Thursday, 11 December 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 11, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services — Votes 19 to 22, inclusive, 26, 27, 32, 37, 38, 40 and 41, back from committee; and No. 2, Health Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed) and Subsequent Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m., that business shall be interrupted not later than 7.45 p.m. and that the sitting shall be suspended from 1.30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
In the case of No. 11, it is proposed that the Supplementary Estimates — Votes 19 to 22, inclusive, 26, 27, 32, 37, 38, 40 and 41- shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, that the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes, that any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith, and that speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order and may share time, and which shall not exceed ten minutes in each case.
In the case of No. 2, it is proposed that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. and that the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health and Children.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Before agreeing to this, I would like to hear from the Tánaiste about the cutbacks in public spending programmes promised by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance. Arising from the state of the public finances, it seems all Ministers are making a list and checking it twice before Christmas. Will we be told what is on those lists or will we wake up some morning during the Christmas recess to find it in our morning newspaper?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Before we agree to the taking of these departmental Estimates, it would be helpful if the Tánaiste would tell the House when and how the further expected cutbacks will be announced.
Deputy Richard Bruton: I heard on the news today that the Government has approved a €180 million package to get the pig industry going again. Will there be a Supplementary Estimate for this year to meet the cost of that? How is it intended to fund it, whether from general taxpayers’ resources or through a levy on the sector? Will there be an opportunity for the multiple systems failures that have been exposed in this case to be thoroughly investigated, preferably by the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?
The Tánaiste: It is not. In regard to the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, it is proposed that it will be taken next Wednesday. As the Minister has stated publicly, there will be a full investigation into the matters arising as a consequence of what happened last week.
Deputy Richard Bruton: This is not agreed. This proposal was probably the most controversial element of the budget that was introduced two months ago. We assumed the Minister for Health and Children would be in a position to introduce legislation at an early date and allow Members on all sides of the House to debate it thoroughly. Instead, the legislation has been introduced at the very last minute, with Second Stage beginning only yesterday. There will be no gap between Second Stage and Committee Stage, as is traditional to allow Deputies to table amendments. Many speakers are being denied the opportunity to speak on the legislation. It is simply unacceptable that major policy changes of this nature are rammed through on a guillotine. If people had their say, the guillotine would be applied to the necks of the 15 Ministers who sat around the Cabinet table and approved this proposal.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The Labour Party also objects to the guillotine on Second Stage and on the Committee and remaining Stages of this legislation. A large number of Deputies would like the opportunity to express their views on the withdrawal of medical cards from pensioners in the run up to Christmas, following the mean-spirited measure in the budget. We strongly object to the guillotine. We submitted amendments and objections to every section of the Bill and the Minister has put down amendments too. Adequate time will be required to discuss this. I agree with Deputy Bruton. Several hundred thousand pensioners would probably line up to pull the lever on that guillotine.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I also object to the guillotine being applied to the so-called Health Bill today on Second Stage and on Final Stage, which is scheduled for 6.30 p.m. The withdrawal of the automatic entitlement to a medical card for the over 70s is clearly an attack on senior citizens. The Government has responsibility to explain how general practitioners were being paid for 10,000 patients who were no longer alive at a rate of €690 per individual on the general practitioners’ lists. That is a list that should have been checked twice. That amounted to €6.9 million of public money squandered, almost the entire amount that the Minister claims this measure was designed to save. Better administration of the health services would have secured the saving required rather than putting senior citizens through this pain and anguish and leaving a significant section of them outside the loop of entitlement in the future. Shame on the Government and on the health service.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|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.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Cullen, Martin.||Curran, John.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Fahey, Frank.|
|Finneran, Michael.||Fitzpatrick, Michael.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Harney, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||Kennedy, Michael.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Michael P.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Mansergh, Martin.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M. J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Brien, Darragh.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Edward.|
|O’Rourke, Mary.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Bannon, James.|
|Barrett, Seán.||Behan, Joe.|
|Breen, Pat.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Carey, Joe.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Coonan, Noel J.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Creed, Michael.|
|Creighton, Lucinda.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Doyle, Andrew.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Feighan, Frank.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Flanagan, Charles.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McEntee, Shane.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McHugh, Joe.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Perry, John.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Reilly, James.||Ring, Michael.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheahan, Tom.|
|Sheehan, P. J.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Upton, Mary.||Wall, Jack.|
Deputy Richard Bruton: It is two and a half months since the Government intervened in the banking crisis to provide guarantees for depositors. As the Minister will be aware, credit has effectively dried up for many small businesses in the intervening period and sound businesses are going to the wall for lack of credit. Proposals have been made to extend the guarantee to longer term deposits to allow banks to continue. Will proposals emerge from the Government before the Dáil goes into recess? The fear among many people around the House——
Ryanair has made an offer for Aer Lingus whose board has treated it as a hostile bid and indicated it will not contact any of its shareholders with respect to it. What is the Government’s position on this matter which would require new legislation? Is it continuing to consider the offer as valid or does it share the view of the Aer Lingus board that it is a hostile bid?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I welcome the agreement reached last night, which will allow the processing of pork to recommence today and provide for pork products to reappear on supermarket shelves. I am sure we are all in agreement that restoring consumer confidence in Irish pork products is essential. I note the Government was able to find a way to put together €180 million required——
I wish to inquire about the whereabouts or well-being of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley. We have not seen him in the House for a long time and, first, I would like to know if he is still in Government.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Minister, Deputy Gormley, promised legislation to put a cap on the spending limits in local elections. He also made a statement on regulating the use of posters. We are all making preparations for these important elections next June. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, so far has failed to produce the amendments to the Electoral Bill on spending limits and we have heard nothing on poster regulations. What has happened to his promise to put a cap on spending limits in local elections? Why has he not been able to get agreement by the Cabinet on this relatively modest measure?
The Tánaiste: There will be a letter from the Taoiseach outlining the fact that it is our intention to include it on Committee Stage of the Bill currently before the Seanad discussions, as long as they comply with Standing Orders.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: On the issue of the missing Minister, can the Tánaiste confirm to the House that legislation will be required to deal with a situation where An Bord Pleanála has indicated that all its decisions between autumn 2004 and early 2005 are now invalid because of the Minister’s failure to comply with the terms of board appointments? Local government amending legislation will be required. Can the Tánaiste confirm that this legislation will be introduced urgently?
Deputy Charles Flanagan: I remind the Tánaiste that on 22 May this year on the Order of Business she confirmed to the House that legislation to facilitate complaints against members of the Judiciary would be enacted by the end of this year. Not only has the legislation not been debated, it has not been published. Where does that legislation stand? We are approaching the end of the year.
Deputy Seymour Crawford: We are approaching Christmas which should be a time of goodwill. Can we have an indication of when the matter of the George Mitchell scholarship fund will come before the House? He did a great deal for the peace process in this country and it is sad that the fund is being constantly delayed.
Given that the next meeting between Members of the Oireachtas and the HSE is in St. Agnes complex in Monaghan, when will the Mental Health Bill come before the House because what is currently being done in the health service is mental?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Several Members on this side of the House have continually raised the issue of crime, and in particular organised crime, over the past two or three years. The response from Government has been abysmal, appalling and shameful.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The legislation promised by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, should come before the House as a matter of urgency. I will not go through the list. One item is the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. Where is it, how long more will it take and is there any intention to bring it before the House?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I will ask about legislation in a moment. I, and others, have asked these questions over previous weeks in anticipation of the winter months. Will the Tánaiste and her colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, use their good offices to ensure that no hardship is caused to elderly people in this fashion throughout the winter months? I ask that this patient be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Deputy Tom Sheahan: Can the Tánaiste inform the House when legislation will come before the House to give the plebiscite of Dingle effect whereby it will be known under the Place-Names (Irish Forms) Act 1973 as Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis? When will legislation come before the House and what form will it take?
The Tánaiste: The legislation is promised. In deference to the Deputies, I will not say when because they will all claim it on the radio. It has been promised and will come before the House next year.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: When the talks between the social partners and Government finished on 17 September it was announced that legislation would be introduced to deal with the position of freelance musicians, actors and journalists as part of an amendment to section 4 of the Competition Act. When will we see this legislation?
The Tánaiste: I intend to introduce a number of amendments to section 4 regarding the IMO and Irish Equity. We are preparing the legislation and it will be at least the spring before it comes before the House.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Taoiseach and his Government colleagues announced, although not in this Chamber, the intention to force a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty on the people next year. However, the draft Dáil schedule for next week has no mention of the European Council meeting. Can the Tánaiste indicate if the matter will be on the schedule for next week and that the meeting of the European Council, and all that swirls around it, can be addressed properly in this Chamber?
Deputy Michael Creed: Like previous speakers, I welcome the conclusion of negotiations between the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and pig processors which will see the industry back in operation today. From listening to the Tánaiste’s earlier comments, we will have a Supplementary Estimate next week to give effect to that agreement. Will the Tánaiste ensure that adequate time is made available to discuss this very significant issue in the Dáil? I do not think a one hour time allocation is sufficient.
Have any other issues been envisaged within that Supplementary Estimate? I refer in particular to sweetheart deals that have been concluded between the independent republics of north Tipperary and south Kerry for the installation aid scheme.
Deputy Michael Creed: Deputies Lowry and Healy-Rae were touting a deal allegedly done with the Minister so that applications in their constituencies that were not submitted to the Department prior to the budget can be considered. Last week, the Minister said in the Dáil that every other application would not be included.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is a pile of things that are of the gravest importance but that are not in order. I will allow the Tánaiste to answer on the Supplementary Estimate, but I cannot talk about installation aid grants and things like that.
Deputy Seán Sherlock: This was a very important deal, worth €180 million. I would like time to be made available to discuss the issue next week. When will the Supplementary Estimate be made available?
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Following on from the welcome agreement on pork products, I would like to ask a question about the health implications of the crisis. Will the Government learn any lessons after what has happened? There does appear to be a breakdown in the various regulatory and monitoring bodies. The EPA may have responsibility for one aspect of this while the Food Safety Authority and the Department of Agriculture——
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: There are a number of Bills promised, such as the Bill on animal health and welfare and the health (corporate bodies) Bill. Will the Government make sure there are no cracks within the different regulatory bodies on public health?
Deputy Joan Burton: I would like to ask the Tánaiste about an area in which there is no regulation at all, in spite of five years of Government promises. I am talking about the tens of thousands of people who are living subject to management companies and who cannot even sell their apartment in many cases. The Tánaiste has promised us week after week that we would see this legislation, which is important to so many young couples who are being fleeced for management charges. When they try to sell their apartments, they are impeded in the sale if the management company has not been properly structured.
The Tánaiste: We are currently drafting that Bill. It is highly unlikely that we will have it before Christmas, given that we have only one more week in the House, but we will try to have it as quickly as possible.
Deputy Seán Sherlock: On 12 November, I received a response to a parliamentary question regarding the publication of a report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children on complaints made against the Diocese of Cloyne. It is now 11 December and I was told the report would be published before the end of the year. Will time be made available to the House to discuss this issue? It is a vital report. I sought to raise it by way of a parliamentary question, but I do not see any point in raising it under Standing Order 32.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I would like to ask a question related to the health (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. When will the procedure be put in place for the disposal of the pork that is currently in processors’ chills?
There was a headline in the news media this week about an Indian woman aged 70 who gave birth to her first child after IVF treatment. When will we see the human tissue Bill? When will we see legislation to regulate IVF in this country?
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