Order of Business.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 691 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 21, Courts and Court Officers Bill 2009 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 5, Labour Services (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, No. 20, National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009 — Second Stage (resumed) to be taken at 5 p.m. today and the order shall resume thereafter. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 33 – Medical Practitioners (Professional Indemnity) (Amendment) Bill 2009 – Second Stage (resumed), which shall be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 20, whichever is the later. Proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 20 shall be taken at 5 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at
7 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Before agreeing to that proposition, I have a question to ask.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The question will have to be very brief, we need to get a decision on this.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  That is correct and I will be brief. Is it the Government’s intention to accommodate a debate in the House this week or next week on the so-called new programme for Government negotiated between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party? Will the Dáil have the opportunity to properly address the content of the programme, which has been [785]debated by only one of the political parties in a conference at the weekend? Will the Houses of the Oireachtas have the opportunity to debate this? Will the Government seek to secure the support of a majority of Members of the House, if it can?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The programme has been adopted by both parties formally and has the support of the Government and those who support the Government. There will be many opportunities for economic debates in the coming weeks and months. Various aspects of the issues can be considered. We have an important series of legislative arrangements in the coming weeks as a matter of priority.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 20, the National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009 agreed to?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I oppose the imposition of a guillotine on the NAMA legislation. When the Bill was introduced in the House, the Minister gave an undertaking that there would be no guillotine and that all Members who wished to contribute to the debate would be able to do so. At €54 billion and counting, this is probably the most expensive legislation that has ever come before the House. To suggest that it would be the subject of a guillotine prior to Members having an opportunity to make their contributions is wrong practice and procedure. Not only that, but during the weeks of the debate there has been an opportunity for people as renowned as Professor Joseph Stiglitz to come to Ireland and speak at length about the craziness — from an economic point of view — of an Irish Government paying at least €7 billion over the odds for the distressed loans.

During the period of the debate the Minister admitted that Anglo Irish Bank, a failed financial entity, requires approximately a further €6 billion over and beyond NAMA in funding from the State. That is to be diverted from items we all know are essential, not least getting credit to business flowing again. It is essential that the Government reconsiders the wisdom of imposing a guillotine and leaving us with a NAMA which is not just inadequate but which will be a millstone around the taxpayers of this generation and the next.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Guillotine or no guillotine and irrespective of whether a raft of Deputies is left to speak is not the issue with regard to NAMA. While on principle we oppose the imposition of guillotines, the issue for us in opposing this is simply that we oppose NAMA, end of story and full stop. We do not want to see it progress to a further Stage here. We are opposed to the ordering of the conclusion of Second Stage and it moving on to Committee and further Stages. That is our position and will be our position throughout because this is a flawed proposition that will have dire consequences for people today, tomorrow and for some considerable time to come.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I wish to make an observation. I believe Second Stage of the Bill was to conclude last night. The debate was extended until 10.30 p.m. and I understand from the Fine Gael Whip that this was to accommodate Fine Gael speakers. The majority of our speakers have spoken on it. I have stated in the past that I am opposed to the principle of guillotines. However, we are faced with the political reality that the Bill is before us and is being discussed. We have opposed NAMA previously and we will do so again.

Arising from the political reality, I am more concerned that we do not have guillotines imposed on the debate on sections of the NAMA Bill on Committee Stage. That is where we will deal with the points being made by Deputy Burton and everybody else. While the intention is to group relevant headings, I would be utterly opposed to the imposition of guillotines by timescale on those groups because the critical issues must be dealt with on Committee Stage.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We have had 27 hours of debate on Second Stage of this important legislation and another two hours of debate will take place today. We need to move on to Committee [786]Stage to deal with the detail of the Bill and it is only fair and right that we do so. It is important to point out that, while people discuss the legislation and have their views on it, it is far more expensive to contemplate what would happen if we did not proceed with the Bill. We would put at risk all that we have achieved so far.

  12 o’clock

When EU Commissioner Almunia was here he made the point very clearly about the need for the country to move forward with the national asset management agency solution. It also has continuing support from the European Central Bank and the IMF. There are far more than certain individuals, however eminent, speaking about this matter. The concepts of fair economic value and long-term economic value are accommodated for in the EU guidelines on distressed assets. It is a fair contention that the outline the Minister has put on these aspects of the legislation would be regarded by most people as reasonable.

We must move forward with the Bill. Second Stage is due to conclude at 7 p.m. and I anticipate that Committee Stage will be taken on the weeks beginning 21 and 27 October, pending the agreement of arrangements with the Chairman of the Committee on Finance and the Public Service. It is important that we move forward on this basis.

Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with No. 20 be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 69.

Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Ahern, Bertie. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. 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 Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
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 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 Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. 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 Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony. 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 James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James. 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 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 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 Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
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 Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. 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.



[787]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 Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. 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 Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
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 Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
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 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 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 Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. 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 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 Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.  

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  Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Washington to discuss comprehensive immigration legislation to be passed in the United States or is he basing his talks on a selective or individual arrangement for Ireland? I recognise the complications this involves and the difficulties facing American legislators. I understand the Obama Administration wants to bring in comprehensive immigration legislation this year which will deal with the undocumented Irish and other immigrants.

Does the Taoiseach have any indication of when the report of the Moriarty tribunal will be published?

The interim report of the mid-west task force chaired by Denis Brosnan has been around for some time. He predicts that unemployment could rise to 20% in the mid-west if no action is taken regarding the report’s recommendations. I suggest that the Chief Whip arrange an appropriate time to discuss that report in the House.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Minister for Foreign Affairs normally meets Irish groups in New York and Washington, and goes to the hill to meet people to discuss issues of interest to us. However, it was not possible for him to go in September because of the Lisbon treaty referendum cam[788]paign. He has taken the opportunity to do so this week. I am sure that he will meet some of the immigration reform groups because this is a perennial issue with which the embassy deals.

The US Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, mentioned it when she was here. She said in a public comment that the Obama Administration is addressing this matter and that it needs to be done comprehensively because it is a difficult and sensitive issue in the United States and in Congress. There is a continuing effort to build a consensus on how to deal with it. We have met people who have come here to discuss that issue. The Minister will see how we can constructively assist the debate so that we can try to deal with the matter as it affects us and our people.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Does the Taoiseach support those efforts?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Yes.

The chairman of the Moriarty tribunal has not given me a date for the presentation of his report. Work is ongoing and the report is being finalised. I cannot give a date but will check up on it.

It is a matter for the Whips to decide if the interim report of the task force can be fitted in for discussion at some point in our debates. The Minister and the Tánaiste are taking up recommendations in the interim report. We will continue to work on those.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There is a large number of people offering with questions. It is important that these relate to promised legislation because, otherwise, the Order of Business will be all over the place.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Is it intended to bring the revised programme for Government before the House for approval?

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government made a commitment, which the Taoiseach repeated, to hold an election next summer for a mayor of Dublin. We do not yet know what will be the functions of that office or how it will relate to the existing local authorities. Legislation is required. When is it intended to publish it and is it planned to enact it before the end of 2009?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Heads of the Bill are expected later this year. The intention is to meet whatever timelines are envisaged.

The parties in government have approved the legislative programme for Government. There will be plenty of opportunities for debate on the issues arising from the programme in Question Time and in economic debates. In the weeks immediately ahead the Government is anxious to proceed with its heavy legislative programme and schedule.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  We wake up daily to hear news reports of the most vicious and depraved assaults on elderly people, particularly in rural areas in every part of the country. What package of measures is available in the programme for Government initiated two years ago to deal with the increase in crime? Experts say that there is a direct link between an economic downturn and an increase in burglaries and other crime.

The Government recently rejected a Fine Gael Bill on home defence on the basis that it was bringing forward its own legislation, particulars of which we have not seen. It has indicated that it will continue to downgrade Garda stations around the country. If the recommendations of the McCarthy report are implemented, most rural Garda stations will close. Many Garda stations are open for only one hour in the morning, a token presence. The Government has [789]discontinued the subvention for an alarm and safety system for older people. What package of measures does the Government plan to address the problem of communities living in fear for their personal safety and that of their property, and their loved ones and family members? How long more must we tolerate a situation in which lawlessness seems to be the order of the day?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Questions about particular policy areas are best addressed to the line Ministers. The Government is committed to providing the maximum resources possible to the Garda in the current circumstances. There have been many successes in targeting anti-social behaviour and protecting people in their homes. There have also been some serious incidents which have unfortunately resulted in deaths. This reinforces the continuing efforts of the gardaí to identify those groups or gangs who target or seek to victimise the elderly whether in urban settings or in rural areas. The Garda regards this as a matter of high priority and conducts continuous surveillance to identify and apprehend the people involved in this appalling cowardly and despicable behaviour.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his appointment.

A report on cystic fibrosis was published yesterday by the HSE which confirms the scandalous failure of the Government and the HSE to provide the essential facilities necessary for those who suffer from CF. Will that report be debated in the House? Will the Taoiseach confirm or clarify whether it is correct that the report was commissioned in 2005, concluded in 2006 and suppressed by the HSE until yesterday? On what basis can the cover up of a report of this nature, prepared with public money, which exposes the gross neglect of services be justified? Does the Taoiseach agree his Government and the Minister for Health and Children are responsible for a series of promises made to provide proper services in this area? They have not been fulfilled, have directly resulted in the premature death of patients suffering from cystic fibrosis and have placed other patients at very serious risk.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Again, these are policy queries and best addressed to the line Ministers concerned. Without notice I certainly would not have all the detail. Obviously, seeking to assist people who suffer from cystic fibrosis must be a continuing effort by those charged with the responsibility for providing services. There have been——

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  There has been a total failure to provide——

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I do not accept there has been a total failure.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  ——and a plethora of reports highlighting this fact.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no point in replying.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I, too, congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his first day in office and I assure him that we humble backbenchers will do our best to make it as interesting as possible for him during his sojourn in the Chair.

Will the Ceann Comhairle, and perhaps through him, the Taoiseach, address a very serious issue that has developed over recent years, namely, that, on an increasingly prevalent basis, Ministers refuse to answer questions on the basis that they are not accountable to the House? I ask the Ceann Comhairle to bear with me for 30 seconds. The Departments to which this applies most particularly are the Department of Health and Children——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I have a long list of Members who wish to ask——

[790]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  This concerns promised legislation and the business of the House. The Departments of Health and Children and Enterprise, Trade and Employment and, more recently, Transport, have crept into the area of repeated refusals to answer questions. A problem that has emerged in recent weeks is that, because of a lack of accountability to this House, certain embarrassing issues have arisen, precisely because there was no plan or attempt by different Ministers to answer the question. There was, in fact, a complete refusal.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Hear, hear.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  We must remember — as a long-serving Member of this House the Ceann Comhairle will know this better than anybody — that for every penny approved by a Department to a subsidiary body of any kind, the Minister concerned is responsible to this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Durkan, have we legislation in question?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Yes, we have. I ask the Taoiseach, through the Ceann Comhairle, to address this issue before these problems become much more serious than they are now. They could not be more serious. Will legislation be introduced or will the Taoiseach incorporate these proposals into legislation already on the Order Paper with a view to ensuring that from now Ministers will answer the questions they are asked? For example, the chief executive of the HSE——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Durkan——

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  ——should come into this Chamber to answer questions because we cannot get answers to questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Durkan, I suggest that——

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  In the same way, the chief executive of FÁS should have been here to answer questions in the past four or five years. We would have received answers to questions and would not have had these problems. I ask the Taoiseach if something can be done about this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy’s specific question is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is not. It is a matter for Government.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Can we have a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges soon?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We shall move on. I call Deputy Billy Timmins.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no promised legislation in this area. It is possible for the committee system to bring any people charged with public bodies to come to the House and be cross-examined on a range of issues. That is ongoing. Where there are issues of policy, obviously a Minister is responsible. In operational matters, agencies are established by this House and given that statutory responsibility. It is of course incumbent on all such bodies to provide effective response to representations from Deputies and to assist them in every way so that they and we can discharge our democratic duties. That issue has been commented upon by Members of this House and I would like to see it rectified to their satisfaction. Ultimately, the situation is that we have a committee system through which people are brought forward and [791]cross-examined on various operational matters and this is being done effectively by Deputies. However, to bring people into the Chamber on the Order of Business concerning promised legislation is not the way forward.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is the way forward.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Has the Ceann Comhairle received any notices from members of the Labour Party who wish to raise matters?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I am coming to the Labour Party now.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  They were slow out of the traps.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I call Deputy Joan Burton.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  The Ceann Comhairle called me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I shall call Deputy Timmins in a moment.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I thank the Ceann Comhairle. Will the Taoiseach tell the House when the Government proposes to commence Committee Stage of the NAMA legislation? Second, I ask the Taoiseach and his Government to give serious consideration to having this most important legislation dealt with in this Chamber. The committee rooms are small and there are many Members of all parties who wish to contribute on Committee Stage. It is almost impossible to do that in the basement rooms available.

The Taoiseach spoke yesterday about Committee Stage of this Bill being structured like a Finance Bill, in which an hour or two will be devoted to ten or 15 sections. That means that if the Bill runs, as it will do by the time the Minister’s amendments come in, probably to more than 100 sections, each section of five or six will have a mini-guillotine. What does this mean in respect of the Government’s commitment that every aspect of this Bill will be debated?

When will Members see the amendments of the Minister for Finance? I am told these may run to hundreds of pages and it is extremely difficult for the Opposition to operate in an environment where we have no prior notification from the Minister for Finance on legislation that will cost all of us €54 billion and rising.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Again, I make the point that the cost to our financial system of not dealing with this issue is far greater. To suggest we are not making arrangements to ensure that the interests of the taxpayer are being protected in this matter is a gross distortion of the situation. Second, regarding the actual arrangements, it is anticipated that Committee Stage will be taken in the weeks beginning 21 and 27 October, pending the agreement I arranged with the Chairman of the Committee on Finance and the Public Service. It will be a matter for that committee to order its business and decide how to accommodate the point made yesterday, namely, that where specific stages are relevant and possible amendments on specific sections that would be of particular importance, there would be a fair bit of debate. As I understand it, that is what is envisaged and it is the way to proceed.

We have to get on with this legislation. It is difficult and complex and provides a heavy workload for everybody but it must be proceeded with. We will do that and accommodate everything in the very best way we can in the interests of trying to debate those sections of the Bill that are of major concern to people and seeing that amendments are put forward and debated. We do not have unlimited time because of the urgency of the situation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  On a point of information——

[792]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Very briefly, Deputy Burton.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Taoiseach has been very helpful and the matter of how this will work is very important. Did the Taoiseach say that Committee Stage would commence on 21 October? If that is the case, we must have our amendments in by 10 a.m. Second Stage of the Bill is being voted on only tonight. It would be impossible. We would not even have a chance to hear what the Minister for Finance proposes. Can I get clarification from the Whip about the proposed date?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is envisaged to begin Committee Stage in the week beginning 21 October.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  If that is so, will the Whip clarify whether we must have all our amendments in by 10 a.m.?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Whip will talk to the Deputy about that.

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Tá reachtaíocht geallta i leith teorainneacha na Gaeltachta, an sainmhíniú nua ar cad is Gaeltacht ann agus Údarás na Gaeltachta. An mbeidh an straitéis 20 bliain foilsithe roimh 9 Nollaig, lá na cáinaisnéise?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Níl aon dáta socraithe againn go fóill le haghaidh foilsiúcháin na straitéise, nó cathain a bheidh sí ar fáil do gach éinne. Beidh mé ag caint leis an Aire ionas go mbeidh mé in ann——

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Níl aon deifir ar an Rialtas.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Tá deifir orainn os rud é go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go mbeidh an straitéis cheart.

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Ní bhraithim é sin ón moill atá ar an straitéis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Tá sé an-thábhachtach go mbeidh na socruithe cearta againn ionas go gcabhróidh an straitéis linn an Ghaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí a chur chun cinn arís.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I wish the Ceann Comhairle well. To confirm my understanding, are Members called on the Order of Business as they indicated?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  As best as I can, but when there is a rush of hands towards the Chair, it is not always easy to get them in that sequence.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  A bit of variety is not a lot to ask for.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I would like to be brief, unlike some of the other Members.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Deputy Stagg should be reminded that there are twice as many hands on this side than on his.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I advise the Ceann Comhairle not to be intimidated by Deputy Stagg.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I ask people to stop putting two hands up together in an effort to gain an advantage.

[793]Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  The Taoiseach will be aware that an Irish citizen, Mr. Michael Dwyer was shot in unusual circumstances in Santa Cruz in Bolivia in April. Does the Taoiseach agree that the family is at least entitled to the truth surrounding the circumstances of Mr. Dwyer’s death? Will he and the Minister for Foreign Affairs use their influence with a view to establishing an independent international inquiry into those circumstances, given the conflicting evidence between the Bolivian authorities and our State pathologist?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Everyone would share Deputy Timmins’s hopes for the family that it would find out exactly what happened in this tragic situation. I know that the Department of Foreign Affairs, its personnel and the Minister have been anxious since the incident occurred to obtain the fullest possible accurate information as to what exactly happened. I will convey the Deputy’s comments this morning to the Department and ask it perhaps to update him as to where things are at.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I thank the Taoiseach.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Is the Taoiseach aware of Coca-Cola’s shameful disregard for a Labour Court recommendation in respect of redundancy levels? Some 27 workers have been picketing in Tuam for the past six weeks, although there are also workers picketing in Dublin and Cork.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is there promised legislation in this area?

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  What, if anything, can the Government do about this matter? It appears that the company is giving the two fingers to the Labour Court recommendation. It is not right.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I believe that once we have a voluntary mechanism of industrial relations in this country, the industrial relations machinery should be used to the full. There is a best practice tradition in this country to the effect that the Labour Court’s recommendations be respected, worked through and implemented. Whatever issues that might be arising that require further consideration should be dealt with in that context, so I would ask that best practice in industrial relations behaviour apply in this as in other cases.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I thank the Taoiseach.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I wish to ask about 772 people who are living in what are de-designated psychiatric units and 300 people with intellectual disabilities who are still in psychiatric hospitals. In respect of the 772, the units are not subject to inspections because they have been de-designated and, therefore, no one knows their condition or how the situation should proceed. Will the Taoiseach ensure that not only will the HIQA standards of inspection be implemented, but that inspections be extended to these units?

Will the Taoiseach intervene to ensure that the €40 million obtained by selling psychiatric hospital lands that is now in the Department of Finance be given to the HSE to provide proper services for those people, as was intended under the legislation? The money derived from the sale of lands was to be used for the benefit of people already in psychiatric hospitals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I suggest that the Deputy table a parliamentary question to the line Minister.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I did. I know this is the Ceann Comhairle’s first day and we are all anxious that everything should go well, but I tabled questions on all of these issues and was [794]told that the HSE not the Minister for Health and Children had responsibility. However, the HSE tells me that it is the responsibility of the Department of Finance. In the meantime, 772 unfortunate people are living in appalling conditions when they could be in the community and 300 people with intellectual disabilities are in wards mixing with people unsuited to their needs. When will we do something about this situation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I think that the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, has been very active in this area and is obviously anxious and is in the process, in the context of budgets and Estimates, to see in what way he can advance the issue of mental health services generally. I will have confidence that the budgetary and Estimates process will find some way forward that will improve the present situation.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  I wish the Ceann Comhairle well in his new role.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I thank the Deputy.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  The health service is crumbling, but the author of the collapse is being rewarded with a bonus of €70,000. Elderly patients in my constituency are being turned away from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Longford——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is legislation promised in this area?

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  ——despite there being empty beds because of the HSE’s moratorium on recruiting staff. My question is to the Taoiseach. When can we expect the publication of the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill? “Eligibility” implies provision.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no date for that legislation at the moment.

Deputy Mary Upton: Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Recently, I have received numerous serious complaints from the neighbours of householders who are creating persistent noise and disturbances. I want to ask about two Bills, particularly where landlords fail to take effective action, namely, the noise nuisance Bill and the landlord and tenant Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand that the noise nuisance Bill will be taken in this session. The second Bill referred to by the Deputy will, I think, be next year.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  I wish to raise an issue under the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill, given the presence of the Minister of State with responsibility for labour, Deputy Calleary, and the Tánaiste. When we are discussing the effectiveness of the board, we must also discuss a radical overhaul of courses. I am encountering many constituents, sparkies and plumbers, who have done one, two or three years of their apprenticeships but who find themselves in limbo. Their expectations were for 26-week courses, which puts them further into limbo.

Some 27% of the unemployed are aged under 25 years. This is 104,000 people. We must consider a situation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Could we contemplate a parliamentary question?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  While we are considering a radical overhaul of the board, we also need to consider a radical overhaul of the courses that we deliver. We have only to look at our neighbours in America where Cormac McCarthy wrote a book entitled, “No Country for Old Men”. We are in the process of——

[795]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Please, try to focus on promised legislation.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  ——creating a country for——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The alternative is a parliamentary question.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  Ireland is becoming no country for young men. We need to address this serious situation. Some 104,000 people in the unemployed labour force are aged under 25 years. Young people are getting on boats and aeroplanes. We cannot record——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy McHugh, please.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  It is the same as the 1980s, in that we cannot record the statistics——

Deputy Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Is Deputy McHugh live on Highland Radio? I would say he is. Is it a live feed?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  We are throwing those under 25 years of age to the slaughter. We are letting them go and ignoring the serious issue of jobs in this country, where——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  ——there is a greater enticement to be on the dole than in work.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy McHugh should conclude.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment should not be laughing at that.

Deputy Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I look forward to hearing about this.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We are waiting to start the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill, so if we can get on with the business of the House, we might be able to address some of these issues.

Deputy Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Exactly. We have been waiting on it for an hour.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  In the first instance, I join with others in wishing the Ceann Comhairle well in his office. I hope I do not test his patience on his first day. I am not anxious to delay the business of the House but I want to make one remark about something the Taoiseach said earlier. He mentioned the Government’s heavy legislative workload. By way of being positive, I ask if the Taoiseach would consider the outsourcing of the preparation of legislation. A number of Bills on the proposed legislative list have been put back. I say this because there has been——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We are retracking on previous questions.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Not so. I can assure the Ceann Comhairle that people may not even agree with what I have to say. If the Government wanted to eliminate the legislative backlog the Taoiseach could announce that he was willing to give up the Government monopoly on the initiation of legislation and allow legislation to be initiated by the Opposition and in committees. I am not going to develop this point because instead of going down that road we have a rather ill-informed rush to change the electoral system. What is the reasoning behind this? It is not to change the legislative process. I am just noting this point.

[796]I refer to a seminal paper prepared by former Attorney General, Mr. David Byrne, which ruled that Ministers in delegating functions to bodies such as the HSE or any other body, did so in an explicit policy envelope and could not legally, under the Constitution, devolve any function they held as Minister other than that which was specified in the Act appointing the particular body to which delegation was made. This should inform the notion——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Could we come to the question, please Deputy.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  ——as to when is it appropriate to ask a question.

I will finish with an explicit question about promised legislation. Ireland has not ratified theHague Convention on the protection of the child. We have not done so because we have not passed the adoption Bill which is on the list of promised legislation. Our failure to ratify the adoption Bill is accompanied by the failure of Vietnam to accept the Hague Convention. Vietnam aspires to accept the Hague Convention in 2010. It is most likely to be 2011——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy is drifting.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am finishing now. My question is when will we have the adoption Bill and related legislation before the House? When I have listened to all the huff and puff about electoral reform from people who do not want to change the legislative process I will find another way of stating those other more general views. However, it is a pity that we would not be committed to wanting to improve the flow of legislation through the House.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I have offered all these views to the Joint Committee on the Constitution as one does one’s best.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  They are dormant.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I thank the Deputy for his question. It is hoped to take the adoption Bill in November.

On the other points raised by the Deputy, the issue from the Government’s point of view is always to bring forward legislation that is consistent with Government policy. Much legislation is brought forward under the aegis of Private Members’ time and this is the entitlement of any party or individual Member but such legislation may not be consistent with the Government position and therefore does not go beyond Second Stage.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That is another British convention.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is part of our heritage with which we have to contend. However, it is open to try and develop the committee system. Where there are broad areas of agreement in the House on issues that may require legislative enactment, then it is open to Members to try and work constructively together. Too often, however, partisanship dominates and it seems people would be fearful that we would be in agreement on certain things. In fact we probably agree on far more than we let on. It would be helpful if Dáil reform could develop a committee system to do that.

There is an arrangement whereby outside drafting personnel are provided but in any case such work must be finally approved by the officials in the Office of the Attorney General. Having taken a question from the Deputy’s party leader this morning and with reference to February 2008 when this question was asked, there are now more drafting personnel in the [797]Office of the Attorney General. It is the policy to move away over time from contract to permanent staff. This has been achieved even in the context of a moratorium and by means of the office not employing certain staff in other areas of activity. The point is made that we need to be efficient and effective in everything we do. I agree the legislative work load is high. We could do a lot more by working together but we need eminent Members of the House on all sides to come together and try and make this happen.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  I join my colleagues in wishing the Ceann Comhairle the very best in his term of office.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the animal health and welfare Bill which is listed in section C of promised legislation, the heads of Bills yet to be approved by Government. I ask about some of the so-called concessions agreed between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party last week with regard to animal welfare. These are included in what is termed the programme for Government but I would refer to it as an aspirational policy document. What does the Taoiseach intend will be included in this Bill? That document sets out the prospect of a ban on the culling of badgers, the phasing out of fur hunting and a reference to ending stag hunting. We are not quite clear on the time line for this. Will it be included in the Bill which is set out in promised legislation? Does the Taoiseach believe this is a serious series of measures for improving animal welfare or will it be just more window dressing which will not deal with real animal welfare issues? For example, my colleague, Deputy Andrew Doyle, today raised the issue of puppy farming which takes place in horrendous conditions and all around the country but which does not seem to have been included in the aspirational document last week.

These proposals have been much vaunted by the Green Party as one of the biggest achievements in the so-called programme for Government yet the document does not go any way towards addressing the real and serious issues of animal welfare. It also probably suggests that the Greens in Government, far from being the meat in the sandwich are probably a little more like the hummus within the toasted ciabatta.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I hope the Deputy gets a line for that remark.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  It is the only mention of agriculture in the document.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  What does the Taoiseach think of that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We did not go for the hummus in my county.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I have not heard of it either.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We will have to survive without it.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It did not take in Mayo.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  To answer the serious point, consultation has been completed on an animal welfare Bill. There is no date for bringing forward the legislation but work will be ongoing on the Bill, quite apart from further issues that are addressed in the programme for Government.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  I wish the Ceann Comhairle well.

Regarding the forthcoming budget and finance Bill, there is no reference to the Limerick regeneration project in the so-called new programme for Government whereas the original programme for Government made specific mention of regeneration projects. Also, there is no mention of it in the report of the jobs task force established by the Tánaiste. Is the Minister still committed to Limerick regeneration? Why was it not included in the new programme for [798]Government? When will it be approved at Cabinet? I understand there is a commitment that it will happen towards the end of this month. The regeneration programme for Limerick is still not formal Government policy——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask the Deputy to contemplate a parliamentary question on the matter.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  —— and I ask the Taoiseach if he can give a commitment that the Government will be funding it. It is unacceptable that it is not mentioned in the new programme for Government. It is important for the Taoiseach to make reference to it in the House today.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The revision of the programme does not indicate its exhaustive nature. There are existing programmes and policies in place.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  Do we have a loophole for the Government or simply an amendment to the existing programme?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is what a review is; one reviews the existing programme.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  It is not a new programme for Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy is aware of the way in which the House works, he asks the questions and I give the answers. Is that okay?

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  Absolutely.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I thank the Deputy. Is he finished asking the question?

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I have outlined to the Deputy that the existing programmes and policies extant under the aegis of Government will, of course, continue. The revised programme sets out some of the priority areas and some of the issues that came up for discussion on which further agreement was required. The whole range of Government activity is not encapsulated in any one programme for Government and that applies to any Government.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I join with my colleagues in wishing the Ceann Comhairle well. Did the Taoiseach see last night’s harrowing television programme about the personal odyssey of a Green Party Member? One could have cut the tension with a knife.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It was nerve-wracking.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The merit of it was that one did not know which way things were going to go until right up to the end. I had to have a cold cloth applied to my forehead because I was so worn out simply watching it. At 1 o’clock an additional 300 teachers was agreed to but he got it ramped up to 500 by tea time and we are all very grateful for that. I wish to avail of this opportunity to ask the Taoiseach to respond to queries we have received. Will any of those teachers be recruited during the present academic year?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is over a three year programme. As the Deputy is aware the question of the detailed implementation of the programme is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science. As a general point, the question of allocation of teachers in any year is based on the [799]intake of the previous September, as the Deputy is aware. The question is to establish in what way we can deal with any specific issues that arise based on criteria which are to be worked out by the Department. That will inform how those extra teachers will be provided for and it is quite apart from the extra teachers that will be provided because of demographic change. It is a commitment for a further improvement in the situation based on the changes that took place in 2007.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  A lot of cycling is involved.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I do not want detail from the Taoiseach but will any be employed in the present academic year? That is the query we are hearing.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That is it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The objective criteria have to be worked out and the basis on which they will be appointed. I am making the point that over the next three years there will be 500 extra teachers.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I join with my colleagues in wishing the Ceann Comhairle well in his new post. I refer to the commitment about third level fees in the programme for Government. Will a cap be put on the registration fee? There is great concern among people who must pay a €1,500 registration fee. Will that figure rise? The Taoiseach represents a rural constituency, as do I. People from rural areas have very significant registration fees to pay plus accommodation costs and such people are under desperate pressure. There are many families with children in college throughout the country. Is it possible that at some stage in the future people will get tax concessions or that they would be able to write costs off against tax? It is very unfair, especially for rural people. Is there a commitment that the Taoiseach will cap the fee after €1,500 and will it be possible to get tax concessions?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I refer the Deputy to the programme for Government which confirms the situation in respect of fees. The question of registration fees relates to specific areas of expense that must be accommodated. That situation is outlined in the programme.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  That concludes the Order of Business for today.


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