The Order of Business is No. 16, Garda Síochána Bill 2004[Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); No. 17, Land Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 2, Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken not later than 1.30 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the resumed Second Stage of No. 16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16, the conclusion of Second Stage of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 agreed to? Agreed.
It is four years since the Taoiseach announced that the needs of consumers would be a high priority for the Government. Today a leaked report from the consumer strategy group confirms that Irish consumers are being ripped off and that Government policy is hopelessly inadequate for dealing with this issue. Will we see continuing prevarication from Government, with report after report on issues of consumer protection piling up, or will we see action from the Government? Will the Tánaiste accept the Fine Gael Private Members' legislation on a consumer enforcer, a key recommendation of the group, and implement it rather than delaying the House with lengthy redrafting? We should act on these issues instead of leaving consumers exposed to constant rip-offs.
Yesterday my colleague, Deputy O'Sullivan, tabled a question to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment asking when this report would be published and for details of it to be given to the House. The Minister replied that he expected the report to be published in the coming weeks. The details of that report are in today's edition ofThe Irish Times. That is a grave disservice to the House and an insult to it. Repeatedly the Government makes announcements outside the Houses but it was brazen to tell a Member during Question Time that a report would be published in the coming weeks and then leak its contents to a national newspaper. It is something I am asking you, Sir, to voice a view on; otherwise, this House will be entirely irrelevant.
It is a matter of changing the rules of the House, Deputy.
I am asking your view, as Chairman of the House, on the notion that a Member could be told that in coming weeks the details will be published when the same Minister obviously briefed the newspapers on the contents of the report.
It is a matter for the House, Deputy. It is not a matter for the Chair.
That is a serious issue.
My understanding is that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment intends publishing the report in conjunction with the Government's decision on some key recommendations in the report.
Did the Tánaiste readThe Irish Times today?
We have had two discussions at Cabinet, both this week and last week, on some of the key findings in that report and the Minister is to come back to the Government with a memorandum for decision shortly.
Will it be a series of findings where we will examine X, think about Y and set up another discussion——
Deputy, we cannot have a debate on it. I call Deputy Rabbitte.
——or consultation group on Z? Will decisions be taken?
I hope so.
Every day brings some new revelations about the Gama Construction scandal and the fact that 1,400 workers were exempted from paying social insurance here — three quarters of all workers so exempted over the past three years. Will the Tánaiste pledge that there will be a debate in the House as soon as the High Court matter is resolved? The Tánaiste sat on this scandal for three or four years, having encouraged this company here in the first place and accepted——
You have made your point, Deputy. Allow the Tánaiste answer on the question.
——a flimsy internal investigation in her own Department when it is clear that the official did not go outside the door to ask any of the workers concerned if the allegations were true.
I call the Tánaiste.
Deputy, you cannot go on in this vein. You have made your point. The normal course in this House is to allow questions on debates that are promised. As the leader of a party I have allowed you ask the question on a debate. We cannot have the debate now. Please allow the Tánaiste answer your question.
I agree with you, Sir. I am not asking for the debate now.
But you are having the debate now.
I am asking the Tánaiste to commit to a debate where we can fully probe her responsibility for the gross exploitation that took place, and now it turns out that the Irish Exchequer was being cheated——
Deputy Rabbitte, please.
——both in tax and social insurance terms. They were not paying tax either, Sir. Did you know that, a Cheann Comhairle?
Deputy, we cannot have this form of behaviour every Thursday morning.
They were not paying tax or PRSI and the Tánaiste——
You were allowed submit your question to the Tánaiste. The Tánaiste has been called to answer your question.
——was responsible for invigilating it.
Someone signed the 1,400 exemptions for Gama Construction.
Deputy, allow the Tánaiste reply. The Tánaiste has been called.
A Cheann Comhairle, I hope you will allow me to respond. First, Deputy Rabbitte should be aware that I had nothing to do with this company coming into Ireland.
Yes, you did.
Who signed the exemptions?
I am sorry, Deputy Stagg. I had nothing to do with this company coming into Ireland.
Of course you did.
Who brought them in?
Like other Ministers, and the responsible Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I always encourage investment here——
Regardless of who they are or what they do.
——and, by and large, it has been extremely successful. Second, Deputy Stagg should be aware that SIPTU negotiated on behalf of these workers and assured the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment that all was well. All of those workers were members of SIPTU.
What investment is the Tánaiste talking about?
That is a fact.
The Tánaiste keeps talking about investment. What investment?
Deputy Rabbitte, please allow the Tánaiste reply.
They were getting our contracts but they were not paying tax or social insurance.
Did the Tánaiste know they were not paying tax?
Third, I remind Deputy Rabbitte that there were many occasions when I was lobbied by Deputies, including Deputies in his party, to give work permits to certain companies here that were in breach of labour law and I refused to do so.
In breach of labour law.
Yes, and I refused to do so.
That is a very serious allegation.
That is a fact. There were some people running restaurants here who were not paying appropriate wages. There was lobbying to give them work permits——
The Tánaiste exempted them. They were not paying tax or insurance.
The Tánaiste to conclude.
——and I refused to do so, notwithstanding the lobbying. I will not stand over any company treating its workers disgracefully.
The Tánaiste stood over it for three years.
Someone signed the 1,400 exemptions from tax and PRSI.
Deputy Burton, please allow the Tánaiste conclude.
That scheme applied to many companies, as the Deputy is aware, and not exclusively to this company.
There were 1,900——
I had nothing to do with that, by the way.
It is three quarters of everything.
Allow the Tánaiste to conclude.
It was 1,400 out of 1,900.
I will not be lectured by a party that supported an amnesty for tax cheats. The Deputies should not lecture me about anything.
I hope we will have a debate on the Gama Construction report.
Legislation is urgently required to deal with the haemorrhaging from this country of the potential for renewable energy, given that the Airtricity company is pulling out of the Arklow wind-farm with the loss of a project worth between €600 million and €700 million. The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is listed for this term. Will the Tánaiste indicate whether the Government intends to seriously engage with that issue? Its policy on renewable energy is hostile. Will the Government put that wrong to right? When will that legislation be dealt with and will it deal honestly and rigorously with that issue?
That legislation will be brought forward this session.
Will it be any good?
Once again I have listened to the moral indignation of the Tánaiste. She was the major shareholder in a company that has left many small family businesses——
Deputy, have you a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
——with debts of €20 million. Will she arrange to have them paid? She was the major shareholder of IFI.
I have never been a shareholder.
That matter does not arise, Deputy Timmins. I call Deputy Durkan.
The Tánaiste talks about Gama Construction but for more than two years she left many small family businesses without payment.
Deputy Timmins, allow your colleague to contribute.
The Tánaiste should put moral indignation in its proper place. Her Government was the major shareholder — 51%.
Deputy, you are out of order. I call Deputy Durkan.
The Government was the major shareholder but it has put many of these families out of business.
Deputy Timmins, I ask you to resume your seat.
Two years later they have not received any payment. That puts Gama Construction in the ha'penny place.
On promised legislation, in view of the Data Protection Commissioner's report, when will the electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill come before the House because there are pertinent matters that need to be dealt with? Arising from a matter on which I did not get clarity yesterday, a Cheann Comhairle — the broadcasting Bill — I am anxious that the Bill be brought before the House as a matter of urgency to allow us discuss the free promotion on the national broadcasting service——
That is a matter for a Second Stage debate.
——of a fundraising effort for a Fianna Fáil candidate in the European elections.
If Gerry Ryan wants to buy a ticket in a draw he is free to do so. I am sure he might buy one in the Deputy's draw as well.
He is a good guy.
The Bill will be brought forward this year.
Will he include the Minister of State in it as well?
To provide for the establishment of health information and quality control, may I ask the Tánaiste when the health Bill will be introduced?
On promised legislation with regard to the illegal charges, can the Tánaiste clarify whether the grant of administration would have been carried out on probate? Can access be gained to the estate of a deceased person with a view to repayment?
That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Upton.
It is a question on promised legislation. It is a very important point.
That matter is being examined. I understand the point the Deputy is making.
This is a grey area and I ask the Tánaiste to seek clarification on it.
I will do that.
Two years ago I raised the issue of permit schemes and asked if legislation to deal with them was proposed. There is a new scam afoot now, which is the equivalent of a financial chain letter. In that regard, when will the gaming and lotteries Bill be introduced?
The Deputy has made a very valid point. There are also scams involving consumers, many of which appear in Sunday newspapers where one is invited to make a long call to be told whether one has the secret number to win a fortune, and the call costs much more than what one would win. There is a need for legislation but I am not sure the gaming and lotteries Bill will deal with that area. Perhaps we should examine it but it is not possible to say when that legislation will be forthcoming.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach announced there would be new procedures for dealing with Estimates in the House and that decisions will be made on that within weeks. That is welcome and something we have requested for some time but it is understandable that there might be some scepticism when the Tánaiste's Department, the Department of Health and Children, opted out of the last value for money review process.
Deputy, do you have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
How will the Dáil be involved in debating the new procedures being proposed? Will they be presented as decisions or will we have an input into the process of changing this system? There is a lot of experience——
It does arise. The taking of Estimates is part of the business of the House. Will the Minister's Department co-operate with this value for money process because she did not co-operate with the previous one?
The second question does not arise.
I agree that the House should be involved in discussions. The Deputy makes a valid point. The Department of Health and Children will certainly be involved in any value for money audit.
Not just a rubber stamp process.
What about the nursing home fiasco and unoccupied buildings?
What is the status of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill given that personal debt now stands at 120% of disposable income which affects social welfare recipients to the greatest extent? The Bill was published in 2002 and ordered for Second Stage but there is no sign of it coming before the House.
The Bill has been ordered for Second Stage. The Deputy will have to discuss it with the Whips.
When can we expect the reappearance of the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2001 which was withdrawn about four or five weeks ago? I spoke at 8.30 a.m. to an 83 year old man who said he was living through a nightmare for which the Tánaiste was responsible.
The Deputy should ask a question on legislation.
He has been lying on a trolley for the past two days up in Beaumont Hospital's accident and emergency department.
The Minister for Health and Children is responsible for his condition.
The Deputy is out of order.
He has been living in a nightmare for the last two and a half days in Beaumont Hospital.
The Deputy should allow the Tánaiste to respond to his question on legislation.
His elderly wife is deeply upset about his situation, but the Minister for Health and Children says she cannot take action.
The Deputy must resume his seat.
It is unacceptable. The Minister has been in her Department for six or seven months.
Deputy Broughan knows he is out of order and I ask him to resume his seat.
He is right.
I am sick of seeing cases like this arise every day.
The Chair will have to show consistency with last week's decision if the Deputy continues.
The Ceann Comhairle could throw everyone out.
What will the Tánaiste do?
The legislation was withdrawn.
During the debate on the Health Act 2004, the Tánaiste assured the House that we would not be presented with another white elephant like the National Roads Authority and that we would receive answers to questions from her and her Department. When will the Tánaiste reply to health questions which other Members and I have tabled? When will she approve the acute medical unit for South Tipperary General Hospital?
I call Deputy Rabbitte. Those matters do not arise on the Order of Business.
The matter has been with her Department for 12 months. When will the High Court agreement to provide general hospital services in south Tipperary be implemented?
The Deputy will have to find another way to raise the matter.
The Tánaiste informed the House that the reason she handled the long-stay charges issue and removed the Secretary General of her Department in the manner she did was that she felt she should have been briefed as the new Minister but had not been. Mr. Kelly told the Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday that he had arranged extensive briefings but that the Tánaiste cancelled them.
She cancelled the briefings which were arranged.
Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
The Minister of State, Deputy Callely, wants to say something.
Will the Tánaiste take the opportunity to correct the record of the House and say whether she will give evidence to the joint committee? A serious conflict of evidence exists not just between her predecessor and Mr. Kelly but between her and Mr. Kelly.
That does not arise.
Why not? It is on the record of the House.
If the matter is before a committee, the House does not debate it until the committee reports.
Is it now the case that matters before a committee are considered to besub judice? That is a new rule.
It is a long-standing rule of the House.
Apparently it is now the case that matters before a committee aresub judice.
Mr. Kelly's comments were the equivalent of saying: "Your house is on fire, but I cannot tell you because your secretary has postponed a meeting."
It is so laughable that it is not worthy of comment. We found out about the charges because I asked for the advice of the Attorney General. I spent half a day being briefed by the Department when I went there and met Mr. Kelly every day that I was in Hawkins House. At no stage did anyone seek to tell me about the matter. While it is true that meetings were postponed, it was because I had to deal with legislation in the House, as is frequently the case. The idea that something that had gone on for 26 years was not dealt with before 14 October, six weeks after I went to the Department, because a meeting was cancelled is so laughable that it is not worthy of comment.
If the Department put in place special briefings for her which she did not take, how can the Tánaiste tell the House she was not briefed?
We cannot have a debate on the matter.
Her predecessor would not even read the brief.
When I asked the man to give me a brief for the Cabinet, he did not even provide the crucial information. That is why Mr. Kelly was removed from his job.
That is why he was fired.
That is why he was promoted.
We cannot have a debate on the matter here.
Does the Tánaiste as Minister for Health and Children intend to take steps to help the young boy, Tristan Dowse, who——
That does not arise.
I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the Minister for Health and Children.
The matter arises under No. 20 on the list of promised legislation to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and to provide for the creation of the adoption authority for the protection of adopted children abroad.
The Tánaiste should reply on promised legislation.
What are we doing to protect one of our citizens who is vulnerable and abandoned?
The Deputy should allow the Tánaiste to answer her question.
The adoption legislation will come forward in the middle of next year.
What is the Tánaiste doing to protect one of our citizens in the meantime?
The Irish ambassador has been asked to travel to see if he can deal with the issue.