Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Committee Stage

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Ann Phelan.

Sections 1 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendment No. 1, in the name of Senator Mary Ann O'Brien and other Senators, has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.
Section 28 agreed to.
Sections 29 to 36, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 37

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 31, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

“(d) the insertion of the following subsection after subsection 3:

“(3A) That the applicant has a contract with a licensed operator for the delivery and safe disposal of collected waste.”.”.

This amendment seeks to ensure persons or companies seeking a waste collection licence have proof that they have a contract with a licensed operator who will safely dispose of the waste. The aim of the amendment is to tackle the issue of illegal dumping. During the years Sinn Féin opposed the privatisation of the waste collection regime. Privatisation has resulted in a number of rogue operators within the industry who have disposed of waste in places and at times that are not appropriate. If we are to pay companies and give them contracts to dispose of waste from Irish Water systems, etc., it is only appropriate that they be fully above board. It should be proved that there is a contract with a licensed operator and that the waste will be disposed of safely.

There are other issues concerning waste disposal that are of concern to people, including in respect of some of the treatment plants to be used. There are many fears in this regard. In my area, Carraroe in County Galway, it is feared that a proposed badly needed sewage waste facility will actually be turned into a regional waste disposal facility. We need checks and balances. We need to guarantee in the legislation that if we are to have checks and balances to ensure waste operators are acting appropriately, those collecting waste will be licensed to do so. If this is ensured, we can take appropriate action if operators act outside the remit covered by their licences regarding the manner in which they dispose of waste.

The amendment is very practical and I cannot understand why the Government would not support what we are trying to do. I cannot understand what it has against ensuring all waste disposal companies given public contracts with public funding are fully licensed. This is the case with other public procurement contracts involving many State organisations. What I propose is essential.

Owing to the nature of Irish Water as a company and given how it has been set up, there are concerns about oversight. That it is not fully State owned and not fully private is of concern, as is the fact that it is not fully open to scrutiny by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The legislation needs to address such concerns in order that we can be absolutely sure no rogue operators will be catered for in the future.

I cannot accept this amendment, although I appreciate the sentiment behind it and welcome the Senator's support for an enhanced enforcement regime. The amendment tabled would force applicants for waste collection permits to enter into binding commercial contracts with waste disposal operators before they even have a collection permit and when there is no guarantee that their application will be successful. No one wants to improve performance in the waste collection business more than I do, but I believe the proposed obligation would be anti-competitive and unfair. If a collector was to enter into a commitment with a waste facility operator to deliver a certain amount of waste for a certain price for a set period but his application for a collection permit was refused, there would be a risk that the National Waste Collection Permit Office would be liable for compensation for the losses incurred. Even for those existing operators who may already have a permit and are going through a review or renewal, the proposed requirement would represent an unfair penalty and be unworkable, given the nature of the waste industry throughout the world.

Waste tends to be directed for treatment based on the most commercially advantageous solution. This could involve a nearby landfill, a waste treatment facility within the State or export for incineration elsewhere in Europe. The decision would be based on the most competitive attainable price, which might be dependent on the quality of the waste at the point in time. A contract would place restrictions on price, making the service uncompetitive for some collectors, and it would be inappropriate interference in the open market. In addition, any increase in price would most likely be passed on to the customer. I would like to avoid price increases, where possible.

That strikes me as one of the most ludicrous reasons I have heard in the Seanad in the past four years for not having a licensed operator apply for a contract. Consider, for example, the procedure applicable to a public transport operator who wishes to pitch for a contract under the rural transport scheme.

The argument that cost effectiveness is the only issue is quite wrong. We need to make sure we get the best operators who work to the highest standards and ensure the waste is disposed of properly. In any tendering process at local government level, one would expect tenderers to be known operators in the relevant industry. Anyone worth their salt in the waste disposal industry should have a track record which could be taken into account if they were getting a contract. Not having an onus on the contractor to have a licence before they can apply for a tender strikes me as ludicrous. I cannot see how such a requirement affects costs. Any operators I know of will have economies of scale and know their business inside out. To argue that this amendment’s provisions would exclude people or be anti-competitive does not wash with me. What we need to ensure is that waste disposal is carried out to the highest standards. Licensing of the industry in this scenario is crucial.

I am not accepting the amendment. The whole idea behind the legislation is to get higher standards in the waste collection industry, a point which everyone should support.

I do not think the Minister of State answered the points I raised. We are seeking to have waste legally, properly and safely disposed of. That is why there are licensing and regulatory regimes in place. The Government is leaving itself open in this legislation to rogue operators who would undercut those already in the industry, those who have bona fide credentials, a good track record which shows they do their job properly, who pay proper wages and are fully tax compliant.

This section, as drafted, will allow anyone to apply for a contract to dispose of waste. What happens if that person is not licensed and undercuts the bona fide operators to win the contract but, it is discovered later, they are not operating to the highest standards. The contract would then have to be re-tendered. The Government could head this one off at the pass to keep the cowboys out of the waste industry and ensure safe waste disposal.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh is giving the impression any operator carrying waste does not have a permit which is not the case. Section 37 outlines the conditions attached to getting a permit which are more stringent than those in the original legislation. The Senator is insinuating there will be a free-for-all in disposal for waste carriers. This Bill is actually strengthening the regime

This legislation specifically aims to keep the cowboys out of the industry. In some cases, they are already in the industry. This legislation is to deal with that issue and will do so effectively. To give the impression that it will not do so is unfair, particularly if one reads the Bill objectively.

The points raised by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh are all covered by these new provisions. His amendment would place operators at a competitive disadvantage. It is for that reason I am not accepting the amendment.

I have not heard any argument that explains why this amendment would place anybody at a competitive disadvantage. Certainly, I cannot see why asking an operator to be licensed would do so. It does not happen in any other industry. If anything, it levels the playing field for those operators working to the letter of the law. Leaving it open for unlicensed operators is the opposite as it allows them to come in at a lower price through, say, hiring workers on the black market or paying them less.

It is clear the Minister of State will not take on board our amendments. I will resubmit them on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, “That section 37 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Question, “That section 38 stand part of the Bill,” put and declared carried.
Sections 39 to 46, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 47
Question proposed: "That section 47 stand part of the Bill."

Sinn Féin wholeheartedly opposes this section. This is the fourth attempt by the Government to push through legislation on water services without support from the general public. When one traces back the arguments for introducing Irish Water in the first place, it was about water conservation. I remember that argument from the Minister of State’s former colleague, Phil Hogan. He was rewarded with a nice Commissioner job in the European Union for pushing through Uisce Éireann as a conservation measure.

The Government is pushing forward with a regime of putting in water meters to use them almost as cash registers to take money from people in years to come. Requesting people to register with Irish Water has been a debacle from day one, which is quite obvious from the hundreds of thousands of people who marched on the streets against it and the continuing Right to Water campaign. At this late stage the Government should back off on the issue of water charges.

Sinn Féin is proposing to delete the existing proposal regarding the obligation to register with Irish Water. The services being provided are clearly inadequate and no one should have to register until a proper service has been provided. Today, Leenane, which Senator Cáit Keane would know quite well, has been served with a boil water notice because of cryptosporidium. Up to now Irish Water could have blamed the local authorities around these issues, but the presence of cryptosporidium, however, is unacceptable. I have warned about it before and have called on several occasions here in debates, including on Commencement matters, for barriers to be put in place to protect the water supply in Leenane and Carraroe. It is clear Irish Water is not putting in any investment, which we were promised.

It has certainly done the opposite in Connemara where I live. We had plans for a regional water scheme in Casla which would have given us a clean supply of water in the Ceantar na nOileán-Carraroe-Rosmuc area. What did Irish Water do? It scrapped the plan. We are now drinking water from a lake that is polluted and where there is no barrier to cryptosporidium, of which there could be an outbreak at any time. Time and again, THM levels in the water exceed the allowable levels, but Irish Water is long-fingering a resolution of the issue. Today, the people of Leenane are boiling water. The investment that was supposed to be made and the great salvation that Irish Water was supposed to be are fallacies. This measure has been foisted on the Government by the troika and EU partners to put cash registers outside people's doors on their water pipes in order that in the future the cost of supplying water can be increased, even though we already pay through a number of taxes.

We totally oppose the policy brought forward by the Government and promise that Sinn Féin in government will scrap water charges and reconfigure Irish Water as a public utility, as it should be. It has been an absolute disgrace from day one. The Minister keeps moving the goal posts. The different deadlines for registration and the payment of bills had to be moved further out. The Government has tried all kinds of tactic - carrots and sticks - including the introduction of the so-called conservation grant to get people to buy into the misguided principle behind Irish Water, but they have not bought it, as the Government knows. It has bullied a lot of people into registering but not enough. Even at this late stage, it will have major issues in trying to keep Irish Water off balance sheet. It is costing us more to collect the charges than Irish Water will bring in. Surely even the Minister must admit at this stage that it has been an abject failure on the part of the Government and that, as a Labour Party Minister, he should agree that water charges are not the way to go. People cannot bear the expense that will be put on them by this and future Governments through water metering. That is why we are opposed to the section.

This and the next few sections have been tagged on by the Minister and his colleagues in government to what was a relatively innocuous Bill. They have tried to hide the fact that this is part of their fourth attempt to fix the debacle that is Irish Water. It is also no coincidence that the Government has sought to introduce this legislation just before the recess because its plan has always been-----

We learned that from the Senator's party.

I give you guys an "A" because you have learned very quickly.

That makes us good students. We learned from the best, one of whom is in the building.

(Interruptions).

To whom is the Senator referring? As every day and month passes, I wonder what is the point of the Labour Party. What is the point of it being in government because it has protected no one? It has, effectively, been a storm trooper for Fine Gael in ramming through unfair and unjust cuts.

(Interruptions).

Yesterday, you guys voted against lone parents and transplant patients. There is, therefore, no way of knowing the depths to which you will not crawl. That is the reality.

It is a fact that the Government has tagged on the last few sections to the Bill outlining the further changes it must make in the operation of Irish Water. This section deals with registration with Irish Water and some serious issues in landlords passing on tenant details to Irish Water and in terms of who will be a customer of Irish Water. I have no difficulty with the concept of charging for water for conservation purposes, but the Government has brought in this measure as a tax to try to generate revenue. As it has made such a hames of it, this year it will lose about €35 million in collection, while it has wasted about €785 million since last year in the establishment of this super-quango against all of the advice it was given at the time. The irony is not lost on me that it is a Labour Party Minister who has actually been sent to do Fine Gael's bidding because at least Fine Gael was clear about what it wanted to do. It, effectively, wanted mass privatisation of State bodies. That is what is going to happen further down the track, which means that the Government will sell Irish Water as an entity. We have committed to scrapping it and we should do so as currently constituted.

(Interruptions).

When one looks at this section in respect of who will become a customer of Irish Water and the passing of data from a landlord about a tenant, there is nothing in it that we can support. I wonder why the Minister did not introduce another water services (amendment) Bill to be clear about what he was doing instead of trying to hide the proposed measures in a miscellaneous provisions Bill. The sections from section 47 onwards are very significant and should be in separate legislation that the Government should have introduced instead of trying to hide and slip them in under the radar in pretty innocuous legislation. We will be opposing section 47 and every section onwards.

We will table further amendments on Report Stage which I look forward to discussing in more detail with the Minister. At this stage, the Government should look at what it has done in the creation of Irish Water and the pathetic level of engagement of the public with the new utility. In reply to anyone who says this is a solid start for the company, the public has said it has no confidence in Irish Water as an entity. At the time the next quarterly payments fall due to be paid, we will see the level of payments decreasing further. The Government will not see additional payments being made because many of those who have already paid are asking themselves for what are they paying.

I trust Irish Water will be enshrined in public ownership forever. I hope, therefore, that what Senator Darragh O'Brien has said about it being privatised down the track is completely wrong.

At this point we must be visionaries. As the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine often says, water and food are two of our most valuable resources. We must get the infrastructure right. I have just met somebody downstairs who has a great interest in water provision and agriculture. The dairy sector has never been discussed here, but cows drink six times the amount of water humans do. We need to consider the explosion that will occur in the dairy industry.

That brings me to the mother ship of Irish Water. I was very disappointed that my amendment which would have removed section 15 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act that gave the agency immunity from prosecution had been ruled out of order owing to the fact that it involved a potential charge on the Exchequer. The EPA has one of the greatest responsibilities to perform for us taxpayers. It is the protector and watchdog of our water supply, rivers, oceans, fish, the environment, the air we breath, land, soil and the food we grow to safeguard the health, well-being and future of the people. These are all under its control, but it has immunity and does not answer to the Minister. We must know that it is the mother ship of Irish Water. A report carried out by a review group set up by a former Minister, Mr. John Gormley, in 2010 found that the agency's absolute immunity should be revised at the earliest opportunity and that it might be unconstitutional. To date, no Minister has shown me legal advice from the Attorney General on whether it is constitutional.

I will return to it on Report Stage.

I refer the Minister of State to a letter that the Irish Environmental Forum sent to the Taoiseach on 23 June 2014 as an official complaint about the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA:

Minister Hogan has been aware for some time, having taken over the position of Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, that licences had been granted by the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Irish State which allow damage to be caused to the environment and human health. Minister Hogan is refusing to have these complaints investigated under the standard reply as he is precluded from doing so within the EPA Act. Such an excuse does not, in our eyes, allow Minister Hogan to stand idly by and allow the EPA to carry on in such a reckless manner.

The Irish Times published an article with the headline, "Seven Irish plants among 'most damaging' in Europe, says agency". The agency referred to is the European Environmental Agency, EEA, and the seven plants are Moneypoint, Aughinish Alumina, ESB Poolbeg, Edenderry Power, ESB West Offaly Power, Synergen Power, which is in Ringsend, and Viridian Power, Huntstown, County Dublin. The EEA is a highly respected agency which is staffed by scientists, including Professor Jacqueline McGlade, as well as many other renowned professionals. As part of its European study into industrial facilities and their emissions, it found that the seven plants had damaged the environment and human health through their emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide. In 2009 they cost the State up to €1 billion in monetary terms, at a time when we could not afford it. It is a fact, and the Minister of State should write it down. Yesterday evening my amendment was ruled out of order because it involved a potential charge to the Exchequer. If seven plants are costing us €1 billion because of their emissions, the EPA needs to stand up and be transparent and accountable to the Minister and make certain that no plant in this beautiful country of ours ever has the opportunity to pollute or potentially cause harm to citizens' health, the agriculture industry, the land, animals or the food we grow.

The Minister of State is welcome. I, too, oppose section 47. It is said incompetent people constantly do incompetent things. From the outset, Irish Water has been handled by incompetents. From the very start, everything about it was wrong. I have no difficulty in paying for water, but please do not tax me a second time. I already pay for water. The Government is beginning to divert my motor tax and God knows what else into Irish Water because of the fiasco it has become. It is a flop. It is time for the Government to admit it, go to the ECB, get some money, put the water system right and refloat Irish Water. The system in place is not working. The Minister of State cannot for one second believe what has happened is a success. I am sorry the senior Minister who believed he could ram this through the nation and force people to pay is not here to face us. The issue of public ownership is far from certain. Although we asked for a referendum, we were knocked back. Why was there such great opposition to a referendum?

The section asks me to become a revenue collector for Irish Water and submit details of what I do or do not do on my private properties. As Senator Darragh O'Brien said, the Government has stuck the section on the end of a Bill dealing with dog licensing and other matters because it realised the system in place was not going to work and it needed to come back at us another way. If we are going to have a section such as this, let us introduce a Bill that puts all utilities on the same footing, enabling the ESB, Eircom and anybody else who cares to do it to put their hands into my wallet. Why are we ring-fencing Irish Water and making it a special case? It is because the Government has failed to put together a company that is accepted by the people. The 43% who have paid their first instalment will not pay a second instalment. The game is up. The Minister of State should cut the section, go back to the drawing board and start all over again. The Government has made a total mess of it.

It is not a game but a very serious business.

It is a pity the Government did not think of that.

We all know the type of water we have had to endure.

We are still enduring it.

We need safe, clean water. Although we have had many good times, we have not had clean water. Local authorities did their best, but were not given the funding during the good times to correct the water system. I am from Clifden and lived near Leenane. The Senator did not mention the new treatment plant that is being constructed in Clifden. For the first time since I was born, we will have clean water in Clifden. The flag situation on the beaches of the west coast has improved dramatically. In Roscommon, the county that is always mentioned, 11,000 boil water notices were removed one month ago. Since Irish Water has taken over, 21,000 boil water notices have been removed in Roscommon. We can consider the total amount that the people of Roscommon have had to spend on expensive bottled water and compare it with a charge of €1 or €3 per day for all of their water.

Regarding the link between motor tax and clean water, this is an environment Bill and motor transport is one of the worst sources of pollution. When we debate the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, I ask the Minister of State to consider putting motor tax against clean water.

The Government is using motor tax revenue to establish Irish Water.

I live in Dublin which a Stanford University study identified as the second most vulnerable city in the world to future water shortages. We might ask why that is, given that it rains every day. We must be realistic. It is not a game but a serious job. The Government is correcting the shortages. We are dependent on foreign direct investment. Intel in County Kildare uses water daily, not water that falls from the sky but treated water. The greater Dublin area is over-reliant on the River Liffey, drawing 84% of its water from it. The investment should have been made years ago during the Celtic tiger years. Many people, including me, are to blame. Disruptions to the water supply cost Dublin city businesses €78 million, and this has been a problem over the years. Yesterday I received a telephone call from a person in Rathfarnham who has paid his or her water bill and wants to do so but who said we should say loud and clear that Irish Water was putting in place a system under which only those who could afford to pay would have to pay.

From where is the Senator coming?

I am coming from a position that is realistic.

Where did the Senator get that idea?

She should tell us straight. She pulled it out of the sky.

Those who can afford to pay want to pay and will pay. Those who cannot afford to pay will be facilitated, and is said loud and clear.

How will they be facilitated?

The Senator's party is not against water charges.

I am against these water charges and against Irish Water.

This is the only country in Europe in which there are no water charges. Water conservation is also important.

People will receive €100 for doing nothing.

It was shown that it is possible to come in 40% under the quota of the metering system if one conserves water. We must work harder on this. The €100 conservation grant will go to every household that registers with Irish Water, even those that do not pay a charge. Everybody must be encouraged.

What should they do with it?

How does one do it? I am doing it. I got my oil tank cleaned out without spending any money and I am collecting rainwater from my roof and bringing it into my system. One can get a tap in Woodies DIY shop for €40 and put it into a tank.

How much did it cost?

I live in Dublin and have lots of water.

It would cost more than €100.

Please allow the Senator to make her point.

As well as making economic sense, the driving force behind the introduction of water charges is the legal obligation to recover the cost of water services under Article 9 of the water framework directive. That is why the last Government had to sign up to it. There was no choice. The EU water framework directive is based on the principle of the polluter pays and there is a legal obligation to implement properly cost recovery measures for a wide range of water services, including domestic water services. I am not making this up. Senator Darragh O’Brien knows this well. He is smiling. He has it off by heart. He signed it.

The Senator should not invite comment.

I can tell Senator Cáit Keane there is a completely different reason I am smiling right now.

I know the Members opposite are sensible when they actually think about it and they know it is right but they just have to say it is wrong. I think politics would be an awful lot better if we all admitted that charging for water is the right thing to do. Those who cannot afford to pay will be facilitated and will have clean water. I am from Clifden and have paid water charges all my life. There were group schemes, but that is another thing. Ultraviolet rays are used to ensure the bacteria in the tanks are killed. The Senator has asked how we are conserving. We are cleaning and conserving by using the conservation grant. The impetus is there. It should be mandatory in the building regulations for new houses that there is rainwater harvesting throughout. Reedbed cleansing will also lead to better water all round.

I am sure the people of Clifden miss the Senator.

Drumcondra is on the Senator’s mind. They are a little flaky over there.

Clifden’s loss is Dublin’s gain, as Senator Darragh O’Brien has pointed out to me.

I mentioned the charges in Dublin also. I live in Dublin.

Whatever they do, they should try not to mention his name.

I am flabbergasted by this section. Section 47 and some of the following sections give Irish Water unprecedented powers as a utility company. Every household in the country will be asked to work for Irish Water by notifying it under a statutory obligation. There is no legal obligation on households to register with Irish Water until this Bill is passed by the Oireachtas, and signed by the President if Senators vote for it. If there is a failure to register, there will be a default rate of around €260 on a dwelling. This section will bring in a mandatory obligation on the owner of a dwelling to register as a customer of Irish Water and to notify Irish water in writing if he or she is not the occupier of the dwelling. If that is the case, they will have to provide the name of each person on the tenancy agreement and the date the tenancy agreement commenced. If one provides false or misleading information, there will be a class A fine of up to €5,000 upon summary conviction. This morning in the Dáil, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, said that, without question, Irish Water would never be sold. I am not sure he can give that commitment on the floor of Dáil Éireann. I am not sure any Member on the Government side----

They are promises one makes before an election.

There has to be a plebiscite.

-----or any Minister can give a commitment that Irish Water will not be sold. Irish Water is being established on the principle of setting it up as a viable and financially independent enterprise, which would be very valuable on any international market. We have seen what happened in Britain. It has been referred to here many times. Similar utilities were set up there in the 1980s and early 1990s and were sold on. They had been set up on the same principle that is being used by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government here. We are giving too much power to a utility company that is off the books and which will be independent of the State.

I have listened to what Senator Cáit Keane has said. The Government seems to herald Irish Water and the charging of customers as the solution to all the woes of the country's water problems. It forgets one thing. The €1.2 billion it has cost to run the water service up until now was made up of operational costs of around €700 million and capital costs of around €500 million. There was around €210 million coming in from commercial water rates, which means there was a shortfall of about €1 billion. That was being funded by the taxpayer. In 2015 and 2016 Irish Water will continue to be funded by the taxpayer. Small fees will come in, but more money will be given away this year in a so-called conservation grant, which we can talk about later, to every house, regardless of whether one is registered. It will change in 2016, because only those who register in 2016 will qualify for the €100 conservation grant. In 2015, every house in the country, regardless of whether it is registered, will get a €100 conservation grant. Why are we giving out a conservation grant funded by the taxpayer? At a time when Irish Water is under unprecedented pressure, there is an announcement of a €100 grant to try to ease political pressure in the Government.

I think it is all wrong, totally wrong. The taxpayer is being totally exposed to the point where Irish Water becomes profitable. When Irish Water becomes profitable, it will be on the books and, of course, a Government will sell it, whether Fine Gael or the Labour Party are in government. Great offers will be made from outside vulture capitalists who will want to make profits and they will control the water of an entire nation. It will be sold later on because there is nothing contained within the legislation to enshrine the people’s right, that is, a referendum. The Government did not take that opportunity even though most - certainly most if not all - Opposition Members in both Houses, with the vast majority of the people, want the rights to our water supply enshrined as a constitutional right.

The United Nations has mandated that water is a basic human right and it has written various research papers on that. The ESRI has come up with a research paper recently on behalf of the Minister of State's Department, which states that, in Ireland, families in the lowest income decile will experience difficulty in paying for water and that 4% of households will not be able to pay for water because of their income level. Most of those are in the lowest income decile but not all, because there are people living in the middle as well who may have big mortgages, families and children going to university and who are income starved as well. They are the Department’s figures. They are not my figures; they are not independent figures; they are the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government's figures. What will the Minister of State do to alleviate the pressure on that 4% of households? If there are 1.5 million households in the country, 4% is something in the region of around 60,000 households that will struggle to pay for water according to the ESRI-Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government report. I am sure the Minister of State has read the report and I hope she has an answer to the question that has been raised by that research. I would like to hear some of the Minister of State’s views on this and what the Department is doing. It cannot be dealt with on a one-fix-fits-all basis because we are dealing with impoverished families, whom we spoke about in the House last night and many of whom are under pressure from financial institutions when it comes to keeping their homes.

There are many issues. The Government is giving away the people’s rights to a utility company. It is very sad. It makes me sad that we are going down this road and that a Government would take this approach on behalf of the people because it gives unprecedented powers to a utility company.

The ESB and Eircom were mentioned. However, they do not have the powers the Government is proposing to give to Irish Water. When one gets up in the morning, is it more important to have a glass of water or to be able to make a telephone call? One can survive without electricity, but one cannot survive without water or food. Water is more important than food, according to the World Health Organization.

There are many variables that have not been properly explored. There is a knee-jerk reaction. The political realities of the next general election are contained within this legislation. It is being rammed through this week and next week in the hope that it will ride into the sunset over the summer. Unfortunately, that will not be the reality for the families who will be affected by the legislation and the taxpayer who will be affected by it in five, ten or 15 years time, when this utility is potentially put on the open market.

I have some questions on section 47. As has been mentioned several times by my colleagues, the requirement to register as a customer with Irish Water specifies that one must register not later than 20 working days after the coming into operation of the Act. There is no indication as to what happens if someone does not register after 20 days. Will sanctions be imposed on them, and, if so, what will those sanctions be? Am I incorrect in linking it with section 6, which states that someone providing false or misleading information is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine, which I understand is €5,000, a significant amount of money? Am I to assume that someone who does not register within the 20 working days can be taken to court and, on summary conviction, will be fined €5,000? Nothing in the Bill indicates what will happen if a customer who is required to register does not register. This is part of an ongoing difficulty with the entire legislation on the operation of Irish Water.

I understand only 46% of households that registered have paid. The figure would indicate that a large number of people are ignoring the legislation and ignoring the exhortations of Irish Water and the Government to register and subsequently pay. Some people have registered and have not yet paid. I have some sympathy with the Government's view that the figure will increase. It may seem strange for me to say that. People are not used to the notion of paying for water. Many of the people who have registered will pay and the figure of 46% will increase significantly. At the same time, a significant number of the households that have registered will receive the €100 grant and will not pay. I want to explore the issue of sanctions, because the section does not make clear what happens if people refuse to comply with the requirements.

I welcome the Minister of State. I thank the departmental officials who met me last week to go through the many questions I had on the Bill. As I said from the beginning, I do not stand over how Irish Water was set up or the Government's handling of it. However, we are where we are. I try to look at each Bill that comes before us on its merits.

Regarding this section, I welcome the amendment the Government tabled in the Dáil on deposits. I was very concerned about that aspect and I am glad it has been withdrawn. We do not have that system in place in Ireland yet and we need to do it, but this is certainly not the place to do it.

I considered the section vis-à-vis how we deal with other utilities. I also thank the Library and Research Service which has been very helpful in providing the information. I compared it with the supply of electricity. A tenant might have his or her electricity cut off, but the new tenant can have it reconnected in his or her name. However, water cannot be cut off - a measure I very much supported in the House last year - because of the importance of water. We have to find a way to deal with that which is consistent with how we deal with it for other utilities, but it cannot be exactly the same because we do not allow water to be cut off. I am absolutely standing over this. I believe this section ensures that consistent approach. It ensures a tenant must register and can be liable for charges. I am satisfied with how the Government is handling it.

I am listening to the debate in case people raise issues that I had not considered. I remain absolutely concerned about the woeful conservation aspect. I asked whether people could be requested even to nominally sign something to the effect that they would use the money for conservation. I find it unconscionable to give people money without any commitment to use it for conservation. However, we are not dealing with the water conservation grant. I am happy with this section because it is consistent with the approach we take with the supply of electricity, although it is not exactly the same because this is not the same issue.

I support Senator Mary Ann O'Brien who raised an extremely important issue with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency. An article in The Sunday Times of 12 July by Justine McCarthy related to a 14-year old retaining the right to sue the State. Just to illustrate the point that Senator Mary Ann O'Brien so ably raised, the article stated:

Several reports published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have failed to provide a definitive reason for reported health problems in the area. The EPA has consistently ruled out industrial pollution or any other toxic substance as the likely cause. It has identified farm issues, such as the nutritional value of silage and seed, as well as the liming of the land as a "contributory factor".

I encourage Senators to read the article. It is appalling that the EPA is allowed to get away with such a statement. I have already indicated to Senator Mary Ann O'Brien that when she introduces a Report Stage amendment to address this issue, I will support that amendment.

I have spoken about Irish Water previously. It seems to be business as usual. The Government is treating this House and the other House with absolute disdain, as it did before the Christmas recess. It is doing the same now before the summer recess. It is doing this to drive through very unpopular legislation that does not sit well with the public in the hope the dust will settle over the holiday period and it can get away with it. I am afraid to inform the Minister of State that that will not happen.

I am disappointed that the senior Minister has not seen fit to come to this Chamber and face the music. I can understand how he might want a lengthy summer break after the annus horribilis he has had in his position as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. I have often said it was an unusual portfolio for my former party to take over, given that it was in a terrible mess. It was like walking in for an unmerciful hiding.

During the debate before the Christmas recess I stated the figures for Irish Water did not add up. At that time I said that a non-payment rate of 47% would put Irish Water deep into the red. That figure obviously represents 57% non-compliance with payment. Where will the money come from for Irish Water? How will it raise money on the open market if it is in the red? I see it as a stepping stone towards the privatisation of the water supply.

Why is there a fear of putting this to the people in a referendum and enshrining it in law to give citizens the right to decide where their water supply comes from?

Many people are opposed to paying water charges on ideological grounds. This legislation has been put before the House in an underhanded way in that these sections have been added to apply to dog breeding and so on. It is wrong to expect people to agree to be strong-armed into registering with Irish Water and paying for that utility when there is still a whiff from the Siteserv controversy. As other speakers said, we can live without gas and electricity but the essential of life is sustenance - food and water. People in many parts of the world live without electricity and gas.

It is called the Third World and we try to help them.

Senator James Heffernan to continue, without interruption.

Yes, Third World countries. That only 43% of people have paid so far is an indictment of the entire Irish Water project and it is probably time it was put on the shelf with the e-voting machines and other projects that have been a total waste of money.

I agree with Senator Mary Ann O'Brien. A far more important environmental issue should be included in this miscellaneous provisions Bill, namely, the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has immunity from any prosecution. I struggle to understand the reason there is a fear of abolishing immunity from prosecution for the EPA. If the EPA is doing its job properly in protecting the environment it should have nothing to fear from prosecution, nor should the State have anything to fear from prosecution.

In my neck of the woods there is huge mistrust of the EPA because of the way much of its work is carried out and many of its decisions are taken. People living on the Shannon Estuary around Foynes, Laughil, Shanagolden, Glin and Askeaton have had dealings with the EPA which have not inspired any confidence in that organisation. That the director general has stated it is not the job of the EPA to rush to prosecute polluters is a sad indictment of the organisation in itself. What is its function if it is not to protect the environment, our natural flora and the people's health?

In 2009, I raised the issue of a licensing agreement that came before the EPA board for Aughinish Alumina, which is in my neck of the woods. The recommendation was that a full bond should be in place before a licence was granted. At the second meeting of the EPA board that provision was scrapped. If that is not a reason to call for some sort of an inquiry, I do not know what is because this company was a proven polluter, according to the European Union, operating in my county and getting away with it without having to pay any bond. If an environmental disaster occurs, it will cost the taxpayer millions of euro to clean it up, and that is not taking into consideration the devastating effects it may have on human and animal health in the area.

The Minister has side-tracked on the idea of appointing an external ombudsman to examine complaints against the EPA. On the last occasion a Minister came before the Seanad on this issue he told me an acceptable form of wording could not be found to provide for such an ombudsman, which is a laugh. If the Minister's highly paid civil servants cannot find an acceptable form of wording, it does not inspire confidence.

The conservation grant must be the greatest oxymoron in recent Irish political history. Where is the incentive in handing a lad €100 and telling him to go away and save water for himself? That is baloney. I do not understand why the senior Minister thought that was a good idea. I imagine his coalition partners thought it was great gas because they would be able to hand out €200 cheques to local IFA meetings and hoodwink a Labour Party Minister once again. That is an issue the Minister has to examine.

I have the figures before me, and I can give a copy of them to the Minister of State, although I am sure the Minister is aware of them. Irish Water is in the red. It should be consigned to the history books. It is a project that was tried and has failed. The Minister is aiding and abetting the possibility that Irish Water, our rivers and lakes will be sold to the highest bidder, which would be a shameful day for us.

If the Minister is serious about the non-privatisation of Irish Water I ask her to reconsider inserting the provision to hold a referendum because the Labour Party may not be in government forever and she may have to deal with other forces who will be happy to privatise all and sundry. That is why the people need protection. I ask that the Minister of State would see fit to include that provision in the Bill.

I look forward to debating the issues further next week and hope Members of this House will have the courage to defeat the Bill and force a recall of the Dáil.

I take serious umbrage at commentary from some of my esteemed colleagues, which was along the lines that the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan, is in some way unfurnished with the ability to deal with this legislation. The Minister of State is a Minister in this Government. She is charged today with carrying out the function of overseeing this debate on behalf of the Government and I take umbrage when anybody accuses her of being a lesser being than any other Minister.

On a point of order, I want to say, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, that we totally dissociate ourselves from any of those comments.

I appreciate that.

Nobody said that.

My good friend, Senator James Heffernan, made some extremely good points in his contribution, but a word he uses frequently in our chats over cups of tea, as well as of other things, is "ráiméis". There was a little bit of that in his contribution, but I agree with him and I have said it in the House previously that the EPA will have to be tackled and dealt with. There should be no more messing around with it.

I have mentioned in this House incidents that occurred in my community going back almost 30 years. I refer to what happened in Hanrahan v. Merck Sharp & Dohme, a caswe which ended up in the Supreme Court. The body charged following that case is now the EPA and it is not doing its job under legislation that was put in place in 1992. There were 11 prosecutions in one year by the EPA across the country and every one of them was against a local authority. It is as if there is no chemical, pharmaceutical or any other industry in the country. There were only 11 prosecutions and they were against a local authority. That is unacceptable.

Obviously, the Attorney General has ruled that the amendment will not be accepted for good reason but mark my words we will have to take on this entity and make sure it is doing the job it was legislated to do.

It is unacceptable to me, and I put the Minister of State on notice about that aspect.

In regard to the conservation grant, I am shocked and amused about it in some ways. On the one hand, people do not want to pay any money but, on the other, they do not want to accept any money, which beggars belief and is beyond comprehension.

Some people who are in political parties understand the political system better than those who were never in them. There has been a lot of commentary on how political parties work, including my party. People seem to think political parties should be the saviours of every issue that comes on the agenda in this country every single day.

Perhaps just once in four years. Not every time but perhaps just once.

We got 19% of the vote.

As far as I am concerned, we have used that mandate to the maximum.

The Senator's party did not set the bar too high.

Today, the man is in the building. I will leave it at that.

To whom is the Senator referring?

To whom is the Senator referring?

The man is in the building and the Senators should think about that fact.

Is the Senator referring to the Taoiseach?

Is it Deputy Eamon Gilmore? Senator Denis Landy said "the man is in the building."

I am astonished and amazed at the attack that has been made on Irish Water-----

We must be careful because the man is in the building.

Senator Michael Mullins to continue, without interruption, please.

-----given that, every day, colleagues in the House look for investment in their areas and constituencies. We all want to see more jobs attracted into the country. We all know that the investment in the infrastructure that was required in this country could not be leveraged through the local authority system. The only way to raise that finance was by setting up a utility company - Irish Water. I would be first to concede that the initiative has not been perfect and many mistakes have been made. The legislation is trying to ensure there is fairness and that everybody pays a small contribution towards the provision of water services. The people in County Roscommon are very happy that Irish Water was set up. Last week, 11,300 more people no longer needed a boil water notice in County Roscommon as a result of an investment of €26.8 million that has taken place in that county. The facility is located out the road from where I live.

In my town of Ballinasloe right now, Irish Water has a contractor that has commenced the upgrading of the water and sewerage system. It is a massive investment which I hope will benefit Ballinasloe as we try to attract badly needed industry to the town.

Is there no sewerage system in Athenry?

All these things will happen. I can assure the Senator-----

Nothing will done until next year.

----- that if Irish Water had not been established, the benefits would be a lot longer coming.

If the Government did not spend €750 million on meters, improvements would happen a little quicker.

I am surprised by some of the contributions made here today by people who live in rural areas. I originally came from a rural area where, for the past 40 years, people have paid for water through group schemes. The only way they could get water was by joining a group scheme and paying an annual contribution. They are astounded that people from the city of Dublin line up each week at the gates of this building to protest about water when people who live in rural areas have paid for water for the past 40 years. There must be fairness, common sense and balance.

They were lucky enough to have homes back then.

Why should those who have paid for their water or sunk their own wells be entitled to the €100 conservation grant? They will make sure they will preserve water, buy additional fittings and make the changes and amendments to their original scheme and, thus, save water which is a precious resource. People have played a lot of politics with the issue of water. We want to ensure every town and village has a good, safe and clean water system. To attract industry to locate here we must have an infrastructure that is capable of meeting the demands of industry. Apple will locate a facility in Athenry and create jobs and I have no doubt that priority will be given to such places.

Not according to Irish Water.

I am sure water services will be fast-tracked in order that jobs are created in the regions. We need to get real and ensure everyone pays a little for water. To date, 675,000 people have paid and the number is increasing. Why should 675,000 people have to pay more to compensate for people who chose not to pay?

People will not pay any more.

Why should the 675,000 pay more? It would be unfair and unbalanced. This Government inherited one unholy mess but it has made a fine job of getting the economy back on track and moving again. There should be a little support shown for Irish Water. People should not be misled as well. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and the Fianna Fáil Party told people not to pay the septic tank charge. As a result some people ended up paying €50 rather than €5 for registering having been told they would not have to pay the charge. What will happen with water charges is everyone is going to pay. Perhaps they might not have to pay immediately but at some stage everyone is going to have to pay. There is no point in postponing the inevitable.

I urge the Senator to tell the truth now.

People would be left with large bills-----

-----that will be deducted from their wages or whatever else.

The Government will pickpocket the money.

Members would do well to advise their constituents that paying a small contribution on an ongoing basis is much preferable to postponing the inevitable-----

-----instead of paying much a large figure.

We have spent more than hour debating this section and the Minister of State has yet to speak. Senator Cáit Keane has spoken already, but she has indicated a wish to speak again.

We should take a look at the Environmental Protection Agency. Everyone must be answerable to something but when Members say things in the Seanad, they should ensure they are factually correct. The Environmental Protection Agency issued fines to private companies in the District Court and there were 16 last year. The list is on the EPA's website, but I will put some of the details on the record of the House because an alternative statement was made earlier. The list includes Oxigen Environmental, Glanbia Foods Ireland Limited which was fined €5,400, Irish Country Meats which was fined €10,000, Green Isle Foods Limited which was fined more than €8,000 and Rosderra Irish Meats Groups, County Offaly which was fined €12,700.

This section does not involve the matter of fines.

The list goes on.

I would like to hear what the Minister of State has to say.

The section does involve the matter of fines.

I know, but it was said there were no fines and that all of the fines were county council ones.

That point is not relevant to the section.

I just wanted to correct the record for the EPA.

I will address the EPA's immunity from prosecution, even though I know the amendment has been ruled out of order. Immunity from prosecution for the Environmental Protection Agency arises under section 15 of the EPA Act of 1992. Senators may be aware that a review of the EPA was conducted by a broadly based group of relevant experts and completed in 2011.

On a point of order, the section we are dealing with deals with registering with Irish Water. I do not understand why there has been constant reference to the EPA.

Senator Mary Ann O'Brien mentioned the organisation. When her amendment was ruled out of order earlier, the Chair allowed her to comment. The Minister of State is responding to the amendment that was ruled out of order.

We seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time on something that is not meant to be before us.

I want to give an explanation. The review examined the performance of the EPA against its mandate. It found that the EPA had provided a "considerable benefit for Ireland's environment and for the health and well-being of its people". Nonetheless, the 2011 review also recommended that the immunity from prosecution, as it applies to the EPA in carrying out its statutory functions, be reconsidered. This process is ongoing, with comprehensive analysis of potential impacts on the agency, its ability to discharge its statutory functions effectively and how the issue is dealt with by other agencies. Any change to the current position, if so decided, will require primary legislation that will be brought back to the Houses for discussion and consideration in due course.

Section 47 amends the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 by the insertion of a new section 23A. This section introduces a legal requirement on the owner of a building either to register with Irish Water as the customer or to notify Irish Water that he or she is not the occupier of the dwelling.

Where the owner is not the occupier of the dwelling, the owner shall be required to notify Irish Water of the name of each person with whom they have an agreement to occupy the dwelling and the date of commencement of any such agreement. This provision would not apply where the customer details have already been provided for Irish Water before the proposed legislation comes into effect. This would mean that there would be no additional requirement for customers who have already registered with Irish Water as part of their customer registration campaign. This is an important provision to ensure that Irish Water is made aware of the person responsible for the payment of water charges in accordance with Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013.

This section provides that where the owner of a dwelling does not provide the necessary information for Irish Water within 20 days of the legislation coming into operation or within 20 days following any change of occupation, then the owner shall be liable for any charges payable to Irish Water until such time as they provide Irish Water with the necessary information. The provision of false information for Irish Water shall be an offence.

This section also provides that any agreement to occupy a dwelling which commences after the provisions come into effect, unless it expressly provides otherwise, shall be deemed to include a provision that the occupier is liable for any charges to Irish Water. Any tenant whose tenancy is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act will be responsible for the payment of water charges. This is in line with the principle of the user pays as defined in the Water Services Acts and will ensure that tenants are eligible for the water conservation grant.

On the issue of privatisation, I am surprised at the Senators' ability to be able to predict the future with amazing accuracy. Why does not the Government hold a referendum on this matter? The Government is fully committed to ensuring that Irish Water remains in public ownership. We recognise the concerns expressed by members of the public that Irish Water could, at some future stage, be privatised. Regrettably the concerns have been exploited by some members of the Opposition in an attempt to suggest that the privatisation of Irish Water was an actual reality.

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 prohibits the sale of Irish Water. Nevertheless, the Government wishes to ensure that should any future Government wish to consider legislation proposing the sale of Irish Water, provision is in place for the people to be consulted. The Government consulted the Attorney General on this matter who advised that an amendment to the Constitution was not appropriate. The Attorney General advised as an alternative measure on the provisions set out in the Water Services Act 2014 that any future proposal for legislation that would involve a change in the State ownership of Irish Water must be put to a plebiscite of the people. This provides a clear mechanism which gives the public a choice on any future proposal to change the ownership of Irish Water.

To respond to Senator Paschal Mooney, if the owner does not register they will be liable for charges irrespective of whether they are the occupier or not. The class A fine provision relates to the offences of providing false or misleading information to Irish Water only; therefore, it is false and misleading information which will carry the fine. I think that clarifies that issue.

The Government has taken significant steps to ensure charges are affordable. The Water Services Act 2014 caps charges at a maximum of €160 for one adult household and €260 for other households. The charges may be lower where a household conserves water. Furthermore, the water conservation grant of €100 will also support affordability.

In regard to the issue of compliance and the discussion on the number of people who have already paid, the compliance data released by Ervia earlier this week on the first billing cycle indicate that 46% of domestic water charges have been collected to date. Irish Water has indicated to me that as a utility sending out bills for the first time this progress compares well with other utility collection experience and it is satisfied with the rate of collection at this stage.

I apologise for not being in the House earlier. I was attending the Government's stage managed event in Dublin Castle. I am responding to the Minister of State's response to the previous contributions. With respect, I do not think that this can be seen by either Irish Water or the Government as a good start. She is trying to make comparisons with previous utilities set up where previous charges were put in place to compare the compliance rate. Irish Water has been up and running for some time. The Government stated continuously that the majority of people would register and pay. There is one element on which I wish to focus because the amendment seeks to delete section 47 which essentially would remove, as would the deletion of section 48, any reference to Irish Water or the ability of the State to collect unpaid water charges. We believe all of this should be done through separate legislation.

I listened to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, earlier in the week on one of the national radio stations when questioned about the payment being made to citizens in respect of the water conservation grant. We had lengthy debates here when the previous Water Services Bill was before the House. What appears to be happening is that every time we raise issues and concerns they are dismissed by the Government and then they come back and bite all of us, not only the Government but citizens also. In all the previous debates, we had concerns about setting up Irish Water and whether the cost associated with it was good use of taxpayers' money. As it transpired we had all those difficulties and the crisis about the waste of taxpayers' money in terms of the original set up costs.

We also raised concerns about the water conservation grant. We told the Minister at the time that this was not a conservation grant. There is no point in dressing this up as something that it is not. It is not a conservation grant and yet large numbers of people will receive that conservation grant without even having to pay the water charges in the first place which means that Irish Water, because the majority of citizens will not pay, will operate at a loss. How can the Minister of State stand over this? How can the Government state it is a good start and that we are on the right road when the majority of citizens have not paid? Some of those who have registered and have not paid will actually make a net gain, they will get a grant from the Government with no obligation to do anything. There is no obligation to prove that one has conserved water or that one has used the money for water conservation improvements, one just gets it back as a social welfare payment. In reality the only reason the water conservation grant was introduced was to placate the opposition to water charges. The Minister thought it was a way of getting the Government off the hook, that everybody would be happy with the lower charge and the water conservation grant and would all register and pay but it has not worked out. That is the reality.

I support the proposal to oppose sections 47 and 48. As this is my first opportunity to speak, I want to voice my overall opposition. I am not coming back in again as it is frustrating on Committee Stage when there is repetition, but I have made my contribution. I genuinely believe - I said this on Second Stage - it is a major mistake for the Government to put these sections into a Bill which is essentially about something else. We will not have a proper debate on the other important issues in the Bill because the focus is on the provisions which relate to water charges in Irish Water. A disservice has been done to the House and the Oireachtas by the sleight of hand in which the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, was engaged in when putting together the Bill.

I am always wary when I see miscellaneous provisions Bills but this one really takes the biscuit. I strongly oppose this section and the next section.

I wish to clarify a matter. Earlier I called for the Minister to come to the House, but this was in no way a slight or insult to the Minister of State. The Minister has been out and about on the airwaves speaking about how confident he is and I would rather see him standing up his confidence here than putting the Minister of State in the firing line. I have every respect for her and the role she carries.

I listened to the spokesperson for Irish Water on radio. She confirmed that nothing will happen to people who do not pay this bill, the next bill or the bill after that. The water will still run in their houses. They will still be eligible to apply for the grant. Incidentally, I heard somebody from the other side speak about the fixtures and fittings for which the grant would pay. This is the first time in all of the talk about the Bill that I have heard anybody say one had to do anything for the €100. I would like to know what fixtures and fittings I can buy which will allow me to conserve water. As Senator David Cullinane just said, the truth of the matter is the €100 is to keep us all shut up and get us to pay our charges.

I am getting a little tired of listening to the Roscommon story. I am delighted Roscommon has fresh clean water to drink at long last-----

For the first time ever.

That is marvellous, but at the end of the day there are another 25 counties in the country. Fine Gael is banking on the fact that people in rural Ireland have been paying water charges for years and they will not penalise the Government for introducing water charges. The Cathaoirleach is getting a bit anxious.

The Senator is being repetitious.

There is a lot of repetition. We have spent more than €500 million on meters which are not required.

This section has nothing to do with meters.

We have spent more than €600 million on advertising, trying to sell a system which nobody wants. We are told Irish Water cannot be privatised without a plebiscite. The only plebiscite which means anything is a referendum which places ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution. Let us not play these silly games. No Minister, not even the Taoiseach himself, can come here and guarantee Irish Water will not be privatised, because as soon as the Government is gone next November we have a new Government which might flog Irish Water. It might even pass legislation to do what it wants.

If the Senator has nothing further to offer on the section, I will put the question.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 11.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Darragh O'Brien.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 48

Amendment No. 4 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Question put: "That section 48 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 11.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Darragh O'Brien.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 49
Question put: "That section 49 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 10.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Darragh O'Brien.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 50

Amendments Nos. 5 and 7 to 10, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 55, to delete lines 13 to 26.

We oppose this section and do not believe the so-called conservation grant is anything other than a concession forced from the Government by opposition to water charges and Irish Water.

The proposed database is simply another means to force consumers to register in order to be billed.

Section 50 is to provide for the establishment of a database to facilitate the payment of the water conservation grant from 2016 onwards. It will allow the Minister to establish a database which shall include information relating to the water services supplied to a dwelling in addition to details relating to the occupier, including the name, the address and whether the dwelling is the principal private residence of the owner.

The amendments proposed to the section simply propose the deletion of the section. Without these provisions, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government would have no basis on which to pay the annual €100 grant to households. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 6 is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 6 to 10, inclusive, not moved.
Question, "That section 50 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 51
Question put: "That section 51 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 9.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Darragh O'Brien.
Question declared lost.
Question, "That the Title be the Title to the Bill," put and declared carried.
Bill reported without amendment.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Is that agreed?

Question, "That Report Stage be taken on Tuesday, 21 July 2015," put and declared carried.
Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 21 July 2015.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

The Seanad adjourned at 5.45 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 17 July 2015.