Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 2, Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 16, Financial Motions by the Minister for Finance, 2008, motion 15 (resumed), to be taken at 8.30 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; No. 10 shall be decided without debate; and Private Members’ business shall be No. 44, motion re training programmes.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are two proposals to be put the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10 without debate agreed to? Agreed.
Deputy Enda Kenny: When can we expect to have the adoption Bill before the House? When will the health legislation dealing with the universal right to a medical card be brought before the House? Does the Taoiseach envisage introducing legislation for a restructuring of the Irish banking system?
The Taoiseach: On promised legislation, I expect the adoption Bill to be taken this session. Regarding the health miscellaneous provisions Bill on the change to the legal basis of entitlement to the medical card schemes etc., as the legislation must be enacted before 1 January, it will have to be taken in this session. Legislation is not promised on the banking system. The legislation that has been enacted in the House on banking covers any possibility of that arising, although I am not saying it will arise.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: On the legislation to take medical cards from those aged over 70 years, will the Taoiseach be more specific about when it will be published and if it has been approved by Government? Will we have the normal arrangement, whereby there will be a two-week period between the taking of Second Stage and Committee Stage of the Bill?
In July 2007, ethics legislation passed all Stages in the Seanad. As the Taoiseach will recall, the relevant Bill was first announced on 10 October 2006 on the steps of Government Buildings by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and then Tánaiste, former Deputy Michael McDowell. This was done as part of an agreement for the continuation of the Government under which the legislation in question would be published and enacted. As I indicated, the Bill passed all Stages in the Seanad in July 2007 but has not been presented in this House. When will the legislation come before the House and what are the Government’s intentions with regard to enacting it? When will the Taoiseach move the writ for the Dublin South by-election?
The Taoiseach: On the Deputy’s final question, the writ will be moved in due course. On the ethics legislation, it is a matter for the Whips to consider when it will be taken. Much priority legislation, including the Social Welfare Bill, Finance Bill and nursing homes Bill, will come before the House this session. On the health miscellaneous provisions Bill, the legislation has not yet come before Government and has to be prepared based on the decisions made the weekend before last. I do not see a reason for such a major gap between Stages as it will be a simple Bill. I presume it could be taken reasonably quickly because there is not much involved in it.
The Taoiseach: I have indicated the policy position. The Government is seeking to ensure the legislative provisions are in place as and from 1 January 2009. Those who are set to lose their entitlements will keep them until that date.
The Taoiseach: I cannot be more specific other than to indicate a timeframe of before 1 January. With respect, Deputy Gilmore was a member of a government. I cannot anticipate the situation but the policy decisions were taken less than two weeks ago. The Government has indicated that legislation will be required to amend the health legislation and we intend to do this in a timely fashion. Given that the new arrangements will take effect on 1 January 2009, we can safely say the Bill will come before the House before that date. I cannot be more specific.
Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Arising from his recent visit to China, did the Taoiseach learn anything from his hosts about having greater respect for one’s elders? Will he indicate the progress made on the legislation to abolish the National Council on Ageing and Older People? When will it come before the House?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Have we gone backwards in legislating for the tens of thousands who live in apartment blocks that are supposed to be governed by management companies? Deputy Brian Lenihan undertook, when he was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to be the lead Minister and bring forward the legislation. Is there any sign of the legislation? Is it coming from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform? He is not a man who likes legislating, I can assure the Taoiseach. What are the plans because there are tens of thousands of residents in serious trouble? Some of the companies work, but most of them do not, and this area needs legislation.
The Taoiseach: I am aware of the situation, which has been raised here on a number of occasions. Options are being considered in consultation with the relevant Departments and the Attorney General as to whether it might be more expeditious to introduce a single Bill in an effort to——
The Taoiseach: ——to adopt a sector approach to amending existing legislation. The Government’s decision on the matter will be made on the basis of how quickly the required legislation can be enacted. We are seeking to find out whether there is a more expeditious way of dealing with it, than dealing with it separately.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Last week, in response to a question from me regarding the proposed amendments to the Competition Act, the Taoiseach indicated — it was unclear in the Chamber, but I have checked the record of the House — for the first time in the House, that they would be specific to the Irish Medical Organisation.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I just want to finish the point. I had previously asked the Tánaiste but that information had never been given before. Why is it not intended to amend the Competition Act to address the difficulties already well highlighted as regards the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, the Irish Dental Association and other interests and not just the IMO.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: By way of further clarification we are being told two contradictory things. The Tánaiste has stated on the record that legislation is being prepared to enable consultation with the IMO, that does not include the bodies Deputy Ó Caoláin has referenced. Separately, we have been told that there is to be legislation next year that will take account of the review of the competition Bill. The issue is when the legislation will be introduced and whether it will deal comprehensively with all of those who have been excluded under section 4 of the Competition Act.
The Taoiseach: The same considerations do not apply in respect of all these organisations, but I shall make a general point. We have promised to undertake work between the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the issue of amending section 4 of the Competition Act 2004 in a manner consistent with EU competition law and national policy. This is the undertaking we have given. People will understand that it cannot easily be circumvented or wished away, since there is an EU competition law component that is directly applicable here. We have undertaken to find out how it might be possible to amend the section in the context of the exercise being undertaken by Dr. Barry and others as regards the ability to deal with drug usage in this country and provide savings, which we believe might be significant in that area. On our part it is an issue of good faith to see whether this can be done in a manner consistent with EU competition law and national policy.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Taoiseach cites drug needs and whatever in terms of direct engagement with the IMO, but surely this was at the very core of the whole issue with the IPU over the past 18 months and more.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Surely this is the opportunity that must be grasped if we are to address how the Competition Act impacts negatively not only on the rights of the organisations I have mentioned, the IMO, IDA and IPU, but also in relation to actors and others within the arts sector——
The Taoiseach: If the Deputy does not want to hear the answer, that is his problem. I am explaining the situation to him, in so far as I can give it. I am giving him the context in which the present undertaking has been given, and explaining why it was given.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Has the Government had a change of plan as regards promised legislation, the spent convictions Bill, which is designed to delete any reference to long-standing convictions, as I do not see it on any list? Will the Taoiseach explain why it is not now proceeding?
Deputy Tom Sheahan: I am coming to the question. Coastal erosion is being dealt with by three Departments and I was led to believe that funding for this was to be brought under one Department. Has the Taoiseach set any goals in this regard so that coastal erosion would be dealt with by one rather than three Departments?
Deputy Shane McEntee: When will the waste management Bill be introduced, to deal, basically, with incineration? We have applications in my constituency for three incinerators, and I am starting to wonder whether the four being talked about by the Government will all be located there.
Deputy Billy Timmins: I note from reports that the Government is to change its policy on extraordinary rendition. Will there be a requirement to change any legislation in view of that announcement or did the Greens sell themselves a dummy on this occasion?
Deputy David Stanton: As part of the budget that was to protect the vulnerable, the Government has decided to row back on the implementation of the EPSEN Act, which was to help children with disabilities in schools. That was primary legislation. When shall we see the legislation required to roll back that Act?
Deputy David Stanton: I am sorry, but I did not hear the Taoiseach. Will he say whether the EPSEN Act is being repealed, as threatened in the budget? The Government said it would protect the vulnerable and I fail to see how rowing back on implementing the EPSEN Act does that. If we need legislation, we should see it here.
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