Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 2, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. 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. Private Members’ business shall be No. 40, motion re cervical cancer vaccination programme.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: No. The Labour Party is opposed to the Second Reading of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 on two counts. First, the time allowed for the debate is completely inadequate, with a guillotine tomorrow evening. Second, and more importantly, in view of the severity of the cuts contained in the Bill and the extent to which these cuts target the unemployed, children, the poor and people with disabilities, the Labour Party is opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill.
Deputy Enda Kenny: However, a guillotine is proposed for 10 p.m. tomorrow. We can either have a vote now or tomorrow. I am opposed to the taking of this Bill by way of guillotine. It contains many changes to the social welfare regime on which all Members will wish to contribute. I am opposed to the Second Reading on the basis of the proposed guillotine.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I join with colleagues in opposing the proposition to guillotine the Second Stage debate. While it is not referred to in today’s Order Paper, it has been signalled that we will face a guillotine. Members will not have the opportunity fully to participate in the address of this legislation. Therefore, there is no option for the Opposition but to oppose the proposal.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Aylward, Bobby.|
|Blaney, Niall.||Brady, Áine.|
|Brady, Cyprian.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Browne, John.||Byrne, Thomas.|
|Calleary, Dara.||Carey, Pat.|
|Collins, Niall.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Curran, John.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Dooley, Timmy.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||Kennedy, Michael.|
|Killeen, Tony.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Kitt, Michael P.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||Lowry, Michael.|
|McDaid, James.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moloney, John.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Brien, Darragh.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||O’Hanlon, Rory.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Keeffe, Edward.|
|O’Rourke, Mary.||O’Sullivan, Christy.|
|Power, Seán.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Treacy, Noel.||Wallace, Mary.|
|White, Mary Alexandra.||Woods, Michael.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burke, Ulick.|
|Burton, Joan.||Byrne, Catherine.|
|Carey, Joe.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Creed, Michael.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Doyle, Andrew.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Feighan, Frank.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McHugh, Joe.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Reilly, James.||Ring, Michael.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheehan, P.J.|
|Sherlock, Seán.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Tuffy, Joanna.|
|Upton, Mary.||Varadkar, Leo.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: I refer to the Taoiseach’s comment on legislation dealing with covert surveillance. The Taoiseach told the House the heads of the covert surveillance Bill will be discussed by the Cabinet next week. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Bill will be published? I realise it must be circulated first to various Departments. Does the Taoiseach envisage it will return in the spring for publication?
In the Taoiseach’s absence last week the House agreed to hold a 90-minute debate on the cervical cancer vaccination programme. As a result of the situation arising from the murder of Mr. Shane Geoghegan, will the Taoiseach set aside 90 minutes for a debate tomorrow to allow the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to update the House on the Government’s position, especially on the provision of assistance to the Garda? Perhaps a series of questions would be in order given the seriousness of the tragic situation that obtains.
The Taoiseach: As I stated during Leaders’ Questions, the Cabinet expects the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to bring the proposed covert surveillance Bill to the Cabinet next week. Thereafter, detailed drafting must take place and I cannot indicate to Deputy Kenny at this stage what the timeline will be. Given the previous discussion, we will accord priority to it and ask the Attorney General to work through the issues with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as quickly as possible. To be fair to the Department, it has historically been very good at bringing forward legislative proposals in a timely fashion, despite the complexity of some of the issues with which it must deal. This is a complex issue and there are public policy matters involved.
I have no problem with holding a debate this week arising from the murder of Mr. Geoghegan and on crime generally. However, I am conscious that a funeral will take place tomorrow. Perhaps the Whips could meet on Thursday to discuss the possibilities. There was an indication that a discussion on the reports of the European Union (Scrutiny) Bill 2001 would be held and perhaps this could be deferred.
Deputy Enda Kenny: It would be helpful if 90 minutes were set aside for this purpose. Deputy John Perry brought to my attention the importance of several of these reports and a debate lasting 90 minutes is not long enough to discuss the Lisbon treaty and related matters. I thank the Taoiseach for his reply and I would be pleased if statements, including questions and answers, could take place during that 90-minute allocation on Thursday.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Some weeks ago I asked the Taoiseach about the promise made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to introduce legislation to limit spending for candidates in local elections. I suggested there was an opportunity to use the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008, which is before the House, to introduce that provision. The Taoiseach subsequently wrote to me indicating that the Government’s preferred route for introducing a cap on spending limits in local elections was the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008. The Bill is on Committee Stage and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has circulated ministerial amendments, but there is no amendment dealing with spending limits. What are the Government’s intentions to place a cap on spending limits for local elections and when will the necessary legislative proposals be brought forward?
The Taoiseach: The Government is deliberating on the detail and the best way to proceed. While it may have been the original intention to incorporate the provision as an amendment to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008, it will not now be incorporated. The matter is subject to continued deliberation. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will introduce further proposals based on these discussions. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008 is not the means through which it will be done.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: That is difficult to understand. This is not a complicated legislative matter and there are precedents related to general and European elections. I do not know the nature of the ongoing discussion, unless the Taoiseach wishes to share it with the House.
The Taoiseach: I am trying to be helpful. We did not introduce such legislation previously for local elections because they are a different type of election. Under the current arrangement for European and general elections, there are spending limits and repayment arrangements. It is not as simple as some people suggest. We do not want a situation to develop where there is an unfair burden on local election candidates. There is a need to work out the detail and examine how it could be done in a way that does not cause as big a problem as the one it seeks to solve.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I join the leaders of the Fine Gael and Labour parties in expressing my outrage and condemnation at the outrageous and tragic murder of Mr. Shane Geoghegan in Limerick in the early hours of Sunday morning. I join in the extension of sympathy to his family and friends. We are in need of sound legislation compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights to enable the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecutions to build solid cases against gangland criminals. Is there any legislation under consideration other than the already flagged covert surveillance Bill to address the scourge that these gangland criminals have visited on many of our major cities and larger population areas?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I refer to an unrelated but equally important matter. On the programme for Government, the alleged basis on which the Government operates, given that the three component parts thereof are no longer in situ, with the signal demise of the Progressive Democrats who helped to negotiate it, that none of the three leaders who negotiated the programme — Deputies Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and Trevor Sargent — is any longer a party leader and that we have a very new and very different situation economically, socially and politically throughout the jurisdiction in these straitened economic circumstances, does the Taoiseach accept that the programme for Government is no longer applicable? What is required is a realistic addressing of the need for a new programme for Government. Will the Taoiseach recognise the need to negotiate a new programme? Will he accept the advice of all parties in the development of such a programme, which would be appropriate to the present situation?
The Taoiseach: When drafting legislation we must take cognisance of the constitutional and international obligations and imperatives that apply. The need to give sufficient consideration to such matters is imperative, so that subsequent legislation is not struck down in the courts, where it is not effective because of court challenge or by way of legal argument. The accommodation of these public policy considerations mean that such legislation can take some time to draft.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Was other legislation being considered? I understand that time is required in its preparation, but I have asked a simple question. Is legislation other than the covert surveillance Bill, already addressed here today, being considered by the Government in the context of these serious matters?
Deputy James Bannon: Has the Government any legislation planned that can counteract the adverse effects of high business costs, as well as the cost of petrol and diesel? These costs are driving people out of business right across the country, especially in the midlands.
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