Order of Business.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 668 No. 2

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It is proposed to take No. 3, the Arbitration Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 28, Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 24, statements on the report of the joint committee’s contribution to the European Commission on its White Paper on Integration of EU Mortgage Credit Markets, COM (2007) 807; and No. [194]23, statements on the special report on new EU legislation, 1 January to 30 June 2008, and the order shall not resume thereafter.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 24 shall be taken at 12.30 p.m. today and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statement of the Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Affairs and of the main spokespersons for the Government, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and Members may share time; and the proceedings on No. 23 shall be taken at 1.30 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statement of the Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny and of the main spokespersons for the Government, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and Members may share time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed to?

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I do not object to it but I wish to give a pointer to the Tánaiste. This report comes from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny. The Government elevated what was a sub-committee to full committee status, which I strongly support. This report is one of a series of reports that are absolutely critical to the way this House of Parliament deals with its interaction with Europe on behalf of our citizens.

The people of Ireland voted recently in a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Many people said they did not understand what was in the treaty. The Joint Committee on European Scrutiny has the potential, if properly resourced and given the space and time in this House and other locations, to be able to explain to people what Europe is about and how it impacts on us. Other reports will come from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny and I expect they will be given proper time for full discussion and debate in this House because it is so important that we are not isolated, but rather that we are central to that process.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I believe the Whips have agreed that there will be a monthly debate that will address the issues raised.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed? Agreed. I call Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I have a number of questions for the Tánaiste. There are reports in all the media outlets today of the Minister for Finance calling in the heads of the banks for discussions. In the past 24 hours, my office has been contacted by five small businesses that will not be in existence in the next three weeks unless there is some easing of the tightness that exists for credit lines at the moment. Will the Tánaiste indicate when we can expect an announcement from Government, and what form it will take, with a view to the recapitalisation of the banking system in whatever form the Government decides so that business can be conducted and lines of credit can be eased?

The Dáil will sit for 12 days between now and Christmas. During that period, we will see a brutal assault on Irish families through the Finance Bill, the legislation to deal with medical [195]cards, the Social Welfare Bill, which makes an attack on jobseekers benefit, and the health insurance programme announced yesterday. When will the medical card legislation come before the House? Is the Government running scared of bringing in the legislation or where is it?

An announcement was made yesterday by the Minister for Health and Children about health insurance. We are all aware that risk equalisation was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year and that it made recommendations to the Government on how matters should proceed. Will the Tánaiste state when it is proposed to have risk equalisation legislation and outline the preparatory work being done thereon? Yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for Health and Children was confusing. In the notes appended to the statement the relief was referred to as a tax credit, but in the statement itself reference was made to a tax relief. Is it a tax credit or tax relief?

It seems the Government, including the Minister for Health and Children, has announced a levy on the health insurers, to be paid for by the customer when the insurers increase their premiums. Is this the case? Has the Government had discussions on this with the VHI, which is dominant in the market and which has high overhead costs? In many cases, there are poor contracts. Has the Government had discussions with the insurers on increases in medical insurance premiums that will be passed on to the customer to pay for the levy the Minister is imposing on the insurers? This is with a view to protecting community rating, which is underpinned by risk equalisation and which has been in evidence for so long.

I saw a report that stated some hope or relief is being offered to the people in that the Taoiseach apparently announced yesterday to the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party that he has a plan for the nation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Under Standing orders——

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I believed this was announced with the budget.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a discussion on every item.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Ten thousand are being put on the unemployment list per month.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I ask the Tánaiste to reply on the matters Deputy Kenny has raised.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Government tried to take medical cards from the over-70s.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  That is Deputy Richard Bruton’s brief.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It imposed a 1% levy and attempted to introduce a change to the categorisation for disability payments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste, on the legislative proposals.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Where is the Taoiseach’s plan? Where is the Taoiseach himself?

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste, on the legislative proposals.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There was a considerable number of questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I ask the Tánaiste to deal with the legislative proposals.

[196]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  On the financial issues, the Finance Bill will be available at 3 p.m. today.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  How many mistakes are in it?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Those matters can be discussed in the context of the debate.

The health legislation will be ready within the next two weeks.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  How many mistakes are in it?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It has been cleared by the Government so, within the next two weeks——

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  We could be on the road next week.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  We will make sure we will not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It will take some considerable time for the risk equalisation legislation to be brought forward.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  It will be the first time in a month.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It is in that context that the decision was made by the Government on the health insurance initiative. The Leader of the Opposition asked me to clarify whether a credit or relief is proposed. It is a tax relief in the form of credit.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is both.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  It is both.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss the content of the legislation now.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Everybody will get it.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Is it a tax credit or tax relief?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss the content of the legislation now.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Everyone will get it regardless of whether——

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Is it a tax credit, which is worth more than a relief?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  A tax relief is in itself a tax relief and therefore it is a tax relief in the form of a credit. It will be passed on through the premium——

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  They are different.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny is well aware that there are other ways of raising that matter.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste has offered so the Deputy is entitled to clarification, but we must move on.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  There is a difference between a tax credit and a tax relief. Which is it?

[197]Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Deputy Kenny should ask Deputy Richard Bruton. He will explain it to the Deputy.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Is it a tax credit or a tax relief?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The legal interpretation is that it is a tax relief measure in the form of a tax credit.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  So it is a tax credit, which gives the full amount.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I can only say——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We should not be discussing this.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It can be discussed in due course.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  That is not what the Department of Finance says.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Deputy does not want to be asking the Minister for Health and Children to clarify that. It is a question of tax credits and not of tax relief.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We should not be discussing that now. I call Deputy Gilmore.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  With regard to the risk equalisation legislation and the health insurance announcement made yesterday by the Minister for Health and Children, I understood the Tánaiste said the legislation would take some time to prepare. The Minister for Health and Children stated yesterday it would be presented before the end of the year. Will the Tánaiste clarify when we are likely to see it?

If it is to take some time for the legislation to be prepared, when is it likely to take effect? The Minister for Health and Children gave the impression yesterday that it would be effective from the beginning of next year. Families are considering what their health insurance bill is likely to be next year. The proposal is such that the health insurance bill of a couple with three children will increase by approximately €500. Such families will want to know when the legislation is likely to take effect. This should be clarified.

With regard to the meeting the Minister for Finance is having today with the heads of the banks, is it intended that he will inform the House after the meeting of its outcome? Is it anticipated that any developments will arise from that meeting between now and next Tuesday, when the Dáil is due to sit again? Are there plans arising from the meeting to recall the House between now and next Tuesday? Will there be any changes made to the business scheduled for next week arising from the meeting between the Minister and the banks?

Approximately 700 summonses for speeding have been struck down on the grounds that the by-laws were not published in Iris Oifigiúil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is legislation promised in this area?

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  There is. There is a road safety Bill.

Will the Tánaiste clarify whether the summonses were struck down on the grounds that the by-laws were not published in Iris Oifigiúil?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  That was not Fianna Fáil councillors. There were plenty of Labour councillors involved.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  What is the position on those with penalty points?

[198]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for Question Time.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy asked about the road safety Bill. I know the Deputy is very creative but there is a limit even to my imagination.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It has been known that the Ceann Comhairle has been driven fairly fast himself.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is no point in fighting old battles on distant battlefields.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  The penalty points——

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  To clarify the issue, the Government health insurance initiative will entail legislative proposals, which will be brought to the House. The date of which we speak is 1 January 2009.

The other legislation raised by Deputy Kenny is a new risk equalisation Bill arising from the Supreme Court decision. Our legal advice suggests it will be some considerable time, at least two years, before the legislation, which is to be based on a risk equalisation model, will be introduced to the House.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Kick to touch.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I hope this clarifies the matter. We are concerned with two Bills and perhaps we will try to stick to one at a time.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Bring a new Government in.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  With regard to confidential meetings involving the Minister for Finance, if they are confidential there is no intention of discussing them in public.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Do not worry about them.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There is no intention to recall the House.

It is a matter for Fingal County Council to deal with the matter of the speeding fines. There is no legislation proposed arising therefrom.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It is needed now.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  With regard to the idea of the Minister for Finance having confidential meetings with the banks, I remind the Tánaiste that it is now our money that is supporting the banks.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot talk about the banks this morning.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister for Finance——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Unfortunately Standing Orders do not allow Leaders’ Questions this morning.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——may be having a private meeting with the banks but it is a matter of public of interest and public business.

[199]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss private functions and meetings this morning. I must move on.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  When will we hear from the Minister for Finance about the outcome of the meeting?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Gilmore will have to find another way of raising that because it is not in order.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  On the health legislation, the Tánaiste has now clarified there are to be two Bills, the first of which will affect health insurance premiums in the short term. Do I understand correctly from the Tánaiste that this legislation will be before the House and that it will be put through before the end of the year? Is that the position?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is that the position?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It will take effect from 1 January. It requires EU approval and it will be a matter for the Government to determine whether we enact that legislation prior to the Commission’s approval. That decision has not yet been finalised. There is a methodology by which we can pass legislation and withhold its enactment. One way or another, it will be retrospective to the first day of January 2009. That is the absolute clarity of it. It will take form on that date.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I will follow that for a little, if I may.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  It is hard to follow.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Will the publication of the Bill occur before Christmas?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  However, the Government does not expect to enact it before Christmas. Is that the case?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We could enact it but——

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  At least the Government has an intention.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We can enact the legislation, but the view is that it would be more appropriate not to commence legislation until such time as the Commission gives clarity on the issues.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Keep it for Easter.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Ceann Comhairle will know that it takes some time for the Commission to make such determinations. It takes two months.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  How will it come into effect on 1 January?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The enactment of the legislation is not a matter for the Order of Business. The Deputy may put a question concerning when the Bill will be published. The Tánaiste has explained when it will be published and the question of the enactment is for a later date, as the Deputy well knows.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  As I understand it, the issue here is that the Government proposes that health insurance premiums will be changed on 1 January. What the Tánaiste is saying, in effect, is that this apparently will be done without statutory authority. A Bill will be published. [200] Presumably, it will contain a date. It will not necessarily be enacted but the insurance premiums will be changed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The commencement of the legislation is not an issue.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  This concerns an issue that has been before the courts on a number of occasions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Yes.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We now have this situation and it is reasonable to discuss it because people whose health insurance premiums are going to be changed next year will have a higher health insurance payment. The Government states that they will have to pay it from 1 January next year. It also states, first, that legislation will not be enacted to give authority to that measure, and, second, we may not even know what the view of the European Commission will be on the matter. That is a very unclear situation and we are entitled to get some clarity on it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I will ask the Tánaiste to clarify the situation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I will clarify the situation on the basis that the leader of the Labour Party is now trying to entangle things that have nothing to do with this legislation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That is unfair. Deputy Gilmore is clear. The Tánaiste is not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The matter of a premium is a matter for the companies involved.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  He is clear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Government is not dictating the premium that must be paid. We will introduce legislation arising out of the Government health insurance initiative. The European Commission must clarify this, which will take two months. It will be retrospective to 1 January if we decide not to enact prior to the Commission giving its signature. That is possible in this type of legislation — it is similarly so with the Finance Bill. It is not criminal legislation. The Government will decide whether to enact the legislation prior to the Commission’s determination. It would probably be sensible to await the outcome of the Commission deliberations, but it is the Government’s intention to publish the legislation prior to Christmas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Before the House goes any further with this matter——

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  On the same matter, the provision that was outlined——

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I did not call on Deputy Burton.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  This is——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Burton was not called at all. I ask her to hold on.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy was not called. I never called her.

[201]Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Since the 1980s, some 14,000 farmers have planted over 225,000 hectares of forestry but the current levels of afforestation have fallen considerably.

A Deputy:  It is called Christmas.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  There is a significant threat to forestry at present.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Will the Tánaiste fast-track the Forestry (Amendment) Bill to cater for this sector?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The forestry legislation will be brought in next year.

A Deputy:  When is next year?

Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The Tánaiste cannot see the wood for the trees.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  In light of the fact that area payments were reduced in the budget, and that since last night single payments are to be reduced also, when will there be a full debate on agriculture in the Dáil? Can we use the opportunity of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill to debate this area? We certainly have the welfare of farmers to consider.

In light of the ongoing situation with regard to health structures as a whole, can we find out who is actually eligible for treatment and in which hospital? When will the matter of eligibility of health and personal and social services be brought in?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  In two minutes.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Concerning discussions of the VHI, I noticed that the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, was able to go to Cork to open a private hospital——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I cannot take that matter now.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  ——last week. Would she come up and see the structures that are there——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy may speak on the legislative proposals.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  ——in Cavan and Monaghan and let us have a public facility to use, rather than go completely private?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy’s colleagues were there. Deputy Deirdre Clune was there.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I do not care who was there. We will continue on the legislative proposals.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We are not clear as to when that legislation will take place——

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Is Deputy Bannon against private hospitals?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am taken aback that Deputy Crawford did not take the opportunity to congratulate his constituency colleague on the fine work he did on behalf of the farmers of Ireland in the negotiations.

[202]Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  It is an outrage.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  The farmers are not impressed. When will the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Smith, be brought to the House to account for the pick-pocketing of farmers?

(Interruptions).

A Deputy:  We may have been disappointed with the Tánaiste but we now have the weakest link in the Minister, Deputy Smith.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Government is making a skit of the farmers in this country.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There will be additional milk quota in the Deputy’s constituency.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call on Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  An outrage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kathleen Lynch is in order.

A Deputy:  The Ceann Comhairle has favourites.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy will be quiet.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Will the Tánaiste confer with the Minister for Health and Children, who is sitting next to her, and ask her to withdraw the increase now being implemented for people with intellectual disability in long-stay care——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The question must be in order; otherwise, it must be struck down.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Their charges have been increased by €30 a week——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  A parliamentary question from Deputy Lynch——

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  ——when their increase in social welfare payment was €6 a week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  ——or a question for the Adjournment debate, or a special notice question — there are several ways to raise this matter, but this is not it.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Their charges for long-stay care have now been increased by €30.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does Deputy Lynch have a question on the Order of Business?

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I promise the Ceann Comhairle that I will sit down because I do not intend to disrupt the House. Every morning Deputies stand up here with requests for an Adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 32, which are always refused.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is correct.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  There are some issues which are worthy of being granted and this is one of them.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I must definitely move on.

[203]Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I return to the insurance legislation. It appears that the Government is walking us into a legal minefield. We are to be asked to pass retrospective legislation prior to permission from the EU Commission.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for Second Stage.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The Government is likely to lose many more backbenchers if we are to be asked to do this——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy must be in order. It is 11 a.m.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  If the legislation already in place was struck down by the courts——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does the Deputy have a question on the legislation?

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  ——I cannot imagine that this will ever stand up.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does the Deputy have a question on the legislation?

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I would like clarity from the Tánaiste as to what is the Government’s intention. Are we to be asked to pass legislation prior to the approval of the EU Commission, without any idea of whether it is going to be enacted?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Let us be clear. It is not really fair to look for this type of detail. It is more appropriate for a parliamentary question, as the Deputy knows well. It is not possible to answer all these questions, which are more appropriate to the line Minister. They are not appropriate for the Tánaiste on a Thursday morning during the Order of Business, as Deputy O’Sullivan well knows.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I am asking about promised legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I know the Deputy knows this.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The Tánaiste has just promised this, on the Order of Business, and if she could clarify——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy must tell us when the next station is coming.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  ——exactly what we——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Tell us one more time.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  We are elected public representatives and we will be asked to vote——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Tell us one more time, this time with feeling.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  ——for or against this legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Does the Ceann Comhairle want a warm one or a cold one?

A Deputy:  He had his Weetabix this morning.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  In normal circumstances, I do not like reading out what is going to be said but I shall do it again now, for the fifth or sixth time.

[204]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste must not be provocative and should just say what she has to say.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The measures announced yesterday will require new health legislation. It is our aim to publish and present this to the Oireachtas for enactment before the end of the current session. It is also the case that the implementation of these measures requires the approval of the European Commission competition directorate. A formal notification has been made and in the normal course, the Commission will deliver its decision early in the new year.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  In that case, the Government will not receive approval before proceeding with the measures.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I wish to raise two points, the first of which is on the announcement made by the Minister for Health and Children in the company — appropriately — of the Minister for Finance that tax allowances would be made available on an ascending scale in respect of additional payments for health insurance by people aged over 50 years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The issue is not in order.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It is in order. I want to know when the measure will be legislated for. As a tax measure, will it be included in the Finance Bill or will we, as many of us expect, have another Finance Bill in——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is legislation promised in that area?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It is the same legislation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That is not correct.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  As the Deputy is aware, it is not permitted to be argumentative on the Order of Business.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  If the Opposition wants to write the legislation that is fine but I have given an answer. The Minister for Health and Children will take questions in the House next week if Deputies want to raise questions.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I wish to raise a second point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I have no difficulty with the Deputy raising ten points provided they are in order.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Ceann Comhairle confirmed yesterday, during a discussion with another Deputy, that my second point is in order. Will the Government provide time for a debate on the powerless position in which the banks find themselves and the fact that taxpayers are guaranteeing——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for the Whips.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Ceann Comhairle indicated yesterday that it was in order to ask for a debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No, Deputy Stagg said it was in order, which is a different matter.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister for Finance is averse to appearing in the House because he is afraid. May we ask other members of the Government to arrange a debate on the banks?

[205]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Burton will, in due course, have ample opportunity to discuss the Finance Bill with the Minister for Finance. I call Deputy Shatter.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  If Deputy Burton had her way, the banks would not be around.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call Deputy Shatter.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I do not wish to shout over my colleagues.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I concur. There should be no hurling on the ditch.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  In 1999, the Children First child protection guidelines were announced and put in place. These are non-statutory guidelines designed to ensure a uniform approach is taken to dealing with the problems of children at risk and investigation of reports of children at risk. At the end of July, the Office of the Minister for Children published a review which confirmed that our child protection services are totally dysfunctional and the guidelines are not being uniformly applied.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy may not make a Second Stage speech on the Order of Business.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I am coming to the point, Sir. We know there are hundreds of children reported to be at risk whose cases have not been investigated. Does the Government have plans to make the Children First child protection guidelines mandatory, giving them statutory effect and ensuring their uniform application?

In the context of promised legislation, specifically No. 11, the child care Bill, I ask the Tánaiste to ensure that children who are at risk are protected before we have another tragedy. Will she ensure the Children First guidelines are made mandatory to force the Health Service Executive to comply with them?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I ask the Minister to confine her remarks to the child care Bill and legislative provisions, if promised, related to the other matter the Deputy raised.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  As the Deputy is aware, the Ombudsman for Children, having carried out a preliminary examination of the matter, indicated publicly today that she will decide whether further investigation is required. We will await the outcome of that process, after which a decision can be made.

On the child care Bill——

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I do not normally interrupt the Tánaiste but she has alluded to my concern. The Ombudsman for Children appears to be re-investigating a matter which has already been confirmed in the Department’s review, namely——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss content. The Deputy will have to wait until the legislation comes before the House.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  ——that the guidelines are not being complied with. I want to ensure the Ombudsman for Children’s investigation does not become an excuse for inaction by the Government because children’s lives are at risk.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is out of order. The matter can be raised in another manner.

[206]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  A process is under way. The Ombudsman for Children will make decisions and the matters will be addressed in the child care Bill. It is intended to introduce the child care legislation this session.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Will the Bill make the guidelines mandatory?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss the content of the legislation. The Deputy has raised a question, which has been answered, and I will not go further with the matter.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  In recent days, we have observed in England circumstances in which a young child lost its life due to the child care system being dysfunctional. Our child care system has been dysfunctional for decades under this Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I ask Deputy Reilly, who will speak next, to stay in order, if possible.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I shall do my best with the assistance of the Ceann Comhairle.

I seek clarification on the pending legislation. The Tánaiste indicated that the measure announced yesterday was a tax relief provided in the form of a tax credit. When I telephoned the Department of Finance this morning, I was informed that the tax relief would be provided at the applicable rate, either 20% or 41% of the relevant sum.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy may not raise the issue on the Order of Business.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Tax credits are given for the full sum and are, therefore, worth more than tax reliefs.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should ask about an issue that is an order.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  This is important because people are confused. Why is this legislation being introduced? Are we being prepared for a serious hike in premia at a time when the VHI is making profits of more than €100 million and community rating is still in place?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy will have to raise the issue in another way.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Given that community rating is still in place, premia cannot be raised solely on the basis of age.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a Second Stage speech.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  How many 80 year olds want——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Do not mind 80 year olds.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Thankfully, I am much younger than that. At this time of fluctuation on the international financial markets, I was pleased and reassured to note that the Government has a better regulation agenda and has promised legislation to consolidate and modernise financial services legislation. In view of the current international and national financial position, is it not advisable to introduce the legislation as a matter of urgency, with a view to generating debate and giving reassurance as to the Government’s intentions in this area?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The financial services legislation relates to building societies and will be taken next year. It has not been determined when the consolidation Bill will be brought before the House.

[207]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  That is not the Bill to which I referred, which was No. 52.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  If the Deputy knows the answer, why is he asking the question?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It would also help if the Government knew the answer.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I answered the question. It has not been determined when the consolidation Bill will be brought before the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy knows well that the Tánaiste answered the question.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  On the CAP health check which was finalised in Brussels last night——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This does not sound promising.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  ——will the Tánaiste arrange for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Brendan Smith, to come before the House at the earliest possible date to account for the important decisions made at last night’s meeting?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for the Whips.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Will the Government make time available to hold a debate at the earliest possible date?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  As is always the case, if the Deputy wants a debate, his party Whip can discuss the issue with the Government Whip.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  Last Thursday, the Tánaiste stated recapitalisation of the banks was not necessary at this time. The Taoiseach now believes the recapitalisation option needs to be considered. I support Deputy Burton’s call for a debate in the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for the Whips.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  This is the most serious issue facing business. Has the Tánaiste changed her mind since she spoke in the House last Thursday and, if so, why?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We must move on as the issue has been discussed. I have adjudicated on the matter and do not propose to make an exception for the Deputy.


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