Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Questions (544, 546)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

544. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is possible under EU law to ask a semi-State company, such as the ESB, to roll out broadband under the national broadband plan; if this would require a new procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12032/19]

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Kate O'Connell

Question:

546. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is possible under EU law to ask a semi-State company, such as the ESB, to roll out the national broadband plan; if this would require a new procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12050/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 544 and 546 together.

The Attorney General has advised that there are significant legal risks in relation to both procurement law and state aid law, if the State was to mandate and fund directly outside a procurement process any economic undertaking, including a commercial semi-state body such as the ESB, to carry out the National Broadband Plan.

Furthermore, engagement between officials of my Department and DG Competition, which is the Directorate General of the European Commission with responsibility for state aid matters, has clearly established that it is the view of DG Competition that it would not be possible to provide a State subsidy to a commercial semi-state body, such as the ESB, to roll out the National Broadband Plan without undertaking a new public procurement process.