Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: 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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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: 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: 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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 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?
The Taoiseach: 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.
Deputy 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.
Deputy 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?
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 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?
Deputy Bernard J. 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 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.
Deputy 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?
Deputy 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 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.
The Taoiseach: 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——
The Taoiseach: 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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