Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 8, Finance Bill 2006 — financial resolutions; No. 9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal that section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 shall continue in force for the period ending on 8 March 2007, back from committee; No. 10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2006, back from committee; and No. 14, Finance Bill 2006 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 11 p.m; Nos. 8, 9 and 10 shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 8, Financial Resolutions Nos. 1 and 2 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair; and the Report and Final Stages of No. 14 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 11 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, concerning amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance. Private Members' Business shall be No. 47, motion re Whistleblowers Protection Bill 1999.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Regarding No. 14, I object to the imposition of a guillotine on the Finance Bill 2006.

We are considering the proposal before the House. The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak on this matter later. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8, 9 and 10, Finance Bill 2006 resolutions and motions re proposed approvals by Dáil Éireann, agreed to?

I am not satisfied with No. 10 concerning the Finance Act 2004 (Section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2006. This is the case where €56 million approved for capital spending was spent on current spending. We have not received a report on this and do not expect this to happen until March. The Health Service Executive will have to seek approval retrospectively for €56 million and this is not the way we should be doing business.

The Minister for Finance promised an explanation by the end of February. This has now been postponed until the end of March and we are still no wiser on what the sum of €56 million was spent on, besides what leaks to newspapers suggest. It appears to have been spent on current spending, which means the capital budget for the HSE is 10% less than what had been planned on budget day. We have no indication whether the sum will be made good. Presumably, those sharp accountants in the HSE are still looking for the money.

It was not spent on home help.

The Minister for Finance has already pointed out that these matters will become clear when the appropriations account is published at the end of this month.

Is the proposal agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14, conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Finance Bill 2006, agreed?

The truth about this year's Finance Bill is that it shows that the way we debate tax measures in this House is hopelessly inadequate. Of the 122 sections in the Finance Bill presented to the Dáil, 67 have not been debated in any way. Contained in these are some of the most important provisions, such as the power to investigate people's bank accounts and provide information to the Revenue Commissioners, the power to end remittance tax, the extension of tax relief for private hospitals, the new incentives for SSIAs and other measures. In addition, the Minister introduced 79 amendments on Committee Stage and 66% of those were not debated. We will have a debate on Report Stage with 141 amendments, most of them in the name of the Minister and most of which we will never reach.

What I find extremely frustrating is that, while there are many people outside the House who have views on the sections that were not reached, and I have sought to reflect some of those views in Report Stage amendments, because those amendments were not accepted — the Ceann Comhairle has disallowed them, as is his right — we will not be able to raise issues of concern that have emerged in the course of the debate, issues that were not reached in the committee. That is no way to develop and scrutinise a tax code that will have significant implications for the 1.2 million people who pay tax. This guillotine and the process that has preceded it does not allow us to do our duty to scrutinise legislation and we are failing the people who elected us. We need to develop a better system than this charade that is being played out.

I object to the fact that the Minister has brought forward a series of quite complex amendments for Report Stage and we will be unable to discuss many of them. I take a fair amount of interest in the details of the tax code. I contacted the Minister's office to ask for some commentary or explanatory summary on the Report Stage amendments which the Minister is putting forward but I did not receive a response. The drawing up of technical tax amendments to the Finance Bill is quite a specialised job. The House will have at most approximately three to three and a half hours to debate the Bill on Report Stage. When the Minister produced the original schedule, the Report Stage debate was to be spread over two days but it has been reduced to one evening, to finish by 11 p.m. Many of the amendments will not be reached and will not be the subject of discussion.

The Minister earned a lot of kudos recently for offering to close down various tax shelters for very wealthy people but this Bill will open up new tax shelters such as those to do with mental care centres and psychiatric hospitals. There has been no opportunity for the House to debate these issues. The Minister has tabled some very complex amendments dealing with heritage properties. His amendments seek to extend a number of qualifying dates from the date of the Finance Bill and from earlier in the year up to today's date and up to a date in February. The House has not been informed of the reason for these dates. Are they to allow a few other people on the tax avoidance road to slip in under the net? These may be perfectly justifiable but given the track record of the Government in slipping measures into the Finance Bill on Report Stage, I fear the worst.

The Labour Party is objecting to the Finance Bill being dealt with in such a fashion. It is unfair to the House and unfair to the standard which the Minister purported to set for himself when he succeeded the then Minister, Mr. McCreevy, that at least he was going to do things a little differently. It is the same old story and we do not even have an accompanying memorandum.

A brief comment is allowed under Standing Order 26. We cannot have a debate at this stage.

Some of these amendments run into many pages and propose to change key qualifying dates in the Finance Bill. Some of this is worth millions to some of the richest people in this country——

There will be an opportunity to have some debate on the matter.

——while other people are paying 42% when they earn more than €30,000. It is all to do with money, and money certainly talks for the Government, but this Parliament is not being given time to debate it.

There are 141 amendments which need critical examination before 11 p.m. this evening, 80 of which have been submitted in the name of the Minister for Finance. As Deputy Bruton has stated, we have been given no background information about these new amendments, many of which were not referred to on Committee Stage and many of which will not be discussed tonight on Report Stage.

In his 2004 budget speech the Minister spoke about reforming the Estimates process and the process connected with the Finance Bill, but there has been no such reform. Part of the information the Opposition spokespersons need is who has been in contact with the Minister between Second and Committee Stages and between Committee and Report Stages and who has helped influence the amendments the Minister is seeking to make to the Bill. We are the people who are supposed to critically examine this Bill, table amendments and have those amendments considered in a serious manner. The Minister is doing us a disservice. He is paying more attention to people outside the House who are influencing the contents of this Bill and on those grounds I object to the proposal.

I object to the Deputy's unfounded assertions.

What will happen at 11 p.m. is that those amendments tabled by the Minister and not discussed will be put to the House. None of the other amendments will be considered and the House will not have had the opportunity to discuss, hear the arguments for and tease out the detail of any of the amendments presented by the Minister. Those amendments will be agreed on the basis of the voting pattern in the House.

This business, as other speakers have described it, reminds me of the sham fight, which takes place year in, year out. I have a number of portfolio responsibilities and would very much like to be able to give more time to any of them. I have seen the work of other colleagues on the Committee on Finance and the Public Service, who put in a significant amount of work and time. I try to marry my various responsibilities with the finance portfolio and it is extremely difficult to do so. The Minister is proposing to extend various tax reliefs, but even with all the resources of the Department of Finance at his disposal, he cannot tell us the actual effect on the Exchequer. There is no cost benefit analysis and no indication of the real cost for the Exchequer. These are reliefs that are offered to particular sectoral interests and there is no way of knowing what effect any of these will have in terms of the broad range of interests in society.

One of the first responsibilities of the introduction, let alone the perpetuation and extension, of these reliefs is to properly appraise their effect but we will have none of that. I believe the Minister agrees with the points we are making. If he were on the Opposition benches, I do not think he would take any other view than that which we are expressing.

I do not agree with the Deputy.

He may protest but I have no doubt that he recognises the absolute unsuitability of the process. Contracting this debate into four hours is ridiculous and unsatisfactory, and accordingly I oppose the proposal.

Whatever Deputies think about the process, we have always had a budget debate, a Second Stage debate on the Finance Bill and a three-day Committee Stage debate and it has always been the practice that Opposition spokespersons can discuss whichever sections they wish to concentrate on, and that is usually agreed without difficulty. The same applies for this Bill. The House is sitting late tonight to deal with this Bill whereas business would normally conclude at 7 p.m. The social welfare Bill and the Neary report will be dealt with tomorrow. The House is obliged by statutory and constitutional rules to conclude discussion of the Finance Bill. In an ideal world it would be preferable if every section of the Bill were debated at length, but that is neither possible nor feasible and that has always been the case.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 14 be agreed."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 59.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • 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’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Will the Taoiseach say when the criminal justice Bill will be brought back into the House? As regards gun law and the element within that, has he authorised or given support for the invitation to the sister of the late Mr. Joseph Rafferty to be invited to the White House on St. Patrick's Day?

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. The House spent 45 minutes today on Leaders' Questions. We should only have spent 21 and we cannot have Leaders' Questions again now.

(Interruptions).

That is the best 45 minutes the House could have spent.

That is what we come here every day for.

To be effective, not long-winded.

The matter does not arise on the Order of Business. We cannot have another Leaders' Questions.

The legislation is two years old.

When will we have the amending legislation?

This is another occasion where a man was murdered. I have asked the Taoiseach about the introduction of the criminal justice Bill. Part of finding out the truth about this is to use every support we can to find it, which the Taoiseach supports. In that context I wanted to know whether he had given his support for the invitation of the family of Mr. Joseph Rafferty to the White House.

That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Chair will allow a question on legislation to the Taoiseach.

The Minister for Education and Science has promised a Bill to expedite payment of educational grants. When are we likely to see that? I understand the impact of the Minister's legislation is that all grants will be paid between 31 August and 3 September, which appears to be an impossibility. In any event, we would like to see when that legislation is introduced. The Taoiseach has given his support to the Minister with responsibility for the marine introducing a short Bill dealing with administrative fines for fishery infringements. When are we likely to see those three pieces of legislation before the House?

The criminal justice Bill has a priority and is due this year. How much more quickly it can be introduced is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The heads of the third-level student support Bill are at an advanced stage and are expected shortly. What was the third Bill the Deputy asked about?

It was a special measure announced at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting and supported by a letter from the Taoiseach.

It is not listed.

It was promised.

Deputy Kenny is fishing.

Will the health repayment scheme Bill to refund overcharging in nursing homes be published this session?

The Bill to which the Deputy refers should be published shortly.

On promised legislation, I tried to get an answer to this previously on Taoiseach's Question Time. The Council of Europe has recommended we should have tougher laws on trafficking or extraordinary renditions. There is legislation in train from the Department of Justice, Equality and Reform which is slightly wide of the mark — the criminal justice trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation of children Bill. I know the ISPCC would be interested in it, but it does not have a date. Will the Government apply itself to addressing the concerns of the Council of Europe that Ireland is a happy hunting ground for foreign security services? We need a criminal justice Bill which deals with this because of the extraordinary renditions going through Shannon.

The criminal justice trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation of children Bill is to give effect to a number of international instruments as regards trafficking in persons and the sexual exploitation of children. I do not have a date for the Bill.

As regards the Harding Clark report on the maternity unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, the Tánaiste said last week she would bring proposals to Cabinet today. She indicated that legislation would be required for the issue of pursuing the insurers but not for the redress scheme.

We cannot have a debate on it. Has the Deputy a question on promised legislation?

I am not debating it. I am speaking on promised legislation that the Tánaiste indicated in the House last week for the potential securing of funding from insurers and other possible sources for the proposed redress scheme. This was to be addressed today at Cabinet. Has the Taoiseach done so and has he made a decision to bring forward legislation in the way the Tánaiste described? How soon will we have sight of that legislation?

The judge has agreed to advise the Government on the issue of the appropriate redress scheme. She will do that. She has the confidence of all concerned, and this matter was agreed today at Cabinet. Her work has been universally acknowledged. She is in the best position to bring forward proposals and she is going to do that.