That Dáil Éireann:
(1) notes the agreed Report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government under Standing Order 114 on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption - COM (2017) 753, which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 27th March, 2018, in accordance with Standing Order 114(3)(b);
(2) having regard to the aforementioned Report, and in exercise of its functions under section 7(3) of the European Union Act 2009, is of the opinion that the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption - COM (2017) 753 does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity for the reasons set out in section 4 of the Report; and
(3) notes that, pursuant to Standing Order 114(4), a copy of this Resolution together with the reasoned opinion and the aforementioned Report shall be sent to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
As Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, which is a very cohesive and hard-working committee, I am pleased on its behalf to move the motion for a reasoned opinion on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption. Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union, introduced by the Lisbon treaty, provides for national parliaments to ensure that draft EU legislation complies with the principle of subsidiarity. The protocol on the application of the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity annexed to the treaties lays down the procedure by which national parliaments can fulfil their responsibility of ensuring that the EU institutions respect the principle of subsidiarity and gives national parliaments a formal and treaty based role in the EU’s legislative procedure. Under its provisions, national parliaments have a right to object to EU draft laws in the form of a reasoned opinion. This power must be used by national parliaments within eight weeks of the publication of proposed new EU legislation.
Subsidiarity is the principle which regulates the exercise of EU powers. It determines whether the EU can intervene or should let member states take action. It ensures that powers are exercised at the appropriate level. The subsidiarity principle acts as both a check on the need to take action at union level and ensures that, where it is needed, effective action is taken at the EU level. Judgments on subsidiarity compliance essentially require political rather than legal judgment. Each sectoral committee is delegated with the power to conduct subsidiarity checks on behalf of both Houses on all draft legislative Acts within their remit. If the committee considers that there is a subsidiarity infringement and agrees that a reasoned opinion should be prepared, it adopts a report containing a reasoned opinion and the Chairman tables a motion in the House. I am therefore introducing this reasoned opinion as Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.
On 1 February 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a recast of the current drinking water directive, the ultimate purpose of which is to ensure the provision of high-quality drinking water in light of the latest scientific advice and to help customers access this water and to find reliable information about its supply. The proposal is a response to the successful European citizens' initiative, Right2Water, which received the support of 1.6 million Europeans. The initiative was submitted to the Commission in December 2013 and urged in particular that EU institutions and member states be obliged to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation and that the EU increase its efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.
The revision is also part of the plan to transition to a circular economy and to help reduce bottled water consumption. The committee first considered this proposal on 8 March and agreed that the proposal required further scrutiny. The committee considered the proposal for a second time on 21 March when it held a very productive meeting with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and Irish Water. Each of the witnesses before the committee raised valid concerns regarding the proposal. The committee supports the overarching goal of the proposal, especially the aim of improving standards of drinking water and improving the monitoring systems for the quality of drinking water.
The committee, however, has had specific regard to the treaty provisions and is of the opinion that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, and I shall now outline the reasons. The committee believes that the proposal unnecessarily limits the provision for national decision-making. Consequently, the scope for member states to choose how to implement the proposal’s objectives at national level and in accordance with established national systems is constrained. The committee believes that the actions in this proposal do not sufficiently restrict themselves to those necessary to fulfil its stated objectives and, therefore, are not proportionate to the objectives of this proposal.
The committee does not see the necessity for diverging from the recommendations of the World Health Organization in regard to the parameters for monitoring the quality of water for human consumption. The committee is further of the opinion that this proposal does not adequately take into account local and regional considerations and has the potential to have far-reaching implications for well-established national arrangements in place in Ireland. The committee is satisfied that the above points, taken together, clearly demonstrate that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. The committee, pursuant to Standing Orders, recommends the reasoned opinion contained in section 4 above, for agreement. If this draft reasoned opinion is agreed by the Dáil, it will constitute the House’s formal response under the Lisbon treaty.
I thank the committee for its robust questioning, the detailed meetings we had with the relevant stakeholders and the speedy way in which it dealt with the issue.