Amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, in the names of Deputies Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Bríd Smith have been ruled out of order. Amendment No. 7 has also been ruled out of order.
Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage
May we raise a point of order about the ruling out of order of the amendments?
No, we cannot take points of order now.
The amendments have been ruled out order on the basis that-----
I am sorry, I do not want to be awkward, but we cannot take a point of order and cannot get into a discussion about amendments that have been ruled out of order. They have been ruled out of order; therefore, we cannot have a discussion.
I do not understand how they can be out of order on the basis that they are in conflict with the principle of the Bill when all they do is suggest the commission should discuss the issue of water poverty-----
If the Deputy does not understand it, he can come to my office and I will arrange for the appropriate staff and officials to brief him on why they have been ruled out of order.
Can you not tell the Dáil?
No, there is no such provision.
You are going to push ahead and we will vote on the Bill and it will then be through; therefore, it will be too late. I have never seen such a narrow interpretation of the rules. In the letter Deputy Ruth Coppinger sent to you earlier, we accepted that some amendments had been ruled out on the basis that they would impose or increase a charge on Revenue. We do not agree with the Standing Order, but we accept that that is a fair or reasonable interpretation. However, on the others, I do not see, for example, how calling for a suspension of water metering is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill or is in conflict with the principle of the Bill; how adding that the committee should deal with the question of water poverty is not relevant to the Bill or in conflict with the principle of the Bill; how including the option to discuss the abolition of Irish Water-----
I am sorry, Deputy-----
We would simply be adding things for the committee to discuss. How does that possibly contradict the principle of the Bill?
We could talk about El Niño if we wanted to as just about anything can be relevant to the subject of water.
However, the points Deputy Paul Murphy is raising are not relevant to the subject matter of the legislation.
I am afraid that they are not.
Can I read them?
They also ruled out of order two amendments in my name for the same reason.
It is very unfair on the people for the Ceann Comhairle to rule the amendments out of order. That is exactly what they want to hear.
I am acting in accordance with Standing Orders, by which I am bound-----
What about acting in accordance with decency towards those who want to hear this debate?
I am bound by Standing Orders.
Not by decency.
If the Deputy does not like the Standing Orders, she can seek to change them.
It is your interpretation of Standing Orders.
My interpretation of them is correct. Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?
The effect of your ruling is to give Fianna Fáil an excuse not to vote. I am not saying that was the intention in making your ruling, but it is the effect.
Stop - give it up.
Excuse me. Please do not accuse me of political bias.
I am not accusing you of bias.
The Deputy is. He has it out now. He is happy.
Will Deputy Paul Murphy, please, resume his seat?
I am not accusing you of bias. We need an explanation as to why these things, including Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's amendments-----
It is not provided for in Standing Orders that Members can interrogate the Chair or that-----
It is unprecedented that so many amendments have been ruled out of order.
No. Will the Deputy, please, resume her seat? We will proceed with those matters that are in order.
I have to say this is very unlike you. You are usually flexible and pretty decent, particularly on something that is so crucial to the Dáil.
However, you are being a little dictatorial. It is not fair to say: "Shut up; we cannot debate this and I do not have to explain myself."
I have not told anyone that. I have not used that phraseology. We must stick to Standing Orders which I did not write. They have been in place for quite a while. The House has not changed them and until such time as it changes them, I will implement them. That is it. Do you or do you not want to speak about-----
It is not a question of implementation but of interpretation.
In order to be helpful, could we suspend the sitting for ten minutes to have somebody from the Ceann Comhairle's office explain this to us?
Seriously, we are making a genuine point that we do not understand the interpretation of Standing Orders. We accept that some amendments have been ruled out on the basis that they would impose a charge on the State and that this is in compliance with Standing Orders. We do not understand how some of the others have been ruled out of order. We do not understand that interpretation of Standing Orders.
They were ruled out of order on Committee Stage.
No, these are extra amendments. They relate effectively to the terms of reference of the committee and what it would deal with. We brought them forward after Committee Stage. We understand the reason amendments were ruled out of order on Committee Stage, but we have other ones now and do not understand the reason they have been ruled out of order. I think it is reasonable that we receive an explanation. The same applies to Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's amendments.
The Deputy is talking about amendments Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive.
Amendments Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive, 20 and 22.
To be honest, I do not mind one way or the other, but we are straying into dangerous territory. When we consider legislation in this House, the Bills Office makes a ruling on whether amendments are in order. If we were to start undoing those rulings on the floor of the House, we-----
That is ridiculous.
Why is it ridiculous?
Because these things should be decided on the floor of the House, not by some invisible body in the Bills Office which is not accountable or democratic. It is unbelievable the Minister would say that.
The decision on these matters will be made on the floor of the House.
An unelected civil servant is making them and the House has no say.
That is not true. The Deputy should not make reflections on the staff of the Houses.
There is obviously an invisible hand from the Government which is giving a political direction to the unelected civil servant.
The Deputy knows that is not true.
Obviously, it is. The Minister must think the people are completely naive that he will not accept, for example, that water metering which is linked with Irish Water-----
It has nothing to do with me.
-----can be a subject for the committee to discuss.
That has nothing to do with me.
It was decided by some unelected civil servant. The Minister has obviously given some direction to exclude a discussion about this issue.
Will the Deputy, please, resume her seat? It is not a matter for the Minister to decide. He has no role, good, bad or indifferent, in deciding what amendment is or is not in order. Recommendations are made and considered. In this instance, in accordance with Standing Orders which are well established in the House, the amendments have been ruled out of order. It is not open to us to revisit the matter. Therefore, we will get on with the debate.
There is somebody out of order.
We will get on with the debate.
This is the most restrictive interpretation I have ever seen. How is it possibly out of order for us to propose------
If your purpose is to deliberately frustrate the work-----
No, we want to debate this.
If your purpose is to deliberately frustrate the work of the House then I-----
Genuinely, we want to debate these amendments which are about the expert-----
You want to suspend the Dáil.
No, not at all. We do not want to, genuinely. We want the expert committee to be able to look at the question of water poverty.
You will keep going anyway.
We want the expert committee to be able to look at the issue of the suspension of water charges and water metering. We want the expert committee to be able to look at the question of refunds.
You raised it on Second Stage.
That is all completely-----
You should have entered Government negotiations and tried to form a Government.
-----fair enough and in line with the idea that we have-----
You sat on your hands long enough.
The essence of the Bill is suspension of water charges and establishing a committee to look into it. That is the essence of the Bill. All that amendments Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive, are doing is stating these are things the committee should also look at, which are clearly part of the process. Amendments Nos. 20 and 22 relate to the suspension of water metering, which is not separate to the purpose of the Bill. It clearly relates to the imposition of water charges. If water meters go hand in hand with this I do not understand how it is separate. I understand the Government may oppose it and that is fine, and I understand Fianna Fáil may oppose it and that is fine, but I do not understand why we cannot debate it and vote on it.
Let us have a debate.
Well you cannot debate it now because it is not in order.
Can I ask a question, as somebody who is brand new to all of these procedures?
The Bills Office makes a recommendation on what gets ruled in and ruled out, but the Ceann Comhairle either accepts or rejects these recommendations. It is correct?
We are appealing to the Ceann Comhairle's better nature to explain to us why he accepted the recommendations to rule out discussion on water metering and the question of water poverty. Why did you accept this? This is all we are asking. We are not asking you to change your mind, we are asking you for an explanation.
I am not going to come in here, day in day out, and give to Deputy Smith or any other Deputy an explanation as to why I make a decision in respect of a particular question.
There are no such provisions. It has never been the case-----
Have we ever asked this before?
Resume your seat for a second.
No, we have not.
No Ceann Comhairle that I know of in the past has had to come in here and explain why he or she, as the case may be, made a particular ruling. I made the ruling based on the information provided to me and based on my understanding of the amendment as proposed. The bottom line is it is out of order. If the Deputies want to raise these matters in some other way then I suggest they find some other way, but at this point I want to get on with the legislation. We have been having this debate for ten minutes. We can have it for another half hour but we will not-----
During which time the Ceann Comhairle could have explained to us-----
-----arrive at any different conclusion than the one we were at at the time we started.
What is being asked here is not unreasonable and-----
So can we please-----
During which time the Ceann Comhairle could have explained to us why these crucial issues for the vast majority of the population were ruled out of order. If they were insignificant for the people out there, the people who elected us, then I would not be asking this. These are very significant issues for many people who were elected to the Dáil.
Can we get on with amendment No. 8 please?
If half this side of the House was to be honest about it, it is significant for them also.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 4, line 28, to delete "before, on or".
Can we get on with amendment No. 8 please? Does anyone want to speak to amendment No. 8?
I will speak to amendments Nos. 8 and 9. It is very unfortunate these are the only amendments we are able to debate and that such a restrictive interpretation has been put on Standing Orders. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, which are linked, propose that the membership of the so-called expert commission, so-called neutral commission, would be subject to a vote in the House. This is absolutely and perfectly reasonable. Why does the Government not want to have a vote on it in the House? I presume the Minister will speak to the amendment so let us see. I think it is precisely because the purpose of the exercise was explained by Joe O'Toole, that people voted a certain way and Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily. The purpose is a political exercise to try to come back and reimpose the question of water charges as well as maintaining Irish Water.
The problem for Joe O'Toole, of course, was that he gave the game away. That was the problem and why he had to go. Ironically, I am sure the Minister has seen the interview Joe O'Toole gave The Irish Times on Saturday. He gave the game away again, as he was asked whether the Minister for housing, planning and local government, Deputy Simon Coveney, knew of his views in advance. Joe O'Toole said he told him what they were and that the Minister showed great confidence in him. I would say the Minister did. Did he tell the Minister that his view was that the purpose of the commission was a political exercise to put sugar on it to make sure the medicine goes down easily? The game was given away yet again. The commission is rigged in my opinion. It has been set up to deliver a certain outcome, which is to recommend a continuation of domestic water charges. It is a complete sham.
Let us look at the membership of the committee. Obviously, we have seen that Joe O'Toole has been replaced by Kevin Duffy. So what? The Minister could replace him with anyone in the world. He could replace him with Kofi Annan and it would not change the essence of it.
The commission and the committee are two different things, so perhaps the Deputy might just take a look at what we are proposing to do before speaking on the amendment.
So the commission is not referenced in the Bill. That was not clear obviously. The commission itself is not referenced in the Bill.
To be helpful to the House, both of the amendments are with regard to the Oireachtas committee we are proposing to establish.
They are related to the committee referred to in the Bill.
There is no mention of the commission in either of the-----
In that case there is no mention whatsoever of the commission in the Bill. The commission has just been set up without reference to the House.
In which case, evidently, there should be a vote on it.
No, there was an agreement between two parties.
It was an agreement between-----
Yes, it was, to facilitate the formation of a Government to allow you to stay as long as you have stayed, or you would have been out on your ear along with the rest of us.
Right, it is all a deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Thank you very much.
Yes, to facilitate the formation of the Government-----
-----which suspended water charges and put a plaster in place to deal with the issue which is more than you will ever do.
It is very useful-----
One speaker only please. Please stick to the amendment.
It is very useful if Deputy Cowen could be wound up and continue to give the game away.
You can wind me up all you like.
Do not be inspired by being wound up.
I am ready and willing.
The reality is that they are playing a dirty game with Fine Gael to keep water charges going.
Deputy Cowen should not allow himself to be led along like that. Deputy Murphy should concentrate on the amendment and speak to the amendment. Deputies behind Deputy Murphy want to speak as well, as do two or three others on the other side of the House.
I wonder whether there is a Standing Order about getting too close to the bone. What Standing Order is that?
Let me speak about some of the other members of the commission. We wondered why in the Bill it is referred to as a committee rather than a commission, but we presumed it was a reference to the expert commission. The fact it is not given any democratic legitimacy whatsoever-----
Deputy, with respect, you did not assume that.
We had a detailed conversation on Committee Stage on what exactly is being proposed. Perhaps Deputy Murphy does not understand the difference between the commission and the committee but others in his group do.
The key question people will be asking, which is the point of our amendment, is why there is not a reference to the Dáil and why the Dáil does not get a vote on the members of the committee and why we have a committee set up.
I am speaking to the amendment.
Let us look at some of the members of the commission.
I want to be fair to everybody. I wanted to make something clear.
Here we go.
The Deputy must speak to the amendment.
You cannot go around the countryside and give a history lesson-----
This is on the amendment.
-----a geography lesson and a genealogy lesson. He cannot do all of those things.
We are in Kildare Street and not around the countryside.
I know you are a nice guy and I am very fond of you, but not that fond of you so keep to the amendment.
You only lost by one vote.
One vote is enough.
We have Dr. Xavier Leflaive from the OECD, an agency that has consistently pushed an agenda of user fees. He has written that water pricing can be used to signal scarcity and to create incentives for efficient water use in all sectors, and that social consequences are best addressed through well-designed tariffs and other targeted measures.
This is the Dáil. It is a platform.
I am sorry Deputy. Wait a second-----
We are talking about the amendments here.
Can I just intervene-----
-----to your advantage.
It is a committee not a commission.
It is unbelievable the way there is constant interruption from the so-called Opposition.
It would be much less stressful on you to just concentrate on the amendment and speak to the amendment.
That is what I am speaking about. That is no problem.
There are three more speakers behind you who wish to speak, and lots more speakers on the other side of the House.
There is lots of time to debate this tonight.
You must stick to the amendment. You cannot go around the country-----
I am not going around the country.
It is not the scenic tour.
He has gone to Europe now.
Please stick to the amendment. You know yourself what you have to do.
The amendment is on the commission.
Another is Peter Peacock, who favours charges and boasts that consumer forums can help lower prices.
I am dealing with it.
Another is Ms Sarah Hendry, who is an academic lawyer who teaches a module on how price setting can achieve social and economic objectives. Another is Gritta Nottelman, a strategy consultant with Waternet, a Dutch water company that charges for tap water and the discharge of wastewater. Another is Bill Emery, a former director of Ofwat, the British regulatory authority that presided over a privatised water system.
The essence of the amendment, and it is fair enough that the Bill refers to the committee although I do not personally think that was clear, is that the expert commission should be subject to a vote in the Oireachtas and in the Dáil. It is absolutely clear. The fact this is set up and we are presented with what is a sham committee with a rigged outcome, loaded with people who are connected to water privatisation, whether academically or through industry or regulatory capacity-----
One second. I will deal with this now.
The fact that it is set up in advance of any discussion here and of the Bill is a fundamental democratic deficit.
May I respond?
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are being discussed together.
May I respond?
The next speaker is Deputy Bríd Smith.
Before the Minister responds-----
May I make an intervention?
Before the Minister responds, I wish to add my tuppence ha'penny worth to what is a bit of a sham debate. Clearly, what was intended was to table an amendment that would allow the members of the commission to be elected by this House-----
It was not.
-----albeit that if we voted against it, we would lose-----
Just a second.
I will not repeat their names. I will not say anything about them but I do want to say-----
Acting Chairman, I would like to say something.
I know. Minister, give me a second, please. Let me deal with this-----
No, sorry, I am speaking.
No. There are to be no exchanges other than through the Chair.
Through the Chair-----
To which amendment is the Deputy speaking now?
Amendment No. 9.
Could the Deputy read that one out for me, please?
It states: "In page 4, lines 29 and 30, to delete “by either House of the Oireachtas or by both Houses of the Oireachtas” and substitute “whose composition and membership shall be approved by a vote in Dáil Éireann”."
Could I clarify-----
I just want-----
I will call on the Minister after this to clarify. It might be of some benefit, when the Deputy has spoken-----
When I have spoken, I would love the Minister to clarify-----
The Deputy can speak again.
Acting Chairman, may we clarify the matter now?
On a point of order.
Sorry, we cannot have everybody speak. I ask Deputy Smith to proceed and I will then call on the Minister to respond, which might be helpful.
It might be helpful but I will tell the Minister that whatever he says and whatever anyone else in this House says, at this stage, it will be clear to the public that this is a complete set-up to ignore the real issues behind the big debacle of the water charges and to ignore the real issues that got more than 90 Deputies elected to this House. The issues are those that were covered by Deputy Murphy and that were ruled out of order, namely, the issues of water poverty and water metering and the composition of the commission. We are not going to debate the issues that people want to hear about-----
If they are not part of the amendment, the Deputy cannot-----
This is a set-up and all we are doing is obfuscating and arguing about the difference between a committee and a commission. Most people would not even know the difference between them anyway. The Acting Chairman is trying to stage-manage something which seeks to hoodwink the public but they will not be fooled.
I am not trying to do anything.
Instead, the public will be back out marching on 17 September against this awful position-----
Deputy, just a second, please.
-----that the Minister has put them in-----
This has nothing to do with the amendment at all. Anyway-----
What the Acting Chairman is doing in this Dáil is completely wrong.
I do not wish to do anything. I am trying to follow the orders as best I can and what I am saying to the Deputy-----
What the Acting Chairman's orders are doing and the way in which he and the previous Chair followed them-----
The Deputy is beginning to wander now. Deputy Paul Murphy wandered around on a scenic tour of the countryside and Deputy Smith is heading that direction also.
I am heading in the direction of making an argument-----
Please do not go there now.
I am not heading in the direction of the-----
I will call on the Minister for a brief response-----
The Acting Chairman is shutting down any discussion-----
No, I am not shutting down any discussion.
It is very clear to everybody. The discussion is shut down. He is pretending to be reasonable but he is not.
The Deputy will have all the time in the world to respond to what the Minister has to say by way of clarification. Many Deputies want to speak and we will call on them to do so.
There cannot be that many; the place is almost empty.
I wish to clarify a number of matters. First, we are on Report and Final Stages of this short piece of legislation. There was an opportunity to debate many of the issues that Deputies Murphy, Coppinger and Smith raised on Second Stage. That is why we had a Second Stage. There was a further discussion on Committee Stage during which a number of these issues were raised, so the suggestion that this issue has not been debated and discussed is nonsense. It has been debated and discussed. Questions have been submitted to me also regarding the suspension of metering, to which I gave very clear answers, but that is not what is in the legislation that we are talking about.
Second, since the commission has been raised, I reiterate for the benefit of the House that we are setting aside a nine-month period during which charging will be suspended and we will essentially freeze the process to create a space for work to be done on how we proceed. In the first five months of that nine-month period, an expert commission will be set up, which is not dealt with in the legislation but was agreed to in terms of the setting up of that commission. That commission will make recommendations and report-----
Where was it agreed?
We will then have an Oireachtas committee set up-----
Where was it agreed?
-----which is what both of these amendments refer to. The committee will be set up in the normal way in the House. It will not be chosen by the Government alone. It will be fully representative of this House and will be set up in the normal way. That committee will consider the recommendations of the commission but will make its own recommendations and its own judgment on what the appropriate way forward is. We have not specified the terms of reference per se for everything and all the work that the committee of the House will do.
In regard to the two amendments that are in order, the first one, amendment No. 8, tabled by the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit, proposes to prevent the establishment of an Oireachtas committee tasked with making recommendations on the funding of water services provided to dwellings from being established until after the enactment of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2016. We are, therefore, not talking about the commission here. We are talking about-----
Of course, the Minister is not.
-----the setting up of an Oireachtas committee, which-----
He does not want to talk about the commission.
Hang on now, Deputy.
He cannot talk about the commission.
I have spoken about the commission on many occasions.
Not in this House.
We have had an opportunity to debate it but we are debating legislation here which does not provide specifically for that commission and the Deputy knows it.
Amendment No. 9, again tabled by the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit, proposes to restrict approval of the membership and the composition of the proposed Oireachtas committee tasked with making recommendations on the funding of water services provided to dwellings to Dáil Éireann and not to either House or both Houses of the Oireachtas. In other words, it seeks to restrict the membership of that committee solely to members of Dáil Éireann and not Seanad Éireann. That is what is being proposed here, which I fundamentally disagree with. I disagree with both amendments, actually. We should not be deciding now when or how that Oireachtas committee is set up. There is plenty of time for that-----
The Minister could accept amendment No. 8.
-----over the next five months, so can we please deal with the issues-----
We are dealing with it.
-----that these two amendments deal with. The first amendment-----
To be fair to me, I will deal with those. That is what I am doing. We will follow on on that basis.
In regard to amendment No. 8, what is being proposed here is that the committee could not be set up before the enactment of the Bill. It is up to the House how and when to set that committee up and the composition of it. There is plenty of time to do that and it is catered for in the legislation by referring to a committee set up by the Houses of the Oireachtas. Amendment No. 8 is, therefore, not necessary. That committee, as I said, has plenty of time to be set up and will be representative of the Oireachtas.
In regard to amendment No. 9, I do not understand why the Deputies want to prevent Senators from being on that Oireachtas committee.
I will explain to the Minister now.
This legislation will be considered and passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. A committee will look into all of the issues around water and all of the controversy and politics as well as what we are required to do under the obligations we have both nationally and internationally and all that complexity. If we are going to make decisions that have credibility, they need to have credibility across both Houses and I do not see why the Deputies would want to exclude the Seanad from that process.
They need to have credibility with the people.
I think we are more than able to set up a committee that represents both Houses of the Oireachtas to be able to make an informed choice.
I want to include everybody. I do not want one group to monopolise the whole debate. I want Deputies to stick to the amendments. That is strictly in accordance with the rules of the House and that is to be fair to everybody because all the other Deputies are entitled to say their few words as well. After a time-----
Acting Chairman, may I raise something-----
No, the Deputy is listed to speak as well.
We tabled the amendments.
I know. I am aware of that. The person who-----
The Acting Chairman talks about monopolising the debate. Anyone else was perfectly free to table amendments-----
Let me explain that to the Deputy. Everybody is entitled to speak.
I would like to speak on my amendment and so would the others who bothered putting them-----
The Deputy can speak on the amendment.
It was a bizarre statement to make.
Listen for a second, Deputy.
Any Deputy could table an amendment.
The person who moves the amendment can speak three times; every other person can speak twice.
The second time is strictly time limited. This will be applied.
That is grand but let us speak.
Wait a second. If the intention is to frustrate the rules of the House-----
It is a cacophony of interruptions every time we speak.
Through the Chair, please. I will enforce the rules in rapid fashion unless there is some compliance with the rules. I call Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett. Stick to the amendments, please.
On a point of order, the Acting Chairman outlined that apart from the proposer of an amendment, everybody else may speak twice. Is that right?
That is right.
How long is allowed for the first intervention?
The first intervention is subject to the interpretation of the Chair.
There is no limit then.
You cannot speak forever. I have been ejected from the House for attempting to speak for too long on the first intervention.
Is there a limit?
There is a limit. You cannot go on forever, repeat or stonewall.
Where in Standing Orders is the time limit specified?
One cannot stray from the amendment.
This is not Second Stage. I am sorry, Deputy, resume your seat for a second. You are a nice guy and I am very fond of you but you are going to have to sit down for a moment while I tell you-----
You said you were going to apply the rules. Confirm to the House that there is no time limit on the first intervention. Otherwise, you are abusing your position.
Please, resume your seat. Your intention is to frustrate the House. I thought you were going to be co-operative and assist the Chair in the running of the House.
The Deputy asked how long he could speak for.
Everybody will get an opportunity to speak and, within reason, if everybody sticks to the amendments, I will not intervene. However, if Deputies use the amendments as a vehicle to frustrate the House and to do a filibuster that would be more appropriate to a Second Stage debate with no time limits, I will intervene. I appeal to the Deputy to please proceed in accordance with the orders of the House. Have you completed your first intervention?
No, I have not.
I thought you had.
It was a point of order.
There are no more points of order. You have had my order.
No, I asked a question and the Acting Chairman did not answer it.
I did answer it.
Under Standing Orders, is there a time limit on the first intervention?
There could be.
There is not.
Somebody in the Clerk's office should inform the Acting Chairman.
There is no time limit but if you depart from the subject matter of the debate, there is a time limit.
Thank you. There is no time limit. That is all the Acting Chairman had to say.
Unless you depart from the subject matter of the amendment.
I hope the same warnings will go to all speakers in advance of their speeches.
Of course, they will not. It is absolute abuse.
Please proceed to amendment No. 8 or amendment No. 9, whichever you like, or both together.
The principle behind our amendments is to vindicate the idea of democracy and the sovereignty of the House as the directly elected Chamber representing the people of the country. This is the purpose of these amendments. It is very clear. It does not, as the Minister suggested, exclude Senators. It says the composition of the committee should be decided by the Dáil. This is in line with an argument which the Minister fully understands and which he should not try to misrepresent, namely, that we believe the House is mandated on the question of water charges and it is an abuse of democracy for anybody other than the directly elected representatives of the House to decide how the issue of water charges is dealt with.
We think there is a clear, democratic mandate and that the Minister is trying to worm his way out of it with Fianna Fáil. We do not accept that expert groups or committees, established to make recommendations to the House, should be established by any other body than the House. This is what democracy means. It is clear that the Minister and Fianna Fáil do not like democracy when it does not suit them. With these amendments, we are trying to rectify an abuse of the democratic principle. Our amendments do not specify that the House cannot select Senators. The House can choose whomever it wants to put on commissions or committees. This is what we are arguing and the Minister knows damn well it is what we are arguing.
We do not think it is acceptable that the Minister is establishing a process that will, over time, undermine the clear and unequivocal mandate that was given to the House because of a side deal he happens to have done with Fianna Fáil. The Minister should respond to this point. The public needs to know how the game is played. It should not be a game but it is a game. When the Government cannot win a matter in open public debate, it rigs the game by way of side deals between different political parties.
I am sorry but there is nothing in the amendment that talks about rigging the game.
No, it does not.
That is right. It is not in the amendment.
The amendment is designed to prevent the rigging of the game.
Again, I ask the Deputy to please adhere to the amendments.
I am. I am telling you that the purpose of the amendment is to prevent the rigging of the game. The legislation the Government has proposed is open to the game being rigged. We are attempting to insert an amendment that would prevent the game being rigged. It is entirely relevant to the purpose of the legislation unless the Government wants to tell us it would not be worried about the game being rigged. However, I am sure, in the new political landscape, the Government would be as concerned as we are about the possibility of games being rigged. As we all know, games have been rigged for a long time on many issues. Given that it would be deviating from the Bill to enumerate them, I will not.
Good. That is a relief.
Suffice it to say that many games have been rigged in the past with devastating cost to ordinary citizens. We are asking, as part of the new politics, that this House decides in an open and transparent way. There is no need for a commission at all. We would like it to be dealt with by the House, full stop.
It is going to be.
The Minister has set his face against this and has decided to establish a commission. We at least want the House to have a democratic say in how all of it is done.
The Bill has nothing to do with this, Acting Chairman.
The Minister does not want it because he does not believe in democracy or he wants to undermine a democratic decision.
The Deputy is mixing up the commission and the committee.
I also speak as a representative of the people, concerned with democracy and my duty as a public representative to represent the people. I will speak directly to the two amendments that deal with the establishment of the committee. On Committee Stage last week, an amendment was passed at the instigation of Fianna Fáil. Deputy Barry Cowen is being very quiet and has not proposed any amendments on Report Stage because he got his amendment through Committee Stage, given that the Government tabled a similar amendment. The amendment allowed for an extension of the time taken by the committee and the commission beyond the nine months. As a publicly elected person in the Chamber, I believe we are being asked to finalise the Bill today without the kind of information we need for the taxpayers who will have to pay if infringement charges are imposed and if those infringement charges are increased by the provision in the legislation to extend the time period beyond nine months.
Last week, the Minister went to Brussels and met Commissioner Karmenu Vella. We do not know the consequences of the meeting. We do not know if there will be infringement charges and what they will be. We do not know if they are likely to increase due to amendments to the Bill. We should not make such a decision in the absence of this information. The Minister was very helpful on Committee Stage last week and spoke about the fact that he was going to meet the Commissioner. However, since then, we have received no information about what happened. While it goes against the grain for the Minister, he must do it given that he is in a minority Government. It is being done at the instigation of Fianna Fáil, the very party which decided we were to have water charges in the first place, back in 2010 under the river basin management plan to which the Fianna Fáil Government agreed.
That is where we differ.
The troika agreement signed by the Fianna Fáil Government-----
Was it implemented?
-----in December 2010 states, "In advance of the introduction of water charges ... [t]he government will have undertaken an independent assessment of transfer of responsibility for water services provision from local authorities to a water utility, and prepare proposals for implementation, as appropriate with a view to start charging in 2012/2013."
Did it do it?
This is a complete farce on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party-----
Who did it?
-----in looking for a fig leaf to hide behind, knowing very well all it is doing is kicking the can down the road and forcing the Government to do that. We are in this highly farcical situation where certain Members are playing their own game. Fianna Fáil has its own nice, quiet game to play, where the Government implements what it wants, but the public, who will be paying the infringement charges, will have no information as to what the Commissioner said to the Minister last week.
They are paying for it as it is. General taxation is paying for it.
We have no information on what are the consequences of the amendment made in the committee last week in respect of the possible extension of the nine months-----
In the event of it being required.
As public representatives, we have a responsibility to the public, who want to see their taxes used on things such as building houses and schools and providing for people in hospitals. We have a total absence of information as to the consequences of this legislation but we are being asked to vote on it today. That is unacceptable. Will the Minister clarify exactly what are the consequences of bringing in this legislation for the people?
The next speaker on my list is Deputy Mick Barry but he is not here.
He is here.
Is he here?
How can he be the next speaker?
He is here. Deputy Mick Barry, here you go. Now is your chance.
It is grand.
He is passing. The next speaker is Deputy Alan Kelly.
I am delighted to be able to speak on this amendment relating to the committee. This is a unique moment because, as I stand here, I agree with Deputy Paul Murphy on this issue. This is a unique moment.
An historic one. Put it on the record.
Deputy Kelly is laughing again.
The eureka moment is that he used a phrase I was going to use, which is that the setting up of this committee is a sham. I am coming at it from a totally different perspective but it is a sham. It is a sham because-----
It might do what Deputy Alan Kelly would not do.
The committee the Deputy refers to-----
If the Minister will listen for a change, instead of interrupting all the time-----
There will be only one speaker.
The reason this committee is a sham is because it has a predetermined outcome. When the Minister unveils to the House his conversation with Commissioner Vella last Friday, we will all know that to be a fact. The Commissioner, with whom I have discussed this issue, will have made it known only too well to the Minister that the consequence of getting rid of or suspending water charges is that a pilot notification will be sent to the Government and we will have to foot fines of a scale that we have not seen before. Like my colleague-----
It is a pretty dangerous thing to misrepresent the Commissioner.
It sure is.
I am not misrepresenting the Commissioner.
The Deputy is.
I am not misrepresenting anything.
Deputy Kelly has a predetermined opinion about everything and it is never the right one.
All Members will have an opportunity to speak and the Minister will have an opportunity to reply. The Deputy to continue.
I say to the Minister that is what I predict will happen.
That is not what the Deputy said.
He is putting words in the Commissioner's mouth now.
I am sorry, Deputy, but one speaker, please. I know you are all very enthusiastic and all that kind of thing but you cannot all speak together, much as I would like to allow it.
They can but they may not be allowed.
Deputy Kelly, to proceed.
Stick to the amendment.
I will. To be clear, so the Minister cannot accuse me of misrepresenting anyone, given the discussions with Europe, I believe we will be left in a situation where this committee will have a predetermined outcome based on the advice the Minister has been given. I am sure the Attorney General has given him advice on the issue. I am sure he has asked her for it. I asked her for it before I left, so I am sure she gave the Minister the advice I asked for. If not, the Minister may request it. Based on that and the replies the Commissioner has given to various MEPs in the recent past and, dare I say it, once the Minister outlines to us the discussions he had last week, it will be clear that this situation is a sham. There is a predetermined outcome, because the equation here is very simple. I have stated it on numerous occasions. Either the committee accepts that we put the country into the risky situation of having massive fines imposed on us on a daily basis, similar to other countries-----
I do not agree.
-----or we have some form of affordable water charges based on the polluter pays principle. I know the Minister agrees with that principle.
The consequences of what we have done here means that-----
The Deputy is straying from the amendment.
-----this is the capacity of this committee to discuss the funding implications for Irish Water. Will the committee also discuss the Exchequer payments that will have to go to Irish Water-----
They are already going to it.
-----and the capital funding of Irish Water as a consequence of the action of suspending water charges?
The Deputy provided for the next five years in the last Government.
Will the committee discuss, or will the Government allow it to discuss, where the funding will come from? Will it be taken from schools, health care-----
You provided for it for the past five years.
From the 26%-----
I would love to allow everyone to speak together but it cannot happen. I am sorry-----
He was in government himself.
I am sorry, Deputies, but one speaker at a time.
He is admitting now that he did not know what he was doing.
One second. I want to impart a certain amount of-----
Deputy, please do not engage in exchanges because it tends to lead to disorder.
Fair enough. I take the Acting Chairman's advice.
I would not like disorder to prevail and I know Deputy Kelly would not like it to prevail. I, therefore, ask him to try to stick to the amendment as much as possible to ensure that others do not take the wrong cue.
Less is more.
With the setting up of this committee and the process the Minister went through on the suspension of water charges, the Minister is in a unique situation, unfortunately, given the political arithmetic in which he has found himself in that the legislation he is proposing is questionable under European law. I consider the Minister to be in an unenviable situation. I do not think it is personally his fault because I know his beliefs on this matter. However, this legislation is being proposed despite what the Commission has said and the replies of Commissioner Vella to various MEPs. These replies were quite clear and distinctive and replies from Commissioners are not always distinctive. He was very clear and absolute in his opinion. We now have a situation where this committee will be left in a scenario that has a predetermined outcome given the legal situation and we have a Minister putting forward this legislation. I would like him to verify that he knows absolutely and unquestionably that it is legal under European law, that he has got advice from the Attorney General-----
We deal with Irish law here.
Wait a second. I will get to Irish law.
This is Irish law.
We have to adhere to European law as well, Deputy.
We do not set European laws in here.
We have to adhere-----
One speaker, please.
Actually, European law takes precedence, as Deputy Cowen knows.
It is very much subject to-----
Deputy Kelly, do not encourage interruptions.
I want the Minister to absolutely guarantee-----
One would think he would have voted against it on Second Stage-----
-----that this committee-----
I am coming to Deputy Cowen-----
Why did the Deputy not vote against it?
-----is acting based on, and I genuinely request this of the Minister, the legal advice he has received under both national and EU law.
I assume the Commission will be in touch with the Minister soon to outline its view on the suspension of water charges.
We are challenged in the scenario in this House to face down the reality, given the make-up of the Dáil, which I respect, as that is the democratic process. However, with respect to the outcome of the committee that will be in place-----
-----the equation it will have to deliver is as follows. On one side we will be faced with very hefty fines and a huge ongoing legal debate for years with the European Union and, on the other, with introducing reasonable and affordable water charges. For that to happen, given the make-up of the House and the utterances of Fianna Fáil, particularly Deputy Barry Cowen who has brought us to this scenario through his wild pursuit-----
That is the Deputy's privilege.
One speaker at a time, please.
No. The timeline and duration of this Dáil will really be in Deputy Barry Cowen's hands once the committee reports back because given the arithmetic, its report will not be able to pass through the House without his support and that of Fianna Fáil. Therefore, I want to know that he will support the outcome, given the democratic process which he has pursued.
The Deputy already knows the outcome, nine months beforehand.
No, I do not.
The Deputy knows everything else.
Please allow Deputy Alan Kelly to conclude, without interruption.
Seeing that Deputy Barry Cowen wants to pursue this issue, I am sure he will be willing to accept the outcome of the committee's deliberations.
I will accept the outcome in this House.
If the Deputy does so, given the fact that, as I have shown, it is a predetermined outcome-----
The Deputy still thinks he is the boss.
I am concluding.
We now know that that is the scenario. It will be the biggest political climbdown in Deputy Barry Cowen's political career should he do it.
It will hardly surpass anything the Deputy has done.
I look forward to that day when the Deputy has to make that decision.
We are on Report Stage.
Deputy Alan Kelly is the king of climbdowns and U-turns.
I call Deputy Eoin Ó Broin who will be followed by Deputy Ruth Coppinger. We will then see who turns up next.
We are moving to the two-minute slots.
We are in round 2 then.
Please allow Deputy Eoin Ó Broin to proceed, without interruption, please. We are working slowly.
I support the spirit of amendments Nos. 8 and 9 and will explain my reason for so doing. As everybody is aware, the purpose of the Bill is to suspend the payment of water charges for nine months. The purpose of the suspension is to allow a so-called independent commission to consider the funding of domestic water services, refer its recommendations to an Oireachtas committee which will make recommendations to the Dáil for a final decision.
The frustration of the Deputies who tabled these two amendments stems from the fact that there has been no opportunity for the House to debate fully or influence the membership of the commission, or its terms of reference. The considerations of the committee will automatically be limited by this fact. We did not have on Committee Stage a considered discussion of the terms of reference or the membership of the commission. Because of this, all the committee will be able to do is debate recommendations which will be very narrowly framed. Admittedly, we will be able to throw other things in, but they will already have been narrowed. The original proposition the Minister made when he introduced the Bill was that the purpose was to take the heat out of the debate and allow for a full and frank discussion of all the issues involved, but that is not what will happen. I, therefore, support the two amendments. I would not have written them in the way they have been drafted, but since I did not make the effort to write amendments and others did, I will support them. I still urge the Minister to reconsider the proposals made by my colleagues and me to include issues for the consideration of the commission and the committee such as water poverty and the others laid down in order that we can have a full discussion.
While the issue of imminent fines is not related to the amendments, as a number of other speakers have addressed it, I would also like to address it. People keep talking about the provision of legal advice. If they have it, they should publish it and if they are not willing to do so, they should stop telling us what the anonymous legal advice is. All we are getting is conjecture. Anybody who understands how European law works knows that the Water Framework Directive has five core objectives and that if there were to be infringement proceedings taken by the European Commission, they would be on the basis of whether the Government of this member state was in breach of these objectives, of which the introduction of domestic water charges is not one. The river basin management plan will provide the outline of how the Government intends to meet the five objectives and only if the Commission, post publication of the plan in 2017, considers it does not meet its objectives will it even consider taking infringement proceedings. Even if it were to do so, it would take two, three or four years for it do so because there are already infringement proceedings under way for a breach of a previous directive, the urban wastewater directive, as the Minister noted. Anybody who comes into the House and alleges that there will be imminent and enormous fines because of this Bill is making it up. Anybody with an ounce of sense and knowledge of EU law, the Water Framework Directive and infringement proceedings knows this is the case.
Sinn Féin has commissioned legal advice on this issue and, unlike others, when it is available, we will publish it because we think the public has a right to know what the legalities are. However, in the meantime I urge the Minister, notwithstanding the difficulties with the wording of the amendments, to take on board their spirit, broaden the terms of reference of the commission in order that the committee will be able to consider key issues such as water poverty, water conservation and the others mentioned by colleagues.
I also say to my colleagues that they should let the Bill get through tonight because whatever about our difficulties with what the Government is doing, we could then move to the next stage and deal with the more important issues that we all want to raise in the committee and ultimately on the floor of the Dáil to end up taking a vote on the issue which I hope will result in the abolition of water charges.
Earlier the Acting Chairman mentioned filibustering, but I do not think it is humanly or mathematically possible to do so if there is only one amendment to be dealt with on the floor of the Dáil.
That is why I said it.
The Acting Chairman might have engaged in a bit of it in his day.
We will not go there.
Far from it, some of us have other responsibilities to which we would like to attend and while it may be fun to watch the lads shouting slogans across the floor at each other, this is a serious political issue, as Members know because it was the one that dominated the discussions on Government formation in the weeks they took place. It is obviously a key issue for the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit grouping and others in the House who took a very firm stand against water charges from the time of their imposition two years ago and encouraged people to organise and march to boycott them. With all due respect to Deputy Barry Cowen - it is nothing personal - we are not here because of him but because tens of thousands of people took to the streets and made water charges such a massive issue when politicians knocked on the door and also did not pay them, despite all the threats made.
The political establishment and the political system has been discredited enough without the actions being taken in the Bill. I am a member of the committee which deals with the issues of housing, water services and the environment. I was shocked at the way everything was ruled out of order without any discussion. Effectively, an attempt was being made to confine and narrow the scope of this process and also the idea behind having a committee versus a commission. A commission is being set up that has never been agreed to in the Dáil but it was agreed to somewhere else, in a secret room, between the two major parties represented in the Dáil. The rest of the Dáil has no say in who will be included in it or represented on it. That is completely undemocratic. There should be some oversight. From what I see, it will be dominated by people who are involved in the water industry. Will there be any householder included in it - any mother or father who has to pay water bills - or anyone from Detroit suffering from water poverty to give evidence? Will there be any such representative included in it?
They did not have anything like that.
We are representative of water customers.
There is a team of so-called experts who, as my colleague, Deputy Paul Murphy, has already said, have a set, pre-ordered agenda of being in favour of charging ordinary people for water. It is clear how the water committee the Government is going to set up in the Dáil will go. It will be able to discuss nothing except what the Minister wants it to discuss. It cannot discuss water meters or any of the issues preying on people's minds in regard to water charges.
Yes, it can.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the "Endapendents" who are backing them up on this one can try all the manoeuvres they like. The commission is clearly weighted with people from the water industry.
The second threat being used, and it seems to be the Labour Party taking up the cudgels on this one, is the EU Commission. It is as clear as day that this country has never had an established practice of charging for water. We have had an established practice of not charging for water. How can any Member cite such rubbish? He or she is meant to be defending the so-called country or the wishes of the people in this country against the EU but is instead using it as a hammer against the anti-water charges movement. One would be a sad and poor lawyer if one could not make the case that Ireland did not have an established practice of charging for water.
Not just that, but the other wording used is "recouping the charge for water". We have never recouped the charge for water through charges. Irish Water was a fiasco. It never worked. A law student could argue the case that we never recouped water charges. Nevertheless, this is the big bogeyman now. First, it was a proposal to dock the charge from people's wages. Now, it is fines from Europe.
How does the Minister propose to reintroduce charges for water after nine months? I lie awake at night wondering about this one because I do not envy the Minister. The first car I ever owned was a banger of a Ford Fiesta. It had a choke. I doubt the Minister has ever driven a car like this as he might come from more salubrious surroundings.
Is Deputy Coppinger still speaking to the amendment?
I am trying to get through the speakers.
It is called a metaphor. The Deputy might want to listen. When the engine got very cold, one pulled the choke to allow more petrol into it, but often flooded the engine instead. I do not envy the Minister and his new Government in trying to reintroduce water charges after nine months.
There is a lot of emphasis on mental health in the programme for Government. It should let this issue go now. Do not cling on to it. The people have no intention of restarting payment for water. We saw the figures earlier and that 73% of people are not paying. That includes the middle class on whom the Minister relies for his votes. They have now joined the boycott. They have seen the example of those who held the line from the outset and they are not going to start repaying. The Minister can set up any charade of a commission he likes. I am just finishing Acting Chair, as I would not filibuster.
I thank the Deputy. She is very thoughtful. We appreciate that.
This charade is an expensive and bureaucratic way to deal with things. We all know that no matter what the Government comes up with, people have decided that they are not paying and that water charges are finished. On 17 September, there will be another protest. I do not know how big it will be. I doubt it will be as large as the ones which took place in October 2014. I warn the Minister, however, that if he keeps up with this kind of thing, the protests will grow again. This is the one issue where people have confidence that they are in control because they can refuse to pay. The boycott is central to winning this, and not Fianna Fáil or anyone else who is trying to get over this hurdle.
I am pleased to be able to speak to the amendment. It is interesting that the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, has left the Chamber. He and the previous Minister and now EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, left us in a mess in setting up Irish Water, which I oppose fundamentally. However, I have huge difficulties with the amendment. We had a referendum on the Seanad and this seems to deny the people elected and appointed to the Seanad by the will of the people a chance to consider the legislation. The Seanad remains. As such, people that shout a lot about democracy are trying to deny it to both Houses. Both Houses debate legislation here. There is also the fact that in the region of 700,000 people paid for water. I inform Deputy Coppinger who says that we have no history of charging and paying for water that rural people have been paying for water all their lives. Many of them never had it. I did not have it as a young fellow and I am not 100 years old. We had to draw it with all sorts of vehicles, including horses and cars, from wells and everywhere else.
Who did you pay then?
Those people did not mind paying for it and were glad to get it. I salute the pioneers of the group schemes who went out and championed their own water, sought funding and paid to bring water services to their houses. They were very glad of it.
There is a big debate about what the European Commission has said and that the Exchequer funds having to pay for it, which is what Deputy Alan Kelly ensured. What about the private people? Every hairdresser, every shop, every victualler, every church and everywhere else with a water connection, including private homes, are all paying for water. Private businesses of every sort are paying for water. Are they going to be left to carry the can?
We want to support jobs. Someone is going to have to pay the bills to break even on the cost of upgrading our many schemes. Is it the farmers and ordinary small business people who will be crucified? Do they matter at all? Should they just pay the rates, pay for everything, shut up and carry the can for somebody who does not want to pay for anything? We have to have some reality here. There is talk about the 90 Members elected here because of water, but it was not really an issue in my election campaign in Tipperary. When I attended some of the protests, I was hunted from them by members of certain parties who are here talking about it now.
The Deputy went to an anti-water charges protest despite the fact that he is in favour of water charges.
One speaker at a time, Deputy.
I went to the water protest and was hunted by members of certain parties and I thank Deputy Adams for dealing with the treatment I received along with other councillors. It was the preserve of certain people who want to be anti everything and pro nothing.
Do not go down to the protest if you are in favour of water charges.
They do not understand what it costs to treat water so that it is safe to drink and deliver it to households, but they want to make plenty of noise about it and cause mayhem. What happened to Deputy Joan Burton in west Dublin and the chicanery that went on with it was nothing but bullying and intimidation which I was also subjected to when I attended a march myself with colleagues from the county council in Tipperary. It was not my scene and I was not wanted there. I was supposedly invading the space of someone else-----
You are for water charges. What were you at the protest for?
-----in spite of being asked by dozens of older people, who have been paying for water all their lives, to attend.
We have a charade here. I was in discussions on the programme for Government for a number of days and never mentioned water charges once. There were many other issues that we debated that were far more serious. We wanted to form a Government to ensure that people had one, rather than sitting on the fence trying to ensure that we would have anarchy, which is what some people seem to want.
I saw the treatment of the Chair earlier and the blaming of the Bills Office and the Journal Office for the wording of amendments. There are rules and procedures here and we have the d'Hondt system in committees now, which is where these issues are to be discussed. I am very surprised to see the great democrats seeking to deny the Seanad its input by way of the amendments here.
They were ruled out of order before the committee.
We have a great deal to think about. I believe in paying one's fair share. I do not believe Irish Water should have been set up. It led to the creation of a monster. It was unnecessary because of the local authorities, God be good to them, and the private pioneers who found sources, developed water schemes and are still running them. They have to pay.
Where is the fairness? We talk about equality every day of the week until it is coming out our ears. Where is the fairness when these people have to pay, which they do not mind, and when 700,000 Irish Water customers paid in spite of the intimidation and rumpus that went on around this? We need a reality check before we get into too much hot water. We will not know where we are going. We must respect the establishment of the commission. I do not have a view on it one way or another except to say that we should have kept the system we had and stood with the people who always paid and who do not mind paying their share.
They are in this city as well. Every business premises has to pay for it, from the smallest one-person shop and the little cafeteria across the road where we get our bowls of porridge in the morning if we are here early to do whatever. What is so great about people not wanting to pay for anything? I rest my case.
Anyone elected on 26 February should have realised that water charges were done. They should have been abolished in a democratic acceptance of what the people had been saying for two years. On 26 February, people went out with their pencils in their hands and voted in the majority of Deputies to abolish water charges. That message to the Government could not have been any clearer. The Government could have played around with the idea that there were 50,000, 30,000 or 10,000 people on the streets for the water protests when we knew that there were 110,000, but the vote was a clear message to anyone setting up a Government to the effect that water charges had to go.
We are back in a farcical situation. Fianna Fáil instigated water charges in the 1990s. A Labour Party-Fine Gael Government abolished them after an election because it realised that the people had spoken.
Speak to the amendment.
Fianna Fáil opened the door to the troika but it was smart enough not to close it on the way out. Fianna Fáil could have kept the door open for eventualities such as this one to allow it to abolish the water charges. Terribly, the Labour Party followed through and bolted the door behind itself by signing off on the European Water Framework Directive. It did this in the knowledge that the people had said that they did not want water charges.
Farcically, establishment politicians and parties are playing a game and setting up a commission. Opposition Deputies are right to point out to the Government that it is setting up a commission that we cannot change or into which we, as elected representatives, cannot make an input. We do not know who made the decisions about who will be members of the commission. A number of us have made proposals to broaden its terms of reference. I received a letter from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, in response and I thank him for acknowledging my proposal. I wanted to broaden the terms of reference to cover the social implications of funding water services in the short, medium and long terms, including water poverty for low-income families, and possible future privatisation; the protection of public ownership of water, including its management and delivery; and the effect of borrowing to fund water infrastructure. For example, Detroit in the USA was under significant pressure to repay its loans. People were cut off from water, leading to water poverty and all that goes with it. The human right to water, even at a low level of payment, is not being delivered to those people.
I wanted the commission to consider how to increase water conservation through green technologies and to examine reports in Scotland, England, Bolivia and Germany on servicing water infrastructure and supply. I also wanted the commission's membership to involve people with expertise in consumer rights, consumer interests and anti-poverty advocacy.
The Minister has closed us down regarding the Bill and has not reverted to us in any shape or form on whether he is considering including any of our proposals in the terms of reference, broadening them out or doing whatever is necessary. Sinn Féin's Deputy Ó Broin proposed similar terms of reference to the Minister.
People see that the water charges are dead but not buried whereas the establishment believes that a bit of sugar will soften people up to the idea of paying some form of water charge. The real lesson that people have learned was highlighted by the privatisation of waste collection. People know that water charges will lead to privatisation. They know that once a commodity is made out of a service, the European Commission can insist on its privatisation and its opening to competition in line with EU regulations. We are not fools. The people who went out on the streets are not fools. The people who will walk the streets on 17 September are not fools. They will be out in large numbers to let the minority Government and Fianna Fáil know that this is not acceptable. We should forget about water charges and set them aside. The Government will not get them. People will resist them time and again.
We will have an election soon. We do not know whether it will be in nine, 18 or 26 months but Government Deputies will be back out on the doorsteps to face the electorate again. People know that at least three of the commission's members support water charges. I advise Deputies to think hard about what is happening and to abolish water charges.
The Government points out that producing clean water for our taps must be paid for, which is important. We all know that it costs money. For the past ten or 15 years, however, green technologies that only provide clean water for what we drink were not included in our planning laws despite the possibility of this directive being implemented. Why are we flushing clean water down toilets or into our washing machines and out into the system? If the Government was serious, it would introduce grants to effect this change in water usage. We would not be discussing this problem because the amount of water being used at our taps would be nearly 80% less. We should be installing long-term infrastructure in our homes and communities so as to ensure that costly clean water only goes where it is meant to instead of down our toilets. Until people see initiatives like that, they will not be fooled.
I must declare an interest. My family has a small plant hire business that has been repairing and replacing water pipes for more than 60 years in Kerry.
We all realise that water is essential and that without it, none of us can survive. For various reasons, many parts of my county do not have water at certain times of the year. They do not have pipes running in front of their homes, so they must improvise by, for example, drawing water. One community in south Kerry must hire lorries and tankers to bring it water practically every day from April until the middle or end of September.
I hope that some geniuses decide in the coming months that it will be grand for everyone to have free water. I would support that because I also would like to have free water but many people on group schemes in my county have been suffering trying to keep their schemes working, their water treated and their pipes repaired. It costs money constantly to keep water flowing in those pipes. Another set of people have wells, pumps and private supplies of their own but keeping the water coming into their homes costs money. They must provide their own septic tanks but even before they can place those, people need to get planning permission for them, undergo site assessments and meet planners' strict regulations. Some treatment systems can cost up to €14,000 or €16,000. Many young couples have had to go through all of this recently to comply with the new standards and regulations.
People in group sewerage schemes experience a lot of trouble. It costs a lot to enter the schemes at the outset. I know of numerous communities around Killarney and the rest of Kerry seeking to have group sewerage schemes sanctioned but they may have to wait for three, four or five years. They have been waiting for the past five years but there is no word that they will be assisted in this regard.
Over the years, farmers and business people have been paying continuously for water from the public supply. They have been glad to get it. The only trouble they have is when the water system breaks down. They really start to complain when they do not have water. They may be without it for only a short few hours but they need to get the supply restored as soon as possible. Until they have the water back again, they are not happy, as everybody here can understand.
If we are to have free water for all, all those people who have paid their charges up to now will have to be refunded. Irrespective of what committee is to vet these proposals, it will have to consider that people in group water schemes, or with wells, pumps and septic tanks, and those in group sewerage schemes will have to be helped and subsidised. Their group schemes will have to be brought up to standard, as will their wells, and they will have to be funded so there will be equality in all sections of society.
There is much to be considered. I would dearly love it if everybody could have free water, but I do not know how that would be achieved. I have been repairing pipes myself over the years and noted water does not get into them without a lot of work and without someone ensuring they are maintained and repaired. The water must be treated, which costs money. Some people say water will be paid for through progressive taxation. Maybe they are going to raise income tax, and maybe the people in the schemes I have been talking about will be asked to pay so others can have free water.
How was it paid for up to now?
That should not happen.
One speaker, please.
I never interrupted Deputy Coppinger when she was talking. I have the floor but the Deputy may stand up and talk for the rest of the day when I am finished.
The Deputy should not allow himself to be distracted.
There has to be equality and fair play across the country. If some people are to have free water, everyone will have to have free water.
I agree with the Deputy.
We are making some progress, albeit on a drip-by-drip basis. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice is next, to be followed by one other speaker, Deputy Maria Bailey. We will then move to the two-minute slots.
Could we move to sticking rigidly to the amendments also?
I can assure the Deputy that we will stick rigidly to the two-minute slot.
Will we move into that territory?
I have allowed a certain amount of latitude to allow people to speak. I remind Members we are running out of time.
Water is a necessity, no matter where in the country one lives. The one point that has been lost in all the debates over the past few months concerns the group water schemes, which suffered a cut of €50 per household when the €100 grant was introduced. We now know the €100 grant is gone and the group water schemes are struggling. I acknowledge there is a commitment to addressing this in the programme for Government but I urge the Minister to do so urgently because the householders will soon be down €50 per house for a year. This is fundamental in keeping the group water schemes going.
Over the past ten to 12 years, many EU regulations have come in on the supply of water and on the bar to which one must rise. Whether we like it or not, be it on the right or left, it is costing more and more to supply water to a house. This is because UV systems and new filter systems must be installed. Regardless of what side of the debate one is on, it would be good for one to go to a sewage or water treatment plant to look at the sophisticated types of machinery now required to deliver safe water to houses. I am chairman of a group water scheme and I am used to the different types of machinery needed.
I have seen boil water notices operating for ten years in certain areas. We have moved on such that there are now new UV systems. I have a container, like a spare wheel for a car, that one can move from one part of Ireland to another if there is a problem with cryptosporidium. Admittedly, it takes ten or 12 months but it once took eight to ten years. The period can be reduced even further.
The group water schemes have been forgotten in this debate. So, too, have the wells. The Minister is responsible for planning. A point currently emerging from planning authorities is that, in rural areas where people spend between €4,000 and €8,000 to sink a well for a new house, local authorities are stipulating, as a condition of planning permission, that if piped water comes along in two years or five years, for example, those people must connect up to it. This is very unfair on somebody who has spent €4,000, €5,000 or, perhaps, €8,000 to participate in a scheme. This should be addressed ferociously quickly.
Whether people like it or not, when the commission completes its work it will be for politicians or a committee to make a decision. Regardless of what the Dáil decides to do, the one thing we must know is the position on building sewage treatment plants right around this country. In this regard, one should bear in mind that a lake I know that is supposed to be a special area of conservation has raw sewage flowing into it. There are two EPA reports on the lake but the money has not been invested in solving the problem. This is happening right around the country.
Even at present, we are struggling to have water of the quality required because the bar is rising year by year. If we are to have it, be it on the right hand or the left hand, we must put a fair bit of money aside. We must also invest in fixing pipes that are leaking. This needs to be sorted quickly because wasting water is no good to anybody.
I have spoken time and again about rainwater harvesting initiatives to cut down on the supply of treated water. I am a farmer and my cattle drink chlorinated water. They should not. There should be a separate way of harvesting water for such uses and an incentive from the Government to encourage people to move away from treating water that is not for human consumption. One cannot have two pipes side by side so there needs to be an incentive for a separate tank or a system involving the eaves gutter on the house. If there were a PVC tank and a little pump, the water could be collected for toilets, and it could also be used by farmers. We need to think outside the box on this. The Government should provide the incentives. If water is being pumped from a well, electricity costs, chlorine costs, UV costs and other associated costs will reduce. We could be much more economical in our use of treated water because we get plenty of water from the sky that could be collected if we introduced rainwater harvesting initiatives.
We need lifeguards in this Chamber because I am drowning in the misinterpretation of what is in front of us. What is really disappointing is the charade that took place here for the first 20 minutes of this debate. We are not even dealing with what we are actually trying to do here. We are dealing with what is emotive, what will get a headline in the paper and what we can put in our Twitter and social media accounts rather than the facts before us.
Deputy Coppinger said the debate was shut down at the committee meeting. We dealt with this Bill on Committee Stage but, in fairness to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, at the conclusion of that Stage he afforded to members of the committee as much time as they wanted to ask questions, be they about the commission or the water bill. Deputy O’Sullivan, who is not a member, was present. That discussion concluded only when there were no further questions from the floor.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, at that meeting and another meeting on the Estimates, afforded members as much time as they wanted to debate the issues.
Some of the Deputies opposite obviously have access to a crystal ball because they appear to know the outcome of the commission's deliberations.
Joe O'Toole told us the outcome.
I do not trust crystal balls because I do not like to pre-empt decisions until I have all the facts before me. It is unfair to other Deputies to pre-empt the outcome of the commission and the subsequent decision of the committee. Deputies should calm down and wait for the commission's report and the decision of the House.
Housing is a priority for many Deputies and the Government. If we are serious about building houses, the numerous sites that are not serviced with water must be serviced. Since my election to the Dáil in February, I have not heard any indication from some of the Deputies opposite as to how they propose to pay for this. I would like them to clarify how it would be done, albeit not in this debate.
I will provide some context to this issue. Although the issue of water was raised in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown a few times during the election campaign, it was not a major issue in the constituency. This was because we have been on top of the water issue from the outset. We identified leaks, rectified problems and communicated with constituents. While water may have been an issue in certain parts of the constituency, it was not an election issue and it was not the basis on which I was elected to the House. I was elected to deliver for my constituents, whether in child care, housing, jobs or health and water was not the No. 1 issue. We are serious about providing housing and value for money for people.
I do not have a problem waiting for the commission's report and allowing it to go before the committee. Certain Deputies have lost the run of themselves. They should be searching for life jackets under their seats because we are drowning in what is coming from across the floor. Let us deal with the amendments and the Bill, get the process under way and debate the issue at a later stage. Let us deal with facts, not fiction, crystal balls, metaphors, "Frozen" analogies and so forth. The Deputies opposite should be dealing with facts and sticking to the point.
I appreciate being allowed a little time to discuss this very important issue. I wish to acknowledge one group of people because their efforts forced the previous Government into a U-turn on water charges. I refer to ordinary people - I do not care if they were supporters of political parties or Independents - who carried their children through towns and villages on wet Saturday and Sunday mornings to express their opposition to the Government's proposals for water charges. One could spend the rest of one's life debating the level of water charges or whether they should or should not be introduced but the fact is that the Government's original proposals on water charges would have imposed an unbearable financial burden on struggling families. The outcome of the protests was that the Government was eventually forced to do a U-turn and reduce the charges. The heroes of the water debacle were the people who voiced their concerns by protesting on the streets.
They wanted their voices to be heard and they were heard. It was not politicians in the Dáil who forced-----
I am not making any comment on politicians who were deeply involved in the protests but the Government did not change its opinion in response to politicians. It changed its mind as a result of people power and I appreciate that because it showed the Government was wrong in trying to introduce such high water charges. My message to those who protested day in and day out and weekend after weekend is a simple one: I thank them very much for being involved in this debate.
The other side of the water issue is the future delivery of water. Many farmers and business people have been paying water charges throughout their working lives. I have been paying for water since I started a business at the age of 19 years, which was a few years ago at this stage. These people must also be taken into consideration. There must be balance and common sense in this debacle. I appreciate the efforts made by the Fianna Fáil Party before and after the general election. All we are trying to do is arrive at some type of solution that ensures people have a safe water supply. We should bear in mind members of group water schemes and people with private wells. The latter must pay large amounts to bore a well and many of them face significant annual costs associated with the filtration systems that ensure the water they use is safe. People who have children must have proper water supplies.
I hope the outcome of this process will be that struggling families do not face unfair financial burdens. This is a welcome and worthwhile debate and I hope it will deliver a successful outcome.
While I disagree with amendments Nos. 8 and 9, I commend those who moved them on succeeding in having the House debate everything and anything but the contents of the amendments for the past two hours.
Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked why I was remaining quiet in this debate. This short Bill gives effect to the agreement the Fianna Fáil Party reached with the party opposite, which leads the Government, the purpose of which is to prepare and allow a pathway for dealing with the water issue in a way that allows proper scrutiny and analysis and informed debate on the process by which the State will, can or may pay for water services in future. Deputy Alan Kelly, who was seated beside Deputy Jan O'Sullivan earlier, did not allow this during his time as Minister because he and the Government of the day rammed through legislation that caused the calamity that subsequently ensued. Towards the end of the previous Government's term, Deputy Kelly then sought to take over this matter, yet he has the cheek and audacity to tell me I may be faced with a climb-down. He is the king of climb-downs and nobody can surpass the excellence he has achieved in the area of climb-downs. Apparently, nobody can surpass his knowledge of European Union directives either, although when he questioned the Commissioner with responsibility for this issue in 2010, he was given an answer with which he was satisfied because it suited his political objective of returning to the House. That was an unfortunate development given what has ensued in the meantime. That is the reason I kept my counsel.
The purpose of the amendments we tabled on Committee Stage, which were supported and written by the Government in parallel, was to correct the measure and have the suspension of water charges commence on 1 July and provide that the legislation would not be retrospective. They also provided that the relevant committee would be afforded an opportunity to pass judgment on recommendations emanating from the commission and, if necessary, provide for an extension of time to ensure the scrutiny and analysis of the recommendations are informed and Deputy O'Sullivan and other Deputies are informed about them. That privilege was not afforded by the Deputy and her colleagues in government to Deputies on this side.
You are not fooling anyone, Deputy.
We compromised our position - that is for sure.
Thank you, Deputy. Through the Chair, please.
Acting Chairman, we did compromise our position.
Do not encourage him.
Clearly, we did compromise our position when we compare and contrast it to the manifesto we put before the people. We achieved more than 500,000 votes and we were glad to get them but it was not enough to lead a government. It was not enough to be in government. We honoured the commitment we made to the same 500,000 plus people when we said we would not go into coalition or form a coalition government with Fine Gael. However, we were pragmatists, democrats and republicans. We recognised the fact that as convoluted as the result was in respect of the return of the people and the figures it gave us, there was an obligation on those of us who partook and took our role seriously to seek to accommodate and facilitate the formation of a Government. We asked other Members to support us and our leader on three separate occasions and we got no support other than what we had ourselves. We accept that. However, we did not sit on our hands and shout from the sidelines, which is what many people in this House will always do. The only way we will get them out of here is by doing things, by getting things done and by adhering to the principles, manifestoes and programmes for government that we place before the people. When that is done this issue will be put to bed by a majority contained within this Dáil. The will of the last Dáil will not be imposed on this one. By not sitting on our hands and in putting in place the pathway to deal with this issue we have produced a far more informed process than the Labour Party could have dreamed of in the last Dáil.
In the same way, we will also address the other issues that are far more pressing, as others have said, for example, in respect of housing, regional development and the provision of services in a fair and appropriate manner. That has not been the case in the past five years. That is the adjudication that people gave in the convoluted answer and result they gave us. However, we have taken our role seriously. We want to deal with this effectively and appropriately and in the manner agreed by two parties, the two adults, indeed, the many adults that were in that room who spoke on behalf of our respective parties. We look forward to dealing with it and we look forward to this Dáil making a decision ultimately. However, it will be a decision nonetheless by this Dáil and not by a government imposing its will on anyone else.
That concludes the first round. I thank Members for their co-operation. Not everyone stuck strictly to the amendments - that has been acknowledged. It went for considerably longer than one would normally allow but I think people were entitled to speak.
There were life jackets being given out over there.
I am now going to go into the two-minutes slots. Deputy Bríd Smith is first.
I am going to stick to the amendments and I am not going to do what the last speaker said we do, that is, to roar and shout and achieve nothing. I studied "Macbeth" for my leaving certificate. There is a scene where Lady Macbeth is accused of protesting too much. The character says "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Deputy Barry Cowen is no lady but he has certainly given us an example of someone who is on protest to defend his position and he is not very good at it.
He is not going to reply to that.
It is not simply water charges that Deputy Cowen and Fianna Fáil have kicked to touch. They have kicked to touch on bins, education equality and an investigation into NAMA. They have done nothing on housing and they intend to do no more than those in government are doing. They have similar policies to Fine Gael and they are absolutely and utterly similar on water charges.
Those of us who marched and who built the protests against metering as well as the boycott know full well that what gave this issue the prominence it has in this House was the actions of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of our citizens who marched, protested and voted in this direction.
I will press the amendment on subsection (f). There was a reference to the commission but obviously we are not going to have any say on the composition of that commission. I have already spoken about it in the House and Deputy Murphy spoke about it earlier as well. It is utterly loaded with people whose professions and histories are entirely in favour of water charges and the privatisation of water. They include academics, scientists, professionals and ex-politicians. That is disgraceful. It is a kick in the teeth to every man, woman and child who marched in this country. Shame on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
However, I want to move the amendment formally-----
You have moved it already.
-----to allow a little democracy in the House, which seems increasingly to contain less and less of it.
Your two minutes are up. I said we would stick strictly to it. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan is next and then Deputy Ruth Coppinger.
It is unfortunate that the Minister's intervention was before some of us had the opportunity to speak. I presume he will be answering in the two-minute slot.
He will have two opportunities to respond.
I would like clarification on what exactly was said by the Commissioner last week in order that we can know whether there will be fines and whether the extension of time will affect them. I am going to be in order and speak to the amendments. I assume the first amendment is superfluous because it is going to be after the Bill anyway.
There is no reason they should be separate.
The two are being taken together.
If the second amendment is only about the committee, as the Minister has clarified, then it seems to be saying the committee will be established by both Houses of the Oireachtas and then it will come back to the Dáil for approval. It seems to me that because of this misunderstanding, the amendments are superfluous. Can the Minister clarify the position?
The Minister will be replying to that.
What I really need is clarification on whether I will be making a decision that is going to be a burden on the taxpayer in terms of fines from the European Union, especially with regard to extending the time beyond nine months. Even the best pregnancy would not be extended that far.
A couple of issues came up in the course of the debate, for example, from some of my colleagues from rural areas. I want to make this clear: I believe there should be equality in respect of the provision of water. The anti-water charges movement has always made that clear.
Obviously, for people living in an isolated area, it will cost far more to connect to the water system and sometimes it is impossible. However, I agree there should be equality.
They want to take the water from the Shannon to Dublin as well.
There are swings and roundabouts when it comes to the city. Deputy Fitzmaurice may wish to move to Dublin and pay the rents that people are paying in Dublin. People are paying €1,400 for a three-bed house.
Through the Chair, Deputy. Your two minutes are rapidly dripping away.
My point is that we should not be dividing ordinary people from rural or urban areas. I do not see how it makes anyone in a rural area feel better if everyone is paying €500 for water charges and they are paying for it. That is the point.
The point is that they are already paying.
The last issue relates to a point Deputy Cowen made about people sitting on their hands. For the past three years, we have not been sitting on our hands. We have been out doing the backbreaking work of organising and building the anti-water charges campaign. It did not simply spring out of nowhere. There were local meetings throughout the country. They were well attended and a campaign was built up advocating the boycott, which most of the other parties in the Dáil would not advocate, but it has proven to be absolutely instrumental. That is what has brought us to this point. It has nothing to do with sitting on our hands. What we are doing now is representing that movement and the 73% of people who have opted not to pay.
Minister, this is your final reply.
I am keen to get some guidance from you, Acting Chairman. Do you want me to answer the questions on the Bill in general or do you want me to address the two amendments only? The vast majority of questions I have been asked are general.
This is a matter for the House. I allowed a certain amount of latitude because it was going to be impossible to do anything otherwise.
A question now arises. We finish at 8 p.m. If it is possible to conclude this part of the debate at 8 p.m., it would be helpful.
We would like to conclude by 8 p.m.
If we can facilitate concluding this evening, I will try to run through some of the questions asked. Then we can make a decision on the amendments. I will try to do so quickly because otherwise will be back again dealing with this issue and there are only two amendments classified as being in order.
A question was asked about conservation grants for rainwater harvesting and so on. When I was Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we had water harvesting grants available for farmers but few applied for them. That may be different now given the debate on water since then and I suspect it is something the Minister responsible will explore.
There was a question on group water schemes and wells. We have made it absolutely clear and we have an agreement with the federation representing all the group water schemes throughout the country on the funding model they need. Essentially, we are going back to the funding model that had been in operation previously, before the introduction of the water conservation grant. The federation is happy with that and it is agreed.
We have also said that the grant aid that is available for the maintenance of wells will be maintained and enhanced, which has also been welcomed. Therefore, it is not true to say we have not dealt with some of those issues.
When it is looking at these issues there is nothing to prevent the Oireachtas committee from addressing issues such as water poverty and the concerns over privatisation.
Is the Minister sure they will be allowed to?
The terms of reference of the expert commission certainly include water conservation. The membership of the expert commission is not a stacked deck of cards. We have probably the lead expert on water from the environmental directorate of the OECD. We have the chair of the customer forum in Scottish Water, representing-----
He has spoken in favour of water charges.
He favours water charges.
----- customers and their concerns. We have the chair of the utility in Northern Ireland. We have the chair of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. We have an environmental lawyer. We have an environmental economist with a speciality in water. These people are experts who-----
Are in favour of water charges.
They are not necessarily in favour of water charges. I am not making a judgment on what they should recommend. We have broad terms of reference allowing them to consider all the issues on how Ireland pays for domestic water supply and wastewater treatment in the future. Should it be through general taxation? Should it be through a charging system that has full cost recovery? Should it be a mixture of both? If so, how do we create acceptance for that? That is why we have the mix of skill sets, based on guidelines we got from another independent source as to the skill sets we would need on such a commission.
Is anyone on the commission against water charges?
I want to give Deputy Paul Murphy his two minutes and three minutes together. If everyone co-operates, I will put the question within the time. Is that agreed?
Am I limited to two minutes now in terms of answering questions?
The Minister has had his two minutes already.
I thought people could speak three times.
Well then I will mention it after the vote.
I do not want to prolong the agony for anybody.
I am trying to answer people's questions.
I know. There will be another opportunity to do that, I think.
I call Deputy Paul Murphy to conclude.
We can see the impact the anti-water charges movement has had on politics when we look at tonight's debate. We are well down the rabbit hole.
Is Deputy Paul Murphy going to sum up on the debate now?
He moved the motion.
It was our amendment.
The mover of the motion speaks three times.
Sorry, these are amendments.
This is only my second time speaking but that is okay; I am not looking for a third time.
I know. The Deputy has agreed to give his second and third intervention as one.
He agreed to do what he likes.
We will then put the question. Is that agreed?
Some things emerged in the debate. Obviously, we had the highlight of Deputy Kelly agreeing with us that the water commission is a sham and that the outcome is predetermined. We had Deputy Cowen standing up to EU law and saying it could be defied and saying Irish law takes primacy. However, we remember the last time Fianna Fáil was in government and its subservience to the troika. We have the Minister, Deputy Coveney, telling Deputy Kelly not to misrepresent the answers of the European Commission when-----
Where is the Greek man now?
----- obviously, following earlier answers the Commission gave, the Government was very quick to accept an interpretation of those answers, which was somewhat belied by the text of the answers, but was leaked.
Would the Deputy like me to answer the question?
He does not want that.
We saw both the left wing and the right wing of the Healy-Rae party tonight and then we had Deputy Mattie McGrath, who was in favour of water charges,-----
----- going to anti-water charges protests and then having a problem with people criticising him at those anti-water charges protests for being in favour of water charges.
The essence of the amendment is a question of democracy, which this entire process is attempting to subvert. That gets to the heart of it. The points about the European Commission are very important from the opposite point of view to the way the Labour Party sees them. We can see that the European Commission will be used to try to limit the terms of the debate and to say at the end of it that we have no choice but to go along with it. The point is very important. No immediate fines are coming into play here in the very arguable case for a government to make in terms of no established practice. There were three different answers from the Commission over three years, including the first one given to Deputy Kelly, who at the time was an MEP, which was very clear in pointing in the opposite direction.
The Government should not collude in, participate in and drive the process of subversion. Obviously, that is what is what is happening. In particular, it should apply to activate Article 9.4, the effective derogation, the exemption, in its second cycle river-basin management plan proposal. It is very important that the Government does that. Even if it is not in favour of getting rid of water charges, it has established this process that is supposed to be open-ended; it should be allowed to decide.
We will not press amendment No. 8 but there is no reason for the Government to oppose it. By this evening, we will have passed this legislation and by definition it will come in afterwards. We will press amendment No. 9 because it is a question of democracy and it is the only opportunity to raise that question of democratic process here given that everything else was ruled out.
It is already catered for.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 4, lines 29 and 30, to delete "by either House of the Oireachtas or by both Houses of the Oireachtas" and substitute "who's composition and membership shall be approved by a vote in Dáil Éireann".
- Adams, Gerry.
- Barry, Mick.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Buckley, Pat.
- Collins, Michael.
- Connolly, Catherine.
- Coppinger, Ruth.
- Cullinane, David.
- Daly, Clare.
- Doherty, Pearse.
- Donnelly, Stephen S.
- Ellis, Dessie.
- Funchion, Kathleen.
- Healy, Seamus.
- Healy-Rae, Danny.
- Healy-Rae, Michael.
- Kenny, Gino.
- Kenny, Martin.
- Mitchell, Denise.
- Munster, Imelda.
- Murphy, Catherine.
- Murphy, Paul.
- Nolan, Carol.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O'Reilly, Louise.
- Pringle, Thomas.
- Quinlivan, Maurice.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Smith, Bríd.
- Wallace, Mick.
- Aylward, Bobby.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Brassil, John.
- Breathnach, Declan.
- Breen, Pat.
- Brophy, Colm.
- Browne, James.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Peter.
- Butler, Mary.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Byrne, Thomas.
- Cahill, Jackie.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Canney, Seán.
- Carey, Joe.
- Casey, Pat.
- Chambers, Jack.
- Chambers, Lisa.
- Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
- Coveney, Simon.
- Cowen, Barry.
- Creed, Michael.
- Curran, John.
- Daly, Jim.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Deasy, John.
- Deering, Pat.
- Doherty, Regina.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- English, Damien.
- Farrell, Alan.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Fitzmaurice, Michael.
- Fleming, Sean.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Halligan, John.
- Harris, Simon.
- Harty, Michael.
- Heydon, Martin.
- Humphreys, Heather.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Kyne, Seán.
- Lahart, John.
- Lawless, James.
- McEntee, Helen.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- McGrath, Michael.
- McLoughlin, Tony.
- Madigan, Josepha.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moran, Kevin Boxer.
- Moynihan, Aindrias.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
- Murphy, Dara.
- Murphy, Eugene.
- Neville, Tom.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
- O'Callaghan, Jim.
- O'Connell, Kate.
- O'Donovan, Patrick.
- O'Dowd, Fergus.
- O'Keeffe, Kevin.
- O'Loughlin, Fiona.
- Phelan, John Paul.
- Rabbitte, Anne.
- Ring, Michael.
- Rock, Noel.
- Ross, Shane.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smyth, Niamh.
- Troy, Robert.
- Zappone, Katherine.