Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 2, the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed). 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. and that the proceedings on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 40, motion re cervical cancer (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Deputy Enda Kenny: As has been made clear to the Chief Whip on numerous occasions, I do not favour the use of guillotines. It may well be the case that a Bill could be talked out in the time allocated but I object to the use of the guillotine. This is an important Bill and with unemployment increasing by 10,000 per month, it has serious implications. There is a raft of issues relevant to social and family affairs and the social welfare Bill, including reform of different sections and schemes, which Members wish to discuss. I object to the guillotining of the Bill at 10 p.m. and I will call for a vote if necessary.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Labour Party does not agree to the Government’s proposal to guillotine the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 at 10 p.m. The effect of this guillotine would leave only two speaking slots available for the Labour Party, which has some 20 Members, many of whom wish to contribute to the debate.
The Bill will make major changes to some social welfare provisions. Unemployed people will lose more than €2,500 due to the changes in the jobseeker’s benefit. Parents of children aged 18 years will lose almost €2,000 due to the changes in child benefit. Parents of children aged five years will lose approximately €800 due to the changes in the early child care supplement.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Tenants dependent on rent supplements will effectively receive no increase in their social welfare payment. Fewer unemployed people will qualify for jobseeker's benefit because of the new restrictions on entitlements.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Fewer people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses will qualify for payments. For these reasons the Labour Party seeks a longer period in which to debate the Bill. It is clear the Government wishes to rush the Bill through and bury the changes at 10 p.m. It is not acceptable to the Labour Party and we oppose the proposal.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I also object to the proposed guillotining of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008. It is especially objectionable that a guillotine would be applied to the Bill in a year in which there has been a sizeable increase in the number of people dependent on social welfare benefits. The figures up to August indicate some 30,000 workers from the construction industry have been placed in the unemployment queues. A guillotine is wholly inappropriate. Many colleagues in the House seek an opportunity to properly participate in a debate and a guillotine would prevent this. I urge the Taoiseach to remove the guillotine, or we will have no option but to challenge the proposition.
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business was set this morning to enable a full day’s debate on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008. There will be many opportunities on Committee Stage and Report Stage for further contributions.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Andrews, Chris.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Carey, Pat.||Collins, Niall.|
|Connick, Seán.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Curran, John.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Fahey, Frank.|
|Finneran, Michael.||Fitzpatrick, Michael.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Flynn, Beverley.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||Kennedy, Michael.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Michael P.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|Lowry, Michael.||McDaid, James.|
|McGrath, Michael.||McGuinness, John.|
|Mansergh, Martin.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M.J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Brien, Darragh.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Keeffe, Edward.||O’Rourke, Mary.|
|O’Sullivan, Christy.||Power, Seán.|
|Roche, Dick.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Treacy, Noel.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Bannon, James.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burke, Ulick.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Coonan, Noel J.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Creed, Michael.|
|Creighton, Lucinda.||D’Arcy, Michael.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McHugh, Joe.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Reilly, James.||Ring, Michael.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheahan, Tom.|
|Sheehan, P.J.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
|Varadkar, Leo.||Wall, Jack.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: What is the current position on the Government’s proposal to hold a referendum on children’s rights? I know the committee involved is working on it at the moment. What is the projected timescale? Second, what is the current position regarding publication of the civil partnership Bill?
The Taoiseach: The civil partnership Bill is scheduled for early next year. Regarding the children’s rights issue, the whole purpose of the committee is to try to develop a consensus to see if there is an agreed way forward. Various options are being examined and tested.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: When will the Government publish the legislation which will take the medical card off old age pensioners? After this week, there are 15 sittings days left in this session to complete the Social Welfare Bill, in addition to the Finance Bill and the nursing homes Bill. The Bill which will take the medical card from pensioners will require considerable debate in the House, so I would like to know when it will be published.
Second, arising from questions yesterday, it would appear that the only legislative initiative which the Government is now contemplating to deal with gangland crime, including murders, as we have seen happening in Limerick, is the Government’s response to the Garda Surveillance Bill, which was published by Deputy Rabbitte on behalf of the Labour Party. Is the Government accepting Deputy Rabbitte’s Bill and, if so, can we have it dealt with in the House? Or is it introducing its own version of that Bill?
The Taoiseach: The Government will introduce its own Bill. Whilst I respect the fact that Deputy Rabbitte has put forward a Bill for consideration, which can be taken in Private Members’ time if the Labour Party so wishes, we would not agree with aspects of it. I understand there is a provision for freedom of information in the Bill that Deputy Rabbitte has prepared, and there are other things with which I would not be in agreement. While I understand the motivation behind that idea, it would be fraught with operational difficulties.
The covert surveillance Bill has been in preparation in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for some time. It has yet to be completed, considered by the Government and brought before this House. It was important yesterday, however, to bring to the attention of the House that the legislation is in preparation. Much important legislation has been passed, including the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007, which has proven to be good and effective. We will keep all these matters under review and will be guided by the Garda Commissioner were he to advise us of the necessity for changes to other aspects of the law. That is not the case at the moment, however, although we do keep these matters under review.
Deputy Seymour Crawford: In light of the desperate pressure on the Garda Síochána at present with the situation in Limerick, Dublin and elsewhere, will the Taoiseach bring forward the attachment of fines Bill? It was discussed in this House many years ago and its introduction was promised. As yet, however, that has not happened. Gardaí are spending time collecting fines.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I wish to ask the Taoiseach about two pieces of legislation, one of which, the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, has been ordered for Second Stage. When will we see that legislation? There seems to be a difficulty in getting legislation to debate. The Coroners Bill 2007 is currently before the Seanad on Committee Stage. It has been there for nearly 12 months, so is there any light at the end of the tunnel concerning that legislation?
The Taoiseach: The first Bill to which Deputy Naughten referred has been published and is awaiting an order for Second Stage. The second Bill is, as the Deputy said, before the Seanad. It cannot be taken here until it returns from the Seanad.
Deputy James Bannon: When can we expect the publication of the public transport regulation Bill, which is urgently needed in light of the Government’s failure to reduce CO2 emissions? It is also required to deal with the lack of transport in isolated rural areas, which badly needs to be addressed.
Deputy James Reilly: When will the health information Bill be published? Will the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, be given powers, with teeth, to enforce that legislation? Or is it the case — because it says in a written reply that it is not possible to indicate at this stage — that the Taoiseach, who chose this morning to ignore HIQA’s recommendation and figures, will not proceed with the legislation?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance will be aware that some property management companies have collapsed. People who live in such accommodation cannot find anybody to whom they can make the required payments. There is a lean on their title which they cannot clear and therefore they cannot sell their homes when necessary. The situation is a mess. I understand that the legislative committee met recently and the Taoiseach promised he would examine the matter urgently. I understand the complexity of the issue, as the Taoiseach has regularly told us. The Taoiseach also said he would consider whether to introduce one Bill or three Bills. Perhaps he could let us know if the legislative committee has provided some information on that.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: When will the industrial relations amendment Bill be published? I understand the reason behind that Bill is a commitment to the unions which are concerned that the JLC and REA system may not be constitutional. The Bill is therefore designed to underpin the legality of those systems. There is also an equal concern by employers, particularly hotels and others in the catering industry, who are closing on Sundays because of their requirement to pay double the minimum wage, in respect of which they claim an inability to pay under those terms.
The Taoiseach: I can only deal with the question of when the Bill might be published. The details will have to be dealt with by the line Minister concerned. It is hoped that it will be published in this session.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When can we expect to see the Finance Bill? Is the Taoiseach reconsidering the section of that Bill which refers to an air travel tax, given the horrendous impact this will have on airports in the west, including Shannon and Galway——
Deputy Joe McHugh: When is it proposed to introduce legislation for a €200 levy on second homes? Is it intended that this will be a replacement tax for the ever-dwindling local government fund of €25 million?
Deputy Joe McHugh: I can be of some assistance to the Government in this respect. I have received a response from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, that this tax or levy will be introduced in January 2009.
Deputy Joe McHugh: I know that but will the legislation? The Minister stated in his reply to the parliamentary question that this levy will be lifted at the beginning of January. Legislation is required before the levy is lifted so when before Christmas will this legislation be introduced?
Deputy David Stanton: The Dáil suspended on two occasions last week because of a lack of Government business and I note a few Bills which could be produced quickly. For example, the public health miscellaneous provisions Bill has been promised for a long time, which is to provide for the prohibition of the use of sunbeds by children under the age of 18 years. It would not take long to deal with this Bill in the House and I ask the reason for the delay.
Deputy John Deasy: On a few occasions I have asked when legislation will be introduced to prevent the further liberalisation of hand gun regulations, but I have never been given a date or time period. What vehicle will be used and when will it be introduced in the House?
The Taoiseach: I will check whether the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill contains any reference to that matter as I do not know the precise situation. I will communicate with the Deputy.
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