Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 12, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 42]; No. 13, motion re referral of Supplementary Estimate [Vote 42] to select sub-committee; No. 3, Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage, Second and Remaining Stages; and No. 14, motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Bill 2011.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn immediately upon the conclusion of No. 14; Nos. 11, 12 and, subject to the agreement of No. 12, No. 13, referral to select sub-committee, shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded on Nos. 12 and 13 shall be taken forthwith; Second and Remaining Stages of No. 3 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m., the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon 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 speech in reply that shall not exceed five minutes, and the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. tonight 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 Justice and Equality; No. 14 shall be taken immediately upon the conclusion of No. 3 and shall be decided without debate; and in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 26, motion re reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, Standing Order 121(3) shall not apply and Private Members’ business shall, if not previously concluded, be adjourned after 90 minutes tonight; and it shall also take place immediately after the Order of Business tomorrow, and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are five proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil should sit later than 9 p.m. agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11, 12 and 13, without debate, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3 agreed?
Deputy Joe Higgins: It is not agreed. I am opposed to taking the Twenty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Bill 2011 today. Their lordships’ fat salaries should indeed be taken down sharply but we can leave it until tomorrow. I want the Taoiseach to change his proposal. After seven weeks of the Dáil being away and six months of the Government, the Taoiseach should have a state of the nation review and explain and have a discussion on why acceptance of EU-IMF austerity is having such catastrophic consequences for our people, particularly the relentless rise in mass unemployment and——
After six months, it is very clear that the Fine Gael, Labour Party and EU-IMF austerity is killing our economy. It is killing hope and driving our young people out of the country. We need a change; we need massive public investment. I ask the Taoiseach to change the proposal to the Dáil which would give him an opportunity to report on why he is failing disastrously with this austerity and for us to put an alternative proposition.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Over the summer, we watched as the pledge by leaders coming out of the eurozone summit in July that they had agreed a radical plan which would safeguard the euro unravelled. Will the Taoiseach provide time for a Dáil debate on the summit? In providing such time I am sure he will acknowledge that the threat posed by the increasing paralysis in European decision-making is very real, substantial and increasingly imminent. Will the Taoiseach undertake to publish prior to such a debate his proposals, perhaps those which he has submitted to eurozone leaders, concerning the debt crisis? Has he provided such advice?
The Taoiseach: No debate has been promised but I am not opposed to having a debate on it. It is just a matter of finding the time for it. As Deputy Martin is aware, very clear decisions were made at the July meeting of the European Council and very clear commitments were given at it. For our part, we have implemented and are implementing in full the conditions set out. Obviously some benefits are accruing from the interest rate reduction.
The troika is paying a further visit to Greece this week and it will make its views known on the implementation of the policies to which the Greek Government signed up arising from further facilities in July. A meeting of the ECOFIN Ministers will take place on Friday. As it is appropriate, I do not have any objection to having a debate on this matter as soon as it is feasible. A number of pieces of legislation are strictly timelined, such as the referenda and the insurance Bill. The legislation on the referenda must be cleared by 27 September for the referenda to be held on the election date. A total of ten Bills are timelined because of the EU-IMF deal. I have no objection to having a debate when it is appropriate on the European situation.
Deputy Gerry Adams: I am pleased to hear the Taoiseach state this because I was rising to ask the same question. Time needs to be set aside for this issue. Rather than having a debate, the Dáil and the people need to know what contingencies the Government has put in place in the case of a Greek default. We need to discuss any plan the Government has. We need to know whether the Taoiseach has spoken directly to any of the other European leaders. There is much speculation about plans being made for states to hand over significant fiscal powers to Europe. We need to know whether the Taoiseach would support such a move. Will he set aside time to make a statement on this issue? Perhaps he will take the opportunity today to clarify this point.
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Finance will set out a three-year fiscal plan for the country when the comprehensive spending analysis has been completed and we have examined it. When we agree on a time for a debate on the European situation the Deputy will have an opportunity to give his views on it.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I have been in or around the Chamber for the past two hours but I have not received a copy of the legislative programme for the autumn session of the Dáil. It may have been delivered recently. This is fairly poor, considering the notice we have had for the return of the Dáil. The legislative programme is simply a list of Bills. I find it highly unsatisfactory that we know only on a Thursday evening when the Whips meet what will be the legislative programme for the following week. We need much more notice so we can better prepare and research in advance. In the next week, will the Taoiseach provide us with an indicative and approximate timeframe for the legislation the Government will bring to the Chamber between now and the end of the year? I know it can change from week to week but will he tell us approximately what dates particular Bills will be introduced?
Deputy Joe Higgins: The Ceann Comhairle will hear that I am very much in order. Does this proposal require a separate Bill and separate legislation or will it be dealt with in the context of the budget? When will the Dáil deal with it?
The Taoiseach: The answer to the second question is that it will require separate legislation which will be known as the local government (charges) Bill. It is No. 6 on the A list which was delivered to the Deputy’s pigeonhole at 2.30 p.m. today.
The Taoiseach: We expect to bring through the House the majority of the 29 Bills we expect to have published in this session and this includes the local government (charges) Bill. The Deputy will have adequate notice of when it will be brought to the House and he will have adequate time to make his case, which I know already.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Given the growing threat to patient safety from the ongoing savage health cutbacks, the removal of 1,947 public hospital beds from the system and record numbers of people on trolleys in accident and emergency units, when will we see the promised legislation to establish the patient safety authority?
The Taoiseach: I cannot give exact dates for both questions. I have already made it clear that universal health insurance cannot and will not be introduced until a serious process is undertaken. I will ask the Minister for Health to report to the Deputy on his estimated times on the matters raised in both the questions.
Deputy Barry Cowen: It is proposed to take the water services Bill in this session which will establish a system for inspecting and monitoring the performance of septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. Some local authorities are already carrying out such inspections as they have authority to do so under by-laws under their waste management plans or as an enforcement matter under planning legislation. Does the water services Bill propose stricter guidelines and enforcement?
The Taoiseach: We have to rectify the problem that a substantial number of septic tanks are not operating as they should be. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will introduce a nominal once-off registration charge. Inspections will take place in 2013, based on a risk area assessment of poor topography and areas where septic tanks may not work. This will allow us to understand the scale of the problem.
An Ceann Comhairle: I do not wish to be disrespectful to the Deputy or the Taoiseach, but I must remind Deputies, Ministers and the Taoiseach that we cannot have a debate on promised legislation on the Order of Business.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Taoiseach will recall that he undertook to introduce legislation on joint labour committees immediately on the resumption of the Dáil after the summer recess. When can we expect to see this legislation?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Given the reluctance of some former banking executives to co-operate with the Director of Corporate Enforcement, will the criminal records information systems Bill be introduced earlier than already anticipated? Have the heads of the Bill been discussed at Cabinet?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The way in which rents are set in the commercial sector is of huge interest to many and important to the economy. The Government promised legislation to review this area. When will this be introduced to the House?
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