Electricity Regulation Bill, 1998: Committee Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 36.

I move amendment No. 137:

In page 27, subsection (4)(a), line 25, after "line." to insert "As a minimum the owner of the direct line will be compensated to the extent of the Modern Equivalent Asset Value of the direct line.".

The amendment is that where it is appropriate for the ESB to buy back a direct line if someone else has built a direct line to increase capacity or for whatever reason, the builder should be adequately compensated. This amendment imposes at a minimum that the ESB must offer the direct line owner a price which will cover his or her construction costs. Does the Minister understand the point of the amendment?

Yesterday when we were discussing amendment No. 136, perhaps I gave the wrong impression about what I meant by a direct line and the reason for the provision of a direct line. If, for example, there is a factory which needs a certain power requirement and there is no line currently available which can carry that capacity, the factory may decide to build that line if the ESB will not do so. In time the ESB may be given that line by the commission. Therefore, the ESB must pay compensation to the builder for having built it in the first place. That is what we are looking at here. The amendment states that at an absolute minimum the person who built the line should be given the cost of its construction.

As the Deputy said, the amendment refers to the assessment of compensation in respect of a direct line where the owner is directed by the commission to transfer it. The Attorney General's office has told us that the provision made in the Bill is the standard form of words used where an assessment of compensation is to be made in the absence of agreement, in other words, hopefully the person and the commission would be able to agree on a sum. If that does not happen, the Bill states the commission may direct the owner "to transfer the ownership of the direct line to the Board on such terms, including terms as to compensation, as may be agreed between the Board and the owner of the direct line". The amendment involves an insertion at that point.

The compensation should be agreed but a minimum value, that is, the asset value of the direct line, should be put on the amount which is agreed. Presumably it will be more than that but that is a minimum.

That is what would happen in business. In the normal course of business agreements reached between parties, the thrust what the Deputy's amendment seeks to achieve would be realised. For example, when county councils place a CPO on a piece of land they want to dedicate they usually come to a fair agreement on the value of that land with the person from whom they are purchasing it. I refer to this because it was brought to my notice during the campaign. I imagine that the direct line owner would be seeking compensation of the kind referred to by the Deputy, namely, the modern equivalent asset value of the direct line.

The Attorney General has stated that the type of terminology used in the section is that which he would recommend. I did not realise that the acquisition of land was also referred to in the section.

It is unlikely but possible that the ESB could, for example, make a derisory offer in order to delay the agreement for a period. However, that would not be possible if the amendment is accepted.

I do not believe that would happen. This type of provision is standard in the majority of Bills which involve compensatory issues. The language used in the section is normal. I do not understand the meaning of the term "the modern equivalent asset value of the direct line" but I assume it refers to the modern price of the land.

It refers to the value of the land.

I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 36 stand part of the Bill."

In section 36(1) reference is made to "a direct line not connected to the transmission or distribution system", while section 36(4)(a) makes reference to a situation where "there is a connection made between a direct line and the transmission or distribution system". Direct lines may only be provided where people have been prohibited from being connected to the transmission or distribution system and the power can only be provided for a line that is not connected. Therefore, there appears to be a contradiction in this section.

I accept the Deputy's point. I will reconsider the section and clarify the point in the consultation process.

I noticed the contradiction because a number of lobbyists asked us to have the word "not" removed from section 36(1) where reference is made to "a direct line not connected".

I will communicate again with the Deputy on that matter.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 37.

I move amendment No. 138:

In page 27, subsection (2)(b), line 47, after "and" to insert "to the".

This amendment does not materially change the meaning of the sentence in question. However, because connections and wheeling charges are very different in terms of cost, I felt that they should be made explicitly separate by the inclusion of "to the" before "transport of further quantities".

We do not believe the amendment is strictly necessary but we are accepting it because it is textually pleasing.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 139:

In page 27, subsection (2), after line 52 to insert the following:

"(e) a statement on the demand for electricity generated from renewable sources generally and a statement on arrangements for the supply of electricity to customers who have opted to purchase such electricity.".

This section calls for information to be placed in the public domain because it allows the public to assess the work of the commission. I propose that the commission should produce a statement on the demand for electricity generated from renewable sources generally and a statement on arrangements for the supply of electricity to customers who have opted to purchase such electricity. This would ensure that the situation in Ireland would be similar to that which obtains in many other countries where customers are able to ask for a proportion of their electrical power to be provided from a green supply. That option exists for electricity customers in Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Australia and Northern Ireland and they are encouraged to ask for a green supply.

I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 140 and 141 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 140:

In page 28, subsection (5), line 11, after "statements" to insert "within seven days of the date that the request was received".

This amendment is designed to ensure that the forecast information requested is promptly passed on by the ESB to interested parties.Perhaps a period of seven days is somewhatshort.

Particularly if the period covers a weekend or if an official is on sick leave.

We would be glad to withdraw the amendment if the Minister was willing to include some form of timescale.

We propose that the words "without unreasonable delay" be added at the end of subsection (5) to ensure a prompt response to a request for the statement. That might be the best way of dealing with the matter. The ESB should not unreasonably delay the production of a forecast statement but the limit of seven days could present difficulties.

I accept that a seven day period is quite short. However, why not impose a time limit of 28 days or two calendar months?

A 28 day period might be too long.

I suggest a period of two weeks.

Fine, we will impose a limit of 14 days.

Using the term "without reasonable delay" would be the same as not imposing a time limit. I propose that the amendment be reworded to read as follows:

In page 28, subsection (5), line 11, after "statements" to insert "within 14 days of the date that the request was received".

That is acceptable.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 141:

In page 28, subsection (7), lines 19 and 20, to delete "reflecting the reasonable costs incurred by the Board in providing such statement".

We do not believe that the words "reflecting the reasonable costs incurred by the Board in providing such statement" are necessary because they introduce a grey area into the section. We believe the commission should decide what should be the cost. We sought to avoid confusion about how much could be charged by the ESB for the forecasts because it could include printing, postage and compilation costs and those costs will included anyway in its own records.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 142:

In page 28, subsection (8), line 24, before "date" to insert "specified commencement date being a date not previous to the".

This is not unlike the previous discussion about being a little more specific. The subsection states that the date of the forecast statement "shall be seven calendar years from the date on which the statement is prepared by the board" but the amendment seeks to include "from the specified commencement date being a date not previous to" so that we are working forward from a specific date. It would focus the minds of those preparing the report so that the date could not picked out of wherever. It would allow for foot dragging otherwise.

We have debated this. The forecast statement should look ahead, not back. Alternative wording could be used to further clarify the intention of this subsection. The period to which the forecast statement relates shall be seven calendar years following the date on which the statement is prepared. It must definitely move forward. I propose to include the words "following the date", which will project the forecast statement forward.

That is a specific date.

Subject to the agreement of the committee, it is better to introduce the proposed amendment on Report Stage.

We will deal with it briefly then.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 37, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 38.

Amendment No. 145 is relatedto amendment No. 143. Both may be dis-cussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 143:

In page 28, subsection (1), line 29, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

This is an important section dealing with public service obligations and it would be ludicrous for the Minister of the day to be in a "may" situation in terms of imposing policy. Will the Minister accept the amendment?

I accept it, even though I was advised not to. However, it does not mean that all the mays will become shalls. In this case, the word "shall" should be used because public service obligations are laid down.

Yes. If the word "may" were used the Minister of the day might do not lay them down.

The word "shall" should be used.

I fully support the amendment and am grateful that the Minister accepted it.

It does not mean that all the other "mays" become "shalls".

Therefore, there are two changes.

No, just one in line 29.

What about amendmentNo. 145?

I will look at that.

If it were accepted, section 38(1) would state:

The Minister, following consultation with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, shall by order direct the Commission to impose on the Board and holders of licences or authorisations public service applications which shall include obligations in relation to...

The effect of the amendment would be that any public service obligation made by the Minister would have to include obligations in regard to all the topics set out in paragraphs (a) to (d). The word "may" in this case indicates that public service obligations may be based on any one of the items mentioned in the paragraphs. While in totality "may" becomes "shall", the individuality of each one cannot become "shall".

I accept that.

The items are outlined. The Minister referred to a difficult Minister who may not agree with the importance of security of supply, regularity, quality and price of supply, environmental protection and use of indigenous energy sources. I am pleased that the Minister accepted amendment No. 143 but amendment No. l45 is also important.

I appreciate the Minister's point. To include the word "shall" would mean that every order would have to be included whereas the use of the word "may" allows the Minister to make special orders.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 144 and 163 are cognate and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 144:

In page 28, subsection (1), lines 30 and 31, after "authorisations," to insert "or holders of a permit under section 37 of the Principal Act,".

This amendment will extend the application of public service obligations to holders of permits from the ESB under section 37 of the 1927 Act. The original wording would have excluded such permit holders from the requirements of public service obligations. Everybody will agree that it is preferred that they would. Under amendment No. 163 they will also be responsible for collecting a transitional arrangement levy if it is provided for.

With what does section 27 of the Principal Act deal?

It deals with permit holders. The original wording of the Bill would not have included permit holders, which would have been incorrect because they then would not have been subject to public service obligations and the transitional levy arrangement.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 145 not moved.

Amendment No. 146 is consequential on amendment No. 147. Both may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 146:

In page 28, subsection (1)(c), line 35, to delete "and".

These amendments are closely linked. The essence of what I am seeking to do is to include sustainability as one of the public service obligations along with security of supply, regularity, quality and price of supply, environmental protection and use of indigenous energy sources. This is important for a number of reasons. Apart from the fact that sustainability is a longer range factor than any of the public service obligations mentioned, it also features in many international official documents of this type, particularly following the Bruntland report where it was defined as a word which would be helpful to policy formation. I hope it would be seen as beneficial to the overall public service obligation criteria. It is a big subject on which I do not want to make a long speech.

I looked at both amendments carefully in the context of the Bill and the European directive which we are closely following. The criteria are drawn directly from articles 2, 3 and 4 of the electricity directive, which does not contain sustainability - whether that is right or wrong - as a matter on which a public service obligation may be imposed. Environmental protection is such a matter and is the thrust of the directive and sustainability as such is contained in that. The Deputy spoke about sustainability in an economic as well as an environmental context, which I understand. However, the list of topics which require public service obligations closely follows the directive and I do not propose to add another.

I appreciate the Minister has taken advice on this. We have spoken favourably of the obligations under Local Agenda 21 which is synonymous with sustainability.

We referred to that yesterday.

It is in complete harmony with that. As a long-term factor, it is a public service obligation for generations rather than the current electorate. That is why I felt it was important. As "may" is already included rather than "shall", it is subject to the various other conditions and restrictions which may be part of any Government, Commission or ministerial decision. It is not as if it obliges the Minister to think ahead to 3000 AD, but rather for it to be kept to the forefront of the mind. I will not dwell on it as the Minister has taken advice.

It relates to environmental protection. I consider all amendments, some of which I accept. This is an important Bill. What is the purpose of the committee if there is no opportunity to put forward amendments, some of which are accepted? I cannot accept this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 147 not moved.

Amendment No. 148 is in the name of Deputy Stagg. Amendment No. 149 is an alternative and both may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 148:

In page 28, subsection (2)(a), lines 44 and 45, and in page 29, lines 1 and 2, to delete all words from and including "the" in line 44 down to and including "year," in line 2 and substitute "15 per cent of the electricity generated in the State that year,".

This amendment proposes to convert what is in the Bill to plain language as what is there could be interpreted very differently. The Bill states:

generating stations which use as their primary energy fuel source peat harvested within the State provided that the quantity in any year so obtained does not exceed the amount generated by an amount of peat which exceeds 15 per cent of the overall primary energy necessary to produce the electricity generated in the State in that year.

The amount of peat which exceeds 15 per cent of the overall primary energy necessary to produce the electricity generated in the State in that year could be 15 per cent of the peat.

Instead of the 15 per cent of the energy required.

It is a most convoluted way of stating something which is really straightforward. My amendment proposes that subsection (2)(a) would read "generating stations which use as their primary energy fuel source peat harvested within the State provided that the quantity any year so obtained does not exceed 15 per cent of the electricity generated in the State that year.". That is the target of Bord na Móna and the potential it has for its development. It is important that we sustain within that parameter to develop to that point.

The wording in the Bill is precisely what the Deputy wants. If we changed it to 15 per cent of the electricity produced, which is what the Deputy proposes, it would have the effect of lowering the amount of indigenous fuel in respect of which a PSO could be imposed. Different fuels have different rates of efficiency in converting their energy content into electricity.

This is the most convoluted sentence in the Bill.

The sentence is very convoluted as the language used is from the directive. I think the Deputy is correct.

It has the effect of reducing the window.

This is what we are told.

Let us put a figure on it which is equivalent to what is stated in the Bill and put it in simple English. If it means 20 per cent, it should state 20 per cent.

We need clearer language. I do not care if it is from the directive - it is not understandable. However, I do not know if what is contained in the Deputy's amendment is the correct way of putting it.

I am not sure of that either. However, as the Bill stands it could be interpreted as 15 per cent of peat potential.

Will the Deputy resubmit the amendment on Report Stage?

It is important.

I want to retain the peat requirement. We are not all from the midlands for nothing.

There is a small patch of bog left in my area.

This section needs to be put in simpler language.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 149 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 150 and 152 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 150:

In page 29, subsection (2)(b), line 4, after "stations" to insert "chosen as a result of a competitive process established by the Minister, the Commission or the Commission of the European Communities, as the case may be,".

Section 38(2)(b) enables the Minister of the day to impose a PSO in respect of generating stations using renewable or alternative energy or which operate as CHP. This subsection is intended to be used for future programmes of the kind previously operated as AER programmes. Some of these stations have also been brought on stream as a result of the THERMIE programme operated by the EU. This amendment seeks to clarify that a PSO could be imposed on such stations chosen as a result of competitions which might be run by the Minister, the commission or the Commission of the European Communities. Apparently Brussels is keen to have this included. Amendment No. 152 is similar in nature but refers to subsection (3) which is intended to allow the Minister impose PSOs in respect of the AERcompetition, the IVO peat station and any other competitions which may be held in the future by the commission.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 151:

In page 29, subsection (3)(a), line 12, to delete "fuel" and substitute "energy sources".

Perhaps the term "indigenous energy sources" could be used instead of "indigenous fuel". It might be better to use the former because that is what has been used elsewhere in the Bill.

The term "indigenous fuel" is understood.

I am concerned; wind is not a fuel. Fuel is something that is burned.

I am happy with the term "indigenous fuel". It is commonly understood.

It is not a major issue. I thought it would be better to broaden the scope by using the term "indigenous energy sources".

No, we are satisfied with the wording as it stands.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 152:

In page 29, subsection(3)(a), line 15, after "Minister" to insert "or the Commission of the European Communities".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 154 and 155 are alternatives to amendment No. 153 and all may be discussed together by agreement. If amendment No. 153 is accepted, the other two fall.

I move amendment No. 153:

In page 29, subsection (5)(a), lines 23 to 25, to delete "a levy on electricity produced and consumed in the State, to be imposed on final customers in the State" and substitute "a levy on final customers in respect of electricity provided to such customers".

This relates to retrieving the cost associated with public service obligations. The wording as it stands creates doubt whether a person supplied with electricity not produced in the State is included. The amendment clarifies the text. The provision relates to a levy to recoup the cost of PSOs from electricity consumers. The amendment ensures the cost will be borne by all electricity consumers, no matter who supplies them.

It is our view and, I believe, that of the ESB, that this is an error. The phrase "produced and consumed in the State" implies electricity produced outside the State but consumed within it will not be subject to a levy.

My amendment covers that.

How does it cover it?

The Bill refers to a levy to recover the cost of PSOs from all electricity consumers. My amendment will ensure the cost of PSOs will be borne by all electricity consumers, no matter who supplies them with electricity.

Does this mean there is no levy on the producer?

The levy is not on the producer, it is on the consumer.

Yes, but it does state that it is a recovery by way of "a levy on electricity produced and consumed in the State". If that electricity is taken from outside the State by an interconnector, from Scotland, for example, then there is no levy on it.

It is the customer, not the producer, who pays the levy.

The Bill as it stands reads, "produced and consumed in the State". Electricity from Northern Ireland is not produced in the State.

I am changing that by deleting "a levy on electricity produced and consumed in the State, to be imposed on final customers in the State" and substituting, "a levy on final customers in respect of electricity provided to such customers". I have removed the ambiguity surrounding electricity not produced in the State by referring to electricity provided to final customers.

Is my amendment No. 155 therefore unnecessary?

It is, as is amendment No. 154. I have often found, as I am sure have Members, that it is necessary to read the changes out loud to understand them.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 154 and 155 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 156 and 164 are cognate and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 156:

In page 30, subsection (8), line 11, to delete "suppliers" and substitute "holders of licences to supply under section 13 or of the Board".

This is a technical amendment required to clarify the meaning of the section. The parliamentary draftsman's office says it would be preferable to refer directly by name to those who incur the administrative expenses in the collection of the levy than use the term "supplier" which would then have to be defined in the Bill. The amendment proposes to delete the word "suppliers" and substitute "holders of licences to supply under section 13 or of the Board". Amendment No. 164 is similar.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 157 is out of order because it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.

I received a letter to that effect. How will this be a charge on the Exchequer?

That is what my advice states.

Does that mean that, while I can move it, it cannot be passed?

No, it is out of order. It cannot be moved.

That is not right.

My advice states that amendment No. 157 in the name of Deputy Stagg provides that the Minister shall establish an appeal procedure against the amount to be paid by way of levies and the amount certified by the commission in respect of additional costs arising from public service obligations. Although the amendment does not specify the nature of the appeal procedure, it could involve persons independent of both the Minister and the commission. In the circumstances, there exists a potential for a charge on the Revenue and the amendment must be disallowed in accordance with Standing Order 142(3).

When amendments are disallowed, the Deputy who tabled them can speak to them, although they cannot move them.

He can speak to the section, but he cannot move the amendment.

I will do so.

I do not have the luxury of dis-cretion in the matter.

Amendment No. 157 not moved.

I move amendment No. 157a:

In page 30, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following subsection:

"(11) For the purposes of orders made under this section, 'public service obligation' means an obligation placed on electricity undertakings which takes account of general social, economic and environmental factors.".

This arises from a commitment I gave to Deputy Stagg on 12 May last at which time we agreed that an amendment would be prepared which would insert a definition of PSOs in section 38. This wording, based on the wording of Deputy Stagg's original amendment, defines in general terms what is meant by a PSO. More specific details of what is contained in a public service order are to be found in section 38(1) which states that such orders may relate to security, regularity and price of supply, environmental protection and use of indigenous energy sources.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 38, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Minister might examine the proposal for an appeals procedure. It was the substance of amendment No. 157 which was disallowed.

Regarding section 38(4), my legal advice is that it is most unusual to put into statutory form a provision to communicate with the European Commission because it is a requirement in any event and to include it in the Bill is superfluous. The subsection is nothing other than a requirement to communicate to the Commission. There is also a technical mistake, which I hate.

Subsection (4) states that the Minister shall send a copy of an order made under subsection (1). That would normally state "under this section". One does not say under subsection (1). That is what a nit picker I know says.

Is that the same young man?

He is very good.

He is down in Portlaoise now trying to win a seat from Fine Gael but I do not think he will win.

Is that still going on?

It finishes today.

There is a recount.

The Deputy is making two points. He is asking why we are informing the European Commission of an order——

Why is it necessary to state that one is going to inform the Commission?

The other issue refers to the technicality of referring to the subsection.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 39.

Amendment No. 159 is an alternative to amendment No. 158 and both may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 158:

In page 30, subsection (1), line 29, after "constructed" to insert "or under construction".

Section 39 establishes a transitional regime and one of its objectives is the avoidance of stranded costs accruing to the ESB arising from investments made under obligations in the existing regulatory regime. Stranded costs are stations that would otherwise close but which, because they have historical baggage, are in the system and the ESB must continue to use them.

Our reports laid out the longevity of the stations.

The existing definition excludes the cost of the Poolbeg development being constructed by the ESB through the 1990s. Poolbeg is a combined gas turbine project which was constructed under the ESB's mandate in response to its obligation to construct capacity to meet growth and demand. The Poolbeg project preceded European Union directives and this amendment revises the definition more accurately to deal with stranded investment and to include Poolbeg. The likes of Ferbane, which is being reconstructed——

After all the forebodings it is going ahead, though I know Deputy Enright was always very statesmanlike about it.

One of my traits is optimism and I was always optimistic it would go ahead. The Minister for Health and Children and former Ministers, Deputies Dukes and Lowry, were also very helpful.

What about me?

The Minister has already paid tribute to herself and I wish to be associated with that. Ferbane is going well. This applies to the board——

The Deputy is asking me to include "under construction" and I am accepting it.

Or reconstruction.

That is fair enough.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 159 not moved.

I move amendment No. 160:

In page 30, subsection (1), line 30, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

This amendment refers to conditional arrangements. The section states:

(1) Where the Minister is satisfied that as a consequence of implementation of Directive No. 96/92/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December, 1996, the Board is unable to recover specified costs or revenue relating to a generating station constructed before the 19th day of February 1997, he or she may, [ that should be "shall" ] after consultation with the Commission and the Commission of the European Communities, by order provide for the payment to the Board of an annual sum and for the recovery from final customers of the amount so paid to the Board.

If the word "may" is retained, there would be no obligation on the Minister to do this. He or she could do so if they if liked. However, "shall" would make the Minister's duties clear and it is the intention that "shall" should be there.

I support that.

The thrust of section 39(1) requires me to go to the European Commission. It is contingent on their approval. If "shall" was included and the European Commission said no, the need for "may" would then be seen.

Is this a directive?

It is contingent on the directive. When the Minister says this is contingent on the directive——

No, the transitional regime is subject to the European Commission, as the Deputy will know. This refers to the arrangements for it, regarding both the provisions of the directive and any element of State aid.

The Minister would not be using "shall" before consultation. This states "may, after consultation with the Commission . . .".

I see what the Deputy means; the "shall" is not that they shall approve but that the Minister shall look for it.

It seems common sense. The section states "may, . . . by order provide for the payment" and I wish to insert "shall" instead "may".

It is contingent on the Commission agreeing.

It states "after consultation with the Commission".

Deputy Stagg wants the "shall" to refer to looking for the order.

No. It should state "shall make the order".

I cannot make the order. I can only do so when the Commission has been acquainted with the facts and then comes back and say yes.

If the sentence was the other way around it would be clearer. If it stated "After consultation with the Commission and the Commission of the European Communities, he or she shall, by order, provide for the payment . . .".

Yes. It would be a better way if "shall" was inserted there. One cannot impose "shall" before one goes with one's conditions or facts.

The Minister should look at "may" in this section.

"May" is correct until the Commission comes back with approval or not. Following that one can use "shall". Is that what the Deputy is saying?

Then that can be changed. We will look at this on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

When will the record of this debate be available?

It is two months, a very long time.

I understand it is dependent on the activity in the Dáil or Seanad.

One can get the records of an urban district council meeting the next day.

The tape can be used.

It should be ready in a few days.

I move amendment No. 161:

In page 30, subsection (1), line 32, after "sum" to insert "which sum may by order of the Minister include liabilities incurred by, or created for, the fuel supplier to such station, consequent to the supply of fuel to the station or the cessation of such fuel supply".

This amendment deals with an issue raised by Bord na Móna to the effect that the Bill provides for stranded assets, compensation for social obligations and such issues concerning electricity producers. However, the suppliers of fuel to generate electricity are not covered. If, for example, Ferbane power station was to become a stranded asset, Bord na Móna would have planned and spent a lot of money producing fuel for that station, perhaps three years in advance. That asset would then become a useless stranded asset without any compensation for Bord na Móna. If the ESB is to be compensated for closing Ferbane power station because no one wants the electricity, Bord na Móna should get a share of the compensation arising from the closure as it would incur part of the loss.

I support this amendment. The ESB made sizeable investments. However, Bord na Móna has made an equally sizeable investment in bog development, stockpiling and so on. The important issue of the environmental management of bogs is also concerned. People are very sensitive about the environment. There is a considerable outlay for many years after bogs are developed to ensure that water supplies and rivers are protected. The outlay would be considerable over a period of years even if there had been a problem at the power station.

Deputy Stagg mentioned Ferbane power station. IVO's sizeable investment in Ireland is very welcome. Bord na Móna spent a considerable amount of money on roads, develop-ing bogs, transport systems and so on. Isupport this amendment which the Minister, like us, should consider seriously on Report Stage.

I am sure the Deputy is giving this issue serious consideration. However, I cannot accept the amendment now or on Report Stage for a simple reason. This amendment provides a form of protection for Bord na Móna. However, one would have to be even handed and offer similar protection to companies supplying coal, oil and gas to the ESB. The position of peat as a fuel for electricity generation is dealt with in section 38 which provides for public service obligation orders and not a transitional levy as in this section. Public service obligation orders are meant to be ongoing. The transitional levy is limited to a certain period because the directive stipulates that we must outline the duration of a transitional levy. As peat fired power stations will not be affected by the transitional levy, the only fuel suppliers who could benefit from the amendment would be those supplying coal, oil and gas to the ESB.

That is not the intention.

I know but that at is what would happen if th amendment was accepted.

There is a difference in that in the case of gas, for example, there would not be the same level of necessity ——

I am explaining what would happen if the amendment was accepted.

I heard what the Minister said. My point is that there is a considerable capital investment involved in the development of bogs and their subsequent management. The same is not the case with gas.

I accept the goodwill in what the Deputy is saying. However, the amendment would have to extend to other suppliers.

Peat has a special categorisation in that we discriminate positively towards it as it is an indigenous fuel. Rather than using the words "fuel supplier", if we were to use "suppliers of indigenous fuel" ——

One would have to deal with it in parity. Under this section the transitional levy will be limited in time. It will be ongoing, unlike PSOs.

Are peat fired stations protected by the limited period of time?

There was a review of peat stations in 1994 or 1995 and they are included under the PSOs. This amendment would be unfair.

It was meant to be unfair and positively biased towards ——

I accept that but it would be unfair as it would also include the others.

Is the Minister saying it cannot be done?

That is correct.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 162:

In page 30, subsection (2), line 35, after "in respect of" to insert "the annual specified amounts of unrecovered costs or revenue that may occur in each single year applied only to".

This amendment is more complex than some of the previous amendments. It seeks to provide that the application for stranded costs should only be on costs associated with the first five years of competition. Stranded costs over the next 15 years should not be levied over this five year transitional period.

Is the Deputy suggesting that a portion should go on into each year?

We are suggesting that the stranded costs and the costs which need to be recovered by the ESB should be calculated on a year by year basis. The purpose of this amendment is to promote a debate on how long or over how many years the stranded costs ——

The Deputy is asking about the length of the transitional arrangement.

Exactly - should it be five or 15 years? The ESB would want as long a period as possible but anyone entering the market would probably prefer as short a period as possible - somewhere between five and 15 years.

The general debate is hovering around five years. This figure has to be decided but the transitional period is shaping up to be five years. Last year we sent provisional notification to Europe that we intend to call in that clause in the directive. By October 1999 I have to write to the Commission in greater detail explaining the length of time we want. The Commission will have to clear that period.

This amendment would provide that stranded costs over the next 15 years should not be levied over the five year transitional period.

I accept that. I discussed this with officials today. However, I cannot accept this amendment ——

That is what we were expecting.

I accept that and this is an interesting point to debate. By October I have to inform Europe of the specified time of the transitional period. The general belief is that it will be five years.

The amendment was seeking to promote a debate.

It made me focus on this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 163 was discussed with amendment No. 144.

I move amendment No. 163:

In page 30, subsection (3)(b), line 41, after "authorisations," to insert "or holders of a permit under section 37 of the Principal Act,".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 164 was discussed with amendment No. 156.

I move amendment No. 164:

In page 31, subsection (5), line 22, to delete "suppliers" and substitute "holders of licences to supply under section 13 or of the Board".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 39, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 40 to 42, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 43.

Amendment No. 165 is in the name of the Minister; amendments Nos. 166, 167, 171, 172, 174 and 177 are cognate and amendment No. 168 is related and they may be discussed together by agreement.

I think amendment No. 168 is different and, with the permission of the Chair, I wish to omit it from this group.

There is no problem in doing that.

The other amendments in the group are very technical. I move amendmentNo. 165:

In page 32, line 36, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendments Nos. 165, 166, 167, 171, 172, 174 and 177 clarify the term "holder of an authorisation". The term as it appears in the Bill does not make absolutely clear the section which creates the authorisation. Where the Bill says "holder of an authorisation", it should say "holder of an authorisation under section 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999". These are purely technical amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 166:

In page 32, line 41, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 167:

In page 32, line 48, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 43, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 44.

I move amendment No. 168:

In page 33, line 8, after "1998," to insert "or holder of a direct line permission undersection 36 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

This amendment clarifies that holders of a direct line permission, that is, somebody who has permission to build a power line connecting their power station directly to a customer without going through the national grid, may lop trees, shrubs and hedges if they are interfering with electrical lines. It is clear that holders of direct line permissions must be able, for safety reasons, to lop trees, shrubs or hedges when necessary. Amendment No. 169 in the name of Deputy Sargent is related.

Amendment No. 170 is also related.

Amendment No. 169 is in the name of Deputy Sargent, and amendments Nos. 170, 173, 175 and 176 are related. Does the Committee wish to consider these amendments as a group?

Amendment Nos. 168 and 169 may be discussed together.

Amendment No. 169 deals with forestry interests.

Amendment No. 168 deals with a similar issue, giving holders of a direct line permission authority to lop trees. The Deputy's amendment includes the role of forestry officials.

In drafting the Bill I am sure the interests of the electricity directive and those involved in it were paramount. Another important interest which should be borne in mind are the trees, shrubs and hedges which need to be changed, removed or lopped to allow work to proceed. The term lopped gives the impression of a fairly carefree, casual approach - it is a war-like term.

It means cutting the tops off trees.

Lopping a hedge means cutting the top off.

It is a technical term for cutting the top off a tree.

I am aware of that.

When working with my officials I said I did not like the term, so I looked it up in the Oxford dictionary and found that it meant "to even off". However, the term gives the impression of a hunter with a big axe.

The Minister makes it sound fine when she says it involves evening off the top of a tree.

That is what it means.

I know that is the technical definition. However, I have observed some of the work carried out, presumably by the ESB or by contractors, and residents have been in dispute regarding the necessity of certain felling and lopping. It would be worth including in the Bill provision for advice by a forestry professional consultant, rather than people with responsibility for lines deciding which trees are in the way and should be taken out.

Say it was a matter of safety——

I am not disputing the safety criteria.

A couple of years ago a tree became entangled with a wire in the garden and it was a matter of urgency that the tree was lopped.

This has nothing to do with civil rights for trees.

I know that.

It would be sensible to avoid a long and protracted stand-off, and other delays which may occur, between residents, landowners and the people putting up a line by including a role for a forestry professional who could give the all-clear on the best possible compromise in the context of safety requirements and the work which is necessary. Otherwise there will be a stand-off between different interests. I understand how sensitive such issues can be, particularly when dealing with landowners and people who feel the work may not be necessary.

I recall a line of poetry which says "Woodman, woodman, spare that tree, touch not a single bow". It may be necessary to touch——

That is not what we are talking about.

What is the Deputy talking about?

I am not talking about sparing the bow or anything else; I am simply putting forward a way of addressing cases where people have different points of view. In the Mulhuddart area of Dublin I witnessed a stand-off which meant that work was delayed. Such events can become quite ugly at times. If a forestry professional could be referred to as the person who over-sees the work, then at least it could be saidthat the matter was in the hands of a qualified person.

I think the intent of the amendment is admirable, but I do not know if the ESB will be in a position to bring around forestry professionals. I have never found them wanting in the manner in which they do their business. This measure is intended for safety, rather than destructive, purposes. To the best of my knowledge, the ESB has never displayed any malice towards trees. It might not always be possible to get a forestry official.

I understand the sense of Deputy Sargent's argument. My experience of foresters, of which there are three in my family, is that they regard trees as crops to be harvested, not as objects of beauty.

"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree."

I am not sure amendment No. 169 would fit the bill. As far as I am aware, difficulties only arise where new lines are being erected. Engineers stipulate where those lines should go, whether they go through houses or trees and the engineers always seem to be right. We are concerned in this instance with existing lines and the felling or lopping of trees which may pose a threat to the safety of the power supply. There is a case to be made in regard to new lines. One ESB official in my area would bring a line around a considerable distance to avoid felling mature trees. He is very expert at doing that without incurring huge costs for the ESB.

How did your family get involved in forestry?

We were gamekeepers and poachers in a previous generation.

We are digressing.

It is on record.

The Deputy's family tree is being charted.

With regard to amendment No. 169, I cannot accept that ESB staff should have to interface with an appropriately qualified forestry professional as that would not be feasible. We had thought of inserting a clause in the Bill to the effect that ESB workers would take "due care and attention" in their work. That might constitute a warning.

I appreciate the Minister's goodwill. The purpose of amendment No. 169 is to smooth a situation in which there are conflicting interests. I was interested in forestry prior to going into teaching so I am approaching the matter from a personal point of view. I am prepared to reconsider amendment No. 169 and related amendments on Report Stage.

Experts in the Botanic Gardens have just cut down some very old yew trees, among others. I would be doubtful about some forestry professionals.

Deputy Stagg made the same point.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment Nos. 169 and 170 not moved.

I move amendment No. 171:

In page 33, line 12, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 172:

In page 33, line 19, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 173 not moved.

I move amendment No. 174:

In page 33, line 24, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 175 and 176 not moved.

I move amendment No. 177:

In page 33, line 42, after "authorisation" to insert "undersection 15 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999,”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 44, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 178:

In page 33, before section 45, to insert the following new section:

"45.--The application of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, shall not apply to commercially sensitive data of the Board.".

This amendment seeks to ensure that the ESB shall not be obliged to reveal commercially sensitive information. Once the market becomes competitive, one cannot expect the ESB to divulge sensitive information which might affect competition.

The intention of the section is to limit the application of the Freedom of Information Act to the commission in regard to information concerning the ESB. The Deputy's amendment would remove the commission from the application of the Freedom of Information Act entirely. I do not think that is his intention as the reference to the commission would, under the amendment, be deleted from the First Schedule to the Freedom of Information Act. The amendment would mean the commission would not have to divulge any information when requested to do so under the Freedom of Information Act.

The commission should be as open as possible and will be aware of what constitutes sensitive information. All Departments have the right to decide whether information is commercially sensitive at any given time. The effect of the amendment would be that the commission would not come under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act at all. The amendment states "The application of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, shall not apply to commercially sensitive data of the Board". Acceptance of this amendment would involve the deletion of section 45 of the Bill. I am sure that was not the Deputy's intention.

I imagine the commission would have regard to commercially sensitive information in any event in the same way as all Departments can opt to withhold such information. There is an appeals system in place; people can go to the Ombudsman or the Freedom of Information Commissioner. The effect of the amendment would be that the commissioner could turn down all requests for information.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 45 agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 179:

In page 34, before section 46, but in Part VIII, to insert the following new section:

"46.--The Ombudsman Act, 1980, shall apply to the Commission.".

The amendment seeks to apply the Ombudsman Act, 1980, to the commission. I would ask the Minister to accept it on the basis of common sense.

We checked out this matter. When the Ombudsman Act was being passed, bodies such as the National Prices Commission and the Restrictive Practices Commission, which had an economic regulation role similar to that of the proposed commission, were excluded from the Act's remit. The telecommunications regulator is also excluded from the Ombudsman's remit, as are other bodies with an economic remit. This issue was raised some months ago by Deputy O'Shea on Committee Stage of the telecommunications legislation. It is excluded, as are other economic bodies which have an economic remit.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 46 agreed to.
SECTION 47.
Question proposed: "That section 47 stand part of the Bill."

In other countries where there are tourist amenities and so on, it was decided, for environmental purposes, not to erect power lines across areas.

To take them away and put them underground? Some areas are trying to do this, but I imagine the cost involved would be massive. We would never have had electricity if we had decided to do this.

I appreciate that. I am making the point that these electricity lines sometimes spoil scenic areas. I realise it would not be possible at this stage to put the lines underground.

I wish to draw the Minister's attention to section 45, which we have already agreed. Section 45 reads: "The First Schedule of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, is hereby amended by the inclusion in paragraph 1(2) of the following...". It does not say where it is to be included in paragraph 1(2). It should say this after "An Comhairle na nOspidéal".

This is a technicality.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 48 to 53, inclusive, agreed to.
SCHEDULE.

Amendments Nos. 180 and 181 are related and will be taken together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 180:

In page 35, paragraph 1, line 28, to delete "five" and substitute "seven".

The Bill proposes that the regulator be in office for five years and not more than ten years. This amendment proposes that he be in office for seven years because the transitional period is five years. The regulator's period in office and the transitional period would be coming to an end around this time and this would be disruptive. I am not wholeheartedly enthusiastic about it, but this was put to me. The ten year period will still exist, therefore it will be ten years plus three years. This would have the same effect.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 181:

In page 35, paragraph 3, line 37, after "term" to insert ", subject to a limit of serving no more than ten years on the Commission".

The original appointment was for a period of five years, plus a further five, which came to ten years. That was the limit one could serve. Now the period is seven years, plus three years.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 182:

In page 36, paragraph 8, line 11, to delete "twelve" and substitute "thirty-six".

I wanted to tease out with the committee and the Minister the guidelines, if any, which exist following the resignation of someone who was a member of the commission, or any such commission, going on to hold office, seek employment or act as a consultant. I wonder whether there is a basis for this 12 month period? I have suggested a 36 month or three year term. Perhaps technology moves on much faster than we sometimes think and that 12 months is appropriate. Is this period based on guidelines which exist in the public service? We hear of people from the Department of Finance going to work for the banks and so on.

Three years in purdah is too long. After all one must live. Let us say the ten year period was up and the person was still young and wished to take up another job. It wouldbe very severe to stipulate they could notwork for three years. Purdah for 12 months is sufficient.

I am happy to withdraw the amendment. However, I would like to know if guidelines exist.

My Department has no guidelines.

Was the period of 12 months chosen ——

Twelve months was chosen as the period in which one could be contaminated, as it were, before entering the private sector.

The Deputy made the point that the person might be young. Equally a man or woman moving on in years might want the last chance of a job.

It would not be right to say that someone could not work for three years.

That is not what I am saying. I am not keen to press the issue. I just wanted to tease out whether there was a basis for the 12 month period.

There is no basis for the 12 month period. It just seemed a decent interval between wearing different hats.

If the matter comes up during Cabinet discussions it might be a good idea to seek guidelines, particularly in light of the current situation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 183:

In page 36, paragraph 11, line 26, to delete "officer of the Commission" and substitute "member of its staff".

The amendment proposes that the Commission may carry out its functions through any employee of the Commission, such as the Minister and the Civil Service.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 184 and 185 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 184:

In page 36, paragraph 12, line 30, before "absence" to insert "unavoidable temporary".

The amendment proposes to tie up any loose ends people might misread in the subsection. The subsection states: "The Commission shall designate a member of its staff as deputy member of the Commission who shall assume and carry out with the authority of the Commission all of the functions of the Commission in the absence of the members or when the membership of the Commission is vacant." I am sure we are not trying to encourage the absence of the members but if it was to be possible to include "unavoidable temporary" absence at least we would know we were dealing with a temporary situation rather than a situation that may become permanent, given that it is allowed to become permanent. I would see this as one interpretation of the subsection.

The subsection states: "The Commission shall designate a member of its staff as deputy member of the Commission who shall assume and carry out with the authority of the Commission all of the functions of the Commission in the absence of the members or when the membership of the Commission is vacant." This seems like a bit of empire building.

This is what I am afraid of. The inclusion of "unavoidable temporary" might be more appropriate.

I think I would delete the section. I thought there might be a bit of empire building here. Perhaps I am being malicious. It is harmless enough. If somebody wishes to call himself "deputy Commissioner" so be it.

I am trying to be helpful so that it is not seen as empire building. We could include "unavoidable absence" or " temporary absence" - I will not insist on a particular wording. We could delete "when the membership of the Commission is vacant". Why would the membership of the commission be vacant?

Somebody might resign, or sadly, die.

Is that not already covered by "in the absence of the members"?

I am not inclined to accept the Deputy's point.

I will not press it but it leaves the door open to what we discussed.

This amendment is tabled to the Schedule. There is provision for the appointment of up to three commissioners.

Gas may also become a consideration within the next year or two.

A situation could arise where there would be a vacancy and that is provided for in section 6. What happens in the event of a vacancy? Does the business stand still? There must be a mechanism for replacement by a person who would be in a position to make decisions, otherwise the workings of the commission would come to a halt. If the commissioner was to become seriously ill and was unavoidably absent for four or five months a specific person must be put in place to act as a deputy. One could not have a situation where any member of the staff could assume that level of responsibility. It is sensible to include this provision.

We are agreed on having a deputy in place. My point relates to including a provision that the absence would be "unavoidable" or "temporary".

Who would deliberately stay out of work for such a long time? On balance, the wording contained in the Bill is better.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 185 not moved.

I move amendment No. 186:

In page 36, paragraph 14, line 39, to delete "two" and substitute "five".

This amendment seeks to give us more leeway. Is there any particular reason for including a provision of two years?

The Deputy's amendment seeks to increase the period of secondment from two years to five years. It is envisaged that the commission will become self-sufficient quickly in terms of staffing. The provision for the Minister of the day to be able to provide staff to the commission is being included solely as a temporary measure. It is intended that when fully operational the commission will have its own staff. The civil servants in question will be seconded to the commission for the start-up phase to assist the commissioner. The industry is paying the costs, as is the case in telecommunications. The staffing will be of a temporary nature.

In the light of the Minister's explanation, I will withdraw my amendment.

Two years is the cut-off point beyond which the employees would require rights under the relevant legislation.

They are civil servants.

Will they revert to that status?

Yes, if they wish. By then staff will have begun to be recruited by the commissioner.

If they are not recruited because, let us say, the regulator did not like them, will they revert to the Department?

Yes. We have been through this with them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 187 and 188 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 187:

In page 38, paragraph 26, line 2, to delete "report on" and substitute "account for".

This is an important amendment. I hope the Minister can agree to it. It is important that we include in the legislation as much accountability as possible for the regulator to the House and this committee. My amendments are self-explanatory in that regard. Rather than reporting to the committee it should account for its functions to the committee and should also have regard to any recommendations of the Joint Committee relevant to its functions.

I accept the amendment very gladly. We know that the 1996 Bill, through no fault of Deputy Stagg, left the ODTR in such a position that the director, acting on legal advice, could decline an invitation from an Oireachtas Committee. Wisely, she has come before the committee on two or three occasions. This Bill provides for accountability to this Joint Oireachtas Committee - I was determined to ensure that. The same arrangement will apply in relation to the aviation legislation, if we go ahead with it.

These bodies should account for their functions rather than report to us. People are wont to complain about politicians but at least they can sack us in two or three years time. We do not wish to have a world of regulators who have no accountability and I have ensured they will report to this committee. I, therefore, happily accept amendments Nos. 187 and 188.

Could I suggest to the Minister that at the earliest possible opportunity she put similar amendments to the Telecommunications Bill.

I am doing so. We are providing for compellibility for the ODTR. She has appeared before the committee but I must point out that she does not have to. I will also be marking out her jurisdiction because the Competition Authority is encroaching on it.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 188:

In page 38, paragraph 26, line 3, after "Oireachtas" to insert "and shall have regard to any recommendations of such Joint Committee relevant to its functions".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 189 to 193, inclusive, form a composite proposal and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 189:

In page 39, paragraph 33, line 6, to delete "30 or”.

These amendments are concerned with superannuation to deal with terms, conditions and revocation of superannuation schemes for the staff and the laying of those schemes before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Paragraphs 33, 34 and 37 also refer to schemes made under paragraph 30, which are schemes for the commission, but should not have done so. The terms and conditions for schemes of the commission already contained in paragraph 30 and do not need to be repeated. Amendments Nos. 189, 190, 191 and 192 will remove the superfluous reference to schemes made under certain paragraphs. Amendment No. 193 will clarify paragraph 38. It relates to superannuation. There are precedents for bodies, such as An Post and FÁS, bearing their own orders before the Oireachtas. They are very technical and correct.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 190:

In page 39, paragraph 33, line 9, to delete "30 or 31 as the case may be” and substitute “31”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 191:

In page 39, paragraph 34, line 10, to delete "30 or”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 192:

In page 39, paragraph 37, line 29, to delete "30 or”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 193:

In page 39, paragraph 38, line 31, after "Oireachtas" to insert "by the Minister, in the case of a scheme under paragraph 30, or by the Commission, in the case of a scheme under paragraph 31,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 194:

In page 39, paragraph 39(b), line 38, to delete "elected" and substitute "nominated to stand as a candidate for election".

It was interesting to note that a member of the commission is disqualified by being nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann or elected as a member of either Houses of the Oireachtas or to the European Parliament. When people stand for election, presumably they do so with a view to being elected. It would be pointless unless at the time they are elected they would have to resign. We are saying that somebody can stand for election——

Nominated to stand.

——and it is all right as long as they are not elected.

It could be accepted. We spoke about this earlier. It infers an interest in another life.

A person might run as an Independent.

There was no mention about Independents.

Would it be all right for a person to run as an Independent?

A political candidate?

If people show a democratic interest and an urge to be nominated, they have their minds set on another life.

One would be advised against it in the first instance.

I would be prepared to accept it.

If people decide to stand——

For an election to the Dáil or Seanad.

——I would have reservations in regard to them ceasing to be members of the commission——

Constitutionally?

People are needed to go forward for election and every opportunity should be made to facilitate them. I would go along with using the word "temporarily" but not the words "shall cease to be a member of the commission". That is unfair. In other words, if people have the courage of their convictions and run for the Dáil and they are beaten, they will lose their jobs.

The Deputy is wise, possibly his legal training is coming to the fore. Perhaps the word "temporarily" could be inserted. We are all encouraging people to go forward for election. I cannot see Etain Doyle or Tom Reeves going for election to anything.

If they are elected they do not lose their jobs. I do not think it needs to be changed.

Civil servants are at a much lower level than the regulator. The regulator must be independent of politics and not allowed to be a member of political parties.

That is right. One can, below a certain level.

It would be crazy to have somebody allegedly in a senior independent position to go forward for political office. If he wants to go forward for political office he must resign. The Minister should not change that.

Is the Deputy referring to Deputy Sargent's amendment?

The amendment strengthens it.

I take Deputy Enright's point that people must be encouraged. No matter how politically minded people are in local authority offices, county councils and urban councils, if they are at a certain level they cannot participate. They can do so below a level.

I think a staff officer is the highest level.

Mr. Jimmy Tully changed it to facilitate a colleague of his.

Was that Mr. McLoughlin who ran as an Independent.

He did not get elected then. Did he return to the county council offices?

I think he did.

This is becoming an interesting discussion about all types of people. I will focus on the commission and, taking into account that many members of the Civil Service will be interested in expressing their political ambitions and viewpoints, as it is a senior position, the person should be clear when accepting it - he will be well remunerated - that he has shut the door on personal political ambition. I am glad to hear the Minister was sympathetic.

On balance, I go along with it.

I also go along with it.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
The Select Committee adjourned at 5.55 p.m.