It is Fine Gael’s view that what was voted through in the Water Committee today falls well short of our obligations under the Water Framework Directive and puts Ireland on a collision course with the European Commission.
Fine Gael set out to introduce a report for the future funding of domestic water services that was honest, legally sound and fair in the cross party committee.
What has been voted through today is not what Fine Gael agreed to last week with other parties in the Committee.
We believed we were close to an agreement but, regrettably, today this has not proved to be the case.
Ultimately, we cannot stand over a politically expedient report that is misleading to the public and ignores the serious consequences for Ireland.
Fine Gael believes what has been voted on today, if implemented, will leave Irish people open to tens of millions of fines under EU laws and is contrary to the previous advice of the Attorney General to Government in relation to this.
We have clear and binding legal obligations under EU legislation that this committee simply cannot ignore. If we do not meet them we will pay a heavy price as a country.
The principles agreed with Fianna Fail last week are of the utmost importance to future legislation but are not reflected in the document. They are:
• A generous allowance for normal domestic usage to be funded through taxation and a household charge for excessive usage based on volume used above the agreed threshold.
• A tariff or levy to apply for excess usage or wilful waste. This would apply to households who use 70pc above average domestic usage as set by the CER.
• The excessive usage / water wastage definition currently applies to 8% of households who are responsible for a third of all treated domestic water consumption.
Fine Gael committee members remain committed to working towards a legally sound, fair and honest agreement for the future funding of domestic water services, building on some of the positive elements in the report including the commitment to metering.
We are not prepared to walk away from our legal obligations and believe that Fianna Fail, under pressure from the hard left, have reneged on the agreement of last week which has led to the undermining of the report today.
The changes today that have weakened the report and back-tracked on the agreement from last week include:
· Reneging on the commitment to require all new homes to have meters installed
· Removing the term “excess usage”, fundamental to the application of the polluter pays principle.
· Reneging on the commitment to charge for excessive usage per household, at odds with the agreed position last week.
· Deliberate confusion around what taxation would fund by deleting the word ‘normal’ in the context of normal water usage.
· Failing to close the door on a courts and prosecutions based system for tackling wastage and excess usage.