Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 9a, motion re Northern Ireland; and No. 3, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members’ business which shall be No. 49, motion re unemployment (resumed), which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 3, whichever is the later; (2) the proceedings in relation to No. 9a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 55 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to the Taoiseach and to the leaders of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin, or a Member nominated in his stead, who may share their time, which shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; (3) the proceedings on the Second Stage of No. 3 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9a, motion re Northern Ireland, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, agreed to?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: While we appreciate the urgency of getting this measure through the House, it should be put on record that the gestation period for the proposal within Government and within the Minister’s Department took an extremely long time. It is not a complex Bill but because it came so late to the House there is now a requirement for a guillotine, which is not entirely satisfactory.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I thank the Taoiseach for clarifying that the second budget will be on 7 April. Has the Government decided the extent of the budget debate? Will it be a two or three-day debate that week? Has consideration been given to the necessity to introduce a Finance Bill? When might that be published and dealt with in the House following the budget on 7 April?
Deputy Enda Kenny: It is. Last year, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduced legislation dealing with vehicle registration tax, VRT, changing it from engine capacity to emissions. That has destroyed the sector for pre-July 2008 second-hand vehicles, where sales have fallen by 75%. The Government has not collected at least €100 million in unpaid VRT due to the way this legislation has been enforced and the number of vehicles coming in from Britain or Northern Ireland.
The Taoiseach: I will answer the Deputy’s earlier question. To have the budget on 7 April will facilitate a debate during that week and it will be reverted to subsequently on our return. As regards the question of whether financial resolutions are required, they will be passed in the normal way if that is necessary. The question of a Finance Bill can be dealt with on our return in the normal way.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I want to raise three matters. The Taoiseach will recall that for some time the Labour Party has been seeking the appointment of an inspector to examine what went on in the banking system and particularly in Anglo Irish Bank. The Government rejected that request and said the Director of Corporate Enforcement would carry out the necessary investigations. As the Taoiseach is aware, the Director of Corporate Enforcement has requested legislation to strengthen his powers. When I asked about this last week the Minister for Finance, who was taking the Order of Business, suggested that while the Government was considering it, it did not seem to be an urgent consideration. Has the Government considered that request from the Director of Corporate Enforcement? If so, when will the necessary amending legislation be brought before the House?
I also want to ask about reports of an arrangement which appears to have been made between UCD and Trinity College with regard to the distribution of funding for the programme for research in third-level institutions. It is causing considerable anxiety to the other university institutions. I would like to know if the Minister for Education and Science will take an opportunity to attend the House to clarify that matter.
On Friday evening last, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, told his party conference that he had succeeded in getting a reversal of the decision to cut back the Equality Authority’s funding.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: This reversal has been denied in public by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Will the Taoiseach inform the House whether the decision to cut back the Equality Authority’s funding will go ahead?
The Taoiseach: Regarding the first matter raised, the Minister for Finance will take up any requirements that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement will have for any of its legislative responsibilities and take them forward as quickly as possible. The Director of Corporate Enforcement has the right to apply to the House for the appointment of an inspector, if he feels it is necessary. That is an ongoing matter in investigations.
The Government has been briefed on the UCD-TCD innovation alliance and the initiative will be launched today. The Irish Universities Association was fully briefed on the proposal last night. I am confident that in the interests of the entire university sector the association will welcome today’s announcement of greater co-operation between the two universities. It would be inappropriate to comment on the details of the plan in advance of today’s announcement.
The Government welcomes any proposals which will help Ireland improve its performance and international standing in research innovation and make positive contributions to economic renewal. New ideas such as this should not be seen as threat to anyone. It is an example of new thinking which is to be welcomed and should encourage others to think outside the box. The Minister for Education and Science has made clear that funding under the PRTLI-5 programme will continue to be allocated through the current process of competitive assessment of proposals.
Given the current difficult economic circumstances, it is time for everyone to pull together. I am confident the university sector will welcome co-operation between our two largest universities. Stronger alliances make the sector stronger from an internal point of view also. The third and further level sectors must be thinking of ways that they can make a greater contribution to economic recovery. I look forward to further collaboration emerging in the future.
Deputy Tom Sheahan: Is there promised legislation on the Equality Authority’s funding? If not, I suggest there should be to get some clarity in the Cabinet with what is happening with the authority’s funding. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, claimed the authority’s funding would be untouched and its decentralisation programme would cease.
Deputy Denis Naughten: When will the animal health and welfare Bill be published? When will the secondary legislation regarding the crazy proposal to electronically tag young lambs from 1 January 2010 be presented to the House? Will there be an opportunity to debate this lunacy? When will the sale of alcohol Bill be published? Has the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform got EU approval for the associated secondary legislation of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 regarding the ban on below-cost selling? When will that legislation be brought before the House?
The Taoiseach: We are waiting for the below-cost selling proposal to come back from the European Commission which is still examining it. The sale of alcohol Bill will be published in the middle of this year. No date has been set for the animal welfare Bill.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The legislative programme for this term is not going according to plan. Understandably, much parliamentary time has been taken up with economic matters. There will be pre-budget statements and the budget itself coming up but no sitting next week.
Regarding legislation from the Department of Health and Children, the Adoption Bill is to come to this House from the Seanad and the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has been published. We would have expected to make progress on these two Bills this session but now it looks as if we will not. What are the revised plans regarding these two Bills?
The Taoiseach: The Adoption Bill is being taken in the Seanad today. We will have to await its consideration of the Bill. We are waiting to accommodate the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will be taken when there is time. The Whips can indicate when it will be possible to take it.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Ar an Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill, given that many Gaeltacht areas are disadvantaged and come under the programmes operated under CLÁR, will the Taoiseach confirm if the Department of Finance is reviewing RAPID and CLÁR programme commitments?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Is there a review of health centre and other related developments under the aegis of the Health Service Executive? Is there a review under way to have certain commitments in these areas overturned?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: A Cheann Comhairle, there are many owner-driver taximen hurting. There ought to be a moratorium on the issuing of new licences for a while. It has gone from one extreme to the other.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Regarding the banking crisis, I am sure the Taoiseach will accept great damage has been inflicted on this country’s international reputation in banking matters. Why, therefore, is there such a delay in transposing and implementing the third EU directive on money laundering? Ireland is one of the last EU member states to bring forward domestic legislation in this area. It has been long since promised and is on the pink sheet for this session but there is still no sign of it. Will the Taoiseach use his influence with his colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to expedite this long overdue legislation?
Deputy Joe Carey: Under the criminal justice (amendment) Bill, will the Taoiseach clarify the position on the new child detention facility in Lusk, County Dublin? Given financial circumstances, will the new facility go ahead or will it be parked like the Thornton Hall proposal?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: I have raised the matter of management companies on numerous previous occasions. Many such companies are going broke and there is no one to whom people can pay their money. This means that properties cannot be sold because there is a lien on them. As a result, difficulties have arisen. Which Minister has been charged with introducing the promised legislation on this matter? Is it possible that the legislation might be published between Easter and the summer recess? Will the Taoiseach indicate whether there might be light at the end of the tunnel on this matter?
The Taoiseach: I assure Deputy Stagg that I look forward to the publication of the Bill as much as he does. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is co-ordinating efforts to draw up the legislation. This is not a simple matter to deal with, but I would like the legislation to be published as soon as possible. The Cabinet discusses the matter every week but I cannot be any more specific with regard to a publication date.
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