Thursday, 7 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 1, Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 69, motion regarding special educational needs (resumed) to be taken after the Order of Business and to conclude after 90 minutes, if not previously concluded.
Deputy Enda Kenny: In normal circumstances I would wish the Tánaiste a happy anniversary. It is just a year since the change in the senior personnel in Government. Deputy Coughlan is now the Tánaiste in the worst Government in the history of the State.
Deputy Enda Kenny: She has presided over the most rapid rise in unemployment ever. If the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, wants to laugh about it while the Taoiseach says we are heading towards having 500,000 people out of work——
Deputy Enda Kenny: If they think the failure of every single Minister to do anything about employment is a laughing matter, they will get their answer on 5 June when those people go to vote in their constituencies.
Deputy Enda Kenny: You, a Cheann Comhairle, sit in the Chair of adjudication in this House where the Government has treated this House with contempt. Members of the Government do not want to be in here. They do not want to answer any questions, or have any accountability or responsibility for the powers vested in them.
Deputy Enda Kenny: Let me return to something that is in order. The finance Bill is to be published today. Will the Tánaiste confirm that people who lost their jobs in the earlier part of the year and received redundancy payments will not be hit by additional income levies in today’s finance Bill? Will this finance Bill deal with the problem of mortgage interest relief?
Deputy Enda Kenny: I want to know, because the biggest failure of the Government has been its failure to give reassurance about the future. It has caused terror economically among people who do not know whether they are to be faced with——
The Tánaiste: I indicated previously that if we did not see a reduction in prices I would consider legislative measures. However, while there have been announcements on the reduction in prices, I welcome what has been said publicly that this would not be to the detriment of Irish suppliers. However, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I will keep a very keen eye on the situation. I agree with the Deputy that the issue of assurance to our suppliers is very important if we are to have opportunities to support the food sector. At the same time it is equally opportune that we see reductions in prices.
Deputy Joan Burton: What is the status of proposed legislation to establish NAMA as a toxic bank for failed loans to developers? It has been reported in the media that the Minister has appointed a shadow chief executive to NAMA. We have obtained independent legal advice that it is not possible for a shadow NAMA to function because under the terms of the laws dealing with the Financial Regulator there is no permission to divulge confidential information on bank loans or on the banks’ books to anybody other than the authorities designated in the legislation. A shadow NAMA was described as scoping the extent of the problem and the valuation of the banks’ debts. We have very clear legal advice indicating that is not legally possible. Does the Government propose to introduce legislation in respect of NAMA and, if so, when? Has the Government received advice from the Attorney General on the creation of this shadow NAMA authority, which will eventually cost the taxpayer, according to the IMF, between €25 billion and €40 billion if it is done wrongly?
Deputy Joan Burton: That is my first issue. I wish to ask the Tánaiste about a number of pieces of legislation. I wish to ask about the bilateral arrangements and the legislation governing the protection of children. I know the Tánaiste will be sympathetic to this. It is in the matter of foreign adoptions, particularly those involving the Republic of Vietnam and Russia. As the Tánaiste probably knows the bilateral arrangements for thousands of Irish couples, many of whom have spent five to six years in the adoption process getting vetted, are now at a standstill. The bilateral arrangement with Vietnam expired on 1 May mainly because the Government did not have a sufficiently high-level contact between the Government and the Vietnamese Government. The issue with Russia relates to the post-adoption contact and supervision required by the Russian authorities. The administrative arrangements put in place by the HSE and the Adoption Board of Ireland are inadequate. I ask the Tánaiste to personally undertake to investigate this as a matter of urgency.
Deputy Joan Burton: My third issue relates to the proposal contained in the previous budget to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. This matter is in the Tánaiste’s Department. Mr. Eddie Hobbs tendered his resignation to the National Consumer Agency, NCA. What does the Tánaiste propose to do? A series of quangos were to be merged, but we have heard nothing more about it. What is the current position in respect of the merger of the Competition Authority and the NCA?
The Tánaiste: ——children are protected. Regarding the legislation in my Department, I hope to have it by this session if possible. It has to do with the amalgamation of the NCA and the Competition Authority.
Deputy Seymour Crawford: I wish to raise three issues. In light of the fact that a 93 year old blind person’s home carer will not be replaced while the carer is in hospital, when will the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill be introduced? It is vital that this issue be covered.
Since we in County Monaghan have been promised that no hospital services will be removed until services that are as good as those available, or better, when will the health information Bill be introduced so that we can be told the truth?
Last, but by no means least, I asked a couple of weeks ago whether any effort would be made to hold a full debate on the collapse in agriculture, particularly the dairy sector. I was promised that it would be considered. In light of the fact that the Tánaiste is back in her old haunt with the president and general secretary of the IFA, will she give the House some idea as to whether the issue can be addressed as a matter of urgency?
Deputy Billy Timmins: I wish to raise two issues. Some time ago, the Taoiseach gave a commitment to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty in the autumn. When can we expect a referendum Bill before the House? This must be done shortly if the Taoiseach is to stick to the timeframe.
A Fine Gael Party delegation under our leader, Deputy Enda Kenny, visited Israel and Palestine in recent weeks. We saw some disturbing things. Will the Tánaiste agree to allow a few hours next week for statements on the situation in Gaza and the West Bank?
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I will be entirely in order. The Adoption Bill is due to come to the House from the Seanad. It relates to the question of Vietnam and Russia. If we can deal with it as speedily as possible, the long-term situation will be helped. When does the Tánaiste expect the Bill to be before this Chamber and does she expect it to be enacted before the summer recess?
The Tánaiste: As the Deputy has indicated, the Bill is before the Upper House, where we hope to have Report Stage next week. This would allow the Bill to be debated in this House as quickly as possible. I would like to do it this session.
Deputy Joe Costello: Regarding the companies that manage apartments and the deterioration in the situation, given the recession and the fact that so many apartment owners are unemployed and defaulting on exorbitant management company fees, services are being cut drastically. The first thing to go is the lift. Since lifts are not working, pregnant women must climb stairs——
Deputy James Reilly: There are two issues. Will the planning and development Bill, which is on the clár, address management companies and the councils’ failure to take estates in charge? As Deputy Costello has pointed out, services are deteriorating and estates are being led by management companies five, six, seven or eight years after their completion.
Deputy Mary Upton: In 1999, a lung transplant unit was set up in the Mater Hospital. Since then, it has carried out just one cystic fibrosis lung transplant. Some 14 young adults are on the unit’s waiting list, which is static. What is occurring and why?
Deputy Seán Sherlock: In light of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s visit of a few months ago to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, where he wielded a draft animal health and welfare Bill, when will it be published?
Given the laying before the House of the Financial Services Ombudsman’s report and in light of the Minister for Finance’s announcement in the last budget that Sir Andrew Large would be appointed to oversee the regulatory framework for financial services, has his appointment been made and have meetings between the said gentleman and the Minister occurred?
Deputy Shane McEntee: Is the Tánaiste aware that the cheapest loan available to any small business from the four banks that we have propped up has an interest rate of 4.8%? The people who borrowed billions of euro to buy property outside the country have a rate of 2.1%.
Deputy Shane McEntee: It is covered in the Finance Bill and is truthful. A rate of 4.8% is the cheapest at which most people can get money, but the people with the large borrowings can get a rate of 2.1%.
Deputy Denis Naughten: On promised legislation and given my understanding that the Tánaiste is to withdraw funding from the valuable Skillnets programme, which provides training and reskilling to workers, will she indicate when No. 3, the industrial relations (amendment) Bill, will be tabled in the House and will she rescind this additional cutback?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I am not sure that the Tánaiste is fully aware of the scope of the aforementioned planning and development Bill. Will she indicate to the House whether the Bill has been discussed in Cabinet, the heads have been agreed or when that is likely to occur? I am trying to encourage the Green Party Ministers into the House so that they can be involved in this legislative area. I would like an answer to my question on promised legislation, namely, No. 7.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The next item is closer to the Ceann Comhairle’s heart and he will be delighted I am raising it. The greyhound industry (amendment) Bill is to give effect to the recommendations of the Dalton report and it has been running around for a considerable time.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Government’s legislative programme states that publication is expected in late 2009. Has this Bill been discussed in Cabinet? It has been around for sufficiently long whereby it should have been discussed by someone somewhere.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Perhaps the Tánaiste will enlighten the House as to whether the heads have been approved, or if the Bill already has been discussed in Cabinet and if not, why not. If this item is so vague, why does it appear on the Order Paper?
Deputy James Reilly: When will the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill, which has been repeatedly promised in the past, return to this House and when will its provisions be put in place? I hope it will address the issue of such delayed discharges. There are 250 unused beds available within the community in the greater Dublin area.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: As for the issue of management companies and managing agents, I do not know whether the Government is aware of a recent court case. My understanding is that it found that the Private Residential Tenancies Board has a role in adjudicating between apartment owners and management companies. This is because a legal landlord-tenant relationship was judged to exist between apartment owners and management companies. Is the Government aware of this judgment and how does it affect the planned legislation pertaining to management companies and agents?
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