Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 16, Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 3, Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 4, Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 21, Debt Settlement and Mortgage Resolution Office Bill 2011 — Second Stage (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. today if not previously concluded.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I do. With regard to the announcement the Taoiseach made yesterday on the Order of Business, as with most things announced by the Government, his claim of radically opening up the budget process falls apart under even the most basic examination. The Taoiseach said the budget and the White Paper will be published exactly as before, and the departmental spending Estimates will be published almost exactly as they were last year, including the provision of four-year plans.
One major question arises from the business of the Dáil, namely, how the overall taxation and spending limits will be set. The Taoiseach said yesterday these will be agreed on Tuesday but withheld until after the Dublin West and presidential votes. The Taoiseach spent last month denying that anything would be withheld. Will he explain why this is happening? Can he also explain the absurdity of the fact——
Deputy Micheál Martin: I am asking why we are expected to debate and vote on exact spending limits in a few weeks time but we will not be allowed to see the result of the spending review until 1 December.
The Taoiseach: I thought Deputy Martin would welcome this series of opportunities for everyone here, including the Opposition Members, to have their say. I cannot recall saying we were going to publish this on Tuesday. The original intention was that the first announcement would be published at the end of October. As the Deputy is aware, we have to wait for the figures to come in.
The Taoiseach: I did say it could overrun into the first few days of November for that reason. The Estimates will be published on 1 November and they will go straight to committee before the budget so people can have their chance to debate this.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta ag an Rialtas. I want to raise a question on promised legislation. Ar dtús, caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil mé an-sásta a chloistáil, a Cheann Comhairle, go mbeidh tú ag cur béasa ar Theachtaí. The Government has committed to introduce legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence and threatened violence to provide protection for the victims, yet this has now been replaced with a review. When will this legislation be introduced? Does one imply from the fact it has now been reduced to a review that the 38% increase in the number of women and children unable to access refuges last year is not an urgent matter?
The Taoiseach: I appreciate the importance of the issue Deputy Adams raises. The Minister for Justice and Equality wrote to Deputy McDonald of Deputy Adams’ party on 4 October. She had raised on 28 September on the Order of Business a question concerning the Government’s intentions on domestic violence legislation. The Minister pointed out in the letter that the commitment in the programme for Government is to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of that, including domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims.
The Minister made the point that in the meantime the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 has widened the protections that are provided for in the Domestic Violence Act 1996 as follows. First, there is no longer a minimum required period of cohabitation before one of a cohabiting couple may apply for a safety order, whereas previously the applicant was required to have resided with the respondent for at least six of the previous 12 months. Second, same-sex couples now have the same access to the protections of the Domestic Violence Act as opposite-sex couples. The relevant provision previously referred only to couples living together as husband and wife. Third, the scope of section 2, which specifies who may apply for a safety order, has been broadened to enable a person to obtain a safety order against a person with whom they have a child in common. These are the three issues referred to by the Minister for Justice and Equality in the letter to Deputy McDonald on 4 October in respect of the legislation on domestic violence.
Deputy Gerry Adams: My question was when the promised legislation will be brought forward. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, also said he had to re-examine the legislation because of the EU-IMF priority. Is the Government giving greater priority to the EU-IMF diktat than to the plight of, in the main, women and children?
The Taoiseach: We answered questions yesterday in the House about the pressure on the Parliamentary Counsel and the drafting situation. Some 30 Bills are listed for production in this session, some very complex and lengthy, including the legal services Bill of more than 300 pages. That legislation will not be produced in this session but that does not mean the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government are not focusing on the importance of the issue the Deputy raises.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I welcome any informed debate on the budgetary process but not the manipulation of that to hide from the people before the Dublin West by-election and the presidential election the real truth of the savage cuts the Taoiseach is promising. He promised, and the Minister for Finance promised earlier, that this would be published in October. I ask the Taoiseach to publish now and to bring forward the date from that which he indicated yesterday.
By the way, it would perhaps do us all a favour in getting the media to pass on the real concerns and issues facing our people and away from this tiresome parade of personalities and vision makers that passes for a presidential campaign, which fills newspapers endlessly.
The Taoiseach: On the latter question, that will be in this session. On the first point, there is no manipulation of the budget going on here. The condition signed on for with the memorandum of understanding is for a debt reduction to 8.6%. The details of how this will actually be achieved have not been worked out yet and cannot be worked out until the figures in respect of the self-employed, corporates and growth projections are clear.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: Yesterday, the Minister for Health confirmed to a number of us that he is to privatise the management of a number of hospitals in the west and mid-west. Obviously, this raises some very serious issues. Is it the beginning of a path towards the privatisation of the health services generally? When will the appropriate legislation be brought before the House to confirm the process which is under way to privatise the management of these hospitals?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——because I have not seen it before the House. The Taoiseach will recall that in the previous Dáil there was very strong opposition from all parties to the privatisation——
The Taoiseach: I might have one word in response to the Deputy’s question. No legislation is required as temporary contracts are issued that are approved by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. For many years, the position has been that there have been trolleys in hospitals. However, in Tallaght Hospital, for instance, the other day there were no trolleys in evidence for the first time in many years. Moreover, the cost base actually is moving down.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: On promised legislation, what is the current status of the proposed national vetting bureau legislation? What progress is expected and can Members expect its implementation within a reasonable timescale?
Deputy Simon Harris: As the Taoiseach is aware, when it comes to helping vulnerable people to interact with our judicial system, we still operate under draconian legislation dating from 1798, namely, the Lunacy Act, with its insulting terminology. The programme for Government and the legislative programme contain a commitment to the publication of capacity legislation. Can the Taoiseach confirm to the House when he expects the publication of that Bill?
Deputy Charlie McConalogue: As the Taoiseach is aware, the national review panel for investigation into serious incidents and child deaths produced its report yesterday. It highlighted some very serious inadequacies in our social care system. I believe the report merits the allocation of time in the Dáil to discuss it.
Deputy Charlie McConalogue: I also have an addendum in respect of the Order of Business yesterday, when the Taoiseach indicated that the national review panel was set up in response to the publication at a press conference held last year by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, of the details of a named person and regarding the investigation into how that person’s death came about. The Taoiseach should correct the record of the House because the review panel publication yesterday makes clear the six cases involved were dealt with anonymously and in an appropriate manner.
The Taoiseach: I agree with the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle in this regard and if the Deputy raises this issue with his Whips, who are responsible, I see no reason Members cannot have a debate on this matter at an appropriate time. Before Deputy McConalogue entered this House, Deputy Shatter persistently pursued the issue of the death of children in care. While the criteria set out are very broad, it was following the unfortunate and tragic death of Tracey Fay, which Deputy Shatter raised in this Chamber numerous times, that this review came about.
Deputy Jim Daly: I refer to forthcoming legislation, namely, the temporary partial credit guarantee Bill. The Taoiseach is aware that small and medium enterprises continue to struggle to access credit and this is an ongoing problem. On a day like today when job losses are making headlines, it is important to maintain one’s focus and I seek an update from the Taoiseach in this regard.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: I wish to raise two legislative items. First, the Government has stated the personal insolvency Bill is central to solving the problems of distressed mortgage payers. When exactly will it be published, as their situation is worsening on a daily basis? Second, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation yesterday announced a major overhaul of competition and consumer law. When will Members have sight of the Bill to provide for this change, namely the consumer and competition Bill, in order that the Minister will have an opportunity to announce this again?
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