On a point of order, there are two supplementary Order Papers which have not issued to Members of the House. It is normal practice to issue Order Papers to us and there are two supplementary Orders Papers concerning 22c and 22d which have not issued. We should have them before the Order of Business commences.
Order of Business.
I understood they were circulated.
No. We received only one sheet telling us there were two supplementaries. I am very particular about these matters. Come back Deputy Brennan, all is forgiven.
The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 22b, motion re Appointment of Select Committee on European Affairs; No. 22c on the supplementary Order Paper, motion re Appointment of members to Committee on Procedure and Privileges and Select Committee on European Affairs; No. 22d on the supplementary Order Paper, motion re Sittings and Business of the Dáil; No. a1, Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Performance of Certain Functions) Bill, 2002 [Seanad] – Second and Remaining Stages; No. 7, Arts Bill, 2002 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 8, Railway Safety Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 22b, 22c and 22d shall be decided without debate; the Second and Remaining Stages of No. a1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: Second Stage to conclude within 90 minutes, if not previously concluded; Committee and Remaining Stages to conclude within 30 minutes, if not previously concluded; and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion by one question in each case 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 the Environment and Local Government.
There are two proposals before the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 22b, motion re Appointment of Select Committee on European Affairs; No. 22c on the supplementary Order Paper, motion re Appointment of members to Committee on Procedure and Privileges and Select Committee on European Affairs, and No. 22d on the supplementary Order Paper, motion re Sittings and Business of the Dáil, agreed to?
As we speak, the Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle is hearing the Taoiseach dealing with the contents of the Referendum Bill. It is important we make a point and, for that reason, I object to the proposal. Dáil Éireann is where the contents of the Bill should be outlined. It is another blow to the accountability of this House that we have to wait until the Dáil rises to see the content of legislation which ought to be before the House today to allow the people's representatives debate the matter.
I wish to specifically focus on No. 22d ,motion re Sittings and Business of the Dáil. I note on the Order Paper that the sittings scheduled for 4, 5, 10 and 11 September will be for the purposes of taking the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2002 which is in effect the Nice treaty referendum mark II, though without change.
I am concerned that the business of addressing this issue on 4 September will not allow for the presentation, in equal measure, of the case opposing the proposition for the adoption of the Nice treaty in a second referendum. The order for taking speakers will apply in 30 minute segments to each of the Government parties, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The other parties in the House, which have been the spearhead of opposition to Nice, will be apportioned opportunities to contribute in 20 minute slots, as the debate proceeds.
Deputy, the Standing Order states that Members may make a brief comment.
It is a brief comment and I will conclude, therefore, in line with the wishes of the Ceann Comhairle, by stating that it is absolutely wrong that the arguments in relation to Nice at the commencement of this debate do not accommodate in equal measure the representatives of those who articulated the No position in the referendum on Nice that has already been won by that view. It is unacceptable that our position would be confined to a later opportunity in the debate. We have the right to have our position heard early and in equal measure because we represent that significant section of the electorate who already made the decision on this matter.
I understood that we were taking Nos. 22b and 22c. However, if we are taking No. 22d I wish to raise two points with the Tánaiste.
The House and the media were given to understand, although to the Taoiseach the record is quite clear that his comments were conditional, that the Dáil would return the week after next to discuss the Ansbacher report. The Supplementary Order Paper does not provide for that and I want the Tánaiste to indicate if the Dáil, contrary to what the Taoiseach previously stated, will not be recalled for a day. In fairness to the Taoiseach, the record gives him, in his traditional way and in terms of the small print, a way out.
The Labour Party understood that when the Dáil is recalled in September it could possibly take the European Union Bill or a Government alternative to it. The explicit Order Paper now before us confines the House exclusively to taking certain legislation and not dealing with any other item which may arise. I refer specifically here to the European Union Bill. Before we agree to the proposal I would like the Tánaiste to clarify the position because the failure to debate the Ansbacher report and the confinement or exclusion of the European Union Bill are unsatisfactory from our point of view.
In reply to Deputy Sargent, the Taoiseach will not be dealing with the contents of the Bill in his address to the Forum on Europe this morning.
It is the case that if the Whips of the Opposition parties wish the Dáil to be recalled to discuss the Ansbacher report, the Government will be happy to do so.
It is the Government's job to recall the Dáil.
If the parties, having read the report next week, wish to have the Dáil recalled the following week – as the Taoiseach stated, it is a long report and to be fair to everybody it would not be possible—
The Government has already received the request to recall the Dáil.
I am trying to be helpful. We are prepared to have the Dáil recalled, that is a commitment.
May I give notice to the Tánaiste that we want the Dáil recalled a week after the Ansbacher report is published?
The Government will, as the Taoiseach has already stated, facilitate that request. In relation to the European Union Bill—
If we agree to this order today, does that prevent us from—
No. The Committee on European Affairs, which is being established today, will discuss the European Union Bill during the summer recess. However, the Government will not be in a position to discuss the Bill during the recall of the Dáil in early September which is solely for the purpose of debating the Referendum Bill.
I wish to inform Deputy Ó Caoláin that the matter of ordering speakers is one to be dealt with by the House under Standing Orders. However, since up to 90% of Members represent the Yes side—
The Tánaiste should not be so sure.
—I do not believe it would be possible to be able to match speaker for speaker.
Is the proposal agreed to?
A Cheann Comhairle—
I apologise, Deputy, but your party leader has already spoken on this matter and the provision under the Standing Order is that only one member of your party may contribute.
It would facilitate the House if I was allowed to make my point.
I must put the question.
Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Connolly, Paudge.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDowell, Michael.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.McHugh, Paddy.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael. Wright, G. V.
Allen, Bernard.Boyle, Dan.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Connaughton, Paul.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McGrath, Finian.
McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Performance of Certain Functions) Bill, 2002 [Seanad] – Second and Remaining Stages, agreed to?
No, it is not agreed to. I received a phone call from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government indicating this Bill was being introduced, but I have yet to find any time being made available in this debate for parties other than the larger parties. It is important that each party is represented. This Bill covers the transfer of functions from the old Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. There is an intrinsic conflict of interest when Dúchas will be in the same Department as that with responsibility for incinerators. It is important that we address the issue fully and that all Members and parties are able to articulate their views on it.
There is no provision for time for the smaller parties or Independents to participate in the Second Stage debate on this Bill. The provision of 90 minutes for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Performance of Certain Functions) Bill, 2002 does not accommodate us. That is not just speculative. I sought the time, but was advised this morning that no time would be available, as it is not provided. As a Member of this House representative of a small party which wishes to participate, I protest in the strongest manner and the only way I can present that is in opposing the proposition, which is clearly discriminatory.
I generally support the points that have been made. The Government has made a very bad decision in severely guillotining Bills at this very early stage in the life of a new Dáil when we have a long legislative period before us during which Bills can be fully discussed. To bring in such a measure in a way that excludes people from particular parties and groups of Deputies is unacceptable.
This Bill relates to the transfer of certain functions and it is important that it be done speedily. It is not a matter for me as to who speaks; that is a matter dealt with under Standing Orders.
Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brennan, Séamus.Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael. Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.McDowell, Michael.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.
Allen, Bernard.Breen, James.Broughan, Thomas P.Connaughton, Paul.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Ferris, Martin.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Hogan, Phil.Kehoe, Paul.Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Pádraic.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Finian.McManus, Liz.Morgan, Arthur.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, Willie.Quinn, Ruairí.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.
We now move on to leaders' questions. I call Deputy Hogan.
The new motoring survey reveals that insurance costs have risen by 10% for the second year in a row. That provides more evidence that the Government has lost control of price increases in the economy. People who depend on car transport every day are being hit with cost increases which are twice the recorded rate of inflation. The AA report also reveals that the cost of car insurance rose by an incredible 25% last year. That supports the findings of the recent motor insurance report that many motorists are being overcharged for insurance. Given that the Government's commitment to implement the MIAB report does not include a timescale, will the Tánaiste give us a deadline for action on these important recommendations?
It is appropriate the Tánaiste is taking the Order of Business because this matter is directly within the remit of the responsibilities of her Department. Will she clearly outline the work done to date to implement the excellent report referred to by Deputy Hogan which was prepared by Dorothea Dowling? Will she outline the steps which will be taken by her Department to reduce the outrageous cost of insurance?
I am aware of the report referred to by Deputy Hogan. The last Government established an implementation group to implement the recommendations of the MIAB report. That implementation group will report on 24 July, which is a couple of weeks from now. In advance of that, a memorandum has been circulated to Departments in recent days to establish the personal injuries assessment board, which will go a long way to reducing the cost of claims. Approximately 40% of the cost of taking a claim is accounted for by expert witnesses and legal fees. The measures the Government have put in place in relation to the implementation of the MIAB report will help to get a speedy decision from the Government. We hope to be in a position soon to make the type of decisions necessary to reduce the cost not only of motor insurance but of public and employers' liability insurance.
Yesterday the Taoiseach said the Government would tackle rising inflation by introducing more competition. That has been neglected over the past five years. Can the Tánaiste tell the House what specific action is being planned by the Government in this regard and what sectors will be affected?
I presume the Taoiseach was talking about the selective leaking of the Forfás report, which dealt with one aspect of the report. Yesterday's report did not mention the fact that we are the third best paid in Europe after tax, which is relevant. The Government is committed to introducing competition in every sector. We now have regulators in regulated markets to ensure fair access on reasonable terms. However, I am not in a position to say what the Government will do on the basis of the Forfás report because it has not yet gone to Government. It will go to it quickly and we will take seriously the conclusions of the authors of the report in terms of the obstacles in the economy to competition.
Is the Government aware that a new principle of apartheid is being introduced into our health system with respect to accident and emergency services? A memo recently prepared in St. Vincent's Hospital, which is a voluntary hospital but which receives substantial public funds, states:
Please note that, following discussions at the Bed Management Committee, Executive Committee of Medical Board and Hospital Executive Council, a decision has been taken to designate St. Clare's Ward as a 15 bed seven day unit for Accident and Emergency patients with priority being given to patients with private health insurance cover.
Is the Tánaiste aware of the extension of the apartheid system to our accident and emergency services where previously there was not any distinction between public and private patients? This memo relates to a special ward rather than to the unit, but the principle has been introduced. Has that been done with the expressed consent of the Government? How does the Government reconcile that practice, which is part funded by the taxpayer, with its commitment to the health strategy?
It is clear that people's illnesses are not taken into account, but that the strength of their bank balance is more important in terms of getting access to health care. To improve access to primary care, will the Tánaiste indicate if the Government has any plans to review the decision not to increase income limits for medical card patients in view of the fact that single people who earn more than €133 and married couples with two children who earn more than €238 are not entitled to a medical card?
The Government is committed to ensuring that people have access to health care on the basis of medical need, not financial means. The adoption by the last Government of the health strategy was done with that in mind. The ratio of public to private beds in hospitals in recent years, which should be 80:20, had gone to 71:29.
It is 50:50.
That is unacceptable and the health strategy was devised with a view to bringing the balance back to where it should be, which was agreed under the common contract. I am not familiar with the details of the memo read by Deputy Quinn. The management of a hospital on a day to day basis is a matter for that hospital. We are all concerned to ensure that anyone who comes to a hospital as an accident and emergency case is dealt with on the basis of their need and not on any other basis. That strategy is being pursued.
As regards the medical card guidelines, the medical card was extended substantially over the lifetime of the last Government. A high proportion of people have medical cards. In accordance with the financial situation, it is the Government's determination to ensure that those at the bottom in our society not only have a medical card but have access to a good health service.
While I accept that the day to day management of any institution, including hospitals, must rest primarily with those responsible for that management, the Minister for Health and Children has both political and statutory responsibility and power to issue guidelines to the management of all such medical institutions. I ask the Tánaiste, in light of this revelation, to raise this matter with the Minister for Health and Children. Will she, on behalf of the Government, give an undertaking that guidelines will be issued by the Government on the treatment of patients, particularly accident and emergency patients, and that there will not be any distinction between public and private patients in terms of the way they are treated in any hospital which receives public funds?
Since I do not know the context in which that letter was circulated, I will not say off the top of my head what the Government may do. I would be surprised if accident and emergency cases at St. Vincent's Hospital or at any other hospital were discriminated against. I will draw the memo read by Deputy Quinn to the attention of the Minister for Health and Children.
I call Deputy Allen on the Order of Business.
When will the legislation dealing with illegal parking by different groups, which was passed in the last session, be enacted? Why has it not been enacted?
Is the Deputy worried about the tourists?
That matter was discussed by the Government last week and the order will be signed shortly.
For many years the Government promised to set up an independent agency to administer FEOGA and other payments to farmers. Are there any plans to introduce legislation in that regard? The Ceann Comhairle will be aware that last Thursday I was informed by the Minister for Agriculture and Food that I would get the name of the seventh project—
That does not arise. The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that issue. I call Deputy Crowe.
It is very important. I was given a commitment that this would be—
That may well be, but the Deputy will have to find another way of dealing with it.
I ask you to use your office, a Cheann Comhairle, to ensure—
The Chair has no responsibility in the matter, Deputy Ryan. Deputy Crowe has been called.
On the Order of Business yesterday, the Taoiseach informed Deputy Ó Snodaigh that an order to extend the period of protective rent control would be signed today. Will the Tánaiste confirm that this is being done and will a copy of the order be laid before the House or made available in the Library? Will the Tánaiste also tell the House if and how the tenants affected by this issue will be informed? Many of them are elderly and they are concerned that a deadline will loom over them and that their rents will be increased.
I understand the order has been signed. All orders of that kind are placed in the Oireachtas Library.
Can the Tánaiste indicate when the census will be published?
I understand that the preliminary population figures will be available, perhaps, around Christmas or early next year but I do not know when the full census will be published.
The House is about to go into recess and it would appear that the report of the Lindsay tribunal will be published shortly. This tribunal was established by order of this House. What arrangements will be made to ensure that Deputies will have copies of this report? It is an extremely important report, relating to the greatest health scandal this country has ever known. Many people suffered and died as a consequence of the failure of the system to provide the necessary protection.
The tribunal was established by this House and it is my understanding that reports of tribunals are distributed to all Members of the House. While I have no information as to how the tribunal might decide to distribute this particular report, I have no reason to believe they will move away from what is the normal practice in this regard. I will raise the Deputy's query with the appropriate Minister who will, obviously, receive a copy of the report to make sure that Deputies, particularly the Opposition spokespersons, will have copies at the earliest possible date.
The Government has declared an interest in the Money and Budgeting Services Bill, which is at Second Stage. In terms of the credibility of that Bill, is the Government concerned at any involvement by Arthur Anderson in any Government contracts, or any—
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It would be important for the credibility of the Government to establish—
I call Deputy Coveney.
Is the Tánaiste aware that Ireland is being taken to the European Court of Justice by the European Commission for breaking European maritime safety rules? In that context, when are we likely to see the Law of the Sea Bill which, it has been indicated, is to be reintro duced to the House? There was also a maritime coastal safety Bill on the last Government's list. Will that be reintroduced in the autumn?
Yes, both of those Bills will be reintroduced in the autumn.
The Taoiseach has indicated that there are ongoing discussions in relation to a new disabilities Bill. Will the Government give priority to the introduction of that Bill when we resume in the autumn?
Yes, that is a priority Bill for the Government and I understand that the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, will have responsibility for it. The legislative programme will be published before the end of September. The Deputy can take it that the Bill referred to is a priority for the Government and it will be dealt with as quickly as possible.