Order of Business

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 756 No. 1

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  11 o’clock

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is proposed to take No. 5, Finance Bill 2012 — Second Stage (resumed) and No. 12 — statements on the action plan for jobs. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 5 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.15 p.m. today; and the following arrangements shall apply to No. 12: opening statements not exceeding 20 minutes in each case shall be made by a Minister or Minister of State and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share time; the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes; 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 ten minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 5, Finance Bill 2012 — Second Stage (resumed), agreed to?

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  It is not agreed. Again the Government is using a guillotine on very important legislation. I am sure the Tánaiste is well aware that the legislation, of which his party is fully supportive, allows for tax breaks to the super wealthy in the form of €635,000 which would be free from tax for people coming from overseas. I am sure he is also aware that the Finance Bill allows for some of the most well paid officials in the public sector to be able to dip into their private pensions in order not to pay the penalties that would be imposed on them at the time of retirement if their pension pot was more than €2.3 million. Very few people would be able to avail of that provision.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We are not debating the Finance Bill now.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Some Ministers may be included among those who could avail of it. There is a trend with the Government to impose a guillotine. We in Sinn Féin are opposed to the guillotine. We should allow people to speak on Second Stage if they so desire. I ask the Tánaiste to give a commitment to the House that there will not be a guillotine on Committee Stage or Report Stage as his party and other parties demanded when we dealt with Finance Bills previously. We should be able to discuss and debate each amendment in full and vote upon it at the end.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Once again Fine Gael and Labour are doing exactly the opposite of what they argued for during the many years they were in opposition — the arbitrary guillotining of crucial legislative measures. The Finance Bill enshrines all the disastrous austerity provided for in the budget of a few months ago — slashing services and attacking living standards with detrimental effects in general on our society — in order to bail out the bondholders and speculators. At the same time it introduces new elements such as bribes for bounty hunters who are supposed to come here with no obligation to create jobs but under the pretence they will. With a wage of up to €500,000 a year they can get massive tax breaks compared with our people on top of whom new taxes have been imposed. We need time for a proper debate to allow every Deputy who wants to contribute, which has not been the case so far.

[14]Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Can the Tánaiste confirm that no guillotine will be imposed on Committee Stage to give Members a chance to go through the Bill section by section and line by line in order to deal with all the serious issues that have been raised? On Committee Stage it is often possible to do a much more forensic job on these issues than is possible on Second Stage.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Finance Bill provides that there will be no increases in income tax for working people this year for the first time in a number of years and provides for changes in capital taxation — the kinds of changes that Sinn Féin and Deputy Higgins call for in theory and then oppose in practice.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  That is not true. We supported those aspects.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Finance Bill, which provides incentives for the creation of jobs——

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  What jobs?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——to address the needs of the 440,000 people who are out of work and is now being opposed by the same people——

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  And the tax breaks.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——has already been debated on Second Stage since Tuesday. We propose to conclude the Second Stage debate today in accordance with the arrangements I have proposed. Regarding Committee Stage, as I understand it, the committee itself normally makes arrangements for the timetabling of the handling of the Bill. I know that in the past there were arrangements where time was allocated for groups of sections, etc. The arrangements it makes for the timetabling of taking the Bill on Committee Stage are a matter for the committee. However, it is proposed that Second Stage conclude today.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I am putting the question. The question is——

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  What is the point of order?

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Is it not the case that the House orders how the committee would deal with the Finance Bill on Committee Stage and the timeframe?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That is correct.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We are a democratic institution — the committee decides.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The House will ultimately——

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I seek clarification. Is it the House that decides or the committee that decides?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  It is, yes.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  It is the House, so the Tánaiste stands corrected. Can he answer the question whether there will be a guillotine as is proposed on Committee Stage?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We are not going through this again. I am putting the question.

[15]Question, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 5 be agreed to,” put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 12, statements on the action plan for jobs, agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  In answer to a recent parliamentary question I was given to understand that the legislation to amend the law on civil registration of deaths, births and marriages would be introduced by the end of the year — in fact it was being worked upon when I was in the Department. This deals with matters such as embassy marriages and the registration in this jurisdiction of deaths of Irish residents which occur abroad. Why is it not on the list of legislation for the Department of Social Protection? When will the legislation be published? At what stage is it? I could not find it anywhere on the list of legislation even though I am getting promises in response to parliamentary questions that we will have it by the end of the year.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The civil registration (amendment) Bill is on the C list. The heads are being drafted and it is expected to be published later this year.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Will the Tánaiste indicate when we can expect the fiscal responsibility Bill and the treaty establishing the European financial stabilisation mechanism Bill? Will the Tánaiste indicate to the House when the Attorney General will give the Government advice in respect of the fiscal compact treaty referendum or the austerity referendum? Will the Tánaiste give the House a guarantee that when the Attorney General comes forward with her advice, it will be published in the public interest?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is expected that the fiscal responsibility Bill will be taken later this session. There are two Bills relating to the European financial stability facility. I will introduce a European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill. The heads of this Bill have been approved by the Government and it will be introduced this session. A separate and related Bill will be introduced by the Minister for Finance.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  When during this session? That was a rather open-ended answer. Will the Tánaiste be more precise?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It will be towards the end of the session. The Bill from the Department of Finance will follow it. The Attorney General has yet to present her advice on the treaty and the conclusion of the European summit in January.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Will the Government publish it when it is presented?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I am afraid that is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I will take that as a “No”.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  The Tánaiste will be aware of a welcome development yesterday, that is, the conviction of an individual for the murder of one of my constituents, the late Shane Geoghegan. The Tánaiste may also be aware that it is likely that further proceedings may be taken against other people arising from yesterday’s conviction. Is the Tánaiste satisfied that the anti-gangland legislation of 2009 is sufficiently robust to enable further prosecutions to take place?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I appreciate that this is a serious matter but we cannot ask about it now unless legislation is promised.

[16]Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  A raft of criminal justice legislation has been promised. I simply wish to know if it will be considered in that context.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Will that be considered?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I join Deputy O’Dea in welcoming the conviction yesterday. We all recall with horror when Shane Geoghegan was killed. I welcome the conviction yesterday. It does not bring back Shane and that is the awful sentence that families must live with after something like this occurs. The Garda Commissioner has expressed his satisfaction that the existing legislation is adequate. The adequacy of the legislation and getting convictions is something the Minister for Justice and Equality has under continuous review.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  By the way, the Labour Party opposed the legislation when it was in opposition.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Tánaiste indicate when it is intended to move Second Stage of the gambling Bill which is on the pink sheets? It is an imminent promise. This relates to the regulation of the betting industry and it will bring about necessary changes.

Other legislation promised for some time and regarded as urgently required includes the collective investment schemes consolidation Bill. This has been referred to as necessary legislation in recent times. When is it likely to come before the House? Have the heads been discussed and to what extent?

There are two final points. Apropos of the points made by Deputy O’Dea and the Tánaiste, the criminal justice (victims rights) Bill was promised and it is in the C section. Its purpose is to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and of their families and to give effect to the proposed EU directive. As a result of recent court cases wherein victims have been prosecuted as well, this is appropriate legislation to bring forward now.

A final tranche of legislation is urgently required. I am sorry for delaying the Order of Business with this but, unfortunately, all this legislation was promised when I was sitting on the far side of the House. The criminal law (sexual offences) Bill is to implement the recommendations of the second interim report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to protect vulnerable persons against sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The gambling Bill is being worked upon as a priority and we expect to publish it this session. I do not have a date for the second matter raised by Deputy Durkan. Preliminary work is under way on the criminal justice (victims rights) Bill but it is impossible to indicate a publication date at this stage. The final Bill Deputy Durkan referred to is expected later this year.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  What is the position of the proposed regulations for the Water Services (Amendment) Act in light of the shocking Environmental Protection Agency report which has emerged last night and today confirming that almost half of the State’s sewerage treatment plants in urban areas fail to meet EU standards?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Thank you.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  There are 529 of these plants. It has been proven that they are not working.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We cannot have a debate on it. We will get the information. What are you looking for exactly?

[17]Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  Will the Government now admit that it is going after the wrong people when it comes to the septic tank regulations?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  No, Deputy. You know as well as I do how this works. Please resume your seat.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  It has been proven by the EPA report that 529 of the State’s treatment plants are not operating properly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Perhaps you could table a parliamentary question. That is not for the Order of Business.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  I believe the Tánaiste wishes to answer it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Are you concerned about the regulations?

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  Yes. Will the Tánaiste admit that they have missed——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Deputy, will you please resume your seat? We have a time limit. Other Deputies wish to contribute.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The EPA report underscores and supports the urgency and priority that the Government is giving to issues of water pollution. Certainly, the Government will not shirk its responsibility in bringing forward legislation. When statutory instruments, to which the Deputy referred, are made they are laid before the House and it is then a matter for Members how they wish to deal with the secondary legislation.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  As the Tánaiste is aware, the Financial Services Ombudsman, Bill Prasifka, has confirmed that almost 7,300 complaints were received by his office in 2011. He has called for additional powers to publish the complaints record of individual financial institutions. We have published a simple legislative amendment which would give him this power and I will move it during Private Members’ time as soon as I can. Will the Government be open minded about such a change?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The report of the Financial Services Ombudsman is being considered by the Minister for Finance. If he considers that legislative change is necessary then he will bring proposals to Government in that regard.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I wish to raise the serious matter of the misleading of the House, albeit inadvertently, by the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly. In answer to a parliamentary question——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Sorry Deputy. This is not for the Order of Business.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  It is not but under Standing Orders I wish to raise the misleading of the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  No. Under Standing Order 40A, you have a right as a Deputy to make a written complaint to me about the inadequacy of a reply which you believe is not in order. I will consider any such request and deal with it appropriately.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  The Minister addressed each and every request——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Please resume your seat, Deputy.

[18]Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I am afraid I cannot.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  You will, or else you will leave the House.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I cannot resume my seat.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Then leave the House, Deputy.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  Misinformation has been provided to the House by our health services and by the authority tasked with running the health services.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  You will now leave the House. I gave you a way out. You will not show that disrespect to the Chair. Leave the House.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I cannot.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  You will leave the House.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I will not leave the House. I was elected under a promise of improving health services in the mid-west.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  You will leave the House.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  The HSE is running rings around the Minister for Health and I will not be silenced.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I have asked you to leave the House. You leave me no option but to name you if you do not leave the House.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  I will not leave the House until this issue is addressed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I am sorry, Deputy. I told you how to deal with the issue. Provision has been made only recently——

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  That applies if an issue is not——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Please resume your seat.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  It should address each and every request for information. The Minister for Health addressed every request but he provided——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Resume your seat.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  No, a Cheann Comhairle, I will not leave until this has been dealt with.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Then leave the House. I name the Deputy.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  The Labour Party said to people before the election that there was no problem.


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