Order of Business.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 678 No. 4

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It is proposed to take No. 8a, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Regulation and for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a procedure for the negotiation and conclusion of bilateral agreements between member states and third countries; No. 8b, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision concerning the signing of the agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway and for a Council Framework Decision on the application, between member states of the European Union, of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention; No. 1, the Industrial Development Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 13, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 8a and 8b shall be decided without debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is one proposal to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8a and 8b without debate agreed to?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  These are reasonably complex measures that the Minister is requiring us to refer to committee on Wednesday next and return to the House the following day. The Government is in possession of some of these tor three months. If we take, for example, the first one, the note says that the three-month period in respect of these proposals will expire on 12 April. Therefore, the Minister has been sitting on it for three months, yet now seeks to have it referred to committee next Wednesday and expects it back in the House the following day. This is part of a pattern in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and is not acceptable. It is not the way we should treat instruments such as this which have to be approved by the House.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Minister has advised that this is a matter of negotiation over three months and the views of the Oireachtas will be enormously important.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The negotiations took place more than three months ago.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am sorry, if it is a matter of timing in terms of the committee not having sufficient time on Wednesday, I am sure the committee Chairman can facilitate further discussion and analysis if needs be.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I wish to raise a point of order, Ceann Comhairle. The Tánaiste has misled the House about the content of the matter we have just dealt with in so far as she believes the committee could value our opinion in this regard. It is not a question of our opinion but rather the fact that this House has to pass it.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is the law.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That is the law, so what she has said is wrong.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A point of order, Ceann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does Deputy Rabbitte have a point of order, because the last contribution was not a point of order?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is not correct for the Tánaiste to put on the record of the House that this has been discussed for three months. It was concluded three months ago and is only being brought to the House, now. That is my point, so she is entirely wrong.

[883]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not a point of order, either. I call Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  There is a well-paid Minister who should be looking after this.

Question, that the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8a and 8b, without debate, be agreed to,” put and declared carried.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I should like to ask the Tánaiste a number of questions on the Order of Business. Will she say why the Defamation Bill has been lodged for ten months with the committee dealing with justice and related matters? The Bill was the result of agreement between the previous Taoiseach and the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and was initiated in the Seanad. It was passed by the Seanad and was introduced in the Dáil by the Minister’s predecessor. It passed Second Stage and has been in the committee without movement for the last ten months. Deputy Charles Flanagan raised this matter yesterday and I stress its importance because we do not want to see it being let drift again, when the Press Council report comes out next week. There is concern it might unravel completely and that there is now no cover for the publication of judgments given by the Press Council.

If she can, will the Tánaiste indicate that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will urge the Chairman of the committee to deal expeditiously with Committee Stage of the Defamation Bill? I hope it might be concluded by the summer. The agreement worked out in good faith should be followed through in good faith. For its part, the newspaper industry has abided by its end of the bargain but the Government has not yet followed through. Will the Tánaiste respond to that?

The national broadcaster receives the proceeds of the television licence fee. I understand a grovelling, unreserved apology was issued for a piece of political satire——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not in order now. The Deputy asked about the Defamation Bill.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——as a consequence of the Government press secretary contacting RTE.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I cannot go into that business. The Deputy is completely out of order. He will have to find another way to raise that.

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  It is a matter of public importance.

A Deputy:  It may require a change in legislation.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The subject of it is well aware of what happens in political life in terms of political satire.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny will have to find another way to raise that.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  There is no other way.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny will have to find another way to raise that. It is not in order now.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  This is a restriction on freedom of expression.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not in order now.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  A detective garda was assigned to go to a radio station——

[884]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I have to ask Deputy Kenny to resume his seat. I ask the Tánaiste to answer the question on the Defamation Bill.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——to get e-mails about this——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am not going into that at all.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——and the crime involved was putting a nail in a wall. Last week the radio stations of the country were inundated with telephone calls——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am not going into that business now.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——that a garda could not be found in Tipperary to deal with people being assaulted because of the abuse of alcohol.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny is out of order. He will have to find another way to raise that matter.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The resources of the State have been wasted——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call the Tánaiste on the Defamation Bill.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——because of a restriction on freedom of expression for a piece of political satire——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call the Tánaiste on the Defamation Bill. Do not mind that stuff.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——which the Taoiseach is well able to put up with. The issuing of a grovelling apology by the national broadcaster is an abuse of independence and freedom of expression.

(Interruptions).

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  On the Defamation Bill, as the Ceann Comhairle knows, the Minister is bringing forward amendments in consultation with the Attorney General and they will be brought to committee in due course.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  What part did the Government——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny can raise that matter on the Adjournment.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——play in seeing that RTE issued a grovelling, wholehearted and comprehensive apology to the Taoiseach?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny will have to resume his seat because I am not going into that nonsense at all. The Deputy should stop it. That is for The Dandy or such like. I call the Tánaiste on the Defamation Bill.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Was the Government press secretary in contact with RTE?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  It used to be “Scrap Saturday”, now it is scrap RTE.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We do not need “Scrap Saturday” now that we have Deputy Ring.

[885]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  On the defamation Bill, as I indicated, the Minister——

(Interruptions).

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There is not much point answering the question.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste has answered the question. I call Deputy Burton on the Order of Business.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  While I sympathise with the Taoiseach and his family, the public has noticed that it took the Garda six months to go into Anglo Irish Bank.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I thought the Deputy was going to ask a question relevant to the Order of Business.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That is all I will say on that. Yesterday we welcomed the opening of the talks with the trade unions. I do not know if the Tánaiste is aware but there are proposals for a serious bus strike in Dublin starting on Monday.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The problem is we do not have Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday morning. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Will the Tánaiste exercise her powers under the Industrial Relations Acts——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——to refer this very important matter to the Labour Court?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It might be very important but the Deputy should ask a question relevant to the Order of Business.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  On St. Patrick’s Day the Minister for Finance did an interview with the Financial Times in which he promised to restrict crony directorship practices through the immediate introduction of legislation. He referred to the many incestuous relationships in Irish banking and how it had brought down the banks in this country. He said the matter would be before the Cabinet as a matter of urgency. Will the Tánaiste advise the House when this legislation dealing with crony capitalism in Ireland and incestuous relationships, as the Minister described them, in Irish business circles will be addressed in legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The regulation of financial institutions legislation will be brought before Cabinet very soon. Once it is signed off by the Cabinet, it will be brought to the House. On the bus strike, CIE is available to enter negotiations and the industrial relations mechanisms are always available.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I have a question on legislation. We are coming up to 1 April and no doubt a few practical jokes will be played. Since they normally add to the gaiety of the nation, which we need, I hope the media might take the opportunity to tell us about them. The national broadcaster had to grovel——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is back to the same old game.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  No. I have not finished.

[886]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I did not allow——

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Ceann Comhairle will not talk me down.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I did not allow Deputy Kenny to raise that and I will not allow the Deputy.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Ceann Comhairle will not talk me down.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I have a legitimate question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I did not allow Deputy Kenny——

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I have a legitimate question which is in the public interest.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should ask a question relevant to the Order of Business and within Standing Orders. She should not mind that old stuff because it is only——

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  There is a concern that the public interest will not be served by a national broadcaster bowing to political pressure——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am not going into that. The Deputy will have to resume her seat. I am moving on.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I have not finished my sentence. There is a Bill about which I want to ask——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should ask about the legislation.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——if the Ceann Comhairle would permit me to do so.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is quite entitled to do that.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Thank you. Now we are making some progress.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We were not.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Broadcasting Bill is designed to ensure we have best practice in broadcasting. We live in a democracy where political satire is part and parcel of our culture.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I told the Deputy I am not going into that.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Will the Tánaiste ensure the Broadcasting Bill——

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Report Stage of the Broadcasting Bill will be taken next week.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——will protect broadcasting——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I might have to ask the Deputy to leave the House if she continues.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——in order that the public interest will be served——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot circumvent the rules of the House in this fashion. The Deputy must know that.

[887]Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  In light of the fact the Government has acceded to the request of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, will it now suspend the implementation of the sections of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 which imposed the so-called public service pension levy? Does the Tánaiste not accept that the engagements currently underway will be meaningless unless that step is taken, that it is critical that the public service pension levy is addressed at the negotiations and that the Government suspends those measures of that Act? Will she advise if those steps will be taken and if new legislation will be required and will she indicate where the Government now stands in light of this engagement on this matter?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The legislation has already been enacted.

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I know it has already been enacted. I ask if the Government will take steps to suspend those sections of the Act which give effect——

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The answer is “No”.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  May I ask a brief supplementary question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Yes.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  How can we expect serious engagement in the resumed talks when this matter is central to the difficulties which have presented heretofore?

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Will the Government not recognise that a suspension of those sections of the Act——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I cannot allow that now.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——is absolutely——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that. There are plenty of ways to do so. I call Deputy Crawford.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——essential to these resumed talks?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy can pursue that by way of a parliamentary question. I call Deputy Crawford.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The Tánaiste is the appropriate Minister and she could answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Put down a question to her.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  When will the mental incapacity Bill and the mental health (amendment) Bill be brought before the House? In light of the mismanagement of financial services, when will the financial services regulation Bill come before the House?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The answer to the Deputy’s questions is later this year.

[888]Deputy Joanna Tuffy: Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government promised he would introduce significant planning legislation before the local elections to deal with issues such as urban sprawl and unsustainable planning. There are only about nine weeks left before the local elections. When will the Bill be published?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am not aware of it. I will have to ask the Minister to speak to the Deputy.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  I would like to ask the Tánaiste about two matters. The Tánaiste said she is committed to introducing legislation to address the request from the Director of Corporate Enforcement for amendments to existing legislation to strengthen his powers. What is the current status of that legislation and when can we expect to see it in the House?

What is the status of the covered institutions oversight committee report from the committee to inquire into remuneration in financial institutions? Does the Government accept its findings? If so, does it intend to legislate to close the loophole which is allowing for abuses of pension regulations, as have been uncovered in financial institutions? When can we expect to see such legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The first piece of legislation is from my own Department and I will bring it to Government next week, with a view to having it on the floor of the House as quickly as possible. Regarding the second matter, the Government made its decision and has instructed the financial institutions to abide by it.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  That is not what I asked. My question is whether the Government accepts the CIROC report. If so, does it intend to legislate to close the loophole which has been identified which allows abuses of pension regulations?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Government did not accept all the recommendations and made its own determination as to what it thought was fitting and appropriate. That view has been expressed and given to all of the members of the financial institutions and they have been requested to abide by the Government decision.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Does that mean the Government will not end the abuse of pension regulations which is rampant in financial institutions?

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Deputy is referring to a specific institution.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  She made a general observation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  She referred to all of them.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, articulated this morning and after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday the format in which he will be making a decision.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will there be legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  He requested that an investigation take place within a month and that appropriate action will be taken thereon.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What about legislation?

[889]Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The committee report recommended that pension regulations in the financial institutions be reviewed because of the abuses it uncovered. Does the Tánaiste intend to tackle that issue?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  With legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am being asked to pre-empt a final decision before we have finality on the facts.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  No, I am asking the Tánaiste if the Government accepts the expert report.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I was asked if the Government accepted all of the recommendations of the report. The answer is “No”. The Government made its own decisions as to what remuneration it thought was appropriate. Investigations will be carried out on other issues and if it is necessary to introduce new legislation, that will be forthcoming.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  What is the Government’s response to pension abuse that is going on?

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

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Does the Tánaiste have any response?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Taoiseach appeared to be somewhat hurt yesterday when I raised the question of various items of proposed legislation under the Office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern. In view of the fact that there is such a plethora of legislation promised, when is it intended to process the legislation through the House? Crime is a serious issue in this country at the current time. It has not gone away and it is a serious matter which needs attention. Is it intended to extract any one of the proposed pieces of legislation and bring it before the House, as a matter of urgency, with a view to combatting the ongoing serious levels of crime, particularly organised crime, in this country?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I assume the Deputy refers particularly to the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I do not refer to it alone. There are several Bills.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  All of the legislation will be published on the A list. If there is a specific piece of legislation I will try to facilitate the Deputy within the time frame.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  That is not adequate. I will ask the question again. Might it be possible for the Government, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to set out a priority list? The current list has been published for the last three or four years. The issue has been anticipated for three or four years, and some for a longer period. Crime continues.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Never mind that now.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I do mind it. I know the Ceann Comhairle minds it as well.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The gardaí are very busy.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Can we have some elaboration?

[890]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The gardaí are rushed off their feet running into radio stations.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Let the Tánaiste explain it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There are seven pieces of legislation under the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. They will all be published very quickly.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  When will they be brought before the House?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Whenever we get the time to do it.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I suggest the Tánaiste make time, as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  If Deputy Durkan sat down we would have time.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I have one last question for the Tánaiste.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy spends most of his time here asking nonsense questions.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The question concerns the Tánaiste’s own Department. Legislation is promised by her Department as well. The collective investment schemes (consolidation) Bill, which I presume is urgent given the present climate, is expected to be published in 2010. That is not urgent. It is stated that it is not possible to indicate when the consumer and competition Bill, a very important Bill, will be published. The transfer of undertakings (pensions) Bill, a very sensitive and pertinent issue at the present time, is to provide a statutory basis for the transposition of the operational pensions provision of the transfer of undertakings EU directive. It is stated that it is not possible to indicate at this stage when publication is expected.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his indulgence. I suggest the Tánaiste, at the earliest possible date, brings before the House some proposals to bring these important Bills into the House for debate.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Deputy has answered the question himself. I have prioritised legislation within my own Department. One Bill, the Industrial Development Bill 2008, will come before the House today. We also have the compliance Bill, where I have asked all Members of the House to give of their views. There is also legislation on agency, which must be passed. I have prioritised those as the three most important Bills within my own Department. A consolidation Bill on company law, which will take a considerable period of time, is the other priority.

The collective investment schemes (consolidation) Bill will be addressed next year. The consumer and competition Bill will be drafted when I have brought to finality my views as to what legislation measures need to be completed to amalgamate the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. I have not yet decided when the transfer of undertakings (pensions) Bill will be addressed, on the basis of other priorities within my own Department.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I would like to raise three matters under three separate pieces of legislation. The front of the Irish Independent——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy cannot hold that up.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  ——today states that €1.4 million was paid to two HSE advisors since 2005. At a time when children are being deprived of cervical cancer vaccines and the elderly are having their medical cards taken from them, it appears there is one rule for the upper echelons of this society——

[891]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should ask a question on the Order of Business.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  When will the health information Bill, which provides a legislative framework for the governance of information, be published?

The second issue I would like to raise concerns a legal matter, the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. At a time when gardaí can be instructed to raid a radio station——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I have told the Deputy about this before.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  What political influence was used to direct the Garda——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It is not important because it is not in order.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  It is very important.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy has heard me rule on this matter before.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Can I raise the third matter now?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy can raise it, provided it is in order. There is no problem, provided it is in order.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  This matter concerns transport. SR Technics goes to the wall tomorrow and its equipment will be auctioned. Will IDA Ireland take any action under the issue of the air navigation transport pre-clearance Bill? I am sorry the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey has left the Chamber because he knew about this last November and has left 1,100 workers high and dry.

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

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Minister give us some indication on this?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste can answer on the legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There was a considerable amount of public consultation on the health information Bill. The Department is working towards finalising the heads of the Bill and it is expected in April. On the criminal justice legislation, there are three amendment Bills and I am not sure to which one the Deputy is referring.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is seated close to the Tánaiste. He should be able to clarify the matter for her.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It would be helpful if Members referred to Bills by their correct titles.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The legislative programme includes the criminal law (insanity) (amendment) Bill and various Bills relating to criminal justice matters.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I refer to No. 70, the criminal justice (amendment) Bill.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The criminal justice (amendment) Bill will be published later this year.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  What about the air navigation and transport (pre-clearance) Bill?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The heads of that Bill were agreed in January.

[892]Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  We have been promised secondary legislation for some years in regard to wards of courts. Is there any proposal to bring forward that legislation? The current system is antiquated and people are facing great difficulty in accessing the courts in view of the downturn in the value of shares and so on. It is time for a review of the system.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  That will be done this year. The regulations will be informed under the mental capacity Bill.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Our tourism figures fell drastically last year and are likely to fall further this year. The Government has failed to develop our tourism product.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should seek to raise this issue on the Adjournment.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  When can we expect the national monuments Bill to be brought before the House? Many of our national monuments, which are of great interest to tourists, are falling into dreadful disrepair. The legislation has not been updated or amended since the 1930s.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The legislation will be brought forward later this year.

  11 o’clock

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  A report was brought before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government this week which shows that in excess of 3,000 affordable homes are currently vacant and unsold. Committee members were told that this figure is expected to increase to more than 4,000 by the end of the year. There are many reasons for this, one of which is the downturn in the housing market. However, a particular aspect of the problem is that the banks are sending out valuers to these properties whose valuations are——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does the Deputy have a question that is in order?

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I will come to the question on legislation presently.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is obliged to do so.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The valuers are putting the value of these properties at less than the prices sought by local authorities. In the context of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008, which is currently on Second Stage in this House, does the Minister intend to bring forward amendments that will facilitate a situation whereby local authorities can go back to developers and renegotiate costs in order to ensure that these homes can be sold to those seeking to purchase them at an affordable cost?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  That legislation will be debated in the House later today. I assume the Deputy will put forward the points he has raised and ask the Minister to consider them for Committee Stage.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  My colleague, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, referred to the wards of court system. The banks have effectively been gambling with the money given to them on behalf of the wards of courts, and that money has been lost through an agency in the Bank of Ireland. Will the State introduce legislation to ensure the money that is there for the survival of these people is restored by the State given that the courts have gambled the money away through investing it or giving it to an agency to invest?

Most management companies are owned by builders and developers, some of whom are now broke as a consequence of their excessive greed. These management companies were like milch [893]cows for developers, offering an additional source of profits. They seem to have been invented by a small group of developers and they caught on like mushrooms growing in the dark. People are now in a situation where they cannot sell their houses even if they can find a buyer because there is a lien on the title deed which requires them to make payments to a management company that no longer exists. The urgency of this situation is greater than ever. We have been pestering the Government for the past four or five years to introduce legislation. Will some effort be made to bring forward that promised legislation in the next session?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The answer to the second question is “Yes”. On the first point, the mental capacity Bill will be brought forward later this year.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It was reported yesterday that the three main Irish banks have negotiated an allocation of €300 million from the European Investment Bank for the purpose of providing credit to small and medium-sized enterprises and that this money is likely to be introduced into the system over the next 18 months. This allocation merely represents the tip of the iceberg. Some €30 billion is available but it has taken the banks six months to get €300 million.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a debate on this issue on the Order of Business. The Deputy should have raised this matter during yesterday’s pre-budget statements. Has he a question that is in order?

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  After six months, only €300 million is being drawn down for distribution over an 18-month period——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is a matter for the Minister for Finance and I strongly suggest that the Deputy take it up with him.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I am asking the Tánaiste whether the Government will revisit either the €500 billion guarantee legislation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No such legislative review is promised. The Deputy is not in order.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  ——or the recapitalisation legislation. Will the Government——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Minister for Finance will answer parliamentary questions in the House this afternoon. I strongly suggest that rather than labouring the point now, the Deputy should ask the Minister about it later.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I am asking whether legislation will be introduced requiring the banks to avail of the funding facility——

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  ——that was put in place by the European Central Bank to ensure that small businesses have access to cash flow.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No legislation is promised. The Deputy should put his question to the Minister for Finance this afternoon. I am absolutely certain he will reply to the Deputy’s query.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  My question relates to legislation.

[894]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste has responded. I asked her and her reply was “No”.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  She did not say a word.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  She did.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I said “No”.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Will she consider such legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No legislation is promised.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste indicated that no legislation is promised. The Deputy can discuss this issue with the Minister for Finance this afternoon.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Small and medium-sized enterprises are being starved of cash flow. This sector employs 50% of working people in the State.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I have called Deputy Kenny. A lesser man would have told Deputy Costello to leave the arena.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  With all the turbulence surrounding my first question to the Tánaiste, I did not hear her reply as to when Committee Stage of the Defamation Bill 2006 will begin. Is it likely that the Government will have to introduce legislation in view of the report received from Mr. Peter Bacon regarding proposals to establish a bank to deal with toxic assets?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I tried to answer the Deputy’s question twice. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in consultation with the Attorney General on the preparation of further amendments to that legislation. He hopes to have dealt with it as quickly as possible so that it can proceed to Committee Stage. There is no legislation promised on the second matter.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I will take up the Ceann Comhairle’s offer to ask the Minister for Finance later today about a small company who sought to raise €30,000 from the Bank of Ireland for four weeks in order to undertake two blue chip contracts and was refused. The money to which Deputy Costello referred is, among other moneys, supposed to be available for lending to business. However, I will observe the Ceann Comhairle’s strictures on this matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  “That much having been said”, as the Latins might put it.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Quod scripsi scripsi.

A third Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has taken office since a definite commitment was given in this House that legislation on management companies would be introduced. The current Minister is supposed to bring forward the legislation. There is an added urgency to this because, as Deputy Stagg observed, some of these companies are going bankrupt. Did I hear the Tánaiste say that the Minister will bring the legislation before the House in the next term?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Thank you.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  When will the Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008, which has made its way through the Seanad, come into the House? Port and harbour authorities are waiting for that legislation to be brought forward and discussed thoroughly in this House.

[895]When will the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment be in a position to make an announcement about the future of SR Technics? Last night, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Noel Ahern, misled the House and came close to——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  If the Deputy wishes to make a substantive allegation of that type, he will have to put down a motion.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I am saying that the Minister of State substantially misled this House. Given that the Minister for Transport definitely knew in early November of the impending closure of the company——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy has been allowed to raise this matter twice on the Adjournment. He cannot raise it on the Order of Business. He and the Tánaiste had five months to do something about this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Tánaiste may answer the first question. The second question is not in order at all.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  When will the Tánaiste be in a position to make a statement on SR Technics?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Broughan was given two different opportunities to raise the matter when it was in order.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The harbours legislation was passed by the Seanad and is awaiting Second Stage in the House. It will be a matter for discussion among the Whips. The other issue has been discussed on a number of occasions and I have briefed members of both my own party and the Opposition. There is still much ongoing work and the premise of the discussion is to secure as many jobs as possible.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Does the Tánaiste have a deadline?

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  What about the redundancies?


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