Order of Business.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 675 No. 5

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The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the establishment of “Eurodac” for the comparison of fingerprints (back from committee); No. 12, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the member state responsible for examining an application for international protection (back from committee); No. 13, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System, ECRIS, (back from committee); and No. 23, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2009 — Committee and Remaining Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m; Nos. 11, 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate; and the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 23 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. tonight 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 Finance. Private Members’ business shall be No. 60, motion re banking system (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal that the Dáil will sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11, 12 and 13 without debate agreed?

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is not that I want to disagree but this proposal seeks approval by the Dáil of these three motions back from committee. Will there be an opportunity for the House at some stage to discuss these motions because they are important? I am aware they are agreed by the committee but will they be discussed in this House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The purpose of having the committee system is that issues such as these, which are quite specialised and specific, are discussed in committee. The urgency is for them to be agreed before the justice and home affairs committee meeting scheduled for the end of the month. We are looking for them to be referred back from committee for today and therefore we need to adopt them formally in plenary session.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal agreed?

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  On a point of order, it is important that when matters like this are being discussed at the committees, there should be a mechanism for notice to be given at the discussion in committee that the matter may require a plenary scrutiny. I believe that would help. I have no difficulty with these ones but we should facilitate it if the matter goes beyond what is a technical issue.

[401]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is a matter that can be considered by the Whips.

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

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Labour Party does not agree to this proposal, which is that all of the remaining Stages of the Bill dealing with the so-called pension levy in the public service should be guillotined at 10.30 p.m. tonight. There are a number of reasons we are opposing the guillotine. First, there are 51 amendments that have to be considered and there will not be sufficient time to consider them in the time that has been allowed.

Second, the Government, and the Minister for Finance in particular, has indicated on a number of occasions that there would be some tweaking of the pension levy. None of the amendments tabled by the Minister for Finance provide for any such tweaking. The amendments tabled by the Minister are purely of a technical and drafting nature. I know that many Members on the Government benches who would have been seeking to give some comfort to their constituents in the past few weeks would seek to get at least some minor changes made in the levy. That is not provided for in these amendments and if the Bill passes, as is the Government’s intention, at 10.30 p.m. tonight, any changes which would have to be made subsequently to the pension levy, that is, either changes sought by members of the Government side or changes which might be negotiated afterwards with trade unions, would have to be the subject of separate legislation brought before the House.

This proposal is providing for a situation where the passing of the legislation will make the pension levy a done deal which would then not be amenable to amendment and will be presented, presumably, by the Government as something that has been enacted by the House. In those circumstances, the Labour Party cannot agree to a guillotine of this debate at 10.30 p.m. tonight.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I, too, wish to object to the taking of this legislation by guillotining all remaining Stages by 10.30 p.m. tonight. The Bill, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill, is misnamed. It proposes to introduce a public services pension levy. It is not a levy in respect of public service pensions but a tax on public service, which is totally objectionable.

What the Taoiseach is proposing to do is further close down one of the critical areas that must be addressed if we are to see true national partnership in operation once again. The Taoiseach said earlier this morning that everything must be on the table. Everything must be on the table regarding this proposition by the Government and the devastating consequences it spells out for people in public service across all areas, from nurses to gardaí, teachers and all of the various sectors——

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——including people in service within this institution. This is completely wrong. The Government is driving legislation through the House that will spell serious outcomes for families who are already stretched beyond belief. It should be withdrawn immediately.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I object to the guillotine as a matter of principle and I will vote against it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  First, this is an urgent matter. The Bill needs to be enacted so that it can be brought into effect from 1 March. Second, we have indicated the reasoning behind it and the options that were available to Government. Third, the suggestion that all this should be with[402]drawn and held back would serve to indicate both at home and abroad that we were not prepared to make the necessary adjustments which clearly are the minimum in present circumstances that are required. Fourth, with regard to the suggestion of tweaking or whatever in regard to the levy itself, when asked that question at the time of its announcement I said we were not closing our minds to looking at things, but on the basis of the €1.4 billion being provided for within the context of the levy. No such proposal has been forthcoming in that respect.

It has also been made clear that it is not possible to deal with this issue, nor would it be possible for people to deal with this issue in isolation from the wider framework which could provide for a basis for an agreement were negotiations to be resumed or were a basis to be found upon which negotiations could be resumed, and I have already spoken on that matter earlier.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with item no. 23 be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 80; Níl, 73.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
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 Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. 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 Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary.
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 Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
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 Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. 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 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 Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward. 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 Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
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 Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
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 Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe. Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour. Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael.
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 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 Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. 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 Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe. 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 Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim. 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 Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. 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 Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
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.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I have two questions for the Taoiseach. I suggested this morning that the Taoiseach might ask the NTMA to call the banks together to put in place a strategy to deal with the current situation. That might be something he should consider in view of ongoing concerns.

In view of the fact that the HSE is attempting to cut €1 billion off its budget for this year, I give the Taoiseach notice that I have asked my party’s Whip to seek at the Whips meeting this evening that the Government provide adequate time next week for a debate on the human consequences of the scale of what is involved.

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  On the first matter, the National Treasury Management Agency has a continuing responsibility and is in constant contact with all the relevant institutions, including the Department of Finance, on these matters and the Minister of Finance is directing work in that area on an ongoing basis.

[404]The second matter is being considered by the HSE and the Minister for Health and Children. It is important to point out that over €14.7 billion is being spent on health services this year, an increase, taking account of the nursing homes repayment scheme, of €580 million compared to last year.

It is a question of seeing what way budgets can be continued with on the basis of pressures relating to a reduced health levy, higher unemployment, the higher number of medical cards that will emerge as a result of the worsening economic situation and the other issues that obviously bring pressures to bear on budgets, in addition to other matters. The full gamut of pressures that are arising must be addressed by the HSE.

  12 o’clock

Deputy Kenny speaks about the consequences, but the consequences of not maintaining budgets is another issue that we must take into account also. Considerable savings in terms of value for money were found last year, totalling €280 million, which continue into this year. In its service plan, the HSE is seeking a further €250 million. It requires co-operation and assistance from everybody in the health service to meet this challenge. I ask in that context that we see the Health Service Executive supported in trying to maintain health services within the allocations we provided, given the deteriorating financial situation in which we find ourselves.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I support Deputy Kenny’s request for a debate in the House next week on the implications of the cut in the health service budget for next year. It has already been stated that this will affect front line services. We need to debate that in the House and I hope the Government would agree to the request from the Opposition parties for a debate next week.

Several Ministers have stated in recent days that it is their wish and intention that people who have been involved in wrongdoing in the banks be identified, punished, etc. However, the Government seems to be moving very slowly on a number of items of legislation dealing with white collar crime. There was a European Union agreement in 2003 on combating corruption, particularly in the private sector, while the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008 has been moving slowly through the House — it is on Committee Stage. What is the Government’s intention regarding progressing that Bill?

The 2005 money laundering directive, which was agreed by the European Union, has not yet been transposed into Irish law. I understand it is now the subject of an approach by the Commission to the European courts because of the Government’s failure to bring in the legislation to give effect to it. When will that legislation be introduced?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand that legislation on the money laundering directive is due during the course of the next session and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008 has been referred to committee for further discussion and progression.

On the issues under investigation, the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004, which amended previous Acts of 1942 and subsequently, and the companies legislation, comprehensively set out those areas for which there would be legal sanction in the event of that being deemed appropriate by the independent investigative authorities, which are proceeding with that process.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I wish to ask about the legislation to amend the NORA Act 2007 to provide for the establishment of a national bio-fuels obligation scheme and also to provide for amendments to the Act in light of the developments to facilitate NORA’s ongoing [405]activities. This relates to the energy area. I saw the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources there a few moments ago, but he must have disappeared again.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That does not matter.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Taoiseach inform the House if it is possible to introduce the Bill as a matter of urgency in order that we can discuss high fuel prices? Prices at the pumps and for home heating oil are still almost as high as when oil was more than $100 a barrel, even though it now costs $38 per barrel.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The legislation will be introduced later this year.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Always later.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Will the Taoiseach tell the House if the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has brought the file on the European Union habitats directive on the 32 raised bogs to the Cabinet? We sincerely hope it will not lead to thousands of turf cutters being driven off the bogs of Ireland. Has a decision been made? The Taoiseach represents a constituency with a large number of bogs, as I do, which perhaps qualifies us as two bog men.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We do not want to get bogged down in the matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The then Minister, Síle de Valera, successfully obtained a derogation of ten years when the directive was announced.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I am talking about the current position.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am just about to bring it to the Deputy’s attention; I was giving some background information because there are others who are not as acquainted with the habitats directive as the Deputy and me. Correspondence has been forwarded to Deputies in the House who have raised the matter by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, stating the Department, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is considering the appropriate legislative and procedural response to a judgment of the European Court of Justice on the implementation of the directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment with respect to certain classes of agricultural development. There are no proposals to bring forward further legislation regarding the designation of bogs and the banning of turf cutting on them.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Can we cut turf this year or not?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It depends on the weather. We will see how it looks in the morning.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  They can use the sleán but not the sausage machine.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  A day is a long time in politics. Yesterday on the Order of Business I sought to raise the need to address the HSE’s signalled €1 billion in cuts in health spending in the current year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy cannot raise it now.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The Ceann Comhairle threatened me with the door then but he had no such difficulty with Fine Gael and the Labour Party making the point on the Order of Business this morning.

[406]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It does not matter who made it.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  We would all appreciate fair play.

In the context of the signalled further contraction of funding for the provision of health delivery systems in the State, when is it intended to bring forward the long awaited eligibility for health and personal services Bill? There has been no explanation from the Department or the Taoiseach for its continued deferral.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The heads of the Bill are being worked on but there is no date for its introduction. A lot of health legislation has been introduced in the House, apart from this Bill.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I listened to the Tánaiste this morning speaking about the desire for light regulation in recent years whereas now we are looking for enforced regulation. She was perhaps inadvertently referring exclusively to financial regulation. The matter about which many complain is the incomprehensibility of labour law legislation on the Statute Book. The Government promised to bring forward a consolidation Bill to remove the inherent contradictions in labour law. What progress has been made with that Bill?

A factor in the defeat of the first Lisbon treaty referendum was the perception that there had been an erosion of workers’ rights, particularly the right to negotiate through a trade union. This was not imposed from Brussels, but it is a matter of domestic concern following a court judgment. We have six months before the probable date of a referendum; therefore, the Government cannot blame anyone but itself if it cannot clear up this mess. When will we see the legislation arising from these judgments and when will it be enacted? Can I receive an assurance that if it is not done before Easter, it will certainly be done before June?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is what the Tánaiste would like to achieve in terms of the legislative timeframe she has in mind for the legislation. I am not aware of the stage the purported consolidation of labour law Bill has reached.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If the Taoiseach checks his files, he will see it was one of the many promises made by his predecessor.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It was probably made before him also.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  On the temporary agency workers directive from Brussels that the Government opposed for many years, now that it has gone through and we must implement it within three years, will the Taoiseach and Tánaiste ensure it is brought forward in order that it will be in place before the referendum?

The Taoiseach mentioned assisting people who cut turf on bogs. Ireland is the only country in the European Union that has put in place a total ban on eel fishing.

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

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is a slippery subject.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  This was done out of the blue and without consultation. Will the issue be reopened because the European Union is imposing a total ban? It should be discussed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into that matter; it must be dealt with by another method. The Taoiseach can answer on the first issue. The Deputy knows the second is not in order and that he must find another way to raise it.

[407]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It would not be realistic to expect legislation on the first issue to be enacted before the referendum. A consultation process with the social partners is necessary. We have a voluntary industrial relations policy in the State and trying to secure agreement between the partners on the issue would be an important consideration.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  The second issue also involves legislation because it deals with a directive of the European Union that will put in place a total ban on eel fishing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is legislation promised as a result of the directive?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  No legislation is promised.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  There must be at least a statutory instrument to implement the directive.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Taoiseach has just said there is not. Is secondary legislation promised?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Not to my knowledge but the Deputy can table a question to the Minister concerned.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  How can the Government ban something if we are not going to discuss the legislation to ban it here?

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

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  A Member is entitled to ask about secondary legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  A Member is but the problem is that the Taoiseach has said he is not aware of any legislation promised.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  If the Taoiseach does not know the answer today, he can answer tomorrow.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  He can; that is what the Standing Order states, but the Taoiseach says he has no knowledge of it.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Is there no legislation or is the Taoiseach unaware of any legislation on the issue?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I do not have the detail on the eel fisheries. I will come back to the Deputy.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That is better than saying the Deputy should table a question.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I welcome the indication from the Government that we may be given time to discuss service cutbacks promised by the HSE because of the cutback in its budget. I tried to raise the issue with Deputy Ó Caoláin yesterday.

The House established the Health Information and Quality Authority with support from all sides. It is now drawing up standards for homes for the elderly and people with disabilities. These standards are not yet ready but already the HSE is using them to close homes for the elderly around the country and people with disabilities in the Dublin area. In counties Carlow, Waterford, Wicklow, Cork and other areas elderly people are being put out of their homes because these standards are coming down the line.

[408]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should put a question on legislation.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Does the Government stand over the fact that the HSE, instead of upgrading these facilities, is using the forthcoming standards literally in order to put elderly people and people with disabilities out of their homes?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy knows very well that we cannot go into that now. It is not on.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  There is opposition to this right across the political spectrum.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  If the Deputy has a question on legislation she should ask it or otherwise raise the matter in another way.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I am asking about the secondary legislation to establish these standards.

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

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Does the Taoiseach support the fact that these standards are being established to close homes?

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will have to come back to the Deputy on this matter. I do not have any detailed knowledge of whether there is legislation involved in this issue.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  There are standards on secondary legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There were standards sought in this House for the purpose of ensuring that we had adequate provision for people who are held under care or supervision. We have to apply those, obviously.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Which is right, but they are being used to close homes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We apply those standards in a pragmatic way but I also acknowledge that they were brought in for a purpose, to try to ensure that basic conditions were adequate.

The Deputy raised another matter relating to the health services. The fact is that an allocation of €14.7 billion has been made for a service plan that was adopted.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  I bet the Taoiseach wishes he was back in Angola now.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There are issues arising in relation to the deteriorating economic situation and its effect on funding the health service, including these health levies and the increased cost of providing medical cards and drugs in demand-led schemes. This has to be managed. Is it the contention of the Labour Party spokesperson that all health services should simply be demand-led and that we should just proceed and pay whatever it is?

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  No, I did not say that. I said I wanted a debate on it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  She also said she wanted a debate on it because she wants to complain about the fact that it is their job statutorily, under the law——

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I did not use those words.

[409]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  ——and agreed unanimously by everybody in this House at the time, that the service plan provision was the best way in which we could try to build year-on-year a health service that was sustainable in terms of its budgets. Every time an issue arises, however, people wish to oppose that which is the fundamental basis of the legislation that was introduced in the first place.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  As public representatives we have a duty to protect public services.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am not having a debate on that now. I call Deputy Bannon.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  No one is suggesting otherwise but we are also saying that we cannot have it every way.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The Taoiseach cannot have it every way.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a debate on that now. There are several ways of raising that matter.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  In so far as any assurances can be believed by this Government, the legislative programme assures us that the qualifications, education and training Bill will be published in 2010. In light of the growing unrest in the third level sector, can the Bill be brought forward and published this year?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That will be next year.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Everything is next year.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Mañana.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Three weeks ago the Taoiseach and his Minister promised an energy price review as a priority measure in Government. Last week, I tried to ask the Tánaiste about the status of that review and whether there was to be regulation or secondary legislation on that. The Irish regulator must be the only one in Europe who is keeping prices artificially high.

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

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  If the Ceann Comhairle will let me finish, both the ESB and Bord Gáis are seeking to reduce their prices but are not being allowed to do it, by regulation. There is a problem because we have a Minister who seems to think there is an advantage in keeping prices artificially high. I believe the Government genuinely wants to try to reduce domestic and industrial energy prices. Will the Taoiseach please ensure that the energy price review happens quickly? We could make a decision tomorrow that would allow the ESB to compete aggressively with Bord Gáis in the electricity sector, as well as Bord Gáis doing the same in the gas sector.

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The call to regulate this sector was practically uniform in the past.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The past is a different country.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am aware of that but maybe if I get to the second sentence I will be able to follow the Deputy’s thought patterns.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Can we follow the Taoiseach’s?

[410]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The competitiveness issue is an important one. We have indicated to the regulator the need to conduct a review, which is taking place with all parties in this sector with a view to seeing in what way we can ensure that energy prices will be more competitive than is currently the case, vis-à-vis those with whom we are trading. That must be done in the context of the existing regulatory framework. It is being conducted as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The question was when it will be completed. Perhaps the Taoiseach can answer that. I have questions on two pieces of legislation. Yesterday, I asked the Taoiseach not to proceed with the Broadcasting Bill. He suggested that I should table an amendment which, with all due respect to the Taoiseach, is not an adequate response to what is needed, particularly in the current economic situation. In light of the communications (regulation) Bill, will the Taoiseach ensure that we do not establish another quango, but that we will have one regulator for the telecommunications and broadcasting sector?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into that now. The Deputy should ask a question.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  That is one question. The other question concerns postal services. This morning the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources had a meeting with An Post. The EU directive that requires liberalisation of the market has serious implications for such services, particularly in rural Ireland. It would clearly require legislation, which is long overdue. I do not think we have had proper postal legislation since independence. Are we to have legislation on our postal services that meets the needs of the 21st century?

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I do not believe any of that has been promised as yet, as far as I am aware. As regards the other matter, before the second piece of communications legislation comes before the House for consideration, there will be many opportunities for the Deputy to bring her views to the Minister’s attention through parliamentary questions and otherwise.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  In the meantime, we squander money.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What progress, if any, has been made to bring forward legislation on management companies? The situation is deteriorating rapidly. There are apartment blocks where only three or four apartments have been sold.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into that now at 12.30 p.m.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The management company situation is in complete chaos. These tenants are young people and the situation is also stopping people buying apartments.

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

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Does the Taoiseach have any idea when this legislation is coming in? Will the Taoiseach clarify the amending Bill for the national pension reserve fund and the €7 billion for Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland? Is that legislation being published today and when does he expect it to come before the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We expect that legislation to be published at the end of the week. The other legislation the Deputy asked about is being drafted and should be brought forward in the next session.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call Deputy Creed, finally.

[411]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I am sorry but I am not sure what the Taoiseach just said.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Taoiseach has answered the question.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Did he say that the legislation on management companies is to be brought forward to the next session?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Bill is currently being drafted and will probably be brought forward in the next session.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Finally, I call Deputy Creed.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  If the Taoiseach wants to revive the housing market, he should get his people to do something.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Last but not least, the legislation before the House today provides a legal framework for the State unilaterally to tear up a contract with farmers under the farm waste management scheme. In a reply to a parliamentary question yesterday, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food confirmed that 40% of the moneys would be paid in 2009. My question to the Taoiseach is in respect of the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which provides only €125 million for farm waste management.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is not relevant.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I will ask a question that is relevant to the Order of Business. The Estimate provides for only €125 million under farm waste management. It requires in the region of €230 million to facilitate a payment of 40%. I think the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would confirm that that figure is about correct. Will there be a Supplementary Estimate to deal with this matter in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It will be dealt with in the Revised Estimates volume.


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