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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 1

Electricity Costs (Domestic Electricity Accounts) Emergency Measures Bill 2022: From the Seanad

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and will be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 1:
Section 2: In page 4, line 28, to delete “€215 million” and substitute “€400 million”.

We will not oppose either amendment. This is one occasion where we welcome the Government amendments. Sinn Féin had put forward a series of amendments on both Committee Stage and Report Stage in the Dáil that, I firmly believe, would have given the Government greater flexibility regarding the upper limits and would have meant we would not need primary legislation if we were to return to similar circumstances in the near, or even not-so-near, future.

I have had a series of meetings in recent days with representatives of energy suppliers. They are very concerned with the current state of affairs and, obviously, everything happening in Ukraine impacts on that. Of course, energy costs are not our primary consideration in that regard, but increases are likely to be a very real consequence. We are, quite possibly, facing into a summer and winter this year that will realise the same types of energy cost increases that we saw last year, and that will put families beyond the pin of their collar. It will drive families into energy and fuel poverty, and into poverty in general, and I expect we will again end up in this position, needing the Government to deliver a significant package of support.

At this point, the proposals from the Government do not go far enough, although the provisions in the legislation are welcome. The Government has constrained itself through how it has framed the legislation, and the Sinn Féin amendments would have given the Government more flexibility. Regrettably, I firmly believe we will be back here again, on our part calling on the Government to do more and presenting alternative options to the Government to do more to protect families from the impact of rising fuel and energy costs. I do not say with any degree of satisfaction that what we are facing into in the months ahead is deeply concerning. As I said, I have met stakeholders from across the spectrum. They say they are weeks away from significant price hikes and they are looking towards the back end of the year.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, knows this well and I am sure he has been having similar conversations. He has heard our criticism of the legislation but we will nonetheless support it. I implore the Government to see the writing on the wall, look to the months ahead and the summer and the winter, and get its act together by coming back with a substantial proposal to mitigate the impacts these unfortunate and regrettable increases will have on families.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 2:
Section 5: In page 7, line 7, to delete "€100" and substitute "€176.22".
Seanad amendment agreed to.

A message will be sent to Seanad Éireann acquainting it that Dáil Éireann has agreed to the amendments.