Section 1 is the heart of the Bill and concerns the repealing of section 37. What the Minister of State said about competition is not clear. He said that Bord Gáis Éireann is already in a hugely competitive market. However, he also stated that a de facto rather than a statutory monopoly is in operation. Will he clarify this aspect?
The Minister of State remarked that the Exchequer has received approximately £400 million in terms of financial benefit from the hugely successful monopoly company, Bord Gáis Éireann. Has analysis been carried out regarding the loss or gain to the State in terms of the dispensation which will take place? The private sector will now be able to avail of the track record and infrastructure of this highly profitable semi-State company. The Minister of State did not say whether parallel infrastructure will be established. How will competition operate? Will the State lose the valuable funds it has received over the years? Bord Gáis Éireann has been in existence for only 20 years and £400 million is a sizeable amount of revenue to have accrued to the State in that time. What are the Minister of State's views regarding the effects of the repeal of the section?