Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 15, statements on the pre-European Council meeting of 1 and 2 March and ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union; and No. 1, Education (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad] — Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in relation to No. 15 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after three hours and ten minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: in relation to the pre-European Council meeting, the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, and the Taoiseach shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; in relation to the ratification of the European treaty, the opening statements of the Tánaiste and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case with the statement 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 five minutes.
The suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m. or on the conclusion of the opening statements, whichever is the later, until 2.30 p.m. Private Members’ business shall be No. 40, motion re State assets (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15, statements on pre-European Council meeting of 1 and 2 March, and ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, agreed to? Agreed.
Deputy Micheál Martin: There has been much speculation and concern about the timing of the legislation. Is the Taoiseach in a position this morning to give any indication to the House of the legislative timetable and the date for the referendum or the date for the fiscal responsibility Bill which, inevitably, will be required to come before the House, the timetable for the establishment of the Referendum Commission and any other mechanisms the House may deem fit to establish, for example, a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, in order to properly examine the details of the Bill and to hear submissions from public bodies?
Deputy Gerry Adams: I have similar questions to those raised by Deputy Martin. When does the Taoiseach expect the Referendum Commission to be established? Has he selected a chairman for the commission? When will the Bill to amend the European Communities Act 1972 be brought before the Dáil?
The Taoiseach: As I said yesterday in reply to Deputy Martin, as soon as the Attorney General gave her formal legal advice to the Government, it was appropriate that the Dáil should be informed. The Government has not set out the specific time process for preparation of the referendum Bill and the process that needs to be gone through before the people can be asked a question. Yesterday, I confirmed to Deputy Martin that work is under way for some time on the fiscal responsibility Bill. I will be able to provide more accurate information once the Government has reflected on this matter next Tuesday. I take the Deputy’s point about setting up a sub-committee to deal with this matter and to which I am positively disposed. I will respond to Deputy Martin in writing.
Deputy John O’Mahony: I wish to ask a question about the upcoming referendum. I am thinking of the children’s referendum and the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad. Will they be held this year or will there be a consequence of the fiscal treaty referendum being held this year?
The Taoiseach: I agree with Deputy O’Mahony that this is a very serious question for the people about Ireland’s future and their future and about keeping this country at the heart of the European process, so we can have confidence and opportunity for investment and job creation. That is where our future is and where we need to be. I can confirm to Deputy O’Mahony that this referendum will be held on its own. It will not interfere with any of the other planned referenda, whether on child protection, the abolition of the Seanad or any other one that comes along.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I refer to the foreshore and marine area development Bill. The recent consultation on the exploration off Dalkey was based on 1933 legislation. We only found out when the three weeks were almost up that it was possible to make a submission and so on. There have been interventions in the House about it.
The Taoiseach might remember that in the 29th Dáil, Trevor Sargent spoke about this Bill virtually every day. He was then in government for three or four years but did absolutely nothing to bring it in or to update the existing legislation. What is the position on that front?
Yesterday, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, responded to me in regard to Belmayne. She has been an outstanding colleague of mine for the past two decades and she gave me the information she had to hand in the Department. I asked her two fundamental questions. Is it time——
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: ——a commission of investigation or even a high level inspector from the Department to investigate all aspects of the north fringe? The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, will remember that eight to ten years ago, I showed him the fields where the north fringe was to be built.
The Taoiseach: I heard Deputy Broughan’s remarks very clearly. There is no legislation promised in respect of an investigation into the activities of Dublin City Council. This is a matter which I am sure the councillors and representatives of the people will raise very adequately with the city council members and will follow through on what is a sensitive issue raised by Deputy Broughan yesterday and to which the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, replied.
On the Deputy’s question on the foreshore and marine area development Bill, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, has sorted out a great deal of the complexities dealing with foreshore licences. This Bill is due later this year and work is advancing on it. I cannot give the Deputy an exact date but it is due for later this year.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: In regard to the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency Bill, is the Taoiseach aware that the banks we own are telling our struggling house owners to shop in German discount stores?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I wish to ask about two promised Bills. In view of the large number of errors and irregularities discovered in the conveyancing of land and property over the past number of years, would it possible to bring in the land and conveyancing law reform (amendment) Bill at an early date? It is promised and I think many Members of the House will have an interest in it. Has it been discussed at Cabinet or have the heads been passed by Cabinet yet? In a similar vein, I wish to ask about the criminal records information system Bill to provide for the exchange of criminal records information with other EU member states in order to combat crime.
The Taoiseach: The land and conveyancing law reform (amendment) Bill and the criminal records information system Bill are due for publication later this year. The Minister for Justice and Equality has done quite a deal of work on the latter.
Deputy Patrick Nulty: Will the promised legislation to establish a new agency to deal with child protection include amendments to the 1991 Child Care Act to provide for a statutory right to after care for young people leaving State care? Less than 15 months ago, the Taoiseach’s party supported amendments in the Dáil to provide for that.
The Taoiseach: The child and family support agency Bill is due later this year. As Deputy Nulty is aware, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, has done a great deal of work on the whole area of child protection. We are anxious to get this right because it is so important. He will also be aware of the work done by the previous all-party Oireachtas committee and the great deal of discussion taking place on getting a form of wording which is acceptable and in the best interest of children.
Deputy Martin Ferris: Almost four weeks ago, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, said in the House that he would publish the standards and guidelines regarding remedial work for septic tanks. When does he intend to publish them? We were promised them three weeks ago, two weeks ago and again this week but, as yet, I have not seen them.
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Social Protection has made it perfectly clear in regard to community employment schemes and every other area that she has carried out an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of these and she will make her views known to the House. The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill is due this session.
The Taoiseach: I already answered Deputy Martin on this matter. The Government will consider this matter further at next week’s Cabinet meeting. Obviously, I said we will set up a referendum commission and the Government will produce a referendum Bill. Work is proceeding on the fiscal responsibility Bill and I will give positive consideration to the setting up of a sub-committee to deal with the referendum. I will let the House know that next week.
The Taoiseach: It will be as soon as possible. This is a matter on which I am getting many queries. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, has advanced it greatly. I am anxious that it is set up as quickly as possible. I will have the Minister respond directly to the Deputy. It is on its way and the quicker, the better.
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