Thursday, 15 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 17, statements on international democracy day which shall adjourn after 30 minutes, if not previously concluded; and No. 4, Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 6.45 p.m. The following procedures shall apply in relation to No. 17. The statement 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 five minutes in each case; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five 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. Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply. 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 which shall not exceed five minutes.
Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 26 — motion re reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (resumed), shall be taken immediately after the Order of Business and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.45 p.m. agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17, statements on international democracy day, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage of the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 agreed?
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: When will the water services Bill to establish a system for inspecting and monitoring the performance of septic tanks and other on-site waste water systems be approved by Government? Also, does the Government intend to publish the heads of that Bill once approved and will the Tánaiste assure the House that the Bill will provide an accruable system for rural people as compared with urban people?
The Tánaiste: The Bill will be published this session. It is also intended to deal with it this session. I believe the Deputy will find the provisions of the Bill, when published, are fair to urban and rural people.
The Tánaiste: The legislative programme lists a number of Bills, the heads of which the Government intends to publish and have those brought to committee. Given that the European Court of Justice has ruled in this area, the Government is anxious to have the legislation enacted as quickly as possible. It is likely that the Bill will be published and brought directly to the House.
Deputy Gerry Adams: A Bill to enable the State to ratify the EU treaty amendments to establish the European Stability Mechanism is due this term. Will the Tánaiste indicate when this Bill will come before the House? This legislation should be put to the people in a constitutional referendum and I urge the Government to do so. Will he publish the legal advice from the Attorney General on which he has based his decision thus far not to hold a referendum?
The Tánaiste: There are two sets of legislation here. First, there is legislation from the Minister for Finance on the EFSF which is on the actual support programme. That legislation is being prepared and the Minister will introduce it in the House shortly. Separate legislation deals with the ratification of the treaty change. I am preparing that legislation and I intend to bring it to Government shortly and then before the House. As the Deputy is aware, the Government’s advice is that a referendum is not required on that measure. The legislation will be brought before the House and debated and it will be a matter for the House to decide whether it wishes to approve it in order to ratify the treaty.
Deputy Gerry Adams: The Government has decided to take away from citizens the right to have a referendum on this issue, based on an oral conversation with the Attorney General and he will not bring it before the House and allow us to scrutinise it. The Tánaiste should ask the Attorney General to provide that advice in writing. This is for the negotiations being conducted with the IMF, a nod and a wink.
Deputy Gerald Nash: The Tánaiste is only too well aware of the uncertainty and anxiety experienced by many thousands of lower paid workers in sectors of the economy such as the hospitality sector when Mr. Justice Feeney struck down the statutory wage-setting mechanism as unconstitutional. The many thousands of citizens who depend on the joint labour committee system for a fair and decent wage for them and their family demand a swift response to that decision from the Government. I am pleased that the legislative programme outlined yesterday shows clearly that the Government has delivered on that promise. Will the Tánaiste outline to the House a clear timeframe for the introduction of the legislation to restore the joint labour committee system?
The Tánaiste: As the Deputy said, the High Court struck down, for constitutional reasons, the JLC-REA system which had been in place to provide statutory regulation and protection, in the main, to low-paid workers in a number of sectors of the economy. The Government is introducing legislation to restore the JLC-REA system to ensure those workers will continue to have legal protection of their pay and conditions. That legislation will be published this session. The heads of the Bill have been prepared by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and agreed by Government and the Attorney General has been asked to give the highest priority to the drafting of the legislation.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I wish to raise two questions. In regard to the temporary agency workers’ Bill, it appears that Stena in Dún Laoghaire, in an effort to pre-empt the introduction of this Bill, is trying to get rid of its permanent staff essentially so that it does not have any permanent staff against which to compare the rights of agency workers.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: When will the Bill come before the House and what measures will be taken to deal with a situation where companies may try to get rid of their permanent workforce, as appears to be the case, before the Bill is enacted? In regard to the legislative programme distributed yesterday, emphasis was placed on job creation and economic recovery. Given that hundreds of jobs are being lost at TalkTalk and 450 jobs are being lost in Loughlinstown in south Dublin, in my constituency, I call for a serious debate on jobs and how to deal with getting jobs and the conditions under which redundancies are being imposed on workers.
The Tánaiste: With regard to the rights of agency workers, the transposition of the EU directive is the responsibility of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The deadline for the transposition of the directive is 5 December 2011. The Government intends to have the legislation in place in order to have the directive implemented by that date. The Minister is in discussions with the employer organisations and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on aspects of the directive and the way in which it will be implemented. I understand those discussions will be concluded shortly. No employer should seek to pull some stunt to try to avoid the terms of that directive. The Government intends to give effect to the directive in legislation and in the meantime no employer should try to avoid it.
The Deputy called for a debate on jobs. The Government would be happy to have such a debate. The matter can be raised with the Whips on what needs to be done to create jobs in the economy. In the course of that debate I look forward to hearing if the Deputy has any positive proposals in that regard.
Deputy Clare Daly: Given the Tánaiste’s announcement of the salami-style privatisation in which the Government is engaging, is it not appropriate to amend the Order of Business to discuss the McCarthy report and put this issue in context? Nobody would be conned by the Tánaiste’s assurances this morning that only a minority of the company is up for sale in the ESB. As one who worked in Aer Lingus, a small privatisation inevitably leads to a further sell-off down the road.
The Tánaiste: The Deputy said the Government is trying to engage in some kind of a con, there is no con here. The Government has made a decision to sell a minority shareholding in the ESB. The situation in Aer Lingus, to which the Deputy referred, is different. In that case the Government decided to sell a majority shareholding in it.
Deputy Joan Collins: We have heard much discussion on TalkTalk and the fact that the company had only to give 30 days notice, under law, to its workers. The Government should extend the number of days notice to 120 and there should be legislation in this area.
The Tánaiste: The Government has asked the company to extend the period of notice given. In the case of TalkTalk, it was completely unacceptable to give 30 days notice of the company’s intention to pull out of Waterford with all of the consequences that has for the employees and the local economy. The legal requirement for notice in any event will be found to be longer than 30 days in the case of many of the employees. I discussed this matter with employees when I met them last Saturday in Waterford. Many of them have contractual entitlements to longer periods of notice.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Apropos the ongoing anxiety concerning financial matters, will the Bretton Woods (amendment) (No. 2) and the European Financial Stability Facility (amendment) Bills be passed by both Houses? Is there a deadline by which time they should be passed?
The last Bill I wish to discuss is an interesting one, namely, No. 84 on the legislative list, the HSE governance Bill, to provide for the abolition of the board of the HSE. Have its heads been discussed at Cabinet level and when will it be published and laid before the House?
The Tánaiste: The Bretton Woods legislation will be handled this session. It is a matter for the House as to when it will be passed. The second Bill will be published today and will be discussed in the House next week. The Minister for Health intends to introduce the legislation on the abolition of the HSE board shortly.
Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Last night, the Dáil discussed legislation on holding a referendum on judicial pay. The Tánaiste will recall that, prior to the election, Fine Gael in particular promised a super Constitution day within the Government’s first year. What is the position of the outstanding referendums that were promised and when can we expect to see the legislation? I am referring to the referendums on abolishing the Seanad, reducing the presidential term from seven years to five years, putting the Office of the Ombudsman on a statutory footing, protecting whistleblowers — this was meant to be held on the same day as the presidential election — and children’s rights, which has been pushed back constantly despite numerous pre-general election promises by both Government parties that it would be held on the same day as the presidential election. Will the Tánaiste outline to the House the date of the super Constitution day and the position of each of the referendums to which I have referred?
The Tánaiste: The Government is delivering on its commitment to make changes to the Constitution. Two issues will go to referendum, one of which will be debated today. The intention is to hold them with the presidential election. It is intended to hold some other referenda next year. Work is progressing on them.
Some of the matters raised by the Deputy do not require a constitutional change. For example, we intend to address the protection of whistleblowers by way of legislation. As committed to in our programme, the Government intends to establish a constitutional convention to deal with a number of wider constitutional issues. We will progress the constitutional agenda that we set out in the programme for Government as quickly as possible. Evidence of this is the fact that we will hold two referenda on 27 October.
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