Tuesday, 11 July 2023
Energy (Windfall Gains in the Energy Sector) (Temporary Solidarity Contribution) Bill 2023: Committee and Remaining Stages
Before we commence our scheduled business, I welcome Georgina McAuliffe and Lorraine and Irene Lawlor to the Gallery. Their father, George Lawlor, served as the election agent to former Minister and Member of both Houses of the Oireachtas, Noel Browne. They are welcome. I hope they enjoy their day in Leinster House with Deputy McAuliffe.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, back to the House.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 23, after line 21, to insert the following:
“Report on the distribution of revenues
27.The Minister shall, within two months of the passage of this Act, lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on how the revenues from the temporary solidarity contribution are to be distributed.”
I thank the Acting Chairperson for giving me a few minutes to get into the Chamber. He was obviously asked to chair for a reason, that is, to get the debate finished as quickly as possible.
This is the second time this has happened.
On Second Stage last week, I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, to clarify.that the windfall tax would go to households and not to subsidising corporations.I highlighted that the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has form in subsidising large energy users. In 2009 he set up a windfall tax on energy companies and in the midst of a global financial crisis, when households were on their knees, he worked with industry to give a subsidy to large energy users in the form of a carbon revenue levy fund. This amendment is looking for a report, within two weeks of the passage of this Act, to outline how the revenues will be distributed. This is to give the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, the opportunity again to categorically say that none of this windfall tax will be used to subsidise large energy users when we know it is households that are crippled and need this support.
The text of Senator Boylan's amendment refers to a report "within two months of the passage of this Act", rather than two weeks, so I want to clarify that this is what is intended by the Senator.
I thank the Senator for the amendment. I appreciate that Senators are seeking transparency on the distribution of proceeds collected from the temporary solidarity contribution, TSC. Article 17 of the Council regulation sets out five purposes, any of which can direct the use of proceeds from the TSC. The regulation also states in Article 17 that the TSC distribution measures are to be clearly defined, transparent, proportionate, non-discriminatory and verifiable. The regulation is enforced and therefore the Government must distribute these proceeds in accordance with Article 17. There will be a Government decision on the specific distribution of proceeds from the TSC in the context of budget 2024, which will be made publicly known. The energy poverty steering group, which my Department chairs, will be consulted on the distribution of the proceeds. With consideration that the specific distribution of TSC proceeds will be agreed by the Government within the context of budget 2024, the specific distribution of proceeds will be made available to the public. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.
How the money is spent will have to be decided in the budget, and the budget is in October. The amendment calls for a report to be published two months after the enactment, which would be September. In other words, the amendment calls for a report saying how the money will be spent from the TSC a month before it is decided in the budget in October. That is the problem I have with the amendment. How the money is spent is a decision for the budget, which I cannot pre-empt. It also has to be in line with Article 17 of the EU regulation, which defines this windfall tax. We have to make sure that in all cases it is clearly defined, transparent, proportionate, non-discriminatory and verifiable. I will be consulting the energy poverty steering group but no decision has been made about it to date.