Thursday, 12 February 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 9b, motion re planned recapitalisation of Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 9b shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; the speech of each other member called upon shall not exceed 10 minutes in each case; Members may share time; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 15 minutes.
Deputy Enda Kenny: His absence is noted. This morning I listened to the Minister for Finance, who speaks with his usual authority. Other authorities said the airwaves were buzzing with negativity yesterday, not because of the reaction to the Government’s decision, but as a reaction to the Government’s incompetence in handling this.
I object to the Government’s proposal. This was originally to be statements. After pressure from this side of the House and others it was changed to a motion. We are expected to come in here today and have statements for ten minutes and a response from some Minister of State for 15 minutes at the end. A number of very serious questions need to be answered. The first is whether the Government has confidence in the management of Irish Life & Permanent, which appears to have colluded with Anglo Irish Bank to the deception of shareholders and given misleading information on deposit strength. This is a very serious matter given that it is a covered institution guaranteed by the Irish State. Does the Government have confidence in the management of Irish Life & Permanent as a covered institution?
The announcement by the Minister for Finance that he had not read the section of the report on Anglo Irish Bank is a black mark against him and the fact that the Financial Regulator was forced to resign because he knew about the loans from Anglo Irish Bank should lead the Minister to step down from his position as a patriotic gesture. However, the Fianna Fáil members do not do that. They do not read their brief and the recommendations, and they will continue on with business as usual.
The Minister for Finance chaired the Cabinet meeting that dealt with the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank. I do not want to know any Cabinet secrets and the Minister is not free to divulge them. However, in the preparation for that meeting the normal procedure is for Cabinet members to receive a memo on the major decisions to be made. These are circulated electronically. Did the Department of Finance prepare a memo on the nationalisation question and did it include the information on the extent of the loans to Anglo Irish Bank from Irish Life & Permanent and how the money was moving?
Deputy Enda Kenny: To comply with the Ceann Comhairle’s patience, I propose that instead of No. 4, that the Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement for 15 minutes, we should have 90 minutes of questions and answers at the end of these statements. This way Members from all sides of the House can have the Minister for Finance, the Tánaiste and preferably the Taoiseach, who did not read this report either, appear before the House and answer questions that are fundamental to the financial security of our State, given our fragile position. If the Government does not have confidence in Irish Life & Permanent, whether or not any other regulatory authority was involved, it is a matter of the utmost State importance.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I join Deputy Kenny in objecting to the arrangements the Government proposes for this debate. There should be an opportunity for questions to the Minister and answers from him on this issue before the debate is concluded. This debate should not conclude today. At the very least it should continue tomorrow. An opportunity should be given to every Member of this House who wants to contribute to this debate to do so. The arrangements proposed will allow for two speakers from the Labour Party in addition to our spokesperson to contribute to this debate.
The Taoiseach should be here, Thursday or not. This is a very different Thursday because of what is before us. This sum of €7 billion is the single biggest expenditure of public money this House has ever been asked to consider. It is four times what the two banks concerned together were worth at the close of business yesterday evening. It is five times the amount of money the Government wants to raise in the proposed pension levy. It is 1,000 times the amount it would take to keep teaching assistants in classrooms for children with special needs, who are being deprived of that.
The debate comes a day after two of the most shocking disclosures we have heard here in a long time, namely, the fraudulent transactions which have been going on in Anglo Irish Bank and the admission by the Minister for Finance that he did not read the relevant part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report that referred to those matters. For those reasons the Labour Party will not agree to the unacceptable arrangements proposed. I ask the Tánaiste to agree to Deputy Kenny’s suggestion that questions and answers be allowed for and that this debate be continued into tomorrow to allow reasonable opportunity for every Member to contribute.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Yesterday we had an opportunity to engage with the Minister and we were in a position to ask specific questions through the facilitation of a Private Notice Question. Already this morning further questions arise following a raft of different pieces of information that have appeared in the national press today. These include the claim by Irish Life & Permanent that it advised the Financial Regulator within days of its participation in a €7 billion merry-go-round with Anglo Irish Bank last September and the transactions involved. This is a very serious indication of the extent of the awareness of the Office of the Financial Regulator. That information was not shared with us yesterday. We need an opportunity to question the Minister again and he should be willing to accept the opportunity for an additional question and answer session to the proposal placed before us.
There are very serious questions to be asked. When did the Financial Regulator become aware? What actions did the Financial Regulator take? All these matters have to be addressed and in a very serious way. We cannot park the enormity of this issue on the back of yesterday’s limited opportunity or today’s statements. This merits serious investigation. It is not only about Anglo Irish Bank, although that is very much at centre stage. There are other major players among the financial institutions whose activities and complicit actions make them equally subject to proper scrutiny. That must be done in this House to the best of our ability. Along with the other speakers I urge that the Order Paper be amended to accommodate the extension of time to give true opportunity to Members to participate and to question, once more, the Minister and the Taoiseach, if possible, on these very important matters.
The Tánaiste: I agree with Deputy Kenny that this is a very serious matter. The motion refers specifically to Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks. It is not an expenditure but an investment with an 8% return.
The Tánaiste: ——and it would be inappropriate to make any further comment arising from that. As everyone in the House knows, a legislative measure will be introduced next week to facilitate this. Further debate can take place in the context of those deliberations, which will take place after the Bill has been printed and circulated.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Andrews, Chris.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Carey, Pat.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Cullen, Martin.||Curran, John.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||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.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Mansergh, Martin.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M.J.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Brien, Darragh.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Keeffe, Edward.||O’Rourke, Mary.|
|O’Sullivan, Christy.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Ryan, Eamon.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Behan, Joe.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Coonan, Noel J.||Costello, Joe.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Creed, Michael.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Doyle, Andrew.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McHugh, Joe.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Morgan, Arthur.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Perry, John.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Reilly, James.|
|Ring, Michael.||Shatter, Alan.|
|Sheahan, Tom.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: The vote has been taken. It appears the Government either does not wish or is afraid to facilitate a question and answer session in the House today. I cannot change that decision but it is regrettable that when €7,000 million of public money is being pumped into the banks in a recapitalisation programme we cannot get answers to questions. The Tánaiste made a comment earlier about Irish Life & Permanent and its management.
An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, because the debate will be held immediately after the Order of Business. The Government has put down a motion and amendments to that motion have been put down by the Opposition parties. The matter can be discussed then. That is perfectly logical.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I have a question for the Tánaiste about legislation to which she referred. She said a legislative measure will be brought before the House. In light of the legislation to be produced, will the Tánaiste confirm this morning that the Government has confidence in the management of Irish Life & Permanent? Can she confirm, also in light of that legislation, that there was no involvement of any other regulatory authority in the collusion of Irish Life & Permanent with Anglo Irish Bank——
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Kenny, democracy is a participatory process carried out under the rules of the House and I must ask you to obey them. I cannot chair the proceedings if they are going to continue like this.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I recall you, a Cheann Comhairle, in your younger years when you sat in the vacant seat between the seats now occupied by Deputy Creed and Deputy Hogan on this side of the House. You became quite apoplectic about matters of much less importance than €7,000 million in taxpayers’ money——
Deputy Enda Kenny: ——and questions of the most serious gravity that must be asked about covered institutions with State guarantees. The public wants to know what we are investigating and the extent of liabilities that will accrue.
Deputy Enda Kenny: In light of the statement to be made by the Minister for Finance to deal with the legislation he will introduce, will he give all the information to the House this morning, and I mean all the information available to the Government?
The Tánaiste: The legislation I referred to is to facilitate the recapitalisation of the Bank of Ireland and AIB. It is the National Pensions Reserve Fund (Amendment) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 and it is being drafted at present. It is expected to be finalised by the Government next Tuesday and printed thereafter.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: That is the legislation about which I wished to put questions to the Tánaiste. She will recall that when I asked her about this previously, she informed me that the legislation would have to be enacted before the recapitalisation of the banks. What is the status of the Government’s announcement last night? Does it follow from what she said that the National Pensions Reserve Fund (Amendment) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill must be enacted by the House before the capitalisation can take effect?
The Tánaiste: It will be printed on Tuesday. The Whips will decide next week or the week after when the legislation will be discussed in the House. After it has been passed the matter can be facilitated. We must pass the legislation to recapitalise the banks. We can make an announcement on how we will recapitalise the banks and the methodology of that but the legislation must be passed to allow the money to be made available.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: When will the Government afford the House an opportunity to hear the Minister for Education and Science discuss his decision to cut funding to special needs children? Will that be afforded today or next week? Preferably, the Minister will announce a decision to withdraw his proposal——
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Is there a need for present legislation governing the procurement of public contracts to be amended? I ask this on the basis that earlier this week the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, sent the issue of the e-voting machines to an bord snip. The replies to parliamentary questions I asked show that the State is engaged with contracts of 15 to 25 years duration on these matters, and indicate the State will be paying money for the next 20 years.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Yes. Given that the State has committed for the next 25 years to pay for the storage of these machines, will the State have to amend the procurement legislation in order to get out this?
Deputy Joe Costello: I ask the Tánaiste about the commitment the Minister for Finance made in the House to me yesterday, that he would endeavour to have the PricewaterhouseCoopers report placed in the Library as quickly as possible? Can we be assured that the report will be in the Library before the legislation on the recapitalisation is brought forward?
Deputy Joe Costello: Could I clarify it for the Tánaiste? I asked that the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which was a report into six banks including Anglo Irish Bank, would be laid in the Library for us to peruse. It was the intention that it would cover all of the banks and the Minister seemed to indicate that he was prepared to do that.
The Tánaiste: The Minister indicated that he would examine whether that would be possible regarding the Anglo Irish Bank part. He did not make a commitment on the rest of the report, which is commercially sensitive.
Deputy Joe Costello: Could I get clarification on that? We will have a debate on the legislation to recapitalise the banks. That is coming up. Can we get a commitment from the Minister that the report will be in the Library before that debate takes place?
The Tánaiste: A Cheann Comhairle, as you know, one cannot give a commitment until one examines whether one legally can do such a thing. Therefore, I am not giving a commitment to the Opposition on this matter.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Minister said last night, without any doubt at all, he would take out the sensitive parts of the report and place it in the Library. He said he would, not that he may, he might or he would give consideration to the matter.
Deputy Denis Naughten: On promised legislation, and regarding an issue I raised with the Tánaiste before Christmas, I refer to the reports regarding the 70 year old woman who had a child via IVF for the first time. At that time I asked when we would see the human tissue Bill published and when we would see legislation to regulate IVF treatment in this country. Under the law as it stands at present, the situation that arose in India would be equally legal in this country. When will we see legislation, for once and for all, to regulate this sector?
Deputy James Reilly: I wish to raise two separate pieces of legislation. First, under the covert surveillance Bill, is there any intention to send in the snoops — the fraud squad — to check the banks out given what has been going on? Might I suggest to the Tánaiste that she suggest to the Minister for Finance that he take a leaf from the book of his predecessor, Albert Reynolds——
Deputy James Reilly: On the second piece of legislation which I want to ask about, this morning 1,200 jobs went in north Dublin. This headline, that the jobless total had doubled in north Dublin, was written before that happened.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Broughan must now leave the House. Is Deputy Broughan going to leave the House? He must leave the House, because the Chair is on his feet and I have asked him several times.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Ceann Comhairle will be glad to know I am not going to raise the issue of crime this morning. There is so much of it about that I have nearly given up on it, and criminal negligence as well.
I want to raise two issues. One concerns the habitual residency clause that is now being applied by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which is causing severe hardship to the sons and daughters of Irish parents and grandparents who do not qualify for a social welfare payment in the present climate——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The rules now being applied by the Department of Social and Family Affairs are not in accordance with EU law at all and are severely prejudicial to the entitlements of Irish people in this country. The Tánaiste is fully aware of this. The only possible way to discuss this is under the Bill to provide for the introduction of new means-tested payments for lone parents and families on low incomes. When will that be brought before the House, and will it be possible to introduce some other measure such as a consolidated Bill, that might deal with the issue I have raised?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It never was possible. Could the Tánaiste please comment on the other matter, which is very pertinent in the present climate? I asked about it before. In view of the undertaking to the House by the Minister for Finance that he wished to see this county revert to traditional banking and lending practices and criteria, will the Tánaiste indicate when it is likely to be introduced? Do recent——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It is called legislation to consolidate and modernise financial services legislation, in accordance with the Government’s better regulation agenda. What more appropriate subject could we have at this particular time?
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: In the run-up to the last election, the Green Party made enormous play on the issue of education. I want to call on the only Green Party Minister present to for God’s sake find his backbone and tell the Government it cannot withdraw the services of support teachers for defenceless children.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: I am pleading with the Minister, if he does nothing else, he should tell the Government that this is a step too far. For God’s sake, do not let them walk over the Green Party entirely.
Deputy Paul Connaughton: Will the Tánaiste indicate if legislation is required to overcome the greatest breach of contract between the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the farmers of Ireland?
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Might I ask about the foreshore legislation on the Government list to change functions and amend the Acts, 1933 to 2005? I believe there is also to be related legislation on port development, in so far as a number of ports have submitted plans that involve reclamation. Will legislation be introduced in this session or during this year, and in the meantime will foreshore application licences be granted under existing legislation, or are port development authorities expected to wait until the new legislation is in place? This is a very practical question.
Deputy David Stanton: Members are frustrated that the Government has deferred any possibility of Dáil reform into the autumn, if ever, despite the need for it here every morning. I have two questions.
With regard to the decision of the Minster for Education and Science to get rid of special needs classes, will that require a ministerial order under secondary legislation, and what are the plans for that?
My other question is concerned with those who have intellectual disabilities, in nursing homes and such places, and for whom we made arrangements here that moneys would be repaid to them under the nursing homes scheme. There were major problems with that, however, and many of those people have not been able to access this finance. In this regard, it is possible the mental capacity Bill will help such people. It is impossible to get answers in any other way. These are very vulnerable people who cannot get the money that was taken from them illegally.
The Tánaiste: There are two items of legislation dealing with mental health. The mental capacity Bill, which comes under the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will be published later this year.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: A report has been published by the OECD on what Ireland needs to do in terms of establishing training schemes for people who are unemployed. Could the Tánaiste organise a debate around that report because in her role as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, it is important that we hear what she is planning to do for the unemployed. I am of the same generation as the Tánaiste, and when I was unemployed in the early 1990s, I was able to avail of social employment schemes that were set up by Deputy Ruairí Quinn when he occupied the office now held by the Tánaiste. There is nothing like that in evidence for people now.
Deputy Shane McEntee: As regards the eligibility for health and social services Bill, there are 600 patients discharged by doctors and still lying in hospitals due to the fact that there are no outsource places for them. This is a waste to the taxpayer of €2.5 million a week.
Deputy Shane McEntee: When will legislation be introduced to deal with this? I have in mind one person in particular, concerning whom I have sent a letter to the Minister for Health and Children. He is a man who had been discharged from hospital ten months ago, but was only let out the other day. In the meantime, he fell within the hospital.
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