It is proposed to take No.a10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Council Decision 2008/381/2008 of 14 May 2008 establishing a European migration network, to be decided without debate, and No. b10, motion re national development plan and the economy. 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. The proceedings on No. b10 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. tomorrow and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches of the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case and the speeches of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case, Members may share time, a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 20 minutes and any divisions demanded thereon shall be taken manually. Private Members’ business shall be No. 38, motion re public private partnership (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a10 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b10 agreed? Agreed.
A number of Bills, which were included in the list provided by the Chief Whip, were not published this session. Can I take it that, in accordance with previous activity of the Government, some time between now and mid-September the Bills not yet published will emerge? The Taoiseach's predecessor used to state that a session continues until the beginning of the next session. The next session will include 13 or 14 weeks from mid-September to mid-December and a great deal of time will be taken up with preparation of the Estimates and the budget, which will be exceptionally difficult. Is it the Taoiseach's best estimate that the legal difficulties with regard to the fair deal legislation will be ironed out and it will be taken during the next session and will be published before then or during the run-up to the Dáil recommencing?
When does the Taoiseach expect to have the completed analysis and assessment of the reasons for the result of the Lisbon treaty vote? Arising from this, does he intend to have discussions in the House when it resumes in September prior to the Council meeting in October, which will be a difficult period? There is an understanding from a European perspective of Ireland's position. Does the Taoiseach intend to examine the consequences of the vote on the Lisbon treaty and when does he expect to be in a position to outline his proposals to deal with these consequences?
On the first matter raised by Deputy Kenny, the Government hopes to get final approval on the draft of this legislation from the Attorney General, who is giving this matter his personal attention, and that we will be in a position to bring it forward during the next session.
With regard to the vote on the Lisbon treaty, I take the point made by the Deputy. As he knows, the Department of Foreign Affairs is undertaking work on this matter and the information will probably be collated and available in September. We need to apply our minds to what forum we can use to conduct dialogue on the implications of that and collectively assess the means by which we could articulate the issues. In the meantime, work will take place at official and political levels in Government. We will interact with colleagues and President Sarkozy will be here next week. We will also work with the Commission to see, based on our preliminary analysis, to what extent we can move matters forward. The Deputy is aware this is a difficult situation and one that will probably require further discussion.
I raise this matter in the final week of this session because a long lead-in time is required. It must be decided what type of Parliament will be elected and what type of Commission is appointed. The Taoiseach's preparations for his October deliberations will be critical in this context. I hope that as he deliberates on this and as he and the Government make decisions we will all be kept informed. Other governments are seriously examining the situation. A decision must be made with regard to proceeding or not on the basis of the Nice treaty in terms of the European Parliament elections and the Commission must also be organised. That is the context in which I raise this.
The amount of legislation going through the House in recent times has been small and, at the beginning of every session, the Chief Whip circulates a legislative programme, much of which does not materialise by the end of the session, including legislation promised to be published and the order it is to be taken. I ask for two changes in the coming session and the coming year. Will the Chief Whip circulate the programme earlier than the day immediately preceding the resumption of the Dáil? Will the Government consider issuing an annual legislative programme? I do not say this should be set in stone but it would be helpful if the House had an annual schedule. The Government could give an indication, given we know roughly when budget day will be and when the Estimates, the Finance Bill and so on will be introduced. An annual schedule of approximately when business will be dealt with in the House would be useful and perhaps that could be done for the coming year.
I understand from the Chief Whip he is working on that in the context of the legislation committee and we are trying to assist all Deputies to give a guideline at least on what legislation and issues are likely to be taken and the timing of major debates in the House. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, following his legislation committee meeting to convey to the leaders what the likely outcome of that will be to see if we can we do something.
I support the comments of Deputies Kenny and Gilmore. For instance, the animal health and welfare Bill was promised first in September 2003, which is almost five years ago. It was on the B list then and it is now on the C list. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism sponsors the Irish Sports Council (amendment) Bill, which was promised in September 2006. It was in section A in January 2007 but it is now in section B. The same Department is responsible for the greyhound industry (amendment) Bill, which first appeared in section C of the programme in September 2006. It was moved to section B in the most recent legislative programme and it is still there.
The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources first listed the minerals development Bill in section C in September 2005. It moved to section B and it has remained there since. The Department of Defence has only two Bills in the legislative programme, one of which has been promised since September 2004 — the Curragh of Kildare Bill. It appeared on the A list in September 2006 but it is now on the B list. The Government is all over the place with legislation. The defence (amendment) Bill appeared in section C in January 2005, section A in 2006 and in section B when the Government entered office. The adoption Bill, which is important legislation, was first promised in section C in September 2004. It was moved to section B in the legislation programme for the summer 2005 session and it was listed in the A list in 2007. It remains on that list and we still have not seen it.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill was first promised in September 2004. It was moved to section A in April 2007 and remained there in the Government's first legislative programme but it was then moved to section B before returning to section A. The sale of alcohol Bill, which is topical and important, was on the B list in September 2005 and has remained there since. The Department of Transport's harbours Bill was first promised in September 2004 in section C of the programme. It remained there until April 2006. It then disappeared and reappeared in section A in April 2008.
Consistency is needed. What is happening with all these Bills? Will they ever be published?
The Minister of State, Deputy Pat Carey, must sort this out.
The late Brian Lenihan once spoke about the consistency of his inconsistency. Priorities change but I will not get into all of that with the Deputy. The legislation committee should come forward with a realistic legislative programme. The Departments insist on Ministers making sure legislation is put on A and B lists at Cabinet meetings but when the legislation reaches the Parliamentary Counsel stage, they find there is a problem or another Department has priority and another issue comes done the track.
The Chief Whip will sort this out with his new package of reforms.
Shorter lists are needed.
The Taoiseach would not need to answer more questions if the list is shorter.
That is also true and that would be no harm at all, not looking at one in particular from the Curragh in Kildare.
It is time to give it a gallop.
I thank Deputy Flanagan for that very constructive proposal. I will give a commitment that there will be a short list from next year.
The Taoiseach kindly said the promised legislation on a deposit protection scheme would be brought forward at an early date because the UK is introducing deposit protection at three times the level available to Irish depositors in financial institutions. There is a genuine concern we should match that, given the proximity of credit institutions adopting the higher level.
Does the Taoiseach intend during the upcoming debate to circulate a tabular statement outlining the different Estimates that will be amended and the Supplementary Estimates that will be considered over the summer or on the resumption of the House by select committees? Will that detail be spelled out? One of the subjects of all the questions earlier is the lack of clear understanding about where the €1 billion is to be found in 2009. If that was set out in tabular form, perhaps more light would be shed on the issue.
I was not aware that was being contemplated. The purpose of the debate is that each Minister will discuss these issues in detail. The €1 billion full year effect will be outlined in the 2009 Estimates. We are dealing with this financial year and identifying the €440 million that needs to be found. Next year, the full year effect will be reflected in the Estimates and any budgetary decision to be taken thereafter. The purpose of the debate is to clarify the issues in detail and I will make reference to that in my contribution. I will make inquiries about the provision of a tabular statement.
On the deposit protection issue, I wrote to the Minister for Finance on 4 July as a result of the Deputy's inquiry and I am still waiting to hear back. I will ask him to contact the Deputy directly.
As one who is interested in Northern Ireland issues and the work George Mitchell did there, when will the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 amendment Bill be introduced? Will the scholarships be subject to cutbacks?
Where stands the enforcement of fines Bill, which could generate more money for the Exchequer and save the Garda time? It was promised some years ago.
The Taoiseach advised us earlier about the fair deal, for which €110 million was allocated. It was recognised in the budget that money was needed for the elderly and the Taoiseach referred to the number of beds available for people.
The Deputy cannot go into that.
A total of 100 fewer beds are available in Monaghan General Hospital.
The Deputy was going very well. It is a pity. He should stick to legislation.
When will the health information Bill be introduced in order that we will be provided with true and factual information about health services and not waffle?
The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 amendment Bill is expected at the end of the year. There is no date for the second Bill mentioned by the Deputy. The third Bill is expected next year.
Until recently, I did not realise the Government had a better regulation agenda. It was not obvious. The financial services regulation Bill appears to fall under that heading. Given the straitened times, it would be a good idea for the Taoiseach to indicate to the House when critical regulation of the sector will be undertaken.
Approximately nine EU compliance requirement Bills are outstanding in the justice and law reform area. Since it is imperative that legislation be introduced to comply with EU law or to indicate what is intended, when will the various Bills promised in section C of the legislative programme appear before the House so that discussion on them can be generated?
The Ceann Comhairle has a passing interest in a final matter, namely, the Dalton report. Required legislation has been promised several times by a number of people, including more than one Taoiseach. What lifespan is that report likely to have on the legislative list?
Unfortunately, practically none of the Bills mentioned has a publication date. They are on the list, but we do not have a date for them. I do not mean to be unhelpful. The Deputy's questions emphasise the point that I will ask the Chief Whip to place on the list only those Bills that will be introduced within a five-month or six-month period, with another list for Bills that we hope to publish thereafter. All other Bills should be left within their Departments until such time as they are ready to be discussed in the House or published. We spend a great deal of time asking about Bills that have been in gestation for years and to which we cannot add anything of value on the floor of the House. In the interests of tidying up our Order of Business arrangements, it has become apparent to me since taking up my post that a change is necessary.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has often promised that the housing miscellaneous Bill, which appears to be ready for publication, would be introduced in the House before the end of this session. Many people have been waiting on it and I wonder whether it will be published when expected or during July when no one is here.
The Bill is at an advanced stage. The complexity of some of the issues has necessitated external legal advice, which has resulted in the delay of publication. It is hoped that the Bill will be before the Cabinet this month.
I revert to the theme of legislation that, while promised, has not been published. The pink list in respect of the Department of Health and Children details three Bills, namely, the adoption Bill, the child care Bill and the health long-term residential care services Bill. None of them has been published despite their presence on this term's publication list.
Deputy Stanton referred to the adoption Bill, but the issue is older than he stated. As the Ceann Comhairle knows, it used to be within the remit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Bill, which relates to the Hague Convention, dates back approximately ten years, but it has not been published. Will the three Bills be published during the holiday period?
Since the Government now has the time, will it begin consultations on the long-term residential care Bill? Obviously, the Bill will not be published before tomorrow. The Government should consult groups such as Age Action Ireland and other representatives of the elderly who have concerns about the likely contents of the legislation.
I will pass that idea on to the Minister for Health and Children. On the Attorney General's advice, a new provision has been added to the adoption Bill and ongoing discussions are taking place in that respect. As a result, the Bill's publication has been delayed, but we hope to publish it during the summer.
There are many complex legal issues involved in the child care Bill. While it is at an advanced stage of drafting, it will not be ready for publication before tomorrow. It is hoped that the problems can be overcome during the summer. That is what has been stated to me and we must wait and see.
That is not much progress. The tax strategy group papers on next year's finance Bill have not been published. It would be normal for at least some of them to have been published by now. When will the Government have them published? The annual pay and pensions booklet, which would normally have been published by the Department of Finance by now, has not been published. Is there a reason for withholding the publication of these items? Even after our little bout of arithmetic this morning, it is difficult to make sense of the figures without the documents' publication.
The tax strategy group documents have no relevance to our current discussions on the €440 million——
They have every relevance.
——in terms of expenditure items. I do not know how the situation regarding these line Department matters stands since I left, but I will make inquiries.
Will the Taoiseach give an undertaking that the tax strategy group papers and the Department of Finance's pay and pensions booklet will be published? They are fundamental documentation that would normally have been published by now. Will they be published or have they been suspended?
No. The simple point is that they will be published in the normal way whenever consideration of the matters in question have been dealt with by the tax strategy group. I do not know what meetings have been held by the group in respect of preparations for the coming budget.
Several meetings have been held. The Minister for Finance is agreeing.
We are in the midst of a process. I assure the Deputy that the tax strategy group will do its business in the normal way.
I wish to raise two issues. For some months, the Government has promised that a new e-Government strategy would be in place by the end of this month. Is that matter still on track and are we likely to see it?
The Deputy should ask the Minister for Finance about that issue.
No, it was a Government promise on the basis of a Private Members' motion.
It is not a legislative promise.
A promise was also made regarding a new code of practice for data protection, which was also to be in place by the end of this month.
The Government promised an independent study on the comparative merits of overhead electricity transmission lines versus underground cables, which the Cabinet received and was briefed on yesterday. Is it normal practice for the Government to brief the media before informing Opposition spokespersons of the content of a report on which everyone in the House agreed? The matter is on the front page of the local newspaper.
That matter is not in order.
It is in order.
It is not. That is the problem.
It is in order as the Cabinet is leaking sensitive documents before informing the House.
As Deputy Coveney knows, there are other ways in which that matter may be raised. He is long-experienced.
Maybe we will have an opportunity to question the Minister on it tomorrow.
In light of the fact that tomorrow is the last day of this session, regarding legislation that was promised for this session but has not been published, will the Taoiseach ensure that his colleague, the Government Whip, sends a memo to all Deputies indicating the timeframe in which promised legislation will be published in July, August and September? In terms of due process, it is important that Deputies know what legislation is about to be published during the closed season between now and resumption of the Dáil.
The Chief Whip will try to co-operate in that respect, but obviously he can only give an indication.
Is the e-Government strategy on time? It was a clear promise from the Government.
Were Deputy Coveney from Laois-Offaly, I would probably answer his question.
It is not a legislative promise.