Thursday, 3 March 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 3, Health (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 17, Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 18, Land Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).
Mr. Rabbitte: I agree with that. I have a further reason for opposing the guillotine in addition to what Deputy Kenny stated. The Tánaiste was unable to come to the House yesterday to contribute to the Bill and given the remarks she made about systemic maladministration in her Department, irrespective of the Travers report, she ought to be enabled to inform the House as to why she made such an unprecedented remark. I am not taking sides on it. The Tánaiste may be very well informed as to the necessity for making such remarks but she ought to be provided with the opportunity to address the House on the issues concerned.
Mr. Gormley: I am opposed to the guillotining of this Bill. We have witnessed a debacle when legislation was guillotined. The Tánaiste should have learned the lesson of rushing legislation through this House but she obviously has not. She appears to be behaving like a headless chicken in respect of health services in the State. There has been an accident and emergency crisis, MRSA is rampant and now the Tánaiste’s colleague is proposing a mobile telephone mast for my constituency, which will pose a threat to the children in Dublin South-East.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The guillotining of this Bill will significantly curtail the opportunity of Members to participate in important legislation in respect of the two key focuses, namely, the GP-only medical card proposal and the reintroduction of fees for nursing home patients. On Second Stage last night, I questioned the marriage of these two separate matters in the one Bill and that the measure is being rushed when we still have not seen the Government’s proposals for the reimbursement of the illegal charges which were applied to long-stay residents in nursing homes over many years. The reimbursement plan must be expedited.
While Deputy Rabbitte has highlighted the Tánaiste’s absence from the House, none of her Ministers of State attended for the greater part of the debate last evening. The Government presence in the House was a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food. What does that say about the Department in respect of this legislation when neither the Tánaiste and Minster for Health and Children nor her Ministers of State attended the House over the period?
The Tánaiste: The Opposition was keen to have an entire day yesterday for the debate. I had originally hoped to move the Bill on Tuesday evening but Members felt they wanted more time. In any event, Second Stage was moved by the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Seán Power, who has responsibility in this area and he was here for a considerable part of yesterday morning. It is not traditional that the line Department necessarily sits through the entire Second Stage proceedings of a Bill.
The aspects of the Bill which relate to charging for shelter and maintenance for long-term care were the subject of considerable debate in this House and had been cleared by the Supreme Court, as Deputies know. We are losing €2.5 million for every week that we cannot collect this particular charge. Deputies opposite were screaming at me for weeks about the GP-only medical cards. We want to issue them in April, which is why it is important we proceed with the legislation.
The Tánaiste: I will speak on the Bill in the House this morning. I stand over the comments I made because I stated in the House two weeks ago that I had understood, as had the Taoiseach, that these charges——
The Tánaiste: Maladministration does not just affect public officials. When we stated that these charges were levied, we thought it was on the basis of good faith and that no one knew that what we were doing was wrong. That was not the case. It became very clear over recent weeks that it had been known for a considerable time that we were acting illegally. That is why I stated what I did. The Travers report will deal with this issue. I hope to have it to hand tomorrow, bring it before the Cabinet on Tuesday and publish it that day. I assure the House that there is no question of my sitting on it because of the by-elections.
|Ahern, Noel.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Blaney, Niall.||Brady, Martin.|
|Brennan, Seamus.||Browne, John.|
|Callanan, Joe.||Carey, Pat.|
|Carty, John.||Collins, Michael.|
|Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cowen, Brian.||Cregan, John.|
|Curran, John.||de Valera, Síle.|
|Dempsey, Tony.||Dennehy, John.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Fitzpatrick, Dermot.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Harney, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|McDowell, Michael.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGuinness, John.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M. J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Donnell, Liz.||O’Donoghue, John.|
|O’Donovan, Denis.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Malley, Fiona.|
|O’Malley, Tim.||Parlon, Tom.|
|Power, Peter.||Power, Seán.|
|Sexton, Mae.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Smith, Michael.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Dan.||Walsh, Joe.|
|Wilkinson, Ollie.||Woods, Michael.|
|Wright, G. V.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Boyle, Dan.|
|Breen, James.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burton, Joan.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Connolly, Paudge.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Gogarty, Paul.||Gormley, John.|
|Harkin, Marian.||Healy, Seamus.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Padraic.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.||Murphy, Gerard.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Pattison, Seamus.||Perry, John.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Ring, Michael.|
|Ryan, Seán.||Sherlock, Joe.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Timmins, Billy.|
Mr. Kenny: The Tánaiste made an announcement that the Health and Safety Authority will examine accident and emergency units in hospitals throughout the country. In view of the concern that has legitimately been expressed about a number of these units, would it not be more appropriate that the Health and Safety Authority call to these units at a normal working time rather than conduct a pre-arranged visit?
Mr. Howlin: The Tánaiste is well positioned to realise the importance of my question. Will the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment make a statement to the House today on the decision of the Government to withdraw its support package to Intel on foot of resistance to it by the European Commission? Will he explain the background to the decision and answer questions on the matter?
The Tánaiste: We have not factored in statements on the Order of Business agreed earlier. However, perhaps there will be Private Notice Questions or an Adjournment debate. I am sure the Minister would be more than happy to deal with the matter in the House.
Mr. Gormley: With regard to the electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, will the State take responsibility for the health effects of mobile telephone masts, one of which is situated in my constituency of Dublin South-East?
Ms O. Mitchell: Today’s newspapers reported that Mr. John Lynch has been reappointed as chairman of CIE for a further three years. Does this indicate the legislation for the break-up of CIE is being abandoned? Does it mean the Government is abandoning bus competition, which was predicated on the break-up of CIE by three successive Ministers?
Mr. Sherlock: As there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence in the matter of troops serving overseas, when will the defence (amendment) Bill, which will deal with certain aspects of the Act, be dealt with?
Mr. Boyle: Without wishing to pre-empt any decision the Ceann Comhairle might make later on a Private Notice Question, will time be made available in the House in the near future for a debate on the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group which is meant to deal with the area of research and development, and the question of supporting indigenous industry and becoming less reliant--——
An Ceann Comhairle: A request is not sufficient. It must be promised in the House and appropriate to the Order of Business or every Deputy would be in a position to ask about any issue. We would be here all day and would not get through the Health (Amendment) Bill.
Mr. Stanton: Last night, a Government representative stated that 30% of the Disability Bill should be rewritten. Does this mean it is being withdrawn and we will have a new disability Bill? Has the Government made a decision on this?
Mr. Broughan: Does the Government intend to redraft the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions)Bill 2001 in the context of current discussions at the Labour Court? Will it be taken off the Order Paper? In the marine sector, is it intended to remove the Law of the Sea (Repression of Piracy) Bill 2001 from the Order Paper?
The Tánaiste: The Chief Whip disagrees. He tells me that Order for Second Stage is proceeding. My note tells me the Law of the Sea (Repression of Piracy) Bill 2001 was published in 2001 and is awaiting Second Stage.
Mr. Ring: When will the Freedom of Information Act be extended to include vocational education committees? Is it only in place to protect officials? This relates to the Local Government (No. 2) Act 2003 whereby new managers and assistant managers were appointed. When I tabled a recent question to find out what bonuses they received, I was told I could not get that information. Does the legislation only cover information on Oireachtas Members’ expenses?
Mr. Ring: Of course it arises on the Order of Business. It refers to promised legislation. I want to know the Government view. Councillors can serve on Údarás and Deputies can serve in Europe but I cannot serve on a council and in the Dáil at the same time. Is this not hypocrisy at its worst?
The Tánaiste: The extension of freedom of information provisions to other bodies is a matter for the Minister for Finance. I will consult with the Minister and come back to the Deputy. He needs to time to reflect and consider the Deputy’s point.
Mr. J. Higgins: In view of the court decision yesterday on a case in which a couple were seriously injured, through no fault of their own, but Bus Éireann was also judged not to be responsible, which leaves a very unfair situation, will amending legislation be considered to ensure just compensation for those in circumstances such as this?
Mr. J. Higgins: I am not asking the Tánaiste to interfere with the court. However, the judge stated it was up to the Oireachtas to introduce amending legislation to cover a situation where people injured through no fault of their own would get just compensation.
Mr. Coveney: The European Commission recently introduced an air transport directive which provides for compensation for passengers if their flights are delayed or cancelled, among other matters. It also requires individual Governments to introduce complaints procedures for passengers and to set up a board to do this. Does the Government intend to do this? Will it require legislation? If so, when will we see it?
Mr. Rabbitte: This morning, newspapers and radio reported on the harrowing circumstances of one family with four autistic children, which highlights the appallingly bad services in place, particularly for autistic children, throughout the country. As Minister for Health and Children, is there anything the Tánaiste can do to intervene to alleviate the burden on this particular——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is the Deputy’s point of view. The Standing Order is quite specific. I do not want to take up the time of the House reading it again. However, the Deputy knows the rules of the House and the Standing Orders. The Deputy knows there are ample opportunities for him, today if he wishes, to raise the matter in another way in this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: I appreciate that but the Chair has ruled out other Deputies on similar questions in accordance with Standing Orders. The Chair is obliged to obey Standing Orders just like everyone else.
Ms McManus: The Tánaiste has promised a compensation scheme to pay back to the elderly people money illegally taken from them by the State. Will the Tánaiste say when details of that scheme will be published? When will the Supplementary Estimate come before the House, so that people can get their money back?
The Tánaiste: I have indicated that a Cabinet sub-committee is looking at this matter and we certainly cannot proceed with the scheme until we have the Travers report. As soon as we can after that we will make clear the Government’s intentions in this respect. We want to do things as quickly as possible, but this is a mammoth task involving more than 200,000 people — perhaps as many as 300,000 — so the logistical issues as to how this might be handled must also be examined. We have indicated that we want a scheme which will be as simple as possible for those affected to access what they are entitled to, and the Government is approaching the matter with that in mind.
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