Order of Business

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 741 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is proposed to take No. 4 — European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Second Stage (resumed) and Subsequent Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn not later than 10 p.m.; the resumed Second Stage of No. 4 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m. and proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 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 Finance; and in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 23, motion re the ESB and the disposal of State assets, Standing Order 121(3) shall not apply and Private Members’ business shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

[10]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4, Second and Subsequent Stages of the European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members’ business agreed? Agreed. That is good. I thank Deputies.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It is called being constructive.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  It is nice to get a surprise occasionally.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Deputy Ó Cuív said that last week.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Last week, I called for a debate in the House on the eurozone summit that took place in July, particularly in light of the changing circumstances in Europe. I would not treat the comments of the IMF lightly. The IMF has made a significant statement about the need for Europe to get its act together. The situation with regard to the Greek debt has not yet been resolved. There are huge concerns and anxieties about the manner in which the situation is unfolding. There is a real sense of impending crisis. Commentators outside Europe are extremely concerned. All of that merits a substantial debate in the House. We will not have such an opportunity this week. Tonight’s debate is specifically on the Bill. It will be guillotined, as the Taoiseach knows. We are facilitating that. We need a proper debate in this House on the broader and wider dimensions of the debt crisis in Europe. I ask the Government to allow time to facilitate that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I will take note of that. Obviously, today’s debate is on the European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011. All of these matters are related. Legislation is coming through on a range of issues in regard to Europe. I will get the Whip to consider it. Obviously, we may have to sit longer, or possibly on a Friday, to facilitate such a debate. We have factored that into the Dáil sittings for this period. The Whip will take note of that and discuss it at the Whips’ meeting when the time structure for the debates next week and the week after is being considered.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Whip needs to do more that consider holding a debate. The emergency summit happened in July. The House was supposed to receive a report on it. I understand that the recess intervened. It is important for Deputies to have an opportunity to debate these matters in the House. There is public anxiety about developments in Greece, Italy and further afield. It is important for the House to discuss the matter and for the Government to set out its contingency plans in the event of a Greek default, for example. I join others in asking for such a debate to be held. I do not think it suffices for the Taoiseach merely to pass that request to the Whips for consideration.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That is the only way it can be dealt with.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Can the Taoiseach give the House a commitment that such a debate will happen? If we have to sit longer, so be it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  As the Deputy is aware, we have introduced a change to the effect that the House will have debates before and after major heads of government meetings take place. I cannot recall whether we had one after the July meeting.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  We did not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Did we come back after that?

[11]Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  No.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Did we not?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  That is the point.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  In any event, the structure here is that the Whips will have a meeting.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I am sure the Taoiseach can bring his influence to bear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Whips have taken notice of the interest in that matter of Deputies McDonald and Martin.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  As the Taoiseach knows, Question Time takes place just once a week since he got rid of one Question Time. We do not get that opportunity either.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I said on the first day that perhaps we should not have this endless repetition——

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I know, but I did not agree with it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——of the same questions every second week.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  We get the same answers.

Deputy Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  If the Deputies ask the same questions, they will get the same answers.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  They need to come up with new questions.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  It is planned to transfer the role of welfare officers who deal with rent subsidies to local authorities. There are approximately 100,000 families on rent supplement. It probably costs approximately €500 million. Can the Taoiseach outline whether legislation has dealt with this? Is legislation intended? Will the ban on recruitment hinder the transfers between health boards and local authorities?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Is legislation promised here?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  No legislation is promised here. I have been informed by the Minister that we are spending almost €500 million on rent supplement. That covers almost 95,000 families. It is not a matter of legislation being promised. The Deputy could raise this on Question Time, during Topical Issues or at a committee.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  There are loads of ways of raising it.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Given the growing backlog of legislation in the Department of Health, and against the backdrop of nurses at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick feeling compelled to take industrial action today, will the Taoiseach ensure that legislation like the health and social care professionals Bill is brought forward as an absolute requirement? Nurses at the front line of service delivery do not take these decisions lightly. They indicated the reason for their actions when they referred to the appalling conditions being endured by patients and the clinical safety risks at the hospital’s accident and emergency department.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The Deputy cannot expand on this point.

[12]Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  This is reflected at other hospital sites throughout the State. We have a real crisis here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I suggest that the Deputy could raise this matter during Topical Issues.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Is the Taoiseach listening to these nurses and front line care providers, who would not take such action glibly? Will he do something about it? Will he ensure the necessary legislative measures to address the crisis in accident and emergency departments are brought forward and dealt with urgently?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The Deputy is stepping over the mark a little bit.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Bill is due to come in early next year.

There are, as I outlined previously, quite a number of time-lined pieces of legislation, some of which are very complex, which must be published and dealt with in this Dáil session. I have tried to say to Ministers what is on the A list is what we want to put through.

I understand the Minister for Health is to sign a letter to Deputy Ó Caoláin today about patient care on which the Deputy had been querying him, and that will arrive to Deputy Ó Caoláin today. Obviously, it is always an issue of concern in respect of difficulties at hospitals. We all know this, and no one better than Deputy Ó Caoláin in regard to the hospital in County Monaghan over the years. However, the stoppages will not make the situation any better. While many are under pressure, this is a matter of sitting down and trying to sort out what is in the best interests of the patients, the nurses and everyone else, given the constraints on resources. I would urge that people should do that in the first instance. Obviously, the Minister for Health is looking at the management arrangements that apply in hospitals in order that we get the best and most effective result in everyone’s interests.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The best interests of the patient would be the priority of the nursing staff. There can be no question about that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  No. I call Deputy Kevin Humphreys.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  We have agreed legislation for this session.

Deputy Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys  Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  Under secondary legislation, in the week that is in it and with the success of the ploughing championships highlighting the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy, there has been a certain amount of scaremongering about the ban on raw milk consumption. Has the Government reconsidered the forthcoming secondary legislation to ban the consumption of raw milk, when will it come to the House and is it being put back until next year?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That is a matter for a parliamentary question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is a matter——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Deputy Humphreys got his spoke in very well. I call Deputy Durkan.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  It is a matter——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I regret, Taoiseach, that Deputy Humphreys is out of order.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  When might it be expected that the Bill to consolidate and amend the bail laws will be published and brought before the House? When can we expect the [13]proposed legislation to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau on forfeiting the proceeds of crime? Now might be a good time to expedite that legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I regret that I must disappoint Deputy Durkan on both scores. I do not have a date that I can indicate to him with certainty on which these will be published. We note what he said.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Is there an indicative date for the publication of the pre-budget outlook and the new multi-year plan? It is due in October, but is it the beginning, the middle or the end of October? Will there be an opportunity for Opposition spokespersons to be briefed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Minister states it will be probably some time towards the end of the October.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  In view of comments by the Taoiseach on poor hospital management and that he stated that many of the difficulties in hospitals were down to bad management, is any legislation to be published soon to restructure the HSE with regard to the change of hospital management structures——

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Fishing for legislation.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  ——given that hospitals are not being inspected by HIQA and cleanliness and hygiene cannot be guaranteed any further by the watchdog for patient safety? When will this legislation on changes to the HSE and hospital management be published? I raise this in view of the Taoiseach’s clear statement that hospital management was badly handled in this country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Is legislation promised?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  No legislation is promised——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  I cannot believe that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——but I can assure Deputy Kelleher in that I was informed by the HSE on the question he raised yesterday, and I do not have evidence of HIQA being short of resources to do its job.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  The authority itself stated it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I can also tell him that, for instance, the special delivery unit personnel were down in the mid-western hospital during the week. There is also ongoing serious activity with the Minister for Health——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  There is a serious strike there.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  ——in respect of improving the management competency in a number of hospitals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I suggest that Deputy Kelleher put in a request to raise the matter as a topical issue and I will consider it.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  I am delighted to inform the Ceann Comhairle that I have.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Good.

[14]Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  I hope that it will be considered——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  It will.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  ——in light of the seriousness of the issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I hope Deputy Kelleher will be around tomorrow. I call Deputy O’Dea.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Was Deputy Kelleher selected?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  There is always tomorrow. I call Deputy O’Dea.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I would say Deputy Kelleher is there now anyway.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Would the Taoiseach have a date on which the Government is to bring forward its proposals for dealing with mortgage arrears?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  No. We are waiting for the expert group to report on that. I expect that will be probably before the end of September. Certainly in the next fortnight, we are expecting that report back with recommendations, and Government will make its decisions based on that.


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