate, as other villages do, in urban renewal and in attracting private investment, including, possibly, in public housing schemes. This cannot be done until the village has sufficient infrastructural sewerage facilities. Until these works are completed, Ballyroan as a village will simply not grow. Laois County Council has adopted a policy which is no different from that of other counties. It has a difficulty with once-off urban housing in rural areas. Until the Government provides sufficient funding for rural villages to update water and sewerage works we will be consigning young rural people, particularly those who are settling down to start a life of their own, to the larger provincial towns. This will be the case unless we are prepared to fund schemes such as the one which is on the table for Ballyroan.

Earlier last year, certain works had been set in place, but they did not reach the required standard to garner approval from the Minister of the Environment and Local Government. Extra funding was then sought. There has been much toing and froing between Laois County Council and the Department in recent weeks to facilitate the final approval of this important measure. I would like the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dan Wallace, to give that final confirmation or approval now. My understanding from the local authority is that everything required of it has been set in place. Appropriate orders have been signed and sealed. It was widely anticipated that these works would commence in January, but we are now into February and that has not happened. I hope that the Minister of State will remove any doubt and give the go-ahead so that Laois County Council can employ the contractors on site that will allow for this long-awaited development to take place in the village of Ballyroan.

I thank Deputy Flanagan for allowing me to join him on this motion. We all agree that Ballyroan needs this sewerage scheme and that it is long overdue. Sanction was given by the Minister in May 1999 and several years on we still have not seen any work on the ground. I understand the council has submitted much documentation on improvements to the scheme that was originally proposed. In recent days final information has been sent from Laois County Council to the Department. I hope there are no further outstanding queries at this stage and I urge the Minister to ensure the documentation that has been received in the Department from the local authority this week will be examined as a matter of top priority with a view to ensuring that approval is given to Laois County Council to commence the works at the earliest possible date.

I thank Deputies Flanagan and Fleming for raising this matter in the House this evening. The provision of modern environmental infrastructure to support social and economic objectives has been a major focus of Government spending over the past four and a half years. The unprecedented increase in investment by the Department of the Environment and Local Government during that period on water and sewerage schemes—

Will the Minister of State cut to the chase. We know all that stuff, it appears on every Adjournment matter every week.

Acting Chairman:

Please do not interrupt the Minister of State in his reply.

I did not interrupt the Deputy.

I am only interrupting because the Minister of State is rambling.

Acting Chairman:

Let us hear the response of the Minister of State without interruption please.

The unprecedented increase in investment by the Department of the Environment and Local Government during that period on water and sewerage schemes has made a key contribution to the remarkable economic growth that has benefited every part of Ireland. Total investment in water and sewerage facilities over the period of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 will amount to almost €4.4 billion, of which more than €3.8 billion is earmarked for major public schemes.

On a point of order, that does not relate to the matter I raised on the adjournment.

This investment is aimed at supporting economic and social development, employment generation and the achievement of high environmental standards.

The additional water production capacity generated by the resulting expansion of the Department's water services investment programme during the first year, 2000, of the NDP alone equated with the average daily requirements of more than 300,000 people. This represented, in just one year, some 36% of the corresponding figure for the entire 1994 to 1999 period.

(Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy must not interrupt the Minister of State's reply.

I am asking the Minister of State to yield.

Acting Chairman:

The Minister of State is giving his reply.

I am asking the Minister of State to give way.

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy cannot interrupt the Minister of State. He is choosing to reply in this manner and if the Deputy has a problem he must take it up with the Ceann Comhairle and the Committee on Procedures and Privileges.

I have a problem and I am asking for the Ceann Comhairle. I did not ask the Minister of State to come in here and talk about national development plans and the kind of hogwash he is coming out with today. I asked for a specific reply.

Acting Chairman:

Please resume your seat Deputy. This is not a point of order and I cannot allow this to continue. There is another forum where this can be taken up. Please resume your seat and allow the Minister of State to continue.

Will the Deputy make up his mind as to whether he wants to hear the reply. I will say what I have to say.

Acting Chairman:

There is limited time now so let us hear the Minister of State.

Not if the answer is more of the same.

The increase in waste water treatment capacity in the same year represented the requirements of a population equivalent of 180,000,—

In Ballyroan?

—almost half the entire increase between 1994 and 1999. When the figures for 2001 become available shortly, I am confident they will be just as impressive. In July 2000, the Minister announced the first phase of the water services investment programme, covering the years 2000-2002, the beginning of a rolling programme that will continue up to the end of the NDP in 2006.

This is shameful stuff.

Funding is being provided for new projects in every single county, with total investment envisaged for Laois under the 2000- 2002 programme amounting to almost €30 million. The investment programme inherited by the Minister in 1997 contained just €7 million worth of schemes for County Laois.

There will not be any interruptions now from the Deputy.

I will not listen to this rubbish from the Minister of State.

Acting Chairman:

Let us listen to the Minister of State.

The most significant of the Laois schemes in the current programme are the Portlaoise water supply and sewerage schemes and the Portarlington and Mountmellick water schemes. In addition, I have approved a grouped sewerage scheme to service six smaller population centres in the county. Funding has also been approved under the serviced land initiative to bring additional serviced residential sites on stream as rapidly as possible to meet housing needs at a variety of locations around the county.

That is a lie.

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy cannot use that word.

I am using the word "lie". The Minister of State said "as rapidly as possible".

(Interruptions.)

The position in relation to the Ballyroan sewerage scheme is that it has been approved for funding under the rural towns and villages initiative. This initiative targets smaller rural towns and villages which have not benefited from EU funding to the same degree as larger urban centres—

Acting Chairman:

Excuse me, Minister of State, I have to ask the Deputy to withdraw that comment.

I will withdraw my comment when the Minister of State answers my question. I want to know why they will not give approval to the scheme.

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy must withdraw the word "lie".

Does the Deputy want an answer?

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy has to withdraw that word.

I have been waiting for an answer for the last four minutes. Will the Minister of State stick to the question?

Acting Chairman:

Deputy Flanagan, will you withdraw the word "lie"?

I will withdraw the word "lie" if the Minister of State concedes that his reply is the greatest load of hogwash that he has ever prepared.

Acting Chairman:

There are 23 seconds left. If the Deputy wants to hear the reply then he must withdraw the word "lie".

It was prepared by the officials. When this is finished I will cover the points raised by the Deputy.

I withdraw.

Acting Chairman:

The Minister of State has a very short period during which to conclude.

I have been interrupted and I will finish. I will answer the question if the interruptions cease.

Acting Chairman:

I understand that.

The position in relation to the Ballyroan sewerage scheme is that it has been approved for funding under the rural towns and villages initiative. This initiative targets smaller rural towns and villages which have not benefited from EU funding to the same degree as larger urban centres, many of which have had new water and sewerage schemes built to meet EU requirements relating to drinking water and waste water treatment standards.

The Ballyroan sewerage scheme will provide a new foul sewer network and secondary treatment facilities. The objective is to ensure that any danger of pollution of the local watercourse is eliminated and that any development potential in the area can be realised.

In June 1999 Laois County Council was advised by my Department that it could proceed immediately to seek tenders for the scheme. As it transpired, the council's tender recommendation was only received in the Department last week. Some of the delay in progressing the scheme to tender stage would have been due to the decision by the local authority to change the scope of the scheme from that originally approved in 1999, including altering the location of the treatment works site. Contrary to local reports, the tender recommendation is not approved and is currently under consideration in the Department. The county council will be informed as soon as a decision is made.

It was pulled for political purposes.

(Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman:

That concludes that matter on the Adjournment debate.

(Interruptions.)

The Fine Gael Party issued false statements on this matter. It was never approved. It will be approved by the current Minister.

Acting Chairman:

I call on the Deputy to resume his seat.

We will continue the debate tomorrow night in Ballyroan.

Will the Deputy be selling tickets?

Acting Chairman:

Resume your seats Deputies. Will the Deputies please remain quiet while Deputy Michael D. Higgins raises the matter of the failure of the Government to supply a list of sporting events deemed to be of such significance as to be events of universal access?