Latest: Dáil votes to establish 'watchdog' for bin charges

Update 10.30pm: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been forced to back down and announce plans for a waste collection pricing “watchdog” in a stop-gap measure designed to side-step a growing political crisis of the Government’s own making, writes Fiachra O Cionnaith.

The Dáil voted in favour of the move tonight, despite Fianna Fáil warning that the failure to appoint a full-blown regulator immediately means the new group may become a “toothless poodle” and claims waste firms are already imposing €25 fines on customers to ensure their profits rise immediately.

The watchdog will operate within the current Department of Communications.

In the Dáil tonight, Environment Minister Denis Naughten — who has direct control of the policy area — said the group will provide “information-based prevention to price-gouging”.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Authority will also be asked to examine whether a full regulator is needed for the sector.

However, while the move was backed by the Dáil tonight, it remains unclear whether the Government decision to back down will defuse the ongoing waste collection debate amid continuing concerns people could face price gouging due to the system change.

Update 10pm:The Dáil is currently debating Fianna Fáil's motion for an independent regulator for the waste industry.

It follows anger over plans for a new regime to replace flat charges with a 'pay by weight' system already in operation in some parts of the country.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it would take at least 15 months to fully implement the new system

Sinn Féin says the Government is showing little concern for ordinary households in its approach, and is calling for bin charges to be stopped immediately.

Speaking in tonight's debate, the party's Environment spokesperson Brian Stanley said Fianna Fáil had also failed the people with its motion tonight, as it only calls for regulation.

Update 5.10pm: The Government has announced plans for a new watchdog on bin charges - ahead of a Dáil debate on setting up a regulator.

TDs will tonight debate a motion from Fianna Fáil, who want a regulator set up to oversee the imposition of new waste charges.

Leo Varadkar told TDs that a watchdog would do so, and the Government could still step in to regulate charges if it wants.

The Department of Communications this evening has not been able to offer a briefing on who will serve as watchdog, or what their powers will be, however.

Sinn Féin has said that bin charges should be scrapped until extra concessions are agreed.

Mary Lou McDonald said: "What will you do Tasoiseach, for people in ill health, for people with disabilities, for our older citizens, for large families that cannot make this bill? What allieviation mesaures will you intoriduce, and when will see the detail of them?"

Earlier:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it will take at least 15 months to fully implement a new bin charging system, writes Elaine Loughlin.

The controversial issue of bin charges is due to be debated in the Dáil tonight.

Fianna Fáil, who are bringing tonight's Dáil motion have called for an independent regulator to be put in place before the new changes are introduced.

Speaking at Farmleigh House, where he met Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau this morning, Mr Varadkar said it is "very important to point out" that "bin charges in Ireland are not new, people have been paying for their bins to be collected for more than 10 years now."

He said: "What there is is a change to a new system of how charges are calculated away from a flat charge that people pay once a year to a pay-by-weight or pay by lift."

He pointed out that almost half the country already pay for refuse in this way "so most people, or at least half the people in the country are very used to it".

"The reason the change is happening is for a very good one, for very sound environmental reasons and that's because we are running out of landfill space and we don't want anyone to live beside a new dump.

"What we need to do is to reduce the amount of waste that we produce and the amount of waste that we throw away.

"Markets do work and by incentivising people to recycle, to compost, to reuse, and to throw less away, we then reduce the demand on landfill and that's what’s happening," said Mr Varadkar.

He added that this new system "is not going to happen overnight".

"For anyone on a contract, that still stands, so it will be at least a period of 15 months before the new charging system is put in place," Mr Varadkar said.


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