Order of Business.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 670 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re joint sitting to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann; No. 9, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the three interim economic partnership agreements; No. 10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council framework decision on the European evidence warrant; No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council framework decision amending framework decisions; No. 23, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) (No. 2) Bill 2008 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 24, Finance (No. 2) Bill 2008 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on the Report and Final Stages of No. 23 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 61, motion re housing, the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted after Private Members’ time, which shall be taken for 90 minutes tonight, and Standing Order 117(3) shall not apply; and parliamentary questions next for answer by the Taoiseach on EU matters shall be taken on the same day as the statements on EU Council meeting, Brussels, scheduled to be taken on Wednesday, 17 December 2008, and shall be moved to be taken first as ordinary oral questions to the Taoiseach on that day.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 to be taken without debate agreed to?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is not agreed.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I do not want to fall into the annual practice of saying: “Do not go on holidays for a certain period.” The proposal from the Government is that the Dáil will return at the end of January. The most important concerns in the country at present are protecting jobs and creating and sustaining employment. We need to consider the statements by the Government on the recapitalisation of the banks and its economic plan. I do not expect the [814]Taoiseach to make time for these matters today but I suggest that the House should sit either this Friday or next Tuesday to deal with them.

A sizeable chunk of the money invested by taxpayers in the National Pensions Reserve Fund will be made available to the banking system. I am not sure whether it is in the Taoiseach’s head to come back with a plan and seek legal authority from the Dáil or if he would prefer to put through legislation and then apply conditions when the Government and the banks are in agreement on the system of recapitalisation to be implemented. While I do not wish to object to the Order of Business, I would like the Taoiseach to indicate whether we can have a substantive discussion on this matter on Friday or next Tuesday.

It is wrong to adjourn the House on Thursday and not return until the closing days of January. In the meantime, the Government will have made its decision after consulting the banks on how it should proceed with recapitalisation. The matter is very serious and real concerns are being expressed by employers and employees. Local economies throughout the country have been affected. It would be wrong of Dáil Éireann to retire for six weeks rather than deal with a matter as consequential as this. I make these observations in respect of the first proposal put by the Ceann Comhairle and ask the Taoiseach to respond.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I find the earlier comments made by the Taoiseach to be incomplete. I want to know whether the Government plans to provide time for a debate between now and the Dáil’s adjournment on Thursday if the Government decides not to introduce the necessary legislation in respect of the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

  5 o’clock

Despite everything he has said about the banks, he failed to mention the elephant in the room, namely, the issue of the bad debts carried by the banks. It is not that the banks lack capital but that when they write off those bad debts the hole in their capital will be as big as the hole that sunk the Titanic. That is the essence of the matter. It may only affect some banks in terms of the covered institutions but how can the Taoiseach propose to send the Dáil on a recess for six weeks and not allow a debate when matters will be addressed which deal with the lifeblood of this economy, the jobs of tens of thousands of people and the survival of thousands of businesses in the difficult period after Christmas?

It is simply unbelievable that the Taoiseach would send a statement to the newspapers which would do justice to the Sphinx it is so vague. He spoke about preference shares, ordinary shares and underwriting.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a carryover from Leaders’ Questions.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Underwriting is a form of insurance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have that.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Has the Taoiseach already handed over the Bank of Ireland to the Mallabraca consortium, Carlyle and J.C. Flowers?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We must move on. The Deputy has made her point that she is objecting to the Order of Business.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  May we have a debate?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is only entitled to make a short statement.

[815]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  In the interests of business, may we have an indication if the Taoiseach and Government are prepared to make time for a debate?

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  We are not prepared to accept the Order of Business as presented. We are following on from ministerial questions to the Minister for Health and Children, during which she indicated the service plan for 2009 for the HSE had been laid before the House and was on the green Order Paper for today’s business. It is on the green Order Paper but up to a short time before the commencement of this Order of Business and following the Minister having indicated to the House that the service plan had been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, it was not available in the Oireachtas Library to Members.

I call on the Minister to produce the service plan for the HSE, wherein, we understand, she has signed off——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That has nothing at all to do with this proposal.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——on €530 million of cuts in health care delivery——

Deputy Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Go away out of that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the Deputy objecting to the Order of Business?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——in 2009. I will finish my point.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  He will eventually come to it.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  This is pertinent to the very question the Ceann Comhairle is asking us to accept. No. 8 is a motion on the sitting to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann. Nobody here should forget that in the Democratic Programme for the First Dáil, the commitment was there to safeguard the health of the people.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  And not to murder them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into it now.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Yet we have a position where we are being asked to accept an Order Paper that does not even accommodate or address in excess of €500 million in proposed cuts in health services over the coming 12 months. It is simply and absolutely unacceptable on top of all of the other cuts and continuous haemorrhage of services that we have witnessed——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call on the Taoiseach to respond.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——throughout this year. This Order Paper fails to address the most important issue of concern to the Irish people today and it must be rejected.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call the Taoiseach to reply on the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The committees will return to the House on 7 January and be ongoing with their work. International trade missions will also be conducted by Ministers in an effort to [816]secure and maintain jobs and keep markets open for products and services which are fundamental to the State.

A special sitting of the House is being suggested to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the First Dáil which will be in the Mansion House on 20 January. I look forward to it as it is an historic occasion.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It certainly is.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I hope it will be a dignified occasion to which we can all rise. I look forward to contributing on that day.

I do not wish to reopen issues that have been dealt with already in Leaders’ Questions but on the whole question of underwriting, EGMs, share issues or prospectuses having to be drawn up, there is a range of issues that must be dealt with under company law before that comes about. The idea that it will all happen over Christmas is not the full picture of the procedures in the event of a recapitalisation taking place in the banks and how State participation in such an event would proceed.

It does not add justified confidence to the system on the regulatory position where there are capital adequacy ratios that are sufficient to make contentions——

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Nobody believes that. Why are the shares tanking?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should let him finish.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Why are the shares down?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is not correct, in an effort to maintain financial stability, to state this is not the case. We should stick to the regulatory arrangements as they are.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Why are the shares at 30 cent?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We should allow people to get on with the real economy and maintain some confidence in it rather than suggesting it is not even worth talking about.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Exactly.

Question put, “That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 64.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall.
Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine. Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John.
Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall.
Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret. Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley. Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin.
Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary.
Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.



Níl
Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James. Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic. Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan.
Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom. Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J.
Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed to? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members’ business agreed to? Agreed.

[818]Is the proposal for dealing with parliamentary questions next for answer by the Taoiseach on EU matters agreed to? Agreed.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I would like the Government to respond by arranging a motion, statements or questions about the bank recapitalisation programme for this week or next Tuesday. I say this in all sincerity. It is necessary that the House has an opportunity to tease out the implications of the statements by the Minister for Finance and where the Government intends to go with the matter. Is it the Government’s intention to wait until the House returns in January to deal with legislation in terms of Dáil authorisation for the Government to use moneys from the pensions reserve fund for any capitalisation programme?

When is it proposed to give the House an opportunity to discuss the revised health programme as outlined and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, which was seen and announced to the nation by the national broadcaster?

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

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Will any legislative changes be involved that might require a discussion in the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Regarding the Deputy’s question on the recapitalisation issue, it is a matter for the Whips to discuss if people want statements. To hear the views of the House would be no harm and might be helpful. Some statements at some time during the week could be considered, but it is important to point out that timetables are involved. Depending on what type of recapitalisation were to emerge, various timetables apply in terms of rights issues. They are far longer than the House’s break for the Christmas period. I want to emphasise that the Government is in a negotiating position. Therefore, the question of statements might be helpful in that context, but we should not go beyond it at this point.

The HSE service plan is for 2009 and can be discussed at any time by the House in the course of 2009. There are statutory requirements for the laying of the plan before the Houses of the Oireachtas, which I understand were complied with by the Minister for Health and Children. Therefore, the agreement of a service plan does not of itself require a legislative change. Under existing legislation, it can be laid before the Houses and discussed during the course of the next session.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I welcome the Taoiseach’s statement to the effect that time may be allowed for a discussion of the bank capitalisation proposal. It will send a solid signal to markets, namely, that the Government has some sense of what it wants to do. To wait until the end of January would be unbelievable.

Concerning promised legislation, the Tánaiste stated on 20 November that health insurance legislation would be introduced in the Dáil before the recess. When will we see the legislation? She stated that it would be published before Christmas, but we have not seen it. Will we see it in the coming days?

On the Order Paper, No. 8 is intended to commemorate the first sitting of the first Dáil. The Labour Party will be delighted to participate. In terms of the development of our democracy, was the Taoiseach not saddened by the forced resignation of Mr. Niall Crowley as the chief executive of the Equality Authority?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is no chance that we will get into that matter now. The Taoiseach will answer the question on legislation.

[819]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It has been a development of our democracy, flawed and all as the Minister may see it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister did not cut the €6 million for——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is out of order. She must find another way to raise the matter.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——Ministers’ Garda drivers. Instead, he chose to make a 43% cut in the agency’s budget.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There are plenty of ways in which to raise the matter if the Deputy wishes. She could table it on the Adjournment.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  As we are properly commemorating the development of our democracy and our first democratic day, it seems wrong that the Government is simultaneously forcing the resignation of the head of the Equality Authority, a person of integrity.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Table the matter on the Adjournment. The Taoiseach on the health insurance legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That matter requires the approval of the European Commission as well. We are in discussions at EU level on the proposals that we have so that we can introduce legislation. We were hopeful that we would have it before the end of this term, but it looks more likely that it will be early next year.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  On today’s Order Paper, No. 18 refers to the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny’s report on the recovery of cod stocks. This morning, it was announced on RTE that there was an EU proposal to introduce fish quotas for anglers. Will the Taoiseach clarify whether the Government was aware of and will support this proposal?

The Arts Council has been without a chair and half of its members for almost six months.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  The Government may be planning its abolition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy can table the matter on the Adjournment.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  The Ceann Comhairle would be interested in the issue. Is there a reason for——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  What I am interested in does not matter, as this is outside Standing Orders.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Will the Taoiseach respond to the first question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Let us move quickly.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  It was a good try, though.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Unfortunately, I am not aware of what emerged in the media this morning.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  It was one of the first items on this morning’s news.

[820]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Are regulations promised in this area? No.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  If a question on its status were asked of the line Minister, it would be helpful.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  That will be too late. The deal will be concluded in Brussels.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy can be assured that our interests will be continually defended by the Minister concerned.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Is that a “Yes”?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I have read persistent rumours that the Government is planning additional tax proposals, notably in respect of research and development. We are proposing to debate the Finance Bill today and tomorrow. Will those proposals be introduced as part of it or are we to expect a second Bill in the new year, at which time they will be debated?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That would be a matter for the Minister for Finance to decide in due course. I have not been following the Finance Bill this year as closely I did in previous years, but I understand that it is a matter that can be discussed on Report Stage.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  It can be. The amendment may be tabled.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am referring to the question of what are the Minister’s intentions. I do not expect——

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  This day last week in response to the 43rd brutal murder in the State since the beginning of the year, the Ceann Comhairle facilitated the asking of questions to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the House as to initiatives the Government might introduce to stop the spiral of killing and stem the tide of crime. Since then, there have been two further brutal murders and a hapless Minister of State——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy must find another way to raise the matter. I allowed the question last week so that the matter could be discussed in the House within Standing Orders. For this reason, I cannot allow the issue this morning.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On promised legislation, there have been two further brutal murders, one in this city and another in County Galway, since last week. In an unprecedented development, a hapless Minister of State——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot discuss this matter now. If the Deputy has a question, he should just ask it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  ——was taken hostage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Ask a question.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  It was more appropriate to a South American tinpot democracy than a modern democratic state.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We are not in South America now. The Deputy should ask his question about legislation.

(Interruptions).

[821]Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On promised legislation, this is a serious matter. On 23 September, the Chief Whip——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is an abuse.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  If the Ceann Comhairle was opposite, he——

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  ——published the list of legislation to be published and enacted before the end of the session. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s section includes the criminal justice (forensic sampling evidence) Bill, the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, the criminal justice (money laundering) Bill and the sale of alcohol Bill. Why has none of this legislation been enacted and why has not a single one of these Bills been debated in the House since 23 September? None of them has been published.

By way of a further initiative, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform promised that a covert surveillance Bill would be published and debated before the end of this session, but there has been no sign of it. The Minister’s action in respect of it has certainly been more covert than anything else. It is important that we debate this matter before the end of the session. The Minister’s only response to the crime and murder taking place in the State has been to announce the general scheme of the criminal justice (public order)(amendment) Bill, which relates to vagrancy and is designed to prevent people begging on the streets in the run-up to Christmas. Will the Taoiseach indicate the proposals of the Government in respect of these Bills, which were promised last September?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will go through the Bills to which the Deputy refers in detail. Dealing with violent crime and murder is an operational matter for the Garda Síochána. The force is devoting many of its resources to dealing with these matters and is enjoying much success in many respects. I do not wish to take away from the seriousness of the ongoing problem but it is not just a question of enacting legislation. A great deal of appropriate legislation has been enacted in recent years and has been of major assistance to the Garda Síochána in dealing with the matters to which I refer. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is committed to bringing forward further legislation.

Drafting is progressing in respect of the criminal justice (forensic sampling and evidence) Bill. In light of the need for further consultations on procedural and technical aspects, as well as the need to study the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on 4 December last in the case of S and Marper v. UK on the retention, etc., of samples and profiles, it now seems unlikely that the Bill will be ready for publication before the end of January next. The reason for this is that we must ensure that we make provision in respect of the issue to which I refer. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights is being examined by the Department and the Office of the Attorney General. Publication will take place sometime after the conclusion of this examination.

Drafting on the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It has been necessary to include some additional amendments to existing firearms provisions. However, it is expected that the Bill will be submitted to the Government for approval to publish in January.

Drafting is ongoing in respect of the criminal justice (money laundering) Bill. A number of legal and technical issues have arisen and these have delayed progress on completing the Bill. It is unlikely that the Bill will be available this session.

The text of the property services (regulatory) Bill is being finalised, subject to clearance by the Attorney General on some technical and legal aspects. Drafting of the text of the sale of alcohol Bill has been delayed because the Parliamentary Counsel charged with responsibility [822]in this regard is also drafting the property services (regulatory) Bill. There are doubts that the text of the sale of alcohol Bill can be ready for publication this session. However, it should be ready for publication early in the next session.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I am seeking clarification from the Ceann Comhairle. The House may have been misinformed earlier today by the Minister for Health and Children, who stated that she laid the HSE’s national service plan before the Dáil on Wednesday last, 10 December. However, the plan is listed on today’s Order Paper and has only just become available from the Oireachtas Library. It was not available earlier this afternoon. Will the Ceann Comhairle indicate whether the Minister may have inadvertently misled the House in respect of the plan, which contains proposals for over €500 million in cuts to the health service? This is an extremely serious matter. If the plan was laid before the House on Wednesday last, it should have been available to Members before the Minister for Health and Children answered parliamentary questions in the House today.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I thank Deputy Jan O’Sullivan for highlighting the fact that the plan is now actually available to Members, which was not the case earlier today. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the Government will accommodate a debate on the contents of the service plan before the Christmas recess? Will he set aside time this week or make time available next week in order that we might discuss the €500 billion in cuts to the budget of the HSE for 2009? What is proposed will mean calamity for innocent individuals and already hard-pressed communities——

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——throughout the State?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The service plan can be debated in the House at any time after the Christmas recess. More than €14.7 billion is being allocated in respect of the provision of health services next year. Engagement involving management and unions is taking place on the question of how greater flexibility might be obtained in respect of work practices. Such flexibility would avoid the necessity of introducing the sort of front line cuts that are being suggested. If one takes the position relating to nursing home payments into account, the underlying increase in next year’s budget for the health service will be approximately €580 million. It is not correct to state that €500 million less is being provided. The increase in next year’s budget is 3.2%.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  That does not come anywhere near matching medical inflation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  If the Opposition is suggesting that we must continue to deliver health services at current levels——

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  That is not what we are saying at all.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  ——then that is at variance with the position of the stakeholders.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  We need to protect patients and front line services.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am also anxious to protect patients and to ensure that the necessary reforms, flexibilities and efficiencies in work practices will be forthcoming which will ensure that front line services are not affected to the extent indicated by the Deputies — who both assume there will be a “no change” situation.

[823]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call Deputy Bannon.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Will the Ceann Comhairle clarify——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot engage in a debate on health.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  ——why the Minister for Health and Children indicated that the service plan was laid before the House on Wednesday last?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We will be obliged to check the position with the Minister for Health and Children.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Is this not a matter for which the Ceann Comhairle has responsibility?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Yes. I will check the position with the Minister and revert to the Deputy.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  It is over two weeks since the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill, which is an urgent measure, was debated in the House. Why was the Bill not placed on the Order Paper for this week or last week? When will the Second Stage debate on the Bill be resumed?

The Government slashed funding for heritage projects throughout the country by 38% in the recent budget.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should not comment on that matter now.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Will the Taoiseach indicate when the heritage fund Bill will come before the House?

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  On the first issue to which Deputy Bannon referred, there is every possibility the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill — or, as the Minister for Health and Children refers to it, the fair deal scheme — will be challenged in the Supreme Court because it may be considered to be in conflict with our equality legislation on the basis that it is ageist. Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce a supplementary budget to ensure that people who have been put to the pin of their collars will obtain some relief——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy cannot inquire about a supplementary budget unless one has been promised. To the best of my knowledge, such a budget has not been promised.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  ——while we are awaiting the eventual enactment of the legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill is before the House and the Second Stage debate thereon will be resumed. I do not have a date for the publication of the heritage fund Bill.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  What is the position with regard to a supplementary estimate?

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  The Taoiseach referred briefly to No. 16 on the Government’s legislative programme. Will separate Bills be introduced in respect of the auctioneering profession and the regulation of property management companies? The Taoiseach stated that the legislation has almost been finalised. When will it be introduced? This matter has been the subject of some discussion for many years.

[824]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On the issue of property management companies, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment previously indicated to the House that the relevant legislation would be ready before Christmas. Given that there are only a couple of sitting days remaining in this session, will the Taoiseach provide an update in respect of the Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We are progressing with drafting the legislation. As the Deputies are aware, various Departments are involved. Deputy Terence Flanagan also referred to the auctioneering profession. I understand it is the Minister’s intention to incorporate provisions relating to that matter in the property services regulatory authority Bill.

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  So there will only be one Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Auctioneering will be dealt with in the Bill to which I refer and there will then be further legislation.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  When will the defence (amendment) Bill be ready for publication? When will the Government decide on whether the Defence Forces’ mission in Chad will be extended from April? Will it become a UNFOR or UNIFIL mission at that stage? I understand a decision in this regard must be made in the near future.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot deal with the latter issue now.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is expected that the defence (amendment) Bill will be published in the middle of next year. The Minister for Defence will advise the Government in due course as to what our position should be in respect of the Chad mission.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Will legislation relating to the imposition of spending limits in respect of next year’s local elections be introduced in the House this week?

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Such legislation will not be introduced this week.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Taoiseach was much more specific in respect of the legislation relating to estate management when he last referred to it in the House. Will he indicate whether progress has been made on the Bill in the interim? Constituents of all Members are deeply concerned at the lack of action in this area and the number of Bills mounting up. Perhaps the Taoiseach will respond at this stage to that question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Drafting in respect of various aspects of this legislation is continuing. The Deputy will be aware various Departments are involved. The priority is to get the drafting complete and having done so to make a decision as to whether it would be best to incorporate all the issues, which are interconnected, into one Bill. We must get on with the drafting in respect of the various aspects of this issue as it applies to various Departments. Once that has been done we can engage with the Attorney General in respect of whether it would be more expeditious to incorporate all the issues in an omnibus Bill or to proceed separately with the issues through the various departmental priorities.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. I wish to ask about an issue already raised, although in a slightly different context. In view of the proposals announced by the Minister for Health and Children and released to the media in advance, will the Taoiseach [825]say, if in view of the magnitude of the slash and burn cuts right across the board, the Government intends——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  This is a serious issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I accept it is a serious issue but we must move on and the issue raised by the Deputy must be in order.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Christmas is approaching; the Minister made these announcements which affect the population at large, which is hardly a Christmas box.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy must put a question.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the legislation as promised be brought before the House? The proposals announced by the Minister will have a widespread effect on the community at large.

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

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Taoiseach say if, for instance, it is intended to abolish the common cold and illness? The situation is that people will be turned away——-

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Durkan cannot, under any circumstances, make a Second Stage speech now. I call the Taoiseach. Is legislation promised in this area?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Yes, there is legislation promised.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should name the legislation and allow the Taoiseach to answer in that regard so that we can move on.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The legislation concerned is a Bill dealing with health and personal social services. Obviously, this will not be brought forward and will be abolished because there will be no services available. The health information Bill seeks to provide a legislative framework for the governance of information in the health sector. We do not even get such information in this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Durkan, please allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Other legislative proposals, including the nursing homes Bill and the legislation dealing with health insurance, which is an important matter, have had to be prioritised. Work on some of these Bills is continuing. The Minister for Health and Children has, in fairness, brought in more legislation to ensure uniform standards and eligibility rules in the aftermath of a variation of interpretations during the old health board era and must be given credit for doing so.

I do not accept the Deputy’s contention. I reiterate what I said earlier in response to other Deputies that the service plan includes €14.7 billion for the provision of health services in this country next year, a substantial amount of money. This sum is €580 million greater than that provided this year, taking into account the nursing home subvention provision. That is a substantial amount of money. It is being contended that without further work practice changes it will be difficult to maintain the type of service levels currently being provided. I believe, given the current economic situation facing this country, there is a duty on all of us to ensure we [826]agree whatever must be agreed in this respect so that we do not affect front line services and patients’ access to such services.

A contribution of €14.7 billion by taxpayers is a considerable commitment and one that warrants that type of co-operation at hospital and service level. In fairness to those who represent workers in this area, I believe that co-operation will be forthcoming because of their commitment to the provision of a health service in line with current realities.


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