Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Post-Release (Restrictions on Certain Activities) Orders Scheme 2010; No. 21, the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Carbon Revenue Levy) Bill 2010 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 22, Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 6 Health (Amendment) Bill 2010 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; No. 11 shall be decided without debate; Report and Final Stages of No. 21 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Private Members’ business shall be No. 81 — motion re tourism, which shall be taken at 7 p.m. tonight, or on the conclusion of No. 21, whichever is the later, and shall be adjourned after 90 minutes tonight; and Report and Final Stages of No. 22 shall be taken tonight and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is not agreed. Will the Government facilitate an opportunity for the House to address the serious issues that have arisen recently in the course of the leaving certificate and junior certificate examinations? Given that there is no ministerial provision in that regard, the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills will not have an opportunity to address those matters between now and the summer recess. In effect, what will happen is that the serious questions that need to be addressed will not be addressed on the floor of the Dáil until the autumn session. Will the Taoiseach provide time for the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills to make a statement on the serious matters concerning errors in some of the examination papers and the omission of several pages——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but it is absolutely in order. What is not in order is cutting me off every time I try to ask an important and salient question. I ask again in the interests of the address of those important matters, and the questions that must arise in terms of whether the State Examinations Commission is properly resourced or if serious questions may be directed towards its conduct of its remit and responsibilities. Will the Taoiseach accommodate such an opportunity before we break for the summer recess?
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Widespread concern is being expressed about the competency levels of the State Examinations Commission having regard to what happened last year and this year. Could the Whips or the Taoiseach consider whether some time could be made available to comment on the point that has been raised by Deputy Ó Caoláin?
The Taoiseach: We are under considerable time constraints in terms of legislation we need to put through the House. There are other methods and means by which those matters can be raised such as Private Notice Questions, on the Adjournment and in committee hearings. The State Examinations Commission carries out a review each year in respect of errors and issues that have arisen. I very much regret that errors of the type we have seen in recent days have occurred. A comprehensive review is necessary. These are avoidable errors and need to be addressed fully. I would not like to see them repeated given the anxiety and concern they cause students. I thank those, many in schools, who were able to get the matter rectified without the examination being compromised in the 16 schools concerned.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot make a second contribution. I am sorry but I cannot allow Members to speak twice. There are many other ways to raise the matter such as to ask a Special Notice Question or to raise the matter on the Adjournment. We will consider the matters sympathetically if they are raised.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Post-Release (Restrictions on Certain Activities) Orders Scheme 2010 without debate agreed to? Agreed.
Deputy Enda Kenny: This is the annual reoccurrence of the guillotine, an unusual weapon used in the French Revolution. I do not wish the situation to arise where we have a series of guillotined Bills between now and the summer recess. Only four or five amendments have been tabled in respect of the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Carbon Revenue Levy) Bill. I am informed that perhaps an hour’s discussion is required. That is not the way we should proceed. I have objected in principle previously to guillotines being imposed and I object to it now. I will vote against the proposal.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I raised the issue on Thursday that the Government is planning to use the guillotine a number of times on legislation this week. It is intended to guillotine five Bills during the course of this week. That is bad habit on the part of the Government. It is done every year when we come towards the end of the session. It is a device which the Government is using serially in order to avoid proper debate in the House on legislation and then rushing it through at the last minute using the guillotine. The irony in the case of this Bill is that it is our view that the guillotine is not necessary at all. I understand from our spokesperson, Deputy McManus, that it would be possible to have the Bill dealt with in the normal way. In all probability it might not run until 7 p.m. when it is proposed to introduce a guillotine but the Government has become so addicted to its use that it would appear that on this occasion it is proposing to use it where in fact a guillotine is not necessary.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I wish to speak on the same matter, namely, the imposition of the guillotine. Where previously it was a feature in the run-up to recesses both prior to the summer and Christmas, in the past year the guillotine has been employed quite freely at various times throughout each of the sessions. It is completely unnecessary. As recent experiences will show, some legislation passes through the House much quicker than the Chief Whip and the Government side have anticipated. I believe that will also apply to the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Carbon Revenue Levy) Bill. The guillotine is also to be applied to the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill which is due to conclude at 10 p.m. this evening. I do not believe that is necessary. The guillotine should not be employed in that way. I urge the Taoiseach to remove the guillotine and to allow the House to freely debate each of these matters.
The Taoiseach: During the course of the session many Deputies have been asking for the enactment and progression of legislation and as we come towards the end of the session it is unfortunate that a sizeable number of Bills require to be dealt with. I made the point last week, which is something we need to address, namely, that when Bills are referred to committees it is totally in the hands of the committee to decide how long it will stay on Committee Stage before returning to the House. There should be a time limit applied so committees that receive legislation would regard it as their priority work, thus allowing Report Stage to proceed in the House and preventing the pushing back of legislation. I take the point on some legislation that has only recently been published. We are trying to deal with issues that need to dealt with immediately by legislation before we rise. However, there are a number of problems and they are not all on the Government side. I make that point for future reference. I hope that, during the next term, some means will be found by committees, Departments and Ministers to determine how soon legislation can return to the House. There are some cases where it does not come back as quickly as would otherwise be the case.
With regard to Second Stage Dáil debates on these matters, approximately one hour and 30 minutes was allocated for the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Carbon Revenue Levy) Bill and an hour and 17 minutes was allocated for the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill. It may be the case that we will not require the use of the guillotine for the legislation going through the House this evening but it must be provided for by the Whip in the event that it will take the time allocated because he must proceed with other legislation. It is not for the purpose of being gratuitous but for the good order of the House. If we can get the Bill through before 7 p.m., all the better. In this case, the guillotine will not be utilised and we will move on to the next Bill and have more time to consider it.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Dermot.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Andrews, Chris.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Collins, Niall.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cowen, Brian.||Cregan, John.|
|Cuffe, Ciarán.||Curran, John.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Dooley, Timmy.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kenneally, Brendan.|
|Kennedy, Michael.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Mansergh, Martin.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M. J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Brien, Darragh.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Donoghue, John.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Keeffe, Edward.||O’Rourke, Mary.|
|O’Sullivan, Christy.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Ryan, Eamon.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Scanlon, Eamon.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Behan, Joe.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Costello, Joe.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Creed, Michael.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McEntee, Shane.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McHugh, Joe.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||O’Sullivan, Maureen.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Reilly, James.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheahan, Tom.|
|Sheehan, P. J.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members’ business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 22, Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, agreed to?
Deputy Enda Kenny: I have made my point about guillotines. I do not wish to unduly hold up the time of the House by voting against it, except to say to the Government Whip not to come in with a rash of guillotines between now and the rising of the Dáil for the summer recess.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I concur with Deputy Kenny. This is another example of a Bill where, frankly, the guillotine is not necessary. This Bill could have been dealt with in the normal course of events. If we needed extra time to deal with it, that is fine and is already agreed. There is no need for a guillotine on this Bill.
On the question on the Saville inquiry report, I understand we can arrange that for next week. I had indicated that we would do it this week. However, I will arrange it for next week and use this week to get an agreed motion.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: What are the Government’s current plans regarding the Dublin mayor Bill? I noted over the weekend that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, now seems to think that the Bill might be published, but not enacted, before the summer recess. When will the Bill be published and when is it now anticipated by the Government that the election for the directly-elected mayor of Dublin will take place?
My second question is in respect of the decision yesterday by the Government to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court in the case of transgender persons, the effect being that the previous High Court ruling now stands, that Ireland is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
I understand that, arising from yesterday’s decision, the Taoiseach must report the court’s decision to the Dáil within 21 sitting days. What is his intention in this regard and when will we see his report on the court’s decision?
I understand that the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, will need to introduce legislation recognising transgender persons in their new genders and allowing them to get new birth certificates in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. When will the Minister introduce this legislation to the House?
The Taoiseach: The arrangements are being made to have the order of the High Court in the Foy case laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is intended that this will be done before the summer recess.
Regarding the Minister for Social Protection, he has established an interdepartmental group to advise him on the legislation required to comply with the ruling of the High Court in the Foy case. That work has begun and representatives of the relevant Government Departments are involved. It has met in recent weeks and will hold a public consultation as part of its deliberations as well, but I have no timescale for when it will finish its work.
The Taoiseach: Obviously, the Minister is hoping to be in a position to bring it to Government for the purpose of its publication. As the Deputy knows, there is a commitment in the programme for Government on this matter, but we are waiting for it to be brought to Government by the relevant Department.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Last week, I tried to establish whether the Multi-Unit Developments Bill 2009 is likely to reach Second Stage so that we can deal with Committee Stage over the summer. There is serious grief for all of the reasons the Taoiseach knows. I hope it can be taken.
While I am on my feet, I wish to raise a second matter on the Order of Business. The chairperson of the rights of the child committee, Deputy O’Rourke, recently made a speech that I took to mean that, if the Opposition did not persist with demands to hold by-elections, the referendum could go ahead. Is this Government policy or was she speaking for herself?
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I have two matters to raise, one with the Ceann Comhairle and another through him on legislation. As the Chair of the House and the protector of the rights of Deputies, can he advise a Deputy who, having tabled a question to the Minister for Education and Skills, did not receive a reply, was refused an answer or received an answer in which the information was vague? At what point do the rights of Deputies kick in as distinct from the position of the Minister?
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Quinn, who is a long time in the House, will be well aware that the Chair does not have a rights commissioner role in the House. Some occupants might like that power, but it is an issue that may need to be deliberated on for a while.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: We are not being effective. This matter was raised previously and the Department in question is getting worse, in that it is refusing to give information. What are the rights of Deputies in the House if this is the case?
Deputy Emmet Stagg: On that point, the CPP has considered this matter under the Ceann Comhairle’s chairmanship and written to the Department of Education and Skills specifically and other Departments, insisting they answer the questions put to them by Deputies. Under the Ceann Comhairle’s guidance, the CPP drew up new Standing Orders, but the Government side en masse, which was unusual at the CPP, voted them down in a partisan manner. They would have given the Ceann Comhairle authority to make the Minister provide an answer to a question.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Will the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government appear before the House this week to explain his announcement of a review of a number of local authorities? I listened to today’s lunchtime news when Cork City Council’s manager, Mr. Joe Gavin, seemed quite bewildered as to why this investigation has been requested. The Department’s website seems to be sending two signals. First, this is a general investigation of practices. Second, there is a suggestion of complaints of a particular nature. Will the Minister appear before the Dáil and let us know what notification was given to individual local authorities on this matter? Why were these ones targeted specifically?
Deputy David Stanton: I have three questions for the Taoiseach. First, is the mental capacity Bill still going to be published before we rise for the summer recess? Second, on the promise to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, must we deal with other serious human rights before doing so? Third, regarding No. 82 on today’s Order Paper, where stands Dáil reform from the Government’s point of view? Will there be proposals from the Government side this year, next year or any year?
The Taoiseach: That is the hope of the Department. On the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign, subject to ratification. It is the Government’s intention to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary requirements under that convention are being met. There will be no undue delay in the State’s ratification of it, I understand.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I am sure it was purely coincidental, but while others and I were announcing two weeks ago that we would introduce Private Members’ legislation on sun beds, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, issued a press statement to the effect that she was ready with her legislation on the same issue. When will that Bill be introduced and what point has it reached? I believe its heads have been agreed.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: When will the White Paper on Local Government be published? Does its proposal, taken from the Green Paper, on abolishing town councils have any connection with the fact that Fianna Fáil has lost control of most town councils?
Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: As the Taoiseach is aware, he has made a number of private and public commitments regarding the introduction of legislation on offshore betting. Concern is growing among the horse and greyhound racing fraternities to the effect that the greyhound fund will collapse because of the proliferation of offshore betting.
It would help if this legislation was published before the summer. Only two weeks remain in this session. Does the Taoiseach expect it will be published over the next two weeks? Can the Taoiseach provide an assurance it will be published over the summer? It is a critical matter.
The Taoiseach: I indicated the Government’s intentions in these areas. The legislation must be prepared. An effort has been made to provide the legal means by which this might be achieved. I have indicated where this might happen. I cannot provide the commitment to have this published in the next couple of weeks as sought by Deputy Deenihan. It is being dealt with in the Department of Finance in consultation with the Department of Justice and Law Reform. I will keep a close eye on it.
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