Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the United Nations Convention against Corruption; No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and Council creating a European account preservation order to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters; No. 15, Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2011 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 16, Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010 — Report and Final Stages (resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 29, motion regarding the community and voluntary sector.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11, motions re referral to committees of the terms of the UN Convention against Corruption and a regulation of the European Parliament and Council to facilitate cross-border debt recovery, without debate, agreed to? Agreed.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, allegedly abolished the board of the HSE shortly after taking office. Will the Taoiseach outline when the HSE governance Bill will be published?
Deputy Gerry Adams: Tá ceist agam faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta ag an Rialtas. I welcome the fact the Government did not oppose the Sinn Féin Bill on the joint labour committees which took place last Friday. When will the Government bring forward the temporary agency workers Bill and will it be passed into law by 5 December?
Deputy Joe Higgins: What proposals has the Taoiseach for a discussion next week on the inter-departmental report on distressed mortgages, chaired by Mr. Declan Keane? Does the Taoiseach have a precise timetable for the publication of the local government (charges) Bill? Does he have a precise timetable for the water services (amendment) Bill? Will it include the setting up of Irish Water?
The Taoiseach: I have asked the Government Whip to make arrangements at the Whips meeting tomorrow for a comprehensive debate on the report on mortgages and the problems arising therefrom, which will be published by the Minister for Finance tomorrow. It depends on what the House wants. We are prepared to sit late on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week if necessary. There should be the opportunity for everyone to have their say and we are particularly interested to hear about new initiatives or proposals Deputies have. The Minister for Finance will be interested to hear them and to draw them together. It is a matter of setting up the agenda and we want to be as flúirseach as possible about this.
Deputy Dara Calleary: On 1 June we debated a motion on the Smithwick tribunal. Mr. Justice Smithwick has placed a request before the Clerk of the House to extend the work of the tribunal. Given that this was anticipated, when does the Taoiseach expect to bring forward a motion to the House to accede to his request?
The Taoiseach: I had a brief conversation with the Minister for Justice and Equality about this. He received the request from Mr. Justice Smithwick. As I pointed out on many occasions, I have no intention of interfering with the work of the tribunal. He made the point that if the judge felt he could not complete the work within the timescale set out, he could inform the House of this. He has done so and an extension will be granted. However, I expect the Minister will require a further interim report so that the House can note the progress made. The Minister will set out the detail of his response in public very shortly. The extension will be granted in the same way as the previous one was.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Notwithstanding the Multi-Unit Developments Act, which was passed by the last Dáil, there remain a number of problems with multi-unit developments. Is it possible to indicate when the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill will be introduced? It will have widespread implications, as well as enabling the House to have a discussion on it.
The companies (amendment) Bill is my favourite and a favourite of the Ceann Comhairle. I asked about the Bill for about ten years when the previous Administration was in power. For ten years, the previous Government ignored it.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It was promised for ten years before that Government went into opposition. In view of the inadequacies of the companies legislation, can we have it introduced with a degree of urgency? I hope it will be in less than ten years.
The Taoiseach: These are two important Bills. The residential tenancies (amendment) Bill is expected by the middle of next year and the companies Bill is a massive consolidation Bill, with more than 1,200 heads, and it is expected later next year. It is a massive, complex item of legislation.
Deputy Sean Fleming: In view of the financial difficulties facing many small businesses, when is it proposed to bring forward the valuation Bill, which will reduce the commercial rates bill for small businesses?
The Taoiseach: The valuation Bill will be introduced next year. Work is proceeding on it but it will be introduced next year because of the plethora of legislation we must get through with officials from abroad who are here.
Deputy Denis Naughten: We have had poor weather over the past period and the going is quite soft around the country. I refer to Schedule 4 of SI 378 of 2006, the nitrates directive, dealing with the land spreading of slurry. The closing date for the land spreading of slurry is Saturday next, 15 October. I understand the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is considering extending the deadline in light of the poor weather conditions. There is not much point announcing it next Friday, when all of the slurry will have been spread. Can we get an indication from the Government and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the closing date will be extended so that farmers are in a position to hold off on land spreading in current conditions?
The Taoiseach: Conditions are very poor and I will ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to contact Deputy Naughten about this. The matter has been raised with me by a number of farmers and farming interest groups around the country.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: In the context of the restructuring of the HSE and the legislation to be published concerning changes to the governance structures of the HSE, it is urgent that this legislation is brought forward. The HSE is contradicting the Minister in the House. HIQA published a report recently regarding transportation from the aeromedical co-ordination centre. I ask in the context of a commitment given in this House with regard to the establishment of a national aeromedical co-ordination centre in light of the difficulties regarding the fiasco over the liver transplant for Maedhbh McGivern. We now find that it is not happening and we must have clarity on who is running the health services at this juncture.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: A commitment was made in this House last July and I think the Taoiseach must personally intervene in this matter. I do not want to make cheap political capital but we now find out that the matter is being delayed again.
The Taoiseach: I want to say to the family of Maedhbh McGivern that I am glad the girl is home and in hospital here. The insinuation came from somewhere that the young patient would have to fly home on a commercial flight. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are medical issues and this Government, no more than any other, was not in a position to see a young patient with a medical condition being required to fly on a commercial flight. The legislation is due next year but policy proposals are being worked on by the Minister for Health. The point made about the air service is under consideration.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I refer to the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill, which I have referred to in this House before. I am privileged to represent the constituency of Dublin Central and within it is a large amount of private housing that is rented. A small minority of the housing stock is causing great difficulty to landlords, tenants and residents living nearby, because of difficulty in regulating who is renting it out, who is staying in it and how to compel a landlord to do something about a property that is becoming derelict. I would appreciate if the Taoiseach can clarify when the promised legislation will be before the House.
Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Regarding transposing EU directives on waste water and environmental impact assessments into Irish law, will the Government try to allay the impact of it on rural and farming communities by applying similar standards to other EU states? Are those states taking a similar approach to us?
The Taoiseach: All directives have to be implemented. The point raised by the Deputy is one that should always be taken into consideration but has not been in some instances in the past. Directives are required to be implemented within a ten-year period.
Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: The reason I raised this is that the European Commission has won cases in the European Court of Justice on both of these directives, so they must be transposed into Irish law immediately. Will the Taoiseach ensure that the potential impact on rural and farming communities is lessened and that standards similar to those applied in other EU states are applied in implementing the directives? Will the Government take the same approach as other EU states?
The Taoiseach: I am sure the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is cognisant of the implications of the directive in so far as they apply to Ireland. We have a bond and duty to implement the directive, and the Minister will be made aware of the Deputy’s comments in that regard.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Could the Taoiseach tell us when the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill will come through the Dáil? Can he clarify that this Bill will deal with raising the retirement age for public service workers and reducing their pension entitlements?
Can the Taoiseach tell us exactly when the housing Bill, which is due to be published in 2012, will be published and introduced to the Dáil? Can he confirm that this Bill will give a legal underpinning to the new policies on social housing outlined in June and July, which are effectively doing away with direct provision of council housing?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Boyd Barrett has become very biblical. He wants to know the date, the time and the hour. I know neither the date, the time nor the hour. However, I can tell him that the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill has been published and is awaiting Second Stage in the Dáil. That should happen within the next couple of weeks, but neither the Deputy nor I knows the date and the hour.
The Taoiseach: The heads of the housing Bill have not been produced yet and it has not come before the Government. When it does, I will tell the Deputy, and I might be able to give him a fix on that as well.
Deputy Micheál Martin: With regard to the promised legislation on upward-only rent reviews, which the Minister for Justice and Equality is working on, the Taoiseach suggested at the commencement of his term in office that a facility would be afforded to the Opposition to tease out the principles of Bills in Dáil committees. It appears there have been some constitutional difficulties with this Bill. I invite the Taoiseach to use the Bill as a template for the kind of reform he articulated at the commencement of the Government, which has not yet happened; that is, that he facilitate Members of the House in considering the principles of the Bill that the Government is preparing.
The Taoiseach: I realise we did say this. Today marks the presentation of the fourth Bill to a committee at heads stage for political observations. The Bill dealing with upward-only rent reviews is expected later this session, and the Minister for Justice and Equality is working on it as a priority. I would like to think we could have a normal process in which Bills whose heads have been approved by the Government are sent to Oireachtas committees for deliberation. Three Bills have been discussed already and a range of views were expressed, which has been beneficial to the Ministers concerned. That is the way we need to go. It is a matter of getting the process more clearly streamlined so that Ministers can send Bills to the committees at heads stage for political deliberation as a matter of course.
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