I am very conscious that, for many years, the people in rural Ireland and in towns and regions across the country have been promised access to high-speed broadband on numerous occasions but there has been an absolute failure of delivery. I can go back to the 2011 general election when, at that stage, Fine Gael was promising broadband to 90% of homes and businesses by 2015. It is now 2018. At the general election of 2016, again, it was said 100% would have it by 2020, and we know what has happened. People out there are very impatient and frustrated at the lack of real progress in terms of getting this issue and the national broadband plan implemented.
We then fast-forward to last week and the resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten. When I had raised the issue on the Wednesday in the House, I was heavily criticised by the Taoiseach, yet, the following day, he came in to echo what I had said, namely, the ultimate decision maker should not be meeting the last remaining bidder in a tendering process, leaving himself open to the perception of favouritism, being lobbied and canvassed, and so on. The Taoiseach changed tack fairly dramatically the following day because of further revelations about further meetings, one in particular organised by the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Breen, with the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, and David McCourt.
It is interesting when we look at the background to this.
A very good article by John Kennedy was published on the Silicon Republic website on 6 September 2017 and quoted a Government memorandum of the time on concerns about the potential for costs to increase as a result of the remaining bidders having to access poles and ducts on Eir's infrastructure. The fear was that it could go from an incremental cost of 10% to 15% extra to anything up to 60%. That is directly set out in a memorandum from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to the Government. The point of this is what the remaining bidder is anxious to do and what the key issue is in that regard, namely, the level of subsidy the Government is prepared to offer to the bidder and which will be a key component of the cost. It is vital, therefore, that this kind of canvassing and lobbying should not take place. As such, has the Taoiseach met the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Breen, and asked him to provide the background to why he organised the meeting, what transpired at it and what was discussed. In addition, I want to know the terms of reference of the assessment the Government has undertaken with Mr. Peter Smyth and if they will be published. Can the Taoiseach indicate to the House when we can expect the proposed legislation on the national broadband plan?