Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 14, motion re report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on parliamentary standards; No. 14a, motion re technical amendments to Standing Orders; No. 14b, motion re withdrawal of Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008; No. 14c, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 14d, motion re orders of reference and records of committees; No. 17, statements on European Council, Brussels; No. 2, Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010 [Seanad] - Second and Remaining Stages; No. 3, Road Traffic Bill 2009, amendments from the Seanad; and No. 18, statements on cystic fibrosis.
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 on the conclusion of No. 18; Nos. 14, 14a, 14b, 14c and 14d shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 17 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to the Taoiseach and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time, and which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 17, whichever is the later, until 2.30 p.m.; the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 2 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on the Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. tonight; the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health and Children; Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 75, motion re economic issues (resumed), shall be taken at 7 p.m. tonight, or on the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; the proceedings on No. 3 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. tonight and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in respect of amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Transport; the proceedings in respect of No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 55 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin and Independent Deputy Finian McGrath, who shall be called upon in that order, and shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is not agreed. I greatly regret that I again must indicate that I cannot accept the proposals on the Order Paper before Members today, given that yesterday, in answer to concerns raised about the disgraceful cuts to services for people with disabilities and their carers, the Taoiseach——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Yesterday, the Taoiseach stated “we must consider how we rearrange the non-front line service part of the sector” and “we must be prepared to consider whether we can reorganise how that is delivered”. With respect, while the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children and whoever else is involved are considering at their leisure, people with disabilities and their carers are facing cuts.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I simply ask for a guarantee from the Taoiseach and the Government that those services which have been cut will be restored, that is, the respite supports will be restored and there will be no further cuts applying to people with disabilities——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——who sadly are not being represented in this House by the Government today but by voices outside this House and in other centres across this State. This is a disgraceful situation——
The Taoiseach: It is important, for the purpose of clarification, to note this issue concerns vulnerable people and I wish to make clear what are the facts. There are 5,000 respite places in this country and Members are discussing an issue regarding the budgeting of 130 of those 5,000 places. Consequently, there are 4,870 places in respite that are not affected in any way by the discussions that are taking place today.
The Taoiseach: There are discussions taking place with those service providers who seemingly are finding it more difficult than other service providers which have taken the efficiencies and adjustments but still have been able to provide those services.
An Ceann Comhairle: As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 70 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: No. On a point of information, I do not know whether Deputies are aware that the Taoiseach has read into the record this morning a proposal for the ordering of today’s business. Since the objection which we had legitimately to the Taoiseach’s refusal to address the matter of cutbacks in the disability sector, we are now advised that a further piece of legislation relating to the transport sector is going to be crammed into today’s Order Paper and introduced later today. The House is not being notified of that at this point but its purpose is to facilitate compulsory purchase orders. Either the Order of Business the Taoiseach reads into the record is the Government’s intent or it is not. We are being codded. This is a total con job. When will we get the opportunity to address matters on cystic fibrosis? Is that going to happen in the early hours of tomorrow? What are the intentions? Is it not time we had some honesty and clarity on the floor of this Dáil instead of treating the House with contempt? Is it not time to lay out exactly, fairly and honestly the real intent of the Government?
The Taoiseach: Go raibh maith agat. Deputy Ó Caoláin raised a valid point. The Order of Business is as I outlined, but an amendment to it will be brought to the floor of the House later today to facilitate the approval of the publication of the text of a Bill to provide for the amendment of section 217 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to provide for the extension of the period of validity of CPOs and to approve the moving of a motion in the Seanad providing for the early signature of the Bill by the President. This relates to enabling the extension of process regarding CPOs. It does not in any way affect how they will be handled. It is a technical issue that needs to be addressed today. Were it to be left until next week, CPO procedures would lapse and people would have to start ab initio in regard to important projects. We just want to make that point.
Deputy Enda Kenny: It is not agreed. I stated on several occasions that I do not accept the Government’s guillotining of Bills in any shape or form. The Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010 is to allow for prescription charges to be imposed on some of the most vulnerable in society. There are a number of amendments tabled by Fine Gael in the name of Deputy Reilly and by the Labour Party that need to be discussed. If the Government had been interested in saving or raising money, as it appears to be given the imposition of this charge, it could have brought forward the drugs pricing Bill, which would have resulted in very substantial savings in the purchase of drugs. Therefore, I am opposed to the guillotining of the Bill in the manner proposed.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The Labour Party is also opposed to the proposal and to guillotines in general. There are very many at this time of year. Just as legislation resulted in the withdrawal of respite services for certain people, the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010 is asking the most vulnerable to pay yet again. People on medical cards, the sick and poor will now be asked to pay prescription charges.
The Labour Party has only one time slot for this Bill and it will be sharing it with Sinn Féin because it has no time allocated to it. This is simply inadequate. Many of my colleagues would like to be able to speak on this Bill. They represent people who will now be asked to pay a prescription charge for their vital medication. We are strongly opposed to the use of the guillotine on this Bill.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I, too, absolutely oppose the guillotine, and the Bill itself. This so-called Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill is disgraceful legislation. Deputies should take note it is also deceptive. While the Government and its advocates will talk about the so-called modest charge on prescriptions for medical card holders, they need to take clear note that according to the legislation, the Minister is allowed to raise that charge at any time by ministerial decision. That facilitation is one of which Members should be very cognisant, particularly those Members who intend to support it. The Bill is disgraceful and deceptive and should be withdrawn. We oppose the guillotine and will certainly oppose the passage of the Bill.
The Taoiseach: Earlier this morning, reference was made to various savings, efficiencies and alternative ways of earning moneys that would be of assistance in maintaining front-line services. Deputy Kenny mentioned Professor McCarthy’s recommendations in this area. One recommendation was for a €5 prescription charge but we are charging 50 cent.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Aylward, Bobby.|
|Behan, Joe.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Carey, Pat.||Connick, Seán.|
|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.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kenneally, Brendan.|
|Kennedy, Michael.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Michael P.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|Mansergh, Martin.||Martin, Micheál.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGrath, Mattie.|
|McGrath, Michael.||McGuinness, John.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M.J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Brien, Darragh.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Donoghue, John.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Edward.|
|O’Rourke, Mary.||O’Sullivan, Christy.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Ryan, Eamon.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Scanlon, Eamon.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Burke, Ulick.|
|Burton, Joan.||Byrne, Catherine.|
|Carey, Joe.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Coonan, Noel J.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Mahony, John|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|O’Sullivan, Maureen.||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.|
Deputy Emmet Stagg: It is not agreed. We have seen an extraordinary abuse of the parliamentary system in the past few weeks in the Chamber. One item of legislation after another has been guillotined. In many cases, it has been unnecessary. In other cases, there has been no time to read the amendments, given the entire period of time allowed for debate. The planning Bill is a case in point. This practice leads to bad law and denies the House the right to keep the Executive to account. I hope the Ceann Comhairle will assist in the next session, seeing as how the new Government Whip has failed to fulfil his promise to use the guillotine sparingly, which was the intended use of the guillotine in the first place. Under the Ceann Comhairle’s guidance in the next session, I ask that we consider how to change the rules of the House to prevent this abuse and ensure that the House can keep the Executive to account.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I do not want to disappoint the Ceann Comhairle. I will intervene again, but I wanted to support my constituency colleague, as his comments were true. The use of the guillotine to ram through legislation in an undemocratic fashion that is abusive to the Houses of Parliament has become commonplace.
Deputy Enda Kenny: The Taoiseach outlined a number of real issues that needed to be faced up to and debated in the House when he was replying to one of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s short questions. I agree with the concept. Is it intended that there will be a changed procedure for the preparation of the budget this year? Might there be real discussion in the Chamber about the Votes and the priorities to be decided upon by the Government so that, when the Minister for Finance makes decisions on the budget, he will have had the benefit of real political debate from elected politicians?
Deputy Enda Kenny: The Minister would have the benefit of political discussion in the House on the priorities to be decided on in terms of the budget. Is there any intention to change the format of the presentation and production of the budget this year?
The Taoiseach: The third matter requires legislation and that is in preparation at the moment, as the Deputy would be aware. Regarding the first question asked by the Deputy, it is an issue for the Minister for Finance. I am not aware of any change in procedures being envisaged, but I believe the House should give itself the opportunity to have a series of debates about what the real choices are. It is important that we use debates in the House for the purpose of enlightening the electorate as to what are their real choices. We often have policy differences, and unfortunately sometimes they are not characterised by realistic debate. I have always advocated that this House should take the opportunity — there will many before December — in which these types of issues could be discussed in a way that is sensible and realistic. It would be to the benefit of the debate were that to happen.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Given that the Government intends to close down the Dáil until late September, would the Taoiseach consider holding the three by-elections at some stage during the recess? I recall that last year the month of September was used for the campaign on the Lisbon referendum. I recall the launch of the Labour Party campaign on 31 August last year on that referendum. The Chief Whip, in responding to the Labour Party moving the writ on the Dublin South by-election last week, said it could not be held because it would interrupt Dáil business. If the by-elections were held during the recess, naturally that would not interrupt Dáil business. I suggest that the Taoiseach considers moving the writs and holding the by-elections some time in September. We can have the campaign in September and then nothing will be interrupted.
The Taoiseach: There is a good deal of work to be done by committees in July and September. The finance committee, in particular, has much work to conduct, and in fact I do not believe the Labour Party spokesperson wants to take a day off at all. I believe she wants to be here for all of it. I am sure colleagues will provide that opportunity.
The Taoiseach: I am sorry, I wanted to have a chat with Deputy Quinn as well. The mayor Bill will not be available this session, and I look forward to his continuing interest in that particular subject. However, regarding Deputy Gilmore’s effervescent energy for a campaign in September, perhaps Galway might be his best possibility in an all-Ireland final.
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: I want to ask the Taoiseach about the health information Bill and when he expects it to be published. It is item No. 27 on the B list. By way of information, the Taoiseach spoke earlier about the respite services. These services in Limerick have been closed for the past three weeks. That involves 63 families and individuals, many of whom are travelling to Dublin today for the march. Many of them are elderly and living on their own. The Taoiseach was in Limerick last Monday and gave a commitment that this would be looked after. This is about the lives of real people. All that is involved is €157,000 for the respite services in Limerick. When are we going to get a result? I put this down as a special notice question today on the Adjournment and I hope the Ceann Comhairle allows us to raise it, as we have been trying to do for the past four weeks.
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: This has been ongoing for a number of weeks. On a point of information for the Taoiseach, these respite services are already closed, not about to be closed, because of lack of funding.
The Taoiseach: The Bill alluded to by the Deputy will be later this year. I was making the point earlier that there are 5,000 respite places nationally and the discussions being undertaken today and tomorrow relate to 130.
The Taoiseach: One of the issues that should be raised in the discussions that will take place is why there was an acquisition of property which is empty. We talk about the possibility of respite services being affected in Limerick for the sake of €130,000. However, had the house not been purchased, perhaps this would have ensured that the services were available.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I am glad that the Tánaiste is present in the House. This has become an old chorus of mine, but when are we going to see the national community primary school legislation published? We were going to have it enacted this session. Will it be published tomorrow or next week, or is there any chance of getting the Bill at all? Three new schools are starting in September in addition to the two that are operating illegally at present. I just wonder when the legislation will be published.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I have three issues regarding promised legislation. Apropos respite places and the issue referred to by the Taoiseach to the effect that only 130 places would be affected, is that figure of 130 extra or is it included in the number of places already closed down?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Yes, it relates to the promised eligibility for health and personal social services legislation. I believe one of the most crucial and personal social services involves the support services already referred to.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I have not finished yet. I took the Ceann Comhairle’s advice on another issue as well, and I presume we shall get that information or in any event somebody else can raise it with the Taoiseach. I took his advice and tabled a number of parliamentary questions. The information I received on a question relating to the number of prisoners on early release or one type of release or other over the past three years is——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: If the Ceann Comhairle had not interrupted me, I would have told him by now. Almost a quarter of the total prison population has been on early release. The critical question I raised, on foot of that, was regarding the number of people on bail——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: A vast number have been on bail while charged, and the bail amendment Bill that I have raised 100 times before in the House is relevant. The Ceann Comhairle keeps interrupting me all the time. Can I ask——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Then, notwithstanding the forthcoming event, Bastille Day, which is the real guillotine time, I suggest that, after some period of contemplation, the Bill should be brought before the House as soon as it returns after the summer break. May I suggest that after a period of some contemplation a conclusion is made of a satisfactory nature? Then, without any other intervention, the Bill should be brought before the House as soon as it returns from the summer break.
The Taoiseach: In view of what Deputies have said about this matter and in an effort to accommodate them, if there is cross-party support we could arrange to have Second Stage completed in the House tomorrow evening. That would then allow the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage in the summer months. Will we all agree on that?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I thank the Taoiseach for that. It would have suited me better personally if it were taken on Friday. There are several colleagues who want to speak to the Bill because of the relevance it has on their constituencies. Will there be time for a number of contributions?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy will be aware of the constraints on time in the last sitting week. The Deputy made the good point to me last week and this week that the Bill could move on to Committee Stage if Second Stage were taken this week. There will be plenty of opportunity for Deputies to go into some detail on that Stage. The Deputy will know from experience that the amount of time available to complete Second Stage will be limited tomorrow. We should avail of the opportunity to conclude Second Stage. There will then be plenty of opportunity on Committee Stage for Members to have detailed discussions on the finer points of the Bill.
Deputy Mary Upton: A debate on cystic fibrosis will be held later this evening. When is it hoped to have the human tissue Bill published, which is crucially important to organ donations and transplants?
Deputy Tom Sheahan: Will the Taoiseach give a commitment on regional airports and their public service obligations, PSOs? I raise this under No. 37 in the legislation programme, the national tourism development authority amendment Bill. The PSO for Kerry Regional Airport has been reduced from €3 million to €1.75 million. Hence, services and passenger numbers have been reduced.
Deputy Tom Sheahan: I tried to raise the matter on the Adjournment but you, a Cheann Comhairle, refused me. I feel you are being very hard on me for some reason or other. Will the Taoiseach used his esteemed position to put the fires under RTE to get a television service to the people of Cloghane?
The Taoiseach: We do not have a date for the publication of national tourism development authority (amendment) Bill. There is review of regional airports under way. The PSO requires state-aid approval from the European Union. There has been a policy whereby PSO arrangements must be modified in view of EU developments.
Deputy David Stanton: On secondary legislation, one of the first actions of the Government when the recession began was to suspend the operation of the Disability Act two years ago. When will this legislation be re-implemented?
When will the carers’ strategy be published, as I understand it is ready? When will we be in a position to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? We were promised the mental capacity Bill would be published before the House rose for the summer recess. Will it be published tomorrow? Currently, this area is covered by legislation from 1870.
Legislation is required on standards of care and inspections of facilities for children with intellectual disabilities in residential institutions. The Minister with responsibility for disability said two weeks ago that the Government was exposed in this area.
There is a whole raft of the disability strategy that has either been abandoned, stalled or suspended. Two weeks ago the Taoiseach claimed he has a great record in this area. The record does not stand. Families of people with intellectual disabilities will march on the Dáil later because they are concerned and upset about the putting aside of the disability strategy, the first action this Government took two years ago when the recession began.
The Taoiseach: With respect Deputy, I would not like to regard what he had to say as waffling and he a member of the Opposition Front Bench. I am sure he is very dedicated but if he wants to take that approach I can simply——
I do not accept his characterisation of the abandonment of this sector. The Government has brought forward legislation in this sector based on resources. There is no point in suggesting we implement all sections of the Disability Act without reference to resources. We have increased much-needed resources in this area, an area which had not been properly accommodated in the past. It will be a continuing challenge for anyone in government for the foreseeable future. We need to examine the service provision. I would never suggest support services behind front-line services are not required but they have to be examined. A multitude of service providers have costs across the board in their own organisations that need to be considered. We must consider how we can bring all that together, similarly to shared services in the public sector, in a way that is more cost-effective. I do not want to be in any way disrespectful of these service providers because many of them filled gaps in the past when the State simply did not have the capacity to provide services at all. Thus, there is a historical issue here. There is an ethos that must be respected but, in addition, people must recognise that change is necessary. We cannot assume the continuation of services as currently delivered while at the same time making a commitment to protect the front line. It is not possible.
The answer to the question regarding the non-implementation of primary legislation is that the implementation is resource-led. It is about providing in the first instance for those in the younger age group through the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, with the prospect of raising the age to 16 over a period. Whether the person with responsibility for this is me or the Deputy’s leader or anyone else, the same material facts apply. There is no point in suggesting to the public that this can be resolved overnight. It will not be. Instead of focusing on that aspect, let us concentrate on how, in the context of the requirement for more cost-effective services, we can protect the front line based on a good level of service.
There are 25,000 people receiving good disability services in this country. Issues have arisen with some service providers, as mentioned by Deputies in the House this morning. It is not correct to suggest that all services are at risk. A small number of places — 130, as I understand it——
The Taoiseach: ——are up for discussion, and those service providers will have to try to find ways of dealing with these issues while protecting the front line, as other providers have done by implementing the efficiencies that were asked for. It is a question of everybody facing up to the challenge. There are a number of substantive issues that can be discussed with them, including savings in areas such as human resources, which are not on the front line but which need to be streamlined. There is potential in these discussions to find a constructive outcome. There is no monopoly on virtue. We all want to see front line services protected, particularly for people such as this.
I am entitled to say in my defence that I am proud of the resources I made available when I had responsibility in this area, as Minister for Health and Children and Minister for Finance. This is recognised by the sector and was based on a planned partnership approach with those service providers. There would still be dissenting voices coming from the far side no matter what I said about this issue.
The mental capacity Bill, which is expected to be published next session, forms an important part of what is required to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Work on the implementation of the various other provisions in that convention, which are extensive, continues in the relevant Departments.
Deputy Joe Carey: I want to ask the Taoiseach about the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 and particularly about comments made in this Chamber and in committee. The Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, intends that people who are in receipt of social welfare payments will be made eligible for work helping their communities, whether that involves building walls, painting, weeding or other activities. He informed us that the detail of this new community employment initiative would be made available in July. Can the Taoiseach inform the House when he intends to make this known?
Deputy James Reilly: When will the health information Bill be published? When will the report on the death of Mr. Peter McKenna at Leas Cross be issued? This has been the subject of a number of investigations which were not satisfactory. The latest investigation, which was carried out by Mr. Dignam, is now over and the report has been with the board of the HSE since March, which is four months ago. Where is the report and when will the Minister make it available? This issue has been followed closely by my colleague Deputy O’Dowd, but many people feel this information should come to the public domain for further scrutiny, so we can learn from this terrible tragedy.
When will the licensing of health facilities Bill be introduced? It will need to address situations such as that in which a terminally ill lady was kept for 25 hours in the accident and emergency unit of University College Hospital Galway, which is supposed to be a centre of excellence for cancer treatment. That is not excellence, or anything near it, by any stretch of the imagination. We need to know whether the Bill will address this and when it will be introduced.
With regard to the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill, I wish to ask the Taoiseach about some of the comments he made here. There was an implication that somehow the Brothers of Charity must live within the budget they are given, like every other organisation. However——
Deputy James Reilly: The Brothers of Charity have already been hit for €1 million under value for money savings and another €1 million because of the moratorium on recruitment. They cannot even replace the CEO——
Deputy James Reilly: I want to ask a direct question. Is the Taoiseach telling the House that the 5,000 respite beds to which he referred are all for intellectually disabled people? Are they not also for care of the elderly and other areas?
The Deputy mentioned the licensing of health facilities Bill. When we introduce the licensing arrangements, it will represent an improvement to the health service in terms of implementing standards and making sure we provide a level of service that people expect. Where that does not happen, there will be consequences. People often call for licensing legislation but then when the licensing arrangements are established, surveillance and monitoring are carried out and decisions are made on that basis, the reaction from the Opposition is often to say that we should not close this or change that.
The Taoiseach: No. It is a luxury they have and the record will show that is how they play it. If we are to have licensing arrangements, as the Deputy is calling for, he must accept that when issues are not being dealt with or standards are not being reached, there must be consequences. Often, unfortunately, when that is the outcome of improvements, Opposition Members come in and say we cannot follow through on it because it will have this effect or that effect. They cannot have it every way.
In view of the concern of the racing industry about future funding and the commitment made by the Taoiseach to tax firms that are providing a betting service in this country, could he tell us what progress has been made in this regard and when we are likely to see the publication of the legislation?
The Taoiseach: I thank the Deputy for his inquiry. It is an issue to which I referred recently. Work is being undertaken to deal with the matter this year and I expect we will have it in the next session.
Deputy Bernard Allen: I will be very brief. I have waited a long time, but I would like to make my point to the Taoiseach. This may be the last formal occasion on which the Taoiseach will be here before the summer recess. I would, therefore, like to remind him that he will have hard decisions to make in the autumn regarding budgets, tax cuts and cuts in services and he will have to make the choice. I put it to the Taoiseach that there is significant flabbiness and abuse in the public services and if Oireachtas committees had the adequate powers to investigate these, they could be dealt with. For example, in the area of procurement ——
Deputy Bernard Allen: I make this point in the context of legislation. I suggest the Taoiseach give committees the powers and they can do effective work. I am Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and we have asked for extra powers with regard to data protection and the Supreme Court decision made on Abbeylara. We are hamfisted in our dealings with some of these issues. For example, we have got the job of looking at the Dublin Docklands Authority. We will also have to monitor NAMA, but we will not be ——
Deputy Bernard Allen: We will be unable to do the work we should do on behalf of the taxpayer because we do not have the necessary powers. We have asked for the powers and should get them. When will we have legislation that will give committees like the Committee of Public Accounts more powers to deal with the significant issues that exist, such as abuse, misspending etc., across the board?
The Taoiseach: We have brought forward legislation, through the commissions of inquiry legislation, to deal with those issues in a far more effective manner than through the 2004 Act, which as we know from experience has major cost implications, even in matters of public importance. These are often not dealt with with the speed people would expect because of the issues that arise in terms of witnesses etc. With regard to powers being given to the Committee of Public Accounts, I will have to check with the line Minister on the situation and the view of the relevant Department. The committee, under the Deputy’s chairmanship and that of previous chairmen, has done important work and carries out an important function for Parliament. I would like to see it doing its work effectively. I will check on the matter and come back to the Deputy on it.
Deputy Bernard Allen: We need extra powers for dealing with NAMA and the Dublin Docklands Authority. The Comptroller and Auditor General also needs extra resources. The pay review done in his office points to serious lack of resources to deal with the issues.
|Last Updated: 31/03/2011 17:37:32||Page of 295|