Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
219. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he is considering introducing legislation to allow for a referendum to ensure the water system is kept in public ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45729/19]
The Government is firmly committed to public water services remaining in public ownership, as reflected in the Water Services Acts and in the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025. This position is consistent with the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services (April 2017) which supported the concept of a referendum, while recommending that the status of group water schemes and private wells remain unchanged.
Provisions for a referendum are contained in the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016, a Private Member's Bill initiated by Deputy Joan Collins, and currently at Dáil Committee Stage. Detailed examination of the Bill, undertaken in consultation with the Attorney General, has highlighted a number of unacceptable risks which I have shared with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government (the Committee). The Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser has separately advised the Committee in relation to the Bill.
My response has been to seek to bring forward appropriate amendments to the Bill. In November 2018, I received Government approval for the priority drafting of proposed amendments which will focus on retaining the entity charged with the provision of public water services in public ownership.
Good progress on a revised wording proposal continues to be made by the Attorney General’s office in conjunction with my Department. On 15 July 2019 I advised the Committee that I am working towards concluding a revised wording proposal. I will write to the Committee again shortly to update it on this matter.