Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Sale of State Assets
Question 10: To ask the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources if the working group on the part-privatisation of Bord Gáis will be asked to consider the impact of incorporating Irish Water into it while privatising it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21923/12]
Question 12: To ask the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources if the decision to establish Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis will delay the part-privatisation of that company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21931/12]
I propose to take Question Nos. 10 and 12 together.
The Government has decided that Bord Gáis Éireann's energy business will be part of the assets disposal programme.
The Government has reiterated its commitment to retaining the gas networks and interconnectors in State ownership as strategic infrastructure which is fundamental to Ireland's security of energy supply and the economy.
BGE is a strong and dynamic State company. The success of Bord Gáis Energy demonstrates BGE's capacity to develop new and efficient businesses for the benefit of Irish consumers as well as for the State, as the shareholder.
The recent decision to establish Irish Water within the group reflects the Government's confidence in BGE. BGE's experience in the key areas of raising finance, operating and investing in critical network infrastructure and delivering excellent customer service, will be effectively deployed in the successful establishment and operation of Irish Water.
My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, have advised that an implementation strategy for Irish Water is being developed by his Department. The strategy will be finalised over the next month or so in collaboration with BGE, all relevant Departments, including my Department, as well as the local authorities, and with the advice of NewERA.
In parallel, a group comprising my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and NewERA is working to progress all policy, regulatory, legislative and financial, to be addressed as part of preparing for the disposal of Bord Gáis Energy.
The Departments, NewERA and BGE are fully cognisant of the need to ensure that the work on the sale of Bord Gáis Energy and the establishment of the water company are progressed concurrently and to schedule. The Government will be briefed on a regular basis on progress on both fronts.
It has been stated, in the announcements and communications to date, that it is envisaged that Bord Gáis will have the individual water metering and billing system up and running by 2014. What is the plan B in a scenario where that deadline is not met, that is, that all of the homes are not metered and in a position where they can be individually billed?
My party notes the disparity between what the executive engineer of Dublin City Council states and the official line from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in terms of the number of houses for which there may need to be a flat charge. If the main body of houses are not fully metered by 2014, is it the intention to proceed with a flat-rate charge?
The Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, wearing his hat in the other Department, is more competent in this area than I am. The fact remains that, as Deputy Niall Collins stated, this is no more than rumour and speculation. The Government has made no decision other than that there will be no privatisation of water, there will be a State water company whose name is not yet decided, and Bord Gáis is charged with bringing proposals to us in this respect. It is entirely putting the cart before the horse to speculate beyond that. Bord Gáis has a blank page and knows what has to be done. It made a very considered pitch for the task, as did Bord na Móna, and, as a result, the company has a great deal of skills and knowledge to bring to the job. When it comes back with its proposals, either the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, or the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, will bring a plan to Government. It is pure speculation and rumour in the interim as to what may or may not happen or whether the system will be ready in 2014 or whatever.