Before I read the Order of Business, it has just been announced in Rome that Archbishop Seán Brady has been nominated by Pope Benedict XVI to the College of Cardinals. On behalf of the Government, I extend my warmest congratulations to Archbishop Brady. In honouring Archbishop Brady, Pope Benedict has acknowledged the transformation that has occurred in Northern Ireland. The success of the peace process and the restoration of devolved administration has been, as the Holy Father has publicly acknowledged, a sign of hope for all those across the world who struggle for peace and reconciliation in the face of violence and civil strife. I think everybody in this House will acknowledge that the archbishop has for many decades been to the fore in working across his community for peace in Northern Ireland. This is a very special day for him and I acknowledge that.
Order of Business.
I join the Taoiseach in congratulating Archbishop Seán Brady who is to be elevated to the position of cardinal. He is a man who has earned the respect of everyone and he will carry the duties of that post well.
While I am on my feet, I recognise the achievement of our novelist, Ms Anne Enright, whose novel, which I have read, was kindly sent to us all. I congratulate her on a tremendous achievement. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle will take some credit for this because this book was published during his period as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and it represents the flowering of Irish talent. No doubt the themes of blame and hurt within the family are ones that even political families sometimes must experience.
We understand that.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity of joining the Taoiseach and Deputy Bruton in congratulating Archbishop Seán Brady on his nomination to the College of Cardinals. I share, with the Taoiseach and Deputy Bruton, and I am sure all Members of the House, in the appreciation and respect for the work that Archbishop Brady has been doing, not only in his diocese but throughout the country, dealing with issues relating to Northern Ireland and with wider social issues which affect our society as a whole. I wish him well in his new appointment. It is a great honour for him personally and for the country.
I, too, join with the Taoiseach in extending our congratulations to Archbishop Seán Brady on his elevation to the College of Cardinals. This is a very deserved recognition of Archbishop Brady's contribution on a number of levels. I concur with the Taoiseach in particular on the very quiet but nevertheless committed way Archbishop Brady played an important and very helpful and encouraging role in the earliest days of the peace process. I recall particularly having the opportunity to participate in an event outside of this island of which Archbishop Brady and his counterpart, the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church, were co-hosts. It is important that his role, often unseen and unrecognised and rarely acknowledged, is recorded in the House today.
I have no doubt this is a very important decision for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, for the members of that church throughout the island of Ireland, but it is also a particularly welcome announcement for the people of Archbishop Brady's native County Cavan in my constituency. A native son of County Cavan, he is regarded with great pride and is held in high regard by the people of his native county. Today's announcement will be welcomed very particularly in the Breffni county.
I, too, welcome this great announcement for Archbishop Brady and his family who come from County Cavan. He was born and reared there and got his education there. He is a proud son of Cavan. We are greatly pleased by the honour that has been bestowed on him on his own behalf and on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.
On behalf of the Green Party I extend our congratulations to Archbishop Brady on the honour he brings to the church in terms of his appointment to this position. We very much welcome this announcement.
It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimate — Vote 30, subject to agreement; No. 13, Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); 8b, Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007 — motion to instruct the committee, to be taken at 3.45 p.m. today; No. 14, Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007 — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 8b. In the event of the proceedings thereon concluding today, the order shall resume thereafter.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) No. 8 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith and subject to agreement; and (2) if No. 8, Supplementary Estimate — Vote 30 — shall be moved and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. today and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith, and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.15 p.m. today; the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case and Members may share time; immediately following the speeches, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources shall take questions for a period of 15 minutes; the proceedings on 8b shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 75 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case and Members may share time; the Minister or a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which will not exceed five minutes; Private Members’ business shall be No. 20, motion re road safety, resumed, to be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
There are two proposals to put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimate — Vote 30 — without debate agreed?
We do not propose to prevent the Government having a debate on this issue at this point. However, it is worth remarking that this proposal arises from a budget overrun which occurred in a particular Department that was going to hurt people at the front line. Measures are now introduced to vire money to prevent frontline services from being hurt, yet in other Departments that have a far more vital impact on people, namely, in health, the same effort is not made to deal with budget overruns to make sure people at the front line are not hurt and that money is vired from administration and other areas that can take the cut to protect people at the front line. It is interesting that there is one solution in one area of Government and a different solution elsewhere.
I welcome the fact that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has had the humility to admit his Department got the sums wrong and that it has to rejig the Estimates. I would welcome the same humility on the part of the Minister for Health and Children in regard to what is happening in the Health Service Executive where clearly there is a mess in regard to the budget. It is not possible to sort out that mess except at the cost of extreme suffering to people who are requesting services.
If it is possible for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to rejig his budget so as to take funding from an unallocated area, the question arises, particularly in regard to health and the Health Service Executive, as to why it is not possible to shrink the administrative budget and rejig the money for patient care. We know the sums were wrong and the Minister has been big enough to acknowledge that. This would reduce the seriously distressing stories Members on both sides of this House are confronted with on a daily basis.
The Minister for Finance is not present in the House again today. There has been no opportunity to talk to him since the Dáil resumed about the €1 billion hole in the Government's finances compared to what was forecast at the beginning of the year. Without the formation of committees, there has been no opportunity to discuss the changes in the financial position in any detail with the Minister for Finance. Again, he is not present in the House today——
He was here for Question Time yesterday.
He was here yesterday.
——when one of the line Departments is seeking a Supplementary Estimate.
Where was Deputy Burton? She had plenty of opportunities to ask the Minister questions yesterday.
On the same issue——
We asked but he did not answer.
Deputy McManus should be allowed to speak without interruption.
I ask the Ceann Comhairle to ensure this House is not misled in terms of the process on which we are embarking today. When the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announced the ending of the greener homes scheme on 4 September he stated there would be a Supplementary Estimate to provide for a new scheme. We do not have a Supplementary Estimate today, what we have is what is known as a token Supplementary Estimate. It is not new or additional money coming into the Department, it is a transfer of money from one essential service, which is now being denied money, to shore up a scheme the Government has allowed collapse. I ask the Ceann Comhairle that we have accuracy in what Ministers state so that people are not fooled about what we are engaged in today.
This Vote has been sought as a Supplementary Estimate by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. I am sure he will be able to justify the request on the floor of the House, but Members of the Opposition are at a significant disadvantage in that we do have and have not been provided with the detail of what is being sought and the purpose and intent of same. Inquiries by my office this morning to a number of potential sources, including the Minister's office directly, have resulted in a zero response. It might be described as budgetary confidentiality that applies to the detail of this, and we will not know what is involved until the Minister stands before us and outlines the detail of what he seeks. That places members of the Opposition at a distinct disadvantage. I urge the Minister and the Taoiseach to revisit this matter. Presenting this Supplementary Estimate on the Order of Business and expecting us to make an informed judgment of the appropriateness or otherwise of what is sought is impossible. We must wing it, literally, until the Minister takes the floor. However, we are prepared to give him that chance.
Deputy McManus raised this point last week or the previous week. I said then I would check it but that it was necessary to bring forward a Supplementary Estimate. What we are doing today is seeking leave to introduce the Supplementary Estimate — Vote 30. I can read the entire briefing note if that is required but it is preferable if the Minister deals with the matter.
Is the proposal agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 8b, motion to instruct the committee regarding the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007, agreed? Agreed.
On the Order of Business, I call Deputy Richard Bruton.
A national monuments Bill is listed in the Government legislative programme. Will this planned Bill pre-empt the European Commission's court case being taken against Ireland for the inadequacy of its national monuments legislation? Will the Government defend that case at EU level?
With regard to the promised nursing home support scheme Bill, rumours have been circulating that the implementation date of the new nursing homes scheme, which is 1 January, will not be achieved. Will we have this Bill in good time before Christmas so the proposed implementation date can proceed?
In what I take is a leak, the newspapers report that the new Government budgetary statement is to be launched today. My understanding is this will happen tomorrow. Do I take it that some Minister got over-eager and leaked too quickly?
The Estimates statement is tomorrow. The heads of the national monuments Bill were approved by Government some time ago. The Minister announced plans for a major review of archaeological practice and policy, which only began this autumn. With regard to the issues in Brussels, the Government will state its case and put forward its view of the correctness of our position.
The nursing home support scheme Bill is due this session.
Will it be implemented on 1 January, as proposed?
I have no other information but it is due this session.
It is vital it is dealt with before Christmas if it is to achieve the implementation date. That is the point I want addressed. Perhaps the Taoiseach will come back to me on another occasion.
Arising from our discussion on Leaders' Questions, has the Government plans to introduce amending legislation to the Competition Act to allow for negotiations to take place between the State and professional bodies on the type of matters to which I referred?
The Taoiseach circulated a briefing note on the proposal to have a joint committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Two issues arise from that briefing note. First, I note discussions are taking place between the Ceann Comhairle and the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly on the question of a proposed North-South parliamentary forum. Is it intended this forum will be established before the joint committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement? What will be the difference between the two? What will the joint committee deal with that the North-South parliamentary forum will not?
Second, in the briefing note, the Taoiseach states it is intended that the joint committee might invite Northern Ireland MPs on a cross-community basis to attend and contribute to its proceedings. What discussions, if any, has the Taoiseach had with Northern Ireland MPs and what is their interest in participating in this committee? Will he clarify whether the reference to Northern Ireland MPs is intended to include a reference to MLAs also or only to what the briefing note describes as members of the Westminster Parliament?
No Bill is listed on the competition issue. Obviously, the legal advice will have to be considered but no legislation is listed at this stage.
A number of points arise with regard to the joint committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. There have been many discussions in recent years. There was an agreed position some years ago on a committee chaired by the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, on the format of the proposed committee. Subsequently, there was a change of view so we had to revise those proposals. The present committee is based on the revised proposals on which we had agreement with the parties in the House.
We are only referring to MPs elected to Westminster, not MLAs. That is the distinction. I had an opportunity, with the Ceann Comhairle, to meet the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who visited last week. We discussed the North-South parliamentary forum, which would obviously include MLAs. We hope to work to achieve that. I hope we will have the parliamentary forum up and running in the new year but it will take some time. While I cannot be sure how long it will take, the joint committee will be established before then.
I have had consultations with the parties in the North. Some parties will certainly take the opportunity to attend while others initially will not.
Will the Taoiseach expand on this issue? I understood from the briefing note that the MPs would attend on a cross-community basis. Which MPs are likely to attend and which are not?
I do not understand why this is confined to Westminster MPs. Why not give the opportunity to participate to MLAs? Why is it confined to Westminster MPs?
That was the agreement we reached in the discussions. The view was that if we were to invite MLAs, we would have a very large committee. The MPs will be invited on a cross-community basis but the idea is that we would not invite 50 or 60 MLAs into a committee of 15 to 20 Members. That is not what the House wanted so membership is restricted to MPs. However, the parliamentary forum will have so many members from the Oireachtas and so many from the Assembly.
Was there another question?
Who will attend and who will not?
We will invite them all. One never knows nowadays — perhaps they will all attend.
Please God, is the answer to that.
The eligibility for health and personal social services Bill is promised to clarify and update the present provisions relating to eligibility for these services. Is the Taoiseach aware that because of the gross mismanagement of our health services by both the Government and the HSE, people are dying unnecessarily——
Has the Deputy a question on the legislation? He should ask it.
This must be seen in the context of the current failure of the health services to meet the needs of people. Susie Long is but one case. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a h-anam.
We cannot have a debate on that now.
We have a situation where medical card patients are being threatened with the withdrawal of access to medication under that scheme by pharmacists throughout the country. We have a situation where methadone dependent——
Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation because we cannot have a debate on the health services now? The Deputy well knows that.
There is a whole raft of areas — I will not trundle out the whole bible of them but it is growing by the day. When will the Bill come before the House and is the Government in a position to publish the heads?
The Taoiseach indicated it would be next year.
Is the Government in a position to publish the heads of the Bill?
We do not have those yet.
In light of the crisis faced by the pig industry, when will a Bill be introduced to amend food labelling to include country of origin? Last week, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food promised to introduce legislation on the issue.
It has not been listed yet.
On a point of order, is it in order to ask a question if the Minister promised legislation last week?
May I have a response at some stage on when the legislation will be introduced?
The Taoiseach gave a response.
The Bill is not listed yet.
If it is not listed, is it out of order for a Deputy to ask about it?
While the Deputy may ask about it, I cannot predetermine the answer for him.
On the same point, the long-promised legislation to which Deputy Stanton refers is critical for those involved in the beef, pig and poultry industries. I understand the sponsoring Department may be the Department of Health and Children. In view of the disconnect between the Minister for Health and Children and the House — I believe she has not appeared in the Chamber since the session commenced — what urgency does the Government attach to country of origin labelling? Thousands of jobs in the pig sector are under threat. A critical element——
Is the Deputy asking about promised legislation?
Yes, the legislation in question was promised more than three years ago.
Is legislation promised?
The Government obviously does not intend to honour the promise made by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
If the Minister has made a statement, there is obviously some proposal but the legislation is not listed. I suggest that the Deputy table a parliamentary question to the Minister.
On a point of order, is there no joined up thinking in Cabinet on this issue?
That is not a point of order.
It should be.
The Taoiseach will be aware that the promised legislation on the pink list for publication this term features the Dublin transport authority Bill. There is an acute urgency about this matter because it requires co-operation between the various local authorities and statutory bodies in the greater Dublin area, having specific regard to the Dublin metro proposal. What is the position regarding this Bill, which has been in the gestation chamber for a long time?
The heads were completed last year and the legislation is due this session.
It was due eight years ago.
In an effort to be helpful to the Government in this time of post-election financial cutbacks, does the Taoiseach intend to take action, legislative or otherwise, to arrest the ongoing scandal of the money wasted on e-voting? The costs are escalating daily and have reached almost €60 million.
The Deputy may not make a speech on the issue.
The technology is being stored at taxpayers' expense.
No legislation is promised in this area.
The Taoiseach wishes to answer my question.
The Deputy is out of order.
Is legislation proposed?
How does the Ceann Comhairle know that?
The Taoiseach indicated no legislation is promised.
The Taoiseach, the person who introduces legislation, might wish to answer.
I call Deputy Crawford.
The Taoiseach wishes to answer a question being asked by the whole country.
Deputy Durkan has had his tuppence worth and is out of order. I ask Deputy Crawford to speak or I will have no choice but to move on.
In light of reports in yesterday's newspapers indicating that 45 families appeared before the courts regarding their mortgages in just two hours, when will the social housing miscellaneous provisions Bill be brought before the House to provide greater opportunities for people to buy houses through the social housing scheme?
The heads of the social housing miscellaneous provisions Bill have been completed and the legislation is due early in 2008.
On No. 40, the electoral amendment Bill, when will the report by the Constituency Commission on constituencies for Dáil and European Parliament be published? A new constituency commission is to be established in advance of the next local elections. What will be its composition? Will adjustments be made to local electoral boundaries prior to the 2009 local elections to address over and under representation in some electoral areas?
The first question is in order.
Substantive work on the electoral amendment Bill will commence when the Constituency Commission report is available. The report is due on 25 October.
I understand the broadcasting Bill is to be taken in this session. Will the Taoiseach ensure that at least two weeks elapse between publication of the Bill and the debate in the House? This is a technical Bill which has been subject to an extensive e-consultation process. It is important, therefore, that the House has an opportunity to deal with it in a proper manner. I presume the legislation will be taken this session.
It is due this session. Many new Members may not know that when we say this session, it means legislation will be taken at any time up to the start of the next session. In this case, the next session starts at the end of January.
I am asking whether the Bill will be taken this session.
It will be this session.
I am asking whether it will be taken during this session, rather than up to the next session. Will the House deal with the Bill before Christmas?
It will be published in this session. I cannot be sure of the date.
Last week, a number of Fine Gael and Labour Party Deputies requested that speaking time be made available to discuss continuing events in Burma. I understand European Union Foreign Ministers met at the start of this week and agreed to toughen EU sanctions against the regime in Burma. Will the Government make time available next week to have statements or a debate on the issue of Burma?
The question is not strictly in order.
We hope to get the committees up and running in the next week or so. The issue may be debated in a committee. The Whips can discuss the matter.
Some years have elapsed since an incident occurred involving a Circuit Court judge. It became known as the Curtin affair and took up much time of the House. A special committee established to examine the case showed up glaring shortcomings and inadequacies in our legislation and the relationship between the Judiciary and Legislature. It also gave rise to numerous promises of legislation, including the judicial council Bill which features on the list of promised legislation. When can we expect the Bill to be introduced in the House?
Draft heads of the judicial council Bill are in the Department. Taking into account work done by the constitutional review group, Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution and the Chief Justice's committee on judicial ethics, the Bill will be the subject of certain consultations. It is listed for 2008.
With the election over, the constitutional amendment on children's rights appears to have slipped from the agenda and there does not appear to be any urgency about the issue. Will the Taoiseach ensure the amendment is brought forward as a matter of urgency as it is a child protection issue, although that may not appear to be the case on the surface? After the recent case in which the evidence of a little girl with Down's syndrome could not be taken in court because of a capacity issue, will the Government introduce the mental capacity Bill as a matter of urgency? This legislation must be considered a child protection issue.
The mental capacity Bill is to reform the law on mental capacity, taking into account the Law Reform Commission's report. It is due next year.
I have three brief questions. On the aviation regulation Bill, does the Government intend to proceed with the transfer of functions to a new aviation commission? When will the Stardust investigation look-back process begin? I received a note this morning from John Gallagher SC indicating that he is still waiting for instruction in this matter.
Within a few weeks of taking office, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, changed the terms applying to taxation of our natural resources. While I welcome that tiny first step, will the House discuss the matter and examine a range of different opportunities as promised by the Minister when he was in Opposition?
The aviation regulation Bill is for 2008. On the second matter, there is discussion between my officials and Mr. Gallagher, but we hope to get the matter started shortly.
Will the Taoiseach send me a note in that respect?
The Taoiseach stated that the heads of the Dublin Transportation Authority Bill are due to go before the Government. In light of the legislation's importance and the fact that Members are no longer involved in local authorities, could the heads be referred for a committee's opinions before the Bill is finalised?
I will make the point to the Minister.
I refer to No. 40, the electoral amendment Bill, in respect of my constituency and the appalling underrepresentation of areas such as Mulhuddart at local level. Given that the local boundaries have not been reviewed since 1998, will there be a commission to redraw the boundaries in advance of the local elections or will the Taoiseach succumb to Green Party pressure not to do so to protect its seats?
That is not in order.
Will the Bill give effect to changes recommended by such a commission or will a subsequent Bill do so? Is it intended to address electoral matters in advance of the 2009 local elections?
The electoral amendment Bill will revise the Dáil and European Parliament constituencies in light of the forthcoming constituency commission report, revise the procedures in respect of the establishment of future commissions and deal with other electoral matters required to be addressed in advance of the 2009 European and local elections.
The Taoiseach can read, but can he answer a question?
I am a new Deputy, wet behind the ears and naive to the process, but the electoral Bill referred to other electoral matters to be dealt with. It is in black and white. On behalf of Deputy Varadkar and myself, what are the other matters?
That is not an item for the Order of Business.
In deference to and respect for local councillors, they should be given advance notice if their areas are to be carved up.
That is a matter for debate.
People are seeking a one-word answer as to whether local electoral area boundaries will be changed before the local elections. Does the Taoiseach not know the answer?
If the Deputy submits a question, it will be answered.
The Taoiseach could give a one-word answer.
The Taoiseach is offering.
I call on the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to move the motion re leave to introduce the Supplementary Estimate.
The Taoiseach is being muzzled.
The Ceann Comhairle is muzzling the Taoiseach.