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Cabinet Committees

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 8 June 2016

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Ceisteanna (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

1. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will re-establish the Economic Management Council. [10153/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

2. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet sub-committees he will establish. [10154/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the number of Cabinet committees he has established since the Government was formed. [11436/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

4. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the number of Cabinet sub-committees he has chaired since the beginning of 2016. [11758/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the programme of Cabinet sub-committee meetings he plans before the summer 2016 recess. [11759/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

6. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the number of previous Cabinet sub-committees he will retain and the new committees he will establish. [12984/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

7. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet sub-committee that will be responsible for arts and culture. [12877/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (53 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, together.

In response to Question No. 1, the Economic Management Council is not being re-established.

In response to Questions Nos. 2, 3 and 6, all Cabinet committees stand dissolved at the end of every Government's term in office. The new Government has, therefore, established Cabinet committees on housing; health; social policy and public service reform; justice reform; European affairs; and regional and rural affairs. At this morning's Cabinet meeting, the Government established three more Cabinet committees on the economy, trade and jobs; infrastructure, environment and climate action; and arts, Irish and the Gaeltacht.

In response to Questions Nos. 4 and 5, I have chaired six Cabinet committee meetings to date in 2016. In January, I chaired a meeting of the committee on justice reform. I chaired meetings of the Cabinet committee on housing on 12, 20 and 26 May and 2 June, and a meeting of the committee on health on 12 May. The Cabinet committee on housing is scheduled to meet again tomorrow, 9 June. Further Cabinet committee meetings will be scheduled over the coming weeks.

In response to Question No. 7, the Government is setting up a new dedicated Cabinet committee which will deal with arts, Irish and the Gaeltacht. It will be separate from the Cabinet committee on regional and rural affairs. Therefore, in addition to being part of a larger Department headed by a senior Cabinet Minister, arts and culture will now have a separate dedicated Cabinet committee. Some people seem to think otherwise but that is the way it is going to be.

I take it that approximately ten or 11 Cabinet committees have been established. Could the Taoiseach indicate whether that is more than was the case in the previous Government and by how many?

The Government's response has been to establish a Cabinet sub-committee for the arts, Irish and the Gaeltacht because it has been rightly stung by the very sharp reaction from the arts community to what it sees as a consistent relegation and downgrading of the arts in public policy and Government policy in recent years, culminating in the formation of a very broad-ranging Department covering regional and rural affairs, the arts and the Gaeltacht. The arts community further sensed that represented a yet greater diminution of the arts. The idea of an arts, Irish and Gaeltacht sub-committee is clearly a response to that. I welcome that in itself but it is a long way short of giving proper executive authority at ministerial level for the arts. It is only a number of years ago that the arts had its own Department and portfolio. That was something we celebrated as a country. It was also something that had an impact on public policy itself. It is fair to say that the arts today has a lower status in Government than at any time in more than three decades.

I mentioned the fact that previously the arts had a Minister at senior level but now it is in a Department that is swamped by significant other duties in a wide range of areas. The arts has been ignored at junior ministerial level. Tens of thousands work in the arts sector, which is of extreme importance in terms of our values as a society. It is also economically important. I recall that at the first Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh, all of the Irish CEOs who came from all over the world said that the one distinctive and distinguishing feature of Ireland was the arts and literature in terms of opening doors for trade, business and for the economy. The Taoiseach must give the arts significant, direct ministerial representation in government. It was a very serious omission and the Government is running to catch up now in terms of responding to the real sense of neglect that is felt. It is not just about structures of Government, because in terms of arts policy in recent years and the centrality of the arts, there is a real sense that the arts have been left behind.

In the context of the Cabinet sub-committee on health, it is difficult to understand what the health committee of the previous Cabinet did.

It presided over an overarching policy strategic objective and, at the end of five years, was obliged to admit defeat and state it did not really know what it was about for five years. It was called universal health insurance and at the end of the five years, the Cabinet sub-committee on health was obliged to admit it did not know what it was talking about and did not have a clue regarding universal health insurance. It was an abject failure and it dispensed with the policy.

In many ways, the previous Cabinet sub-committee was a work of art in itself in avoiding action on delivering in any meaningful way the Government's programme for health as laid out in the programme for Government. One hopes the newly formed Cabinet sub-committee on health will have a far more energetic and proactive content to its work. The Taoiseach may recall the Government published a White Paper on health insurance, which went through the previous Cabinet sub-committee on health. Can he indicate whether that White Paper on health insurance still is or remains official policy? Alternatively, is it essentially being ditched and is the Government going back to the drawing board?

Three years ago, the Taoiseach announced he was taking over direct responsibility for health. He made that announcement here in a ringing declaration during Leaders' Questions on one occasion.

I said I would take a real interest in it.

The Taoiseach actually stated he was going to take over health.

No, I was never Minister for Health.

The Taoiseach was never Minister but he declared to me in this Chamber that, and I believe the wording was, he was going to be taking personal responsibility for health.

It was a big readjustment.

Admittedly, it was at a difficult moment in the tenure of the then Minister, Senator James Reilly, and the Taoiseach was exasperated at that point in time. It appears to me as though the Taoiseach did not take personal charge of health for far too long.

This has already been discussed during Leaders' Questions but the very fact the Government was obliged to produce €500 million today, in the first week of June, illustrates real problems in policy formulation and policy-making in respect of health. In 2014, there was a supplementary provision for €680 million. I called that a fraudulent budget in 2014, when a deliberately false budget was put before Members. Moreover, Senator James Reilly himself subsequently more or less admitted that when he stated that the game was up for him when he did not win the battle at Cabinet on that health Estimate. Last year, the supplementary provision was €600 million.

This year, before the health service plan was published, the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive, HSE, stated the HSE was under-provided. The chief executive officer had sought €2 billion in the lead-in to the Estimates and he stated the health service plan was under-provided, the HSE could not deliver additionality in services and all the health service could do would be to deliver 2015 levels of service. I pointed out all this to the Government before Christmas. I also pointed out in January that there would be real problems in the health service unless something gave. Something has given today, with the provision of €500 million.

I still am unclear as to whether this is a sticking plaster of €500 million that will deal with the pressures outlined at the beginning of the year or whether there will be additionality of services above 2015 levels of services in acute hospitals and so on. It shocked me that such language stating that all that could be done in 2016 was to provide 2015 levels of service was used. That has never happened before in any previous health provision or health Estimate. It always was and by definition must be above the previous year's delivery of service for demographic reasons alone, never mind any additional services across the board.

On the housing committee, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has confirmed that some targets will not now be met within the first 100 days. There was a commitment to examine existing housing stock. When will this be concluded? How many houses will be renovated or refurbished by the end of the year to allow families to be moved out of hotels? How often has that housing committee met and how regular will be its meetings? The Dáil committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Curran has done some good work. It is nearing completion and the Taoiseach might indicate whether it is the Government's intention to fulfil and support, by implementation or by executive action, the recommendations of that all-party committee on housing. I refer in particular to its intention of supporting the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to do that.

I welcome the abandonment of the Economic Management Council, EMC, which is long overdue.

Its demise, rather than abandonment. It is not left there just rusting.

The Taoiseach might explain that. He is a man of greater literary competence than am I and he might illustrate the difference between the two. I suggest its demise as a consequence of its abandonment by the Government.

It is not a rusting carcass.

I wonder how the former Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, thinks now. She was a great advocate of its removal a few years ago-----

-----but the Taoiseach steadfastly refused to countenance that at the time. In many ways, it is questionable as to whether it was ever constitutional. In many ways, it was a kind of Cabinet cartel between the Tánaiste of the day, the then Minister, Deputy Howlin, the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and the Taoiseach. The rest of the Cabinet did not get to see much until it was a fait accompli. It was an extraordinary way of doing business that essentially sidelined the Cabinet and one purpose it served was to shield from disclosure discussions on important matters of public interest. Given its disappearance, demise, or whatever, will the Taoiseach undertake to review its documentation? Will he agree to release to the public the documentation the EMC considered on subsequent budgets and so on?

On a number of occasions, the Deputy raised - rightly from his point of view - the way in which questions were being answered in this Chamber. He stated they all were being lumped and grouped together and that he was not getting satisfactory answers. I must state to Deputy Martin that he has asked questions on the first group of questions but also has strayed into the second group of questions, as well as the third group of questions Deputy Adams has tabled on health.

No, Question No. 3.

Will you let the Taoiseach answer please?

Deputy Micheál Martin has covered the entire spectrum here today. He started off with the arts question and I respect that completely.

He then moved into health and then he moved into housing. The second group of questions are about these separate issues.

No, the Taoiseach is wrong in this regard. Question No. 3-----

There is nothing wrong. I simply am making the point that----

The Taoiseach should read out Question No. 3.

I was just making the point-----

No, we are not going to get into all that.

I know that-----

Please, Taoiseach, can you deal with the questions?

-----but there are separate questions on housing and mortgages and then on health. Anyway-----

The Taoiseach should read Question No. 3.

I read it already.

That is the context in which I asked all the other questions.

I wish to say to Deputy Martin-----

And the Taoiseach's answer told me how ignorant-----

Deputy Martin, please.

I apologise, a Cheann Comhairle.

The previous Government had the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and that was accepted, in so far as that was important. When I came into the Chamber on the day the Government was appointed, I read out that because of all the pressure before the elections about rural affairs and regional affairs, that this should be reflected at Cabinet level and that this Department was one where that would be suitable. Given that I read it out in that order, people suddenly assumed that the arts were gone, sunk without a trace. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Department is to be the Department of Arts, Heritage and Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Development. Consequently, those who have been writing to me, those who have been sending me texts and those who have been decrying the demise of the arts in Ireland at every opportunity should look again at the fact there now is more money in this Department, as well as more allocated to it, than for many years. When I listen to all the learned people of creativity and imaginative vision speaking abroad about the demise of the arts in Ireland, I respectfully disagree. This Department has a senior Cabinet Minister and a dedicated Cabinet sub-committee. It has no Minister of State because of its importance and has more allocated to it than previously.

Moreover, why would it not be important that regardless of whether one goes to Tory Island, Cill Rialaig, Dooagh down in Achill or any place else, that the capacity for people to be able to expound on their creativity and their imagination in the arts should be as prevalent as in any city centre or any major urban area? The issue of rural development and regional development might be lost on some of those who espouse the vision about art because the young people are now displaying their artistic qualities in the schools and in the homes. It might not be all on sketches or crayons or paints; it could be in many other artistic forms. However, the Government must develop that regionally, locally and nationally and that is why more money has gone in here than previously.

In fact, the Government has increased funding for the Arts Council year on year since 2014, when the economy began to improve, to €60 million now.

Deputy Martin's question is valid. The programme for Government contains an important commitment to increase funding for the arts progressively with specific reference to the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board. I have had the privilege of meeting some of the global leaders in the film sector. Many of them say that Ireland has an enormous capacity and potential in this area. That is why the Government changed the rules in respect of the taxation system, the school of graphic design, and the capacity to produce major movies in studio, given that technology has changed greatly from what it was in the past.

The outgoing Government commenced a €30 million plus investment in the National Gallery a number of years ago. One can see that the cranes have come and gone. They have had to pile the entire foundations underneath and it will be a marvellous job when it is finished. There was a further €10 million investment for the National Library in Kildare Street, which was badly needed. In addition, there was a €9 million investment for arts and cultural centres, to run over the next three years, which is focused on increasing the number of arts and cultural centres.

It is heartening and encouraging to work with local authority arts officers and see artistic centres throughout the country. The scale of what they put on there locally, regionally and nationally is first class and to be much admired. That scheme will target improvement of existing facilities.

As Deputies know, a serious investment of €32 million was made this year in the Military Archives, the development of the GPO interpretative centre, Kilmainham courthouse and the tenement buildings in the context of the comprehensive 1916 commemorations. Much of that was related to the arts and artistic endeavour, so I do not accept the argument that the arts are being done down by the Government or that we have shown no interest in their potential and quality.

A key theme of the centenary programme is re-imagining, which is a rallying call to re-imagine Ireland's future over the next 100 years. That kind of conversation can be driven by our heritage and culture. In tandem, the Government will prioritise the publication of Culture 2025, which is this country's first ever national cultural policy.

On the second last occasion I was in New York, I visited an arts centre for a fund-raising event. Let me assure those in the artistic community, both here and the many abroad with Irish connections, that this Government is fully committed to the arts. In so far as we can, we will continue to fund that kind of imaginative vision that so many people have.

A health question was mentioned and the new Minister has already set out a ten-year vision for the health service, for which he has obtained agreement from the House. I hope that strategy will take significant elements of the raw politics out of this because everybody is interested in people having a proper health service as close to them as possible. The initial advance of getting valid views from everybody about how this can operate is an important element of a national response to a health situation which has always been in crisis at one time or another. We now face demographic problems with an ageing population and chronic illnesses. People are living longer because of newer and better treatments. Given the rising population of 4.7 million, there is therefore an increased cost.

The Minister for Health will continue to roll out primary care centres, while mental health issues and other elements are also important. Deputy Martin referred to other issues. Additional Exchequer funding of almost €817 million was made available to support health and social care services in 2016. That included an extra €100 million to maintain existing services and €99 million for new services which cover therapy services for young people. It includes speech and language therapy which is an issue that people have constantly raised, as well as the Creating a Healthy Ireland programme. It also concerns building capacity for our emergency and acute services, improving waiting times for hospital procedures, reforming the HSE into a more efficient, transparent health service for patients and staff, and developing a new funding model for health services.

Deputy Martin asked if the health system will stay within its budget for 2016, which is a valid question. I hope so. There is a far greater emphasis now on accountability, transparency and effective management from senior HSE personnel, particularly those working in acute hospitals where overruns have been a constant issue.

In addition to providing speech and language therapy services for young people, further development of mental health services will be undertaken. Primary care, including provision of free GP care for six to 11 year olds, will also be provided along with the development of maternity services, ambulances and hospital projects. Deputy Martin is aware of the development of the new national children's hospital, as well as efforts to resolve the dispute in respect of the National Maternity Hospital, along with an extensive capital programme for better facilities in many hospitals throughout the country. These are all important matters.

Deputy Martin mentioned the Economic Management Council or EMC. Just over five years ago when the previous Government was elected, the economic situation was catastrophic. One of the things we felt strongly about, which was no reflection on Deputy Martin-----

The Taoiseach told me for five years it was.

-----was the need for a far closer conversation between the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance of the day. For whatever reason - I am not going to cast aspersions on anybody - that was not happening. The Government I led from 2011 comprised two parties and therefore there were different views on various things. Given the scale of the economic situation we faced, it was necessary to talk about things daily. The EMC was never a Cabinet in itself, but it was a way of short-circuiting arguments into a cohesive proposal that had to be accepted or rejected by the Government afterwards.

The publication of all these papers will come as a measure of the shortened time for the publication of Cabinet papers anyway. It is therefore not necessary now to have an Economic Management Council, as the country is not in an economic crisis. We are heading towards deficit and debt reduction, rising employment, and much lower interest rates available to us to borrow money. In that sense, I have no intention of restoring, nor do I wish to bring back to life, the Economic Management Council. It has gone; it is history. It played an important part in the vehement and difficult discussions on decisions that were to be made concerning both budgets and the situation that applied at European level. That is one the Deputy does not have to worry about for the future. The papers and decisions arising from recommendations of the EMC of those years will be published in due course. There is now a shortened time for the publication of Cabinet papers.

Táim buíoch den Taoiseach as a fhreagra. He obviously believes the system of Cabinet sub-committees is an important structure to help to develop policy and give political direction to the Departments involved. I can see why that is the case. I myself believe that a core group or a focused approach by those who know the ins and outs of the particular issue at hand could help to drive policy. Is that the record, however, and is that how it has worked out?

I am very taken by this notion of the health committee. In the last days of the previous Government, the money which we were told was ring-fenced for the mental health budget was taken away. I know it has been restored and I welcome that, but it was actually taken away then.

Where was the health committee dealing with this issue? The then Minister of State, former Deputy Kathleen Lynch, railed against it, but it was still taken away from the people who deserve even more in terms of resources, structure and policy direction. Here is the rub: the Taoiseach uses Cabinet confidentiality to not answer my question about that. Was that issue discussed at the health sub-committee? Did it take the decision? Who took the decision? Was it the Cabinet? That is a very serious, recent and timely example of the track record of one of those committees.

I also take issue with the Taoiseach railing eloquently against those who he says have said that the arts are in decline. I never heard anybody who is interested in the arts say that. The arts are not in decline. The issue is that they are not given the required priority, funding or resources in terms of Government and public policy. That is the rub. It is no accident - I applaud this and get great enjoyment from it, as do most people - that when we wish to showcase the Centenary celebrations or anything else about this island, we do so artistically. We involve our best creative and visual artists, singers, songwriters and musicians. The Taoiseach frequently draws on some of our great poets. In flights of fancy he will draw on sections from our literature or drama. We all try to do it in a way, because that is part of what we are and part of our expression. As the arts bring enjoyment, uplift people and let people live in their imagination, they should be supported. There is a need for a dedicated Minister, even a Minister of State, to have that responsibility.

The arts are also an economic driver across a range of areas. The vast majority of people do not visit this country to look at great factories or the signs of industrialisation that might exist. Some people might come here to look at farms or agriculture, but most people come to this country to look at heritage or historical sites. When they want a night out they go to the theatre, a book reading, a ballad session or a concert. All of that can drive the economy and generate a real return. I must declare an interest as I am a voluntary director of Féile an Phobail, which has uplifted the people of west Belfast both in terms of the creative genius of those people and also in terms of outreach to people of different views across Belfast. It also provides a platform whereby artists can come into the community and engage with it. Many young people from west Belfast are now earning a living through the arts. There is no point in the Taoiseach being dismissive of our concerns. The real concern is that the Government is not giving the arts or heritage the type of priority and importance they deserve.

In the context of trying to ascertain the detail of what takes place in these sub-committees, does the Government intend to retain the use of Cabinet confidentiality? There is a big difference in how often Cabinet sub-committees meet. The Taoiseach told us several years ago that when he became Taoiseach he found that Cabinet sub-committees used to meet on an irregular basis, so he decided to allocate one day per month exclusively for Cabinet sub-committees. Is it his intention to continue that practice? I can understand that a sub-committee with responsibility for dealing with an emergency situation might need to meet more often. However, the Cabinet sub-committee on Irish and the Gaeltacht met on only two occasions in the first six months of 2014. The Taoiseach is i bhfad níos líofa ná mise and has a fluidity in Irish that I admire. Given that he is a fíor-Ghaeilgeoir, I cannot understand why the Government is not more active on the Irish language issue and, in particular, on the economic regeneration of Gaeltacht communities, which are the cultural well of our language.

Does the Taoiseach intend to continue the practice of devoting one day per month to the Cabinet sub-committees and will he respond to the other issues I have raised, particularly relating to the work of the outgoing health committee, which presumably allowed, or was not consulted on, the removal of money that was ring-fenced for mental health services?

The Minister made his case for an adjusted Estimate and is restoring in full the amount of money originally allocated to the mental health area. There was an issue with the recruitment of personnel and their availability. Some of them could not be recruited in the timescale that was originally set, and that is the reason the money was diverted, but it has now been restored. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, will outline the details of that-----

My question was about whether the health sub-committee dealt with that issue.

The health sub-committee would have dealt with the question of mental health and mental health services-----

No. I am referring to the money that was ring-fenced.

No, it would not have been a decision of a Cabinet sub-committee to transfer or divert money from one section of a Vote to another.

Cabinet sub-committees are treated as smaller versions of the Cabinet, as it were, and confidentiality is supposed to be adhered to. However, I notice that there are questions in the House that ask very directly about issues that were discussed at Cabinet sub-committee meetings, and I cannot not say that these issues were not raised or discussed.

I agree with the Deputy about the arts. Einstein said that imagination is the greatest force, and it is true that that is how we project Ireland on the international stage or for ourselves. Is it not the excitement of the hurling or football match that creates a passion among Irish people? I recall attending the Eurovision Song Contest years ago, when Riverdance was presented in its final magnificence. There was a stunned silence before an explosion of welcome for something that was as old as Ireland but had been translated into a modern presentation of something we are ourselves. That was an expression of art that was viewed by 200 million people in China, and by many others when Michael Flatley, Jean Butler and all the other dancers and backup groups did their thing on the world stage.

We provided €500,000 last year for the Yeats centenary in Sligo. Consider the numbers who came there from abroad because of the power of that person to write what people were thinking - their thought streams addressed in a way that they might not be able to do themselves but in a way they could understand. That is a part of Irish art as well. Walk through Cill Rialaig on a bad day to Bolus Head and feel the power of the environment, the artists who worked there and the light streaming through the windows and the roof. These are things we present to China, Japan, America and other countries. I had the privilege a few weeks ago of launching the Ireland 100 in the Kennedy Centre in Washington before 2,500 people. Some of our country's most artistic singers, dancers, creators and musicians were presenting their ability to the world. Of course we present these things. Why would we not? I agree with the Deputy. The first word in this Department title is "Arts."

We have no Minister.

It is the Department of arts.

Let nobody say that this is being shoved aside or into an alley way. We want more and more young people to learn from their elders and connect with their peers around the world through the Internet. Is that not why we need broadband in rural areas? It is so they can talk to schools in Auckland, Alaska or South America and ask students there about their music, games, food and dress and what they do. Is this not where the young Irish stand on a stage without peers? It is so we can stand with our young people and tell them they can more than compete with anything else the world has to offer.

This is why regional and rural affairs are and should be part of the artistic community. It is in there that the educational forces will give vent to those young people's imagination and inspiration. Long after we are all gone our way out of this House, that legacy will continue to flourish - "full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air".

I think Deputy Bríd Smith feels like bursting into poetry.

I want to lower the tone of the House a bit. The Taoiseach went through a list of the sub-committees. Is that the full list?

Did he mention one on waste management?

That will be dealt with under the Cabinet sub-committee on economic infrastructure and climate change.

We will need one because the issue of charges for green bins came up in the House less than a month ago. This is the waste that generates profit through recycling. The proposal was then retracted by the new Minister with responsibility for housing, planning and local government. We now find that the big cartel companies, Thorntons Recycling and Greyhound Recycling, are doubling and tripling the standing annual charge for households to have their bins collected. I have e-mails from workers in Ballyfermot and Crumlin who have received e-mails from Greyhound and Thorntons asking them to pay three times what they paid previously in the annual standing charge to have their bins collected. Customers pay that regardless of whether they ever put out a bin, when they put out a bin or what it weighs. In addition to pay by weight, which will be introduced on 1 July 2016, these new charges will be introduced on that date. These two companies operate like a cartel because if they were genuinely in competition with each other, they would not put up the prices in exactly the same manner at exactly the same time. James Gandolfini has been dead for nearly three years but Tony Soprano is alive and well in the waste management industry.

We will see many of these issues arise because of the privatisation of an essential service. This is what one gets when one commodifies the application of an essential service, and the collection of rubbish is essential to the running of any country. It was introduced in the 1800s because of the widespread incidence of cholera in our cities so we had a public waste management service. We now have a private waste management service. Illegal dumping is increasing and will increase even further with these costs because people are put to the pin of their collar just to have their bins collected. This is outrageous and must be illegal. We need a waste management sub-committee to look at this and the planned building of incinerators in Poolbeg and Cork.

This issue is pressing and we need to deal with it. Somebody needs to grab these companies, bring them in and tell them that they cannot bring in a 200% or 300% cost increase for something that is essential for people to live. Otherwise, illegal dumping will increase and it will be the local authorities who will pick up the tab, not the private companies who are making the profit. This is why we argue that we need to rescind the section of the Waste Management Act that allowed the privatisation of waste management. We should bring it back into public control and ensure that even if it is paid for, it is monitored and regulated and companies like this cannot behave in a Soprano-like fashion, do what they like with the bin service and charge people an arm and a leg. I would like the Taoiseach to comment on it and I sincerely urge him to consider having a Cabinet waste management sub-committee even for a limited time.

Waste management will be part of the discussions that will take place anyway at the Cabinet sub-committee. I do not have the details referred to by the Deputy but with the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle, she might raise the matter on the Adjournment and get a direct response from the Minister. I know that the proposed extra charges for green bins by weight was recently reversed by the Minister. If the Deputy puts a direct question or raises it on the Adjournment, the Minister will be happy to respond. If she wants to send me copies of the e-mails she received, I will be happy to receive them.

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