Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 15, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 15, Broadcasting Bill 2008 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages. Private Members’ business shall be No. 52, motion re social welfare — consumer debt.
Deputy Enda Kenny: When the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment was present for the Order of Business on Thursday, I raised with her the problems that are arising as a result of the Defamation Bill being before the relevant committee for the past ten months. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has indicated that a number of amendments to the Bill are being drafted by the Attorney General. This matter is worthy of attention because those on the newspaper side did a deal under which the previous Taoiseach and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform were supposed to take further action. Will the current Taoiseach, in due course, make available some information regarding the range or nature of the amendments that are under consideration?
The debates on the Bill in the Seanad and on Second Stage in this House were quite lengthy. I would not want the situation regarding the Bill to unravel. This could happen if cover is not given in respect of judgments that are reported by the Press Council. The council will be producing its report this week.
Earlier today I met representatives of the financial payments company, Western Union. I am sure officials from the Department of Finance also met these individuals. As the Taoiseach is aware, Western Union is a major international operator and is seeking to expand its activities in Ireland. In addition to Western Union, PayPal, another financial payments company, employs 900 people in Dublin. These companies are concerned with regard to the transposition of the directive on payment services into Irish law. This directive was adopted by the European Commission in November 2007 and has since been adopted and transposed into law by the UK. The difficulty appears to be that in January the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was unable to indicate how he proposed to draft the regulations relating to Article 52.3 of the directive in question, which states, “The payment service provider shall not prevent the payee from requesting from the payer a charge or from offering him a reduction for the use of a given payment instrument.”
Western Union and others are anxious to give consideration to expanding their operations — and hence employment — in Ireland. However, the fact that the regulations have not yet been drafted is a cause of some concern. Will the Taoiseach contact the Department of Finance to ensure that the regulations, particularly those relating to Article 52.3 of the payment services directive, be drafted as quickly as possible in order that the directive might be transposed into law?
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicates that the amendments relating to the Defamation Bill are at an advanced stage of preparation. He is hopeful that they can be brought before the Government, approved, published and inserted into the legislation, which can then be enacted, before the end of the summer session.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment also met the representatives to whom Deputy Kenny refers earlier today. She has given a commitment to expedite the matter with the Minister for Finance in order to identify ways in which we can assist these companies. I agree with the Deputy that the companies have excellent operations. I visited the offices of PayPal last week, which has established a European centre of excellence in Dublin and which employs over 900 people here.
Deputy Joan Burton: What is the proposed timetable regarding the introduction of the Finance Bill in the aftermath of next week’s budget? Will a social welfare Bill also be required? If so, what will be the timetable relating to it?
It has been indicated in recent months that the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is willing to facilitate changes in legislation to provide wider and updated powers to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The latter is involved in a number of important investigations, including one relating to Anglo Irish Bank. When will the legislation relating to this matter be introduced? We are of the view that the Director of Corporate Enforcement should be given whatever enhanced powers are required.
The position with regard to management companies continues to give rise to major difficulties for tens of thousands of home owners, particularly in Dublin and Leinster where responsibility for many new developments lies with such companies. As a result of the financial difficulties affecting the construction sector, young people are living in estates and apartment blocks which were constructed by builders or developers who have effectively gone into liquidation and in respect of which there is no actual legal structure in place to govern the activities of management companies. Legislation has continually been promised in this area. The position regarding management companies is creating major problems in the housing market because people wishing to sell on their houses or apartments — in the limited market that exists — are being impeded from doing so if such companies have responsibility for the upkeep of the estates or blocks in which those houses or apartments are located.
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Finance has already indicated that the Finance Bill will be introduced in April following the Easter recess. The question of whether a social welfare Bill will be required remains one for decision.
The legislation relating to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, was brought before Cabinet earlier today by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Tánaiste received approval in respect of the legislation and she will provide whatever resources the ODCE requires to conduct its affairs.
The matter relating to management companies is one which must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. This is a complex area and we are moving towards having the relevant legislation introduced in the House as soon as possible. A Cabinet sub-committee is currently working on the matter.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Does the Government plan to introduce legislation in respect of the funding of third level education? When will the report commissioned by the Minister for Education and Science be made available to Members? Is the Taoiseach aware that the reintroduction of third level fees will have a devastating effect on the number of people from lower income families and from rural areas who will be able to attend third level?
The Taoiseach: I am not aware of any legislation being in the offing in respect of this matter. A parliamentary question to the relevant Minister might elicit accurate and up-to-date information in respect of the matter.
Deputy Joe Costello: Is the Taoiseach aware of a glitch in the system relating to the medical cards for those who are over 70 years of age? Many people with such medical cards are presenting with prescriptions at their local chemist shops, only——
An Ceann Comhairle: The implementation of the legislation, unfortunately, is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to raise the question with the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Health and Children.
The Taoiseach: If the card is invalid it cannot be used for prescription purposes but if there are specific issues coming to the Deputy’s attention on which he needs clarification, contact with the Minster’s office to determine the position would be helpful.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I refer to the matter I raised under Standing Order 32. I realise we will be very busy on financial matters in the next week or two but would it be possible to discuss the Goodbody report on taxis given that the Oireachtas committee chaired by the Taoiseach’s colleague, Frank Fahey, has determined that urgent reform of the taxi sector is needed?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It would appear that organised crime, which we have raised on this side of the House on numerous occasions, continues unabated. In that regard I draw the Taoiseach’s attention to the fact that such items as pipe bombs and material for making pipe bombs have been found on a regular basis. It is also a fact that approximately 14 people have been executed in the whole area of organised crime since the beginning of the year.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It is in order. There is a plethora of promised legislation. I asked the Taoiseach previously, as did other Members of this House, whether it was intended to bring in a single consolidated legislative measure that would crack down once and for all on organised crime and reassure the public that it was the intention of Government to tackle this issue head on. I do not want to read out the entire list of legislation----
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: ——but it includes No. 71, the Criminal Justice (Cybercrime & Attacks against Information Systems) Bill, the European Evidence Warrant Bill and the Extradition (Amendment) Bill. There is a series of such legislation. I want to reiterate the urgent necessity for somebody somewhere to tackle the issue with a single response. That is not forthcoming.
The Taoiseach: In regard to criminal justice Bills, I have replied very frequently in this House on these matters. If a specific question arises today I can read them all out again. If it is the best use of our time, fair enough.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Why are people being shot on the streets on a daily and nightly basis? Why does the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform opposite not do something? His expression has not even changed.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Before any further work is done on the mental capacity Bill, and I hope it is fairly well advanced at this stage, I ask that we change the title to the legal capacity Bill. That would change the entire emphasis of the legislation but give a better focus to the legislation.
The Taoiseach: I will ask the Minister to examine that but I understand the Law Reform Commission spoke about mental capacity in the context of its report and that is probably from where the title of the Bill emanates. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Moloney, and the Minister, Deputy Harney, to examine that.
Deputy Seymour Crawford: In light of the difficulty in getting simple facts from the HSE, when will the Health Information Bill be brought before this House that would allow us believe something we hear from the HSE in the future?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: ——and who are now left penniless in view of the fact that our courts gave over the money to mind for them because they said their relatives were not capable of doing it? They are now pauperised. The courts gave the money to the banks——
The Taoiseach: I understand there was some indication as a result of this matter being raised in the House that we try to accommodate dealing with this issue in the mental capacity Bill mentioned by Deputy Lynch.
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