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Leaders' Questions

Here's what the Taoiseach has to say about Irish Water and your PPS number

Enda Kenny made the comment in the Dáil as it met after the summer break.

ON HIS RETURN to the Dáil after the summer break, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny was questioned on Irish Water, and why it is asking people for their PPS numbers.

PPS numbers

Deputy Catherine Murphy said that she had been approached by people who were concerned about Irish Water, with “many angry about having to pay for water” and “concerned about just what exactly they are signing up to and what the financial implications will be”.

She said some people told her they have “huge concerns about handing over PPS numbers to what is in effect a private company”.

“Are you comfortable about asking people to disclose such private information, potentially worldwide?” she asked the Taoiseach.

Will you amend the legislation to eliminate this and at least give people the comfort of having their own personal information retained as personal information?

The Taoiseach said that water charges are an alternative to increased income tax. “Because people have the opportunity here to save water and to be careful about the use of water they can limit the amount of water that is obviously used as a consequence,” he added.

He said that it is fair to say that “Irish water have some teething problems” here and that when their “full communication system” is geared up they will be able to explain the method of payment to people.

Regarding the PPS number, he indicated it could be used to show the Department of Social Welfare how many children there are in a house, given that there is an allowance for children.

He noted that the regulator will clarify also the allocation of water for people with medical conditions who may need to use extensive amounts of water.

The Taoiseach said that until the regulator issues the definitive findings, Irish Water cannot respond to questions, though he did describe them as “perfectly legitimate questions”.

“I agree with you in sense that people would be very reluctant to sign up to a blank cheque without knowing what they’re getting there,” said the Taoiseach.

Boil Water notices

MM leaders

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin brought up the water charges, and on whether people on boiled water notices in Roscommon will be subject to charges.

He said that there had been “enormous confusion and anger this morning” because of statements from Fine Gael which gave the impression that people will be exempt from water charges if they are on long-term boil water notices.

Martin said there should be a complete exemption from Irish Water bills for people who cannot drink contaminated water.

He asked if people who are not able to drink water will be exempt from paying.

He also asked the Taoiseach if he agrees that people should not be issued with bills from Irish Water until Irish Water “is in a position to provide a proper service to them”.

He asked the Taoiseach if he would be prepared to accept legislation tabled by Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen to amend the water bill with a view to ensuring that those people will be exempt.

Kenny said that the regulator is to issue their definitive findings and charges in the next week or so.

He said that boil water notices are of great concern to people. But he said that Cowen’s legislation is “not acceptable to government” as the existing legislation “allows for greater flexibility to deal with issues of where water is contaminated or for whatever reason water is not drinkable”.

Kenny added that the regulator had indicated that there would be concessions given to people affected by boil water notices or water unfit for human consumption.

However, Martin said he finds it “incomprehensible” that anyone would charge anyone money for water that is not fit for human consumption.

Read: We need to get ready for “one last gasp of austerity” in 2015 — economist>

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