I thank the Chairman for allowing me to raise this question. In March, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government asked the committee to give him two months to come back with wording on the Thirty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016, to which this committee graciously acceded. It is disappointing that the Minister has not yet come back on this matter. I received a letter on it today but as I have had a lot of correspondence and contact from people on the status of this Bill, I am taking this opportunity to raise the matter publicly. Does the Chairman know the status of the Bill?
Business of Committee.
Everybody received a letter from the Minister today. I am aware that Deputy Collins had meetings with the Minister on this matter and has an open line of communication with his officials in this regard. There are complexities around the wording. The Minister indicated in his letter that discussions and contact are ongoing between the Department and the Office of the Attorney General and that this active engagement has been considering different approaches to the wording of the constitutional amendment. Within the past week, the Minister has received written advice on the matter from the Attorney General. His officials are urgently reviewing this advice and he hopes to be in a position to bring a recommendation to Government on a wording capable of being prepared as an amendment to the Bill. The Minister's aim is to have clarity on the intended approach when the Dáil resumes after the summer recess in September. If that is the case, we will put it on the work programme. As I said, I understand the Deputy has had ongoing communication with the Minister and the Department since the most recent meeting on this issue.
The key issue is that this committee gave the Minister time to come back to it on this matter. I accept that he has to bring any proposed wording to the Cabinet but he should first come back to the committee to explain that.
The Minister committed at the last meeting to ongoing communication with the sponsors of the Bill. As stated in the letter, the Minister's officials are working on suitable wording for the amendment. I presume that in the interim there will be ongoing engagement with the Deputy as a sponsor of the Bill. Once the wording has been decided the Bill will be included in the work programme.
I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. I acknowledge the correspondence received today from the Minister. The Government is clearly committed to a public service remaining in public ownership and that has to be welcomed. I support the holding a referendum on this issue. It is the right thing to do. I thank Deputy Collins for taking the time to attend today.
I echo Senator Boyhan's remarks. We need to expedite this. There is public interest in this matter. I would like to see it on our work programme for September. As soon as the message is received from the Minister we should move to progress this Bill, otherwise it will be put on the long finger and the public will get agitated.
I thought that this was going to be a priority. In terms of referendums, this is a bit more real than the symbolic ones that are being proposed in October. If there are issues around the wording, this committee should have some opportunity to go through them. I do not know what the issue is for the Attorney General but I have an idea.
It is disappointing that the summer recess is starting and this has not progressed.
There is complexity, of which Deputy Collins is aware, around group water schemes and all that goes with them. At least there are open lines of communication between the committee and the Deputies who sponsored the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016. The intention on all sides is that as soon as a solution can be found we will bring it back straight away, if that is okay.
Is it possible that the committee could reply to the Minister to thank him and ask him if it could be expedited as quickly as possible, maybe by early September?
Yes. The Minister has said September-----
The Minister had said June.
Could we ask for this to be an item for the committee in September?
We can put it on the work programme as soon as they are ready. I presume the Minister will first meet the Deputies who have sponsored the Bill.
Yes, he has indicated that he will do that.
If Deputy Collins is happy with that and if the Minister is happy with that, we can proceed to put it on to the work programme.
I do not believe it is up to me or the Minister being happy. It is up to the committee to be happy with it.
There is no point in bringing it back to the committee and then having another postponement.
I think it is on the programme.
I thank the Chairman for her time.
We will suspend for a few moments to allow our next witnesses to take their seats.