Thursday, 16 June 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. a9, motion re discharge of orders and referral of Bills to select committees; and No. 13, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011 — Committee Stage (resumed) and Remaining Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Question Time, which shall be taken for 75 minutes on the conclusion of No. 29, and in the event of a private notice question being allowed, it shall be taken after 45 minutes, and the order shall not resume thereafter; and No. a9 shall be decided without debate; the resumed Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 13 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 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 Social Protection. Private Members’ business shall be No. 29, motion re water and sewerage services, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 13 and it shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after three hours.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a9, motion re discharge of orders and referral of Bills to select committees without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13, Committee and Remaining Stages of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011, agreed to?
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It is not agreed. I fundamentally oppose guillotines and the progress made on this Bill last night suggests there is no need for a guillotine for the taking of remaining amendments on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, or the taking of a Report Stage. Many matters have been teased out and most of what is remaining in the Bill is not contentious, although the Bill itself is. It is wrong at this stage to enforce a guillotine on a Bill which is quite controversial but which has far-reaching consequences for workers and pensioners. I urge the Government not to impose a guillotine and to allow people, if they so wish, to take part in the remaining debate. We can progress to Report Stage at a later time.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I also oppose this as I cannot understand why the Government will not give whatever time is required to debate this issue in detail in the House. This is a very important Bill that affects people’s lives. The Government gave an undertaking there would be no guillotines and there are plenty of sitting days left until the end of the term.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: It should be debated in full and when it is concluded the Bill can be referred to the other House. An undertaking was given by the Government that Bills such as this would not be guillotined and there is no justification for such a guillotine. There is quite a good chance that if there was no guillotine, the matter would finish one way or another today.
Deputy Joe Higgins: The Government promised us there would be virtually no curtailment of debate and no guillotines but the guillotine is now a weekly reality, cutting short debate. There should not be a guillotine on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill so that Government backbenchers can have the opportunity to come into this Dáil to explain why they have been trooping in to support the absolutely reactionary measure of smashing the rights of workers to retire at 65.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I am explaining, as I am entitled to under Standing Orders, why the measure should be opposed. The Minister for Social Protection is rapidly becoming a misnomer as she is proposing the opposite of social protection. She was a forlorn figure in the Dáil without a single backbencher, particularly from her own party, to support her.
Deputy Joe Higgins: Two or three of them mustered the courage to come in not to defend the reactionary measures but to mutter some words about an internship which they thought they might be safe in doing. Otherwise they were not seen. They should have the opportunity on Report Stage to explain why workers will be forced to work until they are almost 70 while they are bailing out the European bankers and speculators. Come in and do that.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I am opposing the proposal on the basis that when the same proposal to raise the pension age was proposed by the Slovenian Government the people of that country demanded a referendum, such was the seriousness of forcing people to work longer and harder for less. The people of Slovenia got their referendum on the matter and they said “No”. The Government will not give us a referendum. It will not even give us a proper debate because it is cutting our time short and it appears as if democracy is being fundamentally undermined at the diktat of the IMF and the EU.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: On that basis I oppose the proposal and I appeal to the Government to stop kowtowing to the IMF and the EU and allow for a democratic debate on a very serious matter which attacks the basic rights and entitlements won by working people in this country.
The Tánaiste: I will keep it short in that case. There has already been a lengthy debate on this Bill. Discussion lasted until 10 p.m. last night and the Minister for Social Protection was in the Chamber continuously from 2.30 p.m. until 10 p.m. without a break.
The Tánaiste: Deputy Ó Snodaigh rightly anticipates that the business will be concluded by 1.30 p.m. in any event if there is co-operation on all sides. A deadline has to be met because the Government has given a commitment that the reversal to the cut in the national minimum wage will be introduced on 1 July.
The Tánaiste: Bearing in mind that the Bill also has to go to the Seanad, it is not unreasonable to conclude debate in this House today unless some Members opposite are suggesting we should delay reversing the cut in the minimum wage.
|Barry, Tom.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Burton, Joan.|
|Butler, Ray.||Buttimer, Jerry.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Byrne, Eric.|
|Cannon, Ciarán.||Carey, Joe.|
|Coffey, Paudie.||Conaghan, Michael.|
|Connaughton, Paul J.||Conway, Ciara.|
|Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.||Costello, Joe.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Deering, Pat.||Doherty, Regina.|
|Donohoe, Paschal.||Dowds, Robert.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||Feighan, Frank.|
|Ferris, Anne.||Fitzpatrick, Peter.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Griffin, Brendan.|
|Hannigan, Dominic.||Harrington, Noel.|
|Harris, Simon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Heydon, Martin.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Humphreys, Kevin.||Keating, Derek.|
|Keaveney, Colm.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kelly, Alan.||Kenny, Seán.|
|Kyne, Seán.||Lawlor, Anthony.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|Lyons, John.||McCarthy, Michael.|
|McFadden, Nicky.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McHugh, Joe.||McLoughlin, Tony.|
|McNamara, Michael.||Maloney, Eamonn.|
|Mathews, Peter.||Mulherin, Michelle.|
|Murphy, Dara.||Murphy, Eoghan.|
|Nash, Gerald.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Nolan, Derek.|
|Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Donovan, Patrick.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Reilly, Joe.|
|Phelan, Ann.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Brendan.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Spring, Arthur.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Tuffy, Joanna.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Wall, Jack.|
|Boyd Barrett, Richard.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Collins, Joan.||Collins, Niall.|
|Colreavy, Michael.||Cowen, Barry.|
|Daly, Clare.||Doherty, Pearse.|
|Donnelly, Stephen.||Ellis, Dessie.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.|
|Fleming, Tom.||Halligan, John.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Healy-Rae, Michael.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Michael P.|
|Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.||McConalogue, Charlie.|
|McDonald, Mary Lou.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McLellan, Sandra.||Murphy, Catherine.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Brien, Jonathan.|
|Pringle, Thomas.||Ross, Shane.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Stanley, Brian.|
|Tóibín, Peadar.||Wallace, Mick.|
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: It is 100 days in Government for the Tánaiste. I am sure he has found out in the 100 days that whatever about it being Frankfurt’s way it is certainly Fine Gael’s way in Government.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Absolutely. To allay people’s fears, will the Tánaiste facilitate a debate in the House next week on the future of services in small hospitals so that people know the truth about what the Government is proposing in that regard and——
The Tánaiste: ——and congratulations on the achievements of the Government in its first 100 days. I am sure he will have noticed that, unlike during the 14 years in which he served in office, the Government spent its first 100 days here working——
The Tánaiste: With regard to the issue the Deputy raised about small hospitals, I remind the Deputy that his party has Private Members’ time next week and it is a matter for himself, if he considers the issue sufficiently important, to make it the subject of Private Members’ time.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I note the announcement of the Minister for Finance that burden-sharing is to be imposed on senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide. I hope this marks a realisation in Government that senior bondholders must be dealt with rather than a stunt to mark its 100th day in office. When will the legislation required for such burden-sharing be brought before the House, given that the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010 does not provide for it?
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: ——and to assure the House that the burden-sharing imposed will be substantial and that it will extend beyond Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide to all the covered institutions. On this, the Government’s 100th day in office, I hope its efforts in respect of burden-sharing——
The Tánaiste: The Minister for Finance yesterday expressed the Government’s position, on which we have been absolutely consistent, which is that the burden on the Irish taxpayer for losses incurred by the banks must be minimised. The Minister has reiterated the Government position on burden-sharing for senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, and he has made it clear that this will be discussed with the ECB and particularly with the Commission. The question of the legislation required to implement it will be dealt with following those discussions.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I have a question about promised legislation. During the term of the last Government, it promised on numerous occasions to protect the rights of people with intellectual disabilities in long-term institutions through the mental capacity Bill. The publication of this Bill has been promised, including in the House. When will see this Bill, which will facilitate the Government’s adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? I believe there will be a further exposé this evening on the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities. I ask the Government to prioritise the legislation.
Deputy Joe Higgins: The Minister for public expenditure is quoted this morning as having threatened public sector workers with a continuation of the pay cuts that have been imposed. This is apparently their reward for achieving €600 million in savings.
An Ceann Comhairle: If it is promised legislation or a promised debate, the Deputy may ask when that debate is due, if it has been agreed to. Asking for a debate must be done through the Whips. That is the procedure.
Deputy Anne Ferris: I welcome the passing of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill in the Seanad yesterday. Before I ask a question, I take this opportunity to commend my colleague Senator Ivana Bacik for introducing this Bill on behalf of the thousands of women and girls who have had to undergo such a monstrous procedure. Can the Tánaiste tell us when this Bill will be coming before the Dáil, in order to give us a chance to debate it and make sure the legislation is enacted as soon as possible?
The Tánaiste: It is listed for Second Stage in the Dáil. If there were agreement across the House among the Whips, the Government would be minded to introduce it to the Dáil as early as possible, but there would need to be co-operation.
Deputy Joan Collins: When will the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill be on the agenda? I asked this question two weeks ago. I know the committees are being set up next week. There is interest in this, particularly from the Communications Workers’ Union.
The Tánaiste: I understand that Bill will go before the relevant committee of the House. Now that the committees have been established, it is a matter for the committee to schedule a date and time for Committee Stage.
The Tánaiste: When the Deputy raised this on the last occasion, the committees had not been established. They are now established, and it is a matter for the committee to set the date for dealing with the Bill. The Deputy can be sure the Minister will be agreeable to facilitating early consideration of the Bill by the committee.
Deputy Dara Calleary: Does the Government have plans to introduce an amendment to the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, or introduce another social welfare Bill, to restrict payments to single mothers or fathers? Are any changes planned in this regard?
Deputy Pearse Doherty: I have two questions about promised legislation. With regard to burden-sharing by senior bondholders, yesterday the Fianna Fáil Party was briefing heavily on RTE and so on that legislation had been passed to impose losses on senior bondholders. We know that is not the case, because my amendments to the Bill last December were not accepted. Is it the intention of this Government to introduce legislation to impose losses on senior bondholders, or is the legislative programme being dictated by the EU and ECB? Can we have a statement of intent? Does the Tánaiste not believe such enabling legislation passed by the House would strengthen the Government’s hand?
Does legislation need to be passed by this House to give effect to the commitment in the programme for Government to ensure the pension entitlement for retiring Deputies will not begin until they reach the national retirement age? As the Minister is well aware, TDs elected before 2004 who retire at this stage can get their pensions at the age of 50. The commitment is to extend that age so no political pensions can be obtained until the national retirement age.
The Tánaiste: The Government is advised by the Attorney General as to whether legislation is required in respect of any particular measure. In respect of the two matters raised by Deputy Pearse Doherty, the Government will rely on the Attorney General’s advice.
Deputy Mick Wallace: We were promised legislation to establish a strategic investment bank. The Tánaiste will agree small and medium-sized businesses are screaming for a bank open to lending. When will the legislation establishing such a bank be introduced?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The Tánaiste has acknowledged the committee system will begin operating soon. The Government has given a commitment to establish a fiscal policy council. When will the fiscal responsibility Bill be published?
Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Is legislation on social housing promised? Reports this morning suggest that affordable housing is to come to an end with the Government in favour of the renting rather than the purchase of houses in affordable housing schemes.
The Tánaiste: The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with responsibility for housing and planning, Deputy Willie Penrose, will publish the Government’s housing strategy statement today.
Deputy Shane Ross: The Government has committed to having a referendum on whistleblower legislation in October. Considering the Technical Group has legislation on whistleblowers on the Order Paper, will the Tánaiste consider giving it time, particularly as it does not require a constitutional referendum? There seems to be a strong lobby against whistleblowers, including the Department of Finance and IBEC. It might be good to get a debate on the matter early and urgently.
The Tánaiste: The Bill can be taken in Private Members’ time. The Government intends to have a referendum on whistleblower legislation in conjunction with the presidential election in October. It will be a number of constitutional amendments that the Government intends to bring forward. I am sure Deputy Shane Ross will welcome such a move.
Deputy Dessie Ellis: Is any legislation planned to protect a person’s right to display the national flag? It so happens that the court case in question falls on 4 July — US independence day. If it were an American flag that was displayed on the taxi, we would be the laughing stock of Europe.
The Tánaiste: No, there is not. However, now that the Deputy has mentioned it, it has often crossed my mind that we do need some ground rules about the appropriate and non-partisan use of the national flag.
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