Whistleblowers Protection Bill 2010: First Stage.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 700 No. 3

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Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I move:

[593]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Pat Carey): Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  No.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Since this is a Private Members’ Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members’ time.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I move: “That the Bill be taken in Private Members’ time.”

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Last year broadcasting legislation was passed by the two Houses and the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources was charged with carrying out a selection process for appointments to the boards of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTE. That process was completed before Christmas. We all know the Minister, Deputy Ryan, has an eccentric view regarding appointments to the public services. He seems to think a telephone call and a chat is enough.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  We now have a situation where, I understand, four Cabinet meetings have been held and yet these appointments have not been made. I have no idea what is going on, but the committee on which I sit carried out its duty in an exemplary fashion. We made our recommendations to the Minister, Deputy Ryan. He does not have to accept them, but we have no word——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We cannot have Question Time on the Order of Business. The Deputy can table a parliamentary question.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The people who went through that process are now being treated with great discourtesy because the decision has not been made at Cabinet level to accept them or not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy McManus, you are abusing the Order of Business. It is never intended to be utilised as Question Time.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  What is going on? Maybe the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, could let us in on the secret.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The question is not in order.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On the last subject, I tabled a question and the answer was “None”. It tells one nothing; it is the usual story.

On promised legislation, what is the current status of legislation to amend the social welfare code? Have the heads of a Bill been agreed? What discussion has taken place? It would appear there is a major reform of the social welfare code, which will result in a diminution in entitlements and means testing, etc., which we have not seen heretofore.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I understand a social welfare Bill is promised for this session.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is item No. 50.

[594]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We have an answer on that, Deputy.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  We do not have an answer. The question I asked——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The question was on promised legislation.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I am entitled to ask the degree to which preparation of the Bill has been undertaken, what stage it is at and when we expect it to come before the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The extent of the question allowed concerns when the Bill is being taken.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  A Member is entitled to ask when a Bill will be introduced into the House and its degree of preparation to date so we can come to our own conclusions as to when it will come before the House.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Perhaps I can give a slightly fuller answer. The Bill is described as the social welfare (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. It provides for amendments to the social welfare code. It will be published this session. It is the only Bill which is specifically a social welfare Bill before the Minister. There are two other items of legislation of a different description.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  My point concerns spouses engaged in a commercial partnerships, the response I received to a parliamentary question and the legislative clarity which is needed. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is asking a number of people, many of whom are married women on farms who are authorised for the payment of a State pension and who are now being asked to give the money back.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  This is not an extension of Question Time.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  I will get to the point. The Department has issued an apology in this case but we need legislative clarity, possibly in the Finance Bill. One has to wonder if anybody read the legislation before the scheme was announced. The Department constructed and designed the scheme on the premise that the returns were being solely made by husbands, and now it is disallowing successful applicants from qualifying, based on the fact that the wives made no contributions independent of their husbands.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy, on promised legislation.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  The scheme was advertised on the basis of that phenomenon. Now the State wants its money back because of what the Department identified as the reason for introducing the scheme in place in the first place. The Minister needs to clarify to the Dáil——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy, can you raise this matter on the Adjournment?

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  I will ask the Minister about the finance Bill and whether this scheme can be included in it to give the people concerned clarity. It is a very petty way of dealing with people, and the State, the Government, the Department and Minister need to deal with the issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We will allow the Minister to come in as a number of other Deputies wish to speak.

[595]Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It is not a matter for the finance Bill. There is a difficulty of which I am aware. The initial advice of the Minister is that the difficulty did not require legislative resolution. However, she is examining the matter further and if legislation is required she will bring it forward.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  On the drug prescription Bill, we raised the issue of head shops. Would the Minister be prepared to include in it provisions for the quarantining of all substances until they have been passed by the Food Safety Authority or the Irish Medicines Board? I am trying to be helpful because children and young people are being put at risk.

Another area which I would like to address is the forestry Bill. It has come to my attention that it is intended to close Teagasc in Kinsealy with the loss of more than 100 jobs. This area is particularly important for horticulture, which is carried out in north Dublin. I am trying to be helpful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There is no legislation involved.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  There is, the forestry Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  You are stretching things.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  There might be opportunities there instead of selling off land when it is at its lowest value. The Minister, Deputy Lenihan, might be linked to this issue. Why would one sell property at this point in time when it is on its knees? The land comprises 80 acres which would be valuable for the future.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  It is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  The Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, refers to resourcing horticulture with one hand while he removes the research facility with the other. There were 21 personnel involved in research in horticulture several years ago; now there are 2.5.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  The issue of head shops is very important. The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, was present earlier and I hoped she would be here when I raised this issue. It is concerning a lot of parents. Families are very upset about it. There is a loophole in the law which needs to be closed immediately, not in two years’ time when young people in this country will have died as a result of taking these drugs. I ask the Government to introduce emergency legislation to the Dáil to deal with head shops.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is secondary legislation promised?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Secondary legislation is promised in the this matter which will address the issue. I understand, in light of the ongoing health risks associated with some of the products, the Department of Health and Children is preparing regulations which will control these substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  As the Minister is aware, there are two main criteria involved in the public procurement process for major capital projects, namely, turnover and the capacity of the company. This is putting certain companies at a competitive advantage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Through the Chair, Deputy.

[596]Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  Will the Minister examine the possibly of introducing a measure under the Competition Act or the financial regulation Bill, which is item No. 60 on the Order Paper?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is there promised legislation in this area?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  No.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  This is putting smaller companies at a competitive disadvantage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is no promised legislation in this area. The Deputy cannot make a speech and he certainly cannot ignore the Chair.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  My last point——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is no last point.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  Ten companies in this country get all the large contracts, namely, McNamara brothers. Small companies with a turnover of €8 million to €9 million cannot——-

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Deputy McHugh, you will resume your seat or leave the House.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  It is something which should be addressed. There is a cartel system which should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Go raibh maith agat.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is no go raibh maith agat regarding ignoring the Chair.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  I am being nice.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I want to be very clear on the normal Standing Orders of the House. When the Chair stands and addresses a Deputy, the Deputy, under the Orders of the House, must resume his or her seat. We will have latitude regarding debate but the Chair will not be completely ignored.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  On a——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please, this is not a debate.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  On a point of information——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There is no such thing in the Standing Orders. I will send you a copy.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  There was a great degree of latitude here prior to the arrival of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is important that we have order in the House. I will give absolute latitude as far as the rules allow to every Deputy, but the Chair will not be simply ignored.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  It is also important that we do not have a cartel system in the country.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I have a question on a Bill in respect of which heads have been agreed and texts are being drafted. The Government’s legislative programme indicates that publication of No. 25 in section B, the qualifications (education and training) Bill, is expected [597]in late 2010. The purpose of the legislation is described as to amalgamate HETAC and FETAC in a new organisation which “will also take responsibility for the external quality assurance review of the universities”. In so far as publication is expected in late 2010, and it is not clear when the report of the working group on the future of third level education is likely to be published, was it somewhat premature of the Minister for Education and Science to announce that he will abolish the National University of Ireland?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  As the Deputy will be aware, he may not ask questions on the contents or specifics of legislation.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I may ask about precipitative action by the Minister.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The heads of the Bill were approved in principle by the Government on 13 January. The publication of the actual text will be in late 2010. There is a Government decision about the matters referred to.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  On that matter——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy must refer to the same legislation.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is aware, I am usually very orderly. The Minister stated there is a Government decision in the matter. In that case, may I assume the Minister for Education and Science obtained Cabinet permission to abolish the National University of Ireland? Is that the decision?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Earlier this week, the Tánaiste informed the leader of my party, Deputy Gilmore, that a letter from the Health Service Executive to the community and voluntary agencies it funds was issued in error. The letter referred to cutting the pay of employees in the organisations in question. Will the Minister comment on concerns that the Health Service Executive will reduce funding to these organisations to force them to implement pay cuts? Will he state clearly that it is not the Government’s intention that the HSE do this?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy’s questions are not in order.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  It is important that the Minister clarify what he intended when he introduced the budget.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  All the matters raised are important. There are, however, ways and means to raise them properly which underscore their importance.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Will the Minister clarify exactly what are his intentions in the Finance Bill?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  He cannot do so, although he may indicate when the Finance Bill will be introduced.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The matter does not arise in the Finance Bill.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  It arose in the budget. There is deep concern that the Health Service Executive will misinterpret the Minister’s intentions. Does the matter arise in the Estimates?

[598]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is legislation or secondary legislation involved in implementing the relevant budget proposal?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  There is no proposal.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  While I do not know if I am entitled to ask about the Estimates, do they feature a requirement to cut the pay of voluntary and community organisations?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is in order on the Order of Business to raise proposals for legislation and their timing as well as secondary legislation. It is not in order to engage in a general debate on budgetary matters. Other means of raising such matters, including the Adjournment debate, are available to Deputies.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  If legislation has indirect or unintentional consequences, clarification must be provided in the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am afraid that is not the case.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The matter certainly needs to be clarified for the workers involved.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  When the Labour Party introduced a Private Members’ motion on a banking inquiry the Minister at that point and in earlier statements advised the House that he would shortly appoint an expert wise man or woman who would be a national or international figure. He gave the impression that this would occur late last week. A further week has passed and the Tánaiste——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The matter is not in order as it does not relate to promised legislation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It is related to the banking inquiry which the Government has indicated may have to be the subject of legislation. The Minister informed the House he would return——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy may not make a speech.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  As the Minister is present and this is an important point related to a fundamental inquiry in the banks, will the Minister indicate whether he has identified——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  While all the points raised are important, they are not in order.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Tánaiste indicated on the Order of Business that the Minister was talking to someone. Has the Minister brought an appointment to the Cabinet? Will he announce it to the House? Two weeks have passed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy has made her point. The question is not in order.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  There is no promised legislation but contact has been made with a particular person and discussions are ongoing with a view to making a rapid appointment.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Two weeks have passed and the inquiry is supposed to be concluded by the end of May.

[599]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy had a good innings on a number of issues. We must move on.


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