The work of the CSO is very important to allow for planning in key areas like housing, health and education. The information it gathers in the course of the census and the various other reports, publications and surveys that it carries out are of huge importance and make a great contribution, which should help to underpin proper planning by politicians and other Departments. I fully understand the need for the Revised Estimate and I am happy to support it.
I have one question about the cost surrounding the census. When the census of 2011 was taken, I raised the issue of CACI International, which had been contracted by the CSO to do some of the work on the last census and a number of previous censuses, which I think was described as "capturing the statistics". I believe that in the 2011 census, it was a subsidiary of CACI International, CACI UK, that was contracted to assist in some of the work of the census. As I pointed out then, I was quite alarmed. It was brought to my attention by the fact that CACI International was implicated in providing interrogators - 60 employees, to be precise - to work in Abu Ghraib in Iraq doing so-called "interrogation" between 2003 and 2005. These enhanced interrogation techniques that were used in Abu Ghraib are, for most people, generally understood to be torture. There were huge scandals around what went on in Abu Ghraib.
I myself was involved in bringing a whistleblower who had been an interrogator for the US military, a young man called Joshua Casteel, to this country to speak about his experience working in Abu Ghraib, where he exposed the shocking torture tactics that were employed by the US military, the CIA and contractors that they had brought in to torture people in Abu Ghraib. CACI International were involved in this. CACI International subsequently said that the people involved were no longer employed by it and so on but, for me, that certainly puts a very serious question mark over this company and its ethical standards. I would like to know whether it is involved in the census again. The fact that it was a UK subsidiary of CACI International was also used as an excuse, but it is wholly owned. It is the same company. I believe that in doing something as important as the census, we should have very ethical criteria and parameters when it comes to deciding what companies we would sub-contract to do work. I would like to hear reassurances from the Minister of State and from the CSO that this company is not being used again in the 2016 census. We should not give sucker, support or legitimacy in any way to companies that were implicated in torture in Iraq or anywhere else.
I wish to make a point regarding EUROSTAT and the CSO. This is not to take away from the outstanding work the CSO does and some of the excellent reports, information and statistics that it provides. However, it is a mystery to me how the CSO concluded that Irish Water was going to pass the EUROSTAT market test while EUROSTAT decided otherwise. We need an explanation of what happened there. This is hugely important. It is at the centre of the dispute around Irish Water. It was referenced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, yesterday, when he said that it was unprecedented that the CSO was at odds with EUROSTAT when the CSO was effectively the Irish subsidiary of the European statistical system.
This all might seem very technical but there is a very important issue at stake at the centre of it. Who is right and who is wrong? The answer to that tells us who is telling the truth about the likely privatisation, or otherwise, of Irish Water. What EUROSTAT said was that the State subsidy to Irish Water was at such a level that it was not really a commercial entity and, therefore, could not borrow off the balance sheet. The whole rationale for setting up Irish Water was that it could borrow off the balance sheet. That is why we needed it so that it would not go on the books of the State in terms of our debt and deficit. However, EUROSTAT said this was not possible. The level of State subsidy required to provide the conservation grant and to put a cap on the charges was such that it was not a commercial entity and that it therefore had to go on the State balance sheet. Critically, therefore, if Irish Water is or was to continue, in order to pass the EUROSTAT test it would have to be privatised. It would have to increase the charges so that the revenue stream coming in from user charges would be higher while the level of State support, public ownership and control would have to be reduced.
This is the argument we always made. Even if, for political reasons in the face of mass popular protests, the Government put in the conservation grant, a bribe, and claimed it was going to retain Irish Water in public ownership and put caps on charges, in reality those things would have to be got rid of two or three years down the line in order to pass the EUROSTAT test and to get it off balance sheet, and it would have to be privatised. That is the truth and EUROSTAT confirmed it. The Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, the Government and everybody else in the House knows that damn well. It could not pass the market test unless State support was removed and it was, effectively if not wholly, privatised with the charges being jacked up.
Absolutely, the CSO has questions to answer. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, can shake his head all he likes but the people were fooled once on the issue of bin charges when we were told that introducing charges would not lead inevitably to privatisation as we predicted it would. Of course, it did. EU market rules were cited by private companies that demanded to get into the market, undermine the public system and force its privatisation. It was absolutely inevitable. Indeed, it is written into the EU treaties as anyone who wishes to read the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and its state aid rules can see. There is a question for the CSO as to how it was at odds with EUROSTAT and did not flag that fact. Its analysis of Irish Water seemed to comply with what was a political imperative for Fine Gael and the Labour Party to try to sell Irish Water to a very sceptical and oppositional public.
My last point is on the use of statistics. Notwithstanding the criticism I have made, the CSO produces brilliant statistics but does anybody pay any attention to them? Does the Government pay any attention to these statistics? Clearly, it did not pay any attention to them when it came to demographic trends and housing need. We had that confirmed by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in documents recently publicised in the media which showed that the housing crisis we now have was eminently predictable. Anybody looking at the demographic trends, population growth and so on could have seen it coming. The failure to properly explain statistics often allows a certain trick to be played by Governments which say that, year on year, they have spent more than any other Government on housing, health and education without explaining that it is because the population is growing. It is not really more expenditure when one breaks it down across the number of people for whom that expenditure is being spent. Let us be honest, read the statistics, plan on the basis of the statistics and be honest about their significance.