Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Priority Questions

Departmental Bodies.

2:00 pm

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 5: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to privatise or sell off State assets or State companies under the remit of his Department as a revenue raising measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10716/09]

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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My Department is responsible for overseeing general policy and the State shareholder interest in a number of commercial state bodies, namely, the ESB, EirGrid, Bord Gáis Éireann, Bord na Móna, the INPC, RTE, TG4 and An Post. These bodies employ in the region of 23,300 people and had, according to the latest published figures, a total turnover of some €6.7 billion in 2007. They play a critical role and, in most cases, hold strategic national infrastructure in the sectors in which they operate.

In line with Government policy on the matter, the Minister has no plans to sell off or privatise State companies under the remit of the Department as part of a revenue-raising programme for Government. The shareholder priority with respect to these companies is to ensure profitable commercial operations, competitive provision of services to the economy as a whole, nationwide delivery of services in certain cases and a strongly positive contribution to the strategic development of the sectors in which they operate, in areas such as infrastructure development and environmental sustainability.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister of State in a position to provide a guarantee that the Government will not sell, in full or in part, any of the companies that come under the aegis of his Department during the next two years?

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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The programme for Government contains a commitment with regard to retaining the electricity and gas network infrastructures, as strategic national assets, in State ownership. It is intended to ensure these assets are never privatised.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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With respect, my question did not relate to that matter.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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We have no intention of selling off any of our assets.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I am referring to the companies.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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We also have no intention of selling off any of the companies. Even if it was our intention, I cannot think of a worse environment in which to contemplate their sale. We attach great importance to these companies and consideration has not been given to selling any of them.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I accept what the Minister of State says regarding the intention of the State to refrain from selling assets such as gas pipeline infrastructure and electricity infrastructure. However, my original question was somewhat more specific in respect of the actual companies involved. The State owns three or four energy companies. I am trying to establish whether the Minister of State's Department or the Department of Finance are considering raising money through the sale or partial sale of these or any of the other companies to which he referred.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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I can only provide the Deputy with the information at my disposal. While I appreciate the Exchequer currently has a pressing need for funds, as I stated earlier, I could not think of a worse time to be contemplating the sale of State resources. We have not given consideration to selling any of the bodies that come under the remit of my Department nor is it our intention to do so.