Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a14, motion re Saville report; No. 20, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 20a, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 21, Central Bank Reform Bill 2010 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and that business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; the proceedings on No. a14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 75 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches of the Taoiseach and leaders of the Fine Gael, Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin or a person nominated in his stead, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share time, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. a14, whichever is the later until 2.30 p.m.; and Report and Final Stages of No. 20a 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 relation to amendments include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Social Protection.
Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 78, motion re patient safety authority (resumed) shall be taken at 7 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 20a, whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Before agreeing to this proposal, while the Taoiseach has responded in some measure to Deputy McGrath’s request under Standing Order 32 and mindful of the serious concerns of those living with and supporting people with disabilities who protested outside the gates of this House yesterday and in the Taoiseach’s constituency in Edenderry is there any prospect——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am asking that time be provided before the Dáil rises next week to address the serious impact of cuts to people with disability and those who provide their support services, including the home help service.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am asking about a time proposition in regard to the structuring of business in this House this and next week, which is the final week before the summer recess. I am appealing to the Taoiseach in the context of the severe——
An Ceann Comhairle: There are several other ways to raise the matter. I have no difficulty with the Deputy raising the matter at the appropriate time and under the appropriate heading but not on the Order of Business in this fashion.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I will revisit this matter. I am asking the Taoiseach and Chief Whip to consider providing time either this week or next week before the conclusion of the current term of the Dáil to debate this critically important issue. The House will next week slink off into the summer in shame if it does not address substantively this issue before then.
The Taoiseach: No one on this side of the House is slinking off anywhere. On the issue raised, health related legislation to be debated between now and the end of session provides people with an opportunity to raise the matter.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a14 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal relating to the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 23(1) agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 20a agreed to?
Deputy Enda Kenny: We have made soundings to the Taoiseach over recent weeks about the application of guillotines in this House. In this case, I understand a raft of amendments will not be reached in the time that has been allocated. On that basis, I oppose to the imposition of a guillotine on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I also object to the imposition of a guillotine on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. It never ceases to amaze me that issues which affect the poorest people in the country are always brushed aside in this House when Bills are rushed through and guillotined. Such issues do not get the kind of media headlines that other issues tend to get. Legislation that will affect the incomes of people on social welfare — people who have lost their jobs, pensioners, widows and widowers and people in difficult circumstances — is being rushed through and guillotined. The debate on the amendments to the Bill will be truncated. The various issues will not be given the time they require if they are to be addressed. The most disgusting thing about being in this House is the way poor people are treated. It is not even about how we divide on such matters, although we often disagree on them. It is about the pure lack of respect that is shown to people who are not well off. If we were talking about the incomes of people in well-paid employment, developers who are involved in the NAMA process or bank executives, loads of time would be devoted to it over many weeks. When we are considering legislation that affects people who are not well off and do not have big lobby organisations to speak on their behalf, we guillotine it and forget about them. It is unacceptable. I appeal to the Government, which is proposing to guillotine the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 at 7 p.m. this evening, to provide more time to deal with the various amendments, including those tabled by Deputy Shortall. It is not just a question of more time for debate — it is a question of showing respect to people who get very little respect in this House.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I would also like to object to the proposal to apply a guillotine to the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010, which will have serious consequences for the lives of ordinary people. I would like to know whether those who drafted the proposal to cease the provision of support to a lone parent when his or her child reaches the age of 13 have children of that age. Do they realise that the outlay multiplies at that stage, rather than winding down? As most Members of this House are parents, they have some sense or idea of the proportion of things. One of the responsibilities of parenthood is to provide for one’s children throughout their lifetimes until they are able to go out into the world. This terribly punitive Bill does not take that into account. It targets those who are least able to provide for themselves. We need to have an opportunity to properly address everything involved in it. The Bill that was originally presented was unacceptable under any circumstances. Its added dimensions, which were introduced by the Minister on Committee Stage, have made it even more objectionable than it was at the start. We are in a worse place now. This Bill is to be forced——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The same passion and concern needs to be demonstrated in the House today, in the interests of those who are being targeted in this legislation. The first step that needs to be taken to that end is the lifting of the guillotine, so that we can properly debate this Bill and explain that the measures contained in it are absolutely unacceptable.
The Taoiseach: The Second Stage debate on the Bill in question lasted six and a half hours. The Committee Stage debate on the Bill lasted all day last Thursday and resumed at 3 p.m. on Monday of this week. All of the issues have been articulated, addressed and discussed. The Report Stage debate will take place today to finalise the legislation. Deputies will appreciate that the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 has to be enacted within a certain timeframe. That is why we have to proceed. It is incorrect to suggest, as has been suggested in this House, that there has been no debate on this Bill. It is totally incorrect to suggest that any disrespect has been shown to those on social welfare. The Government’s record on social welfare provision over the past ten years has been far greater than anything Deputy Gilmore ever achieved when he was in office.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Dermot.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Andrews, Chris.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Calleary, Dara.||Carey, Pat.|
|Collins, Niall.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Curran, John.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Dooley, Timmy.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kenneally, Brendan.|
|Kennedy, Michael.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Michael P.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||Lowry, Michael.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGrath, Mattie.|
|McGrath, Michael.||McGuinness, John.|
|Mansergh, Martin.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M.J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Brien, Darragh.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||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.||Woods, Michael.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Bannon, James.|
|Barrett, Seán.||Behan, Joe.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burke, Ulick.|
|Burton, Joan.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Coonan, Noel J.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Creed, Michael.|
|Creighton, Lucinda.||D’Arcy, Michael.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Doyle, Andrew.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||Feighan, Frank.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Flanagan, Charles.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McHugh, Joe.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Perry, John.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Reilly, James.|
|Ring, Michael.||Shatter, Alan.|
|Sheahan, Tom.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
|Varadkar, Leo.||Wall, Jack.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: I understand it is proposed to guillotine the Central Bank Reform Bill tomorrow. The Taoiseach will be aware the ECB issued a report about the inadequacy of the Bill presented by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan. I hope the Whip does not proceed with the guillotine tomorrow. This needs discussion, based on the reports that have been submitted in its regard. I give the Taoiseach notice of that.
I refer to No. 38, the electricity (transmission on assets) Bill, which deals with the statutory primary legislation for setting up EirGrid. The Taoiseach is aware of the difficulty that has emerged because of the observation of a councillor that the notice of planning permission in respect of the interconnector programme to Northern Ireland has been withdrawn, after considerable expense. The Taoiseach might indicate whether there has been any progress in that Bill. The date involved was to be some time in 2011.
I heard the Taoiseach comment recently on the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. The relevant Bill is expected but it is not possible to say when it might be drafted. In view of the Taoiseach’s comment on this during the week, has any progress been made and when might we expect to see the heads of that Bill?
The Taoiseach: The Central Bank Reform Bill is being dealt with tonight as well as tomorrow so there is some time to consider it. The transmission Bill is due next year. I hope the legislation on the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority will be published in the next session.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: There is a report in the Irish Independent today that some relief may be on the way for homeowners who are struggling to meet repayments on their mortgages. The Labour Party has been seeking this for more than two years and we will be delighted it the report is true. It appears to be based on anticipation of a report from the group set up by the Government to look at the difficulties households are having in paying mortgages. When will that report be published?
The Taoiseach: I am not aware when it will be published. A great deal of work is going on in this area and it will require further consideration of other possible measures. It will be in addition to the code of conduct on mortgage arrears we brought forward. We also provided additional staff to the money advice and budgeting service, MABS. Some €64 million has been provided for the mortgage interest supplement scheme in 2010, which will assist more than 16,000 people this year. These measures have ensured that home repossession levels in Ireland remain very low and mostly involved sub-prime lenders.
The review group to look at solutions to the longer term problem is engaged and an initial report is due to the Government very shortly. The review group has met many interested parties and has come up with some practical and creative options but we must ensure that direct procedures are in place so that everybody is treated fairly.
Second, I refer to the mental health Bill. Notwithstanding the terrible statistics my colleague, Deputy Dan Neville, read out today, the psychiatric unit of St Davnet’s in Monaghan has been closed down. Services are being curtailed, a very serious matter that needs to be discussed in full.
Third, and by no means least, I refer to the legal costs Bill. Today we are talking about the elderly and disabled and the fact there is a major scarcity of money to sort out these problems but that elite legal group remains untouched although many years ago the then Minister for Justice assured us he would bring in a Bill——
Deputy James Reilly: I thank the Taoiseach for his earlier comments about cystic fibrosis and that he will clarify the situation for the House tomorrow, through the Tánaiste. However, if any further indication were needed for us to accept we have a very dysfunctional and broken health service, it is the reports today that people awaiting cancer treatment cannot proceed with that treatment because they cannot get necessary dental treatment beforehand——
Deputy James Reilly: ——and others, including a lady with multiple myeloma and another person awaiting transplant cannot proceed with their treatment or transplant until they get dental treatment. The GMS and the payments board have Paddy Burke writing to dentists telling them——
Deputy James Reilly: Perhaps we could do that as well. I merely point out that No. 63, the Bill on eligibility for the health and personal social services, will have very little meaning if this sort of behaviour continues and patients cannot access services——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I ask about two issues. One relates to the liberalisation of the postal sector in Ireland which must come into force on 1 January 2011, through the transposition of EU Directive 2008/6/EC. Have the heads of the relevant Bill been discussed and agreed in Cabinet? When will the Bill be introduced in the House and when is it expected the Bill will pass?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I have a second issue. In 2009 a raft of criminal legislation was passed in this House which purported to confront criminal gangs and the gun killings that were taking place throughout the country. Apparently, that legislation failed because now there seems to be a great difficulty in putting illegally held guns——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I can go through promised legislation in detail if the Ceann Comhairle wishes me to but it will take a long time. Otherwise I can go through legislation we passed last year which was deemed to be the answer for dealing with the issue.
The Taoiseach: There is no promised legislation in this area. A number of important pieces of legislation concerning criminal justice have been brought forward which are effective and are helping the gardaí deal with the very serious challenge to our society posed by violent crime. It is important to acknowledge that the gardaí are doing all they can and that they enjoy the confidence of the public in the job they are doing.
Deputy Joan Burton: I think this is the Taoiseach’s third last day on the Order of Business before the summer recess. I want to raise the issue of the tens of thousands people in estates, whether in apartment blocks or individual houses, who are subject to management companies. The Bill that came before the House has never been completed. In many cases——
Deputy Joan Burton: Yes, just bear with me for a moment. The builders and developers who control the management companies are gone bust. In many cases, they are living in the south of Spain or some other sunny spot away from their creditors, and people are stuck in situations and they cannot get out of them.
Deputy Joan Burton: I want to ask the Taoiseach about a second related issue. There were widespread reports in the media that the Government was giving consideration to a package or a system that would enable a person to move their negative equity from their first mortgage to a subsequent mortgage. How could they conceivably do that when most of those people are in managed estates?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I want to raise the same issue. This Bill did not get beyond the Minister’s speech on Second Stage. The Taoiseach has promised on a number of occasions that we would deal with this. If we could finish Second Stage, we could take Committee Stage of the Bill in July. The matter is extremely urgent for all the reasons the Taoiseach knows. That would require the Taoiseach to provide time next Friday or the following Friday in order to allow Deputies on this side of the House to speak on the Bill and to let the Bill reach Committee Stage in July and early September.
The Taoiseach: These are matters for the Whip. The Whip has set out what he is seeking to achieve for the remainder of this session. I am not sure whether that can accommodate what Deputy Rabbitte is seeking, but these are matters for the Whips to discuss.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: This has been going on for about six years in the House. The Taoiseach has committed on a number of occasions to seeing it through this term. There is no provision in the schedule as it stands. In advance of the final week’s business, there is no reason we cannot sit on the Friday to dispose of what is a very urgent issue.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: In the renewed programme for Government, the headline commitment on animal welfare was the animal health and welfare Bill. Stag hunting was just a subheading of that commitment. The animal health and welfare Bill would be a much more substantial Bill in protecting the health and welfare of animals. When will that Bill come before the House, or will it be left on the long finger now that the Green Party has got its trophy piece of legislation?
Deputy P. J. Sheehan: When is the long awaited forestry Bill going to come into this House? We are now waiting seven years for it. In view of the fact that the Taoiseach has the stags preserved all over the country, they will need more forestry cover.
Deputy Alan Shatter: It seems to be the case that the Government has more concern and gives greater priority to the safety of dogs and stags than to children. Could I ask the Taoiseach to tell us, first, where matters now stand with regard to the holding of a constitutional referendum to protect children’s rights? Will that Bill be published during the long vacation? Will there be a referendum this year on that issue? Second, what has happened to the legislation that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has promised is in preparation, arising out of the second report of the constitutional committee on children’s rights with regard to protecting young people from sexual predators and improving the law in that area?
Third, where now stands the legislation on vetting and the use of soft information from vetting? Can the Taoiseach explain to the House why the protection of stags has a greater priority than the protection of children from paedophiles?
Finally, a promise was made to this House that in the last week in June the report into the Roscommon incest case would be published and available to Members of this House. That report was to be debated in this House before it went into recess. We are now in the last week in June. Has the Roscommon incest report been completed? Has the Government received a copy of it? Will Members of this House receive a copy of it by the end of this week? Will it be debated next week in this House?
The Taoiseach: I do not think there will be any prospect of it being debated in the House next week. The schedule is quite full. I am not aware of where the report is, whether it is to hand or not. The Deputy will have to ask the Minister concerned.
Deputy Alan Shatter: Is the Taoiseach saying the fact that a number of children in a family were sexually and physically assaulted for a decade while the HSE failed to provide protection for them is not a matter that we should address in this House until next October?
The Taoiseach: I understand all the Bills to which the Deputy refers are in preparation. We had a discussion about the position of the referendum during parliamentary questions. That work is ongoing at Government level.
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